1st Quarter Bullpen Report Card
The bullpen was something that I thought would be one of the strengths of the 2004 Mets. While I do not think it is horrible, it certainly is not good. The excuse can be made that they are overworked, they are. But for the most part, there is some dead weight.
Braden Looper: A+
You really cannot ask Looper to do any more than he has done. I still think the official scorer botched Wigginton's non-error that led to Looper's only two runs of the season. In my book, Looper still has a 0.00 ERA. The guy has only walked 3 people, which is a refreshing change over Benitez last year. Looper saws bats off like it is his job and has not allowed the long ball yet. For the record, Jack McKeon saying Benitez is more intimidating than Looper obviously was not into horror films. As Norm from the Shea Hot Corner pointed out on April 19th , Looper is a spitting image of Frankenstein. Now I do not know about you, but if Frankenstein is staring me down in the 9th inning, I would be a bit rattled. Looper has been a great pickup, Benitez in the 9th is but a distant memory.
Ricky Bottalico: A
Sure he has only pitched 11.1 innings, but for what was expected out of him and what the Mets are paying him, it is hard not to be extremely satisfied. He is among the few that instill some confidence in me when they come into the game. Ricky reminds me of Weathers back when I thought he could get people out.
Orber Moreno: B
He has pitched better than his ERA would dictate. He leads the bullpen in K's per nine innings and has a great K to BB ratio. Orber also joins Looper and Bottalico as the only two current bullpen members not to have given up a homer. I think he has the making of great set up guy for Looper and I think he will settle into the role by the end of the season. The thing that I really like about Moreno is even when he does not have his best stuff, he is still effective. There are times he is around 88 to 90 on his fastball and people are still swinging and missing. He kind of reminds me of Bartolo though, and he keep eating, they may be able to pass as twins.
Mike Stanton: C-
He just pitched himself out of a D by striking our Jimmy Rollins with the bases loaded last night. Sure it would have been ball four, but in the stat books today, it looks like a big fat strike. He has actually pitched better of late, but has still walked 10 batters in 24.1 innings. That is too much. If it means something to you, he leads the team with 8 holds..it does not fool me. It just tells me he had too many opportunities. Somehow he only has 1 blown save, I think someone is lying. Stanton gets paid $3,000,000 on top of it all.
Dan Wheeler: C+
I may be biased to Wheeler because I think he was huge last year and one of the bright spots on the team. In reality, if you take the horrible game in Arizona out after he relieved BP Baldwin, he has actually had a good year to date and is a reliable long man. I certainly hope Wheeler will be around for a while, he attacks batters. He rarely finds himself behind hitters and has struck out 20 batters while only walking 4 in 24 innings. He has given up four homers on the year, but three of them were in that Arizona game. If not for that Arizona game, he would have a 2.78 era, but he did have the game, so he gets the C+.
John Franco: F
I still cannot figure out why he is here. I believe he serves no use and have no idea what Wilpon's love affair of him is all about. I do not think he even deserves real review. When Strickland comes back, Franco better be the odd-man out. He is clearly the least valuable of anyone in the pen.
David Weathers: D
Maybe all the miles may have caught up to him, maybe they have not. Weathers has been solid throughout his Met career, but he has not gotten the job done this year. There is no way to sugarcoat a 5.30 ERA. He is one guy I pull for more than any other, and I hate to see him struggle like this. It is hard to entrust him with a game at this point since he lets the leadoff guy on about 50% of the time and there is just no room for that.
Overall, I think we have a sufficient bullpen. Weathers will rebound, Stanton has been better over the last twenty games than he was in the first twenty games, Franco is actually getting people out, and Moreno is going to just get better. Strickland is due back sometime this summer and he should provide some boost to the pen as well. Lucky for the Mets, Stanton, Franco, and Weathers are all in the final year of their respective contracts, and I would hope they are not invited back. In 2005, I believe a very formidable bullpen can be formed between a combination of Looper, Moreno, Bottalico (he can serve as the resident crafty veteran that the Mets so dearly love), Wheeler, Strickland, Royce Ring, Grant Roberts, and Tyler Yates. I just hope the Mets can actually muster up the cajones and cut bait.