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Mets Geek » Spring Training Competition That Should Exist


February 15, 2008
Spring Training Competition That Should Exist

Going into spring training, teams often pretend that it’s an open tryout, and that even the ace pitcher or star slugger has to earn his job through hard work and good performance. While that’s often something of a joke, and it’s silly to suggest that Johan Santana and Pedro Martinez will have to compete with Tony Armas Jr. and Jason Vargas for a spot in the rotation, or David Wright will have to contend with Fernando Tatis to earn his third baseman’s job, there are some openings to fight for and real challenges to established jobs every year. Too often teams ignore these challenges, as last year when the Mets gave Shawn Green the starting right field job after he hit terribly in spring training despite facing minor league pitching.

Here are some fights I think the Mets should encourage.

Scott Schoeneweis vs. Other Relievers

Schoeneweis really is just a LOOGY, and should only be used like one. If the Mets aren’t going to trade him or write his contract off as a sunk cost, are we then just stuck with him for the duration? How bad does he have to be to lose his job? It didn’t happen last year, when he gave up a .963 OPS to right-handers, which shouldn’t have been a surprise, considering the massive platoon split he has demonstrated throughout his career. Seeing as the Mets already have two good left-handers in Billy Wagner and Pedro Feliciano, they should really consider using Joe Smith, who can own right-handers, in his place. Even if they are concerned about getting lefties out, Matt Wise’s fastball-changeup combination actually makes him more effective against lefties than righties. There really is no need for Scott Schoeneweis in this bullpen.

Brian Schneider vs. Ramon Castro

Is it even possible for Blastro to receive consideration to at least share the starting catcher gig, or is he doomed to be the better-performing backup for his whole career? Will the Mets consider the possibility that it might be better for them to have Castro, not Schneider take the majority of the plate appearances? Ramon’s power is considerable, and not illusory, whereas Schneider’s is nearly non-existent. Until recently, Ramon was considered a great defensive catcher, too; what happened to that?

Mike Pelfrey vs. Orlando Hernandez

I’m not sure I understand why the Mets have unequivocally stated both that Orlando Hernandez is in the team’s starting rotation and will not be moved to the bullpen, and that Mike Pelfrey is not in the rotation and also will not be moved to the bullpen. No good reasons have been given for this, and while I can think of some, I can also think of some good reasons why Pelfrey should be the team’s fifth starter and El Duque should make his appearances from the pen. Even if this is not the team’s intention, why would they not at least assume an air of competition for the role?

Luis Castillo vs. Jose Valentin vs. Ruben Gotay vs. Anderson Hernandez

Dare to dream that perhaps Castillo will have to earn his starting second baseman’s gig? Not even I. Though the chances that he goes down with injury are good, the job is his if he wants it. To back him up, the Mets have several candidates, most notably Valentin and Gotay. This is actually a competition the Mets are considering, though they probably favor the ancient Valentin over the young Gotay, whose entire defensive reputation hinges on one botched double play. Valentin is certainly the better defender even at his advanced age, but Gotay’s bat showed some valuable pop last year, no matter how much the Mets ignored it. Running up the rear is Anderson Hernandez, who only two years ago went north as the team’s starting second baseman, only to show that he is as miserable with the bat as he is brilliant with the glove. The Mets should look to see if he suddenly learned to hit.

Willie Randolph vs. Anyone Else

Okay, there really is no competition for his job, especially not in spring training, but Willie Randolph should be on the hot seat. Last year the Mets had one of their best teams ever, but Willie failed to take them to the playoffs. This year the team has improved, but can they still take the chance of Randolph making big mistakes to cost the team games in a pennant race? The way to get around that is to make a foolproof roster that Willie just can’t mess up, but that’s a fool’s errand. Randolph is strategically weak, overly loyal to his veterans, and unmercifully mean to his youngsters. He will find ways to play the wrong guy, bring the wrong pitcher in, and misuse his bench. It will not end if the Mets look the other way; that is just encouraging him. Here’s hoping they set him straight on some things.

All in all, there’s not much for competition in the Mets camp, but there are definitely some jobs that should be open that aren’t.

12 Responses to “Spring Training Competition That Should Exist”

  1. Comment posted by El Sid Rulz on February 15, 2008 at 12:56 am (#611628)


  2. Comment posted by El Sid Rulz on February 15, 2008 at 1:03 am (#611629)

    ScSc is not terrible, and it would seem most teams go w/ experience in the pen

    When you are a fatty and your back is jacked, and your position demands repeated squat jumps . . . you are not an every day player (or a defensive keystone)

    El Duque should either sit in the pen or be traded

    Castillo was a pleasure to watch in the greatest uniform I know

    Lee Mazzilli should be managing the mets

  3. Comment posted by littlefallsmets on February 15, 2008 at 1:34 am (#611630)

    Well, the problem with Castro is… yeah, dude can definitely actually hit. Dude also goes down with an injury at a stiff breeze. The Schnide can’t hit his way out of wet newsprint but at least he’s reasonably healthy.

    Horror Show, man, dude should not be on a major league roster and CERTAINLY not on a major league roster that refuses to use him as lefties-and-mopup only but… there is so much money tied up in that dude. So very much wasted money tied up in him.

    In a fair and equitable world, Castillo would be rehabbing his knee for the rest of his life in Budapest and a Gotay/Easley platoon would be manning second until Gotay grew into the position completely himself, sure.

    Heaven forfend we get a… you know… extra-base hit outta a second baseman.

    The inequity of El Duque going ahead of Pelfrey is basically just on paper because, c’mon, how long will El Duque be able to stay healthy? Three, four weeks? Pelf’ll build up a little confidence in the ol’ AAA, polish up some secondary pitches and he’ll be in the rotation before you know it.

    As for Willie Randolph’s spectacular deficiency as a strategic manager, I have three words. Mookie is the first word, Wilson is the third and effing goes in the middle there. Seriously.

    Also, if we could somehow get Estrada and Milledge back, yeah, that’d be great.

    Hitting would be great, please.

  4. Comment posted by Dave in Spain on February 15, 2008 at 2:51 am (#611632)

    The reason El Duque is starting and Pelfrey is getting more seasoning?

    El Duque: 27G 24GS 148IP 109H 64BB 128K 3.72

    Pelfrey: 15G 13GS 73IP 85H 39BB 45K 5.37

    El Duque: Arguably our best pitcher last year when healthy

    Pelfrey: Terrible numbers/ratios, good potential. If he gets better, he can start later this year or next year.

  5. Comment posted by VonHayes on February 15, 2008 at 9:38 am (#611678)

    Pelfrey is the new Milledge.

  6. Comment posted by rfloh on February 15, 2008 at 9:46 am (#611687)

    “young Gotay, whose entire defensive reputation hinges on one botched double play. ”

    RZR had Gotay 5 runs below average; ZR 3 runs below average. This was in only 37 games at 2b, not a full season. Granted, small sample size and all that, but to be about 5 runs below average in such a small amount of games is pretty damn bad.

  7. Comment posted by coolpapabell on February 15, 2008 at 11:14 am (#611773)

    Well, if Pelf is the new Milledge here’s hoping that he doesn’t get traded for scrap metal next year.

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  9. Comment posted by Peter H on February 15, 2008 at 1:23 pm (#611863)

    Definitely agree, that in an ideal world, they’d get rid of Schoenweis. Willie probably should have used him more of a LOOGY last year, but there’s only so much you can do to get L/L matchups.

    Also, what is Castillo’s RZR?

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  11. Comment posted by John Peterson on February 15, 2008 at 2:04 pm (#611907)

    As far as I know, “Zone Rating” is a rate, not a counting statistic. So it’s not like Gotay “racked up” a -5 rating in “only” 37 games; rather, in a small sample of 37 games, he had a -5 rating. This could just be a small sample size issue, or he could be a below average 2B.

    The projection systems don’t really think that highly of him offensively, though:

    Gotay: .245/.304/.361, 3.6 RC/27
    Castillo: .294/.361/.359, 4.7 RC/27

    Gotay: .261/.329/.408, .260 EqA, -.071 MLVR
    Castillo: .290/.361/.341, .258 EqA, -.084 MLVR

    Gotay: .262/.326/.385, .317 wOBA
    Castillo: .292/.364/369, .333 wOBA

    For what it’s worth, PECOTA actually has Gotay’s defense at -1 FRAA and Castillo’s at -7. Maybe not much, because FRAA is a famously bad metric.

    If Gotay can slug over .400 (as he has consistently in the minor leagues), he looks more vaulable than Castillo.

  12. Comment posted by ajsmith on February 15, 2008 at 3:04 pm (#612006)

    Couple of points.

    First, don’t even get me started this early on Randolph. He should have been gone already. Our starting pitching will save him this year, as we’ll be able to lead the division even with his awful moves, and it won’t be until August or so when the misuse of his bullpen begins to really be felt.

    On the rotation…

    Not only was El Duque our best pitcher last year when healthy, but he was also a slow starter – much of the damage against him came in the first two innings. I’m too lazy/busy to look that up right now, but the numbers will bear this out. Perhaps it just took the old muscles a little longer to get loose, but whatever the reason, that’s not an optimal trait in a relief pitcher.

    I will go with El Duque over anyone else’s #5 starter in either league. And, as noted, at some point, he’s going to need 6 weeks off, at which time Pelfrey is available.

    It bums me out that we have gone from a franchise overloaded with corner outfield talent to one in which Ryan Church is our starting RF, 42 year-old Alou will start in right, Carlos “less tham 100%” Beltran in center, and Endy our only real backup for the three of them. Forget second base, or even catcher, the outfield is our problem-in-waiting this year.

    On the bright side, I am expecting improvement from Delgado (not miracles, just improvement). He went into last season coming off two surgeries, and his wife gave birth to their first child right around opening day, and every time he started to come around, he seemed to get dinged again. He should be healthy – at least coming in – and more focused.

    But oh, our rotation. It’s potentially a thing of great beauty. And it’s why, flawed though this team is, and ill-led to boot, we have to be considered the NL favorites going in.

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  14. Comment posted by John Peterson on February 15, 2008 at 6:10 pm (#612200)

    Word on that. I’m willing to back down on The Duque and Pelfrey, but I think the Mets should at least pretend that Pelfrey has a shot to make the team.

  15. Comment posted by rfloh on February 17, 2008 at 6:13 am (#612319)

    “As far as I know, “Zone Rating” is a rate, not a counting statistic. So it’s not like Gotay “racked up” a -5 rating in “only” 37 games; rather, in a small sample of 37 games, he had a -5 rating. This could just be a small sample size issue, or he could be a below average 2B.”

    Zone Rating, RZR, UZR, all are rates. They can be then and ARE converted into run values, basically using linear weights, by quite a few statheads.

    Like I said, it’s a small sample. It could be just bad luck. But being 5 runs or 3 runs below average in such a small amount of games means that he was pretty damn bad in those 37 games.

    Castillo was 3 runs below by ZR, 1 run below by RZR. This was in a full season; meaning he was essentially average.