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March 18, 2009
  
Exposed: An Unapologetic Expose of Bias, Lies and Nelson Figueroa
by: TLC on Mar 18, 2009 12:22 AM | Filed under: Journals

With less than three weeks left until the start of the regular season, the Mets front office and coaching staff have their collective hands full determining exactly who will capture the final few spots on their team.  Of course, this is nothing new since a few spots always come down to the final days of spring.  This year’s spin seems like these final decisions are going to be a bit tougher to make for Omar, Jerry and Company than years past.  It’s all bull in my opinion.  The only reason why it is a bit tougher this year is the short memories of Spring Training’s past many have.

The first four guys in the rotation are set of course; however, a battle between two geriatric patients and a young kid not ready for prime time is drawing most, if not all, of the mainstream media’s attention.  Although this spot in the rotation is important, in the grand scheme of things, it will be rather moot.  I mean, each team managed to average 10 different starters last year.   Those numbers are really nothing new.  Just think back to 2006 when the Mets sent out 13 different starters and was fairly successful in the regular season if I recall.  The recipe for success used by the 2008 National League playoff teams were two specific constants, a reliance on their top 4 starters and the addition of a key re-enforcement during the season.  I invite anyone to research the first constant.  For instance, Jason Marquis was primarily viewed as the Cubs 5th starter last year by the mainstream fan; yet, he worked most of the year as a fourth starter, producing like the average fourth starter did throughout the league.  Had he been acquired by the Mets to be their fifth starter, you can imagine how many people would had been up in arms through Blog land.  It is hard to find a 5th starter from last year that produced better than Marquis did.  The second constant is simple to understand since each team added a re-enforcement to their rotation during the season.  The Phillies (Joe Blanton), Brewers (C.C. Sabathia) and Cubs (Rich Harden) all acquired starters while the Dodgers called up a highly touted prospect (Clayton Kershaw).  A great article exposing the fifth starter’s lack of importance was written by David Pinto and appearing on the Sporting News website in January of 2008.  It is entitled Take the Fifth.

So we’re left with the bench and the pen.  Personally, I think the 5 man bench should be Alex Cora, Ramon Castro, Jeremy Reed, Fernando Tatis & Bobby Kielty with Nick Evans being carried until we need a 5th starter.  I know I won’t get my way.  I mean, I like Marlon Anderson, I really do.  He was awesome in 2005 for us and at the end of 2007, when it seemed every pinch hit situation resulted in a hit for him (and a Billy Wagner blown save later).  It’s 2009 though and, without sounding like a long winded Metsgeek poster, he cannot field and I worry about his ability to bounce back from his horrific 2008.  Lastly, I believe the team needs Kielty to Pinch hit vs. left-handed pitchers more than it needs Anderson to pinch hit vs. right-handed pitchers.  Who am I anyway?  I don’t pretend to have all the answers.  I have just assumed that during every inning the Mets’ opposition scores more than 3 runs this spring, it is due to a Marlon Anderson adventure in the field.  Marlon Anderson will live on for awhile in this league, effectively replacing Lenny Harris as the role model “pinch hitter for hire.”

The most important decision in this short-sighted blogger’s mind is what the Mets bullpen will look like on opening day in Cincinnati.  I’m assuming that Jerry Manual will want to have a 7 man pen at his disposal.  The Mets are currently looking at four locks for the pen in Francisco Rodriguez, J.J. Putz, Pedro Feliciano and Sean Green.  I think that Bobby Parnell needs to be carried in this pen based on his performance this spring, what he brings with his ability to get grounders and his ability to record some swings and misses.  That leaves 2 spots between 4 guys.  3 Guys are easy to name since they are currently in camp (Brian Stokes, Ron Villone and Darren O’Day) while the other just finished pitching in the World Baseball Classic (Nelson Figueroa).   I think Stokes has a slight lead for one of the spots given his success last year and his recent work in spring training.  In my mind, that leaves three guys for one position and, judging from the title of the article’s title, I’m throwing my support behind the hometown guy.

I believe, whole-heartedly that Nelson Figueroa is the most likely guy to have become a poster or contributer on this site had he never made it to the big leagues.  I admit, Nelson may be the one guy last year I rooted hardest for.  He shared the same dream I had and many other fans had, toeing the mound at Shea Stadium wearing a Mets uniform.  People who are familiar with me here know, when evaluating guys, I never let my personal feelings towards a guy effect my evaluation of whether a dude is good or not.  Heck, I admit to being a Scott Schoenweis fan.  I would of happily worn a Schoenweis jersey had someone given me one; however, he didn’t perform as he was expected to and it was the right move sending him to Arizona.  Saying all of this, I ask everyone to take another look at Figueroa.

Nelson Figueroa was miscast as a starting pitcher in 2008.  He had some early success; however, at the end of the day, he had one fatal flaw a lot of guys run into as a starter, the inability to keep guys guessing the second and third time through a lineup.  If you look a little deeper in his overall numbers, you’ll also see an inability to get left-handed hitters out, posting a Whip on the bad side of 2.00.  I know what your saying, The Mets do not need another Roogy.  I totally agree.  I just don’t believe Nelson Figueroa is a roogy and I have stats to back it up.

The key numbers to look at are Figueroa’s numbers the first time through the order.  Overall in 2008,  he threw 25 innings to this group of hitters, holding the opposition to a .211 Batting Average Against while compiling a 1.08 ERA and a 1.16 Whip.  Even more surprising to me was his ability to strike out 8.28 guys per nine innings in this subgroup.  Even crazier was that 5 of the oppositions hits were of the extra base variety.  Now, I’m sure this is probably a sign that Nelson was very lucky in some respects.  It’s also a small sample size.  It could easily be chalked up to being a fluke; however, Figueroa has always performed slightly better in his career the first time through the order, based solely on his ability to keep the extra-base hit out of the equation.

The biggest test of last year’s stats was to see how badly Figueroa got beat up by lefties in this specific situation.  I might say, he fared well.  He allowed a decent average (.290) and a Jose Reyes like on-base percentage (.352); yet, only one hit he gave up was an extra-base hit, a double hit by Brewers pitcher, (and .226 hitter) Manny Parra.  Left-handed hitters slugged a lonely .323 off of Figueroa in these situations.  Of course, his stats vs. Right-handed hitters the first time through the order were much better, holding these batters to a sub .600 ops.

Do I expect Figueroa to be this good again?  No way.  I believe there are many worse options for long relievers/utility relievers and not many better in this league.  My arguement has been cemented even more by the work Figueroa has done for Puerto Rico during the World Baseball Classic.  Figueroa pitched wonderfully in the role as a reliever.  He threw 7 and a 3rd innings, giving up 2 hits, 2 walks, no runs (He better thank Carlos Beltran for robbing Brian McCann of a home run) and recording 6 strikeouts.  Just fantastic.  Give him the ball Jerry.


14 Responses to “Exposed: An Unapologetic Expose of Bias, Lies and Nelson Figueroa”

  1. Comment posted by fattlipp on March 18, 2009 at 8:23 am (#938615)

    Although this spot in the rotation is important, in the grand scheme of things, it will be rather mute.

    The word is “moot.”

  2. Comment posted by Danny, Best Shape of My Life on March 18, 2009 at 12:22 pm (#938722)

    Nice article, Chris. Nelly Figs also finished the year last year as a reliever in September and didn’t embarrass himself: 7 G, 6.2 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 9 H, 2 BB, 7 K

    I also admit to favoring Figs because he’s seemingly a good dude.

    The Mets will use him as AAA starter insurance. But I think the guy is best suited as a pen guy who can eat up innings whenever you ask him. He’s well-known to have a rubber arm. And he will embrace any role he is given.

  3. Comment posted by Dave in Spain on March 18, 2009 at 12:25 pm (#938724)

    towing the mound at Shea Stadium wearing a Mets uniform

    …and a trailer hitch? Perhaps he was toeing.
    Seriously,language bashing aside ( ;-} )– good article. I agree with you on the 5th starter role– we´ll run a few guys through there before the season is over. The more important thing is overall SP depth to cover DL trips or skipped turns by the top 4. And the last two guys in the pen will change too. Opening Day does not a season make….

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  5. Comment posted by TLC on March 18, 2009 at 12:29 pm (#938727)

    Wow, I shouldn’t post something I write late at night without proofreading it the next morning. :)

  6. Comment posted by sheadenizen on March 18, 2009 at 12:52 pm (#938742)

    Chris, I’m just catching up on all the postings. This was well thought out and I forgive you the spelling errors. I, like most am a Figueroa fan. It’s hard not root for the guy…..unless you’re Zod, but that’s a story for another day. I think the Mets would be well served with Nelly Fig in the bullpen! But we know the Mets. It’s so logical it will never happen!

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  8. Comment posted by Peter H on March 18, 2009 at 3:50 pm (#938816)

    Figueroa’s career numbers as a reliever are also pretty good: 92.1 IP, 3.41 ERA, 34 BB, 56 K, .233/.305 /.388/.692

  9. Comment posted by Dave in Spain on March 18, 2009 at 4:35 pm (#938853)

    Chris, don´t take my crit seriously! Since I started teaching English here in Spain I´ve gotten super sensitized to language use. It´s actually nice to see something more arcane than people saying ¨have¨ instead of ¨has¨ for third person present. The substance was great!

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  11. Comment posted by James Kannengieser on March 18, 2009 at 5:05 pm (#938887)

    It was nice to see Figgy have success in the WBC. He’s an easy guy to root for. I don’t think he’ll make the opening day roster, but I’d bet he gets in ~30 innings for the Mets this season.

    By the way, great post.

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  13. Comment posted by TLC on March 18, 2009 at 8:25 pm (#938947)

    I wasn’t offended Dave. Usually, I have a friend proofread my stuff before posting a journal or a blog; however, last night, I just thought I was lucid enough to to it myself. I’ve always had horrible grammar. When I studied to be a writer, I would go to tutoring to work on my grammar. After awhile, I just gave up after a year of very little improvement.

  14. Comment posted by Athena on March 19, 2009 at 10:24 pm (#939655)

    Really nice post, Chris! I remember thinking last year that N.Fig would be a serviceable long man. I hope that the organization gives it a try and your analysis proves to be a good predictor.

    Thanks for putting the work into this!

  15. Comment posted by JamesSC on March 23, 2009 at 10:24 am (#940368)

    Nice article, however I would disagree with the idea however. The problem for me is that Nelly can go to AAA while Stokes and O’Day can’t so I would put those two guys in my pen as it seems they both have some value and go from there.

    I agree with you on Kielty vs Marlon, but doubt it will happen.

  16. Comment posted by argonbunnies on March 23, 2009 at 2:00 pm (#940481)

    Figueroa can locate breaking balls. That’s a skill that plays extremely well once through an order. I’d love to have him on the team to do exactly that. No fastballs, please. Let him get the opposition off-balance before Putz comes in throwing 95mph.

    If Parnell keeps Fig off the roster, that will be silly. Parnell’s radar gun readings are nice, but this kid has never posted even an average walk rate in any minor league stop. He’s never had a good K rate either. Expecting him to instantly go from a AA scrub to a 7th-inning dominator is beyond insane.

  17. Comment posted by Virginia Met’s Fan on March 27, 2009 at 9:43 am (#942147)

    I believe the team needs Kielty to Pinch hit vs. left-handed pitchers more than it needs Anderson to pinch hit vs. right-handed pitchers.

    I don’t want to see Marlin hit in any situation, correction — I don’t want to see that look on his face as the bat sits on his shoulder — in any situation. Please — someone stick out a foot or something and trip him in the dug out.

  18. Comment posted by argonbunnies on April 1, 2009 at 2:51 am (#943194)

    Well, we demoted Kielty today, so it looks like Marlon’s sticking around. Which probably isn’t a big deal, IF Jerry can get over the absolutely moronic “conventional wisdom” that you must always have a catcher sitting on your bench in case the one in the game gets hurt.

    See, if Shneider comes up against a tough lefty in a big spot in the 7th, and Castro pinch-hits, we won’t miss Kielty. But if Marlon’s the only PH option? Yikes.

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