Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Pedro vs. Webb

Only slightly daunted by the washout of my last trip to Shea, I'll be taking the storied 7 train to see this matchup.

Brandon Webb is looking about as dominant as any pitcher in recent memory, and Pedro is one of the very few who can still claim to be better.

Webb's ability to induce ground balls is not just "for real," it's the realest. For every ball that clears the infield, he gets at least four wormburners. That's not a fluke. It's been over four the last two years, and for his career it's 3.8. He's given up five home runs in 82 innings, which is a little less than half what your average pitcher surrenders.

His strikeout rate is only decent, but when you can "pitch to contact" and still get guys out (not many can), you get the underappreciated benefit of a relatively lower pitch count. His last two starts were complete games of 101 and 106 pitches against the Braves and Reds, respectively.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not rooting for Brandon Webb to establish himself as one of the game's elite pitchers. I certainly would like to see him take his first loss tonight at the hands of the home team. But he's really good, and I respect that.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Milledge gets the call

Sorry for the long hiatus. A lot has happened since my last post.

The trade of J. Julio for O. Hernandez is a little bit frustrating. I never quite came around on Julio, despite the legitimately impressive peripherals he posted in his fairly limited workload with the Mets. But El Duque hasn't been good for a very long time, and may not even represent an improvement over John Maine. And Dave Williams? I mean really.

It's early yet, but a substantive move still needs to be made. Steve Trachsel needs to be made our fourth starter. I'm not sure what will be available, especially since so far this season there appear to be an unusual number of contending teams. That's a bad thing for the Mets, both because the NL East is a good example of that parity and because it makes for fewer sellers come the trade deadline.

With Xavier Nady placed on the DL, Lastings Milledge made his debut with the big club tonight, going 1-4 with a double. He hit the ball hard in his first plate appearance, but right at Hanley Ramirez at short. I wasn't expecting him to be up so soon, but he may be ready.

Monday night's game was incredibly entertaining. Aaron Heilman's worst outing of the season almost cost the Mets the game, but Reyes, Lo Duca and Wright came up big in the bottom of the 9th to win it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Beltran is more animal than man

I have to go to bed. It's 12:15 AM on Wednesday, and they're in the bottom of the 15th at Shea.

Darren Oliver is taking his cuts at the plate, for the simple reason that he's last man standing in the bullpen. The Mets had the lead until Heilman gave up two in the seventh, but then tied on a Reyes three-run homer.

Ryan Madson entered the game in the ninth inning and has now thrown six innings of shutout ball, which he never did as a starter that I can recall.

Tomorrow Alay Soler (a "Cuban defect" to quote Darling) gets his chance to do his thing. My totally speculative prediction: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. He'll be opposed by Cole Hamels, who has been a big name prospect for a long time (delayed by sports and fight-related injuries) but is still four years younger than Soler.

Lo Duca just hosed Chase Utley at second base in the top of the 16th, which sounds heroic, but he's still got some making up to do for the ball he dropped at home plate.

In case the play doesn't get included in the recap, Shane Victorino hit a single to right field on which Pat Burrell tried to score from second. Endy Chavez threw an absolute seed to home plate, and it was pretty obvious that Burrell was dead to rights for the third out, but Lo Duca booted it and David Bell promptly cleared the bases.

All is forgiven! Beltran! Walkoff homer! Ballgame.

Bonne nuit chers lecteurs.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Weekend postmortem

Mike & Mike on ESPN are talking about the criticism of Willie Randolph for bringing Wagner into a non-Save situation. The Mike who isn't Mike Golic opined that it's absolutely ridiculous to blame the manager for his reliever's failure to preserve a four run lead, and it's even more stupid to do for the sole reason that even if he had preserved the lead, it wouldn't have qualified as a Save. He calls the Save rule "one of the dumbest stats in baseball."

Every once in a while, even elite Closers have really bad days. Do they hurt? Absolutely, and it's much worse because they're usually really highly paid and you always suspect that they've lost the Closer's Mentality. But the reason you get an elite Closer is because the meltdowns are so few and far between, and most nights it's 1-2-3 game over. In any case, I can't be convinced that the reason Wagner blew it is because he was so mentally thrown off by the score differential.

Let's just call Saturday's game "unlucky" and move on to Sunday's game, which was lucky. Really, really lucky.

The Yankees left 28 runners on base. The bags were juiced like... like something or someone that's juiced. I can't think of a topical analogy.

The Mets' combined pitching line: 9 IP, 12 H, 3 ER, 7 BB, 6 K. It makes me wonder if maybe this was an elaborately conceived tribute to fallen comrade Brian Bannister. If you change the order of the Yankees' offensive events (double, groundout, etc.) ever so slightly, we lose 6-4.

Our offense, on the other hand, scored four runs on seven hits. That's what power hitting, in the persons of Delgado and Wright, can do for a team.

In the last three innings, all three of Heilman, Sanchez, and Wagner looked a little bit shaky. But Wagner struck out two while throwing 15 of 21 pitches for strikes. I think there's hope for him yet.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

NYM 7 - NYY 6

At first it looked like the game would be a lost cause. There aren't many pitchers who can be counted on to hold the Yankees in check, and Jeremi Gonzalez sure isn't one of them. As could be expected, that other N.Y. team beat him soundly about the face and chest.

But in the bottom of the first, Carlos Beltran launched a three-run homer off the suddenly awful Randy Johnson, and the battle was joined.

The bullpen has been incredible. Oliver righted the ship in the fourth and fifth, Heilman pitched three perfect innings, and Wagner struck out the side in the top of the ninth. Good job by Willie bringing him into a tie game.

Kaz Matsui's ribbie single was huge. I wish I hadn't just looked at his numbers and seen that it only raised his OPS to .605. Apparently he was due. At least he's been playing good D.

The bottom of the ninth was a thing of beauty. Torre decision to pitch to Wright instead of Delgado is hard to argue with. Both hitters have pronounced platoon splits this year, and Delgado's been slightly more beastly overall. But Wright is still so damn good!

Just a great win.


In other news, I just saw the clip of Michael Barrett punching A.J. Pierzynski in the face. I mean he really got him good. Having heard and read my share of Pierzynski quotes, I wouldn't be surprised if he had it coming. Square on the jaw. Suspension city.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Bannister injured

Help is no longer on the way. Brian Bannister left his rehab start after injuring his leg. It's not completely clear from the article whether it's an aggravation of his original injury, but it sounds that way. It also doesn't sound good. He'll undergo an MRI tomorrow.

Assistant GM John Ricco is quoted:

"We don't know if he did more damage or if he just wasn't ready to come back. He felt some tightness and took himself out of the game... It could be that he was just being cautious and the muscle needs to get used to stretching again."

I guess that could be the case, but there is not a long tradition of pitchers removing themselves from games purely for the sake of caution. There's usually an injury of some sort preventing them from pitching without excruciating pain.

Apparently he "tweaked" the leg five pitches into the game, covering a play at first. That he wasn't injured in the regular course of pitching helps alleviate the suspicion that he may have been put back in action too soon, but it doesn't erase it entirely. Come to think of it, covering first could be considered part of the regular course of pitching, but to paraphrase Ivan Drago: "If it's blown, it's blown."

Meanwhile in St. Louis, the Cardinals took the rubber game of the series without any help from the Best Hitter in Baseball.

Submitted for your approval, my best guess as to LaRussa's thought process:

Let's see, when should I give Phat Albert a day off? Hmmm.... Glavine? No, probably need him for that game... Trachsel? Eh, ya never know.... ah-HA! Friday is "Lima Time," as the locals call it! Rest easy, slugger. We'll be just fine.

I know it was a day game after a series of night games, and LaRussa probably doesn't think of him as "Phat" Albert, but the reasoning makes sense.

Sure enough, J-Loss gave up five runs on seven hits in 4.2 innings. Even .378 slugger Aaron Miles got a taste.

With Bannister on the shelf for probably weeks, at least, the Braintrust has to do something. One of the rules of thumb I think makes sense for a GM is to ask of every player under consideration: "Is this player going to be on our next championship team?" I think it's time to ask that of Lastings Milledge.

For all my criticisms of Mets management, I have been confident from the outset that the talent on our current roster is good enough to win it all. Unfortunately, so much attention has been given to the bullpen that the back of the rotation has gone neglected. It would be a concern even if this rash of injuries hadn't taken place.

The only rumor I've heard involves Dontrelle Willis. I'm not the biggest fan of the D-Train, but I think we need to get a good, if not excellent, starter. And I think we need to do it soon. It has nothing to do with his recent slump, but I think that in this legitimately "win now" situation, Milledge is a reasonable price to pay for such a pitcher.

Anyway a few highlights from today's game: Beltran and Valentin both went deep. The latter has pulled his batting line up from the depths faster than I expected. As a matter of fact, I didn't expect it at all. I called for his job, and I maintain that he's not much of an asset. But now he's at that .750 OPS level where it's hard to demand much more from a part time player. Here's hoping the old boy keeps it up.

Pedro Feliciano got four clean outs, and has still only allowed one run in 12.1 innings, with great peripherals. That's the kind of performance you can eke out of relief pitchers. Maybe he'll be the left-handed Roberto Hernandez. Sure, maybe not, but this front office needs to learn that getting quality starts isn't nearly as easy, and as things stand now they're going to be in relatively short supply.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Mets almost score a run, but don't

The Mets loaded the bases in the ninth, but Jason Isringhausen struck out Wright and induced a Cliff Floyd grounder to first to preserve the Cardinals' 1-0 win.

Since Cliffy was batting an even .200 going into his final at bat, we'll continue to hear about his being "on the interstate" for at least another game. I understand the "Mendoza line" has fallen out of favor, but let's ease the new term into usage gradually, huh fellas?

As Cohen and Darling pointed out, Trachsel's performance was reassuring to say the least. The peripherals weren't great, but that's not an easy lineup to hold to one run. It has Albert Pujols in it.

Unfortunately, Mark Mulder was a little bit better. The ninth inning wasn't just the Mets' best opportunity, it was pretty much their only opportunity. I'm starting to realize that I had been thinking too little of Mulder. His ability to elicit ground balls is for real, and more than makes up for his unimpressive strikeout numbers.

In any event, he dominated our boys tonight, but at least we ended up taking game one eventually (I was fast asleep by the time that ended). And while it would have been nice to see him given a little bit of offense, Steve Trachsel gave us another taste of his intoxicating brand of adequacy.

I guess it's a little early to really pay too much attention to the horse race, but all the same: Philly lost to the Brewers, keeping them 1.5 games back for the time being.

Tomorrow Jose Lima gets his third start of the season. For the record, I do not care one whit how he pitches tomorrow. It needs to be his last appearance in a Mets uniform. He's a disaster in a hurry to happen.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

To be continued?

Not long after suffering a rain-shortened loss in Philadelphia, it appears the Mets are going to be denied a rain-shortened victory in St. Louis.

Because the Mets took the lead in the top of the seventh inning, they can't be awarded the game until the Cardinals get their ups. If that doesn't happen tonight, it will have to be continued later (presumably tomorrow), and played to completion.

This rule, besides being highly inconvenient for the Mets tonight, seems a little bit stupid. I can see the unfairness of one team getting more chances to score than the other. But if a game gets shortened in any way, by definition the losing team is being denied the opportunity to come back. What difference does it make how long they've been losing for?

Jose Reyes was having a great game, not only homering but walking and stealing second in the seventh. He then scored the go-ahead run as Lo Duca delivered a timely double. It was really good to see.


Toby Hyde at Mets Minors isn't having this Mike Pelfrey nonsense:

"The absurd hype surrounding Mike Pelfrey in the NYC media continues unabated... Pelfrey has thrown 43.2 minor league innings so far. Were the Mets to bring him up in June, he’d almost certainly be shy of 100 in his first professional season. Right now, Pelfrey is 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA in AA. In 21.2 IP, he’s allowed 30 hits, walked nine and struck out 24. He’s not exactly rolling through the Eastern League. When he starts shoving down there, that’s the time to talk about a promotion to AAA."

I'd definitely agree that it's too soon to call up Pelfrey. But my objection would be primarily on the low innings totals alone. I'd like to see him get some more innings that don't count (unless you happen to be a huge Binghamton fan), before giving him ones that do.

Nonetheless, those 43.2 innings have been pretty outstanding. He's given up runs, but not many, struck out 50, walked 11 and surrendered just one home run (at St. Lucie). So while I do think some patience is called for, it's hard not to suspect that he is, even at his tender age, at worst the 5th best starting pitcher in the organization.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Relief pitchers are like cigarettes...

At some point, even the lucky ones get smoked.

Jeremi Gonzalez turned in a serviceable five innings on Saturday. He did give home runs to the dynamic young duo of Weeks and Fielder, but it wasn't a disaster.

Had scoreless inning machine Duaner Sanchez not surrendered a whopping four runs in 0.1 IP, it would have been a pretty easy win. I hope it (the sudden fallibility) doesn't jar his psyche too badly, but it was bound to happen sometime.

The Mets hit Dana Eveland hard, as you'd hope they would. Beltran went 3-5 with a 3R HR, and only Chris Woodward went O-fer.

As it happened, Paul Lo Duca had to take matters into his own hands with a game winning (but unfortunately non-walkoff) solo homer off Turnbow.

After double-checking the rulebook to make sure the conditions for a Save were satisfied, Randolph put Billy Wagner in to pitch a three-strikeout ninth.

Let's see, what happened yesterday... Pedro struck out 10 but gave up four runs, and Bill Hall ended up winning the game for the Brewers in the first extra frame.

So we split the weekend, which isn't that bad but it cost us another game to the Phillies, who just swept the offensively loaded Reds. Yesterday they won 2-1 on a pair of Ryan Howard homers, and are now just one game astern.

That's it. Just a kind of getting up-to-speed post more than anything else.


Joe Sheehan at BP($) , a Yankee fan, tears Scott Erickson to shreds. A Mets-related excerpt:
What do you think it’s like for a guy like Heath Bell, who
has pitched well in Triple-A for a while now, and intermittently well at the
major-league level, to get sent down whenever he has consecutive bad appearances
while watching Scott Erickson making three hundred grand again on nothing but

I agree that Bell has been given a ridiculously short leash. And even though Sheehan establishes beyond much doubt that Erickson is even less deserving of a roster spot than say Lima or Gonzalez (he's been unbelievably bad), I think the point applies to them too.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The nameless one gets shelled again

The failed reclamation project managed to (barely) avoid trouble for four innings, before blowing the Mets' modest lead in spectacular fashion. The home run he gave up to Prince Fielder was an absolute blast, measured at 478 feet. No word yet whether the showing will precipitate another change of hairstyles.

When I heard the Lastings Milledge for Dontrelle Willis trade rumor, I just thought about how not-worth-it Willis is. He's young, and certainly someone who would slot in ahead of Steve Trachsel, but the declining strikeout rates raise legitimate concerns that hitters have gotten used to his delivery.

Meanwhile Lastings Milledge has started to really look good. He still only has three homers in 124 at-bats, which is light, but he just turned 21 in April, and has a .436 OBP in Triple-A. I'm on the bandwagon.

But what if a really good starter becomes available? (If you feel strongly that Dontrelle is really good, then use him as the example.) I think Omar would have to pull the trigger. I think this is the team which he should be willing to sacrifice the future in order to improve. It's a contender for sure.

As a group, Mets pitchers have been the best in the league. The Cardinals recently passed us in ERA, but the other numbers are downright freakish for team averages.

Unfortunately, the distribution of the performance matters, and when it gets later in the season and time to contend in the playoff sense, they're going to need a bigger boat. Not just the return of the guys who are currently injured, but the arrival of someone better. I don't think this can be dismissed as pessimism. I think we have good reason to be uneasy that for the forseeable future, 40% of the Mets' starts are going to be started by Gonzalez and you-know-who.

Of course, maybe I should go easy on Gonzalez, who hasn't actually done any bad pitching this year (yet), and focus on Heath Bell, who was kind of a key component of my ever-evolving Master Plan to Fix the Mets. He got smacked around again last night. Sometimes I have to remind myself that it is possible to give up zero walks and still do a crummy job. The hits will get you, too.

Billy Wagner pitched the bottom of the eighth, just because it had been so damn long. I know it's necessary to get him some work, but his appearance in last night's blowout, after being kept in the pen through some crucial innings in Philly, was just a monument to Willie Randoph's incompetence.

Things got moderately exciting in the top of the ninth, as the Mets tagged Danny Kolb and Rickie Weeks made one of the most hideous plays I've ever seen a second baseman make. Kaz Matsui came to the plate as the tying run, and Ned Yost finally had to bring in the hard-throwing (and unconventionally stylish) Derrek Turnbow to retire him.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Getting it off my chest

Jeremi Gonzalez has been pitching well in Triple-A. He's struck out 30, walked nine, and only surrendered one home run in 35.2 innings, with an ERA of 3.03. That's the good news.

The bad news is this isn't a prospect we're talking about. Gonzalez is a 31 year-old journeyman with a career ERA of 4.84 over 516 innings, most recently with the Red Sox but before that the Devil Rays and, in a former life ('97-'98), the Cubs.

Are there raw skills there that he never managed to harness in his twenties? The career 5.4 K/9 doesn't suggest as much.

Maybe there's more hope to be found in his minor league record. And what a record it is. Since making his professional debut in 1992, Gonzalez has logged no fewer than 818 innings in the minor leagues. Feel free to peruse the results over at the Cube (you may have to scroll depending on your screen resolution).

As you can see, his cumulative minor league ERA is 4.06. Though the highlights are few and far between, he was very good in 69 innings at Pawtucket last year. As for his 56 innings with the Sox? Not so much.

With all due respect to Mr. Gonzalez, who clearly loves the game and makes a good living at it: this is what the very bottom of the barrel looks like. Wondering whether he or Lima is the No. 4 starter is just no fun at all.

I don't mean to sound alarmist, and I'm not abandoning hope for the season or anything like that. We have a great offense, two of the top 10 starters and the best bullpen in baseball.

That bullpen also happens to include an excellent pitcher who had been a starter for pretty much his whole career. But Willie doesn't want to risk turning a strength into a weakness by giving Heilman the damn ball. Nor does he want to bring his closer into a tie game on the road, but I've already been over that (it still drives me nuts though, especially after his postgame comments confirmed my worst fears about his "philosophy.")

Anyway I think the writing is on the wall for a sooner-than-planned Mike Pelfrey callup, and that's something that I'm pretty excited about. It's not like he's 18 or anything, he's 22. As a matter of fact, he's a few weeks older than Scott Kazmir, just to pick a successful young pitcher at random.

... In other news, the Mets crushed Cory Lidle and the Phillies last night. Glavine turned in his first workmanlike (as opposed to spectacular) performance in a while, which was more than enough for the offense. As a rule, when just about everyone has two hits and Reyes goes deep, the odds of a W are high.

Straight Flushing fave Health Bell finally got a big league appearance, giving up a run on three hits. He did get two strikeouts however, on what looked like pretty effective breaking stuff.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Willie being Willie

That was a bit of a heartbreaker.

The game shouldn't have ended that way. For one thing, Heilman obviously should have let Lo Duca take that tapper in front of the plate. It didn't look like Lo Duca was as aggressive as he should have been in calling him off, but he did try and Heilman should have known how hard it would be to make the throw.

For another, once Heilman hit Rollins he should have been pulled. The pitch wasn't all that far inside, but it was enough to suggest he might not have his A-game. With that in mind, here is Chase Utley's platoon split from last season:

vs LHP: .219/.348/.469 in 128 AB
vs RHP: .313/.385/.561 in 415 AB

So Heilman walks Utley, bringing up Bobby Abreu. Here's his 2005 split:

vs LHP: .275/.353/.406 in 207 AB
vs RHP: .291/.430/.561 in 381 AB

Where is Billy Wagner? Bottom of the 9th of a tie game. Bases loaded. Two outs. Our left-handed, elite closer hasn't pitched since Friday.

Maybe Will Carroll is right about Wagner hiding a finger injury, because it's pretty much the only legitimate excuse for not using him in that situation. It's so simple: fail to retire Abreu, and you lose. Clearly you want to maximize the odds of getting him out, not the odds of seeing "Wagner (S, 8)" in the box score.

You would think in this day and age that the Save would have been more thoroughly demystified as nothing but a highly arbitrary measure of reliever performance. It's about the least informative "primary" statistic in the game. Wins and losses are practically useless as well, but they do little if any harm in terms of changing the way the game is played. Tonight I think we saw Closer orthodoxy actually make a team worse.

Unhappy ending aside, it was a damn entertaining game. Pedro struck out 10 in seven innings, but allowed all three runs in a bad second inning. Brett Myers was dominant for seven plus innings, until Nady finally got to him for a line drive two-run homer. Carlos Delgado then launched a second one against Tom Gordon to tie it up.

It may have been a poorly managed game from the Mets' standpoint, but it was pretty well played.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Money well spent

Carlos Beltran wasn't good last season. There's no need to rehash it here. Suffice it to say that he was a page after Jason LaRue on the list of NL hitters by VORP. It was enough to make people either forget about his 2004 or conclude that Shea Stadium is such a miserable place to hit that there's no way he'll ever do anything like it as a Met.

To review: In 2004, Beltran hit 38 regular season home runs. Because of the seemingly pointless custom of restarting the counting-stat odometer at zero when a player switches teams midseason, it never really got presented as a 38 home run season (even ESPN's player page makes you do the math). But that's what it was. He also stole 42 bases while only getting caught three times, extending his lead in career SB%, which as far as I know he still holds.

Then came the postseason, when in 46 AB he hit .435/.536/1.022, with a record 8 home runs. This did not go unnoticed, nor did the fact that he would be a free agent at the end of the season. The "contract year" theory gets an awful lot of run, I think in large part because it appeals to our natural jealousy of millionaire ballplayers.

In any case when Omar signed Beltran to such a massive contract, a lot of the mainstream commentary was focused on how much Carlos had profited financially from his incredible October. While it undoubtedly boosted his market price, so too must have his calendar year totals at age 27: 46 home runs and 50 steals in 646 at-bats.

So what happened? Disastrously little. His debut in New York was worse than I would have thought possible. I think it's safe to say we all remember it, and felt our emotions go from confusion to frustration, with a brief layover at rage on the way to despair.

The skeptics had warned us that Shea Stadium isn't as hitter friendly as Kansas City or Houston. We knew he had a leg injury, and smashed heads with Cameron, but how could we be sure that that was the only problem. And even if it was, would he ever fully recover?

As I pointed out at the time late last season, Mike and the Mad Dog took to speaking of Beltran as a "role player," who was not the marquee talent that had been advertised and paid for. The high expectations themselves were blamed for the lack of performance. "He can't play in New York" was the consensus in the New York media (it's obvious how much pride they take in the city's powers of intimidation).

They were right in that he wasn't playing well in New York, but it was and always will be patently ridiculous to suggest that Beltran didn't deserve to be considered a franchise player in the first place, and that 2005 was just his forseeable regression to the "good" player he had been all along. But what's this we see in the 2006 row? It looks like a .286/.441/.671 line. He seems to have eight homers and four steals.

Maybe, just maybe, the four years before he came to New York are a better reflection of his abilities than his first year with the Mets. Maybe a few years from now we'll find it hard to believe he ever got booed at Shea.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Jose Lima: Plan 9 From Outer Space

Watching the Braves score over a dozen runs at Shea is always a bummer. It's somehow made worse by the fact that they were aided and abetted by a total washout with a platinum afro; one whom a championship-caliber team really shouldn't have to run out to the mound.

I suspect that Lima's colorful personality is part of the reason why he's been allowed to give up 64 HR the last two years. At this point in his career, he's Eric Milton-light.

Bartolome Fortunato then made a compelling argument for Heath Bell's callup, surrendering 8 runs in 1.1 IP.

Jeff Francoeur paced the Atlanta offense, as he continues to hit the Mets very hard. He came within a double of the cycle.

Runs 6 through 13 didn't make too much of a difference, of course, as John Smoltz was in top form. This was probably to be expected. They must have been a little "hungrier" than the Mets to save some face, and this is sort of what happens when you match Atlanta's ace with "Lima Time" (a phrase which I don't get and isn't funny and lends brand recognition to a guy who hasn't deserved it for years).

It's just one game, but it's a good time to point out why people like myself hated the Seo and Benson trades. All 162 games counts equally, and that as important as it is to have a Pedro Martinez making 30-plus starts, it's also important not to have a Jose Lima making more than five or six. "Replacement level" is just another term for really terrible pitching. I know Benson was terrible today too, but that doesn't make the decision any better.

A lot of fans rush to Omar's defense by pointing out how flukish it is that Zambrano, Bannister, Iriki and Maine are all hurt. That's true, but why are any of those guys slated to start ahead of Aaron Heilman in the first place? They're not even the best of what's around after the trades for Sanchez and Julio.

On the bright side, Carlos Beltran has now homered in three straight games, bringing his total for the season to eight (where he's tied with a whooole bunch of people). It's starting to look more and more like people,were a little quick to dismiss his chances at superstardom.

Oh, and the Mets are 21-10.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Beating the Braves is like crack to me

I won't bother recapping last night's game, partly because you can get a thorough and properly AP-styled account of it here, and also because I didn't see the last two hours or so.

When I left it was 6-6 and Heilman was just about to enter the game. As an aside, I find his face really odd-looking, and the low lighting in the bullpen makes him look like some sort of unfinished golem, kept in total darkness and seclusion until his services are required.

Anyway, when I got back home, after midnight (I'm something of a party animal), Billy Wagner was addressing the media and explaining how shocked he was to have surrendered a particular home run.

His remarks and his body language suggested that the Mets had lost, which was disappointing. What was only slightly less disappointing was that our boys had in fact pulled it out in a marathon 14 inning game, and I missed it.

At some point in the middle innings, Keith Hernandez incorrectly described Xavier Nady as 25 years old. Would it were so! He's 27, which is a big enough difference to make me wonder how much homework Keith is doing. It may sound nitpicky, but not only is that two fewer years he has left on his, um, biological clock, but at "peak age" he also faces much longer odds of improving substantially from his current level of production. Mind you, there's nothing at all wrong with his current level of production (.918 OPS). I'm just saying that if he were 25 we probably couldn't have gotten him for Mike Cameron.

I never thought I would ever look at a line of .268/.336/.409 and think "now that's what I'm talking about!" But Jose Reyes is a unique situation, and the stakes are extremely high for a few reasons:

1) As last year proved, he will be our leadoff hitter come hell or high water. If he doesn't improve on his career .306 OBP, we're just going to have to eat all those outs.

2) As one of the very fastest men in baseball, he gets more leverage from his OBP, not only by stealing bases but stretching triples, scoring from 1st, etc.

3) Even if you reject the notion that a player "is who he is," and that there's little you can do to transform a free swinger into Kevin Youkilis, Reyes is still so young that I think it's definitely a little bit surprising how much he appears to have changed already.

Is it too early to declare him fully cured of hackatitis C? I guess so, but he's already about halfway to his 2005 walk total. There's nowhere to go but up.

Today's game is just getting underway, and I've realized that in-game blogging is not my core competency, so I'm going to sign off for the moment... Maybe make some eggs... I am the worst case scenario of Dan Rather's vision.


Wow. Cohen just made the observation that seeing as how last night's game ran so late, today's game could be influenced by the recently imposed ban on amphetamines. It's an entirely reasonable point, but not one that you necessarily expect an employee of an MLB team to make on the broadcast. Hernandez then agreed that this would be the kind of game where players would have been inclined to "go to the jar." Good stuff.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Tom Glavine is the new Johan Santana

Ten (10) strikeouts in seven shutout innings. Un-bleeping-believable.

David Wright went 4-5, bringing his average back over .300. In his postgame comments, Willie Randolph acknowledged that Wright had been in a little bit of a "funk," but didn't want to characterize it "as a slump per se, because I don't really believe in slumps." I had been under the impression that funks were similar if not identical to slumps, but that's why they pay Willie the big bucks.

The Mets were not the only NL East team to complete a two game "sweep" tonight, the Phillies beat the Braves behind Cory Lidle and Ryan Howard, moving to 14-14. At this point, I don't know who to root for between these two teams. I picked the Braves to finish second in the division, but they have looked bad so far.

Meanwhile the Phillies' underperformance is a perennial storyline but their lineup is undeniably impressive, and people still haven't taken notice of Brett Myers. I've heard multiple commentators refer to Lieber as the ace of the staff without qualification. Lieber's been better than his ERA, but Myers is in the league's top 15 in both ERA and strikeouts, and I think he has a good chance to stay there.

Speaking of (once) young pitchers, I don't mind Ron Darling as an announcer, but he needs to stop bringing up how terrible he was as a rookie. The first time I found it self-deprecating, but he's brought it up three times now, that I've heard, and it's starting to sound more and more like his sly way of referring to his successful playing career by focusing on his uninspired (but not horrible, actually) debut. Maybe he's still embarrassed at having walked 104 batters when he was 23, but a) that would be kind of weird, and b) it took him 205.7 innings to do it, which is more than Victor Zambrano can say for his 2003.

I hate to do this, but now that the topic of Zambrano has been broached, I feel not tempted as much as compelled to put a link to Scott Kazmir and suggest that it's time for the remaining defenders of this deal to totally capitulate and admit that it was stupid, if not in writing than simply in the deepest recess of their poor misguided souls. Only then will I be willing to "let it go," as several bloggers have intimated is the most reasonable course of action. Forget that. I'm talking about drawing a line in the sand here, dude.

Incredibly annoying, constantly-aired ad du jour: the Michael Moore anti-smoking PSA. At first I assumed it was a very good imitation of Moore, but it's actually he.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Our new first baseman is much better than his predecessors

I attended tonight's game in person. Well, I attended the first three innings in person. I didn't think to bring a jacket, and was cold to begin with, and then it started to rain. It was pretty miserable, so my girlfriend and I went back home to watch from the warmth of our Brooklyn apartment. Plus I had only ponied up $5 each for the upper "reserved" seats, so the sunk cost was minimal.

Once again, Pedro really did it to 'em. The home run he gave up to Freddy Sanchez in the first was crushed, right into a strong headwind, but that has been the extent of the Pirate offense to date. 7 IP, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K. He will get a no decision, which tells you how significant a pitcher's record is.

Endy Chavez is having an incredible game. He just made a downright shocking play in shallow right center field. On the replay he comes from completely out of the frame to make the diving catch on what probably shouldn't even have been his ball. I had said earlier that it would take some superheroic defense to make up for his bat. Well that was the kind of play a mutant would make, and he's also 4-5 with two doubles.

Aaron Heilman and Duaner Sanchez were both outstanding, again. Heilman lowered his ERA to 2.3o, and raised his K:BB over 3. Sanchez's ERA is still a clean 0.00.

Billy Wagner, unfortunately, squandered his two run inheritance in the top of the ninth. Cohen et al were discussing whether he was having difficulty with the wet mound (the rain had been steady for most of the game). Cohen said that Wagner's stride to home plate is longer than Randy Johnson's. That's kind of hard to believe.

Ramon Castro made a great defensive play, picking Chris Duffy off first base to get the second out of the 10th inning. He then struck out looking to make the second out of the bottom of that inning. The Toad giveth, the Toad taketh away.

"... and it's OUTTA HERE!"

It's a walkoff. Carlos Delgado takes lefty Mike Gonzalez deep to left to win the game in the bottom of the 12th. He has 11 home runs on the season, and the Mets are now 18-9. Drawing the foul, and once again it counts.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

This hurts to watch

"Who the hell is Mike O'Connor and why is he dominating my Mets?" That's the question I've been asking myself, until I made the long, hard slog over to the Baseball Cube to find out. Turns out he's not without some pedigree. 7th round pick out of GW, solid minor league numbers but he was getting kinda ripe for High-A. I'm not sure why he's suddenly in the majors but, with the exception of Paul Lo Duca, homeboys could not hit him.

John Maine got hit pretty hard, especially by Soriano, whose shot hit the left field mezzanine. He gave up four runs, but it wasn't a disaster and he did manage to strike out six. I think he might be what people mean by Quadruple-A, at least for the forseeable future.

The disaster was the offense, which through 8 innings has produced only two hits: a home run and single from Lo Duca. Beltran and Wright managed walks. I'm not big on booing, especially a team at 17-8, but how frustrating would this game be in person?

Darren Oliver's new car smell faded quite a bit in the time it took Damian Jackson to round the bases.

Bottom of the ninth... a home run by Beltran, and that's all she wrote. Mets lose 6-2.

I just bought tickets to see Pedro tomorrow night against the Pirates, who I'm hoping offer little in the way of resistance. The way the Mets are hitting at the moment, it's probably still going to be close.

Elsewhere in baseball...

- Johan Santana is turning in a vintage performance through 7 IP.

- Edwin Encarnacion (950 OPS) is a big reason why the Reds are winning. Apparently the defense is brutal, but what are you going to do? (see: D. Wright)

- Charlie Manuel and Willie Randolph apparently went to lineup school together: he's batting Ryan Howard sixth, behind Aaron Rowand.

- The Texas Rangers lineup is incredible... and the pitching is incredibly bad. It's not just the park.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Assist: Majewski

The Braves came alive against Steve Trachsel, winning 8-5 and avoiding the historic sweep. Francoeur had a very big day, including a home run off of Jorge Julio, who to his credit struck out five in his two innings to raise his K:BB for the season over four (22:5). Kyle Davies didn't dominate the Mets, as he has in the past, but he didn't give up many.

It's disappointing, especially since the Mets did manage to put together a couple late-inning threats, but not a disaster. There were bright spots: Endy Chavez apparently didn't read my discussion of how bad he is, hitting his first home run of the season. I'd still rather not have him start too many games in right field, if we can avoid it.

Plus Ramon Castro had two hits, also gunning down the larcenous Ryan Langerhans. If Castro could be said to embody one of the syles in "The Five Deadly Venoms", it would have be the Toad, but he can play a little bit. Bottom line: if you're already shocked to see the Mets lose a game played in Atlanta and started by Steve Trachsel, you've let your expectations get a little too lofty.

As I'm writing this it's the bottom of the ninth in a 1-1 tie with Los Nationales. Billy Wagner came in at the top of the inning, struck out Nick Johnson and then just absolutely broke Jose Guillen. I mean the poor guy actually hurt his ankes trying to chase the slider, which would have hit his right heel, and had to walk it off for a second. Wagner was hitting 98mph on the SNY gun.

Game Over! Mets win 2-1 on a walkoff error. Gary Majewski snared a comebacker from Lo Duca, but threw high and it went into center field. Chavez came around to score the winning run. A little flukish, but I'll take it.

Victor Zambrano did a very good job. Six clean, efficient innings and certainly deserving of a win. Feliciano, Sanchez and Wagner were almost perfect in the 7th through 9th: 0 H, 1 BB, 5 K. Carlos Delgado hit an opposite field home run, into the wind, for the Mets' first run.

John Maine gets the start tomorrow. He's been quite effective at Norfolk.