May 10

Collins Gives No Confidence Vote To Conforto

Looking at the Mets’ lineup for Tuesday’s game in Los Angeles, I couldn’t help but notice a glaring mistake. Perhaps it was just an oversight on manager Terry Collins’ part, but I’m not thrilled with Michael Conforto batting sixth, protected between the red hot Wilmer Flores (.170, one homer and two RBI) and the sizzling Kevin Plawecki (.229, one homer and three RBI).

CONFORTO: Bad move dropping him. (AP)

CONFORTO: Bad move dropping him. (AP)

The Mets touted Conforto as the team’s No. 3 hitter of the future when Collins moved him there in mid-April. The move, where he hit ahead of Yoenis Cespedes, jumpstarted the Mets’ offense and sparked their surge in the standings.

The Mets are 16-5 isince moving Conforto to third, which includes losing the first two games on this trip. Unquestionably, Conforto is on a significant slide, going 3-for-29 (.103) over his last eight games. Basically, that’s a bad week.

Although the Mets are facing a left-hander in Alex Wood, it should be noted he’s 1-3 with a 5.18 ERA. The message indicated a lack of confidence by Collins in Conforto, but the manager’s words flat out shout it loud.

Lefties are batting .367 this year against Wood, but the manager doesn’t think that’s relevant. Collins said batting Conforto sixth wouldn’t create pressure to perform, but he’s mistaken. There’s more pressure now.

Collins made a big deal saying Cespedes’ presence helped Conforto, but if you buy that logic, you must also accept he’s getting next to no protection between Flores and Plawecki. In addition, what must Conforto be thinking about this demotion?

As far as his reasoning for moving Conforto, Collins told reporters today: “I’d like to leave him in the three-hole if I thought he could do some damage.”

That’s another way of saying he doesn’t think he can do any damage against a pitcher with an ERA just under six. How’s that for a pat on the back?

No, I don’t like this decision. Confidence is essential in the development of a hitter, and this move screams Collins has doubts. When Collins moved Conforto, I wrote how important it was for him to stay with him during slumps. At least the first one.

If Conforto is to become the No. 3 hitter the Mets expect of him, he’ll have to endure dry stretches. So, what does Collins do? He bails at the first sign of a problem. Collins said Conforto will bat third against right-handers, but said nothing about lefties. You have to assume he won’t hit third against Clayton Kershaw.

It has only been eight games. Let Conforto work his way out of this, the same way he’s given a long leash to Matt Harvey.

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Apr 16

Is It Time To Wonder About Harvey?

Matt Harvey clearly doesn’t have it, and it is time to wonder, not if, but what is wrong with the Mets’ pitcher. Is something bothering him physically or didn’t he get enough work during spring trainiing?

HARVEY: ``Nobody is more frustrated than I am.'' (AP)

HARVEY: “Nobody is more frustrated than I am.” (AP)

After cruising through four innings Saturday in Cleveland, Harvey suddenly lost it and ended up giving up five runs in 5.2 innings to lose his third straight game and watch his ERA balloon to 5.71.

While those are numbers, they are also the product of a fastball in the low 90s. So are opponents hitting .452 in the fifth and sixth innings. In that span his ERA is over 10.00. His sixth-inning ERA is 27.00 alone.

That’s not the stuff of aces.

“The one thing I saw was he was pounding the zone early and then he got some pitches up,” manager Terry Collins told reporters. “Right now, I am worried about how he’s cruising along and loses it so fast.”

Harvey doesn’t have an answer, either, but dismissed the idea he was injured.

“I’m fine,” Harvey said. “I’m not hitting a wall. I have to figure out how to get through the fifth and sixth innings and right now I’m not doing that. It’s not only location; everything fell apart. My job is to keep us close and I didn’t do that. I’m going to have to start over and flush this one.”

This leaves greater credence to the theory he didn’t get enough work in spring training. Also supporting that theory was pitching coach Dan Warthen suggesting Harvey might be pressing because of a mechanical issue. Not only is his fastball down, but his slider has no bite and he only threw one significant curveball against the Indians.

If there’s nothing physically wrong, I’m inclined to go back to my initial theory he didn’t get enough work in spring training. Most starters aim to get in 30 innings, but Harvey got only 12, hardly enough to build up the arm strength needed to snap off a breaking ball, especially his slider.

Maybe that theory is wrong, but this much is certain. Something is not right.

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Jun 26

Mets’ Six-Man Rotation: Take Two

For the second time this season, the Mets will go with a six-man rotation. The first time was earlier this month when Dillon Gee came off the disabled list, but quickly fizzled when he was hammered. This time, it is to squeeze Steven Matz into the rotation. He’ll start Sunday against Cincinnati.

Prior to Noah Syndergaard‘s 2-1, eight-inning gem Friday over the Reds, GM Sandy Alderson told reporters the Mets were committed to this move. Then again, that’s what Alderson and manager Terry Collins said the first time.

“We’re going to go to a six-man rotation,” Alderson said. “I expect that will continue for a period of time and we’ll see where it goes.”

Alderson wouldn’t define “period of time.”

Matz is 24, left-handed and throws gas. There’s a lot to like about him opposed to Jon Niese, whose career has been on a steady decline the past few years.

The Mets have six starters, but still aren’t scoring any runs. They only scored two tonight and would have lost if not for Syndergaard. Matz increases the depth of the rotation, but the Mets are still a team that can’t score.

There were considerable rumblings when the six-man rotation was initially bagged it was because those in the rotation – notably Matt Harvey – didn’t want to pitch with too much rest.

“This arrangement has been discussed with the other five pitchers,” Alderson said. “I think they understand it’s in their interest.”

We’ll see.

The Mets came across as unprepared and in a panic mode the first time they did this, and it’s no different now. As mentioned several times here, this juggling could have been alleviated had the Mets adopted a concrete plan to limit innings going into the season, but Harvey balked.

Once again, the Mets are flying by the seat of their pants.

May 30

Niese Future Looking Bleak

Jon Niese went into the season as one of the Mets’ most important questions, and it isn’t being answered in the positive. Niese’s record is 3-5 and over the past three weeks his ERA has more than doubled to 4.42.

He wasn’t tagged with the loss today, but deserved to as he gave up five runs on seven hits in four innings. Yes, that’s pretty bad when you come down to it.

NIESE: In trouble/ (AP)

NIESE: In trouble/ (AP)

About the only certainty when it comes to Niese, is that at this rate there’s no way the Mets will trade lefty Steven Matz. At this rate it is becoming clear Niese’s future with the Mets is dwindling.

What else can you conclude with Niese giving up 22 runs is his past four starts?

Manager Terry Collins said Niese is healthy – he has been on the DL in each of the past two seasons – but his problem has been hitters driving the ball in the air (he gave two homers gave up today) when he’s a natural groundball pitcher.

It wasn’t long ago that Niese was a hot commodity as a hard throwing, healthy left-hander signed to a long-term contract.

That list is getting shorter and shorter, perhaps like his time with the Mets.

May 12

Mets Need To Be Concerned With DeGrom

Should the Mets be concerned about Jacob deGrom? Last year’s NL Rookie of the Year was off from the outset Monday night and later told reporters, “it boils down to location.”

Well, it always boils to location and deGrom (3-4, 3.46 ERA) has been off in three of his last four starts. To put it bluntly, he’s been bad since his April 24, three-homer debacle at Yankee Stadium. Some hitters get their swings screwed up after a series in Fenway Park. Maybe this is the pitcher’s version.

DE GROM: Something isn't right. (AP)

DE GROM: Something isn’t right. (AP)

DeGrom entered the Yankee Stadium game with a 2-1 record and 0.93 ERA and only one homer and three walks given up in his previous three starts. Since then, he has failed to pitch out of the sixth in three of those four starts. His ERA has spiked to 3.46, with five homers and nine walks given up. Batters are hitting .269 off him, which is 31 points above his career average.

“`I can’t throw the pitches that I want for strikes,” deGrom said about last night, but easily could have been speaking about the last month. “I made some mistakes over the middle of the plate and they seemed to hit it a long way.”

When deGrom missed with his location last season, it was inside off the plate or outside. Either way, hitters couldn’t reach the ball. It was as if Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo ordered room service.

The pregame talk was of deGrom’s secondary pitches, but that’s the icing. The most important thing for a pitcher is getting ahead in the count with his fastball, and that’s something he’s not doing with consistency.

That’s how Collins described the problem.

“When he had to make a pitch, he didn’t make it – couldn’t make it,” Collins said. “You can talk secondary pitches all you want. You’ve got to locate your fastball. That’s what made him so good last year was the location – moving it around side to side.”

Collins said two words that are most important: locate and moving. With a fastball there’s velocity, movement and location. By order of important, it goes location, movement and velocity.

There’s no doubt his velocity is good, otherwise we would have heard of it decreasing. Because we haven’t, we can rule out something wrong with his arm.

Collins also said deGrom’s body language has been bad, which is a great, but startling admission for a manager to make. If he can see it from his dugout, the opposition can from theirs as well.

Last year was last year. DeGrom doesn’t have the same “stuff’’ or the same demeanor as he did last season.

Something is wrong. Collins didn’t come out and use the word “concerned,’’ but he didn’t have to.

ON DECK:  Previewing Noah Syndergaard.