Friday, October 13, 2006

Mets Know How to Spell Relief

by Rob Hyman

In the two weeks between the Mets clinching the division and the start of the NLDS, there was more bad news than good:
• After clinching, the team proceeded to lose seven of its next nine games
• Pedro was deemed unavailable for the post season
• The day before the NLDS, El Duque was also rendered unavailable

People were starting to write them off. Clearly those people had not been watching the Mets all season. The Mets did not get to the post season because of Pedro and El Duque. Unquestionably these two have had their fair share of post season successes and having them available would have been great. But those successes were then, this is now.

This season, the Mets finished 32 games over .500. The team’s record in games started by either of these two was a mediocre 22-21 (.512 winning percentage). In games not started by them, the Mets were 75-44 (.630 WP).

More importantly, in games started by the pitchers likely to show up in the starting rotation the rest of the way, the team is 58-26 (.690 WP):
Tom Glavine: 24-8
Steve Traschel: 20-10
John Maine: 10-5
Oliver Perez: 4-3

None of these guys had particularly impressive seasons though. The truth is that the Mets starting pitching is the least of the reasons for why the Mets had a successful season. And it will be the least of the reasons for why they will continue to play late into October. With the bullpen as dominant as it is, starting pitching takes on a whole new meaning. The Mets don’t really need a “starter”. They just need someone to pitch the first four innings. Anything beyond that is gravy. When you have Chad Bradford, Darren Oliver, Guillermo Mota, Pedro Feliciano, Aaron Heilman and Billy Wagner waiting in the wings, why does it matter who is on the mound to start the game. At the first sign of trouble, help is on the way.

The Mets pitching staff had a Major League best 3.04 ERA in the 7th inning and beyond. Minnesota was next best at 3.06, but the next best in the National League – San Diego at 3.66. The bullpen has reliably supported the team’s starting pitching all year and there’s no reason to think this is going to change now – with or without their full starting rotation in tact.


Rob Hyman's column, "The Weekend Warrior", appears alternate Fridays

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"I've had a pretty good success facing Stan (Musial) by throwing him my best pitch and backing up third base."
- Carl Erskine