Oct 13

How Mets Should Handle Matt Harvey’s Innings

Operating under the assumption Matt Harvey will be ready for spring training and subsequently the start of the season, there will undoubtedly be an innings limitation.

In theory, the Mets want him ready for a postseason push. They haven’t announced what the cap would be, but let’s figure on 175-180 innings – which is at least three starts shy of the hoped for 200.

HARVEY: Innings will be an issue. (AP)

HARVEY: Innings will be an issue. (AP)

So, what are their options?

The first is to do nothing and let him pitch … pitch … and pitch. Undoubtedly, that’s Harvey’s choice, but it won’t happen. Why risk another injury?

Another is to pitch him without game or innings restrictions, then cut him in September if the Mets aren’t in contention. However, if they go that route and the Mets are in the race, they would be doing a disservice to their players and fans, and actually the integrity of the game because they wouldn’t be putting their best team on the field.
That’s not ideal, and neither is the pick-and-choose method, which would be to juggle him with off days and selected starts.

Also, not preferred is to pull him if the Mets are winning late in a game. Harvey will moan about this, and his noise would be amplified if the Mets’ bullpen blew the game.

One option because of the off days in April and the high probability of bad weather is to bag that month entirely or at least the first two weeks.

On the positive, it would keep him out of the cold weather. On the negative, he would still pile up innings in extended spring training games.

Finally, and I think it is the best – it’s something the Nationals didn’t do with Stephen Strasburg – is to have their figure in mind from the start and schedule accordingly.

That would mean making a schedule for the entire season and not deviate. Rainouts would only help the Mets because it would push him back.

In this format, the Mets could schedule skip days now for Harvey and not go on the fly. In addition, they could put him a rigid innings cap, but that would irritate him and lead to an occasional blown save.

However, if the Mets and Harvey knew from the outset his cap would be seven innings both parties could plan accordingly.

Harvey wouldn’t necessarily have to pace himself and Collins would know his bullpen options before the game started. They would accept the blown save as part of the deal.

This format would require discipline from Collins and acceptance from Harvey, which would be more likely because there wouldn’t be any surprises.

Like it or not, this is the hand the Mets have been dealt and must play.

In addition, they might consider plans for Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler.

All of this proves the cliché “you can never have too much pitching.’’

As frustrating as this might be, the Mets are set up for this complicated option because they have Rafael Montero, Carlos Torres and sometime in June, Noah Syndergaard. They also have depth with Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee.

 

Oct 12

Looking At Hitting Coach Candidates

The New York Mets are still looking for a hitting coach and several options are out there. Among them are Kevin Long, Bobby Abreu and, why not, Wally Backman.

Let’s briefly look at each candidate:

KEVIN LONG: He’s respected and had success with the Yankees, including Curtis Granderson. A working relationship with one player isn’t enough, but he had it with more than one. Brett Gardner is another example. I don’t know why things didn’t work with the Yankees, but it stands to reason it was more because of injuries than anything. … The Yankees’ hitting philosophy has been one of patience and working the count, something the Mets need to improve.

BOBBY ABREU: He knows the players, but hasn’t been a hitting coach before. A lot should depend on his hitting philosophy, which hasn’t been made known. He had a good career, but production as a player doesn’t always translate into success as a coach. He made a positive impression on the team and has a good relationship with Terry Collins.

WALLY BACKMAN: Backman didn’t have a great offensive career, but that doesn’t always lead to being a good coach, either. Backman also knows many of the Mets’ younger players and might have been a positive influence on Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud. As a player, Backman was a contact hitter, which is a philosophy the Mets need to adapt more than power. If the Mets really believe Backman is part of their future, this could be a positive move. Should they ignore him it would also speak volumes.

 

Oct 11

Moving Fences In Not A Good Move

If we were playing one of those games where you match a word to an action, you might choose “embarrassing,’’ for the Mets’ decision to change the dimensions for the third time since Citi Field opened in 2009.

Three times in six years is a clear indication this team doesn’t have a grasp as to its desired identity.

When Citi Field opened, the Mets wanted to build on pitching, defense and speed. Even so, their first signing was Jason Bay, who turned into an $80 million bust.

When David Wright was injured, Bay floundered and Ike Davis failed to hit management moved in the fences. Bay and Davis are gone, Wright is still injured and last year’s signing Curtis Granderson came up with a mediocre year, they are moving the fences in again.

That seems counterproductive considering the Mets finally have some good, young pitching, and there’s the speedy Juan Lagares in center field. The Mets don’t have significant power outside of Lucas Duda, but there’s potential with Travis d’Arnaud.

The Mets have some speed, but traditionally lack patience and ability to hit in the clutch. Those two attributes are more important than pure power.

However, this doesn’t mean home runs can’t be hit in Citi Field. There were 130 homers hit there last season, of which 59 were hit by the Mets and 71 by the opposition.

Assuming a healthy Wright, a full season from Duda, and improvement from Granderson, d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores, it is reasonable to expect that gap to close. And, the Mets are expecting Matt Harvey’s return and the continued development from Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom.

The opposition also gets to hit, so whatever advantage gained by the Mets’ offense is neutralized by what it takes from their pitching. Moving in the fences is designed to jack up the home run numbers, but in the end that’s not what gets a team into October.

Oct 10

Neither Niese Nor Gee Will Bring A Bat; Not Even Together

I read several articles, both on blogs and in the mainstream media, debating whether the Mets should trade either Jon Niese or Dillon Gee in an attempt to add a power bat, preferably to play left field.

There’s a flaw here, namely in the belief either pitcher could bring a bat in return. That won’t happen as neither has a track record that would have another team salivating. Even if you packaged them both it wouldn’t be enough to get them a masher.

To get a slugger, the Mets would have to add considerably to the package and include one of their young arms. Niese’s trade value is limited and Gee’s isn’t any better. Getting a slugger would entail giving up much more, and even then there’s the matter of extending the contract of the hitter.

The Mets currently aren’t inclined to give up their young pitching and not willing to sign a hitter, whether it be a free agent or one included in a trade, to a long-term, contract in the $100 million range. That’s not their mindset, so subsequently don’t be surprised if next year’s team resembles the 2014 model.

The Mets’ current thinking is hoping for Matt Harvey’s return, Zack Wheeler’s development and a bounce-back year from David Wright.

Oct 09

Are The Games Really Too Long?

As one of his last acts as baseball commissioner, Bud Selig wants to add “speeding up the game,’’ to his legacy.

A seven-member committee appointed by Selig to study the issue includes Mets GM Sandy Alderson, but no active players. MLB union director Tony Clark was designated to speak on behalf of the players.

TRACHSEL: Slow and painful. (AP)

TRACHSEL: Slow and painful. (AP)

After years of collaborative efforts between management and the players, it smacks of the early “bad old days’’ under Selig in which the owners acted unilaterally and strong-armed the players.

That led to bad blood and several work stoppages that included the sacking of the 1994 World Series. That too, in addition to the money MLB is making, is part of Selig’s legacy.

“It’s just important for us to have a say,’’ Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson told ESPN. “It doesn’t need to be all 750 of us. It’s just important to have three or four players who can say, ‘Hey, we’ve noticed this, and we feel this way.’ ’’

It is puzzling, and some might suggest hypocritical, that the sport without a clock is trying to speed up the pace of the game by forcing pitchers to work faster and hitters keep one foot in the batter’s box at all times.

During those lulls is when the players compose their thoughts and re-focus. Forcing the hitter back into the box or rushing the pitcher to throw could lead to mistakes and perhaps the outcome of the game.

At the best, they might shave three or four minutes off a game. Nobody has offered what else could be done in those four minutes.

The bottom line is if a game is played crisply and isn’t sloppy, nobody will complain about the length of the game. Who was complaining after the Giants-Nationals 18-inning playoff game?

Now, don’t go saying, “well, it’s the playoffs, it’s different.’’ It is different in one respect as there was no shortage of commercials between innings.

Unquestionably, the primary reason games might run long are the numerous commercial breaks between innings. However, don’t ask MLB to ask the networks for shorter commercials. If speeding up the game is that important, cut the commercial time. The networks demand the time so they can charge more and consequently pay the large rights fees.

No doubt some pitchers could stand to work faster as it would make them more efficient. I also grumbled at the likes of Steve Trachsel and Oliver Perez who were excruciating if not painful to watch.

Part of the problem, management says, is the hitters take too many pitches. Isn’t that what Alderson wants his hitters to do? He’s been quoted numerous times as wanting his hitters to be more selective.

As for Joe Torre, his Yankee teams won four World Series in large part because of their ability to work the count and drive up the opposing pitcher’s pitch count. One of the most memorable moments of the 2000 Subway World Series was Paul O’Neill’s ninth-inning 10-pitch at-bat against Armando Benitez after falling behind 1-and-2 in the count.

That’s what those Yankee teams did. That’s what the Mets should do now. I’d much rather see Juan Lagares work the at-bat to eight pitches and draw a walk then swing at garbage and pop up.

Hey, if Ike Davis had bothered to learn that, he might still be with the Mets instead of wondering what happened to his career.

By its nature, baseball is an ebb-and-flow game, with lulls followed by bursts of action. When the hitter steps out, that’s when fathers and sons talk and bond. In the NBA and NFL, lulls are met with video clips and loud music. People don’t talk at those games.

Those conversations are how the game is passed from generation to generation, along with watching the playoffs on television, which is another topic.

This is another example that the caretakers of the game don’t understand their own product. Yes, there are games that last too long. If that’s the case and you are bored, turn the channel or get up and leave.

However, if the game is interesting, close and compelling, odds are you’ll use that time when the manager goes out to visit the pitcher to catch your breath.