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On Wishing Johan Santana into the Cornfield

The talk lately has been whether or not the Mets should shut down Johan Santana for the season.  He’s been mostly ineffective lately, and there is a growing concern that he’s hit a wall with all the rehab and work he’s put in to be healthy this season.  No matter what you or I think, the Mets and Santana have a lot more knowledge of the situation than we do.  There is probably no clear and obvious answer here even for the Mets, and especially not for people outside the situation, which includes the media.  The media are writers and reporters, not doctors.  They’re as unqualified to speak on the right course of action as they were to speak on the state of the Mets finances.  Take their info on how Santana is feeling and what the Mets are saying about it, but their prescribed course of action is not necessarily the best one.

 

Personally I’d err on the side of keeping him pitching.  At least until he throws a good game or two.  This is all presuming that there isn’t some unseen or unreported injury, but recovering from a serious injury to perform at the top level of your craft is hard, tenuous work.  Throughout his life Johan Santana’s arm has been what’s separated him from his peers, it’s what makes him special.  To have that arm give out on you so seriously can be crushing.  I imagine that feeling has been in the back of Johan’s mind all season.  The same is true of any injury; if you hurt your foot even days after you feel no pain you still often step tenuously because you expect it to hurt.  Johan Santana has all the same doubts floating through his head that we do about the durability of his shoulder and whether he’s the same pitcher.  So on that note, I think it’s valuable for him to get through this period the same way any pitcher wants to get through the valleys inherent in every season.  It’s important for him to dismiss the doubts that his shoulder is failing him and allow it not to be the undercurrent of every outing he has next spring.  Reaffirm that hard work will get him where he needs to go, and then shut him down.

 

I do think there could be some value in getting Johan Santana an extra week or two off this offseason by shutting him down in September once he’s hopefully bounced back from this stretch.  The Mets might like to get a start or two out of prospects like Colin McHugh or Jeurys Familia and Santana’s spot would be one way to do that. After all Johan Santana has given us as fans, particularly the no-hitter, it’d be nice to see him go out this year on a high note.

August 18th, 2012 by Ceetar in 2012, Baseball, Mets, Pitching
1 Comment  |  Read More >> 

Does It Get Any Better Than This?

Congrats JohanDon’t answer that. I don’t care.  Because this is awesome.  It’s perfect despite it not being a perfect game.  It’s simply Amazin’.

 

The first truly great moment, of many to come, at Citi Field.  The first Mets moment in history in a while that instantly became a “Where were you when?” moment.  The last one was probably also Johan Santana‘s.  His amazin’ domination of the Florida Marlins on the second to last game of 2008.

 

I was at a restaurant for my mother-in-law’s birthday.  A Hibachi steakhouse in Valley Stream, NY.   Much like Johan Santana, this restaurant had recently been damaged and shut-down, only recently reopening.  My wife, among others, joke that I’m addicted to my phone and this bit of positive reinforcement certainly won’t help with that.  I fully intended to detach from baseball for a night.  I’d seen Carlos Beltran‘s first at-bat before we went to dinner, and figured I’d read the recap and watch the highlights later.   I didn’t.  I finished my onion soup and peeked at the score.  After all, Johan Santana was pitching and we’d been there to see his last dominating start as a mere mortal last Saturday.  Game day told me of Duda’s 3-run home run and I smiled.  I did notice that there were no hits.  Of course I noticed. We always noticed.  It was early though, and we’ve seen that before.  My salad came and I started eating, and I drank my beer and ate some edamame.  All the while that nagging feeling in the back of my brain was tingling.  Internet addiction? Mets magic?  I checked the score.  I checked the pitch count.  I got worried.  These checks got more and more frequent, with a brief reprieve while the Mets were coming to bat.  They had a big lead and I was just hoping they wouldn’t prolong the time Santana had to sit and wait to continue.   I fretted briefly over the ‘injury delay’.   As we got to the 7th inning I started seriously checking the pace of dinner.

 

Would the guy behind the bar flip the tiny screen to the game instead of whatever race they were showing?  Was anyone really watching that? Maybe I would step out to the parking lot and use MLB’s At-Bat app for a live look-in.  Would 3G service be enough for that? Probably not.  The audio feed would probably be the way to go.  We’d finished ice cream and our waiter had disappeared.  Where was he? Run my credit card already!  Bottom of the 8th.  Someone finally showed up and processed it, and we could leave.  I got to the car in time for the 9th.  Instantly I was transported into the game.  It’s amazing how these events manage to do that.  I’d mentally pushed baseball down on my list of important things for the night, but it wasn’t having any of that.  Tonight was about Mets baseball.  I turned on the radio and Howie’s voice instantly filled me with all the jitters and emotions that we all know so well.  He called the game while I drove, which I don’t recommend in such situations..not that there will ever be a situation quite like that, and he called each ball in play with the urgency it demanded but also with a hint of terror that it was going to fall in.  Your brains, like mine, like Howie’s, probably ran through each of the billion ways it could’ve gone wrong.  It didn’t.  It so didn’t.

 

I parked, and everyone else went in.  I listened to the recap and interviews, grateful that they didn’t go to commercial and say “Back to talk about it in a moment”.  It was a great night.  It was a Mets night.  Baseball took over, and it was glorious.

 

Congratulations to Johan Santana, and Happy National Donut Day everyone!

June 2nd, 2012 by Ceetar in 2012, Baseball, Citi Field, Mets
2 Comments  |  Read More >> 

2012 Mets: The Big Tease

How’s that for a slogan?  This was inspired by the Mets tweeting pictures today of Johan Santana throwing in Port St. Lucie.  It was good news in the sense that his arm didn’t fall off, but throwing in January tells us little about what he’ll do in April.

 

It’s still over a month until pitchers and catchers report, and closer to three until the first real game.  I’m thankful for the Mets sharing these types of things, and love seeing Johan on a baseball field, but ultimately this is a big tease.   There’s still plenty of uncertainty with how Santana’s shoulder will hold up to a full Spring Training and following that, the season.

 

In a way the whole  2012 Mets season may be a tease.  With the finances and roster turnover it very much feels like the Mets are in a holding pattern.  That’s not to say things won’t ultimately turn out good, but there are plenty of question marks we need answers to and a lot of time before we can start finding them.  2012 may be one long quest to find the answers.  What do we really have in Lucas Duda, Josh Thole, Ruben Tejada and Ike Davis?  To what extent can David Wright and Jason Bay rebound?  Are any of the touted pitching prospects going to be knocking on the rotation door for 2013, or sooner?  Is second base the anti-matter to Daniel Murphy‘s matter, causing explosion whenever they come in contact?

 

Stay tuned, because 2012 may be the big tease before we find out where this team is going.

January 13th, 2012 by Ceetar in 2012, Baseball, Mets
2 Comments  |  Read More >> 

The Difference Between Prudence and Pessimism

Sandy Alderson was quoted recently as viewing Johan Santana as a question mark for the rotation to start the season.  This comment was a statement on being prudent and building depth, not a dire prediction about Santana’s health.  Still, it was misrepresented and reported as a medical update instead of simply an extension of previous comments of Alderson’s suggesting it’s a good idea to have lots of depth in the rotation.   Johan Santana has not had a setback, and is on exactly the same path he has been since early October; Opening Day.  He’s begun offseason conditioning, but it’s way too early to start throwing a baseball.  Certainly there’s a possibility when he starts throwing that his shoulder will struggle to respond the way a pitcher’s needs to, but that’s merely a possibility, not a prediction.

Expecting Santana’s body to respond like Mark Prior’s, or Chien Ming Wang’s, is probably as silly as me expecting my body to respond like David Wright’s when I go to the gym. It’s even possible Santana and his doctors could use Wang and Prior’s experience as guidelines to improve on the rehabilitation process.  Santana is a different person, and everyone’s body responds differently.  There is a thought out there that because of copy number variation in the human genome, and other in depth biological stuff outside my paygrade, that there is some difference in the way different racial populations across the globe adapted over the last 200,000 years or so.  Basically expecting Santana’s body to heal and strengthen like Mark Prior’s may be like expecting your Ford Fusion to break down at the same odometer reading your neighbor’s Focus broke down at.

They estimated Tommy John’s odds of recovery from his procedure at 1%, but nowadays 83% or so of the operations go as planned.  Practice makes perfect, so to speak.  A lot of that has to do with the regiment and rehab schedules and learning what’s the best way to get the elbow or shoulder into game shape again.  This isn’t to say that that Santana is a lock to make even 25 starts next season, or that he’ll be successful if he does so.   It simply means that Sandy Alderson is aware of the severity of the surgery Santana had and knows the importance of pitching depth.  That’s it.

December 15th, 2011 by Ceetar in Mets, Pitching
9 Comments  |  Read More >> 

Biggest Week of Mets Baseball in Years

This next week or two may be the biggest games the Mets have played since the last week of 2008, and they also might be the biggest games they’ll play for years.  The Mets record, as well as the Phillies and Braves, will greatly determine the look of the team going forward this year, and maybe even next year too.

Sandy Alderson has said he would consider trading Carlos Beltran right now a white flag, but if the Mets play poorly over the next two weeks, that white flag is inevitable anyway.   It’s probably not just Carlos Beltran either; The Mets won’t get a ton for guys like Chris Capuano or Jason Isringhausen, but if the chances of contention plummet there will be little reason to keep them.   If they manage to climb closer in the race, the small return from trading those guys won’t be worth gutting the team.  In a way, the Mets could finish a handful of games above or below .500 based on how they do in these next bunch of games.

Either way this season will likely be viewed as a step in the right direction, but if the Mets fall out of it here and restructure the team with next year in mind, the record and excitement levels will fall.   That probably won’t be enough to prompt many to invest in this team, raising projected income and in turn, payroll.  As the memory of the last Mets game fades, we’ll be subjected to more financial news regarding the Picard lawsuit and the Madoff mess.  Their will be speculations about Einhorn’s control, about how much the payroll can possibly go up, and if the Mets will actually field a competitive team.   So the only real news will be mostly doom and gloom again, which won’t help sell tickets.  Just today someone called into WFAN in the brief 20 minutes I had it on proclaiming there is no way the Mets compete for five or six years.

If the Mets climb back into the race and get closer, Sandy Alderson will be more likely to keep players like Beltran, and may even look to add a reliever or someone, especially if the player can be helpful beyond this year too.   Whether or not they can or will win a playoff race is not the point here, the point is that if they stay close and prove that they can play with anyone it suggests that the Mets may not be years from competing.   They could go into the offseason with fans thinking they’re getting close and with the right moves, including resigning Jose Reyes, the Mets could be a very good team next year.  

There’s going to be a lot of stuff to watch with this team this year, and if they remain competitive and winning games they’ll bring in fans to watch versus fans switching gears to what could be a returning NFL season or something else.  Jose Reyes could have a record breaking season, as despite spotting the opposition 11 or more games, he’s still got a commanding lead in base hits.  David Wright will be returning, one of the Mets franchising players who they’ve sorely missed.  Johan Santana may return, and while that’s still up in the air, as is his effectiveness, it will be nice to see him on the mound again.  I would like to be at his first game back if I can at least.

It all starts tonight against the Phillies with your hero in attendence.   The Phillies aren’t taking the Mets seriously, opting to give  Halladay and Lee some extra rest coming off the break and pushing them back until after the weekend.  Facing Vance Worley, Cole Hamels who the Mets routinely beat, and Kyle Kendrick is not a daunting task.  Hopefully the Mets can get a hot start to the second half, while exposing the Phillies pitching depth, and start catching both them and the Braves who are playing the Nationals this weekend.

July 15th, 2011 by Ceetar in 2011, 2012, Baseball, Mets, Mets-Phillies rivalry, trades
1 Comment  |  Read More >> 

Johan Santana to the Bullpen?

The Mets starting rotation has been performing pretty well.  No one’s an ace, but mostly they’re keeping the team in games and pitching pretty well.  Johan Santana appears to have taken the next step towards return, but there are a lot of questions revolving around that.  Will he be the dominant Santana we’ve come to know and love, or some lesser pitcher while still recovering from the shoulder surgery?  Which pitcher would he replace in the rotation, and will he be able to go deep into games, or will he be on a strict pitch count?

Maybe it’s Johan Santana who should go to the bullpen.  In the best case we’re talking about five weeks of games, and maybe six or seven starts.  He’ll barely have time to really get into a routine and build up some arm strength.  Pitching out of the bullpen would allow him to work on his game and proving his shoulder is repaired without having to really push it.  He’ll be able to build muscle and arm strength and work on his mechanics without the strain of 100 pitches at a time.  They could work out a schedule and not pitch him too often or back to back days or whatever works best for him.

He has done it before.  When he first came up with the Twins he spent a lot of time in the bullpen, and while that was before he was established it’s not exactly a foreign concept to him, he’s pitched 77 games out of the bullpen in his career.  Let the beat writers joke about the Mets 23 million dollar middle reliever, it’s still better than the Mets 23 million dollar Ace who’s still experiencing soreness in his shoulder.  Or..

Many feel Francisco Rodriguez is a lock to get traded before his option vests.  It’s certainly possible, and it does seem like the Mets have a plan in mind with him as they certainly don’t seem to care about his option or use.  What about using Johan Santana to close?  Closers don’t have a whole ton of value, which is part of the reason you don’t need an overpaid closer clogging up the roster, but you do still need to replace the quality innings Rodriguez gives you and what better way than someone like Santana?  You could say that Santana is not used to getting ready to pitch that fast, but he’d have all of “Spring Training” to get used to it, and with a closer you often have a couple more minutes.

After all, the goal with Johan is to get him pitching again. He needs to build up his arm muscles again and recover from having his shoulder sliced open.  He doesn’t necessarily need to throw 40-50 innings to do so, 20-25 in a more limited capacity could be just fine.  He’d be able to test out his shoulder, get some time under his belt with major league innings, and shut down at the end of the season healthy and ready to rev it back up in Spring Training like normal.

A lot of this could depend on how the Mets are doing in the playoff picture when Johan Santana comes back.  On the other hand, it’d be foolish to rely on Johan for anything this year at this point in his rehab, so if he does indeed come back, the Mets don’t need to desperately shove him into the rotation and demand he win every game.  Let him ease himself back into pitching, and take what value you can get while keeping him healthy and strong.  He’s too valuable to future years to push him too hard coming back from surgery.

July 7th, 2011 by Ceetar in 2011, 2012, Baseball, Pitching
1 Comment  |  Read More >> 

The Mets: Good Lately

The Mets got off to a poor start in 2011: The bullpen looked pretty bad and the starting pitching was struggling.  The weather was cold and rainy and they couldn’t buy a clutch hit.  Over the last month the Mets have made some roster tweaks and been faced with some injuries, but they’ve also played pretty well.

They are 9-6 in May.  They are 16-11 since the seven game losing streak that was over a month ago.   If they were to continue at that 16-11 pace they’d actually end up winning 91 games.  It’s not a torrid pace in any way, but they win more than they lose.  They keep themselves in games, and by extension, in playoff races. 

It is probably unrealistic to expect the Mets to continue this pace without David Wright and Ike Davis, but there are a lot of other things not going the Mets way either.  Will Jason Bay ever start hitting?  Will Justin Turner, Daniel Murphy, or a year older Ruben Tejada provide adequate production for a stretch while the other Mets are on the mend?  Will Dickey pitch better, get a better grip on the knuckleball as the weather warms up, and at least keep the Mets in the games?  Did Mike Pelfrey get his “one bad month” out of the way in April this year? 

There are also many unknowns.  I don’t buy into speculation about what the Mets are going to do, rosterwise, with this team.  Personally I’d be more shocked of Reyes was traded than if he wasn’t.  Alderson has to recognize how good Reyes is, how hard it is to find a good shortstop, and how much the fans love him.   Alderson has also claimed that he’ll be able to do what needs to be done around the trading deadline to add players, and the potential for the Mets to get better there exists.  Then there is Johan Santana recovering from his capsule tear.  It’s unrealistic to rely on him coming back, but that doesn’t mean we can’t hope and wonder.  He’s on track for recovery now to return in July or August.  Whatever the chances are that he doesn’t experience any setbacks, the possibility that you could add a pitcher of his talent and intelligence to a rotation in September is enough to make me smile. 

The Mets look and feel like a team. They’re probably not the best team or most talented team in the league, but lately they’ve been winning games, playing good defense, getting some hits when they need them and capitalizing on mistakes made by the other clubs.  No team looks all-powerful in the league and if the Mets can continue playing good baseball, get guys healthy, and make some good roster moves there is no reason why they can’t remain competitive all season. 

Maybe they’ll even hit a grand slam.

May 19th, 2011 by Ceetar in 2011, Baseball, hitting, Mets, Pitching
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Ceetar’s Mets Prop Bets: Make Your Picks

Here’s a list of some normal, and some abnormal, bets on the Mets this year.  Purely for fun, feel free to leave your picks in the comments. or suggest some other good over/unders.
Reyes
1. over/under .345 OBP (I suspect this may be over/under Met in 2012)
2. over/under 142 games played.
3. over/under 60 SB

Wright
4. over/under 30 HR
5. over/under 150 Ks

Bay
6. over/under 25 HR

Beltran
7. over/under 130 games played
8. over/under 25 HR
9. over/under 10 SB
10. Will Beltran or Chase Utley have more home runs this year?

K-Rod
11. over/under 55 games finished

Ike Davis
12. over/under .275 avg

13. over/under 23 HR

Jon Niese
14. over/under 200Ks

15. Who will start more games?
a. Johan Santana
b. Dillon Gee
c. Chris Young

16. Who has a better year, R.A. Dickey, or Cole Hamels?

17a. Will Emaus be the starting second baseman all year?
17b. If no, is his replacement
A. On the team
B. In the minors
C. on another team
D. Not currently playing baseball
E. Luis Castillo

March 28th, 2011 by Ceetar in 2011, Baseball, ceetar, Mets
4 Comments  |  Read More >> 

These Mets Are Scary

Mets Win

Mets Win

This Mets team can be pretty scary.  I certainly thought they had a chance to be very competitive coming into this year, but it would’ve been hard for anyone to predict it would evolve the way it did.   The team may be the team you’d least want to face in the National League, because you never know what you’re going to get from them, they can hit you from all angles.  People talk about Philadelphia’s offense being scary, but when you get down to it the Phillies are a team built on offense; if you pitch well against them you can win any of the games.

The Mets can baffle a team’s offense on any day.  It could happen via R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball dancing towards the plate, or it could happen with Pelfrey’s dominate sinking fastball.  The next day Jon Niese could unleash his curveball, or Johan Santana could be on the mound with his two Cy Young awards.   The bullpen has also been very good, regularly racking up scoreless innings.  They’ve got some hard throwers, some specialists, and Frankie Rodriguez.

Offensively the Mets have the talent to beat a team in a couple of ways.  They’re capable of hitting big home runs one day, and the next day battering pitching to a tune of 14 runs without a long ball.  They’re aggressive, steal bases, take extra bases on base hits, capitalize on errors and play hard.  They’re capable of coming back from deficits, don’t quit until the game is over, and even if a starting pitcher is shutting them down, they’re capable of waking up against a reliever and winning a game.

They seem to have the right mixture of confidence and cockiness, and all reports suggest they have great clubhouse chemistry. (Winning will do that) Even if they don’t make a trade, it looks like they’ll be getting Carlos Beltran back to the lineup which would be about as big a mid-season acquisition as you can find.  They’re already in prime playoff position, and they’ve got plenty of guys looking to have a better second half including Johan Santana, Jason Bay, Luis Castillo, and Jose Reyes.   This is a team to look out for, and it’s looking like the final series before the All-Star break against the Braves is going to be a big one.

June 29th, 2010 by Ceetar in 2010, Baseball, Mets, Pitching
1 Comment  |  Read More >> 

Why Santana Will Be Just Fine

I wonder how people back before pitch counts and speed guns were able to tell when their ace pitchers were in decline?

Statistical analysis and all the technology of present day definitely enhance the game and our understanding of it, but they also allow us to jump to premature conclusions.

I was in Baltimore over the weekend and I was listening to the post game show after the Saturday game when the Orioles announcers described the next day’s pitching matchup as “Pelfrey, the Mets ace.”  There wasn’t a pause.  It wasn’t qualified by “this year.”

Santana came out this spring and proclaimed himself (when asked to name someone) the best pitcher in the NL East.  So is he a washed up ace trending downward and not even the best pitcher on his own team?

I’d say no.  Of course Pelfrey has been the better pitcher this year so far, but Santana is far from over the hill and washed up.   Actually Santana has a slightly higher ERA, but they have almost identical WHIPs and Ks.  The different result is mainly due to run support, and Pelfrey’s pitches trending more towards ground balls.  It just seems so different because Santana is a Cy Young caliber pitcher and Pelfrey has been a struggling prospect prior to this point.

The case can be made that Santana is merely slumping, not declining.  For one he’s always been a second-half pitcher.  He had surgery last year and had a longer than normal layoff between his last start of 2009 and his first of 2010.  There’s something to be said for building arm strength over a couple of months, and surgery and time off sap that.  You can already see that the velocity is starting to come back up a little bit.  Pitching is a game of adjustments, and right now Santana is having some trouble with control of his pitches.  This is leading to more walks and less strikeouts.  Santana’s track record says that he’s a smart guy and knows what he’s doing out there.  You have to trust that he can make the adjustments needed, and that he’ll be able to do it faster than batters can adjust to him.

The Mets are fighting for first place and arguably Santana is only going to get better.  He’s a big game pitcher, a fighter, and a great ace of this staff to have.  As his game rounds into form, the weather heats up and he builds up arm strength as the Mets march towards October all worries about him being in decline will vanish and we’ll be talking about the Mets having as good a 1-2 punch as anyone else in baseball.

June 17th, 2010 by Ceetar in 2010, Baseball, Mets, Pitching
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