Mar 08

March 8.10: Maine goes today.

John Maine isn’t a project the way Mike Pelfrey and Oliver are, but he’s a question nonetheless. When healthy, the Mets have a reasonable idea what to expect from Maine, once considered a throw-in in the Kris Benson with Baltimore.

But, how healthy is Maine?

“It feels fine,’’ Maine said at the start of spring training when asked about his surgically repaired shoulder. “It feels like it did three, four years ago.’’

Three years ago appeared to be a breakout year for Maine, who made 32 starts and went 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA. However, Maine complained of fatigue in his shoulder the following summer and eventually missed his last seven starts because of surgery to remove bone spurs in his shoulder.

Surgery was deemed successful, but by his own admission he rushed his comeback saying “maybe I was trying to make up for lost time.’’

Maine made only 15 starts last season and went 7-6 with a 4.43 ERA. Maine’s biggest problem last year was an inability to amp it up and pitch out of trouble. He came back at the end of the year to show he was recovering, then modified his off-season program by starting later and throwing less.

Today’s start against the Florida Marlins won’t be about getting people out as it will be another test for his shoulder and to see what he might have picked up working with Sandy Koufax earlier this spring.

Koufax had Maine using a longer stride when delivering his fastball and concentrating on working on the inner half of the plate.

When healthy the Mets have a good idea from what to expect from Maine, although the organization believes the potential ceiling is higher with Pelfrey and Perez.

“I think being able to go out there every five days,’’ Maine said when asked the key for a successful season from him. “When I do go out there I generally give the team a chance to win.’’

Here’s the line-up behind Maine:

Angel Pagan CF
Fernando Martinez RF
David Wright 3B
Jason Bay LF
Daniel Murphy 1B
Rod Barajas C
Russ Adams 2B
Ruben Tejada SS
John Maine RP

Feb 12

Feb. 12.10: Trying to be positive.

I know, I know, some of you will think that’s impossible, or that you’ve stumbled on to a different blog. But, today, on the heels of Bill James’ prediction of the Mets’ rotation, I’ll be trying to come up with some reasons to think positive about Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, and yes, even Oliver Perez.

PELFREY: A 2010 key.

PELFREY: A 2010 key.

The inspiration comes after reading where James predicted the following seasons for Pelfrey (9-12, 4.45 ERA), Perez (8-11, 4.73) and Maine (9-9, 3.86 ERA). If James is close on the three, I don’t have to tell you what kind of season the Mets will have.

PELFREY: Pelfrey, despite taking a step back, went 10-12 with a 5.03 ERA in 31 starts. Pelfrey is only 26, young enough to believe there’s room for growth. Pelfrey made strides in 2008 and showed several glimpses of that form last year. With 31 starts, he’s proven to be durable. There’s reason to be hopeful about him. It would be premature to bail on him now.

PEREZ: Perez was hurt last season and went 3-4 with a 6.82 ERA in 14 starts. Perez has always run hot-and-cold, but his inconsistency last season was created in large part to the World Baseball Classic in spring training. There’s none of that this year. Perez worked out this winter at the Athletes Performance Institute in Arizona, and all the reports have been positive. Perez did win 15 games in 2007, so it’s not like we haven’t seen an upside from him.

MAINE: Like Perez, Maine won 15 games in 2007, his last full healthy season. Coming off surgery, Maine was 7-6 with a 4.43 ERA in 15 starts. The health reports have been good so far on Maine, and if he duplicates last season, projected over a full season he’d win 14 or 15 games. Who wouldn’t take that now?

Yes, I know James’ predictions are possible, but for now try to envision all the issues coming up positive for the Mets. If it all breaks right, you never know.

Jan 27

Jan. 27.10: What would change?

Maybe this will be the summer in which the Mets fire Omar Minaya. It also might be the summer in which they get it all together.

Care to guess which one has a greater chance of happening?

MINAYA: Just how much power does he have?

MINAYA: Just how much power does he have?

At the end of last summer’s disaster, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon and Minaya said there would be trades and free-agent signings. Nothing has happened between then and now to indicate there will be a real change – and, spare me Jason Bay.

It’s known throughout the industry that the Mets just don’t do it the way the model clubs do – and that includes the Yankees and Phillies. There is no definable budget, or at least one that can be easily recognized. And, there was no real setting of priorities.

How else can you explain the setting the goal as pitching at the end of the season, and yet having your key offseason move be a hitter who really had nowhere else to go?

It was reported Joel Pineiro and Jason Marquis set the Mets as their priorities, but the Mets did not respond. No, neither is John Lackey, but either would have made the Mets’ rotation better and deeper than it is today.

The Met were more content to look at last season as an injury-plagued fluke, and ignored such factors as not improving their pitching depth in the 2008 offseason or building their long-criticized farm system as to provide replacements when a starter went down.

OK, the Mets have Bay, but with no other real bidders they coughed up a fifth-year option. … They got into a spitting match with Carlos Beltran, their best player, over surgery, which should have been avoided with surgery in November. … There were no decisive changes in their coaching staff. … And, their pitching remains the same.

Randy Wolf, Pineiro and Ben Sheets all went elsewhere for salaries that didn’t break anybody’s bank. The Mets by the way, had an ERA of just under five a game.

Minaya has made his share of mistakes, beginning with the Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez contracts, but truth be told, ownership signs off on those type of deals. They weren’t done without Wilpon’s blessing.

So, a miserable start – and with that pitching, who doubts that could happen? – could mean the sacking of Minaya. But, that won’t change anything because they are the same old Mets.

Nov 19

NL Cy Young today ….

LINCECUM: My Cy Young Award pick.

LINCECUM: My Cy Young Award pick.

Chris Carpenter, Tim Lincecum and Adam Wainwright. What’s not to like about any of them. Their presence gives their team almost a 70 percent chance of winning on any night.

But, if I could only take one, I’d go with the Giants’ Lincecum. He’d get my Cy Young Award vote today and could walk away with his second straight award.

Carpenter (17-4) led the league in ERA (2.24) and WHIP (1.01). His St. Louis teammate, Wainwright (19-8, 2.63) wins and innings pitched (233) and was fourth in ERA, strikeouts and win percentage.

Lincecum (15-7), however, was consistently dominant, leading the league in strikeouts (261), batting average against (.206) and was second in ERA (2.48) and WHIP (1.05). He only won four less games than Wainwright and two than Carpenter, I wonder how it would have been different if Lincecum had the run support of his Cardinal competition. Lincecum was given 5.83 runs to work with – a wash when compared to Carpenter’s 5.84. Wainwright, however, was given 7.07 runs a game.

While W-L record is a factor, I think Lincecum was superior in more areas than the other two.

Nov 16

Rookie of the Year candidates ….

The National League and American Rookie of the Year Awards will be named shortly. It hasn’t been a busy day in Mets history as they’ve only had four winners: Tom Seaver (1967), Jon Matlack (1972), Darryl Strawberry (1983) and Doc Gooden (1984).

COGHLAN: NL Rookie favorite.

COGHLAN: NL Rookie favorite.

The award is just a reminder of how dry the Mets farm system has been. Barring injury, the only farm products the Mets know will be in their 2010 starting lineup is David Wright and Jose Reyes (the latter is coming off surgery).

Further rubbing it in, is that two of the three finalists, and the likely winner, will come within the NL East, that being Florida outfielder Chris Coghlan and Atlanta pitcher Tommy Hanson.

Coghlan, the favorite, led major league rookies in batting, on-base percentage, hits and doubles. He was sixth in the NL in hitting at .321. If Coghlan wins, he will be the Marlins third Rookie of the Year in the last six years, joining Dontrelle Willis (2003) and Hanley Ramirez (2006).
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