Mar 18

Matt Harvey And Travis D’Arnaud Give A Peek At What Is To Come

A few years from now, or perhaps in July, this battery could be a big deal. Matt Harvey and Travis d’Arnaud represent the Mets’ future, and today they provided a glimpse.

Harvey, already in the rotation, gave up two runs in 5.1 innings and was backed by two hits and two runs scored by d’Arnaud in a 3-2 victory today over St. Louis. In an 80-pitch effort, of which 54 were strikes, Harvey struck out six and gave up six hits. Spring training is a progression and today Harvey saw an improvement in his breaking ball.

HARVEY: A strong showing vs. Cardinals

HARVEY: A strong showing vs. Cardinals

Of course, being a perfectionist, he wasn’t totally satisfied.

“I was really happy about my curveball,’’ Harvey told reporters in Jupiter. “Unfortunately, I gave up too many hits in my mind, but overall I’m healthy and feeling good.’’

Harvey made a good impression in ten starts last year with his fastball and composure, but went into the off-season wanting to improve his breaking ball and change-up.

“The biggest thing from last year was not having my curveball,’’ Harvey said. “I threw a lot of good ones and was able to throw it in the dirt when I needed to. That’s a big pitch for me. Having that back is definitely a big plus for me.’’

Harvey has a 2.95 ERA this spring with 24 strikeouts in 18.1 innings. Over a strikeout an inning is a tremendous ratio, but he is smart enough to realize it is better to get an out on one pitch instead of three. Harvey said 200-plus innings is a goal, and to reach it he must go deep into games by keeping his pitch count down.

“I’m starting to learn that a groundball is just as good (as a strikeout),’’ Harvey said. “Going deep into a game is on my mind. If I go seven or eight innings with three strikeouts, that’s seven or eight innings.”

The Mets gave up Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to get d’Arnaud, who they regarded as the key to the deal. When speaking of the other, each said the pitcher-catcher relationship is a matter of chemistry, and so far they’ve clicked early.

“It’s a matter of working together and getting on the same page,’’ Harvey said. “In three starts with him, it’s almost like we’ve been with each other for a couple of years.’’

D’Arnaud is ticketed for Triple-A Las Vegas. What he liked best about Harvey today was his poise and command.

“I thought he had a tremendous day, especially with this curveball,’’ said d’Arnaud, who will be developing a working relationship with the Mets’ other pitching prospect, Zack Wheeler, soon enough.

Wheeler strained a right oblique muscle, Feb. 27, and pitched for the first time since today in a minor league game.

Wheeler posted on his Twitter account: “ Felt good to get back in a game today. Tossed three innings and one hit. Felt great.’’

METS MUSINGS: Lucas Duda homered and Bobby Parnell pitched a scoreless ninth inning after giving up six runs in his previous three games. … Ruben Tejada’s miserable spring continued with an 0-for-4. He’s now on a 2-for-33 slide. … Also struggling is Brandon Hicks, who struck out three times and has 18 strikeouts in 33 at-bats.

Nov 14

Dickey Leads Cy Young Race; Verlander In AL

CAN DICKEY’S INCREDIBLE SEASON CONTINUE?

Baseball’s annual postseason awards continue this evening with the announcement of the Cy Young winners, a moment that could thrust the Mets into proud, yet potentially embarrassing moment.

Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey could be in position of winning the award and then being traded if a contract extension isn’t reached.

Only the Mets.

NATIONAL LEAGUE: The Mets’ feel good story this summer that was Dickey has a chance to get better in a few hours if he’s able to join Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden as franchise winners of the Cy Young Award.

The man who scaled a mountain last winter climbed another this season when he literally carried the team on his shoulders to go 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA, and he did it with an abdominal tear that required surgery.

Dickey’s competition for the award, Washington’s Gio Gonzalez and Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw, pitching for winning teams. Dickey’s Mets were 14 games under .500 with a winning percentage of .457. Dickey’s winning percentage was an amazing .769.

There aren’t enough ways to say how incredible that is.

The Mets didn’t hit for the second half and their bullpen kicked away leads all year. There were nights when he did it all by himself.

“To win 20 on a club with struggles is pretty big,’’ Mets manager Terry Collins said.  “Especially during the times we weren’t hitting, he was still winning games.’’

Dickey’s ERA was second to Kershaw’s 2.53; his 20 wins were second to Gonzalez’s 21; but, he was first in strikeouts (230), innings (233.2), complete games (five), shutouts (three) and quality starts (27).

Other than a knuckleball bias, I can’t see Dickey not winning.

AMERICAN LEAGUE: Things might be more up in the air in the American League between Detroit’s Justin Verlander, Tampa Bay’s David Price and the Angels’ Jered Weaver.

Both Price and Weaver had the type of seasons worth of a Cy Young, with perhaps loftier numbers, but Verlander is the best pitcher in the sport and could become the first repeater since Pedro Martinez  (1999-2000).

Price and Weaver were 20-game winners, but Verlander dominated again and took his team into the playoffs.

My thinking is Verlander is the incumbent who pitched well enough to win again. Until somebody blows away the field, he should get it, because repeating excellence might be the single most difficult thing in sports.

Oct 03

Amazing Season For R.A. Dickey Ends On Painful Note

R.A. Dickey’s Cy Young-worthy season ended last night with a painful revelation: That he’d been pitching with a torn abdominal muscle since April 13, injured in Philadelphia.

Ironically, Dickey will have surgery there Oct. 18.

Dickey called it a dull pain after last night’s no-decision, his eighth of the year, indicating a frustrating lack of run support.

“The pain was fairly significant from time to time,” Dickey told reporters last night in Miami. “We just did a good job of managing that. Whether it was backing off in the bullpen in between starts or getting the treatment that I needed or whatever else I needed to help with that pain, we were able to do it in a way that I was able to perform and not worry about it.”

Dickey finished the season with a 20-6 record and 2.73 ERA and 230 strikeouts while throwing 233.1 innings. That’s not good enough to win any of pitching’s Triple Crown, but good enough to be among the leaders, and even moreso considering he’s pitching on a team 15 games below .500 and with an injury.

One must also factor in opponent’s .226 batting average against him and a WHIP of 1.05. All his significant numbers showed domination on a team far from it.

There’s a school of thought the knuckleball would work against Dickey because many consider it a trick pitch. That nobody else throws it should be an endorsement for him because it is such a difficult pitch to master and one containing a high probability of error.

To wit, Dickey gave up 24 homers, including one last night. That shows he had incredible command of the pitch in the strikezone and they just wouldn’t knuckle for him those times.

There was bias from Tony La Russa in not starting him at the All-Star Game and I wonder how many of the voters might be swayed by that kind of thinking. It shouldn’t, because whether it is a knuckleball, fastball or curve, you still have to control it and Dickey was remarkable in doing it.

Perhaps also working against him is an anti-New York bias, which is often the case in voting such as this. It shouldn’t, but there are always some with phobia’s and Dickey has some significant opposition.

That Dickey did not pitch for a winning team shouldn’t work against him. This isn’t like the MVP voting where team placement in the postseason is usually an overriding factor to consider. There have been several cases of pitchers winning the Cy Young for teams not making the playoffs and Dickey should be one of them.

 

 

Sep 20

Mets Matters: R.A. Dickey Switched In Rotation

Trying to get the most out of R.A. Dickey, both on the field and at the gate, the Mets moved him from Sunday’s start to Saturday. The switch allows him to start the home finale next Thursday instead of in Atlanta the next night.

It might not be much with the way the Mets are drawing, but he could be going for his 20th win in the finale which would be a good send off.

Chris Young flips with Dickey and will start Sunday against the Marlins.

Dickey, 18-6 with a 2.67 ERA, will get three chances to win 20 games. About his Cy Young chances? The Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez might be ranked ahead of him, but working in his favor is being 12 games over .500 for a team approaching 20 under overall.

As somebody who has voted for the major awards, pitchers on losing teams get more consideration for the Cy Young than MVP candidates on losers.

The Mets said several times they anticipate signing Dickey to a contract extension.

More Mets Matters:

* Jordany Valdespin was tossed last night for arguing a strike three call. Although Valdespin has been electric as a home-run bat off the bench, he does have somewhat of a short fuse and has loafed several times. That’s something young players can’t afford to do.

I’m figuring Valdespin will come to spring training, but can’t see him winning a starting job.

* Jeremy Hefner (2-6, 4.99) hopes to avert the sweep by the Phillies tonight, going against rookie Tyler Cloyd (1-1, 4.95). Hefner will compete for a job in spring training, but will likely open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas.

* Tonight’s game will be broadcast on 1130 AM as WFAN will carry the Giants’ game in Carolina. With the Giants on local TV and the Yankees in a pennant race, I’m curious as to tonight’s crowd at Citi Field.

* Some awful numbers: The Mets are 4-25 at home and have scored three or fewer runs in 15 straight games. In contrast, the 1962 Mets, losers of 120 games, won 10 games after the break in a similar point in the season. Yes, they are amazing.

* Frank Francisco has elbow tendinitis. Francisco does nothing for me and if the last few games in a lost season are for learning, I’d like to see somebody else get the chance to close a few games. What would it hurt?

* David Wright is five hits away from tying Ed Kranepool for the franchise lead in hits with 1,418. Although I still believe Wright will be re-signed, I’d hate for him to fall short and then go elsewhere. It would be a shame.

 

Aug 11

Which Johan Santana Shows Up Tonight?

Watching Johan Santana pitch this season has been much like reading the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, The Strange Case of Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde. A twisting tale of the agony and ecstasy in the duality that some say exists in all of us. Although not quite as extreme, the concept is not lost on what has been s strange season for the Mets left-handed ace.

Leading up to and including his date with Mets history and lore on June 1st, Santana was on top of the baseball world as he led the Mets with a 2.38 ERA and subdued any talk that he was on the decline after an 18 month recovery from anterior capsular surgery in his left shoulder. The Mets ace was back and had once again become an intimidating presence on the mound – capped off by tossing his 131-pitch no-hitter, the first in Mets franchise history.

However, that night would become a turning point to the season for Santana and just like that a change set in that transform him and his performance into the antithesis of what we had come to expect.

After June 1, the former Cy Young award winner was suddenly in the throws of a pitching slump – unquestionably the worst stretch of his career. In his next eight starts, Santana pitched to an unsightly 6.54 ERA, The swagger was gone, the confidence at a season low, and the dugout whispers suddenly turned into worries and a deep and abiding concern. The Mets say an ankle injury was the cause and soon the southpaw was placed on the DL which seemed like a good excuse to give his seemingly dead arm some much needed rest. Hey, whatever it takes, right?

That said, Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal offers up an encouraging report on Johan Santana who will take the mound tonight against the rival Atlanta Braves. Fresh off Santana’s three inning rehab start in Brooklyn, pitching coach Dan Warthen spoke with Costa and if he’s right, we may see the crafty lefthander who thrilled us for the first two months of the season:

Pitching coach Dan Warthen said the difference was evident in Santana’s overall demeanor. “There were four or five starts where it just wasn’t Johan,” Warthen said. “He generally lights up a room. He has enough energy to light up this whole city on game day.” After the no-hitter, Warthen said, “He was having the kind of energy that would light up a 20-watt bulb.” The fatigue led to reduced arm speed, Warthen said, which led to lapses in control. Santana initially dismissed the ankle injury. But two more dreadful outings convinced the Mets he needed a breather. Now, they will find out if it was enough.

Santana’s fastball hit 90 miles per hour during a rehab start in Brooklyn last weekend, a benchmark he hadn’t reached in a while. “I think you will see pretty much what you saw early in the season the rest of the year,” Warthen said. “I think we’ll see 87 to 90 miles per hour. I think we’ll see better control. But I think you’re going to see a stronger, probably more consistent high-end velocity guy next year. I don’t think you’re going to see the whole Santana package until next year.”

Maybe this journey in duality will have a much happier ending than the one in Stevenson’s classic did.

NOTE: John had to have emergency surgery on Thursday and will be hospitalized until Sunday. Please wish him a speedy recovery and in the meantime I’ll post here in the interim.