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April 6, 2005
Deep Breaths, Everyone
Everybody's played one game--six teams have even played two--and the big challenge for those of us who write about baseball is not overreacting to what we've seen. As we learned last year, even four months of a season might not be enough information to reach conclusions. I wrote the Red Sox off at the trade deadline and buried the Astros three weeks later, only to end up watching both teams go deep into October.
So it's silly to pretend that we know anything more today than we did on Saturday. It's one game, or two games, and as tempting as it is to use what we've seen to reinforce our perceptions, that kind of confirmation isn't meaningful, any more than two games in the middle of May would be meaningful.
So yes, the Mets' bullpen let them down in the season's first game, giving the chattering class an opening to sound the alarms. The thing is, though, it wasn't the soft spots in the pen that led to the 7-6 loss. Middle relievers
The Mets have a lot of depth in the bullpen, and in fact spent the latter part of spring training trying to choose from among it, even trading away
Looper isn't a top-tier closer and, in fact, had had trouble holding closer jobs before last year, when he improved his command and had his best season. That he blew a save on Opening Day, however, doesn't change his outlook. He blew one last September 11, too, giving up four runs to the Phillies. In the context of his entire season, it was one bad game. That's how you have to look at Looper's performance on Monday: one bad game.
This principle also applies when one bad game makes you look smart. I'm perhaps the biggest objector to
Smoltz has ruined his ERA like this before. Back in '02, his first full season as a closer, he coughed up eight earned runs in 2/3 of an inning in his second appearance of the season. His ERA didn't get back to three digits until after tax day, and while he ended up having a very good year, that one outing kept his season ERA above 4.00 until the All-Star break. He finished at 3.25, but 2.37 with that half-hour removed. Smoltz--and for that matter, Looper--can take heart in that example.
The Dodgers lost yesterday in part because their defense didn't make some plays. The big one was
Valentin is not the third baseman that Beltre is and, in fact, has precious little experience at the position. On the other hand, he makes eight million less than Beltre does, and that money threw seven good innings at the Giants yesterday.
That Valentin made an important misplay on Opening Day doesn't mean that Dodgers will be a .500 team. Their infield defense will not be as strong as it was last season, although the hope is that their offense will make up for a chunk of that. It's a risk--Valentin and
This is what April is, if you're serious about doing baseball analysis from a performance standpoint or a skills standpoint. You have to absorb, rather than react. Everything that happens has to be considered in the context of a long season. Events that would be washed away in the heat of the dog days shouldn't be considered damning or glorifying because they happened first, or because they'll leave a guy with an ERA like an AM radio station for three weeks.
If I were Alex Belth, I'd link to EPMD here. I'm not as cool as Alex, so I'll just say this: we all have to relax and let the baseball season happen. That may not be satisfactory or salesworthy, but it is smart.