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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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.

Jun 01

Mets Made Right Call In Not Starting Zack Wheeler

It might sound as if I don’t want to see Zack Wheeler, but that’s not even close. I agree with the premise of bringing him up when he’s ready, with that coinciding with his Super Two status.

Bringing him up to start today in Miami in place of Jon Niese for a spot start would have been a mistake. Wheeler should be brought up the same way Matt Harvey last year, and that was to stay in the rotation.

A one-day start would not have impacted Super Two, but would have if he stayed.

Instead, Collin McHugh gets the ball and might again if Niese can’t go again. McHugh will try to get the Mets back on track after Friday night’s loss to the Marlins. The knee-jerk reaction is the Mets had a let down after winning four straight over the Yankees.

Let’s dispel that right away.

Despite Shaun Marcum’s meltdown after six strong innings, the Mets lost because they didn’t hit. They beat the Yankees in spite of their anemic offense, and they won’t take another step toward relevance until they start scoring some runs.

“I don’t think there’s any question. That’s still an issue,’’ Collins said. “We’ve had some great games. We’ve pitched some good games. We’ve gotten some big hits, which allowed us to win some games lately.’’

In that regard, there are some things about today’s Mets’ line-up that make me wonder, beginning with Omar Quintanilla as the leadoff hitter, their eighth of the season.

I keep hearing how Jordany Valdespin makes things happen. If that’s the case, why have him eighth in front of the pitcher? As long as Ike Davis is still around, he should stay eighth.

Here’s today’s lineup:

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Lucas Duda, LF

John Buck, C

Rick Ankiel, CF

Ike Davis, 1B

Jordany Valdespin, RF

Collin McHugh, RHP

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

May 31

Terry Collins Threw His Team Under The Bus

There are times I don’t get Terry Collins, for example his admission his clubhouse was beginning to lose hope.

“Due to what we’ve gone through in the last three weeks, the hardest thing I’ve done is try to keep these guys positive,’’ Collins told reporters after Thursday night’s win over the Yankees. “That’s the biggest part of this job. It wasn’t about changing stances or shuffling bullpens. It was about trying to keep the guys in the clubhouse positive.’’

COLLINS: Questioned his team's character.

COLLINS: Questioned his team’s character.

I understand where he’s coming from, as certainly that was everybody’s impression.

While I applaud his candor, but I don’t understand why he would go in that direction. One of the first things a manager is graded on is his ability to have his players go to the mat for him. Basically, Collins admitted he was losing his team.

Terry Francona admitted that in Boston and is now managing the Indians.

Even if it were true, never admit it because that’s ammunition to be used against you. Never admit it, because once it is out there the perception won’t go away and will surface during the next losing streak. Never admit it, because it is a sign of weakness.

Collins then threw his players under the bus. Whether he meant to or not, he did because it opens the door for finger-pointing. Who quit?

“Look, you’ve got to work your way out of it. Everybody goes through some bad times. You’ve got to work your way out of it,’’ Collins said.

With that, he should have stopped, but like the guy in the seat next to you on a plane, he wouldn’t shut up.

“That was the hardest part of this, because you could sense there was tremendous frustration,’’ he continued. “Guys were down. You heard some of those guys that I had been with for three years now start to say, ‘I don’t know if I can do this. I can’t do it anymore.’ You can’t listen to that, because it’s a long, hard season.’’

OK, who said that? Who was on the verge of quitting? Did anybody dog it? If David Wright is the captain of this team, shouldn’t have he done something?

And, if you’re a player in that clubhouse, you have to wonder: Is he talking about me?

Basically, Collins left it up to the media to find and expose those who were giving up or were pressing. Collins is telling us his team is not of strong character or will.

Then came the threat of demotions for Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada. The appearance is he used the minor leagues as a punishment. Was this a threat to just Davis and Tejada or a message to everybody?

If it was intended for everybody, then it shouldn’t have come in late May, but during spring training. Collins should have said: “This team will hustle. This team will play fundamental baseball. This team will concentrate. This team will not draw undue attention to itself.’’

Simple messages, all, which should come with a simple qualifier: Do these things or we’ll get somebody who can.

I don’t like that Davis is stubborn about his hitting approach and the concept of going to the minor leagues to improve. I don’t like Jordany Valdespin’s attitude and me-first nature. And, I thought Collin McHugh’s tweet the other night was amateurish and out-of-line.

McHugh tweeted: “You can call us the NYC Sanitation Dept. because we just SWEPT the Yankees from Queens to the Bronx.’’

Is he serious? Let McHugh do something, maybe win a few games before he trashes an opposition that with the exception of this week and a few other times, has pretty much had its way with the Mets.

A tweet like that shows Collins doesn’t have control over his clubhouse. An admission there were players thinking, “I can’t do this anymore,’’ suggests the same.

The Mets have won five straight and head to Miami this weekend to play a team they should beat. But, what came out of the Mets’ clubhouse last night in the Bronx is something that would have stayed in a smart clubhouse. It is something that makes you wonder whether their mind is able to focus enough to continue this run.

ON DECK: Shaun Marcum and the lineups.

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