Saturday, May 28, 2005
1. Of or relating to a vintage.
2. Characterized by excellence, maturity, and enduring appeal; classic.
Yeah, the second one. That was vintage Pedro.
Were it not for Omar Minaya's willingness to go where Theo Epstein dared not tread (i.e. into the 2008 balance sheet), Mets fans everywhere would have spent this morning reading about Brian Moehler's mastery of their shorthanded lineup.
Instead, we can bask in the kind of performance that can only be expected from the game's most dominant starting pitchers. 8 innings, 5 hits, 0 walks, 10 strikeouts. Mets win 1-0.
Just as the three losses in Atlanta raised serious and not unreasonable doubts about the Mets' legitimacy as a playoff contender, these last two games against the Marlins have at the very least provided an adequate rebuttal.
If they can get split the next two games in Florida, their record for the road trip will be 3-4. Considering the absence of Beltran, that would be at worst a mild disappointment.
Of course, the Marlins will have Willis and Beckett on the hill, but whoever's been wearing Brian Moehler's uniform looks pretty frightening himself.
In the other divisional series, Philly put a savage 12-5 beating on Atlanta today, surely forcing the Schuerholz-Cox-Mazzone collective to think long and hard about the abilities of one Horacio Ramirez.
Friday, May 27, 2005
Cameron doubled twice, Reyes tripled twice, and Wright went 2 for 4 with a couple ribbies. Even Benson helped himself to a 3-1-1-1 line in the box.
My personal favorite play had to be Mientkiewicz's tailor-made grounder to second, which Damion Easley handled with all the deft finesse of a grand mal seizure, booting it into right center and allowing two runs to score.
On the hill, Benson looked good, except for the bottom of the 4th which saw the Marlins tie the game on an Alex Gonzalez single. That had me yelling unkind things at the television, but all was soon forgiven as the Amazins rallied for 3, 4 and 2 runs over the next three innings.
The gold star for pitching, however, has to go to Heath Bell, who struck out 5 and allowed two measly singles in his 2 innings of work. This is the stuff that Closers are made of.
At the same time the win is made sweeter for emphatically ending a four-game slide, we should keep in mind that if our boys can't beat the Marlins when they're throwing Frank Castillo, then all is truly lost.
The 36 year-old Castillo, who was last seen losing 15 games for the Boston Red Sox (which takes a certain kind of ineptitude) in 2002, was "filling in" for A.J. Burnett... at least to the extent that he stood on the mound and threw baseballs towards home plate. He should be back in Albuquerque with all due speed.
After Castillo was pulled, the Fish managed to pour a little gasoline on the fire in the person of Yorman "The Amazing" Bazardo, who is not yet actually amazing (5 runs in 1.2 IP), but is only 20, so time will tell.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
With Beltran injured, the team's best hitter is squandered in the bottom third of the batting order. I can only imagine what voices in Willie Randolph's head are telling him that this is a good idea.
As he's being (mis)used, Wright's smorgasbord of extra base hits and bases on balls are providing "opportunities" for the likes of Doug Mientkiewicz, Mike DeFelice, the Pitcher, and Jose Reyes. What do these players have in common? They are finely tuned out machines, that can reduce even the most promising offensive situation into another tally in the LOB ledger (aka the SOB ledger).
Of course, the problems run deeper than the batting order. Floyd has been in a dismal slump, Piazza hasn't had an extra base hit in a week, and Reyes still has a BA for an OBP. Bad hitting in any order is still bad hitting, but there are little things a manager can do (like putting Wright where he obviously belongs) to maximize what he has.
As for Beltran, there seems to be very little uproar over the pre-existence of his quad injury. Unbeknownst to most, or at least to me, he had complained of soreness in his leg. As any "medhead" can tell you, the legs are used in running, which is one of C-Biscuit's real strong suits. Why, then, was he not given so much as a routine day off until May 18th, two days before he hit the disabled list?
Or at least that's the question I expected to hear at least some variations of as the remainder of the team got its collective keister handed to it by the Braves.
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
I can't go on at much length, because the day job has not been affording me the leisurely afternoons to which I have become accustomed. Somewhere in the southeast (not Atlanta, that godforsaken slum), there's a power company conglomerate that needs me to help manage its bankruptcy closing, and I can't let them down!
[Exit Stage Left]
Monday, May 23, 2005
1. They are both very young (21 and 22, respectively) and
2. They are both homegrown prospects who play below-average-to-awful defense on the left side of the Mets infield.
As for the differences, one in particular springs to mind: Wright is an excellent hitter.
His .913 OPS ranks fifth among major league third basemen, and fourth on the senior circuit (behind Laaarrry, Ensberg and Glaus). He's demonstrated plate discipline, gap and home run power, and his BABIP numbers give no indications that it's been a fluke.
Meanwhile, Jose Reyes' .700 OPS is good for 11th in baseball among shortstops and 7th in the NL (actually ahead of the still-slumping Furcal and Rollins). It doesn't scream "demote me to work on my hitting," but nor does it mark Reyes as a rising star in David Wright's class. His slugging percentage owes a lot to his triples speed, and still doesn't cover up the smell of that sub-.300 OBP.
It would be one thing if defense were his calling card, but if it is then it's riddled with typos. Not only is he prone to errors (only Clint Barmes sports a lower fielding percentage), but despite his blazing speed and strong arm, he doesn't make very many plays. In fact, he has the lowest Range Factor of any regular SS in baseball!
Look, the guy is super-young, and will almost certainly improve at the plate and in the field, but lets stop pretending that he and David Wright are infield prospects 1A and 1B. They're Blossoming Superstar and Work in Progress.
Saturday, May 21, 2005
For one thing, double plays might not have been so essential if we had a pitcher on the mound who showed some aptitude at preventing baserunners. Instead, we had the PTBNL in the Kazmir deal. What, Zambrano was the centerpiece? You're s---ing me!
Regardless, it could be argued that the wretched infield defense let him down, but IMHO you walk six guys you deserve every last run that comes home to roost.
I also don't particularly relish the sight of our regular first baseman coming to bat with runners on. There's just no way to sugarcoat his offensive performance, and on nights where he boots a ground ball, I can't help but wonder how Ian Bladergroen is doing these days (poorly, at high A Wilmington, but still).
On the bright side, Heath Bell was outstanding in his inning plus of work.
As I write this, the Mets are leading the Yankees 2-0 in the top of the 6th. Benson has been cruising, but may not make it out of this inning. He just walked Bernie to put two on, and Bell and Koo are throwing with gusto.
The first run, McCarver was quick to point out, came at the end of a rally which was started by (Double Play!) Matsui. The second came on a picture perfect opposite-field double by David Wright, which plated a rumbling Piazza.
I am somewhat (okay, very) concerned about the sudden and unexplained removal of Carlos Beltran from the game in the last inning. There was no apparent injury, but there are precious few alternative explanations for Randolph's double switch. Hopefully it's something minor and short-lived.
Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to watch Doug Mienkiewicz attempt to hit Randy Johnson.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
The "Subway Series," which anyone familiar with the NYC subway system will tell you is an unflattering title, promises to be a closer contest (or "series" of contests) than it has been in years past, most notably and disappointingly the WS of Y2K.
Forgoing the seemingly obligatory Evil Empire/Star Wars tie-ins, the powerful force under the control of the mad overlord has not, contrary to rumor, been subdued. And it's possible that the now over-.500 team is not a moon, but in fact a space station... wait.
Victor Zambrano gets the call tomorrow against Kevin Brown, who was once a phenomenal pitcher despite being depressed and angry, but is now mostly depressed and angry. Meanwhile Zambrano, whose personality quirks if he even has any are unknown to me, simply cannot find the strike zone with three Questec operators and a map. Look for runs. Lots of runs.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
I hope he keeps it up, giving the team some production out of second base, making me feel less sorry for him that in spite of his best efforts and past dominance in Japan he may just be an atrocious player by MLB standards, and making Joe Sheehan of BP look a little less foolish for predicting a big sophomore season out of him.
Kaz the Pitcher was also impressive. There were a few unsettlingly deep fly balls, which may have only been outs in Shea, but he only gave out two free passes and generally kept the Reds hitters off balance.
Ishii's ERA for the season is now on the good side of 4.00, but in yet another illustration of the idiocy of the Win as a statistic, DeJean was credited with this one after getting the last two outs of the 7th.
I'm still not sure whether Ishii will be able to keep up that kind of run prevention with such dismal walk numbers (15 BB in 25 innings, against 16 strikeouts), but somehow he's been getting the job done and for the time being is looking like a worthwhile addition by Omar Minaya.
Speaking of worthwhile additions, Steve Colyer may not be so bad after all. Acquired from the Tigers for Matt Ginter, there was no cause for optimism that the deal would pay off much at all. Now it seems there is, but only nine innings worth. After a poor start at Norfolk, the relatively young lefty has been lights out. His line with the Tides is now 9 IP, 14 K/3 BB, 4.00 ERA. Not bad at all. If Koo and Ring suffer from injury or, and after last night I'm thinking especially of the former here, just start to suck, Colyer may not be a disaster with the big club.
The Mets are going for their full measure of revenge as I write this. No score in the top of the 2nd, but Adam Dunn just tripled (!) off Glavine to lead it off, so the scorelessness may not continue.
A plus tard, mes amis.
Glavine has gotten it done again, allowing only 2 runs through 6. The wheels started to rattle in the top of the sixth, but Cliff Floyd hosed D'Angelo Jimenez at home plate to preserve the 4-2 lead. It's Cliffy's fifth outfield assist, tying him with Reggie Sanders for best among all left fielders.
Piazza is 2-2 with a double that just barely stayed in the park. David Wright just swiped third for his first SB of the season - and Matsui drives him in with a clean base hit! Follow that up with a botched double-play grounder by Jimenez, and the home team is looking like a real good bet to put this series to sleep.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Sorry. A little unchecked aggression, directed at the team that swept the Mets in their season-opening series.
This was the beating the Reds clearly deserved, but managed to escape on their own field. Every Mets starter, including Kris Benson, hit safely. Floyd hit his 11th home run off of Paul Wilson (his 10th surrendered), Wright doubled twice, and even Lil' Matsui went 2-3 with a two-bagger.
It may be unseemly to kick a team while it's down (14-24), but the mound at Great American really should be cordoned off like the crime scene it is. Ostensibly their best starting pitchers, neither Wilson nor Eric Milton have allowed fewer than - wait for it - seven earned runs per nine innings.
It's not early April anymore. Maverick and Goose have already combined to throw 100 innings; innings which could fairly be described as a bonanza for opposing hitters, who have mashed Wilson for a 1003 OPS (Milton: 954). Don't look if you're squeamish.
What's really sad is that the Reds have more offensive talent than they can use, much of it concentrated in their hulking, underappreciated beast. How can a team afford to bench Wily Mo Pena, but not feature a single quality starter?
Game 2 tonight. Ramon Ortiz (6.75 ERA) vs. Zambrano (5.75 ERA)
To Reds fans, Victor Zambrano must look really good right about now. Think about that. If they hadn't set the Mets back three games, I'd almost feel sorry for them.
Monday, May 16, 2005
Especially hurtful was the rally on Saturday, which put Pedro in line to pick up the win despite giving up more than his share of runs. Okay, that may have only been especially hurtful to my fantasy team, but still, storming back to the lead (on a Matsui triple, no less) only to watch the ageless wonder finally show signs of slippage... well, it's just no fun at all.
Then on Sunday, the Mets helped make Matt Morris look like the Cy Young-caliber starter of yesteryear (i.e. 2001-2002). Well, at least in the box score. Physically, he's sporting a Al Gore-style beard (also worn by National Nick Johnson) which suggests the return from a wilderness period of some sort. It seems to be working wonders for Matty Mo, whose season line is a laudable 36.2 IP, 32/9 K:BB, 2.95 ERA.
The NYT's Lee Jenkins sounds a little bit dire/defeatist about the Mets' still getting their .500 languish on, sounding a lot like the Alan Rickman robot in the Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy. Lest Lee forget, if you look at their results since their first five games, they're five games over .500! Put that in your opium pipe and smoke it, Jenkins!
Like Ben Bradlee, I'm sticking by the boys.
I was proven wrong, dramatically, egregiously wrong, by Tom Glavine's dazzling performance on Friday. Whether it signals the beginning of his return to form remains to be seen, but it goes to show that just because a guy has been truly horrible for weeks, it doesn't mean he can't string together seven shutout innings against the league's best offense (although it should). Maybe he's been getting pointers from Aaron Heilman.
Uncle Salty should really have his own blog. I love his contributions here, and hope he continues to post, but he's like a bird that was never meant to be caged in the "Comments" section of his cousin's Mets rag. His feathers are just too bright. He may need a bit of encouragement though, so sign our petition at draftunclesalty.org and tell him to sing, brother, sing!
Friday, May 13, 2005
This line will appear at least once tonight on the online play-by-play, and almost certainly twice, but I'm not at all sure Glavine will survive to see him three times. It's going to be scary, an extra base hit waiting to happen, and even without Rolen in the lineup, I'm afraid the Cardinals are going to knock No. 47 out of the game.
I'd love to be proven wrong, and watch Glavine put zero after zero up on the Shea scoreboard, but when even the Brewers are touching him up to the tune of 11 hits in 6 innings, it's quite hard to imagine.
Quite a fuss is being made about whether or not Pedro will pitch against the Yankees (he will). Chris "Mad Dog" Russo had been frustrated by the early signs that he would not be taking the hill against them, complaining that it demonstrated a lack of "showmanship"on the Mets' part.
Personally, I have no particular desire to see Pedro pitch against those that, in a former life, he called his "daddy", except to the extent that it makes sense to send our best pitcher against the most daunting opposing lineups. That the Yankees have started the season so poorly does little in my mind to discredit the obvious preseason estimation of their batting order as a veritable minefield.
In any case, I don't think special alterations should be made in the interests of "showmanship," as winning the greatest number of regular season games is the best way to go about providing fans with the show we really want: a playoff run.
On an unrelated topic, I just want to give a shout-out to Buster "Old School" Olney, who was talking about Hee Seop Choi's lack of bat speed back when he was struggling in early April. How does .303/.392/.573 look, Buster? Like a guy whose slow bat makes him a liability? Go back to scouting school, or journalism school. Take your pick.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
So I was unhappy to see that Bell surrendered Lee's tenth (10th) home run of the young season in the bottom of the tenth (10th) inning. Of course, the game appeared to be over in the ninth, and would have been had Heath not induced a crucial 1-2-3 double play, but still... why then fool with the league's hottest hitter?
Well I looked at the archived broadcast on MLB.tv, and realized that Lee was leading off the inning. I'm aware of the the conventional wisdom that it's generally better to keep the winning run off base if you can avoid it, and it does have the ring of truth to it.
Also, the homer came on the eleventh (11th) pitch of the at-bat. Bell got ahead 0-2, then threw three balls out of the strike zone, hoping to get Lee to chase. He didn't, then he fouled the next five pitches off, including one that nicked Piazza badly enough to get the trainer out of the dugout. (The Chicago fans actually booed him as he was being attended to, the savages.) It was a battle, and Lee finally got a ball over the plate, which is all he needs right now. You'll get him next time, buddy.
It was a disappointing way to end the series, but Maddux had a throwback outing, and Prior was pretty much Prior. That's the story of those last two games and it's not especially tragic. The bats will need to wake up a little bit against the Cardinals, I'm afraid. We're throwing Glavine (shudder), Martinez, and Heilman.
At the very least, we TWC subscribers will now be able to actually watch these games. Our long local nightmare is over.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
He cruised into the sixth inning, but after allowing a Neifi Perez double (shame on you), and a walk to Derrek Lee (not a bad idea right now), he was pulled for lefty Dae-Sung Koo, who had what Paul Simon might call a little bit of a breakdown. Thus were two more runs added to his tab, and the win forfeited, but nonetheless Heilman's outing was eminently serviceable.
At the very least, he's looking a whole lot better than the nameless one. I'm not getting on any vehicle which has "Aaron Heilman: Cy Young Condender" on the side, but I'm considering a seat on the "Aaron Heilman: League Average Starter" bus.
In offensive good news, the Mets are now leading the National League in home runs. Shocking, yes, but delightful. Now about that OBP...
Mike Cameron has yet to put up an O-fer since his return on May 5th. Come to think of it, he hasn't put up a 1-fer yet either, collecting exactly two hits in each of his five games. 5 singles + 3 doubles + 2 homers = helpful. I'm aware of at least one miscue in right field, but I'm not too worried about that transition.
Meanwhile, it turns out my eulogy for Mike Piazza the Power Hitter may have been premature. He's hit four home runs in the past 5 games, and has slugged .690 in 29 May at-bats. His BA for the season still stands at an unsightly .238, but things are looking up.
I think it's fair to say the NL East has lived up to its offseason billing. Collectively, the division is 19 games over .500, with only the Phillies (my preseason pick) having more Ls than Ws. The Braves are once again, somehow, setting the pace; the Marlins rotation has been Eliott Ness, and the Nationals still haven't executed what I still say is their inevitable swan dive.
Benson makes his second start tonight against Greg Maddux. I'd love to see the fellas take the Bulldog for a walk.
Thursday, May 05, 2005
But guess who is sticking? Everyone's favorite 23 year-old right fielder, Victor Diaz, who broke his slump with a home run last night. LHRP Royce Ring was demoted to make room for Cameron, who will once again assume the position (right field).
Whether or not you buy Harold Reynolds' ridiculous/torturous explanations for it on BBTN, Cliff Floyd has been something like a phenomenon. His numbers are as follows: .391 BA, 1.144 OPS, 16.8 VORP. Plus he made a Torii Hunter Catch in left to rob Jason Michaels of a two-run homer. It may be early for "MVP" chants, but they're well deserved at this point.
The game would have been without blemish, but for Braden Looper nearly spitting the bit. Utley and Abreu are both power hitters, so they may not have even been mistake pitches, but damn. It seems like Looper has been getting a lot more slack in the press than Benitez ever got, despite never in his life being as good as Benitez was. He does have a healthy throwing arm, which is more than the big fella in SF can say, but he's not as good as our former, supposedly unreliable closer.
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Of course, it wasn't all wine and roses at Shea last night, as the Phillies bludgeoned Tom Glavine about the face and chest.
I don't know what it is with Pat Burrell. Maybe his little sister ran off with a Mets fan or something, but he just punishes this team every chance he gets. Recently slumping Bobby Abreu also took advantage of our overripe lefty, driving in four.
Glavine is done. 30.2 innings, 26 runs allowed, 22 walks, 18 strikeouts. That performance is beyond ugly. It's treasonous, and the responsible party cannot be permitted to continue pitching in the major leagues. It was a great career, and best of luck with the HoF induction (in that ridiculous Braves getup)... but you're dead to me now.
Okay that's probably just the disappointment talking, but in all seriousness, if he doesn't improve drastically and immediately, I don't see how Willie can keep giving him the ball.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Pedro threw seven dominant innings and Carlos Beltran made sure it stood up, clubbing a three-run home run off the scoreboard in right center. These guys are not huge additions "on paper." They are huge additions.
Martinez, through six starts, has exceeded my most optimistic expectations. How has the National League been hitting against Pedro v33.0? Try .148/.191/.221. It's the Special Olympics every fifth day.
As for Beltran, he still hasn't enjoyed much of a hot streak, or his usual thievery of bases, but he will, and it will be awesome. In the meantime, he's still hitting over .300 with 4 homers and 17 RBI. That's not a bad "down" month for a centerfielder.
Jose Reyes responded to my criticism in yesterday's post by going 4-5 with 2 R and 2 SB. He also worked his way into a 3-1 count, at which point Doug Mientkiewicz (who does seem very likeable) started pacing the dugout with his finger to his lips as if Reyes were throwing a no-hitter and not to be distracted/jinxed. Ineffective, ultimately, as he grounded out, but funny.
Monday, May 02, 2005
David Wright may not be the messiah, but he'll do. April is over, and it's time to stop the joke that is these lineup cards with a 7 next to his name. Especially now that our defensive specialist 1B (speaking of jokes...) has started showing his true offensive colors, 6th is the absolute lowest he should be hitting. Why must Willie Randolph play these silly little games with this marvel of a specimen of a phenom of a 22 year-old? Willie should start asking himself WWSRH? Where would Scott Rolen hit? Or at least Edgardo Alfonzo in his prime.
Meanwhile, Jose Reyes has now had his 109th at-bat without a walk. I don't think I was the only Met fan berating the televised image of Joe Morgan last night when he seized on Reyes's bunt single as irrefutable proof that he's doing a great job at the plate. No one has suggested that he never gets on base; only that he doesn't do it with anywhere near the usual frequency of a major league hitter. Even ESPN's production crew seemed to be making fun of our grossly underqualified leadoff man, doing a "K-Zone" replay of his vicious cut at a pitch in the dirt (with its indicator showing exactly where the ball hit the ground).
Juan Rincon just became the fifth, and by far the best major leaguer to test positive for performance enhancing drugs. Test Johan next.
Brian Roberts. That's it. Just Brian Roberts. Ever see that movie "Phenomenon" with John Travolta? Where some alien beam puts a benign tumor in his head that makes him a supergenius? I'm thinking something similar has happened here.