Jan 15

Jon Niese Could Be Most Indispensable Met

Normally, I might say David Wright when it comes down to who might be the most indispensable Met this season. Wright is, after all, the center of the Mets’ offensive universe and when he’s hitting it elevates the entire team.

However, I’m a pitching guy first and when I posed the question to myself this morning Jon Niese popped up as the answer.

NIESE: Needs breakout year.

With the trade of R.A. Dickey to Toronto and Johan Santana entering his walk year coming off another injury, Niese, despite a career-high 13 wins last year, is the No. 1 starter.

Dillon Gee is a health question and the No. 5 starter is anybody’s guess, so it comes down to the necessity of Niese having to pitch well every fifth day to minimize the losing streaks, which will happen as they do every year. It was Dickey who kept the Mets on an even keel last summer; Niese must now do the same.

The Mets always liked Niese, as evidenced by the long-term contract they gave him and refusal to discuss him in trade talks. When teams call the Mets, they ask for Niese, a hard-throwing lefthander, with major league success and a manageable contract.

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Dec 04

Despite R.A. Dickey And Jon Niese, Mets Still Have Pitching Concerns

Undoubtedly, the outfield is a huge void GM Sandy Alderson will try to fill with scraps. So too, is the bullpen. But, don’t forget the rotation despite the presence of Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey, assuming, of course, there will be a Dickey.

I keep hearing how the Mets’ young pitching is a position of strength, but in reality it is a position of potential, and there is a difference. And, I would be hesitant to say vast potential.

There were many mistakes in the Omar Minaya regime, but one of the biggest – and most understated – was the decision to overestimate the team following the 2006 season. “We just missed the World Series by a strike,’’ was the thinking.

How wrong they were. Even had Carlos Beltran done something with that pitch, there were concerns with the Mets’ pitching and bullpen which came to fruition during the collapses of 2007 and 2008.

Despite the flashes and strong showing in 2012, that’s the story today when you big-picture their staff. If all breaks well, then there is a lot to like about the Mets’ pitching. But, if it doesn’t – and we know it all won’t be good – then we are back again faced looking at a team with huge holes.

JOHAN SANTANA: He is once again coming off an injury, which he has done almost annually since signing with the Mets. Santana had a good start in 2012, but hit a wall and was eventually injured. Nobody can say with authority what the Mets can expect from him other than he’ll cost $25 million. Santana will be gone after this year, so even if he has a good season that’s a hole that must be filled in 2014. That hole would be even bigger if Dickey is traded or leaves as a free agent.

R.A. DICKEY: How can the Mets reasonably anticipate anything from Dickey when they are listening to trade offers? Even should the Mets re-sign Dickey to an extension, there’s still the question if 2012 was a one-shot deal. I like Dickey, but it is undeniable he has a short track record.

JON NIESE: If Dickey leaves, then Niese becomes the de facto ace of the staff. Niese has an upside, but how big we do not know. Last year was his best at 13-9, and it was his only winning season. How can you place all your chips on him when the most he’s ever won was 13 games?

DILLON GEE: Gee is coming off an injury, and like Niese has a small track record. Gee hasn’t been projected higher than a No. 4 or No. 5 starter in the first place, so to consider him a stalwart would be a misnomer. Gee is still missing from his resume a full season. Give him that and we’ll have a guess at his ceiling.

MATT HARVEY:  While good things are projected of Harvey, not a career do ten games make. The projections for Harvey are higher than they ever were with Mike Pelfrey and Niese. Harvey made an undeniably strong first impression last year. Now he must build on it. There are a lot of teams that haven’t seen Harvey yet, and those that had will have a book on him.

THE BULLPEN:  As the saying goes, a chain is as strong as its weakest link, then a pitching staff is as strong as its bullpen and we know the Mets’ pen is weak. It was a hole Alderson couldn’t patch together with nickel pieces last winter. Wonder if he’ll do better with dime pieces.

 

Nov 28

Would John Lannan Be A Better Risk Than Bringing Back Pelfrey?

On Tuesday, Nationals beat writer William Ladson, tweeted that he expects the Nats to non-tender lefthanded starting pitcher John Lannan on Friday. Ladson also added that he believed Lannan would be a solid fit for the Mets.

I took a quick glance at Lannan’s career numbers and the first thing that came to mind was, “I’ve seen these numbers before”. I was looking at a lefthanded version of Mike Pelfrey.

Lannan, a New York native, has posted career marks of a 4.01 ERA and a 1.424 WHIP in 134 major league starts, while Pelfrey counters with a 4.36 ERA and 1.458 in 149 starts. Pelfrey had the benefit of pitching in a much friendlier pitcher’s park. Lannan also has a career 7.0 WAR compared to 5.4 for Pelfrey, despite a half season less playing time.

There has been talk of non-tendering Pelfrey on Friday, but bringing him back on a one year deal for much less money than he the $5.6 million he earned in 2012. As you know, he’s trying to comeback from Tommy John surgery which he had performed last May.

Given Lannan is a lefthander, is healthy, and has posted slightly better numbers in his career than Pelfrey, maybe Ladson is right, maybe we should take a closer look at Lannan and consider if he would be a better fit at this time than Mike Pelfrey would.

There’s no room for Lannan in Washington’s rotation. When they traded for Gio Gonzalez and signed Edwin Jackson his fate had been sealed. But the 28-year old has shown flashes of brilliance before and usually southpaws take a little longer to mature than righthanders do. He took his demotion to Triple-A pretty last season pretty hard and has a chip on his shoulder. The timing could be right for this low risk, high reward player.

He could be a solid addition for the Mets and someone we could use to give the team some depth in case of injury to one of our starters down the road.

Oct 20

2012 Mets Player Review: Mike Pelfrey

MIKE PELFREY, RHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: After falling far short of the expectations of a No. 1 draft choice in 2005 – the ninth overall selection – Mike Pelfrey had what was thought to be a breakout year in 2010 when he went 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA and career high 204 innings. Pelfrey did not have dominating numbers, but clearly made progressions in his approach to pitching that suggested he might become the pitcher the Mets hoped. Pelfrey finally was pitching with poise and guile. There was an undeniable composure he never displayed before and his pitch selection was far better. Hitters could no longer sit on his fastball because he was getting his secondary pitches over in fastball counts. Could Pelfrey finally become an ace? Well, no. Pelfrey regressed in 2011 going 7-13 with a 4.74 ERA. Hitters ripped him at a .286 clip with a .344 on-base percentage and crushed 21 homers. With two back-to-back polar opposite seasons, the Mets didn’t know what to expect from him for the $5.6 million they would pay.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Pelfrey started fast this year with a 2.29 ERA in three starts and resembled his 2010 performance. He pitched with composure in that window and the thought was perhaps he would take the next step. However, Pelfrey sustained an elbow injury and underwent Tommy John surgery that finished his season. Would it also finish his Mets’ career?

LOOKING AT 2013: The cost conscious Mets, despite holes in their rotation, aren’t expected to tender Pelfrey a contract this December, even if they were to offer the maximum 20 percent cut from his $5.687 million contract. Many pitchers have rebounded from Tommy John surgery, so even if the Mets don’t bring him back there will be interest as there is no shortage of teams with pitching needs. If the Mets think they can cut him loose and bring him back at a discount, they should think again because at 28, he’s young enough to where his career isn’t over. Pelfrey is a career 50-54 with a 4.36 ERA and .284 batting average against him. Of all the statistics on his resume, his age is the one most likely to cause the Mets to take a flier on him again. Considering the potential holes in the Mets’ rotation and bullpen and inevitable need for pitching, he might be worth the gamble. If healthy, he could give the Mets close to 200 innings. With Johan Santana gone after 2013, the Mets will need a starter and there are no guarantees from Matt Harvey, Zach Wheeler or Jenrry Mejia. The idea has also been floated of putting Pelfrey in the bullpen with potential of eventually becoming the closer.

NEXT: Matt Harvey

Oct 18

2012 Mets Player Review: Dillon Gee

DILLON GEE, RHP


 
 
PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Dillon Gee made a strong first impression with the Mets as a 2010 September call-up when their rotation was in tatters. He made five starts and gave the Mets at least six innings in each and didn’t up more than three earned runs in any. His 2.18 ERA and ability to keep his composure caught the Mets’ eye. When they were beset by injuries in 2011, Gee was brought up and won his first seven decisions and eight of nine. Gee finished 13-6 with a 4.43 ERA to earn himself a spot in the 2012 rotation. He showed guile and grit and an ability to challenge hitters, more with command and movement on his pitches than overpowering stuff. While there was a school of thought 2011 might have been a fluke and to expect a regression, there was also one that suggested he might be the real thing and could build on his initial success as the No. 5 starter. It was the latter belief, in part, as to why the Mets didn’t aggressively pursue and middle-tier veteran starter that offseason.
 
2012 SEASON REVIEW: Gee made 17 starts this year, 10 fewer than in 2011 before he was shut down in July. After complaining of numbness and a lack of strength in his arm, he underwent season-ending surgery to replace artery damage in his shoulder.  Gee struggled out of the gate and wasn’t pitching at his 2011 form when he was injured. He was 6-7 with a 4.10 ERA and 1.25 WHIP before he called it a season. On the positive side, he had a 97-29 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. Gee worked at least into the seventh in nine starts. The Mets gave him three or fewer runs in nine starts, so his record was attributable in large part because of a lack of run support, a malady that struck the whole staff.
 
LOOKING AT 2013: The surgery was deemed successful, but we won’t know whether his shoulder is at full strength until he begins throwing. Assuming he’s physically able, Gee should enter spring training as the No. 5 starter. That is, of course, assuming the best for Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey, and perhaps the long-shot possibility of Mike Pelfrey being tendered a contract. He would likely be slotted behind hot prospect Matt Harvey. There’s a lot to like in how Gee challenges his hitter and his command. This is a pitcher with more to learn, but appears to be smart and someone who could develop into a reliable starter. If 2010 wasn’t a fluke, the Mets would take 13 victories in a heartbeat.
NEXT: Chris Young