Aug 13

Mets Could Explore Six-Man Rotation

The idea of the Mets going to a six-man rotation has been brought up before and again is an issue. But, everybody needs to be in on it. Using Jacob deGrom on his normal rest so he can squeeze in a couple more starts to boost his chances to win a Cy Young Award.

DeGrom deserves the chance considering how well he’s pitched, but if the Mets are serious about this they have to do it the right way: Pick your six pitchers and stick with them.

The worst thing about a six-man rotation is it would mean less starts each for deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. That would also mean fewer innings pitched, which theoretically would keep them fresher for longer. Currently, the target number of starts is 34; it would mean 27 starts in a six-man rotation.

A rotation of deGrom, Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Corey Oswalt and Jason Vargas would include two left-handers to keep things balanced. Ideally, I would separate deGrom and Syndergaard as to give more balance in the rotation regarding innings eaters to avoid taxing the bullpen.

“We want to see [Oswalt] pitch Saturday and then sit down and really see exactly what we want to do with all of our players after that,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “Especially since we want to monitor guys like [Noah] Syndergaard and Wheeler, a six-man rotation might make sense at some point.”

Callaway is thinking about keeping his pitchers fresh for this season, but what about next season?

The game is always evolving, and with the investment teams have with these pitchers a six-man rotation could be invaluable in keeping them healthy. For this to really work, the pitchers have to be told at the end of the season that is the plan for 2019 and give them a chance to buy in.

It then has to be implemented in spring training with no deviation.

Of course, for this to work they have to pitch well.

Jun 26

Alderson Leaves Mets As Cancer Returns

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson is taking a leave of absence to receive continued treatment on his cancer. Alderson has been receiving chemotherapy since his cancer returned since the end of April.

Alderson, 70, was initially diagnosed with cancer in September of 2015 shortly before the Mets made their improbable run to the World Series.

ALDERSON: Leaves Mets, maybe for good. (AP)

ALDERSON: Leaves Mets, maybe for good. (AP)

Alderson, speaking with Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon at his side prior to tonight’s game at Citi Field, said he will forfeit all his decision-making responsibilities to his staff of John Ricco, Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi, all decisions – the trade deadline is July 31 – will go through Wilpon.

“I’m just really concerned for Sandy’s health,” Wilpon said, “and that he’s back with his family, and doing everything he can to make sure he weathers this storm the best he can.”

Wilpon did not comment of the Mets’ new chain-of-command or Alderson’s future, but the general manager hinted he might not return.

“If I were to look at it on the merits, I’m not sure coming back is warranted,’’ Alderson said, but wouldn’t define the term `merits.’ Although, reaching the 2015 World Series was the pinnacle.

Alderson’s record with the Mets is 582-628, including 31-45 this season. His marquee decisions were trading Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler; buying out Jason Bay, Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo; signing David Wright to an eight-year, $138-million contract; trading Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey for Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud; trading for Yoenis Cespedes, then extending him to a four-year, $110-million contract; firing manager Terry Collins, and finally giving up on Matt Harvey and trading him to the Reds this year.

Alderson has also been reluctant to spend lavishly in the free-agent market and unable to build up the farm system. Alderson also assumed responsibility for the Mets’ miserable season.

“I feel badly that we’ve had the season that we have had to date,” Alderson said. “I feel personally responsible for the results that we’ve had. At the same time, I have confidence in our manager, our coaching staff, our players, that this will change. John, Omar [and] J.P., I’m sure, will take a hard look at where we are, maybe take a fresh look at where we are. And I have every confidence that they will serve the franchise well over the next few months through the end of the season.

“I’m really disappointed with where we are and disappointed to have left Mets fans in this situation. I’ve said many times, I really do this to make other people happy. When you’re not making people happy, it’s difficult.

“None of us writes his or her script. You deal with circumstances as they arise. I am grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had here, all the opportunities I’ve had in the game, and for whatever opportunities may arise in the future. This isn’t Disney World. We have to deal with life as it presents itself, and I’m OK with that.’’

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.