Jun 15

Is Jordany Valdespin Experiment Part Of Mets’ Greater Plan To Trade Ike Davis?

We are almost over with the great Jordany Valdespin experiment by the New York Mets of playing him at second and hitting leadoff.

Now what?

VALDESPIN: Is there a plan here?

VALDESPIN: Is there a plan here?

Six days doesn’t seem like a long time because it isn’t. However, Terry Collins is staying with this a lot longer than some of his other experiments such as Collin Cowgill in center; Daniel Murphy at leadoff; a half-dozen other guys hitting first. The assumption is Collins will stay with this as long as Ike Davis is in Triple-A Las Vegas, but after that, by his own admission the manager doesn’t have a plan.

The path of least resistance would have been to play first baseman Josh Satin at first and leave Murphy alone at second, a position where he’s made strides.

What will the Mets infield look like as of August 1, the day after the trade deadline? Are they showcasing Valdespin for a trade? How about Murphy? Perhaps, they are hoping Davis pulls himself out of this funk so they can trade him.

The Mets could non-tender Davis as they did Mike Pelfrey last winter and let him walk, or, they could hope he finds some life in his bat and find a taker. If Davis isn’t part of their future, there are worse options. If Davis isn’t part of their future, they should move him as soon as possible.

So, the Mets, losers of five of their last six games and eight of ten, will attempt to salvage this homestand today and Sunday before starting a killer trip that includes five games in Atlanta; three in Philadelphia; two in Chicago against the White Sox; and a make-up game in Denver, before returning home to start a three-game series with Washington.

The Mets’ next off day will be July 11, the day after a three-game series in San Francisco. The All-Star break can’t come soon enough for a team now 14 games below .500.

This afternoon, Jon Niese will attempt to start putting his season back together. Niese, 3-5, hasn’t won a start since May 16 in St. Louis, which seems ages ago. He is coming off a quality start last Sunday in a no-decision in a game lost to Miami.

Here’s Niese’s line-up, which only once in the past week scored as many as five runs:

Jordany Valdespin, 2B: Is making the most of this opportunity and to his credit is making clubhouse strides.

Daniel Murphy, 1B: Hitting just .219 in last 17 games.

David Wright, 3B: Hitting .462 during homestand and .333 this year with RISP.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Has 10 homers with 31 RBI. That has to interest some team.

Lucas Duda, LF: Ten of his 11 homers have been with nobody on base.

Justin Turner, SS: Giving Omar Quintanilla a rest.

Anthony Recker, C: John Buck can’t catch them all.

Juan Lagares, CF: Got a hit last night, so Collins riding the hot hand.

Jonathon Niese, LHP: Is 2-3 with a 5.61 lifetime ERA in six starts against Cubs.

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Jun 12

Mets Remain Stuck After Ike Davis Demotion; Doing Daniel Murphy Wrong

At least the Mets had one issue resolved Tuesday night, and that is who to demote from the rotation when Zack Wheeler is brought up. That will be Jeremy Hefner, who gave up five unearned runs.

The Mets are determined to bring up Wheeler despite questions of him not being ready because they desperately want a diversion to this already lost season. Hefner and Dillon Gee have pitched too well recently to lose their spot in the rotation, but that is irrelevant.

MURPHY: Doing him wrong.

MURPHY: Doing him wrong.

Last night’s enduring image was Daniel Murphy’s error. After two years of Murphy trying to learn second base, the Mets moved him back to first base when Ike Davis was sent down. Sandy Alderson’s sterling reasoning: To see what Jordany Valdespin can give them at second base and leadoff.

For the Mets’ myriad of questions, Valdespin isn’t much an answer to any of them. But, it makes sense using Metsian logic to make things difficult for a decent, hard working, productive guy in Murphy to placate a headache such as Valdespin. Am I being unfair to Valdespin? Perhaps, but has he really earned the benefit of doubt?

Why fool around with one of their more productive players in Murphy at first when they just brought up first baseman Josh Satin to replace Davis? What’s Satin doing here if he’s not going to play?

As far as trying to learn about Valdespin, that’s what spring training was about. And, what is the correlation between batting leadoff and playing second? If the Mets want to learn about Valdespin hitting leadoff they’ve had plenty of opportunities.

As far as Davis is concerned, he was 0-for-3 last night at Las Vegas, after which he declined to talk to reporters who traveled 2,500 miles to see him. He’s lucky people still care about what he does.

Davis said he’s in Las Vegas to work on his swing, which is only partially correct. He’s also there to work on his plate presence and approach that is abundantly flawed. If Davis believes going to Las Vegas is only to work on mechanics he will never get out of this funk.

Hitting is first mental, then physical, something Davis does not recognize or chooses to ignore. The Mets waited far too long to demote Davis and are not waiting long enough to promote Wheeler.

That does make me curious about one thing. Will Davis still be in Las Vegas by the time they send back Wheeler?

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Jun 09

Mets Finally Demote Ike Davis

Falling under the category of it being about time, the Mets demoted Ike Davis this afternoon, along with outfielder Mike Baxter and left-hander Robert Carson to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Davis has struggled all season and there has been speculation of him being optioned for several weeks, but GM Sandy Alderson has been reluctant to make the move. He finally ran out of patience following the Mets being swept for the second straight weekend.

“At some point you just have to say to yourself this is not in his best interest,” Alderson said. “I was one of his biggest supporters. I just felt at some point we’ve got to get him out of here. Hopefully he’ll be back in a short period of time. But he needs to go there. He needs to be able to play every day. He needs to be able to work on his swing without worrying necessarily about the outcome. We think it’s in his best interest.”

Davis struggled early last year but rebounded in the second half to finish with 32 homers. After a similar slow start this season, Davis vowed things would be different, but they’ve been even worse. Davis has been adamant in insisting he believes he needs to resolve his issues on this level and wouldn’t benefit from the minor leagues.

On the issue of strikeouts, Davis maintains he’s a home run hitter and strikeouts are part of the package, and has shown no interest in shortening his stroke or going to the opposite field. Davis proved vulnerable to high fastballs and breaking pitches away last year and demonstrated no improvement this season.

Davis is hitting .161 with five homers and 16 RBI, a .242 on-base percentage and a .258 slugging percentage. Davis has 30 hits and 19 walks this year compared to 66 strikeouts. He is on pace to strike out 184 times and hit just 14 homers.

Alderson said the Mets will promote three players Monday, including a first baseman and would not move Daniel Murphy or Lucas Duda to first.

 

Jun 04

David Wright Personifies Slumping Mets’ Offense

We’ve seen this before from David Wright, a hot start cools and descends into a frigid abyss where he’s consumed by mechanical flaws borne out of a major psychological problem – the need to carry the Mets on his shoulders.

We can’t blame it on the pressures of being captain, as he’s fallen into this trap before, notably last season said manager Terry Collins, whose lineup includes as many as six starters hitting below .240. Teams can’t win with such limited production, and Wright can’t catch the free-falling Mets, who come into Washington tonight ten games under .500 and 11 ½ games behind the first place Braves.

WRIGHT: Where did this swing go?

       WRIGHT: Where did this swing go?

“He did it in the second half of last year, too,’’ Collins told reporters after the Mets were crushed in a three-game series in Florida. “When things started to go bad last year, he took it upon himself to be the guy to get us out of it.’’

The slide begins with a gradual expansion of the strike zone; the balls Wright once resisted off the plate he’s now chasing. The walks decline; the strikeouts increase. His average plummets.

Instead of driving the ball to center and right field, Wright falls into the habit of trying to pull, with the results often pop-ups and weak ground balls. His swing is now long and slow instead of short and quick. The more he tries to break out of it the more suffocating becomes the slump. There is such a thing as pressing and that’s what’s happening to Wright the past two weeks with a .163 average, .241 on-base percentage with one homer and two RBI.

Wright alluded to his problems after the Yankees series when he said: “I’m maybe trying to do a little too much and trying to make things happen. … I can’t be going up there and getting myself out or swinging at pitcher’s pitches early in the count.’’

However, that’s what he’s doing and it defines the futility and anguish of a slump. Wright hasn’t yet reached Ike Davis proportions, but is headed in that direction.

On some teams, a slumping player can be camouflaged, or at least protected, if others in the lineup are hitting. However, Daniel Murphy is the only one and he doesn’t do it with power. Considering his track record, Davis’ homer Sunday must be looked at as an aberration and not a sign of a breakout. Lucas Duda has 10 homers, but only 20 RBI, which the more you think about it is hard to believe. It’s almost unfathomable.

Collectively, the Mets are averaging less than four runs a game and hold the major league’s worst team average at .227. Their hitters are averaging under ten strikeouts a game.

At one time, you might have been able to say, “where would they be without Wright?’’

Well, they have him and only three teams in the major leagues hold a worse record than the 22-32 Mets. There are a lot of numbers that define how poorly they are playing, but what I find most discouraging is the Marlins have won just 16 games this year, with six coming against the Mets.

You’re tempted to think it can’t get much worse than this, but you realize as a Met fan, it can.

ON DECK: Looking at Washington series.

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May 31

Mets Must Do More To Stay Relevant

Shaun Marcum is pitching to extend the Mets’ winning streak to six games tonight in Miami. The Mets surprised some people this week, perhaps even the Phillies and Nationals, whom they trail by one and two games, respectively, in the lost column.

The Mets have three with the Marlins before heading to Washington. It sure would add some spice to the spring if the Mets were to close the gap on the Nationals before getting to DC.

PARNELL: Leads recent bullpen surge. (AP_

PARNELL: Leads recent bullpen surge. (AP)

They obviously became relevant to the Yankees this week, but there are several things that must happen for that relevance to carry over to the National League East.

It begins with pitching, and the Mets have been superb in not giving up a walk for three straight games. That’s something they hadn’t done since 1994, and almost incomprehensible.

The time is rapidly approaching when Zack Wheeler could be ready, but they should ride Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee – both coming off strong starts – for as long as they can. Marcum will stay in the rotation by virtue of making $4 million this year.

Mets starters are on a roll with a 2.91 ERA in over their last nine starts. The bullpen is also producing, giving up just two runs in its last 13.2 innings. The Mets bullpen has seven victories, but that can be misleading as it indicates blown saves by the middle-inning pitchers and entering the game with the starter either tied or behind.

Should the pitching continue the Mets could find themselves in an interesting summer. Stranger things have happened.

The Mets’ offense collapsed in the second half last year, and save David Wright and Daniel Murphy, there’s been little consistent production.

That must change, and fast.

Marlon Byrd came through Thursday night and Lucas Duda the night before, but more is needed from Duda and Ike Davis.

How bad has Davis been? Consider this, he has 13 RBI for the season. In contrast, Cubs pitchers have 19 in May.

Davis is batting eighth tonight and those whispers of going back to the minors are getting louder. As long as the Mets are winning, Davis is likely to stay. But, eventually he needs to get this straightened out.

Here’s tonight’s lineup against Miami starter Jacob Turner:

Omar Quintanilla, SS: The eighth Met to hit in the leadoff spot.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Has hit safely in 14 of his last 18 games, including nine doubles, two homers and 10 RBI.

David Wright, 3B: Hitting just .189  (7-37) in his last ten games.

Lucas Duda, LF: Has hit in 11 of last 13 games (.308), including game-ending run Tuesday against Mariano Rivera.

John Buck, C: Hitting .350 (14-40) with RISP.

Rick Ankiel, CF: Has two homers and seven RBI in 15 games with Mets.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Has 14 RBI in 19 games in May.

Ike Davis, 1B: Hitting .141 on the road with no homers.

Shaun Marcum, RHP: Coming off 12-strikeout performance in no-decision against Braves.

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