When the plan in constructing a team is to search for bargains and hope for the best, the an awful lot is being left to chance.  That is just what was ordered by Mr. Wilpon this past winter.  “Find some cheap alternatives, and they better pan out…or else!”

Be Gone With Wilpon, Bargain Shopping

The Mets followed orders and looked for bargains this winter. It has worked out thus far.

The Met hierarchy, doing as they were told, searched on the bottom shelf for a group of players that would hopefully pan out for them and be somewhat productive in 2010.  This bargain-basement process led them to the signing of Rod Barajas, Henry Blanco, Hisanori Takahashi,  R.A. Dickey, and Elmer Dessens.  These names owe us Met fans absolutely nothing to date, wouldn’t you say?

Now there were others that gave us absolutely nothing, such as the departed Mike Jacobs, Gary Matthews, Jr., and Kelvim Escobar.  I think anyone would take a 50% or better success rate when searching for quality on the scrap heap.  That is just what the Mets have gotten through June 15th.  Mission accomplished Jeff.

Let us give credit where credit is due.  Jerry Manuel deserves plenty, as he is certainly getting the most out of all the players on his team, stars and unknowns alike.  Let’s give a shout out to the players themselves, as they are buying into Jerry’s mantra and have found some clubhouse balance.  This is something that has not existed in these parts in quite some time.

The problem now, however,  is two-fold.  The idea of any baseball team is to truly compete for a championship.  In order to be in the conversation, these no-name guys will have to continue their success.  Secondly, the Mets will surely need to add a starter, just as they needed to in November 2009.  Yes, this is true even though the Mets currently are among the league leaders in starting ERA.  They need a solid number three starter (Lackey would have looked great here, wouldn’t he?) to stick behind Pelfrey and Santana, therefore allowing Niese to slot in as the fourth starter.  The unfortunate fact is that this will now cost the Mets prospects as well as the dollars Mr. Wilpon seemingly will not relinquish his grasp upon.

In summary, the Mets have succeeded thus far in spite of Mr. Wilpon and his penny-pinching approach.  It better continue, or someone will have to pay.  Unfortunately, we know it won’t be Jeff Wilpon.

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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!

We have been watching the Mets perform as often as we can this spring.  We have seen the struggles of both the starting pitching and the bullpen.  This has brought on increasing levels of concern that we may be in for a long year.

However, no need to worry Met fans.  Everything out of Met camp, from the manager to the players themselves, is rosy.  We have all heard the expression, “It’s only spring training.”  We have also heard the expression from pitchers, “My arm felt great out there today.”, even after this followed up a miserable performance by that pitcher.

Sometimes we need to look through the aura of “good spring feelings” conjured by the coaches and General Manager in order to truly see what is right in front of our noses.

Oh, I almost forgot.  Our General Manager has even failed at producing this smoke screen.  I quote, “As far as our starting pitching, we know that we have some young guys that have done well, and I think if they take the ball they will be fine.  If they go out there and give us 25, 30 starts, they’ve been .500 pitchers, they’ve done it in the past.”  Yippee!  We have a bunch of .500 pitchers!  Book the parade now!

Omar Minaya can not even use an effective smoke screen when attempting to promote his struggling pitching staff.

In all seriousness, what I see is no new news for you reader.  I see a very sub-par pitching staff, both starters and relievers alike.  I know that the Mets will try to push how good these guys are leaving spring training in the dust (Omar Minaya excluded, of course), but I do not have to believe them.  Independent thinking is a virtue that I hold dear.  Besides, many of these guys are known quantities at this point.  Why should I believe that they will perform above their career averages? After all, our General Manager does not.

So go ahead Met fans.  If you think that a spring training team ERA of over 5.00 is something to worry about, then trust your gut.  Forget about what anyone else tells you to think.  Look at what you see and decide for yourself.

One more point for those who say spring training holds no meaning.  Think about this for a moment.  Met pitchers truly had something to prove this spring collectively, for one reason or another.  Are we to believe that their failures during this process should just be brushed off?  Hey, if we had the Yankee or Red Sox pitching staff, we might be able to rationalize this.  However, with a staff that includes three starters coming off injury (Johan Santana, John Maine and Oliver Perez), one coming off a miserable season (Mike Pelfrey), and another that is an unproven rookie (Jonathon Niese), I believe that their failures this spring should warrant a better explanation than just the same old cliché.

A lot has been said and written about the expectations of the Met starting staff in 2010.  It is apparent that opinions very greatly in this subject, and can get a bit testy from time to time.  In order to gain some quantifiable perspective on the matter, I thought it would be fun to gauge just how much confidence Met fans have by doing over/under polls for each projected starter.  Each poll will be broken down by wins and ERA.  Perhaps most importantly, I leave my own opinions in the stable here.

So here is the breakdown for each projected starter:

Santana- 3.20 ERA/15 wins

Pelfrey – 4.00 ERA/12 wins

Perez – 4.20 ERA/12 wins

Maine – 3.80 ERA/11 wins

Niese – 4.00 ERA/10 wins

For the purposes of these polls, I use Niese as the 5th starter, even though he is the only competitor for the spot with options and the fact that he has not done anything to prove he is the front-runner at this stage.  Just roll with me here.

Please vote for each starter’s associated poll on the right margin of this site.

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.