Browsing Archive January, 2010

Rose-colored Glasses

Omar Minaya danced around discussed several subjects during his recent appearance on SNY, attempting to paint a positive picture of the 2010 Mets.

One issue in particular that struck me as disconcerting was his evaulation of the current Mets’ pitching staff.

Kevin Burkhardt pointed out the various question marks on the staff, nearly all of which are related to injuries. Minaya’s response was

“Kevin, every team will enter the season with question marks … there are always a lot of question marks with pitching.”

True enough, but no pennant-contending team has as many question marks as the Mets do when it comes to the pitching staff. They have no less than five starting pitchers coming off season-ending surgeries and two pie-in-the-sky candidates for the setup role. The fact that the Mets are hoping that many injured arms come back healthy is enough of a concern, but to me what is more worrisome is that Minaya believes a healthy Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, and Oliver Perez are good enough to comprise a playoff-bound club.

So not only is Minaya counting on everyone to come back 100% healthy, but he’s also expecting Pelfrey, Maine, and Perez to make great leaps forward in their performance as Major League hurlers.

With Pelfrey, I can understand optimism, since he is still relatively young (26) and can improve dramatically if he ever learns to command an offspeed pitch. Perez and Maine, though, are what they are — inconsistent pitchers with awful mechanics and concentration issues who won’t ever be more than average again. Actually, that’s not entirely true. Perez or Maine could once again win as many as 15 games IF they were under the guidance of a detail-oriented pitching coach — one who makes sound mechanics a priority, can teach / correct mechanical flaws, and implements focused, disciplined throwing programs. Someone like, uh, Rick Peterson — or perhaps Dave Duncan or Mike Maddux. Yes, Peterson rubbed a lot of veteran pitchers the wrong way, but he was a wizard when it came to clueless, mechanical distasters such as Maine, Perez, and Jorge Julio. Peterson had his failures (Victor Zambrano, Alay Soler), and is nowhere near the genius that is Dave Duncan, but his approach worked wonders with Maine and Perez specifically, as well as Pelfrey (it has always bugged me that Dan Warthen received credit for Pelfrey’s success in 2008, when he began his strong run while still under Peterson’s care).

Beyond the starting rotation, the bullpen is headed by a suddenly unreliable and velocity-losing K-Rod and a LOOGY (Pedro Feliciano). The rest of the relievers are … who? Kelvim Escobar, who has thrown 5 innings in the last two years and may not be as healthy as Duaner Sanchez was last April, is the next-best relief man. After Escobar is a wild splitter specialist from Japan named Ryota Iragashi (who has also seen his velocity decrease in recent years). Beyond that is fireballer Bobby Parnell — whose penchant for allowing baserunners recalled the days of the aforementioned Victor Zambrano — and sinkerballer Sean Green, who could most succintly be described as “underwhelming”.

Maybe I’m seeing the Mets’ pitching staff as a half-empty glass. But it’s clear that Omar Minaya sees the same personnel as half-full — and through rose-colored lenses. Most likely, the truth is somewhere in the middle. But unfortunately, somewhere in the middle is exactly where the pitchers will carry the Mets to in the final standings.

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Mets Sign Josh Fogg

josh-foggAccording to Troy Renck of the Denver Post, the Mets have signed veteran starter Josh Fogg to a minor-league deal.

Considering the Mets’ multiple question marks throughout the pitching staff, I see this as a smart, shrewd signing. In essence, Fogg is a healthier version of Tim Redding, but who also has better potential than Redding as a relief pitcher.

Ironically, Redding has signed with Fogg’s 2009 club — the Colorado Rockies.

By no means is Fogg the answer to the Mets’ problems in the starting rotation. At his best, he’s a .500 pitcher on a strong offensive club, and someone who rarely pitches far past the fifth inning. He’s very hittable and walks too many batters for someone who is so hittable (though, by Mets’ standards, he’s a “control pitcher”). However, he posted an excellent 1.13 WHIP in 2009 — the best of his career — pitching almost exclusively out of the bullpen. Though the Mets might see him as depth / insurance at the back end of the rotation, I would pencil him in, right now, as their top setup man — mainly because he less of a health risk than Kelvim Escobar, and has shown more MLB success than Bobby Parnell and Ryota Igarashi.

Wow. So that’s how low the Mets have fallen — to the point where Josh Fogg could be their best setup man.

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Mets Sign Fernando Tatis

The Mets have signed Fernando Tatis to a one-year contract.

According to various sources, Tatis agreed to less than the $1.7M salary he received in 2009. So, you could say he gave the Mets a “hometown discount”.

As mentioned a few days ago, I very much enjoy watching Fernando Tatis. However I don’t really believe he is worth a guaranteed MLB deal on a club that already has Alex Cora cemented on the roster.

It has been reported that Omar Minaya sees Tatis as more of a possible platoon partner to Daniel Murphy at first base than a super utilityman. Ironic, isn’t it, considering that Murphy / Tatis was the platoon plan for left field this time last year?

With this signing, three of the four open, non-catching bench spots are guaranteed (barring injury), consisting of Fernando Tatis, Alex Cora, and Gary Mathews. That said, there is one open spot on the 25-man roster for a position player / hitter.

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Garland, Sheets Off the Table

Remove the garland from the Christmas tree, and get Lazy Mary to pull the sheets from her bed.

A little late on this, but reporting it so you can post your comments — Ben Sheets agreed to a one-year, $10M deal with the Oakland Athletics, and Jon Garland signed a one-year, $4.7M deal with the San Diego Padres.

As mentioned in the previous post, Sheets + Oakland makes a lot of sense for both parties.

Garland, I imagine, preferred to be on the Left Coast, so it’s possible the Mets were never a possibility considering their Right Coast locale. Additionally, he has a nice opportunity to hurl a stress-free year in a huge pitcher’s park — a good formula for boosting his value when he becomes a free agent again next winter.

Additionally, former Cub prospect Rich Hill signed a minor-league deal with the Cardinals. The lefthander had a breakout season in 2007, then forgot how to throw strikes. This is a very under-the-radar move that could very well turn out wonderful for St. Louis. Can’t you just see Hill suddenly finding himself under the tutelage of Dave Duncan?

In other belated reporting, you may or may not have heard that the Phillies signed Jose Contreras to a cheap one-year deal. I don’t think the Mets were ever a player for his services, and I don’t believe he would’ve been a good idea. Most reports speculate that Contreras will begin 2010 in the Philly bullpen.

Finally, the latest buzz is that Jarrod Washburn is leaning toward the Twins and Mariners.

So, who’s left on the open market for the rotation? Looks to me like Braden Looper, John Smoltz, and Pedro Martinez are the best of the best. Ouch. In other words, Omar Minaya best be burning the phone lines talking trade with other GMs to find another arm or two.

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Why Ben Sheets May Choose Oakland

bensheetsThe rumors swirling around Ben Sheets recently have included the Oakland Athletics, which may come as a surprise to some people considering their budgetary concerns.

But from Ben Sheets’ perspective, signing with the A’s makes a lot of sense.

For one thing, making a comeback in Oakland should be less stressful than, say, New York City, Chicago, or a similarly large market. Let’s not forget that Sheets spent his entire career in small town Milwaukee, so there’s a comfort thing. Besides the smaller number of press and journalists hounding him 24 hours a day, there would likely be less pressure for Sheets to pitch if he suffers a minor setback.

But also important is the fact that by signing with the Athletics, Sheets is almost guaranteed to be in the thick of a pennant race. How so? Looking at Billy Beane’s past history, one would assume that he would hang on to Ben Sheets as long as the A’s are contending. But if things look even slightly bleak, Beane will be sure to trade Sheets in July to a desperate team that is either fighting for a playoff spot or fending off close rivals while sitting atop the standings.

So in a way, choosing Oakland could be Ben Sheets’ best decision — presuming his ultimate goal is to pitch in the postseason.

Now, if his main goal is about money, that’s a different story entirely.

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