Jun 20

It Is Time Niese Prove His Worth

In all this talk about the New York Mets and their bright pitching future, Jon Niese has been overlooked. His upside has not been projected as high as that of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, but it was lofty enough at one time for the Mets to give him a long-term deal.

The Mets eschewed numerous trade overtures for him, instead opting to keep him as a building block because he’s a hard-throwing left-hander who experienced success and has a controllable contract.

However, he’s overlooked for a reason.

NIESE: Underachiever. (AP)

NIESE: Underachiever. (AP)

The Mets extended Niese’s contract with the expectation he’d lift them in games like tonight in Atlanta, where he’d be the difference between a winning and losing series. There’s not a high degree of confidence in him tonight.

After winning a career-high 13 games last year, Niese has not progressed. Yes, a case can be made to explain his 3-6 record because of a lack of run support, but there’s that sticky matter of a 4.15 ERA.

Niese pitched in consecutive sub-30 degree games in Minnesota and Denver and came away with stiffness in his back. No doubt, that is a contributing factor to his mediocre numbers, but what about his 1.57 WHIP?

In only four of his last ten starts has he gone into the seventh inning or further. The Mets have lost eight of those starts, and Niese has one victory in that span to his ledger.

One could argue Niese’s ERA is attributable in large part to giving up seven and eight runs in consecutive starts, but you could counter that by saying staff anchors must find away to minimize the damage, something Niese has yet to master.

This year Harvey, despite his limited experience, has proven more adept at escaping big innings than Niese. What Wheeler showed three times Tuesday night was something the Mets needed from Niese last weekend against the Cubs.

When the Mets had Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey, Niese was projected as a No. 3 starter. Through attrition, he entered the season No. 1 and pitched like it in his first two starts.

Since then, he has been outpitched by Harvey consistently, and Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner over the past month. Currently, based on merit, Niese’s performance is indicative of a fifth starter at best, which is where he would be if the Mets dropped Shaun Marcum from the rotation.

I would still hold onto Niese for the same reasons: being a hard-throwing left-hander with a reasonable contract. There’s reason to believe there’s an upside to Niese, but he must start to outpitch his paltry support and perform to his expectations. He has to pitch better than his team, as all good pitchers must.

The Mets signed Niese to a long-term deal because they believed they could build around him. It is time Niese lives up to that faith.

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

Jun 20

Mets Should Trade Shaun Marcum; Others Also Available

Seriously now, these are the New York Mets. Did anybody really expect the euphoria of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler to include Shaun Marcum?

Marcum is now 0-9 after Wednesday night and it seems ludicrous to keep him in the rotation, especially when Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner have pitched well.

MARCUM: After giving up homer last night. (AP)

MARCUM: After giving up homer last night. (AP)

Two strong relief outings suggest he could survive in that role, but is that the best option for the Mets? Marcum is giving the Mets around five innings a start and his strikeout totals have been decent. Most importantly, his neck and back issues seem to be over.

Marcum’s value to the Mets isn’t as a fifth, or sixth, starter, but as a trade chip to a contender. Much of his record can be passed off as from a lack of support, and with a reasonable $4 million salary – to any contender – the time is right to try to move him now.

He has some value in the trade market, but it won’t be any higher than it is now. Maybe they can get a mid-level prospect for him, which is better than the alternative of getting nothing when he leaves after the season.

Perhaps they can get more if they package him in a trade with others. Let’s see, whom else can the Mets trade?

John Buck:  Initially, he could have been had if Travis d’Arnaud hadn’t been injured. Buck has a connection with the young pitchers that is valuable and nobody can say with any certainty when d’Arnaud will be healthy, and how well he could play when he does. KEEP HIM.

Ike Davis: Is having a miserable year, but there’s always a team that believes he can be fixed with a change of scenery. The Mets are paying him over $3 million to strike out. As with Mike Pelfrey, they can opt to non-tender him and he’d walk and they’d get nothing. DEAL HIM.

Daniel Murphy: One of the few Mets who is hitting. I have this feeling the Mets believe they could do better. Prospect Wilmer Flores will have to play eventually. Murphy would have value to a contender as a second baseman, DH and first baseman. DEAL HIM.

Omar Quintanilla: Trouble is, if they deal him who would play shortstop with Ruben Tejada injured? Does it matter? They’ll find somebody, and if nothing else, could give time to a younger player. Question: Where does he fit into their future plans? Right. DEAL HIM.

Lucas Duda: Playing first now, where he’s more comfortable than left field. If they can move Davis, Duda could move over for the long haul. Isn’t the real decision here, Duda or Davis? KEEP HIM.

Marlon Byrd: One of the few Mets who is hitting, and is showing power. He’s like Scott Hairston was last year. Mets held onto Hairston and got nothing. Will they give Byrd more than a year this winter? Not likely. They can get something for him. DEAL HIM.

Jordany Valdespin: Didn’t grasp opportunity to be a starter at second base. Mets aren’t crazy about him and hard to envision him in their future. DEAL HIM.

LaTroy Hawkins: Veteran relievers are always in demand by contenders. He’s not coming back. DEAL HIM.

Justin Turner: On DL now but is a versatile infielder that does not give away at-bats. Could fill a need. DEAL HIM.

Some of the above, I’d like to keep, but you have to be realistic. If they can’t be projected to be in the organization beyond this season, why not see what they can get? The Mets aren’t going anywhere, so they might as well start preparing for 2014.

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

Jun 17

Lucas Duda At First For Mets; Jordany Valdespin Goes To Bench

So much for the Jordany Valdespin experiment at second base until Ike Davis returns, but the premise of what I wrote earlier remains the same: the New York Mets don’t have an idea of what to do with the mercurial role player.

Terry Collins said he would give Valdespin a week at second base leading off. Valdespin responded by hitting .130 (3-for-23) in that span, and one week later is back to the bench. The outfield is out for now, with Collins saying he needed to see more from Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Juan Lagares, and Marlon Byrd, one of the few Mets who is hitting.

Saying, `you’re allowed to change,’ ’’ Collins returned Valdespin to the bench for Monday’s series opener in Atlanta. Along with that move, Daniel Murphy will go back to second and Lucas Duda will move in from left to play first.

This juggling improves the Mets’ defense, which is a positive. The Mets claim second base is Valdespin’s natural position, but he had problems, especially turning the double play. Murphy is an upgrade, as is Duda an upgrade over Murphy at first base.

Duda deferred to Davis, calling it “Ike’s position,’’ and adding, “I played there most of my amateur career. Hopefully I can just get the job done, and catch the ball and throw it.’’

Collins insisted the job was still Davis’ when he returns, but could not elaborate when that might be. Davis is still struggling at Triple-A Las Vegas.

Collins attempted to soothe Valdespin’s now-bruised ego, saying he still has value coming off the bench. It will be interesting to see how Valdespin responds when Collins asks him to pinch-hit.

There’s rain in the forecast tonight in Atlanta, but should the Mets start their 65th game of the season, it will be with their 53rd different lineup.

TONIGHT’S BATTING ORDER

Juan Lagares, CF: Is hitting .308 over his last ten games.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Thrilled to be back at second. Hitting .336 on the road (38-113) this season.

David Wright, 3B: Has hit in eight of last nine games, going 16-for-38 (.421).

Lucas Duda, 1B: Back at first base, where he has played well. Hitting .146 (7-48) with RISP.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Has eight RBI in last 11 games.

John Buck, C: Since May 5, is hitting .190, going 22-for-116 in that span, including 34 strikeouts.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, LF: His game-winning three-run homer Sunday will buy him some more time.

Omar Quintanilla, SS: Takes a 0-for-17 slide into the game.

Dillon Gee, RHP: In four career starts at Turner Field, he is 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA.

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

Jun 13

The Need To Extend Terry Collins’ Contract

If Terry Collins and his staff aren’t the problem as GM Sandy Alderson suggested, then why not extend their contracts through 2015, or at least, 2014? If they aren’t the issue and considered part of the solution, it would seem a prudent action if for no other reason but send a message to the players the organization has a plan.

The Mets do have a plan, don’t they?

Few things are more fragmenting to a team than a managerial search. It would be great to go into the offseason not having to worry about the manager. And, if the Mets had to search for a new manager, that would set things back.

My first choice is if the Mets believe they are headed in the right direction would be to extend Collins for two basic reasons: 1) the players have not quit on him, which is the classic sign, and 2) management has not given him enough quality players.

One can’t make a fair assessment on Collins based on the talent given him.

If you’re buying into Alderson’s opening hire comments about changing the culture and patience being needed, then Collins can’t go the first time there’s an appearance of having money to spend.

Collins was Alderson’s pick and he’s done everything asked of him. He’s even had the Mets competitive until the lack of talent wore thin.

If Collins isn’t the right guy, then neither is Alderson, who is the architect. The Mets say they are building with young pitching, and in Matt Harvey, Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler, there’s potential. They are even getting good pitching from unexpected sources, such as Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner.

They rotation overcame the losses of Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey, and the early hole in the back end to have pitched well. They would have more to show for their efforts if there was a bullpen and hitting. Supposedly, that’s where the freed-up money will be spent next winter, and Collins should get the chance to benefit from that spending.

If the Mets aren’t happy with the job Collins has done, then by extension they can’t be satisfied with Alderson.

There are things I don’t like about what Alderson has done, but admit part of that comes from not knowing all he knows about what’s going on behind closed doors and being impatient about wanting results.

Alderson’s draft picks haven’t produced, but how many picks are playing after three years? That must get better.

It will be interesting to see how Alderson spends this winter because his patch-quilt approach the past three years haven’t gotten it done. I understand why they went in that direction, but if what you’re telling me is true, you should have more to spend.

And, remember it not about the willingness to spend, as the Wilpons have written checks before. It is about writing them wisely. Jason Bay, Frank Francisco, Frankie Rodriguez, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and the list goes on, were bad baseball decisions.

Alderson’s reputation is about making smart decisions. Now, let’s see it.

So, if the Mets believe they have the right plan in place, then Alderson needs to extend Collins. And, if not, can we assume they starting over again?

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

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?

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