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The Mets free fall has begun, a few months later than most baseball analysts expected, but the team is starting to fall on hard times now that they have traded All-Star Carlos Beltran and closer Francisco Rodriguez. The team has also lost their two best hitters this season to injuries in Jose Reyes and Daniel Murphy. While Reyes is expected to return at the end of the month there is no guarantee it will stop the bleeding. The team has lost six of its last seven and the Mets now sit four games under .500.
One piece of good news that has recently unfolded was a personal milestone from a very unlikely Met. Jason Isringhausen’s career started with the Mets in a cloud of hope as a part of Generation K with Bill Pulsipher and Paul Wilson.
Izzy went 9-2 in his first season with the Mets with a stellar 2.81 ERA. He was immediately compared to Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver, the two best home grown Mets aces in franchise history. Of course, the bottom then fell out as injuries took their toll on all three members of Generation K. Izzy went 9-19 in his next three seasons with the Mets before getting dealt to the Oakland A’s for Billy Taylor.
Izzy was moved to the bullpen where he went on to dominate for the next eight seasons. He won a World Series, picked up a career-high 47 saves in 2004, and dismissed his legacy of being a bust. However, that wasn’t enough for the Mets 44th round pick in the 1991 draft. He had more to prove.
Izzy returned to the Mets this off-season with absolutely no idea whether he would ever even make the roster. “I had no idea… nobody knew what was going to happen,” said Isringhausen after the recent home stand. “I just try to go about my business the right way and help the team anyway I can and try to get outs when they call on me.” Izzy has certainly handled his job the right way. He has offered some wisdom for the younger pitchers and offered some brilliant work out of the bullpen while doing so. However, the big opportunity did not come until days after the All-Star break when the Mets announced they had dealt their star closer K-Rod to the Brewers.
Since that transaction, Izzy has returned to his old role of closer. In 12 appearances, Izzy has picked up two wins and seven saves. The seventh save, which took place on August 15th was the 300th of his career. It’s been an incredible ride for the soon-to-be 38-year-old hurler. He returned to where he failed and has been a pleasant surprise.
Unfortunately for Isringhausen, reality will now set in. With the Mets out of contention for a spot in the post-season, the team is looking towards the future and they will turn to flamethrower Bobby Parnell for ninth inning duties. Izzy, a true professional, has been one of Parnell’s biggest supporters even during his recent struggles. “It won’t be his last rough spot either… he’s got the stuff to do it… You can take care of the little things and the rest kind of falls in place.”
The young bust is now a wily veteran who has redeemed himself in the eyes of Mets fans. Whether he gets another save or not for the rest of his career, Isringhausen has accomplished what he set out to do. He went about his business the right way and got outs when needed. However, his lasting contribution may be the professionalism that he brought to the clubhouse and the lessons that he provided to a new a new generation of Mets hurlers. Izzy did alright as a Mets hurler.
by Eno Sarris //
With a $17.5 million option looming over every game Francisco Rodriguez finished this year, the Mets chose to get out from under the money and traded their closer to Milwaukee for some players to be named later. While the move won’t mean much in Milwaukee, it does leave a vacuum in New York that must be filled.
John Axford will continue to close in Milwaukee unless he gets hurt. In many ways he’s been better than Rodriguez this year, and he’s much cheaper. K-Rod’s option vests if he finishes another twenty or so more games this year, and the Brewers can’t spend that money. Axford owners should not panic.
But in New York there’s a closer’s role change in the offing. The primary candidates are set, so let’s suss them out one by one.
Jason Isringhausen was the early favorite to be the next closer. He holds the team lead in holds and used to be the primary setup man. The fountain of youth has treated him to a sub-3.50 ERA after missing most of 2010 recovering from surgery. But look “closer” and the numbers don’t look as nice. His strikeout rate (6.59 K/9) and whiff rate (6.4%) are well below average for a reliever. He’s walking more than four per nine. He has a .213 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and he’s stranded 80% of runners, numbers that usually trend towards .300 and 70% respectively. As those numbers regress, he might have some struggles ahead.
Hometown hero Pedro Beato is tied for third in holds and has perhaps ‘deserved’ his low-threes ERA more than Izzy. At least, his BABIP is .224, but his strand rate is 52.4%. As both numbers regress, he might stay in about the same spot. The ‘problem’ with Beato is that he’s more of a ground-ball pitcher than a strikeout pitcher. He only strikes out 5.4 batters per nine, and even with a nice 2.7 BB/9 and 54.3% ground-ball rate, he doesn’t have the strikeout rate of a closer. Only one of the top 35 relievers sorted by saves has a strikeout rate well below six per nine, and Matt Capps is not a closer to emulate right now.
That leaves Bobby Parnell as the best option for the role. First, the negative. Parnell has had a career of showing great velocity (95 MPH average on his fastball) and poor control (3.82 BB/9 career). While he was only throwing the fastball and not striking people out (7.7 K/9 before this year), this was a problem. Now, the positive. Parnell is throwing his slider more than ever this year, and this has resulted in the best strikeout rate of his career (10.95 K/9). A recent stretch of better control (three walks since June first) has Parnell showing average control (3.28 BB/9). Strike out three batters for every one you walk, and you’re ready to be a closer. Especially if you’ve got a flamethrower of an arm.
Some Mets fans might doubt the fact that Parnell has the mentality to close. He has had some issues in the past. On the other hand, this year’s version looks like the best version, and the numbers say he’s the best option. Good luck hunting for saves.
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by Eno Sarris //
The MLB trade deadline isn’t for another six weeks. That doesn’t mean that it won’t make waves in fantasy baseball sooner than that. There are a couple players in particular that are very likely to move. With these players, it makes sense for both teams to make the trade sooner rather than later in order to get the most value, whether it be in prospects or production.
The Padres are nine games out and at the bottom of the National League West division. Their closer, Heath Bell, is a one of the elite bullpen arms in baseball. He’s also a free agent at the end of the year and is already the highest-paid player on a cash-strapped team. Former GM Jim Bowden recently said that Bell is the player most likely to be traded, and with good reason it seems.
Behind Bell are a couple arms worth owning if he’s going to leave town. Most likely, Mike Adams is next in line. The righty is working on his fourth straight year with more than a strikeout per inning. He also has great control. That mix has produced a 1.71 ERA over that time span — he’s really good. There is one caveat with the 32-year-old, however: he’s only under team control for one more year. Luke Gregerson, on the other hand, is under control for three more years and is also excellent. He’s managed a strikeout per inning over the first three years of his career, and even if his ERA isn’t as pristine as Adams’ (3.14), he gets good ground balls (48.1% career) and has one of the best sliders in the game. If only he was healthy — a strained oblique has felled him at the wrong moment. Then again, Gregerson uses his slider almost twice as much as his fastball, and some of my recent research has shown that heavy slider usage can lead to injury. Adams is the safer pick overall.
In New York, the Mets are eight games back. Even if they only have two teams in front of them, one of them has an historic rotation and the other is stacked with young talent. Add in some much-publicized monetary issues, and it just doesn’t seem like the Mets need Francisco Rodriguez to stick around. The sticking point is a $17.5 million vesting option for next year, and a limited no-trade that allows him to block a trade to ten mystery teams. But if the Mets can find a team that’s not on the list and has an established closer (in order to keep his option from vesting), there’s an immediate match, and the team is highly motivated to make such a deal.
Behind Rodriguez, there isn’t an easy solution. Well, there is, but it isn’t very forward-looking. 38-year-old reclamation project Jason Isringhausen is the obvious set-up man and the team leader in holds. Some fans have hopes for Bobby Parnell as the closer of the future, but the flame-thrower has terrible control. No other reliever has stepped to the fore, although hometown hero Pedro Beato has an interesting pitching mix. He still doesn’t have the strikeout punch of a closer right now, though. Even with Isringhausen’s mediocre strikeout and walk rates, and advanced age, he’s probably the dude once K-Rod leaves town.
The trade deadline comes July 31st. By thinking ahead, you might just own two newly minted closers by then.
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