By Mike Steffanos
Something that I personally find confusing is all the things I've been reading about Steve Trachsel being a hard-luck pitcher heading into last night's game. Certainly he deserved a win for his terrific start against the Giants in the last game of the homestand. But to read and hear assertions that he has been "pitching well lately" to me seem to defy any unbiased look at the facts.
Trachsel got off to a decent start this year, with solid games in 3 of his first 4 starts. At that point of the season, he was sitting at 2-1 with a 3.13 ERA. Then on April 30 in Atlanta, Trachsel pitched against Atlanta after the Mets had already won the first 2 games in the Ted. Remember, Victor Zambrano had been moved down in the rotation specifically so that Trachsel could pitch this game. With a rare chance to sweep the Braves at home, Trachsel was terrible. He didn't make it out of the fourth inning, giving up 6 runs on 8 hits and 5 walks, digging a huge hole for his team early. The Mets lost 8-5.
The Mets had lost Brian Bannister to that hamstring injury a few days earlier, so that was game one of a stretch where they desperately needed Trachsel to pick up the back end of the rotation. His next outing was also against the Braves, this time at home on May 5. He was better, but not much, allowing 4 runs on 9 hits in 6 innings pitched. He was lucky the Braves didn't score more, and also lucky the Mets came from behind to win.
By the time Trachsel pitched again in Philadelphia, the Mets had lost Zambrano for the year and desperately needed the veteran hurler to step up for them. In that rain-shortened game against the Phillies, Trachsel allowed 2 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks in 4 innings. Some have said he didn't pitch that bad in this game -- I watched it, and he was in trouble in every inning. Allowing 2 baserunners per inning isn't my definition of an effective start.
Trachsel bounced back on May 17 with a terrific start against Mulder and the Cardinals. He allowed only 1 run in 7 innings, unfortunately Mulder pitched a complete game shutout to beat him. Most impressively, Trachsel was aggressive in going after Cardinal hitters in this game, pitching ahead in the count. We all hoped this would translate into his upcoming starts.
May 23 against Gavin Floyd and the Phillies, he put his team behind by allowing a pair of runs in the first. The Mets came back with solo runs in the second and fourth to tie. He gave up a 4-spot in the fifth to fall behind 6-2. He left the game at this point, his final line was 5 IP, 6R, 7H, 4BB. His aggressiveness didn't carry over 1 start. The Mets would bail him out again, as Reyes' eighth inning homer tied the game and the Mets pulled it out in extra innings.
Trachsel's next start came May 29 against the D-backs at Shea. He gave up a first inning homer to Eric Byrnes to put his team in an early hole again, but the Mets scored 4 in the bottom of the second to put him up 4-1. By the time Trachsel left after 6, he had blown that lead. His final line of 6 IP, 4R, 7H, 1BB, 2HR was sadly one of the better games he pitched in a brutal stretch of games. At this point, by my reckoning, after the solid 3 of 4 games to open the year, Trachsel had pitched anywhere from just plain bad to awful in 5 of his next 6 starts. With 2 starting pitchers down, and the team struggling to get decent games from anyone besides Pedro and Glavine, Trachsel gave them 1 of 6. Wow. Thanks, Steve.
Trachsel has pitched twice since then; the very good outing against San Francisco and the rather bad one last night. He has his share of no decisions -- but many came on games he pitched bad and the team bailed him out. I don't hate Trachsel, and I'm not trying to be vindictive towards him here, but I get a headache from hearing how he's been supposedly doing well when I think he's been disappointingly bad. If he would throw more strikes and stop walking so many batters, I still believe that he can help this team.
I'm happy with what we saw out of Orlando Hernandez and Alay Soler in their last starts, but I'm not totally sold on either one for the season yet. Hernandez has a history of breaking down, and Soler needs to prove to me that he can win on days he doesn't have his curve ball. John Maine still looks like a pitcher with some developing to do, and God only knows when Brian Bannister might make it back from that hamstring. Trachsel still has a chance to really help this team -- not by being great, just by being decent, throwing strikes and making it through 6 innings. I'm just not sure, based on what I've seen over his last 8 starts, that he can do that.
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