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Will The Real Fourth Playoff Starter Please Stand Up?

Mike SteffanosSunday, September 10, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

Dodgers 9 - Mets 1

I had a nice day today. Lisa and I went to my niece's christening and spent a nice relaxing afternoon with my family. It bothered me some when I heard the Mets final score, but it's not hard to shake something like that off when your team enjoys a million game lead in the division. When I got home, I did what I always do, I started watching the game on DVR so I could write intelligently about it. That was the not-so-nice part of my day.

For a couple of innings, Steve Trachsel resembled a pitcher who was stepping up for that post-season start he wants so badly. Then in the third, he once again looked like a washed-up pitcher who couldn't get an out. Of the first 7 batters Trachsel faced that inning, the only one he retired was the opposing pitcher. By the time he retired Jeff Kent on a deep fly to right for the second out, 4 runs had scored and Willie had seen enough. Royce Ring came in to get the final out of the third, and Steve Trachsel remains the enigma he has been for most of the season.

Brian Bannister came into the game in the fourth, bringing a big can of gasoline with him. By the time he exited the game after the sixth, it was 9-0 and virtually over. Jose Reyes' solo home run in the bottom of the sixth saved the Mets the ignominy of their third shutout in a week. Darren Oliver and Chad Bradford kept the Dodgers off the board for the final 3 innings. All in all, a game to forget.

Thoughts on the game
Steve Trachsel on this afternoon's performance, as quoted by Chris Girandola of Mets.com:

My control suddenly got away from me, and then I started kind of scrambling. I wasn't throwing my offspeed stuff for strikes, and I had to go back to using my fastball, which they obviously knew was coming.

I'm not even sure I know what to make of Trachsel any more. I honestly don't have a clue, and wonder if John Maine continues to struggle with his off-speed stuff, if you don't at least give some consideration to lefties Dave Williams and Oliver Perez for a post-season berth. These last 3 weeks of the season still hold some intrigue.

Anyway, here's a look at Steve Trachsel's chart since August 1:

Steve Trachsel
Total (8 Games)43262547232185.231.586-2
Total (4 Games)1817162391438.002.062-2

I've isolated the last 4 games in blue to emphasize just how badly things have been going for Trachsel. About the only real positive is that he hasn't been giving up any home runs the last 3 games. Everything else is bad enough to speak for itself. I won't beat you over the head with it.

As for the offense's recent struggles against lefties, it's worrisome, but if Wright continues to rake it's less of a concern to me than it was three week ago. It's not like the "A" lineup was out there today, and there's nothing to be done about it anyway at this late date. It seems unlikelier by the day that Lastings Milledge will force his way into the Mets thinking for the playoff roster. It's something that will need to be addressed over the winter -- this club can use a solid right-handed bat to balance things out.

I do think they have enough to compete against lefties in the playoffs. They did decently against lefties for most of the season, and although I liked Xavier Nady, I don't delude myself that he was that important to this lineup. David Wright said in a post-game interview that the recent struggles against lefties are just a statistical fluke, and I tend to agree. Lefties have pitched some good games at the Mets in the past month.

Box Score

Comments (8)

All I can say about Brian BAnnister is, I fully expect and kinda hope he gets traded this coming off-season.
Hopefully his smoke n' mirrors production can net either a second baseman or something, i dunno.

Mike, I continue to be amazed that the Mets have the record they have considering the state of the staring pitching most days. I have enjoyed this season immensely, but just cannot wrap my arms around the fact that the Mets have done this with a less than ideal starting staff. When I remove my feelings and rooting interest, I look at the team and wonder how they do it sometimes. If Pedro, Glavine, and El Duque struggle at all during the playoffs, the Mets are in serious trouble; although, I have a recurring dream(nightmare?) that Trachsel will be needed to pitch a couple big playoff games to stave off elimination.....UGH!! I was more than ok with Nady, and actually wished the Mets had picked up Preston Wilson rather than Green(too many left-handed hitters), but if everyone stays healthy and productive, I don't think it's a huge issue; but there could be a few left-handers that might cause them some grief come playoff time. As I've stated before, Milledge just doesn't do it for me; he seems like another over-hyped Met prospect that will either fade away or flourish somewhere else. The Mets probably should have traded him at the deadline and not continue to expose him.

Sigh. When I worry about things such as the Mets 4th starter for the postseason, I remind myself of Les Straker, the 27 year old rookie who started the third game of the World Serious for the Minnesota Twins, who went on to become the champs. In fact Straker started a game in the playoffs too, and his team won both games. That was in 1987; Strker went on to complie a 5-10 record in his wo major league seasons.

And check out the pitching staff of the '61 Yankees. After Whitey Ford you've got...who?

Not to say I wouldn't love another strong starter; hell, I'd like three more. But some years the overall play in the major leagues is just weak; and I suspect this is such a year. Most of the National League has looked weak all along, and most of the American League teams that looked so good earlier have displayed their weaknesses since the halfway mark.

The team that most scares me, should the Mets actually manage to get into the Series, is the Twins. If Liarano makes it back that's really a staff to fear.

As I've stated before, Milledge just doesn't do it for me; he seems like another over-hyped Met prospect that will either fade away or flourish somewhere else.

He may look like that to you but to me he looks like a 21 year old who just happens to struggle in his first big league exposure. He's not the first to struggle either.
I know what I saw in Spring Training and even what I'm seeing now. I saw a dynamic and electric guy on the field with sick bat speed.
I'd pencil him as the LF for 2007. And I'll be confident that he'll produce and get better. He'll go to winter ball, play better. He'll be in Spring Training and get the attention from Willie and Rick Downs to improve.
Be patient.

Benny -- I could see him getting traded this winter, as there certainly is a surplus of starters now. Still, I have more regard for Bannister than you, I would have like to have seen what he could have done given 20 starts.
George -- Good teams overcome obstacles. It's what kept the Braves on top for years. We'll probably overcome a bad playoff start or two, also. I disagree with you on Milledge. As there were people writing off Jose Reyes too quickly, the same thing is happening to young Lastings. He's 21, and has been rushed a little. He was playing A-ball at the start of last year, and never played a full year at Double-A. Give him a chance, I think he's going to be a good one.
dd -- I agree on the Twins, but I can't even look that far ahead yet. I think, even with Steve, the Mets have enough starting pitching to win any series, and enough shortcomings to lose any -- and the same could be said for any playoff team. There is no truly great team this year.
Benny -- agreed.


I love a good dialog. one of the things that Benny brings up is astute. The Mets were suposed to fold behind their old & fragile pitching and give up to the Braves. In Apr Pedro (5-0) was the mvp with noted support from Bannister. In May-June it was Glavine. In july-August out of nowhere came Maine. Now it seems to El Duque. No one has been consistent. Nonetheless, Omar's bullpen shortens the game 5-Innings is usually enuff from a Met starter.

On Bannister: I think it is definately a wait till next yr/trade scenario. He IS good but he is rushing back from a hammy injury and his mechanics may not be there yet, considering he is a control pitcher working in the 85-89mph range. I agree that he is trade bait and Pelfrey, Humber et al may be ahead of him.

Mike: You are too kind. I watched the gamecast version (aarghh) and Traxx could not get anyone out. they were teeing off on him. It is not by chance he was yanked so soon. Again, I have had Dave Williams (and Ollie) ahead of Traxx for weeks based on effectiveness, match-ups and balance, whip, then ERA.

Message to Traxx from Willie Yesterday: Steve I am not giving you a free win today, you will have to earn it.

I am not frustrated or disappointed in Milledge. Worst case scenario is he platoons in RF/LF. Just because DW is this good this fast does not mean lastings must be Reyes struggled too, or is that a distant memory. ...on that, I'd like to see Jose look more to just get the ball in play.

Why do we have 3 lefties pitching in sequence?

Jesus Flores is THE deal. He is projected ahead of the raves Jerrod Saltamachia (?) by Dayn Perry. He might be the Mets top prospect and top catching prospect. Last yrs injury is gone. He could be in the majors to start next yr. And succeed LoDuca in 2008.

Micalpalyn -- I don't even know what to say on Trachsel anymore that isn't obvious to everyone. I have no idea what they're going to do. If Perez throws another strong game he could force his way into their thinking. I would probably be more comfortable with Williams, too. Lot of time left, though.

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