Apr 12

Mets Matters: Is Ike Davis The Answer At First?

"<strongYou can Google Ike Davis with dozens of different questions, but here’s one you won’t find an answer to: Why isn’t he as good as advertised?

It was May of 2011 when Davis was hitting .302 with a .383 on-base percentage and resembling the slugger the Mets had trumpeted he could be when he ran into David Wright and hurt his left ankle and missed the rest of the season.

Then came last year, the virus and a miserable first half where he was almost sent back to the minors. He salvaged 2012 with a strong second half and 32 homers appeared to give him a pass going into this season, but he’s flailing again. How long before this season-opening slump becomes a first-half swoon?

Davis gave me an answer indicating what could be his problem this spring when I asked him about striking out, and whether he should concentrate on going to the opposite field and being more patient.

“I like to hit home runs,’’ Davis said in much the same tone a kid would say he likes to eat candy. Then, in what could be defined as defiance, added, “I’m a home run hitter; I’m going to strike out.’’

All that was missing was him sticking his tongue out and muttering, “so there.’’

Statistics can be interpreted any way you want, but Davis’ – both this year and his career – scream he might not be as good as he’s cracked up to be, and despite his manageable contract, is currently an offensive liability.

What else can you take out of a .129 batting average, .229 on-base percentage, .226 slugging percentage, one homer, two RBI and 11 strikeouts compared to four hits and four walks? Whether you are a traditionalist and believe in the basic stats, or are into the new math of baseball, it still adds up to a big hole in the middle of the order.

Go ahead, convince me those are good numbers.

Go ahead, convince me a 162-game average of .249 with 150 strikeouts to 72 walks, is somebody you build a team around.

General manager Sandy Alderson said strikeouts are acceptable if there’s a reasonable expectation of run production in return. He has driven in two this season.

These numbers, as is his .214 average against left-handers, are the result of poor plate habits. He lacks patience or pitch recognition; he either refuses or can’t shorten a swing that begins with a terrible hitch that gives him a long loop; and he doesn’t use the entire field. Either he doesn’t listen to the hitting coach or the hitting coach isn’t reaching him.

Davis can’t handle the low-and-away breaking pitches to the point where it is a mystery why pitchers would ever throw him a fastball. A manager should fine his pitchers if they threw Davis anything other than breaking stuff away. They should keep throwing him curveballs low-and-away until he proves capable of handling them.

Davis is rapidly becoming an all-or-nothing slugger in the mold of Dave Kingman, Rob Deer, Mark Reynolds and Adam Dunn. These are guys who are thrilling when they connect, but usually don’t.

If Davis continues on his current course, it will get to the point whether he changes his style and approach, or the Mets should change their first baseman.

It’s not difficult.

Dec 06

Winter Meetings open with stunning Werth deal

Nobody saw this one coming. Jayson Werth was going to stay in Philly or go to Boston. He would make his money, but $126 million over seven years from the Washington Nationals was completely off the radar.

WERTH: Mets shouldn't be swayed by deal.

Losing Werth weakens the Phillies, but they are resilient, willing to spend and will find a way to replace him. No tears shed there. As for the Nationals, he can’t help but make them better, but this is a team that just lost Adam Dunn so are they upgrading the offense that much?

Werth is good player, but how much of that production comes from hitting in Philadelphia’s bandbox and the protection afforded him in that lineup? Not sure he’ll do the same for the Nationals.

Word is the Nationals aren’t done and are willing to throw money after pitching, notably Carl Pavano.

We know the Mets aren’t as good as Philly, Atlanta and probably the Marlins. Now the Nationals are making noises like they want to escape the NL East cellar. Sad to say, but they just might be the yardstick the Mets will measure themselves by in the near future.

Washington’s aggressiveness is being noted by the Mets, but hopefully they will stay the course and give Sandy Alderson’s blueprint time to develop. Trying to keep up with the Joneses with foolish spending is what got the Mets into trouble in the first place.

Mets fans have been clamoring for change since the end of the 2007 season when the team blew a seven game lead with 17 to play. There has been no structured plan for development the past three years as the Mets approached each offseason with a piecemeal approach.

This time, the Mets are trying patience and trying to build from the bottom up. That’s been the party line and Alderson has not wavered and suggested this team will be competitive by throwing large sums of money at players.

There is a lot of work to do, and most of it will come next winter after Carlos Beltran, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and probably Francisco Rodriguez are off the books. That’s when the spending will come. For now, it’s evaluating, minor moves and hoping players stay healthy as the way to go for 2011.

It’s tempting to watch the Nationals and give in to the spending impulse, but in the long term that’s not the way to go.

We’ve wanted a front office with vision, organization and planning for three years now. We now have one, so let’s give them the time to get it done, no matter how much spending goes on this week.

Jul 04

Mets Chat Room; Need to fix a late-inning leak.

Game #82 at Nationals

Ten walk-off losses for a season sounds high, let alone 10 for the first half. That’s the number after Frankie Rodriguez’s latest meltdown yesterday.

“The worst performance I ever had in my life,’’ he called yesterday afternoon’s ninth inning, which for all practical purposes was over before Adam Dunn’s game-tying drive off the wall.

Walking Cristian Guzman on four pitches to open the ninth was as bad a sign as there is.

Rodriguez’s implosion made Stephen Strasburg a footnote and threw away what would have been RA Dickey’s seventh win.

Ten walk-off losses out of 36 is way to high a percentage and is something the Mets must address immediately. For all the talk about the eighth inning, a band-aid needed to be put on the ninth, too.

“We have our issues,’’ manager Jerry Manuel said. “We can’t have an issue at the end of the game.’’

But, they do.

While the Mets’ bullpen is an issue heading into the break, so to is Jose Reyes’ health. Reyes, who has a strained right oblique, won’t play again today at Washington and is now questionable for the Reds series starting tomorrow at Citi Field.

Jul 18

METS CHAT ROOM: Game #90; sinking fast.

CHAT ROOM

CHAT ROOM

I would rather not use the word “freefall” but the options are getting fewer. Realistically, I don’t see much cause for optimism. This is a team with too few healthy parts, and those that are, aren’t playing well. Can they turn it around? Yeah, it’s possible, but do you see any signs of life indicating they will?

I don’t.

I also don’t see any help on the horizon. Matt Holliday isn’t coming. Neither is Roy Halladay. Neither is Adam Dunn. Neither is anybody else of substance. The Mets simply don’t have the chips – without scuttling their farm system – to make a significant deal.

They will wait for Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran to get better and consider them as “the best trade we could make.” What nonsense. They weren’t playing well when those guys were healthy. As far as Carlos Delgado is concerned, frankly, I see him wanting to come back for only one reason, and that is to prove he’s healthy enough to sign with another team this winter.

They will add Julio Lugo to rest Alex Cora, but let’s face it, who really cares? The best thing about Lugo is it might force the Mets to release Tim Redding.

Johan Santana goes today in an effort to stop the slide. I can’t begin to count the times I’ve written that sentence this season. Trouble is, Santana has been less than an All-Star since he was roughed up in San Francisco. The home runs keep coming off him.

There were no signs of life in last night’s debacle. One has to wonder if internally the Mets aren’t thinking among themselves that it is over.

May 18

Who’s on first?

OK, for all of you who dissed me this winter about Adam Dunn, how would you like to have him now that Carlos Delgado is on the DL for who only knows how long? Word is Delgado could be out for a lot longer than two weeks, which only exposes what we already knew – the Mets had no contingency plans for first base.

It’s a reflection on the minor league system that there’s not a ready replacement for Delgado.

Unless the Mets know for sure Delgado will be out for an extended period, it makes no sense to unload the remaining blue chips on the minor league level for a first baseman. Besides, despite their recent run, the Mets’ rotation is due to expose itself as it did earlier this season and they’ll most likely be looking at acquiring pitching at the trade deadline. That’s where the chips should be spent.

Currently, the Mets are mixing according to the pitching match-ups between Jeremy Reed and Fernando Tatis. Neither are good enough to play fulltime, although Tatis has been playing well.

Moving Daniel Murphy to first – which also keeps Gary Sheffield’s bat in the line-up – has been discussed. But, should the Mets bite the bullet and stick in him there, or send him down to the minor leagues for a month at the position?

Delgado’s injury leaves a gaping hole in the middle of the batting order the Mets are trying to fill with the 40-year Sheffield, a player the Detroit Tigers were willing to pay millions of dollars to for just going away. Sheffield has been hot lately, but do you want to bet for how long it will last? If Delgado is gone for any length of time, David Wright will eventually assume the clean-up position in the order.