Sep 23

Capuano non-trade underscores Mets’ pitching concerns

That the Mets turned away Boston’s overture for Chris Capuano can only mean he’s in their plans for next year. Sandy Alderson’s string of reasons for why the deal didn’t go through may all ring true, but the Mets looking ahead is the primary explanation.

Capuano pitched well enough this year to warrant an extension, but the Mets’ interest in retaining him suggest the team’s long-standing concerns over its starting pitching.

CAPUANO: Mets want him back.

The 11-12 Capuano is a 57-64 lifetime pitcher with an ERA north of four runs a game. He is what he is, which is a No. 5 quality starter. Capuano, a risk that paid off, is a left hander, which makes him worth the gamble again, especially considering the Mets’ questions in that area.

Johan Santana is recovering from shoulder surgery and  had setbacks. The Mets can’t write him in with ink for next year, and who is to say if he returns he’ll even be close to his former self? As far as Santana is concerned, the Mets can’t bank on anything with him.

Jonathan Niese also pitched well at times this season, but finished on the disabled list with a pulled side muscle and therefore is a concern. This is twice now Niese finished a season on the disabled list with a pulled muscle.

There are no givens with the rest of the rotation, either, with the possible exception of R.A. Dickey, he of the unpredictable pitch. After a slow start, Dickey has closed well.

Mike Pelfrey remains an enigma. He regressed greatly this season to the point where questions are being asked if he’ll ever live up to expectations. Can anybody honestly say they have confidence in Pelfrey, when time after time he has spit the bit?

Then there’s Dillon Gee, who started hot, but hit a rocky stretch. There’s no guarantee he won’t regress like Pelfrey. Other teams have scouts, too, so he’s not surprising anybody anymore.

The Mets have pitching prospects below, but Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey are at least two years away and Jenrry Mejia is coming off Tommy John surgery.

Chris Schwinden will be invited to camp in the spring, but he doesn’t get one salivating.

You can scan the free agent lists all you like, but the Mets won’t spend for a long term deal for a CJ Wilson, Rich Harden or Mark Buehrle. There are the likes of Freddy Garcia and Jason Marquis and a handful of other retreads they’ll scan, but hardly anything you could build around.

The Mets are hardly dealing from a position of strength when it comes to their 2012 rotation, so wanting to bring back Capuano is the obvious thing to do. That is, of course, if they can sign him.

Sep 21

Will it ever happen for Pelfrey? Plus poll.

Watching the Mets last night wasn’t frustrating as much as it was annoying and aggravating.

How does a team receive nine walks and still lose?

PELFREY: Another maddening outing.

 

Oh yeah, when its starter – its supposed No. 1 pitcher – gives up five runs on ten hits in six innings and the bullpen gives up six runs. With pitch counts the defining stat of starting pitchers, 100 in six innings won’t get it done for Pelfrey.

It is a sign he’s never in command, always struggling and usually one pitch away from imploding.

He said he was getting his fastball up last night. If it’s not one thing it is another. Either his command is bad or his pitch selection or he’s not challenging hitter. It is always something.

He’ll be cruising, then fail to put away a hitter, and soon after an inning unravels. Run support should only be an occasional alibi, because winning pitchers find a way to escape and make the best with what they are given.

It appeared he turned the corner last summer, but has regressed this season. Only the Mets’ lack of pitching depth and his reasonable salary will likely keep Pelfrey in the rotation next year.

However, eventually the Mets must decide if he’ll ever make it and should they bail on him.

Quite frankly, he’s aggravating to watch and makes you wonder how he’ll lose it this time.

Post your thoughts on Pelfrey and vote in the poll.

Aug 22

What to do with Pelfrey and Parnell?

It was interesting to hear the Mets are thinking of converting Mike Pelfrey to the closer role. Such a decision touches on two issues, neither of them of an immediate positive nature.

The first, of course, is concerns whether Pelfrey will ever be the dominant starter envisioned of him, and signs of which he flashed last season. The second is their doubts on Bobby Parnell becoming a closer.

PELFREY: Could he be a closer?

Pelfrey has regressed. His command is erratic and he continues to have trouble putting away hitters and closing innings, which is the prime requisite of being a closer, so it  makes me wonder if it will work. Then again, Pelfrey tends to run into trouble the second and third time through the order after hitters have had a chance to look at him. One inning might be the change of scenery he might need. It is definitely worth trying instead of dumping him.

As far as Parnell is concerned, he has trouble in the eighth, so the ninth is alarming.

If the Mets are serious about this, it doesn’t hurt to give it a try the last five weeks of the season. What do they have to lose? After all, does it matter whether they finish in fourth or fifth place in the NL East?

The Mets wanted Parnell to start a couple of years ago, but Jerry Manuel did him a disservice when he yanked him from the rotation when the season was already lost. At the time, Parnell’s problem was commanding his secondary pitches and finding away to work out of jams. He was never going to learn without the opportunity, and when he went back to the bullpen it became easy for him to rely mostly on his fastball.

If there is a possible experiment for Parnell the remainder of the season it could be as a long reliever, where he gets two, maybe three innings.

The Mets’ bullpen is a disaster so looking at Pelfrey is worth a shot. It might provide an indication of what direction to go this winter. With Parnell, there’s not enough time to stretch him out now so if they want to go back to him in the rotation that would be a spring training project.

The Mets don’t figure to spend much this winter again so it doesn’t hurt to look at internal options. There is young talent in the lower minor leagues and Jenrry Mejia is an injury concern, so there’s no immediate help available.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

 

Aug 12

Dillon Gee is this year’s surprise

In forecasting the Mets’ 2012 rotation, there has to be a spot for Dillon Gee, just as this year’s staff held a role for R.A. Dickey as the result of this out-of-nowhere season.

GEE: This year's surprise goes tonight.

Chris Young’s injury was the opportunity Gee needed to build on his designation as an organizational arm to one with a future.

Gee, tonight’s starter at Arizona, has impressed with his guile and ability to challenge hitters. He gives no quarter and so far has been exceptional in spotting his 90 mph. fastball to set up his changeup, which is his best pitch.

“When I look at my stuff on video, I say, `Hey, it’s average,’ ’’ Gee said earlier this season. “But, guys tell me my changeup is a plus-plus pitch.’’

Catcher Josh Thole said Gee’s control carried him in the minors and has stayed with him on this level, but has deserted him recently as he has walked 12 over his last four starts.

Gee, of course, will carry into next season the specter of whether he can duplicate what he’s accomplished. The same questions were asked of Mike Pelfrey this spring.

Gee and Niese have been the Mets’ most effective pitchers. Pelfrey remains an enigma, Dickey can be upgraded and Johan Santana’s remains a question. Chris Capuano has been effective at times and should be brought back.

As they did last year, the Mets will explore the free-agent market for middle-tier arms, such as Jon Garland. There is talent in the minor leagues, but it is at least two years away.

 

Aug 02

Mets more maddening than amazing.

They are still more maddening than amazing.

After winning five straight, the Mets have dropped three in a row and are a poor 22-27 at home, where they should be more formidable.

PELFREY: Still wonder about him.

A team can’t be a contender if it doesn’t win at home. And, they won’t win if they keep playing as they did last night.

Of course, it begins with pitching, and Mike Pelfrey continues to make you scratch your head, even when he gives up three runs. That should be enough to win most games, but last night was not most games. Winning pitchers find a way to shut down the opposition, especially when their offense falters, but Pelfrey remains too generous.

There are times, especially because he throws a sinker, when Pelfrey needs bust a hitter on the fists and get a ground ball – or go for the strikeout – but last night he gave up two sacrifice flies.

I thought Pelfrey made strides last season, but he’s regressed to where I wonder if he’ll ever be mentally tough enough to consistently work out of trouble. I’m not saying he must be Tom Seaver, Bob Gibson or Don Drysdale, but he needs to get meaner.

Had Pelfrey avoided one of those sacrifice flies there never would have been Mike Stanton’s grand slam. Pelfrey isn’t good enough to overcome, at least not on a consistent basis, the mistakes the Mets committed last night.

Not surprisingly, much of the focus is on Daniel Murphy, who, after cutting a ball off from right fielder Lucas Duda, was hesitant to throw to Justin Turner at first to nail Dewayne Wise. Murphy was afraid of the runner on third, but Turner had the play in front of him and an easier throw to the plate.

So, instead of two outs and first base open, Jason Isringhausen was forced to pitch to Stanton. Of course, it is still up to Isringhausen to make the quality pitch to get out of the inning, which he didn’t.

Earlier, there was a poor throw by David Wright that led to a run, and Jose Reyes being easily thrown out at the plate. Maybe the blame goes to Chip Hale for that one.

Overall, the Mets are playing better than expected, but still there are too many times they beat themselves, and last night was one of them.

Duda’s game-tying homer in the ninth inning gave us the gift of hope and exhilaration, of what we’d like things to be, but in the end there again was more maddening than amazing.