May 16

Mets Wrap: Jon Niese Shines In Win Over Cards

Four more strikeouts from Ike Davis, another boneheaded play from Jordany Valdespin, and another lumbering Met thrown out trying to steal, and yet The Boys From Flushing beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 5-2, today to snap a six-game losing streak. The reasons were mostly Jon Niese’s strong performance of working into the eighth inning and four hits from Daniel Murphy.

NIESE: Breaks slide.

NIESE: Breaks slide.

ON THE MOUND: Niese was superb, and it didn’t have anything to do with the color of his wife’s panties. Niese threw first-pitch strikes to 19 of 29 hitters and registered 14 groundball outs. … He gave up two runs in 6.2 innings. … Bobby Parnell earned his fourth save.

AT THE PLATE: Murphy went 4-for-4. … David Wright drove in two runs. … Davis’ four strikeouts upped his total to 45 and put him on pace for 192. Here’s another way to look at things: If his strikeouts were hits, he would be batting .354. … Unbelievably, with runners on the corners and one out in the seventh, Valdespin bunted on his own. … Mets hitters struck out 11 more times.

THEY SAID IT: “Today was an awful day. I can’t really say anything else. Just really bad.’’ – Davis after going 0-for-5 with four strikeouts Thursday.

BY THE NUMBERS:  22: Consecutive hitless at-bats by Davis.

ON DECK: Matt Harvey will attempt to break his string of four straight no-decisions Friday at Wrigley Field.

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May 15

Where Would This Team Be Without Harvey? You Don’t Want To Know…

matt harvey

Where would this team be without Matt Harvey?

Is it safe to say that as of this moment, the only proven and legit core player under the age of 30 this team has is The Dark Knight of Gotham?

I like Jon Niese a lot, but is he a core player? Or just an number three pitcher who plays the role of an ace on a very bad team?

pitching

I quickly threw some numbers into a spreadsheet and I can’t believe how appalling the numbers are once you take Harvey out of the equation.

Two of our top three starters have ERA’s of 5.93 for Jon Niese and 6.13 for Dillon Gee. Our number four starter, Jeremy Hefner has got them both beat with a 4.28 ERA. You may recall me saying back in January that he would be a sleeper and best choice for fifth starter?

Then you have the pitcher who was supposed to help replace R.A. Dickey‘s innings in Shaun Marcum. The Mets gave marcum a guaranteed $4 million dollars and in return he’s already missed one month and since his debut is averaging 4.1 innings in three starts and has a team worst 8.31 ERA.

Mets pitchers are now officially the worst in the National League and second worst in the Major Leagues. And that’s with Matt Harvey who is in the top five in over a half dozen pitching categories.

That’s kind of embarrassing, wouldn’t you say?

Gee has been the latest starter to deliver an abysmal performance after allowing six runs and nine hits against the Cardinals last night in 4.0 innings.

“I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t even know what to say, really. I didn’t feel all that bad tonight”, said Gee after the game. “Physically I feel great. There’s nothing going on there. I don’t know. I’m kind of lost.”

You don’t say?

Gee and Co. is partly why the Mets bullpen has been as abysmal as it has. They are burning through arms at an unprecedented rate. Six weeks in and already eight transactions related to the bullpen alone. And it’s not as if it was a great bullpen to begin with. It was put together with sticks and Krazy Glue.

So while everyone is piling on when it comes to the Mets offense, the truth of the matter is that this team is quite atrocious on all fronts. Take a look at the evidence:

METS PITCHING RANKINGS

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METS HITTING RANKINGS

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That stinks to high heaven. It’s a shock to the system to even look at those awful, awful numbers.

I can tell you right now that Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud alone are not going to fix that. In fact I think it’s a sin that those two are being setup for a unfair amount of undue pressure, as if trying to stick in the majors wasn’t already challenging enough.

On Wednesday, Sandy Alderson seemed concerned that Wheeler is being looked upon as some sort of savior and he admitted to Mike Francesa that he wasn’t. But the fact that both he and d’Arnaud will be walking into this disaster is going to be something to behold and I don’t mean that in a good way. I wonder how they will handle it, and God forbid if they don’t produce immediate results and hit the ground running.

The other day on Twitter I tossed out the suggestion of just letting both of them stay at Triple-A and don’t bring them up unless this team turns it around. Losing is contagious. I know you all know that. If this is what those two kids are going to walk into, I’d rather wait and call them up in September.

At least in September they can come up without the pressure of having to carry a team that was poorly constructed. It’s bad enough that Matt Harvey has had to deal with this. I totally feel sorry for that kid. On any other team, but the Mets, Harvey would probably be 8-0 right now.

I don’t know if this is rock bottom, but heaven help us if it isn’t and it continues to get worse.

May 12

Mets Waste Another Matt Harvey Start

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METS CAN’T AFFORD TO WASTE HARVEY (AP)

Terry Collins said the Mets are a different team with Matt Harvey, and that he gives them a presence a chance to win once every five days.

That makes it is especially troubling when they waste one of his starts, as they did in Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Harvey, who flirted with perfection in his previous start Tuesday against the White Sox, has given up two runs over 16 innings in his last two games. After winning his first four starts, he’s had four no-decisions in his last four, giving up just five runs.

“He did his job,’’ Collins said of Harvey. “He can’t do the hitting for us. We needed him to take us deep into the game and that’s what he did. Matt did exactly what we wanted.’’

In defeat, the Mets lost three of four to Pittsburgh – a team they thought they should to beat, or at least compete against – and finished their homestand 2-4. They didn’t score more than three runs in any game of the homestand, and scored four or fewer runs in 15 of their last 17 games.

Since beating the Dodgers, April 24, the Mets have gone from 10-9 to 14-20. The Mets will try to get better Monday when they begin a four-game series at St. Louis, which has the best record in the National League.

RECORD/STANDINGS: 14-20, 4th place NL East.

ON THE MOUND: Harvey did not have his best stuff, but gave up only two runs on five hits in seven innings. He walked two, but struck out a season-low four. It was still a quality start, and one the Mets would take every time.

“That’s what we’re going to come to expect from that guy,’’ Collins said.

The Mets’ bullpen wasn’t able to pick up Harvey, with the Collins inexplicably letting lefthander Scott Rice in to walk Andrew McCutchen with one out in the eighth.

AT THE PLATE: Collins juggled his batting order once again, making it 30 different lineups in 34 games. For the first time this season he had Ike Davis and Lucas Duda back-to-back. He said he’ll leave it that way for the immediate future.

Duda homered, but Davis continued to give them nothing, striking out two more times, including taking three miserable swings on balls out of the strike zone with one out and the tying run on third in the eighth.

THEY SAID IT: “It was a disappointing at-bat for him,’’ Collins said of Davis’ strikeout in the eighth.

BY THE NUMBERS: 28: Strikeouts by Mets’ hitters the past two games.

ON DECK: Jeremy Hefner (0-4), Dillon Gee (2-4), Shaun Marcum (0-3) and Jon Niese (2-4) is the schedule rotation as the Mets begin a four-game series Monday in St. Louis. That’s a combined 4-15 before Harvey starts again.

Following the Cardinals, the Mets have a three-game series at Wrigley Field before three games each against Cincinnati and four against the Yankees.

May 11

Jon Niese’s Injury-Related Bad Habits Root To Rout

Including today’s 11-2 flameout loss to Pittsburgh, the Mets have lost Jon Niese’s last five starts, with him giving up 22 runs and not getting out of the fifth inning in three of them. He has not come close to resembling what the Mets think he should be, and that’s the No. 1 starter in their rotation.

The first game in that slide, April 18 at Colorado, and the one preceding it, April 12, at Minnesota, were played in temperatures in the high 20s. Manager Terry Collins said the cold might have had a residual effect on Niese. Niese beat the Twins, but was given double-digit runs of support.

“I think there might be. He’s had some stiffness in his back,’’ Collins said when asked if there is a connection between working in the cold and his following ineffectiveness. “He’s had trouble getting loose and (prior to his May 5 start at Atlanta) he didn’t have a good bullpen session.’’

The only thing surprising about this issue with Niese is the injury wasn’t worse and there haven’t been more weather-related injuries. This has always been one of my pet peeves about playing in lousy weather. The owners have such steep investments in their players, and yet they have no qualms about playing games in precarious conditions. This is also an issue the Major League Baseball Players Association has glossed over. Playing conditions have never been high on the MLBPA’s pecking order in negotiating with the owners.

It’s usually about money and drug testing, but working conditions somehow get ignored.

Niese, who gave up eight runs in 4.1 innings today, said to compensate for the soreness and stiffness he developed the bad habit of dropping his arm angle during his release. Consequently, hitters have been able to pick up the ball out of his hand earlier.

“I think it’s to the point now where I created a bad habit with dropping down my arm angle, and I’m kind of opening everything up,’’ Niese said, adding he wasn’t bothered by pain today. “It’s something I’m going to work on in the bullpen to get it back.’’

Niese said there’s no deception in his delivery and hitters aren’t chasing the pitchers they normally might. They are able to pick up his release point earlier, and that split second makes a tremendous difference to the hitters.

Niese is hopeful of working his release point issue out in the bullpen this week before making Thursday’s start in St. Louis against Adam Wainwright.

May 09

Mets Shouldn’t Even Think Of Extending Ike Davis

During the offseason and in spring training I wrote in the interest of financial certainty, that the Mets should consider signing Ike Davis to a long-term contract as to bypass his arbitration years.

After 32 homers last season because of a strong second half, I thought Davis might be a keeper and they should do for him what they did for Jon Niese and David Wright. Lock up your investments early to keep them out of arbitration and the free-agent market is sound business. Lots of teams sign their can’t-miss youth at prices they can control in the future. In 2006, the Mets did it with Jose Reyes and Wright.

DAVIS: Another stroll to the dugout. (AP)

DAVIS: Another stroll to the dugout. (AP)

Only problem is Davis isn’t a can’t miss, but a swing-and-a-miss.

When he first arrived, Davis showed great power potential, but also was able to be selective and go to the opposite field. He showed an ability to act like a hitter. He did it the other night when he drew a walk in the tenth inning and scored the winning run in the Matt Harvey game.

“In that situation the pitcher knows the batter will be trying to hit it out of the park,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “He’ll be trying to get the batter to chase after a bad pitch, but Ike resisted.’’

It was a good piece of hitting, but one we’ve not often seen from Davis, who tries to go for the homer, even on pitches low and away.

Davis’ slow start should definitely cause the Mets to resist the temptation of signing him to a multi-year extension. Davis is hitting a paltry .170 with a .270 on-base percentage. He already has 35 strikeouts with just 17 hits and 13 walks. He has four homers and eight RBI.

None of those numbers warrant giving Davis an extension, or even thinking of it.

We know Davis has the potential to hit 32 homers because he’s already done it. However, whatever run production Davis is capable of providing isn’t worth his 186 projected strikeouts. Davis said earlier this spring that “I’m a home run hitter and strikeouts are going to happen,’’ which illustrates a refusal to work on the finer points of hitting.

That sizes up Davis in one short, compact stroke, something we don’t see from him at the plate.

Mechanically he’s a mess, with a dramatic hitch and propensity for lunging at pitches. His mental approach is much worse. You just have to watch a few at-bats to know he has no plan or patience at the plate. Davis is supposed to be a young lion, a future face of the franchise, but they are already starting to pinch-hit for him.

For this, any talk of a long-term deal is not only premature, but absurd.

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