Saturday, September 5, 2015

Joey's Soapbox: Can the Mets Trade Eric O'Flaherty For Doug Sisk?

I can't "bear" to watch the screen whenever Eric O'Flaherty takes the mound for the Mets.

Good Labor Day weekend to you all.  This is Joey Beartran, your fav'rit Studious Metsimus roving reporter/culinary expert/soapbox climber.  It's been far too long since I've gotten on my soapbox to complain about a Mets player I strongly dislike.  On the positive side, that's probably because the Mets have actually been a good team this year.  On the negative side, that means we were probably long overdue for a player who deserved my wrath.  And I've found that player in left-handed relief pitcher Eric O'Flaherty.

In Friday night's series opener in Miami, O'Flaherty came into the game in relief of Erik Goeddel, who had retired four of the five previous batters he had faced.  Why was Goeddel taken out in favor of O'Flaherty?  Because left-handed swinging Christian Yelich was up, and we all know lefties retire lefties, right?  There's only one problem with that for me.  Left-handed batters were batting .226 and had a .250 on-base percentage against Goeddel this year, while O'Flaherty had faced 23 lefty-swingers during his brief tenure as a Met and had allowed nine hits and one walk.  For all you kids out there, that's a .409 batting average and a .435 OBP.

O'Flaherty must have had his Lucky Charms before the game because he got Yelich to hit into a fielder's choice.  However, his luck ran out once Martin Prado stepped into the batter's box.  Let me set this one up for you, 'cause this one's a knee-slapper.

Prado is a right-handed batter.  He also had four hits in the game entering his confrontation against O'Flaherty.  Jeurys Familia had still not been used by the Mets because he had to be held out for a potential save situation in case the Mets took the lead, which, because it's the Marlins, might not have occurred until the 20th inning.  So let's leave O'Flaherty in the game to face a right-handed hitting Mets killer.  Makes perfect sense, right?  I mean, O'Flaherty had retired eight right-handed batters in his month with the Mets, so why couldn't he make Prado victim No. 9?  Never mind that he had also allowed eight righties reach base against him, including two doubles and one home run.  That's not important right now.

So Prado stepped in to face O'Flaherty with the speedy Christian Yelich on first, working the count full.  With two outs and a 3-2 count, Yelich would be running on the pitch.  Sure enough, Prado ripped his fifth hit of the game down the right field line, scoring Yelich easily from first base and setting off the jubilant celebration for the Marlins' third-ever World Series championship victory - or at least it seemed as if that's what they were doing.  I almost expected Marcell Ozuna to come out of the dugout and fire 2015 World Champions t-shirts into the stands with his cannon arm so that the four Marlins fans who attended the game could come to blows over them.

But I digress.  The point of this rant is to discuss Eric O'Flaherty and why he's still on this team.  And I'm going to bring up a former Met to kick everything off.

Let's hop in the DeLorean and go back to 1985.  No, we're not reenacting a scene from Back To The Future.  We're going back to Shea Stadium in the mid-'80s to pay a visit to Doug Sisk.  In 1984, the right-handed reliever was coming off his second consecutive solid season for the Mets.  Sisk had 15 saves and a career-best 2.09 ERA in 77⅔ innings, as he held opposing hitters to a .215 batting average and .260 slugging percentage.  His '84 season was fresh off his successful '83 campaign, a year in which he posted a 2.24 ERA and pitched a career-high 104⅓ innings, while recording 11 saves.  Then 1985 happened, and Sisk hit the fan.

One of the few problems experienced by Sisk in 1983 and 1984 was his lack of control.  He did walk his share of batters over those two seasons (113 in all), but always seemed to pitch his way out of trouble.  He finally learned how to throw strikes in 1985, and continued to throw balls over the plate in 1986, as he walked just 71 batters in those two seasons.  There's only one problem with that.  Hitters like balls over the plate.  And they responded by batting .286 over the two campaigns, pushing Sisk's ERA and WHIP to 4.20 and 1.63, respectively.

When a team has a plethora of good pitchers as the Mets did in 1985 and 1986, fans tend to notice the pitchers who don't do well, and Sisk got the undivided attention of all the boobirds during those two otherwise successful campaigns.  Let's put it this way.  In 1985, fans showed up to cheer Dwight Gooden, who posted a stellar 1.53 ERA.  Those same fans showed up to boo Doug Sisk, who produced a cringeworthy 1.73 WHIP in '85.  When one pitcher has a higher WHIP than his teammate's ERA, that's a problem, and Sisk was used less and less until he threw his final pitch for the Mets in 1987.

That brings us back to Eric O'Flaherty and Friday night's game against the Marlins.  The game was started by Jacob deGrom, who like Gooden thirty years earlier, was having an exceptional sophomore season after winning the Rookie of the Year Award the previous year.  DeGrom left the game with a 2.40 ERA.  When O'Flaherty's night ended after Prado's double, his WHIP stood at 2.45.  Even Doug Sisk has to be shaking his head at that.

Doug Sisk is cringing in this photo because he knew we'd someday compare him to Eric O'Flaherty.

General manager Sandy Alderson acquired O'Flaherty to face left-handed hitters.  O'Flaherty replaced southpaw Alex Torres, who had far more success against right-handed batters (.157 batting average, .298 OBP) than lefty-swingers (.268 average, .406 OBP).  In hindsight, they should have kept Torres, as O'Flaherty has allowed all hitters to bat .405 against him and slug at a .622 clip.

O'Flaherty has pitched in 13 games with the Mets.  He has allowed base runner in ten of those 13 affairs.  In two of the three games he shocked the world by retiring every batter he faced, every batter consisted of one batter.  Even Doug Sisk could get one batter out more often than not if he only had to face one batter.

There is no reason why O'Flaherty should have been in the game to face Martin Prado.  He faced his one batter in Yelich and got him to ground into a fielder's choice.  O'Flaherty is a one-and-done pitcher.  That's all he should ever be for the Mets.  Instead, he faced one too many batters and the Mets were the ones who were done.

Doug Sisk will turn 58 at the end of the month.  His fellow Washington State native Eric O'Flaherty just entered his thirties this past February.  And yet, somehow I think I'd rather take my chances with the former Met and current AARP member on the mound to face batters in a back-and-forth affair than I would with the ticking time bomb we've come to know as Eric O'Flaherty.

Then again, Sisk might prove to be useful in other ways if the Mets continue to trot out O'Flaherty in tight games.  You see, Sisk has been working in sales for a Washington-based wine company since the beginning of the year, and has been participating in wine tastings in the Pacific Northwest.  Should O'Flaherty continue to implode on the mound, Mets fans in the Atlantic Northeast might need to partake in a sample of Sisk's wines.

Right now, I'll drink anything to make me forget what it feels like to watch Eric O'Flaherty "pitch".  Keep 'em comin', Dougie.  Keep 'em comin'.

I don't remember posing for this photo with an empty beer cup on my Mets hoodie.

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