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

Friday, March 16, 2007

Stupidity Revisited: Devil Rays Edition

The BJ Upton situation has been something that has outlined everything that is wrong with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. While most people saw the need to move Upton from shortstop, the Devil Rays were reluctant and continued to let him make 199 errors in five years. Ladies and gentleman, that is not a mechanical defect. It's a complete and utter malfunction. In high school, I'm guessing the majority of the guys in the bigs could have played shortstop with aplomb. I'd venture to guess that most of these guys were in fact shortstops growing up since they were probably the best players on their teams. However, when you get to high school to a lesser extent, college, and the pros, they typically find the best fit for you. There are plenty of minor league short stops who aren't good enough to hack it in the pros much less all of the high school shortstops that get drafted.

When Justin Upton was drafted, there was no question he would have to make the move to centerfield and it was not just because of Stephen Drew. While the Devil Rays could not have been more smacked in the face with the reality that BJ was simply not a shortstop, they failed to act on it partially because they had Baldelli, Crawford, Young, Dukes, and Gomes already clogging up their outfield. Always gun shy to make a trade, the Devil Rays stood their ground and kept running Upton out there year after year and wasting his development time. Now they have no where to play him while he should have been a full time starter in the bigs as early as 2005. What has changed? Not much. Now they plan to mind bogglingly use him as a utility guy to see where he fits best. In my estimation, they should stop screwing around, pick rightfield or centerfield for him and let him go get regular work there.

While it seems easy to everyone else, this has been a difficult situation for the Devil Rays. With the glut of outfielders and Upton profiling well as a centerfielder, Baldelli should have been shopped around more for a top tier pitcher opening up centerfield for Upton. Though centerfield is a position he should have logged hundreds of games in the minors already, he has not and could have reported early to camp to work on becoming a centerfielder. With a team that would be lucky to finish fourth at this point, he should be allowed to learn on the job as he gets comfortable with his new permanent home. If the Devil Rays do not feel comfortable with that, they should deal him. Instead, he is still logging games in the infield for some bizarre reason and not focusing on the things he should. A prospect of his ilk should not be playing the role of utility guy. Yes, Albert Pujols did it, but with Mark McGwire blocking his way there was little choice and there was little doubt where he would eventually end up.

"I still believe I can play it," Upton said, "and play it well."

But he also knows he has committed 199 errors in four professional seasons -- most of them at short. And he knows there's "no excuse" for that. So he understands why this team is now asking him to do everything but rake the mound and announce the lineups.

Five years from now, if this was B.J. Upton's call, he would like to find himself either back at shortstop or playing center field -- because he feels most comfortable "in the middle of the field," he says.

The Devil Rays dropped the ball here and continue to operate without a clue. Upton should be a star in this league at some point, but he should have been a star already. Due to stubbornness and indecisiveness, he is languishing as a player who has no idea where he is going. What really confounds me is that he still talks about moving back to short in the future and that about says it all in regards to this mess.

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  • If you told me in 2004 that Mark Prior would end up anywhere but the Hall of Fame, I would have not believed it. Fast forward to 2007, Wade Miller is the front runner for for the 5th spot in the rotation and Prior is not even part of the discussion. If not for his health problems, there is little doubt he would be in a much different spot, but that is why no one likes to anoint anyone a future legend without a solid track record. Even a guy like Ben Sheets has largely not lived up to expectations, though not as badly as Prior. You just never know in this game and that is partially why I think the Mets will ultimately take it slow with Mike Pelfrey.

  • When the Mets obtained Oliver Perez last season, they saw his 2004 season and nothing else. They saw his 239 strikeouts in 196 innings with the Pirates and none of the blemishes that developed thereafter. And now they have seen 2004 again.

    After striking out nine Red Sox batters -- including stars Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz twice apiece -- in five innings on Thursday night, Perez said his slider had returned. It was the slider that produced many of the 239 strikeouts.

    "The best slider I've had since 2004," Perez called it.

    Coop's biggest crush, Oliver Perez, was straight dealing yesterday against some pretty good hitters. Five innings of three hit ball? Swellicious. Nine strikeouts? Fucking swellicious.

    Really, with Oliver Perez, Mike Pelfrey, and John Maine looking as good as they have, the Mets might shock a lot of people. The potential to be one of the top five rotations in the NL is there. Does a lot have to go right? Yes, but if these three guys are for real, look out.

  • Jason Stark really laid out some disturbing thoughts.

    A high-ranking official of an American League team told me this winter he doesn't think Pedro Martinez will win 10 more games the rest of his career.

    Yeah, that's 10.

    As in: Not even as many as Mark (Unemployed 'Til Last Week) Redman won last year.

    So, to review, that's "not 10" (to paraphrase the great Jim Boeheim).

    And why, you ask, would anybody think that? Not because this official, or anyone else, doesn't think Pedro is special. Certainly not because he doesn't think Pedro can win unless he's scorching it up there at 94 miles an hour.

    Nope. It's just because he's reasonably familiar with Martinez's medical history, and he doesn't see a whole lot of bullets left in the shoulder of a small guy who just had his rotator cuff sewn back together five months ago.

    Shoulders, you see, are different than elbows. If you're looking for a quick rule of thumb in evaluating the futures of pitchers and those arms that make them what they are, it would be this:

    Elbows are usually fixable.

    Shoulders -- uh, not so much

    Scary thought, but I do not think he is the linchpin to the season. I agree that whatever he gives is gravy, but we all might want to get into the mindset that he will not be back. Penciling him for anything in 2007 might be a stretch. However, we've said it before and it bears repeating, his contract is worth every penny if he never pitches for the Mets again.

  • Julio Franco throws his weight behind Park for the last spot in the rotation. I think we all know that Park is a lot better than Trachsel and I like the fact he averaged 6.29 innings per game. If you get that much from your fifth starter, you are in business. I also can see the benefits of taking it easy with Pelfrey for the first two months and letting him break his way into the New York rotation with a fresh arm a few months into the season. However, like everyone else, I want to see him jump right in and wreck the league.

  • Joe Smith looks like he is going to crack the opening day roster.
  • Labels:

    Tuesday, March 13, 2007

    Realistically Speaking

    Ah, the fifth starter race continues on meaningless inning after meaningless inning. We know a few things about Spring Training statistics and we know that putting too much stock into those numbers would be a bit silly. The only people who actually have a gauge on what those stats mean are the scouts and coaches that watch the games and even then they could be misleading and not a great indicator of future performance. Tyler Yates and Brian Bannister dominating in pre-season ball offered very little indication as to what they would do during the regular season. Of course Mike Pelfrey is far from Bannister or Yates, but you get the point I'm trying to make.

    In similar fashion, Chan Ho Park's performances aren't exactly a perfect barometer for what he would be able to do over the course of the season. Park is for the most part a known quantity and should be a decent fifth starter if given the opportunity. A 4.60 ERA with a steady five + innings per game while giving the Mets a chance to win is what I would expect from him. He was late getting into the action and is better than he is shown in his few innings of work.

    What does it all mean? Well, not much. If Pelfrey finishes this spring with a sparkling ERA while Park continues to struggle, it probably will not weigh in all that much come decision time as the Mets probably know what they want to do already. We will continue to see increased scrutiny on each of their starts from the media, but really, the only mitigating factor here is Pelfrey's performance on the negative end of the spectrum. If he pitches badly, like Humber has been, he will get a one way ticket to New Orleans. If he pitches well, he will continue to keep his name in the discussion just because it would be impossible to ignore him completely.

    I figure the Mets will be very hesitant to stick Pelfrey in the rotation from the start unless something forces their hand in the form of a complete and utter implosion by Park, which I do not see happening. I wrote about the topic last week in regards to letting the best man win and while there should be evidence supporting Pelfrey as the best man, they are still spring numbers which are for the most part not something to put much stock in.

    Sure Park still had trouble in his last start, but as long as he keeps showing flashes of effectiveness with his repertoire, you would have to think that it is his to lose. He would have to not have the ability to complete any of his starts and he would have to be continually ousted early to miss out. Which is the right move? Well, the Mets would probably like to limit Pelfrey to 160 innings during the regular season. The Mets could still monitor Pelfrey's innings and pitches in the bigs, but when you are in the business of trying to win games, those things might get pushed to the side at times.

    Limiting his innings would be much easier to do if he started the year at AAA even with the Mets not needing a fifth starter right off the bat. After the talk of how much residual effect Verlander's 200+ innings in '06 is having on him in '07, the Mets are going to steer clear of overworking their future ace. Though the Mets would not be relying as heavily on Pelfrey as the Tigers did with Verlander, they are going to be cautious and bring Pelfrey along more slowly. There is little doubt where Pelfrey will end up by mid-season, but it is hard to envision him at Shea in the beginning.

    I had written this and conveniently enough, Rob Neyer's chat touched upon the issue of jobs won and lost in the the spring and Pelfrey's possible inclusion to the rotation.

    Slew (Seattle): Do people actually win or lose jobs in spring training, or do good/bad performances just provide cover for decisions that have largely been made in advance? Thanks.

    SportsNation Rob Neyer: It's an interesting question. I would guess that every spring, roughly 50 Opening Day roster spots are determined in spring training; mostly relief pitchers and fifth outfielders and infielders. But you know, a lot of those guys are back in the minors within a month or two.


    Jay (NYC): Rob, who gets the nod for the 5th starter in NY: Pelfrey or Chan Ho (out of the) Park

    SportsNation Rob Neyer: Considering how well Pelfrey's pitched in camp so far, it looks like he's got the inside track. If he can keep throwing those hard sinkers for strikes, the job should be his.

    Of course Marty Noble and Rob Neyer know more than me and think Pelfrey has the inside track, but as much as I would like to see big Mike on the team when they go North, I just do not see it.

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  • Quiz time.

    I got eleven right and four wrong for a 73%. I have no reason to call myself a Mets fan....or a man for that matter.

  • Shawn, if you hit 30 homers this season, I'll grow a pair of ovaries.

    Green, his batting stance adjusted and his swing corrected, is convinced he will have a productive season. But he isn't sure what that term translates to in terms of home runs while playing at age 34, batting seventh and playing home games in a "fair" ball park, which Shea is.

    "Is it 30 home runs or 40? I don't know," he said.

  • Reyes hit his third homer of the spring, which leads the Mets. Suck it Sickels and your dumb as projections. Reyes is one is lifetime talent that is going to get much better.

  • Alay has to find a new home. There really was no place on the team for him and he was just taking up a roster spot with no shot at making the team and sitting far down on the depths charts.

  • It could be a huge year for Bonds in terms of hitting some tremendous milestones. The chances of him getting 159 hits is virtually nil, though not impossible.

  • How the fuck do you not sign a kid with two first names?

    The player, José José, a 16-year-old outfielder, has drawn the interest of a number of baseball’s big-money teams.

    The Mets were among the first teams to have a private workout with José. On Monday he drove one ball over the wall in right-center field and hit an assortment of line drives. But he also had his share of foul balls and routine grounders.

  • Rob Neyer is still pretty high on Dice-K.

    Joe (Whitewater,Wi): Will Dice-K live up to the hype???

    SportsNation Rob Neyer: I'm sure I'll get this question a few times in every chat between now and Opening Day, so here's my first offering of my standard answer . . . Matsuzaka will be one of the 10 best starters in the American League this season. But whether he's second-best or 10th-best, I wouldn't want to guess.
  • Labels:

    Monday, March 12, 2007

    Stupidity Revisited

    Remember when Benny and Baseball Prospectus went head to head over an article chastising Omar for some spot on remarks? I do and I love bringing it up because of how apparently wrong they were. Yes, I'm wrong a lot, but we are not talking about me.

    To fill everyone in who doesn't remember this or has never read it, Omar said signing Pedro would help them recruit in the Dominican. BP said BS and Benny said FU. In the end, we know Fernando took less money to be a Met and everyone is happy.

    When the Mets convinced Pedro Martinez to sign as a free agent on Dec. 16, 2004, they felt they were doing more than signing an All-Star pitcher. They believed Martinez would give them instant credibility in the talent-rich Dominican Republic, where he is a national hero.

    And they have been right. The Mets have about a dozen promising young pitchers from the Dominican in camp, but the biggest bonanza stemming from the Martinez signing thus far clearly is another Martinez -- Fernando, an 18-year-old outfield prospect with distinctive potential.

    I have not read one report where someone was not raving about his ability.

    "I call it the domino effect," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. "He had a few teams that were very interested in him, but he chose us at least in part because of the influence of Pedro."

    Pedro meant so much to this team and you'll be hard pressed to see anyone saying "I told you so" about signing Pedro after the rumors that his arm was barely hanging on. He has been such a boon to this franchise and their return back to respectability. While you certainly cannot say Pedro is the reason the Mets where they are right now, but he is a big reason. As for F-Mart, I don't think we talk about him enough. Last year in his first year of pro ball when most American kids are still in high school, he played in the in high A ball and the Arizona Fall League. He posted a .274/.334/.440 line over all levels with fifty nine runs score, twenty three doubles, four triples, twelve homers, forty six RBIs, and nine steals.

    If you extrapolate that into a full season of ball and figure on 146 games, he would have eighty six runs scored, thirty three doubles, six triples, seventeen homers, and sixty seven RBIs. Just staggering. He struck out a lot, didn't walk enough, and struggled against lefties, but he needs something to work on, right? Those are three things to watch closely to gauge whether or not he's ready to keep moving forward. With Gomez and Milledge ahead of him, there should not be a need to rush him and the Mets know what he has to work on and should see progress before moving him along. What really blows my mind is that this kid was not even alive when the Mets last won it all.

    * * *

  • Ricky goes ahead and sets the bar pretty low for Jose.

    Baseball's all-time stolen base leader said he believes that, of all the players in the game, the Mets' 23-year-old shortstop has the best shot at breaking his single-season record of 130 stolen bases.

    Henderson, who is in camp as a special instructor for the second consecutive spring, set that mark in 1982 while a member of the Oakland Athletics. Reyes led the majors in steals last season with 64 stolen bases -- less than half of Henderson's record-setting total.

    "He's the most likely in my eyes," Henderson said. "With his approach and the way he plays the game. He loves the game. He looks like when he's out on the field, he's having fun. There's no pressure on him.

    "When you get a player that's having fun playing the game and having success that's the kind of player that can break records.... I give him all the chance (to break the record). When you enjoy the game, you never know. I didn't think I'd ever break the (previous) record.

    "Yes, it's twice as much as he has now, but he's just starting. And, if you see him improve every year, if he achieves that, he's got a chance."

    That will never happen because he simply won't run enough. On a shitty team that would allow him to run with no big bats behind him, maybe. But not on the Mets. Now eighty steals? I fully expect him to drop eighty steals at least once in the next three years.

  • Ben Johnson is doing nothing but building up a fan base this spring.

    “I’ll put it like this: I do enjoy contact — maybe a little too much,” Johnson said. “I’m not afraid of breaking up double plays. If there’s a bang-bang play at the plate, I don’t mind dropping my shoulder.”

    I'm not saying cut Green, but Johnson is earning his place on the team and some serious at-bats during the regular season. Of course the Mets will prefer Newhan's ability to play anywhere especially with Chavez on the team, but I'll agree with DG about carrying one less reliever to get Ben Johnson into fold. Let a few more weeks decide who should get a spot on this team since spring numbers are hard to dissect. Besides, a fifth starter is usually not needed for the first few weeks so they can still carry seven relievers and just one less starter staving off a roster crunch.

  • Some thoughts from DG...

    Nats announcers totally flubbed good content: about the Duaner situation, they totally missed the point, then on the rotation mentioned some prospect named "John Pelfrey."

    That's the big advantage of MLV.TV - you get to hear how good the Met announcer are compared to most other teams.

    John Pelfrey? JOHN PELFREY! Grame prep folks. Game prep. You have a dream job, put some extra time into it....and yes, it does give you a great perspective on just how good the Mets announcers are.

  • Can someone email me this BP article?

  • Marty is smoking some doobies before his mailbags.

    When does Aaron Heilman's contract run out and what are the Mets' plans for him? Will they offer him an extension?
    -- Chris D., Glen Allen, Va.

    Heilman has a one-year contract, and neither he nor I expect the Mets to offer an extension. At this point, I'd expect he'd not accept one unless he was assured a place in the rotation, which hardly is likely.

    He has a one year contract so that arbitration was avoided. The Mets and Heilman will go through this for two more years after this season provided he is not traded.
  • Labels:

    Sunday, March 11, 2007

    Jose Reyes Peaked at 23?

    I'm know I'm late on John Sickles' Jose Reyes projection, but I never read it so it's new to me. It is crazy how in the '06 season Jose Reyes had surpassed David Wright in the minds of a lot of Met fans in terms of who is going to be the better overall player. While I do believe we all agree both will be tremendous players and perennial All-Stars, Reyes' ceiling all of a sudden seems limitless. There is talk in the papers about him not only surpassing Jeter in terms of his career, but possibly being better at this point in time. I'm not going to weigh in on that one, but it is nice that things like that can even be discussed.

    Back to John Sickels' Crystal Ball. Jose Ryes had 99 runs in '05 and 122 in '06, but only manages to notch over 100 three more times with what should be a potent lineup behind him? He never steals sixty bases again, never hits seventeen triples again after doing it twice in a row and only hits double digits four more times, and only knocks 20+ homers twice. I do get the fact that he does this to only strike up some conversation and this has no significance on reality or is based on anything concrete, but Reyes' career seems a bit low to say the least. Anyway, if you have not checked it out, you should rummage through the comments. There are plenty of anti-Met people that chime in with ridiculous statements, but there is some interesting commentary in there in regards to the topic and it is good to read other points of views.

    For me and my thoughts on the topic with no statistic relevance at all factoring in, I think he is going to be a five tool monster that can hit anywhere from first to third in the lineup and produce in any capacity he is asked too. He is going to steal more than 64 bases quite a few times, top twenty triples at least once, hit 20+ homers quite a few more times than two, top 100 runs perennially as does Jeter, and be a magician with the glove. Not that Sickels' career line for Jose is particularly bad, but Reyes is certainly looking like a rare talent that many teams have not come across and might not come across. This kid can be so good it is scary and he is just one of those guys who you need to watch daily to really understand what he is capable of.

    Sickels also did David Wright a while back and was a bit more generous, but he has them both curiously retiring at 37 (Reyes) and 36 (Wright). These days, top tier players have the juice to play longer and these two certainly are athletic enough to make it past his predicted retirement ages. I do understand that you just cannot anoint anyone a future Hall of Famer until they show some longevity (see Mark Prior) and I think that plays a lot into his conservative estimates for Reyes and the semi-conservative estimate for Wright.



    Yes, it is that time of the year again. It's draft day for The Metropolitans fantasy baseball league and thanks once again to Benny for running with the entire thing and for not using two catchers. We all make mistakes Benny and you have been forgiven for yours. I personally have done no prep and my draft should be an interesting one to say the least. For those of you who have not done much prep either, I have a hot tips for you. David Ortiz can produce, plant your corn early, Albert Pujols is a monster, don't eat the brown acid, Johan Santana is luscious, Francisco Liriano is not a smart pick, chicks with an Adam's apple are not actually girls, and Billy Wagner can pitch.

    I'll be there 6:45 with some PBRs, tons of self loathe, and a draft theory that has to work one of these days.

    * * *

  • The name of the game is progress and Oliver Perez is certainly doing that. With Maine looking sharp, Perez shaping up, and Pelfrey looking like he is ready, my optimism for this rotation is still high. Throw into that better than expected action from Jason Vargas and Pedro's rehab coming along well and I think everyone's fears should be a bit assuaged.

  • Beltran thought Wainwright's hook was a ball and really, how can you not? There are still some people blaming Beltran, but that Curve is just one of those pitches that if thrown right, it's impossible to hit much like a Kazmir slider that nicks the front outside corner of the plate to lefties or a Rivera cutter on the inside corner. Not enough credit is given in New York to Wainwright who strapped a set on and dropped the only pitch that would have gotten the Mets best hitter with the best eye out. The real blame if you felt the need to place any? Willie.

    Manager Willie Randolph may have made a mistake not bunting the two runners over. He continues to insist the inning unfolded perfectly, as Beltran had the chance to win the game. But one NL scout said a two-on, no-out bunt was in order precisely because Wainwright was so nervous.

    "He's already panicking, now he picks up the bunt and there's a good chance he throws the ball away," the scout said. "By not bunting, it takes the pressure off [Wainwright]."

    Indeed, Wainwright recovered to strike out Cliff Floyd with the curveball, and nearly did the same to Jose Reyes.

    Instead of three chances to knock that tying run in, Willie chose to give one of those outs away for a two chances at the win. Willie has some learning to do and hopefully he makes mental notes of these mistakes. It would have been more acceptable if a lighter bat was up, but Cliff has the ability to rake and it bears noting that I've seen him take wicked curveballs from Roy Oswalt out of the park.

  • First we heard about Wright being offered for Jose Cruz Jr. and now this?

    An official who was involved in the discussions that led to that Dec. 11, 2001 deal said that one of the players the Mets made available to Cleveland was a Low-A shortstop named Jose Reyes. The official said the Indians liked Reyes, but simply did not have enough information from their South Atlantic League scouts to make an 18-year-old with just two pro seasons the key player in the deal rather than Alex Escobar.

    I am extremely glad their organizational philosophy has changed.

  • Joel Sherman sees the Mets possibly on the cusp of something big.

  • Joel Sherman thinks batting right 2nd would behoove the Mets.

    A power-hitting No. 2 batter is so attractive. An opposing pitcher must worry about Reyes' speed when he is on base and not walking the No. 2 hitter in front of elite RBI men Beltran, Delgado and Alou. Thus, the Mets' No. 2 batter can expect plenty of fastballs to try to negate Reyes' speed, and fewer filthy sliders late in the count to attempt to avoid walks.

    When Alou bats, this certainly has it merits and Wright could be put up big, big, big, big numbers batting in front of the Los squared.

  • Spring numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, but Ben Johnson certainly looking great.

  • Bill Madden thinks the Mets should trade Duaner when they can. I say that is silly. Middle relievers just do not bring that much back via trades at this point in the year and Duaner now has some bad press out there about him. They certainly could not extract what he is actually worth from people and he just needs to be monitored more and they need to nip things in the butt before they get bad. What they did this spring was right and they need to take a hard line approach with him. It does worry me that the Mets two main set-up men have some issues, but the Mets are heavily depending on these guys and need to gamble that they will step up.

  • Again...big year for Sheffield. He's mad and this should tell you exactly how mad.

    “Boston was my first choice,” Sheffield said yesterday before his new team, the Detroit Tigers, lost, 7-6, to the Red Sox in Grapefruit League play. “But things happen for a reason. Sometimes you don’t get to go where you wanted to go.”
  • Labels: