Mets Still Need Pitching
While the Mets and their fans sit around waiting for Jason Bay and Bengie Molina to make up their minds, there is still the little matter of the pitching staff.
For those unaware, injuries were not the reason the Mets had their worst season since 2003. Neither was it the lack of power. Sure, those obvious issues had something to do with it, but the #1 reason the Mets never had a snowball’s chance in Hades of making the postseason was because their pitching was flat-out awful.
But don’t take it from me — check the stats. The Mets were 12th in the NL in ERA, 12th in WHIP, and 14th in strikeouts. And as MetsToday reader “CatchDog” pointed out yesterday, the Mets finished second-to-last in innings by their starting pitchers. Oh, but they did lead the league in balks, and came in a close second to the Nationals in walks.
Walks and balks — that was the story of the Mets pitching in 2009.
Before you say “the Mets pitching stunk because of the injuries”, try to remember how overjoyed you were upon hearing the news that Oliver Perez would be out indefinitely with a knee injury. Perez was supposed to be the #3 starter, and was one of the team’s top free-agent signings last winter. And yes, John Maine was injured as well — in 2008! Only the Mets would be foolish enough to count on a pitcher coming off shoulder surgery to be a lynchpin in their starting rotation.
Even if Maine and Perez do come back and somehow return to their 2007 form, there is still the matter of the #5 spot in the rotation. Many are quick to point out that Jonathan Niese and Fernando Nieve will battle it out, but both of those youngsters are coming off serious leg injuries. People like to focus on the health of pitchers’ arms, but the fact is, the legs are just as — if not more — important, and any weakness or pain in the lower half can lead to injuries to the upper half (ask Dizzy Dean or Mark Fidrych).
Oh, and did we mention that staff ace Johan Santana is coming off elbow surgery? Yes, he’s been through it before and came back with a Cy Young Award, but that was six years ago, when Santana was only 24 going on 25. He’s now past the age of 30, and if you are “thirtysomething” then you know that the body changes as you age.
After the starting rotation, of course, comes the bullpen. The big news last offseason was that the Mets significantly improved their bullpen — on paper. In reality, the ‘pen was just as ineffective as 2008, possibly worse. Heading into 2010, there is an unknown Japanese import penciled in as the setup man, a closer coming off his worst season ever, and a collection of mediocre middle relievers handled by a man who is clueless in regard to bullpen management.
Stop me when if you think I’m off course.
Still with me? Then you agree that the Mets have some work to do. For starters, um, they can acquire a starter. Or two. At this point I don’t know that it matters whether it’s a “number 2” so much as it’s someone competent and durable yet not mediocre. Second, there is the matter of the setup role. Ryota Igarashi may turn out to be “the guy” but you can’t go into spring training thinking that way — a legit competitor needs to be brought in. Another middle reliever would be helpful, as would a LOOGY (unfortunately the Mets blew a golden opportunity to bring in either during the Rule 5 Draft).
To recap the current situation: the Mets are counting on Santana, Perez, Maine, Nieve, and Niese — 5 starters — to fully recover from injuries and surgeries. And they’re counting on someone who has never pitched in MLB before (Igarashi) to be the setup man. And they’re counting on a comeback from their closer, whose velocity and performance went down, and who is pitching winter ball right now despite a long, forgettable year that began with the WBC in early March. And we haven’t even delved into Mike Pelfrey’s yips nor the hittability of Bobby Parnell.
We can bounce around all the names we want in the comments, but first we need to agree (or disagree) that the Mets’ #1 issue right now is not finding a slugging left fielder or ridding themselves of Luis Castillo — it’s fixing and fortifying the pitching staff. And no catcher — not Bengie Molina, Johnny Bench, nor the ghost of Mickey Cochrane — can singlehandedly turn the Mets’ current assembly into a healthy, formidable, playoff-bound staff.