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May 8, 2006
  
Taking the Fourth
by: Eric Simon on May 8, 2006 6:30 AM | Filed under: Articles

With Victor Zambrano out for the season after tearing the flexor tendon in his pitching elbow on Saturday, the Mets will scramble to find someone who they can slot into the fourth spot in their starting rotation. As much as some fans may dislike Zambrano, it’s not as if league-average innings-munchers grow on a tree somewhere. With an unreliable Steve Trachsel at #3 and, eventually, Brian Bannister at #5, the Mets need to find a suitable long-term replacement for Zambrano. Here are some of their options.

Fill from Within (Major Leagues)

The Mets have a couple of options already on the active roster, the first of which, Darren Oliver, pitched admirably in relief of Zambrano. Oliver has 228 career starts to his credit and a career ERA+ of 93, which is 7% below average. Willie Randolph has already said that he doesn’t expect to move “Ollie” into the rotation because he has been so effective out of the bullpen. Still, you’ll have a tough time convincing me that it’s more important to have an effective long man than it is to have a semi-reliable fourth starter. Moreover, since Pedro Feliciano was called up and has pitched effectively, the Mets need not rely on Oliver to be a LOOGY (Lefty One Out GuY), making it even easier to transition him from the bullpen to the rotation.

If not Oliver, then Aaron Heilman would seem a logical choice to replace Zambrano. As a starter, Heilman pitched extremely well in winter league play as well as in spring training, and it’s no secret that he fancies a return to the rotation. Again, Randolph has repeatedly stated that he has no intention of breaking up the big three (Billy Wagner, Duaner Sanchez, Heilman), and it’s certainly hard to argue that point considering how well the Mets’ bullpen has performed this season. However, with Jorge Julio pitching much better of late, maybe the Mets can afford to pull Heilman from the pen and call up MetsGeek favorite Heath Bell, who is dominating AAA (again).

Fill from Within (Minor Leagues)

If the Mets decide to leave their big league bullpen as-is, they have several arms to draw from via their farm system. John Maine should be back from the disabled list in a couple of weeks and represents a viable long-term solution. He has very good career minor league numbers, and he pitched reasonably well in his one big league start this season. His performance against the Nationals last week was especially admirable considering that he pitched with a broken blood vessel in the middle finger of his pitching hand, which impeded his control and forced him to avoid throwing his curveball altogether.

Lima Time! was unspectacular on Sunday, and has generally been unspectacular throughout his career. However, he does eat innings and he (usually) keeps the walks to a minimum. The Mets’ defense is very good at turning batted balls into outs, as evidenced by their team DER of .718, good for 5th in the National League. So, the alarming frequency with which Lima puts balls into play isn’t likely to be as costly with the Mets’ defense behind him as it would be, say, with the Phillies’ defense behind him (.655 team DER).

Another name that has popped up since Zambrano’s injury is that of Jeremi Gonzalez. Gonzalez has pitched effectively this season for AAA Norfolk, sporting a 3.03 ERA in 35.2 innings and a solid 30-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He has also done a good job keeping the ball in the park, surrendering just a single homerun so far this season. His 2006 performance notwithstanding, Gonzalez’s career is spotty, as he has posted a 4.84 ERA over five big league seasons with the Cubs, Devil Rays and, most recently, the Red Sox. His career strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1.44 is not especially newsworthy.

A little big further down the organizational ladder are two promising young pitchers: Mike Pelfrey and Alay Soler. Both righties were outstanding at High-A St. Lucie this season, but had varying degrees of success in their first exposure to AA. Pelfrey struggled a bit in his first start with Binghamton, but Soler was very impressive in his. There’s virtually no chance that we’ll see Pelfrey this season, but Soler is 26 years old and has some professional experience under his belt pitching in Cuba, so a callup at some point this season is definitely a possibility.

Fill from Outside the Organization

The ludicrous Milledge-for-Zito rumors aside, there are number of decent starting pitchers who will be free agents as season’s end who may become available any time between now and the July 31st trading deadline. Here are some of the names:

Jeff Weaver
Kelvim Escobar
Gil Meche
Byung-Hyun Kim
Tony Armas
Jason Schmidt
Woody Williams
Orlando Hernandez
Vicente Padilla
Ted Lilly
Andy Pettitte
Barry Zito

There is a sliding scale of availability for these guys, ranging from very (Padilla, Hernandez) to hardly (Pettitte, Lilly). Omar Minaya will no doubt have his beak in the trade market, and if there’s an arm out there that might be available you can be sure that he’ll have that team’s general manager on the horn to test the waters.

Well?

Given the tendencies of Willie Randolph, I would guess that the Mets will be inclined to bring up Jeremi Gonzalez to fill Zambrano’s spot for the time being while Lima Time! will continue to take Bannister’s spot until either Bannister or Maine is ready to come back. The Mets’ next fifteen games are against the Phillies, Brewers, Cardinals and Yankees, all teams with extremely potent offenses. The Mets’ pitching, which has anchored the team to 21 wins in its first 31 games, will be repeatedly tested in the coming weeks. We’ll see where we stand when the smoke clears.


157 Responses to “Taking the Fourth”

Pages: « 1 [2]

  1. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on May 8, 2006 at 5:56 pm (#37479)

    We know Heilman wants to be in the rotation, so what’s the downside of giving him a couple of starts to prove himself?

    The downsize is showing Omar he was WRONG. He staill wont even admit the Kazmir/Zambrano trade was a mistake. His ego is to large to admit he was wrong.

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  3. Comment posted by MetsFanSince71 on May 8, 2006 at 5:58 pm (#37480)

    The Heilman debate is a moot point right now anyway. From Minaya on down to even the broadcasters, they’ve made it very clear Heilman will NOT be moved of the pen any time soon.

  4. Comment posted by Peter H on May 8, 2006 at 5:59 pm (#37481)

    Wdwrkr35, you know that it was Duquette who traded Zambrano away, right?

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  6. Comment posted by MetsFanSince71 on May 8, 2006 at 6:00 pm (#37482)

    The downsize is showing Omar he was WRONG. He staill wont even admit the Kazmir/Zambrano trade was a mistake. His ego is to large to admit he was wrong.

    IMHO, this is such bull.

    And why in the world should Omar admit to anything when he didn’t even make the Zambrano deal?

  7. Comment posted by WdWrkr35 on May 8, 2006 at 6:06 pm (#37483)

    Cause Omar is riding the company line, not one of them has admitted it was a bad trade.

  8. Comment posted by sweetlew on May 8, 2006 at 6:08 pm (#37485)

    Maine is a decent option, but two rookies in a playoff rotation? Not even two rookies of top prospect status either.

    At this point, I don’t think Maine is a rookie. I think he had 7 or so starts with Baltimore last year. Young yes, not totally inexperienced.

    Sweetlew, but you have no doubts about Bannister? I think he deserves some benefit of doubt, but he has given up a lot of baserunners and is walking a fine line between getting lit up and pitching well.

    I do have some concerns, but his track record suggests that the wildness will not last. I think he has been shaky as a rookie in his first few starts, but while giving up a lot of walks, he has given up very few hits. This I think can be corrected with a minimal of experience. if he was giving up a lot of hits, that would worry me more.

    Soler is at AA and threw 6.2 shutout innings. The recap was not done for Sunday….but that’s the deal. 7 hits allowed and nine k’s. He could be the x-factor for the rotation, but also for the bullpen to free up Heilman. It will be a lot easier and him to be ready for 1 inning a game than 5 to 7.

    Not to be a smartass, but why? Soler started in Cuba. Soler has been starting since March. Soler is starting now. He is used to throwing 6-7 innings every five days. Heilman has been throwing out of the pen since April. If we are talking about something in a month from now, it will be MUCH harder to tranistion Heilman into the rotation. Soler is 26, he has some pretty decent experience. If he can continue to stand them up and sit them down in the minors, he should get a shot at the rotation, not the pen.

    Besides, if we are going to move Heilman to the rotation, he should be replaced with a reliever - Bell or even Owens.

  9. Comment posted by sweetlew on May 8, 2006 at 6:16 pm (#37486)

    As far as all the discussion of maximing the play-off potential, etc. I think that is done by having a truly dominant bullpen.

    I have said it before and will say it again. The 2006 Mets are very similar to the 2002 Angels. A strong top of the rotation, a weak back of the rotation, and a dominant, lights-out bullpen.

    I will take my chances in any seven game play-off series when I have Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine pitching four games. With a dominant bullpen, the other starters really only need to give us 5 innings. This is how the 1996 Yankees won it all also.

    Would I like another solid ML quality arm? Hell, who wouldn’t? But, I think we will be fine. I am for giving Lima a few starts, who knows what Peterson can do, not to mention Lo Duca (one of the best recievers in the game). This is also why I can think Gonzalez can be passable for fill in duty.

    I think a rotation of Pedro-Glavine-Trax-Bannister-(Maine, Lima, Gonzalez, Soler, et al) is good enough, with this offense, defense and bullpen to get us to the play-offs.

    The NL East is weak this year. Face it, the Braves are the Braves, but they stink this season. They have more pitching questions than we do, and they haven’t had a pitcher get hurt. The Phillies rotation and pen are weak.

    Pedro and Glavine should win about 40 games between them. That means the other three starter and the bullpen need to win 55. Totally doable.

  10. Comment posted by argonbunnies on May 8, 2006 at 6:20 pm (#37487)

    That’s why I think we need 2-3 weeks to see what some of the other in house options can give us. If they implode, we obviously need to move Heilman to the rotation or trade for a starter.

    So, what, if Lima and/or Gonzalez miraculously put together a few good starts, then we stick with them, expecting they’ll keep it up? Same with Maine, who’s never put together a particularly impressive stretch in 2+ years of AAA? Or Soler, who no scout has been too high on and looked like crap in spring training?

    Obviously if the Mets have some positive info on Soler or Maine that I’m unaware of, info that makes them think it’s LIKELY that these guys will succeed, then great. (Though my point still holds re: Lima/Gonzalez.) Otherwise, we should convert Heilman (or acquire Odalis) NOW.

    It’s always better to be proactive (making a move that ought to work) than reactive (making a move that ought to fail, hoping you get lucky, and then scrambling to fix it after the failure happens).

  11. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on May 8, 2006 at 6:31 pm (#37488)

    I never said Omar did the trade, he bought into the company line of not admitting it was a mistake. I could have said The METS wont admit it was a big mistake instead to be more clear. How about how Heilman was starting in spring training in 4 starts he went 1-0 with a 1.59 era and never got his shot. IMO heilman should have been starting and Bannister should have been left in AAA and used in case someone got hurt. Since Bannister got hurt Omar wont Let Heilman in the starting rotation in case he does well and everyone second guesses his Decision to start Bannister.

  12. Comment posted by argonbunnies on May 8, 2006 at 6:35 pm (#37489)

    I think a rotation of Pedro-Glavine-Trax-Bannister-(Maine, Lima, Gonzalez, Soler, et al) is good enough, with this offense, defense and bullpen to get us to the play-offs.

    Clearly our hot start has turned you into an optimist. :) Our offense is good, but we’ve all seen plenty of weaknesses. Our defense is kinda poor, IMO.

    The NL East is weak this year. Face it, the Braves are the Braves, but they stink this season. They have more pitching questions than we do, and they haven’t had a pitcher get hurt. The Phillies rotation and pen are weak.

    The Phillies lineup is better than ours, their defense is better (Rowand and Utley led CF and 2B in Zone Rating last year), and relying on Madson and Floyd isn’t any worse than relying on Bannister and Maine.

    Hudson, Davies and Thomson will all have good years; if the Braves can fix their crappy bullpen, they’ll be in the hunt again.

    We should be addressing our shortcomings, not assuming we’ll overcome them because of a weak division.

    Pedro and Glavine should win about 40 games between them. That means the other three starter and the bullpen need to win 55. Totally doable.

    Pedro 20, Glavine 20, Trachsel 14, Bannister 13, Maine 10, bullpen 18 — to me, this sounds more like a best-case scenario than a most-likely scenario…

  13. Comment posted by argonbunnies on May 8, 2006 at 6:37 pm (#37490)

    As far as all the discussion of maximing the play-off potential, etc. I think that is done by having a truly dominant bullpen.

    Fine. Let Heilman start until we clinch a playoff spot, then have him back in the ‘pen for the playoffs. Teams move a starter into the ‘pen for the playoffs every year.

  14. Comment posted by sweetlew on May 8, 2006 at 6:50 pm (#37492)

    Otherwise, we should convert Heilman (or acquire Odalis) NOW.

    It’s always better to be proactive (making a move that ought to work) than reactive (making a move that ought to fail, hoping you get lucky, and then scrambling to fix it after the failure happens).

    I generally agree with you, and if it was June 8th, we should make a move immediately. However, because it is May, there is plenty of time to be flexible.

    If Bannister comes back healthy and performs well, we only need to replace VZ. We all know that VZ was average. Replacing average performance with slightly below average is not horrible. It is not like we lost a front of the rotation starter.

    That is why I am finding this entire discussion a little amusing. Two weeks ago everyone hated VZ and wanted him off the team. Now everyone is shouting that the sky is falling because VZ is done for the year. Doesn’t anyone else see the irony?

    I think if we can get a combined ERA+ of 95 from VZ’s replacement, I think we will be in business.

  15. Comment posted by jzach on May 8, 2006 at 6:59 pm (#37493)

    Fine. Let Heilman start until we clinch a playoff spot, then have him back in the ‘pen for the playoffs. Teams move a starter into the ‘pen for the playoffs every year.

    Beat me to the punch.

    If Heilman pitches in the rotation for the whole year (and does so well), we then have the option in September of slotting him back into the bullpen OR keeping him in the rotation.

    If we get to the end of the season without having found out what Heilman offers to the rotation and what Bell/Owens offer to the bullpen, what happens when someone goes down in September?

  16. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on May 8, 2006 at 6:59 pm (#37494)

    Omar did a great job signing Pedro Beltran 2 yrs ago, and this yr signing Delgado and LoDuca. I even admit the Seo deal turned out terrific(At the time I was against it). Omar has done a really bad job with the starting rotation. If he wanted to trade benson to dump salary, no problem, but he should have replaced him with an experienced alternative. With trachsel a question mark at best coming off last yr and how terrible Zambrano has been since he got here the mets needed a 3rd experienced, durable, winning starter to go along with Pedro and Glavine(which in my opinion he had with Heilman). So since he went with Bannister an unproven rookie it was a roll of the dice at best. Everyone knows you win with pitching, havent the yankees proved the last 4 yrs no matter how much hitting you have if you dont have the pitching you dont win. Omar decided at that time Heilman was a relief pitcher and as we see now hes not willing to change his mind when the Mets need it. How many games do the mets have to lose with, AA and AAA, sub major league pitchers before he gives Heilman the shot? The games dont look like they matter now but how many teams miss the playoffs by a game or two at the end of the yr. All aound Omar has done well with his moves. As well and anyone would have done given the spending Wilpon has allowed him to do. His Starting pitching decisions leave alot to be desired. One Time I would like to see Omar say he made a mistake and change his mind. It will cost the mets wins with Lima and gonzalez pitching.

  17. Comment posted by Steve I. on May 8, 2006 at 7:02 pm (#37495)

    On Omar taking the company line - I would hope that we all would agree that the team knows more about their personnel than we do. Concerning the Kazmir trade, from page 55 of “Pedro, Carlos and Beltran”:…”Fear a,so existed about Kazmir’s off-the-field behavior — for a much more serious reason than wrecking Huber’s car, which had been widely reported in the media. Team officials suspected marijuana use, at least early in Kazmir’s minor-league career, and thought he would be ill-suited for the fast pace and temptations of New York.”
    Can anybody say Grant Roberts?

  18. Comment posted by Cesar on May 8, 2006 at 7:04 pm (#37496)

    Guys: If the Mets are down 5-6 runs by the 5th inning having strong bullpen is not going to win many games. Also keep in mind that in the playoffs you do not need 5 starters, 3 or a maximum of 4 is enough if we want to give Pedro and Glavine enough rest.”Lima time” to go back to AAA or even better home. It is better to have younger pitchers with potential than old fossils that can not perform anymore, at least you can expect improvement from game to game from the young guys.

  19. Comment posted by ap on May 8, 2006 at 7:18 pm (#37497)

    there is no need for panic…bannister comes off the dl friday and will be ready to pitch that weekend, monday, or tuesday….no biggie…only one spot needs to be filled then…and everyone hates victor zambrano and he did real shtty his whole met career so why the hell is everyone panicking….wasnt this the guy everyone wanted out of the rotation and were yelling everytime the team was talking about giving him another chance and stuff?….ok then why the hell are all of you spazzing out now?….the guys stats were sht…era, whip, walks…he sucked period…arm hurt or arm not hurt he had problems even when healthy in tampa…he walked the park there too….good riddance is the truth honestly…i mean this guy was gonig to pitch no matter what with a black cloud over his head with the mets with kazmir and him sukkin arse and still getting chances…now the organization can finally move on and forget trying to prove the trade by playing him and give somebody whos better a shot

  20. Comment posted by Mike on May 8, 2006 at 7:45 pm (#37498)

    Not to be a smartass, but why? Soler started in Cuba. Soler has been starting since March. Soler is starting now. He is used to throwing 6-7 innings every five days. Heilman has been throwing out of the pen since April. If we are talking about something in a month from now, it will be MUCH harder to tranistion Heilman into the rotation. Soler is 26, he has some pretty decent experience. If he can continue to stand them up and sit them down in the minors, he should get a shot at the rotation, not the pen.

    Easy. Soler did not exactly kill it in the spring. It is much easier to dominate for one inning than go six against big league hitters. He will be ready much quicker to use his fastball/slider combo in the pen and go with his two best pitches. Otherwise, he might not be ready for months. If you put him in the pen, he could ready much sooner. I think it’s too soon to toss him in the rotation now, but if that is my choice over Lima Time again, sign me up. I don’t mind giving Gonzlalez another shot for reasons noted on my site.

    I believe that Heilman would be better suited for big league rotation now than Soler. Move Heilman to the rotation, Bell up and let Soler start throwing relief in Norfolk for a week or to see how he does and get his arm used to it. BA thought he could be the closer of the future…

    He has enough stuff to start but also projects as a possible closer, a role for which the Mets have no obvious long-term candidate.

    Of course, they have three now, but you get the idea. Guys just move faster if they go into the bullpen. You know how college relievers can come up in months if they are good while starters still take at least a year. I trust Heilman more in the rotation right now anyway. That’s not to say Soler in the bullpen the basis of my arguemnt, it really wasn’t and I was commenting off of someone else (I think you actually) bringing up Soler. He wouldn’t be in the mix if I had my way just yet. Bell to the bullpen for the Mets, Heilman to the rotation, and Lima/Gonzalez for the fifth spot until Bannister is back. Then Maine when he is healthy back at AAA, Owens when he is healthy to AAA, and Soler getting bumped up to AAA if he aces his next AA start. Then, Soler can get put in the rotation of Bannister tanks or in the bullpen if he is needed there. Or Heilman can shift back to the bullpen if they want that more when they get their full stable of arms back. Mendoza did it for the Yankees, it is not like relievers NEVER spot start.

    Remember, we don’t know about Bannister. Keith Hernandez said he would take longer than the 15 days. Lima could get another three starts and no one knows what is going on with Maine. Before you know it, LimaTime and Gonalzez could have had eight starts between them when all is said and done and then Maine could come back whenever and look bad for another four starts. Do the Mets really have that much talent they can afford to toss away a large majority of those games? Cole Hamels has a .096 BAA at AAA. That is nothing to sneeze at. If you want to give me an example of rookie that can make an impact, it’s him. Not Bannister or Maine (he’s still a rookie..sorry and seven starts does not make him that much of a vet…). Hamels has TWO homers given up in about 200 pro innings with over a 10.00 K/9 and a sub 1.00 WHIP. He could help out that weak Philly staff.

    I don’t even know where I was going with all of this…I went off on a tangent…

  21. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on May 8, 2006 at 7:45 pm (#37499)

    This year and next is kinda like 1999 and 2000 for us. With Pedro and Glavine as our #1 and #2 starters the Mets have a 2 yr window to win with this staff. Then its time to rebuild the starting rotation. Im hoping as well as everyone that Bannister becomes a star and well as pelfrey later this yr. If that doesnt work out then Wilpon has to open his wallet again for a couple above average starters next yr. With Wilpons track record I dont see him keeping that up for long, I could be wrong. That team in 2000 made the WS but just fell short, afterwhich 01 to 04 were back to ordinary. I just dont want to see that happen again. If Glavine has a solid yr we need to resign him for another yr so he can get 300 as a Met, he would be a solid #3 next yr if he stays healthy.

    Lets go Mets in 06!!!!!

  22. Comment posted by Super T on May 8, 2006 at 7:49 pm (#37500)

    If Glavine has a solid yr we need to resign him for another yr so he can get 300 as a Met, he would be a solid #3 next yr if he stays healthy.

    Supposedly, the Mets hold a $11M 2007 option on him.

  23. Comment posted by argonbunnies on May 8, 2006 at 7:57 pm (#37501)

    I think the crux of what’ll happen depends on how the Mets’ decision-makers see Pelfrey, Soler, and Maine. If the brass honestly believes that one of those three can be solid for the rest of the year, and he just needs a few more minor league starts (or rest, in Maine’s case) to be reasy, then there’s a plan. Eke a few starts out of Lima/Gonzalez, and then go with our new rotation member.

    If the organizational view parallels my own, however (that Pelfrey, Soler, and Maine are iffy longshots for ‘06), we should waste no time on Lima and Gonzalez, and get Heilman or Odalis in our rotation pronto.

  24. Comment posted by argonbunnies on May 8, 2006 at 7:59 pm (#37502)

    Soler did not exactly kill it in the spring. It is much easier to dominate for one inning than go six against big league hitters.

    True, Mike. But if we need to promote a reliever from within, do we need to convert a starter to do it? I say use Owens/Bell/Fortunato, and let Soler show what he can do as a starter in AAA.

  25. Comment posted by wdwrkr35 on May 8, 2006 at 8:00 pm (#37503)

    I thought Glavine was signed from 2003-05 with an option for 06 based on 600 IP for the previous 3 years? Did they give him another option yr when they opted him this yr?

  26. Comment posted by Mike on May 8, 2006 at 8:02 pm (#37504)

    But I stated Bell as my first choice. Down the line he could help and I think you were reading way too much into it. In a perfect world, I prefer Bell over Soler and Soler starting in AAA.

  27. Comment posted by Mike on May 8, 2006 at 8:05 pm (#37505)

    wdwrkr35, you are right…however an article just came out this weekend about it. In March 2005, they deferred 3M of his salary and tacked on a club option.

    Turned out to be good move…or looks like one so far anyway.

  28. Comment posted by Mike on May 8, 2006 at 8:07 pm (#37506)

    I’m out guys…this one a great discussion. I’ll probably be doing a wrap up of it on my site tomorrow…later…

  29. Comment posted by Jose Reyes, RBI Machine on May 8, 2006 at 8:08 pm (#37507)

    As much as some fans may dislike Zambrano, it’s not as if league-average innings-munchers grow on a tree somewhere.

    Ok, I haven’t read the article or the comments yet… but yes. This might have been the definitive quote of the offseason here at MetsGeek. Well, that, and Bring Back Fonzie!!!

  30. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on May 8, 2006 at 8:08 pm (#37508)

    If the organizational view parallels my own, however (that Pelfrey, Soler, and Maine are iffy longshots for ‘06), we should waste no time on Lima and Gonzalez, and get Heilman or Odalis in our rotation pronto.

    I also agree the 3 rookies are longshots and Heilman needs to be in the rotation, but I also think Bannister has gone 2-0 in 4 starts with a low era now deserves the shot until he succeeds or blows it before we trade for odalis perez.

  31. Comment posted by jzach on May 8, 2006 at 8:08 pm (#37509)

    I have said it before and will say it again. The 2006 Mets are very similar to the 2002 Angels. A strong top of the rotation, a weak back of the rotation, and a dominant, lights-out bullpen.

    This isn’t true, Sweetlew, and sorry for the diatribe that is about to follow. The 2002 Angels only started coming together in late June when they brought up Lackey from the minors and moved Schoeneweis to the bullpen. Lackey gave them a rotation of:

    Washburn - 3.15 ERA
    Lackey - 3.66 ERA
    R. Ortiz - 3.77 ERA
    Appier - 3.92 ERA
    Callaway/Sele - 4.77 ERA

    And meanwhile Schoeneweis turned into another solid guy in the bullpen alongside Percival, Donnelly, Shields and Weber. Add to that the September call-up of K-Rod - the main reason they won in the playoffs - and you have a team that had a very solid (but unspectacular) 1-4 with an excellent pen that ran four deep for the early season and eventually six deep in the playoffs. For the record, their starters ranked 4th in the AL after Boston, the Skanks and the A’s.

    The Mets on the other hand have a similarly excellent bullpen that runs 3-8 deep (depending on how you count Julio, Feliciano, Oliver, Bradford and Bell) and also have Owens with “September K-Rod potential.” HOWEVER, instead of having 4 good and 1 bad starter, we have 2 outstanding starters, 1 bad starter (Trachsel ~5.00 ERA), and no #4 an #5 starters to speak of at all.

    The moral: the Angels had their best stretch of the season, going 30-12, after moving Schoeneweis to the bullpen and Lackey to the rotation. They did well NOT because it firmed up their bullpen (which was strong all season) but because Lackey was a big upgrade to their starting rotation (a #2 starter after Washburn) meaning that they had a chance to bring in their outstanding bullpen in close games nearly 4 out of 5 games, not 2.5 out of 5 times as could be the case with the 2006 Mets. So yes, their bullpen won them many close games and probably is responsible for the World Series. But unlike the Mets, the Angels were not forced to choose between a solid bullpen and solid starters: they had both.

    A much better comparison for the 2006 Mets thus far is the 2001 Diamondbacks. The D’Backs also had two extremely dominent pitchers, a good bullpen (not as good as ours), and a bevy of pitchers who came in and out of the rotation with varying degrees of success (I believe Miguel Batista was the best of them, starting in the bullpen and then moving to the rotation to stay … sound familiar? *cough*heilman*cough*). In the end though, none of them emerged as particularly above average and Johnson-Schilling had 9 of the 11 wins they got in the playoffs, with the two others being a great Batista start in the LDS and a blowout win that Brian Anderson started in the LCS.

    If people are as confident in Pedro-Glavine as Johnson-Schilling of 2001, then by all means use Lima and others…but be aware that the “two 20-game winners and no other good starters” route to the playoffs is very tenuous one, and I believe the team should be doing everything in their power to find a third above average starter (i.e. try Heilman and Soler to see what they can give, since Lima and Gonzalez are obviously not a long term answer).

  32. Comment posted by Steve I. on May 8, 2006 at 8:34 pm (#37510)

    Here’s why I think Lima gets another chance - he was doing ok until the balk/dp. Then, you get the Smolz bunt/hack swing and LoDuca getting tossed. It’s at that point that Lima started to unwind. Up until then, Loduca held Lima in check. Throw in the fact that Angel Hernandez was squeezing Lima and then told Lima that he wasn’t squeezing Smolz because Smolz was a better pitcher and you have Lima coming apart at the seams. My guess is that Lima gets another start to see if he can keep the game close and take it thru 6 innings. You stat guys must have a read as to how he was up until the craziness started.

  33. Comment posted by Jose Reyes, RBI Machine on May 8, 2006 at 8:39 pm (#37511)

    I can’t stomach the idea of giving away 5 or 6 games here in May simply because we can. Four games on the Phillies, eight on the Braves. With five months to go, thats nothing.

    Wasting several starts on Lima/Gonzalez might be the difference between a 95 win team winning the East and a 91 win team staring up at the Wildcard. The point is, every game matters. Even now. Even with a lead. We can’t afford an experiment.

    Anyone who has watched the Mets even casually this season knows that Aaron Heilman is one of the top five pitchers on the team. Pedro and Wagner would be the only ones clearly better. We’ve got absolutely zilch as our #3 - #5 starters.

    Trachsel is an old dude coming off back surgery. Bannister is a promising rookie who has scuffled big time so far. Zambrano is done. Maine hasn’t pitched well since 2004, and expecting ANYTHING from him right now is absolutely insane. Pelfrey and Soler are fantastic prospects, but its way too soon for Pelfrey and we still don’t knwo what we have in Soler.

    The point is - the Mets have zero time to waste on guys who we already know can’t even give us league average starts. Does anyone else want Heilman and Sanchez sitting in the bullpen playing checkers in a 13-3 loss again?

  34. Comment posted by letsgomets on May 8, 2006 at 8:52 pm (#37512)

    Lets discuss a few things first. one bannister will be back in 2 starts so finding 2 starters is unnecessary. you are really only looking for one starter to fill zamby’s spot. this has to be the mets year. that means that in order for them to win they have to have the starting pitching live up to what they can do. that involves moving heilman into the rotation and bringing up bell/owens. you cant give up a win every 5 turns. a rotation of pedro/glavin/aaron/trach/bannister is good enough in the nl east. if the mets are so high on bell/owens and they are plying to well why not bring them up.

    second milledge is going to be the face of our team at the top of the line up with reyes and beltran for many years. i like dontrelle he is a great pitcher but he is not one of the top 5 pitchers in the leauge right now … he has had a horrible year by his standards.

    lets put this out there for thought … i think that if you get a pitcher for milledge it has to be someone that will dominiate night in night out like clemens did last year …
    what about milledge for johan santana … probably the best young left handed starter in the league and he is locked up for years. i would rather have santana instead of willis !!!!

  35. Comment posted by chris in ga on May 8, 2006 at 9:03 pm (#37513)

    Alot of people think that Livan is pitching through pain in his knee this season. That scares me alot. I like Odalis Perez.

    Heilman SLider

    INside Edge, the scouting services used by about ten major league teams and ESPN, counts cutters as sliders. I havent seen him throw a true slider this season but he could be throwing a cutter.
    By the way, inside edge rules. Its the best part of my insider membership @ espn. If you are a big fan of looking at tendencies, this is great

  36. Comment posted by metswin2006 on May 8, 2006 at 9:16 pm (#37514)

    I like Odalis Perez. I think we should get a deal done. they want a salary dump. We have the $$$, and he’s solid. His he better than pedro or glavine or even traschel for that matter? no. But he’s a proven major league pitcher who can win. I think a change of scenery will do him well. I think victor diaz and a lower minor leaguer would be a pretty good deal on both ends. I dont think they will want alot for him. I dont have the stats, but I do remember him pitching pretty well at shea. This will also keep Heilman in the pen, were I think he makes our relief corps jump from a b+ to an A+.

  37. Gravatar
  38. Comment posted by jpwf on May 8, 2006 at 9:30 pm (#37515)

    - I would hope that we all would agree that the team knows more about their personnel than we do.

    1: This particular team has proven that assumption wrong in the past and the only reason to give them the benefit of the doubt now is that Omar’s deals have mostly worked well so far.

    2: The pot story reeks (pun intended) of an attempt to once gain justify a bad trade- let’s see how many “reasons” have we been given for why Kazmir sucked-
    a: He’s a small lefty- they never succeed
    b: he’s too young- he years away if ever
    c: Small lefty teenagers have horrendous injury rates- he’ll likely have a career ending injury begfore reaching the majors
    d: He stole Al leiter’s car and took it in a joy ride
    e: he stole _________’s car- took it for a joyride and crashed it because he was high on pot.
    f: He doesn’t workout.
    g: He slept with Jeff Wilpon’s girlfriend

    Ok I made that last one up.
    Any way it’s all self-justification after the fact crap.
    The simple fact is this- they traded a very valuable commodity for much less than they should have for the oldest baseball reason- they simply mis-judged the talents involved- they underrated Kazmir and they overrated Zambrano. What moves it from a simple blown trade is this- everyone else in baseball knew the Mets blew it at the time. The Mets were the only organization in baseball that rated Zambrano even with Kazmir.

  39. Comment posted by Ron Swoboda on May 8, 2006 at 9:32 pm (#37516)

    I think it’s time to put Heilman in the rotation. When did your second setup man, clearly Sanchez is the number one setup guy, become more important than your third starter? Heilman should put up better numbers than Trachsel. It’s also time to bring up Heath Bell. Hasn’t he proven himself enough in the minors? That way Henry Owens can become the closer for the Tides–I think striking out 30 in 14 innings and a 1.20 era warrants a promotion. This way if Bell fails, Owens could/should be ready.

  40. Comment posted by Wdwrkr35 on May 8, 2006 at 10:10 pm (#37517)

    Hey Ron Swaboda how would you rate Endy Cahvez diving sliding catch compared to yours in 69?

  41. Comment posted by Jose Reyes, RBI Machine on May 8, 2006 at 10:21 pm (#37518)

    I just saw details on Glavine’s restructure on ESPN.

    $5.25 million from this season is deferred to 2007. Player AND Team Options for 2007. So he’ll be back for sure, which is good.

    This just about seals the deal 100% that we’ll be adding a starter.

  42. Comment posted by Kenny T. on May 8, 2006 at 10:31 pm (#37519)

    Pelfrey struggled a bit in his first start with Binghamton, but Soler was very impressive in his. There’s virtually no chance that we’ll see Pelfrey this season.

    Two false statements Eric. First of all Pelfrey was very impressive in his first start he pitched 5 2/3 of shutout ball while striking out 8. Second of all, I think it is highly likely that Pelfrey gets called up this year especially since Willie and Omar have made it extremely clear that Pelfrey promotion is up to Pelfrey. I don’t know what would warrant his being called up to AAA but i would assume a strech of 4-7 quality to very good starts. From there Pelfrey needs to show he can pitch effectively and effciently (not like Bannister) for say 3-7 starts. This puts us around Mid-June to the All-Star Break. Omar will know whats on the market and how much value any of the guys they are giving up has compared to Pelfrey.

    I like Odalis Perez. I think we should get a deal done.

    I dont think Diaz is enough, but how about this scenario. A Cliff FLoyd package. Call up Milledge. I dont know how expendable he is, I know we need the lefy bat besides Delgado but Nady looks better than Floyd and even if Floyd is hitting .240 he does have ridiculous power.

  43. Comment posted by Steve I. on May 8, 2006 at 10:32 pm (#37520)

    According to Rubin in his book, the key to the misevaluation of Zambrano was the reliance on Mets “superscout” Bill Livesey. He was the one who originally signed VZ for Tampa Bay when he was director of player personnel. “Livesey was at Tropicana Field watching Tampa Bay several times in the days leading up to the deal.” The Mets staff thought that Zambrano could be a “top-of-the-rotation starter” after a little mechanical reworking. The problem was that Tampa Bay misrepresented the extent of VZ’s elbow injury. (I believe several of today’s newspapers indicated that VZ said his elbow hasn’t been right since he became a Met.)
    It appears to me that the main backers for the trade were Livesey and Duquette. Duquette’s in Baltimore. I don’t know about Livesey. Throw in the Mets ownership still smarting from Grant Roberts on the front pages with the bong incident/extortion and you have the recipe for what turned out to be a bad trade.

    I only bring this up because many blame VZ for the trade of Kazmir. The guy never stood a chance since he got here and, despite the fact that he was hurt, he pitched to try to redeem himself in the eyes of the Mets fans — something that he will never be able to do even if he is lucky enough to pitch painfree again.

  44. Comment posted by Michael Oliver on May 8, 2006 at 11:05 pm (#37521)

    Kenny T., that was his first pro start at St. Lucie. He gave up 13 hits and like four runs in his first AA start.

  45. Comment posted by chris in ga on May 8, 2006 at 11:14 pm (#37522)

    Kenny T., that was his first pro start at St. Lucie. He gave up 13 hits and like four runs in his first AA start.

    Your thinking of his second start at AA. He did well his first start.

    Soler

    Toot SOler’s horn all you want (and I really like him) but you gotta consider the lineup he faced in his first start in AA. Only one guy was hitting over .250 coming into that game and 5 guys were under .200. He pretty much faced guys who were big stretches at the double A level

  46. Comment posted by Wally Backman on May 8, 2006 at 11:18 pm (#37523)

    A little off the topic — I’ll be very curious to see how Zambrano performs next spring. Clearly the guy’s been pitching with a fair amount of pain for quite a while. Since the news I heard was that his injury is very fixable with surgery, it should be interesting to see what he’s got when he can throw without pain. Perhaps this will turn out to be the turning point in Zambrano’s career as a Met. Very wishful thinking, I know.

  47. Comment posted by Kenny T. on May 8, 2006 at 11:22 pm (#37524)

    April 29, 2006

    Binghamton

    Player IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
    Pelfrey 5.2 3 0 0 2 8 0 0.00

    May 4, 2006

    Binghamton

    Player IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
    Pelfrey 4.0 13 5 5 1 3 0 4.66

    I could be bitter and just “You are wrong” but i wont. There is something these numbers could tell us specifically the second start. The amount of hits is scary but no walks are a testament to his pounding the strike zone. I assume he did not have his secondary pitches on May 4th and this maybe a problem for him in the majors. However, many prospect fall into trouble giving up homers which Pelfrey wont do because of the sink he gets on his fastball OR they just cant throw strikes.

  48. Comment posted by Wagner Dominant on May 8, 2006 at 11:27 pm (#37525)

    i think somethin realy important for the rotation is trax. he is the big wild card.If he does good and performs better than 500 and gives us a chance to win 75% of the time then you could go with bannister(i think he will soon regain his control)as a 4 and maine or whoever as a 5.

  49. Comment posted by joe on May 8, 2006 at 11:51 pm (#37527)

    How is that nearly every conscious Mets fan, blogster, and blog poster can see that Heilman should be in the rotation, Heath Bell in the bullpen, and LimaTime singing in his band, while paid professionals such as Omar Minaya think this is a radical idea?

    Someone, please, smack Omar with an open hand, and dump icewater on his head.

    The only thing that might explain this ridiculous stubbornness to keep Heilman in the pen, is that he opened his mouth about wanting to start. This must be an “I’m in charge” egotrip on Minaya’s part.

    Dear lord, please don’t let Omar bring Perez — neither Odalis nor Oliver nor even Pascual — in here!

  50. Comment posted by Gabe on May 9, 2006 at 12:02 am (#37528)

    This isn’t Omar’s doing, Heilman…he was all for it, and the Benson trade was designed in part for freeing up a spot TO GRANT HEILMAN’S WISH. When Bannister emerged, they began thinking they could have the best of both worlds. Now that they at least have the best of one, they’re reluctant to mess with it. Don’t blame Minaya.

    More tomorrow.

  51. Comment posted by Outlasting Razoredge on May 9, 2006 at 12:28 am (#37529)

    Two weeks ago everyone hated VZ and wanted him off the team. Now everyone is shouting that the sky is falling because VZ is done for the year. Doesn’t anyone else see the irony?

    HaHa, that’s a mouth full…I think it’s funny. I even read a few comments wishing he would get injured because that was the only way to get rid of him!

    If Met fans think our starting pitching is so bad, just take a look at our closest competitor’s starters in Philly. That’s a real joke of a staff!

    BTW, I spent some time today looking at some Philly blogs to get a feel for the upcoming series. Seems they’ve been duped into thinking they have the best team by the impartial Philly broadcasters. Most of them have a serious hatred for the Mets and Met fans, and of course, for Wags. They are feeding on the “rat” theme. Apparently, Pat Burell made a comment like “I wonder what burnt rat smells like” refering to Wags. Many of their fans thought this was cool and witty, and are planning to bring signs on the theme. They are also calling for heavy booing of Wags and Met fans that make the trek. They seem to be jealous that Met fans fill up about 1/4 of the seats when the Mets come into town.

  52. Comment posted by David on May 9, 2006 at 12:41 am (#37533)

    I have an idea. Willie Randolph and Omar are right on the money about keeping Heilman in the pen. I think we should move Pedro and Glavine to the Pen too. I mean, we need to keep the pen strong, and just imagine it: With Lima and Gonzalez going 4 or 5 innings every 5th day, it’d be nice to have Pedro for the fifth Glavine for the 6th, Heilman for the 7th Sanchez for the 8th and Wagner for the 9th. We can keep Glavine and Pedro in the rotation for now, but when bannister and maine come back…..we’d have the best bullpen ever!! Don’t most teams use their best pitchers in the pen? Or maybe its better to start our best pitchers so they pitch more innings, and keep more games close enough to win. Hmmmmmm.

  53. Comment posted by dhalp on May 9, 2006 at 1:21 am (#37535)

    When did your second setup man, clearly Sanchez is the number one setup guy, become more important than your third starter?

    Clearly the most important line of this entire comment thread.

  54. Comment posted by chris in ga on May 9, 2006 at 1:48 am (#37540)

    May 4, 2006

    Binghamton

    Player IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
    Pelfrey 4.0 13 5 5 1 3 0 4.66

    Only two of those hits were extra base hits. The walk was with the bases loaded

  55. Comment posted by Aaron Luvs D’pen on May 9, 2006 at 2:58 am (#37544)

    How is that nearly every conscious Mets fan, blogster, and blog poster can see that Heilman should be in the rotation, Heath Bell in the bullpen, and LimaTime singing in his band, while paid professionals such as Omar Minaya think this is a radical idea?

    Guess that’s why the avg fan is merely a fan, and not a GM. If Omar took half of the nutty ideas I’ve read from blogers seriously we would be in LAST PLACE!

  56. Comment posted by superjoe on May 9, 2006 at 11:00 am (#37558)

    This isn’t Omar’s doing, Heilman…he was all for it, and the Benson trade was designed in part for freeing up a spot TO GRANT HEILMAN’S WISH. When Bannister emerged, they began thinking they could have the best of both worlds. Now that they at least have the best of one, they’re reluctant to mess with it. Don’t blame Minaya.

    If Oafmar said that, he did it for PR purposes. Bannister had a great spring, it’s true, but equal to Heilman, who already had proven he could be successful at the ML level. If Omar truly made the Benson deal to make room for Heilman, he would not have paraded in every clown he could find (Oliver, Gonzalez, Lima, etc.) to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation.

    It’s clear that Oafmar did not like being told what to do — what boss doesn’t? — and he flexed his muscles to show who the boss was. That’s fine, and it’s important for the players to know they don’t run the team. However, we’re at a point now where this stubbornness may hurt the team.

  57. Gravatar
  58. Comment posted by dptydwg420 on May 9, 2006 at 11:28 am (#37561)

    Right SuperJoe…I’m sure moving Heilman back to the Heilman had nothing to do with Juan Padilla getting hurt in spring training.

    Nice conspiracy theory though.

  59. Gravatar
  60. Comment posted by dptydwg420 on May 9, 2006 at 11:28 am (#37562)

    *Heilman back to the BP

  61. Comment posted by zod on May 9, 2006 at 12:52 pm (#37576)

    Jeff (Westport, CT): With the Mets hurting at starting pitching, do you see them going to make a trade? I bet they’re regretting the Benson trade now.

    Rob Neyer: (12:19 PM ET ) Probably. But let’s not live in the then. Instead let’s live in the now, and wonder why on earth the Mets would prefer to start Jose Lima rather than Aaron Heilman…

  62. Comment posted by Johnny Good Times on May 9, 2006 at 2:05 pm (#37610)

    the decisions to make bannister a 5 and to start lima are clear indications that the front office wants heilman in the pen permanently. this may be a function of willie’s disappointment with the pen last year, of peterson’s reticence in starting someone with 2 pitches or a bit of both. probably both.

    i think they’re going to keep heilman in the pen now because they do not want to face the decision of what to do with heilman if he pitched well in 2 starts (which would be likely IMO). after strong performances it would be very difficult from PR and baseball perspectives to justify moving him back to the pen. replace him with two untested rookies - the same guy you basically promised the job to before? move him back to the pen and chop the potential innings pitched by heilman, one of your best pitchers, by 2/3rds? it would clearly not make sense and they’d likely to be forced to keep heilman in the rotation. i think they’d rather avoid this decision and coast through the next couple weeks with a band-aid approach.

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