Jun 04

David Wright Personifies Slumping Mets’ Offense

We’ve seen this before from David Wright, a hot start cools and descends into a frigid abyss where he’s consumed by mechanical flaws borne out of a major psychological problem – the need to carry the Mets on his shoulders.

We can’t blame it on the pressures of being captain, as he’s fallen into this trap before, notably last season said manager Terry Collins, whose lineup includes as many as six starters hitting below .240. Teams can’t win with such limited production, and Wright can’t catch the free-falling Mets, who come into Washington tonight ten games under .500 and 11 ½ games behind the first place Braves.

WRIGHT: Where did this swing go?

       WRIGHT: Where did this swing go?

“He did it in the second half of last year, too,’’ Collins told reporters after the Mets were crushed in a three-game series in Florida. “When things started to go bad last year, he took it upon himself to be the guy to get us out of it.’’

The slide begins with a gradual expansion of the strike zone; the balls Wright once resisted off the plate he’s now chasing. The walks decline; the strikeouts increase. His average plummets.

Instead of driving the ball to center and right field, Wright falls into the habit of trying to pull, with the results often pop-ups and weak ground balls. His swing is now long and slow instead of short and quick. The more he tries to break out of it the more suffocating becomes the slump. There is such a thing as pressing and that’s what’s happening to Wright the past two weeks with a .163 average, .241 on-base percentage with one homer and two RBI.

Wright alluded to his problems after the Yankees series when he said: “I’m maybe trying to do a little too much and trying to make things happen. … I can’t be going up there and getting myself out or swinging at pitcher’s pitches early in the count.’’

However, that’s what he’s doing and it defines the futility and anguish of a slump. Wright hasn’t yet reached Ike Davis proportions, but is headed in that direction.

On some teams, a slumping player can be camouflaged, or at least protected, if others in the lineup are hitting. However, Daniel Murphy is the only one and he doesn’t do it with power. Considering his track record, Davis’ homer Sunday must be looked at as an aberration and not a sign of a breakout. Lucas Duda has 10 homers, but only 20 RBI, which the more you think about it is hard to believe. It’s almost unfathomable.

Collectively, the Mets are averaging less than four runs a game and hold the major league’s worst team average at .227. Their hitters are averaging under ten strikeouts a game.

At one time, you might have been able to say, “where would they be without Wright?’’

Well, they have him and only three teams in the major leagues hold a worse record than the 22-32 Mets. There are a lot of numbers that define how poorly they are playing, but what I find most discouraging is the Marlins have won just 16 games this year, with six coming against the Mets.

You’re tempted to think it can’t get much worse than this, but you realize as a Met fan, it can.

ON DECK: Looking at Washington series.

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Jun 01

Mets Made Right Call In Not Starting Zack Wheeler

It might sound as if I don’t want to see Zack Wheeler, but that’s not even close. I agree with the premise of bringing him up when he’s ready, with that coinciding with his Super Two status.

Bringing him up to start today in Miami in place of Jon Niese for a spot start would have been a mistake. Wheeler should be brought up the same way Matt Harvey last year, and that was to stay in the rotation.

A one-day start would not have impacted Super Two, but would have if he stayed.

Instead, Collin McHugh gets the ball and might again if Niese can’t go again. McHugh will try to get the Mets back on track after Friday night’s loss to the Marlins. The knee-jerk reaction is the Mets had a let down after winning four straight over the Yankees.

Let’s dispel that right away.

Despite Shaun Marcum’s meltdown after six strong innings, the Mets lost because they didn’t hit. They beat the Yankees in spite of their anemic offense, and they won’t take another step toward relevance until they start scoring some runs.

“I don’t think there’s any question. That’s still an issue,’’ Collins said. “We’ve had some great games. We’ve pitched some good games. We’ve gotten some big hits, which allowed us to win some games lately.’’

In that regard, there are some things about today’s Mets’ line-up that make me wonder, beginning with Omar Quintanilla as the leadoff hitter, their eighth of the season.

I keep hearing how Jordany Valdespin makes things happen. If that’s the case, why have him eighth in front of the pitcher? As long as Ike Davis is still around, he should stay eighth.

Here’s today’s lineup:

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Lucas Duda, LF

John Buck, C

Rick Ankiel, CF

Ike Davis, 1B

Jordany Valdespin, RF

Collin McHugh, RHP

May 31

Mets Must Do More To Stay Relevant

Shaun Marcum is pitching to extend the Mets’ winning streak to six games tonight in Miami. The Mets surprised some people this week, perhaps even the Phillies and Nationals, whom they trail by one and two games, respectively, in the lost column.

The Mets have three with the Marlins before heading to Washington. It sure would add some spice to the spring if the Mets were to close the gap on the Nationals before getting to DC.

PARNELL: Leads recent bullpen surge. (AP_

PARNELL: Leads recent bullpen surge. (AP)

They obviously became relevant to the Yankees this week, but there are several things that must happen for that relevance to carry over to the National League East.

It begins with pitching, and the Mets have been superb in not giving up a walk for three straight games. That’s something they hadn’t done since 1994, and almost incomprehensible.

The time is rapidly approaching when Zack Wheeler could be ready, but they should ride Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee – both coming off strong starts – for as long as they can. Marcum will stay in the rotation by virtue of making $4 million this year.

Mets starters are on a roll with a 2.91 ERA in over their last nine starts. The bullpen is also producing, giving up just two runs in its last 13.2 innings. The Mets bullpen has seven victories, but that can be misleading as it indicates blown saves by the middle-inning pitchers and entering the game with the starter either tied or behind.

Should the pitching continue the Mets could find themselves in an interesting summer. Stranger things have happened.

The Mets’ offense collapsed in the second half last year, and save David Wright and Daniel Murphy, there’s been little consistent production.

That must change, and fast.

Marlon Byrd came through Thursday night and Lucas Duda the night before, but more is needed from Duda and Ike Davis.

How bad has Davis been? Consider this, he has 13 RBI for the season. In contrast, Cubs pitchers have 19 in May.

Davis is batting eighth tonight and those whispers of going back to the minors are getting louder. As long as the Mets are winning, Davis is likely to stay. But, eventually he needs to get this straightened out.

Here’s tonight’s lineup against Miami starter Jacob Turner:

Omar Quintanilla, SS: The eighth Met to hit in the leadoff spot.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Has hit safely in 14 of his last 18 games, including nine doubles, two homers and 10 RBI.

David Wright, 3B: Hitting just .189  (7-37) in his last ten games.

Lucas Duda, LF: Has hit in 11 of last 13 games (.308), including game-ending run Tuesday against Mariano Rivera.

John Buck, C: Hitting .350 (14-40) with RISP.

Rick Ankiel, CF: Has two homers and seven RBI in 15 games with Mets.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Has 14 RBI in 19 games in May.

Ike Davis, 1B: Hitting .141 on the road with no homers.

Shaun Marcum, RHP: Coming off 12-strikeout performance in no-decision against Braves.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 30

Dillon Gee Pitching For Rotation Spot; Jon Niese Scratched

At one time, the Mets could count on Dillon Gee giving them five innings. They weren’t always pretty, but at least there was length.

Not so much anymore.

In ten starts this spring, he’s produced one quality start and only three times worked into the sixth or longer.

At 2-6 with a 6.34 ERA, and Jeremy Hefner pitching well and Shaun Marcum too expensive to option, Gee is pitching for his spot in the rotation as Zack Wheeler casts a shadow over the back end of the rotation.

“I’m always pitching for my job,’’ Gee said. “Nothing is guaranteed here. I know I haven’t pitched well. I have to turn things around and give us a chance to win.’’

That’s something he hasn’t done this spring as he has given up at least four runs in six starts and has given up eight homers in 49.2 innings. Gee holds a NL-high 1.73 WHIP, which is staggering when you come to think about it.

Gee will be trying to extend the Mets’ winning streak to four over the Yankees and five overall, before the team heads to Miami for the start of a three-game series beginning Friday night.

While there’s pressure on Gee, he might have caught a temporary break as Jon Niese was scratched this afternoon with tendinitis in his left shoulder. The Mets waited this long, so they won’t bring up Wheeler now, so the option is Collin McHugh to start Saturday at Miami.

The timetable for Niese is at least ten days, which could translate into a retroactive DL assignment.

Here’s the Mets’ batting order tonight against left-hander Vidal Nuno:

Justin Turner, 1B: Ike Davis’ two hits Wednesday evidently didn’t make that great of an impression as he’s sitting tonight. Bottom line: If Davis is going to play on this level, he has to hit lefties. Turner is one of seven hitters the Mets have used to lead off.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Leads team with 18 multi-hit games. He’s hitting .386 on the road.

David Wright, 3B: Hitting .378 (17-45) with RISP. Has nine career homers against the Yankees, most ever by a Met.

John Buck, DH: Cooled considerably after hot start. Hit the ball hard on a line twice Wednesday night. Hit nine homers in April but only two since.

Lucas Duda, LF: Had key two-run double Wednesday night. Hitting .167 (6-36) with RISP.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Hitting just .161 (5-31) over his last ten games.

Anthony Recker, C: Hitless in 21 at-bats with RISP in his career.

Juan Lagares, CF: Has good glove, but hasn’t shown anything offensively.

Omar Quintanilla, SS: Recalled this afternoon when Ruben Tejada was placed on the disabled list with a strained right quad.

Dillon Gee, RHP: Is 0-1 lifetime against Yankees.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 29

Mets Wrap: Jeremy Hefner Finally Gets Victory

David Wright said it would be nice if the Mets played a game when they are in control from start to finish. Such was the case Wednesday night when the Mets gave Jeremy Hefner a five-run first inning and cruised to a 9-4 victory over the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. The victory gave the Mets a season-high four-game winning streak.

HEFNER: Finally gets victory.

HEFNER: Finally gets victory.

ON THE MOUND: In winning for the first time, Hefner gave up three runs on nine hits with no walks and five strikeouts in six innings. … Scott Rice appeared in his 31st game and is on pace to pitch in 97. … LaTroy Hawkins closed the game.

AT THE PLATE:  Ruben Tejada singled to jumpstart a five-run first inning. The inning also included a two-run, opposite field single from Ike Davis. Reportedly, both Tejada and Davis were on notice of being optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas. Davis had another single in the sixth.. … For the second straight game, Davis hit eighth. … Marlon Byrd homered in the third. … Lucas Duda hit a two-run opposite field double to left in the fourth. … John Buck looked better with two hard hit line drives to right.

THEY SAID IT: “I feel a lot better with the new stance. I am getting comfortable with it,’’ – Davis on showing signs of breaking out of his funk.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1-10. Mets’ records in games following a Matt Harvey start and when Hefner starts.

METS MATTERS: Tejada left the game with two outs in the ninth with a sore knee sustained when he slid in the outfield chasing a pop-up. Note: He almost took out Mike Baxter on the play.

ON DECK: Dillon Gee gets the start Thursday night against Vidal Nuno. Gee is 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos