Difference Between Mets and Champions

After 162 Mets games, I forgot how much fun it was to watch good, hard-played, exciting baseball games. Right there, one of the key differences between the Mets of 2007-2009 and championship teams.

Not yet a week into the postseason, and we’ve already seen “championship baseball” at its best. How many times in the past three years have we seen similar passion and tenacity from the Flushing Futiles, as we’ve witnessed from the Twins and Dodgers? Even in losing, the Tigers put out a tremendous effort in what may go down as one of the most exciting one-game playoffs of all-time. Sure, you can say these teams are playing at a notch above because it’s the postseason — but are they “dialing it up” from their usual 9 to 10 or are they usually at 10 and breaking the knob to find 11?

Some other differences noted while watching these championship clubs:


John Lackey is the pitcher the Mets keep waiting for John Maine to be — not in terms of style, but in performance / results. In other words, the 7-8 inning pitcher, with occasional spurts of greatness, but otherwise a very solid #2 starter.

The difference between Lackey and Maine: Lackey has very simple, efficient, squared-up mechanics that keep him on a straight line from the rubber toward home plate, which are the foundation to strong command of all pitches. As a result Lackey can hit spots all over the strike zone with all of his pitches. In contrast, Maine’s mechanics cause him to constantly be fighting himself and his “natural”, narrow location of up and in the righthander / up and away from the lefty.

Lackey leads an Angel rotation that has Scott Kazmir and 16-win Joe Saunders rounding out the back end. Compare those two at the end to anyone after Johan Santana on the Mets’ starting staff.

The bullpens of nearly all the postseason teams are equally impressive. Consider that the Red Sox have at least four men in the ‘pen not named Papelbon who would be closing for at least a dozen MLB teams. The Yankees have so much pitching depth that they don’t really need Joba Chamberlain. The Phillies may have an issue with Brad Lidge as a closer but their depth is such that it’s hard to find postseason innings for Pedro Martinez, Joe Blanton, and Brett Myers.

Lineups and Hitting

The Red Sox had JD Drew batting eighth and Alex Gonzalez ninth. The Yankees had Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher in the same spots. The Cardinals had Mark DeRosa 7th and Colby Rasmus 8th. Think about that. Any of those hitters would be batting cleanup for the Mets. That’s the difference between the Mets and a playoff team’s lineup.

Free Agent Signings

Bobby Abreu had some kind of year, huh? A .390 OBP, .293 AVG, 103 RBI, 30 SBs. This is the same guy who was practically begging the Mets for a contract. But the Mets were “set” in the outfield — they had Dan Murphy, Ryan Church, and Fernando Tatis. It was ironic that the Angels had a much deeper surplus of OFs than the Mets (Gary Mathews Jr., Reggie Willits, and Juan Rivera were all presumably fighting for one corner spot), yet they signed Abreu anyway — his bargain price of $5M was too good to pass up (rumor at the time was the Mets could’ve had him for $4M).

Managerial Boldness

Joe Torre has benched All-Star, Gold-Glove second baseman Orlando Hudson in favor of Ronny Belliard — mainly because Belliard is hot and Hudson is not. Can you see a Mets manager pulling a similar move in the playoffs? For example, if Jose Reyes were hitting .200 going into a playoff series, do you think Jerry Manuel would dare sit him in favor of a shortstop who was on a hot streak?


Watching these games a Mets fan, it’s hard not to think about your team and compare / contrast it to the teams still playing. There’s another big difference I’ll detail in a future post.

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. Ceetar October 9, 2009 at 1:42 pm
    Well, Reyes is lightyears better than Hudson. The better comparison is Castillo.

    Some of this is hindsight. Abreu isn’t really that good, and his ‘afraid of the wall’ persona is not exactly false, or good for Citi Field.

    You’re overrating those 8th and 9th place hitters. It’s unlikely the Mets find an awesome catcher, but if they sign one offensive player, they’ll probably have Murphy and Francoeur batting 6th and 7th. That’s not bad.

    The Phillies bullpen is not good. Some of those guys, Blanton, Myers, may be better than they are this year, but there’s a reason they’re not sure who to start. And it’s not because everyone’s pitching well.

    The Yankees got lucky in Hughes fitting into the bullpen. Age hasn’t caught Rivera yet, but it’s touched Pettitte. Hughes, Coke, Chamberlain have proved nothing yet. Getting through 1.1 innings is nothing. The Mets bullpen actually was very good this year, despite Manuel’s tendency to use everyone everyday so that no one is ever rested.

  2. Mike October 9, 2009 at 1:59 pm
    ceetar, I think you are falling into the Mets blinders trap here. Francoeur and Murphy don’t even come close to those other end of the lineup duos. The Mets bullpen was overworked but it was ineffective for reason other than the workload most of the time (see Frankie Fantastic). It is laughable how you marginalize the Yankees players here: Petitte is a solid starter with playoff pedigree and really is just a role player on the Yankees. To single him out as a weakness is really not the point. He is still better than Maine or Pelfrey.

    I really wont argue against your Abreu comments, they are just so wrong there is no need. His defense is hardly a liability. He would have been the Mets MVP this year by a wide margin.

  3. Ceetar October 9, 2009 at 2:21 pm
    My point was just that Abreu exceeded expectations. Sure, the Mets need to be on the right side of some more of these gambles, but they’re still not sure things. Would it have been the same on the Mets? who knows. Is the rumor of $4mill true? maybe, maybe not. Yes, Pettitte is a solid starter. I’m not denying that, just that he’s experienced shoulder and arms issues the past few seasons that suggest he’s wearing down a little. They’ve mishandled Joba horribly. This is why the playoffs depend on Burnett. If he pitches well, they’ve got Sabathia and Burnett with Pettitte an awesome third. If he doesn’t, they’re putting a lot of pressure on Pettitte, and while he’s done it in the past, that was 10 years ago. Can his body hold up? The Yankees bullpen was a disaster early. Hughes came out of nowhere to contribute in there, and Coke really started to settle down. Maybe this isn’t so much the players, as the pitching coach.

    Colby Rasmus is a rookie. Francoeur and Murphy are both better than him. DeRosa is a roleplayer. He’d be a perfect replacement for..Cora. A guy off the bench that plays infield and has a lot of pop. (And he’s developed power in his early-mid 30s..what’s with that?) He’s actually had an off year this year, particularly with the Cardinals. Is that a ‘buy-low’ type deal for the Mets, or a player getting older that won’t get better?

    Nick Swisher? I’m not sure Nick Swisher isn’t a typical “Yankee Stadium basher” that would be batting .220 with 30 warning track fly-outs on the Mets. But yes, the Yankees and Red Sox have deeper lineups.

    The Mets aren’t quite as ‘far out’ as you think.

  4. gary s. October 9, 2009 at 2:41 pm
    i’m just enjoying watching “real baseball”.Comparisons to the mets is just a waste of time.These are well run organizations that make the playoffs almost every year, have good field managers and know how to stock a team with depth and real starting pitching.If any of these teams need to bulid an overpriced burger joint in center field or build a rotunda to honor a player who never played for them call the wilpons.That is their field of expertise..lol..
  5. kenny October 10, 2009 at 5:30 am
    I’m sorry ceetar, but danny murphy doesn’t hold a candle to Colby Rasmus. Not even close!

    The Mets are more ‘far out’ than you think. It’s going to be a rough few years unless they clean out the front office and most of the team.

    It’s OVA, kid!

  6. mic October 10, 2009 at 11:16 am
    I’m with Ceetar. Funny how an AWFULL Art Howe product instantly makes a division run in 2005 under a rookie manager adding in only Beltran and a half season of Pedro Martinez to go with several rookies Wright, Reyes included.
  7. Andy October 10, 2009 at 3:09 pm
    Joe, I liked the “Spinal Tap” reference. It would be nice to see the Mets “go to 11” every now and again.