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2007 Pitching Previews: Summing It All Up

Mike SteffanosWednesday, February 14, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

I mentioned yesterday that I've been having some difficulty writing a piece that ties a bow around all of the pitching previews that I've spent the last five weeks of my life working on. This whole thing really began as just a way to satisfy my own curiosity and have some idea on a bunch of guys I hadn't seen pitch all that much heading into spring training. I think my opinion on a few of them has changed somewhat, but in the end there are probably as many questions as answers, at least in my mind. Still, let's make an effort to wrap everything up.

Key Losses
Chad Bradford, Jose Lima, Darren Oliver, Steve Trachsel

Okay, maybe I'm kidding about Lima. Bradford figures to be the toughest one to replace here. Although it's not incredibly difficult to find righties that can retire other righties, Bradford made himself valuable in two key ways -- by doing well enough against lefties to stay in games for more than just a batter or two, and for his uncanny knack of stranding inherited runners.

Oliver had a nice year in 2006, but it had all the look of a career year for the southpaw, and his numbers dropped off the last couple of months. I'm not sure that it was reasonable to expect anything of the same if Oliver re-signed with the Mets, so I'm not feeling his loss nearly as much as Bradford's. I don't mean this as any sort of knock at Oliver, who gave the Mets all that they could ask for and then some last year. I'm glad he was able to parlay his 2006 success into a contract with the Angels where he will play close to home in 2007.

Trachsel was, for all of his slow pitching and quirkiness, a terrific Met in his years here. He did not come back well from that back injury in 2005, and just wasn't the same pitcher last year. Although he gets too much blame from some for his playoff stumble, he gets too much credit from others for his 15 wins last season. If the Mets can't find a younger, cheaper and more talented pitcher to replace Trachsel's innings than they're just not trying.

Key Additions
Ambiorix Burgos, Scott Schoeneweis, Jorge Sosa

I know the Mets have a lot of pitchers coming into camp, but in this blogger's humble opinion, the three names listed above have the most chance of making a difference. Burgos is young, green and has a chance of being a real power bullpen arm and a difference maker in the bullpen. While it would be enough for him to settle in as a reliable setup man this year, he could be the Mets' closer someday. The Mets and Omar Minaya really feel that they have landed a significant contributor in Schoeneweis. While I remain a little skeptical, Omar has a way of being proven right about guys that he expresses belief in. Sosa had a fine season 2 years ago under Leo Mazzone, and it's not unreasonable to hope that Rick Peterson might also be able to coax some consistency out of him in a Darren Oliver-type role.

Youngsters Who Could Step Up
Mike Pelfrey, Phil Humber, Joe Smith, Jason Vargas

No surprise names on this list, I know. Barring injury, I fully expect Pelfrey and Humber to both be pitching for the Mets by the All-Star break. Smith is a little more of a long shot, but the Mets are high on him, and sidearmers tend to progress fairly quickly. Vargas had a terrible year in 2006, but has a real chance to straighten out and stake his claim on a rotation slot.

John Maine and Oliver Perez
There may be a lot of skepticism about these two 25-year-olds in the press, but the Mets seem to really believe that both youngsters will take their games to the next level in 2007. If they can manage that, all of the worries about the Mets' starting rotation could evaporate. If they can't, things could get ugly.

Maine's problems last year were related to a lack of consistency with his secondary pitches that forced him to rely on his fastball too much. He also would lose focus at times. While he seemed to be just happy to be here in 2006, Maine seems to have brought a level of determination and confidence with him to Florida that should stand him well. Minaya stated on more than one occasion last year that the team saw Maine as a dependable mid-rotation starter, and I think he'll justify that belief in 2007.

The consensus on Oliver Perez is that he might pitch himself into being the Mets' ace this year, or he might pitch himself off the team by May. Many write him off as yet another perennial project type who will alternately tease and frustrate the team. Yet the Mets, from Rick Peterson to Willie Randolph to Omar Minaya, seem to have a real confidence in Perez' chances this year. I think some are too quick to write off this leftie. Sure, he's been around for a while and has been dramatically inconsistent, but he is actually three months younger than John Maine. Lefties often take a while to find their game. I think of him more as a top prospect than a veteran pitcher, and look for him to settle into the rotation just fine in 2007. I think both Maine and Perez will reach double figures in wins, and next year, God willing, we'll all be talking about something else.

Fearless Prognostications
Without further ado, and with absolutely no confidence that things will turn out exactly as I foresee, here is what I expect to happen in 2007:

Starting Rotation
Tom Glavine, Orlando Hernandez, John Maine and Oliver Perez hold down the first four slots. The fifth starter out of camp is Chan Ho Park, Aaron Sele or Jorge Sosa. Pelfrey, Humber and Vargas join Adam Bostick in New Orleans. Both Pelfrey and Humber will have rotation slots in New York before the season in half over. I like Vargas' chances of contributing in some way, also. Pedro looms on the horizon for a second half shot in the arm.

The Bullpen
The locks right now to break camp with the Mets, barring injuries, are Billy Wagner, Aaron Heilman, Duaner Sanchez and Scott Schoeneweis. I think Pedro Feliciano has to prove that last year was no fluke, but he's a pretty good bet to make the team, also. I think the Mets are high on Ambiorix Burgos, and that a job is his to lose coming out of camp. Depending on whether the Mets carry 11 or 12 pitchers, and whether Jorge Sosa wins a fifth starter job out of camp, it gets fairly interesting. It wouldn't shock me if Feliciano doesn't win a job, although I like him. Juan Padilla has a real chance, too. Jon Adkins, who cannot be sent down to the minors, seems a long shot to make this bullpen, but injuries or an outstanding spring could prove otherwise.

Guillermo Mota will return some time in June, complicating matters further. The Mets, who 2 years ago were reduced to taking flyers on guys like Shingo Takatsu and Danny Graves, have some depth in the bullpen that should stand them well. It's better to have some depth in the minors than having minor league caliber guys pitching in New York. I think Padilla winds up in New Orleans as insurance, joined by Clint Nageotte, Steve Schmoll and possibly Joe Smith.

What I Expect
I think the Mets rotation -- though unquestionably a work in progress -- will be better than many expect. I think the bullpen might not be quite as good as last year, but will be more than good enough for the team to cross the 90-win plateau again. The flip side of all the uncertainty about their pitching in 2007 is the opportunity for talented young pitchers to stake their claim to jobs. I like the chances of that happening for the Mets in 2007.

Decide For Yourself
I wrote all these previews so that we all have enough information to make up our own minds about these pitchers. Click on any of the links below:

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

2007 Bullpen Previews:
Jon Adkins
Adam Bostick
Ambiorix Burgos
Marcos Carvajal
Pedro Feliciano
Aaron Heilman
Guillermo Mota
Clint Nageotte
Juan Padilla
Chan Ho Park
Duaner Sanchez
Steve Schmoll
Scott Schoeneweis
Aaron Sele
Joe Smith
Jorge Sosa
Billy Wagner
Other Candidates
Four Other Names for You

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.

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Comments (6)

Good summation, Mike, worthy of any lawyer. With a few "f" words, this would've been right up there with Joey P. in "My Cousin Vinny," but we know you prefer the family feel here, and rightly so.

I'm with you on everything except Chad Bradford. Since I'm too lazy to search back what right-thinking people were saying about him when we picked him up last year, was there any buzz about what he might contribute, before he actually did? I certainly don't remember anything from WFAN. I just don't see management letting him go if they weren't confident they could readily replace what he provided.

Greatly appreciate all your homework and skills in presenting your pitching preview; it'll be cool to refer back to as the season progresses. Your predictions especially may not wind up too far off the mark, Bro. Keep it up, and hope things are going great with the new house.

Man! do you need any snow, I have about 20" of it all over the place. Thank GOD spring training is starting,it will just make things feel better. This is going to be a fun S/T, thanks to your reports you stirred my intrest to follow it this year alittle closer. I agree with you about the starting pitchers being better than most expect, and I think we may be surprized of who is really the starting five out of the gate. I am not so sure 1 2 3 4 is chipped in stone, at least in that order? Somebody may shine so much that it can change the rotation. Like I said its going to be fun. Thanks Mike

geezer - It doesn't really matter what we all thought of Bradford going into the year, he was often the go-to guy with men on base, and proved to be extremely valuable because of that. This doesn't mean, however, that I don't understand why the Mets elected not to go 3 years with him. I probably wouldn't have if I was GM. I just think he will be the hardest guy to replace.
Mostly sleet up here, Rev, but I can't wait for some sunshine and warm weather and baseball.


Again I cant argue with anything you wrote. Boy, you've changed. We are old friends now so you know my feelings and views. But a couple of addendums;

1. If someone told you Ollie Perez was your fourth starter last yr, most fans/press would have elevated their perceptions of the Mets. As it is I expect 10-15 wins from him. Confidence based on his NLCS should permeate in his game. AND I expect his stats to mirror the lefty in Tampa.
2. If Humber/Pelfrey come up who drops off? Maine? Hernandez?
3. The Glavine retirement watch.
4. Bradford, Oliver and Hernandez where all successfull reclamations. Schoenweiss, Sosa, Burgos have at least that potential.

I keep writing pretty much the same thing for a year and a half and you keep telling me I've changed...

I expect that Pelfrey and/or Humber will get their opportunities through injury. I don't want to jinx anyone in particular. The other possibilty is the fifth starter. If Sele or Park wins the job out of camp I don't expect them to still be there by Sept.

I know Jaun PAdilla...he is a warior and has numbers you can't innore. I bet he becomes one of the best bullpen guys this year. You have to look beyond "stuf" and consider the makeup and KAY-HONE-

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