Archive for the ‘2009 Season’ Category

The Mets’ offense and injuries

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Last week, I mentioned how, following the injury to Carlos Beltran, there wasn’t much worth watching with the Mets for at least two weeks.  The Mets then proved me wrong against the Cardinals, thanks to some good pitching out of the starters, before regressing to form against the Yankees, playing uninspired baseball thanks to an uninspired lineup.  Chien Mien Wang, who had an ERA north of 30 earlier in the season, dominated the Mets’ B squad for much of the game, allowing only 2 runs on 4 hits, and only one extra base hit.  This should come as a surprise to nobody.

Yet the Yankee series, because of the local connections, seems to be causing a massive freakout that really should have happened last week, you know, when Carlos Beltran was placed on the disabled list.  “THIS TEAM CAN’T HIT!”  Folks are now assigning blame ranging from hitting coach Howard Johnson to their usual suspect, David Wright.  It’s as if nobody has stopped to think, “Hey wait a second!  Three quarters of the team’s best hitters are on the disabled list!  Most of the other hitters stink when they’re healthy!  This team basically only has David Wright and that’s it!”

I mean, seriously…David Wright is the only good hitter in this lineup right now.  Gary Sheffield is above average, I guess, thanks to his power and patience, but he’s such a negative in the field that he erases all of his bat contributions.  Ryan Church hasn’t been a very good hitter ever since receiving the concussion last year (and truth be told, he was due to regress in a big way anyway, he had been hitting totally over his head before the injury).  Daniel Murphy is OPSing under .700 and playing a premium offensive position every day…well, sort of.  He desperately needs to be sent to Buffalo where he won’t have to worry about Jerry Manuel yanking around his playing time, but that doesn’t appear to be on anybody’s radar.

Did anybody really expect a lineup that features a Brian Schneider/Omir Santos platoon, Alex Cora, Luis Castillo, and regular at-bats for Fernando Tatis to really score runs on even a semi-regular basis?  Why are we going to blame Howard Johnson for this team not hitting well when the team doesn’t employ any good hitters, other than David Wright?  The only regulars OPSing north of .700 right now are Wright, Sheffield, Luis Castillo (thanks to a .375 OBP), Brian Schneider (thanks to a .417 SLG) and Omir Santos (thanks to a .432 SLG).  I don’t care if you’re the 1986 Mets, if you take 3 of your team’s 4 best hitters (without even accounting for Beltran and Reyes’ defensive value), you are not going to have a very good team.  Imagine how many runs the ‘86 Mets would have scored without Darryl Strawberry, Gary Carter, and Lenny Dykstra.  That’s what we’re working with right now.

If this team proves anything, it should be how the 2008 Mets were simultaneously both incredibly lucky and incredibly unlucky.  The 2008 Mets saw 161 games of Beltran, 160 games of Wright, and 159 games of Delgado and Reyes.  They lost a total of 9 games out of their four best players, which is remarkably lucky.  This season, they had surpassed that total of games missed by May.  The Mets were blessed with ridiculously fortunate health by their four best everyday players and Johan Santana, and yet still failed to make the playoffs thanks to a criminally horrible bullpen. 

Even with an improved bullpen this season, I don’t see how anybody can have any expectations of playoffs with 3 of the team’s 4 best players now out for an extended period of time, with no timetable for their return, with the worst medical staff in the major leagues looking after them.  If you don’t score runs, and if your defense can’t prevent runs from scoring, you can’t win games.  The moment Beltran went down, expectations for this team should have taken a big hit.  This is just not a winning team without the stars, and to continue to have playoff expectations for this roster is mind-boggling to me.

It’s official – there is no good reason to watch the Mets for two weeks

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Carlos Beltran to the DL, Ken Takahashi to Buffalo, and Wilson Valdez designated for assignment.  Welcome back Fernando Martinez, welcome to the New York Mets Pat Misch and Elmer Dessens.  If you can watch any of this team’s non-Johan Santana games for the next two weeks, you are a better man than I.

What is wrong with this front office?

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Before the season started, Joeadig and I had a point/counterpoint on the Mets front office, specifically Omar Minaya.  I probably came off as more of an Omar Minaya fan than I truly am, more because I felt that Joeadig was leveling some unfair accusations towards Omar.  Signing Carlos Beltran and trading for Johan Santana were both two absolutely huge moves made by Omar, for which he deserves praise, and I felt that Joe was overlooking them while making a larger point that I do agree with, that Omar Minaya has done a pretty terrible job at building a championship baseball team given the great core that the Mets possess, two of which were players directly acquired by Omar himself.

Now we are almost three months into the season, and it’s become clear that for a third straight season, this team is woefully ill-equipped to make the postseason, despite once again having a terrific core of players to build this team around.  What’s more, the disease isn’t limited to the front office.  The field manager and his staff have done a terrible job running the day to day operations of the team.  The medical and training staff appear to be showing a blatant disregard for the players for which they are so handsomely paid to attend.  Nothing appears to be running the way a smart baseball team operates.

The most recent, and perhaps the best example, revolves Carlos Beltran.  Beltran is having another wonderful season; there is no player, perhaps no two players who could replace his combination of excellent defense and superb offense.  With Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, John Maine, Oliver Perez, and JJ Putz all on the disabled list, and all players that this team could ill afford to lose to begin with, Beltran ranks as a precious commodity.  Without Beltran, this team is royally screwed, even if all of those guys came back tomorrow.

Yet Beltran is hurting.  Read this quote from yesterday:

“I don’t feel I can play a lot of games the way it felt today.  I’m a little bit worried, to be honest.”

Yet Beltran was allowed to take the field yesterday.  Does that sound like a guy who should be allowed to play?  I mean, this could be Luis Castillo and I’d still say that is a pretty reckless thing to do.  But this is Carlos Beltran; we need Beltran to remain healthy if this team is going to do anything this season.  Yet the field manager somehow thought that one game against the Tampa Bay Rays was worth risking the team’s first or second best everyday player, on advice of a training staff that has already proven itself woefully inept at what they do, and nobody from the front office bothered to say “Whoa, wait a minute – this guy is scheduled for an MRI on Monday, maybe we should have him sit this one out.”

The handling of Beltran was just another misstep by this franchise this season.  JJ Putz was clearly not his best; Dave Cameron from Fangraphs speculated this back in late-April based on looking at his average fastball and strikeout rates.  Yet the team didn’t think then to investigate if Putz was truly injured, kept running him out there for a month, during which he gave the Mets several ineffective innings of relief, and only shut him down a few weeks ago for him to have surgery.  Dave Cameron is a baseball writer for a pretty good stats website; he is not a member of the Mets front office, and does not follow the team on a daily basis.  If he was able to figure out in late-April that something is wrong with JJ Putz, why did it take the team a full month for them to figure this out?

Then there are the other issues, such as the length of time it took the team to put Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes on the disabled list, during a West Coast road trip, leaving the bench way too thin.  There was the DFA of Darren O’Day, who has since taken his power sinker to Texas, where he has a 1.23 ERA and 0.91 WHIP for the Rangers, while the Mets continue to stretch their bullpen arms too thin.  The bench actually looked good until Reyes and Delgado got hurt, where it was exposed that Triple-A Buffalo is secretly a barren wasteland of suck.  The team is currently getting below league average production at catcher, first base, second base, and right field on a daily basis, and Alex Cora really isn’t any great shakes at shortstop either.

It has become apparent that the Wilpons made a mistake similar to the one that Omar Minaya seems to make all the time; they gave him about one too many years on his latest contract extension.  I agreed that he had probably done enough to deserve an extension, but not a four year extension; they probably should have only extended him 2-3 years.  Now they are stuck with Omar for at least another season, probably two, and while they might be willing to eat Jerry’s last year after the season (should they even see fit to fire him, and I’m not convinced that they will be), they will not be willing to eat 3 years of Omar Minaya’s contract as well as one year of Jerry’s.

As we get further and further from 2006, it becomes apparent that Omar Minaya really just got lucky that year with some of his smaller moves, rather than acquiring guys like Chad Bradford, Darren Oliver, and Endy Chavez through a smart process.  Minaya just is not capable of building a great baseball team, even given a tremendous core with which to work in the Wright/Reyes/Beltran/Santana nucleus. 

What I’d like to see out of the Wilpons after the season is just a wholesale cleansing of this team, from the front office to the training staff to the field management staff.  Other than Howard Johnson, I don’t think I can name a single member of those groups whom I would like to see keep their job after this disaster.  Let a new front office come in, figure out how to ship Luis Castillo out of town no matter what they have to do to get it done, figure out that Ryan Church is not more than a good platoon player despite a strong arm in right field, figure out what exactly is the best use of Daniel Murphy, and figure out how to build a good championship support group around the core. 

They need to figure out that between Oliver Perez, Mike Pelfrey, and John Maine, they really have 3 #4 starters, and that the team needs a stronger pitcher behind Johan Santana.  They need figure out that sending Livan Hernandez out to pitch every fifth day is not very smart, even if he has gotten insanely lucky so far.  They need to figure out that using Bobby Parnell and Pedro Feliciano every day is not a good way to keep them fresh through the end of the season, let alone the end of June.  This is a team that has so much to figure out, and the people making those decisions right now are woefully ill-equipped to make figure these decisions out.

A few ideas

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Writing what I did on Tuesday was quite cathartic.  It helped sum up what has so far been yet another Mets season, put some things in perspective, and forced me to actually think about this team some more for the first time in ages.  It’s been ugly so far, but there’s still a bunch of season remaining.  Here are some ideas for the rest of the season moving forward, how I think this team could best be served.

  • Don’t trade Fernando Martinez.

Fernando Martinez is going to be a big part of this team, and perhaps sooner than people think.  He’s not playing well in the majors right now, but he’s also 20 years old and probably up a bit earlier than he should be.  The promising signs are that he’s showing nice power and he’s showing above average plate discipline, especially for a player so young.  His big problem right now is making consistent contact, but there is going to be an adjustment period for a 20 year old getting his first glimpse of major league pitching.  He’s not there quite yet, but perhaps by 2010, he will be ready to make a real impact in the major leagues.  This is the last series where the Mets will require a DH, so I’d like to see him sent back to Buffalo after this week, and not to return unless Church or Sheffield are hurt and the Mets require an everyday corner outfielder.  It does him no favors for him to sit at this stage of his development.

  • Don’t trade any other young player for a mid-season rental or a bad contract.

Don’t believe what you read; the Mets minor league system is showing signs of life.  Besides Martinez, Josh Thole is tearing up Binghamton, Jenrry Mejia has pitched very well in Double A at 19 years old, Brad Holt became the Mets’ first 2008 draftee to reach Double A, “Nasty” Nick Evans seems to be refinding his stroke in Binghamton, and Ike Davis is starting to pound the ball in St. Lucie.  It’s not all coming up roses; Wilmer Flores is struggling a bit in Savannah (although his bat is starting to show some signs of life, and remember he’s only 17), his fellow 17 year old Jefry Marte is also struggling some, and Reese Havens’ bat went a bit cold before he went on the disabled list.

The point is, without counting Murphy, Martinez, or Evans, who have reached the majors, the Mets have real prospects in the minor leagues who could become contributors between 2010 and 2015.  I’m not naive enough to think they are going to keep them all, or that all of them will definitely pan out, but the players available for trade right now don’t strike me as being good enough to give up potential building blocks for either a half-season rental or a good player who is grossly overpaid.  The bad contracts worry me, particularly the Carlos Lee rumors; he’s not worth that type of money right now, he’s under contract for another 3 and a half seasons, he should probably be a DH now, and by the time that contract runs out, he’s going to be a white elephant for somebody.  I wouldn’t trade one of the players I listed above for Lee, let alone a package of them.

  • Send Daniel Murphy to Buffalo.

I alluded to this on Tuesday, but I think it would help the team long-term if Daniel Murphy was sent to Buffalo.  It would have to be explained that this isn’t a long-term assignment, but they have to figure out what Daniel Murphy is going to be for this team.  If they think he’s a platoon first baseman, and that’s it, then what they are doing is just fine.  If they want him to become an every day player, or even if they want him to become a super sub who can fill in at first, second, third, and the outfield corners, then he needs to go to Buffalo.  Personally, I think his ceiling is a little big higher than platoon first baseman, so why use him like this?

If they send him to Buffalo, they can let him learn left field without having each of his miscued blown up on the back page of the local papers.  He showed more promise than people think in left, showing off decent range.  His problems are mechanical, which is what you have the minor leagues for in the first place.  He was just sort of thrust into left field without warning last summer, and after 2 months, a spring training, and a month and a half in the majors, the team just abandoned ship on the idea.  He has potential there, he just needs reps, and moving him out of the outfield doesn’t get him those reps.  Same with second base.  At worst, Murphy could become a four corners + second base reserve option, particularly if he can start hitting line drives again and if he can get away from a crazy manager who insists on having him bunt all the time.  At best, he can become an above average regular in LF, particularly if the range he showed is real.  It’s safe to say, though, that platoon first baseman is not what he’s going to be, and it’s a waste treating him as such.

  • Hire Manny Acta the moment he becomes available and figure out something to do with him until October.

While it might be a stretch to say this team isn’t going to make the playoffs again, especially with so much baseball left to play, it won’t hurt to have a backup plan ready for 2010.  Jerry Manuel has proven himself to be a dreadful manager.  While it’s great that he knows how to talk to the rest of his team, unlike Willie Randolph, his game strategies have been a definite negative.  He bunts far too often with the position players, which keeps the team from tacking on multiple runs in the later innings, his lineup orders border on ridiculous, and other than “use K-Rod against lefties and Sean Green against righties,” his bullpen management borders on laughable.

Manny Acta is about to get fired by the Nationals for reasons beyond his control; namely, his team stinks.  The hitting has actually been kind of good, but the pitching staff has been utter dreck from their ace to their longman, and while a few of their young pitchers figure to become decent, they have nobody who is capable of being a good major league pitcher now other than maybe John Lannan.  Acta has shown he can be a smart, thoughtful manager, but even a good manager needs the horses.  Jerry Manuel has proven even a bad, borderline criminally insane manager can win a lot of games if he has the horses, so imagine what might happen if you take a good manager like Acta and give him a good core (even if that’s all the Mets have).

There are two problems, of course; what if the Mets actually make the playoffs with Manuel, and what if having Acta in the system causes Manuel to overmanage to an even greater degree than he is now?  Those are worthwhile concerns, but nothing that the Mets should be too concerned with, if they do believe in Acta.  If the Mets should somehow stumble into the playoffs this year, then they can probably still keep Acta around as a third base coach or minor league manager, since it’s doubtful that even as smart as Acta was, that he’s going to have a neverending line of suitors looking to snatch him up after the season.  Likewise, if Manuel does somehow overmanage because of Acta’s presense, then that should show the front office that he was probably ill-equipped to manage this team to begin with.  Either way, the pluses outweigh the negatives.

House of Cards

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

You want to know why being a baseball fan sucks?  Because even if you follow a good team, they’re going to break your heart at least 60 times a year.

Of course, the Mets have broken their fans’ hearts more than 60 times a year.  They seem to break their fans’ hearts just enough to REALLY break their hearts, having fallen but a game short of postseason play in each of the past two seasons.  This season, through 61 games, things don’t appear to be much different, although they’re only four games out of the lead in the NL East and only a game out of the wild card.*  Last week featured three fairly brutal losses, two at the hands of their most hated rivals, and a particularly nasty loss at the hands of their cross-town rivals.  I mean…there’s just no way around it, the past two weeks have featured those three ugly losses and an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The highlight of the month of June so far?  Taking two out of three from the Washington Nationals.  Not exactly something to hang your hat on if you have dreams of postseason play.

It does seem a bit premature to be talking about the wild card in June, right?  It’s just a hypothetical really.  Yet it has to be in the back of every Mets fan’s mind, who would gladly take the wild card after how the past two years have finished.  And yes, I am blatantly ripping off Joe Posnanski now.

And I haven’t even gotten into the negative side of things yet!  Jose Reyes injured his calf, then his hamstring, and there seems to be no real timetable as to when the Mets can expect their leadoff hitter and 25% of their vaunted “core” back in the lineup.  Carlos Delgado underwent hip surgery, isn’t expected back until late July.  Oliver Perez and John Maine, two guys expected to fill about 350 or so solid innings of starting pitching in 2009, are both on the disabled list.  JJ Putz, the Mets’ big trade acquisition this offseason, pitched ineffectively for two months, then underwent surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow and is now expected out until late August/early September.  Gary Sheffield is now experiencing knee problems, but the Mets’ crack medical staff has encouraged him that everything is fine and that he doesn’t need to have an MRI.  I don’t know what medical basis forms this opinion, but at this point, if the Mets medical staff insisted that I wouldn’t need an MRI, I’d immediately demand one just in case.

That doesn’t even get into the areas where the Mets have been relatively healthy, but just not very good.  Luis Castillo has been good at getting on base with a solid .377 OBP, yet still posts an OPS+ of 91 thanks to an abysmal .335 slugging percentage, having contributed just eight extra base hits in 218 plate appearances (Carlos Delgado, by comparison, has 12 extra base hits in 112 plate appearances) and his range at second base is practically non-existant (and that’s before we talk about the events of 6/12/09).  Ryan Church continues to hit like the platoon outfielder he is, although at least the Mets found an effective right-handed platoon partner for him in Gary Sheffield – at least, until the Delgado injury “forced” Mets manager Jerry Manuel into inserting Sheffield’s “presence” into the lineup on a more regular basis, forcing Churchy to face left handed pitching on a more regular basis (and he’s OPSing .472 against LHP this season).

Sheffield is playing left field more often than he should because the Mets have deemed the Daniel Murphy experiment in left field a failure because of a few defensive miscues, despite Murphy showing promising range as an left fielder.  Murphy is now platooning with Fernando Tatis at first base, despite Murphy having a weird reverse platoon split against lefties (.229/.327/.336 against RHP, .292/..308/.458 against LHP in 27 PA) and Tatis having a weird reverse platoon split against righties (.250/.368/.333 against LHP, .265/.316/.412 against RHP).  Granted, small sample sizes in both, and they are both slugging dependant, but it’s still strange. 

At any rate, against lefties or righties, Murphy is not hitting well enough to play first base regularly (neither is Tatis, for that matter) so no matter how much better his defense might appear to be at first, they still should have left Murphy in left field all season, since the range looked promising that he could eventually grow into being a decent defender in left, and his bat would play a little better in the outfield than it does at first base.  To be a first baseman in baseball today, if you can’t hit more than 20 home runs, you basically need to be Keith Hernandez, circa 1985; .400 OBP and excellent defense.  Daniel Murphy probably isn’t that good.  Yet he’s probably too good to be a platoon first baseman right now.  What do you do with him?  I don’t know, but I do think that what they are doing with him right now is wrong.

And then there’s the catching situation.  The Mets front office and Jerry Manuel fell in love with Omir Santos after a decent spring training and a flukey 80 or so plate appearances in the majors.  He’s a bad hitting catcher who has gotten lucky on a few bad pitches (including one by Jonathan Papelbon that ultimately doomed Ramon Castro to the Chicago White Sox) and is slugging at a rate that far exceeds anything he’s ever done in the minor leagues.  Eventually, he’s going to start seeing fewer bad pitches, and what is left is a catcher who doesn’t get on base, who isn’t slugging .450, and who frankly isn’t very good.  While I’m glad the Mets are finally platooning Schneider with a power hitting right handed alternative, the guy I wanted them to platoon him with is currently playing in Chicago’s South Side.  They made a horrible judgment call on Santos, and will eventually regret keeping him around.

The infrastructure of this team is all wrong.  This is a team that, even more than in 2008, is being propelled on the power of their superstars.  David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Johan Santana, and now Francisco Rodriguez are absolutely carrying this team.  It cannot be emphasized enough.  While the rest of the bullpen has been pretty good, and the Mets have gotten unexpected results out of Livan Hernandez (whom they should absolutely not be expecting to remain this good for an entire season), the foundation around them is just flat-out bad.  You can’t even call this a foundation.  Other than Murphy and Fernando Martinez, which of these players supporting Wright, Reyes, and Beltran appear to have anything resembling a future in the major leagues beyond this season?  What players currently in Triple A can step up and make an immediate impact in the major leagues?  Even going into Double A…who other than Josh Thole or Nick Evans might be part of the next good Mets team?

The pitching situation does appear to be a little bit better…if you believe in John Maine and Oliver Perez as legit rotation fillers.  John Maine has been a below average starting pitcher since 2007, which has to date been his only good season in the majors.  He has spent parts of the past two seasons on the disabled list.  If he’s going to step up and become solid rotation filler, he needs to do so now, or forever hold his peace.  Oliver Perez is signed to an absolute joke of a contract, and may or may not be suffering from a knee injury.  The last time he was seen in early May, he showed no ability to get major league hitters out.  Mike Pelfrey is still young enough, but after a promising 2008, you can’t help but look at him this year and think of 2009 as a step backwards.  I’m more optimistic about him than I am Maine or Perez, but that’s not saying much.

So that’s where we stand.  After Friday’s absolutely gut wrenching loss, I’ve been thinking about how flawed this team truly is.  Sure, they came back behind an outstanding performance from Fernando Nieve that can’t possibly be hoped to be duplicated, but then Johan got absolutely shelled on Sunday against the Yankees.  One step forward, two steps back.  That’s been the direction of this franchise since 2006.  Where is it going?  What are they doing?  Are they going to trade some of their wealth of minor league options to acquire a hitter before the deadline?  A pitcher?  How far away is Jose Reyes from returning?  Carlos Delgado?  JJ Putz?  Billy Wagner?  Is Jerry Manuel in trouble?  Is Omar Minaya in trouble?  Why should anybody keep watching this team?

I thought about the last question a lot this weekend, which was spent not watching the Mets (I like to take a day off or two after bad losses, to try to keep a rational eye on this team) and thought about why I should continue to watch this team, and the answers are David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Johan Santana (and when he returns, Jose Reyes).  They are so good at what they do (pretend Sunday didn’t happen for a minute) that it is a pleasure watching them play the game of baseball.  Even with the rest of the team around them being so absolutely terrible, they are joys to watch day in, and day out.  I wish they could be rewarded with a championship baseball team surrounding them, good players in the corner outfield spots, at second base, at catcher, and in the starting rotation. 

I wish they could have a manager who understood what type of baseball team he has, that taking the extra base with average to below average baserunners will cost the team runs, and that bunting with position players, even below average hitters, is really stupid.  I wish they had a general manager who understood marginal value, how to pick up a few extra wins without spending a fortune, who didn’t overvalue the closer’s position by trading useful pieces and spending precious dollars in order to “fix” the bullpen.  I wish they had a fanbase that understood how great they are, who didn’t start booing them at the slightest hint of a slump for no reason, despite having absolutely carried this team as far as they could the past two seasons without making the playoffs because of abysmal supporting casts around them.

Basically, I just wish the Mets were good.  Because they have some elite players on this team, and there should be no reason why this team fails to make the playoffs as often as they do.  I wish a team that had so many great players wasn’t so hard to watch some days, because this team since 2006 has been a house of cards.  And do you know what a house of cards will eventually do?  Collapse.  This year, the collapse is happening earlier than September, but the heartbreak is just the same.  That they are still in the playoff race is only because the rest of the National League is so terrible, but unless Reyes can come back soon, and at full strength, and unless the Mets can find an unexpected contribution from players I’ve written off above, this team will not be playing meaningful games in October.

Mets vs. Dodgers live blog – Game 2

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

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Mets vs. Dodgers live blog

Monday, May 18th, 2009

10:03 update
OK, here’s how this is going to go; every time there is a commercial break during the game, I’ll post the most recent update. I am hopeful for a Mets win, but who knows what Tim Redding has after coming back from injury (and frankly, he’s not that great), and Randy Wolf typically kills the Mets.  Plus, Angel Pagan is leading off tonight, fresh off his superb performance last night grounding into a double play with the bases loaded, so spirits are not exactly high.  We’ll see what happens.

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Shut the hell up Steve Phillips

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

OK, this is a short post, but I can’t take it anymore.  I thought bad announcing reached a new low with Eric Karros on the FOX Game of the Week yesterday, but Steve Phillips’ continued character assassination on Carlos Beltran has become too much to bear.  Are you upset, Steve, that Beltran has worked out better than every single free agent signing you’ve ever made?  Are you upset that Omar Minaya picked up a great player, who hits for power, gets on base, and plays a great defensive center field?  Would you prefer that the Mets start Timo Perez out there?  Tsuyoshi Shinjo?

I don’t need to defend Beltran’s record, because it speaks for itself, but I can’t take listening to Steve Phillips complaining about a few small issues with Beltran’s game, when he’s been so great in 2009, a legitimate NL MVP candidate.  Congratulations, Steve, you have been so utterly stupid, you made Joe Morgan into the voice of reason in the ESPN booth, a man so bad at his job, a website called FireJoeMorgan.com was once prominent on the internet.  You have made Eric Karros sound like Vin Scully by comparison.  Can we please get Gary, Keith, and Ron back as soon as possible?  Please?

LiveBlog next week

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

One of the benefits of working 11-8 EST is being able to watch Mets West Coast games until their completion without being tired at work the next day*.  Since not everybody has this same luxury, and many Mets fans will miss tonight’s game because of this, I will live blog tonight’s next Monday’s game, starting at 10:35 PM EST, so you can get an idea of how the game progressed the next morning.  Check back here with all the details.**

* One of the detriments being that I miss the first hour of all East Coast games, of which there are far more than Mets West Coast games.  Not that I’m complaining about getting to sleep in every day, mind you.

** Internet issues have pushed this back until next week – my apologies.

Worried about Big Pelf

Friday, May 8th, 2009

So far in 2009, Mike Pelfrey is undefeated.  Thanks in part to David Wright’s three-run homer in the Mets’ home opener which allowed him to walk away with a no decision instead of a loss, Mike Pelfrey has not lost a game in 2009.  Backed by great run support (the Mets have scored over 7 runs per game when he has pitched), Big Pelf, as he has affectionately become known by Mets fans, is off to his best start as a Met, even after missing a start due to forearm stiffness earlier in the season.

But all is not well with Big Pelf.  The run support is hiding the fact that Mike Pelfrey has not pitched well this season at all.  Right now, Big Pelf’s ERA stands at an ugly 5.46, with a WHIP of 1.74.  The ground ball is helping him erase some of these outs by turning double plays, but not at that high of a rate (he is only tied for the team lead in double plays with Livan Hernandez at 4, with two coming last night).  That’s not even the most alarming part of all of this, and usually, when you’re posting a WHIP of 1.74, that’s a pretty big alarm bell. 

No, the big problem is that Big Pelf has not recorded a strikeout since the first inning of an April 25th game against the Washington Nationals.  That’s a streak of 17.2 innings without recording a strikeout; that’s 53 consecutive outs recorded without a strikeout.  Right now, Mike Pelfrey is striking out less than 2 batters per nine innings, which is obscenely low for a major league starting pitcher; the last time a major league starting pitcher threw more than 150 innings and recorded less than two strikeouts per nine innings was a man named Sandy Consuegra in 1954.  For the season, Mike Pelfrey has a total of six strikeouts, which is unacceptable even if you’re the best ground ball pitcher in the majors.

Now, I know Ron Darling says that you don’t have to strike out every hitter, and that’s true.  But I think even Ronnie D. would say that you need to strike out more than two hitters per nine innings, considering that he struck out over six per nine during his career.  If a pitcher is not getting strikeouts, he is relying on the defense behind him to be near perfect in order to remain a good pitcher, and so far this season, Mike Pelfrey has not been a good pitcher, record be damned.  He’s allowing a high number of hits, a high number of runs, and a high number of walks (right now, he doesn’t have a K/BB ratio but a BB/K ratio of 14/6).

As noted above, Big Pelf missed a start against the Milwaukee Brewers due to muscle tendinitis in his forearm.  It’s been since that start that his strikeout rate has plummeted, as five of those six strikeouts were recorded in his first two games.  I don’t know if Big Pelf’s forearm is still bothering him, and he’s compensating by pitching to a greater deal of contact, or if there is something else involved, but huge drops in strikeout rate usually mean something very bad.  Considering Big Pelf had the giant leap in innings pitched last season, the forearm tendinitis that shelved him for one start, and now this drop in strikeout rate, the Mets need to look past the wins, look past the small drop in ERA and WHIP, and look at those strikeout rates and determine if something is wrong, because these small drops are not sustainable if Pelfrey can’t record strikeouts.

If Big Pelf is hurt and trying to pitch through the pain, the team needs to identify this and place him on the disabled list.  It’s best to nip this sort of thing in the bud now before Pelfrey makes things worse by trying to gut through it.  Sandy Consuegra was able to pitch in the 50’s with low strikeout rates, but then again, he was able to keep his hit, walk, and home run rates low enough to pitch well.  Big Pelf isn’t keeping his hits, walks, or homers down that low, and in today’s baseball, you can’t pitch well with a strikeout rate under 2.  It’s only a matter of time before things go ka-bloom for Big Pelf, and I hope the team is proactive in trying to identify the reason for the decrease in strikeouts and works to resolve the problem before his arm goes ka-bloom.