Sep 21

David Wright Delivers For Mets In Return; Matsuzaka Continues To Disappoint

The New York Mets got what they hoped for Friday night in David Wright’s return, but remain wanting with Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Backed by Wright’s first-inning homer, the Mets gave Matsuzaka a 5-0 lead, but he gave up four runs in the fourth inning. Never mind two of the runs were unearned, but a pitcher’s job is to pitch out of trouble.

Matsuzaka not only didn’t escape trouble, but with three walks and four hits in six innings, he contributed to his own demise.

WRIGHT: Welcome back. (MLB)

WRIGHT: Welcome back. (MLB)

Those are not acceptable numbers, and his performance doesn’t even define a No. 5 starter. Aaron Harang has pitched well enough to warrant a spring training invite, but Matsuzaka has not.

Yes, he pitched six innings, and yes, the Mets came away with a victory, but it was a stressful outing and they can’t afford having their bullpen drained once every fifth day.

As for Wright, who played for the first time in seven weeks, he came out of the night sore, but confident: “I want to be able to just flow and react, and I’m not quite there yet as far as the rhythm of the game and that kind of explosiveness that I feel I had before I got hurt.’’

Prior to the game, Wright said he wanted to play in eight of the Mets’ last ten games.

GEE GOES TODAY: Nobody thought it would happen in April, but Dillon Gee will lead the Mets with victories this season. He goes after his 12th victory today and will get another start Thursday against Milwaukee at Citi Field.

Gee’s season turned around with a 12-strikeout game, May 30, at Yankee Stadium.

It was as if switch was flipped.

“I started pitching with more command,’’ Gee said.

HAWKINS GOES FOR MILESTONE: LaTroy Hawkins has 99 career saves, 11 of them coming this season when he assumed the closer role when Bobby Parnell was injured.

At 40, Hawkins still throws in the mid-90s, but more to the point, he still knows how to pitch. Hawkins has been a positive influence in the bullpen and the Mets should bring him back.

They could do far worse.

FLORES TO PLAY SECOND: Wilmer Flores might get more starts at second base in the remaining nine games.

For several years, the Mets struggled to find a position for Daniel Murphy. Ironically, they appear to be trying to replace him with Flores, a player, like Murphy, who had trouble finding a position.

WINTER BALL METS: The Mets are seeking to find winter ball teams for Lucas Duda and Matt den Dekker, both of whom lost at-bats this summer because of injuries.

Duda would get time at first base, a further indication the Mets appear to be moving away from Ike Davis.

As for den Dekker, he could earn a spot next spring if he can hit.

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

Sep 20

Mets’ David Wright Wants To Play As Gesture To Fans

David_Wright_on_June_23,_2008

DAVID WRIGHT WANTS ONE MORE SWING

There are several reasons why David Wright wants to be in the New York Mets’ lineup tonight in Philadelphia, but catching the Phillies for third place in the NL East is not among them.

The Mets will have their fifth consecutive losing season, with long odds of catching the Phillies as they trail by three games with ten to play.

“In my eyes, third place, fourth place, you’re still going home,’’ Wright told ESPN. “So, to me, it’s not all that important. What’s important is that we try to go out there and win each game, to try to play good baseball and finish strong.’’

That has been the Mets’ mantra since mid-August, when they were swept in a three-game series in Los Angeles to fall back to ten games under .500. The Mets had been making overtures about finishing .500, and even catching Washington for second place, but those three games against the Dodgers – all winnable – deflated their season and shifted everybody’s attention to 2014.

When Matt Harvey was shut down shortly after, there was a winter chill in Flushing, and currently, the Mets’ roster has a Kissimmee travel squad look.

As team captain, Wright has been supportive of manager Terry Collins, and continued to echo his sentiments.

“I think there is something to be said – especially when you have a young team like this – to finish strong,’’ Wright said. “Where you have guys competing for jobs for next year, guys competing for playing time. With the injuries that we’ve had, with the trades that we’ve made, it sure has opened up some chances for guys that probably wouldn’t have a chance right now.’’

Collins has been saying that for weeks.

Wright knows his return won’t mean anything in the standings this season, but it could instill something that might in the future. As captain, Wright is giving his teammates a year-end glimpse into this work ethic, which could be of value to Lucas Duda, Ruben Tejada, Travis d’Arnaud and Juan Lagares to name a few.

Significantly, they play positions where the Mets are looking for upgrades or improvement. Wright also wants to play to get a feel of his health heading into winter, but there is something more.

Although Wright is too modest to say it, his coming back is a gift to the Mets’ fan base that hasn’t had much to cheer about since Carlos Beltran took a called third strike from Adam Wainwright in in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.

Wright knows expectations have been low in this Ponzi era, and the fans were disappointed again this season, with seemingly much of the anticipation for 2014 diminished with Harvey gone.

If nothing else, Wright wants to show Mets fans he still cares about his profession, playing well and performing for those who cheer for him. It is his way of thanking them for sticking by the team as the season faded.

It might not seem like much, but heading into an uncertain winter and future, it is a classy gesture by the classiest player the Met have to offer.

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

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.

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

Sep 18

Mets’ Aaron Harang Pitching For Spring Training Invitation

With the New York Mets having several holes in their rotation, it’s never too late to make a strong impression heading into winter. Tonight, journeyman veteran Aaron Harang will attempt to encore his 10-strikeout debut against Washington with another quality start against San Francisco.

With Matt Harvey and Jenrry Mejia on the shelf and questionable for next spring, the Mets have two holes in their rotation. Harang could get one and Daisuke Matsuzaka will compete for another, as might Rafael Montero.

Harang, 35, could be the type of innings eater the team needs. He didn’t have great numbers with Seattle before coming over to the Mets – 5-11 with a 5.76 ERA – but he did throw 120.1 innings in 22 starts. His innings would represent the fourth highest on the Mets.

This morning I floated the idea of Tim Lincecum. I don’t believe the Mets will commit to that salary, but it was done to illustrate the type of arms that could be available.

Plugged into the Mets’ rotation for next season – assuming Harvey is not around – are Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Zack Wheeler.

Wheeler pitched a disappointing game Tuesday with six walks in five innings, but will get another start to redeem himself.

“He might get two,’’ manager Terry Collins said.

Niese will start Thursday in the series and homestand finale, while Matsuzaka, Gee and Carlos Torres will start over the weekend in Philadelphia. Wheeler, Harang and Niese will start at Cincinnati.

Collins hasn’t named the starters for season’s final weekend against Milwaukee, but despite being on an innings limit, Wheeler could get some work.

Here’s tonight’s lineup against the Giants’ Matt Cain:

Eric Young, LF: Has a career-high 38 stolen bases, including 30 with the Mets. He leads the majors with 23 steals in the second half.

Josh Satin, 3B: David Wright took grounders today, but is still not ready to be activated (hamstring). Has reached base safely in 29 straight starts, to tie the Mets’ rookie record (Steve Henderson, 1979).

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Is batting .364 with 10 doubles and 11 since August 28. He is tied for fourth in the NL with 173 hits.

Andrew Brown, RF: Has a career-high seven homers. Enters the game batting .083 (2-24) over his last ten games.

Lucas Duda, 1B: Is second to Wright (16) with 14 homers. Has a .356 on-base percentage.

Juan Lagares, CF: Is ties for fifth in the majors with 12 outfield assists. Takes an 0-for-19 slide into the game.

Ruben Tejada, SS: Is batting .200 with no homers and 10 RBI for the season.

Juan Centeno, C: Hit .305 for Triple-A Las Vegas. Noted for being a defensive specialist.

Aaron Harang, RHP: Struck out ten Nationals in his Mets’ debut.

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

Sep 14

Lucas Duda Getting His Chance To Shine

When New York Mets manager Terry Collins railed at his listless team for not taking advantage of the opportunity to make an impression toward 2014, he had Lucas Duda in mind.

“This is his chance to play every day at first base. That’s where he likes to play,’’ Collins said last night. “We’re hoping he relaxes at the plate. He doesn’t have to worry about playing defense because he knows he can play first.’’

DUDA: Marlin mashing. (Getty)

DUDA: Marlin mashing. (Getty)

This is the third year the Mets hoped Duda would emerge as their lefty-hitting slugger, and the third time he has disappointed.

However, in Friday night’s 4-3 victory over Miami, Duda responded with a three-run homer in his chance to play with the injured Ike Davis sidelined. Duda has outperformed Davis statistically this season, hitting .236 with 13 homers, 30 RBI and a much-improved .351 on-base percentage.

Even so, Davis has the 32-homer 2012 season on his resume.

The Mets began the season with the offensive approach of patience, of working the count, waiting for and then driving your pitch. The rap on Duda was he became too selective and subsequently too passive at the plate.

But, playing in New York is about right-now production and Duda’s critics were far less patient with him than he was at the plate. While the final two weeks is about making an impression over Davis, everybody knows there will be a sense of urgency come spring training.

The experiment at the start of the year of Duda in left field – after playing right field the previous season – is over. It effectively ended when Duda went on the disabled list with a strained intercostal muscle. Duda lacks speed and range to complement his poor defensive skills, and there was no way he’d get back in the lineup after the acquisition of Eric Young.

At one time this summer there was the feeling the Mets would not tender a contract to Davis and Duda would get first base by default. However, Duda’s power output wasn’t what the Mets hoped, and when Davis showed signs of patience after his return from Triple-A, management’s thinking changed to keeping Davis and have the two battle it out in spring training.

Part of their thinking is that whoever wins, it will be an inexpensive option, and with first base covered they could fill other holes.

The Mets won’t carry two lefty first basemen, and with right-handed hitting Josh Satin available in a platoon, the loser would either go to the minors or be traded.

The homer last night is what the Mets want, but after the game Duda wouldn’t bite on reporters’ questions speculating the future.

“I’m just more concerned with winning and playing well,’’ Duda said. “Whatever they do is up to them. I’m just going to play hard, have fun, and hopefully continue to win.’’

Those comments are about playing the good soldier and saying the right thing, but what the Mets really need from his is to be aggressive and mash.

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