As I mentioned earlier today, Joe Janish from Mets Today (a must-visit site if you want to stay up-to-date on the Mets) and I swapped some questions with one another as a prelude to the Braves-Mets series which begins tonight at The Ted. Here are my questions for Joe and his answers...(Be sure and follow the jump to see all seven questions)
1. John Maine started out hot but has quickly chilled. Any ideas on what's happening there?
On the one hand, he's not the guy who had a 1.37 ERA through his first six starts --- but then, who is? On the other hand, he's also not necessarily the guy who has given up 9 hits and 12 walks in his last 11 innings. Right now he's having an issue with his release point that may or may not be related to a confidence issue; he appears to be aiming the ball, releasing high, and in turn his pitches are up and flat. Assuming he works out the glitch, he should settle in as a solid #3 or possibly #2 starter --- the kind of guy who will routinely pitch into the 7th inning and win 13-15 games. This is a different pitcher from last year, in that he has added a plus slider and an above-average change-up to his repertoire. When those pitches are working, along with his two fastballs (sinker and 4-seam), he's tough to beat.2. Julio Franco is one of my favorite Braves of the past. How do you feel about Julio Franco and his role on this Mets team? Will he still be around to ring in his 50th birthday in MLB as he's always vowed to do?
Every time I'm about to ask aloud why this old fogey is hogging a roster spot, he does something amazing to prove me wrong. For example, while playing first base one game, he charged a bunt, fielded it on the third-base side of the mound, whirled and threw the runner out at second --- that's something you won't see from ANY first baseman in MLB, at any age. He's in top physical shape, can play two positions (he started at third last week), and unless a team bunches five people in rightfield, he'll get his hits. I think there's a good chance he's playing on his 50th birthday.3. Is Carlos Delgado simply slumping or do you think he's in some pain and not letting on?
Pain ... that's an interesting take ... hadn't considered that. He claims to be healthy, but maybe you're on to something there. Throughout April, it appeared that his timing was off --- his body was way ahead of his hands, or vice-versa. Lately he seems to be more in tune, and has some good at-bats, but can't seem to string a few good games together. Maybe his new baby is keeping him up at night.4. It seems that Orlando Hernandez is nearing a return. Jorge Sosa has gone 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA since replacing El Duque, making it hard to imagine that he'll be the one leaving to make room for El Duque's return. Who will the Mets move to make room for El Duque's return?
5. Scott Schoenweiss started out strong but is now carrying a 6.50 ERA. What do you think is happening there?
Actually, it's not a question anymore, because the Mets recently demoted fifth starter Mike Pelfrey, and it's assumed that Jason Vargas is only a stopgap in the interim. If Sosa continues to impress, he'll take over the #5 spot when El Duque returns.
I think that Willie Randolph is delusional in his thinking that "The Show" is more than a LOOGY. Randolph is trying to get a handle on his pitching staff by throwing guys into different situations, hoping they grab hold of a role, and he's put Schoeneweis into some extended appearances. It's becoming more clear with every outing that Schoeneweis should be relegated to situational matchups.
6. Which Braves closer scares you more, Wickman or Soriano?
Soriano, hands down. Wickman is so hittable, he doesn't scare me. Yet, he's like the Inspector Clouseau of relief pitching --- somehow, some way, he manages to bungle his way into earning a save. Soriano, on the other hand, is dominating --- when he's on, I don't see how anyone hits him.7. What's the key for the Mets if they want to take two or more games from the Braves this week?
The Mets need the bats to push Davies and James out of their games early. I'm not sold on the middle relievers in the Braves 'pen, but am sure there will be trouble if the Mets are down when the 8th inning comes around. Further, I'd like to see Peter Moylan and Tyler Yates used in the first two games, on the off-chance that Smoltzie can't get past the sixth in the finale. I'll be measuring the Mets' chances by the number of times I see Chad Paronto warming up in the bullpen.
To see Joe's questions for me and my answers, head over to Mets Today.