First of all, let me state that I am happy to be back from the infirmary for the past several days.  That cold kicked my ass more than the Marlins and Nationals did to the Mets down the stretch of 2007 and 2008.  It isn’t as if I have missed that much.

Oh, with the exception of this.  Wow! I could elaborate further, but I think you know where I would take this.  I think my efforts would be better served if I were to continue my tour around the horn and touch on left field instead.

Jason BayI know that you are looking for me to list a bunch of negative statistics and opinions here, frequent reader.  I do have a tendency to at least balance my review of anything related to the Mets with some negative spin.  I think finding much in the way of negative text would be a tough task here.  I state this while making one valid point.  Jason Bay is a very good player.  However, he is not a superstar.  I doubt that this will actually raise much of a controversy here, but let me break it down for you.

In the only happy move of the off-season, the Mets bring back one of their own to patrol left field

First off, it is great to bring back a former Met farm-hand.  I am not sure why the Mets ever got rid of him, but that is ancient history.   From the minute he arrived as an everyday player for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2004, he has produced at a high level, with the possible exception of his one down year in 2007.  One down year can be accepted, however, when sandwiched between groups of highly productive ones.  This is a guy who has hit at least 30 home runs and driven in over 100 runs in four of his six full big league seasons.   That is very respectable to say the least.  He is also a lifetime .280 hitter and carries a lifetime slugging percentage of a tick under .520.  He does strikeout a ton, reaching the dubious plateau of 162 last season.  You will take that with career highs of 36 HR and 119 RBI as the entree.  He also sports a solid lifetime on-base percentage  of .376, so he is not afraid to take a walk either.

He will have his work cut out for him at Citifield, however.  This is the case with anyone not named Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols.  You have all read about his tendency to pull the ball, which is advantageous in hitting in this ballpark due to the quick drop-off in distance down the line in left field.  This should definitely help Bay hit more home runs during his home plate appearances.  Even taking this into account, this is the polar opposite to hitting in his old ballpark, Fenway Park.

Home Runs will be much harder to come by for Bay at Citifield than they were at Fenway Park.

His lack of protection could also be a factor, as it projects today that either Daniel Murphy or Jeff Francouer will bat behind him for the unforeseeable future.

As far as his defense is concerned, let’s not overstate things, alright?  He is very simply…average.  Average speed, average range, average vision while reading the ball off of the bat, average first step and average arm.  No worse and no better.  Regardless of what you may have read to date, this is what he is as a defender.  Enough said.

Jason will play 150 plus games in left field barring injury in 2010. That is all anyone can ask from any player.  If he doesn’t catch the Met injury bug, he will provide what most Mets could not last season.  Durability.  Hooray!

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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.