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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Mets Best Rotation Ever

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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


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.


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.


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 …


Wagner: We Are Third

There is a great book by former NFL running back Gale Sayers titled “I Am Third”. Sayers means after God (first) and his family (second). However, Billy Wagner, in an interview with Kevin Burkhardt on SNY’s Mets Hot Stove, he states the Mets are third behind the Phillies and Braves. His exact quote, after being asked by Burkhardt if the Phillies should be considered the frontrunners in 2008:

“The Phillies are the top team, the Braves are second and we’re somewhere third.”

No doubt this comment will evoke all kinds of excitement in the tabloids and with rabid Mets fans. However, I like it, and agree.

First, though the Mets spent nearly all of 2007 in first place, they also spent 75% of that time as a .500 team — not exactly dominating. While the Phillies and Braves improved as the season wore on, the Mets got worse and worse. Yes, the “collapse” was ultimately what did the Mets in, but what did they do before that to truly earn the NL East? It was somewhat reminiscent of the 1973 season — another year where it appeared that no one wanted to win the division. Had the Mets not collapsed, their title would have been tainted — more a win by default than by dominance. Their lollygagging began as early as June, and their decision to put their game on cruise control was, in retrospect, a bigger disappointment than losing first place in the last few weeks of September.

As “Lorenzo” (Robert DeNiro) stated in A Bronx Tale, “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.” Yeah, it was a movie, it was a little hokey, but I agree with it — if you have talent and don’t use it to the fullest, well, that’s a pretty sad thing. And there’s no doubt whatsoever that the Mets were the most talented team in the NL East in 2007, possibly the most talented in the entire National League from top to bottom. But they failed … which makes one wonder what needed to be done in the offseason. Certainly, some heads needed to roll.

So what happened? Lastings Milledge, Tom Glavine, Paul LoDuca, Shawn Green, and Aaron Sele left. Were those the bad guys on the team? The malaise? I’m not so sure. And the players who have come in — Brian Schneider, Ryan Church, Matt Wise — are they bad-ass attitude changers? Again, I’m not so sure. Probably not, on both counts.

Meanwhile, the Phillies brought in Geoff Jenkins to platoon with Jayson Werth. Good move, in that Jenkins will probably hit 25-30 homers in Citizens Bank Park (while also striking out 175 times). They signed third baseman Pedro Feliz, who will give them nearly Gold Glove caliber defense and another slugger ideal for CBP. I won’t be surprised if Feliz puts another 25-30 over the fence — remember he’s been playing in cavernous AT&T Park yet still slugging 20+ homers per year. They also picked up Brad Lidge to close, moving Brett Myers to the rotation. And they brought in Chad Durbin, who has to be better than Adam Eaton. Oh, and they also bolstered their bench with So Taguchi and Chris Snelling. Remember, the Phillies won the NL East last season, and they made all these moves to improve themselves. So … what was it the Mets did?

Similarly, the Braves made a bunch of moves, though many of them seemingly inconsequential. Starting shortstop Edgar Renteria was sent to Detroit, but brought back a young pitcher (Jair Jurrjens) who might step into their rotation and a hot outfield prospect (Gorkys Hernandez) who compares to Carlos Gomez. Atlanta also quietly bolstered their bullpen with a few under the radar deals — they picked up pitcher Chris Resop on waivers (who I’m convinced will be an effective middle reliever), traded for Will Ohman, and most recently acquired LHP Jeff Ridgway. None of those guys will scare you, but all will help their bullpen woes — their weakest link in 2007. They also signed a certain 300-game winner, who will step in as their #3 starter. Again, not earth shattering, until you consider that same pitcher was the Mets’ #1 last year. Further, while the pundits claim the Braves are hurt by the exits of Andruw Jones and Renteria, one must look at those two guys and realize that neither had much of an impact on Atlanta’s third-place finish. Jones batted .222 and played less than superhuman defense, so Mark Kotsay could very well be a step up — at least, offensively. Renteria missed almost 40 games — just enough time for Cuban defector Yunel Escobar to prove he’s ready for prime time. Like the Phils, the Braves have made an effort to improve themselves, while the Mets …

Of course, there is the argument that the Met didn’t need to improve themselves — that they were the most talented team, remain the most talented team, and all they need to do is come out give their best effort in 2008. That’s tough to believe — particularly when, effectively, the same roster returns. Why would these same individuals play any differently than they did in ’07? What reason do we have to believe that, for example, Oliver Perez and John Maine will continue to develop — despite marked drops in performance during the second half of the season? How are we convinced that Carlos Delgado will return to his dominant hitting, when the last year and a half has shown him to be in decline? Why should we believe that the defensive upgrades of Schneider over LoDuca and Church over Green will really result in more wins? Where is the evidence to suggest that Willie Randolph will do a better job of managing the bullpen in 2008?

Even if the Mets succeed in bringing Johan Santana to Flushing, it’s no guarantee that the Mets will win the NL East. There are a lot of question marks, and when you compare the Mets to the Braves and the Phillies, there isn’t anything that significantly separates the three teams. Both the Phils and the Braves have better 1-2 punches at the beginning of the starting rotation, and both teams’ lineups look stronger from top to bottom. The Mets might have an advantage with their bench, though the Phillies could be close. The Mets may be better than the Phils when it comes to starting pitchers three and four, but they may or may not be better than the Braves one through five. Defense is comparable among all three teams, though one would think a Bobby Cox team would be the strongest fundamentally. All things even, which team wants to win the most, and knows how to win? Looking at last year, you can’t say it’s the Mets.

I’m not purposely being negative — rather, I’m looking at the NL East through Billy Wagner’s eyes, and I can see why he would say what he did. He’s not wrong — the Mets DO look like the third-best team right now. That doesn’t mean the Mets will finish third, but it does mean that they better have a completely different attitude this season. They’re no longer the most talented, and not the favorites. The Mets will have to work hard, and execute, from game one through 162, if they want to win the NL East in 2008 — with or without Johan.

It’s not a bad place to be. In fact, for a Mets fan, it’s quite comfortable — the position of underdog. We don’t do well in the “Yankee” position of expecting to dominate everyone else; it isn’t in our mindset nor our character. That said, I’m with Billy the Kid when it comes to managing preseason expectations — we are third. This way, when the Mets win the 2008 NL East title, it will feel … oh … magical.


Four Lefties Off the Table

Player pickups are going full force with spring training just weeks away. In the past week, there were dozens of players signed to minor league contracts — some of which may have been at least mildly interesting to Mets fans. Herewith a quick rundown of arbitrarily chosen transactions.

Four Lefties

Jeremy Affeldt
signs one-year contract with the Reds; Casey Fossum signs minor-league deal with the Pirates; Mike Myers and Tom Martin sign minor-league contracts with the Dodgers.

Affeldt would have been a nice fit, but he took the smart route of getting an opportunity to be a starter. As if we hadn’t noticed, even below average starters make millions more than middle relievers — just ask Aaron Heilman or Jason Marquis. Had he not been offered a spot in the Reds’ rotation, he might have been a nice fit in the old Darren Oliver role. Oh well. Fossum was the key to the Diamondbacks trade of Curt Schilling to the BoSox, but injuries have caused his star to fall. It might’ve been a nice low-risk signing to give him an invite, with hopes he’d somehow find the magic that once made him so special, but he would have been a longshot — he has a much better chance of breaking the Bucs’ roster. Myers is the submariner I was hoping (against hope) that the Mets would sign and use 85-90 times — if you missed it, I wrote an entire article on my submariner theory, and an underhander’s value to today’s bullpens. Martin was an ex-Met who flourished after Flushing — no big loss and no surprise he returned to LA, but on a minor league flyer, he would have been a good guy to have waiting in AAA.

White Sox sign Octavio Dotel to a two-year contract. White Sox DFA, then trade David Aardsma to the Red Sox.

Yes, I’ve been advocating the acquisition of Dotel all winter. And I still think, even at two years, he would have been worth it. If the Mets were willing to give flash-in-the-pan LOOGY Scott Schoeneweis a three-year deal, I see no logic in failing to offer a two-year deal to Dotel, who has tons more upside and significant experience in both closer and setup roles. Yes, his fragility is a concern, but that’s why he came as cheap as he did — if he were healthy, he would have commanded a ‘Cisco Cordero type deal.

In any case, what intrigued me even more was the Aardsma move. Besides supplanting Hank Aaron as the very first player listed in all-time register of MLB players, Aardsma was a 2003 #1 pick after becoming Rice U’s all-time career saves leader. He was rushed to the bigs by the Giants, was knocked back down quickly, and bounced to the Cubs and White Sox in the past two years. Personally, I think this kid has great potential, but needs to stay in one place long enough to build his confidence and prove his worth. He just turned 26 years old, and could be one of those guys who could blossom all at once and “come out of nowhere” — a la Cla Meredith or Tony Pena — to become a valuable middle reliever. After Aardsma was DFA’s, a part of me hoped the Mets’ brass was on the case, but the BoSox moved quickly in acquiring him for two non-prospects. I think he could have been a nice addition to the bullpen depth — particularly since he still has options (according to my interpretation of the rules, anyway).

Rangers sign Franklyn German and Corey Ragsdale to minor league contracts; assign Chris Shelton to AAA.

Ragsdale is a former #1 pick of the Mets who was the penultimate “good field, no hit” shortstop. But, he had an awesome arm so they tried to make him a pitcher last year — the experiment didn’t work any better with him than it did with former catcher Joe Hietpas. I bring it up only because he is a former Mets #1 pick gone bad. Shelton was someone I thought might be a decent guy to have in AAA as a backup to Carlos Delgado. German is a flamethrower who once rated higher than Joel Guzman in the Tigers’ organization. German stands 6’7″, weighs 270 lbs., and hurls the ball in excess of 100 MPH. Why he hasn’t done much is something of a mystery — his strikeout totals in the minors have been insane (career: 531 Ks in 495 IP) but he hasn’t been able to stay on an ML roster. I’ve seen him pitch both in Detroit and in the Dominican League, and can’t figure it out — in the Dominican, he’s been an intimidating, effective closer. He was a free agent this winter and chose to stick with Texas despite spending all of 2007 playing for their AAA team. I would have liked to seen him as one of cans of paint the Mets throw on the wall this spring — a Jorge Julio type that Rick Peterson could have had fun with. But then, I guess that project slot has been filled by Joselo Diaz.

Red Sox sign Danny Kolb and DFA David Aardsma

Now I’m really confused … no I’m not interested in one-hit-wonder Danny Kolb, but I’m trying to understand 1) why the Bosox like Kolb over Aardsma; and 2) how they DFA Aardsma on Jan. 22nd — which was six days before they “officially” acquired him according to If Aardsma is out there again, I wonder if anyone in Flushing is paying attention?

Padres sign OF Jody Gerut to a minor league contract.

This doesn’t really mean much to Mets fans, since Gerut is a lefthanded hitting outfielder — and we already have Endy for that role. But it’s intriguing to me anyway. Gerut finished fourth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2003, when he hit 33 doubles, 22 homers, drove in 75 runs, and batted .280 in only 127 games for the Indians. Then he fell off the planet due to knee injuries, and hasn’t appeared in an MLB game since 2005. However, he’s tearing up the Venezuelan league this winter, to the tune of .390 with 80 total bases in 40 games. It appears he’s healthy, and motivated to win a job somewhere. The Padres might have a find in this guy.

Also of note … while researching Gerut, I noticed that former #1 pick Sean Burnett had a 2.45 ERA in Venezuela. Burnett looked promising in a short trial as a 21-year-old in 2004, then succumbed to elbow issues and Tommy John surgery, which eliminated him from competition for all of 2005 and part of ’06. It appears he’s now healthy, and was never a flamethrower — more a control guy with a hard sinker. If his velocity is near the 88-90 range, he has the control and guile to be a solid #4 at the MLB level. He’s still on the Pirates’ 40-man, and it might be interesting to watch his progress. If he cracks the 25-man roster, who knows — he might be trade bait come July.

Did I miss anything? Post your comments below.


Tom Glavine’s Replacement

So the latest rumor — straight from the oft-unreliable Tracy Ringolsby — is that Livan Hernandez is “close” to signing with the Mets.

If it’s true, I’m fine with it — Livan is the guy who can replace Tom Glavine’s 200 innings and be a quality postseason performer. Even if the Mets do pull off a Johan Santana trade, Livan’s presence will make the loss of arms going the other way that much easier. In fact, getting Livan locked up might move the Mets to add Oliver Perez or John Maine to the Santana deal. Personally, that’s not what I want to see — I’ve grown very fond of both youngsters — but you have to give up something to get something, and the Twins need to receive a valid MLB player in any deal for Johan.

We’ve felt since November that Livan would be in orange and blue, and there haven’t been too many other teams kicking the tires on him. He may reunite with half-brother Orlando after all.