Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 20, 2009
BASEBALL: The Mets Rotation
Here's a good overview writeup at MetsGeek about Oliver Perez (I realize I neglected to write this up when he finally signed). Assuming John Maine is healthy, the Mets rotation now looks something like this:
3 years for Perez, which takes him through age 29, is an ideal contract length; the Mets aren't lashed to him in perpetuity, but they needn't worry for a while, and by the next time he's up, most of the uncertainty around Perez will be gone, as he'll either be consistent and durable the next three years or prove that he never will.
$12 million per year is pretty pricey for a guy with a career road ERA of 4.70 - that's just a hair less than what Pedro averaged the last four years - but it's not my money, the Mets could afford it, and the other options for healthy young starting pitchers were pretty slim. It beats the heck out of having Redding as the fourth starter. The key with Perez, of course, is to value him for what he is, not what he might become. Perez has great stuff, but I put at about zero the chance that he will ever find the mechanical and emotional consistency to improve his command to the point where he can be a year-in-year-out star. That said, in any given year when he's healthy there's maybe a 5-10% chance that he could break out and have a Cy Young caliber season. That may sound like a lot, but if he threw 210 innings of the quality of his 2004 season with the Mets, he'd win 18+ games and be a legit Cy Young candidate. There's also, of course, at least an equal chance of an injury or complete meltdown. But on average, you'd project him forward as a guy who gives you 180-200 innings, with an ERA around 3.30 in the up years and 4.30 in the down ones, and that's a valuable thing in today's game.
I'm not much of a fan of Garcia, Redding or Livan, but look at the numbers for the guys the Mets have used as, essentially, emergency starters the last three years:
2008: 17 starts, 93 IP, 7-6, 5.52 ERA (Nelson Figueroa, Claudio Vargas, Niese, Brandon Knight, Tony Armas and Brian Stokes).
2007: 11 starts, 50.2 IP, 1-5, 9.95 ERA (Brian Lawrence, Jason Vargas, Dave Williams, Phil Humber, Chan Ho Park). If you count Jorge Sosa, it's 25 starts, 131 IP, 8-13, 6.66 ERA.
2006: 24 starts, 125.2 IP, 7-9, 6.37 ERA (Pelfrey, Williams, Alay Soler, Jose Lima, and the late Jeremi Gonzalez). If you count Perez, who was little more than an emergency fill-in and ended up starting Game 7 of the NLCS, the regular season numbers are 31 starts, 162.1 IP, 8-12, 6.38 ERA.
It's a very useful thing to have extra guys around who can keep to a minimum the number of starts given to people who can't post an ERA below 5.50. I think Livan still has enough gas in the tank to pitch in the low fives, and I'm pretty optimistic the other two do (Garcia threw well in his last three starts last season after returning from injury, but we'll see how he holds up if he ends up in the rotation).
On the whole, I think the Mets stack up favorably against the Phillies' projected rotation of Hamels-Myers-Moyer-Blanton-Kendrick/Park (ugh), and are pretty clearly superior to the Braves' rotation, which starts with Lowe and Vazquez and some combination of Jurrjens, Campillo, Japanese import Kenshin Kawakami and Glavine, and the Marlins rotation of Johnson, Sanchez, Nolasco, Volstad and Miller. (The Nationals' "rotation" is not really worth comparing).