Archive: March 4th, 2008

How Many Mets Blogs?

My wife found this interesting tidbit while perusing MetSilverman.com:

… as of February 2008, the number of Mets blogs, according to baseballblogs.org, stood at more than 9,900

Wow. Almost 10,000 blogs on the Mets. Not baseball blogs, not team fan blogs, but 9900 blogs specifically focused on the Mets.

I wonder where MetsToday ranks among the other 9899?

Mets By the Numbers BookBTW, Matt Silverman — who runs “MetSilverman.com” — is a longtime writer and editor with several excellent baseball books to his credit, including a few about the Mets.

One of his most recent efforts is “Mets By the Numbers“, co-written with Jon Springer (the guy who runs the blog of the same name). You may have noticed the “All Time Mets Numbers” link on the sidebar; it is a site I visit religiously and I’ve been eagerly anticipating the book for months.

Well now it’s out, and there’s a fine review over at Faith and Fear in Flushing. In due course I’ll be reviewing it as well.

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Easy Inning for Vargas

Jason Vargas of the New York MetsWe mentioned yesterday that lefty Jason Vargas was my sleeper candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation. While watching him in workouts over the weekend, I was surprised to see that his arm strength was close to being back where it was as a Marlins rookie in 2005 — from my estimation, he appeared to be in the high 80s, touching 90-91.

Yesterday he threw one easy, scoreless, hitless, walkless inning of relief against the Braves. There wasn’t anything particularly groundbreaking about the appearance — after all he only threw about ten pitches against three minor league unknowns — but it was good to see him out on a mound and throwing to professional batters (he threw two innings last week against U Michigan).

Also encouraging was seeing his velocity — if the SNY radar gun was correct, Vargas had a few pitches over 90 MPH. That’s where he needs to be to be effective, because his success is dependent on changing speeds. Last year, he threw a curveball around 78-80, a changeup around 80-82 MPH but a fastball around 84-87 — that’s not enough of a difference. Generally speaking, a changeup should be somewhere around 7-10 MPH slower than the fastball to fool a hitter. So, Vargas had to either slow down his changeup, or speed up his fastball. Thanks to minor surgery to clean out a bone spur in his elbow, he’s been able to accomplish the latter.

Let’s get something straight, however: Vargas will not win the #5 spot out of spring training, and likely won’t make the 25-man roster as a reliever, either. He still needs to build back his strength after the offseason surgery, and will benefit from pitching to AAA hitters for the first half of the season. But if all goes well, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him contribute to the big club some time in the second half.

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Pelfrey Looks Strong

In grapefruit league action yesterday, 18-year-old shortstop Ruben “don’t call me Miguel” Tejada blasted a double in the gap to score Michel Abreu with the winning run in the tenth inning to beat the Braves 3-2.

Ramon Castro had two hits including a standup triple. Had Jose Reyes hit the ball, he might have rounded the bases twice.

Though Castro’s first triple since little league was the big news of the day, it should also be noted that Mike Pelfrey threw three strong, scoreless innings at the beginning of the game, allowing only two hits and no walks, striking out none.

It was an encouraging outing by Pelfrey, and a good confidence builder. What I liked to see was that he was aggressive, throwing strikes early in the count and relying heavily on his sinking fastball. But the pessimist in me had one problem with the outing: still no offspeed pitch. I saw several sliders but only one or two changeups (one thrown for a strike). For Pelfrey to succeed as a Major League starter, he has to change speeds.

Of course, it’s still early — he can build off this performance. Hopefully, we’ll see his confidence and aggressiveness continue to develop through the spring, and eventually we’ll see more slowballs. With El Duque out until who knows when, he has a golden opportunity to win the #5 spot in the rotation.

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Local Boy Can Make Good

There are two Mets spring training invites who happen to be former NYC high school stars — and with a little luck, one of them might make the big club come April.

If you were paying attention to — or playing — high school baseball 10-15 years ago, then you may already know the names Nelson Figueroa and Ruddy Lugo. In fact, there are some MetsToday readers who have batted against Lugo.

“Figgy” hails from Lincoln High School in Brooklyn — the same school that produced former Met and matinee idol Lee Mazzilli. Ruddy reported to homeroom at Xaverian, also in Brooklyn, the same alma mater of St. John’s stars Rich Aurilia and Chris Mullin (Mullin, of course, was a hoops, not baseball player). He’s also the younger brother of shortstop Julio Lugo of the Red Sox.

Just in case you see these guys at Peter Luger’s a month from now, here are some pics:

Ruddy Lugo

Ruddy Lugo pitching for the Mets

After seeing them both briefly during my trip to spring training, I’d have to say that Figueroa has the best shot, between them, of making the team — though both are longshots. Ruddy is still raw, throwing with good velocity but not much control. Figgy is just the opposite — a guy with not much velocity but good command and plenty of guile. To me, Figueroa is a “poor man’s Pedro” — a guy who “pitches backwards”, using his change-up and curveball to set up his fastball. He never the throws a pitch at the same velocity or to the same location twice in a row, and lulls a batter with his 78-84 MPH junk before freezing him with an 89-MPH “heater” that looks more like 99 after all the slow stuff. With a few good outings and some luck, Figueroa could wind up stealing the last bullpen spot. So far, luck is on his side — the Mets are reportedly shopping holdovers Scott Schoeneweis and Jorge Sosa, and Tony Armas, Jr. has yet to report due to visa issues. The longer he hangs around, the better chance he has of winning a spot.

Nelson Figueroa

Nelson Figueroa of the Mets

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