Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Archive for April, 2009

Sweep Me in St. Louis

Posted by JD on April 24, 2009

Well, this series was certainly disappointing.  Not only did Albert Pujols proudly display his MVP credentials, the Mets failed to take advantage of a Pittsburgh sweep of the division-leading Marlins.  Now they return home to face a Washington Nationals squad that has to be gaining confidence after winning their first two games of the season.

This certainly wasn’t the start that the team was hoping for, and fans and pundits have been searching for an answer. The starting pitching, hitting with runners in scoring position, David Wright’s curious quasi-slump, and others have all been nominated as the leading cause.  The truth is that all of these factors have contributed to the slow start, which leads me to believe that the slow start might also be related to something “intangible”.

I’m very much a member of the school that says that production trumps everything. “Chemistry” and “grit” are overrated (see: Eckstein, David). Give me one clubhouse cancer that OPS’ .900 or more and I’ll let you have as many Ecksteins as you want.  But even I have to relent when considering the 2009 Mets.

The talent on the team is indisputable. Centerfield, third base, and shortstop are all manned by all-stars.  There’s a legitimate Cy Young candidate leading the rotation and the single-season save leader backstopping the bullpen.  The talent is definitely there.

So what’s lacking? “Fire”? “Desire”? “Desperation”? “Swagger”? “Grit”? Go ahead, pick whatever adjective you prefer. I can’t argue with it.  Mine would be “Confidence”.  My inexpert eyes see a team that desperately needs to get a fluke win, followed quickly by a blowout. My initial hope was to see them win two in St. Louis and come home to blow-out the Nats. The Cards foiled part one of that plan and the Nationals may very well foil part two.  Joker’s wild after Santana’s start tomorrow night, but I’d love to see them score a bunch of runs for Big Pelf on Saturday.  Anything to get the ball rolling.

The moral of the story is that I think that the team can right it’s troubles just by winning a few games in a row and building up the “Confidence” that it’s missing.  That’s easier said than done, but in my opinion that’s what it will take.  Let’s hope they can take advantage of the Nationals’ visit to Citi Field.


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Ollie Update

Posted by JD on April 22, 2009

Not much to dwell on here. Good Ollie and Bad Ollie played tug of war, with Bad Ollie eventually triumphing when a misplay by Daniel Murphy got to Good Ollie. The final line: 4 and 2/3 innings pitched, 6 hits, 4 runs (all earned), 5 walks, 4 K’s, .533 strike %. On the plus side, he did bat 1.000, with a walk and a clutch (gasp!) 2-out hit that started a rally.

Not much to write about here.  Ollie had his moments but ultimately failed to get the job done.  Yes, he was victimized by a questionable call at first and some shaky fielding, but he’s got to get out of that fifth inning.

Nobody said that driving the Ollie bandwagon would be easy, but this eternal optimist remains undaunted…for now.

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Tony LaRussa

Posted by JD on April 22, 2009

I was thinking about this subject when I was putting together my mini-preview this morning. I couldn’t fit it in there but its been bugging me, so I’m going to depart from my usual Mets content to tell you this: I dislike Tony LaRussa.

Mind you, I don’t hate the man.  I try to separte that emotion from baseball (it is a game, after all). And I acknowledge that he’s well above the average manager.  Two world championships certainly attest to that.

Despite this, I can only begrudgingly give him his due credit.  The man’s ego is transparent: he makes no attempt to hide the fact that he thinks he’s better than every other manager.  Every baseball fan knows he gets the credit (or the blame, depending on your viewpoint) for perfecting the specialization of bullpen. But what often gets lost is that he had Rick Honeycutt to get the lefties and Dennis Eckersley to close it out. Without those two superior athletes, LaRussa’s specialization doesn’t work anywhere near as well as it did.

Similarly, LaRussa made waves in the late 90’s by batting his pitcher 8th.  The theory was to get three hitters in front of Mark McGwire, increasing his RBI opportunities.  Hey, there might be some statistical advantage if you’ve got a Rick Ankiel or a Micah Owings, or even a Johan Santana or a Livan Hernandez on your squad.  But any average pitcher is just going to burn his at-bat one line-up spot sooner, which does take its toll eventually.  Thankfully, this idea has begun to run it’s course.  Not before claiming Ned Yost, who regularly dropped Jason Kendall to the 9th spot.  That was so bad that it warrants it’s own post, but suffice it to say that it serves to highlight exactly why the idea stinks.

LaRussa is the classic example of a manager that hogs the credit when things go well, but dodges the blame when they don’t.  His strategy is flawless when his team wins but the players can never execute when they lose.  That’s why I’ll always root against the guy (and no, 2006 did nothing to help).

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Series Preview – Mets vs. Cardinals

Posted by JD on April 21, 2009

The Mets open a three game series tonight in St. Louis against the Cardinals. Surfing the Mets and MetsGeek provide excellent breakdowns of the upcoming series.

This is the annual revival of one of the ’80’s best rivalries. Back when there were only two divisions, these two clubs fought battles for the NL East, with the Cards winning in ‘85 and ‘87 and the Mets winning in ‘86 and ‘88. There was genuine animosity between the two clubs, and the fans in St. Louis were especially hostile (in their peculiarly polite fashion) to the big city Mets.

Though the rivalry has diminished over the past 15 yrs (with the notable exception of the ‘06 NLCS), this week’s series has it’s own spicy subplots. The superb Dave Duncan has once again cobbled together an effective starting staff despite losing his ace, Chris Carpenter. Ryan Ludwick has been hitting the cover off the ball to start the season, providing the game’s best player, Albert Pujols, with some coverage from the clean-up spot. Throw in the Mets’ recent struggles with runners in scoring position and the uneven performances of Oliver Perez and John Maine and there will be plenty of drama in this series.

Despite all of these moving pieces, I think a key to this series will be the change of venue for the Mets. This gives them a chance to get out of town, gather their thoughts, and hopefully relax. I expect that the bats will come around and the Mets will drive in enough of those RISP to win the series.

Series prediction: Mets win, 2-1.

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Ollie Update 2

Posted by JD on April 16, 2009

Oliver Perez’s box score: 6 innings pitched, 3 hits, 1 run (earned), 2 walks, and 4 strikeouts.  In addition, 57 of the 90 pitches he threw were strikes (63%).

Ollie’s first quality start came at a great time for him and the team.  Though the offense would erupt later (highlighted by Jose Reyes scoring from first on a wild pitch), the score was only 2-1 when Ollie departed.  Ollie pulled it together and only surrendered the one run.  The fielding involved was questionable (to be fair), but the key fact was that Ollie settled himself after the run scored and prevented the Dads from scoring again.

It was important for Ollie to come out and show the home fans that he can still pitch.  Not that he needs to justify his contract every time he takes the mound, but he did need to erase the memory of his flops in the final exhibition game against the BoSox and in Cincinnatti. Tonight he did just that.

Ollie gets a Happy Recap in his second start of the season.  As the driver of the Ollie Bandwagon, I couldn’t be happier.  That being said, everybody keep their seat belts buckled…there are plenty of potholes ahead!

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