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A Dominant Sosa and an Improbable Comeback

Mike SteffanosFriday, May 18, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

Mets 8 - Cubs 1
Mets 6 - Brewers 5

After watching Jorge Sosa's third start as a Met, I'm starting to become a believer that there is more to his success so far than just catching the league by surprise -- such as what Jae Seo did in 2005. While I don't kid myself that Sosa is this good, it's impossible to ignore that he is a much better pitcher than he was last year or even this spring. Here is something I wrote about Sosa this spring when I was doing the pitching previews:

It's easy to write off Jorge Sosa's major league career as mediocre and inconsistent. For a pitcher acknowledged to have a power arm the strikeout numbers aren't very impressive. He throws a lot of fly balls, and many of those have found their way out of the park. His walk totals before last season have always been high, and a drop in his walk rate last year was matched by a big increase in homeruns, which begs the question as to whether he should have walked a few more of those guys.

For all that, however, when you take a moment to consider that the 29-year-old Sosa only has one minor league and 5 major league seasons under his belt as a pitcher, you can understand why he is still regarded as a pitcher with some potential. Still, at 29 his time is running out to live up to it.

Later on, when I was summing up all of the previews, I picked Sosa as one of three new additions to the staff who could make a big difference this season:

...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.

After he struggled this spring I mentally wrote him off, but took notice when he pitched well in New Orleans. It took a while, I guess, but Peterson and his lieutenants in the organization were able to get Sosa to make some important changes, and the Mets have benefited from the results.

It will be interesting to see if, after the league has a good look at him, he can continue to be effective. Unlike with Seo in 2005, it's not just his pitching patterns that have changed, nor adding a pitch or two. Granted, some of the success is the result of throwing his slider more, but changes they made to his delivery to hide the ball better while in Triple-A are also a big factor.

Jorge Sosa (3-0)
TOTAL (3 Games)20.055912822.250.853-0

As for Jason Vargas yesterday, he was two pitches removed from a pretty solid debut with the Mets. The one thing that I didn't love about his start was the large number of fly balls. Out of 21 outs in his 7 innings of work, only 4 came via the ground ball. 15 were fly balls and the other 2 were strikeouts. I understand that John Maine and Oliver Perez are also fly ball pitchers, but their stuff is better than Vargas'. Granted, he's always been somewhat of a flyball pitcher, but I suspect that he'll need to pitch down in the zone more if he wants to succeed at this level -- particularly in all of the bandbox ballparks in the National League.

The comeback was, of course, marvelous. Delgado's game winner was somewhat fortunate but Castro's line out to RF was absolutely smoked, and that was the only out Dempster managed to record. Impressive that both Carlos Gomez and Ruben Gotay managed hits after falling behind 0-2 in the count. It's a nice sign of David Wright's continued resurgence that he was able to come up cold and smoke a pinch-hit single.

By the way, just a personal point of view here, but I think it's time to stop complaining about Shawn Green's admittedly sub-standard fielding and give him credit for hitting .327/.385/.517 40 games into the season. With the prolonged slumps of Wright and Delgado and injuries to Alou and Valentin, the Mets could be arguably much worse off a quarter of the way through if Green hadn't produced the way he has. Green's 5 HR put him third on the team behind Beltran and the surprising Damion Easley. His 20 RBIs are fourth on the team, tied with Wright. Maybe he deserves a little respect for what he's given the Mets.

Unless and until he goes into a prolonged slump, I won't disrespect Shawn Green in this space by speculating on who might deserve to play RF. His hitting has canceled out his defensive shortcomings. To me, the RF job definitively belongs to Green. He's more than earned it.

The Move
In case you couldn't guess why these recaps are so untimely, the move into the new home continues. This will be a busy weekend for me, so I'll just try to do my best. Move-in day is still set for Thursday.

Jake Gautreau
Joe from Mets Today answers the question Who Is Jake Gautreau? for those of us who are curious about the former top prospect and number one pick just acquired by the Mets.

Box Score (8-1 win)
Box Score (6-5 win)

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 (3)

With the success of Jorge Sosa -- I mean the success he's had to date, it's already more than I expected -- I have eliminated my final reservation on the Peterson Plan. In fact I am ready to annoint Rick Peterson with the Dave Duncan crown, the pitching coach most likely to take underachieving arms and convert them into major league success stories.

This isn't any small compliment I am dishing out; I tend to think that the Duncan/La Russa combo deserves some sort of mention at Cooperstown for their success at Chicago and Oakland, and to a lesser extent in St Louis.

Now, after the most unfortunate Zambrano episode, Rick has Done It with Perez, with Sosa, and to some extent with El Duque. Perhaps Darrel Oliver gets added into that mix. And Feliciano and Smith have both come full force inder his watch. Even Billy Wagner has adjusted his game for the better, as has Glavine. Then there's Maine....

Not all of this is attributable to Rick Peterson, of course; and it's far from easy saying with certainty just what credit he is due with an El Duque, for instance. But the sum total is just too great to ignore. The Mets take the field with a pitching staff consisting of castoffs and no-name kids, plus 40 year old Tom Glavine and 35 year old Billy Wagner -- and they stand as second in the league in ERA. That is some accomplishment.

I mentioned Victor Zambrano above. This is fron Hardball Times, a piece dissecting the Blue Jays recent 5-14 run:

Keeping company with bloody near everybody on the DL is Victor Zambrano. He didn't get out of the third inning in either of his starts, but still managed to walk 11 while coughing up five home runs. Just to show his versatility, he had two relief appearances in which he totaled a whole inning two earned runs, one strikeout and three. Overall, Zambrano, lost three (one in relief) of the four games he pitched in and only managed all of 6.1 innings, walking 15 and sporting a generous ERA of 17.06. Averaging 21.33 walks per nine innings should qualify for some kind of award. Preferably the kind you pick up at the unemployment office or in Kansas City.

Holy ouch. Can anyone spare a silver bullet?

dd - I'm surprised Zambrano is even pitching yet. I find it hard to believe he's really back from a second TJ surgery in less than a year.

Totally agree on Peterson (and the other coaches in the org -- apparently the New Orleans pitching coach had a lot to do with Sosa)

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