In this, the final week of the season, the angst level rises (if that’s possible) as the Reds build on the weekend series win at Pittsburgh and hope the Cardinals stumble against the Nationals, Cubs or better yet—both. While we lament the Reds’ Jekyll & Hyde offense, dubious game management and ever-present health issues, be glad you’re not this fan:
For the past week, I have been keeping the MLBTR Reverse Standings page open as a tab, and consult it throughout the day, dreaming of scenarios where we somehow vault/fall to sixth worse, or go on an ultimately meaningless winning streak and end up 11th, again (sob!) thus losing our 1st round pick and the bonus pool money when we sign Choo, who proceeds to forget how to hit ala [Jason] Bay. That’s my nightmare.
—Typical Mets’ Fan, 2013
The Mets and their fans are playing out the string in another in a series of forgettable Septembers. As discussed the last time these two teams played, the post-Bernie Madoff Era has wreaked havoc on the once free spending big market Metropolitans. The 2013 Mets at full strength were hardly something to be feared. The last half of the season has seen them fairly snake bitten. One of two stars remaining in the Flushing firmament, Matt Harvey is the second coming of Tom Terrific or Doc Gooden—take your pick. Having suffered a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, he’s now attempting to stare down the cold steel of the scalpel, by choosing a strengthening program to rehab the elbow in a last-ditch effort to avoid the almost inevitable Tommy John surgery. Starter Jon Niese has come back from a partially torn rotator cuff via rehab. Closer Bobby Parnell has had surgery on a herniated disc and is lost for the season. Zack Wheeler, another young stud pitching prospect the Mets obtained from the SF Giants two years ago in exchange for Carlos Beltran, has had to be shut down because of a stiff shoulder. Wheeler says he is sure there is no structural damage. Nick Masset thought the same thing, yeah? David Wright has missed playing time because of a balky hammy and has just returned this weekend against the Phillies. Ruben Tejada, the offensively-challenged shortstop and proud owner of the .202/.259/.260 slash line and 47 wRC+, broke his leg last week.
New York hopes to make a splash in the upcoming free agent market. Both Troy Tulowitzki and our own Shin-Soo Choo have been targeted by local scribes and fans as potential future Mets. But, that’s next year. What’s left of this year’s club is a shell of a baseball team that is playing for pride and pride alone. Teams such as these are dangerous because losing holds no fear for them. They know the Reds need a sweep. Expect manager Terry Collins, who has done a pretty good job molding a team with very little clay to work with, to pull out all the stops in order to ruin Cincinnati’s division title dreams.
Here is your NY Mets offense. If you recognize too many of these names, you may need to get a life:
With Bobby Parnell gone, LaTroy Hawkins (ERA 3.01, 12 SV, 1.17 WHIP) has taken over the Closer duties. Scott Atchison, Victor Black, Tim Byrdak, David Aardsma and Sean Henn are the current crop in this revolving door relief corps.
The Starting Pitching for the series sets up thusly (ERA+ is ERA measured against the league average, benchmarked at a value of 100. Over 100 is better than average, below 100, worse. It is adjusted for variances in ballpark):
|Johnny Cueto, RHP||5||2||3.02||129||53.2||15||46||1.08|
|Aaron Harang, RHP||5||12||5.69||64||131.1||32||105||1.33|
|Mike Leake, RHP||14||6||3.21||121||190.2||48||120||1.22|
|Jonathon Niese, LHP||7||8||3.81||94||130.0||45||97||1.45|
|Greg Reynolds, RHP||1||2||5.55||71||24.1||5||9||1.44|
|Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP||2||3||5.52||66||31.0||14||27||1.35|
After throwing 82 pitches in his first outing since returning from the Disabled List, the Reds are looking to stretch Cueto out further in an effort to get him ready for a rotation spot in the playoffs. I’ve heard no concern about this plan, which frankly, seems cavalier given Johnny’s recent history. It wasn’t long ago that everyone was wondering how Cueto could possibly be stretched out in time for the post-season with so few days left. Now, they are suddenly more than willing to have him throwing 100 pitches after a scant one game? Dusty Baker has said that Cueto is not subject to a pitch count tonight.
It’s deeply ironic that his mound opponent will be Aaron Harang. Harang saw his 2008 season ruined during a short time period in late-May, early-June, when he overworked his arm beginning with a 63-pitch relief stint one day after starting, then taking his next turn on short rest. Harang threw a total of 239 pitches in 8 days. Harang, a workhorse of a pitcher, wasn’t hurt because he threw too many pitches, he was damaged as a result of being asked to throw too many pitches in a compressed time span; a brief, overwhelming workload that caused arm and shoulder fatigue, forcing a change in mechanics, resulting in injury.
Cueto hadn’t been in the rotation since June 29 when he stepped on the bump in Houston on September 16. The mechanics of his delivery have been a matter of some debate. It seems crazy to have him potentially throwing 170-180 pitches in 7 days so soon after spending all those weeks inactive because of a strained lat muscle. Dialing it back to 50-60 pitches in his last start and keeping him at 80 or below during tonight’s start would have seemed the more prudent approach. Someone please explain to me how a problem of not enough time to stretch out the Reds’ ace has suddenly become no problem at all.
The Mets are 9-12 in September, 3 of those victories coming in their weekend sweep of the Phillies.