A blog dedicated to the New York Mets with some other baseball thrown in.

Monday, May 15, 2006

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.

* * *

  • The read of the day besides my fucking swell website belongs to Baseball Prospectus' Mets Notebook. It touches upon Aaron Heilman and him starting with a dabble of Heath Bell.

    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.

  • The Journal News said that Brian Bannister threw 83 pitches in a simulated game. The Metropolitans recommendation? Leave Gonzalez in against the Yankees and hope for the best. Send Lima Time! down after his start and bring up another reliever for another arm to summon should it be a short day for Jeremi. Throwing Brian Bannister into the fire to face the Yankees in his first action back without a rehab start while he has had his share of troubles this season seems illogical.

    Buckle up. Tuck your head between your knees. Pray to the baseball gods.

  • Mike Pelfrey got roughed up.

  • I am mildly alarmed by the amount of homeruns that Pedro Martinez has surrounded this season. He has never give up more than 26 in a year and his on pace to give up 34 this season. His BAA against is .164 and 27% of the hits Pedro Martinez has given up have left the park. Out of the entire Major Leagues, he is tied for having given up the 6th most homers in the league.

    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.

  • How many times has a brother gotten removed from the rotation for his own brother? Jeff Weaver might get replaced with Jared Weaver in the Angels rotation.

  • From FoxSports.com:

    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.

  • Randy has failed to reinvent himself like so many other modern legends like Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Roger Clemens. He is still trying to win with his fastball/slider combo and when you lose some hop on your fastball, you cannot do that.

    His 5.13 ERA makes me happy.

    Anonymous DG said...

    5.13 sounds really good! Makes me want to hug a cameraman!

    Well, you know, realism dictates the you acknowledge problems when you see them, and it is uncanny but everybody who posts here regularly agrees that the rotation is a major worry. We all agree about Heilman (though the boat has sailed on Bell for me). Bottom line is that Lima should not be starting Thursday. Was anyone else foolish enough to dream that Heilman wasn't called on last night because he's going on Thursday? He's not of course, but we have to right to dream.

    Did you see Feliciano last night against Fielder? My goodness, a loogy, A VERIFIABLE LOOGY! He looked nasty (though we could have done without the Wright error that followed).

    Bannister. Throw him to the wolves and send him against the Yanks or Cards. I just cannot see LIMA go one more TIME. Brian needs to be told that he doesn't have to be so fine; he's been scared to be too over the plate and that sort of lack of confidence usually gets you in trouble. As he settles he'll make an excellent end of the rotation guy, but he's never going to give too much more than six innings.

    Lastly, could someone figure out how we could all sign a five year contract with the Knicks and then suck so much that we get the rest of our contracts bought out? I could retire on that!

    Norfolk won TWO games this weekend, thereby doubling their wins for the season (just about...). Evan MacLane got de-papermoved and kicked righteous. He's on line to pitch Friday against the Yanks!

    12:10 PM

    Blogger mr. met said...

    5.13 sounds really good! Makes me want to hug a cameraman!

    I should be checking for RJ quotes after his starts from here on out. I'm sure there are some gems.

    Giving up on Bell after two innings? C'mon, I feel slightly beaten, but not defeated. Free Heath Bell...AGAIN!!!!

    Heilman was up in the bullpen. He was almost in. However, give him a spot start. It's going to be better than Lima...send down Lima....bring up a reliever. Boom, bang, bam...

    I think we could always do with errors. Wright's errors, a Nady error, whoever's errors. We don't need 'em.

    I'm not a fan of throwing Bannister to the wolves. He if continues the walk-a-thon it will get ugly. Basically, it's him get shelled or the other two. Let the other two take the hit and admit defeat before it even starts.

    Traxx normally gets shelled by the Cards. It could get really ugly this week.

    Lastly, could someone figure out how we could all sign a five year contract with the Knicks and then suck so much that we get the rest of our contracts bought out? I could retire on that!

    I'm in. Let's make it happen. I can be a very short small forward....

    MacLane is certainly garning some consideration with the silliness that is going on with this rotation.

    12:21 PM

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Hey, it's not the two innings at all. I think I wrote about my Bell aprehensions the other day. It was the Derek Lee who made me see the light!

    1:59 PM

    Blogger mr. met said...

    True, you did. But Derek Lee was the best baseball player in the world at that point. Cut the dude some slack there. He was hitting .383 at the time! Not many people were getting Lee out.

    3:00 PM

    Anonymous DG said...

    Agree, but, well, it was an epiphany. A Fastball epiphany if you will. I really liked Bell to that point, but I think we were all caught up in the possibility that he might replace Looper, and right there, I saw his limits. DLee was smoking yes, but I watched it repeat to lesser results with lesser mortals. Without a kick ass completementary pitch, batters can ignore his other offering then wait for the big juicy straight fast ball.

    By the way, what you wrote about Bell versus lefties was very interesting. Strange the Mets didn't even consider using him in one, two out situations.
    But then, what the Mets seem to have against the guy seems almost personal. What happened?...

    3:12 PM

    Blogger mr. met said...

    I don't think he has closer stuff, though Fangraphs.com alluded to the idea he could be better than most currently out there.

    I still see a guy who can be a good middle reliever and secondary setup man to free up Heilman. I'm still holding onto tha dream.

    Yeah, some guys fall out of favor with this team and are done. D-O-N-E done. I don't like the way the go about that and have favorites as some guys who shouldn't even be around, get shot after shot. Whatever, it's usually on marginal guys, but still annoying.

    4:27 PM

    Blogger Toasty Joe said...

    I posted this in your earlier post by mistake, so here goes again:

    Am I the only one who cringes whenever a routine ground ball is hit to D. Wright in the 7th inning or later? It's gotten to the point where there's at LEAST a 50% chance he'll blow it. Probably more than 50%.

    4:43 PM

    Blogger mr. met said...

    It's scary for sure. David Wright draws no criticism from me just yet and honestly, I wasn't even really watching the game. I was on and off and I missed this error that David made. I think it's mental though. Every time he gets in that situation he's thinking about not blowing it and then blows it.

    4:53 PM

    Anonymous benny said...

    I love talking to Yankee fans about RJ.
    They hate him too.

    Kris Benson wasn't much of an innings eater. Hard to eat innings while on the DL.

    I vote NO! on Bannister against the Cardinals or Yankees.
    But then again, it's an outfield of Milky "Way" Cabrera and Bubba Crosby!

    8:22 PM

    Blogger Condor Schmitt said...

    The big problem with the ullpen is the use it is gettng all of a sudden. No longer do they get the first 7 innings off, they pitch up to 4 innings a game now. This is reason enough to get Livan Hernandez for his rubber arm.

    Benson an innings eater? He never pitched more than 180 innings did he? Besides which is wife is a cunt.

    9:28 PM

    Blogger mr. met said...

    Yeah Benny, that is the only thing that keeps me going. Melky, Bubba, and no DH. That and Pedro and Glavine going this weekend, I feel OK.

    Besides which is wife is a cunt.

    Classic. Condor, tell us what you really think.

    9:35 PM

    Blogger ajsmith said...

    OK, I'm nearly 40 years old, and I admit that I still just hate the Yankees. Yes, I should be beyond that kind of juvenile attitude, but I can't shake it. I root against them, and against anyone associated with them, and any misfortune that befalls that franchise is pure joy to me.

    That being said, from the first time I saw RJ in a Yankees cap, for some reason he instantly went to the top (bottom) of my list of players I dislike. I'm pretty sure that was before I even knew that he attacked the photog. I. Just. Can't. Stand. The. Guy. On a visceral level, ya know?

    5.13, huh? And I'm sure he's making that clubhouse just a pleasure to be around. How much are they paying him? Couldn't happen to a nicer team.

    As to Bannister, why rush to throw a guy - whose confidence in his pitches seems at issue - against that lineup, coming off an injury, in just his 6th major-league start? That's how you turn minor confidence issues into full-blown head-cases.

    Start Heilman... er, I mean start someone off the street and concede the game. Yeah, that's better.

    10:55 PM

    Anonymous UK Mets Fan said...

    I think the issue is somewhat different. Let's look at the records of teams the Mets have played so far this year:

    Team Pct. Mets v team
    Phi .595 1-2
    SD .564 2-2
    Mil .500 3-3
    SF .487 2-1
    Atl .474 5-4
    Was .342 6-2
    Fla .306 2-0
    Pit .289 2-0

    See the trend? We kill the worst teams, and we've done less well against the best teams. The fast start was due to playing Washington twice and Florida once in the first 3 series.

    I've maintained to friends this year that the true test of the 2006 Mets will be twofold:
    1) Do we eat up and spit out the bad teams (so far yes) and
    2) Do we fare well against the best teams?

    Not so good on number 2, especially given we've yet to see the Cards, Reds and Astros.

    Pitching certainly plays into that and the rotation does need to be sorted.

    Look at it another way: how many games do we play against the weakest teams in the league, and how many do we play against the strongest? And what do we need to achieve against those two groups to get to 95 wins? And further into the playoffs?

    At the moment we're 17-7 (.708) against sub-.500 teams, and 6-7 (.461) against above-.500 teams.

    I think we're doing the job against the poor teams, but not quite there against the good ones. And we'll need the latter not only to get into the playoffs, but definitely to get out of the first round.

    - UK Mets Fan

    7:41 AM

    Blogger Cid said...

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    10:20 AM

    Blogger Cid said...

    The thing is, nobody is expected to post an impressive record against good teams.

    If a Mets fan wouldn't sign off on killing teams below .500, and playing .500 ball against those teams above it, I don't know what to say.

    Thats a 95+ win team right there...

    10:22 AM

    Blogger Toasty Joe said...

    Good point. It's not like some big shock that we play worse against better teams.

    11:14 AM

    Anonymous UK Mets Fan said...

    Interesting what people say without bothering to check facts - you're assuming that the Mets opponents all average out to have a .500 record, and that there's an equal balance of games agains good teams (over .500) and those under .500.

    Not the case. For one thing, we're hurt by interleague play, where we play the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Orioles. That's like an extra set of games against the NL central (except the Orioles). For another, the schedule isn't balanced.

    Overall, we have 83 games against teams that are at .500 or better today, 79 against those below .500 today.

    Assuming we win at the same rate (.700 against the losers, .460 against the winners) we come to a 93 win season. Not bad, not a shoo-in for the playoffs, and then when we get there we lose more often than we win.

    Sorry guys, it's not sufficient to play sub-.500 ball against teams who play above .500.

    That's no recipe for winning a World Series.

    - UK Mets Fan

    7:03 PM

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