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Sunday, April 16, 2006



1,000 MILES

Actually, more like 1,175 miles. That's how far the kids and I drove this weekend to take in Saturday's Mets game and make it back home at a decent hour on a school night. . . . Two losses in nearly a dozen games, and it has to be the one we go to. . . . Well, the Mets should be as good at road trips as my kids. . . . We'll try again. . .

Random Complaints

Of course, I had read about the idiotic booing. From Beltran to Heilman. . . . I pretty much shrugged it off, but, having spent a losing afternoon at Shea, I must say I was pretty disgusted with a lot of the fans. I was sitting in excellent seats, on a near sellout day, and it was a sea of beer, cigarettes and F**K's. Kids and adults over 40 were few and far between. All the conversations and most of the cheering you heard were laced with explitives, F**K this and F**K that. It was not hard to see this group booing anything that moved. . . .

He's Not Benitez!

Jorge Julio is a problem. He can throw 94-95, so if he could be "fixed" that would be great. But right now, he stinks, and that's a problem. This particular rant, though, is against everyone who keeps saying he is Benitez or just like Benitez, or whatever. He's a big, latin reliever who throws hard, but the comparison ends there. He in no Benitez. We should be so lucky. That's like saying Victor Diaz is Darryl Strawberry. Or that Victor Zambrano is like a young Nolan Ryan. Benitez was an overpowering reliever who ranks #6 all-time in games by a Mets pitcher (between Tug McGraw and Dwight Gooden), and 2nd all time in saves. If we had Benitez in our pen to fill Julio's role we would have the best pen in the league. Yes, Benitez wilted under the greatest pressure, and the Mets were wise to move on when they did, but Julio is nothing like him (and is not even getting the pressure opportunities to blow), and don't insult Benitez by making the comparison.

Bring on the Braves

Enough with my negativity though. We're off to the best start in Mets history, and the last time we had a lead this big in the division, I was a bachelor, Glavine was in the minors and Jose Reyes was four years old. So, get ready for a great three game series. . . .

Sunday, April 09, 2006

MAGIC NUMBER: 155

O.K., I'm getting a bit ahead of myself there, but 4-1 sure beats the heck out of last year's 0-5 start. Remember, they're at home and playing the division doormats, so they need to do well, but don't let that spoil your enjoyment. Here are some observations---encouraging and worrying---from Week #1.

Encouraging Point #1:

Duaner Sanchez looks like a great pick up. He's allowed 0 runs and only 1 hit in 5 innings of work, while striking out 6 and walking 2. And, if you've watched him, you know he wasn't just lucky. Moreover, he has shown the ability to pitch two inning stints. A real plus. (By the way, Jae Seo hasn't started yet for the Dodgers--he's their 5th man and they skipped his spot--but he's gotten cuffed around a bit out of the pen.)

Encouraging Point #2:

Carlos Delgado can field. From what we had heard in the preseason, I was expecting BAD defense over there, but so far he has been great. He's saved/handled 4-6 very tough throws---some high, some bounced, some thrown at him hard from very short range---he's fielded a couple of tough ones hit at him, he's made a couple of nifty tag plays on throws that pulled him off the bag, and he's started 1 or 2 (I'm sure of at least one) nice double plays with great throws down to second (a play, by the way, that Meinkeiwicz had a lot of trouble with last year, he really couldn't throw; Delgado's a former catcher, and it shows on his throws). Delgado may not have any range, but that just doesn't come up that often; I haven't seen one ball that he has not gotten that you could say a gold glove first baseman would have. He is just fine and better over there.

Encouraging Point #3:

It looks like Glavine and Trachsel still have it. OK, they both took advantage of the inexperienced Marlins, but considering they are a combined 75 years old, there was legitimate concern. Concern that their combined ERA of 2.00 over 18 innings with 16 K's certainly diminishes.


Concern #1:

Jose Valentin may be useless. Although he was once a good player, he looked like he was completely washed up last year. Mets scouts must have concluded that he was merely injured and could bounce back at age 37, because he got a guaranteed deal, which he needed because he did nothing in Spring Training. He has failed in each of the important clutch situations in which Randolph has used him. It will be interesting to see who goes when Matsui comes off the D.L.. Of course, when the bench is your biggest concern, that's actually encouraging. It looks like this team will needs its bench less than many other Mets teams, and Franco, Diaz, Woodward and Chavez are all solid for their roles.

Concern #2:

Jorge Julio. 'Nuff said. The Benson trade (like the Cameron trade) was a salary dump. In both cases, the Mets saved themselves millions of dollars and the trades cost the other teams millions of dollars. It makes sense that the Mets would get less talent back than they gave up. At least Nady's looked very nice so far. . . . Benson did have some value though, and so far it looks like it would have been better to get nothing in return. Julio wasn't around for most of the Spring, though, (due to the WBC), so let's give Rick Peterson a chance with him.

Concern #3:

Wagner's velocity. Three outings, and he's topping out at 92, or occassionally 93. The result: three innings and only one strikeout. This from a guy who should be at 96-97 frequently and has NEVER failed to strike out one man per inning in any season in his career (except for his debut year of 1995, when he faced exactly one batter and retired him, but not by K). It has been cold (though not so much today), and he did miss a lot of Spring Training, and his finger may still be bothering him a little, so there are plenty of explanations. Hopefully, though, the fact that he will turn 35 this season is not one of them. We're married to this guy for a long time, and he needs that lights out velocity. . . .

Monday, April 03, 2006

A DAY WITHOUT LOOPER. . .

Highlight #1: A great opening day win, without a doubt, and wonderful to have it finished by a closer, especially after sitting through last year's fiasco. The highlight though, came in the top of the 5th. Glavine appeared to be struggling, getting into some trouble in every inning after the first, and walking three men while getting only twelve outs. He appeared to be getting squeezed by the ump, was not throwing inside and had more bb's than k's; in short, what his spring and his horrible first half last year looked like. Now, the Nats had men on 2nd and 3rd (following a well-stroked double by jose guillen), nobody out, with a 3-0 count on cleanup man Nick Johnson and the power-hitting Alfonso Soriano on deck. The Mets' one-run lead seemed certainly lost and worse. . . . Now, one thing about Glavine, is that he never gives in. He NEVER believes he "has to" groove one. He also has the composure that led to (or from) two Cy Young awards and a hall-of-fame career, so he was not going to panic. But still, it looked like the old gunslinger simply did not have the bullets anymore. He then threw three straight strikes to Johnson, catching him looking on the inside black. Then got Soriano strike one (high inside heat, swinging), strike two (back inside (got a nice call, but the ump was into it at this point), balls one and two on two just-for-show change-ups well off the plate low and away. Then, with Soriano leaning half way across the plate looking for another change, strike three looking on the inside black. Inning over. WOW! For the first time, I felt that he is actually going to get to 300 wins. It was vintage pitching from a hall-of-famer.

Highlight #2: Top of the second, dribbler up the middle, the rookie Anderson Hernandez ranges WAY to his right (he was shading the lefty hitter to pull), reaches down and gloves the ball. Great range---no way you thought he would get to it---but then, more incredibly, rights himself as he stands up taking two more steps away from first, leaps in the air while swiveling his body 180 degrees, and, in midair, uncorks a strong accurate throw to first---as if his feet were planted and it had been a routine grounder--so that the play was not even close. A GREAT play. Really unbelievable range. I don't know if this kid can hit enough, but boy is his glove going to be fun.

Other Notes: Good news is that Wright seemed ready to pick up right where he left off. Bad news is that so did Beltran---popping up with 2nd and 3rd 1 out especially painful. . . . Fran Healy NOT missed. . . . Stat of the day, the Mets the second team ever (or in a really, really long time) to start 3 infielders under age 24 on opening day. The last trio to do it, Glenn Hubbard, Rafael Ramirez, and Bob Horner for the '81 Braves, all became All-Stars in their careers, which totaled 35 major league seasons (Horner's was cut short by injury). The infield youth, plus our other guys embarking on their first full seasons in prime roles (Nady, Heilman and Bannister), should make for an exciting year. Hopefully, they learned today about cool under pressure from watching the "old goat."

Saturday, April 01, 2006

HERE WE GO!

Well, it has been a busy off-season---half the Mets starting players, one starting pitcher, a majority of the bench and almost all of the bullpen were not with the club last year---that has produced a surprisingly young (5 regulars under 30, 3 under 24, and a rookie in the rotation), and likely exciting team. Flaws are easy to find, but there is a breadth of talent on this team that, combined with the youth, should make them fun to watch. There are two Hall-of-Famers (Martinez and Glavine), four others near the league best at their position (Wagner, Delgado, Beltran and Wright), another near All-Star (Floyd) and the most electrifying player in the league (Reyes). I'm so ready for opening day. Here are some thoughts about the roster. . . .

Most Pleasant Surprise: Brian Bannister. This rotation rookie did not even make most prospect lists, and he is universally described as a potential fourth or fifth starter at best, but I'm looking at him as a dark horse rookie-of-the-year. Last year's outstanding minor league performance and the maturity and make-up show he is ready for a major league trial, but what is really exciting about him is the buzz from his teammates. I remember in 1987 when Bobby Ojeda cut off his finger tip during the off-season. There was great concern about how the Mets would replace him. In a little-noticed off-season trade, the Mets had swapped back-up catcher Ed Hearn to the Royals for some minor league pitcher named David Cone. The first time the Mets saw Cone in intrasquad games in Spring Training though, there was a certain buzz from the players. Keith Hernandez said "we're going to be all right." Gary Carter said, "how did they come up with this kid?" The players just knew the guy would make it big. True, Cone was only OK in '87 before his huge '88, but you just don't hear veterans praising rookie pitchers that way very often. When you do, and when the whole organization shows a sudden deep confidence in a guy: watch out.

Best Injury: Kaz Matsui. Second base was a black hole last year, and the Mets' refusal to address it during the off-season (get me Grudzelanik (if we had him, I would bother learning how to spell it)), was easily the greatest winter blunder. I have grave doubts about whether Anderson Hernandez is ready to be a major league hitter---even if he hits .286, that will be a dead weight on the offense if he has no walks and no extrabase hits---but at least there is a chance that he is a major league hitter or nearly is, and he can play defense (plus, its always fun to watch and root for rookies). Matsui, nothing personal, was a disaster. He has proven that he is NOT a major league player. His injury is the biggest addition by subtraction since Rey Ordonez broke his leg to allow the Mets to win the wild card and go to the World Series back in 2000.

Key Addition: A no-brainer. Obviously, it's Carlos Delgado. To put the matter simply, if last year's team had had last year's Delgado, the Mets would have made the playoffs. He can be this team's Donn Clendenon, its David Ortiz. Huge acquistion.

Player to Worry About: Steve Trachsel. Obviously, the whole starting rotation is a concern. Pedro has been hurt, Zambrano is ALWAYs a concern, Glavine is 40 and had a lousy spring, and Bannister is a rookie. The one I'm the most worried about, though, is Trachsel. He's in the decline phase of a career that did not have nearly so high a peak as the Mets Hall-of-Fame starters. His spring has been nauseatingly bad. Cross your fingers here.

The Lineup: As of this writing, Randolph is going with LoDuca, Beltran, Delgado, Wright, Floyd for the 2-6 slots in the lineup, and I actually think this is probably his best choice. You must not let the other team use a single lefty to face Delgado and Floyd with the game on the line in the late innings, at least not without making him face Wright in between. To me, separating Delgado and Floyd is the single imperative. What about batting Lo Duca lower and sliding them all up one spot? Well, it gives more AB's to your better hitters, but Lo Duca's skills, such as they are, may be best used in the two hole, and Randolph's lineup avoids the wasteland at the bottom of the lineup that LoDuca, Hernandez, pitcher would produce. Also, no matter what, LoDuca figures to be much better than last year's #2 hitters (Matsui and Castro), and David Wright will get more at-bats this year than last.

Roster: The team's bench is stronger than last year (perhaps extra important in the post-amphetamine game), though it will be hard to top last-year's extraordinary pinch hitting performance. I like the choice of Feliciano as the lefty and of Diaz (who may well be better than Nady) for the last spot over a pitcher who would only appear in games we would lose anyway.

Play ball!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Off-season Summary

Although I am, essentially, on hiatus during the off-season, an e-mail from a friend provoked a lengthy response from me that my friend urged was "post-worthy." So, see below Mets Analyst take on the Mets off-season moves and prospects. This was written before the Benson deal. I'll have a post-Benson update posted later this week (as my friend has asked me about that as well):

Hi [friend]. I can't wait for opening day either. I also share some of your other concerns. It is hard to believe that they could not have done better had they waited to pull the trigger on Cameron. The Red Sox and A's both need centerfielders, and the rumors about Tampa Bay's Joey Gathright have been incessant. Cameron's contract was not that big, and the market has moved up significantly since then, so I think he ought to have real value, particularly given his hitting tear before the injury. It is possible that his value declined because of the injury and because of the unCameronlike defensive year he had in CF in '04. Perhaps teams were leery of buying into the downside. Much as I like him, I do not object to moving him ---- he's wasted somewhat in right and they could better deploy those resources ---- but I do question the value they got in return.

In particular, I still don't understand adding Nady and not trading either him or Victor Diaz. They are VERY similar players. Diaz has a little more power, Nady a little better on-base ability, but they both are decent tooled defensively but not very good outfielders with offensive potential who hit from the right side, are not a threat on the basepaths and might develop into offensive forces. But there is no offense/defense or left/right platoon here. It is a question of figuring out who is better, and then the other guy is wasted. Doesn't make sense to me. (It's like having Matsui and Keppinger, except not as bad). Of the two, the media seem to be assuming the job is Nady's, and maybe the trade signalled the Mets don't think Diaz can be a major league regular (he does swing and miss a lot). Maybe they think Diaz needs competition for motivation? Nady was the better prospect of the two, but is 2 or 3 years older than Diaz and has not done it at the major league level for longer. Personally, I think there is a better chance of Diaz being a solid regular than for Nady, though probably a bigger chance of a wash out as well. Either way, I wish they had a complimentary left-handed outfield bat. Tike Redman and Endy Chavez meet only the left-handed and outfield part of that qualification.

I'm also not thrilled about Lo Duca. From an outside perspective, I would actually expect our back up, Ramon Castro, to be better next year. Why replace our aging, defensively challenged catcher with an aging, defensively challenged catcher. Meantime, Benjie Molina is still unsigned. Again, perhaps there was something going on there that we don't know about, but it seems certain that the talent gap between Molina and LoDuca in the next two years will be much greater than the $$ gap between them.

As you may know, my big issue is second base. Rightfield and catcher were not really a problem for the team last year. 1B and 2B were, as the Mets got the worst offense of any team in the league at both positions last year by a wide margin, without even getting good 2B defense. Delgado is a huge upgrade---alone worth 3 or 4 extra wins. To me, far and away the big move of the offseason---though, obviously, they would have been a lot better off offering the extra few million and signing him last year. At 2B, they have done nothing (well, they have now signed Brett Boone to a minor league deal---a reasonable gamble, but he is probably done). Their reported efforts to pay half of Matsui's salary in a trade, leaving the other team to pay $3.5 or $4 million are a joke. Matsui would struggle to make a team at the major league minimum, and much better players (e.g., Grudzelanek) signed for much less. He is going to have to be a Cedeno dump, i.e., paying all of the salary above the major league minimum. But, in my view, they must bite that bullet. It is a sunk cost, and actually playing the guy killed the team last year and, barring vast improvement (which rarely happens with middle infielders over 30), he would kill us again. Why they spent money on Chad Bradford (who can't even get Endy Chavez out (those he is death to righthanders)) instead of Grudzelanek is beyond me. Grudzelanek is old (35) and may be due for a collapse, but he led the league in DP's last year and hit well and signed for one year cheap. He would really have to fall off a cliff not to help the Mets next year, and, if he did, you could go to Anderson Hernandez or Keppinger in June, instead of April as they likely will now. (My bet is that they will, eventually, bite the bullet on Matsui, only too late to do something else before the season starts). Maybe A. Hernandez can manage a .700 OPS (I like him and that would thrill me), but I'm not confident. Look for them to end up trading prospects for Grudzelanek in midseason, sigh. Even with our big bats, every spot in the order matters.

I too was surprised on the giving up Seo for what's his name from L.A.. The fact is that this regime has never liked Seo and, obviously, doesn't think he can approach last year's performance. If they're right, it will be a good trade, as the guy we got from L.A. (Sanchez) is pretty good and will help eat appearances in the bullpen, but Seo looked to me like our third best starter. . . . So now we have Martinez, Glavine, Benson, Trachsel and Zambrano, with Heilman in the pen and Bannister at AAA. Hmmm. I think Trachsel could have a Leiteresque decline and Benson's second-half collapse is a big concern. I do think Bannister and Heilman provide some depth, but we will need to be lucky with our pitching (most teams have to say that).

I like the bench moves the Mets made, though it seems to me they have too many players now. Franco and Valentin should be an upgrade on Offerman and Miguel Cairo. Still we have: Castro, Franco, Valentin, Woodward, Nady (or Diaz) and Redman. That configuration would leave Chavez and Anderson Hernandez and Jeff Keppinger in the minors, give us "only" 11 pitchers, has Matsui as the 2B with only Woodward to back him up, and have Redman as the only left-handed bat off the bench. So some adjustments still seem likely. If Matsui is benched, that adds a left-handed bat, but also takes up a roster spot (as it would mean Hernandez or Keppinger was starting) and Matsui isn't much of a "bat." I would be shocked if the Mets go with 10 pitchers, even 11 would surprise me after April.

The starters are: Martinez, Glavine, Benson, Trachsel and Zambrano.
The bullpen is: Wagner, Sanchez, Heilman, Bradford and whoever else makes the team from Fortunato (promising guy who hurt his back last spring and missed the season), Heath Bell, Juan Padilla (who pitched great last year), some guy they got in the Rule V draft and who knows who else. To me, Padilla should be on the team, but I see a problem without another decent lefty other than Wagner. Heilman can get lefties out, but Bradford and Sanchez, both death to righties, allow lefties to hit over .300 (as does Schmoll, the other guy who came over from the Dodgers, a sidearming righthander--a poor man's Bradford). Either Randolph is going to have to use Wagner in the 8th sometimes as lefty matchups dictate and let someone else finish (doubtful), or we need a left-handed specialist. Bell and Padilla certainly should be in the majors in '06, but that gets us to an 11-man staff with only one lefty in the pen. . . . .

Overall, though, I am optimistic. The Mets offense should be much better thanks to the change at 1B, and a decline for Floyd and an improvement for Beltran should offset. Wright and Reyes should continue to improve, C should be a wash and, notwithstanding their lack of moves to date, I can't believe we will not upgrade 2b offensively from last year at some point, since we were so horrible there. Defensively, we slip a bit because of Delgado, but with Castro likely playing more, Reyes and Wright likely improving, Beltran being healthy and a change at 2B, we could net out better, and should certainly remain solid. The bullpen looks much better than last year. Bert was great, but Wagner/Sanchez would be hard-pressed not to be an improvement on Looper/Hernandez, and Heilman as the number three guy all year and the back of the pen both look better than last year.

The rotation, as you say, is the question, but, that is often the nature of MLB, isn't it? And veteran guys are less likely to be surprisingly bad (or even surprisingly hurt) than young pitchers who, as you know, will break your heart. I think Bannister will be ready to step into the back of the rotation if we face an injury. Pedro's toe is being exaggerated (I'm hoping) to provide cover for keeping him out of the World Classic. Unlike last year, the rest of the division has gotten worse, rather than better, and with our run differential last year, we really should have won more like 89 games and suffered some bad luck (and some bad looper). With all the tinkering and waiting, it is easy to forget that getting Delgado and Wagner added more talent to the Major League roster than one is usually able to do in a single offseason (if not quite as much as Beltran and Martinez did). So, I do think there are reasons for optimism.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

POST-SEASON ROSTER

The Question

We're just not used to it. Not programmed to think that way. Haven't really thought that through. And its not just the fans, it looks like management is the same way. The question: Who should be on the Mets post-season 25 man roster? The possibility of being in the pennant chase has been so new and intoxicating that all attention has been paid to that upcoming party, with little thought devoted to the morning after. If the Mets make the post-season, we will actually want to try to win in the playoffs. The players who are on the team at midnight tonight (including the DL) are the players who will be eligible to help us do so.

What is Needed

Right now the Mets roster has two serious flaws: no left-handed reliever and no half-way decent 2nd baseman. For the former they have (in order of apparent preference) Tim Hamaluck, Royce Ring, Dae-Sung Koo and Kaz Ishii in the minors, for the latter they have Anderson Hernandez. Some of these guys will appear for the pennant drive, but, if that succeeds, one from column A and Hernandez from column B will be wanted in the post-season.

Who Should Go

To call up these guys, the Mets would need to clear two roster spots today (conceivably after tonight's game). Those cut can return almost immediately for the pennant drive, but they're off the post-season roster. Who should go? Well, they have 11 pitchers at the moment, and adding the lefty would make 12. You really only need 10 in the post-season, because off-days allow the use of a 4-man rotation. That means Zambrano would be in the post-season bullpen, along with Trachsel or Seo. Somebody should be sent down for a day, and, to me, that someone is Heath Bell. Padilla and Zambrano have both been better than Bell, and Trachsel just doesn't seem politically plausible (never mind that he could still emerge as one of the post-season top 4 starters). That will leave an 11-man post-season staff.

Who is the other person to be replaced on the postseason roster?

1) Kaz Matsui -- My pick. His only value is as the best defensive second baseman on the roster. He will lose that status the moment Hernandez is called up. If Hernandez flops, Cairo is the post-season starter anyway, and Hernandez is a superior defender/pinch runner to Matsui.

2) Mike DeFelice -- There will be no need to start DeFelice in the playoffs. Piazza is very likely to return by that time. In the unlikely event that he does not, DeFelice still will not play unless Castro gets hurt. If Castro gets disabled, DeFelice can be added to the roster. If Castro is hurt but not for multiple games (i.e., not disabled), Jacobs can fill in. This is a gambling approach, but 95% safe.

3) Gerald Williams -- His only value is as a defensive replacement for the starting outfield, a role Chris Woodward can play almost as well.

4) Another pitcher.

5) Jose Offerman -- has some value as pinch hitter though.

My guess is that the Mets, caught flat-footed by the idea of actually be in the playoffs, but I hope not.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Midday Update

Mets Analyst has moved from tapping to pounding the drum for an Anderson Hernandez call-up, and that relates to a question posed today on Mets Blog: why haven't the Mets recalled Doug Mientkiewicz yet from his rehab assignment? The answer from Mets Analyst is that they do not want to give up the post-season roster spot. As things stand, Mientkiewicz is eligible from his place on the D.L.. If he were activated, someone on the current roster would have to be demoted, and thus lose post-season eligibility. Look for Dougie to be activated as soon as post-season roster's are set (i.e., for Thursday or, since he's already in Florida, for Friday at the Marlins). This is a good choice by Mets management, but how about clearing that one spot for Anderson Hernandez? By the way, he got two more hits last night and scored twice. . .

GOOD KARMA

A Nice Off Day

Well, a good day, considering the Mets didn't play. For instance, two days after I wrote a eulogy for Flushing Local (see below), she resumed blogging. I've restored the link and look forward to her commmentary the rest of the way. . . . For another thing, the Marlins lost. That leaves the Mets with a 25% chance of ending the season as the Wild Card, the highest point that figure has reached all season. Their two closing defeats in San Francisco hurt in the division race, but no other ground was lost. Now, though, it starts to get serious. As Bob Murphy would have said, "fasten your seat belts."

Thought for the Day

Let's call up Anderson Hernandez the day before rosters expand and leave Matsui, Gerald Williams or a reliever off the post-season roster. . . .

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