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.

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Sep 18

Mets Wrap: Josh Satin Delivers Game Winner; Ruben Tejada Fractures Leg

It was a situation Josh Satin has experienced countless times, even before he did so tonight with the New York Mets.

“Incredible,’’ Satin said before a crowd of notepads and cameras. “It was one of the moments you kind of dream about, especially for me, a guy who has been in the minor leagues for the better part of five years.

SATIN: Comes through in clutch. (AP)

SATIN: Comes through in clutch. (AP)

“When I take batting practice, I say it,’’ he continued before taking the role of an imaginary play-by-play announcer. “Bases loaded, down by one run, two out in the ninth …’’

What would happen next, after battling off four straight sliders from Sergio Romo, Satin had a hunch.

“After he threw me four straight sliders I had a feeling in the back of my mind he would throw me a fastball,” said Satin.

Romo did and Satin ripped it to left to drive in two runs that carried the Mets, who for seven innings had been listless against Matt Cain, to a 5-4 victory over the champion Giants.

“It’s easy say, `We’re not supposed to hit this guy,’ ” manager Terry Collins said. “This could be a big lift for us.’’

Prior to the game, Collins said he wanted his team to leave an impression on him and his coaches.

“Any time you walk on a field somebody is watching, and most of the time it is me,’’ Collins said when if there was enough time left in the season for a player to make an impression, good or bad, regarding next year.

“Every time you leave the field make somebody talk about you. Run hard to first. Back up a play. Throw a curveball for strikes.’’

The Mets did very little of those things for seven innings tonight, but there’s a reason why they play nine.

“If you wonder what our offense is supposed to be about, it was in that ninth inning,’’ Collins said. “We put on one good at-bat after another.’’

The Mets stole a run in the eighth when Matt den Dekker singled, stole second, went to third on Buster Posey’s wild throw, and scored on Satin’s sacrifice fly.

That appeared to be a cosmetic run until the ninth. Andrew Brown drew a walk off Santiago Casilla. After Lucas Duda struck out, Brown took second on a wild pitch, and Casilla continued to walk Juan Lagares.

Romo replaced Casilla, and faced Zack Lutz, who  pinch-hit for Ruben Tejada, who fractured his right fibula in a collision with Brown in the top of the inning. Lutz doubled home Brown – “It was a fastball out over the plate,’’ Lutz said – and rookie Juan Centeno, in his major league debut, singled home Lagares.

After Omar Quintanilla flew out to shallow right, up was Satin, home in his backyard.

This time, his imagination was real.

“It’s been an incredible year,’’ said Satin, “and this was the best moment.’’

TEJADA INJURED: It wasn’t so great for Tejada, who fractured his leg in a collision with Brown. Tejada will be out from six to eight weeks before beginning rehab. “I dropped down like I’ve been trained to,” Brown said. “At the last second he clipped my leg. It makes me feel horrible.”

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Sep 10

Mets Wrap: Dillon Gee Hammered; Some Positive 2014 Signs

In watching the New York Mets Tuesday night what struck me most wasn’t how much the Nationals torched Dillon Gee, but all the empty seats. All that green, along with the upcoming promotion for knit caps screams winter is coming.

Gee wasn’t himself with his command – especially the version who seemingly owned the Nationals – and dug himself into an immediate hole the Mets’ lackluster offense couldn’t overcome.

GEE: After Jayson Werth homer.

GEE: After Jayson Werth homer.

The Mets were 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven in the 6-3 loss. The Mets obviously had enough offense to threaten, but it was the same old story of not getting the clutch hit.

Offensively, the Mets have been aggressive on the bases, so it is hard to question the decision for Matt den Dekker and Eric Young to run only to have them cut down.

“We haven’t been hitting the ball out of the park lately,’’ was manager Terry Collins rationale for the attempted steals.

Even if David Wright and Ike Davis – the Mets’ power entering the season – were in the line-up it is a good thing to see them run. They’ve been doing it all season, and manufacturing runs is a must in any lineup.

On the plus side, Vic Black had a perfect inning out of the bullpen. The Mets need to take a long look him in the wake of Bobby Parnell undergoing neck surgery earlier in the day. Understandably, the Mets did not release a timetable for Parnell, but as with Matt Harvey, they have to assume they won’t have him, at least in the first part of the season.

On a down note, the Mets lost Justin Turner indefinitely with a strained hamstring.

Although they didn’t produce, I liked the combination of Young and Juan Lagares at the top of the order. When you have a weak offense, bunching speed at 1-2 is the way to go.

The Mets opened the season with questions from left-to-right in the outfield, but it isn’t hard to envision Young-den Dekker-Lagares next season.

Den Dekker contributed a two-run single going to the opposite field, which is a good sign. Collins said he’ll eventually hit for power, and there’s no question about his defense. Lagares also plays a strong center field, but has a right fielder’s arm.

The Mets say they want to add a power-hitting outfielder, but considering the loss of Harvey and indefinite loss of Parnell, adding pitching is the priority.

If the Mets can’t add a power bat in the outfield, they have to concentrate on pitching and defense – and hoping for the best from David Wright and Ike Davis.

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

Sep 08

In Retrospect Mets Made Right Call In Passing On Michael Bourn

Watching the New York Mets this weekend in Cleveland reinforced the adage the best deals are the ones you don’t make.

The Mets were heavily criticized last winter for their choice not to sign free-agent outfielder Michael Bourn from Atlanta because they didn’t to give up the compensatory draft pick.

Bourn was supposed to give the Mets the leadoff hitter they lacked plus a defensive anchor in center field. For the first two months of the season the Mets lamented not getting Bourn as they went through ten leadoff hitters before settling on Eric Young, and used eight center fielders with Juan Lagares having the inside track heading into spring training.

As for Bourn, the Mets didn’t miss his .263 average with five homers, 40 RBI, paltry .317 on-base percentage and 22 stolen bases.

n the end, the Mets waited, filled two voids and saved themselves over $40 million in the process.

SECOND OPINION FOR HARVEY: Perhaps the most important decision to impact the Mets over the next two years will whether Matt Harvey will proceed with Tommy John surgery.

Harvey’s initial thought was to rest in the hope he’ll be ready for Opening Day 2014, but conventional wisdom dictates surgery. In that regard, a decision could be made as soon as this week after an exam with Dr. James Andrews.

The sooner the surgery, the sooner the rehab and the sooner the return, but it isn’t expected to be before the start of the 2015 season.

MORE CALL-UPS: The Mets are expected to include Ruben Tejada in their latest group of call-ups. Tejada his .288 with 24 RBI at Triple-A Las Vegas.

Outfielder Mike Baxter and catcher Juan Centeno are also expected to be brought up.

TODAY’S BATTING ORDER:

Eric Young, LF

Daniel Murphy, 2B

Josh Satin, DH

Lucas Duda, 1B

Justin Turner, 3B

Juan Lagares, RF

Matt den Dekker, CF

Anthony Recker, C

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP

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Aug 29

Mets’ Outfield Prospect Matt den Dekker To Make Debut Today

Providing the weather clears, the New York Mets will run out another rookie this afternoon: lanky center fielder Matt den Dekker. This kid can fly and run down a ball in the gap with anybody the Mets have, but is a slow study at the plate.

Den Dekker’s opportunity comes in the aftermath of the trade of Marlon Byrd to Pittsburgh.

DEN DEKKER: Tracks them down.

DEN DEKKER: Tracks them down.

A capsule of den Dekker’s production was last year when he hit .340 at Double-A Binghamton, but .220 at Triple-A Buffalo. Den Dekker was producing for Triple-A Las Vegas, hitting .296 with six home runs, eight doubles and 38 RBI in 53 games.

Like other outfield prospects in the organization – Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Juan Lagares – den Dekker has had too high a strikeout ratio for his production.

However, after starting the season with a broken wrist, den Dekker’s strikeout ratio has dropped and he’s walking more. The speculation is the injury forced him to shorten his swing.

When the Mets opened Citi Field, they did so under the pretext of defense and pitching, but their first significant signing was Jason Bay.

From left to right, the Mets will likely go with Eric Young, den Dekker and Lagares, easily their fastest and best defensive outfield alignment they’ve had in a long time.

The projected power numbers from that trio would be too low for the major leagues, but theoretically it could be acceptable if they were getting it elsewhere, but David Wright is on the disabled list (he leaves for treatment in Florida today) and they are getting nothing from Ike Davis.

The Mets will use the final month to get an idea of what their outfield could look like next year. With the absence of Byrd, the Mets will still look for a power-hitting outfielder over the winter.

Should they obtain that kind of outfielder, it could come down to den Dekker or Lagares for the starting job in center. Lagares has been impressive in streaks, but strikes out too much. Defensively, den Dekker goes back on the ball better, which is very important in Citi Field, but Lagares, who already has 11 assists, might have a stronger arm.

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