Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Archive for the ‘The Rotation’ Category

Will the 2011 Rotation Include Pat Misch?

Posted by JD on November 29, 2010

It’s starting to look like it might (at least to me, anyway). Consider the rotation as it stands today: with Johan Santana recovering from surgery to start the season, Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey, and Jon Niese are the only established major league starters on the roster. In some ways, referring to this group as “established” is being kind: they each have questions to answer in 2011). Pelfrey can be solid (if unspectacular), but has been prone to extended streaks where he struggles to be average. Can he be more consistent next year? R.A. Dickey was a revelation this season, but he’s 36 and the 174 innings he pitched last season were a career high. Can he do it again? 2010 was Jon Niese’s first full season, and he’s struggled with injuries the past two season. Can he stay healthy long enough to contribute?

That being said, those three will anchor the rotation next season. John Maine has most likely played his last game with the team: I expect him to be non-tendered this week. Dillon Gee will be given a chance to win a spot in the rotation in Spring Training, as will Misch and probably Tobi Stoner. Misch is easily the most established (there’s that word again, used even more generously here) of the three, which can’t hurt. Add in Sandy Alderson’s (and Terry Collins’) comments about not wanting to rush prospects to the majors and that’s about it for in-house candidates.

There are, of course, outside candidates. Joe Janish of Mets Today put together a list of signable (read: not Cliff Lee) free agent pitchers last week, focusing on the risk/reward aspect of each. Having just returned from a trip to Atlantic City, I find some of these gambles attractive, particularly Chris Young. I wouldn’t be opposed to signing one of them to a one-year deal and hoping for the best, but I don’t know if it’s possible. I’ve read in many places that the Mets’ off-season budget may be limited to $5 million. If that’s the case, these players may not fit in the Mets’ budget (even accounting for the discount generated by their injury histories). I mean, it could happen, but should the Mets really gamble on a pitcher with a history of injuries when their budget is so limited?

The next few days will see a number of pitchers hit free agency as the December 2nd non-tender deadline approaches. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors has put together a list of non-tender candidates. While there are some interesting names for the bullpen, the starting pitchers leave something to be desired. I’ve always liked Brian Bannister and he might benefit from making half his starts at Citi Field, but he’s always struggled with major league hitters and he’s been injury prone recently, too. I wouldn’t have taken a shot at Zach Duke before he was traded to the Diamondbacks, making that moot anyway. Jeff Karstens? Kyle Davies? I guess, at the right price. But it’s debatable whether their better than Misch or not.

Acquiring a starter via a trade is also a possibility. The Mets could possibly trade Jose Reyes or Carlos Beltran (Beltran for Daisuke Matsuzaka might make some sense, I guess). Personally, I remain convinced that the Mets should refrain from trading either of those players until June, at the earliest. Their value is what it once was, but there’s still a reasonable chance that they can recapture most of it: it simply makes no sense to move them now. We’ll see.

In an effort to be fair to every candidate, I have to mention that Oliver Perez currently has a 10-inning scoreless streak over his last two starts in the Mexican Winter League. Whatever.

So, there you have it: based on the known available options (and their costs), Pat Misch will very likely be the fifth (or possibly even the fourth) starter in the rotation next year. Bill James predicts Misch’s 2011 season as: 23 games (12 starts), 75.0 innings pitched, 82 hits, 50 strikeouts and 18 walks (2.78 K/BB ration) for a 4.20 ERA (4.19 FIP). Obviously, the counting numbers would be higher if Misch won the job out of spring training, but a 4.20/4.19 ERA/FIP for less than $1 million isn’t that bad. It’s less than optimal, but budget constraints make it one of the more plausible options available.


Posted in Johan Santana, Jon Niese, Mets, Mike Pelfrey, Offseason Moves, Oliver Perez, Sandy Alderson, Terry Collins, The Rotation | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Rehabbing John Maine

Posted by JD on June 13, 2010

Adam Rubin at ESPN New York reports that John Maine made a rehab start Sunday against the Trenton Thunder, the Yankees AA affiliate. Maine will start for Buffalo on Friday (where he will be limited to 80/90 pitches), after which he expects to be activated by the Mets.

I’m torn on this whole situation. Maine’s velocity is nowhere near what it was in years past and it doesn’t look as if the layoff helped (Rubin states that he was in the 87-88 range in Trenton), but he’s due for some improvement no matter how hard he’s throwing. Though his hits per nine innings (10.7) is by far the highest mark of his career, it’s partially due to bad luck: his BAbip Against is about .80 points higher than his career average. His BB/9 ratio is well above his career average (5.7/4.1), so you have to figure that will come back down, but his 8.8 K/9 ratio is also a career high. If that comes down as well, it’ll make it that much harder for him to pitch effectively. I think we can expect some improvement, but at this point there’s just no reason to expect Maine to be anything but mediocre.

And it’s not just his play on the field that’s cause for concern: it’s gotten to the point where I think it’s fair to question his frame of mind. We always knew Maine was a fierce competitor (several stories of how hard he took personal failure have been published since he joined the team in 2006), but that start against the Nationals on May 20th was something altogether different. Say what you want about how Jerry Manuel and Dan Warthen handled it (I think Manuel did the right thing, but Warthen handled it about as poorly as any pitching coach could), it was clear evidence of a breakdown in communication. Whatever Maine said to get the start, it didn’t reconcile with his actual performance at all. I think it indicates he has an unrealistic view of his own ability. I love confident players, but unrealistic confidence can be a killer.

I get where Maine is coming from and I expect no less from a major league pitcher. But there comes a point where false bravado rings hollow, where self-confidence can create a sense of entitlement that undermines team goals. We’re at that point now. I’ll be happy if Maine proves me wrong, but I don’t see him becoming an effective pitcher again. I hope the Mets keep him on a very short leash: their margin for error is practically nonexistent right now.

Posted in Mets, The Rotation | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Rotation – My Two Cents

Posted by JD on May 16, 2010

Well, that just happened. The Marlins swept the Mets in a four game series at Dolphins Stadium and the rotation was torn apart in the process. Jon Niese injured himself fielding a bunt (@StevePopper tweeted the following during today’s game: Niese aggravated his right proximal hamstring. He will return to NY for further evaluation). John Maine imploded on Saturday, and Oliver Perez was Oliver Perez on Friday. For a such a mediocre club, the Mets sure seem to deal in extremes. Well, where do we go from here?

In the short term, let’s call up R.A. Dickey to start on Wednesday. The beat writers’ post-game tweets seemed to indicate that this is the most likely course of action, and I heartily endorse it. His 4.63 K/BB and 5.5 K/9 ratio are most likely unsustainable at the major league level, but what’s the harm in giving him a shot?

I understand the calls for Dillon Gee: he’s earned his shot, too. But there’s a bigger picture to consider. Win, lose, or draw, Dickey can take the long-man spot in the bullpen, which may come in handy if Hisanori Takahashi winds up taking Niese’s spot against the Yankees on Friday. H-Tak has been a life saver an inning-eater as the long man in the bullpen, and Dickey is far better suited to that role than Gee (or Oliver Perez, for that matter). Tobi Stoner is also on track for a Wednesday start and the Mets have already used his option for this season, so that’s on the table, too. His development is better served by getting a regular turn in the Buffalo rotation but then again, I’ve said that about Jenrry Mejia, so what do I know?

A patchwork quilt of Dickey and Takahashi will have to due because, unfortunately for us, the Wilpons’ irrational inability to understand the concept of sunk costs has irrevocably tied us to Oliver Perez. If the Mets can’t bring themselves to eat the $2 million owed to Gary Matthews, Jr., why should we expect them to take the necessary actions with Oliver Perez?

As soon as that $36 million contract was signed, Perez was ours until July of 2011, at the earliest. That contract a gamble from jump: either he would succeed (in which case, he would be well worth the $12 million a year) or he would go down in flames, rendering him virtually untradeable. It’s now clear that ownership won’t step up to to back the gamble: they’re simply incapable of admitting that it didn’t work out, cutting ties, and moving on.

Listen; I know I’ve been an Oliver Perez apologist. I’ve consistently argued that he might someday (somehow) achieve the consistency needed to harness his underlying talents (I like Ollie and, unlike most, I find his personality quirks endearing). But even I understand that he’s shown nothing to indicate that he can pull himself together. We’ve moved well past the point of hoping for a miraculous breakthrough: Oliver Perez must be removed from the major league roster, for his good, and the team’s.

Someone in the front office should be on the phone to Scott Boras’ offices right now. Jeff Wilpon, Omar Minaya, or John Ricco or some other suitable proxy should be pressing the super-agent to get Perez to admit that his best interests will be served by a stint in Buffalo. The Mets would be better off starting R.A. Dickey, Dillon Gee, Tobi Stoner, or Pat Misch, and Perez would be best served by experiencing success of any kind. Perez will get paid either way, and perhaps Boras can be convinced that, at the very least, success in Buffalo can increase his trade value.

For all I know they’ve already tried it. If they have, they need to try it again. And again and again and again, until it works. If they won’t cut Perez, or trade him at a deep discount, their only hope is to get him to accept an assignment to Buffalo.

I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I doubt very much that Perez will accept assignment. And I doubt very much that the Mets will eat their loses on him, which means that we all need to get used to the fact that Ollie will be on the mound for the foreseeable future.

On a side note, the Mets’ starting pitchers have now gone 15 straight starts without a win, a feat that was last accomplished in 1982. The Mets visit the Braves tomorrow to start a three game series, and Mike Pelfrey and Johan Santana are starting the first two games. It could get real ugly, real quick, if they can’t end the streak. At the very least, we might be talking about a new manager. Stay tuned: the next week is going to be interesting. To say the least.

Posted in Jerry Manuel, Mets, Oliver Perez, The Rotation | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Rotation After Two Turns

Posted by JD on April 17, 2010

Pelfrey on the mound last Friday

Raise your hand if you thought Oliver Perez would have a better start than Johan Santana.

The Untouchable: Yes, it was his second-worst start as a Met (if you’re anything like me, you’ve obliterated this disaster from your memory), but this Johan Santana we’re talking about. I’m not about to let one bad start knock the rose-colored glasses off my face. He’s still rounding into shape coming off of surgery, so I’ll give him a pass. But it would be nice to see him go more than six innings today, especially coming off of last night’s loss.

Trending Up: Mike Pelfrey had a great start in Colorado, building off his debut against the Nationals (pictured above). No penalty laps around the parking lot this trip: Pelfrey became the first Met starter to pitch into the seventh inning on Thursday. While he did balk, he also struck out six without issuing a single walk. It’s early and I don’t want to get carried away, but there’s a lot to like about Pelfrey’s start so far.

Positive Vibes: Speaking of not getting carried away: Oliver Perez, everyone! He threw 6 and 1/3 shutout innings against the Cardinals before getting lifted (he got tagged with a run thanks to the combined efforts of Fernando Nieve and Raul Valdes). It’s strange to say, but I think he got pulled early. Still, there’s plenty to build on here.

The same could be be said for Jon Niese. He got touched up a bit in his last start, but it was his first appearance in Colorado’s thin air. I’m willing to give him a mulligan, and I’d bet that he rebounds a bit on Monday against the Cubs.

Negative Energy: John Maine absolutely imploded on Tuesday. His line? 8 runs allowed (7 earned) on 7 hits and 3 walks over just three innings (75 pitches, just 47 for strikes). He struck out four, but balanced that by giving up a home run to CF Seth Smith right after allowing an RBI double to starting pitcher Greg Smith.

It’s not looking good for Maine. He’s guaranteed to start against the Cardinals tomorrow night, but all bets are off after that. A poor performance could cost him his spot in the rotation, but who would that spot go to? Internal options include Pat Misch, Tobi Stoner, and Dillon Gee. Misch has major league experience but choosing him would leave Mike Pelfrey as the only righty in the rotation. Gee and Stoner have talent and upside but are completely unproven: would they really be an upgrade over Maine, especially in a rotation that already has so many question marks? External answers include free agents Pedro Martinez or Jarrod Washburn, but neither is ready to start right now, which is what the Mets need the most.

My vote? Call-up Dillon Gee to take Maine’s place in the rotation and Bobby Parnell to take Jenrry Mejia’s spot in the bullpen, add Jenrry Mejia to Binghamton’s rotation, and let Maine take Gee’s spot in Buffalo. The Parnell/Mejia move might seem gratuitous, but Mejia needs to get back to starting as soon as possible. If they don’t do it now, they better do it when Sean Green is ready to play again. But I digress…

What’s Next: Santana (today) and Maine (tomorrow) vs. the Cardinals, and Niese, Pelfrey, and Perez vs. the Cubs on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at Citi Field.

Posted in Johan Santana, Mets, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez, The Rotation | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Rotation After One Turn

Posted by JD on April 11, 2010

Opening Day

Johan Santana on the mound

The Mets are 2-3 and we’ve had the opportunity to see each member of the rotation pitch once. It’s far too early to make definitive judgments as to who has “earned” their spots and who hasn’t, but it’s not too early to start analyzing the pitchers’ performances. Keeping in mind that one appearance does not a fair sample size make, let’s take a cursory look at how they acquitted themselves:

The Untouchable: Johan Santana. I almost feel silly posting his line here, but fair is fair. In his first start, Johan threw 103 pitches (69 for strikes – 67%) over six innings, striking out five while allowing four hits and two walks. By no means dominating, Santana nonetheless turned in a solid quality start. His spot as the number one starter is unquestioned.

Positive Vibes: Speaking of quality starts, Jon Niese and Mike Pelfrey each had one (with differing end results). Niese allowed three runs (on eight hits and two walks) over six innings in a game the Mets would go to lose 3-1, while Pelfrey allowed two runs (on four hits and four walks) over six innings in a game the Mets would go on to win 8-2. Neither start was worthy of big publicity, but both deserve credit for giving the Mets’ hitters a chance to win the game. That’s more than the next two guys can say.

Negative Energy: Oliver Perez was Oliver Perez and John Maine was John Maine. I like to look at the positives, so there’s this: Ollie struck out six in five and 2/3 innings and Maine threw 58% of his pitches for strikes. Really. That’s about it. They have a lot of work to do before they can move up into the next category, but the fact that the Mets lack clear-cut replacements means that they’ll have some time to improve.

What’s Next: Keep in mind that anything can happen, but this is how I see the second turn through the rotation: Santana vs. the Nats (today), Maine, Niese, and Pelfrey vs. the Rockies in Colorado (Tuesday thru Thursday), and Perez vs. the Cardinals in St. Louis on Friday. In other words, this week is going to be a great litmus test for the 2-5 starters. Bring it on, and Let’s Go Mets!

Posted in Johan Santana, Mets, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez, The Rotation | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »