Jun 20

Today’s Question: What’s Wrong With Zack Wheeler?

The ancient Greeks may have had their idea of tragedy, but they never had to stay up until 2 to watch the Mets. How does a team hit four home runs and score six runs against the sport’s best pitcher, but lose the game?

WHEELER: In trouble. (AP)

WHEELER: In trouble. (AP)

Actually, it’s very simple when your starting pitcher gives up seven runs and lasts only two innings. That’s Zack Wheeler, who lasted 1.2 innings and gave up eight runs in his previous start. That’s 15 runs in 3.2 innings.

Concerned is an understatement.

“When you’ve got that kind of stuff and you’re getting hit like [Wheeler] is getting hit, there is something wrong and we’ve got to get to the bottom of it,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “He’s too good. He’s got too good of stuff.’’

But “stuff’’ is too broad a term. Stuff is more than throwing hard. It includes movement, location and command of his secondary pitches.

“Honestly, I haven’t had off-speed pitches all year, and now it’s starting to catch up to me,’’ Wheeler said. “Those guys get scouting reports and now it’s starting to catch up to me. It’s easy [for hitters] when you can’t throw off-speed for strikes and you’re just throwing fastballs.’’

And, fastballs with little movement that hang out over the plate get crushed. But, it might not be just one issue.  Wheeler’s problems can be attributed to a myriad of circumstances:

HEALTH: Wheeler said he’s fine, but Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey each said they were all right and both are on the disabled list.

Mets’ pitchers are notorious for withholding physical ailments and trying to pitch through discomfort, so it wouldn’t surprise me if something crops up with Wheeler.

HITTING A WALL: Wheeler missed the last two seasons following Tommy John surgery and a complicated healing process. It’s quite possible he’s hit a wall.

The solution for that could be to shut him down for his next start and give him time to rest.

TIPPING PITCHES: Collins said they’ll look at video in an attempt to spot any mechanical issues. While they are at it, examine the tape carefully to spot any giveaways to what’s coming.

The Dodgers’ first five hitters swung the bat like they knew the pitch.

Something isn’t right with Wheeler and the Mets’ would be wise for him to skip a start as they search for answers.

 

Jun 19

Rivera And Flores Need To Play Fulltime

I don’t care where they play him, but T.J. Rivera needs to start every day. The same goes for Wilmer Flores. It doesn’t matter that neither fit into the Mets’ long-term plans heading into the season.

Manager Terry Collins said “those who hit will play,’’ and both are hitting and deserve to start, and the struggling Mets need to put their best offensive foot forward, especially against Clayton Kershaw.

RIVERA: Needs to play. (AP)

RIVERA: Needs to play. (AP)

Rivera, who had a career-high four hits Sunday, is batting second – between Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes – which theoretically should provide RBI opportunities for Cespedes and Jay Bruce.

Rivera is hitting .474 (9-for-19) since being recalled last Tuesday. The minor league batting champion hit .333 in 105 at-bats for the Mets last season and is hitting .289 this year in 117 at-bats.

That’s worthy of the chance to play full time.

“Right now, he’s one of the keys,’’ Collins said. “You got to put him in the lineup. This guy’s gonna get hits.’’

Rivera played first when he was with the Mets earlier this season when Lucas Duda was injured. He’s at third tonight.

“I just try to keep a positive mentality no matter what happens, whether it’s being sent down or not playing that day,’’ Rivera said. “I’m always looking forward to an opportunity to play. It’s not easier, but you get a little more comfortable in your at-bats, you see more [pitching] and it’s easier to react to things. The opportunity’s nice, and I’m just trying to help contribute in any way possible.’’

With Rivera at third, Flores is at first. Flores is the Mets’ leading hitter against Kershaw going 3-for-9 while Duda (1-for-11) is on the bench.

The rap on Flores has been his defense, but that’s mostly based on his play at shortstop. He’s had some yips at third, but he’s played generally well at first and hasn’t been too bad at second.

However, his best position is batter, where he’s hitting .296, with six homers and 20 RBI. He’s a lifetime .396 hitter (21-for-53) against the Dodgers. In 39 games since May 1, Flores is batting .331 (42-for-127), with eight doubles, four homers and 17 RBI.

When Cespedes was down, Flores has been the Mets’ best right-handed hitting threat.

When Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker get off the disabled list, somebody’s at-bats will dwindle, but whatever Collins does he needs to find at-bats for Rivera and Flores.

If they’re still hitting, Collins would be putting his best team on the field.

Here’s the rest of the lineup for tonight:

Conforto – CF

Rivera – 3B

Céspedes – LF

Bruce – RF

Flores – 1B

Travis d’Arnaud – C

Jose Reyes – SS

Gavin Cecchini – 2B

Zack Wheeler – RHP

 

Jun 19

Today’s Question: Is Going Against Kershaw A Reverse Lock For Mets?

Could the Mets showdown against the Dodgers and ace Clayton Kershaw be an example of a Reverse Lock?

KERSHAW: Smart money on him. (MLB.com)

KERSHAW: Smart money on him. (MLB.com)

A Reverse Lock is when all the stars are aligned for something to be played out one way but goes in the opposite direction.

All the stars are lined up for the Dodgers tonight. New York is struggling and Kershaw is 8-1 with a 1.49 ERA in 13 career starts against the Mets, whose hitters are batting .177 with a .245 on-base percentage against him.

In addition, Yoenis Cespedes is 0-for-9 lifetime and Lucas Duda is 1-for-11. The Mets’ leading hitter against Kershaw is Wilmer Flores at 3-for-9. Jay Bruce is 5-for-20 with two homers.

Feeling good about things?

Starting for the Mets is Zack Wheeler, who is making his first career start against the Dodgers. Wheeler is winless in his last four starts and coming off the worst start of his career, giving up eight runs in 1.2 innings last week against the Cubs.

So, if you’re into betting, why wouldn’t you place a buck or two on Kershaw tonight? That’s where all the smart money will be, making a Reverse Lock possible.

 

 

Jun 18

DeGrom Carries Mets Again

With his father and son watching, Jacob deGrom had one of those dream games when he smacked his first career home run and dominated the Washington Nationals. The win prevented the Mets from being swept and temporarily stopped what could be a free fall.

Whether competing for a pennant, a wild card, or just trying to reach .500, a team needs a stud pitcher.

DEGROM: Hits and pitches Mets to win. (AP)

DEGROM: Hits and pitches Mets to win. (AP)

Sandy Koufax once told me that if you’re going to win you need a pitcher who is 12 games over .500,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “You have to have that kind of guy. Jake is here to win.”

DeGrom has pitched back-to-back stellar starts after back-to-back stinkers in which he gave up 15 runs. DeGrom followed up his complete-game against the Cubs by going eight innings today, giving up one run on three hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

He’s given up one earned run in 17 innings after solving his mechanical issue of flying open and throwing across his body.

“I was able to keep my front side close,’’ was how deGrom explained what’s been working for him. “I was able to locate [my change-up] on both sides of the plate.’’

At 6-3, I don’t know if deGrom will finish 12 games over .500, but he’s pitching like an ace. Some pitchers when they struggle can’t turn it around, but deGrom seemingly has fixed his problems.

That’s what aces do.

With the Mets heading on a brutal trip to Los Angeles (four games), San Francisco (three) and Miami (three) represent ten games that could define their season.

DeGrom’s win comes before the Mets face Clayton Kershaw Monday to start a four-game series against the Dodgers. This has the potential to be an ugly week, and stopping losing streaks is also the definition of an ace.

CESPEDES RESTS: Twice Saturday Yoenis Cespedes legged out infield hits and went from first to third on singles. He also scored on a sacrifice fly and made running catch down the line on a fly ball. That proves his hamstring didn’t bother him yesterday, but it’s the day after that is important.

“I’m more concerned with fatigue and some of the other things that have happened in the past,’’ Collins said.

When they brought Cespedes off the disabled list, they did so with a plan. And, for once they stuck with their plan.

Too many times the Mets abandoned a plan with a player and he later was reinjured.

A struggling team like the Mets needs all the help it can get, but they did the right thing this time.

A SPOT FOR REYES: With Asdrubal Cabrera expected off the disabled list shortly, we’ll be seeing less and less of Jose Reyes at shortstop. And, as long as T.J. Rivera keeps hitting – four more hits today – he should play third base – or someplace, every day.

“He keeps getting hits,’’ Collins said. “He has to play.’’

Conversely, Reyes went 0-for-5 today to see his batting average drop to .193 and his on-base percentage to .269.

For now, Wilmer Flores must stay at second and Rivera on third. So, when Cabrera returns, Reyes has to go to the bench.

EXTRA INNINGS: With a ninth-inning double, Daniel Murphy has reached base in each of the 29 games he’s played against his former team. Murphy is batting .391 with ten doubles, eight homers and 29 RBI vs. Mets. … With the win the Mets are now 1-6 vs. Washington at Citi Field. …  Michael Conforto showed breakout signs with two hits and two RBI.

UP NEXT: The Mets begin a season-defining stretch of playing 16 of their next 19 games on the road tomorrow night in Los Angeles when Zack Wheeler starts against Kershaw.

Jun 17

Looking At Assets Mets Could Trade

The Mets didn’t go to the playoffs in each of the last two years by accident. They have some good players, several of whom could be welcomed by a contender.

After today’s 7-4 loss to the Nationals, the Mets are 11.5 games behind Washington, so regardless of the calendar, we might as well look at them as sellers at the deadline.

GSELLMAN: Could be valuable trade asset. (AP)

GSELLMAN: Could be valuable trade asset. (AP)

If they are so inclined, the Mets could have a fire sale for the ages.

When I look at today’s roster, I’m seeing four untouchables: Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz.

Everybody else can be had. Here’s who could be available:

PITCHERS

Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman have value and are currently in the rotation in large part because of injuries. They saved the Mets late last season and could have value to a contender.

Matt Harvey is currently on the disabled list but should be off before the deadline. His value is currently low, but a forward-looking team might take a nibble. However, trade talks for Harvey could grow in earnest if he stays healthy and fast forward to next summer.

A team simply looking for arms might shop in the Mets’ bullpen. The one who could draw considerable interest if they make him available is Addison Reed. Closers are valuable and Reed has proven himself under pressure. Let’s hope if they trade him it is to an American League team.

CATCHERS

For a team looking for a catcher, Rene Rivera or Travis d’Arnaud could draw interest.  The Mets can afford to trade either because they have Kevin Plawecki at Triple-A Las Vegas. For that matter, Plawecki could make for a backup.

INFIELDERS

Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera should be off the disabled list long before the trade deadline. If they are healthy they could help another team the way they did the Mets.

Both could be free agents after the season so they would be nothing more than a rental.

The Mets tried to trade him once, so would it be surprising if they tried to deal Wilmer Flores again? And, he’s a lot better than he was in 2015 so the return could worthwhile.

Jose Reyes has a manageable contract, but he’s not playing well. Would a change of scenery help? It’s worth a shot.

Lucas Duda, who is currently healthy, has the potential to bring back something in a trade. With Dominic Smith on the rise, the Mets might as well test the market for him.

OUTFIELDERS

Isn’t it ironic that GM Sandy Alderson desperately tried to trade Jay Bruce in the offseason, and he’s currently the most productive Met? Actually, they would be foolish to trade him because of Cespedes’ fragility, but he can bring back the most in a trade.

Curtis Granderson has been hot since May 1, but his overall miserable numbers are attributable to his slow April. But, Granderson brings a presence any contender would find valuable.

Should the Mets go the fire sale route it would mean finding a spot for Conforto and leaving him there. It means bringing up Smith and Amed Rosario. If they keep him, it means finding a spot for Flores.

It would mean starting over.