Sep 22

Moving In The Fences Not Answer, Pitching Is

 

Silly me, I thought the object was to win games, not hit home runs.

Sandy Alderson is talking about altering the dimensions at Citi Field in an effort to boost the Mets’ paltry home run total, which is odd considering his background as a fundamentalist. You know, high on-base percentage, advance the runners and cut down on strikeouts.

When he took over his goal was to rebuild the Mets with pitching, speed and defense. Let’s not get teary eyed about Shea Stadium, either. Afterall, how many World Series have the Mets won in their history? Two, and both those teams were built on pitching.

David Wright is on-board with this because, well, afterall, he hasn’t hit for power in two years, but that’s more a product of the beaning by Matt Cain and a poor approach at the plate, not to mention being injured and missing two months this year.

Overall, the Mets have hit 103 homers and given up 141. They’ve been outhomered 87-58 on the road and 54-45 at Citi Field. Those numbers are about right for a team below .500.

Before Alderson tinkers with the dimensions, he should consider what the Mets’ home run production might have been had Wright not missed two months, Ike Davis not been out for most of the season, Carlos Beltran not been traded and Jason Bay hit up to his contract. Take those four factors and the Mets would have closed the homer gap considerably.

But, are home runs really the issue?

The Mets are fifth in the National League with 686 runs scored, which is good enough to contend, but are 13th in runs given up with 712 (4.21 ERA).

Clearly, pitching is the problem, not a lack of power.

Home runs give a team an psychological jolt in that they know they can come back from a deficit, but the boost is even greater from the knowledge its pitching won’t put it in a hole.

It was funny to hear pitching coach Dan Warthen say moving in the fences would help his staff because it would force them to concentrate more. What a joke. If the Mets’ pitchers give up a lot of runs now, wait until the fences come in. Warthen is simply towing the party line. Have his pitchers walk fewer hitters and have him build a bullpen then he can talk. Until then, concentrate on Mike Pelfrey.

And, it’s not as if moving them in will enable the Mets to close the homer gap. The disparity would be roughly the same because the real disparity is in talent.

If the Mets want to do something, it ought to be to get better players, specifically pitchers. Moving in the fences is a gimmick, and teams don’t win with gimmicks. They win with talent.

Ways to Train:  Baseball Tips

If you’re looking to improve your batting average, slice that ERA in half, or simply enhance your ability to interact with your fellow teammates on the field, you’ll want to make sure you’re practicing the right things so that you don’t waste your time on nonsensical efforts.  Fielding, batting, and pitching all require very specific types of training, and while there is certainly overlap (and most players have to know how perform at least two of those 3 functions at any one time), there are also individual items to focus on for each as well.  Below, we’ll cover each of the three aforementioned areas, and what type of training approach you should take for each.

Batting

Swinging at a baseball flying toward your face at nearly 100 miles per hour seems like a fairly easy feat when you’re watching a Mets game or another team performing at the major league level.  That easiness only appears that way because you’re watching masters of batting at the plate, the peak of players available for the game.  For the typical baseball player, connecting the bat to the ball can be quite difficult to master, at least in a way that produces actual hits consistently over time.  The best way to practice batting is through repetition, so head over to the batting cages if you want to face pitch after pitch until your swinging improves.  Pitching machines come in a variety of speed settings, so you can surely find one that’ll pitch to you at the speed you need.

Pitching

Unfortunately, they haven’t developed a baseball batting machine that works quite as well as the pitching version yet, but catching a pitcher’s ball is easier for the average person that throwing a 95 mph fastball.  In order to practice your pitches, find someone who is competent at using a glove, and throw to that person over and over again.  Remember to also switch up your pitches so that you don’t become dominant using only one type of pitch.

Fielding

This article doesn’t have the space to cover the many different fielding positions individually, but on the whole, there are some simple things to keep in mind when standing in the outfield or around the bases.  Make sure you’re using a glove that’s been broken in, first off, so that you’re comfortable using the glove and don’t feel limited in movement.  Since baseball fields don’t have roof cover and many day games are played, you’ll also want to practice fielding balls in direct sunlight, as often times you’ll have to face straight up in order to catch the ball.  So long as you can run and judge a ball accurately as you are moving towards it, you’ll be in good shape on the field.

Sep 15

Today in Mets’ History: Record-wise the Mets were actually better last year at this time.

Last year at this time, we knew the playoffs were out of the question for the Mets, but they were at .500 at 73-73 and trying to salvage their season.

There was a twinge of optimism because we figured there would be a changing of the guard, with a new regime making things right again.

It’s what baseball does. It gives us optimism and hope.

So, we all hoped this year would be better. It would be a rebuilding year, but it would be better than the past two dreadful seasons because new blood would be running things.

I thought for a moment it was possible, the Mets would rally to salvage the season and finish at .500 or better.

It would have been a sign of true progress.

There have been positives this year, but they have been off-set by the inevitable injuries and other negatives. There’s a new regime, but there’s so much economic uncertainty swirling around the Mets that we can’t honestly say things will improve any time soon.

Never should the Mets be playing today to avoid being swept in a four-game series by the Washington Nationals. It tells of how things soured, and underscored the Mets’ inability to get over the hump.

The Mets had several spurts this season, but answered them with several slides. Win five, lose five, isn’t the answer.

Scoring four runs in the first three games of this series, and last night their anemic offense took away from a strong performance from Mike Pelfrey. However, I’ve written “strong performance,’’ from Pelfrey before only to watch him get torched in his subsequent start. In many ways, he personifies what has happened.

The Mets stranded ten last night and 40 over their last four games, and have left 1,558 on the season, tops in the majors. I don’t want to hear about their ability to get runners on base and even score (sixth in the NL). The point is they don’t score enough to overcome their spotty pitching.

The Mets have lost 24 games by one run, which is a reflection on both their pitching and offense. Improving one without the other doesn’t guarantee they take the next step.

I never expected them to compete for the playoffs this year. And, when they made a run and were four games over .500 in late July, you always expected the other shoe to fall.

Carlos Beltran was traded, and the Mets lost five straight at the end of July and early August. They fought back to get a game over .500, then had two five-game losing streaks within two weeks to fall eight under.

A staple of this team has been to rally and play with heart, to show us it cared. They pulled within a game of .500, but lost seven of eight on this homestand.

It is this homestand that made me feel some disappointment for the first time. I thought with the Cub and Nationals they could get over .500 to make a symbolic gesture at improvement.

Win or lose today, the Mets close with Atlanta, St. Louis, the Phillies and Reds. They are limping to the finish and .500 – which is mediocre to begin with – is no longer a possibility. They will be hard pressed to equal last year’s 79-83, and that would be disappointing.

The attitude under Terry Collins is much better than it was under Jerry Manuel, but the talent level hasn’t necessarily improved.

There are a myriad of issues facing the Mets in the offseason that should warn us the road is still long.

* Will the Mets keep Jose Reyes?

* Will Johan Santana be 100 percent?

* What happened with Mike Pelfrey and what direction will he take?

* Can Bobby Parnell be the closer, and can the Mets build a reliable bullpen bridge to him?

* Will they ever get anything out of Jason Bay?

* Will David Wright be a power hitter again?

Those are just the headline issues. There are issues surrounding Lucas Duda, Ike Davis, Angel Pagan, everybody in the rotation and at second base.

There’s also a collective bargaining agreement that makes the offseason uncertain, plus the Wilpon’s financial issues.

Gone is the poison that was Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, but this team still has a long way to go.


 



 



Sep 06

Mets’ injury updates

Ike Davis has been working out for Terry Collins while the Mets are in Miami, and will return to New York after this series to be examined by team physicians.

Davis has been saying surgery won’t be needed on his left ankle, and is hoping the Mets’ doctors will confirm his self-diagnosis. Davis is expected to shut it down for the remainder of the season.

The Mets eschewed microfracture surgery over a month ago with the hope the injury would heal with rest and it would not be needed. So far, that gamble has paid off, we won’t know for sure until spring training.

Meanwhile, Johan Santana will throw a bullpen session today and pitch in a minor league playoff game Friday. Santana is hopeful of pitching a couple of innings in a major league game next week.

The Mets aren’t expecting Jon Niese of Scott Hairston to return this season.

 

Aug 17

Slipping away

We knew they weren’t going to win this season, but for awhile there they were fun to watch. They were aggressive, hustled and more importantly, competitive and made us think of what could have happened had they been intact all season.

The Mets missed David Wright for two months, are without Ike Davis for the rest of the season, haven’t had Johan Santana all year, watched Mike Pelfrey regress, had Jose Reyes on the disabled list twice, and haven’t gotten a thing from Jason Bay. All this under the specter of a possible fire sale, which saw only Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodrigue depart.

Even so, the Mets have hung around the .500 mark, but lately they’ve started to play like we thought they might. The Mets have lost 12 of their last 16 games after last night in San Diego. And, it won’t get any easier with Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Atlanta coming up to close out the month.

Remember when Fred Wilpon said he wanted the Mets to play meaningful games in September? There are different interpretations of the word “meaningful.”

There’s no pennant race, and won’t be for awhile, but I’d like to see the Mets close with a spark and intensity they’ve had for much of the season.

I’d like there to be some fun down the stretch.

 

 

 

 

Aug 08

Damn, maybe they are cursed.

I don’t believe in curses, I really don’t. But, with the Mets, they make you wonder.

Daniel Murphy sustained a Grade 2 MCL tear yesterday. He wasn’t even in the starting lineup, but entered late and left soon after when the Braves’ Jose Costanza slid into his left knee at second base. He’s done for the season. No surgery, but four months of recovery time.

MURPHY: Gone for year.

The way Murphy was hitting it appeared he turned the corner and all the Mets had to do was find a place for him. This is twice now where he’s been injured at second base, so that’s not his sweet spot.

At this timetable, Murphy won’t begin rehabbing until January, so we have no idea if he’ll be ready for spring training.

Meanwhile, Reyes, who missed 16 games with a strained left hamstring last month, reinjured the hammy running out a ball in the first inning.

If the same level of injury landed Reyes on the DL last time, it’s probably a decent assumption to think the same now. In any case, he won’t be playing soon.

Yesterday, I suggested Reyes was returning to earth with his injury and subsequent slump. There’s no reason to pull off that now.

Reyes has had hamstring problems at various times during his career, playing in just 54 games in 2004 and being limited to 36 in 2009. Yes, he had that stretch from 2006-08, but in seeking a long term contract they look at the recent injury history.

The injuries to Reyes and Murphy are two of many to the 2011 Mets, who are without Johan Santana – perhaps for the season – and another starter, Chris Young, for the year. David Wright missed two months with a stress fracture to his lower back, and Ike Davis is likely done for the year with an ankle injury which could require surgery.

On the lower levels, Fernando Martinez and Jenrry Mejia have all missed significant playing – and developing – time.

Ironically, as the Mets face losing Reyes to free-agency, this injury could enhance their chances. That is, if they want to take the risk. Should Reyes miss a significant amount of more time, his price could dip to where the Mets could be players.

But, do they want to bring back a guy who can’t stay on the field?