Evaluating the Mets Pitching Staff

In David Lennon’s article on the “housecleaning” of the Mets, the poor performance of the pitching staff — and Dan Warthen’s responsiblity for it — was explained away by the injuries (funny, seems that EVERYTHING that’s gone wrong for the Mets this year is being blamed on the injuries). Manager Jerry Manuel

“I just think it’s difficult to evaluate based on what went wrong,” Manuel said.

Um … OK? See, this is why EVALUATE — because SOMETHING WENT WRONG!!! Rarely do organizations get together to evaluate what went right!

Further, it’s hard to buy into the “injuries” thing as a reason why the Mets pitching staff was a disaster. In fact, many people would suggest that losing Oliver Perez for a huge chunk of the season was a BENEFIT to the Mets. And there are a few folks outside the Mets organization who weren’t counting on John Maine to return to full health and his first half of 2007 form. I do understand that filling those two holes in the rotation was a challenge, but there were many other issues that were unrelated.

For example, why was Sean Green so ineffective? Could it possibly have been because he was overused and mishandled — even though he came from Seattle with the knowledge that he burns out in the second half and therefore has to be treated with kid gloves when it comes to appearances on consecutive days and similar circumstances?

And what about Francisco Rodriguez? He wasn’t injured (as far as we know), and his performance was a far cry from his record-breaking 2008 season. Is there any chance that, again, it was the way he was handled? For example, his last manager never used K-Rod for four-out saves, and closely monitored his pitch counts.

It was expected that K-Rod and Green would pitch at least as well — if not better — merely by moving from the AL to the NL. So what happened to them, Mr. Warthen?

Further, it was Warthen who was credited for Mike Pelfrey’s turnaround in 2008. Does that mean we can blame Warthen for Big Pelf’s big step backward in 2009?

And as long as we’re talking about “evaluations”, how about we rewind to last winter and the early spring — when some head-scratching personnel moves were made. Jerry Manuel and Dan Warthen certainly were part of the evaluations and decision-making process in the construction of the roster. Therefore we’d like explanations regarding Tim Redding and Livan Hernandez — who thought either of those two would be the answer at the back of the rotation? And who recommended that Oliver Perez was worth a 3-year, $36M deal? Which of you felt that John Maine would step right in to anchor a rotation spot despite his shoulder surgery and command issues that were apparent long before the injury? And were any of you concerned that J.J. Putz was damaged goods when you got him? Surely, some of the blame goes to Omar Minaya, but he’s always said that he gets input from the manager and coaching staff. Those weekly meetings still occur, don’t they?

But we’ll move on to the decisions and evaluations made during spring training and in the early part of the year. So tell me who was confident that Brian Stokes wouldn’t revert to the wild inconsistencies that caused him to struggle in the AL East? Who believed that the best thing for the Mets and Bobby Parnell was to have him rear back and throw hard for one inning at a time? Who thought it made sense to keep Nelson Figueroa’s 2.25 ERA buried in AAA while misfits were given the ball? Which one of you felt that Darren O’Day was incapable of helping the bullpen? In fact, let’s re-hash those moves, because someone on the staff thought it wise to “trade” Figueroa and O’Day for Casey Fossum — only to release Fossum a few days later to make room for 40-year-old Ken Takahashi!

Beyond the roster decisions, there was the handling of the bullpen — never a strong suit for Manuel — and the way the team dealt with injuries. Something was obviously wrong with J.J. Putz, but he continued to get the ball. Similarly, Johan Santana suffered elbow issues from his first spring training session, but was left alone to deal with it (or it was forgotten). The way the front office, manager, and coaching staff handled injuries were as much a problem as the injuries themselves.

Assembling the team is a large part of “management”, and the manager and coaching staff took part in the process — the choices made way back when had a direct effect on where we sit today. The manager and pitching coach also had a large voice in the roster changes once the season began — and they make the decisions as to who gets the ball every inning of every game. So don’t tell me “it’s difficult to evaluate based on what went wrong” — you were a large part of the “what went wrong” part!

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. edfever September 30, 2009 at 4:47 pm
    I do think it’s time to move on from Warthen but i have to give him credit on Green – late in the season he drastically changed his arm angle to almost sub marine at the urging of Warthen and has been much more effective otherwise I haven’t seen an improvement by any other pitcher- Has Redding done enough in these eight starts to warrant arbitration…
  2. Mike September 30, 2009 at 5:14 pm
    Please. Warthen knows nothing about pitching. Look every once in a while he sees something and gets the pitcher to try something new, which works. But that does not constitute praise it’s likely more of luck than skill. Pitching coaches are indeed there to evaluate mechanics and find flaws, but a veteran pitcher can do that himself by watching film. No I think Warthen is incompetent and does not work with his pitchers on their approach nor does he tell Jerry how to us his pitchers which is something he should understand better than anyone in the dugout. Warthen needs to go as does Jerry.
  3. Kenny September 30, 2009 at 6:56 pm
    Nailed the nail right on the head.

    i’m starting to think this blog is really about peacocks cuz this team is for the birds!

  4. hdarvick October 1, 2009 at 10:14 am
    “Who thought it made sense to keep Nelson Figueroa’s 2.25 ERA buried in AAA while misfits were given the ball?”

    Nelson Figueroa has made 7 starts since taking Johan Santana’s spot in the rotation on August 25th. He’s averaged 6 innings per start with a 3.92 ERA. Take away his Sept. 27th start against Atlanta where he gave up 6 runs in 5 innings, and, in 6 of those 7 starts, he has a 3.06 ERA. He has said many times, including in postgame interviews, that he wants to pitch for he Mets in 2010. He becomes a free agent after the 2009 season ends. It makes sense to offer him a 2010 Mets contract and sign him now before another team makes him an offer he can’t refuse. Remember, he can alse relieve when needed. He pitched 4.1 scoreless innngs of 4 hit ball against the St. Louis Cardinals when he relieved an injured Jon Niese on Aug. 5th with 2 out and 2 men on base in the 2nd inning. Sign him. It won’t cost much. Figueroa has called himself the Mets “Geico Policy,” i.e. Low-cost insurance. He starts Sunday against Houston to end the season. Sign him after the game ends. The way the Mets have treated him this season, DFAing him twice, that’s the least the Wilpons/Minaya can do.

  5. isuzudude October 1, 2009 at 10:23 am
    Let’s evaluate how this team misdiagnosed and intensified the injuries, too. Because news has surfaced that Jose Reyes has now torn his hamstring, in addition to the tendon behind the hamstring. Surgery back in August and complete R+R would have had him good as new come spring training, but now who knows if he’ll ever by 100% again. Just another injury foul up by this now notorious for getting everything wrong.
  6. joejanish October 1, 2009 at 11:21 am
    hdarvick – we can only hope the Mets have that kind of foresight. Unfortunately, foresight is something the Mets have rarely displayed.

    ‘dude – good point, and one we’ve covered here many times. Check today’s post on Reyes.