May 05

Mets Bullpen An Issue

This is why you don’t make declarations during the first week of the season, or for all of April for that matter. The season opened with four straight victories and four strong performances from the bullpen.

After Opening Day, the talking heads as SNY – and that’s not the game broadcasting crew – started pontificating about how the bullpen would be a team strength this season.

Four weeks later, you don’t hear talk like that anymore.

Last night they threw away a strong effort from Dillon Gee. Once again, the focus in on control, as a walk from Tim Byrdak with a man on lead to Arizona’s three-run rally in the eighth inning. Yes, the walk was important, but it was also one batter.

“That’s the thing that sticks out the most,” Collins said. “The base on balls out of the pen have certainly come back to really bite us.”

The bottom is two-fold. One, walks kill and they always have. And two, these guys are major league pitchers and can’t fall apart after one bad at-bat. That’s been a problem with Mike Pelfrey, and it also applies to the bullpen.

Where the pen attacked hitters early, lately they’ve been working deep into counts and losing the at-bat. The pen has been worked hard in recent weeks with the starters not going more than six for the most part and the loss of Pelfrey.

Jon Rauch blew the save and took the loss last night, but wouldn’t blame it on an increased workload. He said it was poor pitching.

“You can’t come in and throw balls and expect to get everybody out after that,” Rauch said. “So we’ve gotta do a better job. I know personally I need to do a better job, especially coming in with guys on base and not letting inherited runners scored.”

Glad to hear there were no excuses, but it would be even better to see improved execution.

Once four games over .500 and sensing optimism about the season, the Mets have lost four straight and are counting on Johan Santana – the pitcher they seemingly refuse to score for- to stop the slide.

Regardless of what happens today, success this season largely depends on the bullpen holding up its end. And, that’s not a premature pronouncement, but a statement of fact that can be made any time of the year.

 

Apr 23

Collins Says Francisco Is Still The Closer, But For How Long?

Well it looks like manager Terry Collins had his little pow-wow with quasi-closer Frank Francisco on Sunday and two of them passed around a peace pipe resulting in Collins affirming his trust and confidence in Francisco as his closer.

“Everybody wants to hear something positive,” Collins said. “I just went to him this morning and said, ‘You’ve got to hang in there.’ He’s disappointed. He’s mad at me because I took him out, which is a common thing. It happens. I certainly don’t blame him. If I was in his shoes, I’d be mad at me, too.”

So Frankie-Frank is back on the saddle after three straight shaky outings, but believe me his leash is short and at the first hint of trouble, you saw how quickly Collins ran out and gave him the ol’ heave-ho.

Francisco was the the prize of the offseason for the New York Mets and Alderson saw fit to fill his coffers with a two year, $12 million dollar deal to be the closer – a role which he has had trouble retaining throughout his career. Before donning his Mets uniform, Francisco had amassed 18 blown saves in his 70 save opportunities. That’s an unsightly 74.2% save percentage.

In Grapefruit League play this Spring, Francisco finished with a 5.54 ERA and a 1.69 WHIP in 11 appearances for the Amazins. So his recent struggles are just a continuation of what we saw last month.

2.1 IP – 6 H – 6 ER – 3 BB – 1 K

His last three outings point to trouble, and while some may say it’s only April, I’l direct you to his career 4.22 ERA in save situations which doesn’t even account for all the inherited runners he has allowed to cross the plate.

Hey look, he’s all ours now, so all we can do is hope that at 32, he can dig down inside and somehow become the closer he is being paid to be. The last thing this team needs right now is a $6 million dollar a year middle reliever.

Luckily, Jon Rauch has exceeded expectations thus far and could step in as closer if the need arises – as it did on Saturday.

Apr 09

Evaluating Mets’ Sweep Of Braves; Niese Puts Cap On Weekend

NIESE: Flirts with no-hitter.

The Mets and Yankees were at opposite ends of the broom over the weekend, but it didn’t take much to guess where most of the newspaper attention went. Right – in Florida where the Rays were disposing of the Yankees.

Being a Mets fan, you’re used to that, but today you want it this way. Let the Mets fly in under the radar; let the Yankees deal with the pressure and panic.

The weekend was all about pitching, with Jon Niese flirting with the franchise’s first no-hitter. The string remains intact for 7,971 games. Who cares how long the streak goes as long as they keep playing well.

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Apr 06

About yesterday

There was a crispness to the day. Both in the weather and the way the Mets played. It was a delightful day, one that gave us a glimpse of what could be when they put it all together. Hopefully, Mike Pelfrey was taking notes on Johan Santana and pitching out of trouble as he did in the fifth.

The talking heads on SNY – and I’m not talking the play-by-play team – were in their bombastic best yesterday, saying this is how it is going to be all year with Santana and the bullpen.

Really?

How do they know that?

It would be great if that were the case, but remember, Santana is coming off a complicated surgery and the bullpen is a patchwork group. Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco were good yesterday, but if they were that good Toronto would have kept them.

Tim Byrdak was key, but how much of that was adrenalin?

I hope what they are saying happens. Damn, I want this to be a good year for the Mets. I don’t want to rain on the parade, but I guess that’s what I am here for – to put some objectivity to the picture.

Yesterday was fun. It was memorable. But, tomorrow is the real opening day.

 

 

Jan 31

Mets Had The 27th Best Offseason

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, ranked which teams had the best offseason and had the Angels ranked first followed by the Yankees, Rangers, Cardinals and Tigers rounding out the top five. The Mets were ranked 27th.

27. METS – They lost their most exciting player (Reyes) and their best hitter (Beltran), so established players like David Wright and Jason Bay have to bounce back. They dealt Pagan to the Giants for outfielder Andres Torres, and added bullpen pieces in Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, and Ramon Ramirez. Johan Santana returns from a major shoulder injury, but what are you getting?

Cafardo had the Padres, Athletics and Astros as the only teams ranked worse than the Mets.

The Mets are banking on healthy returns from key players such as Johan Santana and Ike Davis, and comeback seasons from Mike Pelfrey, Jason Bay and David Wright who are each coming off the worst seasons of their careers.

As far as new additions go, they have replaced Frankie Rodriguez and Jason Isringhausen with Frank Francisco and Ramon Ramirez, and Andres Torres will replace Angel Pagan in centerfield and most likely Jose Reyes in the leadoff spot. Jon Rauch was also added to the bullpen, while Ronny Cedeno, Omar Quintanilla and a few other minor league signings will help fill bench roles.