Thursday, April 12, 2007

What Is an Arm Slot Anyway?

Well, that blew. Last night in freezing cold temperatures Oliver Perez joined the A.J. Burnett All-Stars—pitchers who this season have had one great outing and one bad outing—joining teammate John Maine, Andy Pettitte, to a lesser extent Greg Maddux, and a few others. You probably know the line score by now: 2 1/3 innings, seven walks, and three runs "driven in" by two walks and a hit batsman. (As an aside, why is a batter a batter but when he's hit by a pitch he becomes a hit "batsman"? He's never called a hit batter, and you wouldn't say "Perez has walked seven batsmen tonight." I think we should all start working in "batsman" more often, though not in reference to our co-ed softball teams.)

I was at the game, and the good news was that we were in the mezzanine, and the bad news was everything else. Okay, that wasn't all the good news. The sausage and peppers are still killer, Aaron Sele threw four solid innings of relief that kept the Mets in the game, and I didn't lose any toes to hypothermia. I came to a couple of realizations while trying to maintain feeling in my extremities: 1) Anyone who wants my Section 40 upper-deck seats can have them for face value; I'm devoted to the mezzanine now. 2) This rotation thing is shaping up to be something unpredictable. The first couple weeks have proved that both the naysayers and the blind optimists (including yours truly) have spoken too soon and are in for an up-and-down season. We never had any real right to make bold predictions about Maine and Perez (not to mention Pelfrey). We know Maine's a good pitcher and should succeed, but we also should know that his 15 starts last year don't add up to much in the long run in terms of making predictions that hold water.

And Oliver. Oliver is who we thought he was, which is to say we have no idea what he is, because we never did. His inconsistency makes him so much more of an enigma than Victor Zambrano ever was, because you came to count on Z's lousy outings and trust that he would never be able to pull it together. Perez still holds out the tantalizing promise of masterful outings, when everything is in the strike zone but moving well and dancing away from the bats. His seven walks last night matched his total for 25 2/3 spring training innings. I don't know if it was the cold, if he lost his arm slot, or what. But I think about that start against the Braves and despite myself my optimism comes creeping back.

I'm giving Ollie a pass on this one (appropriate, since he gave a pass to every Phillie last night) and falling back on the ol' wait-and-see.

1 comment:

Mets2Moon said...

Well, look. There's really no good excuse for walking 7 batters in 2.2IP, including walking (and beaning) home 3 runs. But we know how cold it was, and it's pretty common knowledge that pitchers, especially those who rely on breaking pitches like Perez, can run into trouble on nights like that because their fingers get numb, and they can't grip the ball. That was probably Perez's problem.

Also, I wouldn't say that it's not our right to make bold predictions in regards to Maine and Perez. Basically all we can do is make predictions. The whole point is they're two young guys with some upside to them, but we don't know what, exactly, their ceiling is. Well, Perez, we may know, judging from 2004, but Maine has certainly shown he's capable of winning at least 10 games on this team. Yes, he struggled on Monday, but he also made a number of key pitches to get himself out of jams and minimize damage. Basically, he's proven himself to be a smart pitcher, and not simply a thrower, and someone who responds well to tough situations, and that's what excites all of us about him.

The point is, both of them are, justifiably, huge pieces of the Mets team this season, since they're going to be starting 40% of the Mets games this season. We know that the talent is there, but they're not going to blow teams away every time out. It's totally cliche, but you take the good with the bad and hope the good shows up more often.

(This could have been its own post!)