May 03

Mets April Review: Matt Harvey The Bright Spot; Ike Davis Not

As it often has been with the Mets over the years, what was once good quickly and dramatically turned sour as 5-2 fell to 10-15.

The Mets rode Matt Harvey’s blistering start – they won five of his six starts – but have to be alarmed he was responsible for half their victories. Once again, the Mets fell victim to the same old vices that have crippled them for years.

The bullpen collapsed, the team went cold hitting with runners in scoring position, and they couldn’t overcome the gaping hole in the back end of their rotation and ended the month with a six-game losing streak and finished at 10-14.

DAVIS: Biggest disappointment of the month. (AP_

DAVIS: Biggest disappointment of the month. (AP)

PITCHER OF THE MONTH: Harvey was everything as advertised and yesterday was named the National League’s Pitcher of the Month, going 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA. In 40.1 innings, Harvey struck out 46 while walking just 12.

PLAYER OF THE MONTH: The Mets’ biggest bat belonged to John Buck, who hit nine homers with 25 RBI. The Mets insist he wasn’t a throw-in in the R.A. Dickey trade, but with Travis d’Arnaud out for two months with a fractured foot, Buck will not be dangled soon. The pitchers swear by him.

DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE MONTH: It can’t be anybody else but Ike Davis, who is on pace to strike out 196 times. Last year the Mets did not option Davis and let him work his way back to where he hit 32 homers. If this year’s start continues much longer, will they make the same decision?

SERIES OF THE MONTH: Playing in unbearable conditions, the Mets outscored the Twins in Minnesota by a combined 20-7 in winning two of three games. Harvey flirted with a no-hitter in the second game and the third was snowed out.

WORST SERIES OF THE MONTH: It would be easy to say their three losses in snowy and freezing Colorado, but that would be too easy. And, they deserve a break because of the weather. So, let’s make it the three games they were swept in Citi Field by the Phillies, April 26-28. The losses to Philadelphia comprised half their six-game losing streak. From there, the Mets lost consecutive one-run games in Miami, coughing up the lead in the ninth inning both times.

GAME OF THE MONTH: April 24, at Citi Field. The Mets couldn’t win a Harvey start, but sent the game into extra innings on David Wright’s two-out single in the ninth and Jordany Valdespin’s grand slam homer in the tenth.

WORST GAME OF THE MONTH: There were several to choose from, but let’s take Monday’s heartbreaker in Miami. Not only did they waste a Harvey start, but went 1-for-18 with runners in scoring position and blew two save opportunities in losing 4-3 in 15 innings.

METS’ APRIL BY THE NUMBERS: Buck’s nine homers and 25 RBI. … Davis’ .159 average with 29 strikeouts, which outnumbered his walks and hits combined. … Lucas Duda is second in the NL with 20 walks. … Daniel Murphy hit .350 (7-for-20) with RISP. … Wright hit .462 (12-for-26) with RISP. … The bullpen blew three save opportunities and has a 5.09 ERA. The Mets are 3-13 when the pen gives up a run. … Seven times the pen worked at least five innings, a direct reflection on the back end of the rotation. … Longest winning streak was three games and the longest losing streak was six games. … The Mets were 1-6 in one-run games. … Longest hitting streak: Eight games by Murphy. … The Mets used 22 different batting orders in 25 games for the month. … The Mets have used six different leadoff hitters. … Seven different pitchers started games, including Aaron Laffey, who started two and is no longer with the team. … The Mets hit three grand slams for the month.

QUESTIONS COMING OUT OF THE MONTH

Q: Is Matt Harvey for real?

A: Who really knows, but all indications are he is. Harvey’s numbers are impressive, but not as much as is composure and tenacity on the mound.

Q: How long will the Mets stay with Ike Davis?

A: Working in Davis’ favor is the Mets’ reluctance to move Lucas Duda to first base. Davis’ struggling also indicates how thin the Mets are in the minor leagues.

Q: Will they quit fooling around with Jordany Valdespin?

A: The Mets have used six different leadoff hitters. Also, Valdespin won two games with homers, but still languishes in a non-starting role.

Q: Is bullpen and outfield help on the way?

A: There has been some juggling and movement on the Vegas shuttle, but nothing of any substance.

Q: Zack Wheeler, how soon?

A: Wheeler is coming off his best start, but that’s not enough for the Mets to promote him. Should he have two or three like the last one, perhaps the end of the month?

THE MONTH AHEAD: The Mets snapped their losing streak May 1 with Valdespin’s homer Wednesday. The Mets are in Atlanta this weekend, a place where they have not fared well. There are few easy putts this month, as their schedule includes four games in St. Louis, three against Cincinnati and three more with the Braves at Citi Field, and four interleague games with the Yankees.

ON DECK: Later today I’ll continue my series on the 1973 World Series team, take a look at tonight’s starter and preview the Braves series.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 01

Mets Wrap: Jordany Valdespin Homer Stops Slide

Well, the Mets weren’t going to lose them all. Jordany Valdespin, whose personality would be ideal for an NBA point guard, hit a three-run pinch-hit home run in the sixth inning to lift the Mets to a 7-6 victory to snap a six-game losing streak. “We got some offense going,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “The most frustrating thing about the past six days is we’ve been in the games. We’ve given ourselves a chance, we just haven’t been able to create any offense. Hopefully today is a start.’’

VALDESPIN: High-fives all around after homer.

VALDESPIN: High-fives all around after homer.

ON THE MOUND: Dillon Gee (2-4) picked up the victory despite so-so effort, giving up four runs on nine hits in five innings. Perhaps him winning was justice served, as the Mets had given him just ten runs in his previous five starts. … Bobby Parnell, who was testy about being bypassed for a save opportunity in Tuesday’s loss, used just seven pitches in a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.

AT THE PLATE: Valdespin’s homer was one of many important hits for the Mets. … David Wright and John Buck each had three hits. Wright hit his third homer of the year and Buck added a two-run double to give him 27 RBI.

PARNELL BACK IN: Parnell was upset at not being used Tuesday, but was all business this afternoon. Collins’ explanation was he didn’t want to overuse Parnell and risk injury. “I heard it and understood it right off the bat,’’ Parnell said. “I’m competitive. Your competitive nature, you want to be out there and help the team. I understand what he said completely and I agree with it. Sometimes you don’t want to hear it.’’

BY THE NUMBERS: 6. Career pinch-hit homers by Valdespin, second to Mike Carreon in franchise history.

THEY SAID IT: “I wasn’t really pleased with anything I did today. I’m happy the team won. We needed that. That was good. Everybody did a great job. But as far as I’m concerned, I actually almost feel bad for getting a win today.” – Dillon Gee on his performance.

ON DECK: The Mets are off Thursday, then begin a three-game series Friday in Atlanta, with Shaun Marcum (0-2, 7.94 ERA) going against Mike Minor (3-2, 3.13).

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 01

Mets Fans Betrayed By Management

I don’t need to tell you this, but being a Mets’ fan is about being disappointed, frustrated and angry. It shouldn’t have to mean being betrayed.

After the disappointment of the Omar Minaya Era, which was highlighted by bad contracts – but at least he was signing people – the Mets were promised a new day with the hiring of Sandy Alderson as general manager.

Alderson vowed things would be different, and to be fair, they have been as worse is different.

“Be patient,’’ Alderson said, telling us it takes time to scuttle a team and rebuild with youth. Three years into the Alderson regime and the Mets still don’t have a bullpen, don’t have a major league outfield, the back end of their rotation is patchwork and there’s little depth.

Remember, Alderson was brought here – at the suggestion of commissioner Bud Selig – to get the Mets’ financial house in order. To that degree, he’s done well, shedding the Mets of the contracts of Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran.

Alderson got prospect Zack Wheeler for Beltran, but little else other than a fresh feeling for the removal of Perez and the others. After this season, he will be done with the contracts of Johan Santana and Jason Bay, the two biggest contracts given out in the Minaya Era. But, make no mistake, they were done so with the blessings of the Wilpon ownership.

To date, none of Alderson’s draft picks are producing on the major league level. Few of his trade acquisitions outside of John Buck have contributed, and the Mets remain the mess that prompted the management changes in the first place.

Only, the Mets are losing with a lesser payroll. Is that really progress?

If you’re a Mets’ fan this morning, you have to feel betrayed by what you saw the first month of the season, especially with what has happened the last two games. You feel betrayed because you bought into Alderson’s promises of better times to come and the spending during the winter of 2014.

Last night might have been the worst loss of the season.

After the Mets received eight scoreless innings from journeyman pitcher Jeremy Hefner – penciled in as a Triple-A starter going into spring training – their bullpen again collapsed. That’s three blown saves in two games.

It is easy to blame last night on third base umpire Tim McClelland’s blown call, but that’s only part of the reason why they lost.

They lost because their offense continues to be pathetic. While the onus has fallen on Ike Davis’ woes, he’s not the only one. The Mets have only one hit in their last 21 at-bats with runners in scoring position. The offense is dormant, and a lot of that stems from the fact they have no outfield.

Building a team is acquiring depth, but Anthony Recker had three bad plays in the ninth inning that led to the unraveling. Recker took accountability last night, saying he should have caught the pitch that turned into a passed ball; should not have made the throw to third, which because necessary because of the passed ball; and should have blocked Brandon Lyon‘s wild pitch.

Recker was stand-up about his performance, but he’s a Double-At catcher performing in the major leagues. He’s here because the Mets did such a poor job of building their bench.

And, why was Lyons in the game to begin with?

Bobby Parnell is the closer and should have gotten the ball at the start of the ninth. That was the formula, so why did manager Terry Collins deviate?

He said he didn’t want to burn out Parnell. Damn it, what are you saving him for, the World Series?

If he’s the closer, then he needs to go two or three games in a row. That he threw two innings the night before is avoiding the issue. Either Collins has faith in Parnell or he doesn’t. Parnell should have gotten the ball.

Even so, the Mets made a number of bad plays in the ninth inning, and missed several opportunities to lengthen their lead. Only, they didn’t execute, and much of that is because Collins doesn’t have the right pieces, and that falls on management. Why do you think the Mets didn’t post their line-up until moments before first pitch? It is because Collins didn’t know what pieces he’s have and if they’d fit.

Collins couldn’t rest David Wright, who has a stiff neck. Collins has to wait until batting practice to even see if Wright could play. He also had to figure out where Ike Davis would do the least amount of damage. Davis is batting seventh today, quite simply, because he has little other options on this level.

It is Alderson’s responsibility to give him those options. It is Alderson’s responsibility now that streamlining the budget has been addressed, of putting a representative team on the field.

So far, he hasn’t.

 

 

Apr 26

Mets’ Juggle Lineup Again Tonight Against Phillies

Terry Collins wanted to keep a set lineup, but that hope has long since gone.  Here it is, Game #21 and the Mets are on their 19th different batting order.

Tonight against Kyle Kendrick as several new twists, beginning with David Wright hitting clean-up, Lucas Duda batting fifth and Ike Davis dropping to seventh.

That seems logical; especially considering Wright is 9-for-18 against Kendrick, including two doubles and two homers.

However, what I don’t understand is why Ruben Tejada, who is batting .217, including .118 over his last seven games, is hitting second while Jordany Valdespin is eighth. You might not like Valdespin’s demeanor, but he does make things happen and he has speed.

Until Tejada snaps out of his funk, keep him eighth, and the same applies to Davis at seventh.

Here’s the order:

Mike Baxter, RF

Ruben Tejada, SS

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Lucas Duda, LF

John Buck, C

Ike Davis, 1B

Jordany Valdespin, CF

Dillon Gee, RHP

Overall, the Mets are averaging just under six runs a game, but are hitting .207 in their last seven games. With runs scarce lately, the Mets are hoping Gee can give them what Jeremy Hefner did yesterday.

Gee snapped his three-game losing streak with a strong start last Sunday with 5.2 scoreless innings against Washington.

“I think he needed it bad. I think it’s a great confidence builder for him,’’ Collins said.

Gee is 2-2 with a 7.03 ERA in six career starts against the Phillies. He’ll need the change-up that was so effective against the Nationals. The Phillies hammered Gee for seven runs on ten hits – including homers by Ryan Howard, Michael Young and John Mayberry – in a 8-3 rout of the Mets, April 9, at Philadelphia.

Apr 23

John Buck: From Trade Bait To Indispensable?

Several times this season John Buck’s fast start fueled speculation that with Travis d’Arnaud’s promotion the Mets might deal him at the trade deadline.

After all, who doesn’t want a hot-hitting catcher who calls a crisp game behind the plate? Most every team would and that includes the Mets, who, along with Buck exceeded early expectations.

BUCK: Proving very valuable.

BUCK: Proving very valuable.

It’s not as if Buck has gone from trade bait to indispensable, but he isn’t going anywhere any time soon. And, that has more to do than with d’Arnaud’s broken foot that will keep him out for two months. Buck is simply the Mets’ best offensive weapon and has been solid behind the plate, drawing raves from Matt Harvey and Jon Niese.

However, manager Terry Collins said it best: “John Buck seems to be in the middle of everything that’s good right now.’’

Buck homered in the Mets’ 2-0 victory over Washington Sunday, a comprehensive display of the fastest start of his career. There was the homer, giving him seven and a league-high 22 RBI, but also his defense and the game he called for Dillon Gee.

The Mets’ pride is their young pitchers, and Buck could be the same steading influence Jerry Grote once was to Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack.

Harvey has been the darling at 4-0 and a sub-1.00 ERA, swears by Buck. There’s no way the Mets break up that duo.

Harvey said he’s shaken off Buck maybe five or six times this year ins describing the same instinctual chemistry a quarterback would have with his best receiver.

“He already knows what’s coming,’’ Harvey said. “It’s really fun every time I take the mound and see him back there. It’s just positive energy. It’s more fuel.’’

It’s not luck or coincidence that has Buck putting down the correct fingers. It’s the culmination of hard work spent in the first nine years of his career. He keeps copious notes on his pitchers and opposing hitters, and they complement the game plan drawn up by pitching coach Dan Warthen.

On the day of the game Buck meets early with Warthen and the pitcher to go over the scouting reports and film. Later, he’ll meet with the pitcher privately. However, he talks to all the pitchers throughout the week, not just on the days they start. The communication is constantly flowing.

Harvey said Buck’s preparation is inspirational to the point where he’ll incorporate what he’s learned throughout his career.

“He knows what the hitters are going to do,’’ said Harvey. “The studying that he does and the video that he watches and the plan that he comes up with for each individual pitcher, it’s something that I’m learning still. And it’s awesome.’’

Buck and d’Arnaud’s lockers were side-by-side in spring training, and it wasn’t by accident, either.

“I like to pick his brain,’’ d’Arnaud said this spring. “He’s very easy to talk with and I’ve learned a lot from being around him.’’

Buck said in spring training he understood he was brought here to help d’Arnaud and that attitude hasn’t changed despite the latter’s injury. It’s not as if when he heard the news he moved out of his apartment and bought a house.

“My stance is still the same,’’ Buck said. “I truly feel if I do good, then he does good. I’ve been around too much to take positive thoughts out of something bad happening to someone else. … Until someone tells me otherwise, I’ll just keep going about my business.’’

Nobody will be telling Buck otherwise any time soon.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos