May 03

Mets April Review: Matt Harvey The Bright Spot; Ike Davis Not

As it often has been with the Mets over the years, what was once good quickly and dramatically turned sour as 5-2 fell to 10-15.

The Mets rode Matt Harvey’s blistering start – they won five of his six starts – but have to be alarmed he was responsible for half their victories. Once again, the Mets fell victim to the same old vices that have crippled them for years.

The bullpen collapsed, the team went cold hitting with runners in scoring position, and they couldn’t overcome the gaping hole in the back end of their rotation and ended the month with a six-game losing streak and finished at 10-14.

DAVIS: Biggest disappointment of the month. (AP_

DAVIS: Biggest disappointment of the month. (AP)

PITCHER OF THE MONTH: Harvey was everything as advertised and yesterday was named the National League’s Pitcher of the Month, going 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA. In 40.1 innings, Harvey struck out 46 while walking just 12.

PLAYER OF THE MONTH: The Mets’ biggest bat belonged to John Buck, who hit nine homers with 25 RBI. The Mets insist he wasn’t a throw-in in the R.A. Dickey trade, but with Travis d’Arnaud out for two months with a fractured foot, Buck will not be dangled soon. The pitchers swear by him.

DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE MONTH: It can’t be anybody else but Ike Davis, who is on pace to strike out 196 times. Last year the Mets did not option Davis and let him work his way back to where he hit 32 homers. If this year’s start continues much longer, will they make the same decision?

SERIES OF THE MONTH: Playing in unbearable conditions, the Mets outscored the Twins in Minnesota by a combined 20-7 in winning two of three games. Harvey flirted with a no-hitter in the second game and the third was snowed out.

WORST SERIES OF THE MONTH: It would be easy to say their three losses in snowy and freezing Colorado, but that would be too easy. And, they deserve a break because of the weather. So, let’s make it the three games they were swept in Citi Field by the Phillies, April 26-28. The losses to Philadelphia comprised half their six-game losing streak. From there, the Mets lost consecutive one-run games in Miami, coughing up the lead in the ninth inning both times.

GAME OF THE MONTH: April 24, at Citi Field. The Mets couldn’t win a Harvey start, but sent the game into extra innings on David Wright’s two-out single in the ninth and Jordany Valdespin’s grand slam homer in the tenth.

WORST GAME OF THE MONTH: There were several to choose from, but let’s take Monday’s heartbreaker in Miami. Not only did they waste a Harvey start, but went 1-for-18 with runners in scoring position and blew two save opportunities in losing 4-3 in 15 innings.

METS’ APRIL BY THE NUMBERS: Buck’s nine homers and 25 RBI. … Davis’ .159 average with 29 strikeouts, which outnumbered his walks and hits combined. … Lucas Duda is second in the NL with 20 walks. … Daniel Murphy hit .350 (7-for-20) with RISP. … Wright hit .462 (12-for-26) with RISP. … The bullpen blew three save opportunities and has a 5.09 ERA. The Mets are 3-13 when the pen gives up a run. … Seven times the pen worked at least five innings, a direct reflection on the back end of the rotation. … Longest winning streak was three games and the longest losing streak was six games. … The Mets were 1-6 in one-run games. … Longest hitting streak: Eight games by Murphy. … The Mets used 22 different batting orders in 25 games for the month. … The Mets have used six different leadoff hitters. … Seven different pitchers started games, including Aaron Laffey, who started two and is no longer with the team. … The Mets hit three grand slams for the month.

QUESTIONS COMING OUT OF THE MONTH

Q: Is Matt Harvey for real?

A: Who really knows, but all indications are he is. Harvey’s numbers are impressive, but not as much as is composure and tenacity on the mound.

Q: How long will the Mets stay with Ike Davis?

A: Working in Davis’ favor is the Mets’ reluctance to move Lucas Duda to first base. Davis’ struggling also indicates how thin the Mets are in the minor leagues.

Q: Will they quit fooling around with Jordany Valdespin?

A: The Mets have used six different leadoff hitters. Also, Valdespin won two games with homers, but still languishes in a non-starting role.

Q: Is bullpen and outfield help on the way?

A: There has been some juggling and movement on the Vegas shuttle, but nothing of any substance.

Q: Zack Wheeler, how soon?

A: Wheeler is coming off his best start, but that’s not enough for the Mets to promote him. Should he have two or three like the last one, perhaps the end of the month?

THE MONTH AHEAD: The Mets snapped their losing streak May 1 with Valdespin’s homer Wednesday. The Mets are in Atlanta this weekend, a place where they have not fared well. There are few easy putts this month, as their schedule includes four games in St. Louis, three against Cincinnati and three more with the Braves at Citi Field, and four interleague games with the Yankees.

ON DECK: Later today I’ll continue my series on the 1973 World Series team, take a look at tonight’s starter and preview the Braves series.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Apr 24

Jon Niese Hoping For The Best After Ankle Injury

It is the morning after and the Mets will hopefully know more about Jon Niese’s injured right ankle. Niese was knocked from Tuesday night’s 7-2 loss to the Dodgers in the third inning after being struck by a hard comebacker off the bat of Mark Ellis.

Niese fell to the ground and had to be helped off the field. X-Rays were negative and he was diagnosed with a bruise.

NIESE: Will he make next start? (Getty)

NIESE: Will he make next start? (Getty)

“It felt kind of like a stinger, like it hit a nerve,’’ Niese told reporters. “It obviously was painful. But then it kind of locked up down there. I couldn’t move my toes. It was kind of scary at first. But then, coming in here, letting it settle down, it’s just a bruise.

“What are the odds that ball hits my ankle? It’s one of those things where I’m glad it’s not as bad as what it could have been. I’ll just move on, shake it off and get ready for my next start.’’

Niese did not say where he earned his medical degree, but knows he won’t be sure until he tests it on his throw day Thursday.

The right ankle is Niese’s landing foot and if he feels any sharp bursts on pain then, he will likely be scratched from his scheduled start Sunday against Philadelphia.

“Certainly the fear was as soon as he couldn’t move his foot … [it] was a bad sign for us,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “Obviously, he’s fine. He’s walking around. He’s getting better as the night goes along. So he’ll be OK. He shouldn’t miss a start.’’

Not known is the number of times Collins has said after an injury that a pitcher won’t miss a start or throw day, but he did.

Whatever the number, bet the over. Also, bet the worse when it comes to Mets’ pitching injuries.

Thinking along those lines, the Mets will have to scramble to find a starter to replace Niese if he can’t go. Aaron Laffey, who was designated for assignment to make room for Robert Carson, was signed by Toronto.

The Mets are adamant about not going to Zack Wheeler, saying he’s not ready, and his control supports their worries.

Next up from Triple-A Las Vegas will be Collin McHugh, who was 0-4 with a 7.59 ERA in eight appearances. However, his Vegas numbers of 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in four starts indicate he’s pitching better.

Chris Schwinden at 2-2 is also available and pitched for the Mets last season.

The Mets could also decide to dip down to Double-A Binghamton for Rafael Montero, who is 3-0 with a 1.59 in four starts.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

Apr 21

Zack Wheeler: Not Ready For Primetime

Baseball 101: Regardless of the level of play, if a pitcher walks too many batters he will be beaten.

It is a baseball fundamental understood by everybody, with the exception of those insisting the Mets bring up Zack Wheeler, who walked six hitters in his last start.

WHEELER: Not ready.

WHEELER: Not ready.

The clamoring is getting louder in the wake of the Mets’ continued problems with the back end of their rotation. Maybe Dillon Gee, he of the 0-3 record and 8.36 ERA, will get it going Sunday against Washington. But, also struggling are Jeremy Hefner and Aaron Laffey, both of whom were hit hard Saturday by the Nationals.

David Wright was correct in saying if the Mets score five runs off Gio Gonzalez they should win, but the combined efforts of Hefner and Laffey made that impossible. Hefner has given up seven homers in 14 innings, with two of them coming Saturday. Laffey gave up three runs in 2/3 of an inning out of the bullpen.

The Mets are hoping for Shaun Marcum’s return, or could give Triple-A starter Collin McHugh a spot start because it won’t, and shouldn’t, go to Wheeler.

The six walks Wheeler gave up trump any radio host’s rant of, “I want to see what he can do.’’ Well, we know what he can do, and that’s walk hitters and get shelled. Hey, the Mets are getting that now.

Do they really need to see one of their prized prospects get routed up here? The Mets took their time with Matt Harvey and should do the same with Wheeler.

And, let’s hear no more about the Mets being cheap because they want to keep him away from the free-agent market another year. That is not the issue. Wheeler is simply not ready for the major leagues, a fact Collins reiterated Saturday.

“That’s a red flag and I don’t want to see walks from those guys,’’ Collins said. “I told Zack in spring training, you’re going to pitch in a tough place [the Pacific Coast League] and I was in that league for 12 years, I know how hard that league is to pitch in.’’

Collins said he would talk to Las Vegas manager Wally Backman about Wheeler. There are times statistics aren’t defining in evaluating performances in the minor leagues. Walks, however, are telling on any level. Overall, in four starts, Wheeler has walked 12 in 18.1 innings. On top of that, he’s given up 20 hits.

“Ten hits, I can understand,’’ Collins said. “But six walks, he’s better than that.’’

He needs to show it.

Apr 17

Mets Getting Bullpen Help; Add Familia, Demote Burke

The beleaguered Mets bullpen is getting help tonight with the return of Jeurys Familia to the majors from Triple-A Las Vegas. With neither starter Dillon Gee nor Aaron Laffey getting through five innings in Tuesday’s doubleheader, the Mets’ bullpen threw a taxing 10.1 innings.

To make room on the roster, the Mets demoted submariner Greg Burke, who have up three runs in the doubleheader. Burke has a staggering 7.06 ERA in 7.1 in seven appearances.

Familia opened the season on the 25-man roster, but when Aaron Laffey was brought up to take Shaun Marcum’s spot in the rotation, he was optioned to Las Vegas. Familia has pitched five scoreless innings in four appearances for Las Vegas.

Familia could offer short term and limited innings support, but the Mets’ immediate bullpen need is for a long reliever, somebody who can come in and give them three innings. Depending on the move the Mets make when Marcum is activated, they could use either Laffey or Jeremy Hefner in a log relief role.

The Mets could be getting further support in the next two weeks if Pedro Feliciano is promoted from Single-A and Frank Francisco is activated from the disabled list.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Apr 11

Mets Matters: What Went Wrong In Philly?

jeremy hefner

The Mets aren’t quite a Lindsay Lohan train wreck, but today in snowy and cold Minneapolis perhaps they can reflect on what went wrong in Philadelphia and some of these very visible cracks:

STARTING PITCHING: At 5-4, the Mets are better than expected and received strong starts in six games, but Matt Harvey and Jon Niese followed by three days of rain isn’t going to happen.

In three of their last four games the back end of the rotation has been exposed. Dillon Gee says he’s fine, but there was something wrong Tuesday night. The Mets might be better off leaving Jeremy Hefner home when they go to Philadelphia. Aaron Laffey is starting until Shaun Marcum is ready, but nobody knows what to expect when he returns.

BULLPEN: There have been some stinkers, that’s to be expected. But, nine games in and Terry Collins is already worried about overworking his relievers. That comes when there’s no back end of the rotation.

The pen is working close to three innings a game, and at this rate will be fried by July. If you recall, the porous bullpen precipitated last year’s second-half collapse.

NO POWER: Yes, they’ve homered in every game, but that’s misleading as most of that is John Buck and Daniel Murphy, with a little Lucas Duda on the side.

Nobody expects Buck to keep his pace (five homers in nine games), but if he did you can bet they’ll be shopping him in July if they aren’t winning. Ike Davis is in a dreadful slump and David Wright is joining him.

Of Wright’s 32 at-bats, 15 have come with runners on base, but he only has four RBI. Wright’s slugging percentage is way down with only two doubles and his batting average is at .250. He could use the day off.

Meanwhile, Davis has more than twice as many strikeouts as he has hits and he’s well on his way of duplicating last year’s slow first half.

Duda has been a plus, especially with his patience and ability to take the walk. He’s among the league leaders in walks. This patience will translate into home runs.

NO LEADOFF HITTER: This was a problem going into spring training and it is a problem now. CollinCowgill has the most opportunities, but hasn’t produced. Neither has Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who might be on his way to the minors as the Mets need a utility infielder.

Mike Baxter had the best game of the leadoff hitters, but Collins is reluctant to give him an extended chance. The same applies to Jordany Valdespin, who always seems to make things happen, good and bad, because of his speed.

OUTFIELD: The only constant is Duda, has Collins has gone to a platoon in the center and right, something he said he wouldn’t do. Marlon Byrd had a good start, but he’s not an everyday player.

CONCLUSION: Rocky times could be ahead. The Mets took advantage of solid starting pitching to get off to a 5-2 start, but that hasn’t continued outside of Harvey and Niese. The Mets need more from the back end of their rotation as to cut the bullpen’s innings.

The offense scored 19 runs in the first two games, but only 30 in the following seven. Buck is not going to keep this up all season. Eventually, Wright and Davis must produce or it will be a long summer.