« Rumors: A Danny Haren Deal Still Alive | Main | Old Time Mets - Warren Spahn »

2007 Rotation Preview: Conclusions

Mike SteffanosSaturday, January 13, 2007
By Mike Steffanos


We've spent the better part of a week looking at the eight most likely candidates to join Tom Glavine in the 2007 New York Mets starting rotation. I did some research in an effort to get to know all of them better, and then shared it with you so that you could make up your own mind on the individual candidates. As I make some conclusions based on my research and some gut feelings, my goal here isn't to convince you that I'm right but rather to provide you a framework from which to draw your own conclusions.

One interesting aspect of doing the research for this series is that I find that my thinking has evolved from where it was when I began this. I'm more optimistic on Jason Vargas, and I give Mike Pelfrey a greater chance to win the fifth starter job out of spring training. That's the fun of all of this. Anyway, let's take a quick look at all of next year's potential starting pitchers, and then we'll go from there.

Tom Glavine
Much has been made about the Mets going into battle with a 41-year-old "ace" in 2007. The obvious truth is that Tom Glavine is not a number one pitcher, and the Mets aren't asking him to be that. What they could use from his in 2007 is consistency. Last year Glavine pitched like an ace from the beginning of the season through June 3, with a 2.59 ERA, averaging 6-2/3 innings in those 12 starts. Then over his nest 11 starts, covering the months of June and July, Glavine struggled to the tune of a 5.79 ERA, and only averaged 5-1/2 innings per start. Finally, over his last 9 starts, Glavine pitched to a solid 3.45 ERA, and averaged over 6-1/3 innings per outing. While it would be wonderful if Glavine could pitch like he did in those first two months of 2006 over a stretch of the upcoming season, it seems to me it would be more valuable if he could avoid a real prolonged slump and contribute a consistent solid season.

Pedro Martinez
We've heard that Pedro's rehab from rotator cuff surgery is going really well, and that he is targeting a post-All Star Break return. If he could return to start 10-15 games down the stretch he could be a difference maker, and we'll all certainly be following his progress closely. Shoulder surgery is a tricky thing for pitchers, though, particularly 35-year-olds. Also, as much of a shot in the arm that it could be if Pedro returns and pitches fairly well, it's a momentum killer if he tries to force a comeback with inadequate stuff, a la last September. Despite the hopeful reports on his recovery, the wise approach is simply not counting on anything from Pedro this season.

Orlando Hernandez
El Duque managed 29 starts and 162 innings combined for the Mets and Diamondbacks in 2006. He hadn't made that many starts since 2000, his last great year with the Yankees. Considering he is over 40 and has missed quite a lot of time over the last few seasons, I've received many questions and a not inconsiderable amount of ridicule over my optimistic outlook for Hernandez in 2007. While I concede that I could be wrong, I liked the fact that El Duque actually pitched his best in September last year. While it is likely that the Mets will have to give Hernandez a break or two during the year, and he will have some games when he is not commanding his breaking pitches where he gets knocked out very early, he has also shown the ability to go deep into games better than anyone else on the current staff. Of the 20 starts he made for the Mets last season 10 were for 7 innings or more, 3 more lasted 6 innings, and only four of them were for less than 5 innings. Not bad for an old guy.

John Maine
2006 was a real breakout year for Maine, as he went from being regarded by the media as a throw-in in the Kris Benson deal to a starting pitcher in three playoff games. Look for Maine to develop more consistency and solidly establish himself in the Mets rotation.

Oliver Perez
You never knew quite what to expect out of Perez, but I always found myself looking forward to his starts. Then he stepped up and gave the Mets all they could hope for in those two League Championship Series games against the Cardinals. I can't deny the possibility that Perez could flop completely in 2007, I'm optimistic that the improvements to his mechanics combined with his undeniable ability will combine to produce a solid starter for the Mets this season. He may undergo some ups and downs, but he'll be fun to watch.

Putting aside Pedro for the moment, 40-somethings Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez are both virtual locks for the rotation, barring injury. Despite Willie Randolph's assertion that there is a wide-open competition for the other slots, I honestly believe that, based on experience and playoff performances, the next two slots are Maine and Perez' to lose -- again, barring injury or a late trade. That leaves the fifth starter to come out of the group of Alay Soler, Jason Vargas, Dave Williams, Mike Pelfrey and Phil Humber. Let's take a quick look at them:

Alay Soler
Pros: Age, international experience, exceptional slider.
Cons: Had problems with physical conditioning and aggressiveness last season.

Jason Vargas
Pros: Major league experience, left-hander, good stuff.
Cons: Last year was a lost season with bad performance and a loss of confidence.

Dave Williams
Pros: A lot of major league experience, was very aggressive while with Mets last season.
Cons: Gives up too many gopher balls, mediocre stuff, somewhat injury prone.

Mike Pelfrey
Pros: Terrific fastball, decent changeup, throws strikes.
Cons: Needs a consistent breaking pitch.

Phil Humber
Pros: Has all the pitches, bulldog personality.
Cons: Only pitched 80 innings last year after coming back from Tommy John surgery.

I think the Mets would love to get Pelfrey, Humber and possibly even Vargas some more development time in the minors. Probably an ideal scenario would be for Williams, Soler or Vargas to grab the job out of spring training and then one or both of the young guns to come up later on in the season.

Scott Schoeneweis, Jason Standridge, Clint Nageotte and Jorge Sosa are also dark horse candidates for a starting job. We'll talk about them when we profile the bullpen starting Monday.

Glass half empty or half full?

Beyond doubt there is plenty that can go wrong with the Mets starting pitching staff heading into the upcoming season. There are so many uncertainties among all of the candidates for the starting rotation -- whether it's age, inexperience, inconsistency or the lack of a true front-line starter -- a plausible argument can be made that if things go very wrong the Mets may not have a single starter reach double figures in wins. There just doesn't seem to be much certainty heading into a season where every division foe except Washington would seem to have a more formidable starting rotation. It's understandable that many Mets fans feel pessimistic about the team's chances.

Yet, while this rotation lacks the feel of being a sure thing, there is some quality here, and also a quantity of reasonable candidates that didn't exist last season. Moreover, there is a can-do attitude that permeates this team now that is quite a change from Mets teams in the past that seemed to falter when things didn't go there way. It's both the quality of the available pitchers and the new-found ability as an organization to overcome obstacles and make things work that leads me to believe that we'll be okay. I think our starting pitching is going to be fine. While I don't expect any big winners or Cy Young hopefuls this season, I fully expect the Mets to have four starters crack double figures in win totals.

Much has been made about the fact that this staff consists of all 5-6 inning pitchers. Conventionally this spells disaster for a bullpen, but usually bullpens consist of a closer, a couple of dependable setup guys, and a bunch of mediocrity that a manager desperately hopes he doesn't need to call on in a close game. Indeed, a starting staff like the one the Mets have combined with a bullpen like that is a calamity waiting to happen. But that's not the case here. The Mets have a bullpen deep enough to take on a lot of innings without killing their top guys. They don't need to get 7-8 innings out of their starters. They need the young guys to improve and make it a little deeper into games as the season goes on. Simple things like John Maine being able to give them 6 solid innings rather than 5 with some consistency will make all the difference.

So, barring a last-minute blockbuster trade, the Mets will lack the feeling of a sure thing with their starters. Much has been made of this. Rather than dwell on that, I can see the possibilities here, and the framework of a decent rotation. Many in the press dwell on what the Mets lack, but there is good reason to believe that this team is good enough to contend and win if they can maximize what they do have.


2007 Starting Rotation Previews:
Orlando Hernandez
Phil Humber
John Maine
Mike Pelfrey
Oliver Perez
Alay Soler
Jason Vargas
Dave Williams
Rotation Preview Conclusions (This Article)

2007 Pitching Previews: Summing It All Up

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

Support Mike's Mets by shopping at our Amazon Store

More Mets Stories:
SportsSpyder Mets

Continuous Mets Coverage:
MetsBlog
Hot Foot

Comments (8)

Kudos to you and your work Mike. This was the best series of "reads" I have come across on the Mets this entire offseason. I eagerly await your posts on the bullpen next week.

That was excellent work. Your analysis seems to be right on target. There is one scenario that may be a possibility. I don't see el Duque as a lock. If he struggles in spring training, I could really see us give another one of our young guns a shot at the starting rotation. I actually see this as a positive. Several of them may be ready and have more upside then el Duque at this point in his life.

You are right about the Mets having that can do attitude. No matter what their rotation is in better shape than the playoff rotation of last year. Even with that rag tag, slapped together rotation in the playoffs they came very close to going to the WS. Maine and Perez should have more confidence this year than last and with perez in particular I think confidence in his stuff is key.

Salman - Thanks.
-------------------------------
Ken - A lot of people disagree with me on El Duque. I really do think he spent a lot of the second half of the season being the Mets best pitcher, actually getting better as the innings pile up, and that's why I'm more optimistic than many on him.
-------------------------------
Ralph - Exactly. While the Braves, Phillies and Marlins all have better rotations on paper, the Mets don't need as much out of theirs to compete with these teams.

Mike,

Another great series of articles - and I am eagerly awaiting the bullpen articles. I agree that Dave Williams would be a good candidate for the Darren Oliver role, given that he usually performed well the first time through the lineup before usually faltering in the 3rd or 4th inning. However, with Schoenweis now signed, I am wondering if he will take the Darren Oliver role and Williams becomes more of a bona-fide candidate for the #5 starters spot, mainly as a way to buy some time until Pelfrey, Humber, or even Vargas get some innings in AAA. Humber is more MLB-ready than Pelfrey right now, but I can't see him claiming the job with so few minor league IP to his record. Brian Bannister actually would have been a good guy to have right now, but Burgos obviously has much more potential. Our bullpen should remain strong this coming year, especially once Mota comes back from suspension. There are a lot of good candidates to choose from:

Closer - Billy Wagner
Setup- Duaner Sanchez, Aaron Heilman
Right arms - Guillermo Mota, Ambiorix Burgos, Jon Adkins, Juan Padillia
Lefty arms - Pedro Feliciano, Dave Williams, Scott Schoenweis

Glenn - I also wonder if the Schoenweis signing frees up a trade of Aaron Heilman. I can see a scenario where Williams starts the year as fifth starter and someone else comes up, too.

Too many question marks for my liking, we are not even proven and solid down to 3rd in the rotation, Maine can't be counted on. If Omar doesn't make a trade for a SP before the season starts, he will have to during. There are 2 old men, and a bunch of what ifs? If Tommy G goes down (unlikely) or Duque goes down (much more likely) then all bets are off, we'll have to trade Milledge/Heilman + That's my take.

A trade will happen before or during the 2007 season for front of the rotation SP, but it won't be an ace.

Could be. As I said, it's hard not to see that signing Schoenweis gives them more leeway with trading Heilman.

About Mike's Mets

Please support Mike's Mets:

Disclaimer: Mike's Mets is an independent, unofficial fan site, and is not affiliated in any way with the New York Mets or Major League Baseball.

Other Links

General Baseball Links
Internet Radio Shows
Video Blogs
Other Team Links
Other Sports Links
Non-Sports Links
Video Direct

Looking for great deals on MLB Baseball Tickets? Visit JustgreatTickets.com for Cubs Tickets, NY Mets Tickets and a huge selection of Red Sox Tickets, Yankees Tickets and plenty of great concert Tickets for Dave Matthews Band Tickets and Buffett Tickets

Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Powered by
Movable Type 4.1