Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Why are the Marlins better?

You know what I get a kick out of? I get a kick out of the notion that every time I hear about how terrible the Mets are, they point to the last two seasons performance and say how the team isn't any better, so it cannot perform better. Then I hear about how other teams who had problems they year before or so will be able to rise above those issues.

I'll be more specific for one in particular. Mainly... why are the Marlins considered a team that can contend in 2012?

I mean, I know why people will say. But I don't understand WHY.

Last year the Marlins finished behind the Mets. The last two years the Mets were not able to contend in the second half of the season. The last two years the Mets HAD Jose Reyes.

So, why are the Marlins suddenly a possible powerhouse because they added Jose Reyes?

Yeah, I know they added Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle... But while those are good players, how much better do they really make the Marlins?

2011 Closer Leo Nunez had 33 saves this past season (and 89 total since 2009). He wasn't flashy and he wasn't great, but he wasn't bad either. There has been rumblings about Bell not fairing as well pitching outside of San Diego. Bell experienced a drop in performance in 2011, and that drop, while certainly not encouraging, may not be a real cause for concern going forward for the Marlins... but even if he takes only a slight step downwards, he's still not a ton better. He's likely more consistant and dependable, but it's not like they had garbage there before. The upswing isn't dramatic.

Buehrle is basically going to replace Javy Vazquez, who may have been terrible in his first seven to eight starts of the season, but was fairly lights out the rest of the way with a 2.70 ERA in 153.1 innings. Is Buehrle really going to be much better than that? As with Bell, he's a very good player but he's not a big improvement over what they had before. He's averaged about 13 wins and an ERA about 4.05 the last few years. Yes, he should fare better in the NL than he did in the AL... but again... by much much better is he going to be than what they had in Vazquez for most of 2011?

The big thing with The Marlins is going to be the return of Josh Johnson, and the expectation (which is a fair expectation to have) that Hanley Rameriez will return to his normal self after a disasterous 2011 Season.

To me, the Marlins 2012 success relies heavily upon Johnson. If he comes back and is the same, the Marlins have an arm that can match up with the best in the MLB. Johnson is lights out and is on par with names like Halliday, Lee, Lincecum, Sabathia and Lester. If he's not the samee... say he's at like 75% of what he was, he'll still likely be better than a large chunk of other pitchers, which would still improve the Marlins from 2011. If he cannot pitch to anything close to his regular form or if he's unable to return at all or only makes like 10-12 starts for the season, it's going to hurt them. A lot.

Which brings us back to Reyes.

In 2010 the Marlins finished 80-82. At the time they had a great season from John Johnson and Hanley Rameriz and still had all-star second baseman Dan Uggla who hit .287 with 33 HRs and 105 RBI.

I know Reyes is a different player than Uggla... but the Marlins couldn't even finish at .500 that year.

In both 2010 AND 2011, the Mets were picked as a team who would not really be in contention. Yet, both years they had Reyes... and David Wright... and Jason Bay... and Johan Santana... and Carlos Beltran... and K-Rod...

See where I'm going here?

So.. I put the question again... why just by adding the three players they did, suddenly make a team that has finished below .500 the last two years suddenly a team that is expected to contend?

Cause I don't see it. In fact, I'll go one further...

The Marlins... with their question marks... and the brittle Reyes as their centerpiece (fair is fair... I had to listen ever year how the Mets couldn't fully expect Reyes to go the whole season without a DL trip or two) are NOT a team you can say is fully better than the Mets.

(And no, I have NOT forgotten about Carlos Zambrano. I don't think that was a good move for them and do not expect a lot from him.)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Relax There Yankee Fans

Last night the Yankees, who have been so quiet this offseason that you had to wonder if they were actually awake, made two moves that seems to be the equivelant of the wild Sabathia/Teixeria signings back in 2008.

Or at least, everything I have heard and read this morning is putting that much weight into these moves.

First, the Yanks moved top catching rookie Jesus Montero to the Mariners for their 22-year old phenom pitcher Michael Pineda. Yeah there were other players involved also but overall that's the main jist of it.

They like, 40 minutes later they signed Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year $10 Million dollar contract.

And suddenly, the Yankees biggest weakness (the starting rotation) is a major strength.

Last night, driving home I heard the 1050 ESPN Radio host (Not sure who it was) say "The Yankees now have the best rotation in baseball."

Jason Stark on the ESPN website touted how great these moves where, calling both pitchers "high end". He considers Pineda the Yanks #2 pitcher.

On the boards of the ESPN and MLB websites, a majority of Yankee fans are cheering and pretty much considering the moves as a meaning the Yankees should be considered World Series favorites.

And all of this could be true.

Or then again, it might not.

These moves could certainly be winning moves, but I do think you have to step back a little.

Pineda does have a high ceiling, but please do not say he's the no-doubt future ace of this team. His second half last year and ERA away from home (Safeco) is something to be worked on. It looks like a good trade for both sides at the moment, but it's going to be a while before you can say for sure. Pindea could go 15-7 witrh a 3.57 ERA this year and Montero could hit .264 with 19 home runs and 67 RBI and it'll be "What a steal for the Yanks!" then over the next five years Montero averages 35 HR/115 RBI and Pindea goes 57-53 with a 4.49 ERA and then you'd have to reconsider that thought.

In the end it'll likely be 2014 before you can really even start to evaluate the trade. Could be a great one, could be a disaster, could just be "Not bad". Just don't pencil Pineda in for greatness yet. Remember how good Fausto Carmona was in his rookie year and how he was the next Cleveland Ace? I'm not saying Pineda will be the same, I'm just saying it's not a lock he's a 16-18 game winner over the next seven seasons.

Montero had no where to play with the Yanks. I happen to think he will be an excellent and feared hitter in his career. A David Ortiz/Edgar Martienez type, but this move made sense for the Yanks who need pitching WAY more than hitting right now. I think there is a risk for NY here with this move, but it's a risk that makes sense when you consider they have another highly touted catchering prospect who will likely be ready in 2013 (2014 the latest).

Also, for all the talk of "There's a reason the Yanks kept dangling Monero in trade talks the last two years" you have to wonder... why would the Mariners be so quick to trade a 22 year old young power pitcher who was making no money what-so-ever?

You know, one thing I am getting a kick out of... for the last TWO YEARS I have had every Yankee fan I know and about 95% of the ones posting in forums on how incredible Montero's bat was and how great of a prostect he was and how he was going to be Miguel Cabrera/David Ortiz/Jason Giambi all over again.

Now he's traded and suddenly so many Yankee fans say he's a guy who can't play a position and you can't compare him to those guys anymore.

So have the last two years of touting been a mirage? Or is it just that once a guy is off your team he's suddenly no longer as attractive?

It's like the Mets fans who are "glad" Jose Reyes is gone because he was a DL/Injury riddled guy who celebrated too much and cheated to take himself out of the last game of the season last year to win the batting title.and wasn't worth the money.

Pineda looks to be a real good pickup, but c'mon... don't suddenly discount all of the building up on Montero just because he's no longer a Yankee.

You also have to take into consideration that Pineda will be under some pressure and have a spotlight on him this season. He'll be touted as the "Can't Miss" 22-year old Phenom future Ace. Especially in the New York media. Forget it he's already penciled in as the Yanks #2 starter. There will be a lot of spotlight and pressure to not be a bust after the yanks traded away their #1 prospect who they have been saying has the bat of a Miguel Cabrera for the last two years.

But that doesn't mean the kid can't handle it. For all we know he's a perfect fit for New York. We won't know for a while. You would have to say the future looks promising and bright. It's not definite, but there is no reason not to be optimistic.

But he will have a spotlight glare on him though. No way to avoid that.

As for Kiroda, his 3.07 ERA was excellent last year and throughout his four year MLB career his ERA has been pretty good. However remember he did lose 16 games last year, has only has one season in his career with a winning record (8-7 in 2009), has never pitched in the American League and he'll be 37 years old. The one year deal means there is little risk here, it's not like he got a three year $32 million deal, but he's also not exactly a "no-doubt" guy. I would kind of expect simular numbers to what you were getting out of Javier Vasquez in his second go-round with the Yanks.

So, yes, these seem to be good moves and the Yanks rotation looks miles better today than yesterday, but I wouldn't go TOO crazy just yet. I heard the radio host on 1050 ESPN radio last night say "The Yankees now have the best rotation in baseball" which is just a stupid comment. Relax a little

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mets rotation might be a little better than people think

Looking at the (expected) starting rotation for the Mets might bring a wince or sad head-shake. The concensis is that the Mets have the worst rotation in the NL East. I'm not here to try and convince you otherwise. However I do want to try and show how the rotation isn't exactly a disaster, like I'm constantly reading this offseason, either.

At first glance, here is your likely starting five:
1. Johan Santana
2. R. A. Dickey
3. Jon Niese
4. Mike Pelfry
5. Dillon Gee

Considering Santana missed the entire 2011 Season and is not expected to be the pitcher he was before his shoulder surgery then this rotation won't make anyone sweat too much. You have no-one that would be considered a "stopper", but the idea that the Mets rotation is BAD is incorrect.

You don't know what you will get from Santana, but you might be looking at the type of pitcher David Cone became after he was unable to blow fastballs past hitters in the latter part of his career. Many have said that 70% of Johan Santana is still going to be be better than a large chunk of other pitchers.

R. A. Dickey has had two straight solid seasons. His breakout 2010 was followed up with a nice 2011 where he had career bests in starts, ininngs and strike outs. His 3.28 ERA was 12th best in the NL. He keeps the Mets in games he pitches and his ERA over the last two seasons is 3.08.

Jonathan Niese has been solid the last two years when healthy and has a lot of upside that could see him in this rotation for a long time, even when the young promising arms of Harvey and Wheeler get to town. He's a craft lefty who throws in the 90s, strikes out hitters and doesn't walk many, while getting a nice amount of groundballs. With a good defense behind him it's not out of the question for Niese to have a breakout 2012.

Mike Pelfry is an enigma. His last four seasons he has teetered back and forth between strong and infurating. In 2008 he went 13-11 with a 3.72 ERA. He had a great second half that year and 2009 looked promising, however he stumbled with a 10-12 record and a rough 5.03 ERA. Then in 2010 he bounced right back and had a great season in which he went 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA and at one point in June and July was without doubt the Mets best pitcher. Then in 2011 he dropped back again going 7-13 with a 4.74 ERA. At times he's dominating and other times he's maddening. This really is the "now or never" year for him I think. Which Pelfrey will the Mets get? If it's the 2008 or 2010 model He's a potenial #2. If it's the 2009 or 2011 model he's at best a #4 and likely more a #5.

Dillon Gee had a solid start to his rookie season, but faded in the last third of the season. He went 13-6 with a 4.43 ERA but at the end of June was 8-1 with a 3.32 ERA and at the end of July was 10-3 with a 3.69 ERA. He had a rough Sept but showed a lot of promise and poise. He had 114 strike-outs in 160.2 innings but did walk 71. If he can cut those walks down his upside can be high.

The entire NL East has a lot of quality pitching in it. The Mets may not be at the top, but this notion their rotation is terrible makes no sense.