Figgy Loses a Turn

figgy.jpgAs a result of yesterday’s rainout, Nelson Figueroa will get skipped when his turn comes around the next time in the rotation — which would be Sunday at Arizona.

Instead of Figgy, Johan Santana will go to the hill.

On the surface, this appears to be a good idea. After all, Santana has a few more Cy Young Awards than Figueroa (though, Johan’s never pitched in Taiwan).

However, the part I don’t get is why are the Mets passing over Figgy’s turn instead of Mike Pelfrey’s? Pelfrey is scheduled to pitch the day before, on Saturday. Looking at the stats, the two pitchers aren’t very different thus far this year — they’re both 2-1, their ERAs are similar, and they both average a little over five innings per start. The only contrast is in strikeouts per nine innings (Figgy is nearly 3 Ks better) and WHIP (Figgy: 1.34; Pelf: 1.75). But through only around 25 innings, it’s too small a sample to compare them strictly on the stats.

Outside of the stat lines, it “feels” like Figgy has had better starts so far. In all but one of his starts, Figueroa has been good to great. Pelfrey, on the other hand, has been good, great, terrible, so-so — in that order. On the plus side, Pelf has induced 43 ground balls in 22 innings, while Figgy has only 28 GBs in 25 IP. Pelfrey’s problem, however, is that many of those grounders have found holes.

I’m not suggesting that Figgy should be getting his turn on Saturday instead of Pelfrey, but curious to the thought that went behind the decision. My best guess — and it makes sense — is that Figueroa is more experienced and effective coming out of the bullpen than Pelfrey, and if long relief is needed this week, Willie Randolph may be more comfortable knowing Nellie Figs is available. The only other thing is the ground ball factor; Chase Field in Arizona is not a bandbox, but it was 11th in MLB last year in home run rate (right behind Miller Park in Milwaukee). In addition, the D’Backs offense is on a rampage right now, first in all of MLB in runs scored and third in the NL in homeruns. Perhaps the surprising bats of free-swinging Conor Jackson, Mark Reynolds, and Chris Young factored into the decision to start the sinkerballing Pelfrey.

Whatever the case, I’m not happy about the West Coast swing coming up so soon. Those games ending after midnight EST make for cranky mornings.

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. isuzudude April 29, 2008 at 12:05 pm
    “My best guess — and it makes sense — is that Figueroa is more experienced and effective coming out of the bullpen than Pelfrey”

    I think you hit the nail on the head, Joe. If the Mets skip Pelfrey’s spot and Willie doesn’t feel safe letting him pitch in relief, then it’s like carrying only 24 players on the roster (or 23, if you count Schneider’s unavailability). Whereas with Nelson, you know he can pitch effectively out of the ‘pen, either in long or middle relief duty. Not to be forgotten, also, is the point that was recently made that Pelfrey pitches better on longer rest, and I believe he’ll have either 6 or 7 days rest by the time his turn comes up in Arizona. Anyway, regardless of how well Figgy’s pitched in the early going, anytime we can squeeze an additional start out of Johan the opportunity should be seized.

  2. hdarvick April 29, 2008 at 1:12 pm
    It’s Pelfrey who will lose his turn, not Figgy.
    Nelson Figueroa will start on Saturday after his five day rest (he pitched last Sunday) as per Mets.com – probable pitchers. Johann Santana will pitch Sunday (on the fifth day after tonght’s start).
  3. isuzudude April 29, 2008 at 2:21 pm
    Not sure who to believe. Mets.com says Figueroa starts, but the Daily News, as cited by Metsblog, says Pelfrey. If I were to contribute a decision, I would opt to skip Figgy, for the reasons Joe mentioned in the article above.
  4. hdarvick April 29, 2008 at 3:56 pm
    Right. Why believe the “Official New York Mets” website (and MLB.com) when the Daily News says Pelfrey.

    Newspapers are always right. They told us that the Mets were not going to sign Santana and that the Yankees have lost A-Rod.

    MLB.com Scouting Report on Figueroa begins: “In each of his four starts, Figueroa has given the Mets a chance to win.”

    Has Pelfrey? Will missing one start destroy his Mets career?
    You said “the point that was recently made that Pelfrey pitches better on longer rest, and I believe he’ll have either 6 or 7 days rest by the time his turn comes up in Arizona.” His last start was Friday April 25th. Instead of starting Sat. May 3rd (8 days later), he’ll start Tues. May 6th against the Dodgers, only 3 days later. Have you forgotten that Pelfrey won his first start on April 9th, 12 days after his last appearance in Spring Training?

  5. hdarvick April 29, 2008 at 3:58 pm
    By “3 days later,” I mean, of course, that May 6th is 3 days after May 3rd, which would be 11 days after his last start.
  6. Walnutz15 April 29, 2008 at 4:02 pm
    Not sure if anyone checks out Mets.com religiously, like myself — but they’re notoriously slow in updating things such as the pitching rotation in their “Probably Starters” section.

    I mean, almost always wrong when it comes to starters missing their turn, or going with someone else as a last minute fill-in.

    I’d 100% without a doubt go with the papers over Mets.com — FWIW.

    P.S. — It’s being reported that Moises Alou is to be activated on Friday.

    I’ll post a link if I get one.

  7. Walnutz15 April 29, 2008 at 4:04 pm
    Probable* — sorry for the typo.

    Here ya go, fellers:

    http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/mets/2008/04/alou-press-conference-looming.html

    From the report, no fracture was found.

    In other news, Brian Schneider remains hospitalized with an infection.

  8. isuzudude April 29, 2008 at 4:49 pm
    Nice news, ‘Nutz. I’m surprised, relieved, and cautiously optimistic all at the same time.

    Hdarvick – I guess we’ll see what source is more trustworthy as we get closer to the start in question. Not that you’ll be around to admit your mistake. I know you have a huge love affair with Figueroa, but don’t let that impair your judgement. The chances of Pelfrey giving the Mets as decent a start as Figgy in Arizona are very good, yet the chances of Figgy pitching well out of the bullpen are much better than Pelfrey’s. I don’t see much of an arguement here.

  9. hdarvick April 29, 2008 at 6:41 pm
    1. What about MLB.com also reporting that it’s Figueroia vs. Webb on Saturday?

    2. You’re right. Figgy can pitch better than Pelfrey out of the bullpen. But Figueroa has proven to be a more consistent starter who is able to pitch a complete game. In the January 2008 Caribe Series vs the team that eventually won the series, Figueroa pitched into the 10th inning in a 1-1 game (no decision) and won a game in relief 2 days later. No manager is going to put a pitcher in the bullpen if he’s better as a starter. And I’ll stick around and admit I’m wrong if Figueroa doesn’t start on Saturday in front of family and friends (he lives outside of Phoenix).

  10. hdarvick April 29, 2008 at 9:17 pm
    You were right. I was wrong.
    The “Daily News” had it right.
    Mets.com and MLB.com had it wrong.
  11. joe April 29, 2008 at 9:28 pm
    hey let’s forget the right and wrong re: sources and discuss which decision makes the most sense. Personally I feel more confident sending Figs to the mound in a start, and think it’s time the Mets turned “one pitch Pelfrey” into a reliever. But the stubborn Mets brass will continue to cling to the idea that Pelf is more valuable as a starter (Tyler Yates, anyone?) until he is crushed for five consecutive starts.
  12. isuzudude April 30, 2008 at 6:29 am
    I agree…right/wrong, newspaper vs. mlb.com…makes no difference. Thanks for being a stand up man (or woman?), hdarvick.

    And though I agree Figgy is pitching better than Pelfrey, and Pelf may be more suited for a bullpen role in the future, the point I was making now – as you made in the article, Joe – is that Pelfrey is better suited for the upcoming start in Arizona. He induces ground balls, he’ll be working on long rest, and he’s not cut out for bullpen duty at the moment, which would leave the Mets pitching shorthanded. However, I assume I’d be with the group when I say I fully expect Pelfrey to be demoted to the minors over Figgy when/if Pedro, Duque, or Claudio Vargas is ready to rejoin/join the rotation. We all agree Pelfrey needs more work at the AAA level, but until that time the Mets are doing the right thing in not skipping a start for one of their keys for the future in favor of a non-roster invitee for all we know could be a complete flash in the pan.

    I’m not ready to compare Pelfrey to Yates yet either, also the similarities are evident. Let’s remember Pelfrey was rushed to the majors with just 16 starts at AAA under his belt. Yates, on the other hand, had appeared in over 60 AAA games before making his debut with the Mets in 2004, so he should have been ready. Pelfrey still needs more time to mature and hone his skills. If by 2010 he’s still pitching like he is now, then I think the Tyler Yates comparisons can accurately be attributed.

  13. hdarvick April 30, 2008 at 8:11 am
    You compliment Nelson Figueroa by saying:
    (1) “And though I agree Figgy is pitching better than Pelfrey”
    (2) “I’d be with the group when I say I fully expect Pelfrey to be demoted to the minors over Figgy when/if Pedro, Duque, or Claudio Vargas is ready to rejoin/join the rotation.”

    Then comes the stab-in-the-back calling him “a non-roster invitee for all we know could be a complete flash in the pan.”

    Why? Because before 2008 his last ML start was in 2004?

    Check what he’s done in 2007-2008 before signing with the Mets in late January:
    (1)2007. Mexican League. 10 complete games.
    (2)2007. China Baseball League. 4-0. thyen won games 1, 4, and 7 of the China WS. MVP.
    (3) 2007. Dominican League. 2-0. Won championship game. MVP.
    (4) 2008. Caribe World Series. 1-0. 11 innings. 1 earned run. MVP.

    He’s had four starts, he’s 2-1, and the Mets have won 3 of his 4 starts, losing 8-1 in the game he allowed 3 runs in one inning which was extended when Ted Lilly grounded a ball to 2nd and Delgado didn’t get to first in time – neither did Figgy. Next batter singled in 2 runs.

    What has he done since he joined the Mets to indicate he may be a flash-in-the-pan? Or are you just a pessimist? I’ve been a Mets fan since Spring Training 1962. If I were a pessimist, I wouldn’t have made it out of the Polo Grounds.

    hdarvick (Mr.)

  14. isuzudude April 30, 2008 at 10:32 am
    I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist. Listen, I think Figueroa has done a tremendous job filling in for the Mets while Pedro and Duque recuperate from their injuries. He’s provided to be a huge lift and is one of the feel-good stories thus far in the 2008 season.

    However, it’s extremely fair to say he’s performing over his head. I know about all of his accomplishments overseas, and he deserves credit for them, but those performances came against lesser competition than what is featured in MLB. You can’t tell me that the lineups he faced in the Chinese World Series were as potent as the ones he’s facing every start here in America. And I fear eventually, once scouting reports are developed and he gets a bit more miles on his arm, that the league is going to catch up to him and start figuring him out a bit quicker. It’s not like we’re talking about a 98-MPH flamethrower who is going to be a future Hall of Famer. This is Nelson Figueroa. He’s good, but he’s not Cy Young.

    And while he may not have done anything yet to suggest he’s a flash in the pan, think of all the other upstart players the Mets have had over the years who many projected to be incredible players only to base their opinions on too small of sample sizes. I remember people comparing Victor Diaz to Manny Ramirez because he hit a few home runs in a brief amount of time. Where is he now? How about Guillermo Mota, who dominated with the Mets during the late 2006 season. He was relied upon to be that same pitcher in 2007, but instead completely imploded. For you old school Met fans, remember Jason Jacome? He came up in 1994 and in 8 starts had a sparkling 2.67 ERA and was thought to be a huge part of the team’s future. What happened to him? Oh, he went 6-15 over the rest of his career. That’s why it’s dangerous to take a guy who virtually comes out of thin air, dominates for a short amount of time, and declare wholeheartedly that he’s the real deal. It’s happened far too many times in the past that someone like Figueroa starts out hot, but significantly cools down as the league becomes accustomed to him. I have my fingers crossed, Mr hdarvick, that Figueroa turns out to be the stud you think he is, but I’m very prepared for the real possibility that his effectiveness will wear off sooner than later.

  15. hdarvick April 30, 2008 at 11:28 am
    I’m not comparing Nelson Figueroa to anyone. He’s a very bright young man who uses his brain (Brandeis University, 1998) when he pitches to make up for his lack of a 90 mph fastball. When was the last time the Mets had a pitcher who could start and relieve? I don’t mean a spot starter, I mean a pitcher who can consistently be an effective starter and an effective reliever. After pitching into the 10th inning of a 1-1 game, he came back in relief two days later with 1st and 3rd, one out, bottom of the ninth, 4-4, and retired the next two batters on three pitches and the side in order in the 10th to win the game. From an article after Figueroa was voted the 2008 Caribe Series MVP: “The culmination of a stellar off-season performance by Figueroa was recognized by fans as truly something special. His performances against lineups heavily dotted with MLB talent was nothing short of amazing. In voting, Figueroa outdistanced MLB greats Miguel Tejada, Tony Pena Jr. and Nelson Cruz to succeed last year’s selection, Tony Batista.” Believe it or not, Nelson Figueroa is the real deal. But, as I’m sure you’ll say, only time will tell.
  16. hdarvick April 30, 2008 at 11:30 am
    After pitching into the 10th inning of a 1-1 game (in the 2008 Caribe Series),