Sunday, April 30, 2006

Finish them!

I haven't read "Win Shares", but believe the idea is that you can divide each win into three "shares" to be attributed among 1-3 players on the winning team according to how much they contributed to the victory (if one guy does it all he can receive two or even three). I think credit for last night's 1-0 gem could be pretty evenly split among Glavine, Lo Duca, and Floyd.

Tom Glavine has been dazzling. You have to go back to 1994 to find the last season his K/9 exceeded 7, and there were only two of them. It may not stay there, but there's a trend to go along with the spike: he's lowered his ERA and improved his K/BB each year since his rather unimpressive debut with the Mets. I did not see this coming, but it's quite a pleasant surprise.

I do think it's worth mentioning that showing improvement past the age of 35 has been taken as evidence of steroid use in a lot of players. I don't think anyone would suggest that Glavine is juicing, but maybe someone should just to be fair.

Seeing the wide range of players and pitchers who have tested positive, it's obvious that the drugs aren't just for transforming early Sammy Sosa into late Sammy Sosa, and conceivable that a diminutive, aging pitcher might need chemical assistance just to keep on truckin' (I know he's not quite hippie-aged but I'm trying to make a point). I also think that the media are a lot more credulous of the "intense work ethic" as an explanation for the longevity of white athletes than non-white athletes. Again, I'm not actually suggesting Tom Terrific is slathering himself in the Clear, but he's obviously doing something right and I sure hope he keeps it up.

Lo Duca's contribution was obvious enough: his first and by far his most timely home run of the season. Not a cheap one, either. It's pretty much axiomatic that he was the difference in the game. But Cliff Floyd is the reason why Lo Duca's HR stayed the difference in the game. He made two brilliant catches in left, one diving, one sliding, that saved at least two runs.

Kaz Matsui is off to a very good start. I don't think our season rises or falls with the production we get from the keystone, but how nice would it be if there were actually some production to speak of?

In other news, the Henry Owens whispers are growing in volume. Mike Pelfrey joined Owens at Binghamton this week, and continued to put his thing down. These two are both doing phenomenal work. I'm still calling for Julio's head (and Zambrano's removal from the rotation), but there are options at Norfolk, and sitting on a seven-game division lead, the Mets should be in no real hurry to call these promising youngsters up... boy was that fun to write.

This afternoon Steve Trachsel will attempt to execute his personal finishing move on the Atlanta lineup. I've heard it takes a while to develop, but can be quite spectacular.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Eyes Wide Shut

Pedro Martinez treated the Braves like 7-up, improving to 5-0 and lowering his ERA to 2.94. David Wright ripped two home runs. God's in his heaven. All's right with the world.

If you look at Wright's record, you'll see that he continues to improve in every offensive category. This is what his projected season line looks like:

Wright: 604 AB, 44 2B, 15 3B, 37 HR, 44 SB .329/.392/.634

This can't continue indefinitely, but don't confuse this for mere precociousness. He's one of the five best offensive players in baseball, and instead of reverting to some kind of normalcy he's just getting better. He needs to tighten up the defense. A lot. At the same time, there's raw talent there too, as the barehanded catch among other plays has demonstrated. I'm not saying he'll ever quite outhit Albert Pujols, but if he's not already that inner circle of truly unique players, he's making a B-line for it. I no longer think Scott Rolen should be held out as his best case scenario.

I saw on this afternoon's Mets Weekend Special or whatever on SNY, and saw that they had the authors of Eddie Kranepool Society, Faith and Fear, and I think maybe one other blogginghead doing commentary on Piazza in San Diego and other subjects. It's good to see them getting some pub.

Kranepool does a good job, but I find his take today on Endy Chavez to be very different from my own. He expresses indifference for the return date of Carlos Beltran, because Endy Chavez is opening a lot of eyes. He calls him the best centerfielder in the game right now, and that he is "even growing in confidence with the bat as well. His ability to lay down a bunt and beat it out is outstanding and a lost art. Chavez is a throwback player."

Yeaahhh. I've been impressed with his defense too, and would even concede for the sake of argument that he's better than Jones, Hunter, Cameron and Edmonds with the glove. It's not enough. The only people whose defense could possibly be good enough to make up for Endy Chavez's hitting are all comic book characters. Watching him take his hacks is just infuriating. It's nice that his speed allows him to beat out bunts and infield singles, but he's clearly not doing it frequently enough to keep his OBP above .285. He can make all the catches he wants. I want Carlos back ASAP.


McConnell does a great job with Tim Marchman's heretical claim that "Lastings Milledge is a fraud." First of all, I didn't read Marchman's whole article because it requires a subscription to the Sun which I just won't do, but he's basically pointing out that Milledge hasn't hit any home runs. McConnell finds some very good centerfielders (headlined by Edmonds, power-wise), who were also not clearing many fences in their age 20 seasons. I still give Marchman credit for calling attention to a rather important number which has been really glossed over for a long time, all the more so now that Milledge is looking great.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Poking the Braves with a stick

When the Mets get their second crack at the Braves this weekend, they will be in the unfamiliar position of protecting a 5-game lead in the division. Despite scoring more runs than they've allowed, Atlanta is 9-12, which is enough to get me wondering if dethroning them might be even easier than I had expected.

Andruw Jones and Edgar Renteria (who will be back in the lineup against the Mets tomorrow) have hit very well, as has Brian McCann. Even without Chipper, the lineup is very respectable. One possible exception: I don't think enough is being made of just how awful Jeff Francoeur has been this year. When he was hitting .38o or whatever, everyone was talking about how his performance disproved the importance of drawing walks. Perhaps now that pitchers have learned not to throw strikes, the buzz has died down considerably.

As for the pitching staff, I'm a fan of Hudson's, but Smoltz is another player whose age makes a return to form less than bankable. Kyle Davies and John Thomson are both good, but...

-- You know what, I'm changing my thesis mid-post. The Braves probably aren't going to suck. Don't get me wrong, I still don't think they're as good as the Mets, but I was hoping to see a withered husk of a our long-time tormentors. They've got a good deal of offensive talent themselves, and they're rotation is no worse than average. So I'll make a few more points but without an eye towards robbing them of their dignity as a franchise --

Anyway back to how their pitching is not what it once was: The departure of Leo Mazzone is a good explanation for Jorge Sosa suddenly jumping back down the balance sheet from "asset" to "liability." I'm not sure that's actually it, but for whatever reason he's been horrendous.

Separate from the Mazzone effect, more in John Schuerholz's sphere of influence, is the fact that the pitching staff is not exactly awash in talent. In addition to name-brand old reliever Mike Remlinger, the team is carrying a guy named Kenny Ray who is 31 and prior to this season had pitched in 11.1 major league innings (in 1999). Given how few in the ATL bullpen has much of a track record of effectiveness, Joey Devine should be given more of a chance.

I still have a visceral dislike of the Braves which I can only attribute to equal parts Northeastern provincialism and the resentment accrumulated over the course of this embarrassingly one-sided rivalry. "The Team? The Time?" I sure hope so.


Lastings Milledge has taken his game to the next level. He still hasn't shown the ability to hit home runs (1 in 70 AB), which you'd like to see, but he's been doing plenty of everything else. He's hitting .400/.522/.600, walked more than he's struck out, and is 6-8 stealing bases in his first exposure to Triple-A. I still don't think it's at the point where we start cursing Nady for blocking him, but that day could come a lot sooner than I was expecting.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Mets Win in 11, Wright Taken Off the Hook

David Wright just doubled to right, scoring Julio Franco to give the Mets a 7-4 lead. Prior to that, Franco had hit a tough pitch for a 2-run single and then, incredibly, stolen second. "Well-preserved" just doesn't go far enough.

Brian Bannister allowed three runs in five innings before being taken out with a hamstring injury. I don't know what the prognosis is, but he had to be helped off the field, which bodes ill. He may not be as good as his ERA, but this isn't a blessing in disguise or anything. [It has to be said: this is why you don't trade Kris Benson for a song... a chubby, ineffective song.]

Aaron Heilman gave up a run, but other than the very hittable first pitch fastball to Moises Alou which resulted in the RBI, he did a good job. Plus he pitched two innings; dare I imagine that Randolph is stretching him out?

Or maybe Mr. Minaya will deal with the problem in the true spirit of Mets general management, and trade for Greg Maddux. Really, what better way to stick it to the Braves than by winning the division with Glavine and Maddux in the rotation? That'd be sweet. Kevin Millwood will probably be available at the deadline, too.

Just announced: Julio Franco is not the oldest player to steal a base, but he is the oldest to do so in the last 97 years. I bet it took a lot less speed to steal bags in 1909, but that's purely speculation. It's also speculation that whoever was stealing bases at age 47 in 1909 probably had some good stories to tell.

Unbelievable. Barry Bonds just tied the game with a 2-run pinch-hit homer off Wagner. The game should have been over but Wright threw another ball into the seats behind first base.

Keith Hernandez: "I will not second guess Willie Randolph. It's just incredible." I agree. It's just bad luck that Randolph has discovered that Bonds is still very dangerous. No one knows what he's capable of, so you have to go by the numbers. The only thing we can be sure of is that the numbers will be a lot scarier after this series than they were before it.

The Mets failed to score in the top of the 10th... Bradford and Oliver worked around two baserunners in the bottom half... Chris Woodward doubled in Ramon Castro (8-7)... Reyes singled in Woodward (9-7)... It's over. Bonds just flied out to deep center. Whew. Great game to watch. Losing would have hurt.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

If it walks like a duck, but doesn't hit like a duck...

I'm not surprised that teams haven't started pitching to Bonds yet, but it's time. 36 at-bats is not a lot, but it's enough so that his only having 1 HR is a bright red flag. I'm not saying the phenomenon is over, but at this point I think it behooves opposing managers to start finding out.

A batting line of .222/.541/.389 has to have a story behind it; there's just no plausible explanation for a .222 hitter and a .389 slugger (forget we're talking about Bonds here) to get on base 54% of the time. One possible creation myth for such a line might be that Joey Gathright, frustrated by his terrible year at the plate, channeled his anger into a form of telekinesis which allowed him to divert incoming pitches out of the strike zone at will.

What's actually happening is kind of an unbelievable story in it's own right: a 41-year old Barry Bonds has been so devastating for so long that managers and pitchers still aren't comfortable with the idea that it may not be professional suicide to throw him a strike. Maybe it still is, but he hasn't done anything this season to prove it.

This is not a long, indirect way of blaming Willie Randolph for last night's game. Bonds only scored one of the Giants' six runs, and he would have only been the second out in the 7th when Alou drove in two more. I'm just saying if I were a manager I'd try to overcome my Pavlovian response to the sight of Bonds in the batter's box, and go after the old boy.

Another reason not to put much blame on Randolph is that the Mets only scored two runs. After going 8-34 with a double in the San Diego finale, the Mets managed to regress last night, mustering a lousy six singles in 34 ABs. That's not going to get it done most nights.

So now we stand at 12-7 on the year. Only the White Sox have a better record so far, and no other NL East team is above .500. I'm very happy with the team's performance so far. I wasn't as excited as some about the 10-2 start, but I'm not especially worried about the offensive slump the team's going through right now. It's officially a slump, but Delgado and Wright are still sporting gaudy lines, and there's good reason to expect improvement in other areas.

While I'm accentuating the positive, I have a second olive branch to offer Randolph: he is using Heilman in very high-leverage situations. It's not mop-up duty as I had anticipated. That makes a difference, and could, if Randolph uses him this way all season, result in Heilman actually preventing more runs than Billy Wagner. I maintain that he should be given an opportunity to start, but at least he's not being wasted.

Tonight the Mets face Jamey Wright, the former Rocky whose early season numbers look a lot like Brian Bannister's. Here's hoping they unleash the fury.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The pure play on Victor Zambrano anger

I read the email. I know what you're thinking: "Sure, Doyle, you think the Zambrano trade was a nightmare from which the Mets refuse to wake up, but occasionally you veer off-topic. Sometimes you complain about Zambrano problem from the Aaron Heilman standpoint. Sometimes you tackle different problems entirely, like Jose Reyes as a leadoff hitter (except for when he gets off to a hot start, I notice), or Jorge Julio as any sort of major league pitcher. Why can't you stay on point?"

Dear readers, I have your complete solution. I just received an email from a Michael Baldwin who has started a blog dedicated entirely to Victor Zambrano. It's written in the first person (from Zambrano's perspective), and the first few posts are pretty funny.

The Keith Hernandez story is achieving critical mass, as defined as making an appearance on ESPN's "Bottom Line" ticker. I think Sandy Alderson's letter was on the money, but Calabrese's assessment that Hernandez "discredited [her] as a person" is a little much. Keith clearly wasn't talking about her as a person, but as a woman (as in "women don't belong in the dugout"). Expressing disapproval of her presence may make him a buffoon, but it wasn't anything personal. Anyway as I said I'm disabused of any great affection for Hernandez, but I'm satisfied that the public response was equal to the offensiveness of the remarks.

Game 1 in San Francisco is underway. Tom Glavine is on the hill against young Matt Cain.

I was very flattered to receive a promotional copy of a book called "The Last Nine Innings," by Charles Euchner. It's about Game 7 of the 2001 World Series between the Yankees and the Diamondbacks (or the Luis Gonzalez single up the middle game), but also uses the game to talk about topics such as offseason training, Jeter's defense, managerial strategy, etc.. I'll write more about it when I finish it, but I can say that it is worth looking into, which you can do here.

Moises Alou just took Glavine deep. Mets trail 3-0. Bummer.

Correction: I initially wrote that the S.F. starter tonight was Jason Schmidt. My mistake. Matt Cain is a big boy.

Time to take up an old banner

Pedro turned in one of those games on Saturday. One of those 1 ER/2 BB/11 K-type joints, and he is now 4-0. When the recap quotes him as describing his command as “pretty good” after the game, and contains no mention of any injury, it just makes the box score that much sweeter.

Carlos Delgado is flat-out raking the ball. Today I do not know, and do not care, where Yusmeiro Petit is pitching or what kind of performances he has been turning in.

Saturday’s game featured another standout performer. I hate to say it, but it may once again be time to FREE RAMON CASTRO!

Paul Lo Duca
2005: 445 AB .283/.334/.380
2006: 56 AB .286/.365/.357

Ramon Castro
2005: 209 AB .244/.321/.435
2006: 15 AB .400/.412/.733

Granted, it’s silly to include Castro incredibly small sample from this year, but the Mets’ not having played him isn't a good reason for the Mets not to play him. I know Lo Duca has him beat in average by a lot and OBP by a little, but the power difference is substantial enough to make Castro the better offensive option. His record of throwing out baserunners also compares favorably to Lo Duca’s. I realize that by Brad Ausmus standards Lo Duca is plenty handy with the bat, and there’s about a 0% chance of him losing his starting job unless he gets hurt. Plus there’s all those intangibles you hear so much about. All the same, I think his backup’s better.

Brian Giles may have done the Mets a huge favor last night. If he strikes out and the Mets end up winning 4-2, Victor Zambrano’s position in in the starting rotation might have been shored up. By crushing that grand slam, he’s really brought the point home to people who might otherwise have wanted to see Zambrano given more chances to “turn things around.”

David Wright (for whom the Dontrelle Willis offer was not even close) and Carlos Delgado both had two hits, but Wright’s double was the only Mets extra-base hit in 34 at-bats against Clay Hensley and company. My “strength of opposing pitching” thesis is in ribbons.


When I was a little kid, my favorite player was Keith Hernandez. I don’t have any idea why, but he was. He received the first and only fan mail I have ever sent. That I got no reply bothered my father more than me, but it still would have been nice, you know? And when my uncle told me (age six or so) that he was a rat-bastard for informing on fellow players, I didn’t really understand his (my uncle’s) accusations and doubted his credibility as he’s a Red Sox fan and this was ’87 or ’88.

Now, many years later, Keith Hernandez is back in my life. As for my uncle’s story, apparently he did testify in a cocaine trial in exchange for leniency on his own possession charge. So there’s that. It was a long time ago, and I don’t really know what happened. But now, in both his on-air comments about the San Diego trainer in the dugout and (especially) his subsequent apology, the picture of a jackass is starting to come into sharper focus. I just can’t really see a non-jackass assuring all you gals out there that he loves you and always has. He also used the weaselly “If I offended anyone…” non-apology. And that's on top of his failure to return my letter.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Padres 2 - Mets 1

How is Brian Bannister getting away with this? His 2.14 ERA is, I would argue, the most deceptive statistic in baseball right now. He is not pitching well. Thus far, opposing teams have not been able to capitalize on the many, many opportunities he's been giving them. Nonetheless, even assuming for the moment that he's one of those pitchers with a knack for getting out of jams, I'd be much more comfortable with a pitcher with a knack for getting hitters out.

Of course, a pitcher's job is to prevent runs, not baserunners, but damn. You just cannot keep walking more guys (5.9 per 9) than you strike out (5.1) and get away with it on any kind of consistent basis. At some point, opponents will start hitting timely doubles, instead of into timely double plays, especially given that Bannister has not demonstrated the ability to induce groundballs with any regularity (22 GB: 29 FB).

I'm as happy as anyone that he's been able to dodge bullets for 21 innings, but the way he's pitching, he's going to get the Sonny Corleone tollbooth treatment sooner rather than later. And when Willie has to run out to the mound to get him, and wails with tears in his eyes "Look what they did to my boy!", let it never be said that I didn't try to warn him.

Carlos Delgado continues to do it, but the Mets offense once again failed to put any crooked numbers on the board. It's not like Woody Williams is quite in that Hudson-Peavy class either, but I'm not going to worry about the offense just yet.

Although Chad Bradford ended up taking the collar, both bullpens put up incredible combined lines last night:

SD: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K
NY: 8 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 10 K

How much fun was it to watch Cliff Floyd swipe second off Mike Piazza? It's the little things, really. After so many years of watching teams exploit Mike like an 11 year-old Malaysian seamstress, it was nice to be wearing the Nikes for once.

Elsewhere in the division, Alfonso Soriano tagged three home runs and a double to pretty much singlehandedly beat the Braves. I had expected his offensive numbers to suffer dramatically in RFK, but apparently he can clear those fences, too. Meanwhile John Lieber took his 4th loss of the season f0r the Phils despite pitching very well.

Tonight Pedro Martinez faces former/escaped Texas Ranger Chris Young. At some point you would think the string of pitchers' duels would have to end, but this is a much stronger matchup than last night's. And given the aforementioned reliever contributions, I think both managers would like to see their guys make it at least into the seventh.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Mets win on Franco's record-setting HR

This is going to be a recurring theme this season: I can't stay up late enough to watch the end of west coast games. Last year that was not a problem, I was practically nocturnal, but these days I actually have to wake up early in the morning and occasionally that will prevent me from witnessing history.

I get more of a kick out of Julio Franco than I ever did out of Cal Ripken Jr., whose adoration I still don't fully understand. So he never got seriously injured, presumably hid or played through the minor injuries, and played for a very long time? These things just don't add up to heroism in my book. Plus he was only 40 when he packed it in, which is old but it's not like you looked at him and marveled at the longevity.

With Franco, you can tell he's 47. The body is large (arms especially) but the face is weatherbeaten. He's almost 20% older than Ripken was at retirement, and he's still useful against major league pitching. I'm not saying he's any more heroic than Ripken, but he's more freakish and (therefore) fun to watch.

The Mets could not muster much of anything against Jake Peavy, but got to the San Diego bullpen for six runs. Delgado had a two-run homer of his own, bringing his season line to .339/.400/.678, which is both outstanding and pretty consistent with what he's done over the course of his career. He'll give some of this back, but not all of it.

Tonight Brian Bannister gets the ball against Woody Williams. Last night's ending lent credence to the theory that the Mets' brief run of weak hitting had more to do with the pitchers they were facing (16 innings of Hudson-Peavy) than anything else, but it's always hard to tell. All I know is I'd like for them to maintain the best record in baseball for as long as possible, because that, my friends, is a recipe for success.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Mets losing 2-1

Kaz Matsui has an inside-the-park home run. I think it might have been a home run in a smaller park, but it looked like Brian Giles probably should have made the play. Props to Cohen for pointing out before the at-bat that Kaz had a history of homering in his first appearance of the season.

Trachsel is looking decent. He does take an ungodly amount of time between pitches, but they're not hitting him hard.

David Wright had a very good at-bat against Peavy. Worked a full count, fouled at least one off, and then got a two-seamer on the outside part of the plate and croaked it into right field.

This is a little off-topic: There's a particular McDonald's ad in which two black males get excited beyond all reason about the prospect of free menu items that I find incredibly irritating and offensive. It also has a volume setting several notches louder than the broadcast itself. Really pulling for that one to get replaced.

Hudson River Schooled

Tim Hudson is an interesting specimen. He was a legitimate power pitcher in his first two campaigns, and then started striking out fewer hitters, and then in 2004 (his last year in Oakland) pretty much stopped striking out hitters entirely. This is a slight exaggeration, but his K/9 would not have been an embarrassing ERA (4.91).

The transformation could perhaps best be described as derekloweification, in that he started inducing groundballs by the ton. While he is and always has been much more effective than Derek Lowe, his results are more subject to luck, and defense, than guys like say Curt Shilling. His first start of the season was a good example of how he can look unimpressive. 4 IP, 6 H, 5 ER and a no decision, despite getting 13 ground balls and 1 fly which did not leave the yard. It will be interesting to see how the Atlanta infield, and possibly a continued defensive decline from a more offense-oriented Andruw Jones, holds up behind him.

Last night was a (painful) example of how hard it can be to score off him, and why his career ERA still sits at a remarkable 3.37. It was total domination.

Tom Glavine was almost as good, which is really encouraging because I've been wary of him for over a year now and would love to get comfortable with him as our #2 starter. Unfortunately he too got served by the baby-faced assassin, and thanks to one of David Wright's hat trick of errors, that proved to be the difference.

I've made a point of not caring about Wright's defense, because c'mon. But after watching him almost airmail another routine throw for a fourth error, I confess that a little montage of late-stage Chuck Knoblauch flashed through my head and I got a little bit queasy.

Xavier Nady struck out twice and grounded into a very inopportune double play. He's cut! I'm just kidding, of course. Jose Valentin is the one who needs to be cut, and that's no joke. He's 36 years old. He couldn't muster even a .600 OPS last year in 147 ABs with the Dodgers, and his 15 at-bats this year have resulted in five strikeouts and absolutely nothing else. His neatly trimmed mustache is apparently distracting Omar and Willie from the giant fork sticking out of him.

Tonight Nady, Piazza, and Cameron (if he's in the building) get a look at their former teams. And all the Mets will get a nice long steamy gawk at Jake Peavy, who is really quite awesome. Of course, so is our offense, so it works out pretty well. Plus Trachsel has been throwing pretty effectively himself.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Time to play "Find the Fifth Starter"

Contestant A
108.0 IP, 3.17 ERA, 8.83 K/9, 2.87 K/BB, 6 HR

Contestant B
166.1 IP, 4.17 ERA, 6.06 K/9, 1.46 K/BB, 12 HR

Both A and B have something else working in their favor. Contestant A is 27, more than three years younger than Contestant B. On the other hand, Contestant B was acquired in trade for highly regarded Prospect K, so it wouldn't reflect very well on the front office to move him out of the rotation now, would it?

This intangible quality of Victor Zambrano, that the Mets paid dearly for him, seems to be the only thing recommending him for the job. I can't come up with any other reason why the Mets would be willing to give him the ball every fifth day while a vastly superior pitcher (Heilman, if you hadn't gathered) sits in the bullpen, waiting for Willie to kick him a few scraps of long relief or 7th inning opportunities.

I don't want to give the impression that I've been a Heilman fan all along. He took his sweet time improving to the point where he could be trusted in the majors in any capacity, but his performance last year was outstanding, and when 26 year-olds turn in great seasons, you give them a shot at a full-time job when they're 27. There oughta be a law.

It's great that the Mets are 10-3, but it's not going to be a cakewalk to the division title, and watching Andruw Jones take batting practice at Shea is not my idea of a good time.


Metsblog has the Zambrano issue well covered. I hadn't read that quote of Peterson's in which he actually accuses Mets fans of being impatient with Zambrano's progress. Really, Rick? You're really going to call us impatient when a guy who you said you could fix in 10 minutes still sucks after 32 starts in blue and orange? Here's what I think you should do: 1) shut up 2) fix Zambrano 3) when you fail to fix Zambrano, admit as much and focus on the guys who actually show promise. The Mets have the best team ERA in baseball thus far at 3.51, which is great and Peterson may have something to do with it, but seriously Rick, shut up.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Can't Stop/Won't Stop

What's more exciting, that Carlos Beltran is doing what he used to do all the time back in the day (.273/.422/.576), or that his .998 OPS ranks 4th on the team right now? As a matter of fact, Nady, Delgado, and Wright are all over 1.100. That's bonkers, and while it can't continue all season - especially in Nady's case - it's a very strong indication that this offense is probably at least as good as advertised. Even Paul Lo Duca is dialed in.

On the pitching side, the old boys are looking spry. I can't remember the last time Tom Glavine had a double-digit strikeout rate, but it's encouraging to say the least. Pedro seems to be healthy and happy to have his 200th W (I just can't get excited about these "milestones", sorry), and Trachsel's first 11 innings have not left much to be desired.

I am going to abstain from the Brian Bannister Kool-Aid for the time being. The record and ERA are pretty, but the peripherals are borderline fuggly and with few exceptions (see: Rueter, K. and Buerhle, M.) the latter tell the better story.

The bullpen trio of Wagner, Sanchez and Heilman (plus Oliver?) have been great thus far. [Reference to Jorge Julio removed in the interest of not being accused of beating a dead horse, but such removal should not be construed as an indication that said horse is as dead as it should be, or that it doesn't richly deserve further beating.]

Some non-Mets related thoughts:

- Chris Shelton's start reminds me of Dmitri Young's start two years ago, but better. I thought he might hit 30, but it's clearly time to take those estimates up, even if he just has a mediocre year from here on out.

- Does starting pitching get any more erratic than Daniel Cabrera?

- Eric Karabell was reckless in advising fantasy leaguers to trade for Barry Bonds now, while his stock is low. Bonds is simply too old and his career too unique to assume that this slow start is just a blip on the screen. Legal issues aside, I think this may very well be the beginning of the end. I don't think he'll hit 40 HR this year.

- Mark Mulder just isn't that good.

- Kenji Johjima might be the first Japanese hitter whose first year numbers do not get lost in translation. He was a four-digit OPS guy in Japan and is looking like a solid bet for .900 or better for the M's.

Some SNY-related thoughts:

I was worried about Gary Cohen's transition to television for a minute there. Not all of it was his fault, I don't think. They had the in-booth camera set up in such a way that he had to lean to starboard (towards Keith) just to stay in frame, which heightened the usual awkwardness of two grown men sitting very, very close together. But there was more to it than that. It's not that Cohen's ugly, per se, but his default facial expression is totally humorless, and he doesn't have much of a repertoire beyond it. He has also looked horribly uncomfortable with the looking-at-Keith/Ron vs. looking-at-camera thing, shifting his intense stare back and forth every five seconds or so in a slightly furtive, unsettling way. As a huge Gary Cohen fan, I'd hate to see him be remembered as a poor TV broadcaster rather than one of the very best on radio.

Watching last night's post-game, he seems to have improved markedly since the first few games of the season. Most importantly, he's begun to sport the neutral smile that TV heads have to wear when they're not talking. That's a club he really needs to have in his bag. Cohen is sort of the anti-Harold Reynolds (who leads the airwaves in appearance:substance ratio). He has a phen0menal understanding of the game and an obvious talent for talking about it, so if he can get just his on-air appearance just to the point where it's not distractingly weird (and I think he's almost there), he'll be one of the best on television, too.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Two weeks in the books

Here is a note from CBS Sportsline on Aaron Heilman:

Unfortunately for Heilman owners, the Mets' former No. 1 pick is too good as a setup man to move to the rotation at this point. He's likely the Mets' No. 6 starter, though. It doesn't help that rookie Brian Bannister is off to such a great start in the Mets' rotation. Heilman's best chance to start is for Victor Zambrano (hamstring) to fail or be unable to start.

That's right. Why waste him for the first 5-7 innings of a game when he can be used for one inning towards the end of the game? After all, the later innings are much more important! Why else would teams always use their best reliever in the 9th inning?

What's really scary is not that there are ostensibly professional commentators who can't see the rank stupidity of the "too good to start" idea, it's that it is quite possibly just what Willie Randolph is thinking. This is, after all, a guy who batted David Wright 7th last year, and, after a full season of watching him be the best hitter on the team, now bats him 6th.

Jose Reyes has been hitting the snot out of the ball, and rather than simply dismiss it as small sample size and resume my usual rants about his doesn't-walk-iness, I will say that to my untrained eye, his at-bats are looking a lot better. He still only has one walk so far, but he does not seem to be swinging at everything and when he does swing, he's been hitting the ball. I don't really care how he gets his OBP up to .350. If he bats .335 with a walk every two weeks that's fine by me, and if any power develops it will be beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Brian Bannister is doing just fine. I really hope it continues. I should also point out that Jae Seo has given up 4 HR in his first 8 innings in LA, and that Duaner Sanchez has looked great. So the first two weeks of the season look good as far as that trade is concerned.

However there remains the thorny issue of Jorge Julio. Let me just say that it gives me no pleasure to have been right about this one. When I saw those 250 lbs of run-surrendering beefsteak come lumbering out of the bullpen on April 5, the feeling of inevitability wasn't pleasant at all. I didn't look forward to other Mets fans discovering what I already knew, deep in my bones, to be true: Jorge Julio sucks. Meanwhile Kris Benson has turned in two exceptionally clean seven-inning efforts in Baltimore.

Not-Quite-Preseason Predictions

NL East

NL Central
St. Louis

NL West
Los Angeles
San Diego
San Francisco

AL East
New York
Tampa Bay

AL Central
Kansas City

AL West
Los Angeles

World Series: Mets over Indians
NL MVP: Pujols
AL MVP: Rodriguez
NL Cy Young: Peavy
AL Cy Young: Santana
NL ROY: Fielder
AL ROY: Kinsler