Part 1: Mets' Position Players
Part 2: Mets' Pitchers
Part 3-A: Other Position Players, Outfielders
Part 3-B: Infielders
Part 3-C: Catchers
Part 4-A: Other Starting Pitchers
Part 4-B: Other Relief Pitchers (never written)
Oh man. Do you remember this?
Johan Santana, Twins: Santana is the best pitcher in baseball, and the Twins are trading him. Some have suggested that Santana, who is 28, has already started to decline. However, we agree with David Pinto that Santana will be a very good pitcher for years to come. That's not the issue. The issue is that Santana will cost a lot of young, cheap, good players and then a lot of years and money, all invested in one fallible arm. While we'll continue to hear reports of how involved the Mets are, in the end, we will not get him. At least, that's what we're hoping for. First, the Mets do not need Santana. Second, it is a much healthier move going forward to get the most value from one's young, cheap players than to go out there and get the best guy possible at whatever cost. When one runs a franchise like a fantasy team, this is what happens. (That will never get old.) Possible trade: Fernando Martinez, Mike Pelfrey, Kevin Mulvey and some other prospect for Johan Santana. Why it won't happen: With Garza traded, the Twins are going to want two young major-league ready pitchers, and they don't seem attracted to Humber and Pelfrey. Speculation that the Mets are going to send Jose Reyes to Minnesota is just that: speculation.They did want two major-league ready pitchers, and they got 'em: Humber and Mulvey. We stick by what we said then, way back in November, the day before The Day. Santana did cost a lot of cheap, young players and a lot of years and money, and it is healthier going forward not to do stuff like that. But let's turn the page.
As far as we can tell, the Met bullpen is pretty set, but that's not necessarily a good thing. The inflexibility in that regard was a big stumbling block last year.
(Note: For the tables below, we used the equivalents [adjusted for league and park] and not the actually projected numbers for PECOTA hit, walk, strikeout and home run rates. Why? Because they provided them. Also we're leaving out the Bill James projections because we don't have the book with us right now and while the BJ numbers are interesting in comparison, they are also kind of dubious and arbitrary.)
|Billy Wagner (L)||IP||H/9||K/9||BB/9||HR/9||ERA|
ZiPS is the most optimistic, but generally all the projection systems agree that Billy Wagner is on the downside of his career. PECOTA spits out a "Collapse" rate of 53%, which is considerable. Wagner's walk rate has increased over the last few years. Of course, he's still a very valuable pitcher, the best in the Mets' bullpen, and we can't rule out a late-career resurgence. Wasn't he working on some new pitch? It's just the fastball and slider for now.
|Aaron Heilman (R)||IP||H/9||K/9||BB/9||HR/9||ERA|
Heilman threw 86 innings last year, the most of any Mets reliever. Clearly PECOTA isn't confident that he will throw that many again, but our projection systems are more confident about Heilman's ability than they have been in the past. No, he's not good enough to be a starter, but he's a valuable and capable reliever. He's got two pitches: a sinker and a change, and looking at his pitch data we might suggest he throw the change a little less often. His ground ball rate has been around 45% for most of his career, and we would be willing to guess that most of his home runs are off changeups.
|Pedro Feliciano (L)||IP||H/9||K/9||BB/9||HR/9||ERA|
Feliciano is another sure member of the Met bullpen, but the question remains: will Willie Randolph continue to use him as LOOGY, or what? Ted Berg recently wrote about this problem, namely, that Scott Schoeneweis should be used primarily against left-handers, while Feliciano is strong versus both. Just because Feliciano makes a lot less money doesn't mean he should have the more limited role. Feliciano throws four pitches: a sinker, a slider, a change, and a cutter. He uses these pitches differently against left-handers and right-handers, which is why he is successful against both, keeping right-handers to a .221/.325/.371 line in 2007 (compared to a minuscule .483 OPS for lefties). His career numbers are similar: .727 OPS for righties, .575 for lefties. We wish he would get his due, because he's a solid pitcher. Look past his average K/BB rates to his low HR totals and increasing ground ball rates (40.7% in 2005, 49.4% in 2006, and 55.7% in 2007).
|Scott Schoeneweis (L)||IP||H/9||K/9||BB/9||HR/9||ERA|
Unlike Feliciano, Shoeneweis is not successful against right-handers. In fact, in his career they have an .830 OPS against him, an absolutely miserable line for a reliever. This is no surprise, as he only features a fastball and a slider, which he throws in nearly the same ratio to both sides. It was a bad contract to give him nearly $3.5 million per year for year, but at least the Mets could have maximized his value by strictly using him as a LOOGY, or at least letting him face right-handers only in low leverage situations. Surely Omar Minaya is aware of his massive platoon split, which was the worst "true" platoon split of any lefty vs. righties in the time period explored in The Book. He has never been good against right-handers. Sticking him out there against them in nearly the same proportion as Feliciano, a left-hander who actually handles them well, is lunacy. If the Mets aren't going to use him as a LOOGY, The Show doesn't deserve a spot on the major league roster, despite his contract. All of his rates are below average, and he is only saved by his high ground ball rates. But if the Mets were to use him mostly against lefties, I mean, look at this. But there is little hope of that, and there is little hope that The Show won't make the team. That makes four guaranteed bullpen spots.
|Jorge Sosa (R)||IP*||H/9||K/9||BB/9||HR/9||ERA|
|* Sosa is classified as a "swingman," so PECOTA projects 8 starts, ZiPs and Chone 18 each, and Marcels an unknown number, presumably 13-15.|
As we said here, we're not sure Sosa is worth the $2 million the Mets gave him to avoid arbitration. He is certainly replaceable, and the Mets could have non-tendered him. But whatever, we're not gonna sweat it. Of these projections, PECOTA is clearly the more accurate, as it's unlikely that Sosa will make 18 starts this year, let alone 8. We don't know what PECOTA does differently, but the other systems are just taking his history and projecting it into the future, whereas we know anecdotally that Sosa is destined for bullpen duty, despite his history of starting. That's why PECOTA's numbers are much better, as a pitcher's numbers improve significantly in the bullpen. We don't think that's enough to account for the drastically different rates, however. PECOTA clearly thinks nice thoughts about Sosa. We think his home run rate is bound to explode again. Sosa's probably in. That's five.
|Duaner Sanchez (R)||IP||H/9||K/9||BB/9||HR/9||ERA|
Marcels has Sanchez only throwing 31 innings because it is a simple system that heavily weighs the last year, in which Duaner threw no pitches. Apparently he is now ready to go, and should be ready for opening day, but that's what they said last year, when he showed up fat and then injured his shoulder. Duaner, or "Dirty," as some people prone to vulgarity call him, is surely a wild card. We don't know how he'll do after not throwing very much since the trade deadline in 2006, but if it's anywhere near his 2006 performance he ought to be quite useful. There's a good chance he starts the year in AAA.
|Matt Wise (R)||IP||H/9||K/9||BB/9||HR/9||ERA|
Wise throws a fastball and a changeup, and he throws the changeup more often. This gives him a reverse platoon split; he's more effective against left-handers, with a career OPS against of .631 against them. How useful is that, however, in a bullpen that already features three left-handers? Still, the Wise has a major league contract (though for just $1.2 million, a bargain), and is thus quite likely to make the team. That's six.
|Joe Smith (R)||IP||H/9||K/9||BB/9||HR/9||ERA|
These are solid numbers, and the platoon splits for Smith suggest to us that he might be more useful to this bullpen than Wise, but Joe's still a pre-arbitration player who struggled in the second half of last year, so he's likely to begin the season in AAA. We'd like to see him in the bigs though, because he's a ground ball machine, and the Mets have great infield defense. At this point, we might favor Smith over Sosa.
Mike Pelfrey has his supporters for the bullpen, but the Mets have said he's not an option for the bullpen; he'll either slide into the rotation due to injury, or throw in AAA, where he can be terrorized by pitching in Albuquerque and other offensive environments. Speaking of injuries, many have suggested that the injury prone Orlando Hernandez should move to the pen, but the Mets said nay to that. The Mets made a minor trade for Brian Stokes, who has been a OK starter in the minors but has not been very good as a reliever, either. Steven Register is a 24-year old AA closer taken from Colorado in the Rule 5 draft. If the Mets were to keep him, he would have to make the team. His numbers are a little inflated from pitching in the Texas League, and he did seem to improve considerably after moving to the bullpen. Still, he's a long shot. The Mets recently picked up righty Ruddy Lugo off waivers from the Athletics. He's not very impressive, walking as many as he strikes out. The team also just signed Tony Armas Jr., a starter whose career path looks like promising to mediocre to terrible, and all before the age of 30. From the Mets' own minor leagues are Willie Collazo, a non-prospect who enjoyed some success last year at AAA; and Carlos Muniz, a 26-year old who closed for AA Binghamton last year before being promoted to New Orleans and then New York. And finally, don't forget about Juan Padilla, who last pitched professionally in 2005, where he put up an unsustainable 1.49 ERA in 36.3 innings for the Mets, before undergoing multiple elbow surgeries that sidelined him for two seasons. The Mets non-tendered him in November, but gave him a minor league contract in January. We have a feeling we'll see him sometime this year.
Conclusion: The Mets have a fine bullpen, if they can keep healthy and Willie Randolph stubbornly entrenches the pitchers in roles that actually suit their various talents. The bullpen will have less importance this year, of course, with such a kick-ass starting rotation.