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

Friday, January 19, 2007

NL Least No More

Nobody needs me to tell them that John Schuerholz is a good general manager, but John had a good week as he capped it off with a Craig Wilson one year deal at $2 million. Frankly it was surprising that not one team wanted a guy with some decent pop who is only 30 that would be pretty cheap. Wilson may not be a good fielder or an elite hitter, but his 162 game average for his career is 71 runs scored, 24 homers, seventy RBIs, and had a .265/.354/.480 line and he will supplement the Atlanta lineup sufficiently. He will provide some nice pop for the Braves while being an ideal platoon partner with Scott Thurman. While I do not think they'll match LaRoche's OPS, they will certainly approach his homer total and his RBI total and you have to think the Braves are better off with Gonzalez and Wilson in the fold rather than just LaRoche in the fold.

I am officially getting pumped for this season and I want a dogfight all season and I want to watch good divisional baseball. A large reason why I think the Mets offense, which was solid all season, completely failed in the playoffs was that they were just flat. They had the season wrapped up a month ahead of time and most of September was spent without the regular starting lineup playing at one time. In May they had a .253/.332/.433 line and scored 137 runs. In June they had a .273/.332/.487 line with 152 runs scored. In July they had a .275/.352/.463 line with 157 runs scored. In August they had a .272/.342/.452 line with 148 runs scored. In September they had their worst full month of the season and had a .244/.319/.391 with a measly 114 runs scored. In ten playoff games the Mets scored 46 runs but scored 21 of them in two games. In the other eight they averaged a touch over three runs.

Competition breeds...well it breeds competition. It is certainly hard to keep that competitive edge when you had your coronation to the playoffs a month before the season ended and it is certainly hard to stay hungry. That was Willie's biggest challenge last year and frankly it is an extremely hard task. While it is speculation at this point if the Mets flat offense had anything to do with their flat September, it certainly seems to be true that the team that is playing for something at the end enters the playoffs with the upper hand over the team that was fine tuning for a month. While the Cardinals almost played themselves out of the playoffs, they were still playing for something every day and while it may be a harder path to the playoffs this season for the Mets, it can certainly be argued that they will be better off as a result.

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  • Buster still likes the Mets bullpen more than the Braves revamped bullpen.

    That will not be the case in 2007, now that general manager John Schuerholz has put together one of the best bullpens in his time with Atlanta; he landed Pittsburgh left-hander Mike Gonzalez yesterday, for first baseman Adam LaRoche.

    The Atlanta bullpen does not appear to be as strong as that of the Mets, but the Braves' staff is balanced, with Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano lined up in front of Bob Wickman, and a rotation of Smoltz, Chuck James, Tim Hudson, Kyle Davies and the recovering Mike Hampton. The Braves could reclaim the NL East if Hudson, Hampton, Smoltz, et al, stay healthy.

    Not that his opinion means anything to most of you, but I'm just pointing out what my favorite blogger said.

  • I just puked a bit in my mouth.

    Not only do the Mets have an affiliate in the Big Easy, but they get out just in time not to have a not so swell new logo and have an angry beaver who eats his own teams logo.

  • Jon Heyman writes about the Mets rotation wows.

  • Delgado will be ready for Spring Training and I for one feel bad for any guy that has to throw a ball in his general direction while he has a bat in his hand. Sure his 38 homers and 114 RBIs look nice, but his .265 average was his lowest since 1997 and he only dipped below .270 twice in the last seven seasons. That's not to say I expect a .330 average, but I certainly think Delgado is still good for another .300 year for sure and next year's offense will be downright scary with Alou in the fold and a full year of the MVP-type Jose Reyes which should certainly have positive results on everyone.
  • Wednesday, January 17, 2007

    Learning From the Best

    The Mets recipe for pitching success last season was get to the fifth or sixth inning with a lead and hand it over to the bullpen. The bullpen led the NL with a 3.25 ERA and was over a run better than the Braves bullpen. The Mets bullpen had the most wins, was tied for second in strikeouts, and had the lowest BAA out of the entire Major Leagues. The Braves? Not so much. While the Mets bullpen was busy getting it done, the Braves bullpen blew 31 saves. Of course even if the Braves bullpen cut their blown saves in half, they still would have finished behind the Mets, but that is besides the point.

    The Braves had largely been operating with the bullpen by comity plan after Smoltz's return to the rotation. They were doing that in part by choice and in part by necessity since they had no one step up, but next season they can look forward to stability and a lot of it. The Rafael Soriano deal for Horacio Ramirez was a fleecing and Mike Gonzalez is solid and deadly against lefites....deadly. His .163/.265/.256 line against lefties in '06 is flat out nasty and his .176/.260/.218 line since '04 is even more impressive considering it is a much bigger sample size. Just for good measure we can throw in the fun fact that he has allowed only five homers in over six hundred plate appearances against him.

    Bob Wickman, Chad Paronto, Oscar Villarreal, Rafael Soriano, Mike Gonzalez, and Macay McBride certainly form a solid foundation for a bullpen, but a bullpen is not everything. The Mets bullpen only mattered because they had a good bench, a great lineup, and decent rotation. Unfortunately, the Braves have a pretty good offense and a good rotation as well. Make no mistake, the Mets are still undoubtedly the class of the division for me, but we all saw what a dominating bullpen could mean to a team. Yes, the Braves lost 32 homers when LaRoche was traded, but they still out homered the Mets by 22 and scored more runs in '06. Unlike last season, the Braves will finish over .500 this year and the NL East is going to be one fun division to watch all summer.

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  • It's about that time again...There was a big buzz about the Yankees building up a stable of arms so they can trade for Johan Santana despite the fact the Twins would not trade him since he is signed through '08 and no arm they acquired would be more than a throw in for Santana. The Yankees best talent and only desirable talent for a top tier arm was already there, but hey...why would Yankee fans get involved with details like that? Now, it's Francisco Rodriguez.

    With Mariano Rivera nearing retirement in New York, the Yankees are already said to be eyeing Rodriguez as a potential replacement. Rodriguez could command a deal in the four-year, $38-million range.

    Just identify the best player at what he does and rumor him as a Yankee target. Then just watch the fans make up ridiculous trades. Rinse...spit..and repeat. It happens every season and will happen for the duration of my life and it never fails to get me annoyed.

  • Ryan Howard did not get the memo about how to handle contracts that get issued before your arbitration years. I know not many can boast back to back ROY and MVP seasons (if any at all), but this is nuts.

    That's because the Howard camp, led by father Ron Howard, already has sent strong signals that they're after something more on the lines of what Alfonso Soriano received this winter than the going rate for a superstar with two years service time in the majors.

    Soriano, the top free agent hitter this offseason, hit the jackpot by signing an eight-year, $136-million deal with the Chicago Cubs in November. Howard probably wouldn't ask for that much money, but you get the idea.

    Dangerous precedents could be set as teams need to find young stars that produce to maintain payroll flexibility. All it would do to if Howard got something silly is give the Yankees first stab at most players at the end of their first six years of service. At this point, even small market teams can make a play to keep a Johan Santana or a Carl Crawford type for a few extra years before their inevitable departure, but they certainly will not be able to if things start to get out of control.

  • Not sure if I linked to this before, but if not, watch it and then wipe the drool.
  • Tuesday, January 16, 2007

    Rotation Issues?

    We all know the concerns that surround the Mets '07 rotation and we all know the people voicing their concerns are for the most part outside of the Mets fan base.

    Buster's take...

    The Mets are adding their own Sosa. The Mets' gamble that their rotation is good enough will be fascinating, as it plays out; the team is gambling that with good instruction, they can save their pitching. Personally, I think the rest of the team is too good for the Mets to have handled their starting pitching in this manner. They should have gotten somebody.

    It was not for lack of trying. Omar tried, tried, and tried again. After all that, he tried some more. However, it just did not work out and Bill Madden agrees that Omar was smart to stay back if he was unable to reel in a difference maker.

    Because of his inability to acquire a top-of-the-rotation starter or upgrade substantially at second base, it might be concluded that Minaya has had a bad winter. But at the same time, would throwing crazy money at Zito or - even worse - at mediocrity such as Vicente Padilla, Gil Meche, Miguel Batista or Adam Eaton be considered as a good winter? To that we would say only, "Come see us in September."

    Preach on brother Bill.

    While a prospective Mets rotation of Glavine, El Duque, John Maine, Oliver Perez and either lefty Dave Williams or rookie Philip Humber might seem a tad underwhelming, at least until Pedro Martinez hopefully rejoins it in June, look around the rest of the NL East and you'll find only the Florida Marlins can claim a rotation five-deep in quality. And other than Dontrelle Willis, their arms are still too inexperienced to be considered real deals.

    What's funny to me is how the majority of Marlin nation, Philly nation, and Brave nation (have not heard National nation weigh in on this one yet) are so confident that the Mets rotation will be there downfall despite them having the most well rounded team even when you factor in the Mets rotation needs. It's like me giving a lecture to someone about overindulging while I'm snorting coke of a hookers boob. It just does not make sense.

    Here is a fun fact that is brought us by AE. Last year's Mets team gave 15 starts to Lima Time, Geremi Gonzalez, and Alay Soler (approximately 10% of the team's schedule). Their combined ERA in those 15 starts was 7.21. Their combined WHIP was 1.75. Throw on top of that Tom Glavine's blood clot, Pedro Martinez's arm falling off and his 4.48 ERA, Trachsel making thirty starts, and AE forgetting to mention that Victor Zambrano made five starts with a 6.75 ERA and the Mets still managed to squeeze out 97 wins.

    What am I getting at? Even if Pedro does not return, the Mets will be OK. The Mets starting five will not set the world on fire, but they will be more than adequate and I still think Pedro will be a huge factor for the Mets in the second half of '07. A rotation down the stretch with Glavine, The Duque, Pedro, Maine, and whomever steps up is all this Met team needs to get where they want to go. Could things go horrible wrong? Yeah, but that could be said about 90% of the teams out there that are relying on one pitcher like the Cubs and Zambrano, the Twins and Santana, the Cardinals and Carpenter, the Brewers on Sheets, the Braves on Smoltz, etc...However, I still feel like the Mets have enough wildcard arms to persevere.

    In Rob Neyer's chat, he demonstrated that he still has faith in the good guys pulling through.

    Jason (NY): Right now - predicitions for the 8 playoff spots. (I know, subject to change)

    SportsNation Rob Neyer: I haven't looked at a single projection yet, but here goes anyway: Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers, Mets, and Pick 'em.

    Keep your head up and do not believe the hype. The Mets still have valuable chips in their pocket should it all hit the fan and they need to go out and acquire and arm. In all likelihood, that will not be necessary and I would be more than happy to hit the playoffs with the same rotation the Mets took last year with The Duque substituted with Trachsel. My confidence level about this 2007 is pretty high right now and I do not have many complaints. Is this taem perfect? No, but no team is.

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  • This is always an interesting topic for me as most people talk about yesteryear as a much more talented era and Rob Neyer lays the smackdown.

    Jack (Toronto): Other than the obvious HoFers Clemens, Maddux and Glavine (and Bonds I guess), could we be looking at a lost generation of good quality candidates for the Hall? ARod, Piazza maybe, Jeter if he gets 3K hits, Santana if he stays healthy and keeps up this pace and Pujols (health again), who else? I don't see Johnson, Schilling, Smoltz or even Pedro having the numbers.

    SportsNation Rob Neyer: Which Johnson? Randy? He's been a lock for years, and so is Pedro Martinez. Other currently active Hall of Famers: Rivera, Hoffman, maybe Wagner, Helton, Manny Ramirez, probably Frank Thomas, Vladimir Guerrero, Ken Griffey, probably Sheffield, maybe Chipper Jones, Biggio, Ivan Rodriguez . . . we've got no shortage of excellent candidates.

    Not a bad group of players at all with some of the best of all time certainly in that mix.

    Kevin (NYC): WHOA...please clairfy, Piazza is a lock fo the HOF, correct?

    SportsNation Rob Neyer: Of course. As is Cap'n Jetes.

  • Jake went to Senegal and took some swellicious pictures.

    Revel in it's beauty and soak in the goodness.

    Jake, did your back hold out long enough to get some surfing in?

  • Endy Chavez gets a big raise to $1.75 and could make something like a billion dollars in incentives. Any time it creeps in my head that I think Endy got a pretty sweet deal...maybe too sweet in fact, I just think of the increíble jugada de Chávez. If he is 75% of what he was last year, he is worth it and I think that is completely reasonable.

  • As for Ruben Sierra, don't worry people. Do not worry.

    The Mets continue to believe in Rubén Sierra's ability to help shape young players and are negotiating a minor league contract with the 41-year-old slugger. The Mets have no immediate plans for Sierra to make the major league team out of spring training, but he will be in their system if the need arises for a veteran hitter.

    He will not be a integral member of this team and if for some reason he is, we'll have many more things to worry about than Ruben Sierra being on the team.

  • "We knew. Players knew. Owners knew. Everybody knew, and we didn't say anything about it."
    --Tony Gwynn, on steroids.


    "I can tell you that I didn't know. There are a few guys who come back from the offseason bigger, but you don't really know for sure what's happening. I didn't…A smarter person can look around and have suspicions."
    --Cal Ripken Jr., on the use of performance enhancing drugs during his time in the game.

    Double hmmm...

  • More quotes...

    "Besides, he's fat now. Where would we play him? He would probably go home in two months."
    --unnamed player personnel official with the Yokohama Bay Stars, on Sammy Sosa

    Yikes...I guess leaving the game gracefully, or as gracefully as Sosa would have been able too, is a foreign notion to Sammy.

  • T.R. Sullivan dishes the spin on Victor Diaz. I used to be a fan of his and thought he could be good offensive player, but he just got worse as time went on. That's not to say he might not be a useful offensive player for Texas. I think he can certainly hit 25 homers in Arlington if things break out right.

    But the highlight of his mailbag for me is when T.R. gets a bit defensive...

    I have been a Rangers fan for many years, but this team has the poorest potential for any I've seen. Only two quality starting pitchers, no outfield that can hit .300 and a backup catcher. I think it may be time to go back to my Cardinals.
    -- Bill F., Williston, S.D.

    Understood. Let us all know how Kip Wells fares as the Cardinals' No. 2 starter.

  • Monday, January 15, 2007

    It's Not My Money

    There are a lot of disappointed fans in regards to this off-season as they feel that the Mets have decided to go on the cheap despite record attendance and a deep trip to the playoffs. However, the Mets are still one of the top spenders and have handled one of the craziest off seasons ever with aplomb. I have no issues with what happened this off-season. The Mets payroll is going to be at about $115 million this upcoming season ($116 million or so while they pay someone to occupy Pedro's spot with Arizona throwing in five million or so for Shawn Green) and there were only three players in Schmidt, Daisuke, Zito that would have significantly helped this team. They needed a frontline starter among everything else.

    They made an extremely aggressive and big bid for Daisuke and regrettably lost. They were willing to go for Zito, but not at the price the Giants dished out. Ultimately, they left some negotiating room as you do not just jump out with your best offer. 5 years / $75 million was the base with 6 / $96 probably the upper tier, which would have pushed their payroll over $130 million mark most likely, which is obscene. The Dodgers were smart to jump on Schmidt quickly and get him off the market. The next best starter was Jeff Suppan and he doesn’t appreciably help this team for the Tom Glavine money he is getting. Then you have Weaver, who I wouldn’t mind him for 2 years, but he is looking for a Suppan deal and is a worse pitcher.

    I do not believe in spending money to just spend money. At this time, the Mets have a pretty good farm system with two potential aces and three blue chip outfielders. The Mets are willing to deal Milledge in order to get an arm, but Omar is not desperate enough at this point to dish Milledge and another piece off for mediocrity. Spending money does not equal the desire to win. Look at the Yankees cutting down on their payroll as the Red Sox closed the gap to about $20 million in payroll between the two after being about $80 million away.

    Omar has been smart for the most part in regards to the Wilpon's money. Most of the contracts signed this off-season will look like the ones signed a few years ago that had the likes of Jeromy Burnitz earning $12,166,667 and teams will be looking to dish them off in the same way. Omar was smart to stay out of the madness and keep an eye on short term deals unless the right player was there.

    Furthermore, the Mets really did not have Pedro last season. This year, his recovery seems to be going along as planned and he should be back and in ’05 form at the very least. With a healthy El Duque, Glavine, Pedro, Maine, Humber, Perez, Williams, Pelfrey, and Vargas, the Mets will have a formidable five. The rotation is obviously the wildcard here, but there is considerable upside. The lineup is better than last year, the bullpen looks like it is going to be tight, and I truly think the rotation will fall into place.

    Elsewhere, the Cubs are better, but not intelligently built. The have a legitimate ace, but who else after that is really a sure thing to be better than league average? The Phillies pitching looks better on paper and their bullpen is not airtight. The Phillies offense looks better than they are due to the park they play in. The Phillies scored sixteen more runs than the Mets despite playing half of their games at the #9 rank field in terms of park factor for runs while Shea ranked 26th. The Cubs offense ranked 15th despite their field ranking 6th in park factor. The Cubbies added offense, but their biggest issues of being to right handed and having a horrible on base percentage certainly were not addressed. They were the only team to not have an OBP over .320 in bigs outside of Tampa Bay in '06. The Dodgers have some solid pitching, but were ranked 16th in homers in the NL and lost one of their only two guys that hit 20 homers last season.

    While I think it is clear the Phillies, Cubs, and Dodgers are better, they are not as good as people think they are. It will not be as easy for the Mets in ’07 and we know that. Also, while a lot of people are attributing the Mets 97 wins to some fluky performances by some Met players, I’m not so sure that matters. They upgrade their offense and managed to bring in plenty of intriguing bullpen arms. They are a legit team when it comes to those two areas and this rotation will ultimately be better than the one that brought them to game seven of the NLDS. Zito was one guy I wanted the Mets to reel in this off-season, but not at that kind of money. The trade market is marked with teams trying to extract too much from the Mets so Omar is having a tough time pulling off anything on that front. Given the climate of baseball right now and how other teams engaged the Mets, this team is right where they should be and the Wilpons have been more than generous with their cash and have shown the willingness to spend.

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  • Big Mac breaks his silence.

    "I had an absolutely wonderful career that I am very proud of," McGwire said Friday night at a charity event in Tustin, Calif., benefiting the Orange County Abuse Prevention Center. "I'm not in control of what happens - I was in control of hitting the ball."

  • Bob Klapisch thinks that Willie Randolph deserves better. I think that Omar is being fair and doesn't view him as a top manager with good reason and wants to pay him accordingly. Good teams have a way of making good managers and though Willie was better strategically in '06, he's still lacking quite a bit there.