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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Optimism, Thy Name Is Matt Harvey

Yeah, I’m excited when Big Hoss’ takes the mound!

Could it be? Four wins in a row? Hell yeah! What makes the wins even sweeter, the last two were against the Phuck Phaces with Jon Niese on the mound for the sweep, yeah that’s right THE SWEEP!!!  

Back on August 5th Matt Harvey threw a lot of breaking balls in his start against the Padres. I’ll take a wild guess that Dan Warthen ordered him to go with that many breaking balls. Harvey lasted 5 innings and gave up 5 runs in what became a 7-3 Padres win.

Something good came of that loss; Matt Harvey went back to being what he is, a power pitcher. No more following the Warthen Doctrine of nibble the corners and pitch passively. From watching the last 2-3 Harvey starts, there is nothing passive about him and it seems the message has been sent to the Mets pitching coach, leave Harvey alone. Of Harvey’s 98 pitches last night, 63 were fastballs that averaged 95 mph, that’s power pitching.

Is it a coincidence that the Mets have won 4 in a row and the bullpen has been solid? The pen has not allowed a run in its last 13.1 innings pitched, spanning over 5 games and is 7 for 7 in saves for the month of August. The Mets relievers have even improved bit in stranding inherited runners as they are up to 70 % LOB up from the mid 60 % range they have been at most of the season.

There has been lots of talk about the way Terry Collins has used Josh (Everyday) Edgin lately but the fact is Edgin has been a bullpen revelation.  Edgin has stranded 11 of the 14 runners he’s inherited as well as striking out 24 batters in 19.1 innings pitched. I can see the concern about going to the whip to often with Edgin especially getting him up multiple times during a game to warm-up , that’s where the wear and tear takes its toll, so it may be a good idea for Collins to take his foot off the gas a bit the last month of the season with Edgin.

Jon Niese is pitching with an extra days rest today. When Niese has an extra day off he is 6-3 with a 2.29 ERA as this covers 15 starts.

One thing to watch for today at the launching pad known as Citizen Bank Park, Niese has given up the long ball a lot this season, a career high 20 home run so far this season.

Niese has a better day time record than night. He’s 4-1 with a 2.85 ERA in 10 starts in the sunshine and in 15 starts under the lights he’s 6-6 with a 3.98 ERA.

 

 

 

 

 

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BELIEVE IT, THIS IS A GREAT CAUSE!!!!!!

There are two thing Mets fans and Phillies fans can agree on, one is their hatred for one and other and the other is their love for Tug McGraw. Just the mention of the name of the great Mets/Phillies reliever could make two hated rivals smile and give each other a warm embrace; such was the charisma of McGraw.

Tug died way too early in life of a brain tumor but the “Ya Gotta Believe” sprit of McGraw’s lives on through the Tug McGraw Foundation which helps those with brain cancer and other brain related injuries. One of the ways the Foundation raises money is from having folks sponsor runners in different road races around the country. In a must read  post today on Faith and Fear in Flushing, Greg Prince interviews Sharon Chapman a true blue Mets fan who is looking forward to running in her first NYC Marathon this November and is using the occasion to raise money for the McGraw Foundation.

Please check out Sharon’s fundraising page and help out any way you can.

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A BIG HANG WITH ‘EM

It had the makings of a wonderful evening. The Mets with a three run lead heading to the 7th inning which has become close to automatic as the bullpen has gone from a house of horrors to as confident as one can be and still call themselves a Mets fan.

 

First there was the kicking around of Cole Hamels and then Big Pelf getting his back up on Chase Utley demanding that he “get the fuck back in the box” this game had season changer written all over it but of course it turned as it can only turn for the NY Mets.

 

First Carlos Beltran, of all people, misplayed a fly where he should not have jumped up that cost the Mets a run and got Pelfrey relived of his pitching duties. Sean Green came in and he has quietly turned his season around but gave up a hit and a run. Then Carlos Ruiz hit a ball down to D-Wright who either got caught in between or tried to rush the throw home couldn’t find a handle and Ibanez scored to make it 4-3. Rollins then hit into a fielder choice and the game was now tied at 4. Green gave up one legit hit in the inning. Hang with ‘em Sean.

 

The Mets had tons of chances after that (and before that as well as the old left the runners hanging reared it’s ugly head again in this game) in the bot of 7th  Daniel Murphy left the bags loaded, D-Wright left two on in the 8th, Castillo left a couple on in the 9th , but the killer was in the 10th.

 

Fernando Martinez got a clutch 2 out base hit as a pinch hitter and then D-Wright came thisclose to making up for his error as he drove a ball to the opposite field and Jayson Werth  made a spectacular play that was a sink or swim catch, if Werth misses that ball, F-Mart scores the game winner and the headline today would be the gritty, gutsy Mets coming back after losing a three run lead and not giving up and closing to a game of first place but no instead we talking about RISP, did Big Pelf have another melt down, Wright’s error and the comeback by the Phillies. Talk about a game of inches.    

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BASEBALL LIKE IT OUGHTA BE

A rough morning. Had a 9AM game and one of my big strong arm guys pitching and he couldn’t find home plate with a map, compass and a guide dog. After two innings we are down 8-0 and I’m ready to blow a fucking gasket, walks and errors that’s all I see in my sleep lately. After the 60 th pitch I’d seen enough and I bring in a kid to pitch that while not throwing hard, throws strikes and he holds the fort as we nibble back to 8-4 until he runs out of gas. I go to option three which on this team is the equivalent of Manny Acta going to his pen and lo and behold after seven walks, three errors and leaving about eight runners on base the score after 6 innings is 13-6.

There was another game to be played on the field after ours and the teams were milling around waiting for our game to end. The coach of one of the teams was a guy I’ve known for a few years so I told “Don’t worry Jim we’ll be quick” and we both laughed. What are you gonna do cry? First kid up grounds out. Next kid walks. Next one hits a bloop over short. Next batter drills one to the gap in left center-a bloop and a blast-and it’s 13-8. Next batter walks then another walk and a strike out and a hit batsman. New pitcher and it’s 13-9 with two out. First pitch to the batter a hit down the left field line and holy shit it’s 13-11 with two out and then a infield hit and it’s 13-12 with two out. Now I’d love to say the next batter drove in two more runs but that only happens in the movies. The next kid K’d and we lost 13-12 but from the roar of the crowd and the kids waiting to play you would have thought we won a championship.

When the game ended we took the kids over to the snack stand which was the plan win or lose to buy them lunch. As we come off the field, the people at the complex were clapping and patting the kids on the back which was great because they really deserved to for not giving up and fighting back. But the best part of it was when one of the kids, the pitcher I took out after two innings said “We never give up because the coaches never give up on us”

And that right there is worth all the vacation days I’ve used and all the overtime I’ve given up and all the food, drinks, and baseballs I’ve bought and all the time I’ve put into practicing with these kids. Johan Santana, Alex Rodriguez Carlos Beltran they are all making a ton of money in baseball more than me but I guarantee they are not loving baseball more than I am.

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ALL FOR ONE, AND ONE FOR ALL

Just back from Brooklyn and threaten my kids that I’m selling our house and moving back to Bay Ridge. The best part of where I live on Staten Island is it’s only five miles from Bay Ridge and that softens the blow of not living in my home boro.

I am reading The Yankee Years by Joe Torre and Tom Veducci (thank you Doubleday) and what Torre talks about in the beginning of the book when he took over the team was how he pushed the point of team or individual exactly what Jerry Manuel has set out to do this spring with the Mets. Torre goes on to say that was the difference between the Highlander teams of the late 90’s to the teams he had from 2002 to 2007 there was not that focus on doing what was best for the team over what looked better on the players stat sheet. Sometimes that gets lost in all the numbers and sabermetrics that consume baseball today. I have no problem with the stats and studies in fact I am hoping by tomorrow that the mail man brings me my 2009 Baseball Prospectus, but what gets lost in those numbers sometimes is the things that make teams winners. Hitting behind runners, taking an extra base on a hit, hitting the cut off man and the cut off man catching the ball in the right position to make a throw to hold or throw out a runner, pitchers hitting their spots and picking up a teammate kind of gets lost in the numbers. I’m glad to see J-Man trying to bring that back to the Mets.

Happy Birthday to Faith and Fear in Flushing Keep up the great work !!!

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