Apr 24

Mets April 24 Lineup Against Miami

The Mets just posted tonight’s lineup:

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, cf

Ruben Tejada, ss

Daniel Murphy, 2b

David Wright, 3b

Lucas Duda, rf

Ike Davis, 1b

Mike Baxter, lf

Josh Thole, c

Johan Santana, lhp

LINEUP COMMENTS: With Jason Bay going on the DL and Ike Davis not hitting, David Wright is the logical clean-up choice. … Mike Baxter starts tonight in left.  … Johan Santana is coming off a career short outing in his his last start. He said he’s fine physically, but all eyes will be on him.

Apr 24

I Like Ike, But This Is Ridiculous

Geez, What the heck is up with Ike Davis? Spare me the “It’s only April diatribes”  I’m not in the mood for cliches and simplistic excuses this morning.

Ike Davis stranded the bases loaded three times in Monday’s doubleheader sweep by the Giants, although the first baseman cautiously noted that the final instance — a called third strike in the nightcap as a pinch hitter — was not entirely his fault. Davis and Terry Collins clearly said the final pitch was low. Davis flinged his bat after the at-bat. He left 11 runners on base in two games.

Low my ass… It was too close to take… You’re down a half dozen runs and have two strikes on you, protect the damn plate.

Instead of Collins making excuses for him, maybe he should set his head straight and tell Davis to stop lunging at everything.

Last week in this post, our own Drew (72MetsFan) referred to Ike Davis’ tirades at the plate.

Another thing that concerns me is Ike’s demeanor at the plate and how he reacts on close pitches that don’t go his way or his emotional displays after every strikeout. When a a Cy-Young type pitcher like Cliff Lee barely misses the outside part of the plate, he’s gonna get that call every time. There’s no use jawing about it to the ump and Davis’ reputation in that regard is growing quickly and will only serve against him. If not Hudgens, than Collins or somebody else needs to have him tone it down up there.

And there he was, taking a called third strike in the eighth inning with the bases loaded, popping off and slamming his bat and helmet to the ground as he turned from home plate in protest. Keep up that routine and see how many close pitches will go your way, Ike.

Collins was finally asked about Davis’ antagonistic protests aimed at the the men behind the plate and whether it plays against him in the long run as I mentioned last week:

“I don’t necessarily agree with that,” Collins said. “In our league, you have to be professional. … Years ago umpires could hold a grudge. Because there are so many TV cameras today, and with all the stuff being aired today, they really can’t. I don’t think they do that stuff anymore. They’re human beings. Once in a while they miss a call. We make mistakes. But I don’t think they really screw guys like they once did.”

Is he kidding me?

He thinks umpiring has improved instead of gotten worse? Really Terry?

That may be the most asinine baseball quote I’ve heard all year.

In the last week, Ike has gotten worse, not better. I loved hearing about how great he felt after batting practice yesterday, it really touched my heart, but I’m more concerned with results.

Is his head in the game? Of course it is, it’s one of the things I love about Ike – his focus and determination. In Spring Training Davis referred to himself as “pure chaos” at the plate when comparing himself to teammate Daniel Murphy. I thought it was cool at the time and a perfect nickname for him, but what was I thinking? He admitted he was a hacker which is okay when you’re hacking at a .295 clip and hitting home runs in bunches, but this… This slump is intolerable and he’s clogged up the middle of the order while batting cleanup. We’re getting tons of people on base… Haven’t you heard how awesome the Mets’ OBP is? How about getting some players in the middle of the order to drive in some runs… You know those things that leads to wins…

Time for Plan B… Time to get him a few days off, not one… You have Valdespin here, perfect timing, put him at second base for the Marlins series and let Daniel Murphy cover first base.

The goal here is two fold.

One, Ike would be served better to disengage, recharge and come back with a new approach and attitude. Let him huddle with Hudgens or anyone else who could help. Show him some tape from 2010 so he could see how pitchers have adjusted to to him and that he now needs to do the same. Hey, whatever it takes…

Two, the bottom line here is to win some baseball games. Batting Ike Davis cleanup while he’s a complete mess is a terrible idea. We’ve lost five of our last six games and we can’t afford a dead out deflating the middle of our lineup. Ike’s a flat tire right now and it needs some Fix-A-Flat.

Yesterday I told Andy Martino of the Daily News that Davis could be in the throws of a sophomore slump that is in late bloom. We all love to believe our young stars are immune to such things, but that’s what happens when the league adjusts to you and all you do is flail at the plate like nothing is different. Lucas Duda be forewarned as well.

Apr 21

Mets Starting Lineup Vs. Giants

The Mets will attempt to regain their footing this afternoon behind this lineup and Mike Pelfrey:

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, cf

Daniel Murphy, 2b

David Wright, 3b

Ike Davis, 1b

Jason Bay, lf

Lucas Duda, rf

Josh Thole, c

Ruben Tejada, ss

Mike Pelfrey, rhp

LINEUP COMMENTS: For the most part, Terry Collins’ lineup has been consistent. I like Kirk Nieuwenhuis in the leadoff spot and beginning to think he’s a keeper.

 

Apr 21

Mets On Slippery Slope Following Another Loss

The bloom is off the Mets’ early season rose. After a quick start that included winning the first two games in last weekend’s series in Philadelphia, the Mets have lost three straight and four of their last five.

They are still over .500, but the sense this could be a different year is fading. Thirteen games is two small a picture to frame it a season, but the crispness that opened the year is gone.

Frank Francisco, who opened with three straight saves, has given up four runs in his last three appearances. Last night he walked Melky Cabrera on four pitches to lead off the tenth. Cabrera stole on a pitchout, which is almost impossible to do, and scored on a two-out single.

That’s three red flags in one inning: the leadoff walk; stealing on a pitchout shows an inability to hold runners and a lack of concentration; and the two-out hit is indicative of not putting away an inning. A successful closer doesn’t do any of those things on a consistent basis.

Francisco has good stuff, but has always been erratic in the little things, such as those mentioned above. Explains in large part why he was was available.

There’s more to be concerned with:

By definition, Jon Niese had a quality start giving up three runs in six innings, but needed 109 pitches to do so. That’s clearly working too hard. That many pitches should take him through the eighth, at least. Maybe complete-game worthy.

However, it was an upgrade from what the Mets received their two previous games from R. A. Dickey and Johan Santana. This afternoon it is Mike Pelfrey, who has been anything but calming and comforting.

The starting pitching is key to whatever success the Mets have this year and it must improve.

Offensively, Jason Bay homered and got another hit, but neither he nor Lucas Duda are hitting in the clutch. Bay struck out with runners on second and third and one out in the tenth. Both hitters are 1-for-13 with RSIP. That’s 2-for-26, which translates into a lot of runners left on base and empty innings. A lot of losses, too.

Also offensively are the continuing struggles of Ike Davis who struck out twice while going hitless five times last night. His swing gets longer and loopier by the game.

All teams are going to have night like that occasionally, but the Mets’ last four losses have exposed their flaws greatly.

I wrote several times this week how the Mets had to snap out of it to avoid a downhill slide. They are in one now.

ON DECK: Starting lineup.

Apr 19

Looking At The Numbers For The Mets, Wright And Others

We’re two weeks into the young season and I’d like to share some of my first impressions and hear yours. The Mets, despite losing three of their last four games, are among the early surprises, as are several of their players.

WRIGHT: Has reason to smile.

They are playing better than anticipated and on pace to win 93 games. I don’t believe they will sustain that, but who wouldn’t take .500 if it were guaranteed? I would because it is the next step in the franchise’s development.

Ever since I was a kid I loved the early season numbers and projections. It was fun to think of all those players breaking Roger Maris’ 61 homers, but knew nobody would come close. When it finally happened and I learned why, it wasn’t fun anymore.

For example, David Wright’s .500 average leads the majors and is one of six players hitting over .400 and 28 over .340. There won’t be a .400 hitter – and maybe never will again – and I’d be willing to bet there won’t be anybody over .340.

Both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda are on track to hit 41 homers and drive in 81 and 68 runs, respectively. They have the strength to hit that many homers, but I don’t think either has the plate presence or pitcher knowledge to do so. At least not this year. Their RBI totals are reasonable.

Wright won’t hit .500 or get the 230 hits projected of him, but I’d take the 28 homers and 108 RBI. The latter two should be worthy of a contract extension.

The Mets would gladly take those numbers from Wright, as they would Frank Francisco’s projected 41 saves.

Pitching wise, the Mets’ 3.69 ERA is sixth in the National League, which is a substantial improvement from last year. Also, their 43 walks allowed are 11th in the league, but ten of those came in one game. That needs to get better. They are second in the league with 101 strikeouts, an average of over eight a game that translates into working out of a lot of trouble.

In addition to the Mets, the surprise teams on the positive are Washington, the Dodgers, St. Louis and Baltimore. The Cardinals, minus Albert Pujols, Tony La Russa and Chris Carpenter, just keep rolling.

I thought the Nationals would be better, but not this good. They won’t keep playing at this rate, but their pitching is good enough to keep them contending. Their ERA of 1.92 is first; they are tied for seventh in fewest walks and first in strikeouts.

On the negative, the Phillies will climb in the standings, as will the Angels, Boston and the Yankees.

Individually, four players are on pace to hit over 60 homers, which isn’t supposed to happen in the new steroid-free era. One of those players is Carlos Beltran, who hasn’t made the Cardinals forget Pujols, but has softened the blow.

Speaking of Pujols, he hasn’t homered and is on pace for 54 RBI. He’s also on track for 81 strikeouts, which would be the second highest of his career. His 41 walks would be the lowest of his career.

I don’t believe the Cardinals will regret losing Pujols in the long term. Pujols is a future Hall of Famer and will eventually adjust to the American League and before it is over post impressive numbers. The Cardinals can live with that because even if Pujols plays another ten years, they would have gotten the best years of his career.

The most fun stats to project are the individual player numbers. The Dodgers’ Matt Kemp is on pace to hit .460 with a .500 on-base percentage, 287 hits, 87 homers and 224 RBI.

Incidentally, on the flip side, Jose Reyes is on track to play in 162 games (yeah, as if that will happen), hit .226 with a .276 on-base percentage, with 37 steals, 50 walks and 100 strikeouts.

Neither Kemp’s nor Reyes’ numbers will reach fruition, but on an off day it is fun to tinker with the numbers.