Tag: pedro feliciano

Mets Sign Jay Marshall

jay-marshallWhen I heard the Mets picked up a lefthanded pitcher named Marshall for the bullpen, I was kind of hoping his first name was Sean.

Instead, it is Jay.

Jay Marshall was claimed off waivers from the Oakland Athletics and added to the 40-man roster (which now comprises 39 players). Whether he’ll be the “second LOOGY” to Pedro Feliciano remains to be seen.

Marshall has had success at every level of the minors, including the hitter-happy PCL, but

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2009 Analysis: Pedro Feliciano

pedro-feliciano-wide

One of the few bright spots on a disappointing pitching staff, “Perpetual Pedro” set a New York Mets record for appearances with 88, and set career bests in WHIP (1.16), Holds (24), K:BB ratio (3.28), and Walks per 9 IP (2.7).

Manager Jerry Manuel used the 33-year-old lefthander whether he needed to or didn’t, nearly always in “matchup” situations against lefthanded hitters. Feliciano returned that trust by holding 156 lefthanded batters to a .215 batting average and .245 OBP; he struck out 41 of them and walked only 6 — though, he did give up 4 HRs to LH hitters.

Though he was pigeonholed as a LOOGY, Feliciano was passably effective against righthanded batters as well — they hit .264 against him, though with a .365 OBP and .486 SLG. If you pretend the 4 intentional walks to RHs didn’t happen, that OBP drops to a more manageable .329.

Considering his every-other-day use over the past two seasons, it’s hard to imagine a Mets bullpen without Pedro Feliciano. He is clearly a master at retiring lefthanded hitters, but one must wonder if he’d make more of a contribution as a “crossover” reliever — one who faces both lefties and righties. When given the chance to do so by Willie Randolph in 2007, Feliciano responded with a standout season — one in which he held 163 RH batters to a .221 batting average. In 2008, though, righties hit him to the tune of .357, prompting Manuel to make him a specialist.

It’s an interesting dilemma, and I personally wonder if Feliciano’s struggles against RH hitters under Manuel were due to a deficiency in his toolset or overuse. He pitched with no days’ rest 34 times in both 2008 and 2009, but only 23 times in 2007. There’s a possibility that if he were used more judiciously — optimizing a fine balance of sharpness and rest — Feliciano might have the ability to be a solid setup man. We may never know, because the current manager seems set in his thinking.

What do you think? If Pedro Feliciano were used for full innings at a time, but limited to, say, 10-12 games per month instead of 15-18, would he be more valuable to a bullpen? Or is his ability to get that one or two outs 85-90 times a year the best use of his talents?

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Thole and Misch a Good Match

josh-thole-catchingThe highly anticipated debut of prospect Josh Thole could have been more difficult, but the Mets made the right move by matching him with lefthander Pat Misch.

Sure, I could be completely wrong — Thole could suffer seven passed balls and six stolen bases, while striking out five times. But I believe the Mets have given him a strong opportunity to succeed by choosing this game, this opponent, and this starting pitcher.

For one, it’s a day game, played outdoors and under natural light. Right there, Thole should be comfortable, as it is always much easier to see the flight of a ball in broad daylight than it is at night under artificial lighting. This is an advantage both in terms of batting and in receiving pitches behind the plate.

Secondly, the Mets have matched Thole with one of their easiest pitchers to catch. Pat Misch relies on pinpoint control, using a small repertoire of pitches that generally range from 70-85 MPH. If anything, he throws too many strikes and is always around the plate. He’s thrown only one wild pitch in his MLB career, and less than a dozen in close to 800 minor league innings. In short, he is a catcher’s dream in terms of receiving the ball. Additionally, Misch is a poised, unflappable, easygoing veteran — no worries about having to calm him down in times of adversity.

Contrast Misch with, say, Oliver Perez, and it’s easy to understand my point.

Loyal MetsToday reader “Murph” (of MurphGuide) posed the question:

“Do you think it is harder for a rookie to hit major league pitching, or to catch major league pitching?”

Neither is easy, but from my own experience, catching a pitcher whom you’ve never caught before can be much harder than hitting one you’ve never faced before — and it all depends on the pitcher’s command, velocity, and repertoire. Someone like Ollie Perez, John Maine, or Bobby Parnell — who throw at high velocity and tend to be all over the place — are extremely difficult to receive because the catcher may have no idea where the ball is going, nor what route it’s going to take, and he has little time to react. Remember the struggles of Brian Schneider early last season? Those were due specifically to the unfamiliarity with the pitching staff, and secondarily to a new glove.

As we’ve been told, Josh Thole has been catching many of the Mets pitchers in the bullpen since his promotion. And that’s good, but not necessarily enough — it depends on the pitcher. Some are around the plate and have pitches that run and break consistently, and you can get a “feel” for the distance they’ll move when they’re not on target. Also, it’s easier when the top velocity is lower, and there are less pitches to “learn” — for example Pedro Feliciano throws only an 87-MPH fastball and a sweeping slider, so he might be easier to catch than, say, Brian Stokes, who can hit 97 MPH with the fastball, and also has varying degrees of success with a curve, slider, changeup, and split. Francisco Rodriguez, I imagine, would also be difficult to catch, mainly because his pitches break so sharply and so late — and often into the ground and wide of the strike zone.

The pitcher’s personality is another can of worms which we won’t get into in depth. But consider this: what if Thole’s MLB debut came last night, and he had to deal with Mike Pelfrey’s case of the yips? Or if he had to get Oliver Perez back on track during one of those “Ollie Innings” ?

Another consideration is calling the game. I would bet that the pitches will be called from the dugout today. After all, Thole doesn’t know much about the strengths and weaknesses of MLB hitters, and isn’t yet familiar with Pat Misch’s game-time abilities.

We’ll see soon enough how well Josh Thole handles himself behind the dish. We’re told his best tool is his bat, and that he needs work on his catching skills. That said, the Mets have made his MLB debut as easy as could possibly be managed. For once, a logical decision based on thought and preparation.

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Mets Fire Sale

firesaleIt was only a week ago that Omar Minaya claimed the Mets to be “buyers” rather than “sellers” but that was as much hogwash then as it is now. The Mets have 11 more losses than the NL East-leading Phillies and are 7 1/2 games out of the Wild Card with 65 games to play. Mathmetically, yes, they have a chance to reach the postseason. Realistically, though, it’s not likely.

With four days before the trading deadline, it’s time to see where the Mets can cut their losses and bring in some talent for 2010. Unfortunately, the list of trade bait is pretty short.

Pedro Feliciano

“Pedro Lite” is one of the most sought-after lefthanded relievers right now, in a mix with Joe Beimel, George Sherrill, and John Grabow. But how much will a pennant-starved team give up for a LOOGY? Would it be more than an A-ball suspect or AA filler material? The Mets may be better off holding on to Feliciano, who is showing no signs of slowing down.

Sean Green

Teams need pitching, and are willing to part with talent in return for quality arms. The question is, do other teams consider Green a quality arm? His stock has fallen due to a terrible first half and the fact that his performace drops considerably with overuse. The White Sox recently gave up a slugging first base prospect to pry Tony Pena from the Diamondbacks, and Pena was in the midst of a similarly down season. But, Pena is 27 and has a better track record. Can the Mets obtain a decent player for the 30-year-old Green? It’s worth trying.

Luis Castillo

After a horrible 2008, Castillo is in line for Comeback Player of the Year, and currently sizzling at the plate. There are a few pennant-contending clubs who might be in the market for a second baseman, most notably the White Sox, Twins, and Cubs. The Rockies and Giants might also have room for Castillo’s .400 OBP. However, there is the issue of Castillo’s unbearable contract, which still has two years and $12M remaining after this season. The Mets would certainly have to eat all or most of that money to get anything of value in return — much like the Red Sox’ dumping of Julio Lugo for Chris Duncan.

If the Mets are willing to continue paying Castillo, they might be able to get a prospect or two. For example, the Giants have a switch-hitting second baseman in AA named Brock Bond who is an on-base machine like Castillo, but is already 24 and has no power and only average speed — though, Mets fans would get excited over his currently .350 batting average (he’s projected to be a Jeff Keppinger / Brendan Ryan utility type of guy). The White Sox have some intriguing pitchers at AA and a big young catcher named Tyler Flowers, who was caught with PEDs in 2007 but has done well without them — whether they’d give him up for Castillo, though, is another story. Most likely, the Mets can get a mix of A and AA borderline prospects — similar to what they gave up to get him back in 2007.

Livan Hernandez

In two weeks, Livan went from nearly getting booted from the rotation to emerging as their second-best starter. Everyone always needs pitching, but would anyone give up anything of value for Hernandez — particularly since he projects as a #5 on any contending club?

Angel Pagan

I know, I know — he’s one of the few exciting and dependable players the Mets have in the lineup right now. But he’s also most likely playing the best baseball he’ll ever play in his life — so it may be a good time to “sell high” (i.e., like when the Mets traded Tsuyoshi Shinjo and Desi Relaford). With Carlos Beltran presumably coming back for 2010 and 2011, Pagan’s value to the Mets is diminished. The Tigers and White Sox could be trolling for an outfielder with Pagan’s skillset, and if he can bring back something of value, it’s worth exploring. On the other hand, if you believe Beltran’s knee woes are only beginning, then it makes sense to hold on tight to Pagan, and pencil him into centerfield for next season — because there are no centerfield prospects in the Mets’ minor league system ready to step in.

Brian Schneider

I’m not seeing it. Schneider is a fairly solid defensive catcher with occasional pop, but what is a contending team going to give up for two-month rental who can’t beat out Omir Santos for a starting job? The Mets would get MAYBE an A-ball suspect, and then we’d have Robinson Cancel back in Flushing.

Gary Sheffield

He can’t go anywhere as long as he’s on the DL. If he passes through waivers in August, maybe the Mets can get a AAA guy who was once a prospect but now a suspect.

Conclusion

I keep looking at the Mets’ roster and seeing nothing of value to other teams — a frightening parallel to their minor league system. Veterans not mentioned, such as Fernando Tatis, Tim Redding, Alex Cora, Cory Sullivan, Brian Stokes, and Jeremy Reed are all key contributors on this fourth-place team, but to a contending club they are basically worthless — other organizations have similar talent stocked at AAA, so why trade for it?

More disconcerting, even if the Mets are able to pull off a few trades, will they get anything worthwhile in return?

Consider this: the last time the Mets held a fire sale was July 2003, when they unloaded Jeromy Burnitz, Roberto Alomar, Rey Sanchez, Graeme Lloyd, and Armando Benitez — you can argue that those players were as or more more valuable then, than what the Mets have to offer now. The total return on those trades? Jeremy Hill, Jason Anderson, Kenny Kelly, Royce Ring, Victor Diaz, Kole Strayhorn, Joselo Diaz, Edwin Almonte, Andrew Salvo, Anderson Garcia and Ryan Bicondoa. Victor Diaz and Ring made minor contributions, and the rest never made it to Flushing.

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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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Does Brian Schneider Stink?

Earlier this offseason — before Omar Minaya went into hibernation — there were rumblings that the Mets might be looking to upgrade their catching situation. Various rumors swirled involving Jason Varitek, Ivan Rodriguez, and Bengie Molina, among others. According to “sources with knowledge of the Mets’ thinking”, the team was hoping to get more offensive production from their backstops. The lefty-righty tandem of Brian Schneider and Ramon Castro combined for 16 HR, 62 RBI, 45 runs scored, and a .253 average. Not bad, but not great either. It’s about the same output as Varitek’s 2008.

Most recently, statistics published on Adam Rubin’s “Surfing the Mets” blog suggest that Schneider could be more the scapegoat of the Mets’ failure — but because of his defense, rather than his offense. The numbers reported in Rubin’s column, by way of “RayRubin Sports Analytics“, are as follows:

SANCHEZ caught by CASTRO 65 ABs, allows 0 HRs and OPP SLUG%=292
SCHNEIDER 108 ABs, allows 6 HRs and OPP SLUG%=454

HEILMAN caught by CASTRO 50 ABs , allows 0 HRs and OPP SLUG%=340
SCHNEIDER 195 ABs, allows 9 HRs and OPP SLUG%=456

FELICIANO caught by CASTRO 36 ABs, allows 0 HRs and OPP SLUG%=306
SCHNEIDER 134 ABs, allows 6 HRs and OPP SLUG%=455

WAGNER caught by CASTRO 49 ABs, allows 0 HRs and OPP SLUG%=204
SCHNEIDER 99 ABs, allows 3 HRs and OPP SLUG%=313

SANTANA caught by CASTRO 333 ABs, allows 6 HRs and OPP SLUG%=297
SCHNEIDER 524 ABs, allows 15 HRs and OP SLUG%=401

PEDRO M caught by CASTRO 138 ABs, allows 2 HRs and OPP SLUG%=377
SCHNEIDER 185 ABs, allows 15 HRs and OPP SLUG%=600!!!!!

Same phenomena holds with John Maine, Claudio Vargas and Nelson Figueroa. Fascinating, isn’t it?

Huh … those stats are worrisome, particularly since Schneider’s value as a ballplayer is tied directly to his defensive performance. If he can’t hit, AND can’t catch, how can the Mets move forward with him behind the plate?

Before we go piling on Brian and blaming him for all the Mets’ woes, let’s take a better look at what these numbers mean.

First of all, I don’t see the actual stats for Maine, Vargas, and Figueroa, so I’m taking for granted the source is telling the truth. Further, I don’t see any stats for Pelfrey, Perez, Smith, Schoeneweis, Stokes, Muniz, Sosa, Ayala, Wise, Rincon, Parnell, Knight, Niese, Armas, nor Kunz. Maybe the guys at RayRubin found similar trends, but didn’t deem it necessary to continue belaboring the point. Or, perhaps the split performances of the other pitchers don’t fit RayRubin’s argument, and thus were conveniently left out.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to say which is the case, because I can’t for the life of me find these individualized stats anywhere (if someone can, please send us the link!). All I can find is the “Catcher’s ERA” (CERA), which has Schneider at 4.11 and Castro at 3.68. Before we judge Castro the big winner there, consider that most statheads find CERA to be an unreliable indicator of a catcher’s performance.

But put all that aside for a moment, and let’s look at RayRubin’s reported numbers specifically. What could be the explanation for such a dire contrast in performance from Schneider to Castro? Right off the bat I’m seeing an issue with the sample sizes. Other than in the cases of Martinez and Santana, Schneider caught about double the ABs for each of the pitchers in question (with Heilman and Feliciano, it was nearly FOUR TIMES as many at-bats). Is it possible that Castro simply caught those pitchers on “lucky” days? What if the appearances were reversed — if Castro was the one to catch Heilman for almost 200 batters, for instance? Would Heilman have pitched extraordinarily better? No one knows for sure. These numbers suggest that Schneider looks bad simply because he was the guy that was usually behind the plate, rather than any negative impact he had on the pitching staff.

Which brings up another point — even if Castro was that much better as a receiver, it matters little since he couldn’t stay healthy enough to remain on the roster.

Looking at the rest of the defensive stats, Schneider has a fairly solid advantage over Castro (other than passed balls). Schneider threw out 21 of 63 (33%) runners attempting to steal, while Castro nailed 5 of 23 (21.7%). Passed balls — Schneider , Castro 1. Errors — Schneider 4, Castro 4. That last number is a bit scary, since Schneider caught 109 games and Castro only 47. If Castro caught, say, 120 games, he might have committed 10 errors or more. Another stat I can’t find anywhere is the number of wild pitches allowed per catcher. Though wild pitches aren’t necessarily a catcher’s fault, the better catchers minimize their occurrences. My eyes tell me that Schneider is much more nimble behind the plate than Castro, and my guess is that Schneider does a better job of keeping balls from getting past him.

As many of you know, I’m a catcher myself and so you may want to know my personal thoughts on this idea that Schneider is a prominent scapegoat. I have to say no — at least, I wouldn’t blame the Mets failures on Schneider’s defense or game-calling abilities. I do believe it’s possible that the pitchers who were with the Mets in previous years were probably more comfortable throwing to Castro, and I can tell you firsthand that it takes a while for a catcher to learn how to get the most out of a pitcher. When Schneider was swatting at balls early in the season, many wondered how a defensive specialist could commit so many passed balls. Anyone who’s caught at a fairly high level can tell you instantly — it’s hard as heck to catch a guy who (a) you haven’t caught before, or very often; (b) is throwing 90+; and/or (c) is wild. Since Schneider missed nearly all of spring training last year, he didn’t get a chance to catch the Mets pitchers as much as he should have. You can read the rest of my explanation on his passed balls here and here.

In other words, it probably took a while — probably half the season — for Schneider to both get comfortable with, and begin to learn how to extract the most from, the Mets’ pitching staff. A good catcher has to manage the pitcher’s emotions as well as his pitching repertoire, and also needs to know when and how to push / motivate a guy — and when to stroke his ego to build his confidence. In addition, the catcher needs to gain the pitcher’s confidence. When I look at those big slugging numbers, I wonder if the extra-base hits were due to Schneider calling a bad pitch, or the pitcher shaking off a pitch? We all remember that fateful NLCS game, when Guillermo Mota continually shook off Paul LoDuca; sometimes the catcher has the right idea, but the pitcher either doesn’t have confidence in the call, or doesn’t have confidence in himself to throw the pitch. Who is to blame in such a situation?

Assuming that Schneider returns to catch in 2009 — and all signs seem to point that way — I believe that the numbers cited above by RayRubin will improve, based on the fact that Schneider will have a better “feel” for his pitchers, and in turn, the pitchers will be more comfortable, and have more faith, in him. In short, NO — Brian Schneider does NOT stink — and the pitching staff can only improve with the continuity of Schneider behind the plate in 2009.

(Schneider has at least one more thing going for him — as of today, Martinez, Heilman, Wagner, and Vargas are not on the 2009 roster … so those terrible numbers can’t get any worse!)

******** Shout out to “isuzudude” for suggesting this subject *******

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Heilman for Street? Ha!

Joel Sherman’s latest claim is that the Mets offered Aaron Heilman to the Rockies in return for Huston Street, and then refused to make the deal when Colorado insisted on the addition of Pedro Feliciano.

This is so laughable on so many levels I don’t know where to start.

First of all, if the Mets thought another team would think so highly of Aaron Heilman, why didn’t they offer him straight up for Matt Holliday? After all, that’s basically what they were telling the Rockies — since Street was the centerpiece of the Holliday deal with the Athletics. If I was Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd, and Omar Minaya proposed Heilman for Street right after I obtained Street for my franchise player, I’d not only tell Omar to stick it, I’d never take another call from him. Yes, I understand that other players were sent to the Rockies, but Street is the guy who has the most value at this moment.

Even sillier is the idea that the Mets would balk at adding Feliciano to such an unrealistic deal. Are you kidding me? Last I checked, there were about a dozen LOOGYs available on the free-agent market, for cheap, who can do what Pedro Lite does.

While it’s true that Huston Street’s stock has plummeted somewhat, he’s still a 24-year-old with almost 100 big-league saves. No one gives away that type of asset for two middle relievers entering their 30s and coming off their worst seasons. Remember what the Mets received in return for the Turk Wendell / Dennis Cook package? Exactly.

Now, if the Mets offered Heilman plus Jon Niese plus another youngster, I might believe it. Or if they offered Heilman and Ryan Church, I’d consider it realistic.

Personally, you know I think Heilman is much better than what he showed in 2008. But his current street value is nowhere near what Sherman is suggesting.

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