Browsing Archive April, 2009

Mets – Marlins Quick Preview

The Mets and Marlins go at it for a three game set beginning today at 7:10 PM, a prelude to the Flushing Nine’s first encounter with the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies this upcoming weekend.

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: John Maine vs. Anibal Sanchez

Game 2: Livan Hernandez vs. Ricky Nolasco

Game 3: Johan Santana vs. Josh Johnson

The Fish lost two heartbreakers in the final innings to the Phillies on Friday and Saturday, then were blown out 13-2. In the Friday night contest, closer Matt Lindstrom allowed 7 runs on 3 walks and 4 hits (including 2 HRs) in two-thirds of the ninth inning en route to his second blown save of the season. They have lost six games in a row, but still lead the NL East by a slim margin. Their incompetence has miraculously allowed the stumbling Mets to gain in the standings over the last week (New York is now 3 games out of first, despite an 8-10 record).

In other words, the Marlins are down; it is up to the Mets to kick them or let them up.

The Mets are coming off a series win over the lowly Nationals, but are 2-5 over the last week. Their starting pitchers not named Santana have been awful and though 5 of the 8 starters in the lineup are batting .300 or better, their performance with runners in scoring position remains dismal. The lone bright spot is Carlos Beltran, who is absolutely unconscious at the plate — unfortunately, he’s also unconscious on the basepaths, as he’s been forgetting the NL allows sliding.

What will happen in the next few days is anybody’s guess. At the All-Star Break, we may look back at this series with the Marlins as a turning point, or defining moment, in the Mets’ season — good or bad.

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Happy Birthday Brian Giles

Brian Giles, second baseman for the New York Mets in 1983Before there was Brian Giles the on-base machine, there was Brian Giles the light-hitting second baseman for the New York Mets.

Giles epitomized everything that was wrong with the organization in 1983, but you have to look at the season before to understand the whole story.

In 1982, a 22-year-old firecracker named Wally Backman fought his way into 96 games, batting mostly at the bottom of the order, and finished the season with a .272 AVG and .387 OBP (73 points higher than leadoff man Mookie Wilson and tops on the team by a longshot). However, the young Backman made 14 errors, which did not sit well with a hierarchy that previously valued the Gold Glove of Doug Flynn.

So in spring training of 1983, instead of installing him at second base with the hopes that the hardworking Backman would eventually improve defensively (you know, kinda like Dan Murphy in LF this year?), they instead made the position an open competition, and finally settled on Brian Giles as the starter. Mind you, this was the 1983 Mets, a team going nowhere fast.

In 145 games for the last-place Mets, Giles — often hitting 6th or 7th in the lineup — batted .245 with a .308 OBP and .298 SLG. These numbers actually look decent next to his double play partner Jose Oquendo, who as a 19-year-old rookie batted .213. On the field, Giles led the team in assists with 390, made 14 errors, posted a .980 fielding PCT, and turned 90 of the Mets’ 171 DPs. Meantime, Wally Backman was igniting Davey Johnson’s Tidewater Tides toward a AAA title. The following season, Giles and Backman switched places, and Giles did not return to the bigs until 1985, with Milwaukee.

After 1983, Giles played in only 88 more MLB games, finishing his career in Seattle in 1990 — five years prior to the MLB debut of the “other” Brian Giles.

Also born on this date: Bob MacDonald (1965), Eric Hillman (1966), and Jim Duquette’s love child Orber Moreno (1977).

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No Worries About Wright

David Wright is leading the National League in strikeouts and hitting only .271. However, I see no reason for concern, since this is Wright’s M.O. for April. He is a notoriously slow starter, and we’ve come to expect subpar numbers from him in the first month of the season.

But don’t listen to me, check the stats — his career batting average in April/March is .283, a full 25 points below his career average overall. Strangely enough, he has walked more times (74) in the initial month than in any other (covering 114 games total).

Ted Berg of MetsBlog astutely noted:

Wright is now hitting .270 with a .370 on-base percentage, .371 slugging and 23 strikeouts. After 18 games in 2007, Wright was hitting .261 with a .363 OBP, .333 SLG and 20 Ks.

Last year, Wright started off hot, then cooled off quickly — he was hitting only .262 after 32 games.

In both 2007 and 2008, Wright eventually got going, and finished strong — he batted .364 in the second half of 2007 and .330 in the second half of 2008.

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Mets Desperate for a LOOGY

Over the winter, the Mets succeeded in overhauling their bullpen. Whether the change of faces will make a difference remains to be seen, but nearly every reliever on the team this time last year has been replaced.

Every one, that is, except for Pedro Feliciano, the Mets’ lone lefty.

Once piece missing from the overhaul, though, was the acquisition of a second lefty, or Lefthanded One Out Guy (LOOGY), to help out Feliciano. An extra lefty is especially necessary in the NL East, where the Braves and Phillies both send up dangerous lefthanded hitters.

Thus far, the Mets have auditioned Jon Switzer, Ron Villone, Casey Fossum, Valerio De Los Santos, Heriberto Rueles, and Tom Martin. Today they begin the tryout of 40-year-old Japanese hurler Ken Takahashi — presumably as a test for the upcoming weekend series against the lefty-heavy Phils. The Mets are desperate to find a somewhat reliable lefthanded option to team with their incumbent LOOGY.

But there’s a small problem: Pedro Feliciano is a shaky option himself.

Over his career, Feliciano has done a good job of retiring the Phillies’ top LH hitters — Ryan Howard has a .190 AVG against him and Chase Utley has hit .174. Feliciano has also done fairly well against switch-hitters Shane Victorino (.071) and Jimmy Rollins (.278). But, the rest of the current Phillies who have faced him before are hitting .500.

That’s not a huge deal, though, since there are a lot of “1-for-2s” there. A larger sample size may change those numbers drastically for the better.

What IS a huge deal is that the 2008 Phillies team hit .370 (10-for-33) against Feliciano, with a 1.040 OPS. Also alarming is the fact that in 2008, the first batter facing Feliciano hit .311 with a .400 OBP. That’s not good news for someone who often comes into a game with runners on base.

Unfortunately, things don’t get better for Feliciano when he starts an inning. Leadoff hitters were 13-for-33 (.333) with a .395 OBP and a .959 OPS.

Thus far this year, Feliciano is doing pretty well, with 10 Ks in 7 innings, and holding opposing batters to a .222 batting average (lefties: .176, righties: .300). He had a similarly strong start last year, posting a 0.97 ERA and 9 Ks in 9 IP in April. After that, though, his performance was inconsistent.

So while some believe the Mets need a secondary lefty for the bullpen, the reality may be that they need a primary lefty.

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Link Roundup

Anthony Rieber of Newsday alerts Carlos Beltran to the fact that his dad’s senior softball league does not allow sliding, but the National League does.

Andrew Vazzano of TheRopolitans regurgitates a quick Q&A on Ken Takahashi he did with BaseballDigest.com‘s Japanese specialist Patrick Newman. Guess what? Takahashi was NOT particularly strong against LH hitters. Swell.

Wallace Matthews tells the tale of the two players known as Ryan Church.

Former Mets batboy Matt Tracy indicts Omar Minaya for the Mets’ struggles this year. He also exposes Jerry Manuel’s ignorance of opposing players, and still doesn’t see the logic of firing Willie Randolph (join the club).

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Is Carlos Beltran on Drugs?

Last week, Carlos Beltran did not slide into home because he said he had his eyes on the ball and didn’t realize that the catcher was blocking the plate.

Where else he thought a catcher might be positioned, with the ball loose in the infield, is anyone’s guess.

His exact quote:

“When I took off to home plate, I was watching the ball, and when I looked at home plate, I was too close for me to slide into home plate”

OK, whatever. When a guy is hitting over .400, you cut him some slack.

However, yesterday, Beltran again did not slide, but this time, it was not the plate but second base — on an attempted steal.

His explanation?

“I heard contact with the bat,” Beltran said. “I went to look at where the ball was. Basically, I got surprised at second base. It was a mistake. I should have slid right there, but basically that’s the first time that’s happened in my career.”

I’ll reiterate the key phrase, in case you missed it:

“I heard contact with the bat …”

For the record, David Wright took the pitch, watch it all the way into the catcher’s mitt. He didn’t swing. The only “contact” the ball made was with leather.

Clearly, Carlos Beltran is not that dumb, so he must be on drugs. That’s what his parents would suspect, right? For example, if your kids came home with all Cs and Ds on their report card, the first thing you’d ask is, “What’s a matta wich you, kid? You on drugs? ARE YOU ON DRUGS??!!!”

If these drugs help Beltran hit .400, but cause him to go standing into bases periodically, then please, Carlos, keep taking them — and share them with your teammates. And make sure MLB can’t test for them. Sliding is overrated anyway.

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Fossum Demoted, Takahashi Promoted

Lefthander Casey Fossum, who pitched 2 2/3 innings in relief on Sunday, has been DFA’d to make room for LHP and Japanese import Ken Takahashi.

Presumably, Fossum will pass through waivers without a taker and report back to AAA Buffalo. His sparkling 2.25 ERA belied the fact he allowed 3 of 8 inherited runners to score, and overall was underwhelming in his short stint with the Mets.

ken-takahashi-mugThe Mets were hot on the trail of Takahashi as long ago as last November, but the Blue Jays were the first to sign him. The Jays were also the first team to release him, late in March, and the Mets pounced on the 40-year-old LOOGY. In 6 games with the Bisons, Takahashi threw 11 2/3 innings, allowing 10 hits, 6 walks, striking out 9, and posting a 0.77 ERA.

The ERA is nice, but those other numbers are a little discomforting.

The move was necessary, and makes a lot of sense, because Fossum likely would be unavailable until at least Tuesday or Wednesday, he won’t be claimed, and the Mets could use an extra arm in the bullpen — so why not promote another paint can to slap onto the wall? Clearly, they did not learn anything about their pitching options from the extended looks given in spring training.

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Mets Game 18: Loss to Nationals

Nationals 8 Mets 1

So much for the sweep.

Oliver Hyde gave up 7 earned runs on 9 hits and 3 walks, including 2 HR, in just 4 1/3 innings.

Whether it mattered, though, is up for discussion, as the Mets’ bats were quieted by rookie Justin Zimmerman, who struck out 5 and walked 2 in 5 1/3, allowing just one earned run. The lone Met run came via a triple off the bat of Carlos Delgado in the first inning.

Game Notes

The Mets collected a hit in each of the first six innings, but no more than one hit in any of them. They did not get a hit after the sixth.

In the third, Carlos Beltran did not slide on a steal attempt in which he was thrown out by several feet. I hope that was because he has a leg injury, and not because he quit on the play. I’d rather have an injured Beltran than one who plays the game in a manner it was NOT meant to be played.

The only thing I can think of is that there was a hit-and-run on, or Beltran thought that such a play was on, and then became disgusted when the batter (David Wright) didn’t swing. It didn’t look like Beltran got a great jump and it appeared as though he was looking in to the plate as if it were a hit and run play.

Strangely enough, the non-slide wasn’t addressed by the SNY booth in the following inning (the caught stealing was the third out of the third inning). There was some discussion about it on WFAN, with Howie Rose sternly criticizing Beltran. I thought for sure Keith Hernandez would similarly jump all over Beltran for that.

David Wright wore the golden sombrero this afternoon, striking out three times. He has been doing a lot of swining and missing lately, and Jerry Manuel suggested that his upper body is moving forward when he swings. It looks to me like Wright is swinging too early on most pitches, doing a lot of reaching — pretty much the same issue he has every early spring. As soon as he starts waiting back and letting the ball get deep, and sending the ball to right field, he’ll be fine. My guess is he’s pressing a bit with all the talk of the Mets’ lack of production with RISP.

Funny, the SNY announcers said that Manuel “likes the way Omir Santos frames pitches”. I hate the way Santos “frames” pitches — half the time he jerks his glove so much that close strikes are called balls. In fact his method of “framing” is similar to Ramon Castro’s. That type of glove movement might work in some little leagues, but in the bigs it simply annoys the heck out of umpires, who want a good view of the pitch.

Next Mets Game

The Mets open a three-game series against the Marlins beginning at 7:10 PM on Monday night. John Maine goes against Anibal Sanchez. The first place Fish were just swept by the Phillies — they dropped the first two games in heartbreaking fashion in the late innings, then were absolutely thrashed 13-2 this afternoon. They’re either really down or really ticked.

UPDATE (6:30pm): David Lennon of Newsday is reporting that Casey Fossum has been DFA’dThanks to mic for pointing this out in the comments section. In other news, the sun will come up tomorrow and every single one of us will eventually die… And Omar will probably DFA about six more long/middle/bad relievers before the All-Star break.

Also, Ted Berg of MetsBlog is reporting that Carlos Beltran didn’t slide because he thought he heard the sound of bat on the ball. That is either the worst excuse in the world or Beltran has forgotten what it sounds like when somebody gets a hit when he is on base. Carlos – you get paid enough to hire an undergrad journalism or film student to write better excuses for you.

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