By Mike Steffanos
Note: This is a conclusion to this piece posted yesterday, where I share some thoughts on the Mets
25 26 games into the season.
J. J. Putz (continued)
I mentioned yesterday that Putz' fastball has topped out at 92-93 mph this season, which is a drop from where he was in his best years with the Mariners. As we've learned from watching Billy Wagner before his injury, that could still get the job done but cuts down significantly on the margin for error.
Now it could be that if the Mets can give Putz more days off we might see more velocity. Still, Putz is making $5 million this year, which is high for a set-up man, even a good one. If the Mets want to keep him next year they have a club option for $8.6 million with a $1 million buyout. $8.6 million is essentially closer money.
Even if Putz' velocity stays where it is but he gets the job done, I suppose they can exercise the buyout and try to negotiate a new contract with him, but Putz may prefer to be a closer elsewhere. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Those walks and penchant for drama will likely come back to haunt him and us at times, but I no longer have doubts about whether he could handle New York. Yes, he's an emotional guy, but he clearly has no problem with the glare of the spotlight.
Even when he's going bad you get the feeling that he might just battle through it and save the game. Wagner had that before his elbow blew up, but maybe not quite as much. I like this kid.
I confess that I really liked Green's stuff this spring, and thought he would be a key man out of the bullpen this season. That certainly could still happen, but he's been pretty bad so far.
Green has allowed 18 hits and 8 walks in 12 1/3 innings so far. Moreover, he's allowed 2 home runs despite only allowing 7 in 200 career innings coming into this season.
His pitches seem to have good movement, but he's only throwing 59% of them for strikes, and many of those strikes have not been well located. He always seems to be pitching from behind in the count with men on base, and that's not a prescription for success.
Like everyone else in the bullpen, Green was pitching a lot -- 11 times in the Mets first 20 games. He's only been used once since then in that rather unfortunate meltdown against the Phillies where he walked in the winning run.
Perhaps being in Manuel's dog house will have one positive effect on Green. He's certainly one of the better-rested relievers on the Mets staff right now. In a way, though, that only illustrates what I see as a fault in Jerry Manuel's managerial style -- overusing relievers who are pitching well.
In the three games since Green last pitched, Manuel has used Frankie Rodriguez in all 3 (granted for save opportunities) and Putz and Parnell twice. Willie Randolph took a lot of heat for his bullpen management, but Manuel is actually worse.
These were close games, no doubt, but Manuel often seems to call on one or two guys that he could have possibly avoided using, and over the course of a season this adds up. Granted that the starters are not going deep enough, but Manuel really needs to be a better bullpen manager if he hopes to still be managing the Mets after this season.
It's very tempting to call on your best relievers every time a game is remotely close, but sometimes you need to figure out how to get wins with the other guys in the bullpen. Brian Stokes has been pitching well, but his 10 appearances are the fewest of any reliever who's been here all season.
I have a feeling this is a point we'll be hammering on all season long unless Manuel changes his style.
Finally, it occurs to me that many people, including me, saw the start that Arizona got off to last year and read too much into it. I may have learned my lesson, but many of us haven't.
The Dodgers have been an incredibly streaky team over the past few years, looking like world beaters sometimes and pathetic at others. They certainly look good right now, but I'm not ready to anoint them as the class of the NL -- and that was before Manny tested positive for performance enhancing penis medicine.
They've got good players, but their bench doesn't impress me and I'm not sold on their rotation beyond Billingsly. They certainly are a quality team with a chance to be a very good one -- perhaps the best in this league -- but let's give it some time before we proceed with the coronation. I swear that some folks in the national media never learn.
Back in mid-April, SI.com's Jon Heyman declared that Emilio Bonifacio had "arrived". Unfortunately he has cooled off considerably since then. With a .250/.297/.308 batting line, right now he looks more like what two different organizations saw as a speedy guy who wouldn't get on base often enough.
Around that same time, FoxSports.com's Dayne Perry felt that just over a week of play justified declaring the Braves to be the unequivocal class of the NL east. I think the Braves are a better team than they've been so far, but Perry rightfully looks like an ass for allowing his biases to affect his analysis.
Don't be shocked if the Dodgers prove to be a pretty good team with some serious flaws as the season plays out. I doubt very much they will be the juggernaut they appear to be right now, and at the very least I need to see them do this for another month or two before I'm sold.