Browsing Archive January, 2011

29 DUPACR: Alex Trevino

If you missed yesterday’s post on cancer survivor Jackson Todd, then you may not understand what’s going on here. Each day, we will honor a random former Met who wore the uniform number that correlates with the Days Until Pitchers And Catchers Report (DUPACR) to Port St. Lucie. So yesterday, it was 30 days until, and today, it’s 29 days until, so we’ll focus on a former Met who wore #29. Get it? And just so you know, this series was inspired by the book and websiteMets By The Numbers“.

It would be easy to choose Frank Viola for #29. “Sweet Music” comprised one-fifth of what should have been the greatest starting rotation in Mets history — and it could be argued, was exactly that on paper. The Mets entered the 1990 season with a rotation that consisted of Viola, Dwight Gooden, David Cone, Ron Darling, and Sid Fernandez — with Bobby Ojeda as the sixth / swing man. Wow. As it turned out, that team finished second to the Pirates (!) with a 91-71 record. Ouch.

But this isn’t about Frank Viola nor the underachieving ’90 club. It’s about Alex Trevino. Who?

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Mets To Sign Willie Harris

According to ESPN-NY’s Adam Rubin, the Mets are on the verge of announcing the signing of Willie Harris to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.

The 32-year-old Harris has been a thorn in the side of Mets fans for his dramatic outfield catches in late innings against the Mets over the past few years. Otherwise, though, there isn’t much to say about Harris, who hit .183 for the Nationals last year and is a career .239 hitter. He’s an average to slightly above-average corner outfielder, and average defensively in center. He can also play second base adequately, and fill in at short and third in a pinch. Once a speedster, he’s still faster than average and won’t make many mistakes on the basepaths.

It’s good to have him around for depth, particularly considering the injury histories of Carlos Beltran and Angel Pagan, but I’m not sure Harris is any better overall than Jason Pridie. I suspect Harris’ MLB experience is valued by the Mets braintrust, as well as his ability to play second base. Similar to Harris is Russ Adams, who also hits from the left side but is primarily a middle infielder who can play some outfield when needed (whereas Harris is primarily an outfielder who can play some infield when needed).

I know this is strictly a depth acquisition, but if the Mets are going to be insistent upon having an experienced MLBer competing for the fourth outfielder spot, I’d be more excited about a return to New York by Lastings Milledge or Ryan Church, or the signing of Andruw Jones. Though, I’m sure none of those three make sense for one reason or another — even if all three can play centerfield as well or better than Harris and almost certainly will provide more offense. Most likely, it’s a money thing, in which case, I wonder if Delwyn Young is on the Mets radar? Young is a 28-year-old switch-hitter who, like Willie Harris, is an outfielder who can also play second base adequately. Young doesn’t have much (if any) experience in center field, but is pretty much the same player as Harris — except four years younger.

You may be wondering why I even care to quibble over the differences between Willie Harris and Delwyn Young but this is how the Mets fans’ winter is going … so, please, don’t shoot the messenger.

If nothing else, Harris has always been a fan favorite in his previous big league stops. You can read a very nice interview with him on MLBlogs. Harris may not be a tremendous performer, but he’s hard not to like. Nothing wrong with this signing, but nothing exciting about it, either.

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30 Days Until Pitchers and Catchers Report

It’s about one month before pitchers and catchers report, and it would seem that the Mets are still in the market for free agents to plug a few holes. Perhaps a reserve outfielder who can handle centerfield, for one (though they appear to have come to an agreement with the great Willie Harris), and hopefully a few more arms for the pitching staff.

Though, it’s possible the Mets don’t sign anyone of significance in the next 30 days, meaning there won’t be much to complain talk about. Let’s be serious — if the Mets “big” signings this winter are Ronny Paulino, Chris Capuano, D.J. Carrasco, and Boof Bonser, it’s unlikely they’ll acquire more exciting than that group in the final month before pitchers and catchers report. First, because there simply aren’t many interesting players available, and second, because Sandy Alderson has no threads left in his shoestring budget.

That said, what we’ll do from here on in is count down the days to spring training by remembering random players from the past who wore the uniform number of the current count. This idea was 100% inspired by reading the book Mets By The Numbers (as well as the MBTN website). So for example, today is 30, so we can remember Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott, Cliff Floyd, Dennis Ribant, Aaron Sele, or one of the many other once-Mets who wore uniform #30. But which one should we focus on?

Ryan and Scott represent painful memories — the two aces that “got away”. Granted, at the time he was dealt for Jim “friggin” Fregosi, Ryan had issues with blisters and bases on balls, the Mets were loaded with young pitching, but light on offense, so there was a tiny hint of logic in the move. Had Ryan stayed, the Mets’ rotation of Seaver, Koosman, Ryan, and Matlack would have compared to the 2011 Phillies’ — but for all we know, it would have simply resulted in more 2-1 losses and the same amount of third-place finishes; their offense was THAT bad.

Scott stunk as a Met — he was so bad, getting Danny Heep in return seemed like a steal. It wasn’t until Roger Craig taught Scott how to scuff the ball for more movement throw a split-fingered fastball that he became dominant.

Aaron Sele holds a special place in the Mets bullpen; for all we know, he’s still sitting down there, right now, playing cards and waiting for Willie Randolph to call him into a game.

Ribant might be a good player to focus on, since he was the very first Mets starter to finish a season with a winning record (11-9 in 1966). Such a feat represents hope.

And it is spring training that hopes eternal … er … or something, right? So for me, the perfect former #30 to focus on right now is

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What I’m Reading: Mets By The Numbers

As mentioned a few weeks ago, the winter (a.k.a., “not the baseball season”) is unbearably long for me. In an effort to fill the hole where baseball usually is, I’ve immersed myself in reading about baseball.

This week, I’m reading Mets by the Numbers: A Complete Team History of the Amazin’ Mets by Uniform Number, a wonderful book by Jon Springer and Matt Silverman — who, not coincidentally, also run the Mets By The Numbers website.

Each chapter of the book is devoted to a specific uniform number, headlined by the Met who is most memorable for wearing that number, and also detailing other notable players who wore it. For me, it brings back plenty of vivid memories. Also, since I’m someone who has a hard time reading a book straight through, I especially like the fact that I can jump in anywhere in the book and read a chapter.

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Royals Outbid Mets for Jeff Francis

If you haven’t yet heard, the Kansas City Royals have signed lefthanded starter Jeff Francis to a one-year, $2M contract, plus incentives.

The deal was reportedly double what his former team, the Colorado Rockies, offered, and apparently more than the Mets offered. That is, assuming the Mets offered anything. But, we’ve heard many times from many sources for many months that the Mets were “interested” in Jeff Francis, so you would have to think that they made some kind of offer at some point. It would be awful to think that the Mets simply think about what players might help their club but never actually discuss terms with their agents.

So, we could safely assume that the Kansas City Royals outbid the Mets for Francis’ services. Is that depressing?

In all seriousness, if indeed the Mets made an offer to Francis, I’m surprised he chose to join the Royals. After posting a 5.00 ERA and looking lackluster in 2010, the crafty lefthander would seem to be looking at 2011 as an opportunity to increase his value for a big contract next winter. Generally speaking, crafty lefthanders don’t increase their value pitching in the Adulterated League — a baseball league that allows a Designated Pinch Hitter to bat for the pitcher. Usually, a soft-tossing lefty would try to avoid such a league, especially one that faces lineups such as those of the Twins, White Sox, and Tigers 18 times each (though, I guess it’s better than signing with the Orioles, and facing the AL East). One would think that someone pitching for his next payday would at minimum choose an NL team, and ideally go to one with a huge “pitchers’ park” such as San Diego or Flushing.

We mentioned Francis a few times before in the past few months, and my personal opinion was lukewarm. I don’t see him being anything better than a back-end starter at this point in his career, mainly because he wasn’t that tremendous before the shoulder surgery, and has lost some velocity since the surgery. So the fact that he signed with the Royals doesn’t bother me all that much; what bothers me is that it seems like Kansas City outbid the Mets, and it didn’t take much money to get Francis’ signature on a contract.

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Mets Sniffing Around Young, Bush

Get your mind out of the gutter.

Not sure how you interpreted that headline, but I read at MetsBlog that the Mets are interested in pitchers Chris Young and David Bush.

You already know my stance on Young; despite his intelligence and degree from Princeton, I’m not convinced that a) he’ll be healthy; and b) if healthy, he’ll be all that great. I have also mentioned Bush before, suggesting that he’s unspectacular but is healthy, cheap, takes the ball every five days, and would likely keep D.J. Carrasco in the bullpen and Tobi Stoner in AAA — both of which are good things.

Although both of these hurlers have been discussed here before, this is the first time MetsToday has put Young / Bush on display in the same post. That said, I’m curious to hear your thoughts: do you like Young / Bush? Why or why not?

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Mets Sign Taylor Tankersley

As you can see by the picture to the left, the Mets have re-signed Dick Tidrow. Tidrow last pitched for the Mets in 1984, sporting a 9.19 ERA through 11 ballgames before being released. We thought it was the end of his career, but he never officially announced his retirement; thus, the Mets, needing a swing man who can start, setup, or provide long relief, signed “Dirt” to a one-year deal.

Wait … that can’t be right, can it? Dick Tidrow must be at least 60 years old … that’s almost as old as Julio Franco for goodness sakes … but it sure LOOKS like him.

Hmm … on closer inspection, I’m mistaken. That’s not Dick Tidrow. It’s Taylor Tankersley — in a Dick Tidrow Halloween costume, I think.

Yes, the Mets have finally made a big splash, inking Tankersley to a minor-league deal that includes an invitation to spring training.

This is a very “smart” signing, in that Tankersley’s father is a nuclear physicist. The Mets new “braintrust” seems to value intelligence — perhaps because two-thirds of the Fantasy Front Office consists of Ivy Leaguers. The Mets also signed high school valedictorian and Duke grad Chris Capuano, and are hot for Princeton alum Chris Young. If nothing else, they’ll have a heckuva crossword puzzle team.

As for whether the Tankersley signing is a “smart” one in baseball terms remains to be seen. The soon-to-be 28 year-old lefthander posted a 7.50 ERA in 27 games for the Marlins last year, after missing a good chunk of 2009 on the DL with an elbow injury. He had surgery on the elbow, but not the Tommy John ligament replacement type; it was the old-fashioned screw-insertion type, to correct a recurring stress fracture. Apparently, he originally suffered the fracture in 2008, but it never healed, so surgery was performed in April of 2009. He resumed throwing in July of ’09, but didn’t pitch in a game again until 2010. Last year he spent the bookends of his season in AAA, striking out 22 in 26 IP, posting a 3.42 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. During his big-league stint from May to mid-August, Tankersley was used exclusively as a LOOGY; he tossed only 12 innings in those 27 appearances, striking out 7, walking 7, and allowing 4 HR. However, all 7 of those strikeouts came against lefthanded hitters; he faced 35 in all, so he struck out 20% of them. This is where the smart guys come in and clean up, you see … in the numbers. The Ivy Leaguers are good with calculators, and they saw that last year’s LOOGY — Pedro Feliciano — struck out 25% of the lefties he faced (35 of 139), but Feliciano wanted 2 years and $8M for that kind of efficiency. In Tankersley, they pay the MLB minimum, for only one year, for similar performance. Kind of. You see, Tankersley’s is a small sample size, and there’s that high walk number. And the one homer given up to every 14 batters (Feliciano allowed one dinger out of the 280 batters he faced).

But, if one looks back to before Tankersley started to suffer elbow issues — to 2006 and 2007 — he put up pretty good numbers. In ’06, he held lefties to a .236 AVG / .695 OPS; in ’07, .179 / .581. So if Tankersley can just get back to where he was four years ago, the Mets will have a lights-out LOOGY.

Stepping away from the numbers, what can you expect from Taylor Tankersley? He’s a bulldog, and always has been, going back to his early days in the minors. This is a great attitude that a manager loves, of course, but it might also have been partly to blame for his elbow injury — he’s so tough that he likely pitched through pain that he shouldn’t have, and may have made his injury worse as a result. Before the surgery and elbow issues, Tankersley hummed his fastball in the high-80s, topping out around 92, and threw a pretty good slider; you might have compared him to Jesse Orosco in his 30s. Last year, after the surgery, he averaged around 85-87, topping out around 89-90, with a less-biting slider; you might have compared him to a Jesse Orosco in his mid-40s. He throws from a low three-quarters arm slot; not quite as low as Feliciano, but actually, closer to where Orosco threw from.

Perhaps most importantly, if both he and Taylor Buchholz can make the team, it will be the first time in Mets history that two pitchers with the first name of “Taylor” will be in the bullpen. The last time the team had two “Taylors” in the bullpen occurred when catcher Hawk Taylor warmed up fireman Ron Taylor in 1967. Hmm … is it just a coincidence that Ron Taylor eventually became DOCTOR Taylor, and was perhaps one of the smartest baseball players of his era?

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Will Luis Castillo Be the Starting Second Baseman?

In a recent interview of Sandy Alderson by Adam Rubin at ESPN-NY, Alderson made fairly clear that Luis Castillo either will be the starting second baseman on Opening Day, or he will not be a Met.

From the interview, see this particular exchange:

Rubin:

In terms of second base, Luis Castillo — in addition to Oliver Perez — is a lightning rod for the fan base. If Castillo does not win the second base job, is there another role for him on this team? He does not have a lot of pop, or run-producing ability as a pinch-hitter. And I don’t know that he’s capable of playing multiple positions. Is it kind of second base or bust for him?

Alderson:

“Well, that’s certainly his best role on the team. If he’s going to be on the club, it probably will have to be as the regular second baseman, or somebody who plays quite a bit of the time at second base. He just doesn’t give us enough coverage other places to play a utility role. So I would say he needs to have a role on the team. And I think that’s probably his best and maybe only role — regular duty at second base.”

Unless Castillo puts on the catcher’s gear and starts shagging fly balls, it appears that he has to win the 2B job in order to remain in the orange and blue. And it makes sense, because if he’s not starting, Castillo has very little value. Further, since the Mets are going nowhere, and Castillo has no future, it behooves them to give younger players auditions throughout the year.

Castillo’s competition includes Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, and Brad Emaus. From Alderson’s comments, it sounds as though they plan to give Ruben Tejada a full year in the minors, so he’s a darkhorse for the position. Additionally, the utility infielder position is Chin-lung Hu‘s to lose.

The thing I wonder about is how the Mets are going to give Castillo, Murphy, Turner, and Emaus enough reps at second base during spring training to make a decision. It would be a challenge if we already knew the defensive capabilities of all four players — because theoretically, you could alternate them in DH roles just to give them at-bats — but the main issue is that no one has any idea if Murphy or Emaus can handle the position, and if Castillo has any range left at all. Ironically, Turner is the closest to a “known entity” in that the club had a good long look at him in Buffalo last year, yet he’s most likely to lose the competition because he still has options remaining. Turner, in 78 games with Buffalo in ’10, and two seasons in the minor previous, he’s proven to be a solid offensive player with good plate discipline and occasional pop, and plays about average defense. Some might project him to be a righthanded Todd Walker, or a Mark Loretta. If he can reach the level of either of those longtime MLBers, he’ll do OK for himself. But it seems like the competition is more about whether Emaus and Murphy can field the position, while also hitting well enough to force the Mets to eat the last $6M of Castillo’s salary.

Here are the possible scenarios:

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