Watching the playoffs has to make you wonder how the Mets would’ve fared in October. Yes, bullpens are at a premium in the postseason (duh), but just consider who contenders trot out with the game in the balance â€” guys named Papelbon, Lidge and Broxton, not to mention the likes of Justin Masterson and Hideki Okajima; J.C. Romero and Ryan Madson; Grant Balfour and Chad Bradford; and Corey Wade and Hong-Chih Kuo.
Whether it’s readers griping about hitting with runners in scoring position, or a sportswriter laying out his or her offseason plan, it doesn’t matter. The Mets, no matter what has happened, are still just as good as anyone in baseball in their lineup, in their rotation and on defense. It’s the shoddy bullpen that cost them this season.
No team had a better run differential through six innings. So before bullpens became a factor in the average game, the Mets were the best club in baseball.
The Mets can’t afford to just toss a band-aid on their bullpen problems â€” and this is where the K-Rod Konundrum comes in: Should the Mets sign Francisco Rodriguez or should they leave him and his many red flags be?
If only it were so simple. If only someone like Jonathan Papelbon were on the open market. But he isn’t. And guess what? K-Rod is no Papelbon, no Rivera. Heck, he’s not even Lidge.
Statistically, K-Rod had his worst season as a pro. He broke the saves record by saving 62 games, but practically every other measurable deteriorated in the process. Consider:
â€” K-Rod threw just one more inning than his previous career low (68.1 to 67.1) yet allowed the most hits in his six full seasons (54).
â€” His 34 walks were the second-most of his career. His most (35) came during a season when he threw 18 more innings.
â€” His strikeouts dipped to a career low (77). One year he actually struck out 123 while allowing less hits and walks than he did in 2008.
â€” His strikeout per walk ratio was the worst of his career (2.27).
â€” The opposition had a paltry .216 batting average against and .314 on-base percentage against. Still, those were career-worst marks. His .629 OPS against was also a career worst.
If it sounds like I’m against the Mets signing K-Rod, then you’ve jumped to a conclusion. I’m not. Why? Because there is plenty to like about him too.
Here are the top 5 positives in ascending order:
5. He is 26.
4. He’s proven, having 208 saves in 241 chances.
3. He’s reliable, having pitched in 59 or more games six straight years.
2. He is very confident in a time when the ‘pen could use a little mojo. K-Rod has already pitched in five Octobers, and won’t be spooked by the spotlight. (He cherishes it.)
1. He’s the best option on the market. Period.
Reason No. 1 is exactly why K-Rod may prove the perfect fit, despite what appear to be diminishing returns. He is the best man for the job, and the Mets desperately need that man right now to right the wrongs of 2007 and 2008. But dropping between $60-80 million in the lap of a pitcher whose velocity has dipped from the high to low 90s and who has a violent motion is risky.
Of course, it’s not my money and it’s not your money, but it is the Wilpons money. They, along with Omar Minaya, have to decide whether the second list outweighs the first.