Browsing Archive August, 2009

Josh Thole Promoted

josh-tholeWith the rosters expanding to 40 tomorrow, the Mets have announced the promotion of catcher Josh Thole from AA Binghamton.

According to MetsBlog, Thole will wear uniform #30.

Nick Evans is expected to get a callup as well, though it has yet to be announced. The Buffalo Bisons are not exactly brimming with talent, and still have games to play, so more players will trickle in to Flushing over the next two weeks.

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Was Sean Green Worth All That?

sean-green-pitching

A sickening feeling came over me after again looking at this December, 2008 trade:

Mets trade Aaron Heilman, Joe Smith, Endy Chavez, Jason Vargas, Mike Carp, Ezequiel Carrera, and Maikel Cleto in return for J.J. Putz, Jeremy Reed, and Sean Green.

Here’s part one of the analysis:

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Do the Auditions Really Matter?

The Mets’ season has been officially meaningless for several weeks now, making the last quarter of the season something of a mass tryout. Heading into September, we’re hoping to see a few more fresh, young faces, and assuming we’ll garner information that will help shape the 2010 Mets roster.

Or will we?

A major consideration is this: what happens if some of the auditions go bad? For example, what if Bobby Parnell continues to have trouble getting past the fourth inning, remains very hittable, and still doesn’t have a reliable secondary pitch at the end of September? He still will be penciled in to the back of the 2010 rotation, won’t he? Somehow, the Mets will glean a shining moment or two from his outings, grasp onto it, and spin it as the reason he has “a bright future”.

Similarly, we’ll get a whiff of Josh Thole — and if he fails, does that mean the Mets will sign Bengie Molina or make a blockbuster trade to bring in a new catcher over the winter?

In contrast, what if Thole hits .400 and proves to be adequte behind the plate over, say, a 15-game span? Is that enough of a sample to mark him down as the catcher of the future? To bring back Brian Schneider at a reduced rate to be his guru? Methinks the decision has already been made, one way or the other.

And what does this last month really mean for players like Cory Sullivan, Angel Pagan, and Jeremy Reed? Are all three in competition for next year’s fourth outfielder position? Maybe, but if at least two of them are re-signed, the competition begins again next March, does it not? In fact, September likely means more to those three outfielders than to anyone else on the 40-man roster. (Though, in the end the least expensive of the three is most likely to be seen in Port St. Lucie in March — and that’s probably Pagan.)

Dan Murphy may be the biggest question of all — and one mystery that may not be unraveled by October. Should Murphy continue the strong pace he’s held for the last few weeks through September, he’ll finish around .275-.280 with a .325 OBP and maybe 10 HRs. What will that strong finish mean to the Mets plans for first base? The starting job for Murphy next year? And if Murphy slumps in September, does the plan become to acquire a first baseman?

Other than Parnell, is anyone getting a true “audition” for the pitching staff? The starting rotation currently includes Tim Redding, Pat Misch, and Nelson Figueroa. Are any of those three really being considered for next year? Figgy is coming off an outstanding start, but he’ll likely have to repeat that performance four or five times to get a legit shot at next year’s rotation. Yet, if Parnell pulls off a similar outing, many will point to it as a reason to mark him down as the #4 starter in 2010.

My point is this: during these “auditions”, people will see only what they want to see — the opinions are predetermined, and people will look for evidence to support that determination. If someone believes today that Bobby Parnell should be starting next season, it won’t matter if his ERA continues to balloon over the next four weeks — they’ll hang on to the fact that his slider has improved. If Figueroa spins three more starts like yesterday’s, they’ll be dismissed by those who view him as a journeyman at the end of his career. Should Dan Murphy slump in September, his supporters will accentuate his hot streaks and point out his advancement in the field; conversely, if he hits .350 over the final weeks, his detractors will harp on his lack of homerun power.

But that doesn’t apply only to fans — it’s also pervasive in the front office and the coaching staff. We know this because it’s the way they’ve operated over the past several years. Ironically, you need look no further than Murphy for the most recent evidence. As you may remember he was written in as the starting left fielder on the first day of spring training — it didn’t matter that Jeremy Reed flashed a better glove and was the team’s leading hitter. The handling of Mike Pelfrey at the beginning of his career was similar; the Mets made the decision that Pelf was ready for MLB and kept sending him to the mound regardless of how overmatched he looked (sound familiar?). The Mets’ expectations regarding players coming off injury is perhaps most telling. For example, the 2008 bullpen was built around the assumption that Duaner Sanchez would be the setup man –and stayed with that plan even after he failed to break a pane of glass in spring training. Similarly, they assembled the 2009 starting rotation with the idea that John Maine was 100%. Again, even after Maine struggled mightily all spring, he was expected to be the #2 or #3 starter. They had not seen his lack of command and hittability — they saw whatever it was they wanted to see (velocity? spin on the curve?), that would justify their preconceptions.

We can pretend that the final month is a “tryout” of sorts, but really, it’s four weeks to gather and collect information that supports preconceived notions. Along the way, someone for whom you have reserved no judgment may surprise you.

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Mets Game 131: Win Over Cubs

Mets 4 Cubs 1

The Mets continue to impress by salvaging at least one win per series. If they can continue to win at least one out of every three, they are almost guaranteed to stay ahead of the cellar-dwelling Nationals. Keep fighting, men!

Though the season is over for most of the Mets fan base, it’s just beginning for Nelson Figueroa. He made the most of his opportunity in Chicago, pulling off perhaps the best start of his Major League career. Figgy struck out 10, walked 2, and allowed only 6 hits and 1 earned run in 7 innings.

Meanwhile, the Mets made mincemeat out of Carlos Zambrano, pummeling him for 4 runs and 11 hits in only 3 1/1 innings of work. Strangely enough, the Mets basically singled him to death — Anderson Hernandez’s run-scoring triple in the fourth was the only extra-base hit of the afternoon.

Brian Stokes pitched a perfect eighth and Frankie Fantastic earned his 28th save of the season with a scoreless ninth.

Notes

Figueroa also had an RBI single, scoring the fourth run of the ballgame.

Figgy became the only Mets pitcher not named Santana to strike out 10 in a game this season.

Former Cub Angel Pagan was 3-for-5 with a run scored and his 12th stolen base. Luis Castillo was the only other Met with more than one hit; he was 2-for-5 but struck out twice — unusual for him.

After Zambrano left the game, the Mets mustered only one hit the rest of the way against four Cub relievers.

Next Mets Game

The Mets get a well-deserved day off on Monday, then meet the Rockies in Colorado on Tuesday night. Mike Pelfrey starts for the Mets, no word yet on the Colorado hurler. Game time is 8:40 PM EST.

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Mets Game 130: Loss to Cubs

Cubs 11 Mets 4

The Bobby Parnell Experiment took another step backward.

Parnell allowed 8 runs on 9 hits and 2 walks in 4 2/3 innings, capped by a grand-slam homerun.

The offense scored four early runs against Ryan Dempster, then kind of fizzled.

Not much more to describe about this game, from the Mets’ point of view. Another long day of watching poor fundamentals, questionable decisions, walks of the opposing pitcher, etc., etc.

Notes

The bullpen was no better than Parnell. Ken Takahashi allowed a run in his one inning, and Lance Broadway gave up two in his inauspicious Mets debut.

The Mets had a chance to have a HUGE inning in the fourth, loading the bases with no outs. Brian Schneider stroked a double to score two, but Fernando Tatis was tossed out at home after stopping at third, then re-starting toward home for reasons unknown. Then Jerry Manuel gave up an out (and the game) by allowing the already struggling Parnell to hit, and having him sacrifice for the second out. Angel Pagan grounded out weakly to get Dempster out of trouble.

Tatis became the 16th Met runner thrown out at home this season.

Was it just a coincidence that the cameras were focused on the back of Jake Fox’s jersey every chance they had?

Fox’s grand slam came on an 0-2 slider that hung up in the zone. It was like deja vu all over again — the pitch took almost the exact flight of Brian Stokes’ hanger to Alfonso Soriano on the previous afternoon.

Aaron Heilman made his first-ever appearance against the Mets. He wasn’t dominating, but did well enough. He also put on a few pounds (perhaps the home cooking?) and was wearing old-school stirrups. Something else was different, too — his arm angle, which was more over the top than we’d seen in the past. He’s still throwing three-quarter, but more of a high three-quarter than he usually did as a Met. If you remember, the more Willie Randolph and Jerry Manuel (ab)used him, the more Heilman’s arm angle would drop — to the point where at times his delivery resembled that of Joe Smith.

Seeing Heilman and Parnell in the same game stoked a memory. Remember when Omar Minaya explained that Aaron Heilman wouldn’t be a starter because he didn’t have command of enough different pitches? Yeah …

Next Mets Game

The Mets can’t leave Chicago fast enough, but before they do there’s one more afternoon affair with the Cubs. Game time is 2:20 PM, with Nelson Figueroa facing Carlos Zambrano.

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