Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Offseason Part 3 - The Bullpen

Here is part 3 of my offseason recommendations series. Next up is the bullpen.

Projected starting position players, prior to trades/signings:
1. (closer) - ????
2. Pedro Feliciano
3. Scott Schoeneweis
4. Joe Smith
5. Brian Stokes
6. Bobby Parnell/Eddie Kunz
7. ????

The first thing that will jump off the page for most fans is my inclusion of Scott Schoeneweis in next year’s plans. Please hear me out. Scott is tremendously useful, as long as he is not left in to face right-handed batters. Look at Scott’s career and 2008 numbers vs. right-handed and left-handed batters:

Career, vs. RHB: .294/.367/.469
Career, vs. LHB: .224/.299/.295

2008, vs. RHB: .333/.423/.532
2008, vs. LHB: .178/.243/.277

My plan entails cutting ties with Duaner Sanchez and Aaron Heilman. Duaner lost 3+ mph on his fastball in 2008 from 2006. His HR/9 doubled, and his LD% increased from 13.2 to 25.4. Heilman was a very good relief pitcher from 2005-2007, despite a preference to be a starter. However, his 2008 was nothing short of disastrous (5.45 BB/9, 1.18 HR/9, 1.59(!) WHIP). Met fans’ ill-will toward Aaron is just too much to overcome, and I don’t think bringing him back as reliever or starter is wise. It’s time for a change of scenery. Unfortunately, the Mets will be selling low on a guy with talent. I think Bobby Parnell or Eddie Kunz should occupy a bullpen spot, as the Mets need to develop their young power arms. Parnell has been a starter most of his college and minor league career, but I envision him coming out of the ‘pen with his 95+ mph fastball. He and Stokes have the best arms on the team. Free agent options, with Type A or Type B projection:

Jeremy Affeldt, LHP (Type B): Affeldt was a promising young starter for the Royals a few years back, but kind of fell apart before converting to reliever. His peripheral stats are solid all around, though he struggled giving up the longball in 2008. However, 7 of the 9 homers he surrendered were at the Great American Smallpark in Cincinnati, so take that with a grain of salt. Additionally, his BABIP in 2008 was a very high .329, meaning he was probably unlucky this season. He is equally effective vs. lefties and righties.

Joe Beimel, LHP (Type B): I’m a fan of Beimel, maybe because I’ve seen him pitch well vs. the Mets throughout his career (13.1 IP, 2.02 ERA). He knows how to keep the ball in the ballpark (0.39 HR/9 from 2006-2008), and is a proven commodity.

Juan Cruz, RHP (Type A): Cruz’s rep as a high strikeout, high walk guy is justified – he’s averaged 9.35 K/9 and 4.65 BB/9 throughout his career. His 2006-2008 seasons were strong, as he posted WHIP’s of 1.34, 1.26, and 1.26 respectively. However, power pitchers who walk a lot of guys historically have not learned how to master the strike zone late in their careers.

Brian Fuentes, LHP (Type A): The lefty closer with a funky delivery, Fuentes appears ready to leave Colorado for greener pastures. To quote Fuentes, “I also understand the business aspect of it. If you only have $100 to spend on groceries, you can't go out and spend $200. That's just the way it is.” Sounds like the Rockies only have $100 to spend. He has a career 83% save percentage, striking out 10.24 per 9 innings. 2008 was his best season yet, and coincidentally it was also his contract year. He would likely command a 3-year, $30-$36 million deal.

Darren Oliver, LHP (Type A): Oliver has enjoyed a career renaissance as a reliever since his strong 2006 with the Mets. He is useful in multiple inning stints, as is effective against both lefties and righties. 2008 was his best relief season yet (2.88 ERA, 1.15 WHIP). I wish the Mets didn’t let him bolt after ’06, though I think they were a little weary of his age. He’ll be 38 next season.

Francisco Rodriguez, RHP (Type A): In late August, I would’ve shot down the idea of signing “K-Rod” this offseason. However, I was forced to atleast consider it after Collapse, Part Deux. Apparently, he wants something like $75 million for 5 years. He is a “maximum effort” pitcher, and looks like he’ll tear a muscle every pitch he throws. His fastball averaged 95 mph in 2006, but was at 92 mph in 2008. He still strikes out a ton of guys, but his K/BB, BAA, and WHIP were the worst of his career in 2008. K-Rod doesn’t let up homeruns at a high rate, and will be just 27 years old next season.

Recommendations:
(note: In a thoughtful column, SNY’s Ted Berg suggests trying to trade for J.J. Putz of the Seattle Mariners. Putz’s situation is similar to Brad Lidge’s after 2007. He had a poor year after a few dominating ones. He throws in the mid to upper 90’s, and is a strikeout pitcher. The rebuilding Mariners may be looking to trade him. I would be in favor of this, if feasible. Assuming that trade doesn’t happen, here are my bullpen recommendations.)

The market for middle relief is a volatile one, and is often a crapshoot from year to year. That being said, the Mets simply cannot stand pat, and must try to improve the ‘pen this offseason. I do not endorse pursuing Francisco Rodriguez, especially for the ridiculous 5-year, $75 million contract he supposedly wants. I feel the negatives outweigh the positives, and only Mariano Rivera is worth that kind of commitment. Instead I like the older, cheaper (and better?) Brian Fuentes. His 2008 season was superior to K-Rod’s in my opinion. Take a look:

K-Rod: 2.24 ERA, 1.29 WHIP,10.14 K/9, 2.26 K/BB, 0.53 HR/9, 90% saves
Fuentes: 2.73 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 11.78 K/9, 3.73 K/BB, 0.43 HR/9, 88% saves

It’s close, and I realize that looking at just 1 season isn’t fair, but it’s the most recent set of stats we have to look at. Additionally, I would make a run at Jeremy Affeldt, free agent from the Reds. He’ll be just 29 at the start of next season, and is coming off of two strong years in the ‘pen. His fastball touches the mid-90’s, meaning the Mets could potentially feature 4 guys who can hit 95 mph without sacrificing too much command of the strike zone (Affeldt, Fuentes, Stokes, Parnell - although Parnell has some control issues). He will not break the bank, and I think a 3 year deal at $3-4 million per is reasonable.

Projected 2009 bullpen, if I had it my way:
1. Brian Fuentes (closer)
2. Jeremy Affeldt
3. Pedro Feliciano
4. Bobby Parnell/Eddie Kunz
5. Scott Schoeneweis
6. Joe Smith
7. Brian Stokes

Feel free to agree or disagree with any of this. Check back tomorrow for a look at what the Mets 25 man roster would look like, and total estimated payroll, based on my recommendations.

3 comments:

Mike Newman said...

good analysis on Fuentes. 3/30 versus 5/75. I think it's an easy decision.

Mike Newman said...

Also,

Isn't Affeldt lefty? Most teams only have 2 lefties in the pen.

12 relievers? Staffs are usually 11 guys. Where would you make a cut?

Mets Tailgate said...

Mike,

Responding to point #1: I thought about the potential overload of lefties in the pen. However, the Mets had 3 during most of 2008, and Affeldt is not a specialist at all:

career vs. RH: .275/.348/.414
career vs. LH: .250/.335/.410

It was close between Affeldt and Cruz. If Feliciano or Schoeneweis falters horribly, I figure Kunz or Parnell (whoever is in AAA) could step up.

Responding to point #2: The Mets opening day roster in 2008 had 12 pitchers, and I believe this isn't too out of the ordinary. In the NL East, only the Phillies carried 11 pitchers on opening day. In 2006, 11 teams carried 11 pitchers. It would take some time to find 2008's figures.