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.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mets Looking Up, But Will It Last?

The beauty of baseball is that just when you think you know what will happen, everything turns upside down. Last time I posted here, the Mets looked flat, and very unlike a championship team. Now, things are certainly better, and Jose Reyes has gotten his groove back.

The starting pitchers are pitching very well, and who could have expected Mike Pelfrey and Nelson Figueroa to pitch as well as they have so far? The bullpen has been mostly good, except for a few more homeruns allowed by Aaron Heilman. The offense is waking up, thanks to MVP-candidate David Wright, with solid contributions from Ryan Church, Angel Pagan, Brian Schneider, and now Reyes, too.

Duaner Sanchez is back, Moises Alou and Pedro Martinez are on the way in the next few weeks, and maybe even Ramon Castro will make it back onto the field before the All-Star break. As for El Duque, how do you say "The Boot" in Spanish?

Right now, it seems like the Arizona Diamondbacks are the class of the National League, and I expect them to stay on top of the league all year. The other top teams that I expect to be there at the end: Milwaukee, Chicago, Rockies, and Mets.

I am not impressed by the Phillies or the Braves right now, but of course, that could change in a heartbeat. The Phillies desperately miss Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino, not only their top of the order hitters, but their two best defensive players at the prime defensive positions.

National League surprises so far: The Cardinals and Marlins are playing way over their heads, and should fall back to the bottom half of their respective divisions sooner rather than later. I have to say that if the Cardinals make the playoffs this year, Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan should be sent directly to Cooperstown.

In the American League, it looks to me like the AL Central is going to be the most interesting division in baseball, with all five teams being about average or slightly better. It wouldn't surprise me to see all five teams clustered around the .500 mark well into the season before someone pulls away. The White Sox and Royals have as good a chance as the favored Indians and Tigers to end up on top. The Twins always seem to overachieve, so don't count them out, either.

The Red Sox and Los Angeles de Anaheim, as expected, are the best teams, and most likely to make the playoffs. After that, it's wide open. The Wild Card could be the Mariners, A's, Blue Jays, Yankees, or even the Rays (who should be called the Tampa Rays, not the Tampa Bay Rays). I doubt any of the AL Central teams will be in the Wild Card race.

American League surprises: Baltimore, and to a lesser degree, Oakland are overachieving, and will slip back towards the bottom soon. Cleveland and Detroit are much better than their records, but may never recover to the degree that was predicted. Sabathia is a concern, and the Tigers really need a healthy Curtis Granderson and Joel Zumaya to get back to the top.

Mets' Notes

I am not a fan of Willie Randolph in general, but I have to give him credit for moving Ryan Church to the second spot in the batting order. It balances the lefties better, and allows Church to get more fastballs to pound. Castillo is a good number two hitter in many ways, but his total lack of power and his obsession with bunting is not what the Mets need this year.

My usual complaint about Randolph is his use of his bullpen, and this year I am also concerned about his insistence on pitching his starters on five days rest instead of the usual four. The first thing I would have done this year is pencil in Johan Santana every fifth day and squeeze everyone else in around him. That would give Santana around 36 starts, and allow them to skip the fifth starter a few times.

So far, Pelfrey and Figueroa have far exceeded expectations, but you still need to maximize your ace, especially with the injuries to Martinez and El Duque.

Randolph is still overusing some relievers and underusing others. Heilman has pitched in 11 of 16 games, a total of 12 innings, and Feliciano has only pitched in 7 games, for a paltry total of 3 and 2/3 innings. From what I've seen, Feliciano's control and effectiveness increase the more he pitches, so basically Randolph never gives him a chance to get into a rhythm. Feliciano is as good as Heilman, and often as good as Wagner, so I don't understand the way he is used.

When injured players such as Alou, Wise, and Martinez come back, the Mets will have some tough decisions to make. My suggestions: Alou should return to be the primary LF, but should only play about 2/3 of the games. There is no reason to play him until he drops again, like Randolph did last year. With Pagan and Endy Chavez around, there is no reason for Alou to have to start every day.

I would also ask Alou to take some grounders at 1B, to see if he can handle spot duty there. The Mets lack a true backup at 1B, and Alou makes the most sense, since he lacks range in the OF, and seems to get hurt diving for balls and running into fences.

I have a feeling Matt Wise will not contribute much to the Mets this year. I like him, and think he's a good pitcher, but I'm not sure he can handle New York pressure. Mets' fans are getting worse every year, having this perverse need to pick a scapegoat (usually a relief pitcher, going back to the days of Doug Sisk) and run him out of town. Scott Schoeneweis and more recently Aaron Heilman are the current scapegoats, but I could see Wise getting booed after a couple of bad performances, and not handling it well.

The fact is, unless they trade Heilman, Sosa, or Schoeneweis, they don't really need Wise anyway. Smith and Sanchez look fine, and are probably better than Wise from here on out.

Martinez is going to be the most interesting "acquisition" this year. I don't really expect him to give the Mets much. I was fooled by his excellent Spring Training, and expected a good year, but he really is too brittle, and seems to be preparing for retirement in his mind.

In any event, they are going to have to get rid of a pitcher or two one way or another, and I'd prefer to lose the old guys rather than the young ones.

Yankees' Notes

I can't wait to see what they do about the poor start, especially by the young starters and old position players. They should stay the course, but will the new Steinbrenners have the patience to ride out a bumpy, probably non-playoff level, season? What's remarkable isn't that the Yankees are struggling this year, but that they continued making the playoffs every year, even though they got off to terrible starts in most of the past few years.

I agree that Joe Girardi was a good choice as manager, and that it was time for Joe Torre to go, but you have to give Torre all the credit in the world for getting them straightened out every time. Remember Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon saving the day? There are only so many times where that can happen before it all comes crashing down.

Time to trade Moose and Damon, and turn Giambi into a pinch-hitter. Go with the kids, and let them learn on the job. Next year, the Yankees should be back at the competitive level they are accustomed to, if they don't panic . . . .

© Judy Kamilhor 2008


At 2:07 PM, Blogger Futuristics said...

NICE Blog :)

At 2:18 PM, Blogger Judy Kamilhor said...

Thanks, futuristics. What does the future hold for the Met?



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