Feb 02

Feb. 2.10: Back in the saddle again.

Good morning folks. First off, I’d like to thank you for your well wishes yesterday. I should get back some of my test results today, but I’m feeling better this morning. So, again, thank you very much for you kindness.

WRIGHT: Will he be right again?

WRIGHT: Will he be right again?


Previously, I’d listed concerns of the Mets heading into spring training. One such concern was whether David Wright would regain his home run stroke. By most standards, Wright had a miserable season in 2009, and it was that way long before he took a fastball to his helmet. Wright hit .307 with a career-low 10 homers and only 72 RBI.

Wright did himself in early when he admitted the dimensions of Citi Field were getting to him. Once that became public, pitchers had their way with him from a power standpoint and gave him absolutely nothing to hit.

Wright tinkered with his swing, but an altered swing stays with a hitter, even on the road and his power numbers paled in comparison to other seasons in production away from home, too. Wright is human, and he began to press, and with injuries mounting up – without Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran – there was little protection in the order.

Wright has been working hard with hitting coach Howard Johnson, who should have done more to persuade his third baseman to not abandon the form that produced these numbers for a 162-game average: .309, 27 homers and 107 RBI.

The problem, Johnson dissected, was in waiting on the pitch, Wright waited too long. The ball would bear down on him and he couldn’t adjust. Say hello to 140 strikeouts. A career high. That Wright hit over .300 despite his high strikeout totals illustrated how unusual Wright’s season actually was.

Their off-season work has been concentrated on Wright attacking the ball more out front, being quick with his hands and driving the ball.

Which Wright will we see in 2010?

I’m willing to bet last season was an aberration and we’ll see numbers closer to his career averages rather than last year’s posting. I’ve seen how hard Wright works and believe he’s too good a hitter, too good an athlete, not to rebound.

Yes, I think Wright will be back in the saddle again.

Jan 31

Jan. 31.10: Loose Threads.

LOOSE THREADS

LOOSE THREADS

I hope this finds everybody doing well today. Quiet on the baseball front, so let’s open it up to what’s on your mind.

I’m still waiting for the Mets to add a pitcher. I hate to say this, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Pedro Martinez is brought back. To think the Mets will look at what Martinez did with the Phillies and to think he might duplicate it this summer might be a reach. Afterall, part of his success has to be attributed to playing half a season and being strong down the stretch. More indicative would be his second World Series start.

I saw where the Royals are willing to trade Gil Meche and Brian Bannister. Meche is a lot of money for somebody who is now merely average.

I’ll have something on the remaining FA pitchers on the market this week as well as something on David Wright.

Today, for me, I’ll watch the Celtics and Lakers this afternoon. One of the great sports rivalries. Rooting interest? Celtics.

Enjoy the day.

Jan 24

Jan. 24.10: Let’s big-picture this.

MR. MET: Can he really be happy about things?

MR. MET: Can he really be happy about things?

In 2006, the Mets finished 97-65, winning the National League East by 12 games. It would be fair to say that is when the window was open at its widest for this core of Mets. And, we’re talking David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. While that core has remained largely productive, the rest of the team, in particular it’s pitching, has not.

The strength of the 2006 team was arguably its bullpen, which picked up the slack for a consistent, but hardly spectacular rotation.

Despite signing Billy Wagner, at the time an All-Star caliber closer, Omar Minaya let two significant keys to that pen, Darren Oliver and Chad Bradford, get away. The Mets have been struggling to get a bullpen chemistry since. An argument can be made the chemistry started to fizzle with the decline of Aaron Heilman, who was so good in 2006 save that pitch to Yadier Molina.

Even so, the team started strong in 2007, taking a 34-18 record into June. Would we all agree that 2006 and the first two months of 2007 was when the Mets’ star burned its brightest?

They finished 54-56 the rest of the way in 2007, including a collapse in which they blew a seven-game lead with 17 to play. Much of the downward spiral was traced to a bullpen bridge that could not get to Wagner.

Since June 1, 2007, the Mets are 20 games below .500 – including another collapse in 2008 – and the refrain was the same after each season: The pitching is the problem. The 2008 team, by the way, blew 29 save opportunities.

It’s a double-edged sword: The bullpen is overworked and ineffective. But, the reason it is overworked is because the Mets aren’t getting quality innings from their starters.

For those who think I’m being too negative, those are the numbers.

I realize 2009 was a unique season because of injuries, but even under the assumption the core offensive players return to form this season, there remains largely the same pitching staff. Never mind the team’s hot start one-third into the last season, more representative of their performance was the remaining two-thirds.

Getting Johan Santana was a significant gesture of improvement, but he makes 34 starts a year. The pennant is won or lost in the remaining 128 games, and this is where the Mets are weak and have not improved.

Even Santana is a partial question as he’s coming off surgery. The team says he’ll be ready, but said the same thing about John Maine. Maine’s durability, along with his presence, are questions. We don’t know what we’ll get from Oliver Perez inning to inning, much less game to game. And, Mike Pelfrey has regressed. And, well, there is no fifth starter, yet.

Yes, Jason Bay will improve the offense, but in reality aren’t we subbing his numbers for that of a healthy Delgado? And, there’s another hole with the loss of Beltran. So, just how much better is the offense, really? And, what if Wright doesn’t regain his power stroke? Can we say for sure Reyes is back?

Bottom line: We can’t say the core is back to normal or will get that way.

In that case, it falls again on the pitching, which is the same pitching that failed miserably the last two-and-a-half seasons.

Jan 18

Jan. 18.10: Spring training questions.

Questions, questions ....

Questions, questions ....

With a month before the start of spring training, let’s take a look at the ten top issues surrounding the Mets when the arrive at Port St. Lucie:

1) Who are the fifth starter candidates?
A: Jon Niese is from the organization. It could also be Oliver Perez or John Maine if the Mets should add another arm. Joel Pineiro and Jon Garland are still out there, but they are also linked to other teams. There’s no guarantee the Mets will bring in somebody else.

2) Where is Johan Santana?
A: Santana is coming off surgery. The Mets are saying he’ll be ready, but they said the same thing about John Maine last spring.

3) What is Jose Reyes status?
A: Reyes says he feels good, but he hasn’t tested that hamstring in game-type conditions. And, how much speed has he lost?

4) Did David Wright find his home run stroke over the winter?
A: Maybe it was Citi Field, maybe not. But, Wright did not hit with power last season. That has to change if the Mets are to do anything.

5) Carlos Beltran is how many weeks away?
A: Originally, they said 12 weeks. He won’t be ready by spring training to do baseball activities, but maybe they’ll have a better timetable by then.

6) What’s the catching situation look like?
A: The Mets have plenty of reserve catchers, but not a No. 1. They hope it will be Bengie Molina. They really don’t want to rush Josh Thole to the majors.

7) Who is the real Mike Pelfrey?
A: Pelfrey appeared on the verge of breaking out in 2008, but regressed last season. It’s about time he gets to the next level.

8) Where does the coin land?
A: Will Coinflip Perez show consistency beyond being inconsistent? He’s also coming off surgery. The reports are he’s working hard, but he’s worked hard before with no results.

9) What are the bullpen roles?
A: They could change if they sign John Smoltz. I’d rather have him in a set-up role than Kelvim Escobar. That way I could also drop Bobby Parnell down to a lower pressure slot.

10) What kind of camp will Jerry Manuel run?
A: Lax or clamp down? There were injuries last season, but the team also played fundamentally poor baseball and that’s his responsibility.

Jan 06

Jan. 6.10: Your confidence level in the Mets is ….

Spring training is still six weeks away and the Mets have done nothing to remedy the holes in their rotation. However, they quenched their thirst for right-handed power with the acquisitions of Jason Bay over the holidays and Jeff Francoeur. The team is still optimistic David Wright will regain his power stroke.

However, the Mets, save Carlos Beltran, are void of any significant power from the left side, which is why there’s this interest in bringing back Carlos Delgado.

Let’s assume Delgado signs. There’s still questions in the rotation. Would signing Jon Garland or Joel Pineiro boost your confidence level in this team?