Postseason Pitching Plans
So we found out Tom Glavine does not need surgery. How does this affect the Mets’ postseason pitching plans, if at all?
It probably doesn’t affect the postseason pitching at all, but his absence from a few starts might actually be a benefit to the postseason roster … if the Mets choose to put him on the DL (which, remarkably, seems unlikely).
Only players on the 25-man roster — or on the 40-man but on the Disabled List — on August 31st are eligible for postseason play. The Mets might be smart to take advantage of the flexibility of this rule, and their injured players, to hold an open audition for several arms that might make an impact in October.
Currently, the Mets have Cliff Floyd, Pedro Martinez, Ramon Castro, Brian Bannister, Pedro Martinez, Juan Padilla, Duaner Sanchez, and Victor Zambrano on the 40-man roster and on the DL. Obviously, we won’t be seeing Padilla, Sanchez or Zambrano, and Castro may be gone for the year after tearing his meniscus before a rehab game. Floyd might return soon, but shouldn’t affect the pitching staff. However, I believe Bannister has to come off later this week, and Pedro is retroactive to August 15th, which means he’s eligible to return on August 30th. If I were the Mets brass, I’d keep Pedro on the DL through August 31 so that Dave Williams can stay on and remain eligible. I’d also DL Glavine now and send Bannister back to Norfolk and bring up Mike Pelfrey. Furthermore, I’d ask Ricky Ledee or Julio Franco to turn his ankle, so that Oliver Perez can join the roster on August 31.
You keep Williams around and eligible because he’s a lefty, he has four years experience in the bigs, and he has some talent. There’s a possibility he can unravel some of the skills that have teased scouts for years, and maybe be another Darren Oliver. If Pedro Feliciano weren’t failing so miserably of late, you might not give Williams a second thought, but Feliciano’s recent performances coupled with Williams’ borderline impressive start against the Rockies force consideration.
Why keep Bannister in AAA and promote Pelfrey and Perez? Because Pelfrey and Perez are power arms — touching 97 MPH on the gun — while Bannister is not. At best, Bannister might prove to be a worthwhile #4 starter in a playoff series, or a long relief guy. However, the Mets already have John Maine and/or Steve Trachsel to be the #4, and whichever of those two guys doesn’t start will sit next to Darren Oliver in the ‘pen. Meanwhile, either Pelfrey or Perez could make a significant impact in a one- to three-inning relief stint in the middle of a tough playoff game. Picture this scenario: Steve Trachsel starts a playoff game and is having one of his Traxlike days, where he pitches into the fifth inning but has thrown 102 pitches and has now walked two guys in a 4-4 game. You can’t bring in Darren Oliver because he was used the night before in relief of an imploding El Duque, and it’s too early to go to ChadBrad, Heilman, or Mota. Wouldn’t it be great to bring in a power arm like Pelfrey right here, to mow down batters while you bridge to the aforementioned relievers? He could go once through the lineup, and maybe get you to the seventh. With a 95+ sinking fastball, I like my odds better than bringing in Bannister, who though a control pitcher has shown to be erratic.
Furthermore, I’d like to see Oliver Perez get some starts in pressure-free September, under the watchful eye of Rick Peterson. Perez has just thrown two consecutive gems for Norfolk, and though that’s not necessarily an indication of anything special, it’s encouraging. Plus, it’s probably a better plan to have Perez working with Peterson every day, than toiling against AAA hitters. And here’s the thing: suppose Peterson makes real progress with Perez, and is able to bring him back to the level that made him an ace in Pittsburgh? The Mets would have a legit #2 starter for the playoffs, but would only be able to use him as such if he’s on the roster on August 31. Sure, it’s a longshot, but isn’t it worth the effort of a little roster shuffling? Mountains were moved to keep Aaron Heilman in the bullpen, so you can’t tell me the Mets can’t find a way to make Perez eligible for a playoff roster spot. The cost is nothing other than placing someone on the DL for two weeks — at a time when the depth will be a non-issue, as rosters expand on September 1.
In the above scenario, Bannister is likely the odd man out. But, as stated before, that’s not a huge loss come playoff time — not with similarly skilled pitchers already available. Even if Bannister miraculously reaches his full potential in September, it’s still probably not enough to unseat John Maine, Steve Trachsel, or El Duque. However, if Perez or Pelfrey can come close to their ultimate upside, the Mets will have caught lightning in a bottle.