Astros discover Lima sucks
added 5/21/2001 by Todd Brody
I read an article today at Astros.com where Larry Dierker is quoted as saying "I don't know what we're going to do about Jose. . . . We can't use the whole bullpen every time he pitches. If that kind of trend continues, we're going to start doing something different." What trend is Larry talking about? Are the Astros only realizing now that Lima has been pitching poorly? Have the Astros absolutely discounted last year's performance? And how long will this "new" trend have to continue before Larry and the Astros are willing to do something about it?
If you have listened to the Astros spin doctors over the past several years, you have heard a couple of common threads relating to Lima: (1) that he pitched well in the second half of last season; and (2) that he has shown improvement over the past several games. Neither one of these statements have any truth to them. First, despite the fact that Lima was 5-3 after the all-star break, Lima did not pitch well in the second half of the season. Lima's ERA was 5.80 during that time. While this was substantially better than his pre-all-star break ERA of 7.36, good pitchers don't give up nearly 6 runs per game. Moreover, Lima had several really bad outings after the all-star break where he received a no-decision because the Astros bailed him out. On August 5, for example, Lima gave up 7 earned runs to Montreal in 5.2 innings. On September 16, Lima gave up 6 earned runs and 14 hits to Pittsburgh. Lima could easily have gone 5-9 after the all-star break. Indeed, the Astros went 2-4 in Lima's 6 post-all-star break no-decisions.
The second idea -- that Lima pitched well recently -- is even more ridiculous. Lima has started ten games this season. With the exception of his starts against Milwaukee on April 10 and his start against Philadelphia on May 8 (his two wins), Lima has been a horrible pitcher. True, Lima fell prey to a Craig Biggio error in his loss against the Cubs last week. But just because some runs were not earned does not mean that Lima pitched well in that game. Lima still served up the home run to Sammy Sosa. Lima has only made it through the sixth inning in two of his starts this year and this level of performance is totally unacceptable from a starting pitcher. But you wouldn't necessarily know how bad Lima has pitched from his record because Lima has seven no-decisions. The Astros are 3-4 in these games, including the win over the Mets where the Astros hit five home runs over the last few innings.
From the various news sources, it appears that the schedule will allow the Astros to go with a four-man rotation over the next several weeks and the Astros are just going to skip Lima's turn. But how does this help Lima and the Astros? Wouldn't Lima be better off trying to work out his problems at New Orleans rather than sitting on the bench waiting for his control and velocity to miraculously return? Lima is quoted as saying that he is willing to do "[w]hatever will help." Lima cannot be traded right now -- no team wants him. And the Astros can't afford to let Lima work things out in games that matter. The only logical move is to send Lima back to AAA.
I hate the Mets and I don't like giving them credit for anything, but on Friday, the Mets made a smart decision. They decided that Steve Traschel (1-6; 8.24 ERA) was hurting the team a lot more than he was helping so they demoted him to Norfolk. The Mets have as much invested in Traschel as the Astros do in Lima, but the Mets said screw the money, we can't afford to have him pitch at the major league level. And despite the fact that the move was very embarassing for Traschel (he has been a starting pitcher for nine years), he accepted the move. It's time for the Astros to make a similar decision for Lima. And it's time for Lima to recognize that he is not a major league pitcher right now.