Sep 19

Mets Wrap: Offense And Season Defined By Strikeouts

Another day, another ten strikeouts for the New York Mets. This time the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner toyed with them the way a cat would a mouse.

With the Mets at 1,299 strikeouts for the season (an average of 8.6 a game compared to 8.2 hits), it stands to reason a lot of pitchers have had their way with them this summer.

For all the talk of a lack of power, unquestionably the Mets’ primary offensive concern for hitting coach Dave Hudgens – assuming he comes back – is to focus on is shaving down that number. No, make that hack at it wildly with an ax the way most of his hitters aimlessly flail at the plate.

Pause for a second to consider the carnage if the Mets had Ike Davis for a full season, and John Buck, and Marlon Byrd, and Lucas Duda, and David Wright. As it is, the Mets had two hitters with over 100 strikeouts – Byrd and Davis – and three more with over 90 – Buck, Duda and Murphy. Totally, they had seven with at least 75.

And, Murphy is supposed to be a contact hitter. Still, there’s time for Duda and him to break 100. It will take some doing for Juan Lagares (87) and Wright to do it. Lagares, for all the raves he’s drawn, he shouldn’t have that many in just 112 games played.

As the Mets rallied in the ninth inning Wednesday night, manager Terry Collins emphasized how his team worked the count. But remember, in doing so it usually leaves the hitters with two strikes. There’s no leeway after that. Wednesday was the exception; what happened today is usually the rule.

There are a lot of theories why strikeouts are so prevalent in today’s game, usually falling on the emphasis of hitting home runs. The strikeouts are supposed to be a tradeoff for power, but the Mets aren’t hitting many home runs.

Davis, when he was here, said, “I’m a home run hitter. I like to hit home runs, and strikeouts are part of the game.’’

How well did that work for him?

The strikeout ratio with Mets’ hitters is alarming. If strikeouts were hits, consider these numbers:

Mike Baxter: .217 strikeout average/.191 batting average. SKINNY: He was the starting right fielder in the beginning, but has always been more effective as a pinch-hitter. As the Mets look to upgrade their outfield, he won’t stick with those numbers.

Andrew Brown: .296 strikeout average/.237 batting average. SKINNY: Just not acceptable if he wants to play part time, let along full time. Has some power, but could produce more with better plate discipline.

John Buck: .269 strikeout average/.215 batting average. SKINNY: Gets a partial pass because of 15 homers and 60 RBI, most of which was accumulated before his dreadful post-April slump. Also, because of what he gave the pitching staff, which is underrated. Still, consider what his run production would have been with a reduction of empty at-bats.

Marlon Byrd: .284 strikeout average/.285 batting average. SKINNY: In today’s game, an equal average is passable if there’s an element of run production, which there was with Byrd (21 homers/71 RBI).

Travis d’Arnaud: .212 strikeout average/.163 batting average: SKINNY: There hasn’t been enough of a window for him, but the first impression isn’t good. The Mets still don’t know what they have in d’Arnaud. As of now, Anthony Recker has given them more.

Matt den Dekker: .354 strikeout average/.250 batting average: SKINNY: There’s no doubting his defense, but the Mets wonder about his run production. His window has been too small to make a decision. He has speed and as he showed Wednesday makes things happen on the bases. He just needs to get on.

Ike Davis: .318 strikeout average/.205 batting average. SKINNY: That ratio says it all, especially when there’s little run production. Until his strikeouts significantly drop and on-base percentage (.326) improves, he’s not what the Mets need. For over $3.1 million, he’s no bargain.

Lucas Duda: .310 strikeout average/.232 batting average. SKINNY: Has not provided the run production (14 homers/31 RBI) to justify 91 strikeouts in 293 at-bats. His .351 on-base percentage is better, but there’s clearly something wrong with his plate discipline. Of his 68 hits, 29 have gone for extra bases, which is a good ratio, but he doesn’t make enough contact. His on-base percentage masks that deficiency.

Wilmer Flores: .222 strikeout average/.211 batting average. SKINNY: It took awhile for Flores to get here, and it will take significantly better than that for him to stay next year – regardless of what position he plays. Flores has five walks to go along with his 20 strikeouts, a ratio that should be reversed.

Juan Lagares: .242 strikeout average/.251 batting average. SKINNY: Way too many strikeouts for a young player, showing lack of knowledge of the strikezone and opposing pitchers. Also shows lack of discipline.

Daniel Murphy: .145 strikeout average/.281 batting average. SKINNY: For his reputation as a contact hitter with plate discipline, Murphy’s 30 walks are not acceptable, and neither is his .315 on-base percentage. In comparison to Davis and Duda, I’d rather have Murphy hitting in the middle of the order where he could have more RBI opportunities. That is, unless the Mets add a bat in the offseason.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis: .336 strikeout average/.189 batting average. SKINNY: He made a good first impression, but has been a bust since. Injuries are part of the story. He has little plate discipline with 32 strikeouts to 18 hits. Lagares and den Dekker have clearly moved ahead of him.

Omar Quintanilla: .223 strikeout average/.227 batting average. SKINNY: No run production to speak of, which is a throwback to the good field-no hit shortstops of the Bud Harrelson era. However, filled a huge void when Ruben Tejada went down.

Josh Satin:  .290 strikeout average/.285 batting average. SKINNY: Is supposed to be a contact hitter, but if he struck out less he might warrant more playing time.

Ruben Tejada: .115 strikeout average/.202 batting average. SKINNY: All right, injuries were a part of his problem, but there was a definite drop-off. He’s had a miserable season, compounded by breaking his leg Wednesday night. Unless convinced there is an attitude change found in Las Vegas, the Mets will need to upgrade at shortstop.

Jordany Valdespin: .210 strikeout average/.188 batting average. SKINNY: Call this a parting shot at Valdespin. There were productive moments from him, but not enough to warrant a full time job. And, his attitude makes a roster spot impossible.

Eric Young: .175 strikeout average/.248 batting average. SKINNY: Has 31 stolen bases, but would be pushing 40, if not more, with a .270 average and a spike in his 34 walks. With his speed, Young should be bunting more and slapping the ball on the ground. He resolved the leadoff situation, but needs to greatly improve. As he is now, the Mets need considerably more.

David Wright: .188 strikeout percentage/.309 batting average. SKINNY: Has 77 strikeouts and would have cleared 100 had he not gone on the disabled list. His strikeout average is high by his standards, but with a .391 on-base percentage and .904 OPS he more than compensates. He hopes to be activated for Friday’s game in Philadelphia.

Overall, the Mets have more strikeouts than hits, and less than 500 walks to go with their 1,299 strikeouts. They have scored 588 runs compared to giving up 589. The bare numbers reflect the season, but there’s more to consider.

Sure, Davis likes to hit homers. What player doesn’t? But, his 101 strikeouts, and everybody else’s, represent empty at-bats. Occasionally, a strikeout can be a positive, as in a 10-pitch at-bat that raises the pitch count, but outside of that, it produces nothing.

Better plate discipline would result in more walks and hits – which is a chance to score runs – and more sacrifice flies, which drives in runs. It also advances runners into scoring position, and in the case of a fielder’s choice, it adds another base runner.

What does a strikeout add?

I am old school and don’t follow all the new numbers, such as WAR, but baseball is a very simple game and has been for over a century. The object is to hit the ball, and too often the Mets don’t. There are only 27 outs in a game and they are to be regarded as currency. The Mets are a shade under nine strikeouts a game, which is giving away three innings. Overall, when you look at the Mets’ strikeouts in contrast to the games played, their whiffs equal 48 games of doing nothing at the plate.

An oversimplification? Not really when you consider a 68-84 record. In this era of numbers, their strikeout numbers scream the loudest.

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

Sep 17

Mets Wrap: Zack Wheeler Shows He Has More To Learn

Zack Wheeler didn’t take the loss for the New York Mets Tuesday night although he certainly deserved so. This was one of the few times a Mets’ starter came away with a no-decision and it turned out to be a positive for him.

Wheeler was his own worst enemy in five rocky innings as he walked six, including to the leadoff hitter in the fifth that eventually came around to score in large part because he failed to cover first base.

WHEELER: Roughed up by Giants.

WHEELER: Roughed up by Giants.

It is not how Wheeler desired to finish his first season, and certainly not what the smattering of fans at Citi Field wanted to see in an 8-5 loss to the San Francisco Giants.

Because Wheeler is on an innings limit, he might get one more start, next Monday in Cincinnati. It is up in the air whether Wheeler will pitch in the final weekend series against Milwaukee at Citi Field.

Command was a problem for Wheeler in the minor leagues and at times this season on the major league level. This time, he had trouble locating his fastball, and with that it was all an uphill battle.

If there is something to take from Wheeler’s development it has been his ability to minimize damage and put away hitters when in trouble. That’s hard to do when you walk five in one inning, as Wheeler did in the second.

He gave up three runs that inning, but it could have been worse. Even so, Wheeler was in position to get a victory when he took the mound in the fifth. He left the inning with 107 pitches, and pitch counts have been an issue.

Control did him in, but he’ll always remember to hustle to first base.

If the Mets want to stick to Wheeler’s innings limit, that’s fine, but how about skipping him in Cincinnati and let him get a final start at Citi Field? Maybe he’ll redeem himself, and it will be one more chance for the fans to see him.

Wheeler represents the Mets’ future along with Matt Harvey, and perhaps he’ll make the same progressive jump the latter did this season.

With the competitive part of the season long since over for the Mets, their main concern is keeping Wheeler and some players who are injured from doing further damage. In that regard, the Mets are in no hurry to push David Wright.

Prior to the game, Terry Collins said Wright would not be activated for the Giants series because of overall soreness sustained in his rehab from a Grade 2 right hamstring strain.

Wright wants to play, but the prudent thing is to go with caution. Do the Mets really want their last image of Wright this season hobbling off the field after re-injuring his hamstring?

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

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 14

Murphy Is The One You Keep, Not Trade

daniel murphy scores

Terry Collins praised second baseman Daniel Murphy for staying in the lineup down the stretch while battling nagging issues, according to ESPN. Last night’s win over the Marlins was Murphy’s 145th game of the season, and he could play in 161 of the team’s 162 games this year.

“Make no mistake, Dan’s beat up,” Collins said. “He plays so hard, he’s always beat up. He slides hard, he dives for balls. That takes its toll on the season. He comes to the ballpark, he wants in the lineup. He never asks for a day off. That sends a huge message to all those young players. He’s been our man of steel for sure.”

Collins also called Murphy the “backbone of the team” ever since David Wright has been on the disabled list. Murphy is hitting .313 in his last 28 games entering Friday’s contest, and is batting .281 with 10 homers and a career-best 68 RBIs on the season. He also has a career-high 18 stolen bases.

daniel murphy

“He’s the one guy that teams know is a professional hitter,” said Collins. “To everybody in every club he’s the dangerous guy in our lineup. And we needed that. We need to be able to lean on that type of guy.”

Murphy was eligible for salary arbitration for the first time last winter. He requested $3.4 million and was offered $2.55 million by the Mets. They settled on $2.925 for the 2013 season. He now enters his second round of arbitration with a good chance to earn $4 million.

Last month, MetsBlog reported that Murphy may not be worth his price tag:

Murphy is eligible for arbitration each of the next two seasons, and I expect he’ll earn around $4 million in 2014. It’s plausible to think Alderson views Murphy as not worth his price tag, at that point.

Over his five year career, the 28-year-old has batted .289/.332/.441 and has averaged 39 doubles, ten home runs, 73 runs and 69 RBIs per season, putting him in the top ten of second basemen during that span with a 107 OPS+.

I strongly disagree with MetsBlog and view Murphy as one of the most valued players on the Mets and by that I mean the relationship between his performance and what he gets paid. Even at $4 million he gives the Mets more than double that in value.

His value for this season is over $11 million dollars based on his 2.5 fWAR which is second only to David Wright. When you consider that he’s playing at a somewhat premium position, the value is even more as compared to a corner outfielder or first baseman.

Collins is right when he says that Murphy is the only legitimate professional hitter in his lineup right now. Can you imagine this lineup without him?

As far as I’m concerned, Wright and Murphy are the players that Sandy Alderson needs to build around this offseason. Everyone else in that lineup is just a mystery at this point and not a given.

Mets Country

Sep 12

Where Is Mets’ Opening Day Lineup?

All teams evolve throughout a season, but the New York Mets’ transformation in 2013 has been staggering, with only second baseman Daniel Murphy and shortstop Ruben Tejada were in last night’s lineup at those positions. Lucas Duda started, but at a different position.

Here’s what has happened to the 2013 lineup in comparison to the team the Mets ran out there in Wednesday night’s 3-0 loss to Washington. Three starters plus the pitcher remain on the team; three were traded; and two are on the disabled list.

Colin Cowgill, CF: Was going to start after beating out Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker’s injury.  Cowgill was the starter for roughly a week after he was demoted and eventually traded. Den Dekker started last night, but Juan Lagares could eventually win the role next year if he’s more consistent offensively.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Started, but hit third last night. He’s been all over the top of the order. A slump followed a hot start, but he’s back up to .282. The Mets, however, aren’t enamored by his .316 on-base percentage.

David Wright, 3B: Entered the season after a contract extension and being named captain. He’s lived up to all that but is currently on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. Wright vows he’ll return.

Ike Davis, 1B: Slumped horribly before being sent to Triple-A Las Vegas. Eventually wound up hitting .204 with nine homers. There was considerable speculation the Mets would not tender him a contract, but he’ll get another chance to next season.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Signed for depth, but wound up leading the team in homers and could be its MVP. Eventually traded to Pittsburgh, where he could see the playoffs. Good for him. Lagares was in right last night, and could stay there if den Dekker develops consistency at the plate.

Lucas Duda, 1B: This guy just can’t play the outfield. Has improved his plate presence as evidenced by a .353 on-base percentage, but has not produced for power. Will compete with Davis for the first base job next spring. Eric Young was acquired at mid-season and became the Mets’ tenth, and final, leadoff hitter. But, for all his speed, he must do better than a .318 on-base percentage.

John Buck, C: Carried the Mets offensively in April before tailing. However, he was consistent all year behind the plate and has to get some credit for the development of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. His status was doomed with the promotion of Travis d’Arnaud, who has struggled at .152. Traded along with Byrd to Pittsburgh.

Ruben Tejada, SS: Played brutally in the beginning before going on the DL. Omar Quintanilla more than adequately filled the void. Tejada is back, but the Mets openly question his work ethic and commitment. He has a lot to prove, and trading for a veteran in the winter isn’t out of the question.

Jon Niese, LHP: Was the de facto ace and Opening Day starter because of the season-ending shoulder injury of Johan Santana. Niese developed shoulder problems after back-to-back cold weather starts in Minnesota and Colorado. As Niese labored and eventually went on the disabled list. Niese could end up being the Opening Day starter in 2014 with Harvey’s injury.

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