Browsing Archive July, 2007

Mets Game 106: Loss to Brewers

Brewers 4 Mets 2

Number 300 will have to wait, though it was no fault of Tommy Glavine.

Glavine looked great in his first three innings, holding the Brewers hitless. However, he walked J.J. Hardy to begin the fourth, then gave up a single to Ryan Braun that Moises Alou bobbled, allowing Hardy to reach third. The next batter, Prince Fielder, grounded out up the middle to score Hardy with the first run of the game.

In the top of the sixth, Jose Reyes stroked a single that he hustled into a double when Billy Hall didn’t come up with the ball right away. Luis Castillo followed with a beauty of a bunt that moved him to third, and David Wright bounced a full-count pitch over the drawn-in Ryan Braun to score Reyes and tie the game. Carlos Delgado then reached for an outside pitch and pulled it into right-center for a single, pushing Wright to third. Alou followed with a deep fly to right that scored Wright easily, giving the Mets a 2-1 lead. Shawn Green then blasted a double to the left-center wall, but Delgado was nailed at the plate on a fine relay throw by Tony Graffanino (Billy Hall had overthrown cutoff man J.J. Hardy, but Graffanino was alertly backing up). Not sure what windmill man Sandy Alomar was thinking, because Delgado was barely rounding third and running out of gas when Graffanino had the ball just a few feet from the infield dirt. Not a good gamble with hot-hitting Ramon Castro on deck.

Glavine pitched six full innings, and started the seventh, but was removed after allowing a leadoff single to Damian Miller. The crowd at Miller Park offered him a standing ovation as he walked into the dugout. His stat line: 6 innings, 2 hits, 5 walks, 1 earned run, 2 strikeouts, 95 pitches.

Aaron Heilman came on in relief and induced a double play grounder on his first pitch to Tony Graffanino, who inexplicably was not bunting. Pinch-hitter Craig Counsell was, however, and dropped a beauty that Ramon Castro could not pounce on quickly enough with the cinderblocks tied to his shoes. Heilman, however, settled down to get another grounder from Corey Hart to end the inning.

In the eighth, Graffanino led off the inning by fisting a full-count fastball just beyond the reach of Jose Reyes for a bloop basehit. Heilman then retired Ryan Braun on a flyout to left before giving way to Pedro Feliciano to face Prince Fielder. Feliciano hit Fielder on the elbow to put the go-ahead run on first, and Guillermo Mota came on to put out the fire. Mota, however, threw gas — and I don’t mean he was throwing fast. Rather, he accelerated the flame. Bill Hall drilled his first pitch — a high, fat changeup — into left field and over the fence on a bounce for a ground-rule double to tie the game. Where Mota came up with that choice of pitch and location is anyone’s guess. Eventually, the Brewers were retired and the game remained tied, but not before Graffanino nearly lifted a Mota meatball to the base of the leftfield wall.

The Mets couldn’t score in the top of the ninth, and Jorge Sosa was brought on to pitch the bottom of the ninth. Strangely, he chose to pitch out of the stretch, rather than the windup, and walked leadoff batter Geoff Jenkins on four pitches. Corey Hart followed with a hard bunt that skipped past Carlos Delgado, who with those feet could have played the role of Sondra Lomax in the movie “Lady in Cement“. J.J. Hardy followed with a sacrifice to put runners on second and third, with hot-hitting Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder coming up next. Despite getting royally squeezed by the home plate umpire, Sosa managed to strike out Braun, getting him to chase sliders a foot out of the strike zone. Fielder was walked intentionally to load the bases and bring eighth-inning hero Bill Hall to the plate. Hall fell behind 0-2, but worked the count full before blooping a Texas leaguer to center that looked to be the game-winning hit before Lastings Milledge came out of nowhere and made a spectacular diving catch to end the inning.

In the top of the tenth, Milwaukee reliever Matt Wise threw 10 straight balls, walking David Wright and Carlos Delgado, before being removed for lefty Brian Shouse with a 2-0 count on Moises Alou. Shouse threw another ball before throwing a strike, then gave Moises “DP” Alou an ideal pitch to bounce into a routine double play. With two outs and Wright on third, Damion Easley was sent up to pinch-hit for Shawn Green, but Brewers manager Ned Yost countered with righty Chris Spurling, who struck out Easley to end the threat.

In the bottom of the eleventh, Aaron Sele came in and was victimized by back-to-back basehits by Geoff Jenkins and Corey Hart to start the inning and set up another sacrifice bunt for J.J. Hardy. However, Carlos Delgado pounced on the ball immediately and threw out Jenkins for his first assist to third base since 1992 (when he was a minor league catcher). Sele then induced a double play grounder from Ryan Braun to end the frame.

Prince Fielder nearly ended the game twice leading off the bottom of the 12th, hitting two 1400-foot shots just inside the rightfield foul pole and into the upper deck. OK, they weren’t exactly 1400 feet, but I’m counting the Kingman-like height on the ball as well as the distance. Fielder eventually stroked a single, and was sacrificed to second by Rickie Weeks. That brought up Kevin Mench, who was 6-for-12 lifetime vs. Sele before that at-bat. However, Mench popped up to center for the second out, and got Damian Miller to fly out to an again diving Milledge.

Leading off the 13th and therefore no possibility of hitting into a double play, Moises Alou welcomed Dave Bush with a single to start the inning. Damion Easley struck out on a full count slider, but Alou was running on the pitch and barely stole second. (Mets fans everywhere breathed a sigh of relief when Alou reached his feet unscathed.) Ramon Castro bounced out to third for the second out, and Milledge went to short for his grounder that ended the inning.a

For the third straight time, the Brewers led off the inning with a hit, as Tony Graffanino hit a double down the leftfield line off Sele. Geoff Jenkins followed by mashing a 1-2 pitch over the rightfield fence to end the game. When he reached home plate, the Brewers mobbed him like it was the World Series. Relax, guys — all you did was stay in first for another day.


Why Bud Selig wasn’t in attendance to witness this game is anybody’s guess. Milwaukee is Selig’s home, and Glavine’s potential 300th win is much more significant than any other milestones about to be reached. Unless you think there is a better chance of seeing another 300-game winner before another homerun king? Yeah, I thought so.

Glavine got squeezed pretty tightly by home plate umpire Chad Fairchild — which was expected as Fairchild has a small strike zone. Glavine’s response was to steer his change-up more toward the middle of the plate early in the count. There was one point, however, in the fourth where Glavine started off Damian Miller with a pitcher’s pitch on the outside edge of the plate and didn’t get the call from Fairchild. Glavine responded with frustrated body language, and Fairchild walked a few steps out toward the mound and said something to Glavine. Ramon Castro and Rick Peterson trotted out to the mound in unison to diffuse a situation that could have turned ugly, as Tommy was fired up and may have gotten himself tossed if given the opportunity.

With Glavine in a pinch — one out, a man on third and a 3-0 count — Bill Hall offered a gift by swinging wildly at a low change-up off the outside of the plate, popping up for the second out of the inning. Dumb baseball.

How about Glavine’s kid wearing a David Wright jersey?

Shawn Green made a great diving catch in the sixth with two outs and runners on first and third to save a run and end the inning. He showed no fear of the rightfield wall, which was about five feet from his face when he hit the ground. Green may be slow in the field, and only a shell of his former self, but you have to admire his all-out play — he seemed to be giving a little bit extra in this game, perhaps because Glavine’s #300 was on the line.

Speaking of, Aaron Heilman was pretty revved up himself for this game, touching 97 MPH on the gun a few times.

When Feliciano was removed from the game, I wondered if Willie Randolph had considered bringing in Billy Wagner for a five-out save. Crazy, I know, but Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Sparky Lyle, and Skip Lockwood did it all the time. I’m certain Wagner would have been willing and up to the task, to save Glavine’s 300th.

Mota’s confidence is shot. He is of no use to the Mets in tight situations while his psyche is damaged. He and Aaron Sele should switch roles for a few weeks.

Jorge Sosa in the bullpen means Mike Pelfrey gets another start? The Mets normally would have to wait ten days after demoting Pelfrey to AAA, but I believe he can come back if someone — such as Paul LoDuca — is placed on the DL. If not Pelfrey, then perhaps we’ll see the 2007 debut of Philip Humber, who had been held back from his regular turn in New Orleans due to food poisoning (was he really sick, or being kept out to prevent injury in the event he was traded for Cordero?).

I know it’s only one game, but not getting Chad Cordero, Eric Gagne, or any other top reliever at the trading deadline looms as a much larger disappointment after seeing the bullpen give away Glavine’s 300th win. Who can the Mets count on out of the ‘pen, besides Billy Wagner?

Luis Castillo’s debut as a Met was inauspicious at the plate, but he flashed a good glove, making several nice plays ranging to his left and right. The Mets can’t expect him to get on base the way he did three or four years ago, but he should save a few runs in the field with his sure hands and ability to turn the double play.

Scary stat: of Luis Castillo’s 106 base hits this year, 36 were infield singles. That explains how he’s hitting .300 with that sick-looking swing. The Brewers outfielders were playing so shallow on him, it looked like a little league game when the girl on the other team comes up.

Strange move by Willie in the top of the 11th, originally getting Ruben Gotay ready to pinch-hit in the pitcher’s spot, then switching to David Newhan with two out. Newhan singled, but why burn him — a guy who can play several positions, including the outfield — instead of Gotay in an extra-inning affair? Personally, I’d be more comfy having the versatile Newhan available — especially with Green and Marlon Anderson already out of the game and Easley in right — just in case.

The knock on Ryan Braun — and the reason he didn’t join the Brewers sooner — was suspect defense. However, he made at least two web gems in this game and looked like a Gold Glover at the hot corner … oh, except for his 15th error of the season in the seventh.

Geoff Jenkins is on fire, but likely won’t play with the lefty Ollie Perez pitching on Wednesday. Thank goodness.

As we suspected here at MetsToday, Carlos Beltran was placed on the 15-day DL just a few minutes after the trade deadline. Luis Castillo took his place on the roster, so the Mets are still an outfielder and a relief pitcher short. We’ll guess that Paul LoDuca hits the DL tomorrow, as the Mets really need to add an arm to the roster.

Next Game

The Mets and Brewers do it again at 8:05 PM, with Oliver Perez facing Dave Bush.


Back to the Ballgame

OK, four o’clock has come and gone and the Mets did not make any additions other than Luis Castillo. That may be a good thing — sometimes the best deals are the ones never made. A year from now we may be very happy the Mets did not trade away Philip Humber for Chad Cordero, for example, or Carlos Gomez for Eric Gagne. Time will tell.

And now that all the smoke has cleared, I’m feeling pretty good about the current state of the Mets roster. Yes, it would have been nice to pick up a guy like Cordero, but the Mets will manage. Who knows, maybe Omar Minaya will unearth another post-deadline discovery like the one of Guillermo Mota last year.

With the trade deadline behind us, it’s time to focus on the game again. In case the flurry of rumors threw you off course, there are two insightful articles regarding the current Mets-Brewers series, which begins a little after 8pm tonight:

Milwaukee Brewers: 10 Questions

Series Preview: Mets vs. Brewers


Offers On the Table

There is a smorgasboard of players rumored to be on the trading table, but this isn’t an all-you-can eat. Let’s take a quick look at some of the athletes the Mets are purportedly thinking about obtaining.

Eric Gagne

He’s going to cost, at minimum, Mike Pelfrey or Philip Humber (or both), plus another prospect. The Rangers are also reportedly interested in Carlos Gomez. Gagne’s great, yes, but as a Scott Boras client who wants closer’s dollars, he’s guaranteed to be a three-month rental. Is the potential of one of the Mets’ top prospects worth gambling to shorten games by another inning?
*** UPDATE: rumor has it that the Bosox want to speak with Gagne and/or Boras, so a deal may be done ***

*** ANOTHER UPDATE: Gagne has agreed to set up for Boston. It will take enormous creativity for the Red Sox to lose the pennant now, having to play only 7-inning games. ***

Brad Wilkerson
This is a bit of a head-scratcher. At one time, Wilkerson looked to be a future star on the Montreal Expos / Washington Nationals, but he’s the first hitter to see his numbers go down at the Ballpark at Arlington. He’s in the prime years of his career (30 years old) but the stat line doesn’t corroborate. While Mets fans may be aching to send Shawn Green to the bench (or out of town), I don’t think they’ll be happy with a guy who strikes out once every three at-bats.

Chad Cordero
The cost will be signficant — rumors claim Philip Humber and Carlos Gomez or Fernando Martinez. Is a setup man worth that much of the future? If the price goes down, the Mets will make the deal — but I doubt they part with two of their upper-echelon prospects.

David Weathers
Here we have a guy who won’t cost the Mets top prospects, and may be be just as effective as Cordero between now and October. I’d rather see the Mets deal, say, Mike Carp for Weathers than watch Humber, Pelfrey, Gomez, or FMart leave the organization for Cordero — but that’s Omar’s call.

Ken Griffey
It’s a longshot, but we could see Junior in a Mets uniform this year — especially if this rumor has any substance. And yes, I’d give up two top prospects, but only if Weathers was also part of the deal.

Joe Blanton
Word on the street is that Blanton is very available — in the right deal. Billy Beane has made no secret he wants Lastings Milledge, at minimum, in return. The Mets might consider this deal, but only if they’re also picking up a big bat and a legit setup reliever — most likely in transactions with other teams.

Jeff Conine
He should come cheap, and he’d be a very nice fit with his veteran bat, winning background, get-along personality, and versatility. If he doesn’t move today, he could be an after-deadline pickup.

Troy Percival
If the Mets fail to acquire Gagne, Cordero, or Weathers, you’d have to think they’d consider Percival, who will come cheap and might help out. Omar should be, and likely is, hell-bent on finding any kind of help for the bullpen.

Johnny Gomes

Very little has been heard at the rumor mill with Gomes, and there’s been no mention of the Mets being interested. Which is exactly why I think the Mets may get him. After all, Omar Minaya has a habit of making “out of the blue” trades for guys no one has talked about. However, the price for the heavy-hitting Gomes likely would include one of the Mets top young talents.

Jon Rauch
I’m really not interested, unless he comes very cheap and the Mets consider joining the NBA’s Eastern Conference. To me, he’s not an upgrade over Aaron Heilman.

Jermaine Dye

The Red Sox were rumored to be leading the chase for Dye, but the White Sox outfielder wants to play regularly. How the Bosox can squeeze him into the everyday lineup is questionable, and now that they’re supposedly negotiating with Eric Gagne, they may not have time to complete a deal for Dye. Could Omar swoop in and steal him for under market value? Dye might be worth it.


Deadline Deals: The Last 10 Years

Just for fun, thought I’d post a list of the last New York Mets “deadline deals” from the last 10 years.

Xavier Nady to Pirates for Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez
Nice deal for both sides, as it turned out. Mets also nabbed Ruben Gotay a week earlier.

2005: None.

2004: (Four deals)
1. Scott Kazimir and Jose Diaz to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato

2. Justin Huber to the Kansas City Royals for Jose Bautista
Huh … forgot the Bucs’ starting third baseman was the guy in that deal …

3. Jose Bautista
, Ty Wigginton, Matt Peterson to Pirates for Kris Benson and Jeff Keppinger
This day goes down as the beginning of the end for Jim Duquette. To make matters worse, Duquette sent Dan Wheeler to the Astros for Adam Seuss after the deadline (a deal about as appetizing as green eggs and ham).

4. Scott Erickson to the Rangers for PTBNL (eventually became Josh Hauffpauir)
Forgot about that one, did ya?

2003: (Two deals)

1. Graeme Lloyd to the Royals for Jeremy Hill
2. Rey Sanchez to the Mariners for Kenny Kelly
Yawn! … the Mets had already dumped Jeromy Burnitz and Robby Alomar in the weeks prior.

2002: (Two deals)

Jay Payton, Mark Corey, and Robert Stratton to the Rockies for John Thomson and Mark Little
Advantage: Rockies

Jason Bay, Bobby Jones, and Josh Reynolds to the Padres for Jason Middlebrook and Steve Reed
Yeah, that one didn’t pan out so well, either. But at least the Padres were dumb enough to deal away Bay as well.

Rick Reed to the Twins for Matt Lawton
It seemed bigger at the time, as neither player did much for his new team. The Mets also made some deals a few days before the deadline, dumping Todd Pratt, Turk Wendell, and Dennis Cook on the Phillies for what amounted to a bag of balls.

2000: (Three deals)
1. Melvin Mora, Leslie Brea, and Mike Kinkade to the Orioles for Mike Bordick and Pat Gorman.
Huh … so we gave up more than just Mora for that waste of a shortstop — who returned to Baltimore after the World Series. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

2. Jason Tyner and Paul Wilson for Bubba Trammell and Rick White
Short-term, good deal. Long-term, not so good deal.

3. Juan Aracena to the Orioles for Anthony Shumaker
Yeah, whatever.

1999: (Three deals)

1. Brian McRae, Rigo Beltran, and Thomas Johnson to the Rockies for Daryl Hamilton and Chuck McElroy
That one worked OK for us

2. Jason Isringhausen and Greg McMichael to the A’s for Billy Taylor
Uh, seemed like a good idea at the time…

3. Craig Paquette to the Cardinals for Shawon Dunston
I loved Shawon when he was a Cub, and he did OK for us down the stretch.

1998: (Three deals)

1. Bernard Gilkey and Nelson Figueroa to the Diamondbacks for Willie Blair and Jorge Fabregas
An exchange of one-hit wonders. Neither team caught the lightning.

2. Bill Pulsipher to the Brewers for Mike Kinkade
Nothing big here, though maybe the Bordick deal doesn’t happen without Kinkade.

3. Leo Estrella to the Blue Jays for Tony Phillips
Phillips was batting .354 at the time of the deal, but didn’t adjust well to the NL, hitting only .223 for the Mets.

Good thing we cut this off at ten years, otherwise we’d have eventually made our way to the 1996 deadline deal of Jeff Kent for Carlos Baerga.


Milwaukee Brewers: 10 Questions

Milwaukee Brewers old baseball logoThis three-game set in Milwaukee is a huge series for both the Mets and the Brewers, as each team holds similarly slim leads over their respective divisions. While both teams remain in first, each have changed a bit since their last meeting in May.

We called on David Hannes of Brewers Bar to help get reacquainted with the Brew Crew.

1. Not long ago, the Brewers had the best record in MLB. Now they have their eye on the rearview mirror with the surging Cubs gaining quickly. What must the Brew Crew do to fend off the Cubs?

Well, the short answer is to start winning on the road…which means they need to start playing better on the road. While most of the hitters have struggled on the road, it’s been the pitching that has really struggled away from Miller Park. Jeff Suppan, Tuesday night’s starter and the starter with the most starts for the Brewers, is 5-2, 4.23 at home, but 3-7, 5.80 on the road; Chris Capuano is 3-2, 4.13 at home, but 2-5, 5.40 on the road; and, of course, Francisco Cordero’s ERA at home is 0.33 over 28 games, but is a whopping 8.62 in 17 games on the road. The second thing is to get Ben Sheets back before the end of the month and have the rest of the players stay healthy. They need to get a few of their big bats going, too; Prince Fielder has only had 1 HR and 5 RBI’s since the All-Star break, and J.J. Hardy’s production has dropped off as well–he had 18 HR’s and 54 RBI’s before the All-Star break; he’s had 0 HR’s after the break…and his BA dropped from .325 in May to .220 in June and .241 in July.

2. The acquisitions of Seth McClung and Scott Linebrink should bolster the bullpen. Any other additions on the way before the 4pm deadline (or after)?

I don’t think so…the Madison ESPN Radio affiliate has a sports show during drive-time, and both guys were quite adamant that the Brewers needed to make a trade and would do so. But I think Brewers’ GM Doug Melvin won’t trade anyone from the current roster, as they’ve done pretty well together for the most part. Anyone they add would mean releasing, trading, or demoting an existing player, which I think could send the wrong message to the rest of the team and potentially disrupt the chemistry they have. Plus, the cupboard is rather bare in AAA Nashville right now; SP’s Tim Dillard (4-4, 4.67) and Zack Jackson (9-7, 4.69) have only so-so numbers, while Adam Pettyjohn (8-2, 3.33) is just showing signs of greatness. Infielder Joe Dillon is hitting over .300, but turns 32 on Thursday, while Andy Abad turns 35 at the end of August. OF’s Gabe Gross (.318) and Laynce Nix (.241) aren’t necessarily an upgrade for most starting OF’s. Tony Gwynn, Jr., then, is probably the most coveted player at Nashville, but I don’t think Doug Melvin would consider trading him unless it meant a Carl Crawford type that would be under contract for ’08, too. They have prospects at AA Huntsville, but it seems that most teams want someone that is a year or two away…and with all the injuries in the infield last season, and an outfield that may lose both Jenkins and Mench after this season, Melvin won’t mortgage anymore of the future for an ’07 run.

3. Speaking of the Linebrink deal, do you think he was worth the price of Will Inman, Steve Garrison, and Joe Thatcher — especially considering he’s likely a 3-4-month rental?

I admit that when I first heard of the trade, I thought it was a huge coup; then I looked at Linebrink’s numbers for this year, and then found out that he’s an unrestricted free agent after this year, and thought it might have been a bit much. That said, Doug Melvin knows that southern Wisconsin is hungry for a winner, and a competitive team for the rest of ’07 not only means bigger gate revenues, but makes Milwaukee a little bit more attractive to free agents next year. I think the Brewers would have really benefitted from Thatcher come September, but their main lefty in the pen–Brian Shouse–has only allowed 1 ER in 21 games since the beginning of June, and with Manny Parra now up in Milwaukee, they could spare Thatcher. The loss of Inman could come back to bite them, but with Yovani Gallardo, Manny Parra, Carlos Villanueva and even Zach Jackson and Tim Dillard ahead of Inman currently, Inman had–at best–a 50/50 shot to be the #5 starter in ’09. Adding Linebrink serves as insurance in negotiating with Francisco Cordero, too–if Cordero signs elsewhere, at least Linebrink will have a sense of whether or not he likes Milwaukee or not…and might want to stay if he’d be in line for the closer role.

4. Is Manny Parra the real deal? Will he get another start, or be more valuable out of the ‘pen?

I think Parra is the real deal; I just hope they don’t rush him up. With Yovani Gallardo filling in at starter until Ben Sheets returns, Parra will be in the bullpen; but Parra will be a long-inning option, or a fill-in in case someone gets hurt. If one of the starters continues to struggle, I think Yost will bump Parra into the rotation…but I think it would take 3-4 really bad, consecutive starts by one of the starters for that to happen.

5. How about Yovani Gallardo? Can he pick up the slack left by Ben Sheets for the time being?

Boy, Gallardo has been another pleasant surprise. So far, he hasn’t been bothered by the pressure. I think he’s honestly their second-best starter right now (behind Sheets). His two stints as a reliever may also help him last through September. If he continues to dominate, I sure hope Ned Yost makes the difficult call and leaves him in the rotation. To do so, he’d have to bump one of the current starters, and that could be problematic. Dave Bush was the #5 starter at the beginning of the season, but has done fairly well of late. The Brewers always seem to win games that Claudio Vargas starts, and it would be hard to imagine that they’d bump Jeff Suppan to the pen with the money that they are paying him, plus his phenomenal second-half last year. Chris Capuano is the only lefty in the starting rotation, and was the #2 starter at the beginning of the year.

6. Ryan Braun has been everything as advertised, and then some. Is it safe to say he’s the Brewers third baseman for years to come?

Well, his early call up means he’ll be a Super Two, which means he’ll be eligible for arbitration in 2010, I believe, so he’d be under the Brewers’ control through 2012. Right now, I think Doug Melvin would like to see him in a Brewers’ uniform for the next 12-15 years. If he has another good year next year, I think Doug Melvin would prioritize signing Braun over guys like Rickie Weeks and even Chris Capuano.

7. J.J. Hardy had 15 homers in the first two months of the season, but only three since. What happened?

Good question. One factor might be a bit of fatigue–Hardy only played in 35 games last season, so it’s been two years since he’s played this many games. I’m sure that opposing pitchers have adjusted, as well. He’s probably over-thinking things, too–in other words, once you get into a slump, you start changing your stance, your swing, and second-guessing pitches that you shouldn’t.

8. How is the outfield rotation working now that Bill Hall has returned?

With Corey Hart in a slump, and Tony Gwynn, Jr., back in Nashville, Hall has a lock on the CF job until he slumps; Hall had a great second-half in both ’05 and ’06, and has hit .292 since the All-Star break. Geoff Jenkins has been in his usual mid-season slump, and, until he breaks out of hit it, Kevin Mench will get a lot of time in LF. Hart is still the everyday starting right-fielder. Ned Yost is carrying only these four outfielders on the 25-man right now, using Tony Graffanino out there on occasion. I’m not sure that this can last, though. If Hart, Jenkins, and Graffanino struggle at the plate for the next week or two, I think that they are going to have to bring Tony Gwynn, Jr. back before September; they might want to anyway, so they have his speed available should they make the playoffs.

9. Tie game, ninth inning, two outs, winning run on third. What Brewer do you want at the plate?

Ryan Braun, right now. He strikes out a lot, but he’s hitting .500 against lefties, and .294 against righties…and .350 with runners in scoring position. Like Gallardo, he has ice water in his veins. Everyone else is just too inconsistent of late to count on.

10. Same situation, but Mets are hitting. Which Met would you least like to see up?

David Wright would be my answer, if we don’t have Brian Shouse or Manny Parra left. Wright’s .328 BA vs. righties with RISP becomes even more problematic when you see his OBP in the same situation is .451, meaning he knows how to get on base in those situations, which means you need to pitch to him. We’d likely have a righty on the mound, and Jose Reyes .279 BA vs. righties with RISP makes him a little less risky.

Thanks again to David for filling us in on the Brewers. Be sure to check out Brewers Bar for the daily scoop on Milwaukee’s nine.


Series Preview: Mets vs. Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers baseball logoThe last time the Mets faced the Brewers, the Brew Crew had the best record in MLB, and were fulfilling the “surprise” role that many pundits predicted. However, with the Mets going into Milwaukee to start a three-game series today, the Brewers find themselves with a slim lead over the Cubs, a team on a hot streak and making nearly daily improvements to their club. In addition, the Brewers’ previously impenetrable bullpen has sprung some leaks, prompting GM Doug Melvin to acquire Scott Linebrink and Seth McClung. Oh, and they recently found out that Ben Sheets will be out until at least the end of August. It’s a tough time for the Brew Crew right now.

Meantime, the Mets have started to distance themselves from the Phillies and Braves, but now have some pressure with Atlanta’s acquisitions of Mark Teixeira and Octavio Dotel. It doesn’t help that the team’s offense is still underachieving, and Carlos Beltran remains on the bench due to a mysterious muscle pull in his stomach. Ironically, the Mets’ starting pitching — which many experts predicted would be their downfall in the preseason — is the single, consistent strength of the club.

Once again we’re counting on Jeff Sackmann of BrewCrewBall, MinorLeagueSplits, BeyondTheBoxscore, and The Hardball Times to give us a bit of help on Milwaukee’s nine from a Brewer fan’s perspective.

Game One: Tom Glavine vs. Jeff Suppan

Tommy is going for win #300, and coming off a shakier outing than the boxscore might suggest. He has the number in his head, but at this point that may be a positive. My theory is that he’s had trouble concentrating during games on his way to 299, but will focus hard on this start similarly to how he treats postseason games. It’s kind of like rushing out of work to get home and pack and shoot down the shore on a Friday afternoon — you rush, you get sloppy, you speed, you forget to pack your toothbrush, but once you get over the Driscoll Bridge, you kind of relax, and start thinking about the beach, because the urgency of getting through the previous 30 or so exits is behind. That said, I think Glavine will pitch a gem, treating it like a World Series start.

Hopefully, Jeff Suppan won’t pitch like it’s a postseason game, because we know what that looks like. After a red-hot April, Suppan has regressed to the pitcher he’s always been: something slightly better than Steve Trachsel. He usually goes five or six innings, keeps the game close enough, and mixes in one gem for every two thrashings. Suppan allowed six hits and four runs in six innings in his outing against the Mets in May, and that’s a pretty typical start for him. According to Jeff Sackmann:

“Suppan has been mediocre since a really nice April. He’s well-known for his good second halves, but we’re still waiting for that. He hasn’t imploded more than a time or two–Brewers beat writers keep saying that he’s had x starts in a row where he allows 4 runs or less–but allowing 4 runs in 5 innings isn’t much to write home about.”

Game Two: Oliver Perez vs. Dave Bush

In the first five innings of his last start, Ollie looked as dominating as he’s been all year — but then the wheels came off unexpectedly in the sixth, and as a result the Mets failed to sweep the Pirates. The linescore doesn’t look good, but if you watched the game you saw a number of remarkably lucky hits by the Bucs, and some inexplicable other events that caused the catastrophe. I’m not worried about Oliver, and expect a solid six or seven innings.

Dave Bush has had a Perez-like, rollercoaster season. Sometimes he looks like a top-of-the-rotation guy, other times he looks like he deserves a ticket to AAA. As Jeff says:

“Bush has been an enigma since the day we acquired him: his peripherals are always outstanding, he rarely walks anybody, and he’s been solid lately, but just when we start getting comfortable, he coughs up five runs in the first inning. With any of these three guys, especially Bush, anything could happen, from a blowout to a no-hitter. “

Game Three: Jorge Sosa vs. Claudio Vargas

Sosa has not just fallen back to earth, he’s starting to look like the pitcher who was released twice last year — the early season shine has worn off. His success depends heavily on the sharpness of his slider, which when good he’ll throw over 80% of the time. If it’s flat, fans beyond the outfield stands have a good chance of bringing home a souvenir.

Vargas throws gas — he can touch 97 MPH — and mixes in a curveball that can have good bite. However, his fastball tends to be straight, and often gets too much of the plate — which results in the longball. In some ways, he’s a lot like Sosa. An interesting stat: in 18 starts this year, the Brewers are 15-3. Says Jeff:

… the Crew has been very successful with Claudio on the mound, but he’s constantly pitching into trouble and not always getting out of it. He had a good outing last weekend, but has mostly been the king of the 5.1 inning start.

Mets Bullpen

Aaron Heilman has re-found his touch (we think), and Billy Wagner continues to be lights-out, but everyone else is hit or miss. Even Pedro Feliciano, who had pitched so well, has proven mortal — though he’s probably even more reliable than Heilman right now. The fact that the Mets are on the road bodes well for Scott Schoeneweis, but the team needs to get better performances from Guillermo Mota. The bullpen is an arm short, unless something happens before 4pm. Aaron Sele should be ready, as he’s had his customary 12 days of rest.

Brewers Bullpen

Milwaukee’s pen looked to be one of the strongest in MLB until fairly recently, but it should be bolstered by the additions of Linebrink and McClung. According to Jeff Sackmann:

“Linebrink isn’t automatically the setup guy over Derrick Turnbow, but D-Bow hasn’t been lights-out lately. I would expect a sort of platoon, where Ned Yost tries not to overwork either one, especially Turnbow. Coco Cordero, who was so incredibly good for the first couple of months, has had a few shaky outings, but I’m convinced it’s just a blip. Lots of dribblers getting through. McClung is a nice pickup, but is purely Triple-A depth right now; I would guess he’s behind at least one or two other guys on the depth chart in Nashville.”

Mets Bats

One of the Mets’ hottest hitters, Ruben Gotay, returns to the bench with the acquisition of second baseman Luis Castillo. That leaves Lastings Milledge as the main on-fire offensive force in a lineup still trying to get out of second gear. Jose Reyes continues to reach base, and is the Mets main hope for scoring opportunities. The addition of Castillo at the top of the lineup should provide more RBI opportunities for David Wright, who remains consistent and is approaching .300. If Paul LoDuca goes on the DL, it could be a blessing in disguise as Ramon Castro has been swinging the bat with the power and authority everyone expected when he was a first-round draft pick in 1994. On the other hand, Moises Alou’s return to the lineup has been far from noteworthy, as Alou looks like it’s March all over again. The Mets will need Milledge to continue his performance as a one-man wrecking crew and get more production from Carlos Delgado in the middle of the lineup — particularly with Carlos Beltran still suffering from a stomach injury. Want to hear something crazy? Guess who the Mets’ third-best hitter for average is, behind Reyes and Wright (for those who qualify for the batting title)? Shawn Green, at .272.

Brewers Bats

The Brewers had some bangers before, but now they have Billy Hall back from injury and added rookie Ryan Braun — who right now is hitting like George Brett. J.J. Hardy is no longer hitting homers, but is still a solid stick, as are Kevin Mench, Johnny Estrada and Corey Hart. Rickie Weeks has been a disappointment, hitting just .212, but Prince Fielder continues to carry the weight (his, and the team’s). Then there’s Geoff Jenkins, who can start raking — or whiffing — at the drop of the hat. Jenkins is batting only .217 this month, but just came off a 3-for-5 day against the Cardinals — so he may very well be about to go on a rampage.

Bottom Line

Not sure what to make of this series. The pitching matchups are of eerily similar pitchers — in the opening, the unspectacular but crafty veterans, two remarkable enigmas in the middle game, then two completely unpredictable, gopher-ball vulnerabilities in the final. Both offenses are underachieving, and each team’s bullpen has been inconsistent of late. I’d be very happy if the Mets take two out of three, but with so many variables it’s hard to feel confident about any one game — much less the series as a whole.


Do We Want Castillo?

OK, so now the deal looks more reasonable: minor league catcher Drew Butera and outfielder Dustin Martin for Luis Castillo.

I have no qualms about the talent exchange here. Drew Butera will be lucky to reach the glorious heights of his dad Sal — who was nothing more than a mediocre third-string catcher. Martin’s future was not with the Mets, and whose ceiling may be roster filler in AAA.

However, now that it looks like the Mets will indeed get Luis Castillo, do we really want him?

Here’s the problem: Castillo is more or less guaranteed to step right in and start at second base, immediately. He is all the things that Willie Randolph craves: an experienced (aging) veteran, ideal second place (not power) hitter, who makes a lot of contact (doesn’t walk much), with a Gold Glove resume (but that was a long time ago and several knee surgeries ago), and (was) a basestealing threat.

In other words, back to the bench for Ruben Gotay, who was just starting to show how much of an impact he could make on the team.

I do like Luis Castillo as an all-around ballplayer, and I like him in the #2 spot — assuming that LoDuca will never hit there again regardless. What I don’t like is Gotay going back to the bench, which appears inevitable. It reminds me of my rage when the Mets sent Melvin Mora packing in return for Mike “I’m going back to Baltimore after the season” Bordick.

Castillo, by the way, is, like Gotay, a switch-hitter. He’s hitting .315 from the left side this year and .270 from the right (in 89 at-bats).

Braves Getting Dotel?

As if the Mark Teixeira deal weren’t enough, the Braves are also on their way to obtaining Octavio Dotel, and arm that would fit very nicely in the Mets’ bullpen. How the Braves are able to pull off both deals is a wonder, especially since the Royals seemed to be asking a king’s ransom for Dotel. There is one good thing — the Braves appear to be emptying their coffers for short-term rentals, which can only help the Mets over the next few years. My concern, however, is for this year.

Phillies Get Kyle Lohse

So the Phillies picked up eternal enigma Kyle Lohse. That could be cause for celebration by Mets fans. If he can continue to hold the New York offense to only five runs every four and a third innings, though, we can forget about ten-run-ruling the Phils before the seventh frame.


Teixeira to Braves: Now What?

So it’s only a matter of time before the Mark Teixeira trade to the Braves becomes official. Now what?

How about this: nothing.

While the Braves are about to acquire one of the elite hitters in the American League, the biggest fish the Mets appear to be after is a hobbling, aging, Luis Castillo. The rumor is that the Twins probably want Kevin Mulvey + another prospect in return, and I’m not even sure that’s a fair trade for a guy who may not be a better alternative to Ruben Gotay right now. The way Gotay has been hitting, my guess is that Omar Minaya will wait and see if he cools off, and then go after Castillo after the deadline — much the way he waited for Lastings Milledge to prove he wasn’t the answer last year, and then plucked Shawn Green.

So I think we’re all in agreement that at this moment, Castillo is not a player the Mets need to get, unless he can be obtained for minor leaguers with less upside than Mulvey. Mulvey may not be any kind of lights-out prospect — his ceiling is similar to Brian Bannister’s — but I still wouldn’t deal him for Castillo — not when Tadahito Iguchi was dealt for a nondescript AA middle reliever. Tell the Twins they can have Lino Urdaneta or Robert Parnell, or they can let Castillo limp away at the end of the year — because no one else in MLB is clamoring for him at the moment.

Other than Castillo, who / what do the Mets have in their sights? There don’t appear to be any second basemen on the block who will definitely outperform Gotay — except maybe Mark Loretta. The best starting pitcher available is Jose Contreras, and he wouldn’t significantly upgrade the Mets’ rotation. The best available middle reliever has already been traded — Scott Linebrink — so if the Mets want bullpen help they’ll have to overpay for Chad Cordero or Eric Gagne (which probably won’t happen). The only other place the Mets can consider an addition is the outfield, and we keep hearing about Jermaine Dye. A month ago, Dye was a question mark due to his leg injuries and poor performance. However, he’s healthy and hitting now, and could be a fine complement to the lineup. But then again, with Lastings Milledge battering the ball — particularly in the clutch — can you really squeeze Dye in? Maybe if Shawn Green goes the other way in the deal, but then you’d have a suddenly righty-heavy lineup.

All things considered, perhaps the best thing for the Mets to do is stand pat. After all, once Moises Alou gets his timing back, he’ll be as good or better than Dye might be. And if he doesn’t, it appears that Milledge is ready to steal a job from him or Green — maybe Green and Alou become platoon partners.

Only one thing has me concerned — the Carlos Beltran injury. For all we know, Beltran is more seriously injured than the Mets are letting on, because of the trading deadline. His “strained stomach muscle” may actually be a strained or torn oblique, which would require several weeks of recovery time. If word got out about the true nature of his injury, the price for Dye would triple. How confident are you with an everyday outfield consisting of a questionable Alou, a regressed Green, and a streaking Milledge? Remember, Endy Chavez and Carlos Gomez are not returning anytime soon, so the best alternatives are David Newhan, Ben Johnson, and Ricky Ledee.

The next 17 or so hours should be interesting.