New York Mets

Mets Starting Rotation At A Glance

     Today is the second of four breakdowns, this time about the much discussed starting rotation. Last year the rotation was greatly improved by the addition of Pedro Martinez, along with Kris Benson’s first and final full season as a Met. By the end of the season, it was considered the deepest spot on their roster, unfortunately in the recent weeks they have traded away much of that depth in favor of bullpen help. This is a questionable process in itself, as a surplus of starting pitching must be considered a higher value then a surplus of relief pitching. To be a closer you have to have a certain mentality, one in which you can immediately wipe out the previous night’s performance, so in all due respect they will be excluded from the category of relief pitching. But the majority of relief pitchers at some point in their career were unable to continue their starting roles and were destined for the bullpen. So had Jae Seo, Kris Benson, Victor Zambrano, or Aaron Heilman saw the bullpen I would’ve been more comfortable with that then Duaner Sanchez or Jorge Julio. Trading for a set up man was questionable in the Seo for Sanchez deal, but the Benson Julio deal was over the top unless of course, the salary was cut in order to have flexibility for acquiring someone such as Barry Zito.

         Pedro Martinez is a solidified ace and would be considered the ace in nearly every rotation in the major leagues. When healthy Pedro is nearly unhittable, as he is able to change speeds, with such ease while keeping his motion fluent. Although in his older age, his fastball is not as dominating as it once was, he is still able to thrive off of it. While the fastball tops out in the low 90’s his change up serves as his strike out pitch. He throws a circle change that fools both right handers and left handers, and keeps hitters off balance. Unfortunately hitters have learned to stay alive by fouling off border line pitches and increasing his pitch count. Pedro has had some stamina problems in the past and with this toe injury it might be now or never for him to win one in New York. The specialized  shoe for Martinez should arrive soon, and hopefully this will relieve any tensions remaining in his toe. This problem arouse as a result of the way in which he would push off the rubber and then land. With a 2.82 ERA his record of 15-8 was not a true representation of how well he pitched last year. Martinez would spark the crowd, and often turn things around for the Mets. At 34 years old his best is behind him, but if Pedro remains healthy, look for another solid season.

      At 39 years old, time is expiring on Tom Glavine. Glavine who at times, anchored our rotation last year finished the season off strong, with a 5-4 record in his final 10 games with an impressive 1.79 ERA. Glavine has always been synonymous with control and no matter how old he gets, control will not be a problem. Although his fastball rarely approaches the high 80’s his two seam fastball has a lot of movement, and he supplements this with a dangerous change up. Although he clearly left his best days behind him in Atlanta Glavine seems dedicated to bringing success to New York. Glavine held right handers to a .263 average last year and finished with a 13-13 record. Again for Glavine run support was often an issue  as he had a 3.53 ERA which is a better indication of how he pitched. Since the institution of Questec Glavine has not been able to thrive off the outside corners of the plate as he use to with Atlanta, but Peterson is attempting to get Glavine back into the mind set. As long as Glavine pitches comparably to the rest of his hall of fame career he should be a solid number two.

      This is where the rotation gets tricky. At the turn of the New Year we were plugging in Kris Benson here, and then Steve Trachsel 4 and that was a much more formidable rotation then we have now. Trachsel is now the number three pitcher, but with his back problems last year do we know how durable he truly is? Trachsel went 1-4 last year as he returned to the rotation in August finishing off with a 4.14 ERA. He was most impressive in his first start back as he went 8 innings against the Giants holding them to two hits and no runs for his lone win of the season. At stretches in 2004 Trachsel was our best pitcher and has proven he can get it done. When healthy Trachsel can truly eat up innings as he is able tolast at least 6 in nearly every outing. With a very slow approach, it causes hitters to become impatient in the batters box, as well as fans to become impatient in the stands. Trachsel has solid command, often throwing first pitch strikes, and he does not believe in wasting pitches. Trachsel is not a strike out pitcher and entices opponents to put the ball in play by painting the corners perfectly. Although Trachsel has only one winning season with the Mets his record hovers around .500 and his ERA around 4.00. Again if the lineup proves to be potent look for a 12-15 win season out of Trachsel which is solid for a number 3 starter.

      Next up every one’s favorite Victor Zambrano. Met fans are particularly impatient with Zambrano, mainly because he was brought over here in exchange for top pitching prospect Scott Kazmir right after the ’04 All Star Break. The Mets saw untapped potential in Zambrano which happens to remain untapped. His resume includes some filthy pitches, as he has fastball that is consistently in the low 90’s, a solid changeup and a slider that moves, but he is unable to control these pitches. Zambrano often gets behind hitters, which leads to many walks. Last year he walked 77 batters in his 166 innings pitched. At times Zambrano showed this potential such as his 8 inning performance against Arizona in which he allowed 1 run, on 5 hits, 3 walks, while striking out 5. Opponents only hit .264 against him last season and for his career he has held opponents to a .247 average, but unfortunately his control issues come back to haunt him as many of the batters he walk score. Peterson once proclaimed he could fix Zambrano in a matter, of minutes maybe this year his minute will come. As for now if Zambrano wins 8-12 games it will be a success, Let’s hope so.

      The 5th and final rotation spot is still up for grabs, but right now the front runner must be considered Aaron Heilman. Heilman who was a stand out at Notre Dame, came into the Mets farm system with great expectations. In 2003 in his first full season in the big leagues Heilman starter 13 games, going 2-7 with a 6.75 ERA. This was after a change in mechanics that made him so successful during college. Peterson then changed Heilman back to his old ways and the results were evident. Last year Heilman went 5-3 with a 3.17 ERA. In 7 starts Heilman was 2-3 last year, but in his most impressive outing of the season held the Marlins to one hit, in his complete game shut out on April 15th. If Heilman throws as he did coming out of the bullpen he should be an above average number 5 starter, but if he returns back to his ’03 ways watch out. The bullpen is seemingly a better fit for Heilman but he has his mind set on starting.

      Heilman has not yet been awarded the 5th and final starting spot, as Omar Minaya said it is up for grabs during Spring Training. Others who could sneak in would be Alay Soler, the Cuban defect. Soler went 10-4 with a 2.01 ERA in 18 games last year for the Cuban national team, but might have to miss part of Spring Training due to a conflict with his agent over immigration papers. Yusaku Iriki is another consideration who went 6-7 last year with a 3.35 ERA. Iriki seems to be more open minded about his role with the Mets, “I’m excited to be with the Mets, I can start or relieve. I will try to help manager Willie Randolph however I can.” This is probably due to the collectivist feelings in Japan towards baseball, as the team first mentality is truly emphasized, unless of course your Ichiro. John Maine remains another long shot, but will likely be in the bull pen or at Triple A to start the year. Maine remains an interesting piece, as he has drawn the interest of Billy Beane. When discussing a deal with the Orioles last off season for Tim Hudson Beane requested Maine, obviously the deal did not go threw, but if a deal were to be made for Zito, Maine would likely be involved. Mike Pelfrey might see some action in the big leagues, come September depending on how well his acclamation to the minor’s is. By ’07 Pelfrey will likely be up at the big league level.

      All in all the starting rotation is lacking the depth that it possessed nearly a month ago, but by no means is it weak. Any rotation that includes Tom Glavine, and Pedro Martinez at the front must be considered formidable. With a potent line up the starters should be given great run support, and allowing 4 runs could often result in a win. With a deep bullpen 6 innings might be the norm, as Randolph and Minaya have discussed putting in Julio for the 7th, Sanchez for the 8th and then of course Wagner for the 9th. Whatever the case may be the starting rotation should not hold us back in our pursuit of a World Championship, Ya Gotta Believe!

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