Jul 16

Dozen Questions Facing Mets In Second Half

The New York Mets vowed to be competitive this season, and when the second half begins tomorrow in St. Louis they still have a chance to play for October.

Seriously, it could happen depending how the following dozen questions are answered:

HARVEY: A lot expected of him. (AP)

HARVEY: A lot expected of him. (AP)

1. Question: Will they get off to a hot start in the second half?

Answer: The Mets open the second half at St. Louis and Washington, and at home to Los Angeles. The combined record of those three teams is 155-111 (.583). They are five games over .500, and by August they could be making strides in either direction. How fast they get out of the gate will have Alderson thinking whether the Mets are in the hunt or are done for the year.

2. Question: Will GM Sandy Alderson do anything to bring in a veteran bat?

Answer: If Alderson believes the Mets are in it, what will he do? Alderson has repeatedly said the trade market is slim. We know the Mets won’t get Todd Frazier or Troy Tulowitzki. They simply don’t want to part with their young pitching; and in the case of Tulowitzki, they don’t want to take on salary; and with Frazier, they don’t want a rental. The Mets will probably, if they do anything at all, attempt to bolster their bench. Kirk Nieuwenhuis is on that bench, and who doesn’t believe Alderson isn’t thinking his three-homer game in the first-half finale has him thinking the Mets’ offensive problems could be over. Trust me, they are not.

3. Question: If Alderson gets frisky, who will get traded?

Answer: We know it won’t be Noah Syndergaard, whom teams covet. We also know Alderson wanted to deal Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon over the winter. We also know Daniel Murphy likely won’t be back next year, so in Alderson’s ideal world he’d want to get something for Murphy. However, with David Wright’s return iffy at best, the Mets need him to play third base. Niese and Bartolo could conceivably be traded, but not if the Mets are a contender.

4. Question: Who gets hurt?

Answer: It is anybody’s guess, and considering the Mets have already had over a dozen players this season on the disabled list and there’s no telling who might be next. Steven Matz will be out until probably September, and nobody knows when David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud will be activated from the disabled list.

5. Question: Will Matt Harvey pitch like an ace?

Answer: He hasn’t so far with an 8-6 first-half record. Attempts have been made to monitor his innings, but at this rate he’ll finish with over 200, which would make October dicey if they are lucky to get so far.

6. Question: What will become of the six-man rotation?

Answer: The Mets aren’t saying yet, which is par for the course considering they didn’t have a plan entering the season. Should the opt for the six-man rotation, the sixth starter will be either Logan Verrett or Dillon Gee.

7. Question: Will the young stud pitchers keep it up?

Answer: Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard have been brilliant. Last year’s Rookie of the Year, deGrom, is an All-Star and Syndergaard is pitching as if he could be this year’s Rookie of Year.

8. Question: Will Lucas Duda awaken?

Answer: Two homers heading into the break were positive signs. However, he’s hit 12 overall and on pace for 22 homers and 69 RBI, which won’t get it done.

9. Question: Will Michael Cuddyer and Curtis Granderson come close to expectations?

Answer: So far they haven’t with a combined 20 homers and 58 RBI. Either would be fortunate to have those numbers at the end of the year.

10. Question: Will Juan Lagares come close to playing up to his contract?

Answer: He’s hitting .256 with three homers and 25 RBI, and a paltry .284 on-base percentage. He has 60 strikeouts and only ten walks. He hasn’t been red hot in the field, either, with balls getting hit over his head that weren’t before, and not being able to throw consistently. So far, the first season of his four-year deal hasn’t been good.

11. Question: Will Wilmer Flores show enough at second base so that it will become his position?

Answer: The Mets didn’t want to go this route, but since they are in contention had no choice. He made some progress at shortstop, but not enough.

12. Question: Going under the assumption they won’t add a shortstop, how well will Ruben Tejada play?

Answer: He’s done all right defensively, but his offense remains weak with a .237 average and .316 on-base percentage. On a poor offensive team, he could be the weakest link.

Jun 01

Mets Issues Heading Into June

Honestly, had to you told me heading into the season the Mets would be five games over .500 and a half-game out of first place on June 1, I would have signed up for it in a heartbeat.

So would you.

However, after an 11-game winning streak in April, one would think they would be better than they are at the start of their first West Coast trip of the season. The Mets face a myriad of questions following a sluggish 13-15 May:

1. Can they win on the road?

A: They are 7-15 this year away from Citi Field and have 15 games on the road in June.

2. Can they win outside the division?

A: To date the Mets are 4-10 outside the NL East with only six games – all against the Braves – within the division during June.

3. Will the six-man rotation work?

A: Manager Terry Collins said he’s committed to it until August. With only two off days this month, they’ll need to make this work, especially with an innings watch on Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom. This move was made primarily to protect Harvey, but no starter is really on board with this. This move was also necessary because the Mets had no definitive plan for Harvey entering the season.

4. What’s wrong with Harvey?

A: He hasn’t won in five starts, but pitched well enough to win three of them. And, the bullpen twice coughed up to 1-0 leads in the late innings. He’s been throwing consistently in the mid-90s and the belief is something is amiss with his mechanics. He will next pitch Thursday in Arizona.

5. Is this the beginning of the end for Jon Niese?

A: Niese says he’s healthy, but he’s been hammered and has lost five of his last six decisions. He hasn’t made it past the sixth inning in his last four starts.

6. Can Bartolo Colon keep this run going?

A: Take away Colon and the Mets are in third place in the NL East and possibly not even a .500 team. But, he’s 41 and this can’t last forever. The six-man rotation is as important to Colon as it is Harvey.

7. What can Dillon Gee give the Mets?

A: The Mets are hell bent on trading Gee, and their best chance to get something back is for him to pitch well and create interest heading into July.

8. Can they get something from their catchers?

A: Travis d’Arnaud, on the disabled list with a fractured finger, had a setback. His replacement, Kevin Plawecki, hasn’t shown enough to stay up here when d’Arnaud returns.

9. When will David Wright return?

A: Your guess is as good as anybody’s. He’s had several setbacks since going on the disabled list. His replacement Eric Campbell didn’t pan out and now Ruben Tejada is getting the chance to win the third base job.

10. Will Juan Lagares hit?

A: Lagares hit in April, but not May. He got the contract because of his glove and the promise he would eventually hit. There’s nobody else who can play center for the Mets, so they’ll have to stick with Lagares.

11. Will Curtis Granderson supply any power?

A: Granderson is on pace for 19 homers and 50 RBI, which might be decent numbers for a leadoff hitter. Of course, at the start of spring training he was supposed to supply middle-of-the-order power.

12. Will they ever get off Wilmer Flores’ back?

A: Probably not. Flores has ten errors, but leads the team with eight homers. Of course, there will always be Troy Tulowitzki rumors, but as you can see the Mets have more pressing issues.

13. Will the bullpen stabilize?

A: It was good in April, but a lot of things were good in April. Jeurys Familia should be an All-Star, but there’s been little else that’s consistent with the bullpen.

14. Will Lucas Duda go on a power tear?

A: He has stiffness in his knee after getting hit by a pitch over the weekend. Duda homered 30 times last year and is on pace to hit 29 this season. However, he’s on pace to drive in only 79 runs season.

15. Will the Mets add anybody to their dismal offense?

A: They keep saying when Wright returns that will act as a trade, but that’s simply a cliché for a team that’s not likely to do anything. They aren’t going to get Tulowitzki, and I’m not betting on Martin Prado, either. It takes a proactive team that will make a deal in June, and frankly, I don’t see the Mets being such a team.