i traded e-mails this afternoon with eric simon, my SB Nation blog-brother over at Amazin Avenue. he proposed that we exchange 5 questions apiece about our teams in advance of the NLCS. my answers to his questions about the cardinals are up here; below, his answers to my questions about the mets.
In the absence of Duaner Sanchez, what's the hierarchy of set-up men in the Met bullpen? Does Wagner ever get called into a game before the start of the 9th?
Obviously Wagner is the closer, and Willie Randolph has gone so far as to say that he won't be used for more than an inning at a time. In the absence of Filthy Sanchez, Aaron Heilman is the primary setup man and can be counted on to pitch the eighth inning in any close game in which the Mets have the lead. Guillermo Mota has been pitching the seventh, with Pedro Feliciano (lefty) and Chad Bradford (righty) bridging the gap between starter and Mota.
What are your biggest beefs with Willie Randolph?
His in-game management decisions are questionable at times. This was a bigger problem in his first season as manager in 2005, though I think they became magnified by the fact that he was a rookie helmsman and that the Mets were still not a great team. He is still prone to the occasional goofy call, like allowing Guillermo Mota to hit for himself with the bases loaded and two outs in a tight Game 1 of the LDS. His bullpen management was spotty last year, but it's amazing what a dependable relief corps can do for a manager's reputation.
Suppose it's 5-4 late in the game, there are men on 1st and 2nd with two outs, and Pujols is up. A walk pushes the go-ahead run into scoring position and puts the tying run in position to score without a hit (walk, hbp, error, wild pitch, etc). Do you want Randolph to a) go right after Pujols and try to get him out, b) unintentionally-intentionally walk him, or c) stop screwing around and hold up 4 fingers?
I'd give him the pass. The Mets' bullpen does not walk a whole lot of batters (Feliciano's bases-loaded walk in Game 3 of the LDS notwithstanding). Randolph would be second-guessed if Poo collected yet another big hit for the Cards in that situation, so I would definitely take my chances with Rolen or whomever else bats behind The King.
If you're in a situation where you have no choice but to pitch to Pujols --- say, in a tie game with the bases loaded -- which Met reliever (aside from Wagner) do you want on the mound?
I'd say Heilman. Bradford is tough on righties and his underhand delivery can be a bit jarring to hitters, but Heilman is the Mets' #2 guy so I'd lean on him in a situation in which I couldn't use Wagner.
Aside from injuries, what Achilles heel on the Met team makes you most nervous about this series?
Their two biggest weaknesses are the lineup's susceptibility to left-handed pitching and the lack of anything resembling a lights-out starting pitcher. The Cardinals have no left-handed starters so as long as the Mets can score some runs before the bullpen takes over I'm not too worried about that. The rotation is a bigger concern, I think. Tom Glavine is what he is: a soft-tossing, crafty lefty-hander. He'll pitch well enough to keep the team in the game. John Maine has been impressive, but he's still pretty inexperienced and has a tendency to give up the longball. Steve Trachsel can't really be counted on for much at this point, and you never know what you're going to get out of Oliver Perez (maybe a 12-strikeout gem, maybe a seven-walk disaster). It looks like El Duque will be out for the duration of the postseason, and with Pedro already on the shelf the Mets' starting pitching is definitely vulnerable.
thanks to eric for initiating the Q+A exchange; looking forward to a great series.