>Shocker: Mets, like every team, need more pitching.

>Saying that the Mets are going to improve their rotation before Opening Day (baseball!) is sort of like saying that the Mets aren’t going to botch a press conference – they should be able to easily do so, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

So the Mets’ puppet GM is giving the same “Oliver Perez and John Maine won 15 games in 2007” speech that he was giving during the winter of 2007-08. Which was two years ago, when Maine and Perez combined to win 30 games the previous year, and not 10. You could have gone into a coma for all of 2008 and 2009, and there would be nothing in the Mets universe to convince you that it was now 2010 and not 2008. You know, other than the new stadium and maybe Johan Santana.

The Mets opening day rotation is possibly going to look like this, with slightly screwy CHONE innings pitched and ERA projections. I’m going to throw on my own “totally healthy” innings pitched projections, i.e. how many innings I’d guess the pitcher would throw if he was healthy for the entire season. Not that it will happen:

Johan Santana: 3.89, 183 IP, 220 healthy IP
Mike Pelfrey: 4.58, 175 IP, 210 healthy IP
Oliver Perez: 4.85, 128 IP, 180 healthy IP
John Maine: 4.46, 123 IP, 190 healthy IP

plus one of

Fernando Nieve: 4.05, 40 IP
Nelson Figueroa: 4.38, 156 IP
Jon Niese: 4.57, 132 IP
Pat Misch: 4.16, 67 IP

If you add up the CHONE innings pitched for all eight potential starters, it comes out to over 1000, about what you’d expect from a starting rotation . . .

But I wouldn’t put too much into these CHONE projections. Keep in mind that Misch and Nieve are both projected as relievers, and Nelson Figueroa is supposed to be the Mets #3 starter.

However, anyway you look at it, the Mets need more pitching. Of course, every team always needs more pitching, but the Mets especially need more pitching because they don’t even have five major league starters at the moment. The Mets need to get enough water into the pool to cover the bottom before they even start worrying about pitching depth. Now, if you want to talk about backup catchers, that’s another story, because that talent pool is Olympic sized.

Anyway, of the eight pitchers listed here, five are coming off injury plagued 2009 season. The front four each has big questions: Maine has shoulder issues, Johan Santana elbow is now either fully repaired or just temporarily patched together, Mike Pelfrey needs defensive help, and Oliver Perez is – well, Oliver Perez just is.

Plus, even if all four were fully healthy going into the year, at least one of the bunch is going to suffer an injury during 2010. The human body isn’t designed to throw a baseball at maximum effort thousands of times. Pitchers get hurt, and then they get hurt again, they have a Dr. Frankenstein surgery, and then they get hurt once more. Someone in the rotation is going to get hurt, as happens every year. The Mets don’t seem prepared for that reality again.

If you momentarily pretend Omar has just one enormous flaw as GM, it’s his inability to build a rotation with five starters on opening day and adequate depth. Year after year, the Mets go into the season with a maximum of four major league starters and then scrap heap or unknown youth in the fifth spot. So then Jorge Sosa gets to make 14 starts. Or Brian Lawrence pitches. Or Phillip Humber has to make an important September start. Four major league starters isn’t enough. Five really isn’t enough either, but it’s better than four.

But it looks like it’s going to happen again. I think the Mets know this is a bad plan this time around. But it might be too late to do much about it.

But spring training is right around the corner, and thinking like this is about as fun as listening to the audiobook novelization of “Avatar.” So here’s an optimistic projection to make you feel better about the 2010 Mets:

Johan Santana: 1200 IP, 0.00 ERA, 3600 K, 90 wins, saves three fans choking on hot dogs in the stands.

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