Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Rotation Rotation and Musings on Velocity

Per Metsblog:

According to Marty Noble of, a person with knowledge of the Mets pitching plans says they might move Jon Niese to the third spot in the rotation, with Maine and Perez to follow.

…if this were the case, then it looks like Pelfrey would remain in the number two spot in the rotation…either way, it appears the Mets are at least recognizing the problems behind Johan Santana in the rotation…

Original Post, 6:41 pm:

Adam Rubin of ESPN New York says Mike Pelfrey will not be starting the second game of the season against the Marlins at Citi Field.

…interesting…i wonder if John Maine will get the start over Pelfrey, and what this means for the rest of the rotation…

Pelfrey is expected to start on Friday night against the Rays at Tropicana Field, followed by Oliver Perez and Jon Niese on Saturday against the Orioles in Sarasota.

In addition, Rubin says both Omir Santos and Fernando Martinez will start the season at Triple-A Buffalo.

To follow Rubin at his new Twitter account for ESPN New York, click here.

As far as I can tell this is a non-story. It just looks to me that Manuel wanted to break up the lefties in the rotation. If the original rotation was Santana-Pelfrey-Maine-Perez-Niese, you'd have three lefties in a row. Now, it alternates. You'll still have two lefties in a row later in the year when you stop skipping the #5 spot in the rotation, but at least the second lefty will be Santana.

However, the blurb about the order of the rotation got me thinking. Provided Santana, Pelfrey, Maine, Ollie, and Niese are the five starters - is this the hardest throwing group of Mets starters we've ever seen? I decided to take a look at some average fastball velocities by year. Thank you as always, fangraphs.

Last year we had Livan Hernandez in the rotation instead of Niese, so they automatically lose to the 2010 version. In 2007 the staff was anchored by Glavine and included Orlando Hernandez in addition to the Pelfrey-Maine-Perez triumvirate. The 2006 team featured Pedro, Glavine, Trachsel, Orlando Hernandez and Maine as their top five. A quick inspection turns up no challenger in the recent years.

You might actually have to reach back a whole decade, or more (if ever) to find a Mets staff with more prodigious fastballs than this one. The 2005 team has a chance, if you remember Kris Benson or Victor Zambrano throwing particularly hard. I didn't. Benson averaged 90.2 in 2005 to my surprise, but Zambrano averaged 89.6. With Glavine, Pedro, and Kaz Ishii making up the rest of the starting five, you know they didn't bring as much heat at this year's edition.

I thought the 2002 team maybe had a chance to challenge with a bunch of one-and-done Mets in Pedro Astacio, Jeff D'Amico and Shawn Estes supplementing Trachsel and Al Leiter... but Astacio (89.6), D'Amico (87.6), and Trachsel (87) were all below my expectations. For some reason I remembered Astacio being a hard thrower - but memories fade, especially in an era of Met irrelevance.

So, with fangraphs pitch data ending at 2002, that brings us back to this year's squad. With Maine averaging 92.1 on his fastball in 2008 and 91.3 last year, he'll be around there again. Even the injured version of Oliver Perez averaged 90.0. For his career it is a robust 91.2. Although much has been made of the decline of Johan Santana, his heater averaged 90.5 last year after a season of 91.2 before that. Pelfrey leads the way at 92.6, while Niese brings up the rear at 89.6 last season.

Not that this necessarily portends a good year - throwing harder means nothing on its own - but it's something that stood out to me upon review.

Note 1: I realize that injuries to intended starters might skew this - comparing our projected top five to the actual top five of previous years. But with Nelson Figueroa (88.2) and Fernando Nieve (92.2) the likely replacements, it doesn't really matter.

Note 2: I think the 2000 rotation might have had a chance if Leiter and Hampton threw a couple of miles per hour harder in their primes than they did by the time 2002 rolled around. The 1999 team with Orel Hershiser and Rick Reed taking 40% of the starts likely didn't have a chance either.

I would love for someone who has been around a little longer to take a shot at identifying a Mets' starting rotation who may have thrown as hard as this one. Maybe one of the historians over at Faith and Fear? Could Doc and Darling and El Sid bring the heat?


G-Fafif said...

Seaver, Ryan and Gentry, when healthy, could bring it from 1969 to 1971, with Koosman -- more of a breaking ball pitcher -- no slouch either.

Kevin said...

The media is just calling attention to the poor performance that the Mets starters have had this spring. I watched the game yesterday and they basically went on and on about the starting pitching question marks the entire broadcast and talking about how Perez's velocity is way down. Oli and Johan both sucked yesterday too.

I'm somewhat interested because I couldn't really imagine Santana being less than stellar and I'm curious as to how much Spring Training numbers will really indicate as far as regular season performance. But as a non-Mets fan I don't really care too much. I was thinking of Perez as the number 5 because he has been terrible instead of switching up the righties and lefties.

James Esatto said...

I was just thinking that Gooden and Cone pitched together while with the Mets, but if my memory serves correctly they were mostly flanked by Viola and Fernandez... so while those two threw very hard I'm not sure how competitive those teams would be as a whole.