MANNY ACOSTA, RHP
PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Mets GM Sandy Alderson’s priority last winter was bolstering his bullpen, something by his own admission he wasn’t able to do. Building a bullpen entails a closer, set-up man, situational relievers, and if luxury provides, a long man. The Mets were woefully thin in most of those areas and entered the season hoping for something from Manny Acosta, who gave them 44 appearances in 2011, and Ramon Ramirez, who came to the Mets with Andres Torres in the Angel Pagan trade. Both are situational right-handers expected to be the bridge to the set-up relievers and closer. Acosta throws a fastball in the mid-90s and decent curve. He averages a strikeout an inning, which is the kind of pitcher you want in a jam with runners on and a tough right-handed hitter such as Mike Zimmerman or Matt Holliday coming to the plate. However, like a lot of pitchers with a power arm, Acosta is prone to streaks of wildness. Acosta’s career has not been one of consistency, so there was a bad-Acosta the Mets knew was possible. As for Ramirez, he also has a plus fastball. Ramirez logged 68.2 innings in 66 games for the 2011 Giants, so the Mets knew they were getting a workhorse. They also knew they weren’t getting a dominant reliever.
2012 SEASON REVIEW: The Mets received pretty much what they expected from Acosta and Ramirez. They got the innings they needed, although they weren’t necessarily quality innings. Acosta started so slowly that he was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo as the result of a gagging 11.86 ERA over his first 19 appearances. Acosta worked out his mechanical issues in the minors concerning his release point and in the second half batters only hit .148 off him and he cut his ERA down by almost half. Ramirez threw 63.2 innings in 58 appearances, and wasn’t effective as he put on 93 runners in that span. He only struck out 52, so we’re not talking a power arm. The Mets’ bullpen was woefully inadequate this summer and these two were a part of the problem.
LOOKING AT 2013: Of the two, Acosta is the one most likely to return next summer. Acosta made $875,000 last season and is eligible for salary arbitration. Considering how strong Acosta was at the end, they could offer arbitration and still take the hit if they were to lose the case. Ramirez made $2.65 million in 2012 and will become a free agent. He did not have the season worthy of bringing him back and can find comparable production at a lower cost elsewhere.
R.A. DICKEY, RHP
PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: R.A. Dickey had been a journeyman with a trick pitch his entire career, winning a career-high 11 games in 2010. Realistically, they had no right to expect more than that from him at age 37 and figured to be third or fourth in the rotation at best. Only injuries or poor performance from others could elevate his status, and was why he was in the Mets’ rotation in the first place. However, he pitched well in stretches the last two years and was a workhorse in 2011 with 208.2 innings. If he could log a comparable number in 2012, the pitching depleted Mets would be happy. Dickey had a solid ERA in 2010 and 2011 with hitters batting .251 and .256, respectively, against him. Since joining the Mets, for the most part Dickey pitched with composure and minimized damage. The Mets hoped he’d be a positive influence.
2012 SEASON REVIEW: Not only was Dickey a positive influence on the younger pitchers, he was arguably the team’s most important player. At 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA, he was 14 games above .500. Overall, the Mets finished 14 games below, so I’ll leave it to your imagination as to where the team would have been without him. Dickey threw 233.2 innings in 33 starts – he made one relief appearance – and limited hitters to an anemic .226 average, a career best by 30 points. Hitters had a .278 on-base and .640 OPS against him and he registered a 1.05 WHIP, easily his career best. Dickey’s All-Star season – it’s a shame Tony La Russa didn’t see fit to start him – included five complete games and three shutouts with back-to-back one-hitters. Clearly, in a game dominated by hard throwers, splitters and cutters, Dickey prevailed with the toughest pitch of all to control, walking only 54. He did this playing for a team in a free-fall for the second half and deserves the Cy Young Award.
LOOKING AT 2013: For all his numbers, it was only his third since 2001 with a winning record, which could make the Mets wondering if it was all done with smoke and mirrors. Dickey is on the books for $5 million next year, but it isn’t a given he’ll return, and if he does, stay for long. Dickey said his re-signing with the Mets is largely contingent on whether they also bring back David Wright. The two, on and off the field, represent the Mets and they would be taking a dramatic public relations hit if they traded or let them walk after 2013. An argument can be made if the Mets don’t see themselves as contenders next summer they could continue their rebuilding by dealing them for prospects. Any such deal, however, would be contingent on the other team being allowed to negotiate with them before making a trade. It would also be an admission they are a long way from being competitive.
TOMORROW: Jon Niese.
Enjoy it while you can. The Mets plan to shut down Matt Harvey after 175 innings max, which is about three more starts.
While he’s been one of the bright spots to a disappointing season, I have no problem with the decision as there’s nothing to be gained by running him into the ground. If he’s as good as projected, he’ll be throwing 200-plus innings soon enough.
Harvey has been impressive through his first seven starts, in particular in limiting the damage when he gets in trouble. The ability to fight through threats, whether it be by improvisation or pure power and guile makes for the foundation of a good career.
This is something we also so yesterday from Jon Niese, who was in constant trouble but held the Phillies to single runs in three straight innings. We’ve seen worse from Niese, so this is another good sign.
Overall, I expected more from Niese than 10-9 at this point. His sub-4 ERA says he hasn’t always gotten the most run support. While there have been rocky nights for him, in the long run there’s still a lot of potential there and the combination of him and Harvey, plus R. A. Dickey and comebacks from Dillon Gee and Johan Santana, gives the Mets the basis for a good rotation next season.
Now, if they can only score some runs and redo the bullpen.
After another horrid start by Johan Santana – at least six runs in last three starts – the Mets are clearly worried about his arm. They insist he’s not injured of this related to his high pitch count in his no-hitter.
Maybe they are correct. Maybe it’s denial. But, something isn’t right with Santana and you don’t have to be a pitching coach to see it. His fastball last night clocked at two, three mph., slower than it had been. He’s also not challenging hitters as he used to. In previous seasons, and maybe earlier this year, he would have challenged Matt Kemp instead of having Josh Thole set up in the left-handed batters box.
The Mets are considering pushing him back a start, skipping him in the rotation altogether and putting him on the DL to “get some energy back in his arm,” said Terry Collins.
Over his last three starts, Santana has given up 19 earned runs over 12.2 innings for a lofty 13.50 ERA. ), and became just the third pitcher in franchise history to give up six or more earned runs in three consecutive starts.
Santana insists his health is fine, but that the problem is not commanding his fastball. If something were wrong, the competitor in him wouldn’t allow him to admit it, just gut it out. Even so his ERA is 3.98 ERA, over a run higher than at the time of the no-hitter (2.75).
Santana’s next scheduled start is Wednesday afternoon against the Nationals. We’ll see. I’ll take the DL option just to shut it all down and start over.
An interesting article in The Daily News polled the players and they said they needed a right-handed bat instead of bullpen help. That’s why they are players and don’t make personnel decisions.
The Mets’ bullpen ERA of over five is the major’s worst; they are in the top five in runs scored in the NL. Where do you think the need is?