Sep 01

Mets By The Numbers: Finishing Strong

We are at arguably the worst part of the season. The dreams of March and April, followed by the anticipation of a strong start have faded into mediocrity. The second half collapse after the break robbed us of meaningful baseball in September.

Sure, the Mets could play a spoiler role, but really, what fun is that? If the Mets wanted to spoil things for the Nationals they had numerous opportunities this summer.

WRIGHT: Aiming for 90 to 100 RBI. (AP)

No, this is the time of year, with winter looming, that forces us to take some statistical interest in the Mets, both as a team and individually. Here’s what I’d like to see:

1) Team: On Sept. 1, finishing .500 and in third place are possible. Third moreso than .500 as the Mets are eight under. Can they finish eight over the rest of the way? They reached that level only once. Of all things, it’s the one I’d like to see most. As far as third place goes, it is better than fourth, but still won’t be close.

2) David Wright: Earlier this summer, when the Mets were streaking and Wright was hovering around .500, he was a legit MVP candidate. He’s at .316 with 17 homers and 78 RBI. It would take a monster September, but I’d like for him to reach over 90 RBI, maybe 100. If he does, he most likely would have over 20 homers and be hitting over .300.

3) R.A. Dickey: He’s at the top of all NL pitching categories. The competition is strong, so even 20 wins – he has 17 – will be formidable for the Cy Young Award. Dickey leads with three shutouts and also has four complete games. All with a tough pitch to master.

4) Ike Davis: Davis was below .200 for much of the season, but is at  .224 with 25 homers and 74 RBI now. It would take a blistering month to finish at .240, but if he does, he’ll probably reach the 30 homers and 90 RBI levels. That would be a good season.

5) Jon Niese: He been erratic and has 10 wins. I’d take 13 or 14 now. Would be a nice thing to shoot for.

6) Daniel Murphy: He’s fallen below .300 to .285. I can see him getting back to .295, but .300 would be difficult.

There are others, such as Ruben Tejada hitting .300 and Lucas Duda belting 17 homers. However, for the remainder of the team, for guys like Josh Thole, Andres Torres and Jason Bay, there’s not much left to be aiming for as their numbers are so woefully weak.

For the above, reaching those levels would take some of the sting from the season and perhaps make the winter more palatable. Individual numbers is what passes for meaningful baseball in September for the Mets.

 

Aug 31

On Shutting Down Matt Harvey

Enjoy it while you can. The Mets plan to shut down Matt Harvey after 175 innings max, which is about three more starts.

While he’s been one of the bright spots to a disappointing season, I have no problem with the decision as there’s nothing to be gained by running him into the ground. If he’s as good as projected, he’ll be throwing 200-plus innings soon enough.

Harvey has been impressive through his first seven starts, in particular in limiting the damage when he gets in trouble. The ability to fight through threats, whether it be by improvisation or pure power and guile makes for the foundation of a good career.

This is something we also so yesterday from Jon Niese, who was in constant trouble but held the Phillies to single runs in three straight innings. We’ve seen worse from Niese, so this is another good sign.

Overall, I expected more from Niese than 10-9 at this point. His sub-4 ERA says he hasn’t always gotten the most run support. While there have been rocky nights for him, in the long run there’s still a lot of potential there and the combination of him and Harvey, plus R. A. Dickey and comebacks from Dillon Gee and Johan Santana, gives the Mets the basis for a good rotation next season.

Now, if they can only score some runs and redo the bullpen.

Aug 30

Gotta Like Terry Collins On Third Place Talk

OK, the Mets can move into third place with a victory this afternoon in Philadelphia. Matt Harvey’s strong performance last night, aided by a Lucas Duda homer, marked the Mets’ fourth victory in a row to give the team a pulse after a lifeless July and August.

Third place?

Big deal, says Terry Collins.

Collins wants .500, which would be difficult, but not impossible being eight games under with 31 to play. It could be done.

“You know, it’s not a goal. I don’t know where that’s coming from,” Collins said about third place. “It’s not a goal. The goal is to play as good as we can for as long as we can. For me, our goal should be to try to get back to .500. That should be our goal. Wherever that puts us at the end of the year, it puts us at the end of the year.

“But, believe me, we are not playing for third place. We’re trying to win as many games as we can. … I don’t want these guys coming in here every day looking at the box score, seeing who is in fourth. That does nothing for me.”

Play as good as they can for as long as they can. At one time, the Mets were eight games over .500. Imagine where the can be had they simply played .500 the last two months. It could have been a fun summer.

The Mets have holes, but how they played in the first half is indicative how what they can do with limited talent if they just play the game the right way.

Collins knows teams will only reach the next level if they play consistently hard and are fundamentally sound. There were too many times over the past two months when the Mets mentally took off too many plays.

It’s a long season, sure. Handling the grind is what defines a playoff caliber team. Those that concentrate and don’t take plays offs are the ones who persevere over the long haul.

I know this next comment is getting off the track a bit, but the long haul is why I hate interleague play and the unbalanced schedule so much. It used to be every team ran the same course, played the same teams, and there was a purity in determining the best over 162 games.

That’s not the case these days with some teams playing easier schedules based on their interleague schedule. The purity of the schedule, plus the limited playoff field is what long separated baseball from the other sports.

Aug 29

A Message To Josh Thole

If not a breakout season, 2012 was supposed to be a season where catcher Josh Thole would take it to another level, both defensively and as a hitter. That hasn’t been the case, and one hopes Thole will receive the message manager Terry Collins is sending him tonight.

THOLE: Sitting tonight vs. righty.

Originally, right-handed hitting Kelly Shoppach – who homered last night – was to start against left Cole Hamels. However, when Hamels was scratched this afternoon because of a stomach ailment and replaced by right-handed call-up Tyler Cloyd, Collins stuck with Shoppach instead of going to Thole.

Maybe Collins is simply rewarding Shoppach, but somewhere in there must be a message the Mets aren’t satisfied with what Thole is giving them. Production from behind the plate is needed, but it isn’t to the dire point where the Mets will move away from Thole, so he should report to spring training as the starter, but the patience in him is getting shorter.

Here’s tonight’s line-up:

Ruben Tejada, ss

Daniel Murphy, 2b

David Wright, 3b

Ike Davis, 1b

Lucas Duda, lf

Scott Hairston, cf

Mike Baxter, rf

Kelly Shoppach, c

Matt Harvey, rhp

INTERESTING NOTE: Scott Hairston has already cleared waivers so there are contenders seeking an outfield bat who are scouting the Mets. Hairston is is center tonight, which makes me wonder if the Mets are showcasing his versatility.

Hairston, by the way, has been productive off the bench and is somebody the Mets should bring back.