Apr 30

Revisiting Top 20 Mets’ Questions

Entering the season I suggested  20 questions the Mets would need to answer in the positive for them to return to the World Series. From performance to health to various intangibles, every team faces important questions and they don’t disappear just because it played in the World Series the year before.

At the time, I wrote I would periodically revisit those questions to measure how the Mets are progressing.

Here’s how they are doing:

Q: Will they have a World Series hangover or let down?

A: There were a few red flags and a 2-5 start, but they closed the month with a power surge, clubbing 31 homers in their last 14 games. Last April they won 11 straight. They closed the month winning eight straight and 13 of 15. There’s no appearance of any hangover and it looks as if we’ll have our Mets-Nationals pennant race.

WALKER: Mets' player for April. (AP)

WALKER: Mets’ player for April. (AP)

Q: How will manager Terry Collins respond to being a favorite?

A: So far, so good. I wasn’t crazy about him calling the eighth game of the season “must win.” And, I didn’t like him playing David Wright for the whole game Friday with the explanation he wanted him to face the Giants’ lefty relievers in preparation for facing Madison Bumgarner Sunday. What, Wright has never faced a lefty before? But, I do like him moving Michael Conforto to the No. 3 hole, which was the catalyst for the offensive surge. I also liked how he let Hansel Robles face Freddie Freeman when he could have played the lefty-righty percentages. Best of all, I liked how he admitted the Mets might have made a mistake in not giving his starters enough work during spring training. Overall, he’s done a solid job worthy of his extension.

Q: What’s going on with Matt Harvey?

A: After a 7.50 spring training ERA and 0-3 start, there were understandably questions about Harvey. A lot is always demanded from Harvey, and after making it through last season without any problems following Tommy John surgery, the expectations are even higher. He’s pitched better in his last two starts, both wins. No reason for concern right now.

Q: Will Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard pitch to ace status?

A: Syndergaard has been incredible consistently throwing in the high 90s. His secondary pitches have also been dominant. DeGrom missed time with a strained lat muscle and tending to his family because of complications following the birth of his son. Both child and lat are doing fine. He didn’t have a smooth start Saturday against the Giants, but as usually the case with him, he finds a way to pitch through trouble.

Q: What can we expect from Steven Matz?

A: I would say an awful lot. He was hammered in his first start, but won his last three. Matz has been terrific, but like deGrom and Harvey, he’s throwing too many pitches for the innings he works. That eventually could catch up to the bullpen.

Q: How long can the Mets ride Bartolo Colon?

A: Nothing has changed, the plan remains for him to be in the rotation until Zack Wheeler is brought up, which should be around July 1. He would then move to the bullpen.

Q: How thick is Jeurys Familia’s skin?

A: So far, it has been like leather. Familia recently has worked his way out of a tough stretch. He’s converted all seven of his save opportunities with a 2.45 ERA.

Q: How sturdy is the bridge to Familia?

A: This might have been the Mets’ most important pre-season issue, but the bullpen has been solid in all phases. Addison Reed has been a very capable set-up reliever and Antonio Bastardo has pitched well despite a poor spring training. Jim Henderson and Logan Verrett have been more than pleasant surprises. Robles is getting more chances to shine and he’s delivering.

Q: Paging Travis d’Arnaud, are you there?

A: Nope. Once again, he’s on the disabled list, this time with a strained rotator cuff. The Mets still don’t know what he can produce over 500 at-bats and might not find out this year, either. He wasn’t hitting or throwing well at the time of the injury.

Q: Will Lucas Duda be more consistent?

A: When Conforto was moved to the No. 3 hole, Yoenis Cespedes went to clean-up and Duda was dropped to fifth. He’s hitting .240 with four homers and 14 RBI, and again has proven streaky. Four homers a month will give him 24 for the year, which is short of his expectations. Also short of what the Mets want from him.

Q: Will Neil Walker make people forget Daniel Murphy?

A: Walker has been the Mets’ Player of the Month for April with nine homers, tying him with Dave Kingman (1976), Carlos Delgado (2006) and John Buck (2013) for the club record. Sure, Murphy was a terrific month, but Walker has been better than advertised. The question now is: How hard will the Mets try to bring him back?

Q: Is Asdrubal Cabrera an upgrade over Wilmer Flores at shortstop?

A: Cabrera has done it both in the field and at the plate. There’s no uneasiness when a grounder is hit to him.

Q: What can we expect from Wright?

A: Still nobody knows. It takes him two hours to get ready for a game and his back is always a question. Which is why it was foolish to let him play nine innings in a blowout game Friday night. Why push the envelope? Wright has two homers and only five RBI hitting mostly in the second spot in the order. He’s only hitting .143 (3-for-21) with RISP. It’s not about hitting for power, it is about hitting a single when you need it.

Q: One and done for Cespedes?

A: That’s the chance the Mets took when they gave Cespedes an out clause after one season in his three-year deal. If it does happen that way, it has been a fun ride. Cespedes still has his lapses in the field, but he’s locked in at the plate with seven homers and 23 RBI for the month. However, he is on pace to strike out over 200 times.

Q: A breakout year for Conforto?

A: it is sure looking that way. Conforto lit the offense on fire since moving to the No. 3 hole. He closed the month reaching base in 17 straight games and tying a club record with doubles in six straight. He has four homers in his last 14 games. Everything he hits seems to be hard and on a line. Plus, he’s making the plays in the field. He’s not a star in the making. He already is a star.

Q: Will we get another 90 walks from Curtis Granderson?

A: After a slow start Granderson is on a roll. He’s scored 15 runs in his last 13 games and has a .350 on-base percentage. He also has four homers. Granderson still strikes out a lot and isn’t trying to steal anymore.

Q: How deep is the bench?

A: Kevin Plawecki is now a starter with d’Arnaud’s injury. Collins needs to find a way to get Alejandro De Aza and Flores more at-bats. Eventually, the Mets will need them. Rene Rivera is now the backup catcher.

Q: Who gets injured?

A: That’s always the wild card. Right now it is d’Arnaud. Cespedes missed several games with a bruised right leg, then hit a pinch-hit three-run homer to tie a game this week against Cincinnati. Harvey entered the season a question because of a bladder infection. He’s fine now. DeGrom’s lat was a scare, but he’s also fine. Wright, of course, is always a concern.

Q: What’s going with the Nationals?

A: The Nationals sprinted out of the gate and opened up a five-game lead on April 16 that is now down to a half-game. MVP Bryce Harper is playing as if he wants to win it again. Their pitching has also been strong and Murphy is playing well.

Q: Can the Mets get off to another fast start?

A: An 11-game winning streak keyed a 15-8 April record last year and gave them a buffer to overcome injuries and a drastic hitting slump. The Mets had another strong April this year at 15-7, which they needed to keep pace with Washington. The Nationals come to town for a three-game series, May 17-19, and the Mets are in Washington, May 23-25.

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Apr 18

Mets Wrap: Wright’s Power Now A Bonus

The Mets were once a team built around the power of third baseman David Wright. Injuries sapped his power in recent seasons, and with Michael Conforto seemingly set as the No. 3 hitter, Wright is entrenched hitting second, a position in the order that doesn’t demand a lot of power. And, with Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda batting fourth and fifth, not to mention Curtis Granderson at leadoff, the Mets have sources of power from other than Wright.

So, when he has games such as he did Monday, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say his power is now a bonus. However, how he went deep was what we’ve come to expect from Wright when he’s on his game. When Wright hit a pair of opposite-field homers in Monday night’s 5-2 victory at Philadelphia, it shouldn’t come as a surprise of his power to right field. When Wright is going well, he usually drives the ball to right or up the middle.

“It’s something that when I’m feeling decent up there, I can take a pitch out over the plate in that direction,” Wright said.

In doing so, Wright continued to make Citizen Bank Park his personal playground, hitting .293 with 22 homers and 69 RBI in the Phillies’ home stadium.

“Star players should never surprise you with what they can do,” manager Terry Collins told reporters after the game. “He’s dangerous here. In this ballpark, if he puts a good swing on the ball he can be dangerous.”

And, with the other boppers in the Mets’ lineup, their whole order is dangerous.

Mets Game Wrap

Game:  #12  Record: 6-6  Streak: W 2

SUMMARY: Noah Syndergaard struck out eight Phillies – giving him 29 over his first three starts – and backed by the two homers from Wright, and solo drives from Lucas Duda and Neil Walker, the Mets evened their record and have now won three of their last four games on the road.

KEY MOMENT: Back-to-back homers from Duda and Walker broke open the game in the eighth.

THUMBS UP: Asdrubal Cabrera doubled and started a double play in the field. He keeps doing the job. So far, he’s been a big plus. … A scintillating barehand pick-up and throw by Wright to end the third. … Cespedes legged out a triple with two out in the sixth, a sure sign his legs are feeling better. … Duda followed the double with an opposite-field double. … Four homers by Walker already.

THUMBS DOWN: A dozen more strikeouts from Mets’ hitters, including two more from Cespedes, who now has 18 in 12 games with only four walks. The Mets have 98 strikeouts in 12 games (8.16 per game average). … Jeurys Familia was hit hard, but survived the ninth.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Great news. Jacob deGrom took his son, Jaxson, home from the hospital. DeGrom will throw a bullpen Tuesday and could pitch in Atlanta this weekend. … Kevin Plawecki started behind the plate. Collins said d’Arnaud could be available Tuesday. …

QUOTEBOOK:  “He’s gotten so good, so fast, that it is remarkable,” – Collins on Syndergaard.

BY THE NUMBERS: 11: Mets’ homers in their last four games.

NEXT FOR METS: Logan Verrett starts Tuesday night against the Phillies’ Vince Velasquez.

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Apr 15

Mets Wrap: Power Backs Colon

METS GAME WRAP

Mets 6, Indians 5

Game: #9 Record: 4-5 Streak: W 2

SUMMARY: The sluggish Mets’ offense got homers from Michael Conforto, Alejandro De Aza, Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker to back Bartolo Colon. The victory was the 219th of Colon’s career, tying him with Pedro Martinez for second behind Juan Marichal for a Dominican-born pitcher. For the first time in ten years, the Mets hit three homers in one inning on the road when De Aza, Cespedes and Walker connected in the fifth.

KEY MOMENT: Cleveland’s Carlos Santana’s two-run homer in the first was taken off the board after the umpires conferred and changed the call and restored the score to 1-1.

THUMBS UP: De Aza got his first three hits with the Mets, a homer, double and single. De Aza also made a sparkling diving catch in the ninth. … Wright has reached base in all nine games, and 18 straight dating back to last year. … Three hits from Cespedes. … They got what they needed from Colon.

THUMBS DOWN: A poor throw from Wright. … Still don’t like the idea of not playing Wright as the DH in the AL park. … Two Mets – Walker and De Aza – were thrown out at the plate on relays from Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis. Third base Tim Teufel waved De Aza home in the eighth. … The Mets also went 0-10 with RISP and stranded ten runners. … They couldn’t avoid going to Jeurys Familia in the ninth.

EXTRA INNINGS: Jacob deGrom threw a light bullpen Friday in Florida, but is likely to miss his second straight start Tuesday because of a tight right lat muscle. Expect deGrom to be placed on the disabled list and Logan Verrett to replace him in Philadelphia. Verrett threw six scoreless innings in replacing deGrom against the Marlins. The Mets finally said deGrom underwent a MRI. … Former Met Juan Uribe had three hits.

QUOTEBOOK: “I enjoyed it. I had a lot of fun and hope to do it again.’’ – Conforto on hitting third.

BY THE NUMBERS: 14: Mets’ season-high in hits.

NEXT FOR METS: Matt Harvey starts against Josh Tomlin.

ON DECK: Don’t Give Credit For Mets’ Power Surge To Collins’ Rant

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Apr 13

Mets Wrap: Verrett, Plawecki Pace Win

GAME WRAP

Game: #8  Record: 3-5   Streak: W 1

SUMMARY: Logan Verrett was brilliant in a spot story for Jacob deGrom with six strikeouts in six scoreless innings. He was backed by Kevin Plawecki’s two-run single in the seventh inning and Jeurys Familia’s five-out save.

VERRETT: Strong start today. (AP)

VERRETT: Strong start today. (AP)

KEY MOMENT: The Marlins had runners on first and second with one out in the fourth, but Verrett struck out Martin Prado and Justin Bour to end the threat. … Plawecki’s two-run single.

THUMBS UP: Wilmer Flores made two sparkling defensive plays. … Curtis Granderson got a hit for the second straight game. … Jerry Blevins retired Dee Gordon on a fly to left to end the seventh with the bases loaded.

THUMBS DOWN: Yoenis Cespedes struck out three times.

EXTRA INNINGS: David Wright has reached base in 17 straight games. … Jeurys Familia threw a five-out save. … deGrom will rejoin the team in Cleveland, but could land on the disabled list if he can’t throw in the bullpen.

QUOTEBOOK: “This was a game we had to have.’’ – manager Terry Collins on the importance of the victory.

BY THE NUMBERS: 9: Strikeouts by Mets’ hitters. They have struck out at least eight times is seven of their eight games.

NEXT FOR METS: The Mets are off Thursday, but then start a nine-game trip beginning with a three-game series in Cleveland. Friday: Bartolo Colon (0-1) vs. Cody Anderson (0-0); Saturday: Matt Harvey (0-2) vs. Josh Tomlin (0-0); Sunday: Steven Matz (0-1) vs. Corey Kluber (0-2).

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Apr 12

Mets Wrap: Syndergaard Start Wasted

GAME WRAP

GAME #7:  Record: 2-5.  Streak: L 4

SUMMARY: The Mets wasted Noah Syndergaard‘s 12-strikeout start and the offense struck out 13 times in a 2-1 loss to the Miami Marlins. Of the Mets’ five losses, three have been by one-run.

SYNDERGAARD: Mets waste his effort. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Mets waste his effort. (AP)

KEY MOMENT: Lucas Duda was thrown out at second trying to stretch a single in the first and the Mets left the bases loaded in the second. Teams can’t afford to blow a chance to knock Jose Fernandez from the game. … Dee Gordon outlasted Jim Henderson in a 16-pitch at-bat to lead off the eighth. He stole second and scored on a sacrifice fly.

THUMBS UP: Syndergaard gave up one run on seven hits and one walk with 12 strikeouts in seven innings. He has 21 strikeouts in his first two starts. … Duda threw a runner out at the plate. Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re going to say.

THUMBS DOWN:  Henderson finally gave up a run. Too bad it was the difference in the game. … Travis d’Arnaud is hitting .105 and Curtis Granderson is batting .074. … The Mets have only two homers in seven games.

EXTRA INNINGS: Despite tomorrow being a day game, manager Terry Collins said David Wright will play. … Rafael Montero will be activated for tomorrow’s game. To make room on the roster, Eric Campbell will be optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas. … Gordon’s 16-pitch at-bat included fouling off 11 straight pitches. It was the longest at-bat in the majors in two years. … Ichiro Suzuki collected the 2,936th hit of his career and moved into 33rd place on the all-time list, passing Marlins hitting coach Barry Bonds in the process.

QUOTEBOOK: “I’m concerned about them. One thing we’d like to do is get into some type of rhythm. We’re not able to get a hit with men on base when we need it.” – Mets manager Terry Collins on his team’s dismal offense.

BY THE NUMBERS:  52: Strikeouts by Mets’ hitters through the first seven games.

NEXT FOR METS:  Logan Verrett will start Wednesday afternoon against left-hander Adam Conley.

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