Wednesday, October 14, 2009

2009 Mets: A Season In Futility, Part II

We continue with our 2009 Mets Report Card. Now, the pitchers.

Mike Pelfrey - C
I named Mike Pelfrey one of my 5 Key Mets before the season assuming that he was probably going to build on his very successful season in 2008. I figured he was a prime candidate to break out and be the rock solid #2 starter behind Johan Santana. Wrong. I should have known something was wrong when, in the first game at Citi Field, Pelfrey was so cranked up he fell off the mound mid-windup, and followed that up by allowing 3 runs after 2 were out. Pelfrey had a good stretch during May and June when he was pitching well, but not winning and not getting much press, but he wasn't dominating like he did during a similar stretch in 2008. Then, in the 2nd half, he just fell flat. There was an occasional good start followed by a start when he would get hammered. He seemed to lose confidence in his pitches and he wasn't setting himself up the way he was in '08. There were the "Yips." There were the balks. There was muttering the pitch he was throwing. Put it all together and Pelfrey had basically undone all the good vibes he'd built up during the '08 season. Now, we're right back where we started with him. Talented, great potential, total fucking headcase. And no real way to tell whether or not he'll ever recapture his form from '08. It's possible that this regression was caused by Pelfrey's inning load in '08, and rather than breaking down, he just pitched poorly, and perhaps he'll rebound in 2010. But sometimes, he just looked so out of sorts that it's hard to know whether this just got too in his head. Next year will probably tell us the story. By the time next year is over, we'll know what we have.

Johan Santana - A-
Pitched hurt and it showed when his unconscious start fizzled out into inconsistency and even the occasional alarming bombing. Probably could have pitched through the bone chips, but given that the season was in the toilet and it wasn't worth risking further damage, so it's just as well that he sat out after August and had the surgery. It's a far better end result than that constant fear that he needed Tommy John surgery. He'll be fine by Spring Training, the same old Johan we know and love.

Livan Hernandez - C-
Started out by eating innings, ended up getting eaten. Was about what we expected him to be, which was a C- pitcher and the predictable 5th starter. There was talk about trading him to a contender, but after he got hammered for 8 runs and 13 hits in 4 straight outings, there was no chance anyone was going to take him, and so what happened? The Mets cut him and he ended up going back from whence he came, the only team worse than the Mets: The Washington Nationals. A perfect marriage.

Tim Redding - D+
Redding pretty much put up the same numbers as Livan, but unlike Livan, no good ever seemed to come from him pitching, so he gets a D+. Redding usually had nice outings against Philly, but not against anyone else.

Bobby Parnell - C
Good stuff, annoyingly inconsistent. Which made him a perfect fit for this team. Ended up getting jobbed in as a starter. That didn't go well, even if he had one good start. Better suited in a setup role if he can find some consistency.

John Maine - C+
Maine is officially at a crossroads. Counted on to shoulder the load as the #3 starter at worst, and counted on to show us that he was fully healthy, Maine instead broke down again and missed a huge chunk of the season. This is now two years in a row that Maine has gone into the season with high expectations and fallen flat. So, he's On Notice. I am officially concerned that John Maine, while he has very good stuff and clearly knows how to pitch, does not have the durability to get through an entire Major League season with sustained success. He needs to come out of the gate with the same fire that he showed in 2007, put guys away, minimize damage, go deep into games and come away with wins. Otherwise, he's just another guy who the Mets have sold high to us based on a successful 3/4 of a season and a couple of nice playoff outings in 2006.

Brian Stokes - B
The line says he pitched tolerably well. So I guess he did. Looks like Zach Braff.

Nelson Figueroa - C
I'm giving Figueroa this high of a grade because I saw him make 3 starts this season. On August 3rd (the infamous TERRIBLE!!! game), I quite literally thought his career as a Major Leaguer was over. He got lit up in such an embarrassing fashion that I figured there was no way in hell he would ever take the mound again. Yet, there he was, 2 days later, pitching well. And on September 20th, there he was, making an admirably good start against the Braves, losing only because his offense failed to generate any support for him. And by season's end, October 4th, Figueroa was putting the season to bed by hurling his first Major League Shutout against the Astros. This is one case where he didn't give up, and the Mets didn't give up on him. He's not at all someone to build around, but if nothing else, he's a nice story that can be taken away from this mess.

Sean Green - F
High point of the season came on Opening Day, when he led the New Bullpen Parade and the Mets won. Followed that up by turning into the second coming of the man he was traded for, Aaron Heilman. Dude even had a similar looking windup and a slider that constantly moved low and outside and usually resulted in a Wild Pitch or a hit batsman or a bases-loaded walk.

Francisco Rodriguez - B
He didn't pitch especially well down the stretch, but given that his primary motivation is to come in in late and close situations and shut the door, and given that that just didn't happen very much for the Mets, I'm willing to let it pass just a little bit. But far too often, he came into games where the Mets trailed by a run (mainly because he hadn't gotten an actual save opportunity in God knows how long) and ended up putting the Mets in a deeper hole. Then, there were the two walk-off Grand Slams he allowed. I'm inclined to think he will be better next year, with more consistent work and more consistent opportunities to do what he does best. Then again, there's no guarantee that he'll get those opportunities.

Oliver Perez - F

Pedro Feliciano - B+
People felt I was overly harsh on him last season. So this season, I'm being nice and giving him a high grade because he pitched the whole season, pitched well, got the key outs when there were key outs to be had, and didn't get hurt.

Pat Misch - C
Pitched tolerably well as a starter, sort of in that Parnell mode. Mixed in a good start amongst several bad ones. Perfectly mediocre, back of the rotation/middle of the bullpen lefty.

Fernando Nieve - B
Pitched surprisingly well, far better than anyone would have expected, over several starts, beginning with the surprise outing of the season against the Yankees. So, in typical 2009 Mets fashion, he got hurt running the bases and was done for the season. Surprised? Yeah, me neither.

Elmer Dessens
I laughed every time he took the mound, only to keep myself from crying.

J.J. Putz - C-
Lived up to his name, mainly because he was hurt and somehow was either told he could pitch through it, or decided he could pitch through it. Also because he was a closer in the 8th inning setup guy role that somehow entered to a closer's fanfare, complete with the AC/DC blaring and the vertigo-inducing video display.

Ken Takahashi - F
Can be lumped in with other Japanese Flops such as Takashi Kashiwada, Satoru Komiyama and that other guy who got suspended for using steroids before he ever got to pitch with the team. I can say this based solely on one game, one pitch to Raul Ibanez that basically started the team on the downward spiral. Yusaku Iriki, that's his name. Just another dunce who shouldn't be brought back.

Jon Niese
Too bad he got hurt. He was starting to find himself at the Major League level. Definitely like his stuff and the upside he brings, and would much rather see him in the 2010 rotation than, say, Tim Redding, or Jose Contreras, or Jon Garland or whatever aging loser Omar picks off the scrap heap.

Lance Broadway
Acquired in the Castro trade and led to too many stupid "Broadway pitching on Broadway!" jokes.

Tobi Stoner
With a name like that, all I could think was that he would have been a better fit with the Tony Tarasco-era Mets.

Casey Fossum
When you're throwing Casey Fossum out there at some point during the season, chances are your record is going to end up in the neighborhood of 70-92.

Jon Switzer
I never actually saw him and I don't know who he is, and judging by the numbers he put up, it's probably better that way.

Darren O'Day
Wasn't good in his week plus with the Mets and got shipped off to Texas, where he made his debut with the team under the assumed name of Kason Gabbard.

Billy Wagner
Just give him kudos for coming back and chalking up 2 Ks in his return. Not much more could have been asked.

Jerry Manuel - C-
I'm somewhat willing to give Manuel the benefit of the doubt based on the fact that he had to deal with the injuries and the pieces he was given. But once again, his in-game strategies left quite a bit to be desired, and as the losses mounted, and the team continued to look lifeless, we basically just got treated to Jerry Manuel's nightly chortle. Thing is, many of us failed to find this as funny as he did, or at least found it funny for different reasons. It's one thing to say that Manuel was limited because of all the injuries. But the Mets were barely staying afloat while the guys were healthy. And there's no excuse for how lifeless and hopeless the Mets looked at the end of the season when, given ample opportunity to be the spoiler, the Mets just lay down and died. Where was the motivation? Who was supposed to do the motivating? Who's to say that Willie Randolph did a worse job than Manuel did? Manuel will be back. Fine. I'll give him a full season with the healthy team he was supposed to have, plus or minus whoever is brought in. Let's see what happens. I'm pretty sure that if, and this is a very big IF, the Mets turn this thing around and are a winning team in 2010, it won't be because of Jerry Manuel. It'll be because they have the talent and the chemistry to do it themselves.

Omar Minaya - D
On an even hotter seat than Manuel, and there's a good chance that the only reason he still has a job at all is because he got a contract extension at the end of 2008. I've made my complaints about Omar many times before. He's reactionary, rather than a forward thinker. He makes moves with an eye on the present and not the future. He's built a team that was built to win 3 years ago and didn't make any sort of contingency plan in case of injury, and this was exploited to the point of embarrassment in 2009. He's got a lot to do to convince us, now, that he's capable of the task. 3 years ago, he was on top of the world. He responded by standing pat with a team that had holes to begin with, and managed to make trades that appeared to be for cosmetic purposes only, just to let people know he was awake and alive. Yes, there was the occasional splash, and Omar Minaya made a great trade to get Johan Santana in here, and Jeff Francoeur was similarly a good move. But those also weren't moves that required a great deal of thought. Those were no-brainer deals. Any GM could have gone out there and done that. If Omar wants to get his mojo back, he's going to have to pull off some deals that will shock the hell out of all of us. And I'm not totally sold that he's got that in him.

Citi Field - B
I give it a B for now, and an A- for the future. It's got its flaws, and I know it's got no shortage of critics. But I like Citi Field. It's a very aesthetically pleasing park to look at, I never sat in an obstructed seat (because I sat in the same seat 14 of 16 games), the food was OUTSTANDING, and the bathrooms were nice. No, it's not perfect. The staircases instead of ramps and escalators are problematic. The lack of Mets representation is somewhat appalling (and from what I've been told, is the fault of Jeff Wilpon, the Boy-King, who for some bizarre reason believed that Shea Stadium was cursed, despite the fact that the Mets won 2 World Series Championships there), but the organization is supposedly fixing this (that is, if you can believe what the organization says). And, look, there's not much you or I or anyone else can do. Citi Field is here to stay. Hopefully, we'll create some new, good memories and great times there with the Mets in the future and erase the bad taste of this season. I want to remember the energy of Opening Night, Citi Field full and rocking. Not late in the season, with a tepid crowd of 8,000. It's not the stadium's fault that the team stunk its first year.

So, that about wraps it up. The Mets have a lot of holes and not a lot of means with which to fix them, if they're going to make the trades to do it. The big things are:
1) #2 Starting Pitcher
2) 1st Baseman
3) Left Fielder

Maybe a Right Fielder if you're not sold on Francoeur. But if you really want to dig a little deeper, we can list the following:
4) Rebuild Farm System
5) Better US Amateur Scouting
6) More motivated coaches

Failing all that, we have to start hacking the head. If the team doesn't improve, you're going to hear the grumblings get even louder.
7) New Manager
8) New General Manager
9) New Ownership/Upper Front Office

Nobody will ever know how much the Wilpons were taken for by Madoff. Nobody will know what really goes on behind the scenes with them and Minaya and Dave Howard. If the Mets win, who the hell cares? If the Mets win, everything's wonderful and everyone's doing a great job. But when the Mets lose, and when the Mets lose in manners that make you scratch your heads, manners that are frustrating, mystifying and embarrassing, we blame everyone. It starts with the players, and works its way to the top. And this year, everyone in the organization was well worthy of all the blame heaped on them.

Now, they have to fix it. I don't have the energy to offer all the solutions. None of us do. All I can do is wish them luck.

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