I enjoy listening to Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez provide color commentary on Mets games. It is obvious they are both intelligent and passionate about the game, even if Keith enjoys a nap every now and then. They want to see the game played right by both teams and they have no problem criticizing the Mets when they play bad or to praise the opponent when it plays good.

That is why it was so disappointing to me to hear Darling say that Hisanori Takahashi would be more valuable to the Mets as a long reliever. The only reason Takahashi was so valuable as a reliever is because the starters were incapable of pitching deep into games, specifically John Maine and Oliver Perez.

For the past few years, I have been supporting Maine and Perez while everyone around me has been questioning my sanity. But I am done. Rick Peterson is not walking through that door and it is not 2007 anymore. The cold, hard reality is that Maine and Perez were the problems, not the solutions.

Demoting Takahashi so that Maine can go into the rotation because Takahashi is a good long reliever is, well let me say this gently, crazy. It is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. The first thing you want to do is assemble good starting pitchers, not good long relievers.

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It is no coincidence that the Mets have started to play better and that Jerry Manuel’s bullpen management has been less of an issue once the starters started pitching seven innings a game rather than five. Maine made his last start on May 20th. Since that point, with both Maine and Perez no longer blowing up the bullpen, the Mets are 17-6 (.739).

Here are the innings by the starters in that stretch, with the team result following:

5/21 – 6.0 IP 0 ER (Takahashi) – L
5/22 – 6.0 IP 1 ER (Pelfrey) – W
5/23 – 7.2 IP 1 ER (Santana) – W
5/25 – 6.0 IP 0 ER (Dickey) – W
5/26 – 6.0 IP 0 ER (Takahashi) – W
5/27 – 7.0 IP 0 ER (Pelfrey) – W
5/28 – 8.0 IP 0 ER (Santana) – L
5/29 – 2.0 IP 5 ER (Nieve) – L
5/30 – 7.0 IP 4 ER (Dickey) – W
5/31 – 4.0 IP 6 ER (Takahashi) – L
6/1 – 8.0 IP 1 ER (Pelfrey) – W
6/2 – 7.0 IP 0 ER (Santana) – L
6/4 – 6.1 IP 3 ER (Dickey) – W
6/5 – 7.0 IP 1 ER (Niese) – W
6/6 – 5.1 IP 5 ER (Takahashi) – W
6/8 – 9.0 IP 1 ER (Pelfrey) – W
6/10 – 6.2 IP 4 ER (Santana) – L
6/10 – 9.0 IP 0 ER (Niese) – W
6/11 – 7.0 IP 1 ER (Dickey) – W
6/12 – 7.0 IP 1 ER (Takahashi) – W
6/13 – 6.0 IP 3 ER (Pelfrey) – W
6/15 – 7.0 IP 4 ER (Santana) – W
6/16 – 7.0 IP 3 ER (Niese) – W

Only twice in this 23-game stretch did the SP fail to pitch into the sixth inning and one of those came by Fernando Nieve, who does not figure to get another start in the majors this year. Contrast that to Maine, who failed to pitch into the sixth inning in six of his nine starts. Perez failed to make the sixth in four of his seven starts.

As a team, the Mets have a 152 IP from their starters in their last 23 games, an average of 6.2 innings per game. The starter’s ERA in that span is 2.61 with 44 ER allowed. For the season Maine has a 6.13 ERA while Perez checks in with a 6.28 mark

Over the last 23 games, here are the numbers for the Mets’ starters, with their record in parentheses:

Takahashi – 28.1 IP, 12 ER, 3.81 ERA (2-1)
Pelfrey – 36.0 IP, 6 ER, 1.50 ERA (4-0)
Santana – 36.1 IP, 9 ER, 2.23 ERA (2-1)
Dickey – 26.1 IP, 8 ER, 2.73 ERA (4-0)
Niese – 23.0 IP, 4 ER, 1.57 ERA (3-0)

This stretch includes back-to-back bad performances by Takahashi but in his last outing the Japanese lefty rebounded with a fine effort. I think he should still be semi-auditioning for a permanent role in the rotation but by no means should he be yanked from the role just because Maine has completed his rehab assignment.

The bottom line is that the Mets’ rotation is not broke, so don’t fix it. Takahashi and Dickey have earned some leeway and should not be yanked at the first sight of trouble, especially for guys who have proven time and time again that they are not ready to be successful as starting pitchers.

Meanwhile, Maine and Perez have earned a different kind of rope.

7 comments on “Darling wrong about Takahashi role

  • Pete

    Hey Brian- What Major League team did you play for?

  • Brian Joura

    Hey Pete – thanks for reading and commenting.

    The ability to play in the Majors requires a completely different skill set from analyzing what it takes to win ball games. That’s why the greatest players do not make the best managers or broadcasters. Ted Williams was no great shakes as a manager despite being one of the best players in the history of the game. Bobby Cox was a forgettable player but will be in the Hall of Fame for his managerial career.

    The same thing applies to broadcasters. Joe Morgan was a great player but is considerably less as an announcer. Bob Uecker was a poor player but is great behind the microphone.

    Darling is generally a very good broadcaster but in my opinion he is wrong on this point. No shame in being wrong every now and then.

  • MatthewA

    In deference to Darling, I would argue he isn’t so much wrong as he is misguided. Though the Mets rotation is effective lately, Takahashi would be the weakest link and the first to go if something better came along (like a Cliff Lee or Roy Oswalt). Moreover, Takahashi could easily and aptly fill the shoes left vacant by Darren Oliver as the long reliever/spot starter. It’s not the smart move now, but his future is as likely going down that path as it is staying in the rotation.

    I wouldn’t demote Takahashi to that role in favor of Maine or Ollie, but there’s method to Darling’s madness.

  • John

    Great point Matt … Oliver was so underrated in ’06 … He played a HUGE role that season. Despite a 4-1 record (which isn’t bad), he helped the Mets win, and sometimes just keep the Mets within reach, in some games to allow a comeback. Look what Takahashi did in April against the Braves and Dodgers in middle relief.

  • Dan Stack

    It’s a catch-22 situation no doubt. But Manuel said the daily rigors of Maine getting up and down and to pitch every day or so may do some damage to his psyche. If Maine comes back and amasses his high pitch counts and can’t last, then put Takahashi back in the rotation.

  • Brian Joura

    Why should the tail wag the dog? Why should the Mets disrupt a good thing to get John Maine back in the rotation? Since joining the Mets, here are Maine’s ERAs by season:

    3.60
    3.91
    4.18
    4.43
    6.13

    That’s a pretty strong trend in the wrong direction. Why on earth should this guy be given preference over a guy with a 3.48 ERA who throws strikes and is not a shock when he pitches 7 innings? And everyone was predicting gloom and doom for Takahashi but he bounced back after two rough starts to go 7 IP and allow 1 ER.

    When was the last time Maine went 7 IP and allowed 1 ER? Didn’t happen in 2010. He did it once in 2009 and once in 2008. So in his last 49 starts, Maine has had two outings as good as what Takahashi did in his last outing, after batters had allegedly figured him out.

    If Maine is too fragile for the bullpen, let him start in Triple-A and prove he can go more than five innings on a regular basis before we even begin to discuss the possibility of him maybe one day perhaps replacing one of the current starters who have helped the team win 18 of 24 games since Maine left the rotation.

  • Dan Stack

    Your looking more and more prophetic Brian. Takahashi was outstanding again tonight and Maine threw over 80 pitches in 4.1 IP in Buffalo. I am now on board with not fixing something that aint broke!

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