Betty's No Good Clothes Shop And Pancake House
Sunday, April 27, 2008
  I told you I was good luck

The Mets' performance over the weekend wasn't exactly dominating, but it was certainly an improvement over the previous week. Facing the three best pitchers the Atlanta Braves had to offer, the Mets managed to take two out of three with neither Johan Santana nor Oliver Perez taking the mound. The starting pitchers only pitched fifteen and two-thirds innings, but the bullpen was solid (Jorge Sosa didn't pitch and Aaron Heilman only gave up one run in one inning of work). And while thirteen runs in three games is hardly an offensive explosion, the bats did show signs of life.

David Wright broke out of a five-game hitless streak with a pair of singles on Saturday. Raul Casanova had four hits in two games including his first home run of the season. And Carlos Delgado smacked a pair of long balls on Sunday, thus igniting the stupidest controversy of the day.

The Mets have now scored 113 runs in 24 games, 4.71 per game. This is only the sixth best mark in the league. While it's too early to declare Delgado reborn, I have little doubt that the offense as a whole will improve, even if Moises Alou never returns.

Although no other starter has had the sort of prolonged bout of uselessness that plagued Delgado, there are still several key players who are underperforming. Jose Reyes is foremost among these, hitting just .237/.272/.392. Reyes has only drawn five walks so far, so perhaps part of his struggle could be chalked up to his approach at the plate, but he's also been somewhat unlucky. He has a batting average on balls in play of just .250 compared to a league average of .291. Carlos Beltran, hitting .224/.359/.412 with a BABIP of .270 is another Met whose numbers should improve as his luck begins to even out. And as evidence that Carlos Delgado's slump isn't entirely the result of having gotten old and/or hating the fans, I point to his .221 BABIP, lowest on the team. He's probably not going to revert to the form of his glory days in Toronto, but at the very least I think a few more ground balls might start finding some holes.

The Mets (13-11) and their offense will try to take a few more steps forward starting Monday as they welcome one of the worst teams in the league to town. The Pirates (10-15) come to town holding the distinction of being the only sixth place team in the major leagues. They will have to tangle with Johan Santana (3-2, 3.12, 32:5 K:BB), Oliver Perez (2-1, 3.62, 24:16) and Mike Pelfrey (2-1, 4.43, 10:10). The Met bats will try to keep up Sunday's good work against Ian Snell (2-1, 4.45, 21:9), Tom Gorzelanny (1-3, 8.46, 13:22) and Zach Duke (0-2, 5.34, 9:8).
Friday, April 25, 2008
  Is it September already?

After reaching the lofty heights of a 10-6 record last weekend in Philadelphia, the Mets have gotten an early start on this year's collapse. They've now lost four of their last five, outscored 32-18. Their means of defeat have ranged from inadequate starting pitching to inept offense to incompetent relief.

The bats have seemingly all gone cold at once. Except for Carlos Delgado, who was cold to begin with. Over the last five games, Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran hit a combined .167/.286/.283. There is plenty of uncertainty in the Mets lineup on its best day. With Delgado acting out his worst case scenario on a daily basis and Raul Casanova making Met fans long for Brian Schneider's fearsome bat, the team really can't afford a slump from the guys who actually can hit. On the bright side, Luis Castillo hit five singles in the last two days, bringing him all the way up to .273/.360/.288 for the year.

Pitching was supposed to be the team's strong point and while, on the whole, the pitchers have been good, they haven't been nearly the dominant force needed to make up for the offense's inconsistency. After Thursday night's ten-run effort, they've allowed 89 on the year or 4.24 per game. It would be easy to blame Willie Randolph's bullpen management for this, or even the relievers themselves, but the starters are not without fault.

Mets starters have posted a 3.59 ERA so far this year, but they've averaged less than six innings per start, leading Willie to utilize at least three or four relievers almost every night. A Met starter has recorded more than eighteen outs eight times. A starter other than Johan Santana has done so just three times. Not once has a starter recorded more than twenty-one outs. With the Mets in the middle of a stretch of sixteen games without a day off, the bullpen hasn't had much chance to catch its breath.

A few relievers are off to very good starts. Joe Smith has pitched 10.1 innings, allowed just seven hits and three walks and struck out eight. The returning Duaner Sanchez has pitched five good innings, allowing just two hits and one walk with three strikeouts. And Billy Wagner has been dominant, having allowed no hits and just two walks in eight innings with eight strikeouts. Unfortunately, almost everyone else has struggled.

Scott Schoeneweis has been decent facing mostly lefties, allowing four hits and one walk in 5.1 innings, though he's only struck out one and did allow a home run to Chase Utley. Pedro Feliciano has disappointed, allowing seven hits and six walks in 5.1 innings, though he has struck out eight. But the biggest problem has been Aaron Heilman and Jorge Sosa, who lead the pen in apperances and innings pitched. In 27.2 innings, they've allowed 16 walks and 33 hits including an absurd eight home runs. Sosa's uselessness is not a total shock, but Heilman's complete implosion is a serious blow to the pen. Willie believes that Heilman is a top setup man, although after Thursday's performance, his faith may be shaken a bit. Heilman entered a tie game in the sixth with runners on second and third and two outs. The batters he faced went: walk, grand slam, single, single, strikeout. If Willie stops using Heilman in keys spots for a while, Sanchez and Smith may be able to pick up some of the slack, as may Feliciano if he can relocate the strike zone. But if the Mets keep playing close games in which their starters leave after or during the sixth inning, we'll probably continue to see Heilman on the mound with the game on the line.

With all that on their minds, the Mets (11-10) return home this weekend to host the Braves (11-11). Mike Pelfrey (2-0, 3.18, 9:6 K:BB), John Maine (1-2, 3.57, 16:14) and Nelson Figueroa (1-1, 4.05, 16:10) will take on Jair Jurrjens (2-2, 3.20, 21:9), Tim Hudson (3-1, 2.93, 16:5) and John Smoltz (3-1, 0.78, 31:6), respectively. This weekend will also see the return of someone who has not been seen at Shea Stadium in many months and who may be just what this team needs to turn its luck around. Yes, if you look out to left field on Saturday, you may see the familiar face, up in the mezzanine level. Also possibly Moises Alou on the field.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
  Six of one, half a dozen of the other

Twelve games into the season, the Mets' record sits at an even .500. This despite the fact that they have outscored their opponents 64-47. Some things have not gone as planned, as evidenced by the fact that Scott Schoeneweis has thrown more innings than Pedro Martinez. But there have also been some pleasant surprises, and I'm not just talking about Angel Pagan's ridiculous .381/.462/.500 start.

Coming out of Spring Training, the Mets' starting rotation didn't seem to have much depth behind the top four starters. When Pedro went down and Orlando Hernandez's foot continued to keep him out of action, the situation seemed dire. But the Mets' fifth and sixth starters, Mike Pelfrey and Nelson Figueroa, have held their own. After Pelfrey's terrific seven shutout innings on Tuesday, they have combined for a 2.70 ERA in 20 innings with 14 strikeouts and 7 walks. Figueroa (nickname suggestion: Nellie Figs) may not be anything more than a decent spot starter, but he did give the Mets eight innings in his debut and if he can keep his ERA around its current level of 4.50, he will have some value at the back of the rotation. Pelfrey's hot start is more intriguing. He had a solid debut, allowing two runs in five innings, and followed it up with the best start of his young major league career. If he can begin to make good on the potential he showed in the minors and in college, the Mets' rotation would be all the more formidable.

Some other notable things happened at Shea on Tuesday. Lastings Milledge made his return to New York and smacked a double in his first at bat. He was thrown out trying to steal third, but replays showed him to be safe. He later drew a walk. Ryan Church and Brian Schneider combined for just a single and a walk while defensive wizard Schneider allowed his third passed ball of the season. Luckily the Mets still have Jose Reyes and David Wright, who combined for seven hits including for extra bases. And Duaner Sanchez made his long-awaited return to the majors, pitching a scoreless ninth with one hit and one strikeout.

The Mets (6-6) will finish up this series with John Maine (0-1, 4.50, 6:8 K:BB) and Figueroa (1-0, 4.50, 7:3 K:BB) on the hill the next two nights. Lefties Matt Chico (0-2, 3.72 12:4 K:BB) and John Lannan (0-2, 6.75 6:7 K:BB) will take the ball for the Nationals.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
  At least I'm not a Tigers fan

The Mets' season is five games old, so I think it's about time I start complaining about Willie Randolph's bullpen management. I will give him some credit for apparently having figured out how to use Scott Schoeneweis. In Schoeneweis's first two appearances, he faced a single lefty and in his third, he faced a lefty and a switch hitter. Of course, that third lefty got a run-scoring hit and the switch hitter was Chipper Jones, but it's a step in the right direction. Last April, Schoeneweis pitched at least an inning in more than half of his appearances. He gave up eight walks and seven hits in nine and two-thirds innings. So far this year, he's retired three of four batters.

Randolph's usage of another lefty has been a bit more confusing. Pedro Feliciano, the team's second or third best reliever, has made just one appearance and the Mets had a lead of eleven runs at the time. On Saturday, in the sixth inning, with the Mets down by a run, a runner on base and Mark Kotsay and Larry coming up, in came Schoeneweis. An inning later, with the Mets down by two with Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur scheduled to bat, Willie went with Jorge Sosa. Six batters later, Sosa was still in the game and the Mets were down by six runs. I know that there's no chance of Willie using his best reliever, Billy Wagner, in a tight spot before the ninth inning. But is using one of his "set-up men" before the eighth to prevent the game from getting away too much to ask? Sosa is useful to have around as a long reliever and spot starter, but using him in a critical spot while Feliciano sits doesn't make a lot of sense.

Of course, Saturday did not go well for the Mets from the start. John Maine lasted only four innings in his season debut, allowing four runs on eight hits and three walks with five strikeouts. Starting pitching was not a problem on Sunday as Johan Santana's second start went even better than his first. He allowed just one run on seven hits through seven innings with three strikeouts, but a bad day by the Mets offense against John Smoltz and a bad pitch from Aaron Heilman to Teixeira saddled Santana with a loss.

Mets (2-3) hitters will have a bit of an easier task as they head home to take on the Phillies (2-4) starting Tuesday. Jamie Moyer (0-0, 7.36), Kyle Kendrick (1-0, 7.20) and Adam Eaton (0-0, 3.52) will start for the Phillies. Oliver Perez (1-0, 0.00), Mike Pelfrey (3-8, 5.57 in 2007) and John Maine (0-1, 9.00) will try to get the Mets back on track.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
  This was fun for about a day

Only the Mets could find a way to outscore their opponents twenty-four to seven over three games and come out feeling like losers. Yes, the Mets' offense thoroughly pounded what passes for major league pitching in the Florida Marlins organization. And yes, the Mets got a good first start from their big offseason acquisition and an even better one from their talented but inconsistent third starter. But who cares? Pedro's hurt again.

After making it though five fall starts, the whole offseason and all of Spring Training with his arm intact, Pedro Martinez was felled by a strained hamstring less than four innings into his 2008 season. He'll be out for at least a month and probably more. For the moment the task of replacing him will fall to Nelson Figueroa who, prior to tonight, hadn't pitched in the majors since 2004. Orlando Hernandez could help if he ever figures out how to throw the ball to the plate without his foot hurting him. And all of this is dependent on Mike Pelfrey pitching well enough to stay in the majors. Johan Santana, Oliver Perez and John Maine still make for a pretty formidable trio, but beyond them, the Mets' rotation is looking rather fragile.

Fortunately the Mets' offense looks capable of picking up some of the slack in the absence of dependable pitching. Every Met regular, aside from Carlos Delgado, had a good series with the bat. David Wright, with six hits including three doubles and one home run, and Carlos Beltran, with five doubles including one that would have been a home run if not for some overzealous umpiring, led the way. In total the Mets hit .330/.409/.486 in the three games. If they can keep up this success once they face a pitching staff whose total salaries are greater than what Santana will make this year, they should be in good shape.

The Mets (2-1) will take on slightly tougher competition starting Friday as they head to Atlanta for a weekend series against the Braves (1-2). John Maine (15-10, 3.91 in 2007), Mike Pelfrey (3-8, 5.57 in 2007) and Johan Santana (1-0, 2.57) will start for the Mets. Tim Hudson (0-0, 2.57), Tom Glavine (1/3 IP, 7 mean, 0-0, 1.80) and John Smoltz (14-8, 3.11) will go for Atlanta. This is, of course, assuming that none of them are forced to start on Thursday when scheduled starter Mike Hampton unexpectedly contracts polio during warmups.
Disseminating descriptions and accounts of New York Mets games without the expressed written consent of Major League Baseball or the New York Mets since 2003.

Location: Hatboro, Pennsylvania, United States
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