Thursday, August 21, 2008

Solutions and Non-Solutions for Mets Bullpen

Growing more and more likely is that the Mets will be without their All-Star closer, Billy Wagner, for the rest of this season(the good news is Ryan Church is back). So now a weak Mets bullpen gets even weaker with the loss of their best bullpen pitcher. So what does Jerry Manuel do? He goes and tells the media that the Mets are thinking of moving one of their starters to the pen. This idea shows that Omar is trying to be creative but also shows his lack of knowledge. How would it help to send e.a John Maine to the bullpen and have his spot in the rotation taken by Brian Stokes or Nelson Figueroa? When John Maine starts he shuts down the opposition for 5-7 innings and when one of Stokes, Figueroa start they let up 3-4 runs per 4-6 innings. First off this means that the bullpen would be worked harder every fifth day, and second the game would already be lost for the Mets before the bullpen even enters the game meaning the bullpen wouldn't need to blow it in order for the Mets to loose. With the Mets current rotation they have one of the top three in the MLB and besides John Maine who's been coming back slowly after a stint on the DL, every starter's last two times around each of them have gone at least 7 innings. The Mets bullpen problems really stem from mismanagement of he bullpen and also not having a long reliever(someone who can come into a blowout and finish the game, basically a 6th starter). Maybe they could also use another "crossover" guy like Jerry Manuel says.

The ways that Manuel misuses his bullpen are as follows: He uses to many guys as specialists(come into games, face one batter and leave), and although he's better than Randolph was he doesn't always pick the ideal spots for his bullpen(a key ability and a must for managers). Pedro Feliciano used to pitch full innings but since the beginning of last year has only pitched as a lefty specialist. This gives the Mets three specialists, two lefties and a righty which is way too many. He also doesn't realize that Heilman works in patterns pitching in two straight games effectively and then in the third game giving up 3-5 runs, this is why his ERA is so high. Another thing is that Manuel hasn't made it easier on his bullpen by subbing defensive replacements late in games for the likes of Damion Easley, Carlos Delgado and Fernando Tatis all better known for their hitting(a nice way of saying that they're crappy defensive players) and it's not like he doesn't have replacement options because he does in Endy Chavez, Argenis Reyes and Nick Evans all superb defensive players.

Here are my proposed solutions:
a) Bring up Jon Niese(AAA starter, top pitching prospect) who has a wicked curveball and a plus fastball(93-95 with movement) and put him in the bullpen as a setup man. This would be like what the Yankees did with Joba last year. Niese is about to reach the max innings in the minors so by putting him in the pen the Mets would also be limiting his innings. The reason this would work over moving Maine into the bullpen and Niese into the rotation is because it's harder for batters to face pitchers with the kind of stuff Niese has(hard curve and fastball combination) the first few times around. Hitters first need to see him a couple of times and then adjust to his pitches and by putting him into the bullpen the Mets would be limiting the amount of times that batters all over the league see him pitch hence utilizing his ability most effectively(Omar would never be able to think this up). This takes care of the eighth/ninth inning man for the Mets.

b) Oliver Perez is the Mets most durable pitcher therefore they should use him more, especially because of the state of the Mets bullpen. Meaning that he should pitch around eight innings every outing and on the days that he's supposed to have a bullpen session instead of throwing in the bullpen Manuel should put him into pitch the last inning or two. This way you maximize his performance while also saving some games and earning a few victories for the Mets

c) Look around the waiver wire for interesting targets and try to acquire a few, one will probably pan out.

This is what Omar did: He brought up Brian Stokes to be their long reliever and he has showed that he can be effective. He traded Anderson Hernandez to the Nats for Luis Ayala(a former top setup man blew his arm out in the spring of '05 and hasn't been the same since) and signed Al Reyes(a 38 year old former closer) to a minor league deal. The Luis Ayala deal was a great one since Anderson Hernandez can't hit and Luis Ayala could possibly return to form while pitching for a contender and with his former catcher Brian Schneider. Ayala's easily capable of being the 8th inning man for the Mets and possibly even their closer and he can get both lefties and righties out. Al Reyes barely has anything left in the tank and was only signed as an insurance policy. Look for him to come up a few days before September 1st so he could be eligible for postseason play. So Minaya listened to advice number three and will also call Jon Niese up during September callups, lets see how he's used.