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Rocky Mountain Lower

Mike SteffanosThursday, July 5, 2007
By Mike Steffanos

Rockies 11 - Mets 3
Played Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Rockies 17 - Mets 7
Played Wednesday, July 4, 2007

I try not to spend too much time talking about personal stuff on this blog. While I have enjoyed becoming friends with quite a few regular readers, I understand that the vast majority of people who visit here are interested in the Mets, not me. Please indulge me for a second.

Many of the long-time readers of this site know that I have some health problems related to chronic Lyme disease. Although I have made some progress since the problems manifested a couple of summers ago, I still have setbacks. My stubborn insistence on doing so much work on the house Lisa and I bought has kind of worn me out, and I'm having some difficulty recovering what passes for my full energies these days. Sometimes the blog isn't updated in a timely manner and I'll miss a day, as I did yesterday. I'm doing better than I was a year ago, but I need to pace myself better.

Given that, I don't feel inclined to spend a lot of time analyzing what happened the past two nights in Denver. There's nothing that happened that we haven't talked about repeatedly in the last month or so. I do have to say, though, that I remember Jason Vargas two years ago with the Marlins throwing around 90 or a little better. Not that he was a power pitcher, but I'm curious why his fastball seems to live in the mid-80s the two times we've seen him. Velocity isn't everything, but I wonder if he is consciously dialing it down or if there is something physical contributing to it.

In any case, Colorado is a tough place to come up and make a spot start, but it appears Vargas was bad enough to ensure that he will not be making Sunday's start. El Duque was bad, too, but it's not really surprising that a guy who pitches mainly off his breaking pitches would have difficulty in that thin Denver air where breaking balls don't break quite the same. Anyway, I've come to expect the occasional stinker like this from El Duque. Still, after righting his ship with a pair of good starts after two bad ones on the Road Trip to Hell it was bothersome to see a start this poor.

Orlando Hernandez (Last 5 Starts)
Season (13 Games)78.13128586131103.221.147-6

View Orlando Hernandez' Full Season Stats

The starting pitching has certainly experienced some ups and downs over this past month and the offense has been, with a few exceptions, underperforming. I've been reading a lot of trade proposals among the faithful, and they most often include a starter like Mark Buehrle or an OF to shore up the fading offense. I'm taking a personal leap of faith that the team will score enough runs and that Alou will return. As long as Oliver Perez returns healthy, I'm more than okay with the starting pitching. What worries me the most is the bullpen. No one has stepped up and looked like the eighth inning bridge to Wagner. Let's look at the candidates:

Aaron Heilman became an effective reliever two years ago utilizing a moving fastball and a great changeup. He still has the changeup, but the fastball seems to have lost the late movement that made him hard to hit. Heilman used to get away with some bad pitches thanks to that movement. Not this year. It seems like every poorly placed pitch has wound up in the seats. The question here is whether this is a mechanical problem like he struggled with in the first half or something related to his elbow.

Guillermo Mota came back still throwing a fastball in the low- to mid-90s without the use of chemical enhancement. Now the question is whether he can come back and pitch effectively in back-to-back games. Before that one can be answered, he will need to solve command problems that have led to too many meatballs over the heart of the plate. It's hard to trust him at this stage.

Joe Smith struggled in June, pitching to a 7.36 ERA and allowing 14 hits and 7 walks in only 7-1/3 innings pitched. Lefties are hitting .306 against him with a .432 OBP. I like him as a pitcher, but as a righty specialist rather than a guy who you'd use like Heilman, Duaner Sanchez and Mota were used last season.

Pedro Feliciano had a rough go of it last night, but is probably the one guy setting up Wagner I trust the most right now.

Scott Schoeneweis should never pitch to a right-handed batter in a game that's even fairly close, period.

The bullpen would be a bigger story right now it the offense wasn't struggling so much and the starters weren't going through some big rough patches. Moreover, there are so many teams looking for bullpen help that a solid setup man could conceivably cost a top starting pitching prospect or even more, which seems too much to me. It will be interesting to see what Omar Minaya does. Perhaps there is a pitcher out there who can give the club the bump that Guillermo Mota gave them last year, or maybe Mota or Aaron Heilman can get it together and be that eighth inning guy.

Tuesday's Box Score

Wednesday's 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 (4)

Scott Schoeneweis should never pitch to a right-handed batter in a game that's even fairly close, period.

Wait, fixed it for you:

Scott Schoeneweis should never pitch, period.

Long time between posts....what did Omar do this spring in trading Bell and Ring to the Padres for Johnson and Lindstrom and Owens for Vargas.....in retrospect, was this wise?, not knowing Sanchez's status in rehab or Mota's return from chemistry 101...ultimately we have deprived ourselves of young arms for parts seemingly unusable...Johnson seems like the fifth or at best fourth choice of our minor league outfielders and Vargas although he once showed promise, appears way over his head in the bigs...it's so easy to second guess, but with the dearth of pitching in the league and the outrageous costs, I just dont get the reasoning...

I had the exact thought as you regarding Jason Vargas: what happened to the fastball? Tell you who Vargas reminds me of: Damian Moss, that chunky lefthander who had a smidgeon of success with Atlanta, then just got progressively less effective for a series of teams until he pitched his way out of the majors at age 27.

Dumb idea, but nevertheless: this makes two pitchers the Mets acquired who didn't bring along their advertised velocity, the other being Alay Soler. Neither player was touted as a hard thrower, but there was supposed to be more available than we got to see. Think maybe there is some routine that Rick Peterson puts his pitchers through, something that works for most of them but works against pitchers who fall below some physical cut-off point?

Like I said, a silly idea, but sights like Vargas struggling to break 86 mph sends one grasping for answers.

Otherwise, take care of yourself, Mike! Nobody here is running off anywhere. Hey, it might even be a growing up experience, having to wait a while for our Mets gratification.

MG - Point taken. :) He's actually getting left-handers out. The way the bullpen is going he could be useful if used right.
n8genius - I don't think Omar will be taking bows for the off-season trades, that's for sure. Both trades could come up smelling real bad, but I'd give the prospects a little more time before passing final judgement.
dd - Maybe he's dialed down the fastball somewhat trying to solve last year's control issues. I know Peterson constantly preaches location and movement over velocity. I think he's got to get back closer to 90 to be anything more than a bullpen guy down the road.

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