Sep 24

DeGrom Best Mets Have To Offer

There are two numbers that define an ace and today Jacob deGrom achieved one of them – that being 200 innings. Maybe next year he’ll get the other, which is 20 victories. Coming off surgery, deGrom is at 201.1 innings after throwing six in today’s 3-2 loss to the Washington Nationals.

DE GROM: Best Mets have to offer. (AP)

                      DE GROM: Best Mets have to offer. (AP)

“It’s definitely big for me,’’ deGrom said. “We’ve got plans to hopefully go to the World Series next year, and that’s something I wanted to get to, to know what it’s like to pitch that many innings in a year.’’

Twenty victories and 200-plus innings have always been the benchmark numbers that define an ace. Limiting it to the Mets, Tom Seaver won 20 games five times and reached 200 innings 16 times. Both numbers carry more weight than strikeouts, although 10 times he struck out at least 200 batters in a season.

DeGrom struck out 11 today to give him 239 on the season to go along with a 15-10 record, 3.53 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. All solid stats, but manager Terry Collins is just supporting his player when he said deGrom should be a Cy Young Award contender.

“They live by 200 innings,’’ Collins said of Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer. “And I think you’re going to look up in a few years and that’s going to be Jacob deGrom’s motif. You know you’re going to get 200-plus out of him, and they’re going to be quality innings.’’

DeGrom has been one of the few bright spots for the Mets this season, and is unquestionably their ace, even more than Noah Syndergaard last year and Matt Harvey for a few months in 2013 ever were. With injuries to Syndergaard and Harvey, and to Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler, deGrom has had to carry more than his own weight in the rotation.

If those arms pitch at full strength next season, the Mets have a chance to be competitive, but I think deGrom might be overreaching when he’s talking World Series in 2018. One thing for certain, however, if the Mets have any hope of playing meaningful baseball next September, they’ll need a stellar season from deGrom, maybe even 20 victories.

Apr 10

Signs Point To Monster Year For Syndergaard

If Noah Syndergaard keeps pitching like this, there really isn’t any reason – other than Clayton Kershaw or Madison Bumgarner – why he can’t win a Cy Young Award.

SYNDERGAARD: Dominates. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Dominates. (AP)

Seriously, giving up two runs – one unearned thanks to a Yoenis Cespedes error – in seven innings will get it done most times. Syndergaard struck out nine and only threw 103 pitches. A knock against Syndergaard was a high pitch count and runners stealing on him at will. He’s been economical in both starts and the base paths have been quiet.

“I feel good with all my pitches right now,” Syndergaard said. “Slider, changeup, curveball, it doesn’t matter the count. I feel like I can throw them in any scenario.”

Syndergaard didn’t mention his fastball, but he had that, also, in the high 90s with command (no walks). He must maintain his command as it is far more important than velocity. If he can do that, and keep the stolen bases to a minimum, he can be dominant.

Most any hitter can crush a 99 mph. fastball if he’s looking for it, say on a 3-1 pitch, but it is so much harder when the pitcher is ahead in the count and doesn’t have to throw a fastball down the middle. So far, Syndergaard has been ahead in the count and can throw whatever he wants, and those pitches have been dancing and darting in the zone.

If the bone spur that nagged him last season stays quiet and he avoids injury, who is to say he can’t have a monster year?

The Mets found their home run bats with Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce going deep, but what was really impressive was manufacturing three runs in the first inning without the homer. It is always to a pitcher’s advantage to work with a lead.

Conforto also walked with the bases loaded, but he’ll sit Monday night in Philadelphia.

Oct 21

Kershaw For Dodgers in Game 6 Reminiscent Of Seaver In ’73 – Sort Of

One of the great things about the playoffs is its ability to remind you of great moments past, and Clayton Kershaw going for the Dodgers tomorrow brings to mind the Mets’ decision to start Tom Seaver in Game 6 of the 1973 World Series.

But, that was 43 years ago, and time has a way of blurring details.

SEAVER: Yogi's Waterloo in '73.

SEAVER: Yogi’s Waterloo in ’73.

While the headline of the Dodgers and Mets each going with their aces in Game 6 is the same, there are substantial differences in the situations. The subplots are different.

The first being a sense of urgency. There was none for Yogi Berra’s Mets. Berra started Seaver on short rest to start the game that would have given the Mets the championship. They were ahead 3-2 in the Series and Berra had George Stone, who was 12-3 during the season, for a Game 7. Berra wanted to finish off the Athletics and figured Seaver was his best chance.

However, the Dodgers trail 3-2 after losing twice at home and need the rested Kershaw to keep alive their season. If he does, the Dodgers will attempt to advance with Rich Hill, who, like Stone, is a 12-game winner.

While the situations differ other than each team playing its ace, a Game 6 gets the mind racing and it brought back the memory of Berra’s most difficult and controversial decision.

Visiting the past is one of baseball’s greatest gifts. Too bad it was a lump of coal for the Mets.

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Sep 19

Syndergaard Spits Bit; Owns Responsibility

Let’s put the brakes on this conversation about the Mets having a cupcake schedule, and while we’re at it, Noah Syndergaard being a Cy Young Award candidate. All games are vital at this point, and the last thing the Mets need is for their best pitcher to respond as poorly as Syndergaard did Monday night in a game they had to win – and with him getting an extra day of rest.

SYNDERGAARD: Doesn't have it. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Doesn’t have it. (AP)

“It stings a little bit,” said a dejected Syndergaard. “These last two weeks, every win is critical. It’s a disappointment. I didn’t go out there and get my job done.”

I love that. No excuses. Pointing a finger only at himself.

Syndergaard asked for the day and produced the third-shortest start of his career, giving up five runs on eight hits in 3.2 innings in the 7-3 loss to Atlanta. You knew Syndergaard and the Mets were in trouble with his 35-pitch second inning. He encored that with 29 more in the third. Syndergaard finished with 99, of which 26 were foul balls.

“I lost control of my fastball and couldn’t get my slider over,” said Syndergaard. “Baseball is s funny game. Once you think you have it figured out, it knocks you down.”

After a rough stretch in midseason where his pitch count mounted, Syndergaard had been very good over the past month, giving up four runs in his previous five starts and going 4-1 in his last five decisions.

His location had been better, as was his slider. He was pitching the way an ace is supposed to pitch.

“He’s our guy,” manager Terry Collins said. “Certainly [Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman] have stepped up and done a great job, but you’re going to go into the playoffs looking at Noah Syndergaard as the guy. If there’s a big game to be pitched, he’s the guy you’re going to turn to.”

Syndergaard is lined up to start the wild-card game, as is San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner, Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw and St. Louis’ Carlos Martinez. At this point, all might be slotted ahead of Syndergaard as a Cy Young favorite.

We saw all the foul balls again tonight, an indication he didn’t have sharp movement on his pitches and couldn’t put away hitters.

Collins said Syndergaard was throwing in the high 90s, but again, velocity isn’t nearly as important and movement and location. And, no, nothing was bothering him physically.That wasn’t the case,” Collins said. “He wasn’t making any pitches.”

“That wasn’t the case,” Collins said. “He wasn’t making any pitches.”

With the way the schedule pans out, Syndergaard will get two more starts. He can’t afford to let one more get away.

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May 10

Collins Gives No Confidence Vote To Conforto

Looking at the Mets’ lineup for Tuesday’s game in Los Angeles, I couldn’t help but notice a glaring mistake. Perhaps it was just an oversight on manager Terry Collins’ part, but I’m not thrilled with Michael Conforto batting sixth, protected between the red hot Wilmer Flores (.170, one homer and two RBI) and the sizzling Kevin Plawecki (.229, one homer and three RBI).

CONFORTO: Bad move dropping him. (AP)

CONFORTO: Bad move dropping him. (AP)

The Mets touted Conforto as the team’s No. 3 hitter of the future when Collins moved him there in mid-April. The move, where he hit ahead of Yoenis Cespedes, jumpstarted the Mets’ offense and sparked their surge in the standings.

The Mets are 16-5 isince moving Conforto to third, which includes losing the first two games on this trip. Unquestionably, Conforto is on a significant slide, going 3-for-29 (.103) over his last eight games. Basically, that’s a bad week.

Although the Mets are facing a left-hander in Alex Wood, it should be noted he’s 1-3 with a 5.18 ERA. The message indicated a lack of confidence by Collins in Conforto, but the manager’s words flat out shout it loud.

Lefties are batting .367 this year against Wood, but the manager doesn’t think that’s relevant. Collins said batting Conforto sixth wouldn’t create pressure to perform, but he’s mistaken. There’s more pressure now.

Collins made a big deal saying Cespedes’ presence helped Conforto, but if you buy that logic, you must also accept he’s getting next to no protection between Flores and Plawecki. In addition, what must Conforto be thinking about this demotion?

As far as his reasoning for moving Conforto, Collins told reporters today: “I’d like to leave him in the three-hole if I thought he could do some damage.”

That’s another way of saying he doesn’t think he can do any damage against a pitcher with an ERA just under six. How’s that for a pat on the back?

No, I don’t like this decision. Confidence is essential in the development of a hitter, and this move screams Collins has doubts. When Collins moved Conforto, I wrote how important it was for him to stay with him during slumps. At least the first one.

If Conforto is to become the No. 3 hitter the Mets expect of him, he’ll have to endure dry stretches. So, what does Collins do? He bails at the first sign of a problem. Collins said Conforto will bat third against right-handers, but said nothing about lefties. You have to assume he won’t hit third against Clayton Kershaw.

It has only been eight games. Let Conforto work his way out of this, the same way he’s given a long leash to Matt Harvey.

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