Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I'll Be the Judge: Mike Pelfrey

2008 Season: It was a breakthrough for Pelfrey, who muddled through the first two months of the season before suddenly discovering the secret to his success. On May 26 Pelfrey's record stood at 2-6 and he was being tattooed by the league on a regular basis. Mets fans could be forgiven for wondering if the big right-hander from Wichita State was ever going to put it all together. Suddenly, and without much warning, he did.

Pelfrey dominated the Dodgers over seven innings on May 31 and never looked back again. He went 11-5 with a 3.20 ERA the rest of the way and was undoubtedly the Mets' second-best starter by the time the season ended. Pelfrey wasn't dominant - only 110 strikeouts in 200 innings on the season - but he kept the ball in the ballpark and gave up less than a hit per inning over his final 150 innings pitched.

Contract Status: Pelfrey signed a major-league deal out of college, which expires at the end of the season. I'm pretty sure that he'll be arbitration-eligible after the season, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the Mets offer a multi-year extension if he replicates 2008's success.

The Verdict: It was a wonderful season for Pelfrey, one that begins to justify his high position in the 2006 Draft. He showed signs of the pitcher the Mets hoped he would become - a workhorse who kept his team in the game every time out, with enough dominanting performances to suggest he has a future as a #2 or a #3 starter. Pelfrey will never become a true ace without increasing his strikeout rate, but he'll be plentry respected if he continues pitching the way he did last year.

2009 Outlook: We may have seen the best of Mike Pelfrey last season, and it would not be surprising to see some regression in the first part of 2009. He did throw a lot of innings last year and there's some concern that Pelfrey is a bit of an injury risk as a consequence. I don't buy it - Pelfrey's frame strikes me as the type that will allow for endless 200-inning seasons with few bumps in the road.

Frankly, I think the only thing holding Pelfrey back at this point is confidence and experience, and both will need to develop a little bit more before I'm ready to annoint him as Johan Santana's sidekick. I'd like to see him refine an out pitch against lefties and to continue pounding that hard sinker against righties; it's a formula that will bring him sustained success. Look for 13 wins and an ERA around 4.00 this year, but don't be surprised if he puts it all together and puts up even better numbers.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I Give Up.

The Mets signed Livan Hernandez to a minor-league deal today. Best quote of the day?

Another voice said, "He gives us another right-handed bat off the bench."

How can I be expected to write intelligently about a baseball team that signs Livan Hernandez to a contract that will pay him money to play baseball at any level? Don't even get me started about offering ANOTHER minor-league contract to Jose Valentin.

Manny Ramirez remains unemployed. Orlando Hudson remains unemployed. Omar Minaya offers minor-league deals to the likes of Hernandez and Valentin and assures Mets fans that everything will be OK, because he added two new relievers to the bullpen. It's pathetic.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Why Did It Have to Happen? (Flushing University)

Alex Rodriguez's shocking admission of steroid use while with the Texas Rangers has been the talk of the baseball world this week. Would any of this have happened if he had signed with the Mets after the 2000 season? Read more here ...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

2009 National League East Champions!

It's going to be a banner year at at Citi Field/Metropolitan Stadium, where the Mets will celebrate their first year in the new building by storming to 93 wins and a division championship. So says the people at Baseball Prospectus, whose projection system picked the Mets to finish first in the NL East in 2009.

I don't see it - and I'm going to spend most of the next seven weeks telling you why I don't see it. Pitchers and catchers are around the corner and I'm bringing the blog back this year. I just finished a piece for Flushing University about Alex Rodriguez, which I expect will be up within 24 hours.

Loyal readers - and there are probably five or six of you - will the Mets win 93 games and a division championship? Or will they win 84 games and finish in third place, as I am boldly predicting with less than a week before Spring Training begins?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Now What Do We Call It?

If the Mets' naming-rights deal with Citigroup eventually falls through, what will the franchise christen its new stadium while it waits for a new corporate sponsor to step in? It's a question that's been tossed about for a few weeks, and one that my very few loyal readers have been asking me to chime in about.

I think it's easier to begin by eliminating something that I wouldn't go for. I certainly don't want anything or anyone connected to the Brooklyn Dodgers to grace the marquee of the new stadium. That eliminates Jackie Robinson Stadium, Gil Hodges Park or anything else that makes me think of Ebbets Field.

To this day, the Dodgers remain my second favorite professional baseball team, simply because the franchise had the good sense to get the hell out of Brooklyn when it had the chance. I am sick to death of people who romanticize those days and who try to draw a direct line between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Mets.

Look, the Mets were not the miraculous off-spring of a solitary parent. This town had two National League teams before the Mets were here - the Dodgers and the New York Giants. Both won championships in the 1950s, both got their butts kicked by the Yankees on a regular basis in the World Series and both skipped town in 1957 to stake their claim in sunny California. The Mets' colors are orange and blue for a reason - and not because they also happen to be the state colors in New York.

In the end, I say the Mets have one of two choices. They could simply call it Shea Stadium II, one final tribute to the man who brought National League baseball to New York. They could also go with a something generic like Metropolitan Stadium, which would be a simple nod to the team nickname and the part of the world it plays in.

Roster Move: Perez Signs Three-Year Deal

This isn't exactly breaking news, but I'm trying to keep things steady here. I've been threatening to start writing again all winter, but with Spring Training nearly upon us I know I have to get back in gear. I'll be writing columns for Flushing University again this year; I'm told that an impressive stable of writers is being collected and that big plans are in store for the site. If you haven't visited the message boards lately, get over there and start posting.

As for Ollie - he's not worth $12 million a year. That much should be obvious. The Mets stuck to their guns and only made a three-year commitment here, which I guess is a moral victory, although I don't understand why they wouldn't want a club option for the fourth year just in case Perez finally puts it all together.

I still enjoy watching him pitch, because you get the feeling he can be magnificent every time he takes the mound. It's not a matter of stuff with Perez; it's a matter of getting that stuff over the plate often enough to get batters out consistently. I've never once seen a player who suddenly found consistency after being handed three years of job security and guaranteed fat paychecks, but Perez will be no worse than a fourth starter throughout the length of his contract.

Johan Santana*
Oliver Perez
Tim Redding
Mike Pelfrey
John Maine
Jon Niese (renewable)

Francisco Rodriguez*
JJ Putz
Pedro Feliciano
Duaner Sanchez
Darren O'Day (Rule V)
Rocky Cherry (Rule V)
Brian Stokes (renewable)
Sean Green (renewable)
Eddie Kunz (renewable)
Carlos Muniz (renewable)
Robert Parnell (renewable)
Conor Robertson (renewable)
Brandon Knight (renewable)
Billy Wagner (out for 2009 season)

Brian Schneider
Ramon Castro
Robinson Cancel (renewable)

Carlos Delgado*
Luis Castillo
David Wright
Jose Reyes
Alex Cora

Carlos Beltran
Ryan Church
Marlon Anderson
Fernando Tatis*
Jeremy Reed
Cory Sullivan
Angel Pagan
Daniel Murphy (renewable)
Nick Evans (renewable)