May 23, 2007

Omar's Treasures

Tim Marchman at The New York Sun, writes about Omar Minaya and his knack for picking up other team's pitching busts and turning them into solid starters:

One of the great mysteries of Omar Minaya's tenure as general manager of the Mets has been the ease with which he's found gold amid garbage. John Maine and Oliver Perez, who were acquired in exchange for essentially nothing and look capable of anchoring the starting rotation for the next five years, are the best examples, but they're not the only ones. Orlando Hernandez seemed finished before Minaya brought him to New York last year and has been a fine no. 2 starter since then, and Jorge Sosa has started his Mets career more than credibly.

The strongest commonality, though, is that without exception, these were all flyball pitchers — as is Pedro Martinez, the one starter for whom Minaya paid a lot, and one who of course pitched at a Cy Young level in 2005, coming off of the worst season of his career. Most of them surrendered an extreme number of flyballs.

Looked at this way, it makes perfect sense that the Mets have had the horrid to go along with the good. To find pitchers like El Duque, who are unusually equipped to take advantage of roomy parks and quick fielders, you have to suffer through a few pitchers like Park and Lima. It isn't always pretty, but overall this approach has paid off pretty well for a team whose starting pitching has over the last few years been a lot better in the real world than it has been on paper.

Before the season, no one could figure out how the Mets were going to get anyone out; now, they're first in the league in starter ERA. It takes a bit of luck to turn up a tandem like Maine and Perez, but it takes some smarts to get lucky in the first place. Tip a cap to Minaya and his staff; they've earned it.

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