A recent MetsBlog poll revealed that 80% of Mets fans would choose Luis Ayala to be the closer in place of Billy Wagner — who we’ve now discovered is out for the year, and then some.
Of course, that was a poll taken TODAY. We’ll see what the teeming millions (er, thousands) feel about Ayala a week from now.
Personally, this news is not shocking — based on the limited info we had, it sounded to me like Wags’ return was a longshot — but it does make me worry about the ninth inning of close games.
But why should I be so worried? After all, Ayala has converted five of six save opportunities, and is sporting a svelte 2.70 ERA since coming to the Mets. And behind him, we have another resurrection, Brian Stokes, who in 23 IP has a 1.09 WHIP and 2.35 ERA.
Perhaps I’m just a worry wart.
Or perhaps I’m concerned about the day Ayala and Stokes fall back to Earth — those “humans” are frightenting. You know, the Ayala who was 1-8 with a 5.77 ERA in 62 previous games with the Nationals, and the Stokes who had a 7.07 ERA in 59 games with the Rays last year. Yes, it’s possible for people to come off the scrap heap and do well. But THIS well? Color me pessimistic.
But I’ll try to stay positive and pretend this Ayala/Stokes thing is for real, and move on from there. If we subscribe to the idea that the recent success of Ayala and Stokes means continued success through the end of September, we must also believe that the recent failures of Aaron Heilman, Duaner Sanchez, Pedro Feliciano, and Scott Schoeneweis will also continue. And please, don’t bring up the last 26.2 innings of shutout ball from the bullpen before taking a look at the scores of those games — it’s much easier to pitch when there is a cushion, or when you’re down by several runs. Don’t tell me you trust any of the aforementioned four guys in a one-run or tie ballgame.
That said, who is there to use in the sixth and seventh, to bridge the gap to Stokes and Ayala, in a one-run ballgame in the last two weeks of the season? In the playoffs? Shouldn’t we be auditioning some of those extra arms on the roster, right now?
For instance, in what situation will we see Bobby Parnell? A seven-run lead in the ninth against the Brewers apparently wasn’t enough cushion to take a gander at this particular “untouchable”. Down six runs against the Phillies also wasn’t a good time — not even to see him face one batter. Perhaps if the Mets can go ahead by 15 against the Nationals, we’ll see Parnell warm up in the ‘pen. But then, we won’t know if he can handle an IMPORTANT situation.
How soon we forget Philip Humber, who was treated with kid gloves all last September, then was needed to pitch the game of his life in the most important game of the year. Not too much pressure, eh? Maybe he would have had half a chance had he gotten his feet wet earlier in the month.
And what happened to Eddie Kunz, another one of the “untouchables”? He was brought up here, given the Aaron Sele treatment, and not surprisingly stunk up the joint. This kid is supposed to have the “mentality to be a closer”, and “filthy stuff” — so when are we going to see him given the chance to prove it? I don’t mean he has to close, but let’s at least get him back on the active roster and put him into some 6th-inning situations — and not once every ten days.
Similarly, we have yet to see Al Reyes — though I imagine he’s still recovering from a shoulder injury, so we’ll be patient on that one. At least we did get to see Ricardo Rincon, who was extraordinary in his first crack at retiring lefties. I’ll take him over the Scho in a tough spot against a LH batter right now.
In his 18 lackluster appearances, Carlos Muniz may have already proven he’s not the answer (this year) — but Omar Minaya still compares him to a young Chad Cordero. But will he get the ball enough to make good on that comparison?
The Billy Wagner news doesn’t seem so disastrous right now because the offense (Carlos Delgado) has been outstanding lately, and scoring enough runs to make the latter innings less important. But the offensive ride may not last, and what happens then? Will there be one or two relief pitchers who can keep things tight in the last week of the season? We won’t know who those men are unless they’re given the ball a few times now — this week.
Let’s — for once — learn something from last year.