Time To Play Mets Wheel of Bullpen Fortune

 

While Mets fandom awaits a decision on whether Michael Bourn will be patrolling centerfield of Citi Field, leading off and becoming the catalyst for the Mets offense, we also await the official announcement of Brandon Lyon becoming a Met and another contestant on Wheel of Mets Bullpen.

Counting Lyons, I’m looking at 11 candidates for 6 or maybe 7 spots in the Mets pen, a bullpen that I feel was the biggest reason for the second half collapse the Mets found them in last season. When you have a relief core that allows close to 32 % of inherited runners to touch home plate and also finds themselves in 55 save opportunities and blowing 19 of those precious assignments, will break the spirit of even the most strong willed teams so when you have a team like the Mets that doesn’t exactly ooze self-esteem and pluck, the ineffective pen was more a kick in the gut than uplifting last season. Sandy Alderson realizes this as well and has gone out this offseason to assemble relievers to come to Port St. Lonesome to engage in a big time completion to come North and become a strength for the Mets instead of last year’s failure.

Building a bullpen can be a bit of a crapshoot and last year one of the players Alderson went out on a limb on was closer Frank Francisco, signing the volatile reliever for 2yrs/$12mil, a signing I’m sure the Mets GM would love to take back . Between nagging injuries and ineffectiveness it was a lost season for Francisco. Although Francisco did save 23 games in 26 opportunities, when he entered games with runners on base his percentage of inherited runners left on base was a woeful 67.2 % and he’d shoot himself in the foot many time with walks as well.

With the imminent signing of Brandon Lyons, the back end of the Mets pen should be improved over last year (in the words of Sandy Alderson when asked about whether the pen will be better in 2013 said “how could it be worse?”)  And what we will see in the camp is a good old fashion open completion for not just bullpen spots but for the very important back end of the pen spots.  So looking at the very early morning line let’s see who could or should emerge as the core of the Mets bullpen in 2013.

The guys I look for to make the move to be the 7th inning, 8th inning and closer are Francisco, Bobby Parnell, Brandon Lyon, Josh Edgin, and Scott Atchison.  All five look to be Mets for 2013 but who of these 5 will step up to grab the closers job? I don’t see Bobby Parnell getting the job as he is much more effective in innings 6 thru 8 and last year he started to lose a little bit of velocity on his fastball and he has tried to make his curve to be more effective. Edgin has been on a fast track to the big leagues on the strength of using a hard fastball and effective slider that helped the stout lefty rack up K’s at a 10.53 per 9 IP.  Scott Atchinson may be the find of the off season. He was the one bright spot in the train wreck that was the 2012 Boston Red Sox. Atchinson relies on a solid cutter that he has under great command and last season he stranded 85 % of the runners on base that he inherited which is why I can’t wait to see him pitch this spring. Brandon Lyon could be the guy that takes on Frank Frank for the coveted closers role. The Mets will be banking on getting Lyon back to his effective D’Backs and Tigers days to solidify the back end of the pen and hope that the blown saves and late inning bullpen meltdowns are a thing of the past.

Jureys Familia and Jenry Mejia are two wildcards in the bullpen completion. Should either or both work as relievers or starters? There are varied opinions on the direction of both pitchers and it could boil down to how each are used this spring and if either pitchers shows more at one spot than the other. I could see Familia sticking as reliever more than Mejia who has a starter’s mentality and is also at a point in his career that the Mets love to find pitchers at, second year after Tommy John surgery.

LaTroy Hawkins comes to camp as a guy whose has seen a lot of big league baseball and could be more of an asset as a sounding board for the younger relievers that his work on the mound. Hawkins looks to be a 6th inning guy or a guy to give a break to an overused reliever that is if it makes the team.

It’s Robert Carson’ job to lose as the LOOGY especially with Pedro Feliciano back from rotator cuff surgery (2nd year after surgery seems to be the Mets pattern of obtaining pitching) and Tim Byrdak back in a minor league deal off of last season’s shoulder surgery.

So if I had to put out an early projection of the Mets bullpen I’d rank thusly:

CL Francisco/Lyon

SU Parnell

SU Edgin

SU Atchison

RP Carson

RP Familia/Hawkins

Whoever is not named closer moves to set up role and to tell you the truth; the Mets have the makings of a pretty decent bullpen. Hopefully between Terry Collins, Dan Warthen and Ricky Bones can work this pen correctly unlike last season when there was a communication breakdown between the relievers and the Manager and Pitching Coach. That’s a post for another day.

 

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Does Anything Surprise You When It Comes To R.A. Dickey ?

As we head into the last game (thankfully) of the 2012 Mets season, we are looking at an off season that could make our heads spin. As we Mets fans question why the manager and his coaching staff gets to come back intact for the 2013 season, I think the answer is clear, Sandy Alderson is holding the players responsible for this lousy season.

All we’ve ever heard as sports fans for lousy teams is you can’t fire all the players so fire the coach or manager, well it seems Alderson is going to reverse that old bromide as it looks like a big majority of the roster will be traded or released.

I side with the majority of Mets fans who can figure out how Dan Warthen gets to come back. It seems as though the starting pitchers, especially R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana, are Warthen allies as is the manager but I doubt you will find and Mets relievers who are members of the Dan Warthen Fan Club.  Granted most of the Mets bullpen problems were caused by sucky relievers but Warthen has to take a hit for not having open lines of communications with his relief pitchers. Terry Collins needs to take some accountability on this as well for not providing any structure with how guys are used and assigning roles. It’s great for us as fans to say it’s a bunch of bullshit that every reliever should be ready when called on but again you need to know your personnel and if they are pining for leadership from the manger and pitching coach then it’s up to them to provide that.

Just when you think R.A. Dickey can’t add to his legacy we find out now that he has pitched much of the season with a torn abdominal muscle that requires surgery. Are you kidding me? Last year Dickey pitched with a plantar fasciitis injury that required him to be shot with pain killers before pitching. And you don’t want to sign this guy to an extension? You’re thinking of trading him? Are you fucking kidding me? Dickey isn’t looking for a big time deal, I would guess if you add two years to his option for next season he’d sign on the bottom line and if you have to give him $20mil for those two years you do it. If the money is that tight with the Skill Sets that you can’t keep a guy who not only excels on the field but is the best representative you have off the field then you deserve every hateful comment that will come your way.

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Ike Davis Gets A Vote of Confidence From Terry Collins

 

I’m trying to process the words of Terry Collins earlier today as he has declared Ike Davis will stay a big leaguer for the time being. Is this the best thing for the Mets? Is this the best thing for Ike?

Yesterday during our Mets bloggers conference call with Rusty Staub, Staub thought that Ike would benefit from a trip to Triple A and not look at it as a demotion but a way to get his game right (big time tip of the Mets cap to Mathew Artus of Amazin’ Avenue for putting together the transcript of the Staub conference call) :

Mike Branda (Mets Merized Online): My question is actually currently in regards to what we’ve seen with Ike Davis lately. Every hitter is obviously going to see a tough time at the plate. There’s going to be maybe a month where you’re just not going to see the ball right. You’re just not getting the hits, the swing, anything. What are things that a hitting coach or has done to just help you through a tough time at the plate?

 

Rusty Staub: Well, the most important thing you have to understand is yourself, okay? I don’t know what’s happening; I’m not privy to anything that’s being said down in that dugout. I don’t have an idea what the hitting instructor is talking to Ike Davis about. But, Ike Davis came up as a very good young prospect as a hitter and he had very good talent. And right now he’s so messed up in his head, it’s beyond comprehension.

 I’ve watched the Mets on TV quite a bit and I mean he’s had the bat in different positions. He’s pumping that thing up and down. I don’t think he’s giving himself much of a chance. I think he’s got to slow it down and be quieter and not have so much… especially if your hands start moving down when that ball is coming, you’re not getting there. He does that a lot.

He’s going to get out of this thing. Whether he’s got to go to the minors and get himself together… I had to do that once myself in my career. What Ike has to start doing is starting himself in knowing why he’s doing well what he’s doing well and have an idea. Every pitcher has a strength and a weakness. Some of them don’t have as many weaknesses as others, but you can’t go up there hoping. You have to go up there with an idea of what you want to do against that pitcher and you try to execute that. Right now, I think he’s so confused. I’m not too sure getting a little time to get his act together wouldn’t be the best thing in the world for the young man, as terrible as that sounds. Ike will be back. It’s just not easy to hit the type of long-term injury he had in the previous year and come back automatically swinging the bat great.

 

With the season ending injury last year and the bout of Valley Fever this year, you’d figure that Davis would take a little time to get his offensive game on track but no one thought he’d struggle like he has so far. Maybe it’s effecting his defense as he has not been as crisp at 1st base as we are used to seeing. Rusty mentions Ike’s hands as Keith Hernandez has as well on Mets telecasts, it seems Ike has developed this bad habit of dropping his hands and brings them back up then down again when he’s ready to turn on a ball; this seems like a habit he can’t break.

On the other hand, Ike seems genuinely touched that Terry Collins is showing faith in him to get back on track and I understand Collins making the statement he did today as he hopes it stops all the is Ike going to Buffalo talk for a while but with news that Jason Bay is ready to start playing DH in rehab games in extended spring training, if Ike is still on the Interstate when Bay is ready to rejoin the team, the Mets will have no choice but to send him to Buffalo.

So all Collins vote of confidence does is but Ike some time to get right on offense and maybe stop all the third degree from the media about his inevitable re-assignment.

It’s now up to Ike to back up his managers words.

 

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JIM LEYLAND, HERO TO ALL MIDDLE AGED MEN

One of the pluses when I turned 50 years old was it was the first time in my life I didn’t give a flyin’ fuck what anyone thought about me. It’s a great feeling to have the burden of acceptance lifted from one’s shoulders.  You reach that point in life where you make a decision that you feel is right and if anyone else doesn’t like it well, too bad.  That’s why I had to smile at Jim Leyland letting the media know why he told them ahead of time that he would not use Joquin Benoit or Jose Valverde in yesterday’s win or go home Game 5:

“Well, it’s what we said before the game. So it gave everybody a chance to get all their second-guessing ready about it,” Leyland said. “That’s just the way it had to be today. We talked about it before the game and we did exactly what we felt we had to do to give ourselves any chance to win the series.”

In other words, Leyland let all the wash women (a/k/a the main stream media)write up their “kill Leyland” stories ahead of time. Unfortunately for them Justin Verlander stepped up like a Cy Young/MVP and Phil Coke proved himself as a big time pitcher in relief. The game went just as Leyland planned and if it didn’t, well you can kiss his ass.

Looks as though Bob Geren will get the job as Terry Collins’ consigliore over Jim Riggleman. Neither one of the candidates, in my opinion, are anything to get excited over, in fact I feel they both suck. Riggleman walked out on his team because he didn’t get a contract extension and GM Mike Rizzo didn’t talk to him much. Geren was hated by his players in Oakland to where Houston Street said he was the worst person he ever met in baseball. Perfect. Looks as though Geren’s  Oakland pedigree got him the job. If the report is correct that Collins wanted Riggleman but the front office wanted Geren, will Collins and the players look at Geren as an Alderson snitch? I would.

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MAGIC WON’T CURE JOHAN

Two more days left of my vacation and another day at the Magic Kingdom, where I swear our family are the only Americans visiting Orlando this summer. The Brits seem to be the leading European visitors here with “Name Any Spanish Speaking Country Here” as the runner up.

I guess it’s good news that Johan Santana has “only” a fatigued shoulder and will be shut down for a while to build up strength. The question it seems is “what’s the rush”? Does it matter at this point if Santana pitches a game for the Mets this season? Hopefully, this latest set back shows that it’s better to look forward to February 2012 for Johan.

Speaking of pitching, Howard Megdal has a great piece today on Jon Niese and his strong season.

The Mets are having a luncheon today at Citi Field to honor Military vets of the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars. The Mets Alumni will be there including Tom Seaver, Ralph Kiner Ed Kranepool, Bud Harrelson, Ed Charles and Joe Pignatano. The Mets organization has really stepped up big time when it comes to honoring our military heroes and also involving the Mets Alumni this season. Great job.

That’s it for now, the next post will be from the Kranepool Society headquarters in Staten Island

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WHEN JOSE COMES HOME, SO GOOD, HE’S THE PRIDE OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Take a bow Mets fans, you did it. You voted and voted until you couldn’t make up any more e mail address and got Jose Reyes the starting job at short stop in the All Star Game.

In years past I’d be totally pissed off after the Mets lost 2 of 3 to the Highlanders at home, but yesterday’s comeback win and the way it unfolded makes this years’ series  loss a little easier to take. This is not the same old Mets anymore.

Besides the fact that you can see this team actually hates to lose and I can write every clichés about toughness, the one thing that is clear is the reputation of the Mets being a bunch of losers has all been erased. Sure, they are not a championship team yet but they are creeping into “team we hate to play” status. Have you noticed there are no more “Replace-Met” stories or writing on and on about when the injured stars will be back? It sucks big time to lose 2 of 3 at home to the Highlanders but if the Bronx Bastards (along with the Phuck Phaces and the Sawx) are the gold standard of baseball, the Mets a close to silver status which is a pretty good jump from last year’s given up status.

The biggest fallacy written about Jose Reyes is that he is injury prone. In 2009 the organization was much to blame for his injuries as they tried to change his running style was bad but the inept strength and conditioning staff made it worse. Last season he missed the start of the season due to illness more than injury  but that doesn’t stop hacks like Joel Sherman to play up to the ignorance of his readership that Reyes is injury prone.   Here is the breakdown of games played by Reyes since 2005 which is when he took over as the everyday shortstop after the other great idea of converting him to 2nd base so the great bust of Tokyo Kaz Matsui could be the starting shortstop:

2005 161 g

2006 153 g

2007 160 g

2008 159 g

Even with the illness and injury from trying to come back to soon last season, Reyes played in 133 games. So far this year he’s played 80 games. He took off yesterday due to the tweak of his hammy (a grade 1 strain) and he may take the next few games off before the All-Star Game as well.

We do see that Sandy Alderson may be won over by Jose Reyes and from meeting him myself it’s hard not to be. Alderson seems ready to make a very competitive offer to Reyes (I think we can forget all the Don’t Trade Reyes angst he’s not getting dealt) as he sees the contribution Reyes makes on and off the field.

If this weekend becomes the turning point where the Mets gain respect throughout baseball for being a team to avoid and Sandy Alderson decides that Jose Reyes is worth fighting to keep, then losing 2 of 3 to the Highlanders ain’t to tough to take.

Last up certainly not least, I want to wish all of you a happy and safe 4th of July. I have a couple of more days here in the Pocono Mountains, surrounded by Phuckadelphians in there Phuck Phace shirts and jerseys. Makes me sick.

 

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THE NY METS OFFENSE: ARE WE THERE YET?

I’ve never understood why people would drive to Florida from NYC. I did it once and vowed to never do it again, why waste so much time and aggravation sitting for hours at a time in a car and fighting traffic, when you can hop on a plane and in two and half hours be in the Sunshine state? Well some people like the ride down I-95 and stop at different area of interest like Washing D.C. and maybe Myrtle Beach or Atlanta. Some even enjoy the tourist trap/house of kitch South of the Border but for most it’s the only way to travel.

That’s how the Mets offense has been, single, doubles and a Reyes triple is how their batter’ travel. Home Runs? That’s for teams with big bruisers and short porches, nah; these Mets do it the old National League way, big time starting pitching, some defense and a string of base hits and the stolen base.  Sometime it’s a thing of beauty (a Reyes triple to the right/center field corner) sometimes it’s a surprisingly open road (Justin Turner with men on base) sometimes it’s like an inexpensive motel that’s clean and comfortable but not flashy (Dillion Gee) and then there is endless time on the road (Jason Bay at bat) or an awful accident (Daniel Murphy and his Amish farmer beard trying to steal a base) sometimes they win and sometimes they lose, that should be the slogan for the 2011 Mets. It fits perfect like the rubber meeting the road.

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PITCHING AIN’T NUTHIN’ BUT A GEE THANG

It’s like this and like that and like this and uh
It’s like that and like this and like that and uh
It’s like this and like that and like this and uh

 

It’s hard not to get excited watching Dillon Gee pitch; he’s like a combination artist/illusionist on the mound. To be a successful pitcher you have to be able to deceive the batter and Gee’s pitch of deception last night was a cut fastball. Gee felt his slider would not be effective after throwing his pre-game bullpen so he decided the out pitch of the night would be a combination of his two seamer with a bit of cutter movement and his changeup, add that  to his fastball and the Braves hitters were off balance all night. No matter what happens for here on this season, Dillion Gee’s starts are a must watch for Mets fans.

Terry Collins is using his last option with Jason Bay by dropping him to the 6th spot in the lineup. If he can’t get it together there then it’s time to bring up Lucas Duda or F-Mart to platoon in LF with Bay or as Mike Silva suggests, ask him to go to Buffalo to work out whatever problems it is he’s having. If it comes down to where he’s spooked by Citi Field then Bay has a big decision to make, right now with his contract he is untradeable and he’ll to make to some big time concessions to go to a team where  hitting the ball over the left field seats is a bit easier.

More debate over the subject of retiring Gary Carter’s #8. What gets lost in this debate is the fact that the Skill Sets are so clueless when it comes to the history of the team, that’s why when you read the recent magazine articles where Freddy Skill Sets claims his love for the Mets is pure 100 % BULLSHIT. He’s a Brooklyn Dodger fan who never got over the team leaving Brooklyn. He and the rest of this dysfunctional ownership have no appreciation for those you have worn the Mets uniform or for you and me who love the team, they have to be shamed into doing anything positive when it comes to this team. As Mets fans we want something to celebrate, the negativity has drained most of the life out of the fan base.

On this day in 1973, the Mets made Lee Mazzilli out of Lincoln High School in Brooklyn their first pick in the MLB Entry Draft. If you’ve read this site for a while you know I’m not a big Mazzilli fan.  I was a sophomore at FDR High in Bensonhurst when Mazzilli was drafted and though I had never met him I heard a lot about him, not any of it complementary from players on the varsity baseball team.  When Mazzilli came up with the Mets he’d frequent a few of the Bensonhurst/Bay Ridge spots my friends and I hung out in and he acted like an ass anytime I saw him. When he was traded to the Rangers in ’82 it was the best thing for him, he needed to be taken down a notch or two.

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WHOA! IT LOOKS LIKE RAIN!

Justin Turner had a great night, a two run double that continued to keep his bat blazing hot and he caught a 6 lb Bass right near 3rd base.  Add me in with the rest of the fan base who were siting dry and cozy at home trying to figure out how last night’s game wasn’t called due to monsoon?

Jon Niese had a strong game in the less than ideal conditions that should help to toughen him up.  In fact if  were any team other than the anemic Nationals I’d be talking how maybe Niese turned the corner with this start and that this could be a springboard to launching a great rest of the season for Niese, but like I said, it was against the Nationals a team that swings balsa wood bats.

The Mets have made a big time effort to have their players go into the community for a number of charitable events. Yesterday Matt Falkenbury of The Daily Stache caught up with Jason Pridie and Scott Hairston at Middle School 111 in the Bronx yesterday as the help the kids at the school work on their softball skills.

Ed Marcus (a/k/a Rusty Jr.) writes about the “Ironic” Mets season.

Angel Pagan had a walk and a home run for St. Lonesome last night in a rehab start. I bet we see Pagan this weekend in the South Bronx.

Who is Chris Schwinden ? Don’t look in any prospects books because you won’t find his name. Toby Hyde has the skinny on Schwinden who may be the next pitcher called up to Flushing.

Terry Collins may make you scratch your head sometimes with his strategic moves but you have to give him a ton of credit for keeping this team playing hard and producing in the wake of injuries. Add in that he has proven to have his player’s backs and he has been handling the press like he’s been here for years, his managerial tenure so far is a big success. Last year with these kinds of injuries, the club would have lay down and died, not this year. Good job by TC to change the culture in the clubhouse.   

I feel badly for not posting about the death of Harmon Killebrew earlier. No way could I recap the career of “Killer” better than Joe Posnanski did so I’ll let you read his great column on Killebrew and also check out this classic episode of Home Run Derby contest between Killebrew and Mickey Mantle. R.I.P. Harmon.

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Tickets

The Mets are looking great this year and The Eddie Kranepool Society keeps you up to date on the good bad and the ugly. If you are looking for Mets Tickets, you must visit Coast To Coast Tickets for all your ticket needs. CTC carries MLB Tickets as well as some of the best priced Concert Tickets on the web and don't forget they also carry Yankees Tickets.

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