Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Piano Has Been Drinking, Not Me

I continue to believe in, and evangelize for, the idea that the Mets' pitching is in better shape than many believe. And it's not through some SNY-infused state of blind, obedient optimism either. On the morning of John Maine's first start, that is, the shore of the allegedly murky waters that exist beyond the top, 40-year-old-plus part of the rotation, it seems an appropriate time to investigate whether or not I'm crazy. So it's comforting to know that in insisting on my sanity I have an ally: Peter Gammons (ESPN Insider required to view the link).
Glavine is a given, constantly adjusting. El Duque, not so much for the six-month haul because of physical questions. But Randolph and Peterson believe John Maine (6-2, 2.93 in his last dozen starts) will be a front-liner, and Peterson insists that Oliver Perez has his delivery straightened out to where it was in 2004, when he led the majors in strikeouts per nine innings (230 K's, 198 IP) and had a 2.98 ERA. Remember, during the 2002 World Series, Barry Bonds said that the then-Padre had "the best stuff of any left-hander in the game." They love Mike Pelfrey and his power sinker, although some of his Binghamton stats (especially dominance of left-handed hitters and better than 2/1 groundball to strikeout ratio) were very good, there is concern that until he develops more consistent breaking stuff, he may lack a put-away, swing-and-miss pitch.
I think what may be more important to consider, and I hinted at this in an earlier post, is that this rotation is really not that much rockier than last season's. Straight from the Mets' team page, here are last season's starting pitchers by total starts:

Tom Glavine (32)
Steve Trachsel (30)
Pedro Martinez (23),
Orlando Hernandez (20)
John Maine (15)
Alay Soler (8)
Oliver Perez (7)
Brian Bannister (6)
Dave Williams (5)
Victor Zambrano (5)
Jose Lima (4)
Mike Pelfrey (4)
Geremi Gonzalez (3)

The team, as you might recollect, won 97 games.

It's worth pointing out two things as cautionary notes. One, they won a lot of one-run games last season, which means they were officially a "lucky" team. Two, the division, not to mention the rest of the league, has caught up with them a little (or maybe more than a little). But for all you panicked FAN callers out there (if there are any; I haven't really been listening), this is unlikely to be a crash-and-burn situation. For the record, here's the official line, again from Gammons:

"Look, we were willing to go to five years on Barry Zito. We bid high on Daisuke Matsuzaka [$42M], but we liked what we have enough to only go after certain guys," says GM Omar Minaya.

"I'm telling you," says pitching coach Rick Peterson, "we're going to be a lot better than people think. You don't think we scrambled last year?"

"We will be fine," says rock-steady manager Willie Randolph.

Ring This
We can't turn back the clock to October, so if the only avenue of revenge available to the Mets at the moment is to fuck up a perfectly good ring ceremony, banner-raising, et al, then I'm thrilled they're getting the job done. Get out your brooms, fellas.

That Cardinal outfield is in really terrible shape, and that's just an objective observation, not gloating. Poor Skip Schumaker and So Taguchi look lost, Preston Wilson is way past it, and they'll probably be running Scott Speizio out there before too long. If they don't make a trade, they'll be seriously hurting. Of course, with what can politely be called a lack of surplus starting pitching, I'm not sure how they make that deal.

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