The Mack Attack - 3-24-9
Looks like Livan Hernandez is going to win the fifth starter's job. I know that doesn't fill us with joy, but I do think he has some chance to put a season together. He looks like he's throwing the ball well, and he knows how to pitch. The Mets really haven't had a dependable fifth starter the last two years, nor did they in 2006 come to think of it. Hernandez probably has as much chance as anyone of solidifying the spot, and if he doesn't we'll keep our fingers crossed for Tim Redding to get healthy quick. I was one of many who thought Freddie Garcia would win the fifth starter's job outright, but the velocity hasn't been there. It's been returning slowly, though, and the curve is also showing signs of life. Perhaps someone out there is desperate enough for a starter that they would offer the veteran righty a major league job, anyway. If that's the case, I would think he'll be gone. If not, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if he was willing to pitch in the minors for a month or two and provide a backup if Livan falls flat.
U.S. Army Sgt. Felix Perez maneuvered his wheelchair onto the pristine turf at Dodger Stadium, his mother Marta and stepfather Frank Torres following close behind. It took about a minute before Perez - New Jersey-raised and a diehard Mets fan - was deluged by the first of numerous greetings from Team USA players. "What's up, dude?" outfielder Adam Dunn asked as he shook Perez's right hand. Then Perez's face lit up. David Wright made his way over, huddling close to Perez near the U.S. dugout. "Good to see you," said Wright. Last week, Perez had what he thought was the experience of a lifetime when he attended the elimination game between the U.S. and Puerto Rico in Miami. After Wright smacked the game-winning hit that advanced Team USA to the semifinals and eliminated Puerto Rico, a security guard spotted Perez near the U.S. clubhouse and helped the Miami resident score a backstage pass to the celebration inside. Perez met all the players, including one of his Mets idols, Wright. Perez didn't think that dizzying moment could be matched until he got a call from a Team USA PR representative Friday. "You're going to L.A.," the representative told Perez.
Daniel Murphy proved last season that he could hit, batting .313 as a rookie by being selective about his swings and by hitting to all fields. He continued that impression Sunday by raising his exhibition average to .373 with two hits in a 12-1 victory over Atlanta. But Murphy’s most impressive moment might have been a fielding play in left field in the fifth inning. The Braves’ Clint Sammons hit a ball off the wall, and Murphy snatched the carom barehanded, twirled and threw to the infield. The relay from shortstop José Reyes to second baseman Luis Castillo almost got Sammons at second base. And it showed Murphy’s improvement in the outfield after he struggled there last year following his move from third base. “You can’t just hit,” Murphy said. “You’ve got to play defense.”
Every year, CHONE, Bill James, PECOTA, ZiPS, and Marcels projections are released to mixed reactions. Those people inclined toward statistical analysis or who compulsively play fantasy baseball (I am both) eagerly await these numbers, while others loathe them. The common argument complaint is that the season hasn't been played and these numbers will invariably be somewhat wrong. This complaint misses the point: projections are not the end-all of predicting a player's season. Instead, they form more of a baseline, a general idea of where a player will end up. Here are some players whose projections might not tell the story.
Daniel Murphy: Projection systems seem to split squarely down the middle on Murphy. Bill James and Marcels both project an OPS in the .830 range, while CHONE et al. predict him in the .720-.770 range. Marcels is the simplest system, however, and Bill James thinks every hitter will win MVP, so we'll default to the others as Murphy's projection. Needless to say, a .730 OPS would be a massive disappointment. His call-up numbers from last year were pretty flukey with a .386 BABIP fueled by a 33.3% linedrive rate. Still, to even hit like he did demonstrated the significant progress as a hitter he had already made at AA. At his age, Murphy could take more major steps forward and no on is questioning his work ethic. If you haven't already read what Buster Olney recently wrote about him, it's good: Everybody who sees his at-bats walks away thinking they've just seen one of the most savvy young hitters in the sport.
Ben Badler/Baseball America: On Jonathan Niese:
Niese also looked shaky, though his stuff was more impressive. Niese threw an 88-90 fastball with some sink, though his location of the pitch got him hit around today. Niese elevated his fastball too frequently, leading to several hard-hit balls off the pitch, including a wind-assisted home run to right field by Allen Craig. It sees to me I recall Niese getting hurt on elevated fastballs in hitters counts in the big leagues in 2008. Niese’s secondary pitches were better than his fastball today. Niese’s curveball came in at 68-73 mph, a plus pitch with sharp break and two-plane depth. His low-80s changeup was another quality secondary pitch that caught a few hitters out front.
On Bradley Holt:
It was clear that Holt was there to work on his changeup as he mixed the pitch in liberally today against hitters. Holt’s fastball sat at 91-92 mph, topping out at 93 against Wallace. Holt has a lot more fastball than that, but at this stage of spring training, that velocity seems fine. Holt showed an 83-86 mph changeup, a pitch he changed his grip for this summer to a modified circle grip. He threw only a few breaking balls, a 77-79 mph pitch that Holt labeled a curveball.
Fans have speculated for ages that Roger Clemens was suffering 'roid rage when he threw that bat against Mike Piazza in the 2000 World Series. But now Clemens is not the only person in that rivalry accused of using performance-enhancing drugs. In his new book about Clemens, "The Rocket That Fell To Earth", which comes out today, Jeff Pearlman writes that: "According to several sources, when the subject of performance enhancing was broached with reporters he especially trusted, Piazza fessed up.
"Sure, I use," he told one. "But in limited doses, and not all that often." (Piazza has denied using performance-enhancing drugs, but there has always been speculation.)"
KEPPINGER ON BLOCK? Had a scout tell me that one of his bosses asked for his opinion on Jeff Keppinger. That could mean nothing. Or it could mean the Reds are shopping Keppinger. Keppinger is out of options. Adam Rosales has outhit Keppinger .273/.346/.545 to .182/.206/.182 this spring. Rosales could fill Keppinger's role. Rosales has more speed and power. Dusty Baker spoke glowing of him yesterday. “He’s in the mix big time,” Baker said of Rosales' chances to make the club. But I can’t see a scenario where the Reds would keep Keppinger and Rosales.
The Seattle Mariners optioned to Triple-A: RHP Gaby Hernandez