Category Archives: Chris Young

What Now, Metropolitans?

Chris Young

Chris Young: Making The Same Face I Did When I Heard The News

“There’s no such thing as too much pitching.”

I wish I could attribute that quote to a particular source, but its been used to death over the last few years. It has the air of truth, for sure, as pitcher injuries seem to pile up like leaves in autumn, or Jose Reyes triples.

Today, we found that Chris Young’s shoulder is injured. Again. It’s a tear of the capsule, much the same as the injury he had in 2010, and much the same as the injury that Johan Santana is recovering from. This news, plus the confirmation by Dr. James Andrews that Jenrry Mejia will need season-ending Tommy John surgery, leaves the Mets without both their top rotation starter this season, as well as their top pitching prospect. Granted, I didn’t expect Young to keep pitching like Greg Maddux, but it still hurts the team a great deal to lose the tall right-hander.

While the hole in the rotation is fixable (Dillon Gee makes a fine stopgap measure), the loss of Mejia eliminates the next best option if someone else gets injured – not to mention a fresh injection of hope that the franchise could’ve used after they drop out of contention entirely in July/August.

Bad news, Sandy Alderson…your cupboard is bare.

You can set the blame on Omar Minaya if you’d like – but in truth, this isn’t something easily chalked up to Minaya’s perceived (true or not – I still need more time to decide) incompetence. Chris Young was a calculated risk going into 2011. Anyone with half a brain knew that he was a walking, talking, Princeton-graduating timebomb waiting to go off, and blow his talented right arm to smithereens. Chris Young has trouble staying healthy. And the Mets basically said, “That’s ok. We’ll take what we can get.”

As for Jenrry Mejia, there’s no accounting for this at all – other than the fact that pitching prospects, and young pitchers of all stripe, get injured all the damn time.

What hurts the Mets the most is that there’s no real organizational depth to mine. The optimist/sadist in me wants the Mets to jump Matt Harvey directly to the majors. Slot him into Young’s spot in the order. Hell, how bad could it be?

…it could be really, really bad, my sane half says.

No, the Mets starting rotation now consists of Mike Pelfrey (average at best), R.A. Dickey (average, but awesome), Jon Niese (maybe slightly above average), Dillon Gee (who really knows?), and Chris Capuano (average, maybe?). And if one of those guys gets injured, there isn’t a single capable, viable major league starter to step in in the minor leagues. Right now, the best bet is Pat Misch, who no one would mistake for anything above a league-replacement starter. And while I’d love to be able to count on Johan Santana coming back and pitching great in June or July, he’s no sure thing.

With two of their seven best starters out for the season (presumably), the Mets need to go out and get another major-league-capable starter, if only for insurance purposes. I’d settle for Dirk Hayhurst* at this point.

Can you imagine a clubhouse with Hayhurst and Dickey in it? Truly an awesome idea.

But more realistically, the Mets will putter along for another month or two, until they’ve determined that there’s no chance at competing for the wild card…or until Chris Capuano or Jon Niese suffer some sort of injury and the team is forced to act.

There are pieces on this Mets team that can bring back some kind of return. Pieces that won’t be around next year, or aren’t worth keeping around indefinitely. Do I think the Mets should blow up the core and start again fresh? Absolutely not. Do I think that there needs to be dramatic, decisive action taken to fix a struggling franchise. Absolutely.

In my next post I’ll lay out what direction I think the team should take – and don’t worry, I’m not one of the guys that thinks the team should trade Jose Reyes for half the Giants and a pile of magic beans. I’m a realist. But there’s no use at all waiting around to see if the team can contend this year. The Met front office has a responsibility to improve the team in the long term, and they should do it right now. They’re a 15-19 team with a negative run differential, and there’s no powerful reason to think they’ll get better. What else should they do?

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Filed under Chris Young, Jenrry Mejia

Mike Pelfrey: The New Long Reliever?

Mike Pelfrey

Mike Pelfrey: Can He Be Successful As A Reliever?

(Note: This piece is cross-posted as a FanPost over at Amazin’ Avenue.)

With 22 games in the bank, the Mets have a problem that I never would’ve expected going into the season: they have too many starters.

Granted, the starting rotation hasn’t been extraordinarily effective, but that’s besides the point. The Mets now have six guys to fit into five spaces, and management needs to make a decision. Naturally, my opinion means little – but I do have a suggestion that may differ from the establishment expectation. First, let’s look at the current rotation candidates, as well as their 2011 FIP and xFIP (denoted as a triple-slash line, in that order, and provided by FanGraphs).

  • Mike Pelfrey – 7.23/4.70/5.57
  • Jonathan Niese – 5.10/3.92/4.06
  • R.A. Dickey – 4.10/4.30/4.47
  • Chris Young – 1.46/2.56/4.36
  • Chris Capuano – 5.95/4.52/3.96
  • Dillon Gee – 2.31/3.39/3.68

Which of these pitchers should be “demoted” to the bullpen, however?

Now, as always, the small sample size rule applies. We can’t assume that these would maintain over the whole season – and Young and Gee especially need to be taken with a grain of salt, given that they’ve only made two starts. But in the cases of Big Pelf, Niese, R.A., and CC-Queens the phrase “we are who we thought they were” applies. The peripheral numbers aren’t that different than what we might’ve expected – Pelf isn’t doing well, Niese and Dickey are doing okay, and Cap is up and down.

Obviously, since Young is just now coming off the DL, and been so effective, he’s got to be in the rotation. The same should be true of Dillon Gee, who has had success in nearly all of his ML appearances up to this point. Not only is R.A. Dickey (strangely enough) probably the most consistent of the bunch, but he’s also the only starter with a long-term contract. And I know there have been rumblings about Jon Niese moving to the bullpen, but his peripheral numbers INSIST that he stay in the rotation. He’s going to be a cost-controlled starter with consistency for the next five years.

So that leaves two options for the bullpen: Chris Capuano and Mike Pelfrey. Cap has pitched out of the bullpen before. Recently. As in earlier this year. He’s had some success there, and since he’s only on a one-year contract, the team doesn’t have to worry about his feelings being hurt.

With all this in mind, I think the Mets could be better served by making their Opening Day starter, Mike Pelfrey, a reliever.

The major worry here is probably how Big Pelf would respond to such a Big Demotion. He’s been a workhorse in the rotation, good for nearly 200 innings for the last few years. But one of Big Pelf’s big issues has been his lack of secondary pitches. He lives and dies by his sinker, but his fastball and splitter are so-so and his off-speed stuff (slider/curve/changeup) has been varied, and ultimately not very effective. Perhaps a move to the bullpen could give Pelf a shot in the arm. A couple of mph on the heater and a focus on just the sinker/splitter could be just what the doctor ordered. If Pelf could become a solid reliever, he’d be worth almost as much in trade as if he were a middling starter. And it’s hard to believe that Pelf will have continued value if he continues to pitch as poorly as he has over the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011.

There are plenty of rational reasons not to move Pelf to the bullpen. If Pelfrey stays a starter and pitches well, his trade value increases quite a bit. Pelf doesn’t have an “out-pitch”, something that managers love to see in their relievers, so that may make the transition messy. Most of all, it would obviously be a massive vote of no-confidence on the most consistent presence in the Met rotation over the last three years. And there were a number of reasons I mentioned earlier why Capuano would fit in the bullpen as well.

But make no mistake, moving Mike Pelfrey to a role in the bullpen, even perhaps a leveraged role, could pay dividends later. If he succeeds in the role, he could find new life as a swingman or leveraged reliever. If not, teams could rationalize away the Mets “misuse” of a starter as a reason why Pelf would succeed in their system. But with the talent currently in the rotation, it may be best for the Mets to move their big right-hander to the pen for what could be his last run with the Amazin’s before he becomes too expensive or too ineffective.

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Filed under Chris Capuano, Chris Young, Dillon Gee, Jonathon Niese, Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey

Doubleheader Day Update

As I write this, the Mets are in the middle of a doubleheader, hosting the Colorado Rockies. The team just lost the first game of the doubleheader, and the team’s record stands at 4-8.

That’s pretty terrible – but it’s also early in the season.

While a small sample size means that we can’t take much seriously in the way of statistics, there are certainly a couple of trends that could be spotted, and items to watch for as the season continues.

#1 – The Rise and Fall of Chris Young. While Young has been extraordinarily effective in his first two starts, I still remain worried about his continued effectiveness through the season. While I would be thrilled if he maintains half of this effectiveness throughout the season (and keeps limiting homers), he won’t. It’s not possible. Even worse, Chris Young is already a bit injured, and is forced to put off his next start in favor of DJ Carrasco. I worry that we’ll start very soon to hear “oh no, why isn’t CY effective any more?” murmurs, or worse, “what body part is injured” screams.

#2 – The 2nd Base Platoon. Terry Collins seems to be moving towards using Daniel Murphy and Brad Emaus in a straight platoon at second base. Honestly? I like it. Neither Emaus or Murphy is going to be a world-beater this year. Give your team the best chance to win, every single night. And while Murph still looks a little like a work-in-progress at 2B, Emaus’s defense has looked fine to me. I think we have a cheap, workable solution here.

#3 – Minor League Arms. While it is still too early to get too excited, Jenrry Mejia and Matt Harvey have started off the season doing excellent work in the minors. While both must improve secondary pitches, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Jenrry can take a spot in the rotation in 2012, and Harvey in 2013. A pipeline of young, effective starters is something that any team, but especially this team, needs to be successful. It’s great to feel that we could have that going forward now.

#4 – The Citi Field Factor. The team would drastically benefit from a left-handed pull power-hitter in the lineup. Watching the difference between David Wright and Scott Hairston banging balls off the left field fence and Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez taking the ball over the right field wall is enlightening. Ike’s got some raw power – but Carlos Beltran is probably out by November at the latest – and Wright and Bay are right-handed hitters. Whether it’s Lucas Duda (hint, it’s not) or someone else, the team would really benefit from a left-handed bopper.

So who would fit? There’s one guy who I’m sure that no one has really considered seriously, who might be a good fit on a short-term contract – provided the Mets could afford him.

Carlos Pena.

No, this isn’t a joke. No, I don’t advocate dropping Ike Davis.

What I advocate is moving Ike to right field, if it means that we can upgrade the roster in a different place. Ike Davis is blessed with a wicked throwing arm, and I was always a little confused why the Mets put him at 1B, rather than RF in the minors. While Ike is a good defensive 1B, he’d probably make a pretty good defensive RF as well. And this off-season, given the dearth of good offensive options available via free agency in the outfield, I don’t see why the Mets couldn’t at least consider moving Ike as an option.

With power hitters like Carlos Pena and Prince Fielder becoming available, and unable to play other positions, it might be worth considering seeing if these players could come in and play at their natural position. It’s just a thought – there’s only so many ways that the team can be upgraded.

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Filed under Brad Emaus, Chris Young, Daniel Murphy, Uncategorized

The NY Mets Projected Rotation

I’m really, really worried about the NY Mets starting rotation. At it’s core, it is a collection of league average pitchers, none of whom are markedly above average, and several of whom are higher-than-normal risks for injury or collapse. As far as I can tell, six pitchers are going to get the brunt of the innings for the Mets this year:

  1. Mike Pelfrey
  2. R.A. Dickey
  3. Jon Niese
  4. Chris Young
  5. Chris Capuano
  6. Dillon Gee

Note: I’m cautiously pessimistic about Johan Santana’s return. Until I see him throw in a rehab start, I’m not pencilling him in for squat. We’ll talk again after the All-Star break.

It just so happens that I’ve listed these guys in how effective I expected them to be, just a few weeks ago. This is before I started to immerse myself in the knowledge available on the internet and in books. When I first heard about the Young / Capuano signings, I thought that they were low-risk, high-reward types of signings. In hindsight, I feel that Capuano might have been good, but Young is a worse bet than I originally thought. If it wasn’t for a lack of organizational depth, I’d actually argue that he shouldn’t be on the roster at all.

At any rate, I’ve looked at a set of projections for each of these starters – projections from FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus. I’d like to provide for you, my reader (maybe there are two of you) some of the “peripheral” numbers projected for Mets starters. So here you go:

Jonathon Niese

  • SO/9:   PECOTA – 6.55     James – 7.69     Marcel – 7.73     Fans – 7.43
  • BB/9:   PECOTA – 3.61     James – 3.24     Marcel – 3.20     Fans – 3.08
  • HR/9:   PECOTA – 0.92     James – 0.87     Marcel – 0.97     Fans – 0.93

R.A. Dickey

  • SO/9:   PECOTA – 4.61     James – 5.34     Marcel – 5.85     Fans – 5.48
  • BB/9:   PECOTA – 3.08     James – 2.97     Marcel – 2.96     Fans – 2.67
  • HR/9:   PECOTA – 0.85     James – 0.99     Marcel – 0.85     Fans – 0.81

Mike Pelfrey

  • SO/9:   PECOTA – 4.84     James – 5.44     Marcel – 5.65     Fans – 5.32
  • BB/9:   PECOTA – 3.42     James – 3.31     Marcel – 2.96     Fans – 2.67
  • HR/9:   PECOTA – 0.63     James – 0.65     Marcel – 0.65     Fans – 0.67

Chris Capuano

  • SO/9:   PECOTA – 6.92     James – 7.26     Marcel – 7.35
  • BB/9:   PECOTA – 2.83     James – 2.70     Marcel – 3.17
  • HR/9:   PECOTA – 1.26     James – 1.13     Marcel – 1.01

Chris Young

  • SO/9:   PECOTA – 7.55     James – 7.55     Marcel – 7.15     Fans – 6.73
  • BB/9:   PECOTA – 4.42     James – 3.54     Marcel – 3.92     Fans – 4.19
  • HR/9:   PECOTA – 1.04     James – 1.29     Marcel – 1.04     Fans – 0.96

Dillon Gee

  • SO/9:   PECOTA – 6.38     James – 8.09     Marcel – 6.78
  • BB/9:   PECOTA – 3.03     James – 2.73     Marcel – 3.39
  • HR/9:   PECOTA – 1.06     James – 1.18     Marcel – 0.82

Whew. That was a lot of stats. Here’s the last set I’ll give you.

National League in 2010:   SO/9: 7.4   BB/9: 3.3   HR/9: 0.9

Major Leagues in 2010:   SO/9: 7.1   BB/9: 3.3   HR/9: 1.0

What were my takeaways from this?

  1. Mike Pelfrey is not a #1 starter. In fact, he’s barely a #3. While he is GREAT at keeping the ball in the park, he is projected to strike out 2.3 hitters every nine innings less than last year’s NL average. I know, it’s not the best baseline, but it’s not even close either. His walk rate is about the league average. Big Pelf is a good pitcher, but NY fans may have completely unrealistic expectations for his season.
  2. Jon Niese is certainly projected to be the best starter in the rotation. To me, this is fascinating. He’s the only one in the rotation who looks to strike out hitters near the league average, and his other peripherals seem to be right at or just under the league average. Look for him to be very slightly above average…unless that curveball gets a lot better.
  3. R.A. Dickey is tough to project, given his single year of success and the zaniness of his knuckler…but these projections show him to walk the fewest batters in the rotation. With the knuckleball. That’s fascinating. They also project him to backslide from last year – no real surprise there.
  4. Chris Capuano looks like a steal, if he can remain healthy and effective. A left-handed, league-average starter for a little over a million dollars? I’ll take it. If only he could throw 200 innings this year – I expect something closer to 140.
  5. Oh man, does Chris Young’s walk rate look terrible or what? I’m going to be really worried every time he takes the bump.
  6. Dillon Gee’s projections make me much less nervous about him starting games for us this year. Before, I kind of viewed him as a swingman-type, even on this pitching-poor team, but every projection system finds a little to like about him. The trick will be striking out major league hitters. I guess that’s true for every starter, though.

Finally, and most importantly, we should NOT expect the same pitching performance we got out of the 2010 Mets this year. That team had a great ERA, this team doesn’t look to do the same. In order to outperform league-average (at best, even) the team will need more than a little luck, and some very solid defense. Here’s to hoping the team is up to that challenge.

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Filed under Chris Young, Dillon Gee, Jonathon Niese, Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey