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No One is Talking About Nelson Figueroa

By Mike Silva ~ March 11th, 2010. Filed under: Mike Silva, New York Mets.

All spring you keep hearing how the Mets brass wants Jonathan Niese to grab the fifth spot. If he doesn’t, then Fernando Nieve very likely would be the next choice. Even Japanese import Hisanori Takahashi is talked about in the five hole. The ironic part is the best of them all, Nelson Figueroa, doesn’t seem to be given much of a shot. That is not only a mistake, but a tragedy after the work he has put in.

The Mets don’t owe Figueroa anything because he has lasted 15 years in professional baseball. They should consider him because it appears he may finally have learned how to harness his talent and become an above average big league pitcher. Sure, Figueroa had his chance in 2008 and fizzled after the infamous game where the Nationals chided him like a little league team. He has never put together a full season of starts, much less league average performance. If you want to be a cynic he could be the best of a shaky lot and that is why he looks so good. Even last summer a member of the New York media told me how he “loves Figueroa as a person, but doesn’t believe he has big league stuff.” My response was has he ever really gotten a chance to prove that statement wrong?

Figueroa pitched well in Buffalo, New York and in the Dominican this winter. It might be his best string of performances since he was a kid pitching in Single A Capital City back in 1996. The Mets rotation really needs someone that could give them quality innings out of the five hole since 2 through 4, as of right now, could be a crapshoot. Fernando Nieve profiles better out of the bullpen, Takahashi is an unknown and Jonathan Niese hasn’t even put up a full season of quality performance in the minors. All Figueroa has done since last season is provide his teams with quality and length during his starts. This spring he has thrown another eight scoreless innings. What more can you ask out of a starting pitcher? Right now he might even be better than any other starter not named Johan Santana.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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5 Responses to No One is Talking About Nelson Figueroa

  1. RonOK

    At the very least, Figgy should be consisdered for the long-man spot …. I’d take him over Green in a minute and think that Parnell should go back to AAA and get some steady work.

    I don’t see Fiffy getting serious consideration for the #5 spot — but maybe Niese should go to AAA, Nieve gets the 8th inning and Figgy gets the #5.

    Frankly, with Pelfrey and Perez in the rotation, will it matter? Neither of them exudes any confidence in me anyway.

  2. GravediggerHebner

    The tragedy is that Figueroa is 35 and in 7 major league seasons has failed to demonstrate enough to any organization to keep a major league job, not that the Mets might be casting him aside.

    I would love to see the list of 35 year olds who’ve “finally harnessed their talent” as evidence to support Figueroa getting yet another chance.

    It’s especially sad that you have to reach back 14 years to find his most comparable “string of performances.”

    Suggesting that at 35 Figueroa is going to be good based on one partial season just because that is his most recent season is as flawed as suggesting last spring that Luis Castillo can’t hit anymore based on 2008 which was the outlier season in his career but also the most recent at that moment in time. It’s looking at a tiny sample to support an argument while ignoring a substantial body of work that contradicts that argument.

    That a 35 year old pitcher has at last figured it out is not impossible, but it’s bloody unlikely and not supported by much if any historical evidence.

  3. Rick

    On my team, Figgy is the long man. I would definitely send down Green (who has an option) to make a spot for him.

  4. hdarvick

    Mike, I agree with everything you’ve said. As far as a partial season’s performance, just look at his stats as part of the 2009 rotation (mid-August-October): 3.38 ERA in 8 games, 2-6 record; the Mets scored a total of 11 runs in his 6 losses (less than 2 runs per game). He averaged 6+ innings per start; only Santana did better. He led the staff in September strikeouts. I’ve noticed that anti-Figgy posts here and elsewhere are strongly anti-Figgy. He could retire every batter he faces for the rest of spring training and the anti-Figgies will still point out he’ll be 36 and didn’t do well before 2009.

  5. Matt

    I’m with you. Figgy is pitching as well as or even better than any of the other #5 candidates out there. He showed the same abilities all of last year, in AAA as well as his sporadic starts in flushing. He deserves the spot, and the mets should be a little more professional and stop jerking him around.

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