Monday, September 28, 2009

Fixing the Mets: Starting Pitching

The final week of the 2009 season is here. I've never looked forward to the end of baseball as I have this season. So it is only appropriate that at Mets Lifer we focus on what needs to be done beyond the 2009 campaign to position the Mets to compete, not just next year but in the years ahead.

Over the course of the next week, we will take a look at the different aspects of the Mets that need to be addressed and debate about what should be done to improve this team in the future.

And so we begin with the most important aspect of the Mets, starting pitching.

At this point the 2010 starting rotation looks like this: Johan Santana and four other guys who aren't really that good. Oliver Perez has us dreaming about the days of Victor Zambrano. John Maine's health is a question mark. Pelfrey is a nut job. And Tim Redding can pitch really well in September when you're out of a pennant race but not so good any other time of year.

But talent isn't the only need the Mets have. A new teacher is a necessity.

Dan Warthen has to go. Warthen's tenure started smoothly when he briefly "fixed" Oliver Perez after Rick Peterson's zen philosophy had Ollie P in fits, but since then Warthen has done little to warrant him sticking around. Pelfrey's utter decline does not bode well for Mr. Warthen. Before Maine got hurt, his performance was also on the decline.

I'm sure Warthen is a nice guy, but with so many question marks in the starting rotation and a number of younger arms that could potentially get a lot of starts next year (i.e. Niese, Nieve, etc.) a solid, proven pitching coach is exactly what the Mets need.

Enter Dave Duncan.

Duncan is known for working extremely well with young arms and being able to mold pitchers into solid, reliable arms. Any guy who can turn Adam Wainwright into a Cy Young candidate is worth a look. Duncan's contract with the Cards expires in the offseason and he should be the #1 target for the Mets.

Solid pitching never goes out of style. I don't care what size the stadium is or how many power bats you sign through free agency, starting pitching makes or breaks a ballclub. The Mets have succeeded when they had starting pitching and I truly believe Duncan is a guy that can help develop the young arms and instruct the weaker ones that need tweaking.

After signing Duncan, the Mets have to make a play for Roy Halladay. The Santana/Halladay tandem would be unbelievable and would almost guarantee the Mets to have a fighting chance in almost 40% of their games.

Halladay will not come cheap, but I am convinced he's worth every penny. A lot of people whine about the Mets having to give up all their prospects for him, but look at how that worked out with Santana. Other than Carlos Gomez can you even remember what other prospects were involved?

Jon Lackey will be a name that's tossed around but when it comes down to it Lackey isn't on the same plain as Halladay, and if Halladay is available via a trade the Mets absolutely should make every effort to get him.

Those two moves, Duncan & Halladay, would be a fantastic starting point for the Mets. With Santana and Halladay as your top 2 starters, the Mets would then be able to explore having an all out battle royal for the final 3 spots between Perez, Maine, Pelfrey, Niese, Figueroa, Nieve and others. I wouldn't mind the Mets pursuing another reliable arm as a #5 starter, someone like Randy Wolf, but I'd be pleased if the Mets only get Duncan and Halladay and move on from there.

But if the Mets start spring training with Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez as their top starters after Johan Santana, I'm afraid come September 2010 we'll be in much the same situation as we find ourselves today.

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