Mets Game 106: Win Over Phillies

Mets 7 Phillies 1

Mets make mincemeat of Phillies.

Mets Game Notes

Was this a contest between two clubs, or an audition for two pitchers on the trading block?

The two starters entered the game with very similar numbers, and similar doubts about their immediate futures. Yes, one team won and the other lost, but it’s possible that the game’s procession and result, in the end, will have more impact the two starting starting pitchers and their respective teams’ ability (or inability) to deal them in the next 48 hours.

A.J. Burnett did nothing to improve his status as trade bait, while Bartolo Colon may have increased his value. If there were scouts in the stands deciding between the two, it’s likely the recommendation would be for Big Bart. Though, there are also financial considerations, as both pitchers will be due many more millions after this season.

With Colon, it’s cut and dried — he’ll get $11M guaranteed in 2015. With Burnett, it’s more complex. On the one hand, he’s guaranteed a minimum of $7.5M as part of the “player option” written into his contract. That number can increase to $8.5M if and when Burnett makes one more start this year (it triggers at 24 starts, and this was his 23rd). If he gets to 27 starts, Burnett gets bumped up to $10M. At 30 starts, it jumps to $11.75M, and at 32, $12.75M. So there’s a very good chance that Burnett and Colon will be equal in terms of how much more is due once the 2014 season ends. The only difference is that the price paid to Colon is in return for another year of service, while what’s paid to Burnett will only close out the financial responsibility for 2014; if a team wants another year of Burnett, both Burnett and the team will have to mutually agree upon it, and instead of Burnett getting the buyout figure, he’ll get a $15M contract for 2015.

Hmmmmm … Seems ugly either way. And by ugly, I mean choosing between Colon and Burnett, as well as the complicated Burnett situation. If he pitches well enough in the final two months, maybe a team would want to keep Burnett another year. Who knows? Burnett has pitched pretty well in most of his ballgames, but his stats look uglier than he’s pitched most of the time because of a handful of truly awful performances (such as last night’s). Colon’s numbers are similarly bloated — most of his starts have been good to very good, but there were five in which he was shelled.

Sorry, I know this is supposed to be a game recap, but I find the parallels between these two pitchers much more fascinating. If you were the GM of a contending team and in need of one veteran righthanded starter, which of these two would you choose, and why? And what would you be willing to give up? Is the second year of service a positive or a negative? Burnett is only 37 compared to Colon’s age 41, so a team looking for more than a two-month rental, and considering these two, might be more inclined to trust that Burnett will be healthy enough to pitch another year. But $15M is more than $11M, so who knows? And then there are the somewhat contrasting styles of the two hurlers; Burnett does it mostly with a sinker and hard breaking pitches, while Colon gets through by pinpointing essentially one pitch — a fastball of below-average velocity. Is one style more trusted than the other? I have no idea.

OK, the game, which was over almost before it started. The Mets jumped all over Burnett from the get-go, scoring four runs in the first inning, highlighted by doubles by Daniel Murphy and Juan Lagares. Travis d’Arnaud put the game away with a three-run homer in the fifth. The Phillies lineup somehow collected 13 hits, hit into only one double play, and went 3-for-10 with RISP (as did the Mets), but somehow scored just one run as they left 12 on base. And that was the ballgame.

Next Mets Game

Mets and Phillies do it again at 7:10 PM. Dillon Gee faces Cole Hamels.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Yeats July 29, 2014 at 4:06 pm
    re: Colon vs Burnett… which one would you rather have pitch a critical, season-making game? I know who I would choose, and it ain’t Allan James.

    Bartolo’s velocity doesn’t concern me… he’s putt-putting along at 87 mph, gets in trouble and suddenly he’s at 92. If he pitches like Colon, leave him alone!

    • Joe Janish July 29, 2014 at 11:51 pm
      Agreed — if the choice to pitch a critical game is between Colon and Burnett, I’m taking Colon. That’s probably my choice even in the past, when Burnett was throwing 97+
  2. DanB July 29, 2014 at 6:43 pm
    if you like Burnett and want him in 2015, you could not agree to the $15 mill option and then sign him for less. Nobody is going to pay $15 mill for Burnett next off season.
    • Joe Janish July 29, 2014 at 11:49 pm
      Maybe so. But, we don’t know what Burnett will do in his next 10 starts. If 8 of the 10 are similar to his “better” games this year, that’s seven straight years of 30 or more starts, it’s over 190 innings for the sixth year out of the last seven, and that kind of durability is hard to find. And/or, if he hooks on with some club and somehow manages to be the “final piece” that gets them into the playoffs with a couple huge performances … well, you never know.

      But I agree that at this point, there’s no way I’m considering paying him $15M next year.

  3. crozier July 29, 2014 at 6:57 pm
    I don’t think contract comparisons will generate a lot of comments, Joe. But you seemed to enjoy the thought process, so what the heck. Go for it.

    I want to be encouraged by the offensive outburst last night, but Burnett was utterly flat. Everything d’Arnaud hit looked teed up (at Citizens he might’ve had a 3 HR night). Not to take away from d’s post-demotion numbers, though: he’s been a .300 hitter since he got back.

    And I’ll put in a good word for Vic Black, who’s inherited 17 baserunners now, only one of which has scored. The Byrd trade looks pretty fine at this point.

    • Joe Janish July 29, 2014 at 11:56 pm
      crozier, first off, sorry for this comment getting caught up in the spam trap — I have no idea why it was stuck in there (I rarely DO understand why some comments, especially from frequent commenters, get stuck).

      Second, yes — considering the low volume of comments on this post, it seems few others are as fascinated as I by the irony of these two pitchers facing each other just days before the deadline. Oh well, it kept me busy for a few minutes.

      As for the hitting against Burnett, I wanted to state the same thing in my post, but felt that the readership would call me out as a negative Nelly / sourpuss / cranky Mets hate-ah. So I’m glad you saw what I saw, which was Burnett throwing sinkers that failed to sink, and frequently hung around the middle of the plate. At the same time, kudos to d’Arnaud and the others for taking the bat off their shoulder and hacking at hackable pitches. I really wonder if they would have teed off as they did, if Dave Hudgens was still in the dugout. I don’t know what exactly Lamar Johnson is doing, but the change in approach is obvious and seemingly more effective than what we’d seen the previous two and a half years.