Browsing Archive January, 2008

Greatest Mets Rotation Ever

Loyal MetsToday reader Joe Muscaglione brought up a great discussion topic — how does the projected 2008 rotation compare to 1986? I’ll go one further: how does it stack up against the best rotations in Mets history?

Here are my candidates …

1969: Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry, Don Cardwell / Jim McAndrew

Seaver had arguably the best season of his career, winning a career-high 25 games, posting 5 shutouts, 18 complete games, 1.04 WHIP, and 2.21 ERA, finishing second in the NL MVP voting. Koosman had a great year as well – 17-9, 2.28 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 6 SHO, 16 CG. The young Gentry looked to be another Seaver in the making, with a big curve and hard fastball that helped him win 13 games and pitch 234 innings. Cardwell and McAndrew split time as the #4 starter, combining for another 14 wins and 2 shutouts. Oh, and then there was this kid Nolan Ryan who made ten starts and looked pretty decent.

1973: Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Jon Matlack, George Stone

Again, Seaver dominated the NL, with 19 of the Mets’ 82 wins, 2.08 ERA, 251 strikeouts in 290 IP, and a remarkable 0.97 WHIP. Koosman’s 14 wins, 2.84 ERA, and 1.18 WHIP look paltry next to that line, and Matlack had a breakout year winning another 14 with a 3.20 ERA as the #3. Fourth starter George Stone was the big surprise, as the journeyman posted a 2.80 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and a magnificent 12-3 record.

1986: Doc Gooden, Ron Darling, Bobby Ojeda, Sid Fernandez, and Rick Aguilera

It wasn’t Doc’s best season — in fact, it was a disappointment compared to his 24-4 record the year before — but he still went 17-6 with a 2.84 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP (imagine if he wasn’t on coke the whole time?). Darling was just as good, going 15-6 with a 2.81 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, El Sid went 16-6, and fourth starter Ojeda went 18-5 — how many fourth starters win 18 games? Aguilera made only 20 starts, but posted a respectable 10-7 record in bringing up the rear end of the rotation.

1988: Doc Gooden, Ron Darling, Bobby Ojeda, Sid Fernandez, and David Cone

Same rotation as 1986, but swap out Rick Aguilera for David Cone — who went 20-3. On paper, you would think that rotation would rank with the greatest of all time in MLB history, but this was the year of underachievers (other than Cone). Gooden and Darling were neck and neck in the race to be ace — Darling going 17-9 and Gooden 18-9 — but Gooden wasn’t as dominant as in previous years (sniff sniff). El Sid (3.03) and Ojeda (2.88) posted excellent ERAs, but went a combined 22-23. Even underachieving, a damn strong fivesome.

2008: Johan Santana, Pedro Martinez, John Maine, Oliver Perez, Orlando Hernandez

Order them any way you wish — this is potentially one of the deepest Mets rotations in their 46-year history. We’ll see …

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Santana Effect

With the addition of Johan Santana, here is the what the Mets’ starting five looks like:

1. Johan Santana

2. Pedro Martinez

3. Orlando Hernandez

4. John Maine

5. Oliver Perez

Wow.

There are many who will argue that El Duque is the #5, and not the #3, but my guess is that this is the way the rotation will shake out — barring injuries — when spring training breaks at the end of March. Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph put significant emphasis on past history when evaluating players, and though Orlando Hernandez’s 2007 was abbreviated, the numbers he put up in that limited time were excellent. More to the point, if you take out the handful of his awful starts — which, in hindsight, had to have been affected by health issues — he could have been considered their most dominant starter. When healthy, he was almost a cinch to go seven innings and give up three runs or less.

OK, there may be a better argument for John Maine to be the #3 — the only thing going against Johnny is that his second half was an abysmal disappointment compared to his first-half dominance. But here’s the kicker: go ahead and make your case for Maine — it doesn’t matter! Put Maine #3, Ollie #4, and El Duque #5 and you tell me who suddenly has the deepest starting rotation in the NL East?

This is perhaps the greatest impact of the “Santana Effect” — everyone drops down a notch, and the Mets look really strong at both the backend and the front-end. A week ago, we were concerned that the Mets starters were a collection of question marks — effectively, four #3s and a big hole / hope against hope at #5. We were upset that the Mets one-two punch at the top couldn’t match up with the likes of Hamels / Myers or Smoltz / Hudson. Today, however, the question is not the front-end for the Mets, but everyone else’s back end. Who in the NL East — in baseball, for that matter — will go into the 2008 season with the quality of John Maine and Oliver Perez at #3 and #4? Who has a guy with the dominating potential of Orlando Hernandez at #5?

Speaking of the fifth spot, Johan Santana’s presence could be the best thing to happen to Mike Pelfrey over the long term. In the short term, yes, it probably bumps Pelfrey back to AAA (assuming there are no injuries). However, we’ve argued here several times that Pelfrey needs to spend more time in the minors for seasoning. Maybe now, with the pressure of MLB games lifted, Pelfrey can concentrate on commanding a change-up. Who knows, maybe he’ll even have the chance to pull the cobwebs off an overhand curve. In any case, I don’t think any young pitcher in today’s game can be hurt by extra innings in the minors — nearly all are rushed up too early. Lets watch Pelfrey continue to polish his all-around game, establish an off-speed pitch, build confidence, and dominate at a lower level. There’s no doubt he’ll have an opportunity at some point to fill in for El Duque for some spot starts — and develop at a more realistic pace.

Bottom line: what a difference a day makes.

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Johan Santana Trade: Quick Analysis

We know the value of Johan Santana — his presence instantly establishes the Mets as “the team to beat” (sorry, Jimmy Rollins). It also means that Mets are playing for 2008, and that a postseason appearance is EXPECTED.

But let’s quickly look at the players going the other way.

Carlos Gomez

After Lastings Milledge was sent to Washington, Gomez emerged as the Mets’ number-one position prospect. Yes, Fernando Martinez might have more upside in the long run, but right now, Gomez is closer to MLB ready and has already proven two unteachable raw skills (speed and arm) as well as a third tool (fielding). Will he be a superstar? It’s not out of the question — it all depends on how his bat develops. He will be missed, but as was pointed out on MetsToday yesterday, there was a guy named Beltran blocking the way. I fully expect him to compete for the Twins’ starting centerfielder job, and believe that he will be their regular there by the end of 2008. For Gomez, it’s a great opportunity: he has the chance to be an everyday Major Leaguer, and do it in the friendly atmosphere of Minneapolis.

Philip Humber

Personally, I think Humber is ready to pitch at the MLB level somewhere — but it wasn’t going to happen with the Mets. From what we’ve seen of him, there’s been some question about his stomach — meaning, I’m not so sure he was ready to handle the mental and emotional rigors of pitching under the media microscope known as New York City. Certainly, he was a longshot to make the Mets’ 25-man roster in 2008. With the Twins, he will have a better chance to crack the rotation, and he’ll be in a much more comfortable environment — which better fits his personality. I believe he has a good chance to swipe the fifth spot in their rotation with a strong spring. Otherwise, he should crack the staff one or another by 2009 the latest.

Kevin Mulvey

The NJ-born Mulvey would have been a nice story — local boy makes good. But let’s get serious, if Philip Humber was a longshot to make the team, Mulvey’s chances weren’t so great either — not in 2008 anyway. Though, he does in many ways resemble Brian Bannister, and probably projects to a similar ceiling. Could it be as soon as 2008? Doubtful, but he was impressive enough for me to believe he’ll vie for a spot in the Minnesota rotation in 2009. Sure, he might at best be a back-end starter — but even those #4 and #5s are hard to find.

Deolis Guerra

Hard to evaluate a guy most of us have never seen pitch. Going on the various reports from scouts, Baseball America, and the like, Guerra is a big-time prospect with plenty of upside. But he’s only 18 years old, and so much can happen between now and his MLB debut. Yes, he could very well turn into a Santana-type pitcher one day, but that won’t be for at least four or five years. Further, there’s just as good a chance that he either doesn’t develop as many expect, or that he injures his arm before he makes the big leagues. While it would have been exciting to watch his progress through the ranks, he has mountains to ascend on his way to MLB.

In the end, it’s a great deal for everyone involved. The Mets, obviously, get the ace they sorely needed. The Twins get three guys who are very close to MLB-ready and a teenager who might some day be a dominating pitcher. And the four prospects going to Minnesota get a golden opportunity to mature in an ideal environment. Win – win – win all around.

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Gomez Gone?

You may have already seen MetsBlog quoting Impacto Deportivo’s report that Carlos Gomez has been told to stop playing winter ball — feeding speculation that he is on his way to Minnesota as part of a deal for Johan Santana.

Naturally, I like the idea of the Cy Young Award-winning lefty coming to Flushing. However, I’m not certain I’m on board with a deal that sends Carlos Gomez and/or Fernando Martinez the other way. Yes, I know the Mets have to give up at least one of them (FMart or Gomez), but my hope has been that it would be the younger, more raw, FMart, rather than Gomez or both of them.

To me, Gomez is closer to MLB ready, and has already shown — at the big league level — at least three tools: speed, arm, and fielding prowess. All three of those tools are above average; some might say they are outstanding. Of course, the big question is will he hit — and I liked what I saw of his bat in his debut. Although there was a lot of swinging and missing, a lot of getting fooled, what I liked was his ability to think from at-bat to at-bat, and to slowly apply what he was learning. It looked to me like he was making adjustments every day; he didn’t perform exceptionally partially because he was way overmatched and partially because he was over-aggressive — typical of nearly all young hitters. No, he does not have the bat speed of a Lastings Milledge, but I think he has enough to be a strong MLB hitter. He may not win a batting title nor a homerun title, but I believe Carlos Gomez has a legitimate shot to be solid all-around player — similar to Carlos Beltran.

Now there’s where the issue lies — most likely, Gomez projects best as a centerfielder, where he could win a Gold Glove some day and won’t have to hit with great power to justify his place in the lineup. But that path is blocked by Beltran, and so it makes sense that the Mets are more easily parting with Gomez rather than F-Mart.

However, to me, F-Mart is still this huge mystery — all I’ve seen of him is the day he stood in left field for an inning in spring training when he was 17 years old. The reports are astounding — maybe too good. It would appear he has too much “potential” and not enough performance. In the long run, the Mets are probably better off keeping F-Mart, grooming him to take over a corner outfield spot by, say, 2010. But that seems so far away, and he seems to have a long way to get there.

As long as only one of Gomez / F-Mart exits — and not both — I’ll probably be very accepting of a trade for Johan Santana. If both go — as the Twins have supposedly demanded — it makes the Lastings Milledge trade all the more glaring. I’ll be surprised if the Mets finish the winter trading away all three of their future star outfield prospects — leaving the minor league system almost completely barren of positional prospects.

Methinks this deal is really, finally going to happen — possibly by next week. So what’s your thought? Should the Mets trade Carlos Gomez? F-Mart? Both? Neither? Post your comment below …

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