Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Mets Fans Are Lovin' Life with Luis

Matthew Cerrone's excellent Mets Blog did a poll yesterday on who Mets fans want as their closer down the stretch and into the playoffs now that Wagner is done.

As of 11 am this morning, Ayala was the overwhelming choice with 79% of the vote.

I know the other options--Stokes, Heilman, Schoeneweis, and Figueroa(?!?)--aren't pretty, but for anyone who watched all those walks and that flat slider getting knocked around for the Nationals for two months this summer, it's a little jaw-dropping. I expected Ayala to bounce back nicely next year, but even I didn't anticipate this.

Kristen from We've Got Heart pointed something out that I hadn't noticed, which is that Ayala is throwing a lot more fastballs (up to 73.6% from 60.4 %) than he was earlier in the season and more than has since 2005 (78.7%). He's also throwing his slider and change a few miles per hour faster than he did here; the slider's up from 84.9 to 86.6 and the change is up from 83.9 to 86.0.

Maybe these are adjustments he'd begun to implement earlier and the splits only show up on the Fangraphs.com site with the team change. Or maybe it's just the long progress recovering from the TJ or the May overuse. But it could be that the Mets have helped him with some significant changes in approach, coming after hitters with more heat and throwing his off-speed stuff harder.

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