Results tagged ‘ J.J. Putz ’

2010 Forecasts: AL Central

Having picked Tampa Bay to upend the Yankees in the East, we move to the AL Central.

I’m less
confident about assessing CHICAGO than I am about any other team in the majors.
Here is a team with the terrific burgeoning talent of Gordon Beckham and Carlos
Quentin – yet its success will depend much more on virtual castoffs like Andruw
Jones, Juan Pierre, Alex Rios, and Mark Teahen. Here, if Jake Peavy rebounds,
is a four-man rotation as good as any in the game, but a bullpen where only one
guy (Matt Thornton)
does not
start
the season as a question mark (how could you possibly get as many ex-studs in
one place as Kenny Williams has in Scott Linebrink, J.J. Putz, and
Tony Pena?). The White Sox could
easily win the division, but I would hesitate to bet on it.

Everybody
scratches their head at the quick demise in CLEVELAND – except I appear to be
the only one who’s doing the scratching in surprise that everybody else is so
confused. What do you suppose happens
to a team that is just one game from going to the World
Series, and then fire-sales Cy Young Award winners in consecutive season – and also
gets rid of their
catcher (who just happens to be the second-best offensive weapon at his
position in the game)? While the Indians may see some pay-off from these deals
this year (LaPorta at first, Masterson pitching, and, at least for the moment,
Marson catching), there is no reason to assume that the Indians have simply
corrected a temporary two-year blip. It is plausible that returns to form from
Fausto Carmona, Grady Sizemore, and Travis Hafner could propel this team to the
flag, but it is just as plausible that the bullpen will again be its undoing.
Remember, this is a team that has not had a reliable closer since Joe Borowski
in ’07 (and this requires you to believe that Joe Borowski was a reliable
closer). There is the one wildest of wild cards: the chance that the Kerry Wood
injury is the ultimate blessing in disguise – that it shelves Wood and his
not-so-awe-inspiring 20 saves of a year ago and forces Chris Perez to live up
to his talent. Of course as Winston Churchill answered that cliché 65 years ago,
“if it is a blessing in disguise, it’s very effectively
disguised.”

What if
Dontrelle Willis really is back? What if Miguel Cabrera’s career flashed before
his eyes over the winter? What if Scott Sizemore and Austin Jackson are actual
major leaguers? If Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski come up trumps with those
four names, DETROIT should walk away with the division, because the rotation
seems outstanding, and the Tigers may have created its best bullpen (mostly by
default, and even though they’re about to find out what the Yankees did late
last year: Phil Coke can’t really get good lefties out). There are reasons to
suspect Johnny Damon will not be the kind of all-purpose threat he’d developed
into in the Bronx; 17 of his 24 homers in 2009 were hit at Yankee Stadium. It’s
possible Ryan Raburn or Wilkin Ramirez might have to be rushed into the
line-up. Then again it’s possible Alex Avila may force himself into it, behind
the plate.

When the
A’s still played there KANSAS CITY was the club on whom the Yankees palmed off
the guys they didn’t want any more. Funny that this year’s Royals start Chris
Getz and Scott Podsednik, and have Josh Fields on the
bench and Brian Anderson in the convert-to-pitching Skinner Box. The excuse that the Royals are the quintessential victim of the small market/big
market divide is nonsense: according to the Forbes figure filberts, the Royals
profit about ten million a year, gain at least thirty million more from revenue
sharing, and the franchise is worth three times what David Glass paid for it a
decade ago. So the free agents brought in to surround the American League’s
best starter, second or third best closer, fifth or sixth best first baseman,
and third or fourth best DH – are Rick Ankiel and Jason Kendall? It’s pitiable:
with a little investment from management the Royals could contend in this
division.

Manager
Ron Gardenhire of MINNESOTA knows 447 times more about baseball than I do. But
there is one fact that has been irrefutable since Tony LaRussa began to use
relievers on schedule, rather than when needed: Bullpen By Committee Does Not
Work. Gardy steered out of the skid just in time last night, designating Jon Rauch as his closer after weeks of saying he’d try the committee route. 
Do not be fooled by
reminiscences of the “Nasty Boys” – the 1990 Reds had 50 saves, 31 by Randy
Myers, 11 by Rob Dibble, 4 by Rick Mahler, 2 by Tim Layana, and 2 by Norm
Charlton. The Reds would trade Myers within a year and Charlton within two.
Minnesota’s committee could have been Jeff Reardon, Rick Aguilera, Eddie Guardado, and
Al Worthington, and it still wouldn’t have worked. There are reasons to fear this team might not be competitive -
the tremendous home field advantage that was the Metrodome is gone (although
depending on how the wind current works – see “Yankee Stadium, 2009″ – it could
turn Joe Mauer into a 50-homer man). The new double-play combo is also symbolic
of some serious problems. It is made up of two very nice men named J.J. Hardy
(who was run out of Milwaukee even before the ascent of Alcides Escobar), and
Orlando Hudson (who has been run out of Arizona and Los Angeles and who somehow
lost his job to Ronnie Belliard in the middle of the pennant race last
year).
It is also
the direct result of what must be viewed as two disastrous trades (Jason
Bartlett and Matt Garza to Tampa for Delmon Young, and Johan Santana to the
Mets for Carlos Gomez – now swapped for Hardy – and nothing of even impending
value). Nothing would please me more than to see the Team They Tried To
Contract rear up and fulfill its potential. I don’t think they have the front
office personnel to pull it off.

PREDICTIONS:
I like Detroit to get more lemons out of the slot machine of chance that is
this division, than I do Chicago. Thus, the Tigers, close, over the White Sox.
Minnesota and Cleveland will spar for third place and whether the Twins get it
will largely depend on how Target Field “plays” as a new home. Kansas City is
last again, which offends me, because there is as little excuse for this
perpetual state of suspended animation as there would be in Cincinnati or
Milwaukee or maybe even Denver and Tampa.

 

F-Rod?

Lost in the adventures of Luis Castillo at Yankee Stadium last Friday was the reality that even if Castillo had made a game-ending catch, Francisco Rodriguez would have begun tonight’s Mets game in Baltimore having recorded consecutive saves in which he had allowed two base runners and just escaped with his life.

Tonight he did not escape, and so K-Rod has, in four appearances, one Save, one other clean 9th, two combination Blown Saves/Losses, and one pre-game argument with a guy 35 pounds heavier than him. This is no more evidence that he’s hurt or in pitching distress, than the fact that somebody finally roughed up Trevor Hoffman suggests that Hoffman is in trouble.
But in the superheated atmosphere of New York, both questions will be raised about Frankie, especially in the context of the Mets’ bullpen troubles, which have endured for a decade and proved fatal the last two seasons. The more important issue, of course, is what exactly would the Mets do if there really was something wrong with Rodriguez?  J.J. Putz is out, perhaps until September. Bobby Parnell is a rookie who has been more than challenged by merely the 8th Inning role. Sean Green has been strong for a month, and in ten save opportunities over four big league seasons, he has converted only one of them, and Pedro Feliciano is only four-for-twelve.
Minor league resources? The “Closer Of The Future,” Eddie Kunz, is working set-up at Buffalo, with major league journeyman Elmer Dessens finishing the games.
There are stories that Billy Wagner has found the Lourdes of baseball and expects to be pitching in big league games in 30 days. What kind of story would it be if the Mets really needed him?

Mets Sick, Hurt

The New York Mets who aren’t hurt are sick – a flu that raced through the team and the visiting Marlins. And the ones who aren’t sick might have been made so by the continuing struggles of J.J. Putz.

Angel Pagan started hopping after Hanley Ramirez’s fourth-inning double, and quickly exited with what the Mets cheerfully described as “right groin discomfort” (perhaps a subject for a different blog). He was declared “day to day.”
Of course he was. He was a Met position player who attempted to use two limbs at the same time. 
Pagan is only on the roster because of Carlos Delgado’s injury, and was only in the lineup because of Carlos Beltran’s stomach flu. This is his third notable injury in two years in a New York uniform, quite an accomplishment for a guy who was only playing in his 43rd game over that span. Jeremy Reed replaced Pagan, and Fernando Tatis remained available. Ron Swoboda was also in the house at Citifield if it came to that.
John Maine exited after a brief bit of stunting in the top of the 7th. Like Beltran, and Saturday’s Florida starter Josh Johnson, he began to get the icks in the bottom of the 6th, but not quickly enough for the Mets to get up the bullpen. So Maine sucked it up and came out to  the mound in the 7th, tied his shoe, and signaled to the dugout. That gave Jerry Manuel the right to bring Pedro Feliciano in with an infinite number of warmups.
He might’ve tried that with Putz, whose season looks acceptable on paper, but whose stats (1-3, 3.81 ERA, 2 Saves, 10 Holds) hide a worried fear. The Met hierarchy continues to wonder if he isn’t hurt. Entering with a three-zip lead. A walk, two hits, and the inevitable Ramirez first-pitch RBI single off Bobby Parnell, and Putz had given back two-thirds of the lead. The action on his breaking pitches seems to be less than last year before his elbow problems, and his strikeout to walk ratio is now a scary 19:18 (it was 104:13 in 2006; 356:122 lifetime).
Putz exited to booing and an unspoken question that seems to be racing towards Met management: when will they have to start breaking in Parnell as, at minimum, Putz’s co-equal as a bridge to Francisco Rodriguez?
On the other hand, 20-year old Fernando Martinez is beginning to make converts. His 8th inning RBI double opened up a 1-0 game, and while his manager said pre-game that he could not currently call him a “good” defensive outfielder, another part of Manuel’s response – about the team having to bear with him as he grows – suggested Martinez remains in position to claim the rightfield job even when Ryan Church returns.
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