Oct 04

Explaining What Went Wrong For The 2012 Mets

Other than a lack of overall talent, there’s never just one reason why a team fails to win. The Mets began the season projected for the basement, with some corners speculating 100 losses.

So, at 74-88, 14 games below .500, and in fourth place, the Mets did better than expected, but in the end were still disappointing and kicked a promising season away with a dismal second half.

The Mets were 46-40 at the break, but ended the first half on a sour note by losing two of three at Citi Field to the Cubs. This coming after losing two of three to the Cubs at Wrigley Field a short time earlier.

You can’t consider yourself a serious contender when you lose consecutive series to a team that lost 100 games. You just can’t do it.

So, what went wrong?

STREAKY BAD: The Mets’ longest winning streak in the second half was four, accomplished twice. Conversely, they had five such losing streaks, including dropping six straight three times. When a team is streaky bad like that players begin to press, which is what happened in July and August.

STAYING WITH A PAT HAND: GM Sandy Alderson said several times the team had the resources to add talent if they were in contention at the trade deadline. But, that doesn’t meaning waiting until July 31. The bullpen had shown signs of breaking down in late June and early July, and there was a woeful lack of power with Ike Davis, Jason Bay and Lucas Duda doing nothing, but Alderson was content to believe things would get better and was satisfied at the break with a 46-40 record. The Mets opened the second half with two losing streaks of at least five games and by that time it was too late.

INJURIES: All teams have them and the Mets were no exception. It’s hard to win when three-fifths of your rotation goes down. First, Mike Pelfrey, then Dillon Gee and Johan Santana. The Mets simply didn’t have the replacement parts they needed, although the got more from R.A. Dickey than they could have wished for and Matt Harvey made a good first impression.

THE BULLPEN COLLAPSED AGAIN: The wasn’t bad in April, but was non-existent in the second half. The pen’s failures can be summarized by just 36 saves, and a 20-22 record in one-run games and 3-7 in extra innings. Clearly, they couldn’t slam the door late. The problem wasn’t really the closer as much as it was the bridge leading to the closer.

NO OFFENSE: The Mets had three players with 20-plus homers, but that’s not enough. The Mets went 15 straight home games in the second half where they scored three or fewer runs which lead to a minus-56 runs differential. If Davis had any kind of a first half he might have finished with 40. David Wright couldn’t carry the team from July on and one wonders if he’ll be a 30-homer player again. The Mets received very little from Bay, Duda, Josh Thole and Andres Torres. Who would have thought Scott Hairston would lead the outfield with 20 homers?

 

Oct 02

Mets Matters: Last Look At Dickey As A Met Tonight?

We will get our last look at the best part of this season tonight when R.A. Dickey goes for his 21st victory to make his final Cy Young audition against the Miami Marlins.

It might even be Dickey’s last appearance as a Met if the team deems him to expensive to re-sign and opts to trade him this winter.

The Mets say bringing back David Wright and Dickey are priorities, but if Wright signs first and it is decided they can’t afford Dickey they might not have any other choice.

Whatever happens this winter, it has been a thrill watching Dickey pitch this summer. Every five days he gave the Mets a chance to win, and he did it on the mound with guile and grit, and off the mound with class and humility.

It would be a shame to see him go. There are so few like Dickey these days.

In other Mets Matters:

* CEO Jeff Wilpon and GM Sandy Alderson are with the team in Miami. The Mets say they are optimistic about retaining Wright, but have not announced an off-season timetable or give an indication how much it would cost. For that matter, they haven’t done likewise with Dickey.

Wright indicated he’d like to return, but also left open the possibility of leaving. That’s smart because he doesn’t want to bid against himself.

Wright’s decision to return will not only be money – he said he’s not interested in every last nickel – but what steps the team is willing to take to improve. As of now, all signs point to limited spending.

Wright said he would not negotiate in season in 2013.

 

* Thanks to Joe DeCaro for posting this morning about Terry Collins wanting Mike Pelfrey back. Considering the holes in their staff and potential concerns in the rotation, it could be a smart move. However, Pelfrey will open the season on the disabled list and I don’t expect the Mets to tender him a contract.

* The Mets will make everybody available this off-season in a possible trade. Reportedly, Boston is scouting the Mets in regards to Ike Davis.

It has been reported the Mets could trade Davis, but it comes with the presumption Lucas Duda fill his power void. Since there’s no assurances Duda will develop as the Mets hope, they would need to receive power in return. If that’s the case, why bother? Especially since Davis’ contract is reasonable.

Oct 01

Looking At Mets’ Coaching Staff

Terry Collins will be back next season, but how many of his coaching. Jeff Wilpon and Sandy Alderson are traveling with the team on the final roadtrip, and discussing the coaching staff will be one of the topics on the table.

Published reports have pitching coach Dan Warthen returning, and considering the success of the rotation for the better part of the season, that’s not surprising. However, Warthen is in charge of all the pitchers, which includes a horrid bullpen.

Also on the downside are his mixed results with Mike Pelfrey and zero results with Oliver Perez. It is premature to credit him with any of Matt Harvey’s initial success. He should get some credit for Jon Niese making a step forward this season, and as a knuckleballer, I don’t know how much credit he gets for R.A. Dickey’s season.

The bullpen is arguably the Mets’ weakest pitching link. He’s had one year to work with Frank Francisco, who has been spotty at times, and Jon Rauch, who hasn’t pitched well. He’s had several seasons to work with Bobby Parnell, who remains an enigma.

Warthen has had three starts to evaluate Jenrry Mejia and had him during spring training. After yesterday’s loss, Mejia remains uncertain in the Mets’ pitching plans, although the plan is to send him to the Arizona Fall League to work as a starter. Warthen said a few weeks ago he could still see Mejia as a reliever, so it remains to be seen whether there is a conflict between him and upper management on what to do with the prospect.

Ricky Bones, mostly a starter during his career, is the bullpen coach. His job is primarily to make sure the relievers are ready, to get them warmed up properly, to monitor their pitch counts after getting up, plus some limited work on mechanics.

If Warthen is spared, Bones might take the hit.

Also feeling heat could be hitting coach Dave Hudgens. During the first half Hudgens received raves for how his hitters worked the count and their ability to produce with two outs. Neither of those were strong suits when the offense sputtered and became a liability in the second half, especially at home, where they had a stretch of 15 straight games of scoring three runs or less.

Nobody can blame Hudgens for Jason Bay’s failures for a third straight year, plus the mostly non-season from Andres Torres. However, he’s been exposed to Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, both of whom need to drastically reduce their strikeouts and increase their on-base percentages.

Davis had a miserable first half, but hit with power in the second half. He’s still mechanically flawed and gives away too many at-bats by consistently over swinging and trying to pull too much and striking out way too much. The same could be said for Duda, who had to be sent to the minor leagues during the season to work on his mechanics and approach.

Both Bones and Hudgens might be the fall guys for another losing season, although that mostly has to fall on the players. Unless the Mets are looking for scapegoats, there’s no real reason to dismiss bench coach Bob Geren, third base coach Tim Teufel and first base coach Tom Goodwin.

 

Sep 25

Davis Reaches Milestone; Can He Do More?

Ike Davis reached the 30 homer milestone. If R.A. Dickey wins his twentieth on Thursday we can put a wrap on the summer and start thinking about Christmas.

Thirty homers from Davis is impressive, especially considering his first half when he hit 12, but his average was .220. Had he hit at least .250 in the first half that would have been enough contact to raise his homer and run production totals.

Terry Collins and the Mets need to be applauded for sticking with Davis, although it must be conceded they didn’t have many other options considering Lucas Duda wasn’t hitting, either, and there was nobody down below worth bringing up.

The last Mets to hit 30 homers were David Wright – which brings up another issue, we’ll discuss later – and Carlos Delgado in 2008. Home run totals have gone down since MLB started cracking down on PED’s, but Davis is strong enough to where he doesn’t need them.

“It’s a cool milestone, I guess,” Davis told reporters last night. “It’s something you can always tell your kids — you hit 30 homers in the big leagues. But, obviously, if I would have hit 29 this year I still would have been happy with the power numbers, for sure.”

Despite his success, there are still holes in Davis’ offensive game, notably the inability to put two halves together and inconsistency against lefties (only eight of his homers were against left-handers). Davis understands that in order to become a real star he needs to be more consistent throughout the season, and last night was nearly apologetic about his first half.

“The difference is I’m just not awful. The first two and a half months I was terrible,” Davis said. “I felt like I had never played baseball before. I kept saying I’m not going to play this bad forever. I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to do that. You guys can pick up a stick and do better than I did. But I told you there’s better things to come.

“I don’t know if I’ve had the greatest season of all time, but I definitely made myself feel a little better about this season working through stuff and grinding and seeing you can come from pretty far behind and still have a pretty good year.

“I guess everyone kind of goes through something like that. I’m glad, I guess, that I did. It definitely made me a better baseball player. It was mental strength, for sure. But hopefully I don’t do that again.”

There were published reports earlier having the Mets shopping Davis in the offseason. The club is unwilling to comment on them, but two things are for sure: One, considering what the Mets have, he’d be attractive in the trade market, and two, Davis is worth holding on to and building around.

 

Sep 23

Mets Matters: Dickey Closing In On 20

I root for good story lines and people, and that’s R.A. Dickey. I was hoping Terry Collins would let him finish but he was gassed. Winning 20 games has become almost obsolete these days, but Dickey has a chance.
Winning 20 indicates perseverance, talent and a little bit of luck, too. To accomplish it on a team that could almost finish 20 games below .500 makes it even more remarkable.
Switching his turn this weekend will give him a chance to do it at home Thursday in the Citi Field finale. If he does it, that’s a positive send off for the winter.
More Mets Matters:
* Lucas Duda was pulled for not hustling on a pop-up in Friday night’s game, less than 24 hours after Collins intimated the Mets had quit. It was apparent Duda didn’t get the message, so good for Collins to put his foot down.
These guys, even the young ones such as Duda get paid a lot of money to play a game. There’s never any excuse for not hustling. I don’t know how many times a Met failed to hustle this season. Duda certainly wasn’t the first. Ruben Tejada has done it several times, I know. But, for the remainder of this season and next year, Collins must have a kick ass attitude when it comes to not hustling and botching fundamentals.
That’s the only way the culture will change.
* Closer Frank Francisco has elbow tendinitis but is available. Why not shut him down for the rest of the season and do some experimenting the final week? It’s not as if Francisco is going to show us something we don’t already know.
* Jason Bay homered yesterday. Collins said his power and bat speed are still there and they’ll continue to search for answers. It’s been three years and the Mets have gotten nothing from Bay for the $66 million they are paying him. If the Mets are to start fresh next season, releasing him if he has a poor spring training is the best way to go. I like Bay’s hustle and defense, but he’s got to hit.