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.

Apr 18

Steady Dickey To Face Braves Today

Mets fans and the media have been critical of former GM Omar Minaya for some of his moves, but to be fair he had some good acquisitions and R.A. Dickey is one of them.

DICKEY: Reliable

By reputation, knuckleball pitchers are supposed to be erratic, but Dickey has proven to be the opposite. Once considered to be a journeyman, but now cornerstone in the Mets’ rotation, Dickey will be going after his 15th straight quality start in a few hours against the Braves. Dickey has given the Mets seven innings in 15 of his last 24 starts.

Dickey is coming off a stellar performance at Philadelphia in which he gave up a run in seven innings. The team record for quality starters – defined as giving up three runs in six innings – is 21 by Dwight Gooden in 1985.

The Mets’ rotation has been tattered in recent seasons, but for the most part he has always kept them in the game and we can’t ask for much more.

Dickey will work with a revamped lineup for today’s game with Ronny Cedeno giving Ruben Tejada a day off at shortstop and Kirk Nieuwenhuis leading off.

Here’s the lineup:

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, cf

Daniel Murphy, 2b
David Wright, 3b
Ike Davis, 1b
Jason Bay, lf
Lucas Duda, rf
Josh Thole, c
Ronny Cedeno, ss
R.A. Dickey, rhp

 

Apr 17

Mets Aim To Stay Hot With Santana

David Wright, Andres Torres and Jason Bay have all missed games because of injuries, but for the most part manager Terry Collins has resisted any urge to crazy juggle his line-up, something Jerry Manuel did on a consistent basis.

Johan Santana will make his third start of the season tonight. Here’s the line-up behind him:

Ruben Tejada, ss
Daniel Murphy, 2b
David Wright, 3b
Ike Davis, 1b
Jason Bay, lf
Lucas Duda, rf
Josh Thole, c
Kirk Nieuwenhuis, cf
Johan Santana, lhp