Wednesday, October 15, 2014

2014 Mets: Small Steps Forward, Part II

Part 2 of the Mets 2014 Report Card. Now, for the Pitchers. The Mets used 22 of them this season, down from 29 in 2013. Part 1, the hitters, is here in case you missed it.

Bartolo Colon - B+
Well, hey, he won 15 games at age 41 and proved himself consistently entertaining just about every time out, not quite the same way that Pedro was entertaining, but because it was generally just amusing to watch a guy so comically out of shape pitch well and then try to do things like bat. Usually he was given a rousing ovation simply for making contact, but when he managed to get a couple of hits, it brought the house down. But in all seriousness, Colon pretty much did everything that could have been expected of him. He wasn't going to replace the void left by Harvey, but if nothing else, he ate up his share of innings, topping 200 for the first time since 2005, only walked 30 batters and although the ERA at 4.09 was a bit high, simply based on some instances where he really didn't have it and got bombed, more often than not he rather effortlessly worked his way deep into games and kept things competitive.

Jon Niese - C
Niese had another typically annoying season where all too often, he was getting into jams and letting them snowball out of control, leaving him to mope around the mound with a Marcumesque puss on his face. Though he did manage to keep his ERA down, matching his career best at 3.40, a particularly bad stretch in July and August, in which he went 2-6 and routinely found himself struggling to get through games kind of took the starch out of his season. At age 27 and now one of the veterans on this pitching staff, as well as the only lefthanded starter the Mets have, it's getting to the point where Niese needs to put up or shut up. We know he can pitch better than what he's displayed over the past two seasons, but for whatever reason, the kind of success he had in 2012 has eluded him. There's enough depth around that he could be viewed as a tradeable commodity should the situation present itself.

Zack Wheeler - B+
Wheeler's first full season was about what you'd expect from a 24-year old well-hyped prospect: Flashes of brilliance combined with flashes of youth. Wheeler, whose biggest problem among Mets fans may simply be that he's not Matt Harvey, displayed a spate of control issues throughout the season which prevented him from working deep into games on many occasions. But, as the season progressed and he got his legs under him, he did managed to grit his way through a majority of his outings. That he went from 3-8 with an ERA of 4.25 at the end of June to finish up with a record of 11-11 and an ERA of 3.54 is a testament to Wheeler growing and improving as the season drew on. Still has tantalizing stuff and still has a good amount of upside, which he did display, although not quite often enough. Obviously, once he can make the necessary corrections and stop throwing too many pitches too early in games, things like durability will follow, but he's not quite put it all together yet.

Jacob deGrom - A
The revelation of the season, deGrom ascended to the Majors in May and although he didn't pitch especially badly at first, he took losses in 4 of his first 6 starts. But once he finally got his first win out of the way on June 21st, deGrom took off from there. Displaying a fan-friendly moppish hairstyle and a fine array of pitches, deGrom quickly became a Dickey-like folk hero, running off a string of victories and sterling efforts, barely missing a beat when he found himself on the DL for 2 weeks in August. He saved his best efforts for the end, closing his season by first tying a Major League record by striking out the first 8 Marlins to face him en route to a 13K performance on September 15th, and then on September 21st, finished off his season with a 10 strikeout effort in Atlanta. Finished up 9-6, impressive enough considering he started 0-4, with a 2.69 ERA, including an ERA of 1.99 over his final 15 games, and 144 Ks in 140.1 IP. In a year that didn't feature a breakout candidate, it's probably a crime if he's not voted NL Rookie of the Year.

Dillon Gee - C-
Gee, like Niese, had a year that brought more frustration than good vibes. After being named the surprise Opening Day starter and getting off to a solid start, Gee's season went off the rails after an oblique injury kept him on the shelf for 2 months. When he returned, his consistency was gone and he fizzled out with a series of poor starts and no-decisions, a far cry from the pitcher that looked so good for a majority of the 2013 season. Finished up a disappointing 7-8 with an ERA that ended up at 4.00 after sitting at a nice 2.73 when he got injured. Still serviceable depth for the Mets' rotation, but as things get more crowded, you have to wonder how much of a future he has with the team.

Jenrry Mejia - B+
If ever there was a tale of two seasons, it would be Jenrry Mejia's 2014 campaign. Mejia won the 5th spot in the rotation out of Spring Training and all he did was start out with a record of 3-0 and a 1.99 ERA in his first 4 starts. Then he had a pair of starts in which he gave up 6 runs to Florida and 8 runs in Colorado, and the bloom was off his rose. Rather quickly, Mejia was pulled from the rotation—an odd move at the time considering he'd only had a couple of bad outings and there are certainly plenty of pitchers who have continued to start games with less success (see Marcum, Shaun). But instead of moping around, Mejia instead grabbed an opportunity to close games and ran with it. Before too long, Mejia's end-game stomp became a regular occurrence, as he eventually racked up 28 Saves to go along with 98 strikeouts in 93.2 innings. 41 walks was a bit high, but considering 20 of them came in his 7 early-season starts, I think we can look past that. Going forward, has to be considered the favorite to maintain the closer's role even with the likely return of Parnell.

Rafael Montero - C
Montero, who was thought of as the top name among the second tier of Mets pitching prospects, hit the Majors in late May, the same time as deGrom, but unlike deGrom, Montero had a rough time of things in New York. Of particular concern was the fact that he walked 23 in 44 innings pitched, a clear departure from a pitcher who'd boasted a WHIP of 1.066 in 4 Minor League seasons. He was also tagged for 8 Home Runs, including 3 in one particularly bad game against Washington (although in his defense, everyone on Washington hit Home Runs against the Mets). He did finish out with 3 solid outings in September, among them his first Major League win over the Colorados and a fine 1-run effort against Houston, but by that point, he'd become a bit of a forgotten prospect based on his struggles measured against deGrom's success. At 24, there's still room for some upside, but just as much of a chance he could be better utilized as a trade chip.

Carlos Torres - B+
Deceptively good might be a good way to describe Carlos Torres this season. Torres has never boasted eye-popping stats or stuff, but for the most part he was effective whenever he was called on over the course of the season. His WHIP at 1.3 wasn't great, an indicator of his general hittability, but he's shown a knack for being able to get out of his own jams, as indicated by his 3.06 ERA, which was down from 3.44 last season, and his 96 strikeouts in 97 innings pitched, which means he was able to get key strikeouts when he needed them. Sure, he had his moments, as any reliever is apt to do, but in general Torres managed to acquit himself well enough to stick around the season, and he'll probably be back, at least until he hits Free Agency and some team offers him a multi-year contract.

Jeurys Familia - A
Familia, perhaps even moreso than Mejia, took a major step forward in establishing himself as a key member of the bullpen. Though he started slow, with an ERA in the 4s through an April in which he looked more thrower than pitcher, Familia very slowly found his way and started pitching like he meant it. From May 1 on, Familia threw to a 1.86 ERA with better than a strikeout an inning, bringing his season totals to an outstanding 2.21 ERA with 73 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.12 over 77.1 innings and 5 saves in instances where he spelled Mejia. He certainly established himself as the front end of a very talented 8-9 inning tandem; the sort of pitcher that a contending team almost always has (see Herrera, Kelvin).

Vic Black - B-
Black didn't quite live up to the fireballer hype that he came over from Pittsburgh with, and a frustrating season for him that started out with a Spring Training in which he got repeatedly shelled and didn't make the team ended up with him surfacing in May and generally throwing hard with not much control. The 2.60 ERA he put together in 41 games and 34.2 innings featured some good (32 strikeouts, only 2 Home Runs) and some bad (19 walks and several outings in which he couldn't finish out an inning) before his season kind of ground to a stop after an injury of which type I can't remember. 

Josh Edgin - A-
Edgin, who still hasn't quite put it all together, did have a fine season this year, pitching to a 1.32 ERA in 47 games, mostly as a lefty specialist. Didn't emerge until May after a poor Spring and also battled a couple of nagging injuries that ended up cutting his season short, but 28 strikeouts and a WHIP under 1.0 in 27 innings was a welcome sight in the right direction for a guy who's suffered from a bit of inconsistency over the early part of his career.

Daisuke Matsuzaka - B+
Though Dice-K certainly doesn't come with the panaché he boasted when he came over from Japan, he can still entertain, whether it was his 3-inning warmup that started with him throwing without his cap before cranking it up, or throwing some key multi-inning relief efforts, or making some spot starts. Pitched in 34 games, making 9 starts. 83 innings, 78 strikeouts and a 3.89 ERA and even picked up a Save in the process.

Buddy Carlyle - A
A "Scrap Heap" special! Carlyle, who hadn't pitched in the Majors since 2011 and when he did hadn't found a great deal of success, shined in a kind of a multipurpose role coming out of the bullpen, chewing up innings (31 in 27 games), throwing strikes (only walked 5 guys) and not allowing many runs (a 1.45 ERA). Strikes me, however, as one of those guys who's going to be brought back as a middle-inning guy and give up 3 runs on Opening Day and get released in May. But I've been wrong before. 

Gonzalez Germen - C-
Germen, who pitched rather well as a Rookie in 2013, did not find similar success in 2014. Of most alarm was his Home Runs allowed, which jumped from 1 in 34.1 innings last season to 7 in 30.1 innings, which led to a 4.75 ERA, which led to him being shuttled between AAA and the Majors 3 times over the course of the season and didn't exactly inspire much confidence.

Dana Eveland - B+
Hefty Lefty Eveland surfaced in June as another of Alderson's patented "Scrap heap" guys, but he actually pitched reasonably well as compared to, say, Farnsworth or Valverde. Lefty specialist performed reasonably well, striking out 27 in 27.1 innings over 30 games and rang up a 2.63 ERA after not pitching in the Majors at all last season.

Jose Valverde - F
Valverde was one of those calculated gambles that Sandy Alderson took, because every year there's always a few of them when it comes to cobbling together a bullpen. Successful teams can make these sorts of gambles work out. For the Mets, well, they ended up with Jose Valverde. The natural choice to grab the closer role when Parnell went down, Valverde saved a pair of games in the first weeks of the season before vomiting up a trio of terrible performances and getting demoted to the back of the bullpen, which for all intents and purposes was his rightful place. Released in late may following more outings in which he either got the side in order or gave up 4 runs with not any in-between. 20 innings yielded a nice-looking 23 strikeouts to go along with a completely putrid 5.66 ERA.

Kyle Farnsworth - D
Farnsworth's 3.18 ERA in 19 games kind of belies the fact that he was very up-and-down. He had a stretch in April where he was actually one of the better relievers on the team and parlayed that into briefly holding the closer's role and actually picked up 3 Saves in the process. But once it became evident that there were better options available to the team for the later innings, Farnsworth was deemed expendable and released.

Scott Rice - F
Rice, last year's feel-good story did not build on his success, pitching 13.2 innings in 32 games, as any lefty specialist is wont to do, but they were 13.2 bad innings. These innings included 5 Wild Pitches, 15 hits, 12 walks a 5.93 ERA and, not surprisingly, a June demotion to AAA from which he did not return after suffering an elbow injury. At 33 by next Opening Day not likely to resurface but, then again, this is the team that kept Manny Acosta around for 4 seasons...

Erik Goeddel
Goeddel didn't exactly distinguish himself in the Minors, pitching to a 5.37 ERA in AAA, but somehow he parlayed this into a September call-up where he was spotted mostly in low/no-pressure situations. Pitched reasonably well in his 6 games, which included 6.2 IP, 6 K and a 2.70 ERA but whether or not that's a mirage remains to be seen. 

John Lannan - F
Long Beach, NY's own John Lannan probably shouldn't have been on the team at all. He certainly shouldn't have been given serious consideration for the #5 spot in the rotation when he clearly wasn't as good as competitors Mejia or Matsuzaka, but he had that whole "being a lefty" thing going for him. Given the results the Mets got from him out of the bullpen—5 games, 4IP, and a comically bad 15.75 ERA, it's not really surprising he didn't last much longer than the first couple of weeks of the season. 

Dario Alvarez
September callup who only surfaced in 4 games for 1.1 innings where he was used as a lefty specialist and though his 13.50 ERA might indicate a struggle, his Major League Debut consisted of him being put in a situation with men on base and he gave up an inherited run in a game the Mets won, and then later being used as a sacrificial lamb in the 9th inning of a blowout loss against Washington. One of these guys I'd never heard of prior to the season who could end up going the route of, say, Willie Collazo

Bobby Parnell
I can't in good faith give Bobby Parnell a grade based on one inning, but that one inning certainly was telling as far as the way the season was going to go for him. Entrusted with a 1-run lead on Opening Day, Parnell was a strike away from closing out the Nationals, blew the save, and before the paint dried on the game he was done for the season with the Big Boy Surgery. In his place, a couple of strong candidates emerged, namely Familia and Mejia, to challenge him for the closer role, so he's got to earn his way back into the spot. But, it's worth considering that Parnell, who had a fine season in 2013, with 22 Saves and a 2.16 ERA, could end up being combined with these guys and give the Mets one hell of a bullpen if he returns strong next season.

And, for good measure:
Terry Collins - B
Once again, Collins was sort of left to fend for himself with a limited amount of pieces to work with, but for the first time in his tenure as Manager, the team actually improved from a win-loss standpoint, jumping from a pair of 74-88 seasons to 79-83. Not quite the 90 wins Sandy Alderson had somewhat blindly called for, but if nothing else, it's a step in the right direction. He did have his usual problem of sometimes pulling his starters too soon in favor of guys like Valverde, Rice, Farnsworth or Black and that had a tendency to blow up on him, but his handling of Familia and Mejia is to be commended, particularly considering Mejia's preference to remain a starter. But, after what essentially amounts to a 4-year mulligan, the Alderson/Collins regime is going to have to start producing results in 2015. Collins has proven himself to be reasonably effective as a manager and I don't think sentimental favorite Wally Backman is going to make this team any better than Collins will—Backman might be more lively but that's about it. Now, he's got some players here, he's got to get the results.

So, that finishes it up for the Mets in 2014. Now, let's see what happens over the next few months to make this group winners in 2015.

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