Did Mets err by picking Mike Pelfrey over Chris Capuano?

Following the 2011 season, the Mets had to make a decision whether to retain the services of two starting pitchers going forward – Chris Capuano and Mike Pelfrey. There were a bunch of factors that went into the decision, not the least of which was that Capuano was a free agent and Pelfrey was arbitration-eligible. This meant that Capuano had the leverage to seek a multi-year deal while Pelfrey could be given a one-year contract. The Mets opted to let Capuano walk and they tendered a contract to Pelfrey. But was it the right decision?

Let’s start with their respective contract details. Pelfrey and the Mets agreed on a contract to avoid arbitration and the former first-round pick will receive $5.675 million in 2012. Capuano signed a two-year deal with the Dodgers that was reported as a two-year, $10 million contract. Cot’s breaks down the signing as $3 million in 2012, $6 million in 2013, a mutual option for $8 million in 2014 and a host of innings-based incentives that could total an extra $1 million if he reaches them all in the next two seasons.

If Capuano pitches the same number of innings in 2012 that he did last year for the Mets, he will earn $3.225 million. But there’s the rub – how likely is it that Capuano will deliver 186 IP again? He made his major league debut in 2003 but has reached that mark just three times since then. Meanwhile, Pelfrey has surpassed that innings total in three of the last four years and the one time he didn’t, he logged 184.1 IP.

Durability edge to Pelfrey

Both pitchers have made 25 or more starts in a season four times. Here are those four seasons, ranked by fWAR in descending order of quality:

Capuano 3.9 1.8 1.7 1.6
Pelfrey 3.0 2.8 1.6 0.7

For both pitchers, their 2011 season was their lowest-rated one by fWAR. Capuano has been very consistent outside of 2006, when he posted a career-low in both home run rate and walks allowed. The BB/9 was especially an outlier, as he delivered a 1.91 mark, a full walk better than his career rate.

Pelfrey seems much more inconsistent but that’s due to fWAR using FIP as its main pitching calculation. If it went by xFIP, you would not see anywhere near the volatility, as Pelfrey’s mark in that category the past four years has been: 4.45, 4.47, 4.31 and 4.55 – which makes him one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball.

FIP and xFIP are calculated with strikeouts, walks and home runs, with the big difference being that FIP gives a pitcher his actual HR rate while xFIP normalizes the rate. Pelfrey’s K/BB has been extremely consistent – it’s his HR rate that fluctuates. He gives up fewer home runs than expected but needs a really good HR/FB rate to be successful. The two years where Pelfrey had the most success, where he went a combined 28-20 with a 3.69 ERA, he had HR/FB rates of 6.3 and 5.7 percent.

It’s not all about HR rate for Pelfrey, as his strand rate was 73.7 percent in 2010 and 74.3 in 2008. In his two down years, his strand rate was below 70 percent both years.

However, Capuano has been consistent in three of his four years and Pelfrey has been better than Capuano’s demonstrated level of performance twice and equal another time. It may be luck or good fortune that pushes Pelfrey ahead but I’d rather bank on Pelfrey putting up a sub-7.0 HR/FB rate than Capuano setting career lows in BB/9 and HR/FB.

Slight quality edge to Pelfrey

Pelfrey is five years younger while Capuano is a lefty. Ordinarily, teams might prefer a lefty but with Jonathon Niese and Johan Santana already in the rotation, do the Mets want to feature three southpaws in their starting five? While that may not make a difference, one thing that certainly does is that Capuano gives up more fly balls than Pelfrey.

With the Mets moving in the fences this year, more HR will be hit in Citi Field. Both Capuano and Pelfrey performed much better at Citi than on the road last year, but Capuano figures to be more affected by the new dimensions than Pelfrey. Capuano had a 1.81 HR/9 in road parks last year while Pelfrey had a 1.26 HR/9. That’s a difference of .55 HR/9, compared to a difference of .22 in home starts. The new dimensions should make Citi play like a more neutral park, meaning that .22 difference should move in the direction of the .55 difference in road parks.

So, Pelfrey is younger, more durable, has a slight edge in quality and is likely to be less affected by the new outfield dimensions in Citi Field. Capuano is lefty and will make significantly less than Pelfrey in 2012. But the latter edge is negated by the second year that comes on the Capuano contract. If Capuano bombs or reinjures himself, the Dodgers are on the hook for his 2013 salary. If Capuano repeats his 2011 season the next two years, the Dodgers get a bargain in 2012 and essentially pay market value in 2013.

The contract makes sense for the Dodgers because they should have new ownership in place by 2013 and should not have the monetary issues that current ownership has. It seems reasonable that Michael Moye, the agent for Capuano, approached the Mets about a similar-type deal but was rejected by Sandy Alderson. Whether due to age, injury, ballpark or payroll – the Mets decided they would prefer to pay close to market value on Pelfrey in 2012 to avoid a commitment in 2013.

It’s up for debate if that says more about Capuano or the Mets’ financial situation.

Five reasons the Mets should not re-sign Chris Capuano

One year ago one of the debates surrounding the Mets was what they should do with Angel Pagan (though, it was for extremely different reasons than the current debate). With Carlos Beltran also on the roster someone was going to have to move. Pagan was also coming off a career year, so you had to wonder if the Mets should cash in their chips and get value in return.

Looking back twelve months later, we all know what the answer should’ve been. Unfortunately the Mets chose to hold onto Pagan and now are left with a “commodity” that brings little intrigue to opposing front offices.

As we close in on free agency the Mets face a similar debate with Chris Capuano. While it is a slightly different situation, as Capuano is a free agent and can leave on his own accord, the decision is the same. Having gotten more than anyone could’ve imagined in his first year as a Met, should the team look to ante up and bring him back or cut ties before they get burned?

To me it’s an easy decision. There is no way I would bring Chris Capuano back to New York. Instead of giving you just one reason, here’s five to consider:

1) He posted a 4.55 ERA and 1.35 WHIP
For all the talk of how successful Capuano was in 2011, are these really the type of numbers we are looking for from our starting rotation? It wasn’t like he had particularly poor luck that cost him either, as he posted a .311 BABIP and 72.0% strand rate (compared to career marks of .300 and 72.8%). In a season where he made at least 17 starts his best ERA is 3.99. The fact of the matter is that he is not that good.

2) He struggled away from Citifield
Just take a look at the home/road split:

Home – 3.82 ERA, 1.21 WHIP
Road – 5.42 ERA, 1.51 WHIP

The major difference? He had a HR/9 of 0.89 at home while the balls routinely flew over the fences on the road, with a 1.81 HR/9. Now, consider the fact that the team will likely change the configuration of Citifield to convert it from a pitchers park to more “neutral”.

Does that not concern anyone else?

3) He’s a consistent threat to get hurt
Let us not forget that Capuano has undergone Tommy John surgery not once, but twice over the course of his career. Since debuting in 2003 he’s made over 30 starts and thrown over 150 innings three times (not counting when he was at 150.0 on the nose in 2007). Who is to say that he is going to be able to give 180+ innings again in 2012?

4) He’s a five-and-fly pitcher
If the Mets had a bullpen similar to the Atlanta Braves, maybe that wouldn’t be such a concern. All you need out of your starting pitcher is five or six strong innings and then you can turn things over to the bullpen and let them get the fine 12 outs. Not a problem because you have the weapons to complete the job.

Even if the Mets were to overhaul their bullpen, does anyone believe it can possibly be that dominant? If you consistently ask the bullpen to get more than six outs you are asking for trouble. In his 33 starts in 2011, Capuano went 6.0 innings or less in 23 of them. I’m not looking for him to be James Shields and look to go nine every time he takes the ball, but it would be nice if he could consistently go deeper into games.

5) There’s a good chance he’s too expensive
If he was willing to sign at a discount once again, then maybe I’d consider it (similar to the $1.5 million he signed for prior to the 2011 campaign). Being left-handed and showing that he was healthy, does anyone really believe that he is going to agree to that? The Mets have way too many needs in order to spend “bigger” dollar for a mid-rotation starting pitcher who will likely post an ERA well above 4.00.

Conclusion
We can get into the talk of him being a swing man of sorts, or even pitching exclusively out of the bullpen in 2012. However, at 31-years old, how many more opportunities will Capuano truly get to cash in? He’s likely going to look to take advantage of the moderate success he had in 2011 and I don’t blame him.

However, let someone else spend the money. He has disaster written all over him and you should be able to get equitable production at a fraction of the cost. Throw in the fact that he’s mediocre, at best, and the Mets would be much better served to part ways before they regret it. Considering that we all know they likely won’t compete in 2012, I’d much rather give up on him a year too early then have his contract sitting on the books in 2013 or 2014 with nothing to show for it.

What about everyone else? Do you believe the Mets should try to bring Capuano back in 2012?

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Whatever happened to Hisanori Takahashi?

This time last year one of the big player personnel moves facing the Mets was what to do with Hisanori Takahashi. It was complicated due to Rule 8(i)(2), which made it necessary for the Mets to sign him by Halloween. And if you recall, the Mets had just fired their general manager and had yet to bring Sandy Alderson aboard.

When the Mets did hire Alderson, he negotiated with Takahashi’s agent to extend the deadline a couple of days. But even with the extra time, the Mets could not come to an agreement with the lefty swingman. Takahashi went out on the open market and signed a two-year, $8 million deal with the Angels.

In 2010, Takahashi was very good when used out of the bullpen, as he had a 2.04 ERA in 57.1 IP as a reliever. He even ended the year as a closer, as he took over for the suspended Francisco Rodriguez. Earlier in the season, Takahashi bounced back and forth between starting and relieving. His posted a 5.01 ERA in 67.1 IP as a starter, which made everyone think he was overmatched in the role.

But Takahashi had two really bad outings that helped skew his numbers, starts that were not indicative of his actual ability. The first was in the bandbox known as Hiram Bithorn Stadium and the other was when he went 13 days between starts. Take those two outings away and Takahashi had a 3.83 ERA as a starting pitcher.

The Angels signed Takahashi to be a reliever and he did not make a single start in 2011. After a dreadful start, Takahashi pitched well over the final four months of the season. Here are his numbers the first two months of the year versus the final four:

Apr-May: 22.1 IP, 4.84 ERA, 11 BB, 16 Ks, 4 HR
June-on: 45.2 IP, 2.76 ERA, 14 BB, 36 Ks, 3 HR

In 2010, Takahashi posted a fWAR of 1.6 which they pegged as being worth $6.4 million on the open market. In 2011, his fWAR was just 0.4, which they calculated as being worth $1.8 million . Since Takahashi signed for $8 million over two years, it looks like the Angels did not get their money’s worth in the first year of this deal.

Meanwhile, the Mets signed Chris Capuano for $1.5 million and he produced a fWAR of 1.6, which is worth $7 million. The Mets made off better with Capuano than the Angels did with Takahashi. Of course, Capuano performing as a starting pitcher for most of the season and having a 186.0 to 68.0 edge in innings pitched had a lot to do with the fWAR difference.

We’ll never know how Takahashi would have fared if he was allowed to make the 31 starts for the Mets that Capuano did in 2011. My guess is he would have performed a bit better than Capuano. But since the Mets were pinching pennies, the difference in salary would not have been worth whatever increase in production Takahashi might have given.

It appears that Alderson made the right call on Takahashi and his fifth starter for 2011. Still, I enjoyed Takahashi’s tenure with the Mets and I hope he pitches as well for the Angels in 2012 as he did the final four months of 2011.

Chris Capuano’s 2011 season: A success?

With one more expected start to go, Chris Capuano will accomplish something no one ever thought possible at the beginning of the season: Make more than 30 stars and finish the season healthy.

That in of itself is a major accomplishment.

However, Capuano has been like most of the other Mets’ pitchers these days: inconsistent and undependable.

In his last 10 starts, Capuano has only registered three quality outings (although his two-hit shutout was something to behold). For the season, Capuano is 11-12 with a so-so 4.55 ERA and a decent 1.36 WHIP.

What Capuano has been, besides being mind-bogglingly durable, is great value for the buck. Sandy Alderson took a flier on Capuano in the offseason and basically brought him off the scrap heap (along with Chris Young-who did not work out).

Last winter Capuano was signed to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million with incentives. Thus far, Capuano has achieved most incentives and has earned an additional $1.2 million. You can’t argue that Capuano hasn’t given the Mets great bang for their buck.

But, aside from his reliability this season, can you really label Capuano’s season a good one?

While Capuano is line for 31 starts, he hasn’t been able to eat too many innings this year. Capuano has amassed 180 innings pitched thus far. That is not enough innings for 30 starts. I get the fact that you wanted to protect him from another injury, but those limited innings have had an adverse effect on the Mets, as they have had to go a bullpen a lot earlier than they would have preferred. And As I pointed out on Thursday, the results have been less than stellar. (Maybe I am splitting hairs here.)

Earlier this week, it was reported that the Boston Red Sox wanted to acquire Capuano, even though if they did he would not be able to make the postseason roster. That’s how desperate the Red Sox were to get into the playoffs. The Mets would eventually rebuff the Red Sox overtures.

Alderson would like to bring back Capuano for another year. He will still come relatively cheap and at this point, the Mets don’t really have any other better options.

Despite some results that are less than stellar, Capuano has proved he is durable and with a full season under his belt, he should only get better in 2012. Considering the circumstances that Capuano found himself in prior to the start of the season, he has persevered and made the most out of this season.

So, yeah, I would go ahead and call Capuano’s 2011 season a success.

Mets Notes: Capuano’s value, Wright’s double-switch, Thole’s hot bat

Recently news came out that the Red Sox wanted to acquire Chris Capuano but that the Mets turned them down. Now, this was not at the trading deadline – this was in the last few days, meaning they wanted him to make *one* start for them. Yes, their pitching has been that bad. Since September 1st, Boston is 5-16 and has not won a game in which they did not score 10 runs. At the end of August they had a 1.5 game lead over the Yankees for the AL East and held a 9.0 game lead over the Rays for the Wild Card. Now the Yankees have clinched the division and the Red Sox hold just a 2.0 game lead over the Rays and a 3.0 game lead over the Angels in the Wild Card.

Capuano has been a solid acquisition for the Mets, taking the ball every fifth day and generally giving the Mets a chance to win. But he is a lefty who allows fly balls and has a slightly above-average HR/FB rate, which would not seem an ideal fit in Fenway Park. But desperate times call for desperate measures and it’s surprising that Sandy Alderson refused to work out a deal here. The take away from this should be for fans to expect Capuano to return to the Mets in 2012.

Thursday, Capuano pitched for the Mets and had to wait out a rain delay that lasted over two hours. He was victimized by the gopher ball, as three of the four runs he allowed came on homers, including one to Albert Pujols, who has simply owned Capuano. Coming into the game, Pujols had a .567/.639/1.100 slash line against Capuano in 36 PA. Capuano retired Pujols the first two times he faced him before giving up the HR, the fifth he has surrendered to the Cardinals’ slugger.

WRIGHT LEAVES GAME EARLY – Manager Terry Collins removed David Wright from Thursday’s game, marking just the third time this season that Wright did not finish what he started. The previous two times Wright came out early this year were in blowout losses, where the Mets trailed by 10 and eight runs. Yesterday he came out as part of a double-switch in the ninth inning of a two-run game. The Mets’ bullpen has been anything but automatic and it has to raise a few eyebrows that Collins did what he did.

Wright was removed early from a game five times last year. The first three removals came in blowout losses and the fourth one came when he was removed for a pinch-runner in a tie game. Afterwards, Wright revealed he had been throwing up earlier in the game and was too lightheaded to remain in the contest. The final time Wright was removed early came on the last day of the season, when manager Jerry Manuel removed both Wright and Jose Reyes so that the fans could give them a final ovation.

There was no mention of the early removal on MetsBlog or the New York Post. If asked about it, Collins would likely reply it was the move that made the most sense, as Justin Turner had entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the top of the ninth inning and Wright made the next-to-last out in the inning. Still, it is noteworthy when the team’s franchise player is removed for defense, especially when the team has not made a similar move the past two seasons.

WHAT A RELIEF – Pitcher wins are far from the best stat to use to analyze performance and that goes doubly so for relievers. Frequently, a reliever earns a win simply for being in the right place at the right time. Yesterday, Manny Acosta picked up his fourth win of the season. He and Ryota Igarashi are both 4-1 for the year. The other Mets pitchers are a combined 68-80.

THOLE CONTINUES TO WIELD HOT STICK – Much has been made about the disappointing season that Josh Thole has had in 2011 but he has been very effective over most of the year after getting off to a dreadful start. Through games of May 21st, Thole had a .205/.281/.241 line in 128 PA. Since then he has a .300/.382/.404 line in 242 PA. Thole has also made better contact than he did earlier in the year. During his poor start, he struck out 22 times in 128 PA for a 17.2 K%. Since May 25th, he’s whiffed 23 times in 242 PA for a 9.5 K%.

FROM THE ELIAS SPORTS BUREAU – It was only the seventh time in Mets history that they won a game in which they trailed by four runs or more in the ninth inning or later. Before Thursday’s comeback, the Mets last such win was against the Cubs at Shea Stadium on May 17, 2007, and their last road win of that kind was on July 17, 1973 in Atlanta. This was the Cardinals first home loss in a game in which they led by four runs or more since Aug. 26, 1998 against the Marlins.

How Dan Uggla saw Chris Capuano

On Capuano, you seen him that good before?

“Oh, yeah. If you look at my numbers against him, he’s that good all the time. No, but that’s the first time I’ve seen him like that since he’s come back. His fastball was better and he was moving it in and out along with his changeup. He made his pitches, and when a guy like that that’s got a plus pitch – his changeup is a plus-plus pitch – and he made ‘em. There’s very little you can do.”

“He’s battled and battled over the last couple of years and worked his butt off to get back to this point. I heard that he’s had some rough outings over the last four or five starts, but sometimes you’ve got to go through that to find it again. Everybody always says, it’s gets worse before it gets better.”

“But he did, he looked great. Looked like the Capuano I saw when I first came into the league.”

“He was around 88-90 [mph] all night tonight, and his two-seamer had a lot of life to it. He threw me a couple late in the count that just froze me. And they caught no white. They were right on the black [edge of the plate].”

Dan Uggla, who is now 3-17 lifetime with 9 Ks versus Chris Capuano, as quoted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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What do the 2011 Mets lack in SP?

Entering the 2011 season one of the biggest question marks was how the Mets’ SP were going to do with Johan Santana on the shelf. Would the team be able to handle not having an ace? There were other concerns about the starters, too. Could Chris Capuano and Chris Young stay healthy and regain their earlier form? Could Jonathon Niese take a step forward? And finally, could Mike Pelfrey repeat his 15-win season from 2010?

The answers to these have been mixed. Niese has been a solid pitcher, Capuano has stayed healthy and Dillon Gee has stepped forward to stabilize the rotation. On the negative side, Young fell apart physically, Pelfrey has taken a step backwards and Santana just recently had a setback in his rehab. The Santana news is the worst of all, meaning we could be in a similar position again in 2012.

Can the Mets handle not having an ace?

Everyone throws around the term “ace” but there’s no clear cut definition of what makes a pitcher into one. You’re just supposed to know when you have one. Roy Halladay is an ace, but is Jaime Garcia? It all depends on how you define the term.

Instead of worrying about semantics, let’s instead look at pitchers and break them down into percentiles. Let’s start with doing this by ERA. If we take all starters who have thrown at least 80 IP, we see the 30th-best ERA is 3.19 so far this year. If pitchers were distributed equally among team, each squad would have one pitcher with a 3.21 ERA or better. This would be your #1 SP

The 60th pitcher has an ERA of 3.69 so each team, assuming the same equal distribution, would have a pitcher with an ERA between 3.20 and 3.69. This would be your #2 SP. The #3 SP would have an ERA between 3.70 and 4.23 and your #4 SP would have between 4.24 and 4.92 ERA. Your #5 SP would have an ERA 4.93 and above.

By ERA, the Mets best pitcher is Gee and he rates as a bottom-tier #2 SP. Dickey rates as a strong #3 and Niese is a solid #3. Capuano and Pelfrey are solid #4 SP.

The problem is not just that the Mets do not have a #1 SP, it’s that they barely have a #2 SP. On the flip side, they do not have a #5 SP, either, which certainly helps things out. After inserting Gee into the lineup the Mets have been healthy and reasonably productive with their starters.

But we know that xFIP is a better indication of a pitcher’s quality than his ERA is. So, how do SP break down via this metric? Here are the bottom numbers for each group:

#1 SP – 3.44
#2 SP – 3.80
#3 SP – 4.05
#4 SP – 4.42

By xFIP, the Mets do have a #1 SP with Niese (3.22). They have two strong #3 pitchers in Capuano (3.86) and Dickey (3.88). Gee is a bottom tier #4 SP (4.39) and Pelfrey is one of the better #5 SP (4.46).

Either way, the Mets are missing an elite pitcher. If you go by ERA, the Mets need to add a #1-type pitcher but if you go by xFIP, they may really only lack a #2-type guy.

We hope the Mets will not be as financially handcuffed after this year as they were last offseason. However, with the Madoff clawback lawsuits yet to be finalized, no one really has any firm idea what to expect. Will the Mets go after someone like C.J. Wilson (3.38 ERA/3.47 xFIP) to fit in as a #2-type SP, if the budget allows?

Do you think the Mets should go to the free agent market do sign a #1 or #2 SP? And if so, do you think they should non-tender Pelfrey? These are some of the decisions awaiting Sandy Alderson in the offseason.

Capuano makes case to stay in rotation

The Mets have received strong pitching performances recently. With four of the five starting pitchers you can point to a definite start where they turned things around. For the fifth pitcher, we’ll just pick the start that fits best. Here are their before and after numbers:

Before After
R.A. Dickey 1-5, 5.08 2-2, 2.23
Jonathon Niese 2-4, 5.03 3-1, 1.34
Mike Pelfrey 1-3, 7.39 2-1, 4.11
Chris Capuano 1-1, 8.76 4-5, 3.52
Dillon Gee 2-0, 4.72 5-0, 2.59

There’s no real cutoff point for Pelfrey. His before numbers are his first six starts and his after numbers are his final seven. But included in those final seven are two starts where he gave up 12 ER in 11 IP. Still, his ERA in those seven, including the two bombs, is three full runs below his stinker to open the season.

The overall National League ERA this year is 3.76, down from 4.02 a year ago. Of course, we are now entering the summer months and we should expect the numbers to go up from here to the end of the season. Still, it’s a good number to use right now to judge how the Mets’ pitchers are doing.

Four of the five pitchers are below average and three of them – Dickey, Niese and Gee – significantly. Combine this strong pitching with the Mets offense seemingly delivering 10 or more hits on a nightly basis and it’s easy to understand how the team has gone 9-5 in its last 14 games, including 6-2 in its last eight.

At some point Johan Santana will come back and the question will be: How should the Mets handle their rotation? Of course, this is still a month away and plenty can change between now and then. But assuming that the Mets pitchers continue more or less on their recent path, what should the team do?

The most likely scenario is that Capuano moves to the bullpen. He has experience relieving and would give the team another lefty out of the bullpen. Also, Capuano has generally struggled his third time through the opposing team’s lineup. Finally, the Mets might prefer not to have three lefties in the rotation.

But is Capuano really better suited for the pen than Pelfrey? Even with Capuano’s much-discussed trouble the third time through the order, they have virtually the same number of innings pitched over their last 10 starts, with Pelfrey holding a 62.1 to 61.0 edge. However, Capuano has delivered much better quality in that span, with a 3.54 ERA compared to a 4.33 mark for Pelfrey.

Despite Pelfrey’s attempts to diversify his repertoire, he is still more of a one-pitch guy than Capuano. According to FanGraphs, Pelfrey throws his fastball 65.3 percent of the time and his other four pitches make up the remaining 34.7 percent. Meanwhile, Capuano throws his fastball 58.4 percent of the time while he uses changeup 26.6 and slider 15.0 percent of the time.

Subjectively, Pelfrey feels like a reliever, the type of guy who could add 2-3 miles per hour to his fastball if he didn’t have to pace himself. And with Capuano coming off all of the arm troubles he’s had in the past few years, is it really in his best interest to be pitching multiple times each week? Pelfrey could be in the mix for 7th inning or later duties. Could you really imagine Capuano coming on with the bases loaded and a one-run lead?

Of course, the Mets could go in another direction and look to protect Santana and Capuano by going to a six-man rotation down the stretch. It’s unorthodox but it might be the right thing in this situation. Nobody right now is screaming to be moved out of the rotation and this move babies the pitchers who have had recent arm troubles.

This will be another test for manager Terry Collins, as much as how he handles the lineup once the injured corner infielders return. Generally, Collins has done a good job keeping the Mets afloat under difficult circumstances through the first 65 games of the season. Will he have the necessary creativity and fortitude to make the right calls for the final 65?

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Mets Notes: Capuano’s value and extra-base hits

It’s easy to overlook with his 4-6 record and 4.86 ERA but Chris Capuano has been a nice addition to the Mets’ staff. In his last 10 games, including nine starts, Capuano has a 3.98 ERA and is giving the Mets a chance to win nearly every time out. Not surprisingly, the only run he gave up last night came on a home run.

Capuano has been prone to the gopher ball (10 HR in 66.2 IP) and Milwaukee has both a good lineup and a home park that is conducive for homers. Still, everyone should be happy with his 6 IP, 1 ER performance.

Stamina is still an issue for Capuano. The first time through the order opponents have a .600 OPS and that rises to .763 the second time through. The third time opposing hitters have a .977 mark, meaning that the other team is getting to him late. Clearly, Capuano had nothing left in the tank last night when he came out, but a rested bullpen pitched three scoreless innings and the Mets emerged with the win.

Sandy Alderson signed Capuano to a one-year, $1.5 million, incentive-laden deal. According to FanGraphs, he’s already earned $1.7 million in value for the Mets. Capuano is on pace to finish with 178.2 IP and if the remainder can be as solid as the last 54.1 IP, this signing will be one of the best pickups of the year.

A Joy to Watch: Another day, another scintillating performance by Jose Reyes, who drove in both runs with a triple that seemed destined to be an inside-the-park home run except for a fine defensive play by former Met Carlos Gomez.

This was the first road triple for Reyes and his 30th extra-base hit of the season. In his last full healthy year in 2008, Reyes established a career-best with 72 extra-base hits. And that total came with 19 HR. This year Reyes has only 1 HR. He is on pace for 82 extra-base hits and 3 HR.

Not so much fun: And the opposite end of the Reyes spectrum is Jason Bay. In his last 27 games, Bay has just one extra-base hit in 112 PA. In that span he has a .191/.297/.234 slash line, being saved only by 14 BB.

All Mets fans are rooting for Bay, who has kept a positive attitude and hustled throughout his tenure with the club. But if the Mets stay in contention for the Wild Card and Bay continues to hit under the Mendoza Line, at some point the club has to put him on the bench. He probably has until the All-Star break to get it going, but I expect Terry Collins to go in a different direction if Bay is still struggling at that point.

Heating up in one-run games: Last night was the Mets’ fourth straight win in a one-run game. For the season the club is 7-9 in one-run contests. Most people think you can tell a lot by a team by its record in these games. However, it’s much more instructive to look at a team’s results in blowout games. Good teams will always have a much better record in blowout games than they do in one-run games. The Mets are just 4-8 in blowout games this year.

Here come the runs: And I say, it’s all right! From 5/16 to 5/24, the Mets scored just 14 runs in seven games. In 13 games since 5/25, the Mets have scored 61 for an average of 4.69 runs per game. The National League average rpg this year is 4.11 and overall the Mets are in sixth place with a 4.13 mark. Considering the injuries that have happened to this team and the virtual no-show by Bay, this is an encouraging sign.

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Finally, last night I did a video chat with Kerel Cooper of On The Black. I had a lot of fun doing it although I wanted nothing more than to scratch my nose the whole time. Click on the link to see the video.

Amid the rubble, Collins shows he’s no Manuel

When a man’s right, he’s right.

Terry Collins finally had one of the meltdowns for which he’s so famous on Wednesday night (6/1). Who could blame him?

In a game which took on an all-too-familiar pattern, the Mets got outstanding starting pitching from Chris Capuano for six innings, then drowned in two feet of water in the seventh, which he entered with a 2-0 tally. If you took all seven(!) of the Pirates’ hits in that inning and laid them end-to-end, they might reach the MoZone trapezoid. Barely. But that’s baseball and at least two of the five runs that scored that stanza can be laid squarely at the feet of your friend and mine, Willie Harris. First, Harris did a little tapdance on third with the bases loaded and – of course, it being the Mets, and all – didn’t get the call. Doug Eddings strikes again. That’s run number one. Secondly – and more egregiously, in the opinion of THIS writer – with the bases loaded and Jose Tabata hitting, you’ve GOT to come home on the one-bouncer, not what Ol’ Willie tried to do: go around the horn. That made it 4-2. As Warner Wolf used to say, “Ya coulda turned yer sets off right there.” The fact that final was 9-3 only applied some more Novocain to this frustrating year.

The night was actually just beginning, however. Apparently, manager Collins dressed down his underachieving – and yes, undermanned – squad in the aftermath and shared his frustrations with the beat guys. “The issue is not effort. It’s about execution. We need to add on points when we get the lead. I’m not looking for home runs. I’m looking for quality at bats. We can’t make careless mistakes, but we do. We give up at bats. We can’t do that. We don’t have that kind of team.” Wow! Having seen the managerial gamut, from Art Howe (“Well, we sure battled out there…”), to Willie Randolph (“These are MY guys…”), to Jerry Manuel (“We’ll be alright: we’re GANGSTA…”), it’s actually a breath of fresh air to hear Terry Collins read these guys the riot act and continue the rant in front of the MSM. That’s Davey Johnson kind of stuff. That’s the kind of stuff we fans have been moaning about since June of aught-seven, at least.

I think I like it.

Capuano thrown into pressure cooker

With the Mets losing their home opener to the Nationals 6-2 on Friday, the luster from their positive start is quickly eroding. After a 3-1 start, the Mets find themselves in a funk in dropping the last three games.

Ever since my Pitching Report, the staff has come unhinged. Niese got rocked on Thursday. Dickey’s control was pitiful in Friday’s game.

It has come down to this: Chris Capuano has been assigned to stop the bleeding.

On Saturday, Capuano will make his first start with the Mets while trying to help the team avoid losing four games in a row.

Capuano was signed here as a low risk/high reward investment, much the same way Chris Young was. Young started off solidly against the Phillies, and the hope is Capuano can do the same.

Capuano pitched well all spring trying to prove he belongs. He had a 1.93 ERA in 18.2 innings pitched. Capuano also had a 13 to 4 strikeout to walk ratio in camp.

However, he has a lot of proving to do before he can be trusted, and ultimately relied on.

Remember this is a guy who is battling back from some serious injuries. He missed the 2008 and 2009 seasons due to Tommy John surgery, and missed most of 2010 as well.

With two days off in the opening week, the Mets elected to skip Capuano’s turn in the rotation. He did pitch one game in relief and was less than sharp in that effort. In Sunday’s easy 9-2 win over the Marlins, Capuano pitched two-thirds of an inning and gave up three hits and one walk.

It wasn’t a great start, but at least he was brought in to get some work in a low pressure situation.

That will not be the case on Saturday.

Capuano will be thrown into the fire. He will have the task of stopping the Mets losing streak while getting his season, and career for that mater, back on track. This will be no easy job.

While as Met fans, we want and need this win badly, we do have to temper our expectations and let Capuano feel his way back. He has to get comfortable, and getting a quality start would be nothing short of fantastic.

In many ways this staff is a work in progress, and that is not more evident with Capuano getting his first start on Saturday.

Buckle up. It may be a bumpy ride.

Predictions for the 2011 Mets

My first go round at Opening Day predictions at Mets360 did not go so well. So, I could go one of several ways:

A. Try to make “easy” predictions to make me look good in hindsight.
B. Make off the wall assertions and when one of them came true, trumpet the fact that I picked it.
C. Repeat last year’s idea of being a combination of realistic/optimistic and hope for better results.

I’m going for the third path. So, here are my 2011 predictions for the Mets:

1. Josh Thole hits at least 7 HR, which bests Felix Millan’s single-season best.
2. Ike Davis reaches 85 RBIs.
3. David Wright’s K% drops at least five points from last year’s 27.4% mark. Assuming last year’s AB total of 587, that would mean 131 (or fewer) strikeouts rather than 161.
4. Jose Reyes establishes a career-best in OBP, besting his .358 mark in 2008.
5. Angel Pagan finishes in the top 10 among full-time CF in SLG%
6. Carlos Beltran becomes the first Mets RF to play (at least) 110 games and put up (at least) a 110 OPS+ since Bobby Bonilla in 1993.
7. Mike Pelfrey pitches 200 innings for the third time in four years.
8. R.A. Dickey has an ERA of 3.75 or lower, which is lower than all of the projection systems at FanGraphs predict.
9. Jonathon Niese will top Johan’s Santana’s 17 Quality Starts from a year ago.
10. Chris Capuano makes 25 starts.
11. Chris Young has a K/9 below 6.00 compared to his 7.82 career average.
12. Francisco Rodriguez saves 35 games.
13. Blaine Boyer does not end the year with the club.
14. RHB post an OPS of at least .900 versus Tim Byrdak, who makes us long for Feliciano and even Schoeneweis.
15. The Mets will score at least 20 more runs with the bases loaded than the 97 they had last year.
What are your predictions for the 2011 season?

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With Opening Day for the Mets falling on April Fools Day, we’re playing it straight this year at Mets360. But click here if you want to see last year’s April 1st entry.

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