Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Johan Santana And The Four Rainouts Need Backup Singers

Attention, Mets fans! Now you can be a backup singer for Johan Santana and The Four Rainouts! It's easy to qualify. Just come down to the Tradition Field Studios, trot out to the mound, throw your best stuff down the middle of the plate and let out your best scream as you watch your pitches belted all over the field. (No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited by law. Some assembly required. Must be 48" or taller to ride. Yada, yada, yada.)

Why am I making all this fuss about pitching performances in early March? Because it's alarming how the starting rotation has performed in their Grapefruit League debuts.

Early Spring Training starts are about developing arm strength, but since when did they have to resemble batting practice? To show you what I mean, here are the numbers for the starts by the four members of the starting rotation already guaranteed spots.
  • Mike Pelfrey (Mar. 6): 3.0 IP, 3 ER, 7 H, 0 BB, 0 K
  • Oliver Perez (Mar. 7): 3.0 IP, 5 ER, 7 H, 1 BB, 2 K
  • John Maine (Mar. 8): 1.2 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 4K
  • Johan Santana (Mar. 9): 1.2 IP, 4 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 1 K
That's a total of 9.1 IP for the four starters. In those innings, they've combined to give up 13 earned runs and 22 hits. They have been throwing strikes, as shown by the total of three walks between the four pitchers, but they're strikes of the Rick Aguilera variety (Mr. Wild-In-The-Strike-Zone himself).

While singing the praises of Jenrry Mejia, Ike Davis and Fernando Martinez, has Jerry Manuel noticed that his starters have been getting hit hard? He can sugarcoat it by saying that they're throwing strikes, but wouldn't it be better if they were able to locate those strikes anywhere but the sweet spot of the opposing hitter's bat?

And what about the fifth starter? Whoever becomes the final member of Johan Santana and The Four Rainouts has to be ready to move up the food chain should one of the Drab Four get laryngitis (which Mets trainers would say is tendinosis and require a missed start or two). Can Jonathon Niese, Fernando Nieve and Nelson Figueroa be counted on to be the fifth starter and/or step up into a higher slot if needed?

The Mets cannot afford to have their pitching staff do poorly and hope to improve upon their fourth place finish of 2009. Only William Hung can take a shoddy performance and carry that all the way to the bank. (Okay, maybe Oliver Perez can do that too.) But whereas Mr. Hung did well with his fifteen minutes of fame, the Mets will have to do well with 162 minutes of game.

As a Mets fan, I expect Johan Santana and The Four Rainouts to be able to locate their pitches more effectively as Late Winter Training continues. They can throw all the strikes they want, but without location, the shower attendants will end up becoming good friends with them.

With their debut performances, Johan Santana and The Four Rainouts are soaring up the Hit Parade. Let's just hope they ease up on the hits as April approaches.

Photo of Johan Santana by Bruce Kluckhohn.

Photo of William Hung by some photographer who wishes to be in Bruce Kluckhohn's shoes.

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