Friday, March 30, 2007

LADIES & GENTLEMEN, YOUR 2007 N.Y. METS (PART II)

Today, I look at Pitching (Part I, The Hitters, here).

That half inning when, according to the rules of baseball, the Mets must lay down their bats, step onto the field, and allow one of the old men, young boys, or eccentric Mexicans to throw the ball with all his might homeward, in hope that the ball doesn't fly back over his head, clearing the fence after it passes.

Or tear his rotator cuff on the follow through.

Yes indeed folks, it's the wacky Met pitching staff, Version 2.0. No Lima Time!, no Trashcan, no Oil of Alay, no Killer Zambie, no Jorge Julio. But entering stage left, may I introduce this year's members of the "Oh Shit" Squad: Chan Ho Park, Ambiorix "The Amburglar" Burgos, Aaron Sele, and Guillermo Mota. It's gonna be fun.

Not to mention, Pedro's on the DL until summer at the earliest; El Duque will be on the DL as of May 1 at the latest; Oliver Perez, our number 4 starter, has compiled ERAs of 5.85, 6.63, and 6.38 in three stints over the past two seasons; and Scott Kazmir is still on the Devil Rays.

(I mentioned that Pedro's on the DL, right? Ok.)

Whew. But . . . I'm a big believer in John Maine, Tom Glavine's gunning for his 300th win, the bullpen still looks pretty good to me, and the Phillie's starters may yield 300 home runs pitching half their games in Citizens Bandbox. Freddie Garcia, alone, looks to be the best candidate in 20 years to knock Burt Blyleven from the top of the "Homers Yielded In A Season" list. And don't even get me started with the Braves starters.

The Mets starters aren't that good either, but they're good enough. Let's look closer, shall we?

1. Tommy Strikezone. 41 years-old, 290 career wins, one ring, more NLCS appearences than Joe Buck & Tim McCarver combined, and a bag of savvy large enough to hold every weird arm angle pitch David Cone & Luis Tiant ever threw. He'll be fine.

After a great start last season, Tommy G struggled a bit in June and July. But he came on strong at the end, making six starts in September, K'ing 29 and walking only 9 in 37+ IP, while winning three times. Then, as everyone besides Albert Pujols knows, he pitched very well in the post-season.

(And you know what? Fuck Albert Pujols.)

I think Glavine'll pitch well early on, gunning for 300. He may dip hard come August due to fatigue and post-Hall Of Fame Clincher Syndrome, but if Willie rests him a bit in the second half, he should be ok come stretch drive and post-season.

Prediction: 187 IP, 4.16 ERA, 118 K, 58 BB.

2. El Duque: I see no reason that he won't pitch pretty well . . . when he pitches. But how often will he actually take the mound? Despite what his baseball card says, he's 73 years-old. He has arthritis. Last season he pitched 162+ innings, his highest total since 2000! His IP figures since 2000? 94+, 146, DNP, 84+, 128+, 162+. I'd figure him for about 125 innings, max. Expecting any more is a sucker's game.

As for his performance, he pitched well last year, going 9-7 with a 4.09 ERA and 112 Ks in 116+ IP for the Mets. He also pitched well in '02 and '04, though not so well in '05 and the brief stint with the D-Backs early last year.

Prediction: 125 IP, 4.31 ERA, 117 K, 52 BB.

3. Johnnie Maine: The pitching key, as far as starters go. I think he's gonna be good. He throws strikes, he works quickly, we saw last October that he can handle pressure, and when he's on, he's very good. He gives up too many long balls, but I'd rather a guy give up some dingers than walk guys and fall behind in the count every other at-bat.

His numbers last year were strong: 71 Ks & 33 BBs in 90 IP. He averaged just under 6 IPs per start, which I think will, and must, improve this year. I'm expecting him to make the leap. If he doesn't, I don't think it spells disaster, but if he does, it's a real bonus until Pedro comes back or Omar deals for someone.

Prediction: 206 IP, 3.54 ERA, 163 K, 68 BB. With good run support and good bullpen help, that can translate to 15-18 wins. I'm thinking big.

(Or maybe I'm just out of my mind. Roll with me, will you.)

4. Oliver Perez: Coop's gonna kill me, but I think we're all getting juuuuust a bit too excited about this fella. He really showed me something last October (and not only that he's a bit crazy), and there's no reason he won't improve from the disaster of the past two seasons. Better coaching, a good ballpark for a power pitcher, good outfield defense (Endy better be in the field when Oliver hurls, or the fans will be hurling as they watch Green and Alou slip, slide and fumble their way around, chasing after line drives into the gaps), and a catcher in LoDuca who'll hopefully get him to take something off the ball and throw strikes.

That said, he's been absolutely atrocious the past two years: 138 walks in 215+ innings. The 199 Ks are good, but not really outstanding, especially with the ghastly BB totals. And you want real ugly? He yielded 33 homers over that span. And if not for Endy's heroics, it would have been one more really big one in October (by the way, anyone other than me think that Aaron Heilman hates Endy Chavez?)

Anyhow, Ollie's our guy, I think he'll make his starts, and I think he'll last the season. He'll be great at times, awful other times, and hopefully the bats and the gloves will tip the balance in his favor.

Prediction: 176 IP, 4.72 ERA, 166 K, 79 BB.

5. Mike Pelfrey: Rookie starters'll break your heart. They've sent home more grown men with tears in their eyes than a double feature of Shawshank Redemption and Brian's Song screened in an onion factory. They will just friggin kill you. Every once in a while you get a Gooden, or a Valenzuela, or a Koosman, or a Mark Fidrich. But more often you get Paul Wilson or Tim Leary. And there are dozens of non-Met rookie flops too. Go look up the rookie seasons of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, or John Smoltz. It ain't pretty.

The lesson here is basically this: if you go into the season needing solid production from a rookie starter, you're rolling the dice. May as well start hitting on 12 every hand. You'll catch some 7s, 8s, & 9s, but over time, You Will Bust.

That said, he's the best pick for number 5 starter. He's better at this point than Park, or Sele, or Dave Williams. He's more ready than Philip Humber. And his name is neither Lima, nor Zambrano, nor Soler. So give him a shot. His minor league numbers last year at A and AA were dominant, striking out 103 in 88+, while walking only 28. Late in the season at AAA and the majors, however, he K'd only 19 in 29+, while walking 17. Is he ready? Who knows? But he's starting, and that's that. Especially with El Duque doing his annual puque sooner than later.

Prediction: 147 IP, 4.66 ERA, 126 K, 68 BB.

Now, the reason it'll all be ok in the end: The Pen. Let's start by saying two things, and then I won't have to say 'em again: Losing Duaner Sanchez isn't that huge a loss, and I hate Billy Wagner.

{Ducks garbage & debris}

Sanchez was great in April last year, and quite good in the brief stint between his weird pinched nerve problem and his late-night munchies. But in May and June he wasn't good: ERA way over 4.00, a poor 19/14 K/BB ratio in 27+. For the season he struck out 44 and walked 24 in 55+ innings. If this is the "best set-up man in the NL," as I've heard so many Met fans saying, I'd hate to see the middle-of-the-road set-up men.

He wasn't even the best set-up man on his own team (but more on my man, AH, in a bit).

And with Wagner, we know three things: a couple horror show blown saves, probably early in the season before he gets his heat; otherwise dominant regular season stats (aka, "A Benitez") as he dominates the poor sisters of the league; and cover-your-eyes, oh-my-god-this-isn't-happening meltdowns in big October games. Deal with it, that's what we got.

Hey, those dominant saves all season long add up to wins. That's important. Gotta win the easy games in baseball. No other way. But for the price, and the brouhaha, and the idiotic quotations, I wish we had a guy that cost less, and did 4/5 the job. Like Aaron Heilman, but more on him later.

Briefly, each pitcher in the pen:

Schoeneweis: I'm not seeing it, but what do I know? His lifetime ERA over more than 800 innings is 5.01. The number of seasons as a reliever in which he's recorded an ERA under 4.50 is two (don't even look at his starters numbers. Willie McGee's face while having an orgasm isn't as ugly as Schoeneweis' starting numbers). And those two under-4.50 seasons as a reliever? 3.96 & 3.32.

In other words, he's actually been good once in his career, as a LOOGY tossing 57 innings for the Blue Jays in '05. And how good was this goodness? Not very: a 1.39 WHIP with the 3.32 ERA.

I don't expect much from him. Hopefully Pedro Dos can repeat last season. Not likely to be quite as good, but I think it'll be ok.

I don't really know anything about Joe Smith, so what can I say? Seriously. I know he throws sidearm, real hard. Last year ChadBrad threw underhand, sort of average speed. Worked out ok. Pitching in Shea can really cover up a multitude of sins. I think he'll do ok.

Burgos, Mota, & Park, PC. Two Dominicans and a Korean. Between them I expect we'll get a lot of strikeouts, a huge number of homers yielded, some great stretches, some nightmarish ones, at least one syringe filled with an illegal substance, some sofrito, a jar of kimchi, and lots of fans based solely on their ethnicity (Shawn Green understands). I'm cool with that; NYC baby!

Once again, these are the types of pitchers who can rise to the occasion in Shea, where the ball stays in the yard, the awful lighting and hitting background turns straight 95 MPH heat into Ks, and the homestyle cooking makes 'em feel all good inside. Mota won't be available til May or June, but he'll be in this mix come that time.

Again, what do know?

Aaron Heilman: Along with Maine, my favorite Met pitcher. Dude was a fucking swaggering gunslinger last fall. Post all-star break: 37+, 25 H, 11 BB, 33K. Lights out. In the postseason: 7+, 6 hits, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts.

And no, I'm not deliberately ignoring it. I watched the game. Of course. I stared dumbfounded & shocked as that slack-jawed, sneering, round-bodied piece of crap rounded the bases. I know, I know. Heilman gave up a homer to a .216 (!) hitter who got hot in the post-season. Molina went on to hit over .400 in the World Series! Was the homer a bad result? Yeah. Is it "on" Heilman? Yeah. But you'd rather have Duaner Sanchez pitching the 8th inning this year?

You're nuts. We're in good hands here. I'm figuring on an ERA in the 3.00 range, with a WHIP of about 1.10. 8-9 K/9 and a K/BB around 2.5-3 to 1. I'd say he's good for 85-100 innings, though I'd like to see it settle in around 90.

Billy Wagner: Yeah, I know I said I hate him, but he's gonna save us a lot of regular season games. Too many walks, too many singles on 0-2 counts with 2 outs in one-run games (arrrgh!), two many "Will you please stop talking" quotations about the Phils, or the Yanks, or other things he shouldn't be yapping about. No doubt. And killer, walk-off homers from time-to-time.

But the fact remains, the Mets bats will bring a lot of leads in to the 8th inning. And Heilman & Wagner are gonna bring most of those leads home. Will they blow a few? Of course. They may not even be the best tandem in the NL in that regard. But they'll protect most of them, and if someone among Burgos, Mota (when he returns), or Park steps up, then the last third of the game is shortened.

And Omar is bound to make some moves along the way.

As to Wagner, gotta bank on an ERA somewhere between 2.00 and 3.00, with a WHIP around 1.00. Maybe 70 IP with 85-90 Ks and 20-25 BBs. Too many of the latter, but he'll be nibbling in April when he can't get the heater over 93 MPH. Figure he'll blow 5-7 saves, most of them in gut-wrenching fashion. That's how it goes. Rather have Tom Gordon?

* * *
So whadda we got here? One of the NL's best offenses (though the raw numbers will be tempered by Shea, plus games in DC and in Florida, also pitchers parks), solid defense, a strong bullpen, and average-at-best starters. I'm going with 90 wins, which I think will be enough to take the NL East, though not by as comfortable a margin as last year.

I think the Phils, Braves and Marlins will all be over .500, jockeying for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place (and a Wild Card slot) with somewhere in the 83-88 win range. We should have ourselves a battle this year, folks.

Should be fun.

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8 Comments:

Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

Did I mention I hate "pop-ups"?

So we are not that far off in totals. What's 6 wins when I am going to be right?

Wags will be better. I think the new pitch, assuming he sprinkles it in a bit (go away Mr. Maddux, not that type of sprinkling), will keep hitters honest.
I too like Herr Midol. I think he knows his role now, and is gonna excel.
Don't forget, we have Mota coming back too.

Oh, and Coop is gonna go medieval on your ass for bashing OP.

Sunday can't come soon enough.

Goddamn ESPN is showing Women's College Semi's, so I can't watch our boys make TLR drink on the bench in glorious HD. The game is on the Duece.

10:46 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

My site's been generating pop-ups lately, hasn't it? Damn, I gitta figure out how to get rid of that crap.

"Herr Midol" is a good one.

And I didn't "bash" OP. In fact, I've predicted he'll shave two runs off his ERA. If that looks like bashing, check out what I said about Schoeneweis.

10:56 AM  
Blogger Coop said...

Mike, last I checked, I was the only who was getting "excited" about Oh Pea. But don't you worry, I won't go "medieval" as Ed so eloquently says. I will just let his performance speak for itself this season :D

12:02 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Too bad in a weird way. I was preparing myself for whatever medievalism I might be facing.

Stand down time, I guess.

That said, I think the numbers I precicted could easily lead to 10-12 wins, even more if he gets Trackmarks in '06 run support. 166 Ks in less than 200 innings is nothing to sneeze at.

Plus, he's still really young, so in '08 when he and Johnnie Maine team up with Johan Santana, watch out!

12:13 PM  
Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

Mike - I've gotten pop ups forever on your site.

Let me try that again.

Your site seems to bring up a pop up ad each time I visit.

That's better.

4:44 PM  
Anonymous Carlos Delgado said...

Miguel,

Te oigo haber hablado mierda sobre mí? Dónde está el amor?

Carlos D

4:57 PM  
Anonymous Toast said...

Wow. And to think you give me crap about our rotation. Tom Glavine belongs in an assisted-living facility, not at the top of a MLB team's rotation.

7:19 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Carlos -

Lo siento. Ningunas palabras de mierdo. Ellos mienten.

No tengo no problemas contigo personalamente. Me gustan mucho tus abilidades de beisbol. Pero tienes treinticinco anos de edad, y es poco mas que quiero de verdad.

Toast -

Tom Glavine belongs in an assisted-living facility

If his "assistants" are named Reyes & beltran, finding every ball that goes into play, I guess I can't argue.

Who's gonna assist Wang with his 3 strikeouts a game? Derek "I Have No Range" Jeter? Johnny "Arm of a Girl" Damon? Hope Melky can field.

11:53 AM  

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