Jenrry Mejia responded to his promotion to AAA by going 8 innings on Monday night, yielding 1 earned run (a homerun) on 5 hits and 1 walk. He struck out 9, and induced 10 groundouts and 2 flyouts. He appears to be the favorite to both start on Saturday against the Cubs and to be the ace of the Continue reading
Monthly Archives: August 2010
We are heading into the last month of the 2010 season and at this point it looks like the Mets aren’t playing for a playoff spot, but rather respect and perhaps to play the part of the spoiler. At times taking on that role can take some of pressure off of a team and sometimes Continue reading
It’s a battle for third place as the Marlins, at 62-61, come into Citi Field to take on the 61-61 Mets for a three game series. After coming off their first victorious road series against a National League opponent, the Mets hope the suddenly hot Wright-Reyes combination can keep it going for the final month and a half.
In the last seven games, David Wright is batting .333 with a 1.052 OPS. Think that’s good? In Jose Reyes’s last seven games, he is hitting .519 with a 1.219 OPS. I think it’s safe to say these two streaky players are in the middle of their good streaks.
But that’s not what I want to talk about. We all know Wright and Reyes are elite players at their position and so those numbers shouldn’t be all-that surprising, even with the offensive struggles throughout this second half. I want to discuss Jonathon Niese, who will start the final game of this series on Thursday night against Anibal Sanchez. Niese is not getting nearly enough attention for National League Rookie of the Year. Yes, I know Buster Posey is a hitting machine and I know Jason Heyward is a superstar in the making. But allow me to drop some stats.
First, let’s play the now cliched “guess the player game.” The following stats are from this season:
Pitcher A: 7.17 K/9, 2.80 BB/9, 3.91 FIP/3.93 xFIP
Pitcher B: 6.59 K/9, 2.55 BB/9, 3.49 FIP/4.34 xFIP
As you can see, “Pitcher A” has been averaging more strikeouts, around the same amount of walks, and has a lower xFIP. That pitcher is Jon Niese. Pitcher B? — Johan Santana.
Now let’s compare Niese to another left-handed CY Young Award winner — Cliff Lee. People always snicker at me when I tell them I think Niese reminds me of Lee. Granted, maybe I am overstating it a bit but the approach of both pitchers is the same: low 90s fastball, mix in a cutter, keep the ball in the ballpark, and depend on ground balls all while having a respectable strikeout rate.
This year, Jon Niese’s ground ball percentage sits at 49.1% while Cliff Lee’s is 40.3%, though Lee is striking out about a half batter more per 9 innings than Niese (7.78). Now, here’s where I’m going to get radical — while admittedly, it’s a very small sample size, Niese’s stats from last year and this year combined are also comparable to Lee’s career numbers. In 23 career starts, Niese sports a 7.04 K/9, 3.04 BB/9, 48.5% ground ball rate, 3.91 FIP, and 4.04 xFIP. For Lee’s career: 6.90 K/9, 2.25 BB/9, 38.0 ground ball rate, 3.80 FIP, and 4.19 xFIP. I’m obviously not going to say Niese is a bette pitcher than Cliff Lee based on those stats, but he is off to a really good start as a Major League pitcher.
So in the offseason, when everyone is clamoring for the Mets to sign Cliff Lee even though he’s going to cost a fortune and there are rumors that the Mets don’t have that much money, I won’t be all that upset when they don’t sign him since they already have a mini-Cliff Lee in their rotation already.
Where does it end? How much more embarrassment can one organization endure? The Francisco Rodriguez “incident” is the latest cherry on the sundae that continues to define the Mets’ organization as perhaps the most mis-managed and misguided baseball franchise around. Certainly, the Mets did the appropriate action by reprimanding K-Rod and putting him on the disqualified list. But the Rodriguez mishap is just another reason that gives credence to the Mets nickname as the “New York Mess”
Just last year, former special assistant Tony Bernazard verbally threatened minor league players to a fist fight that gave some disturbing insight that the Mets’ minor league system was less than nurturing and encouraging but run more like scenes from “Gangs of New York”. Appropriately, the Mets showed Bernazard the door and apologized for his inappropriate behavior. Shortly, after that Omar Minaya decided to throw Mets beat writer Adam Rubin under the bus since it was Rubin that broke the story on Bernazard. Once again a black mark on the face of the franchise.
It would be nice to say that it all stopped there. But over the past seasons there has been an onslaught of player injuries and some that have been mismanaged (concussion for Ryan Church and Jose Reyes’ legs) so much so that the mantra for the team during spring training this season was about health and injury prevention. There was the Willie Randolph firing that was handled with as much tact and respect as a back alley mugging. And there have been countless rumors of ownership’s money woes with varying reports on the extent how much the organization really has to spend. Of course the “company line” from ownership is that everything is fine but one has to wonder with some of the cautious approaches they have taken in the free agent market when they were obvious, specific holes that needed to be filled that just weren’t fully addressed.
Let’s not forget some poor long term contracts (Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo) and the teams’ struggles of late to attract free agents. Joel Pineiro and Bengie Molina were targets for the Mets this past off-season but they accepted reasonable offers from other teams, complaining that the Mets left them hanging and that they didn’t get back to them in a timely manner. The Mets were successful in securing Jason Bay, but one had to wonder if Bay would have preferred to play for other teams than the Mets but the offers were simply not there for his services. He said all the right things in news conferences about how the Mets were on hit “short-list”, but his play this year has been anything but inspirational.
Then there is the nearly depleted farm system. And while it’s true that the farm system strives to replenish itself, currently the Mets minor leaguers are generally not considered among the top prospects in baseball. This raises some questions as to the talent evaluators and the scouts the team has employed and whether they are really doing the top notch job they should.
And finally, let’s not forget about the two collapses in the past years that have branded the team with the “chokers” title (yes, there’s that “C” word). A moniker they have yet to shake. True, many of the players are not around anymore from three seasons ago, but it’s still a stigma that has followed the team around and seems to be permeated in its pores.
So there seems to be this perpetual black cloud that follows the team around. As much as they try to shake this perception of a disorganized organization, the more things happen that seem to strengthen and reemphasize this belief. It would be easy for me to say that they need to fire the coaches, fire Jerry Manuel, fire Omar Minaya and start from scratch. But this would do little to alter this “New York Mess” perspective. Perhaps the team needs to take a closer look at franchises like the Los Angeles Angels and the Minnesota Twins who seem to garner respect throughout baseball. These are teams that ballplayers seem to genuinely enjoy playing for and a look at their organizational approach might be beneficial as they seem to generally have success year after year.
But for now, the Mets continue to make decisions with no seemingly big picture in mind. They are certainly the Rodney Dangerfield’s of baseball, but whereas Rodney lamented not getting any respect, I’m unsure, at this point, the Mets are deserving of any.
The Mets placed Francisco Rodriguez on the DL on Monday afternoon with a torn ligament in his thumb which was the result of him punching his fiance’s father. I won’t delve into K-Rod’s anger issues or use hindsight to criticize Omar Minaya for signing him – turn on 660AM if you want that. Instead, I’ll take a look at K-Rod’s season to date and contract status.
Francisco Rodriguez acquired 25 saves and was worth 1.5 WAR before his season ended in dramatic fashion. Among relievers, 1.5 WAR to date was a top 10 mark, higher than Mariano Rivera, Jonathon Broxton, Joakim Soria, among others. He pitched 57.1 innings with a 10.52 k/9 which was his highest mark since 2007. He also sported a 3.30 bb/9 which was the lowest mark of his career (obviously not counting his 5 inning 2002 season). To summarize, K-Rod was having his best season since 2007.
According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Rodriguez is signed through the 2011 season and has a 17.5 mil option(3.5 mil buyout) for 2012 that becomes guaranteed with 55 games finished in 2011, 100 games finished in 2010-2011, and if doctors declare Rodriguez healthy after 2011. He appeared in 53 games in 2010, finishing 45 games. It is feasible he could finish 55 games next year, which would put him at 100 and as long as he is healthy, the option would vest.
I am one that generally avoids writing about clubhouse chemistry and morality in baseball as I try to be objective as possible. We all know they are a PR mess and never want to make roster decisions that prove they made a mistake signing. With that said, they need to do whatever they can to prevent that option from vesting. In the meantime, with a month and a half left in a hopeless season, this is the perfect opportunity to see Bobby Parnell in high leverage situations and maybe, just maybe, audition for a future closer role on this or another team.
While the Phillies have had no problem beating teams lately, they roll into Citi Field to face the Mets who have had a hard time beating anybody lately…except their in-laws. No? Too played out by now? Alright, moving on…
The good news: The Mets took two of three from Colorado this week and, barring a meltdown from the bullpen, would have had a sweep. The bad news: they still have yet to win consecutive games since June 22-23. Hell, they’ve even dropped to fourth place in the NL East! But like I said after the Atlanta series, the season is pretty much over anyway so there’s no need to keep bringing up how this is not a playoff team.
Instead, I’m going to enjoy watching the last month and a half of baseball without having to have anxiety attacks throughout the game and losing sleep after another bonehead move by Jerry Manuel. If they win, great. If they don’t, oh well. I’m not concerned with record anymore, I’m interested in watching the young kids play and develop so they can be ready for 2011.
Think about it: As of now, the Mets starting infield next year will be all homegrown players. And not just homegrown players, talented homegrown players. That’s exciting! Jonathon Niese has shown nothing but promise all year, and if Tuesday night was any indication, Mike Pelfrey seems to have cemented himself as a solid pitcher. A #2 starter -*ahem*Cliff Lee*ahem* here and a #5 starter there (with Dickey in the bullpen ready to step in for depth purposes) and you got a pretty good team. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s look at this weekend’s pitching matchups:
Friday: Cole Hamels vs. RA Dickey
Saturday: Roy Halladay vs. Pat Misch
Sunday: Kyle Kendrick vs. Mike Pelfrey
You can’t say enough about Dickey this year. He has been solid all around — 3.63 FIP, 3.90 xFIP, a 2.56 BB/9 (that’s awesome for a knuckleballer), and a 56.7 ground ball percentage. Without him, the Mets would have never made it to late July being in the race. But if you want to talk about greatness, you have to look at Saturday’s starter for Philadelphia.
Roy Halladay is already considered by many to be the game’s best pitcher. So it’s really scary that, from a numbers standpoint, this is the best year of his career. His 2.34 ERA, 2.71 FIP, 2.86 xFIP, and 1.07 BB/9 are all career lows and his 8.17 K/9 is a career high. Oh yeah, he also threw a perfect game this year. Yikes!
As for his counterpart, Pat Misch, it’s been way overdue for him to be called up. Misch was very good in his 4 starts last year for the Mets, posting a 2.65 FIP and 7.46 K/9 and was doing a fine job in Buffalo this year. His numbers: 11-4, 3.23 ERA, 3.53 FIP, 5.91 K/9, .259 BAA…yet for some reason the Mets never called him up until now, even while they were insiting all thhroughout July they needed to get Takahashi back in the bullpen. I have been clamoring for Misch to get a shot for about a month, so hopefully he doesn’t disappoint me.
Finally, I leave you with this point I realized after the Colorado series. Remember how in Spring Training everyone was saying how the season depended on Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John Maine? Well, Pelfrey has performed (for the most part) admirably and though Maine and Perez were complete failures, doesn’t the surprising success of Dickey and Niese off-set that? Essentially, everyone agreed the Mets success would depend on their pitching, and their pitching has been excellent. Their 17 shutouts lead all of baseball. On top of that, Angel Pagan has exceeded expectations, Ike Davis is more Major League ready than we thought and Jose Reyes has been healthy the majority of the season. Yet, the Mets are still only a .500 team. So shouldn’t that tell you something about the coaching staff?
It’s hard to believe that the Mets haven’t won back-to-back games since June 23rd when they did it against Detroit. Yet, the streak continued on Sunday with a 6-5 loss to Philadelphia. The Mets did fight back but unfortunately, and so customarily, they fell short. It was a game that saw Fernando Martinez get his first start of the season in left field. At 9 games back in the division and 7.5 back in the wild card race, it appears that the Mets have decided to give some of their up-and-comers a shot. What the heck.
There were some trade rumor grumblings and suspicions that both Ruben Tejada and Martinez might have been part of some trade package. Seattle seemed to have been the interested party and word was out that Jeff Francoeur might have been included in a deal that would have sent Chone Figgins to the Mets. But as of yet, that trade has not materialized. Instead they were both brought up to the parent club and Alex Cora was let go. A move that was long overdue.
Martinez will get some much needed Major League experience and it will also allow the Mets to showcase him a little in case there are suitors for his services. Ike Davis made an impression early on with the Seattle Mariners so much so that Seattle was willing to trade Cliff Lee to the Mets for a deal that included Davis. The Mets balked at the deal, but Martinez hasn’t really made the strides the Mets were hoping that he’d make. He’s already gotten a reputation for being injury prone and has been dropping steadily in Baseball America’s prospect ratings year after year. In 2008, Martinez was the #20 ranked prospect in baseball than fell to #30 in 2009. In 2010, he slipped to #77. The Mets might be more inclined to include Martinez in a deal that made sense.
While the Mets are trying to infuse some youthful energy into their daily lineup, the arrivals of Martinez and Tejada has been off-putting to some. Francoeur has been told that he will be platooning with Martinez in right field. A few weeks back, Francoeur was having to come to grips with the fact that he was going to be losing playing time to Angel Pagan with Carlos Beltran coming off the DL. Francoeur appeared OK with that. He understood that Beltran’s bat needed to be in the lineup and Pagan has been one of the more consistent and surprising Mets players all year. But with Jason Bay out, the Mets needed Francoeur to step back into his right field role. But now, Francoeur seems a little less flexible with sharing time with Martinez. So much so, that Francoeur has had some closed door meeting with Jerry Manuel.
Tejada’s arrival also means that Luis Castillo will be riding the bench more. Castillo will still hit better than Tejada but Castillo’s slash line of .259/.322/.315 since the All Star break, won’t win him any medals, so if the Mets are wanting to cultivate Tejada, it would seem that Castillo will find a nice warm spot next to Francoeur on the bench.
None of these maneuvers are game changers. However, neither Francoeur, Castillo or for that matter Cora are difference makers that will help to win games on a consistent basis. The Mets are trying to change the complexion of the team and that means that some players, and some good guys, have to sit or be let go. These are the tough and sometimes unpleasant decisions that a team struggling for direction need to make.
Unfortunately, the most obvious decision and the one the Mets are still unwilling to make is the release of Oliver Perez. Now that would be a game changer.
July, let’s be real, was miserable. The Mets went 9 and 17 with a -11 run differential. They only allowed 99 runs but could only muster 88 runs themselves. The hitting disappeared. The Mets hit .227/.293/.353 good for a whopping .646 OPS. Their OPS and a 284 wOBA both ranked last in the league. Angel Pagan continued his stud play hitting .337/.402/.594 with a .257 ISO and 7.7 SPD score. They got little production out of second base as the trifecta of talent that is Luis Castillo, Alex Cora, and Ruben Tejada all struggled getting on base. Luis Castillo’s .282 OBP was about 40 points higher than Tejada’s and 80 points higher than Cora’s. There’s no excuse to be starting Cora, even if Castillo is struggling. There’s barely an excuse to even have him on the team. David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Ike Davis all performed well in July, but the struggles continued for Jason Bay. Carlos Beltran walked 14% of the time in July but struggled early with his triple slash. He’s still struggling at the plate but has walked 17% of the time in his past 14 games. Jeff Francoeur maintained his sneaky persona of generating outs more than practically all of baseball, all while capturing the adoration of anti-sabr Met fans. Haters.
The Mets pitching had it’s bright spots in July, though Mike Pelfrey’s regression seemingly masked the other starters’ strides. The Mets are a hittable staff without strong strike out numbers. They’ve been able to limit home runs all year likely due to ground ball tendencies and Citi’s park factor. Mike Pelfrey had a horrific July. His k/9 continued it’s descent and for the month of July was a measly 4.35, but worse was his 5.66 bb/9. Opposing hitters hit .419 off of him. Jonathon Niese, Johan Santana, and R.A. Dickey turned in spectacular Julys. Fun fact: Jonathon Niese had a 98% strand rate in July. The Mets had the sixth best FIP in all of baseball in July. Imagine what it could have been if Pelfrey didn’t self destruct.
With their embarrassing 8-3 loss last night to Atlanta, I have officially given up on the Mets season. Not that I had much hope to begin with, but I felt if they could go 6-0/5-1 on this road trip they would at least get themselves back in it. Of course, that was a long shot to happen anyway and last night officially ended that idea, along with my hopes for 2010.
The Mets now sit 7.5 games behind Atlanta for first place. It certainly isn’t impossible to come back from such a deficit, as the Mets themsevles showed us just a few years ago in only 17 games. However, add in the fact that the Mets not only have to worry about the Braves, but the Phillies and Marlins as well, and it shows you just how difficult it is going to be for them. Even if the Mets sweep the Phillies this weekend, they’d still be 2.5 games behind them. And the Phillies haven’t even had their A-team out there all season.
**Side note — The injuries the Phillies have faced this season (Rollins, Victorino, Utley, Howard, Polanco, Ruiz, and more) are very comparable to what the happened to the Mets last year. Yet, while the 2009 Mets scuffled and used their injuries as an excuse, the Phillies keep winning and get Roy Oswalt to boot. But that’s another story for another day.**
As for the Wild Card? Being 8 games back of San Francisco, the Mets are actually closer to the division lead. And let’s just say, for arguments sake, the Mets actually catch up to Philadelphia and take over second in the NL East. That still only puts them in third place for the Wild Card, with the Giants and St. Louis/Cincinnati ahead of them.
So now that I have become the ultimate Debbie Downer, I might as well take it a step further and say now is the perfect time to fire Jerry Manuel. You have an off-day and you just lost a series that you needed to win in order to keep your season alive. The team went the entire month of July without winning consecutive games, a streak that actually dates back to June 24, and they’ve won only two road series all year. You might as well cut the cord and start looking ahead to 2011.
Before I continue, let’s get this out of the way — is this season entirely Jerry’s fault? No. Did baseball experts say before the season the Mets were no better than a .500 team? Yes. However, did baseball experts also say if the Mets were in fact no better than a .500 team it would not bode well for Jerry and Omar? Yes they did.
Jerry Manuel seems like a great guy and I’m sure he is. Unfortunately, he is not in the nice guy business, he is in the winning business and has not won. The main problem I have with Jerry is his lack of a plan, which I think is a problem with the Mets as a whole. Many times Jerry will tell us he’s going to do something then doesn’t do it. This series with Atlanta is a prime example of that. He talked about his disappointment in Luis Castillo and the bottom of the order and said changes needed to be made, then the next night he runs out the exact same lineup (which includes Castillo), only replacing Henry Blanco with Josh Thole…wow, what a dramatic shake-up… Then we take a look at last night. Mike Pelfrey is scuffling in the 5th and SNY shows us left-hander Hisanori Takahashi warming up in the bullpen. Gary Cohen informs us that Jerry has said he was trying to stay away from Takahashi, so once again he is going back on his word. When Pelf proceeds to intentionally pitch around Chipper Jones to get to the back-to-back lefties in Brian McCann and Eric Hinske, one would assume Takahashi was warming up for the lefty-on-lefty matchup. But instead, Jerry decides to keep Pelfrey in, making the decision to warm up Takahshi in the first place baffling. Of course, McCann proceeds to rip a double into right field, then after an intentional walk to Hinske to load the bases, Pelfrey hits the next batter to force in a run.
First of all, the fact that Takahashi wasn’t brought in for the lefty-on-lefty matchup tells me that the only reason he was warming up was in case Pelfrey fell apart. If that’s the case then that just goes to show you how much confidence Jerry Manuel has in this team to begin with. But in any event, was it really necessary for Takahashi to be the one brought in? If he’s overworked and needs a rest then give him a rest! Why not use Raul Valdes, a lefty whose prime job all year has been as a long reliever/lefty specialist? I’m dying to hear why that move would have made less sense than bringing in a guy who you admitted yourself was overworked and needed a day or two off.
Nobody expects Jerry Manuel to return next year anyway, so why wait until the end of the season to get rid of him? Fire him now, hire Bob Melvin on an interim basis and see what he can do. After the season, get rid of the entire coaching staff, line up some managerial interviews — Melvin, Backman, Valentine, etc. – and let whoever you hire assemble their own staff. I would also give Omar Minaya the ax, which I believe is long overdue. He’s the one who created this roster, which everyone thought was not very well constructed. He was the one who gave terrible contracts to Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and Alex Cora. He needs to take the majority of the blame. Who would replace him? In reality it would probably be Wayne Krivsky, the former Reds GM who is now a special assistant with the Mets. But I would love to see the Mets at least try to make a run at Josh Byrnes, the former Arizona Diamondbacks GM who was just inexplicably recently let go. Either way, something needs to be done.
Ben Franklin defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The Mets collapsed in 2007, did the same in 2008, didn’t even come close in 2009, and are now out of it with two months left this season. Omar has been there for all of it, and Jerry is responsible for the past three seasons as the manager. A change is not a suggestion, it is a necessity. Not only are the Mets acting insane, but they’re driving their fans insane as well.
It was an uneventful weekend for the Mets in many respects. They lost two of three games to the “lowly” Arizona Diamondbacks. A team, as my GBB partner Adam Rossi pointed out, had only won 13 road games all year prior to their visit to CitiField. The other non-event was the coming and going of the trade deadline with the Mets taking the position of neither buyer nor seller, but as a mere bystander.
They did manage to offload Mike Jacobs to the Blue Jays for the infamous “Player to be Named Later” As long as that unnamed player has all of their limbs, that will be one transaction that will be favorable for the Mets. And rumor has it that they did their best to convince other teams that Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo could compete with sliced bread as the next best thing, but alas, to no avail.
But did we really expect some thirteenth hour blockbuster trade to transpire? Realistically, that just wasn’t in the cards. The Mets have been playing such uneven baseball that it should be no surprise that their record is almost a perfectly even .500. The team is much further away from contending with the Braves or the Phillies than one big bat or one big pitcher. I actually applaud Mets’ management for not putting on the pretense of being a “buyer” this season. Whether money was a factor and the team was unable to increase payroll or the team recognized its shortcoming and didn’t want to depart with what few legitimate prospects they have, it was a prudent move.
They also chose not to play the part of the “seller”. It would have been a bold move to trade some of the key, cornerstone players that are fan favorites. For example, what if the Mets had opted to trade Jose Reyes? Sure, Met fans would miss chanting “Jose—Jose—Jose” at home games. They would miss his energy, solid defense and speed. But he is a consummate injury risk and he could have gotten a couple of good prospects in return. Could the Mets have pulled of a trade with, say, Tampa Bay? Trading Reyes for pitcher Wade Davis and minor leaguer Tim Beckham? Maybe, maybe not. Initially, a trade like that would have been an unpopular move for the fan faithful. But a trade like that that might have been a strong move to revamping the Mets with solid, young players of the future. After all, let’s face it, what’s in place right now, isn’t getting the job done.
But again, I don’t fault the Mets for not wanting to pull the trigger on a deal similar to that. That type of a deal would have been an outward confession to the Met fans that they don’t feel that they have the players to win and would have indicated that the team is in a rebuilding mode. Such a position is unpopular in a city that demands a winner and has high expectations to have a team with high profile players. That would have been a trade that could potentially alienate even the most loyal of fans.
But what I do fault the Mets for is being in a position that they can be neither “seller” nor “buyer” and the end result was decided to do absolutely nothing. Whether this unfortunate position is due to limited payroll and bad signings (pointing a finger at Perez and Castillo), an under developed farm system or concern about team image and perception, the Mets took the most passive and complacent approach. Could they have not come up with something to at least show the loyal fan base that they care? Some initiative to show some forward movement rather than a team that seems so frightened by its own shadow that it is paralyzed by indecisiveness?
So the end result is the Mets simply don’t know whether to buy or sell. They don’t know if they are coming or going. For every win, there is a loss and the bottom line is that they look like an organization that continues to chase its own tail. They seem forever to remain in limbo and Met faithful will continue to suffer in purgatory.
How frustrating it is to be a Met fan!