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May 3, 2007
  
Upcoming Series: Arizona Diamondbacks Pitchers
by: Alex Nelson on May 3, 2007 12:04 AM | Filed under: Articles

After looking relatively hopeless against the Marlins over the first two games of the series, the Mets (16-10) came back to salvage the last game. Next up on the docket are the Arizona Diamondbacks (16-13), with whom the Mets will play a four-game series at Chase Field. The Diamondbacks have the youngest team in the National League other than Florida and Pittsburgh, and dividends have been paying off—they’re currently sitting pretty in second place in the West. Their offense is fair, but their pitching staff has been particularly potent in the early going: their 112 runs allowed ranks sixth in the league, which is even more impressive when you consider where the team plays half its games.

In the first game, we’ll see a matchup between Tom Glavine (3-1, 2.80) and rookie righty Micah Owings (1-1, 2.93). Game two finds Mets ace John Maine (4-0, 1.35) squaring off against Randy Johnson (0-1, 6.55). The game on Saturday features what might be the biggest mismatch of the young season: Chan Ho Park (0-1, 15.75) against reigning Cy Young Brandon Webb (2-1, 3.21). Mike Pelfrey (0-3, 6.75) throws against Livan Hernandez (2-1, 3.55) on Sunday.

Game 1: Micah Owings

What’s the Story? Owings might be best recognized as the pitcher the Diamondbacks refused to part with for Randy Johnson. Right now, GM Josh Byrnes looks smart, since he got Johnson anyway, and Owings has been holding big league hitters at bay so far this season. Thursday will mark his first start since going on the DL following his April 17th start against the Dodgers due to a sore hamstring. Owings has a fastball he can throw in the low-90’s, a great slider, and, like many young pitchers, a changeup that needs work.

Last Year: Since he’s a rookie, Owings will be making his first career start against the Mets.

What to Expect: Expect the Diamondbacks to be careful with Owings because of his youth and the hamstring; he shouldn’t go very deep into this game. If he’s healthy, he’ll move the fastball all around the strike zone—inside and out, up and down—while using the slider as his out pitch. He’ll mix in the change here and there, especially against lefties. He still doesn’t have a great feel for it yet, so he’ll use it relatively sparingly. Hitters should see something to hit, as Owings likes to throw strikes.

Game 2: Randy Johnson

What’s the Story? Even at 43, the Big Unit has a fearsome presence on the mound. At 6’10”, he can still throw his gas in the upper-90’s and his slider can still be one of the nastiest in the game. There are two big differences between the current model and prime Unit: consistency and health. He’s unable to throw the slider as consistently as he had in his prime years (for evidence of this, check out the slider Ray Durham crushed in his last start), and last year saw his walk rate rise for the third straight year. His homerun rate and opponents’ batting average have been steadily rising as well. Johnson is making just his third start this year after missing time resulting from offseason back surgery.

Last Year: Johnson made two starts against the Mets last season as a member of the Yankees. He was hit hard in both his starts, giving up a combined fourteen runs on sixteen hits—three of them homers—and six walks over eleven innings. He struck out twelve.

What to Expect: It’s tough to say what you’re getting from Johnson nowadays; his first start this season was poor; the second was better, largely due to differences in his command. He’ll work mainly with his fastball-slider combination while mixing in a changeup to keep things interesting. Lately his velocity’s been in the low-to-mid-90’s on the fastball, so he still won’t hesitate to challenge hitters. His slider is still very tough on lefties, who hit only .194 against him last season. The Diamondbacks have kept Johnson under 100 pitches so far this season, and there’s a good chance they’ll do it again, so hitters should be patient with him to work up his counts.

Game 3: Brandon Webb

What’s the Story? Webb, a groundball pitcher who can get strikeouts, is one of my favorite pitchers in the game. Last season, Andrew called Brandon Webb “a groundball automaton,” which is extremely accurate as grounders accounted for nearly two-thirds of his balls in play. As great as that 90-93 mile-per-hour sinker is, it’s easy to forget how good his secondary offerings really are. He has a big, 12-to-6 curveball, which he’ll throw often and at any count to keep hitters guessing, plus a solid changeup and slider. If that wasn’t enough, he has great control (50 walks in 235 innings in 2006) and can pitch deep into games, averaging more than seven innings a start last season.

Last Year: Webb pitched against the Mets twice last season, and did very well both times (0.60 ERA), but wound up with an 0-1 record to show for it. In the first start Webb went seven frames, allowing just four hits and a walk while striking out five. He was rewarded with a no-decision for his efforts thanks to the Diamondbacks’ faulty bullpen. In the second start, Webb threw eight innings allowing four runs (one earned) on eight hits, while striking out nine.

What to Expect: What impressed me most about Webb last season wasn’t his sinker—I was expecting that to be a great pitch—but rather his curveball. Many power sinker pitchers rely almost exclusively on their fastballs, and their next best offerings tend to be a power slider. It’s just shocking to see that curve come out of Webb’s hands, and it can really freeze hitters, especially since he doesn’t get too predictable with it. The sinker, of course, is still enemy number one. He’ll pound the lower half of the strike zone with it, resulting in a lot of groundball outs. Hitters’ best bet is to put the sinker in play, and hope to find a hole. If you get a baserunner, then you hope some more to avoid the double play.

Game 4: Livan Hernandez

What’s the Story? Livan Hernandez has made a career for himself by simply being incredibly durable; he hasn’t thrown fewer than 200 innings since 1997 as a 22-year-old rookie. He’s not going to wow anyone, but he’s become your standard league-average innings muncher. In fact, Hernandez is average in everything he does. He doesn’t strike out a ton of batters, his control is merely average, and he’s a flyball pitcher which can lead to some homeruns. He even has the standard four-pitch arsenal: a fastball, slow curve, slider, and changeup, with the fastball topping out at around 88.

Last Year: Hernandez made two starts against the Mets in April, pitching decently the first time and terribly the second and picking up the loss in both games. In the first outing he went six innings and allowed three runs on eight hits. The second time, he went six again, but allowed eight runs (seven earned) on eleven hits. Amazingly, he gave up four homeruns, including back-to-back shots to David Wright and Cliff Floyd.

What to Expect: It’s tough to know exactly what you’re getting from Hernandez, who will throw almost any pitch on any count, much like his older brother. While he relies on his ability to change speeds, he’s at his best when he throws to both sides of the plate, establishing the corners. He can forget to pitch inside, and when his pitches start to sail to the middle of the plate he gets hit hard. His breaking stuff isn’t as effective against lefties, so he’ll need to watch the two Carloses and Shawn Green.

Overall: The Mets aren’t playing great baseball, right now so a trip to Chase Field might be just the ticket. Last season’s trip to Arizona produced four straight victories won by a combined score of 37-9. I have to say, I like the Mets’ chances in this series. Arizona’s pitching has been its strong suit this season, but three of the four pitchers the Mets will see are carrying question marks. Owings and Johnson are coming off of injuries, and while Livan Hernandez has been effective so far this season, I doubt anyone believes it will last much longer, and the Mets are entirely capable of teeing off against him. I’m going to be guardedly optimistic and predict the Mets take three of four.


21 Responses to “Upcoming Series: Arizona Diamondbacks Pitchers”

  1. Comment posted by Dave in Spain on May 3, 2007 at 3:44 am (#324084)

    Hey Alex-
    A suggestion: Would it be possible to add a one paragraph overview of the bullpen in this feature? I know nothing about the AZ pen, and for both Owings and Johnson you mentioned that they might not go too deep due to pitch counts or injury rehab. Great feature–Thanks!

  2. Comment posted by Erick on May 3, 2007 at 5:39 am (#324091)

    I love this feature so much — and Dave is right. A paragraph on the pen would only improve it. Seriously, are you shopping this to NY papers? You ought to be. And, given the Times’ recent interest in Geekball, I’d start with them! As little as I’d like to pay for anything, I gotta say it again: you got gold here.

  3. Comment posted by C Low on May 3, 2007 at 6:55 am (#324099)

    I also love the series pitching match-up, especially for this west coast swing for teams we don’t play very often. Yeah, the pen feature would be a great addition. Hope we have continued success with the bats in AZ, although DBacks have a nice team this year. For the good old days wish we still had Little Mac and Fonzie just for Game 2 to face RJ in the desert.

  4. Comment posted by ed in westchester on May 3, 2007 at 7:03 am (#324101)

    Forget Super Joe, get Koo on the phone!

    I agree, take 3 of 4.
    Delgado’s gonna bust out tonight. Book it.

  5. Comment posted by Dave in Spain on May 3, 2007 at 8:12 am (#324108)

    Will Park get the start on Saturday or will Sosa? My guess is that Park will get one last shot. If he blows it, he´s in AAA or gone. Sosa is pitching well, but is 30 years old, has ML experience (some quite successful), and there probably isn´t much value keeping him in AAA when he´s pitching well (as opposed to Humber, Vargas, & Bostick, who are still learning).
    Also, I don´t know what the Mets philosophy is (if any) re: 3 lefties in the rotation (Glavine, Perez, & Vargas??), but I think some clubs are reluctant to do that for some reason. Sosa is the way to go.

  6. Comment posted by Eli on May 3, 2007 at 8:26 am (#324110)

    Hi Dave in Spain, Did I finally catch you? As I wrote yesterday but you might not have read, I am on the same side of the Ocean, but opposite sides of the Mediterranean; I am from Israel.

    I am guessing that you are probably right about Park getting another shot, unfortunately. Then he will pitch mediocre and earn one more start. Sosa has earned the opportunity, Park has not.

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  8. Comment posted by pj on May 3, 2007 at 8:54 am (#324119)

    i agree with Alex. it will be 3 out of 4. i will never doubt Alex again (see Marlins, Florida)

  9. Comment posted by Dave in Spain on May 3, 2007 at 9:12 am (#324122)

    Hey Eli- I didn´t see your note yesterday, but I´m glad I caught it today (before most of the regular geeks are up and at work). I was curious after your comment awhile ago about being over this way somewhere. I guess we have some semi-regulars here from Austria and Bangcock too. Always tough to follow the team when fighting a time delay and no baseball on TV, but we do the best we can. The Geek certainly helps!

  10. Comment posted by Dave in Spain on May 3, 2007 at 9:13 am (#324124)

    Oops, make that Bangkok.

  11. Comment posted by Eli on May 3, 2007 at 9:25 am (#324129)

    Hi Dave, Where in Spain? Yes, it is more challenging being a Mets fan from far away, but I still enjoy scrutinizing the box scores over a cup of coffee in the morning. And getting the reactions of the experts on Metsgeek.

  12. Comment posted by sheadenizen on May 3, 2007 at 9:33 am (#324136)

    Good morning world wide geekdom!
    Willie mentioned yesterday in an interview on the FAN that Park was not a sure thing to start this weekend, and they are considering Sosa or Vargas. Whether that was lip service, we will learn shortly. I think this Arizona team is far superior to the team of the last 2 years. Hoping for the best!

  13. Comment posted by FMF on May 3, 2007 at 9:49 am (#324149)

    I’m betting that we lose tonight. Owings is a rookie, coming off an injury and is going to be limited in pitch count and innings. How many times have we seen the Mets come out swinging at first pitches in the dirt and letting someone like this throw 7 or 8 shutout innings? I do think they’ll take the last 3 games though.

  14. Comment posted by Bangkok Mets Fan on May 3, 2007 at 10:26 am (#324202)

    Hey guys, nice to see the “international edition” of Geeks is up and going today. Have to completely agree with Dave in Spain (by the way I am also Dave in Bangkok), Sosa is the way to go. Humber proved last night he needs a bit more time to get it figured out and Sosa has had the hot hand lately. Definately the way to go.

  15. Comment posted by Bangkok Mets Fan on May 3, 2007 at 10:32 am (#324207)

    Willie mentioned yesterday in an interview on the FAN that Park was not a sure thing to start this weekend, and they are considering Sosa or Vargas. Whether that was lip service, we will learn shortly. I think this Arizona team is far superior to the team of the last 2 years. Hoping for the best!

    Thanks for the update Shea, we don’t get FAN out here. I said a while ago that I thought before the year is out, Vargas will be an important member of the rotation (as well as predicting that Ollie will throw the 1st Mets no hitter this year), and I still think that’s true but Sosa should be given the first shot. He has been pitching more consistently than any of the other options and as Dave in Spain has said, doesn’t have anything else to learn/prove down in AAA.

  16. Comment posted by sheadenizen on May 3, 2007 at 11:17 am (#324238)

    BMF, I think the reason that Willie even mentioned Vargas is because the Dbacks seem to have problems against lefties, so he seemed to leave that option open.

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  18. Comment posted by Alex Nelson on May 3, 2007 at 12:07 pm (#324285)

    Hey Alex-
    A suggestion: Would it be possible to add a one paragraph overview of the bullpen in this feature? I know nothing about the AZ pen, and for both Owings and Johnson you mentioned that they might not go too deep due to pitch counts or injury rehab. Great feature–Thanks!

    Thanks for the kind words about the column.

    I’ve gotten a few requests to add a bit on the bullpens. Bullpens are certainly a vital part of the modern game, and they should be highlighted, but the problem with doing a writeup on them is that the innings go to a bunch of different pitchers. Writing isn’t really a major problem, but researching is, especially when you consider that good information is much more difficult to find for middle relievers. It’s difficult enough finding information for fringe starters.

    Even if I only write two sentences on each bullpen member — or even just its main guys — I’ve effectively doubled or tripled the amount of research I have to do. And each of these guys would be lucky to see four innings of work over the four games. For instance, in the last series Anibal Sanchez only pitched 3.1 innings — and still threw more innings than any other reliever in the pen.

    I’ll still look for a way to make it work, but I’m not sure the end result is worth the effort.

  19. Comment posted by Danny, A Reyes Fan on May 3, 2007 at 12:16 pm (#324299)

    The Mets always do the basic opposite of what I predict. Having said that, I don’t like how the Mets are playing, so I say they lose 3 out of 4.

  20. Comment posted by sweetlew on May 3, 2007 at 3:10 pm (#324587)

    Very fair point Alex…..maybe you could highlight the oppostions top two or three out of the pen….I could care less who their mop-up folks are (does it matter who will come in if it is a 6 run game?)

    I would like to know who we would face in a one run game?

    Understand it is a lot of work, but that could give us something without heaping it on you!

  21. Comment posted by hasan on May 3, 2007 at 4:51 pm (#324768)

    The scene at 10:30 p.m. in the visiting clubhouse in Miami on April 24, after the Braves had beaten Ramirez and the Marlins 11-6, illustrates just how much respect the 23-year-old Reyes has earned as he plays in just his third full season in the big leagues. With the team bus idling outside, several Braves — including pitcher Tim Hudson, utilityman Pete Orr and rightfielder Jeff Francoeur — pause on their way back from the showers, towels around their waists, to watch the TV perched above the lockers as Reyes bats against Colorado reliever Ryan Speier with a man on third and two outs in the 12th inning, the score tied 1-1. “They’re pitching to him!” shouts Francoeur. “Oh, man, this game’s over. All he’s going to do is chop one on the ground and beat it out.”

    Reyes takes the first pitch for a ball and fouls off the second before laying off two off-speed pitches just off the plate. Then Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta stands and calls for an intentional ball four. “Now you’re bring smart!” Francoeur says.

    The next batter, Endy Chavez, drags a bunt down the first base line to win the game for New York, eliciting a chorus of expletives in Atlanta’s clubhouse. But Reyes’s at bat shows how he’s developed. “He is the most improved player in the league the last few years, by far,” says Mets teammate Carlos Delgado. “In 2005, when I was [with Florida], you looked at him as a guy who had a lot of potential — he can really run, he’s got a strong arm — but then he’d swing at three sliders in the dirt.”

    Courtesy of SI.com.

    The Braves watch us.

  22. Comment posted by tom totem on May 3, 2007 at 6:07 pm (#324807)

    Alex, could you provide a free in-depth analysis of the opposing rotation, closer, set-up man, long relief guy, spot starters, middle infield, minor league prospects, financial condition, managerial lacunae, and concession prices? By early Friday please. Also I need my dry cleaning done. Thanks in advance!

  23. Comment posted by What was that Mienkiecwicz? on May 3, 2007 at 6:27 pm (#324821)

    Any of you guys happen to see Lino Urdaneta’s career stats? It’s a doozy

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/u/urdanli01.shtml

    He appeared in one game for Detroit in 2004, gave up six runs and got nobody out. His ERA is infinite!

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