March 24, 2005

Amazing Subjugation 3: Pitching & dealing


The conclusion of a three-part series, looking at New York Mets pitching and possible deals, making the case the team has all the right pieces to make the post-season. Outfielder Mike Cameron, pictured, has been mentioned in several trade rumors.

The Mets are the divisional tyrant, achieving success through spending over development, hard work and smart decision making. In a division that features the wholesome, hearth-baked whitebread of Atlanta, the Mets are like Wonderbread, all flash, but hallow enough to mash into a ball you can crush in your fist.

In matters of baseball only, it's not my style to be swayed by hype instead of good sense. (That's baseball only, as I punch in my last four credit card digits and order an iPod).

That's why I've surprised even myself by saying the Mets will be a contender, in spite of noticeable holes that haven't been addressed.

Bullpen
I'll be the first to admit their bullpen is far from adequate.

I wondered how the Mets, who were so willing to overspend, could neglect a significant reliever to improve their weakest area. Resigning set-up man Mike Dejean was smart, but the Mets still lost more than they gained, not in bodies, but in quality. Ricky Bottalico (3.38 ERA in '04) had his most effective season since '96 with the Phils. He slipped away to Milwaukee for $800,000. Left-hander Mike Stanton was traded, and John Franco signed with Houston. Franco isn't a big loss, but Stanton is. The Mets are now missing a capable situational left-hander, or even bodies that can confidently go two-plus. Their absence leaves Dae-Sung Koo and Felix Heredia to battle for left-hand supremacy this spring, and that ain't good.

I scratched my head all winter waiting for the Mets to sign some pen. Steve Kline, a premier left-handed free agent, would have been perfect. They had the money to do it, but he slipped through the cracks and landed in Baltimore.

It can only mean Omar Minaya simply believed bullpen wasn't a big deal. It's the sign of a GM that, first, never built toward the post-season, and second, catered to a new TV deal.

The wallet was open, the merchandise was there, and the man bought Ferraris, but not insurance. Even Terry Adams would have helped. The battle for the second righty spot is between (from what I can tell) Scott Strickland and Roberto Hernandez. Ugh. The four or five spots, besides closer Bradon Looper and Dejean, will be decided soon, and what's left won't be much better than what'll wind up in the trash.

I logged on to Metsblog today. Read this. Are you surprised? I'm not.

Based on two conversations with people familiar with the Mets actions, one a reputable, well-written reporter and the other a person working inside Shea, it appears that the Mets are beyond dissatisfied with their options in the bullpen, and are working effortlessly to make a trade for more help.

Further more, they're not 100 percent confident in Braden Looper's ability to close out games either. From what I can gather, they see Tigers RHP Ugueth Urbina not just as the best set-up man available, but a possible solution if Looper implodes.

Rotation
Myth: The NL East is deep with pitching. Bigger myth: Florida is deep with pitching.

This whole Mets thing started when my befuddled blog colleague Michael Berquist picked the Marlins to win the NL East, and the Mets to finish fourth. He says pitching will be the difference, and I don’t disagree.

Yes - I'd take Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Kris Benson, Victor Zambrano and Kaz Ishii over Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett, Dontrelle Willis, Al Leiter and Ismael Valdez. It’s close, most wouldn'’t do it, but I'd do it.

The bottom of the Mets rotation has become an in-joke among the blog network. True, Victor Zambrano and the newly acquired Kaz Ishii will lead the league in walks. But they can at least get through 5 innings, which is more than Leiter and Valdez will do. And don’t get me started on Willis. Young pitcher with bad mechanics and a growing book among hitters. His circus act is over.

At the top, I expect A.J. Burnett to have a full, outstanding season following Tommy John. Josh Beckett also projects, in Prospectus’ view, to have a breakout season comparable to Ben Sheets.

But you know what I don't like about Beckett? His blister. You know, the one that kept him out for half a season. It's not something the Marlins can just band-aid.

Overall, I'd rank the Mets rotation second in the division behind Atlanta. I have Atlanta winning the division for a 14th consecutive season (a preview of my next preview).

Transactions
Two words: Barry Zito. Two more: Trade deadline.

Mets fans are already talking trade deadline, and it’s only March 24. The Mets always seem to have chips, but how they use them is a different story.

This year’s list is topped, once again, by outfielders Mike Cameron and Cliff Floyd. The deadline's big catch will be Barry Zito. The Mets will be among the frontrunners.

2 Comments:

At 3:24 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

Hello, I'm here to argue with you some more (but not about Ray Durham). :)

First of all, nice site, and I like your writing style, and I agree with pretty much everything you said about the Mets -- except the contending part.

The bullpen is a big worry, and I even wrote a bit on this team over at my friend's site, kevinagee.blogspot.com (Kevin's Royals Blog). But besides the bullpen, the rotation is a larger worry to me. It's definitely competitive, but you can't get me to believe that between Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez, one of those two won't deal the Mets a big blow in terms of injury, or skill regression due to age. I just see at least one of those two not doing what the Mets are counting on, ~needing~ them both to do.

In the end, though, I just don't think they added enough pieces. If one adds up the Win Shares of their additions, I believe the Mets become a contender at about 87 wins. However, when one factors in their losses as well, the number drops to the low 80's somewhere, which in a division where the winner is likely to win well over 90 games, just isn't enough.

They need more offense, still (getting Meintkeiwicz instead of Delgado hurt), more reliable starters (a durable inning eater could help...use him in long relief until disaster strikes), and of course, better arms in the 'pen.

Take care.

 
At 4:45 PM, Blogger Jason Weitzel said...

Thanks for the compliments. I've been on Orange and Black before and remember using it as a resource for one of my posts.

On the Mets, the trilogy is over. I've been getting a lot of heat for the prediction, and later on, I'll run my Atlanta prediction.

But it doesn't matter because in nine days, I'll be cheering on one team to bury the others.

On Durham, I looked him up again ... he does have some nagging leg injuries this spring. What's his status?

 

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