Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
March 29, 2007
BASEBALL: Spring Samples

The Mets' decision to give Mike Pelfrey the fifth starter job is, actually, a rare example of a situation in which the team properly considered spring training performance. Let me explain why.

The problem with relying on spring training performance is threefold. First, the spring is just a month - anybody can have a good or bad month. Small sample sizes don't tell you what you need to know compared to the years-long track records most players bring to camp. Second, the level of competition is uneven - especially in the first half of the spring, a lot of playing time goes to minor leaguers, and the ability to beat them may not be as indicative or as evenly distributed as playing major league competition. And third, pitchers in particular in the spring may not mix their pitches the same way they do in the regular season when they are playing for real money - they may be more apt to experiment with pitches and less apt to use their best pitch sequences.

That said, the Mets' fifth starter competition was a perfect storm for allowing spring results to matter. The Mets had in camp two prospects who they planned to make long-term parts of the rotation, Pelfrey and Phil Humber. Also on hand were three guys with at least intermittent success as big league starters - Chan Ho Park, Aaron Sele and Jorge Sosa - but whose performance in recent years would not justify making them part of any long-range plan in the rotation. The questions were, (1) whether Pelfrey and/or Humber were ready enough to contribute in the short run and not get ruined by being sent in over their heads, and (2) if not, whether any of the others at least had enough gas to give the Mets 10-15 decent starts before the prospects were ready or before a midseason deal could be swung.

In that situation, it makes perfect sense to let the spring tell you what it can: not who is better than who, but who is in a better groove right now. If Park, for example, was throwing the ball really well in the spring, that may tell you nothing about October, but it might suggest he was primed to have a solid April, and if you get one or two good months from a stopgap solution, that's a thing of value in itself.

As it turned out, the competition was lopsided: the three veterans pitched poorly, Humber got clobbered, and the best long-term pitcher of the group, Pelfrey, was lights-out. So maybe the small sample size was just the same as a larger one, this time.

In other Mets news, as I've advocated it before, I'm happy to see the Mets try David Wright in the #2 hole. Even though Lo Duca turned out well batting second last season, at 35 it's unrealistic to expect him to hit .318 again, and he lacks the walks, power, or speed to compensate if he hits .280.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:27 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

I think Wright will benefit by seeing lots of fastballs. WHile LoDuca strikes out less, he's an aging catcher and is due to be worse than he was last year.

Frankly, I think Beltran is better suited to it, from a batting standpoint, but economically, he was the poster boy for improving the club, along with Pedro, is a veteran who would like less batting second, and has earned it in that respect (I'm worried about his legs while fielding with Green and Alou). The top half of the order is scary, the bottom, from Green-LoDuca-Valentin-pitcher-that's not going to scare many people, unless Green can have a decent year. If LoDuca can produce, then Green will see some better pitches, but Valentin is someone I expect little from.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at March 29, 2007 10:06 AM

Pelfrey's emergence as the number five was probably the most positive development of the Spring. Though I'm normally for giving guys a chance, Park was never going to give the Mets any value and it would have been a waste to have him start five or six times before they confirmed that fact. Pelfrey should be more than decent for a number five pitcher this year.

I haven't really given much thought to Wright batting second. It if means he gets to see better pitches hittinbg behind Beltran and Delgado than behind Alou and Green, then it might be worth it.

Posted by: paul zummo at March 29, 2007 11:38 AM

I like the pelfrey moves for all the reasons you state.

I like Wright in the two hole for Three Reasons:

1. Higher OBP guy than last-year.
2. Maybe this will encourage Wright to concentrate again on getting on base, not swinging for the fences on the first pitch, etc.
3. With Beltran and Delgado coming up behind him, managers may be a little less likely to remove a lefty starter, middle man or even a LOOGY as they were last year.

Wright punished lefties, especially in terms of power, so that may help him out a bit.

Posted by: Mike at March 29, 2007 11:45 AM

I believe, quite simply, in giving the best hitters the most ABs. so I'm all for Wright in the 2 hole. I do see how it's tempting to say that Lo Duca isn't really valuable anywhere else, but I don't think that's enough reason to keep things as they were.

Posted by: Jerry at March 29, 2007 11:57 PM

Good point about the extra plate appearences. No doubt.

Posted by: Mike at March 30, 2007 10:58 AM
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