May 14

Seeking A Villain For Mets’ Hitting Woes

Another night, another ten strikeouts, another loss. Hmmm. Let’s see, whom can we blame?

I know, batting coach Dave Hudgens and his approach to work the count and be selective; get a pitch and drive it.

k_104_lgThat’s it, his approach is wrong. It is why they are striking out so many times. They are taking, taking, falling behind, and then whiffing. Damn, it’s Hudgens’ fault.

That’s the current analysis of the Mets’ offensive woes and it is nonsense.

There is nothing wrong with the approach, the game plan, if you will. It is fundamental baseball, and it only doesn’t work if you don’t have the hitters with the ability to make it work.

There is nothing wrong in working the count and taking a strike. What IS wrong, is taking that strike if it is a pitch you can drive. This is about pitch selectivity and recognition, and Mets hitters don’t have it.

Remember when Yankees-Red Sox games lasted close to four hours? The approach from both teams was to run up the count. For the Yankees, when they faced Pedro Martinez, the magic number was 100. Once Martinez reached that number he became less effective.

Surprise, surprise, it works that way with all pitchers on a consistent basis. Some games they’ll have the stuff to go long, but usually they’ll break down.

imagesIt worked because those teams had hitters capable of recognizing their pitch and reacting. Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill and Manny Ramirez. The term used is “professional hitter.’’

Trouble is, when you look at the Mets, you don’t find many. David Wright, sure. You can even make a case for Daniel Murphy, but he’s in a dreadful slump, which happens to everybody.

We knew going in Ike Davis and Lucas Duda were strikeout machines. Looking at their roster, so is everybody else.

Of their most-used lineup, only Murphy and Ruben Tejada are projected to finish with less than 100 strikeouts, and their numbers of 93 and 79, respectively, are high for supposed “contact’’ hitters.

For all the talk of John Buck’s hot start, he has come to Earth average-wise and his power numbers have cooled. But, not his strikeouts; on pace for 162.

Here’s the projected numbers for the rest: Wright (106, which is a marked improvement from recent years), Duda (153), Rick Ankiel (154), and Marlon Byrd (139).

Even in his limited at-bats, Jordany Valdespin is on pace to whiff 65 times. Give him full time at-bats and it would be over 100, also.

images-1Given this, then why have an approach of taking pitches?

Answer: Because that gives them the best chance to succeed, if they have the ability to do so.

Early in the year we were thrilled about Duda taking walks and having a high on-base percentage. What went wrong is two-fold: 1) he fell back into bad habits and started chasing, and 2) he didn’t swing when he got his pitch.

Too often, Mets’ hitters still swing at garbage. In fact, they aren’t taking enough. Consider Davis’ last strikeout Sunday against Pittsburgh when he flailed at three pitches outside the zone, either low or away, or both.

If the Mets had a roster of guys such as Wade Boggs or Barry Bonds, who knew how to wait out a pitcher and what to do when he got his pitch, this wouldn’t be an issue.

But, they don’t. They have a roster of guys who aren’t major leaguers.

Pitchers know the Mets are taking, so they adjusted and are throwing down-the-middle strikes early and hard-to-reach strikes late in the count.

If the first pitch is there, swing at it. The approach isn’t about taking until you have two strikes. It is about driving one strike. Sometimes, that’s the only good pitch you’ll get.

Outside of Wright, who is getting better, few Mets know how to protect the plate with two strikes, which is shorten your swing, foul off pitches that are close, and go to the opposite field.

No, the problem isn’t the approach. The problem is a roster of hitters who don’t understand the fundamentals of hitting.

The problem is also general manager Sandy Alderson, who is about the funky stats of Sabremetrics, and has settled for a roster of players not able to hit.

But, the easiest thing to do is blame Hudgens, who after all, is only trying to get his hitters to understand Hitting 101.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

May 13

Mets Add Rick Ankiel As Their Season Goes To The Brink

How much will Rick Ankiel help the Mets is hard to say. After all, he misses on 42 percent of his swings, which even exceeds Ike Davis’ ineptitude.

Even so, I like today’s signing because he can play better defense in center than anybody else the Mets will throw out there. Plus, he can hit the occasional home run.

I guess best of all, is it should reduce Jordany Valdespin’s playing time even more.

Ankiel was hitting .194 with five homers before being released by Houston. Ankiel will start tonight, but the plan is to platoon him with Juan Lagares.

The Mets, losers of three straight to Pittsburgh, begin a four-game series tonight in St. Louis against the Cardinals, who have the National League’s best record.

Jeremy Hefner (0-4), Dillon Gee (2-4), Shaun Marcum (0-3) and Jonathan Niese (2-4) will pitch in this series against Lance Lynn (5-1), John Gast (0-0), Shelby Miller (5-2) and Adam Wainwright (5-2) for the Cardinals. That is a combined 4-15 against 15-5, which is about as lopsided as you can get.

After St. Louis, the Mets will have three games in Wrigley Field, where they have not played well in recent years.

The Mets will then have three games each against Cincinnati and Atlanta, and four with the Yankees. That’s an imposing stretch for the Mets, who are a season-low six games below .500.

It is sad to say, but the Mets could be a dozen games or more below .500 before June. Forget about them being out of it by the All-Star break, their season could be over before we get into summer.

Yes, the Mets’ season is clearly on the brink not long after they’ve thawed out from Minnesota and Colorado. If the rest of the month plays out as expected, then there’s not much else to look forward to than more Jordany Valdespin tantrums.

Here’s tonight’s lineup in St. Louis:

Mike Baxter, RF

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Ike Davis, 1B

Lucas Duda, LF

John Buck, C

Rick Ankiel, CF

Ruben Tejada, SS

Jeremy Hefner, RHP

May 13

Mets Better Off Without Valdespin

Two weeks ago I wondered why Jordany Valdespin wasn’t getting more playing time. Now, I’m wondering why I bothered to care.

Why should I, or anybody else for that matter – outside his immediate family – care about Valdespin, of whom GM Sandy Alderson recently said is testing his limits of tolerance?

Answer: There is no reason.

VALDESPIN: Will never be the man.

VALDESPIN: Will never be the man.

The Mets finished in fourth place last year and are in fourth now. They are a season-high six-games below .500, and after losing three of four to Pittsburgh, are about to start a stretch that could flatten them for the season.

Bottom line: They can lose with or without Valdespin.

Valdespin’s actions over the weekend illustrate he’s a me-first player. His posing after a homer in a blowout loss defined “bush league.” His post-homer comments put that assessment in bold.

“When you hit the ball, you got to enjoy your hit,’’ Valdespin said. “Every time I hit the ball, homer or something, I enjoy that. Every hit, I’m enjoying, my family’s enjoying, my friends enjoying.’’

Kind of says it all about him, doesn’t it?

Mets manager Terry Collins, thinking old school, acknowledged payback could be coming, but his response was inadequate and weak. It made me wonder why he should be manager.

“We’ve talked about this individually and as a group,’’ Collins said. “In the game today, you have to turn your head on some things. It’s done everywhere. Do I like it? I don’t know if it really matters. I can’t change the game.’’

Maybe not, but he damn sure can change his little role in it. Collins’ answer and willingness to put up with Valdespin’s histrionics, shows how dysfunctional the Mets are as an organization.

Valdespin styling after a meaningless home run was the epitome of selfishness and Collins knows it. While it might be the way of the world elsewhere, the only appropriate thing for Collins to say was: “Other managers can put up with that, but I won’t tolerate it on my team.’’

That Alderson didn’t say the same and send him down as punishment was also weak. In Alderson’s Sabremetric world, is there an adequate measure for Valdespin’s actions?

The next day Collins suggested there could be payback, and that it might be directed at David Wright was sobering. That the Pirates didn’t retaliate against Wright was a classy gesture on their part. Go after the real culprit was their reasoning.

They were right to plunk Valdespin, and I don’t want to hear any more Pollyanna crap about a fastball to the ribs wasn’t right. That’s the baseball code.

In that code you take your punishment and shut up. However, Valdespin went berserk in the dugout and slammed his helmet, drawing more attention to himself.

Wright, as captain, did an excellent soft-shoe trying to defend his teammate, although his words seemed hollow, as if deep down, he knew he didn’t believe what he was saying.

I wonder if Wright would have been so generous had the Pirates went after him in retaliation, or if Valdespin’s slammed helmet ricocheted and hit somebody in the eye?

Somehow, I doubt it.

Valdespin had no business being incensed, as he was the one who created the mess. His anger also indicates he either wasn’t aware of the circumstances or didn’t care. Valdespin doesn’t get that this is a team sport and not about him.

His actions scream “look at me,’’ as if he were a NBA diva. However, Valdespin doesn’t bring enough to the table to warrant the Mets putting up with him. They can finish fourth with or without him.

I prefer the latter.

May 08

Mets-White Sox Lineups

Overcast at Citi Field. The grounds crew is raking the infield and a few pitchers are heading to the bullpen.    Terry Collins should be speaking in about a half hour. He’s already posted his batting order for tonight’s game against the White Sox.

Jordany Valdespin, CF

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Lucas Duda, LF

John Buck,  C

Mike Baxter, RF

Ike Davis, 1B

Ruben Tejada, SS

Jeremy Hefner, RHP

 

May 03

Mets Wrap: Late Magic Beats Braves

As it usually is for the Mets in Atlanta, things weren’t easy as they rallied to beat the Braves in the kind of game they often would lose in Turner Field. The Mets tied the game in the ninth against closer Craig Kimbrel on David Wright’s fourth homer of the season and added RBI singles from Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy to win, 7-5 in ten innings. The Mets scored the game-winner when Jordany Valdespin drew a two-out walk as a pinch-hitter, stole second and scored on Tejada’s single.

ON THE MOUND: Shaun Marcum did not come up with the quality start he hoped, giving up three runs on six hits and three walks with four strikeouts in 4.1 innings. … The bullpen was taxed again, giving up two runs in 5.2 innings. … Jeurys Familia pitched the tenth to earn his first major league save. … Overall, the Mets used seven pitchers.

AT THE PLATE: The Mets got homers from John Buck (10th of the season with 29 RBI), Lucas Duda, Marlon Byrd and Wright. … The Mets were 3-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5: Runs scored by the Mets after two were out.

THEY SAID IT: “There’s a reason why No. 5 (David Wright) is a star.’’ – Manager Terry Collins on Wright’s game-tying homer.

ON DECK: Jonathan Niese (2-2, 3.31) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (1-0, 5.08), 7:10 p.m. ET.