Sep 19

Mets Wrap: Offense And Season Defined By Strikeouts

Another day, another ten strikeouts for the New York Mets. This time the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner toyed with them the way a cat would a mouse.

With the Mets at 1,299 strikeouts for the season (an average of 8.6 a game compared to 8.2 hits), it stands to reason a lot of pitchers have had their way with them this summer.

For all the talk of a lack of power, unquestionably the Mets’ primary offensive concern for hitting coach Dave Hudgens – assuming he comes back – is to focus on is shaving down that number. No, make that hack at it wildly with an ax the way most of his hitters aimlessly flail at the plate.

Pause for a second to consider the carnage if the Mets had Ike Davis for a full season, and John Buck, and Marlon Byrd, and Lucas Duda, and David Wright. As it is, the Mets had two hitters with over 100 strikeouts – Byrd and Davis – and three more with over 90 – Buck, Duda and Murphy. Totally, they had seven with at least 75.

And, Murphy is supposed to be a contact hitter. Still, there’s time for Duda and him to break 100. It will take some doing for Juan Lagares (87) and Wright to do it. Lagares, for all the raves he’s drawn, he shouldn’t have that many in just 112 games played.

As the Mets rallied in the ninth inning Wednesday night, manager Terry Collins emphasized how his team worked the count. But remember, in doing so it usually leaves the hitters with two strikes. There’s no leeway after that. Wednesday was the exception; what happened today is usually the rule.

There are a lot of theories why strikeouts are so prevalent in today’s game, usually falling on the emphasis of hitting home runs. The strikeouts are supposed to be a tradeoff for power, but the Mets aren’t hitting many home runs.

Davis, when he was here, said, “I’m a home run hitter. I like to hit home runs, and strikeouts are part of the game.’’

How well did that work for him?

The strikeout ratio with Mets’ hitters is alarming. If strikeouts were hits, consider these numbers:

Mike Baxter: .217 strikeout average/.191 batting average. SKINNY: He was the starting right fielder in the beginning, but has always been more effective as a pinch-hitter. As the Mets look to upgrade their outfield, he won’t stick with those numbers.

Andrew Brown: .296 strikeout average/.237 batting average. SKINNY: Just not acceptable if he wants to play part time, let along full time. Has some power, but could produce more with better plate discipline.

John Buck: .269 strikeout average/.215 batting average. SKINNY: Gets a partial pass because of 15 homers and 60 RBI, most of which was accumulated before his dreadful post-April slump. Also, because of what he gave the pitching staff, which is underrated. Still, consider what his run production would have been with a reduction of empty at-bats.

Marlon Byrd: .284 strikeout average/.285 batting average. SKINNY: In today’s game, an equal average is passable if there’s an element of run production, which there was with Byrd (21 homers/71 RBI).

Travis d’Arnaud: .212 strikeout average/.163 batting average: SKINNY: There hasn’t been enough of a window for him, but the first impression isn’t good. The Mets still don’t know what they have in d’Arnaud. As of now, Anthony Recker has given them more.

Matt den Dekker: .354 strikeout average/.250 batting average: SKINNY: There’s no doubting his defense, but the Mets wonder about his run production. His window has been too small to make a decision. He has speed and as he showed Wednesday makes things happen on the bases. He just needs to get on.

Ike Davis: .318 strikeout average/.205 batting average. SKINNY: That ratio says it all, especially when there’s little run production. Until his strikeouts significantly drop and on-base percentage (.326) improves, he’s not what the Mets need. For over $3.1 million, he’s no bargain.

Lucas Duda: .310 strikeout average/.232 batting average. SKINNY: Has not provided the run production (14 homers/31 RBI) to justify 91 strikeouts in 293 at-bats. His .351 on-base percentage is better, but there’s clearly something wrong with his plate discipline. Of his 68 hits, 29 have gone for extra bases, which is a good ratio, but he doesn’t make enough contact. His on-base percentage masks that deficiency.

Wilmer Flores: .222 strikeout average/.211 batting average. SKINNY: It took awhile for Flores to get here, and it will take significantly better than that for him to stay next year – regardless of what position he plays. Flores has five walks to go along with his 20 strikeouts, a ratio that should be reversed.

Juan Lagares: .242 strikeout average/.251 batting average. SKINNY: Way too many strikeouts for a young player, showing lack of knowledge of the strikezone and opposing pitchers. Also shows lack of discipline.

Daniel Murphy: .145 strikeout average/.281 batting average. SKINNY: For his reputation as a contact hitter with plate discipline, Murphy’s 30 walks are not acceptable, and neither is his .315 on-base percentage. In comparison to Davis and Duda, I’d rather have Murphy hitting in the middle of the order where he could have more RBI opportunities. That is, unless the Mets add a bat in the offseason.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis: .336 strikeout average/.189 batting average. SKINNY: He made a good first impression, but has been a bust since. Injuries are part of the story. He has little plate discipline with 32 strikeouts to 18 hits. Lagares and den Dekker have clearly moved ahead of him.

Omar Quintanilla: .223 strikeout average/.227 batting average. SKINNY: No run production to speak of, which is a throwback to the good field-no hit shortstops of the Bud Harrelson era. However, filled a huge void when Ruben Tejada went down.

Josh Satin:  .290 strikeout average/.285 batting average. SKINNY: Is supposed to be a contact hitter, but if he struck out less he might warrant more playing time.

Ruben Tejada: .115 strikeout average/.202 batting average. SKINNY: All right, injuries were a part of his problem, but there was a definite drop-off. He’s had a miserable season, compounded by breaking his leg Wednesday night. Unless convinced there is an attitude change found in Las Vegas, the Mets will need to upgrade at shortstop.

Jordany Valdespin: .210 strikeout average/.188 batting average. SKINNY: Call this a parting shot at Valdespin. There were productive moments from him, but not enough to warrant a full time job. And, his attitude makes a roster spot impossible.

Eric Young: .175 strikeout average/.248 batting average. SKINNY: Has 31 stolen bases, but would be pushing 40, if not more, with a .270 average and a spike in his 34 walks. With his speed, Young should be bunting more and slapping the ball on the ground. He resolved the leadoff situation, but needs to greatly improve. As he is now, the Mets need considerably more.

David Wright: .188 strikeout percentage/.309 batting average. SKINNY: Has 77 strikeouts and would have cleared 100 had he not gone on the disabled list. His strikeout average is high by his standards, but with a .391 on-base percentage and .904 OPS he more than compensates. He hopes to be activated for Friday’s game in Philadelphia.

Overall, the Mets have more strikeouts than hits, and less than 500 walks to go with their 1,299 strikeouts. They have scored 588 runs compared to giving up 589. The bare numbers reflect the season, but there’s more to consider.

Sure, Davis likes to hit homers. What player doesn’t? But, his 101 strikeouts, and everybody else’s, represent empty at-bats. Occasionally, a strikeout can be a positive, as in a 10-pitch at-bat that raises the pitch count, but outside of that, it produces nothing.

Better plate discipline would result in more walks and hits – which is a chance to score runs – and more sacrifice flies, which drives in runs. It also advances runners into scoring position, and in the case of a fielder’s choice, it adds another base runner.

What does a strikeout add?

I am old school and don’t follow all the new numbers, such as WAR, but baseball is a very simple game and has been for over a century. The object is to hit the ball, and too often the Mets don’t. There are only 27 outs in a game and they are to be regarded as currency. The Mets are a shade under nine strikeouts a game, which is giving away three innings. Overall, when you look at the Mets’ strikeouts in contrast to the games played, their whiffs equal 48 games of doing nothing at the plate.

An oversimplification? Not really when you consider a 68-84 record. In this era of numbers, their strikeout numbers scream the loudest.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 12

Where Is Mets’ Opening Day Lineup?

All teams evolve throughout a season, but the New York Mets’ transformation in 2013 has been staggering, with only second baseman Daniel Murphy and shortstop Ruben Tejada were in last night’s lineup at those positions. Lucas Duda started, but at a different position.

Here’s what has happened to the 2013 lineup in comparison to the team the Mets ran out there in Wednesday night’s 3-0 loss to Washington. Three starters plus the pitcher remain on the team; three were traded; and two are on the disabled list.

Colin Cowgill, CF: Was going to start after beating out Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker’s injury.  Cowgill was the starter for roughly a week after he was demoted and eventually traded. Den Dekker started last night, but Juan Lagares could eventually win the role next year if he’s more consistent offensively.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Started, but hit third last night. He’s been all over the top of the order. A slump followed a hot start, but he’s back up to .282. The Mets, however, aren’t enamored by his .316 on-base percentage.

David Wright, 3B: Entered the season after a contract extension and being named captain. He’s lived up to all that but is currently on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. Wright vows he’ll return.

Ike Davis, 1B: Slumped horribly before being sent to Triple-A Las Vegas. Eventually wound up hitting .204 with nine homers. There was considerable speculation the Mets would not tender him a contract, but he’ll get another chance to next season.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Signed for depth, but wound up leading the team in homers and could be its MVP. Eventually traded to Pittsburgh, where he could see the playoffs. Good for him. Lagares was in right last night, and could stay there if den Dekker develops consistency at the plate.

Lucas Duda, 1B: This guy just can’t play the outfield. Has improved his plate presence as evidenced by a .353 on-base percentage, but has not produced for power. Will compete with Davis for the first base job next spring. Eric Young was acquired at mid-season and became the Mets’ tenth, and final, leadoff hitter. But, for all his speed, he must do better than a .318 on-base percentage.

John Buck, C: Carried the Mets offensively in April before tailing. However, he was consistent all year behind the plate and has to get some credit for the development of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. His status was doomed with the promotion of Travis d’Arnaud, who has struggled at .152. Traded along with Byrd to Pittsburgh.

Ruben Tejada, SS: Played brutally in the beginning before going on the DL. Omar Quintanilla more than adequately filled the void. Tejada is back, but the Mets openly question his work ethic and commitment. He has a lot to prove, and trading for a veteran in the winter isn’t out of the question.

Jon Niese, LHP: Was the de facto ace and Opening Day starter because of the season-ending shoulder injury of Johan Santana. Niese developed shoulder problems after back-to-back cold weather starts in Minnesota and Colorado. As Niese labored and eventually went on the disabled list. Niese could end up being the Opening Day starter in 2014 with Harvey’s injury.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 05

Mets Should Already Have Several 2014 Answers In Place

The New York Mets say they are using September to gather information for their 2014 preparation.

All clubs not printing playoff tickets are doing the same. However, if the Mets were truly honest, you must believe they already have several answers:

Terry Collins: Quit the suspense, just announce it already that he’s returning. Based on what he’s been given, he’ll get another year. Maybe two.

COLLINS: He's coming back.

COLLINS: He’s coming back.

Ike Davis: After several years of non-production, interrupted by last season’s strong second half, and power drought following his return from Las Vegas, the Mets must know what direction they are leaning. GM Sandy Alderson said the roundtable discussions pertaining to Davis would occur after the season, but they must know the strapping first baseman will not be tendered a contract.

Daniel Murphy: Despite their posturing with Wilmer Flores and others, the Mets know replacing Murphy is not high on their priority list. The Mets’ needs far outweigh finding another second baseman.

Ruben Tejada: They’ll bring him to spring training, but if they were smart it would be with a one-strike policy. It’s one thing to have a poor season, but it’s another to have an “I don’t care,’’ attitude to go along with it. If Tejada doesn’t care, than neither should the Mets.

Wilmer Flores: With his shortstop range suspect, but how would we really know, since they never tried him there, what’s up with Flores? The organization has to know first base is where he should land.

Travis d’Arnaud: They got a picture of their future catcher, but it was a postcard, not a panoramic view. However, it was large enough for them to trade John Buck. Even so, they’ll likely bring in a veteran catcher.

Eric Young: He solved their leadoff spot vacancy, and that’s reason enough to bring him back. The team never looked so alive as when Young was running the bases.

Juan Lagares: In the absence of signing a power bat in the outfield, Lagares will start next season. The question is whether center or right? Matt den Dekker is better defensively in center, but him, Lagares and Young produce little power. Outside of Young, the only outfield certainty is it won’t include Lucas Duda.

Matt Harvey: Despite Harvey’s wishful thinking, the Mets know he won’t be in their rotation. They can’t push Harvey to surgery because that would be bad form, but deep down they know.

Zack Wheeler: They know they got a good one in Wheeler. Presumably, they already know they will monitor his innings. Unlike how they handled Harvey, they should already have a plan in place, and it should be to skip one start a month. That puts him at 28 for the season and a potential savings of 54 innings.

The rotation: Adding a veteran starter or two is essential. Daisuke Matsuzaka will not be an option. They should also have a tentative timetable in place to promote Rafael Montero. They had one for Harvey and Wheeler; Montero will be the same.

Jenrry Mejia: Considering his effectiveness as a starter, and now the void in that role, Mejia needs to go back to starting after he’s recovered from surgery.

The bullpen: Again, they know there will be an overhaul as LaTroy Hawkins, Scott Atchison and perhaps Pedro Feliciano won’t be back.

It will be another long winter, but the Mets should already have their plan in place.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 28

Holy UCL Batman! Mets In Trouble Without Matt Harvey!

Matt Harvey might as well play on Twitter because he’s not going to be pitching for the New York Mets any time soon.

Last night, while his teammates outside of Marlon Byrd and John Buck were taking batting practice, Harvey mustered all his strength to tweet: “Thank you everyone for the kind words and support. I may be done this year, but I will be back next year for April 1.’’

HARVEY: More than a bloody nose this time.

HARVEY: More than a bloody nose this time.

Then the Mets, no doubt inspired by this bit of news, went out to win one for Harvey.

I have no doubt Harvey will be back next April Fool’s Day, just not starting a game for the Mets. But, I can’t say that with any more certainty than Harvey can predict he’ll make a triumphant MacAurthuresque return.

“If that’s his tweet, that’s his tweet,’’ said Sandy Alderson, who didn’t immediately call off the off-season.

It’s great to be optimistic, but not to the point of being illogical. There’s just too much information currently not available, such as a second opinion after the swelling subsides, which could be in more than two weeks.

What I can tell you with certainty are the Mets would be foolish if they were to bank on Harvey’s return and making a contending run next season. The Mets must, and I can’t emphasize this enough, go on with life assuming Harvey won’t be in it until 2015 at the earliest.

Gloom and doom? You bet, but you’re Mets’ fans, you should be used to it by now.

As far as what Jon Niese did last night in shutting out the Phillies, it was simply a sign he’s recovering from his shoulder tear. It can’t be assumed Harvey will recover that quickly as every arm is different.

Terry Collins, whom I still can’t believe didn’t know about Harvey’s elbow until a few days ago, was accurate in something he said last night that nobody will feel sorry for the Mets and the final month is about auditioning for 2014 jobs.

I’ve endorsed Collins several times for an extension and believe he should return. However, nothing is a slam dunk in this game and Collins will be watched closely on how he handles this adversity. Harvey’s injury plus the Buck-Byrd trade – which was made for the right reasons – is akin to a punch in the gut. Niese’s game was a start, but wounded teams often show an initial spark.

The issue is if they sustain and return to play the alert, aggressive baseball they were before being swept by the Dodgers. Now, more than ever before, Collins needs to show he still has his team and will have them playing with fire until the end.

If they call it a season now, that’s a reflection on Collins.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 27

Loss Of Matt Harvey Leads To Purge; John Buck And Marlon Byrd First To Go

Not too long ago, I wrote the New York Mets should stand pat at the trade deadline to make a run at respectability, but with Matt Harvey gone for the year, that goal has been flushed. The gurgling sound you’re now hearing is the news the Mets sent John Buck and Marlon Byrd to Pittsburgh for infield prospect Dilson Herrera and a player to be named later.

The garage sale has begun and should not stop. With the Mets’ timetable for competiveness now 2015 instead of 2014, the Mets’ thinking should be to stockpile as many prospects and draft choices as possible, which means it shouldn’t end with Byrd and Buck.

BUCK: Gone.

BUCK: Gone.

Until the Aug. 31 deadline to make waiver deals, the Mets should be shopping Daniel Murphy, LaTroy Hawkins, Ike Davis and/or Lucas Duda, Scott Atchison and anybody else not fitting in their immediate plans.

Nobody will net a top prospect, such as what the Mets received for Carlos Beltran, but at this point it doesn’t matter. It’s garage sale time, so they should take what they can get.

Byrd was having a tremendous season, well enough for him to want – and warrant – a two-year deal, or one plus an option. Based on their history, the Mets would have offered one and he would walk without the team receiving compensation.

As for Buck, he evolved as Harvey’s personal catcher, but his playing time was reduced with the addition of Travis d’Arnaud. Buck played the good soldier, but realistically, he performed well enough to look for a full time job.

It won’t be with the Mets, and with Harvey likely done until 2015; Buck would not sit around. Catchers in a pennant race, especially those with a little pop in their bat, are valuable to a contender. The Pirates needed relief for Russell Martin, and it didn’t hurt Buck has a National League background.

Buck was terrific for the Mets, but they wouldn’t have gotten anything for him if he left after the season.

The Mets must now make a first base choice between Davis and Duda. It’s not likely they’ll tender Davis a contract, so get something now. That upside the Mets promised with Davis, well, we haven’t seen it.

Duda would be cheaper, so I’m inclined to believe they’d keep him over Davis. They can’t carry both, especially with Duda not playing the outfield.

Murphy is a reliable bat and could come off the bench as a pinch-hitter, and to an American League team, he has DH potential. And, does anybody believe they’ll bring back Hawkins?

Just a few weeks ago the Mets were thinking about .500 and second place. With Harvey and Wheeler, the future looked bright.

Not so much now.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos