Oct 21

2012 Mets Player Review: Matt Harvey

MATT HARVEY, RHP 

 PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: The expectations of Matt Harvey were minimal for this summer. The Mets’ 2010 first-round pick out of North Carolina – and the seventh choice overall – was to continue his development in the minor leagues. The best-case scenario had him continuing his development at Triple-A Buffalo and join the Mets as a September call-up, when he would make two or three starts to give the big club an idea of whether he would fit into their plans for 2013. Even when the Mets’ rotation started to crumble, the talk was he wasn’t ready and GM Sandy Alderson didn’t want to rush him to the major league level. The scouting report on the 23-year-old Harvey was he had a plus-fastball, good secondary pitches and the ability to keep his composure on the mound. At similar points in their careers, Harvey was rated ahead of Mike Pelfrey, the Mets’ first-round pick in 2005.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Harvey was 7-5 with a 3.68 ERA in 20 starts for the Bisons before the Mets promoted him in late July. Minor league hitters batted .233 against him and he had 112 strikeouts and only 48 walks in 110 innings, numbers that clearly indicated he was overpowering batters. With the Mets’ rotation in shambles, Alderson had no option but to elevate him to see what he could do on the next level. At the time, the Mets were fading and the summer was spiraling out of control. Unable or unwilling to make a midseason acquisition – take your pick – Alderson had to do something to keep the dwindling attention of Mets fans and Harvey was the answer. Harvey pitched 5.1 scoreless innings at Arizona, July 26 to win his major league debut. He struck out 11 and walked three to have Mets fans drooling about the possibilities. However, he was victimized by the Mets’ dismal offense and lost his next three starts – they gave him only four runs in those games – but there was still a lot to like about Harvey’s game, especially his willingness to challenge hitters and his walks-to-strikeouts ratio. Unlike Pelfrey, Harvey possessed a poise and calmness about him. His command was exceptional and his stuff overpowering. He seemed to get a strikeout whenever the situation demanded. Harvey finished his first year at 3-5 with a 2.73 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. He struck out 70 with 26 walks in 59 innings, and batters hit a paltry .200 with a .338 slugging percentage against him. The Mets shut him down after his Sept. 19 start against Philadelphia to conserve his arm.

LOOKING AT 2013: I don’t know if the Mets will conserve his innings next summer the way the Nationals did Stephen Strasburg. Let’s hope not, but if they are inclined to jump on that bandwagon, let’s hope they don’t yank the rug out from under him in September, but perhaps have him skip a start once a month. That would mean six starts and possibly up to 42 innings for the summer. The Mets are counting on him to be in the rotation on Opening Day and develop into a solid, consistent starter. Actually, they are counting on him to become a star. Anything less than that would be a disappointment.

NEXT:  A look at the other pitchers who started games for the 2012 Mets.

Oct 12

I Hope The Nationals Go Down In Flames For Shutting Down Strasburg

We never got a chance to discuss the pros and cons of the Washington Nationals shutting down their ace Stephen Strasburg who they opted not to include on their post season roster. It was a bold move to say the least by Nats GM Mike Rizzo, but was it the right call?

Bob Nightengale of USA Today asked some rival GM’s what their thoughts were, and not only did all of them call it a bad move, but there was a lot of resentment and anger in what they had to say.

After yesterday’s embarrassing 8-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, the Nats find themselves on the brink of elimination and trail 2-1 in the National League Division Series. But there was no pity for them from rival GM’s who all say the Nationals got what they deserve.

“If we don’t win the World Series, I don’t care who does,” one general manager told USA TODAY Sports, “as long as it’s not those guys.

“They don’t deserve to win it. Not after what they did.”

Said a National League GM: “I hope they go down in flames. I hope it takes another 79 years before they get back to the playoffs. That’s how strongly I feel about it.”

Wow, I guess people are willing to say anything as long as it’s done anonymously, I’d love to know who these GM’s were?

Better yet, I wonder how sandy Alderson would play this if he were in the same situation…

Lets assume “Hell Freezes Over”, “Pigs Fly”, and “Bears Didn’t Shit In The Woods”. Lets assume the Mets clinched a wild card spot next season. Lets further assume Alderson shut’s down an utterly dominating Zack Wheeler who was 17-2 with a 1.76 ERA  because he reached his innings limit. Would you be okay with that?

What really pissed other GM’s off was when Rizzo said no matter what happens, “We’ll be back, we’ll be doing this a couple more times.”

Nightengale said it was the quote “heard round the baseball world”, with general managers and executives making sure everyone saw it.

Who do they think they are, the Yankees? Are the Philadelphia Phillies going to defect from the NL East? Are the Atlanta Braves retiring with Chipper Jones?

What if the Nationals don’t get back during Strasburg’s stay in Washington? What if this is their best chance to ever get to the Series? How do you live with that?

We haven’t heard the last of this as Nightengale also warns that Nationals players, particularly veterans, have grumbled and might sound off more once they depart.

As for my thoughts on all of this?

I’m with that general manager who hopes they go down in flames. I hope they don’t see the post season for the rest of this century and that their drought will forever be known as “The Strasburg Curse”. I have very little tolerance for any general manager who takes competing, winning,  and especially the post season for granted. That’s why I’m always keeping both eyes on Alderson. Until he starts using words like “wild card”, “world series”, and “championships” as part of his regular vocabulary. Those are the only words that will grab my attention.

Oct 10

Top 10 Disappointments From The Mets 2012 Season

On Monday, me and John Delcos brought you the Top 10 Positives from the Mets 2012 season, and as promised here are our Top 10 Disappointments from the 2012 season in no particular order…

Doing Nothing At Trade Deadline

Kevin Burkhardt said the players looked at the front office’s inaction at the trade deadline as a “kick in the teeth”. The team had begun to slide after losing their closer, their ace and a very effective Dillon Gee as they headed into the break. Up until deadline day, including the day before, Alderson kept telling the media that the Mets were buyers although nothing was done in June or July. On the day of the deadline, Alderson showed up to Citi Field with Jersey Shore’s Snooki. While Snooki took pictures with the players at one end of the dugout before the game, Sandy Alderson was at the other end announcing that the Mets were not buyers because of their poor recent performance. “How can I justify being a buyer in light of how poorly this team is playing?” When reporters quickly caught up with Terry Collins and told him the news, his response was “You’re kidding me right?” – Joe D.

The Poison Bullpen

After spending nearly all of their available resources and making the bullpen their number one priority last Winter, the results are in and the much ballyhooed bullpen overhaul proved to be a colossal failure. The Mets’ pen ranked last in the majors in just about every statistical measure, and their 4.75 ERA was the worst mark in the last two decades for the Mets. The sad part is that the biggest failure, Frank Francisco, will be back at a cost of $6.5 million in 2013. That’s a lot of cash for a team that will only have about $5 million to spend after raises this offseason. – Joe D.

Losing Back-to-Back Series to the Cubs

On June 3, Jon Niese beat the Cardinals to lift the Mets to a season-high eight games over .500. With the Mets playing well and a growing sense of optimism, the Mets couldn’t build on that and at the end of the first half lost consecutive series to the Cubs. To be a contender, a team must beat up on the weak, and that’s the Cubs. Instead of closing the first half on an up note, the Mets lost two of three at home to Chicago in the first-half finale and closed with a sour taste. They would never recover, and lost 11 of 12 coming out of the break and the season was over. – John D.

Excruciating Loss To The Nationals

There was no shortage of disappointing losses this summer, the most gut-wrenching coming July 17 at Washington, 5-4, in 10 innings. Down 2-0 entering the eight, the Mets took the lead on Jordany Valdespin’s three-run pinch homer only to see Bobby Parnell cough up the lead in the bottom of the inning. The Mets regained the lead, 4-3 in the tenth, but Bryce Harper tied it with a triple off Tim Byrdak and scored the game-winning run on Pedro Beato’s wild pitch. Only the Mets. – John D.

The Rotation Disintegrates

The rotation was loaded with questions going into the season, but they quickly lost Mike Pelfrey, who was having a good start reminiscent of how he pitched in 2010. Then Dillon Gee complained of numbness and artery damage was discovered in his shoulder. Finally, Johan Santana went on the DL in July with a sprained ankle, and finally was shut down in late August with a back injury. If not for R.A. Dickey’s remarkable season and Niese taking a step, they would have finished 20-plus games under .500. – John D.

Did They Quit On Terry Collins?

The players denied they quit on manager Terry Collins, but the mere fact he alluded to it gave us that perception. And, perception has a way of becoming reality. There was a disturbing lack of fundamentals in the second half, too many wasted at-bats and absolutely no clutch hitting. The starting pitching, bolstered by innings from Matt Harvey and Chris Young, didn’t pitch poorly, but the bullpen was atrocious. Quit is a strong word, but they couldn’t have played worse if they tried. – John D.

Jason Bay Continues His Slide

In his three seasons with the Mets, Jason Bay has hit 26 homers with 124 RBI. The Mets were hoping he’d average that when they signed him to a four-year, $66-million contract. This year he hit .165 with eight homers, 20 RBI. Miguel Cabrera had months like that this summer. He also contributed a .237 on-base percentage and a .299 slugging percentage. Next season will be Bay’s last with the Mets. Even if he were to have a monster year, the Mets will say good-bye. – John D.

Duda Takes Giant Step Backwards

Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins can continue to rave about Lucas Duda all they want, but the truth is that nobody regressed more in 2012 than Duda. As he enters next season at 27, he has a lot to prove after falling from a slash of .292/.370/.492 in 2011 to a slash of .239/.329/.339 this season. He struck out in more than 25% of his at-bats and as Keith Hernandez pointed out several times in September, Duda had not changed his stance or approach at the plate one bit after he returned from a stint in the minors. But Duda is very cheap and under team control for five more years and the Mets have no other options, so the praise for Duda will continue, but it’s best that you temper your expectations and not buy into the hype. – Joe D.

Outfield Of Screams

Everyone including me loves to rail against the obscene lack of production from the bullpen this season, but leave some of your outrage for the Mets outfield – who accounted for the most woeful production in the majors. Jason Bay (.165 AVG), Andres Torres (.230 AVG) and Lucas Duda (.239 AVG) combined for a .280 On-Base and a .649 OPS. Scott Hairston kept things from being even worse, but with a 2-3 year deal in his future at considerably more money, nobody expects that he will be back. This was one of the worst outfields the Mets have put on the field in over a generation. There’s no help on the way from the minors unless you’re interested in watching some K-New and V-Spin reruns. – Joe D.

Catch The Fever?

Another area of concern is behind the plate where starting catcher Josh Thole was expected to have a breakthrough season after a somewhat sold season in 2011. It never happened and what’s worse, Thole regressed so badly that it may have cost him his job and possibly even a spot on the roster. Mets catchers as a whole ranked in the bottom two in every defensive measure, but hardly made up for it with their bats. Thole batted .234, Mike Nickeas batted .174 until they finally shipped him back to the minors, and newcomer Kelly Shoppach was hardly an improvement batting .203 and striking out in an incredible one-third of his at-bats. – Joe D.

Did we miss anything? I think we pretty much covered the entire gamut.

Sandy Alderson, Paul DePodesta, J.P. Ricciardi and Terry Collins are led by Fred and Jeff Wilpon as they board the Bat Copter, destination unknown.

Oct 05

How Mets Answered Preseason Questions

Like all teams, the Mets had questions entering spring training. The Mets, of course, had more than most. At that time I listed the top ten questions facing the 2012 Mets. Let’s take a look back at how the season answered those questions. Some were in the positive, others not.

1) QUESTION: To what degree will the Wilpon’s financial problems impact the Mets?  

ANSWER: Did you see any new faces of consequence added at the trade deadline? Nope, I didn’t think so. Despite a strong first half, the Mets had issues – notably the bullpen – which they did not address at the end of July. Failing to improve the team, the Mets spiraled down in the second half. While the Mets received a favorable verdict in the Madoff case – they have two more years before they have to pay off – it will not induce GM Sandy Alderson to significantly enter the free agent market. The Mets spent $100 million this year on player salaries and don’t expect them to pay much more than that in 2013.

2) QUESTION: What will we get from Johan Santana?

ANSWER: Actually more than anticipated, including the first no-hitter in franchise history. There remains speculation throwing 134 pitches in that game might have derailed him. Even though there were no arm issues, Santana did lose his command and struggled in the second half before being shut down with an injury. The Mets are on the hook for $31 million more to Santana next year, including a buyout.

3) QUESTION: How long will David Wright remain a Met?

ANSWER: Well, he’s still here and Alderson said retaining him will be an offseason priority. Because of a good first half Wright’s name didn’t come up at the trade deadline as Jose Reyes’ did the year before. Wright proved to the Mets his durability this season and had a good season, hitting .306 with 21 homers and 93 RBI. How much better could it have been had he not slumped trying to carry the team in the second half?

4) QUESTION: Which Mike Pelfrey will we see?

ANSWER: He was good while he lasted, but was shutdown early with an injury and underwent surgery to his elbow. Pelfrey might not be ready until May or June, making it highly unlikely for the Mets to tender him a contract despite Terry Collins’ urging. After a seemingly breakthrough 2010 season, Pelfrey regressed dramatically last year. Overall, Pelfrey has not lived up to expectations. The only way I see him staying with the Mets if he were to re-sign with them at a discount, but with Scott Boras his agent, don’t count on it.

5) QUESTION: What is the configuration of the bullpen?

ANSWER: That was supposed to be Alderson’s priority last winter, but it wasn’t to be as the pen factored greatly in the second-half swoon. Frank Francisco was the primary closer, but finished the season with tendinitis. Bobby Parnell pitched considerably better later in the season and will likely enter spring training in a set-up role if Francisco is healthy. The Mets received promising production from lefties Josh Edgin and Robert Carson. Look for Jon Rauch to be a part of the housecleaning.

6) QUESTION: Is Ruben Tejada the answer as Jose Reyes’ replacement?

ANSWER: That’s still up in the air over the long haul, but for now Tejada is the right fit. Tejada has a great glove, and his .289 average was better than one could have expected. With other pressing needs, Tejada showed enough to where the Mets don’t have to shop for a shortstop this winter.

7) QUESTION: Can Daniel Murphy make it at second base?

I don’t think we’ll see the second coming of Wally Backman, let alone Ryne Sandberg or Roberto Alomar. Murphy’s range could be better, but he showed promise this summer that the position isn’t a lost cause for him. He was less awkward around the bag and made most of the plays. His footwork on the double-play needs to get better. Overall, he showed enough to where the Mets don’t need to sign a second baseman in the offseason.

8) QUESTION: How healthy is Ike Davis?

ANSWER: There was speculation the virus was a contributor to a poor first half, but he refutes that notion. Not wanting to shatter his confidence, and probably moreso that there weren’t other alternatives, the Mets didn’t send him down when he hovered under .200. Davis responded with a strong second half and finished with over 30 homers.

9) QUESTION: What’s the make up of the rotation?

ANSWER: It changed considerably, beginning with Pelfrey’s injury. Dillon Gee and Santana also went down. Chris Young was brought in and gave them over 100 innings. The positive developments were Jon Niese taking another step and the emergence of Matt Harvey. Most positive of all was R.A. Dickey, who won 20 games to become a Cy Young Award candidate. Dickey has gone from journeyman to an offseason priority to be re-signed. 

10) QUESTION: Will it ever happen for Jason Bay with the Mets?

ANSWER: The newest theory is Bsy’s concussion last year caused him to be sluggish at the plate. It’s only speculation. A greater speculation is it won’t happen for Bay, who has given the Mets nothing for the $66 million they’ll pay him. Not even moving in the fences helped Bay. The Mets are just counting the days until he’s off the books.

Oct 04

Explaining What Went Wrong For The 2012 Mets

Other than a lack of overall talent, there’s never just one reason why a team fails to win. The Mets began the season projected for the basement, with some corners speculating 100 losses.

So, at 74-88, 14 games below .500, and in fourth place, the Mets did better than expected, but in the end were still disappointing and kicked a promising season away with a dismal second half.

The Mets were 46-40 at the break, but ended the first half on a sour note by losing two of three at Citi Field to the Cubs. This coming after losing two of three to the Cubs at Wrigley Field a short time earlier.

You can’t consider yourself a serious contender when you lose consecutive series to a team that lost 100 games. You just can’t do it.

So, what went wrong?

STREAKY BAD: The Mets’ longest winning streak in the second half was four, accomplished twice. Conversely, they had five such losing streaks, including dropping six straight three times. When a team is streaky bad like that players begin to press, which is what happened in July and August.

STAYING WITH A PAT HAND: GM Sandy Alderson said several times the team had the resources to add talent if they were in contention at the trade deadline. But, that doesn’t meaning waiting until July 31. The bullpen had shown signs of breaking down in late June and early July, and there was a woeful lack of power with Ike Davis, Jason Bay and Lucas Duda doing nothing, but Alderson was content to believe things would get better and was satisfied at the break with a 46-40 record. The Mets opened the second half with two losing streaks of at least five games and by that time it was too late.

INJURIES: All teams have them and the Mets were no exception. It’s hard to win when three-fifths of your rotation goes down. First, Mike Pelfrey, then Dillon Gee and Johan Santana. The Mets simply didn’t have the replacement parts they needed, although the got more from R.A. Dickey than they could have wished for and Matt Harvey made a good first impression.

THE BULLPEN COLLAPSED AGAIN: The wasn’t bad in April, but was non-existent in the second half. The pen’s failures can be summarized by just 36 saves, and a 20-22 record in one-run games and 3-7 in extra innings. Clearly, they couldn’t slam the door late. The problem wasn’t really the closer as much as it was the bridge leading to the closer.

NO OFFENSE: The Mets had three players with 20-plus homers, but that’s not enough. The Mets went 15 straight home games in the second half where they scored three or fewer runs which lead to a minus-56 runs differential. If Davis had any kind of a first half he might have finished with 40. David Wright couldn’t carry the team from July on and one wonders if he’ll be a 30-homer player again. The Mets received very little from Bay, Duda, Josh Thole and Andres Torres. Who would have thought Scott Hairston would lead the outfield with 20 homers?