Apr 13

April 13.10: A troubled team heads on the road.

It wasn’t too long ago that it was March and the Mets were telling everybody who was asking that spring training records and statistics mean nothing.

Well, the games and numbers count now, and the Mets are 2-4, losing consecutive series to the Marlins and Nationals, teams they should at least be beating at home.

Pitching will decide this season and already the winter concerns resurfaced during the first week. Mike Pelfrey pitched better, but he’s had moments like that before and then regressed. For Pelfrey to be lit up in his next start, Thursday night in Colorado, wouldn’t be a surprise.

John Maine did not pitch well in his first start and neither did Oliver Perez. While Maine goes tonight against the Rockies, look for the Mets to skip Perez to keep Johan Santana on regular rest.

Jon Niese was strong in his start, but still lost – primarily because the offense is still in Port St. Lucie – and Santana has had both a good and bad outing.

The pitching has not been good with an average of just under five a game. Everybody has been wild and no starter has made it past the sixth inning, and everybody save Pelfrey has an ERA over 4.50.

Is there help on the horizon? Nope, and let’s not even think about trading for Cincinnati’s Aaron Harang, who is due $25 million over the next two years. Despite the talk on the call-in shows, Bronson Arroyo is not available.

Let’s face it, any pitcher of substance would, 1) be not be offered, and 2) if he were would cost a lot in prospects.

Help, quality help, isn’t coming. These guys have to pick it up for themselves.

If they don’t the bullpen will be quick to fall.

Without the bullpen, the Mets are 1-5 and there would be more wailing than wondering. Even so, a trend of recent seasons has returned, and that is an over reliance on the pen. At this rate, before you know it, the innings will have piled up and we’ll be talking about the holes in the bullpen.

Fernando Nieve has the hot arm and he’s been in four of six games already. With how Jerry Manuel has used the pen before, it won’t be long before Nieve is burned out.

Some of the pitching problems would be offset if the team was hitting, but it is third worst in the National League at .245, and .189 with runners in scoring position.

All of the losses can be traced to their inability to hit with runners in scoring position.

It’s too early to panic, but not too early to recognize a trend and how the Mets aren’t headed on a good path.

And, that path takes them into Colorado and St. Louis this week, two of the more difficult venues to play in the National League. Those aren’t places where a team gets well.

Apr 12

April 12.10: What to make of the first week?

To be sure six games is too small a sampling to get a definitive feel about the Mets. However, it isn’t too small to quash some first impressions.

Among them:

1) The preseason concerns on John Maine. As has been the case with Maine, he throws far too many pitches and labors with his command. He gets his second start tomorrow in Colorado, a place where it is not easy to pitch. Maine is No. 2 in the rotation currently and insists his shoulder is fine. OK, but his velocity is down and control is off. Not good and there have been little signs of turning it around.

2) Oliver Perez is Oliver Perez, which is to say he’s an enigma. Through his first five innings Saturday he threw 12-24-12-24-12 pitches. He walked four or which two of the runners scored. Perez will live and die with his command. When he worked quickly his control was good, but get a runner or two on base and he takes forever and his ball can go anywhere. Perez is not the pitcher you bet on.

3) The offense is as spotty as it was last year. Hitting with runners in scoring position seems to be a foreign concept. It’s not too many games in which they’ll hit four homers.

4) Mike Jacobs is Mike Jacobs. He’s always been a streaky hitter and so far he’s gotten off to a slow start. Maybe the homer Sunday will get him on track. Colorado is often a good place for a hitter, or an offense, to get hot.

5) Until David Wright hits the inside pitch he’s going to be pounded inside and handcuffed. When Wright is on he drives the ball the opposite way, but he’s not getting many pitches on the outside half of the plate. He needs to pull a few to keep the hitters honest.

6) The bullpen will be a key. So far it has been outstanding, and perhaps the biggest reason why these games have been competitive. Fernando Nieve and Pedro Feliciano are in competition for the eighth inning role. If the bullpen can maintain the Mets will be all right. However, it can’t keep throwing three innings a game. That will add up before you know it.

7) I’m not worried about Jason Bay. No homers so far, but he’s making contact and I love his hustle. He’ll be fine.

Apr 10

April 10.10: About Last Night; Pelfrey makes stride.

Pitching plus power have always been baseball’s greatest winning equation and the Mets finally got it last night with a solid start from Mike Pelfrey and four homers.

The Mets have questions with their rotation after Johan Santana, and the Mets have gotten three solid starts in their first four games.

Pelfrey had his rough spots, but with the exception of one inning he overcame them. Last night, working under cold and windy conditions, Pelfrey showed marked improvement. He continually threw first-pitch strikes.

Pelfrey gave up two runs in six innings, an effort he can build on. The bullpen pitched well for the second straight game. It looks as if Fernando Nieve appears to have gotten the first crack at being the eighth-inning set-up man.

Pelfrey was aided by his defense, especially Alex Cora, who made two scintillating plays, one of which saved a run. The offense was four homers – two each by Jeff Francoeur and Rod Barajas – and amazingly enough, a couple of hits with runners in scoring position.

Apr 08

April 8.10: About Last Night – Flashback, 2009.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think back to last night was the comeback, how it was generated by good, patient at-bats. Considering how they played overall, the Mets had no business playing baseball in the tenth inning last night.

The rally was encouraging because we saw too little of that last season.

However, and you knew there would be one, last night was a reminder of last season in several ways.

First, there was the horrid starting pitching of John Maine. We heard during spring training that his shoulder was fine, and maybe it is, but there’s something definitely not right with his pitching. Ninety-two pitches is way too many for not getting out of the fifth. His location was spotty (he missed on the homer by a foot and a wild pitch set up another run) and his velocity is down.

Will Maine improve? I really don’t know. You would hope, but maybe the 15 wins in 2007 was his ceiling.

Secondly, there was the offense, which mustered only six hits. They were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine. One or two more hits and this was a win.

Finally, the bullpen gave up three runs. When your starter won’t give you five, giving up three in the pen is too many. Jenrry Mejia’s outing made you wonder if the Mets jumping the gun with him, but the performances by Sean Green and Hisanori Takahashi makes one think they might not have had a choice. Oh yeah, last night would have been perfect for Nelson Figueroa.

There was the Fernando Tatis play, which was boneheaded for sure. A reminder of how sloppy they were on the bases last night. But, you can’t hang the game on that one play. Afterall, there was no guarantee David Wright would have come through.

Of course, no guarantee he wouldn’t have, either.

Apr 02

April 2.10: Toying with Mejia.

All that talking about Jenrry Mejia needing minor league experience is probably going to wind up as lip service because the reports are he’s more than even money to go north.

In what role, the Mets won’t say, but Jerry Manuel said the eighth-inning role “will be by committee,’’ a situation that always works.

What the decision to bring Mejia up now is really one made out of desperation by men, who in order to survive in their jobs, have to be shortsighted. If the Mets don’t win out of the gate, Manuel will be gone and he’s banking on Mejia’s rocket arm to suddenly find command and maturity.

But, at the same time, Manuel is saying he doesn’t have faith in Mejia in certain circumstances.

If Mejia needs to be saved from pressure situations such as the eighth inning, then what would he be doing on the roster in the first place? We all know the outcome of a game could be decided in the sixth or seventh innings. (And, with the Mets starters it could happen anywhere in the first five.)

I’m not sure whether Mejia should be a starter or reliever, but whatever it is, they should make a decision and stick with it.

Apparently, the Mets are currently thinking bullpen, which is fine. If that is the case, then he should be here the entire season learning from Francisco Rodriguez. Give him one relief role and stick with it.

I don’t want to see him here in the pen, then sent back down to the minors to start, then come back at the end of the year and go back in the pen. If Mejia is as good as they say, he’ll adjust. But, waffling between roles can only deter his progress.

That the Mets are even considering Mejia for the pen right now is a clear sign they have little faith in who they have right now. Their priority in this case is to compete now and worry about the future later.

That’s because the decision makers might not have a future.