Jul 29

Could Juan Lagares And Eric Young Be A Viable One-Two?

As the enthusiasm for a strong finish by the New York Mets might have fizzled in Washington, a bright spot continues to be Juan Lagares, raising the possibility of a speedy tandem at the top of the order with Eric Young.

Of course, he needs to show more offensively, but that part of his game is improving and the power might develop as he gets stronger and learns the pitchers better. It must be remembered development also includes adjusting to the pitching when it adjusts to him.

LAGARES: Catch of the year?

LAGARES: Catch of the year?

Lagares’ opportunity came from the collective ineptness of the Mets’ outfield. Currently, he and Young are the only outfielders that could be considered starters heading into spring training.

Lucas Duda might end up at first if he’s still on the team; Marlon Byrd might not be re-signed; Kirk Nieuwenhuis has his moments, but they are sparse.

Lagares is outstanding defensively, and his diving catch where he lost the ball and re-caught it might be one of the best of the season by an outfielder.

The objectives over the next two months for Lagares and Young are to show GM Sandy Alderson his outfield needs aren’t so severe.

Lagares’ average is slowly rising, but his 47-to-7 strikeouts-to-walks ratio must close, and if it does his .299 on-base percentage and .699 OPS would rise. His number projected over 162 games would be 121 strikeouts, 18 walks and 39 doubles.

The number that stands out most with Lagares are 15 doubles in 175 at-bats. Give him 600 at-bats and he would be pushing 45 doubles. If his strikeouts and walk numbers improved, the Mets would have themselves a solid center fielder.

Meanwhile, despite cooling since his hot debut, Young is still a catalyst at the top of the order with a .275 average and .357 on-base percentage in 138 at-bats.

Since the rest of the season is for finding answers, I would like to see if Young and Lagares can complement each other at the top of the order. What is currently preventing that is Daniel Murphy’s ability to work the count and protect Young as a base stealer.

Should Lagares develop in that area, it might be intriguing, and could allow for Murphy to be lowered in the order to give him more favorable RBI opportunities.

That would be important to know if the Mets don’t bring back Byrd, which I see as unlikely. I figure, as with Scott Hairston after last season, the Mets won’t give the player two years.

Jul 25

Mets’ Young Shows Compassion To Hudson

In an era of self-absorption and chest thumping by players in all sports, despite the painful events as the igniter, class and respect was on display Wednesday night by the New York Mets and Atlanta, with Braves pitcher Tim Hudson on the giving and receiving ends.

YOUNG and HUDSON

                                                                             YOUNG and HUDSON

By know, you’ve probably all seen the gruesome replay of the Mets’ Eric Young stepping on and fracturing Hudson’s ankle. He’ll undergo surgery in Atlanta and could be lost for the year.

What you might not have seen was Young checking on David Wright after the Mets’ third baseman’s bat snapped and cracked him on the back of the head.

The gesture did not go unnoticed in the Mets’ dugout. “The first guy when the bat broke and hit David, Tim’s standing right there to make sure he’s OK. That’s the kind of guy he is,’’ Terry Collins said.

When you extend class and courtesy, it comes back to you, and Hudson felt the warmth from the Citi Field crowd, but also compassion from Wright and Young, who both stayed by Hudson as paramedics treated him on the field.

“It sucks,’’ a saddened Wright told reporters. “I’ve gotten a chance to be around Tim at All-Star games and playing against him for so long. He’s one of the good guys in the game and to see him go down like that and know something was wrong, it’s tough to watch.’’

Outside of Hudson, the only person who felt worse was Young, who knew he got Hudson’s ankle and none of the base. Young immediately sprinted to Hudson and bent over to pat him on the back.

Young stayed with Hudson throughout the time he was being treated, and shook his hand as he was carted off the field, perhaps for the last time this season.

“You never want to injure anybody,’’ Young said told reporters after the game. “I knew I didn’t get any of the base. I know I got all of his foot. … I pretty much knew it was probably broke right as I did it. That’s why I sprinted right back to him and try to console him as much as I could and apologize.”

Covering first base is a dangerous play for a pitcher because his eyes are on the ball and not the runner or the base. The pitcher winds up “feeling’’ for the base with his foot, and Hudson’s was squarely on the middle. There was no place else for Young to run.

Young said Hudson told him an apology wasn’t necessary as they shook hands on the field. Hudson repeated those words to Young when the Mets’ outfielder checked on him in the Braves’ clubhouse.

“I obviously wasn’t trying to hurt him on the play,’’ Young said. “He just told me to keep my head up and keep playing the game the hard way, the right way. He said there was nothing I can do about it.

“That made me feel somewhat better, but still bummed that he’s going to be out for a while. I just hope he has a speedy recovery.’’

Everybody does.

Jul 20

Zack Wheeler Tries To Get Mets On-Track

Well, so much for that fast start out of the second-half gate for the New York Mets.

That great ERA Jeremy Hefner was sporting going into the game? Not so much anymore. The Phillies nailed him for eight runs on ten hits. The carnage was accumulated over 63 pitches, 38 of them in the first inning.

HEFNER: Hammered by Phils, again. (AP)

HEFNER: Hammered by Phils, again. (AP)

The first inning and the Phillies have not been a good mix to Hefner over the years, and before you knew it, the Mets were down 11-0.

Terry Collins tried to put a positive spin on the rout.

“I’ll tell you what, down 11-0, make it a game, pretty impressive by our guys,’’ Collins told reporters after the game, most of who had their storied written by the fifth inning.

Uh huh. Forty years in the game should know by now there are no morale victories in baseball. Few of them, anyway, and last night wasn’t one of them.

Unfortunately for the Mets, them chopping away at the lead provided the illusion there was a chance, and consequently Collins had to go to his bullpen for seven innings.

Otherwise, Collins might have left Hefner in to take his lumps for the team to save the bullpen.

Either way, it was a hot, muggy miserable night, one better spent watching The Great Escape on the Military Channel.

Nonetheless, it is only one game and the Mets have their two of their best, Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey, going the next two games of this series. After that, it’s four more home games at home against Atlanta before hitting the road to Washington and Miami before the trade deadline.

So, there’s plenty of time for the Mets to make a run at .500 and make the second half of this season worthy of watching. The last four years after the break effectively ended the competitive part of their season.

Was there anything good out of last night’s game?

Juan Lagares had a good at-bat and Ike Davis had a couple of hits. Kirk Nieuwenhuis looked like Mr. Magoo in center field. Other than that, not too much.

I wasn’t crazy about Collins’ managing last night. David Wright did homer in the ninth, but after a busy All-Star break, he should have been pulled and given a rest. The same goes for John Buck, who cramped up.

Here’s today’s lineup against Cole Hamels:

Eric Young, LF

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Marlon Byrd, RF

Josh Satin, 1B

Juan Lagares, CF

Anthony Recker, C

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Zack Wheeler, RHP

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

Jul 18

Many Questions Loom For Mets In Second Half

Although the New York Mets closed the first half on an up-note, it’s too soon to say they have turned things around. The wildcard would take a near historic run, but .500 is not out of the question.

On this date in 1973, a year they went to the World Series, they were 40-50, so there is precedence. No, I have not forgotten that team had Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, but the rest of the team weren’t all shining lights, either.

It can be done. To finish .500 they have to be at least three games over each month, and they are already 8-5 in July. When it is broken down into little pieces it’s much easier to grasp.

Even so, for it to happen the following questions must be answered in the positive:

Q: Will the Mets keep the status quo and not blow up this team?

A: GM Sandy Alderson said the plan is to maintain the present team and not be sellers. Then again, he’s changed his mind before. The first ten games of the second half are key. If the Mets unravel in that span, there are no guarantees.

Q: Can Matt Harvey continue his run?

A: Harvey had a great first half highlighted by starting the All-Star Game. He also had ten no-decisions. He’s going to need more offensive and bullpen help, but there are times he’ll have to bear down even more as great pitchers find a way. But, that might be difficult if they are cutting his innings.

Q: What can they get out of Zack Wheeler?

A: He has pitched well at times since his promotion, but not as good as his 3-1 record would indicate. Wheeler needs to focus more on fastball command. That’s the first step.

Q: Can Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee continue to pitch well?

A: Arguably, they might be two of the biggest factors to the Mets showing turnaround signs. Remember, each started slowly but something clicked. Also, remember neither have pitched well for a complete season.

Q: Can Bobby Parnell keep grasping the brass ring?

A: Parnell is finally taking to the closer role. But, there are two halves. If they don’t trade him, and management said they won’t, he has to keep mixing in that fastball with his knuckle-curve.

Q: Can they stay healthy, especially in the rotation?

A: Gone are Johan Santana, Jon Niese and Shaun Marcum, three-fifths of the projected rotation entering spring training. Niese is expected back by mid-August, but the others will never play for the Mets again.

Q: What do we make of the bullpen?

A: It has been good at times, bad at times and atrocious at times. It’s been good over the past three weeks, but there’s still not an overwhelming feeling of comfort. Also, they must avoid burning out Scott Rice?

Q: Can Terry Collins avoid not driving John Buck into the ground?

A: Anthony Recker has been getting more playing time and coming up with the long ball. After a fast start Buck tailed because he was getting worn out. Tired catchers aren’t a plus. And, let’s forget about Travis d’Arnaud. This is a lost season for him.

Q: Can All-Star David Wright sustain?

A: On the field and in the clubhouse, Wright has lived up to his captain status. He is a good reason to keep watching. He might not be spectacular, but he’s more than solid. Looking at .300, 25 and 90 from him, minimum.

Q: Omar Quintanilla and Eric Young were positive surprises. Can they keep it up?

A: Quintanilla and Young replaced Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda, respectively, and frankly, neither are missed. Collins said Tejada must win back his job and Young is playing so well, Duda isn’t an option at all anymore. They’ll keep him around in the chance they lose Ike Davis.

Q: Speaking of Davis, does he have a strong second half in him?

A: It sure doesn’t look that way. They won’t get anything for Davis in a trade, and Alderson said the team is running out of patience. With a poor second half, don’t expect the Mets to tender him a contract.

Q: Who plays center field?

A: Both Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Juan Lagares have shown glimpses, but nothing sustainable. Nieuwenhuis is getting most of the time now.

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

 

 

 

 

Jul 17

How Mets Responded To Opening Day Questions

When the New York Mets broke camp this spring, they did so with a myriad of questions for manager Terry Collins. That’s not surprising considering the Opening Day roster featured only nine players from the 2012 first-game roster.

I broke the questions down to pitching and position players, limiting each category to just five questions. So, let’s go back and address each question to see how they’re being answered.

PITCHING QUESTIONS

 Q: Will Jon Niese assume the role of No. 1 with Santana done with the Mets?

NIESE: Key loss. (AP)

NIESE: Key loss. (AP)

A: Niese came out strong in his first two starts, including winning Opening Day. However, back-to-back high-pitch outings in freezing weather in Minneapolis and Denver caused tightness in his back. Niese’s inability to get loose caused a strain in his shoulder and eventual tear to the rotator cuff. He’s on the disabled list and not expected back until mid-August, if at all. The Mets won’t come close to getting the 200 innings they hoped from him. As far as being the ace, Matt Harvey grabbed that role and shows no signs of relinquishing it.

Q: Matt Harvey: Boom or bust?

A: The expectations are high, but high by Harvey’s standards. Harvey wants to be among the best and is living up to that desire. People might not recognize him as evidenced by his skit with Jimmy Fallon, but after his strong first half and starting the All-Star Game that will change. If Harvey isn’t recognized, that’s more a reflection of SNY’s ratings than anything else. The Mets are planning on cutting Harvey’s innings in the second half to 220. The Mets aren’t sure whether they want to skip starts or shave innings off each start.

Q: What will they get from Shaun Marcum?

A: Marcum started the season on the disabled list and is back on after losing feeling in his hand and fingers. The hope was he’d become an innings eater and win at least 12 games as the No. 4 starter. He’s 1-10 and will never pitch for the Mets again. Zack Wheeler replaced him in the rotation.

Q: Will Bobby Parnell seize the closer opportunity?

A: Parnell spit the bit before, but is holding tight and developing into a viable closer. He’s so good that we’ll never see Frank Francisco again. Parnell has drawn attention in the trade market and is coveted by Boston and Detroit.

Q: How good is the bullpen?

A: Parnell is the only one from last year’s Opening Day pen. The pen came out of the gate strong, faltered and is now showing signs of reliability. After 14 years in the minors, left-hander Scott Rice is among the league leaders in appearances. Josh Edgin broke camp with the Mets, but was sent down. He’s been better since his recall. LaTroy is a veteran presence, but struggling with a biceps issue. Bullpens come and go and the Mets have traditionally had problems.

HITTING QUESTIONS

 Q: Will David Wright respond to his contract?

A: Wright appeared in his seventh All-Star Game Tuesday night and a .300, 25, 90 year is within reach. He shows his captain stripes on a continual basis. Wright was in the middle of things trying to defuse the Jordany Valdespin powder keg. He also lobbied to keep Ike Davis from being sent down, but that didn’t work. He continues to play a strong defense and ranks among the NL leaders in on-base percentage.

DAVIS: It has been that kind of year.

DAVIS: It has been that kind of year.

Q: Can Ike Davis put together two strong halves?

A: No. Mets got little from him at the start last year and this season was more of the same. This time, the Mets had enough and sent him to Las Vegas. Davis rebounded to finish with 32 homers last season, but there are no signs of duplicating that this year. GM Sandy Alderson said the organization’s patience is wearing thin. If things continue as they have, the Mets are unlikely to tender Davis a contract for 2014.

Q: How will the outfield shake out?

A: Collin Cowgill’s stint in center field lasted roughly a week and he’s now out of the organization. Kirk Nieuwenhuis seems to be making the most of his opportunity. The team is also interested in seeing what they have in Juan Lagares. Marlon Byrd has exceeded all expectations in right field with 15 home runs, while Lucas Duda sputtered again. Duda is currently on the disabled list, but the team hardly misses him after picking up Eric Young.

Q: What will the Mets get from Ruben Tejada?

A: After a solid 2012, Tejada had a miserable spring training that carried over into the season. Compounding matters is his defense declined. Tejada’s offensive strength was getting on base, but that also declined. Tejada was replaced by 31-year-old Omar Quintanilla, who has been everything the Mets could have hoped for.

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