Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
December 15, 2008
BASEBALL: Sometimes You Feel Like A Putz
Omar Minaya's work on the bullpen this offseason has been less a restructuring than an exorcism, with the signing of Francisco Rodriguez, the trade of Scott Schoeneweis to Arizona, and the deal sending Aaron Heilman and Joe Smith to, respectively, the Mariners and Indians and bringing home JJ Putz, the Mets have now dumped most of the culprits in the last two seasons' bullpen collapses (Guillermo Mota and Jorge Sosa already being gone and Luis Ayala not offered arbitration and possibly headed to Colorado, although Duaner Sanchez remains) and have two closers (Putz being the setup man as long as K-Rod is healthy) and pretty good odds that at least one of them will be really good. As of now, assuming Wagner's not available to pitch next season, the pen looks like Rodriguez, Putz, Feliciano, Sanchez, the newly-acquired Sean Green, and youngsters (Feliciano being the only lefty in the group).
Keith Law has an overview here of the Putz deal. Putz has great stuff and still had an excellent K rate last season, but really - as we've said so often with the Mets the past few years - it's all about his health. In pure baseball terms, the Mets did give up a lot to get Putz, but a good deal of that was guys like Heilman and Smith who probably needed to be evacuated from Queens. Endy Chavez will be missed for sentimental reasons but is the most replaceable type of outfielder and was barely playing by season's end. The Mets need better bats in the corners, anyway. Mike Carp is the guy I hated to see go - he'll just be 23 this year and batted .299/.403/.471 in AA in 2008, suggesting a guy who could be a legit 1B or LF in the bigs.
As for the other new arrivals, Jeremy Reed was a highly-touted prospect back when he batted .409/.472/.591 in half a season at AA as a 22-year-old, and his career minor league line is .321/.386/.476, but Reed's never recovered his swing after some hand injuries and has at most been a singles hitter in the majors - last year from June 1 to August 16 he hit .297 but still managed just a .337 OBP and .394 slugging. He even hit better at home than on the road in 2008, for a change, so his struggles at the big league level can't be blamed on Safeco.
Then there's Green, who has been very frustrating for Mariners fans in his two full years in Seattle, in which he's posted a 4.29 ERA in 136 appearances (146 if you count AAA). Green keeps the ball down (only 0.31 HR/9 over those two years) but is terribly wild (4.29 BB/9 compared to 7.04 K). He has about the same home and road numbers. But what jumps out, given the fairly large number of games he's appeared in, is a very pronounced tendency to hit the wall in August: in 2007-08 he had a 2.76 ERA through July 31, averaging 7.99 Hits, 0.37 HR, 3.77 BB and 7.71 K per 9; from August 1 through the end of the year, that goes to a 7.35 ERA, 12.86 H, 0.18 HR, 5.33 BB and 5.69 K. Green threw, counting AAA, 45 games through the end of July 2007 and 53 through the end of July 2008 (on the whole, his 82 appearances from 8/1/07 through 7/31/08 ranked him sixth in the majors, albeit ranked behind Heilman and Feliciano and tied with Ayala). I don't know if the late-season fades are preventable, but I'd sure like to see Green kept on a tighter leash in 2009.
On the Schoeneweis deal - as an exercise in comparative agony, consider this Chicago item begging the Cubs to trade Jason Marquis to get Schoeneweis. You can see the minor league numbers here for Connor Robertson, the righthanded reliever the Mets got for Schoenweis; he'll be 27 next year and had a 5.02 ERA in the (admittedly hitter-happy) PCL last season, averaging 3.77 BB/9 and 1.26 wild pitches per 9. On the upside, he's struck out 11.32 batters per 9 innings in his minor league career, and he doesn't have Schoeneweis' contract.