Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mets 2008 Preview: Starting Pitchers

Today I’ll be previewing starting pitchers because, after the infielders, I am most sure about the composition of the rotation.

Johan Santana
Chinese Zodiac: Sheep
Career ERA: 3.22
The arrival of the second best athlete traded from a Minnesota team in the last ten months catapulted the Mets from a shaky team with questions at several positions, into favorites to compete, not only in the NL East, but also for the world championship. I spent a lot of time thinking about this and decided that you probably are better off being a basketball team with Kevin Garnett than a baseball team with Santana. The logic being that in MLB there are perhaps two or three pitchers (Beckett, C.C. Sabathia) that give you more or less what you get from Santana, where as the NBA has one other player, Tim Duncan, who gives Garnett’s combination of lock-down interior defense and solid scoring near the basket; and Duncan has been proving for years that if you surround one of these guys with the right combination of jump shooters and flopping foreign role players, you can compete for the championship until you run out of fingers for rings. Still, in much the way that a KG or a Tim Duncan can improve their team on offense and defense by controlling the paint and taking pressure of their teammates, the presence of a true ace allows for a better rested bullpen, and takes pressure off both the back of the rotation and the lineup. Fortunately, aside from the loss of KG and Johan, everything else about living in Minnesota is completely awesome.

Pedro Martinez
Chinese Zodiac: Pig
Career ERA: 2.80
How will Pedro’s surgically repaired shoulder hold up? How will he adjust to being the number two pitcher on the team? How many jack-ass articles will be written in The Post about Pedro being too greedy and egotistical to come back to the Mets in ’09? Where will Pedro pitch in ’09? And how will he cope with the feelings of remorse brought on by PETA’s letter of protest? Honestly, the outlook on all of these things is good, and the reports from camp are that Pedro is almost enjoying his secondary status. And, in much the way that Santana’s dominance takes pressure of the rest of the Mets on the field, Pedro’s eccentricity and charisma should take pressure off of them in the media. PEDRO FACT: Pedro drives a black Austin-Martin with his number “45” engraved on the hubcaps.

Oliver Perez
Chinese Zodiac: Rooster
Career ERA: 4.43
Sam’s Mets Blog favorite Oliver Perez continues on his quest for some kind of consistency in ‘08. Why can’t he just be good all the time, dammit? The neat thing about Perez is that he still holds out the possibility of transforming into an ace, although the chances of this happening seem more remote every year. I suspect the same oscillation between brilliant starts and disasters. In other news, Ollie won his salary arbitration with the club, which got him a raise of something like $ 4 million. I would really like to know how he spent the night after the arbitration hearing; I hope it involved drinking tequila with Rick Peterson.

John Maine
Chinese Zodiac: Rooster
Career ERA: 4.19
At some point during spring training, one of the Mets Notes, on Mets.com, was a bunch of bullshit about John Maine going on line for the first time in his life. My assumption is that a reporter saw Maine on a computer and Maine claimed he had never used one before as a joke-- either that, or it was a joke on the part of the reporter. With other ballplayers I might be more inclined to believe this, but Maine is presented as almost an intellectual by baseball standards, doing crossword puzzles and Soduku and occasionally speaking in full sentences. Apparently Maine and Perez have been playing pranks on each other in spring training, and I wonder if this is just fun and games or the seeds of real animosity between the two pitchers vying for #3 status.

The Old Duque (Rooster, or possibly Snake) vs. Big Pelf (Pig)debate took a turn for the terrible as both of them got lit up by the Cardinals on Sunday. Omar Minaya has apparently mentioned Nelson Figueroa (Tiger)and John Niese (Tiger) as possible alternatives. Although, El Duque and Pelfery will split another start before the season begins, I would have to think that any alternative is looking very good. As Dorothy Parker said, “When given a choice of bottom of the rotation starters, I always take the one I haven’t tried before.” Personally, I’m pulling for N-Fig.

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