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.

Upcoming Expections For The Mets

I understand the season has been hurtful so far.  I also understand that even the worst teams in baseball don’t play this badly, and that they will win more games.  So how do we shake this feeling of doom?


I’m pretty confident in Pelfrey throwing a good game tonight.  I think what he worked on this Spring is going to help a lot, he’s getting less distracted on the mound, and has that cocky confidence that this team needs. 

You never know with Perez, and I worry that the stupid tinkering that Warthen did with Maine was also a failure for Perez, but I think the Mets will have a chance to win the game tomorrow when he pitches. 

Santana is due to bounce back and win one on Saturday.  He’s Johan Santana after all.

Then Maine, who I think gets a huge boost being out from under Warthen’s shackles.  Doesn’t mean he’ll be successful though, especially the first time going back to what’s worked for him, but the numbers are there if you choose to believe. (those numbers being a 4-1 2.75 ERA May last year before surgery in June.  Those numbers being that he was hitting 93 last year, and was 91-92 in the return from surgery in September)  I’m hoping being able to be comfortable will be like a weight off his shoulder and he’ll do just fine.  I’m certainly not ready to believe Maine’s career is over.

Maybe they drop one of those, which would put them at 5-7.  Then they go home for a 10 game home stand where if they go 6-4 they’re back at .500 and go to Philadelphia, a park the Mets love to hit in with hopefully the offense finally clicking, and knock the ball, and 2009, out of the park.

That’s the formula to shake these bad feelings away.  If the Mets can get to Philadelphia near .500 and play well there against an injured Phillies team and assert, even if it’s just for one series, that they’re the better team it will go a long way to returning the confidence to this team, and to it’s fans.

The Anti-Mets

Many Mets fans would fall into a more doom and gloom mindset than a positive one.  Whether that’s because of persistent disappointment, a “younger-brother” mentality associated with the Yankees, the attitude of talk radio hosts, or something else, Mets fans tend to approach the team waiting for the other shoe to drop and the team to fail.

From Baseball

As the self-proclaimed Optimistic Mets Fan, I tend not to take this approach anyway, but I’ve found that this rule is not true across the board.  Oddly enough, there are two Mets players that never fail to bring out smiles and optimism; Johan Santana and Jose Reyes.

From Baseball

These two Anti-Mets, more than any other player, bring out positive vibes from Mets fans.  Carlos Beltran, despite being very clutch, has the cloud of his strike out against the Cardinals in the 2006 playoffs.  David Wright has been considered almost un-clutch by many fans.

Even if it’s not true, when David Wright comes up with a runner on third, many are expecting a strkeout.  When Oliver Perez lets up a leadoff double, most fans expect him to walk two following that.  Jason Bay hasn’t even played a game yet and you just know many fans are already expecting every opposing runner to score from second on a single to left field.

Reyes is different.  When Reyes gets on to lead off an inning, Mets fans give him second base like it’s a foregone conclusion.  They expect him to score on any ball hit to the outfield.  They expect opposing pitchers to get nervous and possibly balk in runs.

It’s similar for Johan Santana.  If it’s an Oliver Perez start, fans are betting the over/under on how many walks he gives up.  Or how many foul balls John Maine has.  If it’s a close game in the 6th or 7th inning and Pelfrey is pitching and lets up a leadoff single, Mets fans think “Here we go again.”  If Santana lets up that same leadoff single even many of the pessimistic fans are just thinking about double plays and are recalculating how many pitches it’ll now take to get the next three guys out to see if Santana can pitch another inning afterwards.

This is the true meaning of the phrase, “As Reyes goes, so do the Mets.”  Mets fans expect winning results from Reyes and when they get it they feel the Mets will win.  Johan is such a fierce competitor that as fans we’re surprised when the opponents’ bats don’t literally explode under his gaze.  It doesn’t matter that the Mets have never pitched a no-hitter; when Johan strikes out the leadoff batter, the first thing we think of is “26 to go.”

This post is also visible at The Real Dirty Mets Blog.

Instant Replay, Seating and Pricing, First Place

Instant Replay! Best thing to happen to baseball since the Wild Card! Last night’s was probably the least clear of them all; Murphy’s drive glanced off the overhang of the Pepsi Porch, which is exactly what it was intended to do. However, it shouldn’t have been that difficult. Here’s what I propose.

Tilt all the advertisements slightly. Make it so the bottom of the ad is an inch closer to home plate than the top of it. This will be virtually unnoticeable to anyone, but it will clearly alter the path of any balls that even glance off of it.

Add a camera that is on the corner of the Porch, in foul territory, that only points along the front wall of the Porch.

The best view of it may have been the fans standing (or sitting) in the last section of the Excelsior level. Here’s a shot I took standing there into the bullpen, but you have a good view of that Subway sign.

From 040709_Phillies

People joke about all the pricing levels at Citi Field, but it’s actually pretty straight forward. I opened ticketmaster to check availability for a game at Yankee Stadium, and was confronted with way too many options.

From MetsStuff

Good win by the Mets, getting Santana the W even when he hasn’t been his best. He’s going to be a serious contender for 20 wins this year. The Mets are back in first place where they belong and aren’t playing good teams for the next couple of weeks. Beltran is hopefully back tomorrow, and hopefully Reyes and Church will be back before they find themselves facing a tough team again. It’s time to hang onto first place for the long run.

Winning Baseball?

What’s this? Winning Baseball?

Craig Carton mimicked the optimism I’m feeling on his show this morning. Livan against the free-swinging, slumping Marlins. Livan probably pitching for his job, if not his career. If the Mets and Livan can beat Nolasco, they go into Wednesday looking for a sweep, and to go above .500.

And Wednesday isn’t a normal Mets game. Wednesday is the day even regular Mets fans feel confident. Johan Santana is pitching. Even better, Johan’s pitching against Josh Johnson, the guy who ‘out-pitched’ him for a win the last time they matched up together. Despite Johan actually pitching better, you know he’s itching to put Johnson in his place.

The three games after that are against the Phillies, then to Atlanta for two, then home for two more against the Phillies. The Mets are all set for a turn around and to take May by storm. What better way to set us at ease then to steamroll the pathetic Phillies pitching, exorcise some demons in Turner Field, and then come home to make Citi Field rock by stomping the Phillies again?

All or Nothing

Heres hoping the Mets are cooking tomorrow
Shea was great on Saturday. And hopefully it’ll be great on Sunday. Hopefully this isn’t actually the last game. Either way I’m going to take 6 zillion pictures. It’s going to be insane, and we won’t know the final of the Brewers game until the middle of the Shea Goodbye ceremony, which will make it all the more nerve wracking.

What Johan did was amazing. Oliver Perez never moved from his spot leaning on the railing in the front of the dug out, and was one of the first out to congratulate him. Here’s hoping he was taking notes.

On the (W)right Track

Does it get any better than this? The Mets continue to demonstrate that they are the class of the National League East. Braves dominate the Mets? Braves won seven of nine this year? Guess not. Better luck next year Braves.

The Phillies fall another game back, and now face the Dodgers, while the Mets face the Astros. The Dodgers are a better team, but their records aren’t that far apart. Then the two teams meet up for two next week. There are no real goals; just play better than the Phillies do. I’d like them to finish with the Phillies and be further ahead then they are now.

This was one of those games where you almost expect the Mets to drop one. They’ve been hot, they can’t win them all, Pedro can be hit or miss sometimes, and the bullpen hasn’t blown a game in a couple of days. Instead, the Mets pull one out, and now have Santana on the mound tomorrow. It doesn’t matter that it’s against Oswalt.

Now only are Ace’s supposed to stop losing streaks, but they’re supposed to string together winning streaks. All of a sudden the Mets have another winning streak, and Johan has a chance to make it longer. The Mets are on pace for 90 wins for the first time in ages. Johan on the mound, an emotional walk-off win, coupled with the return of Ryan Church, and the Mets will be rolling tomorrow night.

Things have to be looking bad for the Phillies. They lost ground despite playing the Nationals and winning two of three. They’re going into another four game series against the Dodgers, against whom they were swept recently. Could the Phillies fold under the pressure and go away so soon? Only time will tell.

Trade Deadline Looms

I worry about John Maine, but I think he’ll be okay in the end. A little shoulder stiffness is really all it is, and apparently they knew about it before hand, which means that he was able to pitch with it without hurting it further. Maybe they skip him in the rotation due to the off day, but I’m hopeful it’ll be alright in the end.

More importantly, Johan Santana stepped up after an exhausting game on Saturday where the Mets used the bullpen so roughly that Oliver Perez was warming up in the 14th inning. Santana pitched a complete game, waylaid his critics a bit, and gave the bullpen a much needed rest. They have an off day on Thursday too, so if Pelfrey can give them a lot tonight, they’ll get a nice recharge.

Another thing I’ve been thinking about as the trade deadline looms is what the Mets are to do. I am not a fan of Adam Dunn, or the “Gets on base so strike outs don’t matter” group. While I think our bullpen is excellent, I know bullpen suckiness and exhaustion were the main culprits last year. Maybe another solid arm in there is the best solution the Mets can find. There is a lot of talk of a corner outfielder, and even yesterday I thought this should’ve been the priority. I think Carlos Delgado changes that, Delgado has been playing pretty amazingly for a while now, and I don’t think it’s something he’s going to lose midseason. This Delgado is more true to form than the ones fans grew to hate in 2007 and earlier this year. If Delgado is hitting, then the offense is not as big a problem as it was, and couple that with the possibility that Church will be back soon, and the success Tatis and Endy have had filling in, we might be okay.

So my (un)professional opinion is to get a bullpen arm, and keep an eye out for a cheap outfielder too, even if it’s just someone that can get hot for a week or two, or just needs a change of scenery. Even if the bullpen arm doesn’t end up being great, it’ll distribute the work load and hopefully keep the best guys healthy and fresh for the stretch run.


(The included picture came up when I did a google image search for ‘baseball ouch’ How depressing is that?)

I’m so sick of Manuel. Not that his poor handling of the bullpen is any excuse for the poor performance of the bullpen, but you know what they say, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” The last game before the Mets 10 game winning streak was a game in which Santana dominated the Phillies for eight innings and 95 pitches and was lifted by Manuel in the 9th only to have the lead, and the game, be blown. Last night he did the same thing, with a couple more pitches thrown, and a couple more runs as a cushion. However, he knew Wagner wasn’t available, and he instead went to a closer by committee, changing his mind three times in the inning.

Hopefully Manuel hasn’t transported this team to the way it was before the winning streak; sandwiching it between (at least) two poorly managed games and shipping it off to 2006. If anything, this team has shown remarkable resilience for taking a devastating loss and coming back from it. The Phillies have also shown the remarkable ability to take any advantage they’re given and squander it, so we’ll see where the chips fall tonight.

DL and Games

Just yesterday I was debating not going to as many games, and now 24 hours later I’m debating adding tomorrow night for Popcorn Night and Sunday night for Santana’s possible 100th win to the games I’m attending this year. I’m already going Saturday which is yet another Mets cap day. It’s not even because of their win last night, I just don’t believe the Mets can be this bad, and I truly don’t think it can get any worse…but I’ve thought that before too.

Lots of people on the DL, although I don’t know if guys like Jason Vargas really count.