Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Sunday, April 27, 2008
The Mets defeated the Atlanta Braves today 6-3 to take the series from their NL East rivals. Recap and box score is here.
Nelson Figueroa (2-1) got the win, going 5.1 innings giving up three runs on seven hits while walking three and striking out three. As the Mets fifth starter, he is doing just about everything you could ask. He is giving the Mets a decent chance to win every time he pitches, and has the ability to be very good at times. Interesting note on Figueroa: opponents are hitting just .094 against him his first time through the order. When Pedro comes back and Figueroa likely heads to the bullpen, this will probably come up again.
The Mets have been John Smoltz's little punching bag for most of his Hall of Fame career, but today New York got the better of Smoltz (3-2). Smoltz threw just four innings for the Braves, and though he struck out five batters, he surrendered four runs on seven hits and two walks. The Mets scored in the first inning when Jose Reyes trotted home from third following a puzzling wild pitch from Smoltz, and then added the next three runs in a Raul Casanova two-run home run in the second and Carlos Delgado's solo blast in the third. Smoltz obviously did not have his best stuff today, and the Mets took advantage early and often. With both Hampton and Glavine either on the DL or altogether ineffective, I harbor some serious concerns about the Braves' rotation. Chuck James and Jurrjens can only take you so far . . .
-Carlos Delgado had a big game, going 2-2 with two home runs and three runs scored, and raising his average to .205 on the year. This is a good sign for Mets fans, especially the fact that his first homer was to left field and his second was a bomb to right. Delgado has always puzzled me. He gets good at-bats, but he always seems to miss his pitch - he either fouls it off or misses it altogether. Let's see if he can put some good games and get some confidence, which may be his biggest problem.
- I tire of watching David Wright flail weakly at John Smoltz outside sliders. He might as well just concede an out before stepping to the plate ,and start saving his energy for pitchers he can actually hit.
- Great catch by Ryan Church in right-center field in the seventh inning. He caught it before running into the wall, leaping over Carlos Beltran in the process, and hanging onto the ball for the third out of the inning. Great effort is great to see, especially considering that the Braves would have trimmed the Mets slim two-run lead to one had Church not made the divine-like catch.
- Billy Wagner is a machine. Simply a machine. Ten scoreless innings to start the season, and just one hit off him that entire time. Aside from the I-give-up-leads-like-the-Dutch-build-dikes time bomb Aaron Heilman, the Mets bullpen has been pretty good so far, especially Joe Smith, Billy Wagner, Duaner Sanchez, and Pedro Feliciano (knock on wood).
Johan Santana (3-2) vs. Ian Snell (2-1) as the Mets start a three-game set with the Pittsburgh Pirates tomorrow night at Shea. It's just Santana's second home start of the year, as he lost his first to the homer happy Milwaukee Brewers.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Jorge Sosa (1-0) threw just one pitch in the game, retiring Pedro Feliz on a groundout. Because he was the last guy to pitch, he gets the win. Scott Shoeneweis is the real hero though. More on that later.
Tom Gordon (0-2) was cruising, retiring five batters in just thirteen pitches in the eleventh and twelfth innings, but then gave up a two-out double to Reyes and the game winner to Pagan.
-Maine was okay tonight, but I don't think he was quite as good as his line indicates. He went 6+ innings, giving up five hits and just one run, a homer by Pedro Feliz in the seventh. But he had just one strikout, and walked five hitters. I didn't think his slider was all that great, and he seemed very erratic, though his ball to strike ratio wasn't all that terrible(35 balls, 55 strikes). He didn't have his best stuff, but was in line for the win until Heilman let the Phillies tie it in the ninth. I think that really shows how far he's come as a pitcher: he can not have his best stuff, walk five and strike out just one, and not really have a great slider, yet still go over six innings, give up one run, and be in line for the win.
-Do you want the bad first or the good? Let's go with the bad. Aaron Heilman is really struggling. He gave up the lead in the top of the eighth inning, and just looked absolutely terrible doing it. He was booed off the field at the end of the inning, and though I don't usually condone booing anybody who wears a Mets uniform, I probably would have done the same thing if I were at Shea tonight. He's had a very slow start to the year, and if the Mets want him to be a set-up man for Billy Wagner, he REALLY needs to be a lot better than that.
We aren't even talking about being consistent yet; he just needs to be somewhat reliable. SNY took a vote at the during the game, asking which player would help the Mets most when he comes off the Disabled List: Pedro, Alou, El Duque, or Duaner Sanchez. The answer was Moises Alou, and that is probably the correct one, but I bet Sanchez got a lot of votes after that eighth inning.
-Aside from Heilman, the Mets bullpen was rather, dare I say it, phenomenal. In the seventh inning, after Maine gave up a home run to Pedro Feliz and a double to Chris Coste, Randolph removed Maine and replaced him with Pedro Feliciano. Feliciano had a rather mediocre outing last night, and it was pretty important for him to get in a groove pretty quickly with the top of the Phillies order due up. He walked Jason Werth on five pitches, and the tension screw around Shea Stadium tightened cruelly. But then he struck out Shane Victorino, Eric Bruntlett, and Chase Utley all in a row, the latter on a steady diet of deadly sliders. When Feliciano doesn't locate his slider, he becomes ineffective very quickly. But when he gets it over for strikes and gets hitters to chase after it, he is almost impossible to hit- especially for lefties.
-For the rest of the bullpen, Wagner pitched a scoreless ninth, Joe Smith was pretty good in the tenth, but put the Mets in a tough situation in the eleventh, when the Phils had runners on first and second and one out, with Chase Utley at the plate Ryan Howard on deck. Randolph did the only thing he could do in the situation, and went toleft-hander Scott Shoeneweis. Shoeneweis had recieved most of the blame for the loss on Tuesday, whether it was justified blame or not. But here, he got Utley to ground into an inning-ending double play, and retired Ryan Howard and So Taguchi to start the twelfth. They replaced him with Sosa only because Pedro Feliz is a right-handed hitter, and Sosa retired him on one pitch. Still, major kudos to Shoeneweis, whom every Mets fan and his brother has ripped for the last year. I admit that I have often fallen victim to this. But, to get some perspective, this is just one nice game. Let's see him sustain it.
-What has Angel Pagan not done for this ball club? Clutch walk-off single in the twelfth, but I just love how he goes the other way from the left side of the plate. He did it twice tonight, and both times got hits. He's been, as Gary Cohen put it on the SNY broadcast, a god-send for the Mets. Ron Darling noted that the only thing Pagan hadn't done for the Mets was hit a walk-off homer. Though he didn't do that, a walk-off hit is a walk-off hit, no matter how far it travels.
-By the way, it was nice to see Reyes smoke a double into the gap there to set up the game-winner by Pagan. That was a frozen rope to right-center. Hopefully he can keep it going into the next series, because as Ron Darling pointed out, the Mets won't be nearly as good as they can be unless #7 gets going.
Wow, I wrote a ton. That's what happens when you feed we malnourished Mets fans with a walk-off win over the Phillies. Ahh....
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
The Mets topped the Philadelphia Phillies this evening by a score of 8-2. Box score can be found here.Winning Pitcher:
Mike Pelfrey (1-0) stepped up big tonight for the Mets, going five strong innings of two-run ball, and most importantly, not giving into the pressure when the defense behind him made mistakes. He pounded the zone with his fastball and did a very nice job with his slider, impressing even Keith Hernandez, who commented on it during the game tonight.
It's not that Kyle Kendrick (1-1) was getting pounded- he gave up four hits in two and a third innings. Okay, that's not great, but not the kind of start you would think would not last past the third inning. The problem was he walked six batters and the defense committed four errors behind him. That usually leads to poor results. He gave up seven runs, just one of them earned, in his measly 2.1 innings of work.
-For scoring eight runs, the Mets offense really wasn't all that good. They only managed five hits for the game, getting just one hit after their six-run third inning. Reyes continues to struggle, and Wright took a tough 0-4 night, dropping his batting average pretty low. Oh-fors in April will do that to you. Delgado recorded one hit to continue his nice little streak here over the last few games. Maybe the guy will have a good year. Overall, the offense did well enough. Still, it would be nice to get some more consistency in the offense.
-I really like Pagan hitting second. It's really a nice thing to do when Castillo can't play.
-We were all calling for Feliciano yesterday, and he pitches today and gets hit around quite a bit. I'd love to see all the Willie haters deal with that one. At some point I'll post a long rant about how much I can't stand people who continually second-guess Willie Randolph, but school and other more important things beckon.
-Ultimately, this was a win over the Phillies, the Mets first since June 30th, 2007 (yes, that stat is correct). Was it ugly? Yes. Will the Mets take it? You betcha.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Saturday, April 5, 2008
The Mets were plastered 11-5 by the Atlanta Braves in Turner Field today. Game recap here.
-John Maine was not at his best today, going just four innings, giving up four runs all on 96 pitches. He often looked flustered and out of his niche. It wasn’t exactly the scintillating performance I was expecting in Maine’s first start, and we’ll see if he can get it together soon. With Pedro out, the Mets REALLY need Maine to be great.
-The Mets got the short end of very poor umpiring once again. On Wednesday night, it was the bad call that ruled Carlos Beltran’s home run a double, but that controversy was lost in the Mets 13-0 win. Today, however, in the top of the fifth with the bases loaded and one out, Jose Reyes hit a scalding line drive to centerfield, and the Braves’ fielder Mark Kotsay clearly trapped it beneath his body. The umpire, however, ruled that Kotsay had caught the baseball, and the Braves easily threw out Angel Pagan at second, who was running after seeing the ball hit the ground himself.
But Randolph argued the call passionately, and it was eventually overturned, but the Mets were given just one run, despite the fact that Pagan would have scored easily from second. Still, it was just an awful call.
-I swear, Gotay will really hurt us before the end of the season.
-The relief pitching was pretty bad, outside of Joe Smith. Jorge Sosa and Scott Schoeneweis were the worst, with Sosa giving up a grand slam to Kelly Johnson in the seventh inning, effectively putting the game out of reach. Uggh, shades of 2007. Get it together, guys.
-I’m ready to move on to tomorrow, and the exciting Santana-Smoltz matchup. I hate losing to the Braves, so let’s hope Santana can work his magic.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Oliver Perez (1-0) was fabulous, going six full innings and allowing no runs on just five hits with one walk and eight strikeouts. Not that it really mattered; come on, the Mets scored so many runs that Jose Lima would have earned a win tonight.
Andrew Miller (0-1), who was hammered by the Mets last season as a member of the Tigers organization, was once again shelled by the Amazin's. The youngster's line was 4.1 innings, eight hits, five runs, two walks, and six strikeouts.
-Oliver Perez looked really good tonight, and if he, Santana, and Maine can be relied on this season, that will go a long way in making up for Pedro's injury and any poor performance by a random fifth starter. I've begun to realize that when Perez is under control, doesn't try to overthrow, and throws his slider for strikes, he's pretty much unhittable.
-David Wright is the player of the game, even though I don't actually give those in my postgame recaps. I guess that tells you just how good he was tonight. He was 3-5 with two runs scored, a double, and three RBI's on a sixth-inning three-run homer. In fact, Wright's double would have been a home run in any other ballpark. So we should pretend that, along with last night, Wright actually has three home runs this season. Oh, and he also had two gold-glove worthy plays in the latter innings.
-Carlos Beltran had a home run unjustly changed to a double in the fifth inning. However, the guy also had two other doubles tonight, which gives him five for the year already. Keep raking, Carlos.
-Every starting position player had multiple hits tonight except Brian Schneider, who had two RBI's and a sacrifice fly. Seventeen hits. Two home runs and six doubles. Yeah, that's a lot of offense. We could have used some of these runs last September....oh no, don't do it...don't...think...about...it....
Day off on Thursday. John Maine open the Mets series in Atlanta on Friday night. More then.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
The Mets fell to the Marlins 5-4 in ten innings in Miami on Tuesday night.
Reliever Justin Miller (1-0) gets the win after pitching a scoreless top of the tenth. Not all that much more to say about him.
Matt Wise (0-1), after retiring the first two batters on impressive strikeouts, surrendered a walk-off home run to Robert Andino in the bottom of the tenth inning. He just hung a change-up and Andino took him deep. Don’t get too angry with Wise for this one; it’s just one of those things.
-Pedro wasn’t terrible. He just really struggled locating his fastball early, as both homers came off of fat fastballs. Pedro told SNY’s Kevin Burghart that he felt his hamstring “pop” in the fourth, and that he will be going to New York tomorrow to have an MRI. Hamstring problem= not good because it will never go away. This will be a persistent issue. We all expected this, just not this early in the year. Get well soon, Pedro. We really need you.
-Major props to the bullpen. Jorge Sosa came into the game after Pedro was hurt and pitched 2.2 scoreless innings. Then Schoeneweis and Smith combined for a perfect seventh, and Aaron Heilman was phenomenal in throwing a scoreless eighth and ninth. Even losing pitcher Matt Wise looked great on the first two batters, striking out the first two hitters on change-ups, but he just hung the last change and Robert Andino hit it out. It’s just unfortunate that the Mets offense couldn’t contribute quite enough, and they couldn’t claim the win. But that doesn’t change how well those three guys (Smith, Show, and Heilman) pitched.
-When will the no-names quit plaguing the Mets? I mean, come on, Robert Andino? He sounds like a career minor leaguer.
-No Met really stood out offensively other than Brian Schneider, who was 3 for 4 with a RBI and a walk. Everyone got a hit except for Beltran, but only Schneider recorded multiple hits.
-Oh, where are you Gary Cohen, Ron Darling, and Keith Hernandez? These Marlin announcers are so annoying. We’re in the middle of an extra inning game and they are ripping the Shea Stadium broadcast booth. You know, the Mets ARE building a new ballpark for that very reason…
-Carlos Beltran recorded his first assist of the season, throwing out Dan Uggla at second after Uggla tried to stretch a bloop single into a double.
-David Wright hit a bomb to deep centerfield in the top of the ninth which would have been out of every ballpark in the National League except this one, San Diego, and maybe San Francisco. Arghh….
-This loss isn’t all that aggravating. The offense was okay, the pitching was great except for the first two innings from Pedro and one poor pitch from Wise. This loss would be very tolerable if Pedro wasn’t hurt in the game. Now this puts the Mets in a really tough spot in the rotation way earlier than we were hoping to deal with it.
Oliver Perez (0-0) vs. Andrew Miller(0-0). The Mets need to start the season off with a series victory. And they need to rest their bullpen, which pitched six and a third innings tonight. They could use a big start from Perez.
The Mets are tied with the Marlins 4-4 in the bottom of the eighth, but Aaron Heilman just gave up a leadoff walk. Uh-oh, it's last year all over again.
Monday, March 31, 2008
Johan Santana (1-0) was solid in his much-anticipated Mets debut, going seven full innings while giving up two earned runs on three hits. The only runs scored were off of Josh Willingham's two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth. He walked two and struck out eight.
Mark Hendrickson (0-1) looked okay for the first three innings, but had the ceiling fall in on him in the fourth, where he gave up six runs. He pitched five full innings, giving up six runs on seven hits while walking three and striking out two. He was less than impressive. Let's hope for the Marlins sake that they aren't counting on him to be their number one guy this season.
-So much for my speculation about the Mets potential long relievers. Both candidates I listed yesterday, Matt Wise and Jorge Sosa, pitched in relief in the eighth inning of this game. Wise spread two hits around an out to start the inning, while Scott Schoeneweis and Sosa cleaned up the mess by each recording an out.
I wonder who the Mets will turn to in the event of a poor start. Maybe they won't have a specific long reliever's role as they have the past two years with Aaron Sele last year and Darren Oliver in 2006. Perhaps they are planning to share the load here. Stay tuned. Hey, maybe we won't need a long reliever all year long because our starters will go seven innings each start!
- Santana was pretty good today. His fastball maxed out at 93 mph, I think, which is good for the beginning of the season, and his change-up was around 80, which is normal. Apart from the home run in the fourth, Santana was superb. He wasn't overworked either, as he threw an even 100 pitches, 68 of them for strikes. If he can give the Mets starts like this all year long, it's going to make it very difficult for the Mets to go into prolonged slumps. At least I hope so.
-The Mets' bats were pretty good today, at least for one inning. They scored seven runs off of ten hits in the ballgame. Jose Reyes and David Wright were 2 for 4, while Carlos Beltran went 2 for 5. Angel Pagan, Ryan Church, and Jose Reyes all had run-scoring hits in the six-run fourth, while David Wright smacked a three-run double in the same inning. Marlon Anderson, who had a pinch-hit single in the ninth, went to second on a Reyes bunt, advanced to third on a Matt Lindsrom wild pitch, and scored on catcher Matt Treanor's throwing error when he tried to throw Anderson out at third following the wild pitch (I know that's a horrible sentence, but this is a blog. Come on.)
Carlos Delgado went 0 for 3 while Brian Schneider went 0 for 4. No surprises there. These two guys are going to be liabilities offensively for most of the year. That's okay for Schneider, who was brought in for his defense, but that's not okay for Delgado. The sad thing is that he is the highest-paid player on the team for this season. Ouch.
- The Mets hit four doubles today, two from both Carlos Beltran and David Wright, and Angel Pagan recorded an RBI on his fourth-inning double.
-Both Jose Reyes and David Wright were caught stealing.
-Aaron Heilman pitched a perfect ninth, striking out two in the process. The Mets need him to be good this year, and this is a very good start.
I love wins like these. It's just a comfortable, solid-in-all-aspects cruiser.
Pedro Martinez vs. Rick VandenHurk. I bet Endy Chavez gets the start in left...
Oh, and don't expect me to post like this after every game. I do have a life, you know.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Monday, 3.31 4:10 EST
Johan Santana (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Mark Hendrickson (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Tuesday, 4.1 7:10 EST
Pedro Martinez (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Rick VandenHurk (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Wednesday, 4.2 7:10 EST
Oliver Perez (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Andrew Miller (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
-This is the first series of the year for both teams.
-Johan Santana, Mark Hendrickson, and Andrew Miller will be making their first starts for their respective teams.
-The Mets begin the season with Moises Alou, Duaner Sanchez, Orlando Hernandez, Ramon Castro, and Jose Valentin among the notables on their 15-day disabled list.
- The Marlins pitching has been decimated by injuries the beginning of this year. Starter Anibal Sanchez, projected for the rotation this year, is on the 15-day DL, while starter Josh Johnson is on the 60-day DL, along with reliever Henry Owens. With Dontrelle Willis now a Detroit Tiger, Scott Olsen has become the most reliable starter in the rotation. That is a very bad sign for the Fish. He won’t be pitching in this series, however, due to spring training schedules. Nothing personal against the guy, but when Mark Hendrickson is starting Opening Day, you know your team is in trouble. This Marlins team could be really bad this year. Hanley Ramirez is all they’ve got.
-The Nationals beat the Braves tonight 3-2 with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth by Ryan Zimmerman. The Braves are in last place.
And there was much rejoicing.
-Meanwhile, the Nats are in first place. Enjoy it, fellas. On another note, Milledge and Lo Duca went a combined 0-7, and L-Millz looked particularly bad waving at Tim Hudson’s sliders. We made the right decision, it would seem.
-It feels good to be back, doesn't it? Let's get it started! Aaand...
Let's Go Mets!
The temperature is rising, and the March calender on your refrigerator is almost completely covered in X's. Yep, it's time to put away that snow shovel, my friend, and pull out that Johan Santana jersey you just bought. It's baseball season, and after last year, it couldn't have come too quickly. The Mets look a little different, but not to fear! With the season starting tomorrow, everything you need to know about the 2008 installment of Casey's Amazin's is laid out below for your reading pleasure.
2008 Preview: Pitching
To be fair, I really liked Tom Glavine, and I thought people were way too hard on him after the Florida game last year. It's going to be really difficult to replace 200 innings, no matter how ineffective and uninspiring he was at times. Anyone who pitches like Glavine did most of last year is a valuable commodity.
But, the Mets are definitely better in the pitching rotation than they were a year ago. Obviously, Santana is as improvement from Glavine if you want to view it like that, a healthy Pedro is better than an unhealthy one, and Oliver Perez and John Maine will hopefully be more consistent than they were last season.
Maine has said that his goal is to pitch 200 innings, and if he does that he will win at least 15 games and likely be the de facto #2 guy in the rotation. That is a definite improvement from last year's Maine. I'm not sure they will ever get much more from Perez than they did last year, as I think 15 wins is the absolute ceiling for him, so the Mets need him to just pitch like last season. The Mets simply can't afford to rely on Pedro Martinez this year, so they just need him to stay healthy and just be there. If he does this, his experience alone is good for about 10 wins, I would think. Expect Pedro to be around that range- really good sometimes, and really bad others. But if he's healthy, he's tough. That's just the way he is.
As for O.M.V.E.G., Santana will dominate. Mark it down. He will win 15 games easily, probably more like 17-20. This is only the second lefty pitcher ever to be traded or sold under the age of 30 with a winning percentage of .650 or better. The other was Babe Ruth. You're talking about a guy who is in his prime, moving from the American League to the National League (where there are fewer great lineups and no D.H.), and is on a strong hitting team with good defense, a decent bullpen, and a reliable closer. He has a history of great pitching, he is in a vintage pitchers park, and he knows exactly what he's doing out there. He is also a lefty in a weak division who's great hitters, with Wright and Beltran on the Mets and Miguel Cabrera in Detroit, are all lefties or switch hitters (with the notable exception of Hanley Ramirez). Throw in the fact that he loves his teammates, and reportedly likes New York, and Santana is in for a special year.
If Santana can be a true ace, Pedro can stay healthy, Maine can pitch 200 innings, and Perez can repeat last year's performance, then all the Mets need from their fifth starter, likely Orlando Hernandez with Mike Pelfrey failing to impress in the spring, is for him to be servicable. El Duque has a new wind-up to take pressure of his injured foot (oh, how we'll miss the pure sweetness of the Duke's old leg kick), and although it seemed to be completely unhelpful at first, he seemed okay in his last spring start. Hernandez is not going to pitch 130 innings this year, but they need him to be reasonably serviceable when he is on the mound. He's not going to be healthy all season long, either, so they also need Pelfrey to be flexible, and decent when he pitches this season. I predict that Pelfrey will start the season as the fifth starter while Hernandez continues to prepare for the season on the Disabled List. If Pelfrey is solid for the time he has, it will give the Mets six good pitchers and five open spots - a very good problem to have in the rotation. But if Pelfrey fails to impress, which is far more likely, El Duque will take the spot when he can and hopefully be slightly better than bad. Really, if everything else goes right, that's all they need from the fifth spot in the rotation.
The bullpen will be interesting. Aaron Heilman was once again not traded this off-season, despite persistent rumors about his market value. Believe it or not, I think this will really benefit the Mets in the long run. Heilman is a solid bullpen pitcher, and although he seems to be a perennial butt of every Met fan's joke, he is the best they've got. Heilman needs to be reliable, and give up fewer home runs than he did last year. He will likely be the Mets' setup man, unless Duaner Sanchez really pitches well early on.
The Mets lost long man Aaron Sele, which is probably better said as the Mets finally got rid of long man Aaron Sele. However, no matter how useful he was (which he wasn't really), they still need to replace him. There are two likely candidates for long reliever on the roster: Jorge Sosa and Matt Wise. Sosa pitched well from the bullpen at times last year, and I would think they would rather have Sosa pitch in critical situations in the sixth and seventh innings, so I would put my money on Wise as the Mets long man. Wise enjoyed some really good years with the Brewers, but he is not all that great. He could thrive in the long man's role, though. And if Pelfrey does well, I could envision either Hernandez or even Pelfrey taking over here. On second thought, never mind about Pelfrey. He's painful enough as a starter.
The Mets have two left-handed specialists in the bullpen, and both of them had their up and downs last year. Pedro Feliciano was more up than down, and Scott Schoenweis was more down than up. But they each had their moments of blowing the game in the eighth inning, so let's view them equally to spare ourselves the argument. These are guys who will have to come into the game in critical situations to face guys like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Mark Teixeira, and Prince Fielder, so they obviously have to be somewhat reliable. Because of his ridiculous first half of the season, Feliciano's numbers were slightly skewed by the end of the year. You know, if he had a 1.00 ERA in one month, and has a overall 3.00 ERA the next month, it doesn't look so bad. But that is because no one thinks about the fact that he has a 5.00 ERA in the month itself. So I think he got a bit more credit than he deserved, considering how poorly he pitched at the end of the year. Schoenweis is the exact opposite. He pitched so badly the first two months, nobody really bothered to pay attention when he actually started doing a pretty good job. And when they would start to notice, he would lay another stinker. The guy has a career ERA in the 5.00 range, so don't expect too much from him. A salmon can't be a shark, no matter how hard he tries.
Joe Smith made the team at the last minute, but that is only because Duaner Sanchez is not quite ready and everyone else was really bad. As soon as Sanchez is healthy, I expect Smith to go down south and work on his consistency. Don't forget about this kid, though. He's got a lot of talent.
As for Sanchez, the Mets really need him to pitch well, but don't hold your breath. He hasn't pitched for two years, and I'm not sure he will ever regain the success he enjoyed in 2006. He lost a lot more in that taxi accident in Miami than we originally thought.
Billy Wagner is the closer. He's lost some heat over the last couple years, but he still throws somewhere from 96-98. Add in there a devastating slider and a brand new change-up he's developed in the off-season, and Wagner will be fresh and new. Whether that will lead to saves remains to be seen. Stay tuned.
2008 Preview: Batting Order
1. SS Jose Reyes
Everybody and his brother knows about how Jose Reyes struggled at the end of last year, and almost as many people have proposed ideas as to why he struggled. But if you want my opinion, which you clearly do because you're still reading my stuff, Reyes struggled because he plays baseball. Everybody goes through slumps, everybody slaves through periods where they couldn't hit a beach ball if they had to. What is unfortunate is that Jose Reyes went through his slump at the time he did. When the Mets needed him the most, Reyes was playing his worst. And nobody is more upset about that fact than Reyes himself. So he has taken radical steps toward remedying the problems. He's going to focus on baseball, he says, which to him means to stop focusing on other things that don't have much to do with baseball. This means goodbye to all the dugout dances and complicated high-fives with each player. Reyes is a-changin'. From the man himself:
I'm going to slow down with that a little bit. I'm going to focus a little more on baseball. A lot of people say with the handshakes, the other team can get mad. People say that because of the way we finished last year.
So Reyes will be a bit more serious, a bit more composed, a bit more predictable, and hopefully a bit better in the process. He's better be, because he's going to be a lot less fun.
2. 2B Luis Castillo
Castillo came to the Mets at the trade deadline last year and gave fans a nice picture of what it looks like to have two spark plugs at the top of your batting order. Unfortunately, that picture went all Dorian Gray on us and turned very ugly very quickly as soon as Reyes started popping out on first pitches and Castillo started hobbling around the basepaths. Castillo was worked on in the offseason, and the Mets hope he will be able to be healthy all season long. If he is, the Mets will be the better for it. Castillo is like a second leadoff hitter in the lineup, so in the times when Reyes gets out to start off an inning (rare, I know), Castillo will be there to do the same type of thing Reyes did, but ideally better. He brings solid defense and a veteran presence the Mets can certainly use. Oh, and he knows all about Johan Santana, because they played together in Minnesota.
3. 3B David Wright
There wasn't really anyone better than David Wright last year. He had a 30-30 season, won the Silver Slugger, won the Gold Glove, and had a phenomenal year in just about every sense of the word except one. His team missed the playoffs. Wright has no business taking any kind of personal responsibility for the mess that was September, because he played so well throughout the entire second half of the season. However, Wright has also become something of the team leader, though he rejects this label, which makes him even more worthy of it. I'm not one for sentimentality (actually I am, but let's pretend I'm not), but Wright has been just about everything any Met fan could dream of. Let's see if he can put another superb year together, and perhaps even win an MVP award, though he would tell you he's much more interested in World Series trophy. If the team were to win one, I guarantee that Wright would have a critical role to play in getting it.
4. CF Carlos Beltran
Carlos Beltran is quiet. He is reserved. He doesn't really say anything controversial to the media. Heck, he hardly talks to the media, and when he does, he's a human platitude. So there was surprise galore when Beltran declared on the first day of spring training that the Mets were "the team to beat". Mets fans say that this is unveiling a killer instinct in the Mets that they didn't have last year, thus pretty much guaranteeing a National League pennant, while other fans say that he is full of himself not all that original in using Jimmy Rollins' phrase from last spring. Beltran acts like he's ready to take a leadership role, so we'll see what happens. Beltran started last season off really strong, but he tapered off toward the middle of the year. The Mets really need him to be more consistent and to stay healthy if they are to make good on his words.
5. OF Moises Alou
Sure, he's always hurt, but when he is healthy, the dude can flat-out rake. He'll start the season on the disabled list, so Spring Training sensation Angel Pagan will start in left and likely platoon with Endy Chavez if Alou is out for a long period of time. The Mets need his right-handed bat to counterbalance the three lefties that follow him in the batting order, so Alou needs to get healthy soon and stay healthy. The Mets would love to get 120 games out of him, but a realistic expectation for Alou is that he will probably not even play 100. But as long as the Mets reach the playoffs and he is healthy for the series they play in, Mets brass will ask for no more from the guy. He's just one of those people who can step to the plate, flip a switch, and start swinging. And that's always good to have, no matter how rarely.
6. 1B Carlos Delgado
I don't think there is any question that Carlos Delgado is at the twilight of his career. He is struggling with constant injuries, and he has seemingly lost the ability to turn on the inside fastball. It is unlikely that the Mets will resign him at the end of this season, and it is altogether possible that the first baseman could retire at the end of the year. But Delgado has every intention of playing well this year, and the Mets could really use his bat. In 2006, Delgado showed that he had the ability to carry the team at times, especially in the playoffs. Last year, however, Delgado proved that he has lost that ability. The key is that Delgado simply has to adapt. He is never again going to be the superstar slugger that we saw in Toronto, and the sooner he realizes this fact, the more useful he's going to be. He needs to focus on hitting in the .270, 25 homer, 90 RBI range. If he can provide this, and perhaps just a fit more, perhaps 30 homers, he will have played his part. To expect for from this aging star is simply asking too much.
7. OF Ryan Church
Ryan Church came to the Mets in the Lastings Milledge trade, and I think that it was a pretty good deal for the Mets. They got both a starting right fielder and a starting catcher (Brian Schneider), and all for the price of a once-touted prospect who never lived up to his potential and, with all the outfielders who play for the Mets, was rather replaceable. Church is more consistent than Milledge (and less controversial), and just plain better than Shawn Green in so many ways. His acquisition allows Endy Chavez to serve as the team's fourth outfielder, a spot he thrives in. Church is your quintessential doubles hitter, a guy who loves to aim toward the gaps and fire away. He's got some pop, but that is his specialty. He is a young guy who has a bright future ahead of him as a Met if he can perform this season. Again, all they need from him is a .275-.285 batting average, lots of doubles, solid defense, and the ability to hit lefties at least a little bit.
8. C Brian Schneider
He's not much of a hitter, but defensively, Brian Schneider is as good as they come. If we still lived in the baseball era where that great catcher were always good defensively, but not necessarily offensively, he would have been a very well respected player. Although this is an area the average fan doesn't really understand, Schneider is very good with the pitchers. He works well with all of them, and he will make every one of them better. No, he's not going to remind anyone here of Mike Piazza, but that's not what this team needs. They have plenty of bats. They need a guy who can play great defense, throw runners out, and be a reliable battery mate for them pitcher. Schneider does this better than anyone else in the business.
The bench for the Mets is deep again this year, but I spoke about most of them in my previous post, so I won't take up more space than I already have. I will say that Fernando Tatis will not be on the team, as young outfielder Brady Clark beat him out for the final spot on the roster. We'll see how that works out. Enjoy the season, everyone!
Saturday, March 29, 2008
If you want a quick rundown of last season, here it is... it sucked. Every minute of the last two weeks, except for one bright ray of hope named John Maine on Game 161, was pure cruel and unusual punishment for us Mets fans. I've come close to getting over it, considering the fact that the most notable off-season occurance not only for the Mets but all of baseball was the acquisition of ace Johan Santana- henceforth known as Our Mutual Venezuelan Expression of Genius-ness (seriously, that probably won't last long), but even the man hailed as the true Messiah by Jewish Mets fans can't completely dissolve that horri-awful taste in my (proverbial) mouth. It was a season to forget, and hopefully, O.M.V.E.G. can help us do just that.
There are a couple other notable off-season moves worthy of note. Tom Glavine is back where he belongs, and where he really wanted to be all along- Atlanta. So gone is one lefty. But the Mets did get Johan Santana, arguably the best pitcher of the 21st Century. So, yeah, I'll take that deal.
Gone: Guillermo Mota, Shawn Green, Lastings Milledge, Paul Lo Duca, Ruben Gotay, Jeff Conine, Aaron Sele, and Tom Glavine.
"Please Don't Screw Up" New Guys: Angel Pagan, Brady Clark, Ryan Church, Brian Schneider, Matt Wise, O.M.V.E.G.
Hooray! for Resigning These Guys:
- Luis Castillo
Sure, he wasn't always reliable, but he was a big help for the Mets most of the time with the club last year. Now that he is healthy, he should be really valuable right behind Reyes in the #2 hole. He's not as good defensively as he used to be, but he's still very solid.
Not always healthy, but the dude flat-out raked when he was. It was an easy decision to give him another year, even if he doesn't play 100 games this season.
Pretty good back-up catcher, though the Mets knew from the beginning that he could be relied on as the main guy. But he's got a lot of pop in his bat and he gets along well with the pitchers. If Schneider happens to go down for periods of time, Castro is a good choice to fill in for a little while. If he's healthy, that is (theme, anyone?).
As clutch as they come. It was really sad when he hurt his ankle in August last season, but he is a ridiculously valuable utility player who is a great pinch hitter.
Did I say that Easley was clutch? Marlon Anderson was even more so in limited time last year. It seemed like every big hit he got was erased by an inept bullpen at year's end, but he was so good last season. He can play infield or outfield, and he can play first base as well. With Carlos Delgado's career hanging on a string, that's nice to have.
Other Off-season Notes
-The Mets decided that they weren't old enough, so they dumped Ruben Gotay, who was incidentally picked up by the Braves and is guaranteed to kill the Mets with a walk-off grand slam at some point this season, and replaced him with the ancient utility player Fernando Tatis. I jest, but this is probably a good move for the Mets. Gotay was a below average defensive infielder at best, he had no ability to play in the outfield, and he really struggled hitting lefties. Tatis plays solid defense (on second thought, so does Jose Valentin), can play in the outfield, hits lefties reasonably well, and has more experience that Gotay. But Tatis is older, and is good for at least a stint on the D.L., if not banishment to New Orleans AAA ball club or waiver-land.
-Kevin Mulvey, Doelis Gurrera, Phil Humber, and Carlos Gomez are gone. This is sad, sure, but for O.M.V.E.G., I would have given any single player short of Wright, Reyes, or Beltran. Humber wasn't going anywhere, and Gomez was nice, but far too raw. Mulvey and Gurrera were good talents, but who knows how they'll turn out. The key is that the Mets kept Fernando Martinez, their top prospect who played pretty well this spring. Oh, and he's 18 years old. But you know about him, or you wouldn't be reading this blog.
That's it for now. Season preview coming tomorrow.