The Sky Is Falling!!!!
The Mets made me want to puke last season. I was at the final game of the season and was enjoying some PBRs in the parking on a beautiful day fully expecting my Mets to make it to the playoffs. John Maine just came off one of the best pitched games of the season for the Mets and undoubtedly the biggest game he pitched all year and the Mets had to beat the Marlins one more time to clinch. Of course you know the rest and the game was over before I even sat down.
However, there are things we all need to keep in perspective.
1) Second Base: Jose Valentin gave us 45 games at second with three homers and a .247/.310/.380 line. Damion Easley provided some nice pop at second and started with a flourish there, but tapered off. Ruben Gotay was great in his 37 games, but there were still 80+ games of underwhelming production there. Now I am not the biggest Castillo fan and thought his deal was a bit silly, but the man hit .296 with a .371 OBP and played solid defense while stealing 10 bases in just fifty games. Sure he has no pop, but Willie will use him in the second hole and he does not create outs giving the Mets best hitters many chances in '08 to make things happen. Castillo will give the Mets more wins by playing from day one and provide some consistency there for sure.
2) Right Field: .273/.326/.398. That is what the Mets got out of right field in '07. If the Mets had not dealt Milledge for Church and it had been someone else moved for him, I would have applauded the move as I think he is an undervalued player that got jerked around in Washington. For a moment, we will set aside the actual trade and look at the player. Church hit .272/.349/.464 last year and plays a good outfield which is a stark contrast to Shawn Green, who was a disaster. The Mets had nine guys compile those numbers and Church will easily top that production and add more stability and consistency from the position with some upside to his 2007 performance. In '07, he got killed by lefties but was a full .030 under what his three year splits where against lefties. His .287 against righties was in line with his three year splits against righties so I am confident that Church has room to grow in '08 over his '07 season.
Also, we know that RFK is a disaster for power hitters. The outfield is pretty uniform and an enclosed circle so I would assume it is as equally as bad for hitters from either side of the plate whereas Shea favors left handed hitters. Church pounded 43 doubles last season and hit 59 XBHs in 144 games. In comparison, the Mets got 48 in 162 games. Ryan Church cannot really be compared to Milledge in '08 since we cannot know for sure what he'll do, but Church is certainly a large upgrade in right field in many facets. I expect him to perform a bit better when you take into account the park change, team change, and improved lineup surrounding him. 60+XBHs from one right fielder? When is the last time the Mets had that?
Ok, not buying it? Let us say you do not agree with me and think Church is a platoon player at best, which I do not think he is. The Mets can still pair him up with Easley to create some pretty good production from right field and should still greatly eclipse what the Mets got out of right field last season. I would rather have Milledge at this point, but you simply cannot argue the Mets did not get better in this area....well I guess you could argue with me about it, but you wouldn't be right.
3) The Outfield: While Alou cannot be counted on for 162 games, the Mets outfield depth stands to be a lot better. With Church in the fold, they can certainly absorb the loss of Alou better and a Gomez/Chavez tandem will be just fine in filling in for him when/if he gets hurt. Also, if Alou gives the Mets 120 games next season, that will be an unabashed improvement over the 84 games he gave the Mets last year. Anything over 84 is a bonus that will just add wins over last year’s production. Also, Beltran only gave the Mets 141 games in center and people cannot forget how much of a disaster the Mets outfield was with Green out there, Chavez going down, Milledge hurt, Alou missing, and Beltran missing a bit too many games. Two words...Ricky Ledee. That is how bad things were.
The Mets outfield is going to be better from day #1 and deeper overall. 150 games from Beltran and Church with 120 games of Alou would make this one formidable outfield with guys that can hit at all three positions. Even if Alou does go down again, the Mets can more capably fill the hole in 2008 than they did in 2007 barring any more disasters. Not only will right field be more consistent and stable, but the entire outfield should be as well and light years better than 2007.
4) Catching: Again, the fact that Milledge was dealt for Schneider has no context in whether he will be an upgrade over the Mets '08 catching situation. There seems to be some people confused about Paulie Ballgame being some superior offensive player to Schneider. A lot of LoDuca's value is in his batting average and he simply is not all that good anymore. In 2007, LoDuca's ISOP was .106 while Schneider's was .101. They both had virtually the same amount of XBHs and had the same RBI total in 2007. Schneider played in ten more games but tallied up about 40 less at-bats due to this novel idea of taking pitches.
LoDuca's ISOD was a paltry .039 while Schneider's was .091. That is not even in the same stratosphere and though we cannot assume Schneider will have a better season, it certainly is reasonable he gets his average up another .020 points and continues to take walks with vastly better plate discipline than LoDuca, who at 36 is not destined to improve offensively or even play to his career averages at this point. All this does not even factor in the immense defensive upgrade Brian represents.
The move to acquire Schneider was not one of my favorites and the fact he is inked for another season after this does not help. However, in terms of an upgrade, he certainly makes the Mets a better ball club by being a sideways move offensively at worst, with the possibility of being a slight upgrade, and a defensive upgrade over Paul LoDuca. With Castro still around, the Mets managed to get bit better behind the plate overall, however small that margin is.
5) Rotation: Pedro, Pedro, and Pedro. He gave the Mets 32 innings last season. Even if the manages to give the Mets only 150 innings, that is a tremendous upgrade over what the Mets had and will add quite a few wins overall. Then you factor in that Maine and Oliver should build off their '07 performance and become more predictable and you have a rather formidable front three. After that, the situation is a bit muddied. We have talked about Livan and Lohse in this space before and of course The Duque can still be the fourth starter. I'm going to consider Pedro's innings separate from simply replacing Glavine's. They are a bonus. I am hoping to cover Glavine's performance in this fourth spot.
In 2007 Glavine's ERA+ was 96, Livan's ERA+ was 95, and Lohse's ERA+ was 98. I am still holding out hope The Duque heads to the bullpen as a capable reliever and solid fallback option in the rotation while the Mets pick up Livan or Lohse. Either one of those guys will replace Glavine's innings and his 2007 production easily in my eyes. Sure, they won't be able to match his professionalism or his crotchety factor, but I think the Mets will manage. Also, it is only fair to mention that it is a distinct possibility that The Duque will hold this spot. He put up a 115 ERA+ in '07, which I do not expect him replicate, in 150 innings. Even if he is the guy and goes down and gives the Mets only 150 innings again, whoever gives the Mets those other starts will probably drag the overall ERA+ for that spot to around the Glavine territory thereby essentially replacing his production. Either way, this spot should be a wash.
This brings us to the fifth spot. Fact: Mike Pelfrey was tragic in the first half of '07. Fact: Mike Pelfrey was marginally better in the second half showing some flashes of improvement. Sure he still got pounded and had a high BAA, but he was still walking over 4.5 guys a game. For his big league career, he has walked 4.88 per 9 and for his minor league career he walked 3.17 per 9. In college, he never topped 2.00 per 9. Once he gets confident and more experience, that big league total will shrink and he will get better. He simply is not this bad and showed flashes of decent secondary stuff at times in '07. ZiPS sees 24 starts for Pelfrey with a 4.86 ERA and I do not think that is optimistic at all and that would be a tremendous improvement over what the Mets got from the fifth spot last season. It should also be noted ZiPS has a hard on for Mulvey and sees him being John Maine with less strikeouts. ZiPS predicts a 4.17 ERA in 23 starts, but sees 5.39 ERA in 26 starts for Humber, which seems very pessimistic to me. Mulvey was a bit optimistic most likely due to his ability to keep the ball down and great HR/9 ratio and Humber was hurt a bit by pitching in the PCL.
Basically, the Mets should have a viable option in the fifth spot to give them some slightly below league average innings with the potential to be much better than that. If the Mets can manage 150 innings from Pedro (which is low), get Lohse or Livan, and have Pelfrey get marginally better, I think people are vastly underestimating this rotation. Last year, there was no depth. People got hurt, Pelfrey sucked, and it was a mess. This season, if Omar does the right thing and moves The Duque to the pen, his rubber arm will be ready to go with Mulvey and Humber also in the wings waiting to give the Mets solid options for the rotation. This team should be more consistent #1 through #5 and much deeper and able to maneuver through some injuries.
Are the Mets the most improved team? Not at all, but they were better than people think they were last year and had less improving to do than other teams and I just do not think the Phillies and Braves had blowout off-seasons. In 2008, stability and consistency will be something that this team will enjoy and it will translate into wins. I see the Mets has a 91 win team with a chance to be better if things fall into place, but I see a solid team without a lot of holes that should make the playoffs. Underwhelming in some spots? Sure, but no immense drop offs and no spots devoid of talent.
Do not buy into the national media's hype, the local media's hype, or some other fearmonger's off base predictions. Omar can still improve this team through under the radar moves that made the 2006 Mets so good. Wise, Schneider, Church, and Livan will never make an All-Star team, but they could be the four guys that put this team in the playoffs for the second time in three years.
"It was very disappointing because we know that we had the best team. And I believe that we still have a great team," the first baseman said Thursday on a conference call.
I await Jimmy Rollins' response. Of course he has the obvious evidence on his side that the Mets finished below the Phillies to prove his point, but the historic collapse needed to take place and the Mets essentially beat themselves with the final nail being hammered by Tom Glavine.
"We kind of assumed, for a lack of a better term, that we were going to win," Delgado said. "If you look back to 2006, which was a magical year for us, where everything kind of went our way, maybe we thought it was going to be the same way. And we kind of didn't play it out the last three weeks."
"I don't think it had anything to do with extracurricular activities," he said. "You've just got to kind of narrow your mind and go out and do what you've got to do and don't have any other thoughts in your mind except to win that game instead of thinking, oh, when we make it to the playoffs, we might play San Diego."
Who do you blame for the lack of focus....let's see...who could we possibly blame? If you don't manage all that well and you cannot keep your team focused, what exactly are you getting paid to do?
Roger Clemens says he was injected with "lidocaine and B-12" and not steroids or human growth hormone by former trainer Brian McNamee, according to a portion of an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" released Thursday.
"Lidocaine and [vitamin] B-12. It's for my joints, and B-12 I still take today," Clemens told Mike Wallace in the interview, which is scheduled to be shown Sunday night. It is Clemens' first interview since the release of the Mitchell report in December.
Ah...that explains it! I'm satisfied with that, aren't you? Of course McNamee said he might sue if claims Clemens lies about this so it all fits nicely in that he did not actually call McNamee a liar, just misguided about what he was doing.
"Brian has a master's degree in sports medicine," Ward told ESPN The Magazine's Shaun Assael. "He knows the difference between lidocaine, B-12 and testosterone. What he injected into Roger Clemens wasn't lidocaine or B-12. It was testosterone."
Another lawyer for McNamee, Richard Emery, has threatened to sue Clemens for defamation.
"I think that this is a lawyers' game, which allows him to try and attempt to say that McNamee didn't know what he was injecting or that at least Clemens didn't know what he was injecting," Emery said.
Classic. Of course as the article mentions, this is not the first time. Rafael Palmeiro had said Miguel Tejada gave him a tainted vial of B-12 and he unknowingly shot up with steroids. Good stuff. Also, his angry tirade seemed a bit contrived to me in an effort to seem geniune. For me, it backfired.