The Mets are interested in Tim Redding and/or Randy Wolf for their rotation.  Do these bottom-barrel starting pitchers make sense for the team?

In today’s New York Post, there is an article about the Mets making a contract offer to free agent pitcher Tim Redding.  From the piece:

“[Minaya’s] thinking is he would like to bring in six or seven starters this spring because of what happened last year,” the source said.”

I think it’s a great idea to bring in six or seven starters to compete for the five slots in the rotation.  But outside of that, were the Mets really unlucky with their starting pitching last season?

They opened the year with a rotation of Johan Santana, Pedro Martinez, Oliver Perez and John Maine.  Those five combined to make 145 starts last year, which tied Philadelphia for the most starts in the National League from the guys who broke Spring Training as their team’s starting five.  Here’s how the NL East broke down:

Mets 145
Phillies 145
Nationals 124
Marlins 108
Braves 75

So, the Mets were actually quite fortunate overall with the health of their starting pitchers.  The fact that Maine got hurt in the stretch and possibly cost the club a shot at the playoffs does not trump their season-long luck in the health department.

The Mets have been linked to Randy Wolf in addition to Redding.  Let’s see how those guys did last year:

Redding 182 4.95 1.429
Wolf 190.1 4.30 1.377

At first glance that seems pretty uninspiring.  The league average in ERA for NL pitchers last year was 3.98, meaning both of these pitchers were below average.  And those WHIPs are nothing to write home about, either.

But there are two things in Redding and Wolf’s favor.  The first is they pitched plenty of innings for a fifth starter.  And below average production from a fifth starter’s spot, especially a reliable and durable one, is more than acceptable.  Here are the combined numbers for the pitchers the Mets had starting a game besides the five who opened the season in the rotation:

Figueroa 33.1 19 5.13 32 21 1.590
C. Vargas 24 12 4.50 17 8 1.042
Niese 14 11 7.07 20 8 2.000
Knight 10 6 5.40 13 6 1.900
Armas 6 4 6.00 8 1 1.500
Stokes 5.2 4 6.35 7 1 1.412
TOTALS 93 56 5.42 97 45 1.527

Both Redding and Wolf look good compared to what the Mets replaced their starters with and that’s with better than expected numbers from both Nelson Figueroa and Claudio Vargas.  But that’s not really a fair comparison, as the Mets would be looking to replace their fifth starter (he said hopefully) with one of these guys.  Here’s the numbers from Martinez, essentially the team’s fifth starter last year:

5.61 ERA and a 1.569 WHIP

So again, either of these pitchers represents a big increase over what the Mets received from the fifth starter’s slot.  Depending upon how much money they require to sign, either pitcher could be a great upgrade for the team.

Ultimately, it’s unlikely that the Mets will get 145 starts from the five pitchers they break camp with again in 2009.  That’s why it’s wonderful if the Mets bring in a Redding or a Wolf as the team’s fifth starter.  So, when the inevitable injuries hit, the Mets have a top prospect like Jon Niese to plug into the rotation, rather than hoping to get relatively lucky with retreads like Figueroa and Vargas like they did last season.