4.14.2005

Is Mike Piazza Done?

Piazza's bat speed is not slow, and if you think that then you aren't watching closely enough.

His bat speed is still fast enough to drive a ball 450+ feet, so that isn't the issue. The issue is clearly his pitch recognition. Watch for it next time he is up.

Piazza is not a "guess hitter", he is a reactionary hitter. He sees the pitch and then reacts to it. He has said so himself many times. His ability to recognize pitches so late combined with his batspeed has always been the reason he's going to the Hall of Fame.

What has changed lately? Well, right now he doesn't seem able to pick up the breaking pitch anymore. This happens to him every year (including his best years) when he slumps, but these slumps are growing more prolific and more frequent.

The illusion of slow bat speed is there for the less educated viewer. Piazza thinks fastball and then gets fooled. As all players do when fooled on an off-speed pitch, he attempts to slow the bat down to hit the ball. This is frequently called "waving" at a pitch, and it's not a sign of slow bat speed, but a sign of poor timing or poor pitch recognition.

The real question is this:

Has Piazza's ability to recognize a pitch completely dwindled to a point where he can no longer be productive, or is this merely a slump? 5 Years ago no one would have been concerned if Mike Piazza started off a season hitting .130 after 8 games ... but now that he's up in years (much like the situation with Bernie Williams), every little slump is magnified and proclaimed "the end".

On a side note, the Yankees moved Bernie Williams to the #9 spot in the order last night as a result of his slow start. The result? He was 3-for-4 with a homerun. One or two solid nights for Piazza would erase all of this discussion and bring his average right up to normal levels. It's early folks.

Rick Peterson is the Savior/Devil

Why does everyone have to be hot or cold with stuff like this?

Rick Peterson isn't going to drastically change people in a few weeks, and the difference he makes is going to be quite small. There's also the chance that for every 2 guys he helps he may hamper another.

If Victor Zambrano cannot be fixed, it doesn't mean Rick Peterson is a failure, and if Kaz Ishii throws a gem, IT DOESN'T MEAN RICK PETERSON IS THE REASON WHY EITHER.

Let us not forget that Kaz Ishii has the 4th best winning percentage among all active major league pitchers before the all-star break. Let us not forget that he has thrown a significant number of games in the past similar to the one he threw last night, using the same tactics and pitches. Was last night's victory Ishii's, or Petersons? I'm going with Ishii on this one. Let's see Ishii's game blossom with the addition of a new Peterson pitch or his second half numbers drastically improve before we call Peteron the Savior.

Hitting coaches and pitching coaches are very overrated in baseball, but they can make a small difference. How they matter has to be weighed on an individual basis with each player they work with and how that impacts the team, not so much as a collective body of work or an overall regime. Think of hitting and pitching coaches as psychiatrists more so than teachers, since that is essentially what they are.

Some guys don't want to listen to psychiastrists. Other guys do, but it doesn't seem to help them anyway. Other guys pick on the bones of instructions and implement certain elements into their life. It is very much the same with pitching and hitting coaches.

Let's not get carried away with Rick Peterson one way or the other. Use you own minds, don't let the desperate media hounds drive your opinions. These are Major League ballplayers here, not children, and Rick Peterson is a human with an opinion or two, not a diety.

1.25.2005

Lee, Mientkiewicz and Olerud

With the Florida Marlins winning the Carlos Delgado sweepstakes (complete with a 64 million dollar invoice), let's quickly shift gears and breakdown the three obvious next choices to man first base for the Mets in 2005.

Anyone who claims that this is an easy decision is fooling themselves. Given any of the three, I can probably put together a nice little argument that would show the other two were better. Let's look at the peripherals.


Travis Lee
Age: Turns 30 in May
Injuries: Torn Labrum in May (surgery)
Conditioning: Above Average

Speed: Average

Defense (Range): Excellent
Defense (Hands): Very Good
Defense (Footwork): Very Good

Plate Discipline: Good
Hitting: Average
Power: Above Average
XBH Power: Above Average
vs. LHP: Same against LHP and RHP.

Competitive Drive: Average
Big City Experience: None
Upside: Some
Risk: Substantial

Expected Contract: 2 years, $5.0 M

Pros: May be hungry to win a starting job with us, has not caught on yet, did fairly well in the NL East for the Phillies a few years ago, low profile guy and very professional.

Cons: Torn labrum recovery is a wild card, has never had to be a starter in a place like NY, played in semi-hitter's parks, because of Boras, will make more than he's worth, probably require a 2-year deal. Born and raised on the West Coast, went to College in San Diego, may not be an East Coast guy.



Doug Mientkiewicz
Age: Turns 31 around All-Star Break
Injuries: None, healthy
Conditioning: Above Average

Speed: Below Average

Defense (Range): Very Good
Defense (Hands): Excellent
Defense (Footwork): Very Good

Plate Discipline: Very Good
Hitting: Above Average
Power: Below Average
XBH Power: Average
vs. LHP: Same against LHP and RHP.

Competitive Drive: Above Average
Big City Experience: None (didn't fare well in Boston)
Upside: Peaked
Risk: Substantial (could be .300 hitter, could be .240 hitter)

Expected Contract: 1 year, ~$3.0 million, and prospect(s)

Pros: Known for his glove, very professional and competitive. Has a high upside if he can return to the .300/12 hitter he was that could draw 70+ walks a season. Versatile (can hit #2 or as a low RBI man if needed). Walk year.

Cons: Inconsistent, two good years mixed with two bad years, last year being downright awful. May be too hard on himself mentally to handle challenges of NY. Will cost prospects, will probably sign somewhere else in 2006 and may not want to be on the Mets in 2005 (could end up just playing out the string).



John Olerud
Age: Turns 37 around All-Star Break
Injuries: Ankle (from post-season, was seen with cast recently)
Conditioning: Average

Speed: Poor

Defense (Range): Average
Defense (Hands): Excellent
Defense (Footwork): Excellent

Plate Discipline: Superior (80-100 walks each full season)
Hitting: Above Average
Power: Below Average
XBH Power: Average
vs. LHP: Noticeably better against RHP

Competitive Drive: Average
Big City Experience: Lots (did great with Mets)
Upside: None, on the downslope
Risk: None (safe bet for between .260 and .280)

Expected Contract: 1 year, ~$2.0 million

Pros: One of the best plate discipline guys in all of baseball. Knows the game offensively and defensively better than all other options. Played in real bad pitcher's park in off 2002 and 2003 seasons, hit .280 with the Yankees and could be a .280 hitter for the Mets -- Shea loves lefties. Versatile (can hit #2 or as a low RBI man if needed). Mets fans love the guy and so does the NY Media. Eats up RHP and would make a fine LH option to go with Jason Phillips.

Cons: Might be done, ankle could be injured. Short term solution only, very slow baserunner and may have lost too much power. Not as good against LHP. Certainly not a "younger and faster" addition.


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Frankly I would feel the best if the Mets went out and signed two of them, letting them battle it out for the starting job in ST, keeping the other one around and trading somewhere at the deadline. Not sure you could get Lee to agree to that. Olerud may be willing and Mientkiewicz wouldn't really have a choice.

Something else to take into consideration is the platoon scenario. John Olerud is a career .300 hitter against right-handers. He still hits RHP well (42 points higher in 2003, 20 points higher in 2002 and almost 80 points higher in 2001.). If you take into consideration that the Mets may want to start Jason Phillips against LHP, Olerud is clearly the best of the three candidates as the left-handed side of a platoon. Both Doug and Travis hit around .270 against LHP and RHP.

In all honesty, if the GM reigns were in my hands, I would actually look to sign Olerud first, and then trade for Mientkiewicz also. Once I signed Olerud the Red Sox would have little leverage on me so a trade for Mientkiewicz might be more reasonable.

I feel Olerud still has something to give, even at 36, and think he'd be revitalized coming back to Shea playing where he was at his best a few years back. On the flip side, if Mientkiewicz came on strong, I would relegate Olerud to be my backup first baseman and first tier pinch hitter (while looking to get Doug linked in with an extension). It would be a win/win for the Mets, and the odds of success are increased.