Well, this is interesting news.
After reading earlier this week that Pedro Feliciano wanted to be our eighth-inning guy, I was intrigued. He does have a very good track record with us - albeit primarily as a left-handed specialist. It was weird to, for the first time, consider him as more than that... but upon reflection, it might be a great idea.
“I don’t want to be the lefty specialist,” Feliciano said, according to MLB.com. “I want to be the eighth-inning guy, and I want to prove to the organization that I can pitch to righties like I pitch to lefties… I just want to leave Spring Training as the setup man.” (Source: Metsblog)
That was Friday, so I spent the weekend with this idea in the back of my mind. Fast-forward to today, and I see the following headline from the always great David Waldstein at the New York Times: "Mets Considering Feliciano For Setup Role." I thought to myself, I knew that already. That article was published at 7:31pm.
A mere 25 minutes later, MLB.com's Marty Noble (who we notoriously defended on this blog a few months ago) published the following: "Feliciano Wins Eighth-Inning Gig." I love the internet.
In any event, although Noble's headline is factual, the text of the article is slightly more speculative. He states without supporting that:
Because none of the candidates for the pre-Francisco Rodriguez assignment has distinguished himself in this camp and the competition was likely to have been determined by default, the Mets have turned to Pedro Feliciano.
That's fine by me! Noble knows his stuff, and I am sure that he's got some solid word from inside the organization that it is a done deal for now. So now that we know it's going to be Perpetual Pedro, what do we think about that?
We all know that Pedro Feliciano has been used as a lefty specialist over the years. But that doesn't necessarily mean that he's had a lot of trouble with righties. Here are his splits against right-handed hitters over the last few seasons:
2009: .264/.365/.486 in 86 PA
2008: .357/.453/.561 in 118 PA
2007: .221/.325/.371 in 163 PA
2006: .266/.354/.349 in 129 PA
In general, it is an underwhelming line. Aside from 2007, righties have hit pretty well against Feliciano. Here, however, is where we have to be careful about our use of statistics: Knowing that Pedro has dominated left-handed hitters over the last few years, and that he's been brought in to neutralize tough lefties, it may be that his stats against righties are not indicative of his true abilities.
Imagine the following scenario: Mets versus Braves. Feliciano comes into the game to face the lefty Adam LaRoche, righty Chipper Jones, and lefty Brian McCann. He strikes out LaRoche. Instead of facing Jones, he walks him. Then, he gets McCann to hit into a double play. He played to his strengths as a guy who dominates lefties, and he walked the dangerous righty.
Well, that actually happened last year in this game. I imagine that it happened a lot of other times as well - and if the Phillies ever get the brains to bat a righty between Utley and Howard, will happen even more. The point is, looking at the splits alone don't account for real life tactics or game situations.
That said, Feliciano may be able to produce better than his already decent line against right-handed hitters if pressed into action against them on a regular basis. Knowing Pedro, I wouldn't bet against it. The guy is tenacious.
The question of who replaces Feliciano as the lefty specialist is one which is open and also important - but it is way less important than having a true ace reliever who can face lefties and righties and be the understudy to Francisco Rodriguez.
I'll leave you with a couple of other amazing quotes from the Marty Noble article.
I can do that job," Feliciano said Monday afternoon. "I want to do that job. I'm here to pitch. I'm here to win. I can be a setup man instead of the supposed left-handed specialist. I'm ready for it now. I don't care what right-handed hitters they bring up. I'll just do my job."
* * *
"My arm never hangs," was Feliciano's reaction to the challenge of increased workload.
* * *
"Just let me know a few minutes before I have to come in," Feliciano said. "I can get ready in the time it takes Jerry to walk to the mound. And if I pitch the eighth, I have more time."
Um... guess who has two thumbs and might be buying a Feliciano jersey after reading those baller quotes. This guy.