Jul 29

Could Juan Lagares And Eric Young Be A Viable One-Two?

As the enthusiasm for a strong finish by the New York Mets might have fizzled in Washington, a bright spot continues to be Juan Lagares, raising the possibility of a speedy tandem at the top of the order with Eric Young.

Of course, he needs to show more offensively, but that part of his game is improving and the power might develop as he gets stronger and learns the pitchers better. It must be remembered development also includes adjusting to the pitching when it adjusts to him.

LAGARES: Catch of the year?

LAGARES: Catch of the year?

Lagares’ opportunity came from the collective ineptness of the Mets’ outfield. Currently, he and Young are the only outfielders that could be considered starters heading into spring training.

Lucas Duda might end up at first if he’s still on the team; Marlon Byrd might not be re-signed; Kirk Nieuwenhuis has his moments, but they are sparse.

Lagares is outstanding defensively, and his diving catch where he lost the ball and re-caught it might be one of the best of the season by an outfielder.

The objectives over the next two months for Lagares and Young are to show GM Sandy Alderson his outfield needs aren’t so severe.

Lagares’ average is slowly rising, but his 47-to-7 strikeouts-to-walks ratio must close, and if it does his .299 on-base percentage and .699 OPS would rise. His number projected over 162 games would be 121 strikeouts, 18 walks and 39 doubles.

The number that stands out most with Lagares are 15 doubles in 175 at-bats. Give him 600 at-bats and he would be pushing 45 doubles. If his strikeouts and walk numbers improved, the Mets would have themselves a solid center fielder.

Meanwhile, despite cooling since his hot debut, Young is still a catalyst at the top of the order with a .275 average and .357 on-base percentage in 138 at-bats.

Since the rest of the season is for finding answers, I would like to see if Young and Lagares can complement each other at the top of the order. What is currently preventing that is Daniel Murphy’s ability to work the count and protect Young as a base stealer.

Should Lagares develop in that area, it might be intriguing, and could allow for Murphy to be lowered in the order to give him more favorable RBI opportunities.

That would be important to know if the Mets don’t bring back Byrd, which I see as unlikely. I figure, as with Scott Hairston after last season, the Mets won’t give the player two years.

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 20

Zack Wheeler Tries To Get Mets On-Track

Well, so much for that fast start out of the second-half gate for the New York Mets.

That great ERA Jeremy Hefner was sporting going into the game? Not so much anymore. The Phillies nailed him for eight runs on ten hits. The carnage was accumulated over 63 pitches, 38 of them in the first inning.

HEFNER: Hammered by Phils, again. (AP)

HEFNER: Hammered by Phils, again. (AP)

The first inning and the Phillies have not been a good mix to Hefner over the years, and before you knew it, the Mets were down 11-0.

Terry Collins tried to put a positive spin on the rout.

“I’ll tell you what, down 11-0, make it a game, pretty impressive by our guys,’’ Collins told reporters after the game, most of who had their storied written by the fifth inning.

Uh huh. Forty years in the game should know by now there are no morale victories in baseball. Few of them, anyway, and last night wasn’t one of them.

Unfortunately for the Mets, them chopping away at the lead provided the illusion there was a chance, and consequently Collins had to go to his bullpen for seven innings.

Otherwise, Collins might have left Hefner in to take his lumps for the team to save the bullpen.

Either way, it was a hot, muggy miserable night, one better spent watching The Great Escape on the Military Channel.

Nonetheless, it is only one game and the Mets have their two of their best, Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey, going the next two games of this series. After that, it’s four more home games at home against Atlanta before hitting the road to Washington and Miami before the trade deadline.

So, there’s plenty of time for the Mets to make a run at .500 and make the second half of this season worthy of watching. The last four years after the break effectively ended the competitive part of their season.

Was there anything good out of last night’s game?

Juan Lagares had a good at-bat and Ike Davis had a couple of hits. Kirk Nieuwenhuis looked like Mr. Magoo in center field. Other than that, not too much.

I wasn’t crazy about Collins’ managing last night. David Wright did homer in the ninth, but after a busy All-Star break, he should have been pulled and given a rest. The same goes for John Buck, who cramped up.

Here’s today’s lineup against Cole Hamels:

Eric Young, LF

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Marlon Byrd, RF

Josh Satin, 1B

Juan Lagares, CF

Anthony Recker, C

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Zack Wheeler, RHP

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

Jul 12

Jeremy Hefner On Roll For Mets

There is a likeable quality to New York Mets pitcher Jeremy Hefner. He’s modest and unassuming, and has been stand-up in the bad times.

However, recently it’s been good times for Hefner, Friday’s starter in Pittsburgh, who will be trying for his eighth straight strong outing. Hefner is coming off a one-run performance in seven innings last weekend in Milwaukee. Hefner has 12 quality starts, and had he any support earlier this year might have a winning record.

HEFNER: On a roll. (AP)

HEFNER: On a roll. (AP)

Roughly a month ago Hefner appeared the odd-man out in making room for Zack Wheeler, but his roster spot was preserved because of injuries to Jon Niese and Shaun Marcum.

Hefner told ESPN he knew he was vulnerable.

“I was maybe one or two bad starts from being in Las Vegas,’’ Hefner said. “So something had to change.’’

In seven starts since June 4, Hefner has a 1.64 ERA, which is better than Harvey over a similar span. He has given up two earned runs or fewer in those seven starts. The Mets have won his last five starts.

Hefner said he didn’t feel pressure in his turnaround: “It was a challenge for me. And I embraced it. And I’m doing pretty good.’’

Part of his turnaround is mechanical, in that he twists his torso to give the hitter a glance at his back. The intent was deception, but the bonus was increased velocity.

Hefner is one of the Mets’ bright spots this season. There’s some talk about him being dealt to a contender, but the Mets are better off keeping him because they don’t know if Niese will need surgery and Marcum is gone for the year.

Hefner moved up the pecking order for a promotion during spring training when it was apparent Jenrry Mejia wasn’t going to be healthy. Mejia is pitching in Double-A and is scheduled to pitch six innings Saturday. Apparently, there was no thought of bringing him up to replace Harvey that day.

Here’s the Mets’ lineup tonight behind Hefner against the Pirates’ Charlie Morton:

Eric Young, LF

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Ike Davis, 1B

Marlon Byrd, RF

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, CF

Anthony Recker, C

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Jeremy Hefner, RHP

METS MUSINGS: Reliever Frank Francisco – remember him? – pitched one inning in a Gulf Coast League game over the weekend. He gave up an unearned run on one hit with on strikeout. Francisco is recovering from surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow. Francisco is making $6.5 million this season and is not in the Mets’ plans.

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

Jul 07

Mets Encouraged By Ike Davis Since Return; Worried About Shaun Marcum

The New York Mets should be very encouraged from what they’ve seen in the two games since Ike Davis was promoted. Personally, I think more Saturday than the three hits Friday.

Little League coaches are fond of saying, “a walk is as good as a hit,’’ and that couldn’t be truer about Davis last night as he walked three times. The walks show patience and plate presence, and for Davis that’s an encouraging sign.

Ike-DavisI’ve been writing the Mets might want to see what they can get for Davis by the trade deadline. That doesn’t mean I want the Mets to trade, just that’s what I believe could be their thinking.

Terry Collins vowed Josh Satin would not be forgotten in the wake of Davis’ promotion, and he’ll be playing today against left-hander Tom Gorzelanny, but would say where.

Satin has been working out in the outfield and second base. It’s difficult to believe he’ll replace leadoff hitter Eric Young in left field or Marlon Byrd, one of the Mets’ hottest hitters, in right field.

Against a lefty, Collins will likely sit Daniel Murphy or Davis. I’m thinking the former because Davis has had consecutive good games and Collins wouldn’t want to disrupt that roll.

MARCUM A PUZZLE: There have been a lot of good pitchers who use a personal catcher. Greg Maddux had one, as did Steve Carlton.

In his wildest dreams, Marcum isn’t half as good as either. Yet, he wanted one, and got John Buck last night. Based on performance, Marcum doesn’t deserve one, but Collins probably acquiesced because he’s searching for anything to get Marcum going.

It didn’t help as he gave up six runs in five innings. He also gave up 11 hits and a walk, so Brewers were on base all night against him.

After losing his tenth game of the season, Marcum said he’s bothered by numbness and coldness in his right hand.

Marcum played the brave soldier and told reporters last night, “I’m not going to pull myself out of the game.’’ Marcum has been bothered by neck and back soreness since spring training. He’s had his good moments, but mostly he’s been bad.

Marcum said the numbness increases and his velocity decreases as his pitch count mounts. With an off-day in the schedule this week, Marcum could get an extra day of rest. And, after that is the All-Star break, so he could get consecutive starts with additional rest. The Mets could give him those to see if that will help.

Marcum isn’t the Mets’ only pitching concern. Jon Niese, who has a slight tear in his rotator cuff is scheduled for a MRI Monday, which could determine whether surgery is needed.

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