Yes, the season has only been over for like a week. Yes, the playoffs are still going on*. Yes, I have a long time before anything can even start to happen. But no, I don’t care.
* All of the LDS games I have watched have been a complete snore, BTW.
With the Mets season over, Omar and Manuel inked, and free agent lists more or less determined, it is time to start dreaming about next season. But with horific errors like the Luis Castillo signing, the Owens and Lindstrom giveaway, and his overreliance on Marlon Anderson/Damion Easley second-base/utility types at the exspense of better options, I’m going to be as helpful as I can and lay out what Omar’s strategy needs to be for him.
First, let my lay out my one wild assumption: I don’t care at all about the Wilpons’ money. They make absurd amounts of money off ofÂ > 4 million ticket sales plus revenue from the television network they also own. So I don’t care if the payroll is higher. To their credit, the Wilpons have not shied away from spending large sums of money.
As I see it, the Mets had three major problems in 2008:
- Starting pitchers not going deep enough into games
- A weak bullpen that got weaker due to problem (1)
- A dearth of timely hitting, resulting in too few comeback wins
I’ll address problem (1) in this post, and problems (2) and (3) in subsequent posts.
First of all, let me make it clear that Johan Santana is completely exempt from problem (1), pitching 243.3 innings. That is the most of his career, including his 2 other Cy Young seasons. I say other because it would be a travesty if he didn’t win the Cy Young award this year. He ended up essentially tied with Lincecum in ERA+ (164 to 163), had a lower ERA, pitched more innings, had more shutouts and more complete games, and played for a team that was expected to win more than, you know, 70 games or so. Brandon Webb does not deserve consideration; he isn’t even in the top 5 in ERA+.
No, the problem was everybody else. Santana average 6.89 innings per start. The other four starters averaged 5.79 innings per start. Mike Pelfrey actually led team ‘everybody else’ with an average of 6.27 innings per start. This average was buoyed by his excellent performances against everybody but the Marlins in the second half of the year. It is reasonable to believe that next year that average will improve further as he matures and develops. John Maine averaged 5.6 innings per start, and this has been a problem for him, even when he is pitching well. However, looking at his gamelogs over the course of the season there is a clear downward trend, perhaps attributable to his injury. Since he is under contract and going to be back next season no matter what I say (barring an unlikely trade), he gets a free pass. The worst offenders were Oliver Perez and Pedro, who averaged 5.70 and 5.45 innings per start, respectively. Luckily for the Mets, both are free agents. Omar, let them go. OP was a great find, and we would have been worse off without him. Pedro changed the culture and perception of the franchise, and all Mets fans should be grateful to him. But it is time to move on. We need to trim the pitchers that aren’t consistently putting us in a position to win and taxing our bullpen to the breaking point.
This is New York City, not Kansas City. Let’s act like it. Let’s sign the one pitcher who can fix the problem by himself. Let’s sign CC. He pitched 253 innings this year between the two leagues. He absolutely obliterated the NL. He’s a power pitcher, which coincidentally is the kind that wins in the postseason, his recent results notwithstanding. As I said before, I don’t care about Fred & Jeff’s money, but I’d tell them that he is only going to cost about 6 millions dollars a year more than Pedro cost. I’d tell them they would have a dynamic duo unrivaled in this city, or anywhere baseball. I’d tell them they would have two pillars of pitch to hold up CitiField for years to come. He averaged 7.22 innings per start in 2008, and with anything close to that in 2009, he would be as much of a lift to the Mets bullpen as any reliever you could acquire.
As for the 5th starter’s spot, I would hope that Jon Niese wins the spot in spring training. However, relying on a young unproven pitcher completely is not always a good tactic (see 2008 New York Yankees). Alternatively, they could give a short term deal to Freddy Garcia and hope that he regains his pre-surgery form. Brad Penny is intriguing put injury prone, as is Ben Sheets. Both are only getting older. Ryan Dempster would be a nice pickup, but after a career year, he isn’t going to be cheap. I however would not be in favor of giving a long term deal to any of the large number of mediocre over-30 pitchers that the old Mets used to love to sign.
I personally believe that the 5th starter spot is more important than the conventional wisdom would suggest. The bottom line is that your 5th starter will pitch almost as many games as your first starter. If you have a hodgepodge set of 5 inning soft tossers penciled in as your 5th starter, you can bet your bullpen is going to be hurting come September. Also, people inevitably get injured. If the depth of the starting rotation is already lacking, then it will more difficult to absorb the loss. I don’t feel I need statistics to prove this point. Just look at the teams that made the playoffs this year. I would argue that the one thing they all* have in common is not a powerful or consistent offense, or a high-range or consistent defense, but pitching depth. Even the Diamondbacks with their stacked front of the rotation ultimately missed they playoffs because they were not able to get quality innings out of the back of their rotation. Omar needs to restock the Mets, a team historically successful because of dominant pitching, by retooling the starting five.
* Except the Brewers. They are terrible.
That’s it for this installment. Stay tuned for Part 2: The Bullpen.