I finally had a few moments to do a review of the first month of the season for the Mets.  The record was disappointing but there were some fine individual accomplishments that should not be ignored.  And I conclude with an update on my Daniel Murphy wagers.

The month of April did not get off to a good start for the Mets.  They finished just 9-12 and some of the losses were way too reminiscent of bullpen meltdowns from the past two seasons.

Generally, the hitting has been fine while the non Johan Santana or Francisco Rodriguez pitchers have some explaining to do.  But there are exceptions to virtually every rule, so let’s see who did well and who fell short in April.

What Went Right

Carlos Beltran served notice that he plans to hit .300 for the first time since 2003.  Although suffering from some minor leg problems, Beltran put up a fabulous .388/.473/.538 line over 93 plate appearances. He led the club in average and finished second in RBIs with 14, trailing only Carlos Delgado’s 16, despite hitting just two home runs.

Luis Castillo shook off complaints from everyone that he was not only still on the roster but actually starting to put up his best month as a Met.  While most wanted the club to sign Orlando Hudson and I wanted them to install Daniel Murphy at second base, Castillo simply went out and produced a .370/.433/.444 line.  I offer my kudos to Castillo for his fine offensive month.  He’s still terrible in the field, though, with a -2.0 UZR, which translates to a -15.8 over 150 games.  That would easily be his worst mark in the majors.

Fernando Tatis played great for the Mets last year before getting injured late in the season.  Many people thought he would turn back into a pumpkin in 2009 but instead he picked up right where he left off, posting a .348/.407/.609 line.  The club simply needs to get his bat in the lineup on a 400-AB basis.  I love that Manuel used him at second base when Castillo needed a day off.  It’s not like he is going to be a downgrade defensively from Castillo there.

Johan Santana pitched like everyone expected him to last year when he moved to the National League.  He went 3-1 with a 1.10 ERA with a 12.1 K/9 ratio.  He made five starts and if he got any kind of run support at all, he would have been 5-0.  Santana’s one loss was a 2-1 setback and he ended up with a no-decision when he left with a 3-2 lead.

Francisco Rodriguez was perfect on all four save opportunities.  His average fastball velocity was up from last year and he averaged 12.5 K/9.  So much for those declining peripherals that everyone was worried about.  He still walks too many batters but with a 1.038 WHIP it was not that big of a deal in April.

The Mets raved about Bobby Parnell while he was in the minors, even though the numbers did not show him as anything special.  He moved to the bullpen this year and the early results have been impressive.  He had a 1.74 ERA in 11 April games.  Brian Stokes also did a fine job out of the pen.  He did not allow an earned run in 11 innings, a span in which he allowed just two walks.

What Went Wrong

In his first four games since signing a three-year, $36 million deal, Oliver Perez went 1-2 with a 9.31 ERA.  His velocity is down and his control is about as bad as it’s been since he joined the Mets.  To make matters worse, he is not giving the team innings, helping to add to the bullpen’s burden,

Sean Green has provided little to no relief out of the bullpen.  His ball looks like it has plenty of movement, but hitters are teeing off on him regardless.  In 11.2 IP, Green had an 8.49 ERA and a 1.971 WHIP.

Both John Maine and Mike Pelfrey pitched below expectations.  Maine allowed 12 walks in 21.2 IP, which led to a 5.40 ERA.  Pelfrey picked up two wins, but he had a 6.32 ERA and had more walks (9) than strikeouts (6).

Brian Schneider had just three hits and a .143 average before landing on the disabled list with back and calf problems.  Ramon Castro has not hit very well (.233) in his absence.

Manager

While he is no longer the interim manager, Jerry Manuel remains on the hot seat.  On the plus side of the ledger, Manuel’s commitment to Murphy has been strong, even with the youngster having some costly defensive gaffes in the outfield.  He has been getting Tatis into the lineup and he has gotten Gary Sheffield some ABs without taking too much time away from Ryan Church and Murphy.

But the bullpen management has been less than ideal.  Manuel seems too eager to put Green into high leverage spots when he should be behind both Parnell and Stokes in the pecking order.  He has also been too quick to turn his relievers into one inning guys.  With the starters failing to go six innings on a regular, non-Santana basis, it leads to using five and six pitchers each outing.  And pinch hitting Omir Santos for Castro was indefensible.  I am glad he got fined for that one, even if it was for, to borrow a football term, delay of game, as Santos had to run in from the bullpen in order to hit.  What were the chances of that move working out?

*****

Prior to the start of the season, I made two wagers regarding Murphy.  In the first one, I said that if he got at least 450 ABs, that he would post an OPS over .775 for the season.  In the second one, I bet that he would get 450 ABs on the year.  The first one is nullified if he fails to get 450 ABs.  So, I have two wagers and with the way they are set up, I can only lose once.  I like those odds.

Anyway, in April Murphy posted an .800 OPS in 68 at-bats.  He is ahead of the pace he needs for 450 at-bats, as if he keeps his current pace over the team’s first 21 games, Murphy would wind up with 535 ABs.  There are a couple of things for me to be concerned about, though.  One, his walk total is behind last year’s pace, meaning he could keep the same playing time yet wind up with fewer ABs going forward.  And his defensive issues have made it standard operating procedure to remove him late in the game for Jeremy Reed, which could cost him some ABs, too.

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