Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Unreasonable Speculation:

So, if the Mets make the post-season, and if everyone is healthy, the Mets will face a minor dilemma: they will have five starting pitchers when they will only use a four man rotation. So, of the five, Martinez, Glavine, El Duque Maine and Perez, one of them needs to be moved to the bullpen—any Met-ologist will point out that this was done to Sid Fernandez on the 1986 Championship Team. It is unthinkable, for reasons of ego and star power, that Glavine or Martinez would pitch in relief. In the most recent Mets Mailbag, someone asks if El Duque’s nearly legendary relief outing for the White Sox in the 2005 ALDS would make him a leading candidate for the bullpen assignment; the mailbag’s emphatic answer was no, which was kind of too bad since the first draft of this post was mainly about how the Mets should not let the 2005 ALDS tempt them into using El Duque in relief.(the White Sox put him in the ‘pen because he had an awful end of the season and they thought they had better options for starters, which is not the case of 2007 Mets) This narrows the field down to Maine and Perez.

For a lay person the question of weather Maine or Perez should work in relief is fascinating, since there is no real information of any sort to go on. In terms of success rate, they are very evenly matched: Maine’s performances tend to stick closer to some sort of mean, whereas Perez’ vary more sharply and he is more prone to both excellence and miserable failure. They have similar, brief, histories in the post season: both were very adequate in the games that they pitched for the Mets last year.

Eeven less concrete than their numbers, is the fan’s perception of a difference between the two in temperament, particularly in what is perceived as their mental/emotional state when they end up in trouble. Maine, apparently, is prone to lapses of concentration; he occasionally misplaces his pitches and gets ‘hurt by the longball.’ Perez, on the other hand, is liable to ‘get rattled’ when things don’t go his way: when balls get misplayed in the outfield or when he disagrees with the umpire about balls and strikes. Once one of these minor setbacks occurs, Perez is prone to losing his composure, and his command, and issuing walks until his composure returns or he gets taken out of the game. The generalization is that Maine hurts himself by not reacting enough to the game, the opposite of Perez, who makes trouble for himself by being too emotionally involved.

Of course, the Mets Mailbag precedes its response with the customary hedge, saying that it is far too early too discuss these things and that no one knows who will be healthy and what the situation will be if and when the time comes to make these decisions, but then says this: “I wouldn't use Perez in relief. He's too erratic for the role,” and goes on to speculate that Maine might be a serviceable short reliever, based largely on his dominance early in games—this is in fact a very good point, and Maine’s first trips through the lineup have been extremely dominant all season, and there is some kind of logic to thinking that he could repeat this dominance in relief outings.

In my expert opinion, though, the South Paw from South of the Border might have a little bit of a better psychological make-up for a relief pitcher. It is frequently said of Perez that he “wants the ball” in big games, that he wants to be out on the mound when the season is on the line. He is an adrenaline pitcher, and a component of his wildness is a taste for danger; there is something about him that reminds one of Billy Wagner, who is capable of protecting a lead of exactly 1.5 runs. The theory about Perez, that his emotional involvement in the game leads him to fall apart, works both ways: it has been known to lead him to excellence as well. The Met’s best bet might very well be to run him out in relief and hope for the best.

UPDATE: Mets fans are dopes.

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