This is my second installment of a three part series titled, "Mets Need" where I’ll be discussing the Mets needs and suggesting how to address those needs.In case you missed it last week, in Mets Need: Defense!, I argued that the Mets need to improve the team by acquiring good fielders like Mike Cameron, Lyle Overbay, Placido Polanco and Rod Barajas.In addition to improving Defense, the Mets need to improve their pitching. As GravediggerHebner discussed last week in Let's Talk About # 2, the Mets need an ace type pitcher to slot behind Johan Santana. What I'll attempt to do here is begin the discussion on what makes a good pitcher and how to improve the Mets pitching.So to Fred and Jeff Wilpon, Omar Minaya and the rest of the Mets Leadership, I say, "Mets Need Pitching!"For the full article, click on the link below. See you after the jump. <!--more-->First, the Mets need to move heaven and earth to get free agent pitching coach extraordinaire, Dave Duncan.
Duncan has expressed displeasure over the way his son Chris, a Cardinals outfielder who was traded to Boston earlier this summer, had been treated in the news media, and he ceased speaking to the St. Louis-area newspapers. He did take time to speak to an out-of-town reporter and pondered for a moment the notion that the highly successful partnership he and La Russa forged during the 1980s might soon be disbanded.Why? New York Times reporter David Waldstein does a great job of breaking down what Duncan has been able to do in St. Louis:
The difference in ERA between a high strikeout-low walk/ground ball pitcher and a low strikeout-high walk/fly ball pitcher is substantial (3.15 vs. 5.90). Assuming similar walk and GB/FB rates, the difference between a strikeout pitcher (9.0 K/9) and a non-strikeout pitcher (5.0 K/9) is nearly 1.5 runs per game. Assuming similar strikeout and walk rates, the difference between a fly ball pitcher (0.75 GB/FB) and a ground ball pitcher (2.00 GB/FB) is approximately 0.75 runs per game. Assuming similar strikeout and GB/FB rates, the difference between a pitcher with good control (2.0 BB/9) and relatively poor control (4.0 BB/9) is 0.6 runs per game.As the chart from BBTIA shows, a poor pitcher in any of these three areas will greatly increase a player's ERA. A pitcher with a 7K/9 , 3BB/9 and 1.00 GB/FB projects to a league average 4.50 ERA. Highlighted in orange are other combinations that will produce the same result. Bolded in black from left to right are the approximate projected ERAs for Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey and John Maine. Oliver Perez is literally off the charts.GB/FB2BB/9K2BB/7K2BB/5K3BB/9K3BB/7K3BB/5K4BB/9K4BB/7K4BB/5K0.753.814.435.304.114.735.604.415.035.901.003.614.205.053.914.505.354.214.805.651.253.464.024.853.764.325.154.064.625.451.503.333.874.703.634.175.003.934.475.302.003.153.664.463.453.964.763.754.265.06Let's take a look at how the current rotation compares over the past three years:PlayerGB/FBK/9BB/9Johan Santana0.928.522.34Mike Pelfrey1.695.153.29Oliver Perez0.658.574.98John Maine0.897.793.93There is much room for improvement in the Mets rotation. If Pelfrey could get two more strike outs per game, he'd project to a 4.17 ERA. If Oliver Perez walked only 3 batters per nine innings, he'd project to a 4.11 ERA. And if John Maine walked one less batter or increased his ground ball rate to 1.50, he'd project to a 4.50 ERA. Ideally, Omar Minaya & Co. will be able to add a pitcher or two who is accomplished in these areas. Below is a list of 2010 and 2011 Free Agents (minimum of 200 innings for the past 3 seasons) that fit into two of the three categories ( K/9 of >5K, a BB/9 of <4K and a GB/FB of >0.75):PlayerGB/FBK/9BB/9Josh Beckett1.338.661.98Erik Bedard1.169.963.33Kelvim Escobar22.214.171.124Randy Johnson1.068.82.38John Lackey1.277.152.22Brett Myers1.347.633.14Carl Pavano126.96.36.199Andy Pettitte1.446.562.91John Smoltz1.178.862.11Randy Wolf0.987.382.98Bronson Arroyo1.056.362.80Joe Blanton1.255.982.38Jeff Francis1.206.492.81Roy Halladay1.847.001.55Aaron Harang0.867.902.26Cliff Lee1.096.771.84Jamie Moyer1.085.582.81Javier Vazquez0.999.092.17Brandon Webb3.087.302.68Obviously, the Red Sox aren't about to trade Beckett and the Phillies and Braves likely won't be sending any of their pitchers to the Mets. If I were Omar Minaya, I would be targeting Erk Bedard, Randy Johnson, John Lackey, Brett Myers, John Smoltz, Randy Wolf, Aaron Harang and Brandon Webb. Bedard had surgery in August for a torn labrum and may not be available for Opening Day but is the ideal buy low candidate. Randy Johnson returned from the 60 day DL in September and is also a high reward - low risk candidate. As Grave noted, Lackey is the perfect match for the Mets. John Smoltz has indicated he wants to return to pitch in the National League after regaining his form with the Cardinals. Randy Wolf may cost more than what the Mets could have paid him last year but like last year, he may still be job hunting after the New Year. Harang's $12.5M salary in 2010 would greatly reduce any potential trade but if he were packaged with Brandon Phillips the Reds could deal Harang as they attempt to reduce budget. The Diamondbacks picked up Webb's $8.5M option but Webb wouldn't consider an extension. Keep your eye on Webb for a mid-season trade.Pairing John Lackey with any of these pitchers would go a great way to improve the Mets rotation next year. Still though, the Mets do have prospects that could see their way to the rotation next year. Here's a look at how the Mets Starting Pitching prospects faired in 2009: