Darling wrong about Takahashi role

Posted on June 17, 2010 by

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I enjoy listening to Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez provide color commentary on Mets games. It is obvious they are both intelligent and passionate about the game, even if Keith enjoys a nap every now and then. They want to see the game played right by both teams and they have no problem criticizing the Mets when they play bad or to praise the opponent when it plays good.

That is why it was so disappointing to me to hear Darling say that Hisanori Takahashi would be more valuable to the Mets as a long reliever. The only reason Takahashi was so valuable as a reliever is because the starters were incapable of pitching deep into games, specifically John Maine and Oliver Perez.

For the past few years, I have been supporting Maine and Perez while everyone around me has been questioning my sanity. But I am done. Rick Peterson is not walking through that door and it is not 2007 anymore. The cold, hard reality is that Maine and Perez were the problems, not the solutions.

Demoting Takahashi so that Maine can go into the rotation because Takahashi is a good long reliever is, well let me say this gently, crazy. It is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. The first thing you want to do is assemble good starting pitchers, not good long relievers.

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It is no coincidence that the Mets have started to play better and that Jerry Manuel’s bullpen management has been less of an issue once the starters started pitching seven innings a game rather than five. Maine made his last start on May 20th. Since that point, with both Maine and Perez no longer blowing up the bullpen, the Mets are 17-6 (.739).

Here are the innings by the starters in that stretch, with the team result following:

5/21 – 6.0 IP 0 ER (Takahashi) – L
5/22 – 6.0 IP 1 ER (Pelfrey) – W
5/23 – 7.2 IP 1 ER (Santana) – W
5/25 – 6.0 IP 0 ER (Dickey) – W
5/26 – 6.0 IP 0 ER (Takahashi) – W
5/27 – 7.0 IP 0 ER (Pelfrey) – W
5/28 – 8.0 IP 0 ER (Santana) – L
5/29 – 2.0 IP 5 ER (Nieve) – L
5/30 – 7.0 IP 4 ER (Dickey) – W
5/31 – 4.0 IP 6 ER (Takahashi) – L
6/1 – 8.0 IP 1 ER (Pelfrey) – W
6/2 – 7.0 IP 0 ER (Santana) – L
6/4 – 6.1 IP 3 ER (Dickey) – W
6/5 – 7.0 IP 1 ER (Niese) – W
6/6 – 5.1 IP 5 ER (Takahashi) – W
6/8 – 9.0 IP 1 ER (Pelfrey) – W
6/10 – 6.2 IP 4 ER (Santana) – L
6/10 – 9.0 IP 0 ER (Niese) – W
6/11 – 7.0 IP 1 ER (Dickey) – W
6/12 – 7.0 IP 1 ER (Takahashi) – W
6/13 – 6.0 IP 3 ER (Pelfrey) – W
6/15 – 7.0 IP 4 ER (Santana) – W
6/16 – 7.0 IP 3 ER (Niese) – W

Only twice in this 23-game stretch did the SP fail to pitch into the sixth inning and one of those came by Fernando Nieve, who does not figure to get another start in the majors this year. Contrast that to Maine, who failed to pitch into the sixth inning in six of his nine starts. Perez failed to make the sixth in four of his seven starts.

As a team, the Mets have a 152 IP from their starters in their last 23 games, an average of 6.2 innings per game. The starter’s ERA in that span is 2.61 with 44 ER allowed. For the season Maine has a 6.13 ERA while Perez checks in with a 6.28 mark

Over the last 23 games, here are the numbers for the Mets’ starters, with their record in parentheses:

Takahashi – 28.1 IP, 12 ER, 3.81 ERA (2-1)
Pelfrey – 36.0 IP, 6 ER, 1.50 ERA (4-0)
Santana – 36.1 IP, 9 ER, 2.23 ERA (2-1)
Dickey – 26.1 IP, 8 ER, 2.73 ERA (4-0)
Niese – 23.0 IP, 4 ER, 1.57 ERA (3-0)

This stretch includes back-to-back bad performances by Takahashi but in his last outing the Japanese lefty rebounded with a fine effort. I think he should still be semi-auditioning for a permanent role in the rotation but by no means should he be yanked from the role just because Maine has completed his rehab assignment.

The bottom line is that the Mets’ rotation is not broke, so don’t fix it. Takahashi and Dickey have earned some leeway and should not be yanked at the first sight of trouble, especially for guys who have proven time and time again that they are not ready to be successful as starting pitchers.

Meanwhile, Maine and Perez have earned a different kind of rope.

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Posted in: Perspectives