The conventional wisdom is that the Mets ultimately will move Jeremy Hefner to the bullpen when Zack Wheeler becomes one of the starting five. However, Shaun Marcum continues to build his case for being dropped from the rotation. After pitching masterfully out of the bullpen in his previous appearance, Marcum got knocked around by the Cubs Friday night, as his ERA rose to 5.43 for the season.
In his last nine starts, Hefner has a 3.38 ERA with a 3.1 K/BB ratio. There’s no justifiable reason to remove him from the starting rotation. Yet you hear people repeat over and over again that he fits better in the bullpen. It makes no sense, especially when Marcum is not giving the team a chance to win on anything remotely approaching a regular basis.
Hefner has made 12 starts this year and has 8 QS, meaning he’s given the team a chance to win two-thirds of the time. Meanwhile, Marcum has started eight times and has two Quality Starts, giving the team a reasonable chance to win only one-quarter of the time.
There was a belief that Marcum was turning things around lately but that might have just been good fortune in facing the Marlins in back-to-back appearances. In three games against Miami this year, Marcum has a 3.86 ERA. Against the rest of the teams he’s faced, he has a 6.10 ERA in 38.1 IP.
And before you start throwing out “small sample size,” consider that Marcum’s mediocre pitching extends back to last season. After coming off the disabled list last year, Marcum started eight games and had a 4.32 ERA in 41.2 IP. So, in his last 96.1 IP, Marcum has a 4.95 ERA. At some point, if the Mets hope to be a good ballclub, they have to stop jumping through hoops to give preferential treatment to guys who simply are not getting the job done.
Marcum is on a one-year deal and is unlikely to be a Met beyond the 2013 season. Hefner is four-plus years younger and not only will he not be a free agent like Marcum at the end of the year, he will be a pre-arb player, meaning that the Mets control his rights and will have him on a contract near the minimum wage next season.
Who should the Mets keep in the rotation in the rest of this developmental season – the pre-arb guy who turns in a Quality Start two-thirds of the time or the pitcher four-plus years older who already has one foot out the door and the other on a banana peel? It’s really an easy decision once you examine the evidence.
Marcum has been a good pitcher in his career and it was a defensible gamble by the Mets to sign him in the offseason. But the results simply have not been there. One can certainly argue that he’s been unlucky this year and xFIP shows him slightly ahead of Hefner here in 2013. But the big picture is that Hefner could be a starting pitcher for the 2014 Mets and deserves a shot to see if he can continue to pitch as well – as a starter – for the rest of the season as he has in his last nine games.
Additionally, the Mets might even be in a position to help themselves financially here. Marcum has an incentive-laden contract, with bonuses for being on the active roster for certain days of the season. With the majority of the bullpen pitching well (and Scott Rice being a lefty that simply *has* to be in the majors), the Mets could cut Marcum and save a few pennies while also keeping a better option in the starting rotation.
Of course, that won’t happen. The Mets’ M.O. is to give extended shots to guys who have contributed nothing while burying guys who could potentially help if given a shot. Collin Cowgill and Josh Satin have hit in the minors when given a chance but the Mets insisted on giving playing time to Rick Ankiel, Ike Davis, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Jordany Valdespin at their positions, instead. That quartet has gone 67-388 (.173) with 122 strikeouts.
Through games of June 9th, Valdespin had a lifetime .578 OPS (.288 OBP) as a starting player. So of course he’s inserted into the everyday lineup as a leadoff hitter. In four games, he’s 2-for-15 and carries a .133 OBP. The results are not a shock; now we’re just left wondering how long this awful experiment will last.
So, expect Hefner to go to the pen so that Marcum can keep throwing 85 mph beach balls to the plate every five days. And expect a useful reliever like Greg Burke to get sent down, rather than one of the lefties. Because we all know that you simply cannot have a successful bullpen without two lefties on the roster.
The average NL reliever has a 3.65 ERA yet the Mets’ bullpen has an ERA a full run higher, the worst in the National League. One can only imagine how bad the Mets’ bullpen would be if their lefty relievers had not allowed 44 ER in 60.2 IP. Wait, what do you mean their lefties have combined for a 6.53 ERA? How can that be – you need multiple lefty relievers! Terry Collins has told us this over and over again going on three years now.
It’s bad enough that the talent level is not where it needs to be on the major league roster. But the Mets make the problem all that much worse by combining sub-par talent with horrific decisions on who to play and where. It would be nice if the Mets would at least stop making bonehead personnel choices. So, let them start improving in this matter by keeping Hefner in the rotation where he belongs and by removing Marcum, instead.