Tagged: Mets

Santana Holding up His End of the Bargain

In what has been a season of thorough frustration wrought with inconsistency, streakiness, and turmoil, the most infuriating trait of the 2008 Mets has been the number of starts by Johan Santana that have gone wasted.

Don’t listen to the blowhards in the sports media – Santana has had a Santana-like season.
johan-santana-4.jpg  He has a 2.86 ERA, and has led the Mets in innings pitched and strikeouts all season.  He has allowed three or fewer earned runs in 19 of his 23 starts.  That should be enough to win – the Mets are averaging 4.86 runs per game this season.  The bullpen has blown 5 games in which Santana has left with the lead, and lost three of them.  Taking into account both of these factors, Santana could easily have 15 wins.

What else can he do?  Those who cry that he should pitch a complete game every five days because of how much he’s being paid are insane.  Is there some sort of ratio of dollars to innings pitched I’m not aware of?  Is this a new sabermetric statistic?

One wonders if Santana looks at the standings and sees the team he was traded from is in first place by a half game in the AL Central, and the team he was traded to is three games back.  Does he ever regret coming to Queens?  I would.

Imagine where the Twins would be with Santana right now.  It’s not like the Twins got any immediate value out of their trade with the Mets.  Carlos Gomez is the only player dealt to Minnesota who has contributed at the major league level this year, but hasn’t been much of a factor.  His .287 OBP would have gotten him booed off the field every day at Shea Stadium.  Santana, however, would have Minnesota up by five games by now – and he’d be celebrated in the sports media, free of the microscope of New York.

There’s no real magic, secret solution to the Mets’ struggles this year.  It’s simple.  When Johan Santana leaves the game with a lead, or gives up three or fewer earned runs, WIN THE GAME.  If New York can do that, they can run away with the division.  If they can’t, it’s going to be an uphill climb.

Pre-Deadline Advice for Omar Minaya

Hey Omar.  Long time, no talk.

I’m sure you’ve heard all the talk about the Mets’ need for a corner outfielder heading into the trade deadline.  You know that we could definitely stand to shore up that position.  However, with Carlos Delgado bursting from hibernation, and Jose Reyes and David Wright producing consistently, not to mention the efforts of unsung players like Fernando Tatis, the Mets offense is passable right now.  What we really need is help in the bullpen. 

The Mets need a solid, Huston-Street-like right-handed reliever to pitch the eighth inning and set up Bily Wagner.  Let’s say, someone like former Longhorn, Huston Street.  He’s being shopped by Oakland, and the Mets should take a good look at him.  Rumor has it, you’ve already been taking a gander at Cla Meredith and Chad Bradford. 

huston-street3.jpgThe latter is intriguing, because of how well Bradford pitched for the Mets in 2006, and how well he has pitched since.  I know, I know, you let him go after 2006, because you weren’t sure his back would hold up.  But since joining the Orioles, it has, and so has his ERA. 

Neither Meredith nor Bradford are much better than the options the Mets have now for the eighth inning.  Duaner Sanchez has shown flashes of brilliance, but is too inconsistent.  However, getting a strong right-handed reliever for the sixth and seventh innings would be a huge fortification for the bullpen.

So, Omar, if you are reading this (and I know you always do), here is your priority list:

  1. Huston Street (though, if he comes to the Mets, he’ll have to change his name to How-sten Street.  Get it?  Local Reference?  No?  Ok.)
  2. Chad Bradford
  3. Cla Meredith

You have your assignment, Omar.  Now, go get ’em.

Oh, one more thing.  If you have to give up Fernando Martinez, John Neise, Mike Pelfrey, or any other of your top prospects, forget about it.  We’ll make due with what we have so we can preserve our future.

That is all.

No Complaints

For the first time all season, I have no complaints about the New York Mets. 

For some reason, the Mets are in first place.  By a strange coincidence, Carlos Delgado is hitting as well as he did in 2006.  As it turns out, Oliver Perez may be the Mets’ best starting pitcher right now.  And, by an act of Providence, the decision to replace Willie Randolph with Jerry Manuel actually paid off.

OliverPerez.jpgTwo days ago, I gave up on the season.  It’s not the first time, and it probably won’t be the last.  But today, the Mets are what we thought they were going to be.  The starting pitching has been solid, and has gobbled way more innings than they used to.  The bullpen has at least been effective every now and then, as opposed to never.  Billy Wagner is back to being automatic in the ninth.  And the lineup is producing runs.

Carlos Delgado is the difference maker in this lineup.  Yes, Jose Reyes needs to get on base, which he has to a tune of a .360 OBP.  Yes, David Wright has to be the Mets’ best hitter.  But when Delgado is producing, the Mets suddenly have a legitimate cleanup hitter.  That takes pressure off both Wright and Carlos Beltran.
JOc4uF8y.jpg 

So, on July 24th, the Mets are in first place.  Be sure to expect a horse race the rest of the way between the Mets, Phillies, and maybe the Marlins, if their starting pitching can hold up.  The Mets need to fend off both teams, and Father Time, if they want to be in it until the end.

Billy Wagner

OK, so maybe I overreacted last night.  I probably wasn’t the only one.  But for anyone who doubted the talents of Billy Wagner (You know who you are…Benigno and Roberts, and the
billy-wagner-pinn.jpgrest of you brain-dead WFAN callers), the bullpen is lost without Wagner.  Number 13 is the closest thing to a sure thing in the Mets’ ‘pen.  Except for about 5 or 6 games a year, you know that the ninth inning is safe with Wagner.  Even Mariano blows saves every now and then.  Fortunately for the Mets, Wagner was back tonight.  And he helped erase the memory of the devastating loss on Tuesday night.

 

Collapse II

So what happens on a day when your ace gives you 8 solid innings of 2-run ball against your fiercest divisional opponent and leaves with a three-run lead?  Why, your bullpen blows the game in the ninth, of course.  And in spectacular fashion.  It wasn’t just a failure, it was a failure of EPIC proportions. 
boy%20named%20charlie%20brown.jpg

Maybe Jerry Manuel should have left Johan Santana in, but I agree with his decision.  Santana’s outs in the eighth inning were hard outs.  A line drive, a deep fly ball to Beltran, not to mention the line-drive double (following a foul line drive) by Pat Burrell.

In any event, teams do not recover from losses like this.  I’ve given up on this season before, only to see the Mets battle back into contention.  But they won’t overcome this loss.  Time to think about 2009.

And yes, I am ripping off Mets Blog with the Charlie Brown pic.

The Look

JOc4uF8y.jpg

We haven’t seen this look in while.  This is how Carlos Delgado looks when he is locked in.  It’s a look of restrained victory, as if he is admiring his work, but at the same time, remembering the hardships along the way.  It’s the same look a Great White has on its face just before it bites its prey in half.  It’s the look he had in 2006.  And it’s no wonder the Mets of 2008 are looking more and more like that team, when it circled its opponents like a deadly predator.

Game On

I’m taking a big risk.

My last post was before the July 4 game against the Phillies.  The Mets lost that game 3-2, on the strength of a Shane Victorino walk-off single against Duaner Sanchez.  On that day, I nearly wrote a post about how the season was over, and it was time to look ahead to football season.  But I decided this team was not worth the effort (besides, no one reads this blog anyway.  You know who you are.  Or maybe you don’t, because you’re not reading this.  What an odd paradox.)

After all, the Mets had shown little real improvement under Jerry Manuel.  They were still playing win-one, lose-one, .500 baseball.  The bullpen was still blowing games for Johan Santana, as they did on that night.  And they were still struggling to score runs.  Losing the first game in a four-game set to the Phillies seemed like an ominous note of doom.  The Mets could very easily have been swept into fourth place by the Phils with little hope for a comeback.  But sometime during that weekend, a switch flipped.

The advice from new Pitching Coach, Dan Warthen, suddenly sunk in.  Oliver Perez moved to his more comfortable spot on the mound, the middle of the rubber, and pitched a gem on Sunday.  The bullpen held the lead for John Maine on Saturday after he left with forearm stiffness.  And on Monday, seemingly poised to blow a seven-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, effectively repeating, on a small but concentrated scale, their 2007 collapse, Billy Wagner miraculously coaxed the final out of the game from the same team that crushed their dreams. 

Since then, the Mets have gone on a streak that no one could have seen coming.  They dominated the punchless Giants and the foundering Rockies, by a combined score of 31-4 over a six-game span.  Jerry Manuel is now 17-9 as manager.

So what changed?

Every Mets starting pitcher has a winning record.  The bullpen has been near-perfect.  They have shed the one-size-fits-all approach of Rick Peterson.  No longer are they restricted to Peterson’s “.190 line,” which forced them to only throw knee-high pitches.  Now, they work around the letters as well.  For power pitchers like Maine, Perez, Santana, and especially Mike Pelfrey, that can be a powerful weapon.

Pelfrey has been the biggest revelation.  He struggled after being rushed to the major leagues.  Now, he’s mixing his 91-mph sinker with his 95-mph four-seamer, slider, and changeup, while tossing the occasional slow curve.  He’s always had the kind of stuff to be an elite pitcher, and now he has the confidence and proper guidance he’s always needed.

At the plate, the two most maligned players in the lineup have been red-hot.  Jose Reyes is hitting .320 since May 1st, and Carlos Delgado has found the fountain of youth.  Unable to react to the fastball anymore, Delgado has learned to work the count to get into a fastball situation.  Then, he’s able to cheat on it and crush it.

Jerry Manuel has loosened up the clubhouse. David Wright praised him for making it fun to come to work every day.  The Mets have shed the corporate atmosphere propagated by Willie Randolph, and adopted more of a…well, more of a baseball clubhouse kind of atmosphere.  And sure, Manuel has a reputation as a laid back guy, but for someone who follows the teachings of Ghandi, he certainly argues with umpires a lot.  He’s more intense than Randolph, and he’s less of a politician.  He’s exactly what the Mets needed.

So, why am I taking a big risk?

I haven’t blogged since the beginning of the Mets’ nine-game winning streak.  As I write this, I may be jinxing the Mets.  If they win their next game after the all-star break, I can exhale.  Until then, here’s hoping that some other superstitious fan is doing something silly that’s keeping this streak going.

Or maybe it’s just that the Mets are playing well.  Nah.