Monday, March 14, 2011

Predicting the Mets: Starting Pitchers

Update 3/22 - Added SP spring training statistics at the end of the post.

So, maybe the easiest group of Mets to predict, at least when it comes to who's going to be on the opening day roster, is the starting pitchers. With Johan Santana sidelined for much if not most of the year (if he returns at all), the burden falls to Mike Pelfrey to be the ace of the staff. Pelfrey showed flashes of dominance last year, but what remains to be seen is whether or not he can maintain the level of excellence necessary to be a number one starter throughout the whole year. That being said, if the Mets can get another year like last year's 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA, they'd be happy, especially if Big Pelf can improve his strikeout to walk ratio, and work with fewer men on base.

The two and three spots in the rotation will be filled by R.A. Dickey and Jon Niese. Dickey came into camp last year as an NRI just trying to resurrect his career, and then joined the Mets in mid-May after dominating Buffalo. Dickey proceeded to use his two-speed knuckleball inventory to put up surprising numbers, finishing at 11-9 with a 2.84 ERA and 104 K compared to only 42 walks. Those numbers would project very nicely over a full season, so if he can replicate last years success (and get some more run support to keep down the losses), the Mets would be thrilled. Last year, Niese finally showed some of the success that had been projected for him over the past 2-3 years. The 24-year old Niese ended up 9-10 with a 4.20 ERA and 62 BB/148 K in 173.2 innings. However, those numbers went down with a late season slide that saw him go 1-5 in his last 7 starts, and admittedly hit a wall. Before that slide, Niese was 8-5 with a 3.33 ERA. If he can get to that level again, and continue it for a full season, the Mets would be entirely pleased.

The fourth and fifth spots will likely be filled by Chris Young and Chris Capuano. The 6'10" Princeton grad Young is emblematic of the approach that new GM Sandy Alderson took this offseason to try to improve the team without greatly adding to the payroll. Young is coming off of shoulder surgery, and has only made 36 starts over the past three years. He'll try to match the success he had from 2005-2007, when he averaged 11-7, 3.60 ERA, and 156 K/62 BB over that period. However, he remains a question mark. Also a question mark is Capuano. Capuano had his best year in 2005, when he went 18-12 with a 3.99 ERA and 176 K. However, since 2007, Capuano has had Tommy John surgery, and didn't pitch in the majors in 2008 or 2009. If Capuano's going to be successful, he'll have to maintain his consistency, and take advantage of the dimensions of Citi Field.

The next two options are Dillon Gee and Pat Misch. Gee is still in the running for the fifth starter position, although I imagine he'll really have to outshine Capuano in the last two weeks of spring training to get the spot (or have an injury occur). Gee shined in a September call-up last year, going 2-2 with a 2.18 ERA in 5 starts, although he had only 17 K to 15 walks in 33 innings. The last set of numbers more closely matches his 13-8, 4.96 ERA performance in Buffalo, although he had 165 K in 161.1 innings with only 46 walks. Gee will probably start the season with Buffalo, and remain in waiting should another starter suffer or get injured. Misch also split time between Buffalo and New York. Misch shined in Buffalo, going 11-4 with a 3.23 ERA in 23 starts, and a 24 BB/99 K split. He started in 6 of his 12 appearances for the Mets, and ended at 0-4/3.82/37.2 IP/4 BB/23 K. These numbers reveal his true nature - a control pitcher who will give you solid innings, but not wow. He may likely end up as a long reliever in the bullpen to start the season.

The big prospect for the Mets is Jenrry Mejia. He has an outside chance at making the team, although it's a very little chance. I'll profile him once I look closer at the team's prospects.

Mets Spring Training Statistics:
Mike Pelfrey - 0-2, 6.38, 5 G (5 GS), 18.1 IP, 28 H, 18 R (13 ER), 1 HR, 2 BB, 5 K
R.A. Dickey - 0-2, 5.25, 3 G (3 GS), 12,0 IP, 13 H, 8 R (7 ER), 4 BB, 8 K
Jon Niese - 2-1, 4.43, 5 G (5 GS), 20.1 IP, 21 H, 11 R (10 ER), 1 HR, 1 HBP, 5 BB, 20 K
Chris Young - 0-0, 1.33, 5 G (5 GS), 20.1 IP, 15 H, 4 R (3 ER), 2 HR, 1 HBP, 3 BB, 9 K
Chris Capuano - 1-0, 1.69, 3 G (2 GS), 10.2 IP, 9 H, 2 R (2 ER), 2 HR, 2 BB, 6 K
Dillon Gee - 0-0, 5.40, 2 G (1 GS), 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R (3 ER), 1 HR, 1 BB, 3 K
Jenrry Mejia - 0-0, 0.00, 2 G (1 GS), 4.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 HBP, 2 BB, 3 K

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