Mets pitching for a title, at last

With last week's signing of Oliver Perez, the Mets' 2009 pitching staff is largely in place. After losing out on playoff spots on the final day of each of the past two seasons, the question is whether general manager Omar Minaya's winter work will be enough to avert a similarly agonizing fate this year.

Certainly Minaya tackled the club's primary shortcoming head-on. The 2008 Mets' bullpen finished 14th in the league in Reliever Expected Wins Added (WXRL), and would have ranked among the 10 worst of any playoff-bound team since 1988 had they made the postseason. To correct this, Minaya signed free agent Francisco Rodriguez, fresh off a record 62-save season with the Angels, and traded for Mariners closer J.J. Putz to set him up, and to back him up in case of injury -- hardly an overreaction given last year's collapse once Billy Wagner went down. That trade included addition by subtraction via the departure of ineffective set-up man Aaron Heilman, while free agency and further dealings rid them of high-profile arsonists Luis Ayala and Scott Schoeneweis.