It was shaping up to be a glorious weekend of baseball for the Mets. Temperatures soared, and the Mets welcomed an opponent -- the lowly Nationals -- that was even more appetizing than anything purveyed at the Shake Shack in Citi Field. This was supposed to be the weekend in which the Mets, who entered as the losers of four straight games, would finally kick their 2009 season into gear.
It certainly looked as if it would be just that through Saturday, after a typically brilliant performance from
As the blazing sun set over New York on Sunday night, and as the first-place Marlins headed north for a three-game set that was to begin on Monday, the 8-10 Mets could only look at the weekend as they might an episode of
"I'm really concerned about him at this point," manager
The southpaw doesn't seem to know, either: "It's not there. I have to just keep working and get better."
This much is clear: He's not nearly the pitcher he was two years ago, when he went 15-10 with a 3.56 ERA, or even in '08 (10-7, 4.22). According to fangraphs.com, entering Sunday he was throwing his fastball two miles per hour slower (89.3 mph) than usual, and his changeup more than four mph faster (84.8). A 4.5 mph difference between those pitches is negligible indeed (by way of comparison, Santana throws his changeup nearly 11 mph slower than his heater), and means that hitters don't have to guess which pitch is coming, and can handle both with ease. They've been doing just that, as Perez has allowed 23 hits in his 19.1 innings. Add that to Perez's usual control problems -- he led the NL in bases on balls last season, and has already issued 15 in '09 -- and what you get is a pitcher who might be off to the worst start of any in the National League thus far, at least as compared to what was expected of him. Cause for concern, indeed.
Of course, the Mets' rotational woes only begin with Perez. They possess exactly one reliable starter: Santana, who looks more untouchable than ever. Only Santana currently has an ERA lower than Pelfrey's 6.32; only Santana currently has more than a single quality start to his credit.
The problem for the Mets is that unlike some of baseball's other superpowers -- the Yankees and Red Sox, in particular -- they don't have a stable of backup arms to turn to when things go poorly.
Minaya felt certain over the winter that the only thing standing between his Mets and the playoffs was a reinforced bullpen. And this bullpen, behind new additions
Otherwise, the only thing the Mets will be doing this October is wondering how a team with the game's second-highest payroll managed to finish below .500.