Making the case for and against Johan Santana pitching this year

For roughly five months, the Mets have been plugging along without their ace Johan Santana in the rotation. This much was mostly expected.

Sure, the Mets have struggled to find any consistency when it comes to starting pitching, and lord knows they need all the help they can get. Between injuries, Mike Pelfrey‘s  regression, and the ups and downs of Chris Capuano and Dillon Gee, this collection of pitchers has caused a great deal of frustration.

At this juncture, is there any good reason why the Mets should try to bring back Santana this year, if even in just a limited capacity (perhaps bullpen work only)?

As with most compelling decisions, you have to weigh the pros and cons.

Having Santana toe the rubber this year, if only for a few appearances, could bring a sense of excitement to a franchise in desperate need of it.

On the flip side, with Santana being a precious piece of the Mets 2012 plans, wouldn’t it be wise to just shut him down and avoid any injury risk that may come along with trotting him out there in seemingly meaningless September games?

It’s a dilemma that the Mets’ front office has to grapple with. I certainly see both sides to the argument.

On one hand, it would be nice to see exactly what Santana has in him. If he shows you some encouraging signs, maybe you can go into 2012 with assurances that he can be a vital member of the rotation. But what if Santana struggles and shows cracks in the armor? Well, at least you will know what you’re working with and can plan ahead to 2012 accordingly.

Conversely, if you just rest Santana, at least you know you are taking all the necessary steps to keep him healthy and have him completely ready for next year

While playing their last ever series, in what is called Sun Life Stadium, the Mets also had Santana throw a bullpen session. And from all accounts it went well. As of now, Santana is scheduled to start another rehab game on Friday. After that, Santana may be recalled to the Mets.

There are a lot of variables here, and sooner or later the Mets must know what hey have in Santana. Is he an ace? Is he a middle of the rotation pitcher? Or he is just another bullpen arm?

All these questions will be answered sooner or later.  Will they be answered in September or in March of 2012?

That depends if the Mets want to be extra-cautious or if they want to drum up some late fall excitement.

In any event, the return of Santana-whenever it is- will still be a pick me up. Hopefully, Santana has enough in him to appease both the Mets’ front office and their fans.

Mets’ Second Half: It’s Either Sadness Or Euphoria


A Billy Joel lyric never seemed so apt.

Tomorrow night (7/15), the season re-starts with a half-clean slate. This is when baseball takes on a different hue: more serious, less romantic, more about action than speculation. The stakes get raised in the second half, and the surprises of April, May and June are usually worn away by harsh reality or cruel fate once the ides of July pass — see the 2010 San Diego Padres. August 1 arrives with fans either saying, “Now, we got ‘em!” Or, “How could they trade Hank Soandso?” Or, “Meh, at least we didn’t do anything stupid…” Most years, where the Mets are concerned, I root pretty hard for that last one.

We’ve taken a look back at the 2011 so far. Now it’s time to dust off the ol’ crystal ball and see what could lie ahead for this stalwart band of orange-and-blue footsoldiers. Remember, none of this is written in stone: it’s merely the dime-store, crackpot predictions of your intrepid columnist. So here goes…

Goodbyes: There may not be any more. In the aftermath of the midnight All-Star deal that sent Francisco Rodriguez out to Suds City, the MSM is beside itself predicting Carlos Beltran will be headed to San Francisco. Or Detroit. Or Philly. Or Arlington. Or Boston. Or the Bronx. My guess? If the Mets are still within three-to-four games of the Wild Card come July 31, Carlos Beltran won’t be going anywhere. He has been the most consistent cog in this sometimes well-oiled machine, the rock on which this lineup has been built. He’s become the wise old head in the clubhouse. Now, if the team gets filleted on the field over the next three weeks, he probably will be headed to one of those other climes, but for what the Mets are reportedly asking? I don’t see it happening before August 31 – by which time, the baseball landscape could look far different than right now.

I think the only other moveable piece right now would be Mike Pelfrey, and quite frankly, I’d be beyond shocked if there were any interest from a contending team, though the Tigers are supposedly looking for starting pitching. But Pelfrey probably wouldn’t fetch much on the open market. It’s also possible that Tim Byrdak could be heading out – lefty relievers are always highly sought-after – but age and track-record might conspire to keep the return suppressed and Sandy Alderson may just sit it out.

The “Trade-Jose-Reyes” talk hasn’t completely gone away yet, but if Jose gets traded in-season…well, it’ll take a while to get over that one: I’m not as resilient as I was when I was 12 and Tom Seaver went away.

Hellos: Jose Reyes is looking like he’ll be back at the end of his 15-day hiatus. David Wright is due back on or about July 22. I would hope Ike Davis should be returning sometime before the tenth of August, with Johan Santana following shortly thereafter. Those could be your “big moves” right there: the talent represented in those four players could be the difference between the 77 wins the “experts” predicted at the start of the year and upwards of 85 wins and true Wild Card contention ‘til the end. If two of the four come back strong, the team will be in pretty good shape. If all four come back well… Sorry, I was dreaming of October, there, for a second. Of course, there is the chance that none of them will return to tip-top form – and the true orange ‘n’ blue in me is steeling myself for that eventuality. As the title of this piece reads…

This is the nature of the beast with a .500 ballclub: the Magic 8-ball tends to read “Reply hazy, try again,” or “Outlook not so good.”
The Mets could end up at their decidedly conservative over/under number, but they could just as easily finish closer to 89 wins and Wild Card Nirvana.

Could be fun. Could be misery. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Where Do the Mets Go From Here?

“Walk right side? Safe. Walk left side? Safe. Walk down middle? Squish, like grape.” – Mr. Miyagi to Daniel-san in the original KARATE KID

So they’ve hit a season’s high in terms of winning percentage, climbing the dizzying heights of three games over .500. So they’ve taken a second step on the way to what could be considered a successful season. So they’ve proven they can beat up on their far weaker NL doppelganger – and Wilponic innamorata – the Los Angeles Dodgers. So they’ve won four in a row without the services of TMEPIB, Jose Reyes – who will either be headed to the disabled list or to Phoenix for the All-Star game: nobody’s sure which. They’ve clinched a series win over the Dodgers, and could secure a winning West Coast road trip – and when’s the last time THAT happened? — if the sweep is completed tonight (7/7).

Now what?

General Manager Sandy Alderson is in the unenviable position of being right in the middle of a season, the success of which could be determined by the moves he makes – or doesn’t make – in the next four-to-six weeks. Kind of apropos that that’s the time frame: we Met fans are more familiar with those words than most. That’s the “standard” timetable the team has historically fed the MSM as a recovery time from an injury. Any injury. From a hangnail to a fractured femur. First thing you hear – after the dreaded “day-to-day” – is “out four-to-six weeks.” Sandy Alderson is walking a fine tightrope. He has three options, in the opinion of your intrepid columnist, none of which is a fail-safe option and all of which come with their own set of trapdoors.

Does he try to swing a big trade as a “buyer” and risk chasing a season which retrospect may tell us was a pipe dream? Look no further back than 2004, when Scott Kazmir was dispatched under the short-sighted notion that the Mets were “in it” at seven-and-a-half games back in the Wild Card race. The Mets’ farm system is JUST beginning to show stirrings of becoming a strong one once again. Now is not the time to eviscerate it.

Does he operate in “seller” mode and bail on a season which has started out so surprising and satisfying and risk further alienating a fan base which is already feeling disenfranchised? If you need an object lesson on this scenario, check out how empty Dodger Stadium has been this week. A park which was sold-out on a nightly basis has been reduced to playing host to between 5,000 and 15,000 on a given night. Remember, this was the first franchise to break the three-million attendance mark. They may not do that in the next three years combined. Sandy has got to be taking a look around and envisioning a similar picture three thousand miles east.

Does he simply stand pat and wait for the walking wounded to be right again and risk ridicule for sitting on his hands while rival teams trade their way into contention? In the eyes of the fans, this non-move would put him right up there with Omar Minaya as a dart-board model. Most fans want their GM to DO SOMETHING if they’re on the cusp of contention. They want their team improved on for the stretch run, if there is to be one. As noted, Omar did nothing down the stretches of the infamous 2008 – 2010 and…well, we know what the results were.

There is a Chinese blessing – though some, like me, consider it a curse – which wishes the recipient, “May you live in interesting times.” For Sandy Alderson and the Mets, 2011 is pretty interesting.

Talking Mets and ZiPS with Dan Szymborski

Fans tend to be either overly optimistic or pessimistic. That is why it is important to look at unbiased, systematic approaches to projections. One of the best sets available are the ZiPS projections from ESPN Insider and Baseball Think Factory Editor-in-Chief Dan Szymborski. Recently Szymborski, an Orioles fan, agreed to a Q&A about his projections and feelings regarding the Mets. Here are this year’s ZiPS projections for the Mets

Can you explain in basic terms how the ZiPS projection system works?

DS: The simplest way I can describe it is: ZiPS uses the last 4 years to establish a baseline for a player from their performance and from predictive models for things like BABIP. It then applies a regression model and calculates probabilities for age-related changes based on large groups of similar players from MLB histories. ZiPS uses the recent past for a player and tries to find similar players at roughly the same age.

Last year coming off the concussion and a down power season, ZiPS projected a .200 ISO for David Wright. Then after he rebounded with a .220 ISO in 2010, the system has him for a .199 ISO this year. Does ZiPS see Wright in the decline portion of his career already?

DS:He’s certainly not in a steep decline phase of his career, but he’s unlikely to take any steps forward at this point – he’s essentially a finished product. The lower ISO projection is partially the result of ZiPS projecting a lower level of offense than it did going into 2010. If ZiPS had more specific knowledge about the 2010 level of offense and more park data, it would’ve had him about a .190 for 2010 rather than .200 and missed by a little bit more.

The Carlos Beltran projection does not inspire confidence. Do fans have any reason to be optimistic he can beat this based on what he did in his final 160 PA (.295/.369/.504), which matches nicely what he did in 2008, his last full season? (.284/.376/.500)

DS:Injuries are always an X factor for projection systems as they always throw a monkeywrench into the works. It’s a problem for people making non-statistical projections as well. With no two injuries being exactly the same and people healing at different rates, we’re likely to have pretty large error bars for injured players for the forseeable futures.

What are your impressions of the Jose Reyes forecast? Do you think he could maintain this rate production if he played in 150 or more games?

DS:I don’t see any reason he couldn’t maintain that level of play. Reyes is probably a good player for the Mets to lock up now given that quite a bit of his decline from pre-09 numbers is league offense-related. At this point, he’s actually probably a bit underrated.

The Jason Bay projection has him with an .804 OPS, which is lower than the other four projections over at FanGraphs. Does it surprise you or give you pause if ZiPS has the highest or lowest projection? Any idea on the historical nature of how ZiPS does in these “extreme” cases?

DS:ZiPS has a mechanism that estimates the probability that a player was injured the previous year, based on changes in playing time and surprisingly large decline in performance (you can do a decent job picking out obvious injury seasons this way). There’s a small injury penalty, but it’s generally fairly conservative. However, ZiPS was lower on Jason Bay than the others last year, too, so it’s not surprising to see it still likes him less.

ZiPS has just a 25-point difference in OPS between our starting first baseman (Ike Davis) and a guy who is hoping to win the 2B job in Spring Training (Daniel Murphy). What does this say about the Mets in general and Davis and Murphy in particular?

DS:Well, Murphy’s not all that bad a hitter, just not as good as Davis. That they are experimenting with Murphy at second is a good sign regarding the new braintrust. Simply put, there was little chance that Murphy will contribute more than Davis at first, so you might as well see what he could do at a position at which he could theoretically help the team. I think in general, teams don’t really experiment enough with their lesser players; if there’s something out there that can improve the chances of a player contributing from, say, 10% to 15%, there’s usually little reason to not try it if it can be done in the minors.

Last year’s Angel Pagan projection was very good (predicted .335 OBP, .446 SLG compared to actual .340/.425) for a player who not many had a good handle on. This year’s forecast shows almost equally likely chances to be excellent (28%), very good (25%), average (26%) and below average (21% combining fair and poor). Why the confusion now that we have a full year of MLB data on him?

DS:Not all uncertainty is simply due to lack of sample size. He’s a league-average outfielder about to hit 30 and decline phases for that type of player is quite erratic.

Mike Pelfrey grades out as essentially a league average pitcher. Is there any reason for fans to hope he can take a step forward or is this just who he is as a player?

DS:There’s still an opportunity for him to improve with his splitter. Learning a pitch at the MLB level isn’t that easy. Even if he doesn’t, he’s a reasonable #2/3 guy and there’s really nothing wrong with that.

What is your best prediction for the combined IP total for Chris Capuano, Dillon Gee, Johan Santana and Chris Young? Can the Mets expect to get the equivalent of two SP worth of innings from this foursome?

DS:Somewhere between 0 and 600. If anyone in the world could predict with any degree of accuracy how pitchers will recover from serious injury, they’d be living in a gigantic mansion in the Alps, sipping ambrosia from gold chalices. Given my status as a thousandaire with a garage full of spiders, I don’t think I’ve cracked that code yet.

I don’t know about Santana’s innings but I expect him to recover pretty well on a performance basis. As long as his fastball can get back up to 87-88 post-injury, I think his circle change will be effective enough to get him good numbers.

As an Orioles fan, what’s your take on the Pedro Beato forecast? Do you think he’ll make the Mets out of Spring Training and if not will Baltimore work out a deal so the Mets can keep him or demand him back?

DS:I actually think it’s likely to be dead-on (famous last words, there). Beato has a lot of potential and can keep the ball down, but as well as he pitched in relief, he wasn’t really that dominating in the minors and there’s a difference between AA and the majors. Still, the Mets are in a position in which that projection at the back of the bullpen really doesn’t hurt them all that much.

Last year we were going to wager a real Coke on Daniel Murphy’s SLG percentage. This year can we do it on Francisco Rodriguez beating his projected BB/9 (4.3) and ERA (3.14), assuming he pitches at least 50 innings? More importantly, will he finish 55 games?

DS:As long as it’s Coke and not Pepsi, I’m in. Given the ultimate unknown of a thumb injury, I’ll take the pessimistic side. I still think he’s an excellent pitcher, but again, injuries are tricky.

*****

I’d like to thank Dan for taking time out to do this. Last week, the two of us did a podcast where we talked about some of these questions and others facing the Mets.

Here is last year’s ZiPS article

Johan Santana is the most essential Met

With the 2011 season likely shaping up to be growing pains for the future, most agree the New York Mets chances of seriously contending are minute. But whether you’re talking World Series or a long playoff run, who is the single most important Met this season?

This is no 80 mph meatball floating over Main Street waiting to be bashed into next week. No, naming the player with the most significant impact on the Mets is hardly an exact science. It took some research and a lot of arguing with myself, but there is one name that noses ahead of everyone else – Johan Santana.

Yes, the same Johan Santana that’s not even a thought on Opening Day. No, I haven’t dropped shrooms or sampled the Green Fairy’s wares. Santana is legitimately the most essential player on New York’s roster.

On paper, the Mets will have a significantly stronger lineup than pitching staff when they open in Florida on April 1. The position players can get on base, steal bases and thump with authority. The pitching remains a question mark, however, especially the starting rotation. As of Jan. 25, it consists of Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Chris Young and Chris Capuano/Dillon Gee. There’s some talent in there, but guys like Pelfrey and Dickey are clearly ranked too high. The return of Santana, who was permitted to start throwing again on Jan. 14 and could return any time in the middle of the season, would correct the rotation. The sooner the Mets’ ace returns, the sooner Pelfrey can stop forcing the ace mind-set on himself and the sooner Jon Niese can continue focusing on improving rather than winning.

If Sandy Alderson finds a shooting star and wishes for a championship this year, the Mets chances are clearly better with Santana leading the way. He may not be throwing as many innings, striking out as many batters or keeping runners off the bases as frequently as he did back in Minnesota, but Santana is still good for a sub-3 ERA, an undying hunger to win and leadership. If he can come back at full strength in time for a pennant run with New York in the mix, his change-up could make the difference.

If the Mets don’t get an invitation to the dance in 2011, Santana’s presence still makes an impact. A natural leader, the ace has no problem guiding both pitchers and batters, and providing an emotional spark for the whole team. Santana’s wisdom, ability and experience can easily improve a younger pitcher, especially someone like Gee who relies more on smarts than stuff.

If Santana is tops on the list, Carlos Beltran falls just short of No. 1.

Unlike his pitching counterpart, the highly-paid outfielder is expected to start on Opening Day, although his position has yet to be decided. If the Mets end up in the playoff hunt or playing October baseball, they’ll need the extra-base power, speed and Gold Glove defense of a healthy Beltran to push them over the edge. For whatever it’s worth, Beltran has also two years of NLCS experience. Fair or not, I’m sure most Met fans have yet to let go of that Adam Wainwright curve in game 7.

If they end up in the basement, his performance and health will determine his future. In the last year of his seven-year, $119 million contract, Alderson is expected to trade Beltran by the All-Star Break if the star outfielder can recover some trade value. A blockbuster deal for young talent or blue chip prospects would greatly help New York’s long-term playoff chances. If he stinks, the Mets will likely be stuck with the entire contract and limit their roster flexibility until the end of the season.

Christmas wishes for the 2011 Mets

The Mets have already had their team Christmas party but they must have decided this year not to exchange gifts. Now, you may be wondering what millionaires give as gifts or what millionaires want to receive as gifts. I cannot answer that question. But I can tell you what players on the Mets really need. So, with Christmas right around the corner, I’d like to hand out my presents.

Jason Bay – A home run on Opening Day. Last offseason everyone was worried about Wright’s lost home run power and the bomb he hit on Opening Day propelled him to 29 homers in 2010.

Pedro Beato – A spot in the Mets’ bullpen. This is a great story waiting to happen, the guy the Mets let get away who switches roles and winds back with his hometown team. Now it just needs a happy ending.

Carlos Beltran – A season of 650 PA in which he hits like he did at the end of last season. In his final 160 PA, Beltran hit .295/.369/.504 which is close to what he did in 2007-08.

Luis Castillo – A trade out of town. There’s still good baseball left in Castillo’s body, but Mets fans are so down on him that, much like with Kaz Matsui, it’s likely not to be in New York. After Matsui left the Mets, he posted an .896 OPS the rest of 2006, after opening with a .505 mark with New York. It’s easy to see the same thing happening with Castillo.

Ike Davis – A copy of The Fielding Bible. Any player who advanced fielding metrics rank so highly should understand what makes him good defensively. Hint: It’s not fielding percentage. The last thing we need is to develop another guy like Joe Morgan, who seems clueless as to what it was that made him great.

R.A. Dickey – Continued success throwing strikes.

Dillon Gee – Two free agent starting pitching signings. While I root for Gee, who gets the most out of his stuff, odds are stacked against him succeeding as a starting pitcher over a full season. He is a great guy to have as pitching depth, a guy to make 10 starts a year. Counting on him for more than that is just inviting trouble. Sure, he had a 2.18 ERA last year. Gee also had a 5.19 xFIP. It’s reminiscent of Fernando Nieve, who had a 2.95 ERA in 2009 but a 5.41 xFIP. Nieve posted a 6.00 ERA in 2010.

Daniel Murphy – No defensive gaffes in Spring Training. Murphy can be a nice asset offensively at second base and the possibility for an exciting platoon with Rule 5 selection Brad Emaus exists if both can hack it defensively.

Jonathon Niese – A normal year in LOB%. Last year Niese had three months with a strand rate over 79, including July when it was a whopping 98 percent. Conversely, he had three months below 63, including September when it was 54.1 percent. His July ERA was 2.48 and it was 7.11 in September.

Angel Pagan – A set position. Last year Pagan played all three outfield spots and batted in all nine slots in the order. It would be nice if Terry Collins brought some stability to Pagan’s life.

Bobby Parnell – A pitch to throw to lefties. Last year RHB had a .614 OPS against Parnell while LHB had an .806 mark. If only our pitching coach had a track record of adding to his troops’ arsenal.

Ronny Paulino – Contentment in a platoon role. Paulino is on record as saying he wants to be a full-time catcher and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to play everyday. But a Thole-Paulino platoon has the makings of one of the best offensive tandems in baseball.

Mike Pelfrey – As many starts in Citi Field as the Mets can manage. The past two seasons, Pelfrey has the following home/road splits:

H: 16-8, 3.24 ERA, 5.4 K/9, 2.9 BB/9
R: 9-13, 5.84 ERA, 4.7 K/9, 3.4 BB/9

Oliver Perez – An early release. Sandy Alderson wants to give him a shot in Spring Training. May he pitch so poorly that the Mets release him in time for him to hook on with another club, preferably one in the National League East.

Jose Reyes – Better strike zone judgment. In 2004, 62.1 percent of the pitches thrown to Reyes were in the strike zone. Last year that number was down to 44.6 percent as pitchers knew they could get him to chase pitches. His O-Swing% was a career-high 32.1 percent last year.

Francisco Rodriguez – A “boo” holiday from the fans. Rodriguez pitched well before everything came crashing down last year. Now fans seem more interested in him not reaching his vesting option than they do in having him successfully close out games. While Rodriguez is far from the only player capable of finishing games, Mets fans would do well to remember what it was like down the stretch in 2008 after Billy Wagner was hurt.

Johan Santana – A calendar year without surgery.

Josh Thole – A quick start to the season. Last year he had a .172/.242/.259 line in April. With a new backup catcher who wants to be a full-timer, a hot start for Thole could ensure optimal usage for both players.

David Wright – A hitting coach that makes him stand close to the plate. Maybe he can’t stop swinging at high fastballs or low curves but at least this way he can reach the outside strike. May he and Dave Hudgens get off to a good start together.

Terry Collins – What he needs is 150 games from Bay, Beltran and Reyes. Of course, it would be nice to see him run a tighter, smarter ship than Jerry Manuel did.

Sandy Alderson – The courage to make the right deal at the trading deadline. Perhaps it’s pulling the trigger on a potential Beltran deal. Hopefully it’s to acquire a starting pitcher to bolster the rotation for a playoff run. But since Omar Minaya seemingly never made a key mid-season deal, may Alderson trump his predecessor in this area, too.

*****

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all the readers of Mets360. Thanks for checking us out throughout the year and hopefully 2011 will be better than what we’ve experienced the past few years.

Should the Mets break up their core?

Each year that the Mets fail to reach the playoffs, critics say the solution is to break up the core of the team. If the Mets cannot advance to the post-season with Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Johan Santana and David Wright, the belief goes, then the team should trade one or more of them to shake things up and improve the future of the club.

This idea received more exposure yesterday, with the news that Carlos Beltran would be potentially open to waiving his no-trade clause. Of course, the thrust of Beltran’s statement was that he wanted to retire as a member of the Mets, but the portion that drew the most attention was when he said:

“I know that I have the no-trade clause, but if the team is searching or looking to trade a guy, I have to listen.”

So, Beltran did not say he wanted to be traded. He did not say he would be willing to move to certain teams. All he said was that if he was approached, he would listen. Seems pretty reasonable to me.

However, I do not want to spend this column parsing each individual word of Beltran’s comments. Instead, I want to focus on the idea of trading one of the stars of the Mets to make the club better in the long run. Is it a good idea for any of the four players mentioned above? How likely is it that will happen? What kind of return would the Mets be likely to receive?

Beltran
Good idea – No
Likely to happen – less than 25%
Return – Mostly salary relief, at best a “B” level prospect

Beltran has one year and $18.5 million left on his contract, although $5.5 million of that is deferred, according to Cot’s. Additionally, there is a clause that the club agrees not to offer arbitration following the 2011 season. So, any interested trading partner has to re-sign Beltran or they will lose him without receiving any compensation draft picks.

That contract clause, the amount of money due Beltran and the injuries that have slowed him the past two seasons make trading him a tall order. It’s extremely unlikely that any club will deal for Beltran before the start of the season, with uncertainty over how his knee holds up trumping whatever value he may have on the field.

The most likely scenario for a Beltran deal would be at the trading deadline, after he has had several months to prove healthy. Additionally, the new team would not be on the hook for nearly as much salary this way. Still, the Mets would likely have to pick up a large chunk of salary. And without the possibility of draft pick compensation, teams are not likely to give back much of a prospect haul for a three-month rental.

The Mets are likely to open the season with Beltran on the roster and the best scenario is that he returns to his 2008-level of performance, when he posted a 7.1 fWAR and was a down ballot MVP candidate. If that’s the case, he either is leading the Mets back into contention or perhaps even sparks a mini bidding war for his services at the trade deadline.


Reyes
Good idea – Possibly
Likely to happen – less than 40%
Return – “A” level prospect, salary relief

The Mets picked up their option on Reyes for 2011 and will be paying him $11 million. Like Beltran, Reyes has missed significant time the past two seasons due to injury, although he played in 133 games last year.

It took Reyes about three weeks to shake off the rust from missing most of the 2009 season. But in his last 112 games of the year, Reyes posted a .295/.330/.453 line, which fit in well with the .816 OPS he posted during his 2006-2008 peak. While Reyes was down about 25 points of OBP, his AVG and SLG were right in line with what he did previously when he was considered one of the top shortstops in the game.

One of the key components of Reyes’ game is getting on base and causing havoc by stealing. But new general manager Sandy Alderson may not encourage the SB as an offensive weapon, potentially reducing the impact that Reyes can have for the Mets.

While Reyes, both younger and cheaper than Beltran, is likely to bring a greater haul, he is more difficult to replace, which may be the biggest mark against trading him. Ruben Tejada showed potential in September with the bat, but it is still very much in question if he will hit enough to be an asset in the majors. Few believe that top prospect Wilmer Flores will remain at SS as he advances up the ladder.

The best case scenario is that Reyes returns to being an impact leadoff hitter. While Alderson is not a fan of the SB, he will likely make an exception for Reyes, who has been successful on 80 percent of his lifetime attempts. While another 78-steal season like 2007 is virtually out of the question, no one should be surprised if Reyes racks up 40 SB this year.

Santana
Good idea – No
Likely to happen – Less than 5%
Return – Some salary relief, perhaps some “C” level prospects

Very few teams could afford the $77.5 million (which includes $5.5 million buyout of the $25 million club option for 2014) due Santana for the next three seasons. And those teams are no doubt turned off by the fact that Santana has undergone surgery the past three years.

A lot of people view Santana’s tenure with the Mets as a disappointment, which seems insane. In three seasons with the Mets, Santana has a 40-25 record with a 2.85 ERA. That’s a .615 winning percentage, which is the exact same mark posted by Tom Seaver in his career with the Mets. His ERA is third-best in the history of the team.

Santana is no longer in the discussion for best pitcher in baseball, and yes, he is a disappointment compared to his salary. But Santana has given the Mets a pitcher to match up against the best in the league and he nearly single-handedly pitched the Mets to the playoffs in 2008.

Health concerns ensure that Santana will be in the Mets organization at the start of the season, likely on the disabled list. It’s possible that he comes back in time to have some trade value at the deadline if the Mets pick up the majority of his salary. It’s hard to imagine why they would trade a healthy Santana, but I suppose the possibility exists.

Wright
Good idea – Probably not
Likely to happen – Less than 33%
Return – “A” level prospect plus other considerations, salary relief

It is a testament to how good Wright is that he has posted back-to-back seasons of .368 and .364 wOBA and is considered to have had sub-par years.

A 46-point drop in OBP is a big concern for Wright, much bigger than the strikeout rate which everyone focuses on instead. Last year Wright allayed concerns about his power, as he nearly tripled his HR output from 2009. Hopefully he can do the same this year with concerns about his walk rate.

Wright is the face of the franchise, which makes trading him difficult. But the flip side of that is that he would bring back the greatest haul, and is likely the easiest member of the core to replace. Forgotten man Daniel Murphy is a third baseman and the hot corner is likely where Flores will wind up eventually.

Still, does Alderson want to be known as the man who traded Wright? At the ripe old age of 28, Wright already holds the club record for doubles (258) and runs created (763), and is well represented in the top 10 leaderboard for most other offensive categories for the Mets.

*****

Alderson would not be doing his job if he did not both listen and actively solicit offers for the four players listed above. He is not likely to receive anything that would make trading either Beltran or Santana a winning proposition for the Mets.

Reyes and Wright both have more trade value and therefore are much more likely to be dealt if Alderson thinks the team needs a shift in direction. While Wright has more trade value, I believe Reyes is more likely to be dealt because his speed is likely worth less to Alderson than other GMs. Still, I think it is more likely than not that each of the core members of the team stays with the Mets for the duration of the 2011 season.

End of season report card for the Mets

For a season that opened up with hope, and which was carried to the All-Star break, the Mets once again flamed out and disappointed their fans and had their second consecutive losing season (79-83).

Change is now on the horizon as GM Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel were given their pink slips on Monday.

While this may be an exercise in futility, let’s look at the 2010 New York Mets and grade their performances on the field.

Catcher:
Josh Thole: B
With Rod Barajas breaking camp as the starting catcher, not much was expected of Thole this year. But when Thole was called up on June 24, he impressed the franchise with his ability to hit in the clutch and get on base. With the team fading from the playoff picture, Barajas was squeezed out and eventually traded to the Dodgers. Thole was given the starting job all to himself. He hit a few bumps down the stretch but hit .277/.356/.366.

Henry Blanco C+
As a backup catcher, you know what you are going to get from Blanco: good game-calling and sound defense. For the most part, Blanco did his job.

First Base:
Ike Davis: B
Davis arrived in late April and provided a spark with his pop and defense. He struggled in the middle months, before hitting well down the stretch. Davis needs to cut down on his strikeouts, but is a player Met faithful could rally around.

Mike Hessman D-
The power-hitting minor league journeyman was only good for one home run this year. He was lost at the plate en route to a .127 average.

Second Base:
Ruben Tejada: C
If Tejada wasn’t so impressive with his glove, his grade would have been much worse. Tejada, who had a fine September, will have to hit for a higher average if he wants to be the everyday second baseman for the Mets next year.

Luis Castillo: F
Castillo has officially worn out his welcome in New York. His numbers were atrocious (.234/.336/.267), and he has a history of injuries. Don’t expect Castillo back next year.

Shortstop:
Jose Reyes: B
Reyes had an up and down season while battling an oblique injury for most of the summer. In stretches, Reyes was unstoppable, but his inconsistency was maddening. It was refreshing to see him finish out the season. Hopefully a new coach can propel his game to new heights.

Third Base:
David Wright: A-
Wright had a renaissance season by rediscovering his power stroke (29 HR’s this year as compared to the 10 he had on 2009 while knocking in more than 100 runs). However, Wright’s propensity for striking out and falling into prolonged cold streaks, put a damper on an otherwise resurgent season.

Outfield:
Angel Pagan: A
Not much was expected of Pagan going into the year, but he far exceeded expectations by hitting .290 with11 HR’s and 69 RBI’s. Pagan was a terror on the base paths, stealing a team-high 37 bases. Pagan was also dynamite in the field and displayed his versatility by playing all outfield positions.

Carlos Beltran: C
Beltran had a rocky beginning coming back from the disabled list in July. He was worthless as the Mets made their second-half swoon, but did show promise that he still does have some life left in his bat as he surged towards the finish. Beltran, who missed the last six days of the season with a minor knee injury, hit .321 in September to go along with five home runs and 13 RBI’s. He’ll likely be back with the Mets next year, but could become trade bait if the team falls out of contention.

Jason Bay: D
Bay was a bust from the word go. You don’t like to see his year end the way it did with a season-ending concussion, but he was not what the Mets paid for. He ended his season with .263 average to go with a pathetic six home runs and 47 RBI’s in 348 AB’s. Hopefully he can recapture his power next year, much the same way Wright did.

Chris Carter: C-
You gotta love Carter’s will and determination, but he is nothing more than a bench player with a limited ceiling.

Lucas Duda: C-
Duda is a prospect who does possess some pop. He struggled mightily once he was called up going 1-33, but did finish strong with four home runs in his last 15 games. His role for next season is not known.

Nick Evans: B-
Evans is another role player who did well for the Mets in the final month, and was the only Met hitter to hit above .300 (albeit in 36 AB’s). Evans will challenge for a roster spot next year.

Jesus Feliciano: C-
Feliciano was yet another Met who was good in stretches, but not one for consistency.

Starting Pitchers:
Johan Santana: B
Prior to Santana’s shoulder problems, he was once again a bright spot in the rotation with 11 wins to go with a 2.98 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. Santana will battle for you every time he starts. Hopefully, he battles back from rehab and gets back to the Mets ASAP.

Mike Pelfrey: B+
Despite hitting a rough spot in the middle of the season in which Pelfrey had a 7.35 ERA in ten starts, which not so accidentally coincided with the Mets summer swoon, he rebounded to have a career year. Pelfrey had 15 wins to go with a respectable 3.66 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. The question going into next year is which Mike Pelfrey will show up?

R.A. Dickey: A+
What superlatives are left to describe Dickey’s phenomenal season? This was a pitcher who was left for dead and all he did was win 11 games to go with a sparkling 2.84 ERA. His knuckleball kept hitters off-balance all season. Can he carry it over to next season?

Jon Niese: B-
Niese had a fine rookie season, but hit a wall going down the stretch. Niese won nine games and had decent peripheral stats (4.20 ERA, 148 strikeouts). Niese will be counted on to step up next season.

Dillon Gee and Pat Misch: INC.
Gee was fantastic down the stretch, going 2-2 in his five starts and throwing a quality start in each game. Gee will battle for a rotation spot next spring. With the way he pitched in September there is no reason he can’t at least contend for the fifth spot.
Misch was also an adequate addition to the staff. In his six starts, Misch got little run support and lost four games while picking up no wins. He’ll have a tough time cracking the rotation next year.

Oliver Perez: F
Is there a worse grade than F? If so, Perez should have it. His ineffectiveness, wildness, and stubbornness to accept a minor league assignment destroyed club morale and spirit. There is no comprehensible way that Perez should be back in any capacity.

John Maine: D-
I don’t know what was worse, Maine’s troublesome injuries or his mis-communication with management about them. His future with the team is cloudy right now.

Bullpen:
Francisco Rodriguez: F
This grade is inherent solely on his off-the-field shenanigans. K-Rod embarrassed the club when he assaulted his girlfriend’s father after a game at Citi Field. K-Rod would injure his hand in the fracas and be out for the season

Hisanori Takahashi: B+
Takahashi was a jack of all trades pitching for the Mets. He was admirable as a starter, but was at his best when he pitched out of the pen. Takahashi even closed games, nailing down eight of eight save opportunities.

Bobby Parnell: B-
Prior to being shut down with inflammation in his elbow, Parnell was starting to capitalize on his potential. Parnell used his live jumping fastball to intimidate hitters. As with any young pitcher, he needs to get more consistent.

Pedro Feliciano: B
For the most part, Feliciano did his job. Feliciano is a workhorse that feasts on opposing lefties.

Elmer Dessens: B
Dessens was another pitcher to seemingly come out of nowhere and impress the club with his ability to eat innings and keep opposing teams off the scoreboard. While appearing in 53 games, Dessens had an impressive 2.29 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.

Ryota Igarashi: D-
Igarashi was pitching well in April prior to a groin injury, but once he came back he was never the same. Igarashi finished the season with an unhealthy 7.12 ERA

Manny Acosta: B-
Acosta was solid in his middle-relief role, but was used in a lot of mop-up duty.

Fernando Nieve: C-
Nieve got off to a good start, but was overused and got designated for assignment in late July.

Raul Valdes: C
Valdes was good in stretches as well, but he was another guy who did not pitch much in pressure situations.

Jenrry Mejia: C+
Mejia should have never started in the bullpen this year. He should have been sent down to the minors to fine tune his career as a starter. Mejia was not awful in the pen, and the hope is he can contend for a rotation spot next year.

Should Reyes & Santana be shut down?

As the season mercifully comes to a close, the Mets have two cornerstone players in Jose Reyes and Johan Santana that are battling nagging injuries. Perhaps the best course of action calls for shutting them down for the season.

That course of action may not be a popular one, but it may be the right one.

As a paying customer, fans want to see the stars play and Reyes and Santana are certainly marquee players that fans come to see. How can you blame some fan’s anger if the Mets did go ahead and shut down Reyes and Santana? With the team not winning many ball games, fans at least want to see electrifying individual efforts that appease their dollar value

However, with noting to play for this season (the Mets are now 11 ½ games out of the Wild Card), sans pride, it may best suit the Mets to shelf Reyes and Santana for the season and make sure the 2011 season starts off on the right foot.

Looking back, don’t you think the Mets would have been better off shelving Carlos Beltran at the end of last year, and giving his knee all the rest and treatment it needed before trotting him out last year in meaningless action and further damaging that knee. Bringing back Beltran early led to off-season arthroscopic surgery and created tensions between Beltran and the front office. Beltran has not been the same since, and has batted only .231 since he returned this year with only two home runs and 17 RBI’s.

Playing devil’s advocate for a second, though, the injuries don’t seem to be all that serious. But with the Mets history of injuries, they should treat hangnails as serious.

Reyes has been battling a strained oblique for most of the season, and has not completely gotten over it since initially injuring it in late June while playing the Marlins in Puerto Rico. Since aggravating his oblique in a game vs. the Marlins back on August 26, Reyes has missed the last 11 games.

Reyes took batting practice on Monday and felt a lot better but still sat out the game. He was not expected to play in Tuesday’s game vs. the Nationals either. He may play in Wednesday’s series finale though.

Santana, meanwhile, strained his left pectoral muscle in his last start vs. the Braves on September 2 and was to miss tonight’s start vs. the Washington Nationals. Santana threw a bullpen session on Sunday in Chicago and said he was feeling fine.

Both Reyes and Santana have stated their desire to play again, and their commitment to get back on the field despite the lousy circumstances that surround them is commendable. However, if the last year few years have taught Mets fans anything is that you don’t rush back players from injuries.

Just look at the track record of players like Beltran, Ryan Church and John Maine for instances of not playing it safe and ending up sorry.

So, while it may not be fair to Met fans who show up at Citi Field hoping to be dazzled by Santana and Reyes, we all got to think big picture here.

And forget about all this talk about breaking up the core. Reyes and Santana will be Mets for the foreseeable future, and 2011 should not be considered a rebuilding effort.

With that in mind, let’s hope the Mets shelf Reyes and Santana soon, while giving some youngsters in their absence (Luis Hernandez, Joaquin Arias and Ruben Tejada for Reyes and Dillon Gee, Pat Misch for Santana) some valuable big league experience.

As always, it’s better to play it safe than sorry.

Santana vs. Sabathia

Editor’s Note: The chart listed below is not the same as the one on the original site because I could not get it to copy over. All of the numbers are the same – the layout is different.

“Below is a comparison between Santana’s season and CC Sabathia‘s season, who earned his 18th win of the season last night against the White Sox and has emerged as a front runner for the American League Cy Young Award this season:

Johan Santana C.C. Sabathia
Wins 10 18
Losses 9 5
ERA 3.02 3.14
Games Started 28 28
Complete Games 4 2
No Decisions 9 5
Innings Pitched 194 194.2
Unearned Runs 1 7
Earned Runs 65 68
Run Support per Start 3.11 5.93

Those 65 earned runs include 10 he allowed in one start against the Phillies in May.”

Source: MetsBlog

Pelfrey closing in on rare feat

With a little over a month left in the 2010 season, Mike Pelfrey is closing in on a feat last accomplished in 2003. He has a legitimate chance to be the team leader in wins on a pitching staff that includes Johan Santana.

Pelfrey turned in eight scoreless innings on Friday night to match a career high with his 13th win, giving him a three-victory cushion over Santana with 34 team games remaining. The last staffmates of Santana to claim the team lead in wins were Brad Radke and Kyle Lohse of the 2003 Minnesota Twins. That year, 27 of Santana’s 45 appearances came in relief – and he still managed 12 wins.

Friday night’s win was the third in four starts for Pelfrey, who put the finishing touches on an August in which he went 3-2 with a 1.82 ERA. The stellar August came on the heels of a disappointing month of July, in which he went 0-3 with a 10.02 ERA. That midseason swoon caused concerns to resurface about Pelfrey’s ability to become the ace the Mets envisioned when they selected him ninth overall in the 2005 draft.

Pelfrey appeared headed toward ace status when he won 13 games and sported a 3.72 ERA in his first full season in the Mets rotation in 2008. He took a step back last year, however, with a 5.03 ERA and a 1.514 WHIP. Those results left Pelfrey as the Mets’ No. 4 starter entering 2010, behind Santana, John Maine and Jonathon Niese.

Beginning with a victory against the Washington Nationals in his season debut on April 9, however, Pelfrey has claimed over 30 percent of the wins accumulated by Mets starting pitchers this season. To put that into perspective, when Santana won the American League Cy Young Award with the Twins in 2006, his 19 wins accounted for 26 percent of the total attained by his team’s starters.

Winning games on a team with an offense producing an average of only 4.04 runs per game is a challenge. Only the Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates and Nationals have averaged fewer runs per game in the National League this season, and the top winner for those three teams combined is Houston’s Wandy Rodriguez with 10.

If Pelfrey starts every fifth game for the Mets through the end of the season, he would take the mound seven more times. If he can win four of those games, Pelfrey would become the first Met with 17 victories in a season since Al Leiter went 17-6 in 1998. Both times Santana reached 17 wins in a season he received a Cy Young Award.

Pelfrey certainly will not be in the NL Cy Young discussion this year, but unseating Santana for the team lead in wins is an impressive achievement in its own right. In fact, it never has been done since Santana became a full-time starting pitcher in

Mets pitchers and Quality Starts

The Mets’ offensive troubles have become the story of the season and have overshadowed some terrific pitching performances. How many times have pitchers ended up with no-decisions in games where they pitched brilliantly? Here is a chart of all Mets starters, their Quality Starts and decisions in those games.

Name Quality Starts QS Record
Johan Santana 16 9-0
Mike Pelfrey 13 10-1
Jonathon Niese 13 7-3
R.A. Dickey 13 7-3
Hisanori Takahashi 6 3-1
John Maine 3 1-1
Oliver Perez 2 0-0
Pat Misch 1 0-1
Fernando Nieve 0 0-0
Totals 67 37-10

In 2010 Mets pitchers have gotten a decision in 70 percent of their Quality Starts. The two outliers in this regard are Santana and Pelfrey, who have gotten decisions in 56 and 85 percent, respectively. Additionally, this year Mets pitchers have a .787 winning percentage in Quality Starts. Again, the two outliers are Santana and Pelfrey, who have winning percentages of 1.000 and .909, respectively.

Many have bemoaned Niese’s bad luck in his last three outings, in which he allowed just 3 ER in 21 IP and did not receive a decision. But both Niese’s percentage of decisions in QS (77%) and his record in QS (.700) are right in line with what the Mets have done as a team this year.

But how does the Mets’ efforts in QS in 2010 compare to previous years? Here are the same numbers for 2009:

Name Quality Starts QS Record
Johan Santana 17 10-6
Mike Pelfrey 15 6-3
Livan Hernandez 12 7-2
Tim Redding 8 2-1
John Maine 7 6-0
Nelson Figueroa 5 2-3
Fernando Nieve 4 3-1
Oliver Perez 3 1-0
Pat Misch 3 2-0
Jonathon Niese 2 1-0
Bobby Parnell 2 1-0
Totals 78 41-16

In 2009, Mets pitchers got a decision in 73 percent of QS and had a .719 winning percentage. They got a higher percentage of decisions and a worse winning percentage than what we’ve seen this season. And Maine plays the roll of Pelfrey, winning nearly every time he threw a QS. This is not very good news for those predicting big things for Pelfrey going forward.

Here are the 2008 numbers:

Name Quality Starts QS Record
Johan Santana 28 14-5
Mike Pelfrey 20 9-5
Oliver Perez 16 8-1
John Maine 11 8-2
Pedro Martinez 6 4-1
Nelson Figueroa 2 1-0
Claudio Vargas 2 1-1
Jonathon Niese 1 1-0
Brandon Knight 0 0-0
Tony Armas 0 0-0
Brian Stokes 0 0-0
Totals 86 46-15

And here is the chart for 2007:

Name Quality Starts QS Record
Tom Glavine 23 13-2
John Maine 17 13-1
Orlando Hernandez 17 9-0
Oliver Perez 16 11-3
Jorge Sosa 7 5-1
Mike Pelfrey 3 1-1
Brian Lawrence 1 0-0
Pedro Martinez 2 0-1
Jason Vargas 0 0-0
Chan Ho Park 0 0-0
Dave Williams 0 0-0
Phil Humber 0 0-0
Totals 86 52-9

Adding the three full seasons and the one partial year, the Mets have 317 QS with a 176-50 record. They get a decision in 71 percent of the team’s QS and have a winning percentage of .779 when their starter goes at least 6 IP and gives up 3 ER or fewer.

Compared to the last three seasons, the 2010 Mets have the lowest percentage of decisions when their starter gives a QS. However, their winning percentage in QS is better than both 2009 and 2008. What Santana has experienced this year is not unheard of, as Orlando Hernandez had virtually the same number of QS and the exact same winning percentage in 2007 as Santana does this year. Pelfrey winning nearly every QS also has a match in recent Mets history, as Maine did it the three previous seasons.

Just because a pitcher like Niese throws some strong games where he gets a no-decision does not mean he is unlucky. Actually, Niese has more decisions than the average Mets starter given his number of QS, although his winning percentage in those games is below average