Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Setting the Curve II: The Pitchers
By Ben Valentine

On Friday, I made enemies of many a Yankee fans with my A-Rod/Jeter column. But since I’m a Mets fan, it was somewhat amusing. Today, as I continue with my evaluations of the Mets, I might just make a few more enemies, though this time they’ll be fans of the orange and blue.

But I just call them how I see em’. So if I see miserable peripherals, I don’t care what the manager, the general manager or the fans say, you’re getting killed here. And it really has not been pretty for the Mets pitching staff this year. If you thought they were top heavy on offense, just get a load of this rotation. Once again, we’ll start with the good and make our way down to the man who has a special place in my heart for taking failure to a whole new level.

Pedro Martinez: The ace of the Mets rotation has been solid once again; posting a K/9 of 9.83 and K/BB of 3.96 this year on his way to a 7-4 mark. With a WHIP of 1.00, his 3.45 ERA seems a bit high. However, his homer rate has jumped this year to 1.24 from .79, probably resulting from his decline in GB/FB to .70 from .85 in ’05. Overall Pedro has been solid once again, but injuries will continue to be a concern. We’ll see if this hip problem is anything to worry about. If he goes down, the Mets are in trouble: Grade A

Tom Glavine: Many have called Glavine the “ace” of the Mets staff this year. He hasn’t been as good as Pedro, but has exceeded expectations nonetheless. In 107.2 innings, Glavine has posted a 6.27 K/9 and 2.27 K/BB ratio, both well above anything he’s done since 2000. This is the reason he’s been able to survive a higher than normal Hr rate; he’s already allowed more homers this season (15) than he did all of 2005 (12). Since Glavine is inducing the same number of GB outs, and striking out more batters, this makes no sense. Thus one would speculate he’s been very good and a tad unlucky. His peripherals should continue to regress, but a drop in his homer rate should allow him to maintain a respectable ERA. Grade: A

Billy Wagner: Wagner’s not been as dominating as people would like, but outside of two bad blow ups against the Yankees and Reds, he’s been pretty solid. In fact, he should have been an all star. Wagner’s K/9 is a stellar 11.47 to go along with an excellent 2.82 K/BB. He’s inducing 2.43 times more ground ball outs than fly ball ones. The fifteen saves in nineteen chances isn’t a great ratio, but regardless, Wagner’s been one of the better relievers in the game this season. Grade: B+

Chad Bradford: The submarining righty has been a nice find for the Mets and has earned himself a larger role over the past few weeks. Bradford has been golden with the exception of two outings, one against the Padres and Monday night’s debacle against the Pirates. Overall his ERA stands at 3.86, with a solid 1.12 WHIP, 7.12 K/9, 3.43 K/BB and 3.44 GB/FB ratio to back that up. We’ll see what Bradford’s totals look like as teams see him a third and forth time, but he’s been a excellent so far. Grade: B+

Pedro Feliciano: Up until Monday night, Feliciano had been great for the Mets. Even with his ERA now rising to 2.51, his peripherals are still very good. He’s striking out 7.71 batters per nine, with a K/BB of 3.50 and a 1.57 GB/FB ratio. Interestingly, despite being the Mets defacto left specialist, Feliciano has faced more righties (58) than lefties (57). The fact that he’s had success against both has to be a pleasant surprise for the Mets. Grade B+

Darren Oliver: Picked off the scrap heap in the offseason, Oliver has been quite good as a long man this year, posting a 6.34 K/9 and 2.34 K/BB ratio along with an excellent 1.65 GB/FB ratio so far in 44 innings. He’s been a nice find to help out the backend of the pen, but the Mets have been wise not to use him much more since he would probably end up being exposed with more work. Oliver hasn’t been nearly this effective in any role,
starting or in the pen, since 2001. Grade: B

Jorge Julio: Despite what many Mets fans and perhaps even Mets management wanted to believe, Julio actually was not that bad a pitcher for the Mets. Yes, the 5.06 ERA in 21.1 innings looked bad, but those things can be misleading. Julio had a whopping 13.92 K/9 and a solid 3.30 K/BB mark to go a long with a 1.44 GB/FB ratio. Thus it is little surprise that even though he’s gone to a hitter’s park in Arizona, he’s done quite well there. In 17 innings for the D’Backs, he has an ERA of 2.12 and has moved into their closer role. He isn’t that good, but he’s a quality big league reliever. The Mets let the media and fan pressure push them into giving up on the big righty too soon. It was a mistake. Grade: B

Duaner Sanchez: It’s been a steady decline for the righty setup man this season. After not allowing a run in April, Sanchez’s ERA in May was 3.93 and then 4.82 in June. The problem is that he’s been loads more hittable in the last two months, allowing 18 hits in 18.1 innings in May and then nine hits in nine innings in June. Overall his K/9 is 6.45 (down from 7.79 in ’05) while his K/BB is 1.60 (down from 1.97) While Jae Seo was a complete washout in LA, right now he’d probably be helping the Mets a lot more than Duaner is, despite what that 2.68 ERA says. Grade: B-

Aaron Heilman: Yet another reliever who’s fallen off the cliff as of late, Heilman had an excellent 2.63 ERA in April and a solid 3.38 mark in May. But then June rolled around and suddenly his mark for the month ballooned to 7.43. It’s possible Heilman has had some lingering effects of being permanently relegated to the pen, since it’s clear the Mets lied to him this off season when they said he had a shot of making the rotation. On the other hand, it’s possible both he and Sanchez are fatigued after being overworked in the two months of the season. Heilman worked 29.1 innings in the first two months of 2006, roughly putting him on pace to throw close to 90 innings out of the pen. Sanchez threw 32.1 innings. Overworking the bullpen has been a trademark of Joe Torre in recent years so perhaps Willie has brought that over with him from the Bronx. Grade: C-

Orlando Hernandez: Acquired in May for Julio, the Mets brass and their fan base believe El Duque can still bring it in a big game. I’m skeptical, but he has pitched better for the Mets than he did for Arizona. His K/9 has been good at 6.98 and his K/BB is 2.50, which is okay, though not spectacular since he is an extreme fly ball pitcher (.75). El Duque has not been stellar, but he probably is the Mets’ third best pitcher in their rotation right now. That of course is a problem. Hernandez deserves a spot at this point, but he should be the team’s fifth starter, not their third. Grade C-

Heath Bell: Bell owns one of the oddest sets of peripherals you will ever see. Despite striking out 7.77 batters per nine, having a K/BB of 2.11 and getting 4.11 times more ground ball outs than fly ball outs this year, opponents are batting a whopping .419 off him. Their overall OPS is 1.044. Bell’s thrown 22 innings so it isn’t as it’s just an oddity created by a real low sample size here. There may not be a pitcher on the Mets’ staff who’s had worse luck. The good news is Bell should rebound if given the chance. The bad news is he probably won’t be, as Willie has shown the quick hook with young players who don’t produce better than veterans, no matter what their upside is. Grade C-

Alay Soler: Soler finally got his visa issues cleared up and made his way quickly through the minors. Then things got ugly. In 45 innings, Soler walked 21, while striking out just 23. He had a GB/FB ratio of just 1.03 and opponents had an .892 OPS against him. After a Sunday thrashing at the hands of the Yankees, Soler had a WHIP of 1.58 and an ERA of 6.00 That was enough to punch his ticket back down to AAA. Soler was unlucky in that he hasn’t really pitched all that much worse than Steve Trachsel yet he was demoted (despite probably having more upside). However, Soler’s miserable peripherals suggest he deserved his ERA and WHIP. Grade: F

Steve Trachsel: Over the last four years, there have been few pitchers as consistent as Steve Trachsel. He was a third/fourth starter type, who would throw you 180- 200 innings with an ERA in the high 3.00’s/ low 4.00’s. Not a world beater, but an excellent innings eater. However this season, age appears to have finally caught up with the 35 year old. His K/9 has dropped to 4.20 and his K/BB is a miserable 1.05. The only way you have a prayer at getting by with lines like that is to induce a ton of ground ball outs, but Trachsel’s ratio stands at .96. With a 1.57 WHIP, he’s been lucky to have an ERA of 4.70. Many have asked the question “does Trachsel still have enough in the tank to be counted upon?” The answer is a “no.” As much as it pains me to say it, “the human rain delay” should be the next guy bounced from the Mets rotation. Grade: F

Brian Bannister: The control artist who sent Aaron Heilman to the pen in April, Bannister managed to keep his ERA under 3.00 in his first five starts. However, his peripherals were just awful as he walked more hitters than he struck out in 28 innings. With a WHIP of 1.39 and a GB/FB of just .89 it’s amazing he managed to keep is ERA under 5.00 let alone get it to 2.89. He still has not returned from a hamstring injury, but considering he probably was the Mets worst pitcher this season, that may not be a bad thing. Bannister needs some more work at AAA before he’ll be ready to contribute to the big club. Grade: F

Jose Lima/Geremi Gonzalez: I could have split the two apart, but why bother? They both got smacked around and wasted a total of six starts combined. Grade: F-

Update: Lima's time is back! He's been recalled from AAA with Heath Bell being optioned down. This is what I mean when the Mets are took quick with hooks for their young players. Bell is not worse than Jose Lima. He just isn't.


Willie Randolph: The Mets manager seems to have gotten the results in his second season on the job. But the Mets success has less to do with Randolph and more to do with the ineptness of the National League East. He’s done a terrible job batting Paul LoDuca second in the lineup, has shown a willingness to play Endy Chavez over Lastings Milledge, and felt it necessary to overwork Sanchez and Heilman while also screwing with the head of the latter. Yes the Mets are running away with the NL East. But it’s in spite of Randolph, not because of him. Grade: C-

That should be it right? Well like I said, I had one spot reserved for someone. Since I probably won’t be able to write much more about him after this year, he deserves one last good blasting. And so, I bring you my rating of the most hated man in Metsland:

Victor Zambrano: Five starts, 21.1 innings. 6.33 K/9, 1.33 K/BB ratio, .69 GB/FB ratio. 1.69 WHIP, 6.75 ERA. Done for the season. The worst trade in Mets history. Yes, worse than Fergosi for Ryan.
Grade: There is no actual grade which could encompass what a colossal failure Zambrano was as a Met. You know how absolute zero doesn’t technically exist right? Well Zambrano is the closest to being an absolute zero as can be in baseball terms. Much like space is a vacuum, Zambrano sucked the life out of this organization and it may never fully get it back, no matter how good the prospects end up being. Why? Because it will never seem complete. We’ll never have him. It would be like if the Yankees took away Bernie, Jeter or Rivera. Seriously, seeing this just makes me depressed beyond belief.

I’d say good riddance to Zambrano, but all it is, is depressing. Really.

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