The Ollie P Dillema

May 10, 2010

We find ourselves in a familiar position.  We have seen enough of Oliver Perez.  After all, how many times can you endure the Ollie P experience before you want to slit your wrists?  Frankly, I have reached the point where each time he walks the opposing pitcher that I can do nothing but chuckle.  It is certainly a better option than emoting frustration, isn’t it?  What more is there to say about him anyway?  Oh yes, there is one thing…he is terrible!

Oliver Perez, Be Gone With Wilpon

We all know Oliver Perez is impossible to watch, but what are the alternatives?

The dilemma that we Met fans have to endure is quite simple.  Who else is there to be our fifth starter?  Jonathon Niese was supposed to hold that post to begin with, and there in lies the problem.  Ollie was supposed to act as either the 3rd or 4th starter, and is being paid as if he is a 2nd starter.  Now that Niese has been force fed into the 3rd starter role, the Mets would need an alternative to Perez to fill the five spot, rendering Ollie and his inflated contract to mop-up, long-relief chores.

However, unless the Mets push either Nieve or Takahashi into the fifth starter spot, they have no other alternative but to keep putting Perez back out there every fifth day.  Unfortunately, those two guys are so conditioned to pitching virtually every day due to the lack of inning-eaters on the starting staff, that it would take a prolonged transition to stretch out their arms to perform adequately in that role.  It is important to mention the fact that this would also create a large hole in the bullpen if either one was removed for this purpose.  Fill a hole, and you inevitably create another one.

This is yet another glaring reminder of how the Mets made the mistake of not making John Lackey an offer during the off-season.  I expect these reminders to continue to haunt us throughout the season as well.  But hey, the Mets were serious about lowering payroll this year, and they accomplished their goal.  That is our loss though, is it not?  Here’s to more nauseating Ollie P starts.  Thanks Mr. Wilpon!

Here comes the optimism

April 26, 2010

Am I happy today as a Met fan?  Sure, why wouldn’t I be?  The Mets have won six out of seven and stand at one game above .500 today.  That is certainly beyond what I expected at this point.

Let me point out a few things that I believe have pushed the Mets beyond my expectations to this point.

1) Ike Davis -I did not expect the Mets to actually release Mike Jacobs so soon and inevitably call up Davis.  Let’ s just say that this move was a bit out of character for the Mets and leave it at that.  Davis is a ray of sunshine for Met fans.  There is not one person in Met Land that isn’t pulling for this kid to succeed, myself obviously included.  As long as he is here, the level of optimism is just a notch higher around here.  Let’s just hope that if he slumps, that the Mets do not decide to send him down simply because Daniel Murphy happens to be ready to play at the same time.

Mike Pelfrey at Be Gone With Wilpon

Mike Pelfrey has certainly "cooked up" some success with his first four starts in 2010.

2) Mike Pelfrey – There are surely some readers that want me to eat some crow here, and to date, this is justifiably so.  Mike Pelfrey’s ERA stands at a microscopic 0.69 after four starts, and has run his scoreless inning streak to 24 innings.  Those are some incredible statistics that even the most optimistic Met fan would not have expected.  Listen, I have been very impressed with the way he has gone about his business so far.  I still do not believe, unfortunately, that he is a dominant pitcher for the same reasons I always have.  He is not a strikeout pitcher.  In order for him to succeed, he needs to keep the ball low, and often times, out of the strike zone.   In his first few starts, hitters were approaching their at bats against him very aggressively.  In yesterday’s game against Atlanta, the Braves took the more patient approach, leading to 100 plus pitches thrown in only five innings of work.  This patient approach also led to five walks allowed.  I just feel that Pelfrey needs to be perfect in order to succeed here on in, and perfect is what he has been thus far.  It is just that perfection is a hard thing to maintain through a full season of work.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

3) The Bullpen – In yet another area that would warrant the need for me to eat some crow, the Met bullpen has been extremely productive.  (Eating some crow as I type)  I had stated my concern for anyone not named Felciano or Rodriguez to be a viable member of this bullpen.  So far, Igarashi, Takahashi, and Nieve have proven my concerns to be unfounded…at least in April.  My concerns remain for the simple reason that the two Japanese pitchers have exactly 14 appearances between them, and that Fernando Nieve has had limited starts throughout his three incomplete years of major league experience.  I restate that I am a fan of the proven pitcher in comparison to the unproven pitcher.  Why?  Major league coaches, scouts and players have a way of writing a book on inexperienced pitchers.  When they do, they make adjustments on how to approach each plate appearance against that pitcher.  It is then inherent upon that pitcher to make an adjustment of their own to remain successful.  Will these three relievers succeed in this quest?  Only time will tell.

4) Jose Reyes – It appears that Jose is healthy.  He is running hard, he is playing stellar defense, and he is beginning to hit the ball as well.  Through it all so far, he has also produced from his new position as the number three hitter in the order.  This is great news for the Mets, especially since Carlos Beltran will be out for a long, long time to the surprise of no one.  However, like Mr. Beltran, Jose has to prove that he can stay healthy for an entire season.  Once you get that injury label tagged to you, it takes a while to shake it off.

4) The level of competition – It isn’t as if the Mets have played anyone who is a World Series contender to date, other than the St. Louis Cardinals of course.  Of the Marlins, Nationals, Rockies, Cubs and Braves, do any of these teams strike fear in you?  Each of these teams are obviously flawed in at least one area of the game.  The Marlins can hit, but can’t field or close out a game.  The Nationals can’t do much of anything.  The Rockies are average in most areas.  The Cubs can’t hit or close out a game.  Finally, the Braves can’t hit, run the bases, or field, as we just witnessed this past weekend.  This is extremely odd for a Bobby Cox team mind you, even if it is his last season on the bench in Atlanta.

What will the Mets do against the the better teams?  Well, they did lose two out of three to St. Louis already. One thing is certain.  The better teams always expose another team’s weaknesses.  This will certainly play out as the season unfolds.

In summary, there is plenty to be happy with on April 26th, fresh off this latest sweep of the rival Atlanta Braves.  Will it continue?  If you believe like I do that the Mets have exceeded expectations thus far, then perhaps it will not.  If you believe conversely that what you have seen is a true gauge of what the Mets are as a team, then you will obviously feel differently.  Whichever the case, it has been a fun week, hasn’t it?

I think that all of you are aware of how I feel about the Mets starting rotation.  I have said on numerous occasions that an upgrade here was essential to the Mets being a competitive team in 2010.  Granted, there were not a lot of impact pitchers available this off-season to be had outside of John Lackey and Roy Halladay.  For a myriad of reasons, the Mets chose to stay pat with what they have had for years now.

I will now review the Met Starting Pitcher Depth Chart as I see it right now, and follow each player with some analysis and opinion.

  1. Johan Santana – Not much to break down here, as he is the only real credible guy in the rotation.  We all know what the man is capable of.  The only negative here is off-season left elbow surgery on 9/1/09, in which he had multiple bone fragments removed.  A report on the success of his first workout can be seen here posted by Joe D.
  2. Mike Pelfrey – “Big Pelf” pitched nothing like his nickname implies last season.  Last year was such a major step back for him after such a promising rookie debut.  His ERA jumped over a point and a quarter, and often times looked like he was a batting tee for the opposition.  For a player considered to be one of our finest home-grown talents, there is a lot we do not know about him at this stage in his development.  What we do know is that he was never a strikeout pitcher going back to his time in the minor leagues (at least above A-Ball).  It is noticeable when he gets to 2 strikes and has no “put-away” pitch to fool the batter.  There are many ten-pitch AB’s against him as a result.  107 strikeouts in 184 innings is as much evidence as you need to gauge this.  In essence, he is a ground-ball pitcher who lets up many base runners while lulling his defense to sleep during long innings of work.  Let’s face it, a plus 5 ERA and plus 1.50 WHIP is not deserving of #2  starter status.  However, as you will see once you continue down this list, he must be placed here for now.  This is awfully disturbing.
  3. Oliver Perez – Who doesn’t cringe every time we see Oliver Perez take the mound, let alone after the sheer mention of his name?  This is a guy that came on like a whirlwind during the 2006 playoffs, and has looked anything but that ever since.  It has been a slow regression of productivity for him since that season.  That 2004 all-star season on the Pittsburgh Pirates seems like a distant memory.  In many ways, it is.  The Pirates lost patience with his lack of command and faulty mechanics that they gave him away f or a song and dance.  The Mets appeared to pull off a steal when they made the move to acquire him in 2006.  What did they actually come away with?  Let’s put it this way.  It’s almost like the Mets held up a bank and asked the teller to fill their bag with all the money in the vault, only to come away with monopoly money instead.  What is evident is that Ollie has reigned back his mechanics to the point where his velocity, which once neared 98-100 mph in 2004, rarely reaches 94 and often hovers around 91 mph.  Combine that with his infamous lack of control, and you have a time bomb on the mound as your number three pitcher coming off of knee surgery.  Ouch!
  4. John Maine – Now here is a man with a little upside…I hope.  John Maine has proven, while healthy, to be a productive pitcher.  Unlike Pelfrey and Perez, his strikeout to walk ratio is minimally 2:1 throughout his major league career.  He is a guy who lets up home runs as a fly ball pitcher, but makes up for it with the ability to strike someone out as he usually possesses fair control.  Unfortunately, he has been completely unable to stay healthy over the last year and a half, and whether his stuff will be what it once was this year is anybody’s guess.
  5. Fernando Nieve – We now reach the level of the completely unknown.  Nieve had a small run of success last season before suffering a season-ending quadriceps injury on July 19th.  He possessed a fastball that occasionally was clocked at 98 mph that had some late movement.  This enabled him to overpower some major league hitters during his short stint with the club last year.  Other than this cup of coffee, he toiled in the minor leagues for parts of 9 years, illuminating the fact that he has not been highly regarded for quite some time by big league scouts.  Your guess is as good as mine here.
  6. Jonathon Niese – Projected as a major league 4th starter by most experts, Mr. Niese seemed to be rounding into form last season before he spun the roulette wheel of season ending Met injuries on August 5th.  He ultimately succumbed to a complete tear of the right upper hamstring tendon that required surgery to repair.  His statistics are encouraging.  He possesses a 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio in limited major league innings.  However, this is backed up by a better ratio than that throughout his minor league career.  He also has the ability to produce a lot of ground ball outs as his best pitch is a huge breaking curve ball.  He began to spot his low 90’s fastball with better accuracy prior to the injury.  He seems to  have a bit of promise, however like so many Met pitchers, he is a huge gamble to produce this season coming off his major injury.
  7. Josh Fogg – Please.
  8. Nelson Figueroa – Why bother?

As clearly illustrated, the Mets have very little to trust going into this 2010 season from a starting pitching standpoint.  As much as I can measure, it is pitching that wins.  Why gamble on such an important aspect to your success? There was John Lackey to be had.  It seems to me that we could have at least made him an offer.

Why take such a gamble, Jeff? You seem confused.

Ask Jeff Wilpon that question, not me.