By Mike Steffanos
The Mets are on a roll right now, so much so that it's difficult for guys like me to find something to write about. It's hard to second-guess Willie Randolph's recent moves -- as a matter of fact, I thought the decision to bring in Chad Bradford in the fifth inning last night showed that Willie is growing as a manager. It would have been easy to justify leaving Tom Glavine in the game, and I think Willie would have left him in last year. It was a really smart move, and it paid off handsomely.
I guess I could obsess over the recent struggles of Tom Glavine, and also Aaron Heilman and (to a lesser extent) Duaner Sanchez. Glavine had pitched so well this season, though, he was due for a rough stretch. He's struggled with his control, fallen behind batters and had to come in with some pitches. He hasn't been getting ahead of guys, so he's not getting the strikeouts he was earlier. He'll get his mechanics straightened out and he'll be fine.
Heilman is in a big funk right now. Some of it is related to control problems, and some of it seems a lack of confidence in his fastball, which he has been leaving up and consequently it's being hit hard. There is speculation that part of his problem is disappointment over not being chosen to start. I can only hope that to be the case, because at some point he will grow up and realize that, on good baseball teams, young players sometimes have to wait their turn and put the team's needs above their own wishes. If he goes back to being a terrific setup man, everything else will fall into place for him in due time.
Sanchez seems in the same boat as Glavine -- a player that is so good for so long is just due a time in purgatory. His control has been a little off, and the breaks aren't all going his way as they were in April and most of May. I thought Ron Darling had the best take on Sanchez, feeling that he was overthrowing his fastball and lunging at the batter in his delivery. He's not struggling quite as much as Heilman, and it seems like a couple of decent outing would be the trick for him.
I think the most important outcome of Heilman and Sanchez' struggles is that both Pedro Feliciano and Chad Bradford have stepped up to take on more significant roles for the team. Bradford was a little up and down early in the year, but now I'm surprised when he fails to get an out. Feliciano has been effective against lefties and righties, and seems to be gaining confidence with every appearance. I'd almost forgotten, it had been so long, but this is what good teams do when important guys like Glavine, Heilman and Sanchez struggle -- they pick them up.
The Baseball Report
Got a nice comment from John Strubel, who formerly ran the Mets Daily web site. John has teamed with Jeff Brohel (Metsquire) to develop a new web site that covers all of baseball. Check it out.
The Journal News: Glavine's Struggles
John Delcos quotes Tom Glavine on what's been going wrong for him lately:
I'm making bad pitches and not getting away with it. It's me. I wish I could blame it on a full moon or biorhythms, but it's me. I'm not making the pitches.
According to Delcos, Glavine believes his lack of control is due to a mechanical problem where his left shoulder is flying open, and that's causing his pitches to flatten out and wind up in spots where he doesn't want them -- such as the bleachers.
Daily News: The walking fool
Adam Rubin reports that Reyes' 3 walks last night have helped him to surpass last year's walk totals. By my calculation, if Reyes can continue this 3 walk per game pace for the rest of the season, he should score about 300 runs. Keep your fingers crossed...
Rubin also informs us that Xavier Nady may be ahead of schedule in his rehab, and could return to the team before the Cincinnati series.
AP: D-backs Eating Ortiz' contract
From the AP's Andrew Bagnato:
The Arizona Diamondbacks decided Tuesday they would rather eat the remaining $22 million of Russ Ortiz' contract than keep him on their roster.
The club designated the struggling right-hander for assignment, which means it has 10 days to trade, waive or release him. The team is on the hook for the balance of the $33-million, four-year contract Ortiz signed in December 2004, a figure general manager Josh Byrnes said was close to $22 million.
Wow -- it takes a lot of courage to admit a mistake that big. Ortiz was never a big favorite of mine, but you hate to see someone that was once a 20 game winner fall so far so fast.
ESPN Insider (Subscription Required): Beltran
If you have an ESPN Insider subscription, Jerry Crasnick has a great Carlos Beltran feature, offering up a quote from Cliff Floyd on the adversity that Beltran overcame last year:
You can keep your mouth shut and go out there and play, or you can talk about it and always make excuses. Not one time did you hear him makes excuse about all his problems. I give him a lot of credit for battling through it and keeping his sanity. We all know how it can get in New York. He beat it, in my opinion.
Baseball Prospectus (Subscription Required): It's the "D"
Joe Sheehan attributes a good portion of the Mets success so far to outfield defense:
The real key to their run prevention, though, has been the defense, and in particular, the outfield defense. The Mets are fourth in the NL in Defensive Efficiency, converting 72% of the balls in play against them into outs. They have allowed 73 homers, good for just ninth in the league, but despite that they've allowed just a .389 SLG, last in the league, and an ISO of .147, second-to-last (to the Rockies?!?!). How is that possible?
One stat I've played around with in the past to gauge a team's outfield defense is the number of doubles and triples they allow per flyball hit to them. It's a quick-and-dirty measure of how good a job the flycatchers are doing at preventing extra-base hits. The Mets have the lowest mark in the NL by a significant amount, with a non-HR extra-base hit every 5.16 flyballs.
Save Lastings Milledge?
Got this email early in the week:
Help Us Keep Milledge in the Majors!
And, of course, there was a link to the above web site. I'm not so sure that Lastings needs saving, but hopefully I've done my part now.
The Metropolitans: Bandboxes
Mike makes some pretty good points about ballparks like the one in Philly. As someone who grew up with the game in an era so pitching-dominated as the 60s and 70s, I'm grateful to see some runs. 2-1 games are great, but not every night. It seems to me, though, that ballparks like Citizens Bank Park have carried it too far. Fly balls should be outs, not homeruns that land 10 rows deep in the bleachers. If I was a top free agent pitcher, I wouldn't sign there. It has to hurt the team somewhat.