Jun 21

Mets Sweep Orioles: Dillon Gee Shines

What, you expected three straight shutouts? Well, truth be told, as the game – and Dillon Gee – rolled on, so did I.

GEE: Terrific.

Gee was terrific, giving the Mets yet another strong start, and extended their scoreless streak to 29, until surrendering a homer in the eighth. The bullpen took over and didn’t exactly cruise over the finish line.

There was a bases loaded walk to force in a run, but even so, it was good to see Frank Francisco struggle and work himself out of trouble. Not all saves can be cruise jobs.

With the sweep, the Mets have now swept two and been swept twice in their last four series. Not the kind of consistency Terry Collins is looking for, I am sure.

The Yankees are up next, but I’m doubting a sweep this time. There’s a buzz at Citi Field and will be this weekend. Here’s the probables:

Jon Niese (4-3, 3.82 ERA) vs. Andy Pettitte (3-2, 2.77) on Friday, followed by Chris Young (1-1, 3.06) against right-hander Ivan Nova (9-2, 4.32) on Saturday. Sunday is prime time with  R.A. Dickey (11-1, 2.00) going againt CC Sabathia (9-3, 3.55).

 

May 17

Mets Latest Bullpen Collapse Raises Questions About Jenrry Mejia Role

Let’s face it, D.J. Carrasco was gone before Todd Frazier’s home run landed. Carrasco was designated for assignment after last night’s bullpen meltdown, the perpetrators being Jon Rauch and Carrasco. The victim, not surprisingly, was Johan Santana.

MEJIA: Mets undecided.

Taking Carrasco’s spot on the roster will be left-hander Robert Carson from Double-A Binghamton.

With Chris Young expected back into the rotation by early June, that leaves the Mets with the dilemma about what to do with Jenrry Mejia. He has the stuff to be a lights out closer, that is when his command is on. What he doesn’t have yet is mastery of his secondary pitches. The Mets are working with him on that as a starter.

Two years ago, under Jerry Manuel’s watch, the Mets brought him up to work out of the bullpen. He had flashes, both mostly was hammered and demoted, where he was put into the rotation and eventually hurt his arm. Manuel insisted on Mejia because he was worried about his job security.  That didn’t work out well for Mejia or Manuel.

Despite pitching as a starter now, the organization doesn’t know what Mejia’s future role will be. If Bobby Parnell made it as a closer, this decision would have already been made.

But, he didn’t and the bullpen remains a mess. That they signed Frank Francisco to two years means they don’t have faith in Parnell as closer and lingering doubts about Mejia’s durability.

It is easier to make the transition from starter to reliever than the reverse. The Mets have had plenty of time to decide. One or the other.

May 14

Mets Must Explore Bullpen Options Outside Frank Francisco

As I said yesterday, a team is only as strong as its bullpen. The Mets have exceeded most expectations save one: The bullpen remains a concern. It is the Mets’ weakest link.
Frank Francisco blew his second save in three games, meaning in a perfect world they would have swept the Marlins this weekend and gone 6-0 on their road trip.. However, baseball, as we know, is an imperfect sport and the Mets certainly are an imperfect team.
In the long term Francisco will remain the closer simply because of that ridiculous two-year, $12-million contract. If a player’s own team has no interest in him, then why do the Mets give multi-year deals? Wasn’t anything learned from the Omar Minaya era?
Manager Terry Collins needs to address this sooner than later, because nothing can kill the good vibrations the Mets have emitted this spring than a leaky bullpen. Jon Rauch? Tim Brydak? Back to Bobby Parnell? Perhaps a committee?
Collins knows his personnel better than anybody, but clearly everybody can tell right now Francisco is not the answer.
“He’s the boss,” Francisco told reporters. “He can do whatever he wants. I’m here to help the team; I guess I’m not doing that. Whatever decision he makes, it’s fine with me. But I’m here to fight. Whenever I can, I’m going to try to do my best out there every time I go out.”
So far, Francisco’s best is an 8.56 ERA, with 20 hits and seven walks in 13 2/3 innings. Those numbers are positively Oliver Perez-like.
ON DECK: Mets week ahead.
May 01

David Wright, Kirk Nieuwenhius Shine in April For Mets

April is in the books and the Mets are sitting well in the National League East at 13-10.  I am first to admit I never envisioned that record for the Mets a month into the season.

When the schedule came out, I penciled in seven or eight wins, tops. However, the Mets exceeded all expectations to make me wonder just how good a summer this could be.

WRIGHT: April Player of the Month

There’s been a lot to like, so let’s touch on some of April’s high points:

PLAYING THEM TIGHT: Including last night’s loss in Houston, the Mets are 8-2 in games decided by two runs or less. That is one of the best indicators a team is heading in the right direction. A team gives itself a chance to win when the score is close. There have been few games when you feel like turning off the TV in the early innings. The Mets are making you watch, and the record shows they have been worth the wait.

WINNING THE DIVISION: The Mets lost series to Washington and the Braves, the latter on the road. However, they swept the Braves and Marlins at home and won a series in Philadelphia. The NL East hasn’t been kind to the Mets in recent seasons, but they are standing up to their division rivals in the early going of 2012.

THE WRIGHT STUFF: Despite missing several games with a fractured pinkie, David Wright is back and stroking the ball with authority. Wright has hit in the clutch and posting good numbers. I’d like for him to hit with more power, but would take the average and RBI than have him slip into bad habits swinging deep. Wright is playing at a level where the contract extension should be a given.

THOLE TAKES A STEP: At the start of the season I wondered about Josh Thole, both offensively and defensively. He’s shown improvement in both areas and the staff likes throwing to him. The Mets’ catching will longer be a concern if Thole continues at this rate.

MURPHY TAKING TO SECOND: We all knew Daniel Murphy could hit, but just as important is his comfort level at second base. Last night he went into the hole and threw back to second for the force. Both catching the ball and throw have been problems. Murphy’s defense was a significant question now being answered in the positive.

TEJADA PLUGGED THE HOLE: We all wondered how Ruben Tejada would respond replacing Jose Reyes. Tejada’s glove was never in doubt, but he’s hit better than anticipated. Before it is over Reyes might have better numbers, but Tejada has not been the weak link.

HELLO NIEUWENHUIS: Andres Torres’ calf injury gave Kirk Nieuwenhuis an opportunity and it looks like one he won’t relinquish.  Nieuwenhuis plays an aggressive center field and is confident at the plate. There’s a lot to like, such as a swagger that says he belongs.

SANTANA IS BACK: Johan Santana’s recovery from shoulder surgery was one of the spring’s leading questions, and save one bad outing, he has been stellar. Wisely, the Mets have monitored his innings and will continue to do so. All they need is to score some runs for him.

ROTATION HAS BEEN GOOD: The Mets received a serious setback when they lost Mike Pelfrey to Tommy John surgery, but Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey have been solid. The Mets need more innings from their starters to stay out of the bullpen, but mostly the innings they’ve received from Niese, Dickey and Santana have been good. Much better than expected.

SURVIVING THE STORM: How the Mets respond from Pelfrey’s injury will dictate a lot about this season. They have been a resilient team and played through injuries to Wright, Jason Bay and Torres. They’ve also compiled a winning record despite little production from Ike Davis and an erratic bullpen. The pen has its positive moments, but there have also been several head-scratchers. Frank Francisco regressed after a fast start and now is nursing a hamstring problem.

I am picking Wright as my Player of the Month. Please check out the newest poll question and share your thoughts. Thanks.

ON DECK:  The newest poll.

Apr 23

Collins Says Francisco Is Still The Closer, But For How Long?

Well it looks like manager Terry Collins had his little pow-wow with quasi-closer Frank Francisco on Sunday and two of them passed around a peace pipe resulting in Collins affirming his trust and confidence in Francisco as his closer.

“Everybody wants to hear something positive,” Collins said. “I just went to him this morning and said, ‘You’ve got to hang in there.’ He’s disappointed. He’s mad at me because I took him out, which is a common thing. It happens. I certainly don’t blame him. If I was in his shoes, I’d be mad at me, too.”

So Frankie-Frank is back on the saddle after three straight shaky outings, but believe me his leash is short and at the first hint of trouble, you saw how quickly Collins ran out and gave him the ol’ heave-ho.

Francisco was the the prize of the offseason for the New York Mets and Alderson saw fit to fill his coffers with a two year, $12 million dollar deal to be the closer – a role which he has had trouble retaining throughout his career. Before donning his Mets uniform, Francisco had amassed 18 blown saves in his 70 save opportunities. That’s an unsightly 74.2% save percentage.

In Grapefruit League play this Spring, Francisco finished with a 5.54 ERA and a 1.69 WHIP in 11 appearances for the Amazins. So his recent struggles are just a continuation of what we saw last month.

2.1 IP – 6 H – 6 ER – 3 BB – 1 K

His last three outings point to trouble, and while some may say it’s only April, I’l direct you to his career 4.22 ERA in save situations which doesn’t even account for all the inherited runners he has allowed to cross the plate.

Hey look, he’s all ours now, so all we can do is hope that at 32, he can dig down inside and somehow become the closer he is being paid to be. The last thing this team needs right now is a $6 million dollar a year middle reliever.

Luckily, Jon Rauch has exceeded expectations thus far and could step in as closer if the need arises – as it did on Saturday.