Rotation After All-Star Break

All-Star Break coming up after the Cubs series and I think it’s worth a thought about how Terry Collins will line up his rotation coming out of it.   There are a couple of things to consider here, including getting Dickey as many games as possible, the impending division match-ups, and the two pitchers coming off shoulder surgery.


So I’d definitely start R.A. Dickey the first game back against the Braves.  This also ensures he’ll pitch against division-leading Washington in the second series.  I’d then pitch Jonathon Niese and Dillon Gee.   Give Johan Santana the extra days off, which amounts to skipping a start, and have him start the series against the Nationals on Tuesday, 11 days after his start tonight.


No one’s asked this question that I’ve seen, and maybe it’s because no one dreamed Santana would throw this many innings, but I’m starting to wonder if the Mets would prefer he didn’t throw 200 of them this year.  He’s on pace for about 196, and this is probably the last opportunity the Mets will have to give him a little break before a pennant race.   Starting with the Nationals series, the Mets will play 20 games without a day off across five cities and three time zones.


Skipping Chris Young the first time through after the break gives him some rest as well, and allows the Mets to have Santana, Dickey and Niese lined up to pitch five of the six July games against the Nationals.

A Week Later: Hopeful for the 2012 Mets

No Met has made an error, hit a home run, or struck out looking in over a week.  With a week of the offseason under my belt to let the highs and lows of emotion mellow out with time, it’s time to take a closer look at what transpired in 2011 and what hope there is for 2012.


The team played harder than was expected.   They didn’t give in, whether because of a tough loss, a rough week, or a poor start to a game.  They’d battle back late in games, and bounce back from a tough loss with a solid win.  There were plenty of times late in the season where they did seem to be going through the motions a little bit, but they seemed to bounce back from that as well.  Hopefully 2012 avoids any long periods of being out of it and prevents the team from getting complacent.


The bullpen, while successful for some stretches of times, was mostly a failure.  Part of this was the trade of Francisco Rodriguez, part of it was the depression of Taylor Buchholz.   Part had to do with the starters rarely giving length, as was the main problem in April.   The Mets are aware of this problem, and with some good scouting and analysis, there are relievers out there that you can get for reasonable prices.   I would expect at least 2-3 new faces in the pen to compliment the ones that stay.  The Mets lost a lot of games late last year, and strengthening the pen will go a long way in 2012.


The starting rotation is what’s going to be the big deal in 2012.  This is what’s going to make or break the team as a contender.   Niese and Dickey are locks.  Mike Pelfrey is also pretty much a lock, although he does become a trade candidate as well.  I wouldn’t be against keeping Capuano, but I suspect he’s priced himself out of what the Mets want to pay him.  Johan Santana is supposed to be ready to go as normal during Spring Training, but I’d put the certainty of that at somewhere around 75%, and that may be optimistic.  Right now he’s penciled in, and it won’t be until February before we know if he’ll be able to progress normally towards an Opening Day start.   Therefore the Mets need a backup plan.  Adding Santana would certainly help, but it’s likely the Mets need to upgrade further.   Finding another quality starter and reassigning Dillon Gee to be depth for Santana could be the way to go.  However, Dillon Gee may have earned a major league job.   If the Mets can get to the regular season with a healthy Santana, and everyone else, having to send Gee to the minors to start the season would be a nice problem to have.  From there they could reexplore trading Mike Pelfrey.  Other teams will deal with injuries, and many teams could make good use of a guy that will throw 200 innings of slightly above league average value pretty consistently.


Then there is the offense.   The offense was very good last year, despite few home runs and a lot of injuries.  2012’s hinges on Reyes staying, but if he does the Mets offense again looks to be very potent.  The biggest concern would be if Pagan can shake off the bad defensive year, and if Duda can take a step forward out in RF.   Thole needs to improve as well, and there’s something to be said for having a veteran right-handed catcher to work with him.  The Mets are discussing moving the walls in a bit in right and left, which will probably help the home run numbers, although they may shrink the gaps a little bit.   It looks like the Mets should still have a top-flight offense next year, capable of dealing damage to opposing pitchers.


The Mets could be competitive next year.  A lot hinges on Reyes re-signing and Johan turning up healthy.  The Mets do need to revamp the bullpen, sign another starter, and address the bench, but those are all reasonable expectations.  It’ll be an interesting offseason, and hopefully it will be a launching pad for a good season to come.

Tendering A Contract to Mike Pelfrey

I’d be shocked of Angel Pagan and Mike Pelfrey are not given contracts this season.  They’re both due raises via arbitration, and the raises they get could possibly push the money they make beyond the value they’re likely to provide.  Of course, it’s very hard to form a direct relationship between money and performance.  Ultimately it’s about getting the most value, not the best price for that value.


Mike Pelfrey and Scott Boras agreed to a 3.925 million dollar contract last year.  It’d be pretty hard for them to argue for much more than that in arbitration off this year.  I could see them settling for a similar value, which is not the six million dollar figure some are talking about.   Four million is a pretty reasonable amount, and it’s also a very tradeable contract if the Mets were able to find something better or they had a prospect knocking on the door in May.


Mike Pelfrey has not had a very good season, but he’s also not had a horrible one and has pitched on his turn every time and accumulated 200 innings.  Most teams don’t have five guys that do that, which is where Pelfrey’s value comes in. All in all Pelfrey’s peripheral stats look very similar to his stats from last year, and his stats from the year before that.  A new pitching coach may help some, specifically with working on his sinker again,  but it’s probably a safe bet to expect Pelfrey’s numbers in 2012 to be somewhere between 2010 and 2011.  I believe that has value, not as an ace but as a contributing member of a rotation.


I trust Mike Pelfrey to work hard this offseason and in Spring Training to do what he can do to get better.  He may not be worth the full value of what he’ll get paid, but he’ll provide the team with innings and consistency.  A lot of teams would snap him up if the Mets released him, and that’s yet another reason he’ll be offered a contract.  Someone will be willing to give the Mets a player in return for Pelfrey, were the Mets to look to trade him this offseason, in Spring Training, or early in the season.  Pitchers are always getting hurt, and reliable starters are always a commodity.   Having more than you need, even if one’s a little more expensive, is being able to deal from a position of strength.

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.

Statistics Rising

You can make yourself crazy over-analyzing baseball.   A week ago the Mets rotation wasn’t pitching deep into games, the bullpen couldn’t get anyone out, and people were all set to write the Mets off.  Now they’ve run off a stretch of five wins in a row, the pitchers have pitched well from rotation to bullpen, and they’re scoring runs in all sorts of ways from home runs to errors to simple clutch hits.


The last time a major New York sports team other than the Mets won a home game was last Sunday the 17th when the Rangers and Yankees did it.   Since then the Rangers and Knicks both got bounced from the playoffs and the Yankees are 3-3 including dropping the last two home games against the White Sox with each of their two closers, Mariano Rivera and Rafael Soriano, blowing saves.


An aside on the Yankees: For a team as old as they are, it has to be a little worrisome that they’ve postponed so many games already doesn’t it?  They’ve played far fewer than anyone else, and in fact only played four games last week.  Those three games will have to be made up, and it’ll eat into days off and rest time for some of these veteran players.


You could make excuses about the quality of the Mets opponents, but I could make excuses that they were a bloop or a lucky bounce away from winning some of those games they lost too.  Regardless of who is in the other dugout, the Mets are playing good baseball right now.  When this team is playing well, they’re capable of beating anyone.  The question has always been if they’re going to stay healthy enough to have the chance to play well, and can they sustain the success longer than the slumps they might go through when guys are struggling?


Also worth noting is that if the only reason the Mets are winning is because they’re playing bad teams, why can’t the Phillies beat the Diamondbacks?

Why The Mets Can Compete: The Starting Rotation

Don’t believe everything you hear: The New York Mets can compete for a division title this season.

The starting rotation for the Mets this year looks to be Mike Pelfrey, Jonathan Niese, R.A. Dickey, Chris Young, and Chris Capuano.  Those five are better than a lot of people give then credit for, but let’s start with the returning Mets from last year.

Mike Pelfrey

2010 15 9 .625 3.66 33 204.0 213 88 83 12 68 5 113 107 1.377 9.4 0.5 3.0 5.0 1.66

Mike Pelfrey had a good year last year, and it’s not unreasonable to think he can have a comparable one.  He had one really bad month that he’ll need to avoid and work through, and hopefully another year of experience can help him do that.  He was one of the best pitchers in the game through April last year, and while he probably won’t be quite _that_ good again, if you balance it against him not being as bad as he was in July, the overall performance can probably be similar to what we see in the table above.  I think there is some hope that he can cut down on the walks and hits a little bit and maybe get better, but that remains to be seen.

R. A. Dickey

2010 35 11 9 2.84 27 26 2 174.1 165 62 55 13 42 104 138 1.187 8.5 0.7 2.2 5.4 2.48

R.A. Dickey came out of nowhere last season to have one of the best years in the league.  In fact his numbers are better than all of the pitchers on the Phillies sans Halladay, so all the talk of the Phillies having four aces and the Mets having none is a little silly.  The biggest question regarding Dickey is if last season was a one time deal.  Sandy Alderson doesn’t think so, and he gave Dickey a two year contract to prove it, and I don’t think so either.  It’s non unheard of for pitchers that utilize the knuckleball to suddenly find success later in their careers as Dickey has done.  Dickey has proven to be a very intelligent pitcher and really understands what’s going on on the mound.  He throws two knuckleballs and is able to change speeds with it.  His fastball isn’t even completely washed up, so when he does throw one, it reaches the mid 80s in velocity and doesn’t need just trickery to get past the hitter.  He was able to sustain success throughout the entire season last year, including multiple appearances against the same teams.  Also, his walk rate was surprisingly low for a knucklerballer.  Pitching to a 2.84 ERA might be a bit lofty, but he was also victimized by poor run support.  Perhaps a more potent offense gets the Mets more wins even if Dickey’s ERA rises slightly.

Jonathan Niese

23 9 10 4.20 30 2 173.2 192 97 81 20 62 148 9 93 1.463 10.0 1.0 3.2 7.7 2.39

Jonathan Niese is entering his second full season with the Mets, after a surprisingly good rookie year.  He hit a wall late in September, something he vows not to do in 2011.  He threw two complete games, and had a very nice 7.7 K/9 rate.  He really showed good command with his curveball, something you know no opponents are looking forward to facing.  I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect some improvement from Niese as he’s still a young pitcher learning and adjusting.  You’d like to see him give up a few less hits and walks overall, while utilizing his pitches to get more strikeouts.  He got 148 last year, and with a little improvement through a full season, he’s a guy that could reach 200.

Chris Young

Year Tm W L ERA ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
7 Seasons 48 34 3.80 109 1.209 7.4 1.1 3.5 7.8 2.21

Chris Young has been injured a lot, but as you can see from his career line he’s a pretty good pitcher when he’s healthy.  The key is making sure he stays healthy, and can give the Mets numbers approximating his career line.  All indications out of Spring  Training are that he is healthy and pitching well.  If that means strengthening the pen so you don’t over-stress Young’s arm, or occasionally giving him extra rest, then the Mets should do it.  Young starts to make this rotation look pretty deep, and while he’s not going to overwhelm or blow anybody away, he gets the job done and induces a lot of weak contact.   Other options loom the longer we can keep him healthy, even if he doesn’t make it all season.  Johan Santana could return, Dillon Gee or another prospect or Buffalo starter could be throwing the ball really well and deserve a promotion.

Chris Capuano

Year W L ERA IP ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB Awards
6 Seasons 46 52 4.35 777.2 101 1.357 9.2 1.3 3.0 7.4 2.45

Chris Capuano is not quite as impressive as Chris Young, but he’s got the benefit of having pitched enough last year to be over the “Is he healthy?” hump.  If he does make the rotation I’m happy with his ability to contribute to winning games, and I’d certainly take a healthy Capuano over most of the 5th best starters other teams are using.  In 66 innings last year, in the bullpen and the rotation, Capuano’s numbers were right around his career norms.  I’m hopeful with those 66 innings under his ‘new’ belt that he can get comfortable and have a quality year.   He’s healthy now, and maybe the lack of pitching of the last couple of years will actually mean his arm is fully healed and hasn’t been worn down by season after season of pitching strain.   Despite Chris Young probably being a better pitcher, I’m more confident that Capuano can stay on the field all season and win games for the New York Mets.


Injuries  and Depth

I’m not going to pretend that the Mets have a ton of depth to replace these guys if things go wrong.  Certainly if the Mets rotation misses more than a handful of starts here and there, there could be problems.  Pat Misch could be an emergency starter, but he’s league average at best.  Maybe Dillon Gee or another minor league prospect can come up and contribute if they’re forced into it, and maybe someone emerges later in the season if someone gets hurt.  There will be at least five starters in Buffalo, and presumably someone will warrant promotion at some point.


Then there is Johan Santana.  You would have to to think removing Santana from the rotation and adding Chris Capuano would be a net loss of games for the Mets, but it’s never as clear cut as that.  Actually, the Mets lost a lot of Santana’s games last year by scoring no runs when he gave up merely one.  If the Mets are hitting, couldn’t they win more games than that even if Capuano gives up three?  It’s perhaps unrealistic to expect Santana, coming off a anterior capsule tear, to contribute anything this year, but it’s not wrong to hope and wonder if he can return around the All-Star break and get stronger as the season reaches it’s conclusion.  All baseball seasons are full of uncertainty and risk, and while it’s certainly a risk that one of the Mets pitchers could injure themselves and hurt the Mets chances, there’s also the possibility that Santana returns and contributes down the stretch.


So as it stands right now, the Mets rotation looks pretty solid from top to bottom and is full of pitchers with talent and ability. They should keep the Mets in the game, and create opportunities for them to win those games with some offense.  The diversity of the staff plays into things as well; You’ve got a knuckleball, a curveball, a sinkerball, and two control pitchers.  That’s a lot of prep work for opposing lineups to do to try to keep on top of all the different looks they’ll see when they face the Mets.

Debunking Pessimism

I stumbled across this extremely negative post on the Mets through some Google alerts.  At first I thought it would end up being a Philly blog, but nope. So here’s his five reasons why the Mets will suck post is way off the mark.

Spring training games began over the weekend, reminding us all how terrible the Mets will be this year.  Fittingly, Luis Castillo booted a ball at second base yesterday. Way to set the tone for the new season, Luis.


Here are my top 5 reasons why the Mets will be terrible this year.

Yes, I’m sure Castillo booting a ball in practice just doomed the Mets all season. Real players never actually make mistakes in Spring Training. Nevermind that Scott Hairston hit two home runs. This is just an excuse to pick on Castillo, who might not even make the team.

5- Ownership: Between borrowing $25 million from Major League Baseball, looking for minority ownership, and facing a multi-million dollar law suit, it will be a distraction all season. If the Wilpons sell the team, maybe it will make them less terrible, but still not good.

I can’t tell you that the Madoff stuff is a positive in any way, but it’s hardly going to be a distraction that causes the Mets to fail.  Wright’s not going to be worrying about the state of the lawsuit while he’s standing out at third base or at the plate.  They won’t even have to talk about it with the press, they’ve all said what they can say and their business is not finance, it’s baseball.  The state of the finances is not going to have much of an effect on the play on the field.  The only real thing it might do is prevent Alderson from adding pieces around the trade deadline, but so far there is no word that it will.  

4- Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez: It’s March 1, and for some reason they are still on the team. Perez got bombed in his first spring training game and Castillo is abysmal. Sadly he could actually win the starting second base position. It is unbelievable the Mets do not have anyone better than Castillo. Please cut your losses. I would rather have Ike Davis play first and second at the same time.

They’re on the team because they can’t lose the Mets games in March.  Whether or not they make the team will solely be based on merit, and it’s not looking good for either of them.  The players that help the Mets win will make the team, and therefore these two players will not be why they suck.  Reyes and Davis do have pretty good range, but I don’t think it’s enough to cover second base too. Plus, the rules don’t allow for only eight players in the lineup.  

3- Carlos Beltran playing right field: How long until he complains about it? I give it a month. Just imagine if he gets off to a bad start on offense. I know what the excuse will be.

#blamebeltran.  This pretty much debunks the whole post right here doesn’t it?  Never mind that he voluntarily moved there or that he’s not a complainer or an excuse maker.  A more valid question is how much regular rest is he going to need, and how well do those knees hold up?  Still, he’s been taking batting practice, and he should be ready to go as a hitter.  This should help prevent a slow start offensively at least.  Carlos Beltran continues to be underappreciated.

2- The NL East: The Phillies are probably the best team in baseball, which is not even fair, but the Braves and Marlins are better than last year too. The Mets are closer to the Nationals.

Just stating it doesn’t make it so. Probably? What if they’re not?  What if someone gets hurt? Their offense no longer looks formidable, Utley hasn’t even played yet and it’s looking more and more likely that Wilson Valdez may be starting for them, and they don’t even know what scrub or under-prepared prospect they’re going to throw out there in right field.  What if they don’t score runs when they pitch these great games, and what if age catches up with them?   The Marlins are not very good.  They’ve got some pitching, but it’s hardly amazing and they’re fielding a AAA offense outside of a couple of guys.  The Mets are capable of being in the thick of things just with their offense and with Pelfrey, Dickey and Niese doing what they did last year.

1- The Pitching Staff:  With Johan out until God knows when, Mike Pelfrey is the ace of the staff. Enough said. The Mets are depending on RA Dickey to repeat what he did last season, which is insane. I can’t even tell you who the 4th and 5th starters are: Chris Young?, Chris Capuano?, Dilon Gee? Oliver Perez??? Who the hell knows. As for the bullpen, talk about a disaster. Hopefully K-Rod won’t get arrested again or injure himself while beating up an old man. I honestly can’t even tell you who else is in the bullpen, so I have no further comments.

Enough said?  Sure, I could agree with that.  Mike Pelfrey was basically the best pitcher in baseball last April.  He had a horrible July, and it’s important that he minimizes that this year, but to dismiss him as crap is silly.  Why is it insane to expect Dickey to be as good as last year?  Did you really watch him all last year, and listen to him talk about pitching, and deduce that it was a fluke? It wasn’t.  He’s learned and adapted, and crafted his knuckleball to be a dangerous weapon.  It’s certainly possible he’s not as good, but the dropoff won’t be that extreme.  The ignorance in the rest of this ‘reason’ is too large to argue with, but I do have faith that some combination of Young and Capuano can give us some quality innings and keep the Mets in the game.  Losing Santana is rough, but given how many of his great games they let turn into losses last year, I’m confident with a little hitting the Mets can win more games that a lesser pitcher starts than they did last year with Santana on the mound.


I do have something good for Mets fans to look forward to. On Tuesday night (After the Knicks game) MSG will have a 4 part series on the ’86 Mets. Bar fights, sex, drugs, alcohol and more sex, drugs and alcohol- the good old days. Should be interesting. I guarantee it will be better than anything the Mets do on the field.

I’ll grant a pass on this statement since it was written before hand, but most accounts I’ve seen of the show have been pretty negative.  You can take your ‘guarantee’ and shove it, the Mets are going to be interesting this year.  Optimism is not a sin.