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Sosa Stops the Bleeding

Mike SteffanosSaturday, June 9, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

Mets 3 - Tigers 0
Played Friday, June 8, 2007

Every season offers up its own story lines, both good and bad. On one hand, 2007 has offered us the sad sight of outfielders dropping like flies, but on the other we have been treated to some much more cheerful stories regarding our starting pitching. None has been more improbable than the one being written by a 30-year-old journeyman pitcher from the Dominican Republic, Jorge Bolivar Sosa.

Although he seemed to have the inside track on the long man job in the bullpen once Dave Williams went down, Sosa pitched poorly enough this spring to punch a ticket to New Orleans. However, instead of sulking and biding his time as so many others have done, Sosa worked hard on making his delivery more deceptive and changing his pitching patterns. Great numbers with the Zephyrs and the failures of Mike Pelfrey and Chan Ho Park earned him a promotion to the majors, but no diminishment of the skepticism surrounding his talented but enigmatic right arm.

With 7 starts since his return Sosa has more than answered the skepticism. He's won some big games for the Mets, and really given the team a shot in the arm. Not only is he pitching well, but he's doing it without the benefit of huge leads. Last night was 0-0 until Wright's fourth inning homer, and 1-0 until Delgado added his solo shot in the seventh. By the time the Mets got the insurance run to go up 3-0 in the ninth, Sosa's day was done.

The Mets played some great defense behind Sosa, but the offense was absent for most of the night. Both pitchers benefited from the huge strike zone of home plate ump Marty Foster. For those of you too young to remember the 1960s and 70s, that was the strike zone that hitters had to deal with back then. Not only were both pitchers getting the corners, but Foster was actually calling strikes clearly off the plate. He was consistent, though, and called them for both pitchers.

With that type of strike zone it's no surprise that the innings went by quickly. In fairness to the hitters, it's hard to take pitches when most are called strikes, but the Mets hitters seemed almost in a hurry to get back out in the field. In the eight inning Tigers starter Chad Durbin retired Ricky Ledee on 2 pitches and Ramon Castro on 1. Jose Reyes came up, and he should have at least taken a pitch or two to give Sosa a breather. Instead, he grounded out to Sean Casey on the first pitch for a four-pitch inning. Durbin only needed 84 pitches to pitch into the ninth. Again, the umpire had something to do with it, but the Mets continue to struggle with plate discipline, and that's a big contributor to their recent slump.

David Wright was doubled up in the seventh when Lo Duca popped up a pitch while he was attempting a straight steal of second. Not his finest hour, but I actually appreciated the aggressive play. Wright's line drive homer to right-center was vintage Wright, as was a hard line out to second in the ninth. Nice to see that kind of hitting from him, particularly since he looked really bad striking out on three pitches in the second.

Jorge Sosa (6-1)
May   (5 games)29.2121220181233.641.084-1

Season (7 Games)44.1131329271542.641.056-1

Box Score

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 (5)

Of all the surprises that a typical basebll season holds, I honestly can't remember being more surprised than I have ben with the production of Jorge Sosa. I was flat-out against bringing him to camp, I was ready to lay our evidence that Sosa's 2006 record was much more indicative of his true ability than his 2005 record. Even that his 2005 season was deceptively good; that too.

Think maybe Omar Minaya knows more about baseball than me? It's possible.

You and me both.

I agree with you that his 2005 season was deceptively good. He benefited from his share of luck stranding baserunners and it didn't surprise me that he fell back last year. He really seems to be a different pitcher now. I expect him to come down to earth a little but I'd be surprised if he fell apart.

Mike, what's good about Sosa is that he's pounding the bottom of the plate with his best pitches, which have so far proved to be very tough to hit. The downside to that is that he'll probably still give up homers here and there (not that different from David Wells back in the late 90's...).

What's different is that he now trusts his pitches more, and his mechanics are more finely tuned. Remember, he only had 1 year with Mazzone on the Braves, and spent 2006 with new pitching coaches on the Braves and Cardinals (and btw, I think Dave Duncan's just so-so). Peterson got him back into trusting his 2005 stuff, and reminded him that the Mets' field better than any team he's been on. Plus, he's built up alot of confidence this season, which helps.

I don't think he'll be lights out 24/7. He'll have his clunkers. But a 3.50 ERA or lower is definitely within sight.

It's amazing that Omar found Perez, Maine, and Sosa. It's scary to think that these three guys could anchor the Mets staff for quite some time.

Jason: Excellent comparison. David Wells is one of the least liked pitchers for me as he refused to sign for Joe Mc back in the mid 90's when he was released by Cin/Det (?), But looked at his career now.

I hope Ollie & Sosa can replicate Boomers carreer turn around which happened after 30.

Jason - I mentioned when I did my pitching previews before the season that Sosa only had one minor league season as a pitcher. He clearly benefitted from Leo Mazzone two years ago. In fairness to Duncan, he didn't have much time with him. Now he has the benefit of Peterson and staff and it has made a difference. I guess the one thing I still want to see from Sosa is how he will handle a slump.
Ed - I just hope they don't spend as much time in bars as Wells did. Could you imagine Perez with that beer belly?

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