March 26.10: Figueroa’s story won’t change.

As compelling as the underdog story is, there’s a reason for why he is. Just as Cornell lost last night to Kentucky because of depth of talent, that is also the limitation of Nelson Figueroa’s feel-good story.

There’s a reason why Figueroa has bounced around all these years: His talent it that of the sixth man in a five-man rotation. Every once in awhile he shows a glimmer, but overall the more he pitches the more his flaws are exposed.

Figueroa pitches today not so much as an effort to get Jerry Manuel to change his mind about the fifth spot in the rotation but as he does to audition for somebody else.

Figueroa, 35, who refers as himself as an “insurance policy,’’ has been around long enough to know the score.

“I’m in a position where I’m going out there and throwing for 29 other teams right now,’’ Figueroa said. “Being the insurance policy has its benefits. But at the same time, it’s a frustrating situation. I feel like if I’m given the opportunity to be more than that, I can be.’’

But, it won’t happen with the Mets because there’s always a faster gun, somebody who is younger, who throws harder, who is more a natural.

Actually, Figueroa got an extended look last year because of the Mets’ decimated rotation and went 3-8 with a 4.09 ERA. That included losing five consecutive decisions in September,

Figueroa’s heart, grit and determination is the essence of what sport should be, but it isn’t the reality in today’s game, which is driven by the need to win immediately. Maybe in a town with less pressure, Figueroa might get a chance.

But it would be the same story with the Mets, him passing through waivers, going back to Triple-A Buffalo, and waiting for the call generated by the inevitable injury or calamity in the rotation.

Still, pitching minor league baseball for what Figueroa would make is a better job than most of us will have, earning him $119,500 if he spends the full season in the minors.

It just isn’t the job he wants.

35 thoughts on “March 26.10: Figueroa’s story won’t change.

  1. According to reports, he has seven-figure offers awaiting him in Japan, where he will most likely turn if a big-league job doesn’t pan out this Spring. Figueroa has all but declared that he will not be returning to AAA in 2010.

  2. Tiffany: I’ve heard Japan, too. He’d be a fool to turn down a million. The smart ass in me says the seven figures includes a decimal point.-JD

  3. W-L is just a terrible way to evaluate pitchers. His 4.09 ERA says he’s a legit bottom of the rotation major league starter. Please ignore W-L record for pitchers – its just plain meaningless.

  4. Off topic, but I saw this quote on an article about Jason Heyward going to the Braves this year:

    Heyward was the Braves’ first-round draft pick in 2007 and made a quick rise through the Atlanta farm system.

    “There is not a better manager for a young player to break in under than Bobby,” Wren said.

    Can anyone argue that Jerry would be the exact opposite? Half of the reason I am scared of F-Mart, Mejia and Davis making this team is Jerry

  5. TMS; I think won loss records should be ignored period. In 2009, the Mets woin the pennant! Seriously,looking at an ERA of a guy who pitches like a bum when games are on the line and pitches ok in 10-1 losses is much more irrelevant than ignoring a career of losing.
    I must say I’m really impressed that a loserlike Figueroa has the chonme’s to level threats. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out. Remember last year how well your declaring free agency went Figgy? You came crawling back begging for that Buffalo slot.
    PS: Since wins and losses don’t count any more, Delcos please use your unlimited influence to get Anthony Young into the Hall of Fame. Career ERA UNDER FOUR!!!!! Who cares about the 15 wins and 48 losses. All bad luck!!! And kick that Steve Carlton out. He was just totally lucky to win 27 on that Philly team that won all of 59 games in ’72. I’m glad I know now that that record was nothing but luck.

  6. TMS, saying W-L is irrelevant is just as wrong as saying ERA is irrelevant, both sides are too extreme. If you can’t pitch your team to a victory consistently that ERA wont buy you a whole heck of a lot. Maybe it means that you are leaving games to early (Maine), maybe it means you let an error become a big problem and blow innings up (Ollie), but ignoring W-L is as silly as ignoring ERA.

  7. James: I don’t think W/L is irrelevent, but sometimes people get seduced by it. I think ERA is much more important. As far as Figgy goes, Mets staked him to a 5 run lead and he gave up 4 in the bottom of the 3rd…only to be relieved by Mejia who promptly allowed a double and single to the next 2 batters allowing 4 more runs to score. I can honestly say that I have never been happier to see a pitcher fail then Mejia…Is that wrong? lol In fact, i’m hoping for two more lousy outings by him! :-)

  8. Well, I tend to actually think the other Peripheral stats can be a better indicator of a pitcher like K/9, K/BB, WHIP than ERA which has a good bit of luck built into it too. But at the end of the day, if your results consistently don’t match up with what your stats look like they should match up to then there is something wrong in the mix.

  9. PS. I can totally live with Mejia falling a little on his face in the next two weeks if it means I get him in AA/AAA this year starting.

  10. W-L records aren’t the only way to evaluate pitchers, and it definitely isn’t totally fair. A guy leaves after five winning 6-5, by no means a great effort, but gets the win. … A guy faces one hitter in a tie game, his team scores in the bottom of the inning, and he gets the win. No doubt, there are some inequities in the system. … For today, at least, if the Mets lose, it would be hard to explain why Figueroa shouldn’t be credited with the loss. … But, for starting pitchers at least, for the most part it evens out. I suppose there’s a more definitive stat to evaluate pitchers. Perhaps it hasn’t even been invented, yet. I have always thought the losing pitcher should be the one who allows what proves to be the deciding run in the game. Example: A pitcher gives up one run in six innings and leaves losing 1-0. The other team scores five runs off the next pitcher, but the original starting pitcher gets the loss despite pitching a good game. Not really fair, is it?-JD

  11. I think he may be better as a long man.
    However, honestly I havent seen any real good pitching except Santana. :-\
    Either get rid of the pitch count or go for a all rotation picthing staff where everyone gets a chance. like little league.
    Just like the batting lineup. you start out batting 1st after that inning it doesnt matter anymore..
    same now in baseball. so why even be designated a starter? just use any guy in the bullpen that aint tired to start the game. why not. and while you are at it. bring the DP back so we can have little league all the way.

    JAMESC: I am with youn. I have said M&M needed to go if this team was to turn around. we will get the same old flipflopping and when a good lineup is found. he will say well there’s a lefty picthing so my stars for the last 4 games are hot. they have issues (allegedly) with lefties. so here are the platoon players. then teh whole dynamic will spiral no one will have faith because no one owns a position or as the pitcher a win or even 8 innings.

    ok ok off the soap box. here i go..

  12. JamesSC: No argument there. I don’t think Manuel relates well to a lot of younger players. Too much juggling and it wasn’t just the injuries last season.-JD

  13. Sorry that should have been bring the DH back. my fingers couldnt keep up with the passion that overtook me.
    ;-)

  14. SteveC: Pitch counts are the result of today’s salaries. Pitchers are protected and babied. God forbid somebody throws 150 pitches one day and gets a twinge. It’s all about trying to get the most for you investment. It has little to do with winning and losing. … We’re in an era of micromanaging in baseball and it is the result of the salary structure.-JD

  15. SteveC: My feelings on the DH is that either both leagues use it or neither. I’ve covered both leagues and there is more strategy in the NL because of the DH. That being said, watching Oliver Perez bat doesn’t make it a better game.-JD

  16. Steve C. In talking about LIttle League, with the way some of the Mets pitch they might be better off letting the other team hit off a tee.-JD

  17. Can I get a minor league job for 119k?

    I can be a losing pitcher too! Really I can.

  18. Jenrry Mejia showed he might not be ready for prime time, giving up a run in 1 1/3 innings, and also allowing three inherited runners to score.-JD

  19. This is my point guys. there was an old joke. 2 guys walking one turns to the other. he lets go to a polo match. the other guy goes not me. so the first guy says why not?
    the fiend says who the hell wants to see a bunch of rich @holes playing a kids game.

    Sound familiar today?

    They get a twinge running bases now too. Earn that million plus or find a new fricken job. Listen coddled like that.. I am there with DAVE> hire me on i’ll take 200K a year. I might not suck as much as the players today thats for sure.

  20. jd

    jenrry is a recently promoted AA pitcher with one pitch. Everyone is screaming how he is the next Cy Young or Mariano Rivera. As I stated some weeks ago and apparently some writer did too this week, Bobby Parnell was last year’s one pitch wonder who worked his way into the 8th inning slot.

    Jenrry is by all accounts much better than Parnell, but he needs to go to AA to learn how to pitch, learn how to throw his 2nd and 3rd pitches and learn how to stay near the plate.

    He should not be on the Mets roster in Queens to help save Sybill’s job.

  21. With the team’s rotation in the shape it is in, moving Meija to the pen is foolish. Giving him time in AA or AAA this year to work on his secondary pitches would allow the team to groom a replacement for Maine. Or Ollie.
    The team needs to have a somewhat long term view when it comes to filling in potential hols, and start putting prospects in position (literally and figuratively) to succeed.
    This goes for Reese Havens as well. They finally are moving him to 2nd, after having him at SS the past 2 yrs, even though (a) most scouts saw him as a potential 2nd baseman and (b) Castillo has 2 yrs left, and if he has a good yr, could be traded (cross my fingers) at the end of this season.
    They continually either rush guys (Pelfrey as a pitching example, Martinez (though that was partly due to the injury plague) as a position player), or bring them up and put them in unfamiliar spots (Murphy for example).

    This needs to change. Now.

  22. Tiffany,

    I don’t watch the Yankees. But apparently at least one more tha Jenrry has.

    Pls see Ed’s argument which is the same as mine.

    We have no rotation, but there are some here who want what may be our best shot at a real pitcher to be thrown away as a reliever when as I stated earlier we need starters not relievers.

  23. Dave — You compared Mejia to both Parnell and Rivera and my question underscored the difference between the latter two: The quality of that one pitch.

    Bruce Sutter had one pitch, too — does that mean he’s the equivalent of Parnell?

    By many accounts, Mejia’s cutter is quite similar to Rivera’s, thereby fueling the suggestion that the youngster could get by right now as a reliever.

    If you want to make an argument about the Mets unorthodox ways in developing and promoting their prospects, that’s different from comparing Mejia to Rivera and Parnell.

    As for the starter vs. closer argument, I think it’s a double-edged sword: A starter can throw more innings than a closer but a closer can impact more games. Moreover, a starter typically needs more than two pitches to be effective, while a closer can often get by with one superb offering.

  24. mejia can’t control his pitch. rivera can.

    that is the difference.

    also mejia is a 20 year old that one year ago no one was talking about. he just got promoted to AA at the end of the year.

    He needs to stay far away from sybill and learn to pitch.

    rivera actually pitched in AAA and came up as a starter. he was also 25. he has 3 pitches. all fastballs. how many does mejia have? how much experience does he have? about as much as parnell.

    he may have some measure of success. parnell did too before he flamed out. now no one here cares about him.

    jenrry needs to be in the minors learning to pitch. he needs to come up as a starter after he has learned to pitch. that is what we need. your own posts say we have enough relievers. we dont have starters. that is what he should be.

  25. I don’t know enough about Mejia specifically to debate the merits of whether to promote him at this time; suffice to say, they could either believe a.) his complementary pitches are close enough that it doesn’t matter where he perfects them in 2010 or b.) he’s not likely to master them anytime soon but could still help in relief in the interim.

    Rivera’s got three pitches? So does Parnell, you know. Pelfrey has a bunch of pitches, too. Yet, all three are basically one-pitch pitchers. Like Rivera, Pelfrey might actually show another pitch, but he isn’t getting anyone out with it.

    Your example, though, about Rivera underscores the heart of the Mejia debate: It appears that the Yanks waited until Rivera was 25 and with AAA experience as a starter before deciding his repertoire was better suited to the bullpen. What if the Mets have reached this same conclusion five years earlier with Mejia?

  26. Comparing guys and how much time they spend in the minors and when they came up is, in my opinion, to give disservice to each guy as an individual. One can say keep Mejia should be down because Rivera was a mature guy of 25 when he hit the big time. But K-Rod was a kid turning 20 when he came up and did quite well in the WS with only about a mointh of big league experience. Whic path is right? They were both right. I think Tiffany pegged the Mejia question right. If the Mets have tapped him as a releiver and future closer then its a lot easier for him to be fully ready for the bigs. If they see him as a starter, and bring him up to relieve now, then it seems that Minaya/Manuel are doing everything they can to save their jobs based on the idiotic ramblings of the owner’s son.

  27. In Washington Christian Guzman and his 8 million dollar salary loses his job to rookie, with options, Ian Desmond. In NY, Ike Davis is punished for having a great spring and winning the first base job by being sent down so Daniel Murphy can play without the pressure of competition. Wonder how Daniel will handle the pressure of screwing up a game in the pressure of a pennant race!

  28. Tiffany: You’re spot on about the need for identifying Mejia’s future role. Honestly, I think he’s too raw for that decision to be made now. But, if a decision were to be forced, I believe he’s closer to being a reliever than a starter because working out of the pen, and for only one inning, he has enough stuff to get by. What he doesn’t have, is command of that stuff.-JD

  29. i guess the question to you guys is this

    1) can mejia be a starter? some of you have already answered this.

    2) ia he ready for mlb?

    3) do you trust the people making the decisions?

    For me the answers are:
    1) perhaps
    2) perhaps
    3) no

    i dont know if he can be a starter or not. i have the feeling no one does. but i would like to give him that chance. i dont know if at 20 he can handle the big bad city or not, but i would rather let him learn to be a starter in the minors. and i dont trust management. they have shown over the past few years with decisions big and small not to trust them.

  30. M&M have no clue. I have no faith in them anymore. I can only hope a Miracle occurs for the mets. Like Bobby V swooping in from japan to save the day. For all his Faults he’s a players manager. Not a GMs manager.