Apr 17

Mets Not In Tailspin … Yet

Two losses do not a tailspin make for the Mets, but red flags are waiving. And, if not checked, they have the possibility to derail a season. Let’s take a look at some ugly numbers:

  • The Nationals stole three more bases, and all three runners scored. The final was 5-2, so you do the math. Opposing runners have stolen 21 bases in 22 attempts this season. When the Mets are hitting, it can overshadow that weakness.
  • The Mets went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11 runners overall. They’ve been leaving a lot of runners on lately and that must change.
  • The strikeouts continue to mount. Mets hitters continue to strike out at an alarming rate. They fanned 12 times tonight. Overall, five Mets starters have more strikeouts than hits: Todd Frazier (17-15), Amed Rosario (16-12), Michael Conforto (12-8), Jay Bruce (13-11) and Yoenis Cespedes (27-13).
  • The starters’ pitch counts continue to be too high for the number of innings worked. Mickey Callaway liked how well Wheeler threw, but 99 pitches over six innings don’t cut it.

Callaway said during spring training that he didn’t care about the Mets’ record, just that they played well. There’s no reason to be concerned about two straight losses. There is a reason, however, to be concerned about how they have played the last two games, even if it wasn’t the Nationals.

Apr 17

Time To Play Nimmo More

As long as Brandon Nimmo is up here, isn’t it about time Mickey Callaway find a way to get him regular playing time. He’s been a terrific pinch-hitter, and always seems to produce when he’s in the lineup like he did last night subbing for Jay Bruce.

As long as Bruce is still bothered by plantar fasciitis, Nimmo should play and he should rest. Nimmo should also play in place of Yoenis Cespedes, who is in a dreadful slump. He needs a few games to clear his head.

It shouldn’t be that hard to develop a rotation with Nimmo, Cespedes, Bruce, Michael Conforto and Juan Lagares.

I understand the need of getting Nimmo regular at-bats at Las Vegas, but he’s here now and the Mets should take advantage of that and get him consistent at-bats while in New York.

 

Apr 16

Bullpen Collapses To Waste DeGrom Start

How the Mets respond from losing tonight will send a greater message to the Nationals than their 12-2 record going into the game, which includes a sweep in Washington the first week in April. The here-to-fore excellent Mets’ bullpen coughed up a five-run, eighth-inning lead – and in the process kicked away a brilliant outing from Jacob deGrom – in a potentially defining moment for both teams.

Will the Nationals build off their 8-6 victory and this climb their way back to the top of the NL East? Or, will the Mets revert to the form most expected of them heading into this season?

Or, can they brush this off and keep showing their early-season resiliency?

“It’s one inning — it wasn’t even a game,” manager Mickey Callaway said of the crazy eighth in which five Mets’ relievers faced 12 Washington hitters and gave up six runs. “We outplayed them for the rest of the game. We just have to realize it was one bad inning, we didn’t get the job done. We’ll learn from it and make sure it doesn’t throw us into some kind of tailspin because we’re a real good team and we’ve been showing that.”

That Callaway would even the acknowledge the possibility of one game exploding into a slide shows an understanding of recent Mets’ history.

DeGrom cruised into the eighth, but quickly gave up hits to two of the first three hitters he faced. Callaway went to Seth Lugo, who walked the only hitter he faced to load the bases. Enter Jerry Blevins to face Bryce Harper, who greeted him with a two-run single.

AJ Ramos came in and gave up a single and bases-loaded walk to former Met Matt Reynolds. Then say hello to Jeurys Familia, who gave up a two-run single and another bases-loaded walk. Callaway might expect one or two relievers to have problems, but not the entire bullpen.

“It’s a rare thing. It shouldn’t happen, but maybe guys shut down mentally,’’ Callaway said his relievers collectively mailed it in because they didn’t expect to pitch.

Ramos wanted no part of that thinking.

“We pride ourselves on being ready,’’ Ramos said. “We just didn’t get the job done. There are no excuses.’’

None at all.

 

Apr 14

Mets’ Harvey Continues To Struggle

Another Matt Harvey start, another five innings. By all accounts, Harvey has recovered from thoracic outlet surgery. The radar gun registered a high of 95 mph., so velocity is not an issue. Going back to his last nine starts in 2017, Harvey has not worked past the fifth inning in 12 straight starts, dating back to May 28 of last season when he threw six innings in a win at Pittsburgh.

HARVEY: Still struggling. (AP)

HARVEY: Still struggling. (AP)

Harvey vowed this season would be different, and during spring training said: “It’s a completely new year, like I said. My mechanics are completely different, my arm is completely different.”

Unfortunately, the results have been largely the same. Just four times in 19 starts last year did Harvey pitch into the sixth inning or later. Last season, Harvey averaged just under 20 pitches per inning. This year, he’s averaging just under 18 pitches.

That translates to not enough innings pitched and another four innings logged by the bullpen. Tonight, he gave up four runs on eight hits, including two homers, in a 5-1 loss to Milwaukee to snap the Mets’ nine-game winning streak.

I suppose you can blame the cold weather. That’s a contributing factor, but not the entire explanation.

“He has good stuff,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “The strikeouts are there. He didn’t go after it the way I would have liked. He couldn’t get it going. I didn’t see the confidence that he’s had in the past.”

To his credit, Harvey made no excuses. He didn’t blame the weather, lack of support from his offense or lack of luck, all of which he has done in the past.

“Not very good,” was how Harvey assessed his outing. “I have to be better. This loss was on me. It is frustrating. I have to take my 24 hours and be pissed about it, then move on.

“Keeping the bullpen out of it is something I have to do. I would rather it be two innings at the end of the game and not four. All and all, I have to be better.”

Apr 12

It Will Take Pitching To Continue This Ride

There has been a lot to like about the Mets’ start, specifically their 10-1 record. I never expected this. Nobody did. But, it is early in the season. There are a lot of games left to be played.

As much as many of you would like to, it’s too early to bury the Yankees. It’s also too early to be thinking about anything past this weekend’s series against the Brewers.

SYNDERGAARD: Needs to go longer. (SNY)

SYNDERGAARD: Needs to go longer. (SNY)

A lot can happen between now and October, and it all won’t go as smoothly as they have over the past two weeks. There are slumps, and injuries, and the Washington Nationals taking off.

All that stuff will take place, or it might not. It is possible all that went right will continue to go right.

The Mets will go as far as their pitching takes them and so far it has been good, but only Zack Wheeler on Wednesday, is the only one to pitch seven full innings. That needs to change to save the bullpen. All of their starters have run into that one terrible inning when they throw between 20 and 30 pitches, and that includes Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.

Syndergaard went overboard lifting weights because he wanted to be strong to last longer in games. It took a partially-torn lat muscle to convince Syndergaard that was the wrong approach. The ability to last longer in games stems from improved command. Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland have done a terrific job as evidenced by 117 strikeouts and only 36 walks, and a 1.10 staff WHIP. If that trend continues the Mets should be in good shape.

As for Syndergaard, he has thrown 267 pitches in his three starts, that’s 89 pitches per start, which is way too many if he is to last more than six innings.

DeGrom has worked six innings twice, but Matt Harvey and Steven Matz have not worked past the fifth.

The bullpen,  notably Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, have picked up the slack. The rest of the bullpen, including Hansel Robles, has been exceptional.

However, the innings can accumulate, and it is up to the starters, to work the sixth and into the seventh.

That is how this ride will to continue.