Pedro Feliciano Out, LaTroy Hawkins In
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Though “Everyday Pedro” (a.k.a., “Perpetual Pedro”) had very good results this spring, the process was not impressive. When he was appearing in every other game a few years back, Feliciano’s fastball hung around 87-88 MPH, but it rarely reached 84 over the past three weeks — and that’s probably too slow. But, who knows? Jamie Moyer‘s “heater” ranged from 78-82 in the last five years of his career, and Barry Zito rarely breaks 84. There’s hope that Pedro can “regain strength” with a minor-league stint and push the gun a few more miles per hour, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Regardless of whether Pedro Feliciano can still retire big-league hitters, the Mets made the right move. If we accept there’s almost no chance of a postseason appearance in 2013, it makes perfect sense to go forward with Robert Carson and Josh Edgin as the lefthanded relievers in the ‘pen. There’s a decent chance one or both can develop into a reliable LOOGY, and no one will know for sure until they’re thrown into the fire. Personally, I’ve been utterly unimpressed with both youngsters this spring — Edgin’s command has been a glaring issue and Carson has looked far too hittable. But, the Mets gain absolutely nothing by sending them to the minors; if they consistently retire AAA hitters, the Mets have learned nothing about them that they don’t already know.
As for Hawkins, the aforementioned logic seems to go out the window. If we agree the Mets are gunning for 2014, 2015, and beyond, then a 42-year-old situational reliever has little value. I’m guessing he will be counted on to be a “mentor” in the bullpen, offering his sage advice to the youngins’. Well, OK, but then why not make him the bullpen coach? The alternative explanation is that there will be important outs to get in the 6th and 7th innings — outs that could be the difference in a victory for youngsters such as Matt Harvey. Since part of 2013 is building the confidence of Harvey (and, presumably Zack Wheeler), it makes sense to have a reliable veteran arm coming into tough situations at crucial points in a ballgame — and that’s where my laughter / crying begins. Since entering the big leagues in 1995, Hawkins has consistently been inconsistent — both in-season and from season to season. With the right kind of handling, maybe he can repeat his acceptable performance of 2012, when he posted a 3.64 ERA in 48 appearances for the Angels. Better yet, maybe he can pitch as well as he did in 2011, when he had a 2.42 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 52 games with the Brewers.
However, I’m not expecting that kind of production from him, for a few reasons. First off, I don’t know that Terry Collins can manage a bullpen as well as Mike Scioscia — and I believe very strongly that Hawkins’ decent numbers last year had much to do with Scioscia putting him in ideal positions to succeed. But don’t trust my gut — rather, consider this fact: in 26 of Hawkins’ 48 games last year, the Angels were either ahead by 3 or more runs, or behind by 3 or more. According to Baseball-Reference, 35 of his 48 appearances were “low-leverage” situations.
In 2011, he appeared in far more “high-leverage” situations — 25 of 52. And, he pitched very well, and usually tossed a full inning, and it usually was either the 7th or 8th. What jumps out, though, is that he was usually well-rested; he pitched on back-to-back days only 8 times that season, and was given 2 days of rest or more 31 times. Further, there was only one outing in which he threw more than 25 pitches. To give you some perspective, Josh Edgin pitched on back-to-back days 12 times in a half-season under Terry Collins’ guidance; Jon Rauch pitched without rest 16 times, and pitched with one day of rest or less 35 times last year. Based on what I’ve seen from Collins over the past two years, my guess is that if Hawkins pitches effectively out of the gate, he will pitch as often as Collins deems necessary, whenever a game seems within reach, with little attention paid to rest. Remember Pedro Beato‘s rookie year? Yeah. It might work for a few months, but by late June / early July, Hawkins could be toast. Though, I guess it’s better that Collins runs Hawkins to the ground, rather than one of the Mets’ young guns.
Hmm … maybe that’s the real reason the Mets are going north with a 42-year-old reliever: because there are going to be plenty of innings covered by the bullpen, and it’s better to wear out an old dog with no future than abuse a twenty-something starlet such as Jeurys Familia. But really, was LaTroy Hawkins the best they could do?
What’s your thought, on Pedro Feliciano and/or LaTroy Hawkins? Do you agree or disagree with the decisions? Why or why not? Answer in the comments.