Oct 13

Rebuilding Mets’ Bullpen Not Monster Task As It Has Been

In each of Sandy Alderson’s previous three winters with the New York Mets, he listed building the bullpen as a priority. It will be the same this winter as well.

Horrendous in the first half of last season, the Mets’ bullpen stabilized into respectability in the second half of the season to finish with a 3.98 ERA.

Unlike previous seasons when Alderson’s bullpen needed a complete overall, the Mets already have several slots filled, but still need to improve their overall depth.

“We need to have more quality arms in the bullpen,’’ Alderson said. “We never had a real strong bottom half of the bullpen. The key will be to have more arms, quality arms out there that we can rely on.’’

Frank Francisco was a bust as the closer, but in his place Bobby Parnell emerged as reliable in that role. However, he lost a considerable amount of weight following surgery to repair a herniated disk. Assuming Parnell returns for the start of the season, the Mets’ pen could also feature LaTroy Hawkins – as a reliable set-up reliever – Vic Black, lefty specialist Scott Rice, long man Carlos Torres, and Gonzalez Germen.

Black was acquired in the deal that sent Marlon Byrd and John Buck to Pittsburgh. He throws in the high 90s and will likely get a chance at the closer role if Parnell isn’t ready.

In previous seasons the Mets had to search for six or seven arms. As of now, they could already have six and are merely looking for depth. Their lack of depth was exposed when after Parnell was injured and Torres was temporarily moved to the rotation.

Rice and Hawkins were two feel-good stories. After spending 14 years in the minor leagues, Rice finally got his chance to play in the major leagues and appeared in 73 games. Meanwhile, the 40-year-old Hawkins still touched the radar gun at 95 mph., and when Parnell was injured, he took over the closer role and saved 13 games with a 2.93 ERA.

Germen emerged as a power arm and Torres was valuable as a combination long-man, spot-starter and situational reliever. Torres’ versatility is something the Mets’ bullpen hadn’t had since Darren Oliver in 2006.

Previously, the Mets would piece together their bullpen, but this time most of their heavy lifting has already been completed. Of course, with Matt Harvey gone for 2014, their pen stands to be taxed.

 

Oct 04

Looking At Mets’ Free Agent Bullpen Options

The New York Mets have spent the past three winters trying to build a bullpen. There will be a fourth winter, and this time the free agent marked is loaded with arms from the Mets’ current bullpen: Pedro Feliciano, LaTroy Hawkins, Scott Atchison, Frank Francisco, David Aardsma and Tim Byrdak.

There is also Darren Oliver, Oliver Perez, Manny Acosta, Matt Lindstom (drafted by, but never played for), Jon Rauch and Joe Smith from other eras.

CHAMBERLAIN: Is he on Mets' radar?

CHAMBERLAIN: Is he on Mets’ radar?

“We’ve had problems building up the back end of the bullpen,’’ GM Sandy Alderson said.

That defined the problem this season as Bobby Parnell grasped the brass ring when Francisco went down, and only lost it because of a neck injury. Surgery was successful, but Alderson said he’s more concerned about Parnell regaining the nearly 30 pounds he lost and getting back to playing condition.

I’d consider Byrdak first because he’s left-handed and had good moments with the, Mets and Hawkins, who can still hit 95 mph. on the gun and did a good job this season. The only no-brainers in that group are Francisco and naturally, Perez.

There are several intriguing names on the list, notably Joe Nathan, Texas has his option, and Detroit’s Joaquin Bernoit. However, as closers, they would be pricey for the Mets, who are banking on Parnell’s return.

Finally, there is the Yankees’ Joba Chamberlain, who is a mess, but like Phil Hughes could benefit by leaving the Bronx.

Chamberlain’s health issues appear behind him. He was 2-1 with a 4.93 ERA don’t suggest dominance, and neither does his monstrous 1.73 WHIP. However, 38 strikeouts in 42 innings, says there’s still pop on his fastball. He earned $1.88 million last season, so his raise shouldn’t overwhelm the Mets. He’s also 28, meaning he’s young enough to turn his career around.

* Denotes option.

 

David Aardsma
Jeremy Accardo
Manny Acosta
Matt Albers
Scott Atchison
Luis Ayala
Grant Balfour
Matt Belisle *
Joaquin Benoit
Rafael Betancourt *
Bill Bray
Craig Breslow
Tim Byrdak
Shawn Camp
Matt Capps
Joba Chamberlain
Jose Contreras
Manny Corpas
Jesse Crain
Joey Devine
Octavio Dotel
Scott Downs
Chad Durbin *
Kyle Farnsworth
Pedro Feliciano
Frank Francisco
Jason Frasor
Chad Gaudin
Mike Gonzalez
Kevin Gregg
Matt Guerrier
Joel Hanrahan
LaTroy Hawkins
Clay Hensley
Rich Hill
J.P. Howell
Casey Janssen *
Jesse Litsch
Matt Lindstrom *
Kameron Loe
Boone Logan
Javier Lopez
Mark Lowe
Brandon Lyon
Ryan Madson
Carlos Marmol
Nick Masset
Kyle McClellan
Peter Moylan
Edward Mujica
Joe Nathan *
Pat Neshek
Eric O’Flaherty
Will Ohman
Hideki Okajima
Darren Oliver
Juan Carlos Oviedo
Vicente Padilla
Manny Parra
Oliver Perez
Rafael Perez
Chad Qualls
Jon Rauch
Mariano Rivera
Fernando Rodney
J.C. Romero
George Sherrill
Joe Smith
Matt Thornton *
Koji Uehara
Jose Veras *
Jamey Wright

 

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 02

Today in Mets’ History: The formula that was 2006.

Part of the signature of the 2006 Mets was their ability to strike quickly and a reliance to go deep into their bullpen.

TRACHSEL: Usually good for five innings, until the playoffs.

The Mets scored four runs in the first inning, tacked on a couple of more and hung on for a 6-5 victory over the Florida Marlins in Miami.

Run-scoring hits by Paul Lo Duca, Cliff Floyd and Endy Chavez off Ricky Nolasco staked Steve Trachsel to a 4-0 lead in the first inning. Trachsel, as was his reputation let the Marlins get back into the game.

Trachsel gave up three runs on two homers and didn’t make it out of the sixth before turning the game over to Roberto Hernandez, who worked one inning before the parade of relievers – Pedro Feliciano, Chad Bradford, Aaron Heilman and Billy Wagner – shut down the Marlins.

The Mets did not have an extraordinarily deep rotation that summer and manager Willie Randolph adeptly used match-ups over the last three innings.

General manager Omar Minaya did not keep the bullpen intact in the offseason  – he let Darren Oliver and Bradford get away – which contributed to the dramatic collapse in the final weeks of the 2007 season.

BOX SCORE

 

Oct 02

What will happen with Takahashi?

TAKAHASHI: Very valuable

Personally, I’d like him back in the same role next season, but I have to wonder.

Takahashi is a free agent this winter and wants to be a starter, and those starts against the Yankees and Phillies only reinforce that thought in his mind. His numbers are superior coming out of the bullpen than as a starter. However, they are representative numbers that could improve if he worked at that role. He gave the Mets just under six innings when he started, which undoubtedly would improve if he’s stretched out.

The soon-to-be-departed regime likes him out of the bullpen, and whether he stays or goes could be dependent on what the incoming regime believes. If the new GM and manager are adamant with Takahashi out of the bullpen, I can see him bolting for the bucks, and with the year he’s had, he’ll get them.

However, if the new team is willing to try him as a starter and promises him a shot in spring training, the Mets might be able to retain him.

Personally, I agree with Minaya and Manuel and like him out of the pen. He’s excelled in every role the Mets have tried him at and he’s uniquely valuable. He gives the Mets a versatile presence they haven’t had since Darren Oliver, who was one of the most important members of the 2006 staff.

When he started he usually was strong the first time or two through the order, but the opposition figured him out. That’s Manuel’s concern and it is a valid one.

Jan 24

Jan. 24.10: Let’s big-picture this.

MR. MET: Can he really be happy about things?

MR. MET: Can he really be happy about things?

In 2006, the Mets finished 97-65, winning the National League East by 12 games. It would be fair to say that is when the window was open at its widest for this core of Mets. And, we’re talking David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. While that core has remained largely productive, the rest of the team, in particular it’s pitching, has not.

The strength of the 2006 team was arguably its bullpen, which picked up the slack for a consistent, but hardly spectacular rotation.

Despite signing Billy Wagner, at the time an All-Star caliber closer, Omar Minaya let two significant keys to that pen, Darren Oliver and Chad Bradford, get away. The Mets have been struggling to get a bullpen chemistry since. An argument can be made the chemistry started to fizzle with the decline of Aaron Heilman, who was so good in 2006 save that pitch to Yadier Molina.

Even so, the team started strong in 2007, taking a 34-18 record into June. Would we all agree that 2006 and the first two months of 2007 was when the Mets’ star burned its brightest?

They finished 54-56 the rest of the way in 2007, including a collapse in which they blew a seven-game lead with 17 to play. Much of the downward spiral was traced to a bullpen bridge that could not get to Wagner.

Since June 1, 2007, the Mets are 20 games below .500 – including another collapse in 2008 – and the refrain was the same after each season: The pitching is the problem. The 2008 team, by the way, blew 29 save opportunities.

It’s a double-edged sword: The bullpen is overworked and ineffective. But, the reason it is overworked is because the Mets aren’t getting quality innings from their starters.

For those who think I’m being too negative, those are the numbers.

I realize 2009 was a unique season because of injuries, but even under the assumption the core offensive players return to form this season, there remains largely the same pitching staff. Never mind the team’s hot start one-third into the last season, more representative of their performance was the remaining two-thirds.

Getting Johan Santana was a significant gesture of improvement, but he makes 34 starts a year. The pennant is won or lost in the remaining 128 games, and this is where the Mets are weak and have not improved.

Even Santana is a partial question as he’s coming off surgery. The team says he’ll be ready, but said the same thing about John Maine. Maine’s durability, along with his presence, are questions. We don’t know what we’ll get from Oliver Perez inning to inning, much less game to game. And, Mike Pelfrey has regressed. And, well, there is no fifth starter, yet.

Yes, Jason Bay will improve the offense, but in reality aren’t we subbing his numbers for that of a healthy Delgado? And, there’s another hole with the loss of Beltran. So, just how much better is the offense, really? And, what if Wright doesn’t regain his power stroke? Can we say for sure Reyes is back?

Bottom line: We can’t say the core is back to normal or will get that way.

In that case, it falls again on the pitching, which is the same pitching that failed miserably the last two-and-a-half seasons.