When it comes to the Mets' starting rotation, I think all of their replacement-level options are better than Tim Redding. Redding's stuff is disgraceful, and his general approach to the craft of pitching is laughable. He's been embarrassed in his last two starts -- recently against the Marlins, and the Red Sox before that -- and there is little-to-no indication of potential improvement. I don't think there is any doubt at this point...
Redding is not a major league pitcher. With an 86-to-88 MPH fastball and lackluster offspeed deliveries, one wonders how he was given a guaranteed contract this offseason by general manager Omar Minaya. (But I can't get too upset with Omar, he acquired Johan Santana for a bag of groceries.) Regardless of the reasoning behind the signing, it's time to abandon ship. But where should the Mets go from here, until Oliver Perez (another awful signing) returns?
Well, it's time to introduce our contestants on "Who Wants to Be the Mets Number Five Starter?!!"
Contestant #1-LHP-Jon Niese
If Redding gets rocked in his next start (which he probably will), Niese is the favorite to take his place in the rotation. Niese had a couple of starts in the bigs already this season -- one good, one bad -- and he's been an absolute disaster in AAA. In spite of his minor league failures, Niese is considered one of the better starting pitching prospects in the Mets organization, so they'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt.
I like the control that Niese exhibited in his pair of starts with the Mets, but his stuff is pedestrian. His fastball is in the 88-92 range, but it's pretty flat, and he has a tendency to fall in love with it. In order for Niese to be successful at the game's highest level, he needs to continually change speeds, especially with his big, 12-6 curveball. Overall, he's not our best option.
Contestant #2-RHP-Nelson Figueroa
Nelson's not going to blow you away with his fastball, but he has a sharper mind for pitching than Redding. Figueroa is a craftsman, mixing speeds and deliveries while working at a comfortable pace. He's gotten the call from the Mets a number of times in the past, and he always manages to keep his team in the game. I like his mindset, and I love his deceptively slow breaking ball. He's a respectable option, but not optimal.
Contestant #3-RHP-Brandon Knight
Very similar to Redding, which means I want nothing to do with him. Falls behind in the count, sub-par offspeed stuff, and little method to his madness. Definitely not the man for the job.
Contestant #4-LHP-Ken Takahashi
I'd rank this savvy lefty as the best option to this point in the post. Takahashi is currently working as a mop-up man in the Mets' bullpen, and he's performed surprisingly well with an ERA under 3.00 and an extremely low WHIP.
Takahashi has excellent command, and he's a veteran that's not really affected by score or situation. He's very poised, and his change-up is a devastating weapon if he spots it correctly after his 87-89 MPH fastball. His arsenal is similar to Niese's, but Takahashi is clearly more experienced and understanding of what he needs to do to be effective. He's my No. 2 option for the No. 5 spot.
Contestant #5-RHP-Brian Stokes
What else does this guy need to do to get some respect?
Stokes has a 2.75 ERA this year, after being the best right-handed reliever in last season's Met bullpen. He's walked only five batters in 20 innings, after walking just eight in 33 last year. He works fast, gets ahead in the count, and has a 93-98 MPH fastball.
Stokes is not only a flamethrower; no, he features a nasty, tight breaking ball as well. And yet, like Takahashi, he's a mop-up man in our current bullpen. When a pitcher with this type of stuff is working as a garbage guy, that signifies underuse. Since he's being wasted in the bullpen, he might as well return to a starting role, where he began (for one start) with the Mets in '08. He had extended experience as a starter (though in AAA), in the past.
I like his stuff and mentality. Vote: Yes!
Congratulations to Mr. Stokes on his victory in this imaginary game show. This is all basically irrelevant, because the Mets will probably go with Niese, haha.
(The Red Sox are the new Yankees. How did they make the transition? "JFro," aka John Frascella, is the author of "Theo-logy: How a Boy Wonder Led the Red Sox to the Promised Land." It's the first full-length book centered on Boston Red Sox's popular general manager Theo Epstein. Preview or purchase it online at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble or Borders. It's currently stocked in Barnes and Noble stores throughout the U.S. Also, check out John on Twitter.)