Nov 28

Mets’ Top Five Issues Entering Spring Training

I trust you all enjoyed Thanksgiving with your families. With Christmas fast approaching, followed by the Super Bowl, it is time to forget about the Jets, Giants, Knicks and Nets, and focus on hockey and the upcoming baseball season.

The spring training countdown begins at the conclusion of the Super Bowl. With that, I’ll take a look at what I consider the Mets’ top five issues entering the season.

HARVEY: No hiding he's a key. ESPN

HARVEY: No hiding he’s a key. ESPN

If you disagree, and that’s the point of this exercise, I would be interested to hear your issues.

1. DAVID WRIGHT’S HEALTH: I touched on this the other day, and rank it first because it is the lead domino. If Wright returns to All-Star status it alleviates a lot of pressure from the offense. It takes away a potential distraction and goes a long way toward making the Mets whole.

2. MATT HARVEY’S RETURN: If not Wright, then it has to be Harvey’s return from Tommy John surgery. The Mets have to handle him with kid gloves whether he likes it or not. There will be an innings limit, which has yet to be disclosed which figures to become an issue.

3. THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE BULLPEN: For as long as Sandy Alderson has been here, building the bullpen has been a major issue. With Bobby Parnell’s injury, the Mets went with a patchwork bullpen last year that saw the emergence of Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia. Manager Terry Collins said the job is Parnell’s when he returns, but that’s premature. Let Parnell ease into form. As of now, Mejia, Familia, Parnell and Vic Black bring a lot of heat from the sixth through ninth innings. The Mets need another lefty to complement Josh Edgin and there’s a need to bring back Carlos Torres.

4. THE CONTINUED DEVELOPMENT OF JACOB deGROM AND ZACK WHEELER The Mets claim their foundation is young pitching, which means they need an encore year from deGrom and Wheeler to pitch up to expectations. For Wheeler, that means lowering his pitch count and giving the Mets depth. It can’t all be Harvey.

5.  WILMER FLORES’  ABILITY TO TAKE TO SHORTSTOP: Let’s face it, the Mets aren’t going to land a marquee shortstop, either through trade or free agency. It is time to see if Flores can produce. This should he his shot.

 

Nov 19

Mets’ Plan For Harvey Not Concrete

The Mets say they plan to handle Matt Harvey with a “soft’’ innings cap, which is another way of saying they have no plan at all.

HARVEY: Searching for a plan. (Getty)

HARVEY: Searching for a plan. (Getty)

GM Sandy Alderson said the Mets won’t handle Harvey the way Washington dealt with Stephen Strasburg, which was to cut him off in mid-September and thereby miss the postseason, but the speculative nature of his plan could lead to that scenario.

“We can probably accomplish all the things we need to by managing his starts in the rotation,’’ Alderson said.

There’s wiggle room in the word “probably.”

Harvey will open the season on the roster, but there’s no plan to limit him in April when the weather is colder as I suggested. Alderson said the Mets will use off days to by-pass Harvey’s turn in the rotation, but left it more as a “play it by ear,’’ thing than to map out things from the start of the season.

There was also nothing mentioned about shaving his innings per game, such as a seven-inning ceiling.

To me, without anything clearly defined there’s too much of a chance the innings would accumulate and the Mets might get caught short late in the season.

Alderson suggested to give him a two-week shutdown around the All-Star break, which makes considerable sense. The Mets did this last season with Jacob deGrom and he was strong in the second half. A positive to this is it will give the Mets an idea where Harvey stands and from there they could lay out a concrete plan for the second half.

What the Mets won’t do is go with a six-man rotation, which would be a cutting edge move. Harvey pitched 178.1 innings in 2013, and I don’t see any way he’ll pitch more than that in 2014. However, what I can see is if the Mets aren’t definitive about Harvey things could get away from them.

And, that would be a shame.

Nov 17

Mets’ Collins Optimistic About 2015

As far as guarantees go, it was rather weak, but considering the boast came from Terry Collins it was bold enough. Not only will the Mets’ string of six losing seasons come to an end, but they should make the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

Pointing to a young core and return of David Wright and Curtis Granderson that should be enough to get them over the hump.

“We should be playing in October,’’ Collins told reporters this week. “Our young guys are starting to grow, with the addition of some offense, and … we’re not done. … I think 2015 is going to be a good year for us.’’

The key, or course, is Matt Harvey’s recovery from elbow surgery; development of Zack Wheeler; and a encore season from Jacob deGrom that comprise the core of a young pitching staff.

If the pitching holds up and Wright and Granderson have bounce back seasons, that should put them into contention for a wild-card berth. The NL East title? Not so much.

 

Nov 10

DeGrom Wins NL Rookie Award; Seaver, Gooden Impresssed

The New York Mets took another step toward relevancy today when Jacob deGrom was named the NL Rookie of the Year.

He is the joining Tom Seaver (1967), Jon Matlack (1972), Darryl Strawberry (1983) and Dwight Gooden (1984). For those believing in omens, the Mets played in the World Series within two years of each previous winner.

DeGrom: Wins ROY.

DeGrom: Wins ROY.

DeGrom, 26, made 22 starts and won the NL Rookie Triple Crown leading NL rookies in strikeouts (144), ERA (2.69) and tying for the league lead with nine wins.

“I’m truly honored to receive this award and would like to thank the BBWAA,” said deGrom in a statement released by the team. “I wouldn’t have won if it wasn’t for the support of my teammates. I’m already looking forward to 2015 and helping the Mets reach the postseason.”

Said manager Terry Collins: “His journey has been unbelievable. When we promoted him he was supposed to go to the bullpen but an injury forced him into the rotation. This award speaks to Jacob’s determination and desire to succeed.”

His competitive nature was noticed by Gooden and Seaver. Eye-popping was when he struck out eight straight MIami Marlins to open a September 15 game.  He had four double-digit strikeout games during the season and set a rookie franchise-record, pitching 67.1 innings from June 5-August 7 without allowing a home run.

“When I saw that he had struck out eight straight I just said to myself ‘Wow, this guy almost broke my record and all of his were to start the game,’” said Seaver in a statement released by the Mets. Seaver holds the major league record with 10 straight strikeouts at any point during a game.

“That’s impressive. I made sure to find his box score whenever he pitched.”

Said Gooden: “I was fortunate enough to see him pitch a few times at Citi Field. What impressed me the most was that every time he got into a tough situation he always made the pitch he needed to get out of the jam. I love the way he competes.”

It’s that poise that makes deGrom in the Mets’ young pitching core along with Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard.

Perhaps the hardest thing for any rookie pitcher is to develop a chemistry with his catcher. That wasn’t a problem,

“He is enjoyable to catch because he is always around the strike zone,” said catcher Travis d’Arnaud. “I just hold up my glove and he hits the mitt. He never gets rattled no matter the situation. He’s just going to get better and better.”

o say deGrom could be the next Seaver or Gooden is a stretch, but there is a lot to like about him and it isn’t farfetched  to say he’s ahead of Wheeler,

What was most impressive about deGrom was his composure and ability to command his secondary pitchers. These are things Wheeler must improve. Wheeler also has a tendency to run up his pitch count, frequently forcing an early exit. The Mets could count on deGrom getting into the sixth inning.

A ninth-round pick in the 2010 amateur draft, deGrom made the first of his 22 starts, May 15, and made an immediate impression by giving up just one run in seven innings in a 1-0 loss to the Yankees. He gave us a glimpse of his 96-mph. fastball and darting slider with six strikeouts and only walked one and gave up four hits.

DeGrom turned out to be the kind of workhorse the Mets need by working into the sixth or longer in 19 starts. Ten times he took a game into the seventh or longer.

DeGrom worked 140.1 innings this year, but in this era of pitcher preservation – not recognized by the Giants and Madison Bumgarner – he was pulled from his last start against Houston.

“Obviously, I wanted to make my last one, but they talked to me about it,’’ deGrom said at the time. “The decision was made for me not to, and to end the year healthy. I respect that decision and I look forward to next year.’’

The decision was made in large part by a season-low 92 mph., in his proceeding start against Atlanta, and Collins said. The lower speed is indicative of a tiring arm.

“We explained the big picture,’’ Collins said. “One more start isn’t going to vary any votes. One more start isn’t going to show everybody that he belongs here.

“One more start could lead to some trouble. The big picture was to make sure when this season was over that those five [rotation] guys were going to be healthy. We think we’ve reached that point.’’

By votes, Collins meant from the Baseball Writers Association, which concludes its voting after the season. Postseason performance is not included, for one reason it gives some players a larger body of work. For example, if the postseason were included, Bumgarner would easily win the NL Cy Young over the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.

The other National League candidates are Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton and St. Louis’ Kolten Wong. Hamilton fizzled at the end and Wong wasn’t a clear-cut standout, although he was impressive in the postseason.

Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox was a unanimous winner in the American League, beating out the Yankees’ Dellin Betances and the Angels’ Matt Shoemaker.

 
Nov 10

Breaking News: deGrom Wins NL Rookie Award

The New York Mets took another step toward relevancy today when Jacob deGrom was named the NL Rookie of the Year.

He is the fifth Met to win the award, joining Tom Seaver (1967), Jon Matlack (1972), Darryl Strawberry (1983) and Dwight Gooden (1984). For those believing in omens, the Mets played in the World Series within two years of each previous winner.

DeGrom, 26, made 22 starts and won the NL Rookie Triple Crown leading NL rookies in strikeouts (144), ERA (2.69) and tying for the league lead with nine wins.

“I’m truly honored to receive this award and would like to thank the BBWAA,” said deGrom in a statement released by the team. “I wouldn’t have won if it wasn’t for the support of my teammates. I’m already looking forward to 2015 and helping the Mets reach the postseason.”

Said manager Terry Collins: “His journey has been unbelievable.  When we promoted him he was supposed to go to the bullpen but an injury forced him into the rotation. This award speaks to Jacob’s determination and desire to succeed.”

DeGrom was named the NL Rookie of the Month for July and for September by Major League Baseball and went 6-1 with a 2.16 ERA (16 earned runs/66.2 innings) in 10 starts after the All-Star break.

NOTE: Update to follow.