Aug 16

Mets Bullpen Has Surprised This Season

gonzalez germanAfter 3-4 consecutive seasons of bullpen failures and a couple of unsuccessful revamps and overhauls by Sandy Alderson in 2011 and 2012, it looks like the Mets have finally turned a corner and figured things out this season. In doing so they’ve also uncovered a few potential keepers for 2014 and beyond, some of them developed through our system and others who were key acquisitions straight from the scrap heap.

One such find has been Gonzalez Germen, who recorded the final six outs in last night’s 4-1 win against the San Diego Padres to notch his first major league save. It was a big moment for Germen who plans to give the game ball to his mother. Germen stepped in for LaTroy Hawkins who was unavailable due to a sore groin. Hawkins too, has been a key cog in this now very effective bullpen.

Since July 1, the Mets pen has a 2.10 ERA (30 earned runs/128.2 innings), ranking third in the majors. New York’s pen has a 1.83 ERA (seven earned runs/34.1 innings) this month, the sixth-best mark in the majors. The pen’s 3.64 overall ERA, ranks 15th in the majors after two straight seasons of ranking 29th in 2011 and 2012.

Even more telling is that Met relievers have stranded 141 of 189 inherited runners, the fifth-best percentage (74.6) in the majors. The Mets’ bullpen has been coming into games in critical spots and have done a great job of limiting the damage and stranding runners. It’s time to give Sandy Alderson his due for a job well done this season.

The Mets bullpen has endured losses to their close Bobby Parnell who was in the midst of the best season of his career, and also losing second-year reliever Josh Edgin was a significant blow as well. Since his return from the minors, Edgin led the bullpen in BAA and WHIP.

Some player performances of note are that of Scott Rice, who leads the team with 61 appearances and has surprised everyone while limiting opposing batters to a .224 average and posting a 3.34 ERA in his rookie season. The 32-year old late bloomer, has held lefthanded batters to a .162 average and has allowed just one home run all season in 45.1 innings pitched. Boom…

Scott Atchison was another scrapheap signing and all he’s managed to do is post a 3.34 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 31 appearances since joining the Mets.

As a reliever, perhaps the best performance of this season belongs to Carlos Torres whose 0.65 ERA is the best mark among all relievers in the game. His 0.87 WHIP ranks fifth in the NL and he has 5:1 strikeout to walk ratio.

So while not everything has gone perfectly for the Mets this season, there have been some very notable bright spots and certainly the bullpen has been one of them.

Aug 02

Mets Languish Behind Small Market Royals And Pirates

It wasn’t that long ago when New York Mets’ fans and media criticized the team’s lack of aggressiveness in the free-agent market with the smug comment: “This is New York, we’re not the Kansas City Royals or Pittsburgh Pirates.’’

The Pirates are in first place in the NL Central and might be the season’s best story, while the Royals take a nine-game hitting streak into this oddly-time interleague series – Kansas City’s first trip to Queens since 2002. If the Mets and Royals were in the same division, they would be 6.5 games better than the Mets. Meanwhile, the Pirates would have a 10.5-game lead on the Mets.

The Royals are doing it with great defense, timely hitting sprinkled in amongst a few stars.

Also interesting is left fielder Alex Gordon, who switched from third base and has won a couple of Gold Gloves. My first through was if Gordon can switch position and become solid player, if not a star, then what about Wilmer Flores?

Flores’ roots are at shortstop, a position requiring athletic ability. I don’t know where he fits in, but he hits too much to languish in the minor leagues. Omar Quintanilla has cooled and the organization is far from enamored with Ruben Tejada, so, what’s the harm in trying?

When a player switches positions, it is always easier to move from infield to outfield, than the other way around.

OFFENSE STAGNANT: The Mets limp home from their 3-5 trip no doubt aggravated it could have been 7-1 with some timely hitting – or any hitting at all, for that matter.

The Mets scored 11 against the Nationals in the first game of the trip, but only 15 over the next seven games. Four times they scored only one run or were shutout.

“We don’t drive runs in. There’s no secret,’’ Terry Collins said as the Mets packed up to return home. “If I knew what it was, we’d fix it. Guys don’t drive them in. We’re not driving them in. That’s pretty much the basic line.’’

Collins then went on to say something totally confusing, saying: “There’s nothing wrong with the approach. We’re just not taking good swings on the pitches we can hit.’’

Here’s a bulletin for Collins: They are missing those pitches because the approach is off, whether it be mechanical or mental. Something is not clicking.

It isn’t for Ike Davis, who only had five hits on the trip and stranded six runners Thursday. He’s hitting better than he was prior to going down to Las Vegas, but largely remains unproductive.

WRIGHT HAS TIGHT HAMMY: David Wright has been playing with tightness in his right hamstring. Collins said Wright understands himself better than anybody, but Collins needs to understand him, too.

Wright would try to play if he had an arrow shot through his thigh. This is a man who played nearly a month with a fracture in his lower back.

Wright said he can play, invoking the standard player cliché, that if this were the playoffs it wouldn’t be an issue. But, these aren’t the playoffs.

To risk losing Wright for several weeks or longer if he blows out his hamstring is just plan stupid. Sit him for a couple of games to be sure.

SIX-MAN ROTATION IN JEOPARDY: You knew the Mets weren’t going to go long with a six-man rotation cycle.

Jonathan Niese threw four shutout innings Thursday and said he needs on more start. When he’s ready they certainly won’t go to seven.

Carlos Torres is likely to move to the bullpen.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 30

Mets Standing Pat As Deadline Nears And That’s Not Bad

Unless the New York Mets are completely blown away, they will hold on to Marlon Byrd and Bobby Parnell, and this is a positive development.

The Mets have been talking about changing their culture since bringing in GM Sandy Alderson and trading either or both would be counterproductive.

BYRD: Has made positive impact with Mets and fans.

BYRD: Has made positive impact with Mets and fans.

After several seasons of struggles, Parnell finally appears to found his niche as a closer. Trading a player who has worked hard to reach a positive level sends a poor signal throughout the organization. There should be some reward for success after hard work, and trading Parnell is not that reward.

Plus, and this is most important, if the Mets are to reach contender status next season as is their timetable – because they’ll have almost $50 million off the books – they will need a closer. Trading somebody who is effective and on a reasonable contract is taking a step back.

As for Byrd, he paid the price for his suspension and has been productive, picking up part of the power slack created by poor seasons from Ike Davis and Lucas Duda.

Byrd plays hard, hustles, and by all accounts is a positive presence in the clubhouse. He’ll probably want two years, but the Mets should counter with one and an option.

If the Mets are to make a run at .500, which is possible, they’ll need Byrd. I don’t believe the Mets will extend Byrd now, but doing so would send a powerful message.

Considering Byrd is 35 and has some baggage, they probably won’t receive much for him. His value could be greater as an example to some of the younger players.

I don’t know if he tried to work with Jordany Valdespin, but then again who knows if anybody can reach him? Valdespin, who was named Player of the Week for Triple-A Las Vegas, was also recently ejected from a game, a sign his control issues are still there.

Another thing about Byrd is the Mets have to know what direction they are heading as far as next year. They already have in mind a contract offer, including the number of years.

The Mets are trying to win with what they have now and probably won’t do anything.

Outside of Byrd and Parnell, there are other Mets who could be attractive to a contender, notably John Buck – whose time is being reduced and with the probably promotion of Travis d’Arnaud. Buck, however, has a connection with Matt Harvey, so that appears a long shot.

Detroit needs a shortstop, and if Omar Quintanilla isn’t in their plans, why not move him and bring up Wilmer Flores when he’s physically ready? Eventually, the Mets will need to see what Flores can do. I wouldn’t even be adverse to trading Ruben Tejada.

Relievers LaTroy Hawkins could also help a contender, as could Jeremy Hefner or Carlos Torres if the Mets are convinced of Jon Niese’s return.

Finally, there is Ike Davis, who is playing considerably better since returning from Las Vegas. If the Mets already made up their mind in the negative as far as bringing back Davis, they why are they holding on to him?

There must be a team out there needing a power left-handed bat and believes a change of scenery would help Davis.

 

Jul 28

The Importance Of Jon Niese Pitching Again This Season

Jon Niese began his rehab assignment for the New York Mets with two inning to recover from a partially torn rotator cuff and might not be available until late August if not early September. While it might be tempting to shut him down for the remainder of the season, there is an importance of him pitching again this year.

NIESE: Needs to pitch this year. (AP)

NIESE: Needs to pitch this year. (AP)

First, for Niese’s peace of mind, he’d like to enter the offseason with an idea of where he stands physically. This makes mapping out his winter conditioning and throwing programs easier and alleviates a repeat of what happened last year with Johan Santana.

The more information the Mets know about Niese the better, not only for the left-hander’s off-season training, but also for their shopping lists. If they suspect a strong return from Niese, that could give them the freedom of making a trade.

How much Niese will pitch the rest of the season, nobody knows, but getting out there is important because it alleviates the wonder and there’s nothing more frustrating for a pitcher to be sitting home in December and January and thinking if he should start throwing.

ON DEALING BYRD: I have been against the Mets dealing Marlon Byrd because I’d like to see how strong they could finish as to get an idea of what to do in the off-season.

After being 15 games below .500, they cut that to seven games under after winning the first game of Friday’s double-header, but with a loss today they will again be ten games under.

The Mets have made it clear they don’t want to deal Bobby Parnell, which makes Byrd their most sought after player.

However, Terry Collins said this morning he doesn’t expect anything to happen by Wednesday’s trade deadline.

“You look at our team, and right now we’ve got some guys that are playing good,’’ Collins told reporters in Washington. “And I don’t know what’s going to happen the next three days. … If I was a team that was in a hunt, who had a couple of holes, I’d go searching and we’ve got some guys. But from everything I’m hearing right now, there’s no reason to think we’re going to change.’’

 

LINE-UP VS. NATIONALS

Here’s today’s lineup:

Eric Young, LF

Josh Satin, 3B

Daniel Murphy, 2B

Marlon Byrd, RF

Ike Davis, 1B

John Buck, C

Juan Lagares, CF

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Carlos Torres, RHP

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 27

Mets Opt To Protect Matt Harvey And Zack Wheeler With Six Man Rotation

How long the New York Mets’ six-man rotation will last nobody is willing to say. It could be until Jeremy Hefner is beaten for a third straight start or if Jenrry Mejia’s game Friday was a fluke.

The driving force for the decision is to space out the starts of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler with the intent of letting them pitch out the remainder of the season. Nobody wants to pull the plug in mid-September, especially if the Mets are making a run at .500, and shaving an inning or two off each start is not the best avenue, either.

For the remainder of this season, at least, the objective if is protect Harvey and Wheeler, and with the playoffs seemingly out of the picture, there’s nothing wrong with the concept, because everybody else is also getting more rest.

There have been teams in recent years to go to six starters, but only once or twice through the rotation, and usually because of a double header. As a matter or course for a season, I can’t recall it ever happening. I do remember four-man rotations. Too bad those are a thing of the past.

It is estimated each has about 75 innings left in their seasons.

Dillon Gee started Saturday and gave up three homers early in the game; Carlos Torres goes Sunday, followed by Hefner, Wheeler, Mejia and Harvey in Miami.

This all began with the decision to cap Harvey prior to the break. Harvey has had blister problems and slightly tweaked his back earlier they year, but his arm has been sound and the Mets want to keep it that way.

“Right now, if you pencil it out all the way through, Matt has about 10 more [starts],’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters Saturday in Washington. “So we should be able to spread those innings out to let him go out to pitch and be OK.’’

Collins wouldn’t say how long the Mets will stick with six, but said how well the team is playing could be a determining factor. The Mets were seven games under .500 after Friday’s double-header split. Currently, they are 11 games behind for the second wild card.

Another factor is Jon Niese’s rehab from a shoulder injury. Once he’s ready somebody will be out a job, likely Mejia unless he keeps throwing seven scoreless each time out.

The flip side of going with an extra starter is going with one less player off the bench. Of course, those numbers will change if the Mets make it until the September 1 call-ups.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos