Apr 10

Bruce Red Hot; Value Enhanced

How can you not feel good for Jay Bruce? Booed by when he floundered last year following the trade that brought him from Cincinnati and into a pennant race, and whom GM Sandy Alderson desperately wanted to trade over the winter, has emerged as the Mets’ hottest hitter.

And, it isn’t close.

BRUCE: Sizzling (AP)

BRUCE: Sizzling (AP)

It started with three walks on Opening Day and continued Monday night in Philadelphia with a pair of homers in a 4-3 victory over the Phillies.

Bruce hit a solo drive off Phillies starter Jared Eickhoff to pull the Mets within 2-1 in the fourth, then put them ahead with a two-run drive off his image on the video board against reliever Joely Rodriguez.

“I think it is an approach,” was how Bruce explained his hot start to reporters. “I concentrate on being ready. Every day, I go into the game looking for the right pitches and taking a good swing.”

Bruce insisted he wasn’t daunted by the pressures of playing in New York when he struggled last summer, and that he didn’t want to leave his new team.

And, Alderson shouldn’t be in any hurry to deal Bruce, even if those teams that played hardball with him over the winter start calling him now.

It’s early, but Bruce leads the Mets with four homers and six RBI, and overall, they aren’t hitting, and in each of the last two seasons, they went into lengthy hitting droughts in the second half.

Quite simply, there will be a time this summer when the Mets have to count on Bruce carrying them the way he did the Reds for so many years.

Bruce, who has had 30-plus homers in four of his last six years, was moved to the clean-up slot to replace Curtis Granderson, and will likely remain there in the foreseeable future as the latter struggles.

Bruce, 30 is making $13.1 million this year, while the 36-year old Granderson is pulling in $15 million, which could give him a greater long-term value to the Mets.

Granderson has more of an immediate value to the Mets because he can play center field. However, that shouldn’t last too long because Juan Lagares will be coming off the disabled list shortly, at which time Michael Conforto will be shipped to Triple-A Las Vegas.

The Mets will need Bruce this year, and likely they’ll need him next year. I can’t see the Mets bringing back both Bruce and Granderson. If they don’t bring back either, having just Lagares and Conforto next season to complement Yoenis Cespedes probably won’t be good enough and the Mets could go shopping again in July.

Meanwhile, at 37 next season, the Mets could lowball Granderson and bring him back for less in 2018. However, they couldn’t pull that off with Bruce because after a good year, his free-agent market value would he higher than Granderson’s.

 

Apr 10

Signs Point To Monster Year For Syndergaard

If Noah Syndergaard keeps pitching like this, there really isn’t any reason – other than Clayton Kershaw or Madison Bumgarner – why he can’t win a Cy Young Award.

SYNDERGAARD: Dominates. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Dominates. (AP)

Seriously, giving up two runs – one unearned thanks to a Yoenis Cespedes error – in seven innings will get it done most times. Syndergaard struck out nine and only threw 103 pitches. A knock against Syndergaard was a high pitch count and runners stealing on him at will. He’s been economical in both starts and the base paths have been quiet.

“I feel good with all my pitches right now,” Syndergaard said. “Slider, changeup, curveball, it doesn’t matter the count. I feel like I can throw them in any scenario.”

Syndergaard didn’t mention his fastball, but he had that, also, in the high 90s with command (no walks). He must maintain his command as it is far more important than velocity. If he can do that, and keep the stolen bases to a minimum, he can be dominant.

Most any hitter can crush a 99 mph. fastball if he’s looking for it, say on a 3-1 pitch, but it is so much harder when the pitcher is ahead in the count and doesn’t have to throw a fastball down the middle. So far, Syndergaard has been ahead in the count and can throw whatever he wants, and those pitches have been dancing and darting in the zone.

If the bone spur that nagged him last season stays quiet and he avoids injury, who is to say he can’t have a monster year?

The Mets found their home run bats with Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce going deep, but what was really impressive was manufacturing three runs in the first inning without the homer. It is always to a pitcher’s advantage to work with a lead.

Conforto also walked with the bases loaded, but he’ll sit Monday night in Philadelphia.

Apr 08

Reyes Sits Tonight

Five games into the season and Mets manager Terry Collins is juggling his lineup. Tonight, Collins sits third baseman Jose Reyes‘ 1-for-18 start.

Undoubtedly, Reyes endured longer dry spells, but he looked terrible Friday night. He’s looked horrible all season.

REYES: Sitting vs. Fish. (AP)

REYES: Sitting vs. Fish. (AP)

Even so, Reyes said it is premature for him to panicI don’t want to put pressure on myself going to the film like, ‘Oh, what am I doing wrong?’ ” Reyes told reporters. “Sometimes, you have to give credit to the pitcher. They’ve pitched me tough. Sooner or later it’s going to change.”

Curtis Granderson and Wilmer Flores will replace Reyes at the top of the order and third base, respectively. I have no problems with sitting Reyes tonight, but I’m not crazy about what Collins is considering next for Reyes.

Collins said he’s looking to spell another slumping Met, Granderson, in center field with Reyes. The issue is to get a right-handed bat in the lineup. Meanwhile, Michael Conforto – who had a pinch-hit single Friday –  has all of two at-bats. It was last April when Collins forecasted him as the Mets’ No. 3 hitter of the future and said he would hit against left-handed pitching.

Evidently, that’s not going to happen anytime soon, just as it appears Conforto won’t be playing in the near future. As I, and others feared, Conforto will languish on the bench until Juan Lagares is activated from the disabled list.

The Mets’ lack of a right-handed hitting outfielder smacks of two things: 1) Collins’ and GM Sandy Alderson’s marriage to the righty-lefty dynamics, and 2) Alderson’s inability to construct a team with a right-handed bat.

If Alderson had Babe Ruth he’d sit hit him against a lefty, and does this mean Lagares is the only acceptable right-handed outfield bat?

The bottom line: Conforto will never learn to hit lefty pitching until he gets the chance. You would think the game’s smartest general manager, would figure that out.

 

Apr 07

Game Wrap: Wheeler Rocked

GAME:  #4

SCORE: Marlins 7, @Mets 2

RECORD: 2-2    RISP: 2-for-5,  8 LOB

HOMERS: 1: Yoenis Cespedes (1).

ANALYSIS

In one of the most anticipated starts by a Mets’ pitcher in years, Zack Wheeler, pitching for the first time since September of 2014 after being shelved from Tommy John surgery, was hit early and hard, giving up five runs on six hits in four innings, logging 80 pitches.

“He needed this,” manager Terry Collins said. “He needed to get back in the flow. For the first game, it was OK.”

WHEELER: Rough start in return. (AP)

WHEELER: Rough start in return. (AP)

Is velocity a big deal? He touched 97 in the first inning, then was in the low 90s two innings later. Was it the weather? Was it coming off surgery? Whatever the reason, the circumstances were such that we can’t make any real assessments until we see how he feels tomorrow and after his next start, Wednesday in Philadelphia.

That’s how Collins saw it. He chose to look at some of the positives, such as his early velocity and building his pitch count up to 80.

“It was not what I wanted tonight, but it was good to get out there,” Wheeler told reporters. “I didn’t have my best stuff tonight. I didn’t have good control and they were able to sit on the fastball. … It’s a long season and I will get better.”

ON THE MOUND: Good relief efforts from Rafael Montero and Josh Edgin, both of whom worked two innings. … Josh Smoker gave up two runs.

AT THE PLATE:  Two hits each by Curtis Granderson and Rene Rivera. … Michael Conforto had a pinch-hit single. … Jose Reyes was hitless in five at-bats and is hitting .056 on the season with only one hit. Maybe a day off would help. … Marlins pitchers struck out eight Mets.

IN THE FIELD: The Mets are getting ripped and the wind chill had to be in the low 30s. Seemed like it would have been a good opportunity to get the bench some work.

ON DECK: The Mets continue their homestand Saturday against Miami with Robert Gsellman getting the start.

 

Apr 06

Game Wrap: Harvey, D’Arnaud Carry Mets Past Braves

GAME:  #3

SCORE: @Mets 6, Braves 2

RECORD: 2-1    RISP: 2-for-7, four LOB

HOMERS: 1 Wilmer Flores (1).

HARVEY: Big step. (AP)

HARVEY: Big step. (AP)

ANALYSIS

Perhaps the two Mets carrying the weight of the heaviest expectations for this season – Matt Harvey and Travis d’Arnaud – came up big in Thursday night’s victory over the Braves.

Harvey, whose velocity was an issue during spring training, gave up a pair of homers to Matt Kemp, but was generally superb, giving up three hits overall in 6.2 innings. Harvey’s fastball clocked between 94-97 mph., but also important was his ability to command his secondary pitches.

“Obviously, it has been a long time since I’ve gone into the seventh inning,” Harvey told reporters. “For me, the big thing for me was to pound the zone and go as deep into the game as I could.”

As for d’Arnaud, his inability to stay healthy, hit and throw out potential base-stealers has caused many to speculate as to his future with the Mets. It’s just one game, but d’Arnaud’s two-run double in the fifth put the Mets ahead to stay.

ON THE MOUND: Fernando Salas – who was working for the third straight game – struck out Dansby Swanson with the bases loaded to end the eighth inning. … It wasn’t a save situation, but Addison Reed worked a 1-2-3 ninth.

AT THE PLATE: Flores, batting cleanup, hit a two-run homer. … Jose Reyes had his first hit of the season. … Jay Bruce scored a run and walked. He’s drawn four walks in the first three games and leads the Mets in hitting with a .333 average.

IN THE FIELD: Flores played first base. … I would still like to see Michael Conforto get a start in the outfield.

EXTRA INNINGS: In a testament to screwy scheduling, the Braves are back at Citi Field again at the end of the month.

ON DECK: The Mets continue their homestand Friday against Miami with Zack Wheeler getting his first start in nearly two years.