Yesterday I did the hitters, today I’m tackling the pitchers. Yes, this remains incredibly hacky. I’m going to be taking a closer look at players, meaning I’m not using ERA alone (or really, at all) to look at how well they’ve performed; I’m going to look at their rate numbers (K/9, BB/9, etc) as well as some advanced statistics like FIP (again, if you aren’t hip to FIP, go to Amazin Avenue, where Sam Page, I have to say this again, wrote the best thing written on any Mets blog in 2009) to figure out who has made the grade and who hasn’t.
Archive for the ‘K-Rod’ Category
(Programming Note: I’m not going to do game recaps after every game, not that I had been doing them the past two years anyway. Basically, when I have something to say about a game, I’m going to say it.)
You know, I thought we were done with games like this? Isn’t this why Omar and company spent approximately eleventy billion dollars to rebuild the bullpen and get rid of most of the assholes who made last year so heartbreaking? Weren’t five run leads not supposed to be eroded away, to the point where a mere single would have tied the ballgame? Aren’t we supposed to be past this? I mean…last year, the Phillies went 162 games, plus the playoffs, without blowing a single lead in the 9th inning. Couldn’t we go longer than two games?
Well, the answer was yes. But damn if it wasn’t pretty. And where did it start? Of course, with the one member of last year’s bullpen the Mets did bring back, Pedro Feliciano. Look, I wasn’t against bringing Feliciano back. If you told me they had to keep one of either him or Schoeneweis, I’d say bring Feliciano back in a heartbeat. But of all the noted “crossover guys” in this year’s bullpen, Feliciano isn’t one of them. He suddenly and inexplicably lost his ability to retire right handed hitters. He should not be pitching to right handers, especially with runners on base. Seeing him come in and immediately give back one of the Mets’ four insurance runs from the previous inning brought back bad memories.
You can’t hang everything on Feliciano, though. Sean Green came in and allowed the first of his inherited runners to score, although he came in to a rough spot. No worries; the score is still 9-6, and the Mets have a killer back end of the bullpen, right? But then JJ Putz allowed Willy Tavares to get an extra base hit, never a good sign, and he scored on a sac fly. And then there was that ninth inning.
Good lord, that ninth inning. I was not ready for this. It’s been a long time since last season, but not long enough since experiencing a game like that. Between the god-awful call by the umpire at first base, the walks, and everything else…man, I was dying. All thoughts went back to 2008, proving that those scars are not going away anytime soon. I don’t care about the dollars the Wilpons are paying to the new bullpen, or their pedigree…any time the Mets put the winning run on base in the 9th inning, I’m at maximum neurosis until Gary Cohen says “and the ball game is OVER!”
Thankfully, the good guys eked out a win today, and Rodriguez got the 30 pitch, four out save, but damn. Francisco, Frankie, K-Rod, whatever you prefer…can you please not do that again anytime soon? Most Mets fans want to enjoy baseball again, and this brought back way too many bad memories. We don’t like drama; we had enough of that last year, with one Greek tragedy after another. We’re looking for boring; a nice documentary would work wonders in the 9th. We want to love you, and we probably will, but we need some help getting to love baseball again, and some boring work in the later innings would go along way towards that. Thanks dude.
The Mets and Francisco Rodriguez appear to have reached a consensus on a contract, and as long as K-Rod passes a physical, he will be the first offseason acquisition of the New York Mets. It’s a good move for the Mets, as they managed to keep the contract to 3 years/$37 million, roughly half the dollars K-Rod’s agent was originally asking for and two fewer years. It’s another offseason victory for the Mets, to go along with the Carlos Beltran contract four years ago and the Johan Santana trade last season. We will soon see if this offseason victory can help propel them to postseason wins as well.
We here at BlueAndOrange.net had earlier endorsed Brian Fuentes for the role of the Mets closer in 2009. While we are sad that Fuentes will not wear the colors for which this site is named in 2009, we wish him well in his future endeavors. We meant K-Rod no ill will; we simply preferred Fuentes. With K-Rod in the fold, you can bet that this site will support K-Rod to the max. He’s our guy now.
And there is a lot to like about Francisco Rodriguez. As his name implies, K-Rod is a strikeout pitcher. He has never had a season where he threw more innings pitched than strikeouts. Because he is a power pitcher, he tends to be walk-prone as well, but is capable of having stretches where he is absolutely unhittable. Another plus is his ability to avoid the long-ball; he has allowed only 7 home runs in 135.7 IP over the past two seasons. Plus, for those of you who like to know that a pitcher can get it done in the 9th, K-Rod has proven himself an adept 9th inning man with four straight 40+ save seasons.
Of course, this isn’t a perfect signing. K-Rod’s strikeout rate has dropped in each of the past four seasons. Now, one could argue that striking out 12-13 batters per nine innings was simply unsustainable, the fact is we are a pretty far way past that point. Of concern is the drop in his velocity. Keith Law of ESPN.com does a great job here explaining that part of the reason is because K-Rod has cut back on throwing his vicious slider, adding a changeup to his repetoire of pitches. Hmmm…Venezuelan pitcher, wears #57, throws a changeup…I think there is somebody that can perhaps help K-Rod improve that changeup a little bit. But the violent delivery of the slider has caused K-Rod to cut back on using the pitch and makes him a health risk if he continues to use it, even though it’s his best pitch. But worst-case scenario, if K-Rod gets hurt, it’s only a three year deal.
The Mets aren’t done yet, of course. While K-Rod does improve the Mets significantly, there is still the matter of adding a starting pitcher or two, more work to be done in the bullpen, finding a way to jettison Luis Castillo and install a second baseman who isn’t terrible, and perhaps upgrading behind the plate and in left field as well. But the big move is out of the way; the Mets have found the man who will close games for them the next three-plus seasons, and based on what was available on the market, they may very well have gotten the best relief pitcher they could, and on favorable contract terms. As a Mets fan, how can you feel bad about that?
Ben Reiter at SI wrote a very interesting (if pure fiction) article on cnnsi.com earlier this week that ranks the top 50 free agents and predicts where they might end up. According to the author, the Mets will wind up with Oliver Perez, Bobby Abreu, Juan Cruz, Orlando Hudson. Hmm… I’m not too thrilled with this list. So I’m making my own. Here’s the top 15 free agents (according to this article) and my opinions about how adamant the Mets should be in their pursuits.
1. CC Sabathia- Imagine a rotation with Santana and Sabathia…. And then put it out of your mind and forget about it. It ain’t happening! Granted, I would love to see CC and his .247 batting average against pitching game 2 of the season at Citi Field, but if he wants to stay in the NL he’ll go back to the Brewers or off to the West Coast, and if he wants to go East, he’d be dumb to turn down the mint that the Yankees will throw at him. I’m not holding my breath here.
2. Mark Teixeira- If the Mets hadn’t picked up Carlos Delgado’s $12 million option, I would make the case that he’s the most important missing piece to the lineup. But since there’s such a small chance that the Mets will deal Delgado and then sign Teixiera that I won’t waste my time.
3. Manny Ramirez- Personally, I would LOVE this signing. I know that Manny has had his issues, but 1700 RBIs and 500 HRs… and he’s not slowing down at all? I’d be perfectly fine seeing his right-handed bat in the cleanup spot behind or in front of David Wright for the next four years. If Omar can sign him for $20 million per, this would be a big plus for the lineup.
4. Francisco Rodriguez- The pros and cons of Rodriguez have already been well-chronicled on this and many other sites, so I won’t bother with the stats. BUT I will say this: if he commands more than $10 million per, spend the money on Brian Fuentes instead. I’m going to assume that he’ll want more $12-15 million per, and I’d rather see Fuentes closing games and that extra cash thrown at a bullpen upgrade.
5. AJ Burnett- He’s had his health issues in the past but the Mets are losing Pedro and Hernandez, so the health of the starters won’t be as much of a worry in 2009. With that said, when he opted out of his Toronto contract, he catapulted above Derek Lowe on my starters wish list. His ERA isn’t stellar but his high strike out totals and career .237 batting average against show me a lot of promise. Throw him in as a third starter behind Santana and Pelfrey and before Maine and we’ll be watching a really good show. A four-year deal for $12-15 per is the range I’d be comfortable with.
6. Derek Lowe- If (and only if) Burnett is off the table, the Mets must go hard after Derek Lowe. He may not be the guy to get the win in the big game, but he’s the guy who can get the team to the big game—and after two straight September collapses, we need a guy who is consistent and experienced. He’s been on winners and his offspead stuff would be nice to put behind the power of Pelfrey in a rotation. A three-year deal would be great for $12-14 per.
7. Rafael Furcal- No.
8. Orlando Cabrera- Cabrera is noted as a high character guy, and even if he wasn’t he’s not Luis Castillo so he’d be welcome in Flushing. But unless the Mets find a taker who would swap a bad contract for a bad contract, Castillo will be the starting 2B on opening day 2009. Oh well.
9. Oliver Perez- I’ve got no problem retaining Perez, but it’d have to be for the right price. He’s shown that he’s got a very high upside, but his inconsistency is too frustrating to be truly worth big-time money. He’s fine as a forth starter making $8-9 per for three years or so, but not much more than that. And personally, I don’t think that that sort of money will get it done. Someone will offer him more and he’ll take it.
10. Adam Dunn- So a powerful right-handed bat in right field would be nice. But it seems to me that Dunn is basically a clone of Carlos Delgado. Neither will hit for a high average but they’ll both drive in guys and hit long balls. Dunn does get in base a lot, but his high strike out totals will negate any potential for moving guys along—one of the Mets big flaws has been their inability to advance runners and be unselfish, and it seems to me that that is exactly the definition of Adam Dunn. I’d be okay with signing him, but not ecstatic. Maybe a short-term deal for $8-10 per, but no more.
11. Brian Fuentes- Since the numbers are pretty comparable except save totals, I’d rather see Fuentes as the closer than Francisco Rodriguez. Since he’ll command less money to sign, his high strikeout totals will be very welcome at Citi Field for a four-year deal for $10 million per.
12. Kerry Wood- This is a tough one. I don’t seem him leaving Chicago, but if he does he could be a big hit in New York. But should he be? He’ll strike out a lot of guys and he’ll be a good presence in the pen, so if Omar can get him for less than $10 million per, this could be a good signing.
13. Pat Burrell- Though he’s toned down his status as a Mets-Killer over the years, he’s a strong righty bat that is a touch older than Adam Dunn, though I’m not sure if the age is a positive or a negative. Neither can plan the field well, but with Endy Chavez able to come off the bench as a defensive replacement late in games that may not be a huge deal. So is Burrell a better fit then done? Simple: Yes. He’s played in Philly and gotten booed (a lot) over the years, yet he’s come alive when it matters. Without him, the Phillies don’t make it out of the first round of the playoffs. If Omar can get him for $10-12 million per, this would be a good upgrade.
14. Bobby Abreu- The Mets do NOT need another aging left-handed bat, and since Abreu has diminished from the player he once was in his prime, I have to believe that he’ll only get worse. He’s not a bad player, but he’s also not worth the money he’ll command. Leave this one alone, Omar.
15. Ryan Dempster- His 2008 ERA was nearly a run and a half better than his career average, so I have to assume that his paycheck will be higher than his worth. But he’s got experience as a starter and as a bullpen arm, so his value could be big for this team. But if the price is high, Dempster doesn’t belong in Flushing. Maybe three years for $8 million per? Beyond that and let him go elsewhere.
Last in a series
So what exactly should the Mets do this offseason? I have gone over their open and problem positions: second base, left field, most of the bullpen, and two starting pitcher spots. I’ve thrown out some suggestions as far as free agents who will be available who the Mets should consider pursuing. What sort of game plan would I pursue if I were Mets General Manager Omar Minaya?
First, after having time to think about it, I would stay away from Orlando Hudson. His home/away splits and drastic defensive drop scare me. Plus, he’s not particularly young, and will require a 4-5 year contract. He would definitely be better than Luis Castillo in 2009, 2010, and 2011, but not by a significant enough margin to where the team should think of acquiring him. I have a feeling Hudson will be a lemon wherever he lands, and could go down as one of the worst contracts awarded in the 2008 offseason. The Mets need to stay away.
Instead, if the Mets can’t acquire Hudson, they should inquire about Brian Roberts from the Orioles. Roberts has long been an underrated player, who would bring good speed and on base skills to the top of the Mets’ lineup. His career stolen base percentage is 80% (226 of 283 attempts), and would slot in nicely between Jose Reyes and David Wright in the Mets’ lineup, particularly since he’s a switch hitter. His defense has steadily declined the past three years, but nothing like the sudden drop-off experienced by Hudson. I’m not sure what the Orioles would want in return here, but I would at least make a call and listen, because Roberts is better than any second baseman who will be available on the open market for the Mets.
Should a Roberts trade look infeasible, I would seriously think about some sort of job sharing arrangement between second base and left field with Fernando Tatis, Daniel Murphy, and a spare outfielder or infielder. Murphy’s bat profiles really well at second base, though he may not be able to handle the position defensively. While stories have been positive coming out of the Arizona Fall League, I haven’t heard much about what sort of range he has at second there. Tatis might not be any better, and it might behoove the Mets to find a good defensive second baseman who can OPS better than .700 (hint: not Argenis Reyes). I’ve liked Felipe Lopez for a long time, although he’s not great defensively, so he might not fit here. But it looks like the Mets’ cheapest alternative would be to bring back Tatis, bring up Murphy full-time, and find a super-sub type who can play LF or 2B capably, either via trade or free agency.
If the Mets do decide to spend money on a strict LF, the choice I’d go for is Pat Burrell, but only if Endy Chavez is brought back as a fifth outfielder/Burrell caddy. Burrell would slot very well into the 6th hole in the Mets’ lineup, between Beltran and Church. He’s a right-hander, which would improve a lineup that seems a bit too left-handed, and his numbers against left-handed pitching would keep teams from bringing in a lefty to face Delgado and leaving in that lefty until they face Church. He would also add another 20-35 home runs to a team that finished 7th in the NL in home runs in 2008. Just as important to what he would add to the Mets, bringing Burrell to New York would also take away a pretty big part of the Phillies’ offense as well. There is an issue with defense, and for that, you would have to keep Endy around to play the later innings. But considering some of the left fielders the Mets started in 2008, defense clearly is not a huge priority for them in left.
As far as the starting rotation goes, I would like to see the team make a play for Derek Lowe in free agency. He’s not going to blow you away with anything he does, but he doesn’t miss starts, he gets ground balls, he doesn’t allow a lot of home runs, he doesn’t allow a lot of walks, and he strikes out a fair number of batters. He is about as good a #3 starter as you will find. The problem with Lowe is, he turns 36 next year, so signing him long-term would be a mistake, and plus it looks like several teams will bid on his services. But he’s a guy I’ve always liked, and I’d like to see if the Mets could figure out a way to add him to the rotation.
Short of signing Lowe, I would stay away from the high bid guys like Sabathia and Burnett and I’d like to see the Mets bring in two low-cost, one year contract types who might be looking for another shot. Another solution is picking up a guy in a salary dump for Castillo. Sometimes a lousy player just needs a change in scenery, and the Mets would seem to offer a good one; good defense on the left side of the infield and in center and right fields and a likely pitcher’s park in Citi Field. The benefits of good defense and a ballpark conductive to pitching could help a pitcher who struggled last year turn things around in a hurry.
Also, as I have said before, I would like to see the team try one more time with Heilman in the starting rotation. At this point, what do they have to lose? He has talent, he has pitched well in the past, and he was injured for most of last season. To trade him now would be to sell low; they would surely get nothing back in return. Perhaps changing to a new role, a role he has wanted to perform for the past several years, would be very beneficial to Heilman. I think they need to at least let him compete in spring training for a spot in the rotation. At the very least, Heilman’s biggest opponent for becoming a starter, Rick Peterson, is gone; what’s the problem with giving him a shot with some other guys?
As for the bullpen, while I would personally argue that spending big bucks on a closer is a bad strategy, I realize that because of how last year left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth, it will probably be necessary here as a public relations move. That said, I am really wary of giving K-Rod a five year contract. His strikeout totals have declined the past three years, which is a bad sign, and he blew 7 saves in 2008. Contrary to what 62 saves says, he was NOT the best closer in baseball last year. He’s good, but I wouldn’t pay $75 million for a meaningless saves record.
I will say, I really like Brian Fuentes the more I look at him. He gets ground balls, which is good when you have good infield defense behind you, and it means he avoids home runs. He’s a guy who will ring up a lot of strikeouts; despite getting older, his strikeout rate has improved over two years ago. His ERA is artificially inflated by Coors Field, meaning he might not come as expensive as one would expect a guy who has pitched as well as he has; move him to Citi Field, and I think he’s getting a lot of recognition as being a great reliever. This is the guy who I’d want to throw some money at to fix the bullpen; he will be a better buy for the money required to sign him.
Juan Cruz is another guy I would take a look at, perhaps as a set-up man. Again, my own personal preference would be to stay away from costly bullpen solutions, but for the purposes of PR, going out and spending big bucks on short-term solutions for the pen while working to fix the systematic problems that have plagued the Mets the past few years. Cruz is another high strikeout guy; unfortunately, he doesn’t bring the ground ball success that Fuentes has had, and he’s a guy who can get rocked from time to time. Still, he throws hard, he gets strikeouts, and he is more reliable in throwing complete innings than anybody currently on the team. I don’t want to spend this money, but if you’re going to do so, this isn’t a bad place to spend it if you can sign him for under 3 years.
After that, it becomes a matter of finding guys out there, freely available, who will take a one year contract or minor league contract/spring training invite. Much like with the rotation, find guys who have lacked success, see if they can be refound in the bullpen. Some terrible starters make for good relievers. Don’t be afraid to take a chance on a guy who hasn’t had success before; guys fighting for a spot in the majors are sometimes desperate enough to work out. Think out of the box here; the Rays’ bullpen didn’t rebound from the worst in the majors to one of the best by spending huge money, but by going on virtual casting call and bringing some castoffs to Tampa and watching their careers rebound. That’s what the Mets need to do.
In summary, I would target either Pat Burrell or Brian Roberts (because the team probably can’t get both) as an addition to the Mets lineup, with some flexibility at second base and left field to help out Tatis and Murphy. Pick up a Derek Lowe or a few different innings-eater types and let them fight for some spots in the rotation, shipping the rest to the bullpen. Make a splash with a Fuentes signing, but then go after low-cost alternatives to players already under contract to rebuild the rest of the bullpen. Think smart more than think big bucks. That’s where the Mets have lost their way in the past, but they can get back to a smarter way of acquiring talent and make this team a playoff team again in 2009, without going too crazy.