Monday, December 22, 2008

Don't underestimate Stokes...

I'm more then satisfied with the right side of our bullpen and in fact hope all they add is an early inning situational lefty. But I've heard many Mets fan still wanting to add an additional right handed reliever, many are doing so at the expense of Brian Stokes. I think in doing that they are greatly underestimating him and the value he has to this ball club. As I see the bullpen, here is how it shapes up....

Closer- K-Rod
Setup man- J.J.
late inning lefty- Feliciano
7th inning guy- Sean Green
Long man/alt. 7th inning guy- Stokes
ROOGY- Dirty

Brian Stokes appeared in 24 games last year ( 33 innings) including one start in which he posted an ERA of 3.51 and SO/BB 26/8. He was recalled on August 9th and over the final two months of the season pitched 18 scoreless relief appearances, two one run app., two -two run app. and one three run appearance. His first major league appearance for the Mets was his only start of the season in which he went 5.2 innings allowing 4 runs. In my opinion that was a solid year for a middle reliever and if the bullpen hadn't been falling apart around him, no one would be discussing replacing him. In fact the only right handed reliever who's job should be in jeopardy is Dirty, but I think another year removed from surgery and in a reduced role he will be effective. But he could be replace by Robertson or O'Day, or if they decided to sign Cordero or Ayala.

But Stokes has been underestimated several times in his career, in 2007 with the Tampa Bay Rays, Stokes was winning the fifth starters (source Rays Index) spot in spring training over Edwin Jackson but Jackson was out of options. So Stokes was moved to the pen, not just as a middle reliever but to compete for the closers role.

“I think Stokes has the makeup to pitch at the end of the game,” said Maddon. “I think he has the physical ability and the makeup and the accountability and all of the characteristics that are necessary for a guy to pitch at the end of the game. He’s been very impressive. I have a lot of confidence in him.” source Tampa Bay Tribune

"And I'll also say that the whole staff also felt he could be a good starter," Maddon said. "It wasn't like we felt he can't start, so he has to be a bullpen guy. He has the qualities, we think, to become a good bullpen pitcher." Maddon thinks so highly of Stokes that he's now been thrust into the competition for the closer job. "He could [become the closer]," Maddon said. "I know people are going to look at it as he has absolutely no experience in that whatsoever. But we're pretty much into giving guys experience around here. ... I'm reading beyond just his physical abilities. I think this guy has the innards to [close]." source

The Rays opted to go with the veteran Al Reyes as the closer and Stokes struggled in his first year as a reliever, in 59 appearance he was 2-7 with a 7.07 ERA. The pitching deep Rays, with a tight budget decided to let him go after the season for cash consideration. It's pretty clear that the Rays have a sound scouting system and they viewed him as either a 5th starter or potential closer. Stokes is under 30 y/o and with an arm like his, while coming off a year in which he significantly adjusted to his role as a reliever he should automatically be penciled in for a spot in the pen.....