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.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Assessment

Every year around Memorial Day, I take stock of the Mets. This year's version is the streakiest, hardest to predict group I can remember. I haven't done the research, but I'm guessing that not too many teams win 10 of 11 games in the same season that they go 6-16 on the road.

Beating the previous year's two World Series teams five times in a row should indicate a very good team, right? So how did they lose 8 of 9 and 7 of 8 in two separate horrible streaks? Obviously, the home vs. road record is seriously strange (19-9 at home, 7-16 on the road), and indicates that there is potential for a better record if they can correct whatever is wrong on the road.

Some improvements I would like to see:

Release Oliver Perez, or find a clever way to suspend him or put him on the mentally disabled list.

Replace Gary Matthews, Jr. with Jesus Feliciano as the backup CF, or sign Willy Taveras or Jonathan Van Every to be the backup CF until/if/when Beltran returns.

Bring up Dillon Gee to take the 5th starter spot, and let Jonathon Niese earn his way back into the rotation by dominating in Buffalo.

Put Fernando Nieve back in the bullpen, and use him no more than once every three days until he regains some effectiveness. If he doesn't, please release him, too. His getting off to a great start actually hurt the team, since it led to his overuse and now-total ineffectiveness. Bring up Bobby Parnell if Nieve pitches his way off the team.

Start Chris Carter once in a while, at least to keep him from going postal, and to give the team a spark.

Try Jeff Francoeur in CF a few times in laughers to see if he is capable of providing assistance for Angel Pagan until/if/when Beltran returns. The only reason Gary Matthews, Jr. is on the team (I hope) is that he is the only player on the current roster who can play CF besides Pagan. Please change that as soon as possible, one way or another.

Stop wasting relief pitchers by getting them warmed up and sitting them down over and over. Stop wasting relief pitchers by using them to pitch to one batter. Pedro Feliciano is one of the team's best pitchers; there is no reason to take him out after one batter. Please stop doing this!

Consider platooning Alex Cora and Luis Castillo, at least until Castillo's foot gets better. The man can barely walk, for the baseball gods' sake.

Consider replacing Fernando Tatis with Mike Hessman, who is absolutely tearing up Triple A. Like Chris Carter, Hessman will never be better than he is right now, so why not see what he can do in the major leagues as a pinch hitter.

Get Wally Backman warming up in the managerial bullpen. Let's see how he does in Brooklyn this year, and then next year, he's the guy I want in the dugout. Bobby Valentine should be offered the GM job in the offseason, or even the team president position. Jeff Wilpon must be pushed aside somehow.

All in all, the Mets are better than I expected, but still maddeningly inconsistent. The best news is that the culture of handing jobs to higher paid guys regardless of performance seems to be ending. Having his job on the line is helping Jerry Manuel make better decisions, especially in the starting rotation. You have to pay the guys either way, so why not play the best players and see what happens.

Caroms Off the Wall:

Maybe the Mets need to hire a road manager, pitching coach, and hitting coach. Or perhaps a chaperone. What are these guys doing before and after games?

© Judy Kamilhor 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010


They are only three games into the dangerous six game stretch against the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies, but the Mets have already won as many games as I expected, after finally taking a rubber game in their series win against their New York rivals.

Somehow the team's weakness became their strength, at least for a few games, and the starting pitching led the way. The offense was surprisingly good, getting two out hits and power where they had been lacking earlier in the season.

The Mets are basically a .500 team that is not as far from being a playoff contender as I thought. They have a bad record in one-run games, which can be a sign of bad luck or, in my opinion, a sign of the lack of clutch hitting, pitching, fielding, and base running, otherwise known as good baseball instinct. Unfortunately, it's not something that can be taught, but it can be scouted and acquired. In other words, to those people who question why Alex Cora is still on the team, it's because he (usually) demonstrates excellent baseball instinct, being in the right place at the right time, and making the winning play, his terrible throw to Jose Reyes against the Yankees notwithstanding.

The things that are working right now: they have at least two reliable starters in Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey, and maybe another one in my favorite, Hisanori Takahashi. Once Jon Niese returns, the Mets rotation could be good enough to lift the team in the standings a bit. I believe that the only way to move forward is to abandon the John Maine/Oliver Perez restoration project and trade or release both of them. It's time to develop one or two more starters from the minors, such as Dillon Gee and (please) Jenrry Mejia.

The offense seems to be rounding into shape a bit, and will be helped by the return of Daniel Murphy as a utility player and possible second baseman in a few weeks. Luis Castillo's foot is hurting at a bad time, as he is very replaceable. Alex Cora offers a good alternative to Castillo, and I think the Mets have a slightly better chance to win with Cora at second than Castillo, because of his better range and better instinct.

The weak areas right now: the bullpen has been weakened by Takahashi moving to the rotation, and it is time to send Jenrry Mejia to the minors to resume his development as a starter. Some sports writers have used the term "convert" to a starter for Mejia, which is silly since he's been a starter his whole career except for a few weeks this year. Stretching him out won't take that long, but improving his secondary pitches might take a bit longer.

The good news is that Ryota Igarishi is back (shaky in his first game), and should resume his excellent pitching soon. And although Raul Valdes would probably be an effective starter, the team is better off keeping him as the long man/utility man in the bullpen, and calling up Gee to take the fifth spot in the rotation.

Changes I would like to see: Chris Carter needs to start in RF at least 2-3 times a week, at least until Jeff Francoeur gets his groove back. I would even consider something of a platoon with them, using Francoeur as a defensive replacement when the team is winning late, and starting him against lefties.

There are at least two center fielders available in Willy Taveras and Jonathan Van Every. I would sign one or both to minor league contracts and use one to replace Gary Matthews, Jr. as soon as possible. Taveras at least offers one better than average skill in his excellent speed. Matthews is not good at anything, unfortunately, and the team would be better off without him.

Caroms Off the Wall

Very sorry to hear about the passing of Jose Lima. He was a colorful character and good for the game. RIP, Jose.

© Judy Kamilhor 2010

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Animal Arrives, Finally

On March 15, I wrote: "The last expected position battle is for the last bench spot. The candidates are Mike Jacobs, Frank Catalanotto, and Chris Carter. While most baseball writers and sportscasters say it should be Jacobs or Catalanotto, I say it should be Chris Carter, at least to start the season. My main reason is that he is the only one that is in his prime, and it's time to see what he's got now, because he's probably never going to be any better. Jacobs seems to be starting the downhill portion of his career, and Catalanotto is just trying to hang on. Ideally, the two older guys are willing to go to Buffalo for a while, to see how things shake out, and Carter makes the team as the left handed bat off the bench and backup at 1B and the corner OF spots."

Well, better late than never, I say. Chris "The Animal" Carter has finally been called up, to replace the DFA'd Frank Catalanotto. Good move. Now that Ike Davis is the regular first baseman, Carter becomes the backup to Francoeur, Bay, and Davis, and the number one left-handed pinch hitter. I think he'll do well, but it's possible that he is one of those guys that mashes minor league pitching, but as soon as the lights of The Show are turned on, he shrinks from the glare. Only time will tell, but it's a risk that had to be taken. Go Animal Go! GRRRRRrrrrrrrrrr!

I hope Catalanotto ends up at Buffalo, for insurance, like Jacobs. So this move solves one problem, and leaves one more glaring need among the position players. It's time for the Mets to find another backup center fielder to replace Gary Matthews, Jr. I would not be surprised if Carlos Beltran has played his last game as a Met, or at least, that he will miss the entire 2010 season. I don't really think Angel Pagan is up to the task of being the full-time CF all year, and I believe the Mets need to start planning for the future even if Beltran returns this year.

My long-term choice in CF is Kirk Nieuwenhuis, currently playing well at Double A Binghamton. In addition, I think the Mets should trade for someone like David Dejesus to help Pagan, and fill in if Pagan gets hurt. Maybe Pagan has finally gotten over his fear of success issue and has decided he belongs in the major leagues as an everyday player. I hope so for the Mets' sake and his.

As for the pitching, I'm really happy to see that John Maine is doing much better. I was ready to toss him off the plank a few weeks ago, but maybe he has resurrected his career. That leaves Oliver Perez as the big question mark in the rotation, although he's not really a question mark as much as a negative exclamation point (-!-). It's cute as an emoticon, but a big negative on the field. Time for Ollie to go away, to wherever failed phenoms go. Maybe he will turn out to write really well, like my old friend Pat Jordan.

The plan right now seems to be to wait until Ryoto Igarashi returns from the DL, and then consider replacing Ollie with my favorite pitcher, Hisanori Takahashi. The only question then is what to do with Oliver Perez. I think they should release him if they can't send him to the minors to relearn how to pitch. I doubt anyone will want to trade for him, unless the Mets pay all of his salary minus the league minimum. Maybe they can trade him to the Phillies!

All I can say is thank the baseball gods for Japanese pitchers. The Mets seem to have finally had some successs with their Japanese players after many disasters and disappointments.

Caroms Off The Wall

Jenrry Mejia needs to pitch more often in the majors or go back to the minors and get back to starting. I truly prefer that he goes down and develops some more as a starter, so that the Mets can call him up in a couple of months and put him in the rotation for the stretch run.

Once Igarashi returns, I'd consider calling up another reliever and putting Mejia where he should have been all year, either Binghamton or Buffalo, wherever the best pitching coach is.

© Judy Kamilhor 2010

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Why Baseball Is A Crazy Game

Who's better, Johan Santana or Oliver Perez?

Stupid question, right? Well, if you look at wins and losses, Santana is 3-2 and Perez is 0-2. If you look at ERA, though, Perez is at 4.50 and Santana at 4.54. ERA usually represents a decent, if quick, look at pitching performance, but obviously it is useless this year in answering my question.

The difference between Santana and Perez is that Santana knows how to pitch, is a great competitor, and is capable of winning even without his best stuff. Perez, not so much. One additional statistic that begins to differentiate between the two pitchers is innings pitched.

Santana has pitched 41 2/3 innings in seven starts so far (5.95 per game), while Perez has pitched 30 innings in six starts (5 per game). Santana has pitched fewer than 6 innings twice so far, while Perez has pitched six or more innings just twice.

I'm sure that by the end of the season, Santana's ERA will be considerable lower than Perez's, but it's really strange that their ERAs are so close right now, given that most fans would love to see Perez kicked out of the starting rotation (if not out of New York City altogether), and few people are suggesting that Santana is hurting the team.

Again, I suggest that the best solution to the team's problem with its starting rotation is to use John Maine and Oliver Perez as costarters, essentially sharing one game every five days, while adding Hisanori Takahashi or calling up Dillon Gee to be the team's fourth starter.

I don't know why teams don't get creative with this stuff, given that starters can barely pitch six innings nowadays, and there is so much reliance on questionable bullpens to decide games. What about having eight starters who split games, with a four man rotation of four sets of costarters? You would need no more than three extra pitchers, all of whom should have experience coming into a game with men on base and being able to close out a game when necessary.

Ideally, you would have four righty starters and four lefties, and you would chose the one to actually start based on the opponent, ballpark, and how well the two are performing at the time. The other starter would come in around the 5th or 6th inning, but only to start an inning, never with runners on base. That's what the three extra guys are for.

If you have a guy like Roy Halladay, then you would use either six costarters for the three games following Halladay (assuming he's willing to pitch on three days' rest most of the time), or eight costarters, with Halladay pitching 8 or 9 innings every fifth day.

The whole concept of starting pitchers is practically pointless given that pitchers pitch much more effectively when they are in the bullpen and don't have to see the same hitters three or more times every game. With a costarter system, the starters and the backup starters would only see a hitter twice a game for the most part, thus theoretically at least, improving his performance.

In addition, the lefty-righty substitution would screw up any platooning that the opponents are doing, an added benefit.

Bear in mind, however, that my real solution to the crappy pitching across MLB is to go back to Nolan Ryan's system: complete games by "real" starters who know how to pitch, and know how to finish what they start. Back to 9 or 10 man pitching staffs, and a bench of position players, with a third catcher and everything.

Either way, though, no more 12 and 13 man pitching staffs! And no more Eighth Inning Guys (or baseball gods forbid, Seventh Inning Specialists).

Caroms Off the Wall

Even with the unfortunate loss today, the Mets are still better than I expected. And the Red Sox are much worse. Baseball is a really crazy game.

© Judy Kamilhor 2010

Monday, May 03, 2010

Damn Phillies, But All Hope Isn't Lost

It's not the end of the world, but it sure would have been nice for the Mets to win yesterday with their ace against the oldest pitcher on Earth. There's plenty of season left, and it looks like the Mets can make something good out of this season that didn't seem very promising (to me) before the season started.

I have to say that although I don't like the way Jerry Manuel manages a game, I have to give him credit for creating the right tone by focusing on the importance of how a team and individuals handle the inevitable adversity that baseball brings so often.

With a little more creativity in making the best of the team the Mets have, and the players they are still missing, I can see this being a relatively successful season, especially with the questionable talent and performance level in the National League this year.

The first thing I would do if I somehow woke up and found myself sitting in the manager's office at Citi Field is minimize my worst asset. That asset is the back of the starting rotation, and my solution is simple: Use John Maine and Oliver Perez as co-5th starters, and put Takahashi or Dillon Gee into the 4th slot.

The way it would work is that depending on the opposing team and the stadium, I would choose one or the other of Maine and Perez to start when their turn comes up. The other pitcher would come in to start the 5th or 6th inning, with a reliever being used if the starter gets knocked out in the middle of an inning. The two of them should be able to pitch 8 or 9 innings combined, thus making the fifth spot in the rotation a time to save the bullpen not expend it when either Maine or Perez starts. If Gee is brought up, I would replace Manny Acosta, and not a position player.

If somehow whichever guy starts pitches really well, and pitches 7+ innings and the game is close, I would use my usual late inning guys and keep the other co-starter available for long relief in the next couple of games. Maine and Perez would have an opportunity to show significant improvement, and if they don't improve, it won't kill the team.

I would also like to see Chris Carter replace Frank Cattalanotto as soon as possible. Cattalanotto is a good guy, and was worth a shot, but he is not contributing anything but good quotes and a good story. Carter has a good energy level, and possibly a more powerful bat, which would be really nice in the late innings.

As for yesterday, I am not worried about Santana, because his velocity was the same as it's been all season. His location was off, and every pitcher has that happen once every few starts. The team scored some runs for him, which was nice to see. My hope is that the rest of the team will pick him up, starting tonight against the Reds, after he has picked them up so many times.

Lastly, Reyes needs a day or two off.

© Judy Kamilhor 2010