Trouble In Paradise
The Mets have dropped five of their last seven games. Four of the games were decided by no more than two runs and the Mets lost three of them. So far on the season the Mets are 10-4 in one run games and 2-1 in two run games. Some people view one run games as a testament to good managing and some view it as luck. More likely than not, the Mets early success in close games had to do with the amazing start their bullpen had gotten off to and despite being the best in the National League, they were playing above their heads to an extent.
The Mets are nine games over .500 and seven of those wins were decided by two runs or less and that concerns me. Over the course of the season they most likely will not continue to win close games at such a high clip. One reason I believe that is because their bullpen has come back down to earth. Even though I expect them to be as good as any out there, it will be tough to replicate what numbers they put up in the early going. The other reason is because how much they are struggling with runners in scoring position. As a team, they own a .242/.330/.404 line and it is becoming increasingly frustrating to watch them struggle. In comparison, the Cardinals, who are one of the strongest teams in the NL along with the Mets, own a .294/.372/.440 line.
With the status of the rotation and question marks surrounding it coupled with the Mets inability in the clutch, this team is far from having a cake walk into the playoffs. If we have learned anything, we have learned that Pedro and Tommy cannot win every game they pitch and they need to have a consistent effort out of the back end to support them. We learned that the bullpen needs to have consistent efforts by the starters to get the game to them with a lead and not tax the bullpen every night.
Lima Time! made two starts and has not made it past five innings. John Maine made one start, and made it 5.1 innings. Victor Zambrano made five starts and made it past five innings once when he pitched six innings on May 1st. Jeremi Gonzalez pitched one game and made it through five complete innings. Brian Bannister made five starts and has not logged more than five complete innings since April 11th. Steve Trachsel has thrown in eight games and logged six innings in four of them and his last one was on May 5th. That is twenty two starts between them and only logged six innings seven times, four of which belong to Steve Trachsel and only two since Trachsel's six innings performance on April 25th out of the last three spots in the rotation.
When this team was beating every team and beating them handily to start season, some people kind of laid into me when I was expressing concerns about a team that was riding high. For me, you cannot lose sight of problems when they exist and ignore them and hope they go away. A big problem has developed into a gaping problem of Grand Canyon-like proportions. The bullpen will remain a strong point and I believe the offense will gel and more of those runners in scoring position will get knocked in. The main thing is that they are putting the runners there in scoring position in first place and the rest will fall into place. However, this rotation, even when Brian Bannister and John Maine come back, is simply not good enough in my eyes. Pedro and Tom Glavine are not Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling of 2001. I am concerned and I am eager to see how this team works to rectify this problem and make no mistake, it is a problem and a very large one.
Part of the reason for the Mets concern with Heilman's potential move is their belief that the bullpen would become particularly susceptible to lefthanded hitting without him: Heilman handled lefties to the tune of 47 strikeouts and just 38 hits in 52 innings last year. The worry in this regard, however, is overblown. Heath Bell could team with Duaner Sanchez to form a solid secretarial staff for Billy Wagner in Heilman's absence, and Bell also would fill Heilman's lefty-killer role:
Bell has allowed fewer hits and virtually no homers against southpaws over a five-year period. New York doesn't appear to appreciate what it has in the 28-year-old Bell, though, as he will likely go back to Norfolk when Gonzalez arrives. Jorge Julio deserves to have his bullpen-low 0.88 LEVERAGE steadily increased with more important innings after allowing just three runs on eight hits in his last 13.2 innings, with only one homer allowed and a 24:5 K:BB ratio. With Sanchez, Bell, and Julio, the Mets have enough setup firepower in the pen to spare fans the agony of watching Lima and Gonzalez drizzle gasoline over open flames on back-to-back nights.
Some food for thought. Go ahead, chew on it. It's delectable.
Buckle up. Tuck your head between your knees. Pray to the baseball gods.
Out of the how the hell do I still own a starting job department, Carlos Silva is on pace to give up 66 homers while owning a .363 BAA and a 8.80 ERA. Note to Gardenhire: Start Francisco Liriano. He is level stubbornness is of Randolph-esque proportions.
The reality for the Mets is that they don't need Willis or A's left-hander Barry Zito; given that Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine are a combined 10-2 with a 2.50 ERA, a middle-of-the-rotation innings-eater would suffice.
The Mets had such a pitcher — right-hander Kris Benson — but traded him to the Orioles for reliever Jorge Julio. Nationals right-hander Livan Hernandez would be a logical fit. Other possibilities: the Royals' Scott Elarton, Mariners' Gil Meche and Orioles' Rodrigo Lopez — and maybe Indians right-hander Paul Byrd, if the Tribe falls out of contention.
His 5.13 ERA makes me happy.