Monday, September 15, 2008

Another September swoon? This one could have been seen coming

The whole world knows what happened to the Mets in September last season. 7 game lead with 17 games to play only to finish the season 1 game out of the playoffs. So with 17 games left to play the spotlight is once again on the Mets, and they have not started out well, losing 2 out of the first games. They started with a 3 and half game lead and its now down to 1. Mets fans are again shocked and scared, but the real question is, should they be? These September struggles should have been seen coming. Over the last few years the Mets have been one of the worst September teams in baseball. Obviously we know they won 9 of their first 12 games in September last year only to go 5-12 down the stretch. But what many people forget is what happened the years before.

Yes the 2006 Mets won their division went to the playoffs and came 1 game away from the World Series. But what is forgotten is September was this team’s worst month of the Season. The team entered September with around a 15 game lead in the division; they then proceeded to go 14-15 for the rest of the month. Now they did win their division with 12 games to play so many of their late month losses came with reserves on the field including a game with Julio Franco at third base. But before they won the division, when they were 1 game away from winning the division the team lost 3 strait to the last place Pirates and they had lost 2 of 3 to the dodgers who they would later beat in the playoffs. 2005 was manager Willie Randolph’s first year. The season was not much about playoff talk but more about how many games over .500 the team went and how many games under .500 they were. That changed however in August, when the Mets led by their new call up of AA first basemen Mike Jacobs won 10 of their last 15 games in August to put them a game out of the Wild Card. But them September came and the Mets responded by losing 12 of their first 14 games in September, killing any chance they had of making the playoffs. Their 2004 season (though they were already far out of the playoffs and playing with mostly September call ups, or in other words a minor league team), saw the team go 10-20 through month of September and two games in October.

The Mets have a history of doing awful in September, something that is getting overlooked by virtually everyone in wake of last season. But if you were to look back, last season should have been expected, as well as not winning games this September. All there is to do is hope the Mets could reverse this trend and win enough games to hold off the Phillies and sneak into October.

The Mets best big game pitcher...Santana? pffft Its Perez

The Mets just had a three game series with the Braves, in which they lost 2 of 3 which is about as shocking news as me telling you the sun rose in the east today. The problem here was they had their two best big game pitchers on the mound, and those were the two games they lost. These guys pitched the way they were supposed to, it was the bullpen that lost it for them. Johan Santana went to the mound as the Mets big game pitcher as he had proved the week before against Philadelphia, though he’s lost to the Braves earlier this year he shut them out through 7 innings only to see the bullpen blow it. For the next game the Mets through out John Niese making his second start, he promptly pitched 8 shutout innings for the win. Sunday’s game was absolutely huge, and the Mets put a man who is arguably and in my opinion their BEST big game pitcher, Oliver Perez. I know that one might have raised a few eyebrows, but look back at it, since game 7 of the 2006 NLCS he’s had the confidence, especially in big games. He was labeled the worst game 7 starter in the history of baseball. He took that label to the mound and pitched an unbelievable 6 innings giving up just 1 run (obviously he was saved by the most unbelievable double play made by Endy Chavez). But when you look back at his career with the Mets, the Mets who for as long as I can remember can never ever beat the Braves, therefore, especially during a pennant race, every game with the Braves is a so called “big game”. Before the playoffs Perez had made somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 starts for the team, he was on the roster because he was thrown into a trade and was just there as an extra pitcher during the September call up season. Well he got a start against the Braves and pitched a complete game shutout. Everyone always talks about Ollie Perez being Ollie Perez, and having his control issues, but these games usually come against the likes of the Nationals and Giants. Look back at his stats and whenever he has stepped onto the mound against the Mets two longtime rivals the Braves and the Yankees (the Phillies are more recent) Perez dominates his starts and usually comes out a winner.
So it’s not shocking to me that Perez pitched very well again yesterday, the problem as always is the Mets bullpen. The Mets got three unbelievable starts from their pitchers over the weekend and they lost two games. This bullpen was awful at the end of August and it looked like the competition of September call ups would save them. The problem now is Jerry Maunuel is going back to the same guys again and again causing them to get tired. But the biggest problem now is Jerry’s starting to over manage, he won’t let his bullpen pitch to hitters opposite them, lefties to lefties, righties to righties. This causes guys to come in and pitch to one batter, give up a hit and then leave the game, which leaves fewer guys in the pen. The problem is Pedro Feliciano can’t get anyone out these days. The Mets other lefty Scott Schoeneweis is in an “up” year, all year he’s been getting both lefties and righties out, and he’s had the stamina to go multiple innings. So why now is Jerry only letting him pitch to one lefty? If this bullpen manages to hold up, and that’s a big IF, how will they hold up in the playoffs? Fans could be excited all they want, the starters are there, Santana has been great in big games, Pelfrey with the exception of his last start has been dominant, and Oliver Perez is the teams best big game pitcher, but even if they go 8 innings that 9th inning is still the problem. If Jerry keeps over managing his bullpen, a pen that clearly CAN’T pitch in big games (though they could pitch in the games Oliver Perez can’t pitch in) making the playoffs won’t be the biggest thing as the team won’t be able to hold onto a single lead they have and will make an early exit.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Evaluating the Willie firing

I must admit, I loved Willie Randolph, loved him. Thought he was a great manager and was being unfairly blamed. It wasn’t until this year that I began to have issues with him. Many people blamed him for last years collapse. But really was that collapse his fault? At the time I would defiantly say no, now…well I’ll get to that in a second. Its September 5th now and though I don’t want to jinx anything I think it’s a fair time to start evaluating the Willie firing as to whether it’s a good move or a bad move.
I spent my last 11 years at summer camp, so most years it’s been I follow the Mets from April till June then go to camp lose track of them and when I get home their terrible and I just concentrate on football. Lately they’ve been good when I get home and that changes things. But this year I was able to follow them much closer thanks to some LEGEND… wait for it…DARY nights. It wasn’t as close as at home but I was still able to follow the team. It’s not as much as I would like, for example when the Mets pull off a 9 game winning streak I may not notice till they’ve hit 7 in a row. Nonetheless I’ve followed them enough and I’ve been home long enough to evaluate this team that I can finally give my opinion on the new manager.
I always liked Willie as a manager, thought it wasn’t his fault that the players weren’t playing but one thing became evident this year, he didn’t let his pitchers pitch. Willie was constantly pulling his pitchers after the 6th inning cuz they put a runner on base and had thrown 96 pitches and if he left them in they’d throw over 100 pitches. Well that causes the bullpen to be tired. We blew a 7 game lead with 17 left to play last year because our bullpen was taxed. That’s what happens when your bullpen has to pitch 3.2 innings every night. Since Jerry Manuel has taken over he’s let his guys pitch, and yes the bullpen is awful right now, but part of that is because they pitched so often during the first half of the year. With the September call ups upon us there are more people to split the work in the bullpen, none of the guys called up are better then the guys already on the team, but the fact that they provide competition and rest for the bullpen is HUGE. Another big issue has been the offense of Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes, as well as the whole offense. This season the offense really struggled, we all knew they had it in them to do better but they weren’t. Since Jerry Manuel has taken over Delgado and Reyes have been on fire, they’ve had it in them they just needed someone to get it out of them. It has become obvious that Willie was unable to get that fire out of these players and Manuel has been able to. As I wrote in my last post about Rick Peterson, maybe it was time for him to go; I wrote that it might not be his fault that Oliver Perez is Oliver Perez. Well the thing is lately Oliver Perez has been dominant again, and yes; Peterson turned John Maine into a great pitcher and he saved Tom Glavine’s career. So no, Maine hasn’t gotten better this year, but someone who never did well under Peterson has been Mike Pelfrey, who has been our #2 pitcher the second half of the year especially since Peterson left.
Since the firing of Willie Randolph and Rick Peterson, someone has been able to wake up Reyes and Delgado, Perez has pitched well again, and Mike Pelfrey has become dominant. I know nothings been won yet but I think now is a fair time to say that the firing of Willie has been the best thing to ever happen to the Mets this season.