Jan 22

What Can Mets Expect From Zack Wheeler?

What exactly should the New York Mets realistically expect from Zack Wheeler this summer?

He was 7-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 17 starts last year, and to double the victories would be a good progression especially if his starts were doubled to 34. What is unfair would be to think he’s have a Matt Harvey type season, one in which he captured the imagination of the city and made the All-Star team.

WHEELER: What can we expect?

WHEELER: What can we expect?

I’m not in agreement with those who debunk the traditional pitching statistics of victories and ERA, which have been fair measuring sticks for over 100 years. Just because something has been a staple for a century-plus does not make it outdated or obsolete.

Victories mean games won, and isn’t that the objective of the sport – to win games? I realize the game has changed and pitchers don’t throw complete games anymore, but even with limited innings, getting a “W’’ means you kept your team in the game. How is that not important?

If Wheeler can increase his victories by one a month, that’s six over the course of the season, and 13 total for the year. I’d take that for starters.

An ERA measures runs allowed, which is vastly more important for a starter, because even a few runs over a short number of innings greatly inflates a reliever’s ERA.

If Wheeler duplicates last year’s ERA, especially with an increase over last season’s 100 innings it would be more than acceptable. Manager Terry Collins suggested during the Winter Meetings 200 innings for Wheeler isn’t out of the question, but an innings limit hasn’t been ruled out.

What Harvey accomplished last year prior to his injury was exceptional, but that was his achievement, not Wheeler’s. Wheeler is unique in his own right and to say he’ll be just as dominant is unfair.

For now, I just don’t want to see a regression, just some improvement to suggest he’s heading in the right direction.

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

Nov 20

Mets Not Players For Josh Johnson

When you’re the New York Mets and have to think outside the box, it’s stuff like what happened today that drives you crazy.

Josh Johnson wanted to play close to his Las Vegas home and signed today with San Diego for an easily digestible one-year, $8-million contract. Even so, you have to wonder whether the Mets even kicked the tires on this one. Even if they had, don’t you wonder if free agents – even those who are questions – seriously take the Mets.

JOHNSON: Would have been worth the risk.

JOHNSON: Would have been worth the risk.

Once, one of the rising young stud pitchers in the National League with Miami, Johnson made the All-Star team in 2009 and 2010. However, he was taken down with triceps and forearm injuries last year with Toronto that culminated in elbow surgery to remove bone spurs in October.

Johnson was 2-8 with a 6.20 ERA in 16 games last year, but that’s not who Padres general manager Josh Byrnes was thinking about.

“Here’s a guy who led the league in ERA who has been a dominant pitcher,’’ Byrnes told San Diego reporters. “We know there’s risk in any signing but we’re very excited about the upside, what he can bring and now what our rotation can do to deliver us toward our goal.

“We want to be an October team. We really feel like the evolution of our starting pitching and bringing in Josh, we’ve taken a big step in that direction over the last 12 months.’’

At 29, Johnson is young enough to turn it around and regain the form that has earned him a career 58-45 record with a 3.40 ERA.

“I was pretty close last year, just not healthy,’’ Johnson said. “It was tough trying to throw through it and all of a sudden I’m getting these weird pains all the way up my triceps and my forearm’s getting tight because of everything going on with my elbow. Hopefully that took care of everything.’’

If it does, the Padres would have hit the jackpot, something the Mets, who have two rotation spots to fill, must do.

Because of Johnson’s location preference, the Mets weren’t players, but represents the out-of-box thinking they must utilize in the absence of making a substantial trade or major free agent signing.

May 20

Appearances Are Piling Up For Reliever Scott Rice

scott riceLefty reliever Scott Rice tossed two scoreless innings to pick up the win against the Cubs on Sunday. It was his major league-leading 25th appearance of the season.

Rice lowered his ERA to 3.05, and is now on pace for 99 appearances. That would surpass Pedro Feliciano‘s franchise mark of 92 games in 2010 and rank second all-time to Mike Marshall‘s 106 appearances for the Dodgers in 1974.

That is one heck of a workload to say the least, and to think that it’s coming from a pitcher who has toiled for 14 years in the minors before finally getting his shot in the majors makes this all the more amazing.

Rice, the 31 year old rookie, is proving to be the second best weapon in the Mets bullpen after closer Bobby Parnell. However, how long can he continue on this torrid pace before it all catches up to him and he begins to breakdown?

“Right now it’s early enough in the year”, manager Terry Collins said. “We’ve tried to get him some days off. But he keeps pitching four out of five, it’s got to be a concern. We’ve got to certainly pick up some of the workload with somebody else.”

Rice has no complaints and is enjoying every minute of his new-found life in the majors, but he also understands the risks.

“If my arm is feeling fine, I’m going to go out there and throw,” Rice said. “I’m going to be smart, and I know my body. I know how to take care of myself and prepare myself to throw every day.”

I’ve been pulling for Rice since back in Spring Training and was so glad for him when he made the team, but I never expected he would play such a significant role this season. Here’s to more great outings for this veteran rook, who definitely knows his place. He earned it the hard way.

May 15

Where Would This Team Be Without Harvey? You Don’t Want To Know…

matt harvey

Where would this team be without Matt Harvey?

Is it safe to say that as of this moment, the only proven and legit core player under the age of 30 this team has is The Dark Knight of Gotham?

I like Jon Niese a lot, but is he a core player? Or just an number three pitcher who plays the role of an ace on a very bad team?

pitching

I quickly threw some numbers into a spreadsheet and I can’t believe how appalling the numbers are once you take Harvey out of the equation.

Two of our top three starters have ERA’s of 5.93 for Jon Niese and 6.13 for Dillon Gee. Our number four starter, Jeremy Hefner has got them both beat with a 4.28 ERA. You may recall me saying back in January that he would be a sleeper and best choice for fifth starter?

Then you have the pitcher who was supposed to help replace R.A. Dickey‘s innings in Shaun Marcum. The Mets gave marcum a guaranteed $4 million dollars and in return he’s already missed one month and since his debut is averaging 4.1 innings in three starts and has a team worst 8.31 ERA.

Mets pitchers are now officially the worst in the National League and second worst in the Major Leagues. And that’s with Matt Harvey who is in the top five in over a half dozen pitching categories.

That’s kind of embarrassing, wouldn’t you say?

Gee has been the latest starter to deliver an abysmal performance after allowing six runs and nine hits against the Cardinals last night in 4.0 innings.

“I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t even know what to say, really. I didn’t feel all that bad tonight”, said Gee after the game. “Physically I feel great. There’s nothing going on there. I don’t know. I’m kind of lost.”

You don’t say?

Gee and Co. is partly why the Mets bullpen has been as abysmal as it has. They are burning through arms at an unprecedented rate. Six weeks in and already eight transactions related to the bullpen alone. And it’s not as if it was a great bullpen to begin with. It was put together with sticks and Krazy Glue.

So while everyone is piling on when it comes to the Mets offense, the truth of the matter is that this team is quite atrocious on all fronts. Take a look at the evidence:

METS PITCHING RANKINGS

Screenshot_15

METS HITTING RANKINGS

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That stinks to high heaven. It’s a shock to the system to even look at those awful, awful numbers.

I can tell you right now that Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud alone are not going to fix that. In fact I think it’s a sin that those two are being setup for a unfair amount of undue pressure, as if trying to stick in the majors wasn’t already challenging enough.

On Wednesday, Sandy Alderson seemed concerned that Wheeler is being looked upon as some sort of savior and he admitted to Mike Francesa that he wasn’t. But the fact that both he and d’Arnaud will be walking into this disaster is going to be something to behold and I don’t mean that in a good way. I wonder how they will handle it, and God forbid if they don’t produce immediate results and hit the ground running.

The other day on Twitter I tossed out the suggestion of just letting both of them stay at Triple-A and don’t bring them up unless this team turns it around. Losing is contagious. I know you all know that. If this is what those two kids are going to walk into, I’d rather wait and call them up in September.

At least in September they can come up without the pressure of having to carry a team that was poorly constructed. It’s bad enough that Matt Harvey has had to deal with this. I totally feel sorry for that kid. On any other team, but the Mets, Harvey would probably be 8-0 right now.

I don’t know if this is rock bottom, but heaven help us if it isn’t and it continues to get worse.

Apr 29

Has Mets’ Freefall Begun Early This Year?

Rocky might be sugar coating what is going on with the Mets these days. Do you remember the beginning of the month when the Mets were off to a semi-good start and the Yankees – beset by injuries – stumbled out of the gate and the talk was could they actually finish with a better record?

Not happening. We are looking at a fifth straight losing season, and please, don’t delude yourselves into thinking the Mets will suddenly go on a spending spree this winter. Now that the Mets have substantially reduced their payroll and after this year will be finally rid of the contractual anchors of Johan Santana and Jason Bay, do you honestly believe they’ll be writing a lot of checks this winter?

HARVEY: Bright spot. (AP)

HARVEY: Bright spot. (AP)

Next year could be more of the same.

After being swept over the weekend by Philadelphia, going 3-6 on their recent homestand and losers of nine of their last 12 games overall, all appearances have the Mets are packing it in before the All-Star break this season. I’m not saying the effort isn’t there, just the talent.

The weekend proved the Mets don’t need Arctic conditions to play their worst. Without Matt Harvey to protect them against the Phillies, the Mets had breakdowns with their rotation, bullpen, defense and hitting this weekend. It was as complete a sweep as can be.

* The Mets are 5-0 when Harvey starts and 5-13 when he doesn’t. He goes tonight at Miami against fellow phenom Jose Fernandez.

* The last two winters GM Sandy Alderson made rebuilding the bullpen the priority. However, this year’s nightmarish edition is the major league’s worst with an ERA nearing 5.50. It doesn’t even matter how close Frank Francisco is to returning as he proved he’s not the answer, either. Typical Mets. Their best reliever is closer Bobby Parnell and they can’t even get to him.

* Terry Collins said at the beginning of the season he wanted to use set line-ups. Twenty-three games later he has used 20 different batting orders/line-ups. That’s not even close to being stable.

* The outfield remains fluid, with something different each day. Jordany Valdespin provides a spark and then sits. Does anybody really think Juan Lagares is the answer? Collin Cowgill won the starting center field job coming out of spring training, but was sitting by the fourth game of the season and only has 47 at-bats.

* Ike Davis continues to flounder and look overmatched at the plate with half as many hits (13) as strikeouts (26). He’s on pace to strike out 183 times. He’s also on track to hit 28 homers, but drive in only 56 runs. Need I say he’s hitting less than .200?

With the way the Mets are playing, there’s no guarantee they’ll get better with three games in Miami. About the only encouraging thing you can come up with concerning this series is even if the Mets are swept, they can’t fall into the cellar behind the Marlins.

Ah, good times.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

ON DECK: David Price vs. Tom Hallion