Dec 19

Mets’ Pitching Is Precarious

Sandy Alderson did it again, speaking on WFAN he said he thought the Mets could compete in 2013. What he didn’t say was how he thought they’d be able to, much less define compete the term.

He asked for patience and hoped some of the Mets’ young pitching talent would surface this coming season. Again, hope is not a strong building plan. Without saying so, he indicated this summer will be another long one.

There were no definitive answers as to the make-up of the back end of the Mets’ rotation. Assuming Dickey’s 2012 wasn’t a fluke, the Mets’ top three priorities were building a bullpen, coming up with an outfield, and to acquire catching help.

Now, the top priority must be finding another starter. It always begins with pitching and the Mets have some holes in addition to those elsewhere in the field.

“First of all, you think about how to replace the 240 innings. That’s where it’s got to start,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “Somebody’s got to step up, certainly.’’

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Dec 02

Dickey Remains Mets’ Priority As Winter Meetings Open

They’ll start showing up today for the Winter Meetings, and when they do, the Mets will have a lot on their plate, but little hope of cleaning it.

Their first priority, now that David Wright is done, will be to extend R.A. Dickey’s contract. Dickey prefers three years, but would take two if the dollars are higher. You can bet Dickey’s agents will point to the $12-million, one-year deal the Yankees offered Andy Pettitte.

DICKEY: Do you trade a Cy Young winner?

Although Dickey is the Cy Young Award winner, he’s still only done it for one season at a high level, while Pettitte has over 200 victories and is regarded as one of the game’s best postseason pitchers.

While they are trying to re-sign Dickey, the Mets will also be exploring the trade market for him. However, considering Dickey’s age, career productivity and that many still regard the knuckleball as a gimmick pitch, the Mets might not get in return what they’d like.

Any team trading for him would likely want the chance to negotiate an extension, but their apprehensions would be the same as the Mets. Dickey’s best option might be to take the most money he can in a one-year deal – which would still set him for life – and enter the market next year.

The Mets’ next priorities are to build their outfield and bullpen, and bolster their catching.

There are four name outfielders, of which the Mets have no shot at any of them. Josh Hamilton has the greatest upside, but also the most baggage. The Rangers won’t give him a five-year plus contract, but could offer substantially less and see if he’ll turn his life around.

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Oct 26

2012 Mets Player Review: Jenrry Mejia And Other Spot Starters

 

JENRRY MEJIA, RHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: The Mets knew they had pitching issues entering spring training, so by definition they expected a need for emergency starters. They opened the season with Mike Pelfrey, Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee as their rotation. Santana and Niese were coming off injuries, and nobody knew what to expect from Pelfrey and Gee. Veteran Chris Young was signed for the inevitable insurance and closed the season in the rotation. The Mets forecasted starts for Matt Harvey and Jenrry Mejia, but most likely as September call-ups. The Mets figured they had Miguel Batista, Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia to make emergency starts in the event of injuries.

WHAT THEY GOT: Injuries claimed Pelfrey, Santana and Gee, and before it was over eight other pitchers started 58 games for the Mets. That’s roughly a third of their games. That, as much as any other statistic, explains this season. Young, who was signed in March, made 20 starts after recovering from shoulder surgery. He proved to be a reliable innings eater, so much, in fact, that it might earn him a contract elsewhere. Veterans who gobble up innings are always valuable. Harvey was so impressive in his shot that he’s going into next season in the rotation. For those not yet earmarked for a roster spot next season, Jeremy Hefner started 13 games, followed by Batista (5), Collin McHugh (4), Mejia (3), Chris Schwinden (2) and Familia (1). McHugh and Hefner had their moments, both good and bad, but made no lasting impression either way. The most puzzling is Mejia, who was coming off surgery. Although his numbers are better as a starter, the Mets still don’t have a long-term plan for him as there are factions in the organization who believe he’s better suited coming out of the bullpen. The Mets like Familia’s potential, but he was hit hard when he got the ball. McHugh, Hefner and Schwinden did nothing to separate themselves from the pack and Batista was what they expected, a long-man stop-gap.

 

LOOKING AT 2013: There is a need for Young, but he’s low on their priorities, even if the Mets don’t tender Pelfrey. Harvey is in the rotation, but ten starts isn’t a big window, so who wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a setback? McHugh, Hefner and Schwinden will probably open the season in the minor leagues and Batista could again be in the bullpen. Familia will be in the minors. The biggest question is Mejia’s role. The Mets have confused him by shuttling him between roles. For his own good and that of the team, the Mets should choose a role and stay that course until he proves incapable. Once a highly-touted prospect, Mejia seems to be regressing.

Oct 01

Looking At Mets’ Coaching Staff

Terry Collins will be back next season, but how many of his coaching. Jeff Wilpon and Sandy Alderson are traveling with the team on the final roadtrip, and discussing the coaching staff will be one of the topics on the table.

Published reports have pitching coach Dan Warthen returning, and considering the success of the rotation for the better part of the season, that’s not surprising. However, Warthen is in charge of all the pitchers, which includes a horrid bullpen.

Also on the downside are his mixed results with Mike Pelfrey and zero results with Oliver Perez. It is premature to credit him with any of Matt Harvey’s initial success. He should get some credit for Jon Niese making a step forward this season, and as a knuckleballer, I don’t know how much credit he gets for R.A. Dickey’s season.

The bullpen is arguably the Mets’ weakest pitching link. He’s had one year to work with Frank Francisco, who has been spotty at times, and Jon Rauch, who hasn’t pitched well. He’s had several seasons to work with Bobby Parnell, who remains an enigma.

Warthen has had three starts to evaluate Jenrry Mejia and had him during spring training. After yesterday’s loss, Mejia remains uncertain in the Mets’ pitching plans, although the plan is to send him to the Arizona Fall League to work as a starter. Warthen said a few weeks ago he could still see Mejia as a reliever, so it remains to be seen whether there is a conflict between him and upper management on what to do with the prospect.

Ricky Bones, mostly a starter during his career, is the bullpen coach. His job is primarily to make sure the relievers are ready, to get them warmed up properly, to monitor their pitch counts after getting up, plus some limited work on mechanics.

If Warthen is spared, Bones might take the hit.

Also feeling heat could be hitting coach Dave Hudgens. During the first half Hudgens received raves for how his hitters worked the count and their ability to produce with two outs. Neither of those were strong suits when the offense sputtered and became a liability in the second half, especially at home, where they had a stretch of 15 straight games of scoring three runs or less.

Nobody can blame Hudgens for Jason Bay’s failures for a third straight year, plus the mostly non-season from Andres Torres. However, he’s been exposed to Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, both of whom need to drastically reduce their strikeouts and increase their on-base percentages.

Davis had a miserable first half, but hit with power in the second half. He’s still mechanically flawed and gives away too many at-bats by consistently over swinging and trying to pull too much and striking out way too much. The same could be said for Duda, who had to be sent to the minor leagues during the season to work on his mechanics and approach.

Both Bones and Hudgens might be the fall guys for another losing season, although that mostly has to fall on the players. Unless the Mets are looking for scapegoats, there’s no real reason to dismiss bench coach Bob Geren, third base coach Tim Teufel and first base coach Tom Goodwin.

 

Sep 24

Time For Mejia To Put Up

I’ve been hard on the Mets for their handling of Jenrry Mejia, and rightfully so for shuffling him between a bullpen and starter’s role. I thought Jerry Manuel did him a disservice in rushing him up here two years ago to work in relief when the Mets had no bullpen depth to speak of.

All indications are his arm is fine, but it is time for some accountability for his performance, which has been spotty. In the minors he posted better numbers starting than out of the pen, but he was lit up in his start with the Mets.

Mejia opens the Mets’ final homestand tonight against the fading Pirates, and after that might get one more start before the team calls it quits for the year.

What kind of impression will Mejia leave on Sandy Alderson, Terry Collins and Dan Warthen?

As of now, when the 2013 rotation is projected, it does not include Mejia. The bullpen, well, that could be a different story. However, if the Mets project him in that role they should stick with that decision and see how it plays out. None of this failing in the bullpen in spring training and then being moved to the rotation in the minor leagues.

If it is the bullpen, it is time for Mejia to train their exclusively to get himself accustomed to the role and the demands of getting up numerous times to warm up, to entering the game with runners on base, to developing another out pitch to go along with his fastball.

The knock on Mejia working in the rotation is he hasn’t mastered his secondary pitches and doesn’t know how to set up hitters and challenge them. He also has a problem with a fastball that has plenty of velocity but not enough dip or lateral movement. Movement and not speed is the key to an overpowering fastball.

I don’t know what kind of damage was done to Mejia’s arm, and also psyche, during the juggling under Manuel. Maybe the arm injury would have occurred regardless as there’s little way of pinpointing the exact time it happened, especially if it is of a residual nature.

However, while the psyche is another issue, Mejia has to take some responsibility, also.

There’s a learning process to becoming a major league pitcher, and part of it is learning how to deal with adversity, handle pressure and act with poise. That is often the variable that ends careers. It is something Mike Pelfrey hasn’t mastered, and so too, Mejia.

Mejia can throw the hell out of the ball at times, but he hasn’t yet learned how to pitch.