May 21

Mets Lose Series Opener To Reds 4-3

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For a while, it looked like Terry Collin’s weird lineup choice going into the evening would actually work when Marlon Byrd ripped a three-run home run in the bottom of third. Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, the Mets would fail to score again the rest of the night and could not stage a comeback after Jay Bruce hit a go-ahead home run off Shaun Marcum in the sixth. To be fair to Marcum, he handled the Reds lineup pretty decently considering all things. His tough inning was in the first, where he allowed three runs off RBI hits from Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce. He did strike out seven over six innings, and did retire ten straight at one point in the ball game.

Ike sad

The issues of the night were compounded, however, by some bad work on the field from Ike Davis – who was really struggling in every aspect of the game tonight. Davis was called for an interference error in the first that moved Votto up a base into scoring position. In addition to that, he grounded out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the first when he had a chance to redeem himself. Davis entered the game in a 1-for-30 slump and finished 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. He was actually double switched out in the sixth inning.

The Mets never really showed much life after the three-run home run, allowing opposing starter Johnny Cueto to retire the last eight batters he faced. Latroy Hawkins did some dancing out of trouble in the seventh and shared some words with HP Umpire Tom Hallion, who incorrectly awarded a HBP to Brandon Phillips. Terry Collins left the dugout to argue three times over the game, and was ejected alongside Hawkins.

The Mets continue their series at 7:10 tomorrow when Jon Niese takes the mound for the Amazins’ against Mike Leake.

May 20

Mets Must Develop Consistency In Batting Order

Constructing a major league batting order is a tricky enough task for a manager in the best of times, let alone with the limited and non-productive options in front of Terry Collins.

It was good to see Daniel Murphy back at leadoff Monday against Cincinnati, but somewhat surprised at first to see Rick Ankiel at second. Then again, Murphy won’t be doing a lot of stealing, so there’s not much of a need for him to work the count.

Then again, working the count might not be such a bad idea if it helps Ankiel get a better pitch and cuts down on his strikeouts. You also have to wonder if having a hot David Wright behind him will have pitchers challenge him by throwing more fastballs inside the zone, which theoretically is the theory of hitters protecting each other in the batting order.

Murphy is on a 14-for-28 tear over his last seven games and Ankiel has two homers since the Mets picked him up last week, so there’s life at the top of the order. Wright has also been swinging a hot bat.

Moving Lucas Duda to cleanup and dropping Ike Davis to sixth seems the best option, although I would drop Davis lower – to Triple-A Las Vegas. But, if he stays, let him stick at seventh. Sixth can be a RBI spot in the order, so why keep Davis there when he’s not producing? Until Davis shows he can produce, and he erroneously has said he needs to hit on this level and not in the minor leagues.

What Davis doesn’t get is this isn’t about the majors vs. the minors, but for him addressing his mechanics and approach. Staying in the majors won’t shake him of his bad habits and approach. That will take diligent work in the minors.

Assuming a full season for Ankiel, from him at second, and including Wright, Duda, Marlon Byrd, Davis and John Buck, the Mets have six straight hitters on pace for over 100 strikeouts. Five Mets who normally start are hitting lower than .240. Overall, the Mets have scored three or fewer runs in 10 of their last 13 games and 15 of their last 22.

In spring training Collins said he wanted consistency in the batting order, but realistically hasn’t had many options. One thing he could do is keep Ruben Tejada eighth, which is prudent considering his .219 average.

Collins has waffled before, but if there’s no replacement for Davis – and general manager Sandy Alderson said that is not imminent – here’s hoping he sticks with this indefinitely.There might be minor tweaking depending on specific match-ups and working others into the lineup, but overall hopefully nothing dramatic.

Look at it this way, there’s nothing working with all the juggling. The Mets have used seven different hitters batting leadoff, fifth and eighth; eight number six hitters; and 11 at seventh.

There’s nothing stable there, and that must change.

As usual, your comments are always welcome and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 17

May 17 Mets Wrap: Matt Harvey Does It All

Matt Harvey settled down after a rocky two-run first inning to produce one of his most impressive starts of the season in a 3-2 victory at Wrigley Field. The victory was the Mets’ second straight after losing six in a row.

HARVEY: Does it all vs. Cubs. (AP)

HARVEY: Does it all vs. Cubs. (AP)

ON THE MOUND: Flirting with perfection is one thing, but pulling it together when it isn’t going well is more indicative of what he’ll normally face. Harvey gave up three hits in the first inning and only two after, at one point retiring 14 straight.. … In 7.1 innings, Harvey gave up two runs on five hits and no walks with six strikeouts. … Bobby Parnell worked the ninth for his fifth save.

AT THE PLATE: David Wright homered in the first, Daniel Murphy homered to tie the game in the fourth, and Harvey drove in the game-winner with a seventh-inning single. … Wright had three hits. He also stole his ninth base. … Ike Davis snapped a 0-for-25 slide with a single in the sixth.

IN THE FIELD: Davis missed coming up with Ruben Tejada’s one-bouncer that allowed two runs to score in the first. Amazingly, the official scorer gave Alfonso Soriano an infield hit and a throwing error to Ruben Tejada. … Marlon Byrd threw out Darwin Barney at the plate to preserve the lead in the eighth inning.

METS MATTERS: Zack Wheeler returned to Triple-A Las Vegas and resumed throwing today. He received a cortisone injection in the AC joint of his right shoulder Wednesday. … Terry Collins suggested a platoon with Justin Turner at first base and/or dropping him to fifth in the order if his problems continue.

THEY SAID IT:  “The run support has been lacking, but most of our starters can complain about run support the last couple of weeks. … Pitching, run support and defense; we got all three of those.’’ – Wright on Harvey’s performance.

BY THE NUMBERS: 18: First-pitch strikes thrown out of 27 hitters faced by Harvey.

ON DECK: Jeremy Hefner attempts to win for the first time in eight starts Saturday afternoon.

Your comments are appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 14

Seeking A Villain For Mets’ Hitting Woes

Another night, another ten strikeouts, another loss. Hmmm. Let’s see, whom can we blame?

I know, batting coach Dave Hudgens and his approach to work the count and be selective; get a pitch and drive it.

k_104_lgThat’s it, his approach is wrong. It is why they are striking out so many times. They are taking, taking, falling behind, and then whiffing. Damn, it’s Hudgens’ fault.

That’s the current analysis of the Mets’ offensive woes and it is nonsense.

There is nothing wrong with the approach, the game plan, if you will. It is fundamental baseball, and it only doesn’t work if you don’t have the hitters with the ability to make it work.

There is nothing wrong in working the count and taking a strike. What IS wrong, is taking that strike if it is a pitch you can drive. This is about pitch selectivity and recognition, and Mets hitters don’t have it.

Remember when Yankees-Red Sox games lasted close to four hours? The approach from both teams was to run up the count. For the Yankees, when they faced Pedro Martinez, the magic number was 100. Once Martinez reached that number he became less effective.

Surprise, surprise, it works that way with all pitchers on a consistent basis. Some games they’ll have the stuff to go long, but usually they’ll break down.

imagesIt worked because those teams had hitters capable of recognizing their pitch and reacting. Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill and Manny Ramirez. The term used is “professional hitter.’’

Trouble is, when you look at the Mets, you don’t find many. David Wright, sure. You can even make a case for Daniel Murphy, but he’s in a dreadful slump, which happens to everybody.

We knew going in Ike Davis and Lucas Duda were strikeout machines. Looking at their roster, so is everybody else.

Of their most-used lineup, only Murphy and Ruben Tejada are projected to finish with less than 100 strikeouts, and their numbers of 93 and 79, respectively, are high for supposed “contact’’ hitters.

For all the talk of John Buck’s hot start, he has come to Earth average-wise and his power numbers have cooled. But, not his strikeouts; on pace for 162.

Here’s the projected numbers for the rest: Wright (106, which is a marked improvement from recent years), Duda (153), Rick Ankiel (154), and Marlon Byrd (139).

Even in his limited at-bats, Jordany Valdespin is on pace to whiff 65 times. Give him full time at-bats and it would be over 100, also.

images-1Given this, then why have an approach of taking pitches?

Answer: Because that gives them the best chance to succeed, if they have the ability to do so.

Early in the year we were thrilled about Duda taking walks and having a high on-base percentage. What went wrong is two-fold: 1) he fell back into bad habits and started chasing, and 2) he didn’t swing when he got his pitch.

Too often, Mets’ hitters still swing at garbage. In fact, they aren’t taking enough. Consider Davis’ last strikeout Sunday against Pittsburgh when he flailed at three pitches outside the zone, either low or away, or both.

If the Mets had a roster of guys such as Wade Boggs or Barry Bonds, who knew how to wait out a pitcher and what to do when he got his pitch, this wouldn’t be an issue.

But, they don’t. They have a roster of guys who aren’t major leaguers.

Pitchers know the Mets are taking, so they adjusted and are throwing down-the-middle strikes early and hard-to-reach strikes late in the count.

If the first pitch is there, swing at it. The approach isn’t about taking until you have two strikes. It is about driving one strike. Sometimes, that’s the only good pitch you’ll get.

Outside of Wright, who is getting better, few Mets know how to protect the plate with two strikes, which is shorten your swing, foul off pitches that are close, and go to the opposite field.

No, the problem isn’t the approach. The problem is a roster of hitters who don’t understand the fundamentals of hitting.

The problem is also general manager Sandy Alderson, who is about the funky stats of Sabremetrics, and has settled for a roster of players not able to hit.

But, the easiest thing to do is blame Hudgens, who after all, is only trying to get his hitters to understand Hitting 101.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

May 05

Niese’s Struggles Continue; Mets Have Lost His Last Four Starts

There will be days like today, where the meltdown is complete in all phases, beginning with Jon Niese’s inability to get hitters out, an offense offering little resistance to Tim Hudson, and a porous defense.

NIESE: Didn't have it. (AP)

NIESE: Didn’t have it. (AP)

It’s not alarming the Mets couldn’t do anything to Hudson, but what should be a source of concern is Niese, who was hit hard in his fourth straight start – all lost by the Mets, today 9-4 at Turner Field.

Manager Terry Collins said Niese was too strong and overthrew his pitches, leading to his lack of control. Collins gave his pitcher an out, but Niese didn’t take it, saying he can’t afford to have games like this.

ON THE MOUND: Niese gave up seven runs on seven hits and six walks in four innings, and has been rocked for 14 runs in his last four starts, totaling 19 innings. One of those games was April 23, when he took a hard comebacker off his right ankle and lasted 2.1 innings. With Saturday’s rainout and tomorrow’s off day, the four innings worked by the bullpen shouldn’t be too taxing.

AT THE PLATE: David Wright had two hits, including another homer. That’s three in three days. … Mets had a chance in the eighth inning, but Marlon Byrd struck out swinging on a pitch that would have been ball four to end the inning.

IN THE FIELD: The official scorer was kind to the Mets, giving hits on balls misplayed by Lucas Duda and Wright. … John Buck failed to block two pitches in the dirt.

HARVEY PUSHED BACK: With Niese’s start rained out Saturday, Collins had the option of going with Niese, or starting Matt Harvey on normal rest. However, with Harvey throwing 121 pitches in his last start, Collins opted for extra rest, which was the right call. Harvey will start Tuesday against the White Sox. “You try to keep them as prepared as you can,’’ Collins said. “I don’t like it. That’s one of the issues we’ve talked about. We talked about it on the road trip in Colorado. This game is about routines and repetitions. When you get these guys out of these routines and their reps, it’s a problem.’’

BY THE NUMBERS: 6: Walks issued by Niese, tying a career high.

THEY SAID IT: “They were flat today.’’ – SNY analyst Ron Darling describing today’s loss that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.

ON DECK: The Mets are off Monday, and then open a two-game series Tuesday against the Chicago White Sox.