September 24, 2007
BASEBALL: A Matter of Trust
I'd mark Thursday as the point at which I officially switched from being annoyed that the Mets were making this race much closer than it needed to be to being convinced that they will go nowhere in the playoffs. While the other parts of the team have had their hiccups, the entire reason for that is the pen. I mean, coming from behind to build a 3-run lead in the late innings and then blowing it to a last-place team is once thing; doing it twice in a 4-game series is just indescribable. You do not need a great bullpen to win in October, but you need an adequate one; a team that can't protect any lead against anyone just can't win.
For the record:
Heath Bell: 77 games, 80 IP, 2.17 ERA, 93 K
Chad Bradford: 75 games, 62.1 IP, 3.47 ERA
Brian Bannister: 164.1 IP, 12-9, 3.61 ERA
Royce Ring: 15 games, 15 IP, 3.60 ERA
Henry Owens: 22 games, 23 IP, 1.96 ERA, 4 SV
To be fair, Owens - like Ambiorix Burgos - is down for the count, having required rotator cuff surgery, and Ring hasn't worked more because he walked 14 guys in 15 innings. And I wasn't for re-signing Bradford at the price he commanded, except that the team spent almost as much on Schoenweis.
If there is a silver lining for the bullpen from yesterday's debacle - other than the fact that the offense saving their bacon increases the odds of getting a few days' breather at the end of the season - it's that Joe Smith pitched well; Smith has been totally ineffective since his return, but I'd still rather try him in big situations than Mota and Sosa.
Of course, on a macro level the schedule may be the Mets' salvation, as over the next four days they face Washington at home three times and the Cards once, while a still-not-mathematically-eliminated Braves team rides into Philly.
UPDATE: Of course, the bullpen might look a whole lot better right now if we had Duaner Sanchez, Burgos and/or the elusive Juan Padilla. Realistically, the Burgos deal was still a sensible gamble that just didn't pan out because Burgos was hurt (this being the Royals rather than the Braves, I assume they didn't know he was hurt). What's really inexcusable is the Bell deal, since the Mets never really had a basis to believe that Jon Adkins was going to help them.
SECOND UPDATE: It should be noted that Heilman and Feliciano have both passed their career high in games pitched, Smith is in his first season as a pro ballplayer, and Mota has made 50 appearances in just 105 games on the roster.
Crank, I don't think the Mets late season woes are major cause for concern. YOu need to look no further than last season to see that the post-season is truly a new start. If you will recall, both the Cards and Tigers stumbled mightily down the stretch last year and look where they ended up. I still think the Mets are the best team in the NL and once you get to the series anything can happen. Good luck in the post-season.
As a life long Mets fan, I've been dying every night as well watching these leads evaporate. To me, the major reason for the bullpen wide struggles is exhaustion. Willie refuses to go to anyone except "his guys." Apparently September call ups have no role in Mets land. Sosa and Heilman pitch EVERY day, Feliciano - who has been good - isn't allowed to pitch to more then two batters, and the call ups can't even pitch with a six run lead, instead of someone else who's thrown three days in a row.
Thankfully the playoffs will allow for extra days rest, and hopefully the pen will improve with the rest.
You know what's scary? Guess which Mets' reliever has put up the best numbers this month? The one, the only, Guilermo Mota, who's put up a spiffy 2.61 ERA in 10.1 innings pitched. That's right, he's been the ace of the bullpen in September. And if that doesn't say it all, I'm not sure what does.
BTW, Feliciano hasn't been so hot lately. It sometimes drives me nuts that he's yanked after a batter or two, but he hasn't gotten the job done in some big spots. And when Willy lets him pitch more than an inning, he gets burned - see the game two Satrurdays ago when he started a second inning and promptly gave up the game-tying homer to Rowand.
Some of Willie's decisions have been questionable, but he really doesn't have much of a choice most of the time.
The real bright spot is that the mets should be going into the postseason with six starters: Pedro, Glavine, Maine, Perez, Pelfrey, and el Duce (if he's healthy). Perez, Pelfrey, and el Duce can do a lot to help out in those middle innings where the Mets pen has struggled so mightily.
Don't forget Matt Lindstrom... he only throws around 100 mph.
Isn't Lindstrom a Marlin? I thought he pitches against us on Sunday...
One difference between 2006 and 2007: Darren Oliver pitched three or more innings in ten games last year, while Aaron Sele only has gotten to do it three times in 2007 - and he did pretty well when given the chance on those three occasions. Think how much more rested the remainder of the bullpen would be right now if Willy Randolph had given Sele the chance to have A Darren Oliver-type season.