Nov 15

Mets’ Pitching Plan Has Questions

On the surface, the plan the Mets are currently mulling about preventing their starters from going through the order a third time makes a lot of sense. All the numbers point to a starter losing effectiveness the longer he stays in the game. They all can’t be Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber or Jacob deGrom.

DE GROM: It all begins with him. (AP)

DE GROM: It all begins with him. (AP)

It is common practice during the postseason, but at that time a manager has more off days in which to rest relievers and can replace the fifth starter with a long reliever in which to plug in.

“We will not allow our guys to struggle the third time through the lineup if we can avoid it,’’ Mets manager Mikey Callaway said at the General Managers Meetings. “We want them to be the best versions of themselves and have success. There are so many factors that will come into play you just can’t simply say that you are going to leave guys in until a certain point or take them out in a certain point.’’

For that plan to work during the regular season a team needs a solid rotation, a flexible bridge to work the middle innings, and a strong back end of the bullpen.

Of the three, the Mets only have the last one.

It begins with a strong starting rotation, one which means all five starters have to consistently go at least five innings, but preferably six. The Mets have deGrom and lots of issues from two through five:

Noah Syndergaard is coming off a partially torn lat muscle and only got in a couple of innings in late summer. While he is optimistic, we simply don’t know what to expect from him. Sure, it would be nice to pencil in 30 starts and 200 innings, but …

Matt Harvey did not respond well to thoracic surgery. He was rushed back and sustained a stress injury. The best thing the Mets can hope for is a strong first half to draw trade interest at the deadline. There’s no more talk about winning 20 games, winning the Cy Young or being signed to a long-term contract.

Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler are both coming off surgery and nobody knows what to expect, let alone them averaging five innings over 30 starts.

Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Rafael Montero and Chris Flexen all made starts, but none have defined roles entering spring training. If the projected rotation performs, then any of them can be slotted in to work multiple innings several times a week, but we don’t know if they can do it in back-to-back games.

These four can also be inserted into the rotation if any of the projected five starters struggle, but if not they could work out of the pen. The questions in the middle of the game and possibility of the anticipated starters breaking down is why GM Sandy Alderson traded for relievers last July.

Granted Alderson added quantity and is open to reacquiring Joe Smith and signing Bryan Shaw. But, how much is he willing to spend? Mets’ history dictates he won’t do it; four relievers making $7 million or more is just not in their DNA.

For this plan to work the Mets need all three facets of their pitching staff to perform, but there are too many questions and issues working against them.

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.

Apr 03

New Season Brings High Expectations For Mets

Talk about your mixed metaphors for this Mets’ season: I woke this morning to the sounds of birds chirping, but when I looked out the window there were still patches of snow on the ground. The sounds of spring and the sites of winter.

So, what will it be for the Mets? Will there be a third straight playoff appearance or will they sputter and stay home in October? I’ve read in several places where they’ll return to the World Series and in many others they’ll be frustrated.

SYNDERGAARD: High expecattions. FOX)

SYNDERGAARD: High expecattions. FOX)

“You have to embrace it,” manager Terry Collins said of the expectations swirling around his team. “The expectations are what they are. We have a room full of guys who have won and who expect to win.”

There are two keys to winning: staying healthy and getting strong starting pitching. If that happens they’ll be right up there and contend with Washington. Are they better than the Nationals? Potentially, they are, but they have a multitude of issues and concerns.

There’s the bullpen that will be without Jeurys Familia for the first 15 games. There’s defense, including Jose Reyes getting a full season at third base. There’s Yoenis Cespedes and whether the security of a four-year contract will help or hinder him. And, perhaps as important as anything is their offense, especially hitting with runners in scoring position.

Above all else, the key is for their starters to stay healthy. Four of them – Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler are coming off surgery. Matz opens the season on the disabled list and after a sluggish start, Harvey seemed to close spring training on a high note.

Of all the Mets’ pitchers, the highest expectations are that of Opening Day starter Noah Syndergaard, who, if he stays healthy, has the ability and stuff to win 20 games and win the Cy Young Award. He can be that dominant. Syndergaard’s primary issues are: 1) the effectiveness of his change-up, 2) whether the bone spur that bothered him on-and-off last season, and 3) his ability to prevent runners from running wild against him (48 stolen bases when he was on the mound last year).

So many things must happen for a team to reach, and win, a World Series. The Mets have the potential pieces to make that happen.

Thanks, and wishing you all a great season of watching.

 

Mar 08

Why Will You Watch Tebow?

Of course, I’ll watch Tim Tebow today. So will a lot of people, which will make the Mets and SNY very happy. Not to mention the stadium vendors hawking Tebow jerseys at $120 a pop.

So, what’s your reason for watching?

TEBOW: Very curious. (AP)

TEBOW: Very curious. (AP)

Are you curious to see if there’s really something there and he could actually help the Mets?  Will you watch like a rubbernecker watching an accident on the Interstate?

Tebow hasn’t played competitive baseball for over a decade, so I don’t think he’ll go deep against a Cy Young Award winner.  He might not even go short. But, that’s not why I’ll be watching.

Tebow is with the Mets, so that’s the main reason. For whatever reason Tebow wants to play, he’s trying something he wants to do and isn’t good at. He’s trying something different – and hard to do – and for that reason alone he should be applauded. That’s why I’ll watch.

And, if he happens to hit a couple of homers, then I guess I’ll have another reason to watch again.