Friday, August 22, 2008

Sweeps are Fun

Even moreso when they involve sweeping the Braves. And it gets even better when Larry Jones makes numerous errors and fails in the clutch. Given all of the beatings the Braves administered to the Mets over the years, it is time for things to even up. This week was a start.

Three game sweep. Late inning comebacks in two games. Hits to drive in RISP with 2 outs. Good and great starting pitching. All the elements of a WINNING team were there. Even good work from the pen. Ah, the joy of winning 3, seeing the Phillies lose to the Nationals and the Marlins lose to the Giants. Joy.

Pedro may no be the Pedro of the past, but damn, he still knows how to PITCH. He's not gonna blow the ball by anyone, but he is wicked smart. He knows how to keep guys off balance and how to control the game. He went 7 plus last night, which gave the pen more rest, as Jerry only had to use Pedro Dos and Ayala (who has been good his first two outings). Assuming a playoff birth, Jerry is going to have a tough decision to make when it comes to the rotation (assuming also that everyone continues to pitch as they have lately).

Carlos Delgado went 5-5* last night. Drove in 3 runs, including the winner as Omar Infante fielded Delgado's liner in the 9th like he was having a flashback to the Ayala fastball from Tuesday. Wright, who otherwise was probably going to be doubled off second, scored the winning run. DW went 3-4. So the 3 and 5 guys went 8-9, nice.

Yes, this has been a soft part of the schedule. Yes, they should dominate these teams. But, they had not been doing that this year. They had played poorly against the Braves, lost stupidly to the Pirates and Nationals. They got swept in Houston and San Diego. Finally this team is taking advantage of the week. Now, they need to keep it up as the Astros come to town for 4 this weekend. The Phillies meanwhile play the Dodgers. Houston has been hot since the ASB, so this will not be easy. Hopefully the recent trend of strong outings from the starters, timely hitting and good bullpen work continue for the next week. After Houston, the Mets go to Philly Tuesday and Wednesday. A little more breathing room before then would be nice, don'tchathink?

Ed will be away in Bethany Beach, Delaware starting tomorrow for a week. I will return rested and ready for the stretch drive.



Friday, August 15, 2008

Let the Beating Continue Please

The sweep of the Nationals is complete. The first sweep on the road this year. Ollie gets the "W". Smith, Duaner and Aaron finished it up. The bats actually tacked on insurance runs for a change late in the game. All around, a nice effort.

The first three innings saw no runs scored, as Balestar kept the bats off balance, no hitting them through 3. In the fourth, Argenis Reyes singled, DW doubled and Delgado drove in a run with a grounder, moving DW to third. Beltran followed with a sacrifice fly, and it was 2-0. In the fifth, Tatis walked and Brian Schneider hit a homer to deep left center, his first since May 14, against the same Nationals. In the sixth, Delgado hit a laser to left for another homer, and it was 5-0.

Ollie cruised until the 7th. Kearns led off with a bloop single. Aaron Boone grounded out, then Ollie walked Nieves. Pete Orr, former Brave, hitting all of .197 then triple to right center, and it was 5-2. Bonifacio followed with a bunt that Delgado tried to grab and tag, but wound up missing, and it was 5-3. Joe Smith came in to get Belliard to fly out.

In the eighth, Smith got the first out, then walked the next two hitters, bringing in Duaner, who got Boone to strike out and Nieves to ground out. The ninth was looming. Who would close? Kunz? Heilman? Jerry?

Thankfully, it did not matter as the boys pushed 4 across, thanks to the Nationals playing like, well, the Nationals. Murphy led off with a single. Tatis doubled, Schneider k'd. Easley pinch hit and singled, driving in 2. Jose then singled. Argenis lined out to third. DW then hit a grounder to Belliard, playing shortstop due to Guzman being out with an injury. Belliard booted it, and the bases were loaded. Delgado followed with a grounder past first, but right into the shift, a seemingly easy third out. Except Bonifacio threw it wide of the pitcher going to cover first. Two more scored, and it was 9-3. Heilman proof, as Aaron (booed even in DC) got three outs.

Meanwhile, the Cards beat the Marlins, and the Dodgers swept the Philth, so first place belongs to the Mets again. Let's keep it until the end of the season now, shall we?

On to Pittsburgh for a 4 game set. Alex at Metsgeek has the Pittsburgh pitcher review

To my friends heading to Pittsburgh - Vaya Con Dios mi amigos.



Mike and the Mad Dog

So, despite protests that it was not going to happen, last night, WFAN announced that Christopher "Mad Dog" Russo (aka The Screaming Ninny here at Nice Level Swing) is leaving the "Mike and the Mad Dog Show".


Now, maybe people will wise up, not listen to His Pompous-ass, and he will leave to.

Which will lead to much rejoicing.

Vindication for Neil Best in Newsday who has been all over this for weeks.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Check Up

Let's see. When we last left off, the Mets were 2 games out. Since then, they have moved into a tie for first. How did this happen you may ask?

1. The Mets finally remembered that they are supposed to beat on teams like the Nationals.
2. The Phillies Pen finally realized that it is time to regress to the mean.

The record against Washington coming into this game - 4 wins, 5 losses. Not exactly a stellar showing against the basement dwellers. And how can we forget the end of last season, when they went 1-5 in the last six, including losses of 12-4 and 13-4, blown leads, and a 10-9 loss made to look that close by 6 runs in the 9th. One more win against them and the Mets tie for the division. This is a team that for some reason appears to have the Mets number. Is it Manny Acta trying to show he should be the manager? Is it the Nationals players deciding to show up against the big bad Mets? Or is it the Mets just not getting up for the series, thinking the Nats will lie down?

In any event, Tuesday saw the Mets win 4-3 thatnks to a hit batter with the bases loaded (and yes Manny, the ball did hit Easley, balls don't change direction like that on their own you know.) Johan got the win, giving up 3 runs on 8 hits and 2 walks.

Last night, John Maine returned from the DL, which of course meant we would all be worried about
1. His arm falling off
2. How the bullpen would pitch

Thankfully, Maine's arm was fine, as he went 5 allowing no runs on 1 hit with 4 walks. As for the bullpen, Brian Stokes came in and pitched the final 4, strangely earning a save even though the Mets were up 10-0 when he came in. Weird rule.

The offense showed up against an inferior team. It allowed Jerry to pull Dos Carlos' early, getting them some rest. Jose has 2 hits and 2 runs scored. DW had a hit, 2 walks, 2 runs. Tatis had a HR. And Daniel Murphy went 3-6 with a HR, 3 RBI and 2 runs scored. The only Mets non-pitchers who did not get a hit were Delgado (who walked 3 times) and Schneider (****ing Shocker). Schneider did have 3 walks though, so he had that going for him. Maine got an RBI by walking with the bases loaded. Even Stokes had a hit.

Murphy is continuing to impress. The guy seems to have 7 pitch at-bats every time up. He works a pitcher, something the other guys do not do enough of. He fights until he gets his pitch. The youngster does not look overmatched. He continues to show impressive power to the opposite field, as his home run last night went to left center, about 380 ft to the fence in Nationals Park. And the ball cleared the fence by a nice margin. He'll continue to "platoon" with Nick Evans, but he is making it hard for Jerry to do that. Jerry said that since he is an RBI guy, he will bat low in the order when Argenis Reyes is in the lineup, but should bat 2nd when Ryan Church comes back. That will be nice, seeing him feast on fastballs behind Jose.

Stokes looked good. Granted, the Nats, well, suck, but he still looked sharp. The fastball was popping, and his control was good. He gave the rest of the pen a night off, which is nice. A long man not named Carlos Muniz is what this team has needed. Hopefully Stokes can keep it up.

Tonight, Ollie vs. Balester. The Philth remain in LA. Let's get another W tonight, shall we?



Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Shit-Scho and the Craptastic Pen

It's all the rage to bash Aaron Heilman for yesterday's debacle. I do not come here to do that. The entire pen is to blame here, with the exception of Duaner. Joe Smith has been the suck of late. Pedro Dos, ditto. Scott (Shit-Scho) Schoeneweis sucks as well. And all 12 of you who read this know how I feel about Carlos Muniz and Eddie Kunz.

The problem my friends is that this pen has too many specialists. I do not mean they all specialize in sucking. I mean we have too many guys who are only ROOGY's or LOOGY's. Smith is only effective against righties. Aaron is better against righties this year as well (odd, since he used to do well against lefties as well). Dos and Shit-Scho against lefties. That leaves Duaner (when he can pitch) and Billy as effective against both sides. This leads Jerry to have to play match game, with disastrous results.

If we remember last year, the pen had similar issues, which were exacerbated by starters who could only go 5 innings. Little changed, with the exception of Mota being gone and Duaner being here. The same guys are doing the same things this year. The issue for the next couple of weeks is what to do until Billy comes back?

Simple, name Kunz the damn closer. Will it work? Who knows, but nothing else is with any consistency. Aaron did well Friday and Saturday, but crapped the bed yesterday. Shit-Scho should NEVER FACE RIGHTIES JERRY (did you not sit next to Willie last year and learn this lesson? WTF?) Smith looks dead. Sanchez is inconsistent with his velocity. Pedro Dos is a LOOGY right now. That leaves Kunz.

Now, the idea has been floated of moving Maine or Perez to the pen. This is a bad idea on so many levels it makes me question the intelligence of the local media for writing it, or, if they got it based on conversations with Mets officials, makes me question their smarts. I'll start with Ollie, who has only been the best pitcher of late. So move him to the pen, and who starts? Stokes? Please. Nice story the other night, but let's be real here. As for Maine, the guy has a bad shoulder, so let's make him pitch multiple times a week, oh, and have a shorter window in which to warm up. Yeah, that'll work real well.

If they want to change something, send Muniz down and call up Niese or Parnell. Oh, that's right, they don't want to start Niese's arbitration clock. Bullshit. This team prints fucking money. They spend it on shit like Show, Mota, Castillo, but are worried about having to spend it on Niese? Please. I am so sick and fucking tired of the money argument from this team.

Omar I am sure tried to make a trade, but he refused t0 give up young arms and/or bats to do so. Good. He gets killed (rightly in some cases) for trading away Bell, Lindstrom et al, but now he should trade Niese or Fernando! for a bullpen arm? We rue the day Kazmir was traded for Zambrano, yet want Omar to make a similar mistake? (Yes, I know Niese is not as highy touted, but the analogy still fits, it is all about the future. Remember, Pedro and Ollie are FA at season's end.)

So, here is Ed's plan.

Kunz - Closer
Niese/Parnell - set up
Sanchez - set up
Heilman - set up
Smith - ROOGY/mop up
Dos/Shit-Scho - LOOGY
Stokes - long man/set up
Muniz - gone

This team is adverse to using youngsters until their hand is forced (see Gomez, Carlos; Murphy, Daniel; Evans, Nick). In most cases, those worked out. Why not try it with a young arm. Last year in September, Humber sat on his ass for most of the month while the pen imploded. Then, he started, but could last only 4 innings since he was so out of a rhythm. Do not fall into the same trap.

These next 7 games are a chance to feast. Washington for 3, Pitt for 4. The Philth and Marlins have tougher weeks. We can take over first. If the pen is fixed.

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.



Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Get Ready for Your Close-Up Eddie...

So, the Aaron Heilman Experiment lasted all of one game. We hope. Given the state of the rest of the pen, it is time for Jerry to stop the Willie-like aversion to using youth out of the bullpen, and let Eddie Kunz close.

I like Aaron. I've supported him over the years. He's blown games, and also come into sticky situations and gotten the job done. But somewhere between the spring, when Billy said Aaron had the stuff and mentality to close and, oh, say April, something went wrong. The change-up that used to beffuddle lefties disappeared. He started to right the ship shortly after The Jacket was fired, even throwing some effective sliders (a pitch Rick had him eschew). However, that did not last long and Aaron of late has fallen back to his pre-June funk. If Jerry so much as looks at Aaron in a tight game in the late innings, he could join Aaron as a target in the eyes of the fans.

One thing though. When Aaron came into the game last night, he was booed. Now, I know Aaron has done poorly, but sweet jeebus people, the dude is being called on to close out a game. How about a little fucking support? How about instead of booing him before he throws a damn pitch, you clap for him, get behind him. You know, build up his confidence? As savvy as NY fans are supposed to be, we get this wrong too often. I'm not saying you should not boo if he sucks, but at least give him a chance. Who knows, maybe a show of support from the fans may have helped. (well, that and some help from the defense.)

I'm off the soapbox now.

Basically the pen looks like this

LOOGY - Show, Pedro Dos
ROOGY - Smith
UBERCRAPPY - Muniz, Heilman
Unknown - Kunz

Smith is having a hard time against lefties. Pedro Dos (before last night) was having trouble keeping inherited runners from scoring. Show should not face a righty unless there is a 10 run lead.
Muniz sucks. Lugo is not much better. These guys are mop-up guys, nothing more. Lugo will be the long man per Jerry.

That leaves Kunz. Now, I'm not saying the guy is gonna come out and be dominant. He may blow up. But you know what? The dude has closed, in college (where he led his team to the College World Series), in AA and AAA this year. He knows what is needed. Is he untested at the ML level? Sure. But guess what? He's the best option at this point.

There is no time to mess around here. The deficit is 2 games. Billy is out for 2 weeks. We cannot continue blowing games late, or using 3 guys to pitch the ninth. Give Eddie the damn ball and see what he can do. He's got a good sinker, something that will work in his favor. He throws hard. He misses bats. He's not gonna come in and strike out the side, but who cares? The job is to get 3 outs without allowing the other team to erase the lead. That's it. The rest of the guys have not shown the ability to do so.

Let Eddie try.


Onto last nights game. The hitting star was Fernando Tatis, who erased two Padre leads, first with a solo shot to the picnic area, and later with a 3-run shot that he waved fair in the leftfield loge. (The morons at Baseball Tonight killed him for his celebration. Note to morons, please review tape of Fisk, Carlton in 1975 WS. or any home run by Sammy Sosa. In other words, have a tall glass of STFU.) Supporting roles were played by Daniel (don’t call him Dan) Murphy, who had an RBI and went 1 for 2 with 2 walks, Delgado who had 2 walks and 2 runs scored, Beltran who went 2 for 4 with 2 runs scored, including the 6th run, scoring on a double by Nick Evans and a mistake prone relay by the Padres.

On the mound, Pelfrey went 6 2/3, allowing 9 hits, 2 runs on 2 homers, a walk and 3 k’s. He did well, and got himself out of trouble. Pedro Dos pitched 1 1/3 scoreless, stranding an inherited runner in the 7th. We’ll skip over Heilman and talk about Smith who retired the only batter he faced, and Show, who did likewise, though the out was hard hit to center.

I’m liking what I see from Murphy. He has a real good eye, and his hit was a great piece of hitting, driving a low pitch to deep left center for a double driving in Argenis Reyes. He might not be a true left fielder, but his bat should keep him in the lineup. See, youth can work from time to time.

On the injury front, we all know Billy is on the DL now. Hopefully the rest will heal his forearm, and he will be able to close once he comes back without making everyone reach for the Tums.

Maine is progressing well. He is due to throw a simulated game Friday and is on track to return from the DL next week. (My fantasy team is thankful for this).

Luis Castillo is playing rehab games. :shudder:

Ryan Church took BP yesterday after not having done so for a couple of games. Not a lot of details on what is happening. Some days he feels 100%, others, only 90% or so per reports. I’m not counting on having him back anytime soon.

Tonight, Pedro vs. Cha Seung Baek, who faced the Mets in June in a game they lost 2-1. He went 6, allowing 7 hits and 1 run, 2 BB and 2 K. He got 11 ground ball outs. Hopefully, the Mets fare better against him this time. As for Pedro, hopefully he can give the team some length, like 7 full innings. And hopefully the bats score enough to make the question of who will close moot.



Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Name the Players

A lot has been made about the Mets organizational depth (or lack thereof). Many complained that the Mets have depleted their farm. Others complained that they should have depleted it more at the recent Non-Waiver trade deadline. The feeling is that the Mets have traded away too much lately, and that had they not, they would be in a better place, since they would have depth. Such depth would have been used to fill in some holes on the team this year according to that theory.

So lets play a game. See if you can name the 4 players below:

Player 1 (ML) - .256 AVG, .288 OBP, .351 SLG%, 639 OPS 21 steals, 10 caught stealing

Player 2 (AAA) - 6-7 5.38 ERA 1.59 WHIP 4.04 BB/9 6.73 K/9

Player 3 (AAA) - 4-8 3.87 ERA 1.35 WHIP 2.92 BB/9 7.22 K/9

Player 4 (FSL) - 10-5 4.56 ERA 1.42 WHIP 4.04 BB9 4.82 K/9

Would you want any of those players playing for the Mets right now? Or would you rather have someone like this

Player 5 - 9-7 2.93 ERA 1.19 WHIP 2.38 BB/9 7.62 K/9

Did you guess yet?

Player 5 is Johan. Players 1 - 4 are Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra. Now, tell me something, would you want Gomez playing the outfield on the Mets right now? Or Humber or Mulvey in the rotation or pen? Guerra is obviously some ways away from being ML ready.

It makes me laugh when people first bemoan the lack of depth and say that the Santana trade was a mistake. How exactly is that possible? Santana may not be the Best Pitcher in Baseball, but he gives the team a chance to win every time out. So you think Humber or Mulvey could do that? When Gomez got off to a hot start, people raved. Now however, people see what many Mets fans saw last year, a guy who is not ready for Prime Time. The Twins rushed him, possibly to justify the Santana trade, but rushed him nonetheless. Humber and Mulvey are not lighting it up in AAA either.

Many laughed at the Twins, saying the package was bad. They point to the package the Yankees had allegedly offered as better. Really? Kennedy has done nothing and got hurt. Hughes has been hurt all year. Melky Cabrera sports a 654 OPS. Is that package really all that much better?
The media likes to say that Omar was able to do this trade because the Yankees would not give in. Well, maybe the Twins thought the Mets package was better? Or maybe Omar was smart, putting out his highly rated guys and staying in the mix. In any event, he turned 4 guys who would not be able to help the Mets this year into a guy who will now and for years to come.

As for the present farm, there are some bright spots. Fernando! has looked good (when not hurt of course, what is it with Mets OF's getting hurt anyway?) Daniel Murphy has raked this year, earning a call up. Nick Evans did well in AA, Mike Carp has bounced back. Wilmer Flores, all of 17, has been hitting everything in sight, playing with guys 2 or more years older than he.

Yes, the Mets have erred in not going over slot. The early returns on Ike Davis are not promising (I'm not gonna worry yet. Let's give him some time shall we?) Brad Holt on the other hand is throwing nicely. Let's give the low level guys some time to grow. In a couple of years, they may surprise us.

In the meantime, the big club needs to start a winning streak tonight. Go Big Pelf!



Monday, August 04, 2008

Um, What Happened to the Bats?

Swept by the Astros? Swept?


A 7-3 loss Friday night, when the offense left 7 on base. Pedro pitched well for his first start after his latest long layoff. Yes, Heilman gave up the grand slam to break the 3-3 tie, but really, when you pound out 10 hits and get 2 walks, you should score more than 3 runs. They loaded the bases in the 7th with no outs, and came away with NOTHING. Endy struck out, DW grounded out, and Delgado flew out. That's what cost them the game.

Saturday, a 5-4 loss in 10, Heilman got the loss again (note, I dropped him from my fantasy team that morning, so I can't be blamed). Mets got 8 hits, Houston made 2 errors, and they left 8 runners on base. Danny Murphy made his debut, singled his first time up and scored. He also made a nice catch and throw double play later in the game. Nice debut, he did not look overmatched at all. Very smooth swing. You might even say Nice and Level. The pen choked this one away as well, as BMBB blew a 2 run lead in the 9th. Billy apparently was fighting some forearm stiffness, and will go for an MRI tomorrow (he cannot go today due to family obligations). I don't wanna sound the alarm here, but Billy had forearm issues 8 yrs ago that required tendon surgery. He claims the pain is different, but given the luck this team has had with injuries this year, I'm not buying it yet. Aaron took the loss as noted, allowing a walk and a hit, and Pedro Dos allowed the inherited runner to score. Ramon Castro was hurt on a play at the plate as the Astros scored 2 runs on the same play at the plate, shades of the NLDS from 2006 against the Dodgers.

Yesterday, no runs. Nada, zip, zilch, against Randy Wolf. Eleven left on base yesterday, 9 hits and 4 walks. Wright had a poor trip, going 3-22. Beltran was moved up to the #2 spot, and went 2-5. Delgado went 3-4. Beltran and Cancel were thrown out trying to steal 3rd. Nick Evans went 0-4, but feeling the heat in the field from Murphy's fine play Saturday, threw out two runners at second who were trying to stretch singles to doubles.

Now, I know July was incredibly hot, but the bats need to step it up, given the issues with the pen and the rotation. Maine is now on the DL. Wagner could be heading there. Sanchez has no zip. Heilman, well, he's just flat out struggling right now. Pedro is still a worry with his control issues. Eddie Kunz was called up, and he could be the closer while BMBB is out. I like guys named Eddie :)

Beltran needs to get going. I know his overall numbers are there, but we need him to go on one of his 2 week long tears where he OPS' 1.123. DW needs to get right. Reyes needs to wreak havoc on the bases. With the bottom of the lineup being a mish-mosh of Murphy, Evan, Schneider and Cancel, the top 6 need to get the job done.

The August Schedule has opportunities
3 vs Padres
3 vs Marlins
1 vs Pirates (make-up)
3 @ Nationals
4 @ Pirates
3 vs Braves
4 vs Astros
2 @ Philth
3 @ Marlins

Dregs and divisional opponents.
26 games left in the month. They are 0-3 so far. A final record for August of 19-10 should allow the team to keep up with Philly and the Marlins before September starts. September will not be easy.

3 @ Brewers
3 vs Philth
2 vs Nationals
3 vs Braves
4 @ Nationals
3 @ Braves
4 vs Cubs
3 vs Marlins.

A lot of games against playoff teams, or at least teams fighting for the playoffs. The Braves are a nemesis. The Nats always play the Mets tough. No walks in the park there.

The time to take, yet another, stand is now. 19-7 for the rest of the month is not easy, but needed.

Just.Win.Series. (a couple of sweeps would be nice though)