Oct 29

2012 Mets Player Review: Situational Lefties Josh Edgin And Robert Carson

 JOSH EDGIN, LHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: The San Francisco Giants are World Series champions this morning in large part because of their bullpen, which included situational lefties Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez and Jose Mijares. The team they defeated, Detroit, had Phil Coke in that role. Most of the playoff teams had dependable lefthanded relievers. When the Mets went to spring training, a situational lefthander was a huge void they expected only Tim Byrdak to fill, which put them at a disadvantage. Byrdak bounced around with Kansas City, Baltimore, Detroit and Houston before finding a home with the Mets in 2011, when he appeared in 72 games and struck out 47 hitters in 37.2 innings. Meanwhile, other lefties in the Mets’ system, Josh Edgin and Robert Carson, were simply blips on their radar. Perhaps they’d get called up in an emergency or in September. Either way, neither was counted on for this season.

WHAT THEY GOT:  By his own admission, manager Terry Collins said he overworked Byrdak, who, like Pedro Feliciano before him, landed on the disabled list with arm problems. Byrdak appeared in 56 games and threw 30.2 innings. A reliever’s workload is more than innings, it is appearances, and with each appearance comes one or two times warming up in the bullpen. The Mets monitor warm-up pitches in the bullpen and knew Byrdak approached a dangerous limit. Eventually, those pitches took a toll and Byrdak was burned out. The strain was more magnified because he was the only lefthander. The Mets eventually replaced him with Carson and Edgin, both of whom performed well in spots. Edgin threw 25.2 innings in 34 games, and allowed seven of 23 inherited runners to score, a number that needs improvement. Carson has outstanding stuff, evidenced by a Sept. 12 appearance at Washington when he inherited a bases loaded-no outs situation an escaped unscathed. They lost that game, but it was arguably the Mets’ best appearance by a reliever all season. Only one of Carson’s six inherited runners scored.

LOOKING AT 2013: Admittedly, the windows of performance from Edgin and Carson are small, but both are inexpensive options for next season. As the Giants proved, having more than one lefty specialist is essential. The Mets abused Feliciano and Byrdak because they had nobody else, but having two will ease the burden, especially because they seem safe in the eighth and ninth innings with Bobby Parnell and Frank Francisco. Both will likely go into spring training with a spot on the staff. It has been a long time since the Mets had two dependable lefty relievers on the same staff.

Oct 17

2012 Mets Player Review: Jonathan Niese, LHP

JONATHAN NIESE, LHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Jonathan Niese was another Mets pitcher who went into spring training coming off an injury. He pulled a right rib cage muscle in Sept. 2011, while pitching against the Phillies and was shut down. Two years earlier, Niese’s season ended with a severely pulled hamstring. While the Mets weren’t worried about his arm, two muscle pulls had them wonder if he was susceptible to such injuries. Foolishly, Niese felt discomfort in his previous start, but continued to pitch against the Phillies. In 2010 and 2011, Niese won nine and 11 games, respectively, and displayed composure and an ability to work out of trouble. Niese doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but throws a plus cutter and fall-off-the-table curveball. When he’s able to command those pitches, it increases the effectiveness of his fastball. Assuming his health, the Mets expected him to continue to develop and hopefully win as many as 15 games as a No. 3 starter.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Although Niese fell short of 15 victories, he continued to make strides to become one of the Mets’ most reliable pitchers. Satisfied he was healthy, the Mets signed Niese to a $25.5 million contract extension with team options for 2017 and 2018. Largely unproven, the Mets were banking on Niese’s potential and at the time GM Sandy Alderson said he was the type of player the club could build around. The contract enables the Mets to avoid arbitration and Niese’s first shot at free agency, which is paramount in cost control. Niese tied his career high of 30 starts and logged 190.1 innings. Niese, like most Mets’ starters save R.A. Dickey, suffered from a lack of run support and bullpen collapses. Niese responded from a combined 4-5 in July and August to win this final three starts to finish at 13-9 with a 3.40 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. Niese had an impressive 155-49 strikeouts-to-walks ratio and worked into the seventh inning or longer in 17 appearances. He only had two starts in which he did not work at least five innings. Niese did miss a start after he was pulled for a June 3 game with a rapid heartbeat.

LOOKING AT 2013: Although Niese did not have a reoccurrence of the rapid heartbeat in the second half, he will undergo surgery at the Cleveland Clinic to alleviate the problem. It is considered minor surgery, but anything involving the heart can’t be thought of as minor. Figuring he will make a full recovery, the Mets expect him to build on 2013. Considering his age and salary, he would be in high demand on the trade market, but a pitcher of Niese’s potential is exactly what the franchise needs. Niese’s overall numbers were good and assuming he receives run support – the Mets failed to score more than three runs in 17 starts – 15 victories and 200-plus innings should be reachable. Niese would enter next year as the No. 3 starter assuming everything works in the positive with Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey.

TOMORROW: Dillon Gee, RHP

Oct 15

2012 Mets Player Review: Johan Santana

JOHAN SANTANA, LHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: The only thing the Mets knew for certain about Johan Santana heading into the season is they would pay him $24 million. Coming off shoulder surgery and not having started since Sept. 2, 2010, the most the Mets could hope for was for him to stay healthy and start at least 15 games. Anything above that would be considered a bonus.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: He didn’t stay healthy, and for the fourth straight season the Mets didn’t get 30 starts from their $137.5 million ace as he again ended the season on the disabled list. This time it was with a lower back injury, perhaps exasperated by a twisted ankle sustained trying to cover first. Santana started strong, highlighted by his June 1 no-hitter against St. Louis, helped out by a blown call. Santana threw a career-high 134 pitches that night and immediately struggled, going 3-7 with an 8.37 ERA over his next ten starts. Santana’s season ended with a career-high five-game losing streak in which he went 0-5 with a 15.63 ERA in just 19 innings. In that span he averaged just under four innings a start and gave up eight homers. Hitters batted .448 against him with a .771 slugging percentage and 1.242 OPS. For the season, Santana was 6-9 with a 4.85 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP while working 117 innings in 21 starts. Opponents hit .258 against him with a .750 OPS. Those are all gaudy numbers, emblematic of an aging pitcher beset with injuries.

LOOKING AT 2013: The Mets will pay Santana $25.5 million with a $5.5 million buyout, assuming he doesn’t reach a 215-inning incentive. If that happens, the Mets will be on the hook for another $25 million in 2014. Wouldn’t it be just like it for the Mets to let him work that much? The Mets would love to trade him, but his contract and injury history makes that virtually impossible. The Mets say he’ll be ready for spring training, but who really expects him to go through the season without an injury? The Mets are just counting down until he’s off the books. Their best-case scenario with Santana in 2013 is for him to stay healthy and get off to a good start to where some contender with deep pockets to make a run at him. Oh, to dream the impossible dream.

NEXT: R.A. Dickey, RHP

May 02

METS CHAT ROOM: Game #23; a Coin Flip game.

Late to the gate today. It’s an Oliver Perez game, which means I don’t know what to expect. Perez gets the ball because of his success against the Phillies, and if he spits the bit today, then I can see him out of the rotation.

Carlos Delgado is not playing today, but he’s also not going on the DL, either.

Here’s the line-up:

Jose Reyes, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
Carlos Beltran, CF
Gary Sheffield, RF
David Wright, 3B
Fernando Tatis, 1B
Daniel Murphy, LF
Ramon Castro, C
Oliver Perez, LHP

Nov 01

Mets free-agent update ….

The following Mets have filed for free agency as of today:

Today (Nov. 1):
-RHP Orlando Hernandez: Nice knowing you.

Friday (Oct. 31):
-RHP Pedro Martinez: Would want him back as a fifth starter.
-Moises Alou: Say good-bye, but you know Omar.
-RHP Tony Armas: No interest.
-RHP Luis Ayala: Would re-sign for bullpen depth, but if it doesn’t work out no real loss.
-INF Ramon Martinez: Would be interested for bench depth, but no worries if it didn’t happen.
-LHP Ricardo Rincon: Being lefty helps him.

Thursday (Oct. 30):
-LHP Oliver Perez: You know what he is. Will be pricey.
-INF Damion Easley: I’ve always liked him, but don’t see him returning.
-RHP Matt Wise: Good-bye.