baseball gods productions

Thoughts about baseball, from the perspective of sports psychology and the role of sports in society. It includes team and player analysis, predictions, and what I think needs to be changed in Major League Baseball. Brought to you from the heart of baseball, Brooklyn, by baseball gods productions.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Monthly Review and Looking Forward for the Mets and Yankees

After one month, the Mets look as good as last year, except they have much more competition. The main change from last year is the Braves returning to almost elite status, promising to make a more interest playoff race in the NL East.

The NL Central is finally going as I have been predicting for a couple of years, with the Brewers seeming to have made that step up to the top of the division, and the Cardinals finally letting go of their grip on the top spot. It almost seems like time is going in reverse, and the Cardinals won the World Series last year to honor the memory of Josh Hancock, their 29 year old relief pitcher who died in a traffic accident a few days ago.

The NL West is unpredictable as usual, and any of four teams could end up on top when the last game is played. Jake Peavy is finally pitching like the ace he always seemed to be, but Trevor Hoffman seems to be going through the same thing as Mariano Rivera, aging closer syndrome. My theory--and of course we will never know--is that older pitchers are having a harder time adjusting to the new drug testing system than younger pitchers who have had tougher testing in the minor leagues for a few years. It's no accident that most of the top pitchers in the NL this year are relatively young. And it's not just steroids, I think amphetamines are more of an issue for relief pitchers, especially closers. Just my intuition, but it would be interesting to find out who failed amphetamine tests last year besides Barry Bonds.

The AL East has developed oddly, with the Yankees fighting to get out of last place. The last few years they have gotten off to bad starts, and somehow managed to win the division anyway. Not this time. They might still end up in the playoffs (I predicted a wild card for them before the season), but they aren't beating Boston this year. Boston's pitching is much better, and the offense and defense is close enough to allow the pitching to be the difference. Joe Torre is the best man to turn things around, but there are only so many times that can happen. There is no Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon to come out of nowhere and pitch like all-stars.

The AL Central is going to be a great race, with four good teams going down to the wire. The Tigers need Kenny Rogers to come back strong, and I think they will eventually end up on top, by a hair. The Wild Card probably won't come from this division, only because they will all beat each other enough to hurt their won-lost records and allow the Yankees or Toronto to win the Wild Card.

The AL West is falling into its usual pattern. Look for Oakland to make their annual second half charge, but Los Angeles de Anaheim will prevail.

Looking at the Mets in more detail, the biggest surprise is Shawn Green's hitting, and the biggest disappointment is Aaron Heilman's relief pitching. Joe Smith (needs a great nickname) is clearly better than Heilman, and everyone else in the bullpen, and he should slide into the 8th inning role sooner rather than later. Wagner is pitching better than I expected, but we'll see how he does when the pressure is on.

The starters have been very good overall, and the best news is that Mike Pelfrey seems to be learning what Rick Peterson and Tom Glavine have been telling him about location and movement being more important than velocity. Last night, he really looked good after a terrible first inning. It was almost as if I could see the light bulb go on over his head, as he started throwing 91-92 mph sinkers instead of 95 mph straight fastballs that were either out of the strike zone, or easy to hit. Look for Pelfrey to have a strong rest of the season, and not a minute too soon. With El Duque having the first of his usual assortment of injuries, it is very important for Pelfrey to step up. Chan Ho Park looked dreadful in his first start, and I don't know how long they are going to stick with him to fill in.

The position players have been good overall, but there are some things that need to be addressed. At times, the defense and baserunning have looked surprisingly passive, and they need to get back to the swagger and aggressiveness that made them successful last year. Every once in a while, Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes, their two MVP candidates, look a little afraid of getting hurt. Beltran seems to shy away from contact on balls hit in the gap, and Reyes looks tentative on tag plays at times. It's understandable that they would want to avoid injuries, since the Mets would have a very hard time replacing either of them, but it's worrisome nonetheless. Players are more likely to get hurt when they hold back than when they go all out.

For the Yankees, the Philip Hughes injury is devastating, because now it comes back to Carl Pavano to bolster the shaky rotation. Look for a trade in the next few weeks for a veteran starter who can pitch deep into games. The guy they could really use is Livan Hernandez of the Diamondbacks. Getting Roger Clemens is not the answer, unless they use him in the bullpen to pitch 3 innings every 3 games. Clemens is a 5 inning pitcher, the last thing they need right now. This trend of using relievers for no more than one inning at a time is really foolish. At the rate the Yankees are going, they will need an entirely new bullpen by July.

© Judy Kamilhor 2007


Post a Comment

<< Home