Sep 20

Niese Wins, But Can’t Slam The Door

At 27, left-handed and with a reasonable contract, there’s a lot to like about Jon Niese, both from the Mets and the opponents that tried to pry him away from them.

However, a combination of poor run support, a porous bullpen, injuries, and above all else, the inability to put away an inning once he gets in trouble, explains his 51-51 record and only one winning season – 13-9 in 2012 – during his seven year career.

NIESE: Good, but not dominating. (Getty)

NIESE: Good, but not dominating. (Getty)

There was always the belief by the Mets the light would click on and by interested teams that he could use a change of scenery.

Niese’ biggest problem is he lets innings get away, evidenced by giving up three straight singles to load the bases, before giving way to Josh Edgin, who immediately gave up a two-run single.

Niese cruised through seven innings, but things unraveled in the eighth. What happened Saturday has defined Niese’s career with the Mets.

Now at 9-11 with Saturday’s 4-2 victory, one must wonder if Niese will ever reach the next level and that this might be as good as it gets.

GRANDERSON HOMERS: Although the Mets never thought Curtis Granderson would be the 40-homer stud he was with the Yankees.

Granderson hit his 20th homer Saturday for 63 RBI and raised his average to .223.

Of course, much will be made of Citi Field’s dimensions, but coming off injuries and not having a productive David Wright ahead of him all contribute to a down season.

However, like Niese, Granderson has been a disappointment.

MONTERO TO GET START: Rafael Montero is scheduled to get a start against Houston in the final series at Citi Field next weekend.

Montero threw 5.1 scoreless innings in his last start, Sept. 10, against Colorado.

At one time it was believed Montero would compete for a job in the rotation, but Jacob deGrom’s emergence has pushed him out.

Assuming no departures, and everybody is healthy, next year’s rotation figures to be Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Niese, deGrom and Bartolo Colon.

That leaves Montero in the bullpen or as trade bait.

Sep 19

Wheeler Leaves Us Wanting More

There is something about Zack Wheeler that leaves you – and the New York Mets – wanting more.

Tonight he threw his 21st quality start of the season; defined as at least six innings with three or fewer runs.

WHEELER: Needs to cut pitches. (Getty)

WHEELER: Needs to cut pitches. (Getty)

Wheeler struck out seven in six scoreless inning, and Carlos Torres, Jeurys Familia and Buddy Carlyle combined to retire the final 13 Atlanta hitters in the 5-0 victory.

Even so, in this age of counting pitches, Wheeler threw 105 pitches in those six innings. Sure, as a strikeout pitcher he’ll run up the pitch count, but in exchange for at least one more inning I’d give up a few strikeouts.

Is Wheeler a great pitcher? At l1-10 with a 3.51 ERA it is too soon to tell, but he is 8-2 over his last 15 starts.

For Wheeler and the Mets – who were officially eliminated from playoff contention Friday – to reach the next level, it is imperative for him to go further with his pitch count.

Only twice in 31 starts did Wheeler complete at least seven innings, and 11 other times he worked into the seventh.

Am I being too picky? Probably so, but the Mets have been boasting about Wheeler, and to completely buy into what they are saying, he needs to at least go seven.

Nobody is asking for complete games, but seven isn’t much to ask for a player being touted as an ace.

 

Sep 18

Two Key Numbers Say Mets On The Cusp

Just when you begin to get the warm-and-fuzzies about the New York Mets, they lose a series to the Miami Marlins, a team they trailed by just a game starting the week.

Granted, third place in nothing to raise a banner over, but it is better than fourth. Also, at the end of last week, they trailed Atlanta by 2.5 games with a chance at second … small steps for a team learning to walk with the big boys.

However, none one of this changes the fact the Mets have a way to go to reach true competitive status.

The Mets lost their 29th one-run game Wednesday night – they are 25-29. They played an additional 23 two-run games. That’s 77 games that could be considered close.

So, in 48 percent, or roughly half their games, the Mets were competitive.

Of all the numbers defining this season, 77 might be the most telling. More so than what they hit with runners in scoring position; team batting average; or any of the fancy Sabremetrics numbers.

Also important is their 30-35 record within the NL East, which includes 3-13 against the Nationals (with three remaining in Washington).

Quite simply, for the Mets to become a winning team (seven games under with nine to play) they must improve in those two areas. Using the Mets’ .477 winning percentage, if they played at that rate in their 29 one-run losses and 23 two-run games (52), that’s 25 more victories for 99 total on the season.

That’s an unrealistic jump to expect, but I point it out to illustrate they are on the cusp of turning the corner. Should Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler pitch to expectations next season, Jon Niese does the same, and with the return of a healthy David Wright, the Mets could be in the wild-card mix in 2015.

Assuming all that happens, another at least another ten victories is possible. It could happen.

Dillon Gee was auditioning last night to attract the attention of a team for 2015 under the assumption he wouldn’t return to the Mets. Gee, a No. 5 starter at best is 7-8 with probably one more start.

Banking on the return of Harvey, plus Wheeler, Niese, Jacob deGrom and Bartolo Colon, there’s no room for Gee. The numbers don’t work.

LAGARES INJURED: Outfielder Juan Lagares has a right-elbow sprain and will likely miss three or four games. With nine games remaining, is there time for him to play again?

“I can’t answer that,’’ Terry Collins told reporters yesterday.

Lagares has been ailing since the Cincinnati series the first game in September.

WPIX RE-SIGNS WITH METS: Television station WPIX extended its contract with the Mets through 2017. The package includes 25 regular-season games and four in spring training.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE: The Mets are off today then begin a three-game series this weekend in Atlanta.

 

Wheeler (10-10), Niese (8-11) and deGrom (8-6) will start for the Mets.

Sep 17

Collins Blowing Smoke; It’s Flores’ Job To Lose

Terry Collins insists shortstop will be wide open next spring, but what else can he say?

Even after Wilmer Flores homered twice and drove in six runs Tuesday night in a 9-1 rout of the Marlins, and has driven in 10 runs over the last four games, Collins is dancing the politically correct line.

He has to.

FLORES: Should get job. (Getty)

FLORES: Should get job. (Getty)

He can’t give the job to Flores outright, because it will hurt whatever trade value Ruben Tejada might have left. Plus, Flores hasn’t exactly done it all year. What if he regresses?

Flores always had a greater offensive potential than Tejada, with the latter having the better of it defensively. However, one of the biggest surprises this summer has been Flores’ play at shortstop. He doesn’t have great range – that can be made up by better positioning, which he’ll learn – but seems to make most of the plays.

My feeling is Flores would help win more games with his bat than Tejada will with his glove.

Collins has to blow a little smoke because that’s what managers do, but bet on Flores getting the job next year.

Sep 16

Colon Was Good Investment

Bartolo Colon gets the ball tonight for the Mets against Miami, and honestly I’m surprised he’s still here. I thought they would have dealt him at the end of July or August.

But, he’s still pitching and leads the team with 13 victories, and if he gets two more starts after tonight could finish with 200 innings. The latter number, more than the wins, is why the Mets signed him.

With Matt Harvey out, the Mets needed an innings eater, which defines a healthy Colon in his career. Seven times in 17 seasons he’s thrown over 200 innings; three more times, including this year, he’s worked over 180 innings. He’s given the Mets at least seven innings in 17 starts and given up three or fewer runs in 19.

For $10 million, that’s not a bad investment. However, if the Mets improve as the organization hopes next season – and Colon again pitches well – he’ll likely be dealt at the trade deadline.

He’ll be 42 next year and if the Mets aren’t in contention, there’s no way they won’t deal him for minor league depth.