Archive: August 27th, 2008

Mets Game 134: Win Over Phillies

Mets 6 Phillies 3

How’s that for turning the tables?

Mets fans who have been conditioned to turn off the TV after the 6th inning when the Mets are down, having learned that their favorite team has little fight in the late frames, missed a genuinely enjoyable comeback. Heck, they were the “fightin’ Mets” — for at least one night.

Starter Johan Santana was good, but unspectacular, allowing three runs on three walks and five hits in six innings. It was a “quality start” and he kept the Mets in the game, but it was far from an “acelike” outing. I’m willing to cut him slack, though, considering the dozen or so acelike performances he’s put on, only to be unsupported by the bats and/or bullpen.

Unfortunately for Johan, he left the game two innings too early, and down by a run — his only options were a loss or a no-decision. The Mets rewarded him with the latter.

Carlos Delgado drove in the Mets’ first three runs — the first on a first-inning single and the next two on solo homers. His second homer tied the ballgame 3-all in the eighth, and sparked a two-out rally. Delgado’s dinger was followed by a cue shot infield single by Carlos Beltran (who had two such “blasts” in the game), which chased Rudy Seanez from the mound. Closer Brad Lidge was brought in to put out the fire, and after Beltran swiped second, Lidge intentionally walked Ryan Church, choosing instead to face rookie Daniel Murphy. It seemed like a smart decision — considering Murphy’s 0-for-13 skid — until Murphy ripped a line drive into the right field corner to score Beltran and send Church to third. Brian Schneider followed with bloop single into no-man’s land in short left, clearing the bases and finalizing the score at 6-3.

Pedro Feliciano and Joe Smith teamed up to shut down the Phillies in the bottom of the eighth, and Luis Ayala got three grounders to short to earn the save.

Brian Stokes, who allowed three baserunners but kept the seventh scoreless, was credited with the victory — his first as a Met.


Without Delgado on this evening, the Mets are not even in the game. He’s reinvented himself and reminds me of the guy we acquired from the Marlins prior to the 2006 season. In short, he’s fun to watch again.

In addition to Delgado’s 3-for-4 day, Jose Reyes and Beltran both went 3-for-5. Two of Beltran’s singles were “lucky”, but he’s also hit screaming line drives right at people all year. Another two dozen squibs and things might be evened out.

David Wright was the only position player without a hit. He had a tough night at the plate, just missing several pitches. Nothing to worry about, though. D-Wright did make a spectacular backhand play on a Shane Victorino grounder in the eighth, so he made a contribution with the glove.

Next Game

The Mets have Thursday off, then head south to start a series with the Marlins. Friday night’s game begins at 7:10 pm, and will pit Oliver Perez against Chris Volstad.


Another Look at Bullpen (mis)Management

It was brought to my attention that my own research suggests that the Phillies’ bullpen should be more worn out than the Mets’. Yet, the Phillies relievers continue to outperform those wearing orange and blue — as well as every other team in the NL.

So what gives? Do the numbers lie? My theory incorrect?

Let’s look at this in further detail and try to figure this out, comparing the two teams head to head.



From the above, it’s true that the Phillies top seven most-frequently used relievers have accounted for 94% of the total relief innings pitched by the team. The “top seven” Mets relievers, in contrast, have accounted for only 83%.

There are a few flaws with my “top seven” theory, and some things jump out. First being, the fact that one of the Mets’ “top seven” — Jorge Sosa — hasn’t been on the team since May. The second is the number of appearances, which aren’t addressed by my percentage of innings.

The Phillies have only two people who have appeared in more than 60 games. In comparison, the Mets have four, with two of them about to hit 70. So while the Phillies’ top relievers have carried most of the innings load, they haven’t appeared as frequently.

Another issue is the 16 more relief innings that the Mets have had to cover — that’s nearly the equivalent of two full games. So the Mets relievers are getting into more games, and pitching more innings.

Something else strikes me, which goes hand-in-hand with the frequency factor. Looking at the Phillies’ relievers, there are three pitchers with less innings pitched than appearances. One of them is their closer Brad Lidge, but we know he’s not a “matchup” guy. So in essence, the Phillies use only two guys for matchups — J.C. Romero and Tom Gordon (who is currently on the DL). And actually, Gordon wasn’t really a ROOGY, but more of a setup man — he threw at least one inning in nearly all of his appearances.

Compare that to the Mets, who have used Feliciano, Smith, Schoeneweis extensively as “one out guys”, and began using Duaner Sanchez similarly of late. On the one hand, you’d think that pitching to only one batter shouldn’t be such a toll on their arm and body. But on the other hand, they’ve had to warm up in the bullpen for each of their appearances, plus how many other times when they didn’t get into a game? Is it possible that all those pitches thrown in the bullpen take just as much, if not more, of a toll on the human body? Understand that pitchers often “get up” several times in a ballgame. Is anyone counting how many pitches each reliever is throwing — pregame + bullpen + game + between-innings warmups? Every one of those pitches takes something out of a pitcher’s body.

Further, Jerry Manuel made a big deal about “establishing roles” in the bullpen. Looking at the numbers — and watching the games — I’m not sure I recognize a pattern that would suggest roles, other than Billy Wagner as the closer. With Wagner now out, and a month of the season left, all roles go out the window — it’s all hands on deck. Newsflash: it’s been a roleless, “all hands on deck” bullpen since May.

What makes things scarier is that Manuel has publicly stated several times that he will be “going with the hot hand” out of the bullpen. I don’t need to mention that this strategy used to be employed by Willie Randolph, who learned it from Joe Torre. What I do need to mention is that it makes zero sense. HITTERS go on hot streaks — not pitchers. The only time pitchers go into “slumps” is when they are overused and fatigued. So by “going with the hot hand” you are effectively creating the “slump”.

With first place — and his job — on the line, Jerry Manuel has begun managing out of fear. If Smith can’t get a batter out, Schoeneweis comes in. If Scho doesn’t get an out, Feliciano comes in. If Feliciano gets an out, he stays in until someone gets a hit. And so on. This is not a strategy, and certainly not “management”. It’s panic.

Unfortunately, bullpen management is not something that you can suddenly start to do in the last 30 games of the year — it is something that begins on Opening Day. While I still think the Phils are due for a bullpen collapse in September, it appears that, so far, Charlie Manuel’s Phillies have managed their bullpen arms for the long haul, while the Willie Randolph/Jerry Manuel Mets have put the “pedal to the metal” since the beginning. As we move into September, when “every game counts”, the Mets just may push that pedal through the floorboard, snap the accelerator cable, and thereby stop the engine.