Thursday, December 27, 2007

Reyes vs. Santana

Should the Mets be willing to part with Jose Reyes to get Johan Santana? NY is apparently unwilling. I don't follow the Mets closely, but it seems to me Reyes for Santana is reasonable. Of course, I root for a team that's traded anything not nailed down, so maybe I'm just freewheeling.

Here are the win share stats for Reyes and Santana, with their MLB rank at their positions, going back to 2004 courtesy of Hardball Times.

2004: Santana 27 (1)
2005: Santana 23 (3)
2006: Santana 25 (1)
2007: Santana 18 (12)

2004: Reyes 5 (38)
2005: Reyes 17 (12)
2006: Reyes 29 (2)
2007: Reyes 24 (5)

The concern would be whether Santana's 15-13, 3.33 ERA and 1.07 WHIP "down year" in 2007 will become the norm as he reaches 29. Also, whether you believe Reyes, in his mid-20s, will still develop into a consistently dynamic game-changing player.

Santana's ERA+ last season was 130 and his career mark is 141. The nearest comparable pitchers through the age of 28 are Tim Hudson, Roy Oswalt, and John Candelaria according to

Reyes OPS+ was 103 last season and his career mark is 97. The nearest comparable modern hitters through age 24 are Edgar Renteria, Jim Fergosi, Garry Templeton and Gregg Jefferies.

If you believe OPS+ and ERA+ are good measuring sticks, then Santana is the better value. Santana could still regularly be one of the three best pitchers in the game, if not the best. Reyes will have to improve to become the best SS in the game, much less one of the top three hitters. So I would give up Reyes for Santana, but I can understand why Mets' fans might be reluctant.

Also, I'll admit I don't know what the Mets have in the way of replacing Reyes, which would be a factor. If the dropoff is significant, it could counteract the benefit of adding Santana.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Another Durbin

The Phils signed former Tiger pitcher Chad Durbin, not to be confused with J.D. Durbin, who already was in Philadelphia. The move doesn't seem to be generating much excitement in Philly, but I think it's a solid signing for the Fightins.

Durbin was awful in his first 3 outings for Detroit last season, but better the remainder of the campaign. If you toss those first 3 games, his ERA was 4.03 the rest of the way. On the downside, he doesn't strike out many batters and has a tendency to give up the long ball, which can be deadly in the Zen.

Generally, he was effect when moved to the bullpen after serving as a starter early in the season. In fact, his 5 later spot starts were generally poor.

Here is a breakdown of Durbin's stats. Through his first 14 games, all starts, he posted a 4.37 ERA. Again, remove the horrendous first 3 and for the next 11 starts he was 6-2 with a 3.06 ERA -- not too shabby.

His five spot starts toward the end of the season resulted in a 6.76 ERA.

As a reliever in 17 games, Durbin posted a 4.18 ERA.

Some of Durbin's late season woes might be from fatigue. He pitched 127.2 inning, which isn't a lot, but was his most in the bigs since 2001. He had only 83.2 IP in the majors in 2002-06. It also could be he didn't adjust well to bouncing between the bullpen and rotation.

Another reason for concern is his BABIP last season was .276, which is low, so he might have had some luck on his side or benefited from Comerica and the Tigers' defense.

Nonetheless, the Phils only committed a year and $900,000 in Durbin, which in my mind makes him a worthwhile signing with what's available. You can't dislike a pitcher that posted a 3.06 ERA during an 11-start span, or a 4.18 ERA in long relief. In 2006, he made 28 starts at Triple-A Toledo and was 11-8 with a 3.11 ERA.

He might be best suited for the pen, but gives the Phils another arm to evaluate for the No. 5 spot. And he's only 30.

True grit

Here is an entertaining post about what makes a gritty player. Enjoy the rankings at the end.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Talking bout Willis

The Tigers have signed Dontrelle Willis to a 3-year, $29-million extension according to the Free Press. This means Detroit's probable Big 3 of Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman and Willis all are locked up through at least 2010.

Signing Willis, now that he's in the fold, was probably a good move and the Tigers probably got to pay less than market value because of Willis' poor 2007 season. The Mariners signed Carlos Silva at about $11 million per year, from what I've seen. Silva, 28, is 55-46 with a 4.31 ERA and has never had a Cy Young-type season like Willis.

Here are reasons to either be concerned Willis might not regain his 2005 form, or to believe he can get straightened out and improve.

First, is his control. In 2005, he walked 2.09/9 IP. In 2006, it was 3.34 and in 2007 it was 3.81. Actually, his 2005 season seems to be the anomaly; he was 3.25 in 2003 and 2.79 in 2004. In 2005, about 65% of his pitches were strikes; in 2007, it was 60%.

Second is batting average against. In 2005, it was .242, which is his best. With the exception of .246 in 2003, the numbers aren't great -- .274 in 2004, .271 in 2006 and .294 last season. The BABIPs aren't anything very unusual, although the .329 last season is a bit high. Still, even if you drop his BAA by 20 points it's right back in that .270-.275 range, which to me just seems high for someone that's supposed to be a dominant lefty. That's Randy Wolf territory -- after surgery. Prior to his arm woes, Wolf held batters to .246, .225, .238 during a 3-year span. Cole Hamels is in the .240 range. Tom Glavine was at .266 and .279 -- after turning 40.

Another thing about 2005, Willis gave up only 11 HR in 236 IP. This ridiculously low. His 4.9 HR/FB was about half of what's normal. His ERA would jump from 2.63 to over 3 if you figured on 11 more HR that year. Last season, Willis gave up 29 HR in 205 IP, which is high.

I'm probably going to eat all these words, but it just seems to me that Willis' 2005 season was the anomoly, not last year. And I'm still not convinced that the Tigers couldn't have done just as well with Andrew Miller or Dallas Trahern .

Friday, December 14, 2007


Being a baseball blog, we must acknowledge the Mitchell Report and its dramatic findings. But in case you were so involved reading the 409-page tome that you missed other breaking news, here are some highlights:

* Scientists determine sun to be "hot, very hot." (If you don't believe it, this is Sun Fact No. 5 from the NASA Web site: DON’T TOUCH THE SUN! IT’S HOT!)

* Study reveals overeating can cause obesity.

* New Jersey politicians are corrupt.

* Rain is still wet.

Now, back to the shocking discoveries in the Mitchell Report. Umm. Well, hmm, I guess Nook Logan was a surprise.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rowand by the bay

Aaron Rowand is reportedly going to get 5 years, $60 million from the Giants, so his days in Philly are officially over, much to the chagrin of a number of Phillies fans. From the early reports, fans in Philly -- as well as Chicago -- are upset their teams didn't sign Rowand.

Congrats to Aaron for parlaying his career year into a windfall. But in my opinion, there's no way the Phils should be criticized for not going 5 years on Rowand. He's 30, but seems older to me. At this point in his career, he compares to Troy O'Leary. (More below.) His defense is good, but not outstanding. His range-zone rating on Hardball Times was 6th among NL centerfielders. He was second to Andruw Jones in out-of-zone plays, but not much ahead of Chris B. Young, Carlos Beltran or Juan Pierre.

His numbers are sure to drop with the move from the Zen to San Fran. His home numbers in 2007 were .319/.380/.557 while his road stats were .299/.368/.475. He hit 17 of his 27 HR in the Zen and I would figure he probably hits around 7 at home in 2008 in San Fran, where he's slugged .393 in 7 career games.

Rowand's stolen base numbers have dropped annually from a high of 17 in 2004 to 6 last season.

If the Phils could have signed Rowand for three years at a higher annual salary, it probably would have been worthwhile. But 5 years is too many.

Now, here's the O'Leary comparison:

AB: O'Leary 2709, Rowand 2664
BA: Rowand .286, O'Leary .283
OBP: Rowand .343, O'Leary .338
SLG: O'Leary .469, Rowand .462
OPS+: Rowand 106, O'Leary 104

Again, I'm not sure what this truly means, but it might provide perspective, I think. Of course, it doesn't take into account the always valuable "clubhouse presence" factor.

Rowand's career 162-game average season is .286-18-66. Shane Victorino figures to take over as the everyday CF in Philly; his career 162-game average season is .274-10-49. He will be 27 and is a much less financial burden.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


The Free Press reports the Tigers and Pirates are in talks about Brandon Inge. When the Tigers trade him, it will be another sad day, just like when they traded Mike Maroth. It's not because they're necessarily great players (and there's no debating Cabrera has to play 3B ahead of Inge regardless of Inge's otherworldly defense) but because they're great guys who suffered through 119 in 2003 with class.

Someone is going to be very happy to get Inge, even if he is owed $6 million each of the next three years. That's going to seem like a bargain, I think, once he gets straightened out at the plate. One thing about Inge, he's going to be there playing hard every day.

For a while, because of my devotion to Inge, I admit to falling into the "Brosius trap" when thinking about Cabrera. I would laugh when Yankee fans say they would rather have a Scott Brosius -- need a Scott Brosius -- over Alex Rodriguez. I almost did the same thing with Inge-Cabrera, but caught myself.

A-Rod has 2 MVP awards in 4 years with the Yankees. Forget about his postseasons (although they're the most enjoyable part of the year) -- NYY hasn't won a World Series since Brosius left because of its pitching shortcomings, not because of a need for fewer great players and more role players. A-Rod hit more HR this season (54) than Brosius did in 3 seasons with NY (52). Brosius was .261/.328/.422 with NY while A-Rod has been .303/.403/.573 in his 4 years.

Yeah, a Brosius type over A-Rod is just the upgrade the Yankees need.

So I have to say, welcome Miguel. Third base is yours.

Monday, December 10, 2007

More thoughts on Cabrera-Willis

I still don't believe in Dontrelle Willis. I'm not convinced Andrew Miller won't be as good if not better (or that one of the other three arms the Tigers parted with might, as well). I'm also not convinced the Tigers improved themselves in the ways they need to improve for 2008.

But if I view this deal piece for piece as essentially 1) Miguel Cabrera for Cameron Maybin and Mike Rabelo; and 2) Willis for Andrew Miller and throw ins, then I have to say advantage Tigers.

Starting with the pitching, Miller might end up being the lefty version of Carlos Zambrano, as Baseball Prospectus suggested entering this season, but this is probably a push -- at least for the next year or two. I can live with that, I guess.

From a hitting standpoint, Maybin might be a future superstar, but Cabrera IS a superstar. I have no problem with this aspect of the deal. According to, the most similar player to Cabrera historically through the age of 24 is Hank Aaron. I don't know that this means much, but it's fun to look at.

Cabrera and Aaron both had 5 seasons in the books at 24. Aaron had 732 games, Cabrera is at 720. Aaron had 2,895 ABs while Cabrera has 2,694. Here are the numbers:

BA: Aaron .316, Cabrera .313
HR: Aaron 140, Cabrera 138
RBI: Cabrera 523, Aaron 494
R: Aaron 496, Cabrera 449
OBP: Cabrera .388, Aaron .365
SLG: Aaron .543, Cabrera .542
OPS+: Aaron 145, Cabrera 143

Aaron already had an MVP Award by 24. Cabrera has two 5th-place finishes.

I'm pretty sure that no matter how good Maybin is, he won't be Hank Aaron through the age of 24. Other players Cabrera compares to at his age include Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Robinson, Orlando Cepeda, Joe Medwick, Al Kaline, Mickey Mantle, Vlad Guerrero.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Yorman is our man

People are finally coming around to the idea that the Tigers still need pitching to win the World Series. One arm in the bullpen intrigues me. It belongs to Yorman Bazardo. He'll be 24 in July and bounced between the minors and big club in 2007.

In 25.1 IP with the Tigers, made up of 2 starts and 9 relief appearances, Bazardo was 2-1 with a 2.28 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. Those aren't many innings to get a true feel for his ability, but he was a Top 10 prospect for the Mariners before Detroit acquired him last February. Foes batted only .218 against him and he struck out 15 while walking only 5.

From what I've been able to find, he's got a fastball that can reach the high 90s, but he works primarily in the 91-93 range. I saw reference to a hard-breaking curve with good late movement. His slider and changeup are supposedly below average. Still, a fastball and good curve would be enough for success in the bullpen and he's young enough to develop pitches and improve his arsenal. He could be an asset in the middle to late innings.

One reason for concern: the Tigers turned 76% of batted balls against Bazardo into outs -- a high number. It's hard to determine how much of that is a function of the pitching and how much is a function of luck. Bazardo did generate 47% groundballs, which helps his cause.

Friday, December 07, 2007


Here is a look at the prospects given up by the Tigers, posted on the Marlins Web site.

Pitch and moan

Here are offensive numbers for the world champion Boston Red Sox and Tigers from last year:

BA: Detroit .287, Boston .279
Runs: Detroit 887, Boston 867
2B: Detroit 352, Boston 352
3B: Detroit 50, Boston 35
HR: Detroit 177, Boston 166
RBI: Detroit 857, Boston 829
SB: Detroit 103, Boston 96
OBP: Boston .362, Detroit .345
SLG: Detroit .458, Boston .444

Here are pitching numbers for the two:

ERA: Boston 3.87, Detroit 4.58
Hits: Boston 1350, Detroit 1498
BB: Boston 482, Detroit 566
K: Boston 1149, Detroit 1047
WHIP: Boston 1.27, Detroit 1.43
Saves: Boston 45, Detroit 44
BS: Boston 11, Detroit 21

I guess if Willis doesn't rebound, the Tigers' hitting with Cabrera can do more to offset the pitching. It's rather remarkable Detroit won 88 games when you consider the bullpen blew 7 more games in 2007 than in 2006 and Verlander was the only starter who improved on his wins. Verlander was +1, Bonderman was -3, Robertson was -4, and Rogers was -14. That puts the top 4 in the rotation from 2006 at -20. Chad Durbin's +8 helped offset some of that.

Thinking alike

It seems Rob Parker and I share the same concerns about the Tigers.

Meanwhile, it appears that Brandon Inge's days with Detroit are over. I hate to see Inge leave the Tigers. I would love to see him land in Philly, but the Phils reportedly have no interest because of Inge's contract. But Inge would be a great fit there. The fans would love him for his hustle and defense and homers. He would hit 20-25 homers in the Zen, I think, maybe more.

Of course, he also would hit .250 and strikeout a bunch, but it's not like Phils fans aren't used to that on the left side of the field.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


I'll need time to digest this trade between the Tigers and Marlins. At first blush, I'm not as excited as many people seem to be. Cabrera is a talented hitter, no doubt, who seems to put up .320-30-115 annually. It's hard to be upset with those numbers.

This trade will hinge on a few factors. First, can Willis rebound and regain his form of a couple years ago? It seems Willis' ERA was probably a bit inflated by the Marlins' defense, so Willis should benefit from coming to Detroit. The ballpark should help him, too. One plus, Willis won't have to be the ace in Motown; in fact, he could be the No. 3 starter in the rotation and that might be fine. Perhaps the change of scenery and the fact he no longer has to be the face of an organization helps. Of course, he'll still face scrutiny because of the pitching prospects the Tigers parted with.

Second, the Tigers will need to lock up Cabrera and Willis, both in their mid-20s, for the long term. Third, Detroit will need to make sure Cabrera doesn't eat himself into being Mo Vaughn.

Detroit has now traded away 10 prospects to get Sheffield, Renteria, Cabrera and Willis. There is no question Dombrowski has moved all in. The Tigers must win now.

A few random thoughts: Perhaps the Tigers were falling out of love with Andrew Miller and wanted to trade him while he still had value. Where does Cabrera play? If it's third, what do the Tigers do with Brandon Inge? If it's left field, what does that mean for Marcus Thames and newcomer Jacque Jones? I'm guessing another trade for pitching help, particularly in the bullpen, could be made. This move also might be for insurance in case Sheffield doesn't return to form after shoulder surgery; Cabrera certainly should make up for the loss of offense.

In any event, this trade hinges on Willis in my mind. If he flops, the Tigers gave up six players for Cabrera, and one of those players -- Cameron Maybin -- is being touted as an Eric Davis-type talent. I've always agreed with the philosophy that prospects should be dealt to get proven big league talent, but this price seemed high because of my fears regarding Willis.

What moves are made next could be most important. We might have to see how the rest of the offseason plays out to get a better handle on how this trade truly affects the Tigers.

Jose ... Jose, Jose, Jose

Jose Guillen, 31, and the KC Royals reportedly reached a 3-year, $36-million deal. According to Hardball Times, Guillen made $4 million in 2007. He batted .290-23-99 in 593 ABs. His line for BA/OBP/SLG was .290/.353/.460.

His numbers for 2007 were practically identical to Eric Byrnes -- minus the speed (and personality, for that matter). Byrnes got a 3-year, $30-million extension from Arizona during the season.

Guillen's .813 OPS matched Byrnes and also that of --- Ryan Church (.272/.349/.464).

Sorry, I just had to toss that in there.

But Guillen's contract is about more than numbers. It's about the leadership and direction he can provide to the young players on the KC roster. You can't put a price on that.


A brief history lesson including an insult to dogs.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

One more roll of the dice

The Tigers re-signed Kenny Rogers and will need a healthy Gambler to take the mound in 2008. Injuries led to a 14-game dropoff for Rogers last season -- certainly one of the main reasons Detroit was on the outside looking in at playoff time.

Given the lack of quality pitching available on the market, the Tigers needed to bring back Rogers, who seemed to have a positive effect on the pitching staff as a whole. Right now, though, Justin Verlander seems to be the only starter from what once appeared to be a deep rotation that can be counted on. Otherwise, Detroit needs to hope for Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson and Rogers all to bounce back from down years -- plus someone (Andrew Miller?) to step up to fill the rotation.

That's a lot of question marks, but at least the talent is there. Reportedly, the Tigers are also looking at Jason Jennings (thumbs up here) and Kris Benson (thumbs down) to aid the staff. Has anyone lived for so long on the word "potential" than Benson? As frustrated as I get with Bonderman, at least he's got two 14-win seasons to his credit already. Benson has never won more than a dozen and only once has posted an ERA under 4.

It's remarkable that Benson and Matt Clement, two pitchers who missed last year because of shoulder surgery, keep popping up on numerous teams' radars. What a mess.

Church talk

I can understand Mets fans being disappointed about the Milledge trade, but only from the standpoint that they didn't get a much-needed pitcher in return. But I think they're over-rating Milledge and under-rating Church. I think Church will be a solid player for the Mets and should improve in NY's lineup and ballpark.

Church slugged .506 away from RFK, which according to ESPN's ballpark factor ratings was the most difficult in which to hit homers -- about 33 percent tougher than neutral. Church won't turn 30 until next October and should be in his prime. I could foresee him putting up numbers like .280-20-90 with the Mets next season if he gets 500 AB.

Milledge is much younger and could still develop into a star, but I've never been too high on him. He'll need to mature as a hitter, and given his personality to date, he doesn't seem like the maturing type. I don't think you can put him in the offensive category of Delmon Young, which is what it took to get Matt Garza from the Twins, so the market to pry away pitching is tough.

Friday, November 30, 2007


Prior to today, I thought the Mets had been having a decent offseason. They hadn't made a big splash, but they had said goodbye to their two worst everyday players, Paul Lo Duca and Shawn Green, making room for better, younger players. The starting rotation would be the same as the one that started 2007 except that Tom Glavine would be replaced by Pedro Martinez, quite a swap if Pedro stays healthy. The 2008 Mets weren't going to be a great team, but they were going to be good. And if they could have added a good starting pitcher, who knows?

They made a trade today, giving up one of their talented young players, but they didn't get that starting pitcher. Lastings Milledge was sent to the Washington Nationals in exchange for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider. The best thing I can say about this trade is that it's not the worst the Mets have made in the last three and a half years.

Ryan Church has hit .271/.348/.462 in 997 at bats over four years in his major league career. In 2007 he hit .272/.349/.464 in 144 games, slightly better than Milledge's .272/.341/.446 in 59 games. And Church was playing in a tougher hitting environment at RFK Stadium. So he may very well be a better hitter than Milledge right now. Church is also said to be the better defender of the two, but Milledge hadn't had much of a chance to adjust to playing right field in the majors after playing center for the majority of his minor league career. Most importantly, Church is twenty-nine years old, so he's about as good as he's going to get, whereas Milledge will turn twenty-three in April and is still improving. I am far from certain that Church will be a better hitter than Milledge in 2008, let alone four or five years down the line. If these two players had been traded for each other straight up it would be perplexing from the Mets' perspective.

The addition of Schneider doesn't make it any easier to understand. The thirty-one year old catcher hit .235/.326/.336 in 129 games this year and has a .252/.323/.377 line for his eight year career. He's an even worse hitter than Paul Lo Duca, though he is younger and better defensively. That defense is apparently what spelled the end of Ramon Castro's days as the Mets' primary catcher. It was a fun couple of weeks, but now Schneider will play every day, making outs as prolifically as his predecessor.

To consider this a good trade for the Mets, one has to believe that Milledge isn't going to get any better than he already is, that Castro can't be counted on to be more than a backup and that Schneider's defense will significantly improve the team. I don't believe any of these things and thus I'm quite upset. Lastings Milledge has a chance to be a star, but he never got that chance with the Mets. Yes, injuries cost him some opportunities in 2007, but even when he was healthy Willie Randolph and Omar Minaya always seemed to be looking for ways to give his at bats to a mediocre veteran with a reputation for being a "gamer." That the Mets would give him up in this trade, not notably improving the team in the short term, still lacking the starting pitcher they covet and likely hurting team in the long term, shows how little the team really thought of him.

This is probably the biggest trade the Mets will make this season as they can't really afford to part with any more young outfielders in search of a pitcher. They should sign Livan Hernandez any day now to fill out this 2004 Expos reunion tour. At least we'll get to see Milledge nineteen times a year. Maybe he'll have a nice battle or two with Scott Kazmir in an All-Star Game someday. I just hope Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez get good and quickly. I'd really like to get more than Ryan Church and Brian Schneider back when Omar trades them.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Myers Conundrum

The debate continues about whether Brett Myers should stay in the pen or be moved into the Phillies rotation. It’s a tough question that whichever way the Phillies go with it they will be seconded guessed. One of the main arguments for moving Myers back to the rotation is that it will be easier to find another decent reliever than another decent starter. I keep reading/hearing this kind of sentiment, but I don’t see it out there on the market.

In my opinion, what separates the good relievers from the great ones is constancy. There are plenty of relievers, closers or not, that are great one year and not so great the next. It seems pretty rare to find a reliever /closer that is good to great every year. I think this year’s market only had Rivera as a year in year out great relief pitcher.

I’m not saying that Myers as a closer is the answer for sure, but I think he has the potential to be one of those years in year out guys, based on his numbers being fairly contestant year to year as a starter. Still, he has to first get the opportunity and then do something with it. I’m 90% sure Myers will be in the bullpen later in his career, so why not keep him there now? In the case of a desperate situation, the Phillies seem to have a lot more starting help in the minors anyway.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Okay, now get rid of Schoeneweis

It has been a whirlwind few days for the New York Mets. Or at least as whirlwind as you can get when you're not losing anyone better than Tom Glavine circa 2008 or getting anyone better than Luis Castillo. Regardless, things have happened.

First of all, Glavine returned to the Braves. This leaves the Mets with a hole to fill in their starting rotation, but it also leaves them with two first round draft picks in 2008, including the eighteenth pick that once belonged to Atlanta. This seems like a pretty good swap to me.

Even at forty-two, Glavine is likely to be durable. He'll go out every five days and likely give the Braves around 200 innings. The Mets could use a pitcher like that, given some of the question marks surrounding their rotation. But even putting aside Glavine's statements that he was either going back to Atlanta or retiring, I don't think he was likely to have been one of the top three or four starters on the 2008 Mets.

In 2007 he posted an ERA of 4.55 which was around league average and the third worst in a full season in his career. He struck out just 3.99 batters per nine innings, his worst rate since 1988 and a significant drop from the 6.21 he posted in 2006. Watching him struggle through September, in which he gave up 21 runs in 31 innings on 38 hits and nine walks, it looked to me like the consistent, reliable Tom Glavine of the past few years might be gone for good. His 2007 was actually quite similar to his first year with the Mets in 2003--4.52 ERA, 4.03 K/9--from which he did bounce back nicely. But I wouldn't want to bet too heavily on him rebounding again at forty-two. The Mets definitely need to find another starter somewhere, but I'd rather Omar Minaya be motivated to put together a big trade for someone good than feel like the job was done because he had Tom Glavine under contract.

Monday brought another transaction that will probably work out all right for the Mets. Luis Castillo signed a four-year deal for $25 million. I don't know that the Mets needed to make this deal, with Damion Easley and Ruben Gotay already on the roster. And I definitely worry about what shape Castillo's knees and his OBP will be in when he's thirty-five in 2011. But I do think he will be useful for at least a couple of years and $25 million over four years isn't a bad deal in a market where David Eckstein allegedly wants around $36 million over the same time period to provide roughly the same production.

Easley and Gotay might have together equaled or exceeded Castillo's offensive production. They very likely would have at least provided more power. But Easley just turned thirty-eight last week while Gotay is just a twenty-four year old who looked good in under two hundred at bats. Easley could break down (again) or Gotay's 2007 could turn out to be a fluke. Gotay's .295/.351/.421 line is solid, but it's also rather dependent on a batting average higher than anything he'd put up in the minors since he was eighteen. I also think he's pretty clearly a defensive downgrade from Castillo, even if Castillo is also pretty clearly not the defender he once was. Hopefully Gotay will get regular playing time as Castillo's backup and one of Willie Randolph's first pinch hitting options so that we can see if he really is as good as he looked at times in 2007. The Castillo deal pretty much guarantees Gotay will never be the Mets' starter, but he could turn into a very useful bench player or trading chip.

On Tuesday we were reminded that one need not be useful to be traded. The Mets sent Guillermo Mota to the Milwaukee Brewers and in exchange they received a package headlined by Not Having Guillermo Mota Anymore. The deal was made all the sweeter by the addition of Not Bringing Back Paul Lo Duca, personified by the Mets' new catcher, Johnny Estrada, who will likely split time with Ramon Castro. Estrada had a pretty Lo Ducan year with the bat in 2007 at .278/.296/.403, but he is four years younger than ol' Paulie. Estrada was also playing with a torn medial meniscus in his left knee and a bone spur in his right elbow. Both of these have been taken care of surgically since the season ended, so perhaps he will come back in 2008 more closely resembling the guy who hit .302/.328/.444 in 2006 and .314/.378/.450 in 2004. Even if he doesn't, the Mets won't need to offer him a multi-year deal to find out like they would with Lo Duca or Yorvit Torrealba. Estrada is arbitration-eligible, so if things don't work out, the Mets can be rid of him after the season.

Like the theoretical Torrealba deal before them, these moves don't greatly improve this team. But the Mets have now filled out their everyday eight while leaving all potential trade bait intact. Moises Alou, Carlos Beltran, Lastings Milledge, David Wright, Jose Reyes, Luis Castillo, Carlos Delgado and either Ramon Castro or Johnny Estrada should form a formidable lineup. Pedro Martinez, Orlando Hernandez, Oliver Perez and John Maine could use some help. The Kyle Lohses and Carlos Silvas of the world aren't going to cut it. Mike Pelfrey or Philip Humber might be able to help someday, but I don't think either of them has proven he'll be a reliable starter in 2008. Now is the time for Omar to make a big splash with a trade. Hopefully he can get the Mets a good starter without leaving them short a right fielder.

Breaking Down the NL MVP

First let me start with this, Jimmy Rollins is my favorite player in all of baseball. I would love for him to win the MVP today, but in all honesty Matt Holliday should win the award. Here’s some of the evidence.

Holiday - 1.012, 3rd in NL
Rollins - .875, 23rd in NL and 5th amongst the Phillies (behind Utley, Howard, Burrell & Rowand)

Runs Created
Holliday – 142.2, 1st in NL
Rollins – 133.4, 5th in NL

Runs created per 27 outs
Holliday – 8.51, 4th in NL
Rollins – 6.83, 19th in NL

Secondary Average
Holliday – .377, 15th in NL
Rollins - .352, 17th in NL

Holliday – 75.0, 4th in NL
Rollins – 66.1, 9th in NL

Win Shares
Holliday – 30, tied for 3rd
Rollins – 28, tied for 6th (along with Utley!)

Close and Late
Holliday - .295 / .373 / .562 /
OPS - .935, RC -18, RC27 -5.77
Rollins – .255 / .318 / .490 /
OPS - .808, RC – 16.2, RC27 – 5.61

Runners in Scoring Position 2 Outs
Holliday - .319 / .430 / .528 /
OPS- .958, RC – 16.9, RC27 9.32
Rollins – .239 / .302 / .534 /
OPS - .836, RC – 15.5, RC27, 6.14

I think the two most striking of these has to be the 1.68 Runs Created per 27outs difference, and the win shares since WS takes into account defense.
Speaking of defense, Holliday led all NL left fielders in Zone Rating with .913, he was second in Fielding Percentage with .990 and was 5th in range factor with 1.97, which pretty much debunks anyone who says he is a poor fielder at his position.
Rollins was 6th amongst NL short stops in Zone Rating with .824, was 3rd in Fielding Percentage with .985, and was 6th in Range Factor with 4.41.

Holliday was probably the best defensive left fielder in the NL last year, maybe Eric Burns had him beat but he’s the only one that could contend there. Rollins was maybe the 3rd or 4th best defensive short stop in the NL behind Troy Tulowitzki, Omar Vizquel and maybe Khalil Greene. Short is the tougher position to play, but I don’t think it makes up for the offensive impact that Holliday had this season.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Good enough

The Mets are apparently about to sign a couple of catchers. According to various reports, Yorvit Torrealba will sign a three-year deal to be the starter and Ramon Castro will sign up for two years as his backup, though Castro is expected to start more often than he did in 2007. This is hardly ideal, but I'll take it.

The appeal of Torrealba eludes me. He's a career .251/.313/.391 hitter who's never played more than 113 games in a season and only once played more than 76. At this stage, he's basically a younger, slightly worse Paul Lo Duca with the bat and his defense doesn't seem to add much value. His much praised game-calling ability sounds about as likely to win games as Lo Duca's "clubhouse presence." I don't see how this adds up to a starting catcher.

It does make it a little easier to believe that Castro really will get more playing time that he has in the past. The idea that Willie Randolph would execute a strategy more complicated that naming one guy the starter and playing him five days a week doesn't jibe with his entire history as Mets manager. He's not shown much inclination to get creative when filling out the lineup card. And while Castro hasn't really proven he can hold up for a full season, he is clearly the superior hitter of these two. But perhaps if the inferior catcher isn't a fiery clubhouse leader from Brooklyn, Willie will have him take a seat a bit more often. These moves probably won't constitute a huge upgrade for the position, but if Castro plays about eighty games and Torrealba hits around his career averages, Mets catchers should be more productive in 2008 than they were in 2007. And if they're not, at least we won't have to hear how they're valuable anyway because of their intangibles and grit and whatnot.

In closing, I'd like to comment briefly on the big baseball-related legal story of the day. This has been a long time coming and I am glad to see the law-breaker in question finally held responsible for his actions. He's made a mockery of the laws of our nation for too long. Shame on you, Derek Jeter.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Wheeling and dealing

Dave Dombrowski continues to make solid moves for the Tigers, in my opinion. Today, he got OF Jacque Jones from the Cubs for utilityman Omar Infante and signed closer Todd Jones to a one-year deal.

Jacque Jones will play left for the Tigers and gives them a solid left-handed bat in the lineup. He struggled at times with the Cubs in 2007 as Chicago tried to figure out what to do with its outfield. But Jones batted .349/.377/.532 in 27 games in August and .342/.376/.430 in 24 games in September. Overall he was .285/.335/.400. He should see the majority of time in left, but righty powerman Marcus Thames will also get ABs.

Infante was expendable with Ryan Raburn figuring to fill the utility role. You can't complain when you pick up a regular for a sub. Plus, the Cubs are sending $2 million to Detroit to offset Jones' $5 million due in 2008.

The Tigers gave Todd Jones a one-year, $7 million deal. Jones might not be the ideal closer, but with Joel Zumaya out for at least half the season, getting Jones back was a good move. It's probably better to bring back a guy you know and are comfortable with rather than find a newcomer.

Now, we'll see what Dombrowski does to finish filling the rotation. Kenny Rogers is going to entertain offers, so there's no guarantee he'll be back.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

An easy catch

This has the potential to be a rather boring offseason. Collapse or no, the Mets are a good team without many obvious holes. At the moment they could use a catcher, a second baseman and a starting pitcher. But the weak free agent class and the paucity of tradeable commodities in the Mets' system makes it unlikely any of these spots will be addressed in headline-grabbing fashion. But even the smallest of moves could have a significant impact on the 2008 pennant race. Today I'm going to take a look behind the plate.

I would have called catcher an easy decision a few months ago. Ramon Castro was the best choice to catch for the Mets in 2007 and would have been the same in 2008. But the arthritic back that landed him on the disabled list in August is enough to dampen even my enthusiasm. Perhaps his back will be fine by the time he and the pitchers report to Port St. Lucie in February, but it does make me a little nervous. Castro in a back brace could still outhit Paul Lo Duca and I hope to see Ramon return and Paul disappear forever. But if the Mets bring back Castro as the starter, it is important that they find a halfway decent backup in case he goes down again or just needs a day off slightly more often than the average catcher. Neither Mike DiFelice nor Sandy Alomar Jr. qualifies as such.

The landscape of free agent backstops is quite barren beyond Castro and Jorge Posada, who isn't coming to the Mets for anything short of way too much money over too many years. But two names pique my interest. The first is Michael Barrett, recently of the San Diego Padres, who was an excellent offensive catcher for the Cubs from 2004-2006 before falling off a cliff this year to the tune of .244/.281/.372. Those numbers are awful. Sub-Lo Duca. But just two years ago he hit .307/.368/.517 and he's only 31. I think he's worth a shot as a backup to see if he's really done as a hitter or if last year was just a fluke.

The other catcher that interests me is Rod Barajas. The thirty-two year old was never the offensive force that Barrett was and his career .288 OBP is atrocious. But he does smack the occasional extra-base hit and posted a higher OPS+ than Lo Duca in two of the last three years. That's not the sort of endorsement likely to be inscribed on a plaque in Cooperstown, but we're not looking for a starter here. He could provide a decent bat for a backup. If something happened to the starter and he had to play every day, things could get ugly. But the same could be said of most teams that aren't the 2007 Mets. Signing Rod Barajas won't punch the Mets' ticket to October, but he'd be of more use than the Yorvit Torrealbas of the world.

The most important thing is for the Mets to say goodbye to Paul Lo Duca--his fire, his leadership, his temper tantrums, his teenaged paramours and his ground balls to second base--and embrace Ramon Castro as their catcher. A team can put together a good offense without getting much pop from behind the plate, as the 2007 Mets proved. But having an above average bat at the position would be especially helpful for a team with some uncertainty at traditional offensive positions like first base and right field. Catcher is the easiest spot on the diamond for the Mets to upgrade this offseason. Hopefully they take advantage of the opportunity.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Steady as he goes

I was looking at the list of free agents on and clicked on Joe Kennedy's stats. This caught my eye:

Last year, in 39 games, Kennedy gave up a .282 BAA and had a 4.80 ERA. In his career, which is 222 games, Kennedy has given up a .281 BAA and has a 4.79 ERA.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Bourn free

The Phillies’ trade with Houston to acquire Brad Lidge was a good move, I think. Basically, it seems the Phils understand they’ve got a small window here to win a World Series and are moving all in.

First, Philly gave up an over-rated CF prospect in Michael Bourn, at least in my opinion, and a workhorse reliever of modest ability in Geoff Geary. Philly also sent minor league 3B Mike Costanzo to Houston; from what I’ve read, Costanzo is being described as a Russell Branyan-type player. The Phillies also got utility man Eric Bruntlett.

Lidge’s arrival means Brett Myers returns to the rotation. I don’t agree with this move because I think Myers could be an outstanding closer, but I understand the rationale. Hopefully, a change of scenery will benefit Lidge, who can be either great or not-so-good. Certainly, when you consider what Philly gave up, it’s worth the risk because Lidge has a huge upside and will only be 31 next season.

As for Bourn, I think he is most likely a Nook Logan-type. When I looked at both players’ first years of semi-regular MLB activity, this is what I found:

Logan – age 24.
Plate appearances – 152. BA/OBP/SLG – .278/.340/.346.
BA/BIP – .336.

Bourn – age 24.
Plate appearances – 133. BA/OBP/SLG – .277/.349/.379.
BA/BIP – .330.

Those similarities might mean nothing, of course, but I thought they were interesting.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Feliz solución

The Phillies will have to wait on this one, but if they're truly interested in getting a 3B, there is, in my opinion, only one real option -- Pedro Feliz. He generally produced .250-20-80 in SF and I'm betting those numbers improve in the Zen. He also can flash the leather.

Feliz wants a multi-year deal and made $5 million last season. I wonder if he would take something like 3 years at $14-16 million. That seems fair. SF can negotiate exclusively until Nov. 12, and is interested in re-signing him. If the Phils cannot get Feliz, I would sit tight and spend the money on pitching and OF.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Phil-ing needs

I think the Phillies should make a play for SP Jason Jennings. At least find out what it would take to bring him to Philly. Jennings was awful for Houston despite posting career bests for strikeouts/9IP and walks/9IP.

Jennings, who missed time with tendinitis and appeared in only 19 games, made $5.5 million in 2007.

Prior to this year, Jennings was a very good groundball pitcher. This year, he wasn't. Entering 2007, he typically was a 1.50 gb/fb ratio and never gave up more flyballs than groundballs -- until this year when he had a 0.80 gb/fb ratio. The question is why? Arm trouble? Mechanics? If it's the latter, then he might be a good investment at a cheap price. Houston's defense didn't do him any favors, either.

It's worth looking into.

Zoom doom

Joel Zumaya is going to miss a good portion of the 2008 season, the Tigers announced today. Last year, it was a video game that did him in. This time, it was the California wildfires. This is becoming a disturbing trend.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hello, Joe

So, it turns out the Yankees will spurn Steinbrenner's golden child, Don Mattingly, in favor of Joe Girardi as their next manager. Another Yankees legend burned. Maybe they figure hiring another Joe will make people forget it's not Torre.

Tigers score as offseason begins

The Tigers traded for SS Edgar Renteria, giving up two top prospects, and served notice they are not going to sit around and hope 2008 is better than 2007. Renteria's arrival is an upgrade defensively over Carlos Guillen, who will play first base next season. Plus, Renteria hit .332 in 2007 and had the third highest OPS among NL shortstops behind Hanley Ramirez and Jimmy Rollins.

Detroit gave up highly regarded CF Gorkys Hernandez, but with Curtis Granderson already in center and another more highly regarded prospect in Cameron Maybin waiting in the wings, Hernandez was dealable.

The other player in the deal was SP Jair Jurrgens, who pitched well in seven starts for Detroit and seems to be regarded as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter. Again, the Tigers dealt from a position of strength, at least if you figure Andrew Miller fulfills his potential.

No doubt, Atlanta got two very good prospects and filled its own needs, especially with Andruw Jones pending departure via free agency.

This is a deal the Tigers had to make regardless of how good Hernandez and Jurrgens end up.

Here's what the trade means to the Tigers lineup since Renteria essentially takes the place of Sean Casey: Renteria batted .332/.390/.470 in 494 AB; Casey hit .296/.353/.393 in 453 AB. This now gives Detroit 3 of the top 6 hitters (in BA) in 2007 -- Magglio Ordonez, Placido Polanco and Renteria.

It also means Pudge Rodriguez drops a spot lower in the order. He could drop farther if the Tigers sign Geoff Jenkins to play LF, which is one of the rumors floating around. Jenkins certainly would be another worthwhile addition because he provides some lefty power.

As much young talent as the Tigers have, they must play to win now because Pudge, Guillen, Maggs, Polly, and Gary Sheffield aren't getting any younger and have had injury issues. The time is now, and GM Dave Dombrowski is acting accordingly.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I hate to pick a team coming off a long break to win the World Series because I think it’s a tough task. But it would not be a shock if Colorado upends Boston. It sure would have been nice to see this series without this ridiculous layoff for the Rockies.

Here is something to consider, especially given the fact these games will be played in two hitter-friendly stadiums. Colorado’s pitching staff was second best in MLB in groundout/flyout ratio (1.39) while Boston’s was tied for 21st (1.09). Lineups do far less damage hitting balls on the ground. This perhaps takes greater importance given Colorado’s extremely good defense.

Boston and Colorado met for 3 games this year, so this isn’t a significant sample, but the Red Sox posted their lowest slugging percentage against any team in MLB vs. the Rockies (.327).

Game 1 means nothing if Colorado loses, but it's huge if they win. That's the attitude Colorado should bring to the dance. It's almost like when they faced Webb in the opener of the Arizona series.

Rockies in 7.

Donnie Baseball

Reports indicate that Don Mattingly will be the next Yankees manager.

Sure, he doesn't have any managerial experience, but he does have all those World Series appearances to draw upon as he looks to lead NY to the promised land.

Oh, I mean playoff experiences.

Oh, nevermind.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Next Yankees manager: Failure

I don't know who will manage the Yanks next season, but I have to believe they're pretty much ripe for failure. In truth, leaving NY now is the best thing that could have happened to Joe Torre. He leaves a hero.

New York is heading into a transition period. In all honesty, it was probably as natural a time to break with Torre as any. The championship core is aging and/or will be leaving via free agency. The Yanks could look very different as soon as next year, but definitely by 2009. It might be unlikely, but it's possible NY is without A-Rod, Posada, Abreu, Pettitte and Rivera next season.

Hopefully, struggles await the Yankees. I believe that could be quite possible.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Joe says goodbye

Joe Torre turned down the Yankees' 1-year offer today. But here is the great thing about our Internet age -- the ability to get stories wrong and send them worldwide in an instant.

I did a Google News search on Torre and found this story, which was listed as being posted "one hour ago" at around 5 p.m. EDT. The headline read: Torre back as Yankees skipper. It was put out by Sports Network and stated, "Joe Torre will return to manage the New York Yankees in 2008. The Newark Star Ledger is reporting that Torre is in Tampa, Florida to finalize the deal and the team will make it official with a Thursday afternoon conference call."

Then I noticed the story above it was posted "56 minutes ago," and it was an Associated Press bulletin that said: "Joe Torre has rejected an offer for a one-year deal to return as the New York Yankees manager."

What a difference four minutes can make.

I remember attending a journalism conference where Pete Hamill was the guest speaker. He was discussing the way 24-hour news and the Internet changed reporting. He basically implored people to remember, it's not as important to get the story first as it is to get it right.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Third is not first among problems

There's a lot of talk about the Phillies' need for a 3B. It is true that Wes Helms and Greg Dobbs do not remind anyone of Brooks Robinson (aside from being white) at the hot corner. Helms, Dobbs and the departed Abraham Nunez commited 25 errors in 2007. They combined to form the worst offensive/defensive 3B in the NL. Ryan Braun also commited 25 Es, but he batted .324-34-97 to help offset it.

One name that popped up today was Garrett Atkins. I have no idea why Colorado would trade him, and I have no idea what the Phils could possibly offer. If the Phils can get him, they should do so. Otherwise, I think they need to stop worrying so much about 3B. They've got power everywhere else in the infield, so they don't need a power bat, even though 3B is traditionally a power spot.

I'd take a shot at free agent Pedro Feliz and if that failed, ride it out. If anything, the Phils should make a minor deal to get a good fielder at 3B and not worry about the offense. They really need to be concentrating on the pitching and outfield situation. Those are bigger worries, in my mind.

Who Am I?

With last night's 7-3 victory over the Red Sox, Tribe starting pitcher Paul Byrd became only the 2nd pitcher in history to record post-season victories over both the Red Sox and Yankees in the same post-season.

I am the first.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Garko the Graceful

In the 2nd inning of last night's Game 3 tilt twixt the Red Sox and Indians, Tribe 1st baseman Ryan Garko committed a fielding error with runners on 1st and 2nd and none out.

The blunder started simply enough with a ground ball bouncing off the heel of Garko's glove and caroming off towards second base. It was the finish, however, that I laud in this post. In an effort to recover the baseball, Garko executed a piece of footwork that landed him on his backside. I am unable to describe the move with any additional detail, except to say it was presidential (in the tradition of President Gerald R. Ford).

I laughed. Til I cried. It is my favorite play of the 2007 postseason.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The AL pick

The Red Sox won the season series, 5-2, but they haven't played since the end of July. Yet this might foreshadow what the ALCS could be all about: Daisuke Matsuzaka went 7 to beat C.C. Sabathia, who also went 7 innings, 1-0 on July 24. The next day, Fausto Carmona went 8 in outdueling Josh Beckett, who also went 8 innings, 1-0.

I give Boston slight edges across the board in pitching, hitting and defense. The Sox also have experience on their side. Cleveland does, however, have the gnats, which already have proven an equalizer.

For the year, Boston had a .806 OPS while its pitching allowed .706, making the Sox +100. Cleveland had a .771 OPS while its pitching yielded .729, making the Tribe +42. If OPS is such a great stat, I figure that means something.

Sox in 6.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The NL pick

I really like Arizona and Colorado in terms of their young talent. Colorado won the season series, 10-8, but we've already seen that doesn't matter much in the playoffs.

If you look at Arizona's offensive numbers, it seems the D-backs do nothing exceptionally well other than be consistent. They hit .250/.321/.417 vs. RHP and .250/.319/.402 vs. LHP. If there is a reason for concern, it might be that they hit only .248/.320/.386 vs. Colorado pitching and batted just .244/.310/.344 at Coors.

Colorado seems to have a young, colorful group. The Rockies batted .281/.355/.443 vs. RHP and .277/.352/.420 vs. LHP. Pretty balanced. They hit .280/.361/.404 vs. the D-Backs, including .282/.365/.401 at Chase Field.

It's remarkable that the D-Backs don't have a .300 hitter (excluding pitcher Micah Owings, who honestly might be the best hitter on the team) or 100-RBI man, and just one player, rookie Chris Young, hit more than 21 HR. They scored 20 fewer runs than they allowed! According to Hardball Times, Arizona should have won 79 games.

Colorado is not only a team that's been on a roll, but I think it's the better team. I'd give the D-Backs a slight edge in starting pitching (only because of Brandon Webb, plus Owings as a hitter), maybe a slight edge in the overall bullpen, too. But I think Colorado is better offensively and defensively.

If Jeff Francis beats Webb in Game 1, the D-Backs are in big trouble. Otherwise, they've got a chance to force a 7-game series. I have no faith in Livan Hernandez. Owings could be the unknown here. He is expected to pitch Game 4, but hasn't thrown in a while because of Arizona's sweep of the Cubs.

Rockies in 7.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Hello, Charlie

The Phils gave manager Charlie Manuel a 2-year contract with a club option for a third year. As a Charlie supporter, I agree with the move.

According to the Associated Press, Manuel is 262-224 in three years in Philadelphia. Among Phillies managers, he reached 250 wins in the fewest games since Pat Moran managed the club from 1915-18.

Of course, there's been a lot of bad baseball in Philadelphia between then and now. And Charlie inherited a pretty decent squad. But I really believe that the people who get so caught up in in-game decisions -- while no doubt important -- are missing the big picture. Give Manuel credit for goodness sake; he lost four-fifths of his starting rotation, two closers, the reigning MVP and potential MVP to injuries at some point during the season and still won 89 games. I'm not saying the man is a genius or one of the game's all-time greats, but c'mon. That stuff doesn't happen by accident.

I've seen Manuel still being criticized for the Kendrick-Lohse move in Game 2 of the playoffs. The prevailing theme is Lohse shouldn't be put into a situation with that much pressure when he's unfamiliar with it. There might be some logic to this, but Lohse had pitched relief previously, and it seems guys get thrust into these situations in the postseason on a fairly regular basis.

No one probably blinked when Joe Torre brought in Mike Mussina with first and third and no outs in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against Boston. It was Mussina's first relief appearance of his career. He got a K and DP to end the threat. Yanks won in 11. Aaron Effing Boone.

Glove me

These are the players I think should be rewarded for defense in the AL, by position, based on almost nothing but statistical analysis:

C -- Victor Martinez, CLE
1B - Kevin Youkilis, BOS
2B - Mark Ellis, OAK
SS - Tony Pena, KC
3B - Brandon Inge, DET
LF - Shannon Stewart, OAK
CF - Curtis Granderson, DET
RF - Nick Markakis, BAL

Hello, Pudge

Pudge Rodriguez will return to the Tigers in 2008 as the club announced it has picked up his $13 million option. That's a lot of money, but 1) Detroit figured it wouldn't find a better replacement, and 2) I think ownership feels it owes Pudge for being the catalyst for the team's turnaround.

I think what you'll get from Pudge now is .280-10-65, which hardly seems worthy of $13 million, but it's only $2 million more than Pudge made this season (and Jason Varitek made $11 million for nearly the same production, and worse defense.) Pudge had a tough year behind the plate in 2007, but still managed to throw out 29% of baserunners, which was 4th among AL regulars. Most alarming was his .510 WP/PB per game, 2nd to only Jorge Posado (.530) for worst in AL. Hopefully, that's an aberration and not a trend as Pudge gets up in age.

Goodbye, Joe?

If George Steinbrenner makes good on his threat, Joe Torre managed his final game for the Yankees last night. As much as I despise the Yanks, it's hard to hate Torre. I don't think anyone could have handled the postgame press conference yesterday any better, any classier.

Should the Yanks dismiss Joe, where will he end up? He made it clear he's not ready to quit. Might Philadelphia be a possible landing spot? Frankly, I'm not sure Joe is much different than Charlie Manuel -- only possessing a better vocabulary. But hiring Torre might calm the Charlie haters and make it appear the Phils are taking positive steps to improve in 2008.

I wonder if Torre would want to manage in Philly and be in the same division as Willie Randolph? But Philly would seem like a good fit because it's a team that's ready to win now.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Second guessing

Charlie Manuel is taking a lot of heat for lifting Kyle Kendrick in Game 2 of the playoffs, but I don't think it was a horrible move. Everyone loves Kendrick for being a gamer, and I agree. But down 1-0 in the NLDS didn't give Manuel a chance to let Kendrick gut one out.

Kendrick started two previous games against Colorado and had an ERA of 7.00, WHIP of 2.11, and BAA of .425. Those numbers don't instill confidence, and he wasn't exactly lights out Thursday. Plus, Kendrick was going to face the top of the Rockies' lineup for the third time in Thursday's game when he was lifted. If Kyle Lohse does his job, it's moot.

Lou Piniella is also taking heat for pulling Carlos Zambrano out of Game 1 of the Cubs' series against Arizona. No one is immune.

''When you manage a team, everybody's a manager, what can I tell you? The only thing is the people that write it have a chance to write it after the fact, not during,'' said Piniella.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

I think I'm ready to talk about it

You may have seen some Mets fans referring to Sunday's loss as something of a relief, coming as it did on the heels of an often difficult season of baseball to watch. They might have told you that this particular band of New York Mets was somehow unlikable or that the players had "quit" on us, the fans. Maybe they think that the bullpen would have gotten this team slaughtered in October. I am not one of these fans. This hurt.

This past Sunday ranks right with 1999 NLCS Game Six and July 30th, 2004 among the darkest days of my Mets fandom. The fact that the Mets spent the last week of August and the whole month of September blowing chance after chance to put the division away only means the agony was prolonged. The Mets could be playing a playoff game right now if Marlon Anderson had slid a little closer to second base or Billy Wagner could get six outs without giving up three runs. In the end, the Phillies were one game better than the Mets, but the way we reached that conclusion couldn't have been any more painful. The fact that we had to watch the Yankees stage a comeback from sure defeat at the same time didn't help any.

The Mets had a pretty good team this year and chances are they'll have almost exactly the same pretty good team next year. Willie Randolph will be back, but Paul Lo Duca and Shawn Green likely won't be, so Willie will have two fewer chances to choose experience over ability every day as he did so many times this year. The bullpen, a weak point both in September and in terms of Randolph's managerial tactics, will return largely intact. Giving Willie fewer terrible relievers to use in key situations in big games would seem like an easy way to improve this team, but Scott Schoeneweis and Guillermo Mota are both under contract for at least one more year. If Omar Minaya could spend his way to a great bullpen, I'm sure he would and even if he can't, he might try. But relief pitchers are inherently unpredictable and going out to spend a bunch of money on proven veterans is how you wind up giving multi-year deals to the Motas and Schoeneweises of the world.

The Mets are rich, they have reasonable expectations of contending for a division title next year and they're coming off a historic collapse. This seems like a recipe for a wild offseason. But there won't really be many flashy free agents available at positions where the Mets have need, like the starting rotation, or might think they have need, like catcher or right field. So, while I'm sure the next few months will be filled with stories that Omar is about to send every prospect the Mets have or ever will have to Minnesota in exchange for Johan Santana, I think the time between now and Spring Training might turn out to be fairly quiet. Which is a good thing. I could use some time to recover.

(Go Indians!)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Rockies 4, Phils 2

I'm not sure what to make of today's game at the Zen. Cole Hamels pitched like a youngster in his first postseason game for one inning (the 2nd) and pitched like a veteran No. 1 the other frames. Hamels retired 13 in a row at one point and retired Colorado in order in the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th. He let the Rockies bat around in the 2nd. Odd.

The real story was the lack of production by the Phils, particularly at the top of the order. The 1-4 spots went 0-for-15 with 9 Ks and a GDP. You might attribute some of that to the fact Jeff Francis is a lefty, which theoretically can hamper Utley and Howard a bit (they both SLG more than 100 points lower vs. LHP than RHP), but the Phils roughed up Francis in two meetings this season. I'd say it was a case of the Phils either being flat or pressing, or both.

Colorado won for the 15th time in 16 games. Maybe the Rockies are destiny's darlings. But the Phils are in trouble if they don't win games in which Colorado scores "only" four runs.

Of course, it could just be the SI Jinx.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


We'll get the easy lifting out of the way first. As much as it pains me to say it, I think A-Rod will be the AL MVP. There seems to be no way around this fact. According to Hardball Times, he led the league in total win shares with 39 (Maggs was second at 36), win shares above bench with 26 (Maggs 24), runs created with 163 (Maggs 155), OPS with 1.067 (Ortiz 1.066) and VORP (value over replacement player) at 96.6 (Maggs 87.8).

The National League race is, excuse me for sounding like John Sterling, obviously, tougher. David Wright led in total wins shares with 34 (Albert Pujols 32), and win shares above bench with 21 (Pujols 19). Miguel Cabrera led in runs created with 138 (Wright 136). Chipper Jones led in OPS with 1.029 (Prince Fielder 1.013). Hanley Ramirez led in VORP at 89.5 (Wright 81.1).

Of course, none of those players will see the field in October. Notice the two prime candidates now, Jimmy Rollins and Matt Holliday, aren't among the top two in any of those categories.

Holliday led in win shares over Rollins, 30-28, and win shares above bench, 16-13. It should be noted pitchers Jake Peavy and Brandon Webb rated above both with 18 and 17, respectively, and Chase Utley led the Phils with 17.

As for runs created, Holliday led Rollins, 129-122. Both players led their respective teams in that category. Holliday posted a 1.012 OPS while Rollins' was .875. Rollins ranked behind several teammates, but was second among NL shortstops, trailing Ramirez at .948.

I'm not sure what credit Holliday received for creating a run Monday night that he apparently didn't create.

Holliday no doubt will get votes for leading the NL in batting (.340) and RBI (137). Rollins was tops in runs with 139. And Rollins became only the 4th player in history with at least 20 HR, 20 2B, 20 3B and 20 SB in a year. Rollins had 88 extra-base hits, second in history among SS to only A-Rod's 91 in 1996.

I'd say both are worthy. Holliday might lose votes because he plays in Coors Field and because you rarely got to see him play. Rollins might gain votes because of his spring training pronouncement the Phillies were the team to beat and leading the Phils to the NL East title.

If Holliday loses the award, he can join the list of people disappointed with the Mets. The pick here is Rollins, not because I'm 100% sure he deserves it, but because I think that's the way the voters will go. I'd give him the edge because he played 162 games at SS, which is a more demanding position, and fielded well (zero throwing errors, 11 fielding). Holliday is no slouch in LF, but it's not the same.

Then again, I've seen deserving shortstops overlooked before. (No, I'm not still bitter about 1987.)

The Big O

There was an interesting piece on Hardball Times about the greatest most underrated player in history. The author's conclusion is that player is Mel Ott, with shoutouts to Cy Young and Stan Musial. You can read about it here.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

All tied up

The Mets woke up Saturday in second place for the first time in more than five months. They did all they could not to stay there for long. The offensive was explosive from the start. John Maine was absolutely brilliant. And with a little help from the Washington Nationals, the Mets are once again tied atop the NL East with one game to play.

Maine's performance was the best by any Mets' starter this year and very nearly the stuff of legend. He walked a batter in the top of the first only to see him erased on a strike 'em out, throw 'em out double play. He retired the next sixteen batters in order before allowing another walk with one out in the seventh. He got the next two batters to end that inning and the first two to start the eighth. At this point his line read seven and two-thirds innings, no hits, two walks and a career-high fourteen strikeouts. He had already thrown over 100 pitches but it looked like nothing would stop him from finishing this game. Then backup catcher Paul Hoover, in his thirty-fourth major league at bat, only in the game because Miguel Olivo was ejected for instigating a bench-clearing fracas in the fifth inning, hit a weak little dribbler down the third base line. David Wright charged and barehanded it, but there was nothing he could do. For the 7311th consecutive game, a Mets starter failed to pitch a no hitter. Still, it was a tremendous performance by Maine and he deserved every bit of the standing ovation he received as he walked to the dugout with two outs in the eighth.

Of course, the Mets' offense gave Maine a bit of breathing room right from the start. They scored twice in the first and at least once in every inning but the fourth. In total, they put up thirteen runs on nineteen hits and four walks. Lastings Milledge had three hits including two home runs. Ramon Castro had two hits with a longball of his own. It makes one wonder what the division standings might look like if these two hadn't been banished to the bench for the past week. Luis Castillo and David Wright each had three hits and two of Castillo's were doubles. Maine was the only New York starter without a hit, but he did draw a walk and score a run. Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran were the only other starters without at least two hits. Quite often this month the Mets have gotten great offensive production only for the pitching to fail them anyway. A couple of times they got good pitching but the offense dried up. This time both came through in an absolutely crucial game. Hopefully there's a little left in the tank for tomorrow.

It'll be Tom Glavine vs. Dontrelle Willis with the season on the line for the Mets. Willis has not had a good season, but he's been solid in his last couple of starts. Glavine, meanwhile, allowed ten runs in ten innings his last two times out. By Sunday night the Mets could be anything from outright division champs to part of a four-way tie with the Phillies, Padres and Rockies. All they can do is win. We'll worry about Monday (and Tuesday and Wednesday) when we have to.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Ya gotta believe

What else can ya do?

The Mets lost again, this time to the the last place Florida Marlins, while the Phillies beat the Nationals to claim sole possession of first place in the National League East. For the first time since the thirteenth of May, the Mets are not in first place. They have lost eight straight home games and now need help to even manage a tie for the division lead.

Oliver Perez was excellent against the Marlins last Saturday, but this time he was not nearly as sharp. He allowed six runs in three and two-thirds innings on six hits, two walks and three hit batsmen. All three of those occurred in third inning, including two with the bases loaded. Overall, Perez has had a very good season, but he failed to come up big tonight and it cost the Mets the division lead.

The offense did not have a great night either, but at least they improved over Thursday's performance by putting four runs on the board. David Wright, Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green each had two hits while Luis Castillo had three. Carlos Beltran hit his thirty-third home run of the season. The team had its chances to put more runs on the board, though. In the seventh inning, the Mets had two runners on and only one out but failed to score. In the fourth and sixth innings, the Mets had runners on base with the pitcher scheduled to bat. Willie Randolph chose to use his two worst pinch hitters, David Newhan and Jeff Conine, in these situations. Newhan grounded into a double play and Conine flied out to end the inning. Ruben Gotay also failed to get a hit with a runner on later in the game, but Lastings Milledge and Endy Chavez never stepped into the batter's box. Paul Lo Duca left the game in the ninth inning, having apparently injured his left knee earlier in the game, but he did manage to waste one at bat while clearly in pain. I guess part of being a leader is staying in the game when you're clearly not helping in order to look like a tough guy.

All the Mets can do now is win their two remaining games and hope the Phillies don't do the same. Saturday afternoon John Maine will take on Chris Seddon. The Mets scored two runs in five innings against Seddon on Sunday and wound up winning the game. Maine gave up three runs in five innings and got a no decision in that game. This seems like a good matchup for the Mets, but that could have been said about so many games this week that the Mets wound up losing.

Things look bleak, but the Mets franchise has overcome worse. In 1999 the Mets trailed the Wild Card-leading Reds by two games with just three to play. That team came back to tie and then won a one-game playoff in Cincinnati. If the Mets earn a tie this year, there won't be any Al Leiter rested and ready to pitch on Monday. But that doesn't matter now. All the Mets can do now is win tomorrow's game. Anything less is unacceptable.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

It'll all be over soon

The Mets got a well-pitched game for the first time in ages (or five days) but it was not enough as they were shut out by Joel Piñeiro. As a result of this and the Phillies' 6-4 win over the Braves, they are now tied atop the NL East and one game behind the Padres in the NL Wild Card race. The Mets still control their own destiny as all they have to do is win all of their remaining games to win the division. The only problem is that now one of those games might take place on Monday in Philadelphia.

Pedro Martinez was not perfect, but he was very good. A Luis Castillo error allowed a run to score and forced Pedro to throw 25 pitches in the first inning. But he moved past that and got through seven innings on 105 pitches, allowing a total of three runs on seven hits and one walk with eight strikeouts. He allowed two doubles to Albert Pujols, one of which drove in a run, but got the only threat in the Cardinals' lineup to fly out with two on and two out in the seventh. Aaron Heilman and Pedro Feliciano each pitched a scoreless inning in relief.

Unfortunately, the Met bats chose this night to make Joel Piñeiro look like Johan Santana. They managed just three hits and one walk in eight innings against the man who entered the game with a 4.50 ERA and hadn't pitched as many as eight shutout innings in a game since July 26, 2003. David Wright doubled in the first and walked in the fourth, never advancing past second base. Carlos Delgado led off the fifth with a single only to be erased by the inevitable Paul Lo Duca double play. Shawn Green followed this with an infield single, but Pedro couldn't keep the inning alive and the Mets' offense was done for the evening.

This role reversal was astounding and at the same time completely unsurprising. If the Mets (87-72) have done anything consistently this year, it's been finding ways to lose games they should win. They've got three more of those on the schedule with the Marlins (69-90) coming to town having lost three straight to the Mets last weekend. Oliver Perez (15-9, 3.32), John Maine (14-10, 4.07) and Tom Glavine (13-7, 4.14) will take the mound for New York against Byung-Hyun Kim (9-8, 6.11), Chris Seddon (0-1, 6.89) and Dontrelle Willis (10-15, 5.20). It all comes down to this. If the Mets can't wake up against the last-place Marlins, they will be remembered forever as chokers. And rightly so.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

It is not easy to type from the fetal position

I don't know why I even care if the Mets make the playoffs. There's no way they could go anywhere with pitching this astonishingly atrocious. Thirty-two runs allowed in three games to the Washington Nationals in this series. Fifty-seven runs allowed in six games in the last two series. To the Washington Nationals.

Four games left. One game up. Tomorrow it's one game against the Cardinals. Pedro vs. Joel Piñeiro. If Pedro can't save us, no one can.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

So close and yet so far

Nothing comes easy for these Mets. This week they scored fifty runs in seven games and barely managed to escape with four wins. They allowed 47 runs, 19 of which were scored against the bullpen. They led in each of the three losses and nearly blew a fourth on Sunday. But an extra-inning win left them with a 2.5 game lead and a magic number of 5 with seven games to play. All seven are at home and against sub-.500 teams, so missing the playoffs at this point should not be easy. Still, nothing this team might do would shock me.

David Wright continued to play like a player who is more valuable than any other player you might name, hitting .452/.486/.613 this week and driving in Sunday's game-winning run in the eleventh. His continued excellence is all the more important given than neither Jose Reyes nor Carlos Beltran did much with the bat this week and Carlos Delgado only returned from injury on Friday.
Wright did have some help, though, as Moises Alou continued to prove that if he's healthy enough to step on to the field, he will hit. This week he hit .414/.469/.483 and extended his hitting streak to a team-record 27 games. Somewhat more surprisingly, Shawn Green and Paul Lo Duca combined to go 18-for-36 this week with three home runs and four doubles. Green is actually hitting .396/.491/.604 for the month of September, his best month in terms of OPS since June of 2002, which was his last year as a serious power hitter. Lo Duca is also having quite a month at .324/.316/.574, but it was still nice to see Ramon Castro finally return and homer in Saturday's game.

The Mets needed every bit of that offense as only one starting pitcher lasted more than five innings in a game this week and the bullpen was no help. Aside from Oliver Perez's terrific eight-inning, two-run, eight-strikeout, no-walk performance on Saturday, every starter struggled. Brian Lawrence pitched so badly on Monday that he got designated for assignment despite the fact that the AAA season is over and thus there isn't anywhere to assign him to. John Maine gave up eleven runs in 9.1 innings over two starts, though the second one was definitely an improvement over the first. Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez each gave up four runs in five innings, though only three of Pedro's were earned and he did strike out seven. The Marlins' offense is one of the best in the game and I'll still take my chances with Pedro and Glavine against anyone in October, but asking the Mets' bullpen to pitch 26.1 innings this week was a bit much.

Of those nineteen runs they allowed, seventeen were earned, adding up to a 5.84 ERA. Guillermo Mota somehow pitched 4.1 innings without allowing a run, but everyone else had a rough week. Billy Wagner only pitched twice and he gave up a run both times. Aaron Heilman pitched in five of seven games and was doing fine until Sunday when he gave up two runs on two hits and two walks in one inning. Perez's great start on Saturday gave most of the bullpen a rest, but for some reason Heilman had to pitch to preserve a five-run lead in the ninth. That didn't work out too well on Sunday when the Mets wound up using eight different relievers. Pedro Feliciano is supposed to be the third good reliever in this bullpen, but this week he gave up three runs in two innings on four hits and two walks. This pen might not be any good even if it is well-rested, but it sure would be nice if a few starters pitched at least seven innings this week. With Mike Pelfrey and Philip Humber scheduled to start two of the next three games, that may be asking a lot.

The week will start with the Mets (87-68) hosting those pesky Nationals (69-87) for three games. Pelfrey (3-7, 5.24), Glavine (13-6, 3.97) and Humber (0-0, 3.00) will face Matt Chico (5-9, 4.74), Jason Bergmann (5-5, 4.30) and Shawn Hill (4-5, 3.42). The Mets nearly have a second straight division title in their grasp, but as this season has proven time and time again, it ain't over 'til it's over.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Weighing in on 5 ways

In March I provided 5 simple ways the Tigers could be better/worse than 2006. Let's do a quick review.

For better, the 5 simple ways were:

1. Sheffield wears out pitchers. OUTCOME: After a slow April, he did, when healthy.

2. Maroth makes successful return from elbow surgery. OUTCOME: Successful enough to pitch, not enough to stay in Detroit.

3. Granderson blossoms into top leadoff man. OUTCOME: That, and more.

4. Bonderman ascends to ace status. OUTCOME: Maybe we meant to say Verlander?

5. Casey in clubhouse and lineup for full season. OUTCOME: Great presence, sporadic stick.

For worse, the 5 simple ways were:

1. Sheffield wears out welcome. OUTCOME: He did, but only in NY.

2. Rogers, Jones, Pudge, Casey, Mesa, Sheff all start to feel their age. OUTCOME: Mixed bag; Mesa didn't make it out of April and Rogers and Sheff battled injuries.

3. Inge and Monroe don’t come near duplicating 2006. OUTCOME: Monroe was sent out of town and Inge, for the most part, struggled with the bat.

4. Injuries. OUTCOME: Wounded included Kenny Rogers, Joel Zumaya, Fernando Rodney, Gary Sheffield, Nate Robertson, Jeremy Bonderman. Nuff said.

5. Leyland loses magic touch. OUTCOME: Kept banged up team with mediocre bullpen in race until final week.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Star arrival

As DTFT readers know, Curtis Granderson was long touted here as a star in the making. Today, Sports Illustrated arrived with a glowing feature about Granderson and what a great player, and guys, he is. Hooray. There is no one more fun to watch leaving the batter's box than Granderson. I hope it continues.


No matter what happens the last handful of games, the Tigers will have a number of decisions to make entering next year.

Kenny Rogers and Todd Jones are at the end of their deals. I think Rogers should be signed again, as long as the price is right and he can overcome the injury trouble that doomed his season, and probably Detroit's, this year. Jones is a roller-coaster ride, but another year wouldn't be the worst thing. There are very few top-shelf, worry-free relievers out there. And Zumaya isn't ready.

All reports point to Carlos Guillen moving to first base, ending the term of The Mayor. It would be sad to see Casey go simply because he's a great guy and busts it every night, but there's no question Guillen's bat is a huge upgrade. It seems Ramon Santiago would be the SS. He can't hit a lick, but is a very good glove man. He'd better be. Jim Leyland loves defense up the middle.

Brandon Inge just signed a long-term deal, so he would seem safe at 3B -- unless the Tigers might consider moving him to LF? I haven't heard anything about a move, but Inge has played CF, so why not consider it. I hope not, because I love Inge's D at 3B. But it might be easier to sign a 3B than OF. Mike Lowell would be a possibility, although he might demand a big-money contract off this season, and I'd be worried because he's 33.

Some of this also depends on what the future holds for Ryan Raburn and Cameron Maybin. If Maybin is going to be in the Show next season, will it be in LF or CF? I would hope Curtis Granderson's historic season and strong play in CF will merit leaving him alone.

Here's a look at the list of potential free agents I found.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The final nail

That's what Jhonny Peralta drove into the Tigers' coffin last night, I fear. Cleveland feels the magic, much like Detroit did last season. The Indians have won 18 of their last 23.

Detroit's bullpen, in this case Joel Zumaya, failed again. Zumaya was pitching for the third consecutive day for the first time in his short career. These numbers tell a story: The Indians have converted 78% of their save chances (42 of 54) while the Tigs have converted 67% (43 of 64). That's 7 more blown saves than last season. What would 7 games mean to Detroit right about now?

Sure, the Tigs could get white hot and win 9 of 11, but even then they would need a lot of help to reach the postseason. Nonetheless, it's hard to complain when a team keeps you interested into the final two weeks. It's just tough to look back on all those missed chances.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Wake Me Up When September Ends

The Mets' play against the Phillies recently has been nothing short of embarrassing. The bullpen has been awful. The defense has been sloppy. The offense has been shut down by some very ordinary pitchers. Thinking rationally, it is obvious that the Mets are not this bad and the Phillies are not this good. But right now I would rather these two teams didn't meet in the NLCS.

The bullpen, which so spectacularly failed the Mets a couple weeks back in Philadelphia, took the loss in all three of this weekend's games. On Friday and Saturday, the Mets got excellent starting pitching, including six brilliant innings from Pedro Martinez on Saturday. But the bullpen wasted little time in giving those games away and when the Mets overcame a poor start from Oliver Perez on Sunday to put tie the game at five, the bullpen blew that, too. Altogether, Met relievers pitched 8.2 innings in this series, allowing ten runs (eight earned) on six hits, eight walks and two home runs. Last year the Mets' bullpen was among the best in the game. This year many of the names are the same, but the results have been very different. The starting rotation is better this year than last year, perhaps a lot better by the time October rolls around. But if the 'pen continues to perform as they have recently, that may not matter. And if Guillermo Mota makes the postseason roster, someone should probably be fired.

The defense, another apparent strength of this team, completely let them down in this series. Three unearned runs were scored and a total of eight errors committed, including six in Sunday's debacle of a game. Errors by people like Paul Lo Duca, Shawn Green and Jeff Conine aren't surprising. But Jose Reyes's two errors on Sunday just seemed like a continuation of the overall decline in his game. Even if he hadn't been charged with an error in a long time, he hasn't looked nearly as sharp lately as he did early in the season. This is also true offensively, where the line drives and walks of the first half have been replaced by a lot of pop flies. The Mets have been beating teams other than the Phillies pretty often lately, but if that's going to keep up for another month and a half, Reyes needs to get back on track.

Offensively, this series closely resembled the one in Philadelphia with the Mets' bats being held in check by pitchers they should really have pounded. They finally got to Adam Eaton on Sunday, but eleven runs in three games is pretty sad against the Phillies' staff. David Wright did hit his thirtieth home run of the season to become the third 30/30 man in Mets' history, but that was the only real offensive highlight. The lineup just has a black hole in the sixth and seventh spot right now with Shawn Green and Paul Lo Duca back-to-back most days. When Conine plays first, things don't get any better. These spots went one for twenty with three walks in this series. Carlos Delgado's return doesn't appear to be imminent, but all indications are that Ramon Castro is healthy enough to play. Hopefully he'll be back on the roster and in the lineup very soon.

The Mets (83-65) now lead the division by just 3.5 games, but their schedule is about to get a lot easier. They don't have a day off for the rest of the month, but they only have one day on which they play a team other than the Marlins (65-84) or the Nationals (66-83) and that one day will see them take on the Cardinals (70-78). The Mets are 20-9 against these teams so far this year. The leisurely stroll to October begins Monday in Washington. The Mets will send Brian Lawrence (1-2, 6.31), John Maine (14-9, 3.72) and Mike Pelfrey (2-7, 5.23) to the mound against Tim Redding (3-5, 3.45), Joel Hanrahan (4-3, 5.83) and Matt Chico (5-8, 4.61).