Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Arson Squad Strikes Again

Playoff teams do not employ lefty specialists who cannot get out lefties.

Scott Schoeneweis had a .167/.236/.271 line against lefties going into today's game. That meant nothing to Casey Kotchman, who singled home the game-tying run in turned out to be a 7-6 Braves victory. It was the third time a Braves left-hander had gotten a hit off Schoeneweis in the last eight days - and two of those hits ended up directly contributing to Met losses.

Just last Saturday, Schoeneweis was called upon to bail out Johan Santana in the eighth inning of a 2-o game and instead promptly gave up a single to Kotchman. Schoeneweis then turned the ball over to fellow members of The Arson Squad, and the Braves' first baseman eventually came around to score the winning run in a devastating 3-2 loss.

One day later, Schoeneweis was again called upon for eighth-inning duty. He gave up a single to right-handed hitting Martin Prado and retired switch-hitting Chipper Jones before Brian McCann stepped to the plate. McCann is left-handed and therefore should've been easy pickings for Schoeneweis; instead he smacked a single and forced Jerry Manuel to go to the bullpen to get out of the inning. Joe Smith got the Mets out of trouble in the eighth, but Luis Ayala and Pedro Feliciano fell apart in the ninth inning of a 7-4 loss.

It's not just the Braves' left-handers that have Schoeneweis' number lately; Nationals rookie Roger Bernadina smacked a single off Schoeneweis in the ninth inning of a 7-2 Mets win on September 18. That's four lefty batters who have beaten Schoeneweis in the last eight days, and if he can't get out the likes of Bernadina you have to wonder what on earth Schoeneweis is still doing here.

Manuel's only other alternatives at this point are Pedro Feliciano, who can't get anyone out either, and the well-traveled Ricardo Rincon. Met fans will be calling for the general manager to restock the bullpen in the off-season, but Scott Schoeneweis is Exhibit A for why you don't give multi-year deals to middle relievers, no matter how bad your bullpen was the year before.

As bad as Schoeneweis has been lately, he'll be here next year as well, costing the Mets $3.5 million to take up space in the back of the bullpen and to give up big hits to left-handed batters when you need him the most.


tim said...

True, you shouldn't give multi-year deals to short relievers, but in this age of show me the money, getting a guy like Dan Wheeler (who never should have let go) is going to take a three or four year deal. So rebuilding a bullpen is even more of a crapshoot. David Weathers will be out there an because of his age won't be able to leverage more than a year so he'd be worth going after for some help.

Brian said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but Casey Kotchman is the guy who got that lucky check-swing single, no? Not the best example with which to make your case.

McCann? Sure, he got that hit off of Schoewenweiss that Sunday. He also flied out against him yesterday. The mistake was leaving him to face a righty, Infante, but even then, it was a righty sandwiched between two lefties, so you could have lived with a base hit from Infante, who has as many home runs this year as Luis Castillo. (Of course, Schoewenweis turns the average hitter into David Wright in a good year, and Infante promptly doubled.) After this, Kotchman comes up with his check-swing "hit".

Point being, Schoewenweis has always been, and remains a viable option against lefties, but he is so miserable against righties
that he is a risk even in a sandwich situation with two lefties against a bad rightie. Ergo, you could make a case that his limitations are so severe that he really does have no business in the majors. So why am I even writing this? (It says something about Schoewenweis that even when I try my hardest to defend him, I end up concluding that he might not belong in the majors.)

tim said...

Shoeneweiss is not a viable option, period.

Brian said...

His line against lefties is .173/.276/.236. This is more than viable against one lefty in a crucial spot. His numbers has always been good against lefties. The problem is his total ineptitude against right-handed hitting. Feliciano is worse this year, but it's possible he will rebound, as he has historically been very good against both. Schoewenweis has proven, throughout his career, that he is suicide against right-handed hitters.

Jack Flynn said...

Brian, Schoeneweis's problems with right-handers are well documented and it would be inexcusable to bring him in to face a good righty batter in any situation. I think the larger problem is that Schoeneweis has actually done quite well against lefties for most of the season, but has failed on four different occasions in the last eight days. Kotchman has beaten him twice in that time, even if one was an excuse-me single. McCann did the same, even if Show did his job later in the week and got him out.

The over-arching point is that playoff teams have relievers who actually get the big outs in that situation. That's what separates legitimate playoff teams from the Mets, who cannot count on their specialists to do their job in pressure situations.

Brian said...

I agree with you more than I disagree. However, I have to insist that when evaluating pitcher performance, you a hit when the hitter did not even intend to swing should not count at all. And McCann is a superb hitter. That guy will beat you on occasion. And, except for Wagner and Armando Benitez, most of this "he can't perform in a big spot" stuff is not particularly convincing.

Of course, he will continue to be used, and if he continues to fail against lefties in crucial situations at the most crucial point of the year, I will concede your point. And if Manuel continues to pitch him against righties, and if he continues to use Marlon Anderson in any situation for any reason (Endy Chavez is a far, far superior hitter to Marlon Anderson) and if he continues to pinch-hit Easley in situations that place a premium on power--such as yesterday--over Castro and Evans, then he will cast severe double as to his viability as Met manager next year.