Apr 11

Mets Matters: What Went Wrong In Philly?

jeremy hefner

The Mets aren’t quite a Lindsay Lohan train wreck, but today in snowy and cold Minneapolis perhaps they can reflect on what went wrong in Philadelphia and some of these very visible cracks:

STARTING PITCHING: At 5-4, the Mets are better than expected and received strong starts in six games, but Matt Harvey and Jon Niese followed by three days of rain isn’t going to happen.

In three of their last four games the back end of the rotation has been exposed. Dillon Gee says he’s fine, but there was something wrong Tuesday night. The Mets might be better off leaving Jeremy Hefner home when they go to Philadelphia. Aaron Laffey is starting until Shaun Marcum is ready, but nobody knows what to expect when he returns.

BULLPEN: There have been some stinkers, that’s to be expected. But, nine games in and Terry Collins is already worried about overworking his relievers. That comes when there’s no back end of the rotation.

The pen is working close to three innings a game, and at this rate will be fried by July. If you recall, the porous bullpen precipitated last year’s second-half collapse.

NO POWER: Yes, they’ve homered in every game, but that’s misleading as most of that is John Buck and Daniel Murphy, with a little Lucas Duda on the side.

Nobody expects Buck to keep his pace (five homers in nine games), but if he did you can bet they’ll be shopping him in July if they aren’t winning. Ike Davis is in a dreadful slump and David Wright is joining him.

Of Wright’s 32 at-bats, 15 have come with runners on base, but he only has four RBI. Wright’s slugging percentage is way down with only two doubles and his batting average is at .250. He could use the day off.

Meanwhile, Davis has more than twice as many strikeouts as he has hits and he’s well on his way of duplicating last year’s slow first half.

Duda has been a plus, especially with his patience and ability to take the walk. He’s among the league leaders in walks. This patience will translate into home runs.

NO LEADOFF HITTER: This was a problem going into spring training and it is a problem now. CollinCowgill has the most opportunities, but hasn’t produced. Neither has Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who might be on his way to the minors as the Mets need a utility infielder.

Mike Baxter had the best game of the leadoff hitters, but Collins is reluctant to give him an extended chance. The same applies to Jordany Valdespin, who always seems to make things happen, good and bad, because of his speed.

OUTFIELD: The only constant is Duda, has Collins has gone to a platoon in the center and right, something he said he wouldn’t do. Marlon Byrd had a good start, but he’s not an everyday player.

CONCLUSION: Rocky times could be ahead. The Mets took advantage of solid starting pitching to get off to a 5-2 start, but that hasn’t continued outside of Harvey and Niese. The Mets need more from the back end of their rotation as to cut the bullpen’s innings.

The offense scored 19 runs in the first two games, but only 30 in the following seven. Buck is not going to keep this up all season. Eventually, Wright and Davis must produce or it will be a long summer.

Apr 10

Hefner Clobbered In Mets 7-3 Loss To Phillies

jeremy hefner

The Philadelphia Phillies handed the Mets their first series loss of the season tonight as they pounded the Amazins’ by a score of 7-3 in a game that featured six home runs at hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park.

Jeremy Hefner took the hill for the Mets and and for the second night in a row a Mets starting pitcher failed to get past the third inning. Hefner struggled right from the get-go surrendering five earned runs including home runs from Chase Utley and Dominic Brown. All of his offerings were up and in the hot zone and the Phillies made him pay dearly for it.

The bullpen was forced to deliver six innings of relief for the second night in a row and once again it was a mixed bag. Josh Edgin was nearly flawless, delivering two scoreless innings and striking out four in his sixth appearance of the season with a 1.59 ERA. He won’t last long at this pace. Scott Rice and Bobby Parnell also kept the Phillies off the board. LaTroy Hawkins was nailed for a two run homer and his ERA has now ballooned to 8.59 so far this season. He’s not missing any bats and hitters are feasting on him.

Lucas Duda had a coming out party with two home runs and a double and he’s getting his mojo back. He has his average up to .308 now and look is comfortable at the plate again. Good for him…

Jordany Valdespin is an absolute stud and made Terry Collins eat his words tonight with two more spectacular catches in centerfield that were jaw-dropping grabs.

On Opening Day, when Collins was asked why Valdespin didn’t win a starting job after arguably the best performance in spring training, he responded’ “We’re very concerned about Jordany’s outfield defense.” You may want to get your eyes examined, Skip…

Valdespin was a catalyst both on the field and at the plate where he banged out three hits while batting leadoff in his first start of the season. It was the first three-hit game of his career and they were all infield singles that relied on his blazing speed.

Did someone say John Buck? Man oh man, Buck is on one of the hottest hitters in baseball right now. He is unstoppable and at this point pitchers have got to be nuts for trying to get a fastball by him. His eyes expand as big as golf balls and he makes a meal out of them.

Buck hit his fifth homer of the season, matching what all the Mets catchers combined to hit last season.  I have no idea how long this hot-streak will last, but I’m buckled in and I’m enjoying the thrill ride.

Right now, the Mets have just two reliable pitchers in the rotation and it doesn’t look like there’s any urgency to fix the backend of the rotation. That spells doom for the bullpen who may become completely gassed before the end of the month.

When that happens, it will be a struggle to avoid a 90 loss season, and even the eventual debuts of Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud won’t keep that from happening. This team is in trouble and needs some real production from David Wright who has yet to homer, and Ike Davis who looks like a butcher at the plate. It’s not time to hit the panic button yet, but it’s certainly time to start passing around the life jackets just in case.

The Mets are off tomorrow and travel to Minnesota for a three-game weekend series that begins Friday night. Collins has got a lot of thinking to do tomorrow, and he may want to start by reconsidering some of his ill-advised lineup and roster choices.

Apr 05

Mets’ Jeremy Hefner Starts Against Marlins In Statement Game

John Buck started prepping Jeremy Hefner on tonight’s start with Miami hours ago. He started by meeting with Hefner and pitching coach Dan Warthen about how to pitch the Marlins’ hitters, of which Hefner saw this spring.

“How much that will help, I don’t know,’’ Hefner said. “I do know some things about them … and, they know some things about me.’’

HEFNER: Has an opportunity.

HEFNER: Has an opportunity.

After meeting with Warthen, Buck and Hefner will sit down and go over the signs and tonight’s game plan.

“I don’t want to put something down and have him be totally surprised by it,’’ Buck said. “We want to be thinking along the same lines.’’

What Buck is most interested in seeing from Hefner is how he reacts under pressure.

“That’s when you really get to know a pitcher,’’ Buck said. “It takes time.’’

Hefner will attempt to give the Mets a fourth straight strong start, following the efforts of Jon Niese, Matt Harvey and Dillon Gee against San Diego.

The Mets know Hefner from last season when he went 4-7 with a 5.09 ERA with them after injuries to Johan Santana and Gee. Hefner is getting another chance to stick in the rotation as a replacement for Santana, who is out for the season following shoulder surgery.

Is this a chance to show manager Terry Collins he deserves to stay in the rotation?

“No,’’ Hefner bluntly said. “All it means if I pitch well is that I may get another chance to pitch again in five days. If I pitch well then, I might get another chance to pitch in five days. There are no guarantees. Even if I pitch a no-hitter that doesn’t guarantee me a spot in the rotation for the rest of the year.’’

The following is tonight’s lineup for the Mets against Marlins’ starter Alex Sanabia:

Jordany Valdespin, CF: Collin Cowgill, who has struggled since his Opening Day grand slam get the night off.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: With Justin Turner getting three hits yesterday, this could be considered a surprise.

David Wright, 3B: Looking for his first homer.

Ike Davis, 1B: One game he strikes out four times; the next he homers. The production must go up.

Marlon Byrd, CF: A strong start to the season. How long will it go for the 35-year-old?

Lucas Duda, LF: His power potential could still be rattling around in the upper deck.

John Buck, C: Has a calming influence on the pitchers. Homered yesterday.

Jeremy Hefner, RHP: Has a chance to make a statement for staying in the rotation.

Apr 01

Mets 2013 Over/Under Stats

Baseball loves its numbers, and for the gambler in all of us let’s look at some of the stats that could drive the 2013 Mets.

It will be fun to look back at the end of the season to see how many of these numbers were reached. (Note: A notation of even indicates that’s the number.)

Total wins: 70. My pick: Over.

Wins for Jon Niese: 15. My pick: Under.

Wins for Matt Harvey: 10. My pick: Over.

Wins for Dillon Gee: 9. My pick: Over.

Date Frank Francisco returns: May 15. My pick: Before.

Ike Davis homers: 35. My pick: Even.

Ike Davis strikeouts: 135: My pick: Over.

Daniel Murphy average: .295. My pick: Over.

Ruben Tejada average: .280. My pick: Under.

David Wright average: .300. My pick: Over.

David Wright homers: 25. My pick: Over.

David Wright strikeouts: 110. My pick: Over.

Lucas Duda homers: 24. My pick: Even.

Lucas Duda strikeouts: 150. My pick: Over.

Bobby Parnell saves: 28. My pick: Under.

Wins vs. Washington: 9. My pick: Under.

Wins vs. Atlanta: 9. My pick: Under.

Wins vs. Philadelphia: 9. My pick: Even,

Wins vs. Miami: 10. My pick: Over.

Wins vs. Yankees: 2. My pick: Even.

Date Mets will be 10 games behind leader. May 25. My pick: Before.

Mets wins at Citi Field: 52: My pick: Under.

Number of staff shutouts: 3. My pick: Even.

Number of times Mets shut out: 10. My pick: Over.

Team homers: 139: My pick: Under.

Staff blown saves: 15. My pick: Over.

Opponents homers: 150. My pick: Over.

Times DL is used: 19: My pick: Over.

First time DL is used: April 20. My pick: Before.

Longest losing streak: 7 games. My pick: Over.

Longest winning streak: 6 games. My pick: Even.

Date Travis d’Arnaud is brought up: June 1. My pick: Later.

Date Zack Wheeler is brought up: June 1. My pick: Before.

Number of Mets pitchers to start games: 11. My pick: Even.

Number of pinch-hit homers for Jordany Valdespin: 2. My pick: Under.

Times Terry Collins is ejected: 5. My pick: Under.

Wins for R.A. Dickey: 17. My pick: Under.

Homers for Jason Bay: 10. My pick: Under.

Date of Jordany Valdespin first tantrum: June 23. My pick: Before.

Number of Mets on Opening Day roster who won’t be on active roster Sept. 1: 4. My pick: Over.

Player acquisitions made prior to July 31 trade deadline: 3. My pick: Under.

Date Mets eliminated from contention: Sept. 15. My pick: Before.

Most games Mets are over .500: 4. My pick: Even.

Mar 28

Daniel Murphy Passes Audition

Daniel Murphy passed the audition and said it was worth the risk.

Murphy, playing for the first time in a major league game this spring because of a strained right intercostal muscle, singled in three at-bats against Washington’s Gio Gonzalez, played five innings and declared himself ready for Opening Day.

MURPHY: Five innings at second; one hit.

MURPHY: Five innings at second; one hit.

Had he kept playing minor league games until Monday and was re-injured, his DL stint would be backdated deep into spring training. Should he get hurt now the clock would be running and he could miss the first two weeks of the season at least.

Considering how thin the Mets are, it didn’t seem worth the gamble, but it looks as if they dodged it, especially since he tagged up and advanced to second on a fly ball. Most guys don’t even think of such a play in the regular season, let alone the exhibition schedule.

“It was nice to slide,’’ Murphy told reporters. “It was nice to get the headfirst one out of the way.’’

Murphy understood the risks of playing in the major league game, but said he needed the speed of it to get ready for the season. Similarly, David Wright wants a major league game tomorrow or Saturday for the same reason.

“The speed of the game is obviously going to be a little quicker here,’’ Murphy said. “I actually was pleasantly surprised at how far along I was, and not even on the base hit. That was trash. … It was good to face (Gonzalez). It was really good to face a lefty with some velocity like that.’’

Pain wise, Murphy didn’t feel anything, so it was a positive day all along.

Figuring Murphy wakes up tomorrow without any discomfort, he’ll play second against St. Louis and Saturday against Baltimore at Sarasota, Fla.

With Murphy back at second the dilemma is what to do with Jordany Valdespin, who has had a good enough spring to make the 25-man roster.

When Murphy was down and Kirk Nieuwenhuis out with a bruised left knee, Valdespin seemed a lock to make the team. But, with Murphy back, reserve infielder Omar Quintanilla better defensively, and Nieuwenhuis again in contention in center field and needing at-bats, Valdespin could be back to the bench, if not the minors.

“We’ve got to decide who’s going to play center,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “Therefore, we’ve got to get Kirk some at-bats.’’

Nieuwenhuis is batting only .094. Unbelievably, if he and shortstop Ruben Tejada are Opening Day starters, the Mets could have two hitters with averages below .100 (Tejada is at .080).