Apr 09

Is Daniel Murphy Becoming A Power Threat?

They are hot, so as Crash Davis said you don’t mess with a streak. This is not a time for the Mets to be making wholesale changes, but there are things they could consider.

The Mets don’t have the multitude of power options that say, Ben & Jerry’s has ice cream choices, but Daniel Murphy appears to becoming one.

MURPHY: Hitting like one of the big dogs.

MURPHY: Hitting like one of the big dogs.

Lately, he has been driving the ball for power; something I always thought he was capable of doing. Through seven games he has eight hits, with five going for extra bases – two homers, two doubles and a triple. He encored his five RBI weekend against the Marlins with two doubles last night in Philadelphia.

Apparently, his strained intercostal muscle isn’t an issue, or is it?

Terry Collins suggested in trying to protect his injury Murphy has fallen into the good habit of staying within himself. He’s focusing on the pitch with the intent of driving it up the middle and going to the opposite field.

Consequently, his swing is shorter and compact. He’s not overthinking to the point of trying to pull the ball or guessing pitches.

“It’s made me do is focus on work I was able to put in during the off-season, and even the work that I’ve done in past years,’’ Murphy told reporters in Philadelphia, “I get a little bit older in this game, it doesn’t have to be perfect.’’

Power comes from strength and bat speed. Murphy is strong, and coupling that with sound fundamentals quickens his bat.

Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn and Ichiro Suzuki aren’t power hitters, but fundamentally strong. I’ve seen Boggs drive ball after ball into the seats during batting practice. He always said he could hit for power if he wanted to.

I believe Murphy can be the same way. He’s the most patient of the Mets’ hitters. For whatever reason why Murphy is driving the ball, it makes one wonder about his optimum place is in the batting order.

His patience and on-base percentage suggests he could be a leadoff hitter. For those saying he’s not fast, you’d be right, but he’s fast enough. Remember, Pete Rose wasn’t fast, but simply one of the best leadoff hitters in history.

He’s currently second for the purpose of working the count to enable the leadoff hitter a chance to run. Only trouble is the Mets have used four leadoff hitters already. Who is running?

“I continue to think [Murphy] is going to be a very, very good offensive force,’’ Collins told reporters in Philadelphia, “to the point where it’s going to be a question whether he has to continue hitting second or you’ve got to put him in the middle of the lineup someplace.’’

Ideally, a team’s best hitter – defined as the combination of power and average – bats third, but that’s David Wright’s spot. However, should Murphy continue to stroke the ball while Ike Davis keeps struggling, why not move him to third and drop Wright and Davis one slot into the order?

This lengthens the order to the point where Lucas Duda could be batting seventh, which doesn’t make the bottom third a black hole.

They are winning so keep a pat hand. This is just a suggestion to tuck away for later.

ON DECK: Tonight’s starter Dillon Gee and game preview.

Please follow me on Twitter. @jdelcos

 

Apr 08

Mets Game #7 Wrap: Harvey And Buck Roll

The pre-game buzz was Matt Harvey being a growing hot property and Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay on a downhill slide. Both bandwagons got a little more crowded Monday night as Harvey was superb as his Mets pounded Halladay, 7-2. The Mets also received big nights from John Buck and Ruben Tejada in winning their third straight game.

HARVEY: On again. Very on.

HARVEY: On again. Very on.

ON THE MOUND: Harvey gave up a run in seven innings, giving up three hits and striking out nine to win his second start and lower his ERA to 0.64. With bullpen worked hard for 4.2 innings Sunday, the Mets received the innings they needed from Harvey. Harvey has struck out 89 in his first 12 starts.

AT THE PLATE:  Buck hit a three-run homer in the second and the Mets never looked back. … Tejada hit a two-run single in the fifth when the Mets broke the game open. … David Wright and Lucas Duda also drove in droves. … Daniel Murphy doubled twice.

METS MUSINGS: Manager Terry Collins said Aaron Laffey could be in the rotation indefinitely. His next start will be a week from Tuesday at Colorado. … Shaun Marcum threw today in Port St. Lucie, but Collins said he’s not close to pitching in a game. … Also not close is reliever Frank Francisco. Collins said he must twice throw in consecutive games to prove he’s ready.

Apr 08

Matt Harvey Against Roy Halladay; Mets Lineup

It’s too early to jump on the bandwagons of Matt Harvey and Roy Halladay, tonight’s starters in the Mets-Phillies game in Philadelphia.

Yes, Harvey is one of the Mets’ prized jewels and was tremendous in last week’s start against San Diego, and made a strong first impression last season in ten starts.

Add them up and he has 11 major league starts. He’s shown signs of poise and of being the real deal, but the Hall of Fame is a little premature.

Halladay was hammered in his first start and had a rocky spring training. But, he’s still Halladay and it is always premature to write-off a veteran of his caliber. Great pitchers, of which Halladay has been, often have a finishing kick in their careers.

Mike Mussina won his 20th in the final game of his career. Andy Pettitte and David Cone had their prime time moments. I’ll refrain from mentioning Roger Clemens.

Here’s the lineup the Mets will start behind Harvey:

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, CF: Makes his first start in the leadoff slot, the fourth used by the Mets in their seventh game. Terry Collins is still searching. Had key hit Sunday and hustled into second on the throw to put himself in position to score the winning run.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Murphy is hitting the ball hard, making the argument for a shorter spring training. Has driven in six runs.

David Wright, 3B: Hitting .300 with three RBI. Still searching to drive the ball as he has only one extra-base hit.

Ike Davis, 1B: Off to a slow start at .136. Wondering when he might start thinking of last year’s slow start. Has hit .175 the last two years in April.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Delivered the game-winning hit Sunday. Is 3-6 with RISP.

Lucas Duda, LF: Has team-high six walks which is his best offensive stat.

John Buck, C: Buck leads team at .400 and nine RBI.

Ruben Tejada, SS: His hustle going first-to-third Sunday set the table for ninth-inning rally.

Matt Harvey, RHP: Has three double-digit strikeout games in the first 11 career starts.

 

 

 

Apr 07

Aaron Laffey Gets Ball For Mets

If the Mets had a perfect world, Aaron Laffey wouldn’t start for them until June or July. That his start comes in the season’s fifth game tells you how tissue thin their rotation is.

Game six, and already the Mets are into two pitchers that weren’t in their immediate plans as Johan Santana is gone for good and Shaun Marcum is out indefinitely. Question: Who will we see first, Marcum or Zack Wheeler?

LAFFEY: As an Indian.

LAFFEY: As an Indian.

Laffey, who won four games in 16 starts for Toronto last year, was signed to a minor league free agent contract after Christmas as anticipated depth because of health concerns over Santana, Jenrry Mejia and Dillon Gee.

He’s starting against Miami today in place of Marcum, who is out indefinitely with neck inflammation. To make room on the roster the Mets optioned reliever Jeurys Familia to Triple-A Las Vegas.

The choice of Familia indicates the Mets are either pleased or intrigued with what they’ve seen from 14-year minor league veteran Scott Rice.

Here’s today’s Mets’ lineup against Marlins starter Jose Fernandez:

Collin Cowgill, CF: Back after not starting the last two games. Came off the bench Saturday to hit his second homer. Entered the season with only two career homers. He’s best offensive option in center.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Drove in game-winning run Saturday with triple. Hit three-run homer Friday. Is 3-4 with RISP. How many homers could he hit if he swung for power?

David Wright, 3B:  Has played in club-record 60 straight games without an error. No homers, but had three hits Saturday.

Ike Davis, 1B: Snapped 1-for-16 slide with two hits Saturday. Has seven strikeouts and only three hits; not a good ratio. Batting .158.

Mike Baxter, RF: Starting again in right after reaching base three times Saturday. Led off 12 times last year and the Mets were 7-5 in those games. So, why not put him there today?

Lucas Duda, LF: Who would have thought he’d have more walks than strikeouts? One of the most encouraging statistics so far. Hasn’t played poorly in left field.

Ruben Tejada, SS: If anybody could use a head-clearing day off it is he. Hitting .176 with four errors in five games.

Anthony Recker, C: Makes first start to give John Buck the day off. Hit .310 during spring training. Played with Athletics and Cubs last season.

Aaron Laffey, LHP: Went 4-6 with a 4.56 ERA in 22 appearances (16 starts) for Toronto last year. Has also played for Cleveland, Seattle and the Yankees.

Apr 07

Early Impressions Of Mets Have Been Good

It’s always fun to examine the first impressions of a new season.

For example, it is safe to say John Buck will not finish with 292 RBI. However, you might get interesting odds if you believe the 4-2 Mets will continue their pace and outplay the 2-4 Yankees.

That being said, the measuring stick for success or failure is their starting pitching. If they get innings it keeps them in games and the bullpen off the mound.

DAVIS: Some anguish there/

DAVIS: Some anguish there

There’s absolutely no way the starters will continue with a 1.41 ERA, but if the front end of Jon Niese, Matt Harvey and Dillon Gee produce, and they get something from the back end, they’ll remain competitive.

However, if the starters run into stretches where they are batted around, it exposes the bullpen, which has been tested and performed well twice and poorly twice.

The most important start of the season was Jeremy Hefner as a replacement for Johan Santana. Currently, he’s the fourth starter, and Sunday’s starter, Aaron Laffey, is the fifth. A week in and already the Mets have two holes in the rotation. I have no expectations of Shaun Marcum.

The bullpen was on Saturday and Sunday. Scott Rice is a good story, but there’s a reason he’s bounced around. This is a make-or-break year for Bobby Parnell. I have confidence in Josh Edgin, but little in LaTroy Hawkins. Scott Atchison was superb Sunday.

GM Sandy Alderson has spent two years trying to build a bullpen and he might have to do it again.

Alderson is adamant about not rushing Zack Wheeler, and evidenced by him getting hit hard last week, that’s the smart call. However, it’s easy to say that now, but let’s see what happens if the back end of the rotation becomes a black hole.

One thing for certain is the injured Jenrry Mejia isn’t in the plan – as a starter or reliever. The way the Mets jerked him around might have irreparably damaged his career.

Offensively, two things always jump out: 1) their high propensity for striking out, and 2) long stretches of not hitting with runners in scoring position. Both have already come into play.

They’ve homered in each game, but that won’t continue, although the potential for greater power production is realistic.

Buck has been the best story, but let’s be honest, if he continues to be good and the Mets fade, teams will be calling for him by the July 31 trade deadline. By that time, Travis d’Arnaud could be here. In a perfect world, the Mets would continue to play well and d’Arnaud could be Buck’s caddy for half the season.

David Wright had three hits Saturday to break out of a dry stretch, but has yet to homer. He’s hit 30 before, but if he doesn’t and still drives in runs and has a high OPS, we shouldn’t worry about him. Wright has the same number of strikeouts as walks (4), which in today’s game is acceptable. As long as he has a high on-base percentage (.455 now), there’s no reason for concern.

The guy I wonder about is Ike Davis, who had two hits Saturday to get out of a 1-for-16 slide. Davis, with one homer, has a tendency to go into prolonged slumps. The red flag with him is he has more than twice as many strikeouts (7) to hits (3) and a .273 on-base percentage. Davis had a miserable first half last season and you must consider if his slow start is making him wonder.

So far, the most encouraging sign about Lucas Duda is he has more walks than strikeouts and a .500 on-base percentage. He’s staying within himself and if he continues to be selective, he’ll get his pitch to hit.

Daniel Murphy, despite not having much of spring training, is driving the ball. Murphy is strong, and I wonder if he concentrated more on turning on the pitch if he’d hit for more power. Wade Boggs always said he could hit a lot of home runs if he wanted. The same went with Tony Gwynn. Murphy isn’t in either class, but is a contact hitter.

If there’s been one disappointment it has been Ruben Tejada, who’s especially struggling with the glove.

The major offensive concern was the outfield, but so far it hasn’t been a problem. Collin Cowgill has hit for power, Duda has been on base and Marlon Byrd has been hitting. Mike Baxter reached base three times Saturday and should get a longer look in the leadoff spot, as that remains unsettled.

The Mets are playing better than expected, but the same cracks that haunted them in the past are still evident. After a week, yes, there is the potential for a long summer. But, also the potential for some fun.