Feb 22

Mets Instruct D’Arnaud Not To Block Plate

Miami Marlins vs New York Mets

Travis d’Arnaud told reporters that regardless of what rule goes into effect regarding blocking the plate, Mets personnel have instructed him today that he is to stand in fair territory and give base runners the whole plate.

The rule, which is not official yet, is to allow runners a lane to part of the plate so as to avoid contact and collisions with the catcher.

Mets bench coach Bob Geren said that he is working with all the Mets catchers about positioning and making sure they tag across the plate.

Last week, Keith Law of ESPN listed Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud among his top twenty impact prospects for 2014, but says he is “the archetypal GWH player” — Good When Healthy.

D’Arnaud can catch, throw, and hit for power, but has to stay on the field. The Mets don’t have a heavy-use backup on the 40-man, so they’re counting on d’Arnaud to catch 120 games this year, which should mean 15-20 homers and excellent defense if he can stay out of the trainers’ room.

Yesterday, Adam Rubin spoke with hitting coach Dave Hudgens about how TDA can shorten his swing and make more contact without the need for conscious mechanical adjustments.

“I think cutting down his swing just means not trying so hard,” Hudgens told Rubin. “I think when he came up last year he was trying, maybe not in his mind, but it looked like he was trying to hit every ball out of the ballpark and over swinging a little bit and probably just trying to do too much. Watching him this year, so far early in camp, his swing has been easy. He’s been staying in the middle of the field. And that will lend to less effort and less bat wrap.”

Last season with the Mets, d’Arnaud batted .202/.286/.263, with one homer, five RBIs, and 21 strikeouts in 99 at-bats.

Rubin asks Hudgens to quantify d’Arnaud’s offensive capability? Is it .270 or .280 with 20 homers?

“Who knows?” Hudgens tells Rubins. “I’m not putting any numbers on guys. He’s got a chance to be a very good offensive player. I mean, he’s got very quick hands. He’s got a good idea at the plate. I think it’s just experience and confidence and getting that playing time. I think last year when he came up he hadn’t played that much. So I think a big thing is just staying healthy.”

If the fans are looking for d’Arnaud to be the next saving grace as Mike Piazza was for the Mets, Hudgens shares with Rubin, that would be asking too much. ”Piazza, I guess, was the greatest hitting catcher who ever lived. I just want Travis to be Travis.”

D’Arnaud acknowledged that he has some work to do and can’t come up to the plate thinking longball everytime. ”That was more me trying to hit the ball 600 feet,” he said. “When I would try to do that, I would overwrap or overswing pretty much, and it would just dig me in a bigger hole.”

Now it’s up to him to fix it.

Sep 16

Mets Matters: Celebrate When It Is Worthy And David Wright Playing Again

The celebrating the New York Mets did Sunday will be nothing compared to what I will do once I get the kinks worked out of my server. I was down most of the weekend and still having problems. Many thanks to Joe DeCaro for his hard work in getting me online again. His efforts are most appreciated, as is his posting on my site.

The Mets are off today before starting a three-game series with the San Francisco Giants.

Just a few thoughts about the weekend series with the Marlins to get caught up:

* Sunday’s celebration was a bit much. And, the shaving cream pie has to go. When you’re in a pennant race, fine, show the joy. But, when you beat the worst team in the majors and arguably your goal is to not finish twenty games below .500, it’s a bit much.

* Dillon Gee pitched another stellar game, and although he isn’t as dominant as Matt Harvey, he has been the Mets’ most consistent pitcher this year. He would easily have 17 victories, and could be closing in on 20, if he pitched for a team that scored some runs.

* David Wright wants to play before the season is over. He has nothing to prove by doing so, and I hope he’s not taking an unnecessary risk. But, his work ethic and desire to play is something to be admired and respected. Let’s hope his teammates are taking notes.

* Several times over the weekend I heard about trading for Giancarlo Stanton. It would be great to obtain such a bat, but it’s a dream. With Harvey’s injury has put a roadblock on trading their young pitching. Plus, can you really see the Marlins trading their best talent within the division? I can’t see that happening.

* I agree with Joe wholeheartedly and don’t believe the Mets should be shopping Daniel Murphy. Yes, there are better second basemen, but Murphy has improved defensively. He’s played well enough defensively to the point where that position is not a priority. The Mets have too many other holes that must be fixed before addressing second base.

* The Mets’ bullpen has been hot and cold this season, but it has performed well in long stretches, enough to where there doesn’t have to be a total rebuilding in that area. And, I’ll say it again – bring back LaTroy Hawkins.

* Kirk Nieuwenhuis has been injured, and when he’s been healthy he hasn’t taken advantage of his opportunities. With Juan Lagares and Matt den Dekker, Nieuwenhuis might be off the Mets’ radar in the future.

* For the second straight year, the Mets’ offense has stumbled in the second half. There has been no mention of replacing hitting coach Dave Hudgens, but you would think that would be considered.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 13

Is Mets’ Terry Collins Sending The Right Message?

New York Mets manager Terry Collins has recently been speaking with a sense of urgency we haven’t heard regularly this season.

With the Mets in the midst of losing 10 of their last 12 games, it can be hard to ascertain whether Collins’ intent is to spark his team with the allure of 2014 jobs or deflect attention of another lost season from himself.

Several times this summer I advocated an extension for Collins, and still believe so. However, recent comments come across as him throwing his young team and hitting coach Dave Hudgens under the bus, something a manager can’t do if he doesn’t want to lose his team.

COLLINS: Sending wrong message.

COLLINS: Sending wrong message.

Collins’ latest buzzword is “adjustments,’’ and that’s a direct reflection on Hudgens’ ability to teach.

“You’ve got to make adjustments,’’ Collins told reporters after the Mets were shut out for the second time in the series. “You can’t keep thinking you’re going to get balls to pull, or try to go up there and pull every pitch. … [You have to] realize what the opposing pitcher is doing to get you out, and try to come up with a plan to make an adjustment at the plate and put the bat on the ball.’’

That’s either saying his hitters are clueless or haven’t been taught properly by Hudgens. There didn’t appear that much angst with Ike Davis earlier this season, although there was some noise about Lucas Duda taking too much and Ruben Tejada hitting the ball too much in the air.

The Mets’ stated offensive approach coming out of spring training was to be patient, work the count and swing at your pitch. There’s been a disconnect in there somewhere.

“I know they’re young. That’s all part of it,’’ Collins said. “We want to see some guys get better. And part of that getting better is being able to gather yourself on the side, and get in the batter’s box, and put a good at-bat on.’’

Collins said there are jobs to be had and it isn’t hard to figure where he’s talking about: first base is between Davis and Duda; shortstop is open; and there’s room in the outfield.

“You’d think some of these guys would grab the opportunity that’s in front of them because of the injury issues on our club to say, `Here’s my chance to show I’m a major league player,’ ’’ Collins said. “And we’re not seeing it. We’re not seeing it at this moment, I can tell you.’’

Collectively, Collins said the Mets are starting to feel sorry for themselves.

“And I will not stand for that. Not in this clubhouse, not in this league,’’ Collins said. “You don’t feel sorry for yourself in this league. Nobody feels sorry for you in the game. Our guys in that room, because a lot of them are young, they better learn that lesson real fast. Because if they’re going to play here, they better learn how to bounce back.’’

That aspect of the game is mental and psychological, and a large part of that development falls on Collins. Part of his job when it comes to rookies and younger players is to put them in position to succeed and give positive reinforcement, but that doesn’t always happen here.

Players have played multiple positions, and some in which they are uncomfortable. These guys are smart enough to know their futures are on the line. They don’t have to be reminded of it. There’s enough pressure in this sport without the manager adding more.

There’s a fine line behind telling players the importance of a situation and crushing their confidence, and Collins has danced on it.

Then again, maybe I’m wrong and the problem is the players just aren’t good enough to begin with. If that’s the case, threatening them to get better isn’t going to work.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 02

David Wright Acknowledges Futility Of Mets’ Offense; Everybody Looks Like Jason Bay

Matt Harvey is pitching this afternoon against the Miami Marlins, so for one day at least the Mets will resemble a major league team – at least on the mound.

The offense? Well, that’s another story. Actually, it’s a familiar one. It seems like most of the Mets’ hitters are looking like Jason Bay.

BAY: Almost everybody resembles Jason Bay these days.

BAY: Almost everybody resembles Jason Bay these days.

Just five hits and only three runners reached scoring position. Nine more strikeouts and five of their starters with batting averages less than .240. A sixth, Omar Quintanilla, has been here three days. The Mets’ offense has all the bite of a spring training travel squad.

Personally, I’m beyond talking about Ike Davis’ feeble numbers. It’s obvious the Mets don’t care enough about their attack to get him right in the minor leagues.

As he usually does, David Wright said it best, neatly and compactly, the way his swing used to be several weeks ago.

“This is what we have to work with, so we are going to have to figure it out,’’ Wright said after Saturday’s blowout loss. “There is no magic potion, there’s no offensive savior that is going to come and get us out of this thing. It’s up to us to work our way out of it.’’

Translation: The Mets aren’t getting any help, and whatever glimpse of optimism was gained in beating the Yankees four straight is no enough to prompt management from adding on. The illusion of the Mets adding at the trade deadline is merely that, and it probably doesn’t bode well for next winter, either.

Wright’s analysis included a discouraging self-scouting report. In previous slumps, Wright would get outside himself and attempt to do too much. That would be not being patient and abandoning the principle of using the whole field. In other words, he would revert into the same bad habits that have paralyzed Davis this season.

“It’s up to me,’’ Wright said, revealing another bad habit of trying to do it himself. “I got to go up there and start being better and maybe taking some walks. I am swinging at some pitches I normally wouldn’t swing at and getting myself out a little bit.

“I keep preaching that the offense is kind of run on getting on base and taking your walks and I am not doing that right now.’’

That’s the offense Dave Hudgens hoped to teach this spring, but that approach was criticized because he didn’t have the hitters capable of recognizing and turning on their pitch.

So, once again it wil be up to Harvey to limit the opposition to nothing so his hitters can squeeze out a run or two.

May 14

Seeking A Villain For Mets’ Hitting Woes

Another night, another ten strikeouts, another loss. Hmmm. Let’s see, whom can we blame?

I know, batting coach Dave Hudgens and his approach to work the count and be selective; get a pitch and drive it.

k_104_lgThat’s it, his approach is wrong. It is why they are striking out so many times. They are taking, taking, falling behind, and then whiffing. Damn, it’s Hudgens’ fault.

That’s the current analysis of the Mets’ offensive woes and it is nonsense.

There is nothing wrong with the approach, the game plan, if you will. It is fundamental baseball, and it only doesn’t work if you don’t have the hitters with the ability to make it work.

There is nothing wrong in working the count and taking a strike. What IS wrong, is taking that strike if it is a pitch you can drive. This is about pitch selectivity and recognition, and Mets hitters don’t have it.

Remember when Yankees-Red Sox games lasted close to four hours? The approach from both teams was to run up the count. For the Yankees, when they faced Pedro Martinez, the magic number was 100. Once Martinez reached that number he became less effective.

Surprise, surprise, it works that way with all pitchers on a consistent basis. Some games they’ll have the stuff to go long, but usually they’ll break down.

imagesIt worked because those teams had hitters capable of recognizing their pitch and reacting. Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill and Manny Ramirez. The term used is “professional hitter.’’

Trouble is, when you look at the Mets, you don’t find many. David Wright, sure. You can even make a case for Daniel Murphy, but he’s in a dreadful slump, which happens to everybody.

We knew going in Ike Davis and Lucas Duda were strikeout machines. Looking at their roster, so is everybody else.

Of their most-used lineup, only Murphy and Ruben Tejada are projected to finish with less than 100 strikeouts, and their numbers of 93 and 79, respectively, are high for supposed “contact’’ hitters.

For all the talk of John Buck’s hot start, he has come to Earth average-wise and his power numbers have cooled. But, not his strikeouts; on pace for 162.

Here’s the projected numbers for the rest: Wright (106, which is a marked improvement from recent years), Duda (153), Rick Ankiel (154), and Marlon Byrd (139).

Even in his limited at-bats, Jordany Valdespin is on pace to whiff 65 times. Give him full time at-bats and it would be over 100, also.

images-1Given this, then why have an approach of taking pitches?

Answer: Because that gives them the best chance to succeed, if they have the ability to do so.

Early in the year we were thrilled about Duda taking walks and having a high on-base percentage. What went wrong is two-fold: 1) he fell back into bad habits and started chasing, and 2) he didn’t swing when he got his pitch.

Too often, Mets’ hitters still swing at garbage. In fact, they aren’t taking enough. Consider Davis’ last strikeout Sunday against Pittsburgh when he flailed at three pitches outside the zone, either low or away, or both.

If the Mets had a roster of guys such as Wade Boggs or Barry Bonds, who knew how to wait out a pitcher and what to do when he got his pitch, this wouldn’t be an issue.

But, they don’t. They have a roster of guys who aren’t major leaguers.

Pitchers know the Mets are taking, so they adjusted and are throwing down-the-middle strikes early and hard-to-reach strikes late in the count.

If the first pitch is there, swing at it. The approach isn’t about taking until you have two strikes. It is about driving one strike. Sometimes, that’s the only good pitch you’ll get.

Outside of Wright, who is getting better, few Mets know how to protect the plate with two strikes, which is shorten your swing, foul off pitches that are close, and go to the opposite field.

No, the problem isn’t the approach. The problem is a roster of hitters who don’t understand the fundamentals of hitting.

The problem is also general manager Sandy Alderson, who is about the funky stats of Sabremetrics, and has settled for a roster of players not able to hit.

But, the easiest thing to do is blame Hudgens, who after all, is only trying to get his hitters to understand Hitting 101.

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