Oct 13

Rebuilding Mets’ Bullpen Not Monster Task As It Has Been

In each of Sandy Alderson’s previous three winters with the New York Mets, he listed building the bullpen as a priority. It will be the same this winter as well.

Horrendous in the first half of last season, the Mets’ bullpen stabilized into respectability in the second half of the season to finish with a 3.98 ERA.

Unlike previous seasons when Alderson’s bullpen needed a complete overall, the Mets already have several slots filled, but still need to improve their overall depth.

“We need to have more quality arms in the bullpen,’’ Alderson said. “We never had a real strong bottom half of the bullpen. The key will be to have more arms, quality arms out there that we can rely on.’’

Frank Francisco was a bust as the closer, but in his place Bobby Parnell emerged as reliable in that role. However, he lost a considerable amount of weight following surgery to repair a herniated disk. Assuming Parnell returns for the start of the season, the Mets’ pen could also feature LaTroy Hawkins – as a reliable set-up reliever – Vic Black, lefty specialist Scott Rice, long man Carlos Torres, and Gonzalez Germen.

Black was acquired in the deal that sent Marlon Byrd and John Buck to Pittsburgh. He throws in the high 90s and will likely get a chance at the closer role if Parnell isn’t ready.

In previous seasons the Mets had to search for six or seven arms. As of now, they could already have six and are merely looking for depth. Their lack of depth was exposed when after Parnell was injured and Torres was temporarily moved to the rotation.

Rice and Hawkins were two feel-good stories. After spending 14 years in the minor leagues, Rice finally got his chance to play in the major leagues and appeared in 73 games. Meanwhile, the 40-year-old Hawkins still touched the radar gun at 95 mph., and when Parnell was injured, he took over the closer role and saved 13 games with a 2.93 ERA.

Germen emerged as a power arm and Torres was valuable as a combination long-man, spot-starter and situational reliever. Torres’ versatility is something the Mets’ bullpen hadn’t had since Darren Oliver in 2006.

Previously, the Mets would piece together their bullpen, but this time most of their heavy lifting has already been completed. Of course, with Matt Harvey gone for 2014, their pen stands to be taxed.

 

Oct 11

2013 Season Review: Daniel Murphy

MLB: New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies

DANIEL MURPHY, 2B

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS

As often has been the case with Daniel Murphy, expectations were moderate at best. If given the chance, the Mets would have replaced him, but with more pressing needs they spent their limited resources elsewhere so Murphy remained in the lineup. After several years of searching for a position, Murphy finally settled in at second base and has improved defensively. As a .290 lifetime hitter with limited power, Murphy was expected to get on base and be a table setter as opposed to being a run producer. Murphy’s lifetime 162-game average is .290 with ten homers, 70 RBI and a .333 on-base percentage. However, for his reputation for being a contact hitter, Murphy has averaged 81 strikeouts with just 38 walks, which isn’t a good ratio. One thing the Mets could expect from Murphy is durability, as he played in 156 games with 571 at-bats in 2012.

2013 SEASON REVIEW

Murphy played in 161 games and settled in as the No. 2 hitter with 113 games started batting second. However, he started games batting first through six, plus ninth in the order. With injuries throughout the lineup, Murphy was a consistent presence. Murphy posted career highs in at-bats (658), hits (188), runs scored (92), homers (13), RBI (78), total bases (273) and stolen bases (23). A strong case can be made for him being the Mets’ MVP. However, Murphy also struck out a career-high 95 times while drawing only 32 walks. For his reputation as being a patient hitter, Murphy only had a .319 on-base percentage. Murphy proved reliable in the clutch with a .354 average with runners in scoring position and two outs; .305 with the game tied; and .297 with the Mets within one run.

LOOKING AT 2014

John Delcos Says:

General manager Sandy Alderson, in listing the Mets’ offseason priorities, said he could live with Murphy at second base. With Murphy’s propensity for delivering in the clutch, if the Mets can’t add a power bat, they might go with Juan Lagares hitting second and drop Murphy to the middle of the order where he would be in more RBI situations. Murphy will never be mistaken for Roberto Alomar defensively, but is gradually improving, especially in turning the double play. With Murphy coming off his most productive season, he’ll go into spring training for the first time as an established player, and not fighting for a spot in the lineup. Conventional thinking dictates, as a player gets older and stronger, and more familiar with the pitchers, he should hit for more power. Murphy is a doubles machine – ideal for Citi Field – but it isn’t expected he’ll be a 20-homer hitter.

Joe D. Says:

As Ed Leyro recently wrote, Daniel Murphy had one of the greatest seasons ever recorded by a Mets second baseman in 2013.  He finished the year with a .286 batting average, 38 doubles, 13 homers, 78 RBI, 92 runs scored and 23 stolen bases.  Prior to Murphy, the only second basemen in franchise history to reach double digits in both home runs and RBI in the same season were Gregg Jefferies and Roberto Alomar.  But neither player matched Murphy’s totals in batting average, runs scored, runs batted in and stolen bases.  In fact, the only two players in team history who had better numbers than Murphy in all six offensive categories (batting average, doubles, home runs, RBI, runs scored, stolen bases), regardless of their defensive position, were Howard Johnson in 1989 (.287 average, 41 doubles, 36 HR, 101 RBI, 104 runs scored, 41 SB) and David Wright in 2007 (.325 average, 42 doubles, 30 HR, 107 RBI, 113 runs scored, 34 SB).

In a season that saw the 28-year old finish in the National League’s top ten in base hits, doubles, runs scored and even stolen bases, you would think Murphy’s job security with the Mets would be a slam dunk. However, given the pattern of this front office to sell high on any player who performs above major league replacement level, Murphy’s hold on second base is anything but certain. His name is often brought up as a potential trade chip this offseason by the mother ship, MetsBlog. That scares me.

Can you imagine how much worse this underwhelming offense would be without Murphy? They’ve already got their hands full trying to replace the 37 home runs from Marlon Byrd and John Buck, and if Murphy goes that will be 200+ RBIs the Mets will have to account for. In my opinion, any trade for Murphy will most likely create another gaping hole in the lineup and at best would be a lateral move that could possibly backfire. At some point we have to break this current cycle of shedding quality major leaguers not named David Wright for untested minor leaguers.

Oct 10

Numbers That Defined The Mets’ Season

There were a lot of statistics that added up to give the Mets their second straight 74-88 record in 2013. Here are some of the more notable, some good, some bad and some down right ugly. I am sure there are more and would love to hear your suggestions:

2: Home games sold out.

2-4: Matt Harvey’s record after 7-1 start.

4: Grand slams by Mets hitters, none who were with the team at the end of the season (John Buck, Marlon Byrd, Collin Cowgill and Jordany Valdespin).

4: National League teams Mets had winning records against (Arizona, Philadelphia, San Diego and San Francisco).

7-15-5: Record in home series.

7: Number of hitting streaks of 10 or more by hitters Mets’ hitters, led by Daniel Murphy, who had three.

8: Walk-off hits by David Wright to lead team.

8: Mets hitters who struck out at least 70 times, including three – Byrd, Lucas Duda and Ike Davis – with over 100.

8: Games pitched in by Frank Francisco, who made $6.5 million.

8-8: Jon Niese record, a drop of five victories from a career high 13 in 2012.

9: Homers by Davis, 23 fewer than in 2012.

9-12: Record in extra-inning games. Successful teams win these types of games. Overall, the Mets played 57 extra innings, the equivalent of just over six extra games.

10: Different hitters used in the leadoff spot, a void filled by Eric Young.

11-61: Record when trailing after six innings.

11-9: Interleague record, including 4-0 vs. Yankees.

12: No decisions in games started by Harvey.

13: Different pitchers used to start a game.

14-25: Record vs. NL playoff teams.

15-12: Record in July, their only month with a winning record.

15: Outfield assists by Juan Lagares, most by a rookie and tied for third in the majors.

15: Different hitters used in the sixth spot in the order.

18: Different hitters used in the seventh spot in the order.

18: Home runs by Wright to lead the team (Byrd had 21 before he was traded to Pittsburgh).

20: Quality starts by Harvey.

22-73: Record when bullpen gives up a run.

25: Percentage of potential base stealers thrown out by Mets catchers.

26: Victories by the bullpen.

26-59: Record when opponents scored first.

29-28: Record in one-run games.

31: Come-from-behind victories. This is after trailing at any point in the game.

33-48: Record at home.

34: Two-out RBI by Murphy, most on the team.

34-42: Record vs. National League East. (9-10 vs. Atlanta; 8-11 vs. Miami; 10-9 vs. Philadelphia; 7-12 vs. Washington).

46: Stolen bases by Young to lead National League.

55-38: Record when getting a quality start.

112: Games played by Wright.

130: Mets homers; opponents hit 152.

131: Different lineups used.

.147: Duda average with runners in scoring position.

188: Hits by Murphy, second in the National League.

.242: Mets’ average with runners in scoring position. The Mets had close to 3,000 runners in scoring position and only 441 of them scored. Mets’ hitters struck out 315 times in this situation and grounded into 26 double plays.

.265: Opponent’s average with runners in scoring position. Opponent’s scored 529 runs in this situation, aided greatly by 35 home runs.

.306: Team on-base percentage, 25th in the majors.

504: Innings pitched by the bullpen, just over three a game.

619: Runs scored, 684 runs allowed for a -65 run differential.

1,384: Strikeouts by Mets hitters, most in the National League, which is the equivalent of 51 games played without hitting a ball other than a foul.

2,135,657: Total attendance, their lowest since drawing 1.77 in 1997 at Shea Stadium.

Oct 07

2013 Season Review: David Wright

david wright homers

DAVID WRIGHT, 3B

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS:

As they always are, expectations were high for David Wright, especially after a strong 2012 season, one in which he hit .306 with 21 homers and 93 RBI. And, those were numbers compiled with little protection in the line-up, at least in the first half of the season. They were also lofty because he signed a monster eight-year, $138-million deal through 2020 and was named team captain. Whenever a player signs a long-term contract, expectations are high. Staying healthy is always an issue, and if that happened Wright should have been able to meet his 162-game average of .301 with 26 homers and 103 RBI. If protected in a line-up surrounded by supposed sluggers Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, why couldn’t Wright hit 30 homers with over 100 RBI? Wright was expected to be among the league leaders in run production, and, of course, start in the All-Star Game at Citi Field.

2013 SEASON REVIEW:

Wright got off to a hot start, played in the All-Star Game, and despite little support was on a 30-homer, 100-RBI pace. However, as usual it was about staying healthy, and a strained hamstring sliced seven weeks from his season and limited him to 111 games. Nonetheless, Wright posted impressive numbers, such as a .393 on-base percentage and .909 OPS. Wright’s run-production numbers of 17 homers and 57 were paltry, but could have come close to expectations had he played a complete season. Remember, after Marlon Byrd was traded there was no protection. Wright lived up to his captaincy throughout the season. He was the go-to guy when reporters needed a comment, such as during the Jordany Valdespin fiasco. Perhaps most impressive, is with the competitive part of the season over for the Mets, Wright worked hard to get himself back to the lineup. He said he wanted to be an example for his young teammates. It is what leaders do.

CAREER STATS: 

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LOOKING AT 2014:

John Delcos Says:

A healthy Wright is an offensive force. His best years were when he was complemented in the line-up with sluggers Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. This is why it is important for Davis and/or Duda live up to their expectations and offer protection. When there was nothing to play for, Wright said it was important to return so he could get a gauge on his health. Wright might have taken a risk, but wanted to know where he stood physically as to prepare for the off-season. So, what happens? He was beaned and jammed his thumb when he fell. The hamstring does not appear to be an issue. The Mets need to surround him with productive bats, and if they do that, there’s no reason Wright can’t play up to his 162-game average and have a big year.

Joe D. Says:

This team has a lot of problems, but David Wright isn’t one of them. That said, the Mets continue to squander the prime years of his career without affording him any protection or other big bats in the lineup. Apparently, he gave the Mets an $8 million dollar, interest-free loan last Winter to help get that big bat, but it never happened. And even when they backed into some unexpected production from Marlon Byrd, the plan was to ship him off as soon possible once any value was established. I feel bad for Wright, who still believes that there’s a plan in place for this team to contend for a championship as soon as 2014. I’d love to see if Wright could ever duplicate the numbers he posted back in 2007 and 2008 when Carlos Beltran and other big-league bats complimented him. But listening to some of the names being bandied about so far, it looks like the Mets captain will have to do most of the heavy lifting himself again next season. Hopefully, when the front office does decide they are a championship caliber ballclub, Wright will still be as productive as he is now and not slipping into his career decline.

button No 5 wright

Sep 28

Mets Wrap: Numbers That Add To Another Loss

There are a lot of statistics to define the 2013 New York Mets. One is 40-41, the Mets’ record in games decided by two or fewer runs. The other is 32-24, their record at Citi Field after today’s 10-inning, 4-2 loss to Milwaukee.

It was the Mets’ third straight loss by a 4-2 score after winning five of six on the road. That inconsistency is also emblematic of how the Mets have played this season.

There are two ways to interpret the first statistic. With half their games decided by two runs – they are 28-28 in one-run games – the Mets have been competitive, which is an encouraging sign.

Not so encouraging is they haven’t been good enough to take the next step over the line. The 40 victories mean they’ve played well enough to stay in the game. That they’ve been that competitive is why manager Terry Collins will reportedly be offered a two-year extension.

To be that competitive considering the season-ending losses of Matt Harvey and Bobby Parnell; the lengthy injury to David Wright; the horrific lack of production from Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda; a makeshift bullpen and outfield; Jon Niese’s off-year; and the trade of Marlon Byrd and John Buck.

All that and it is a wonder their record isn’t worse.

The 41 losses indicate breakdowns in the bullpen, defensive lapses a failure to hit in the clutch, plus all of the above.

The Mets’ home record? Well, that’s just bad baseball.

Their overall record at home has been abysmal since Citi Field, and the sad thing is this year’s staff might have been the Mets’ best, even without Johan Santana.

When the Mets opened Citi Field, they moved into a cavernous stadium a promised a team build on pitching, speed and defense. Power was a fourth priority, and yet when the Mets’ needs are mentioned it always comes down to adding a power-hitting outfielder.

However, the most telling offensive stat isn’t their 130 homers – only the traded Byrd hit more than 20 – but 1,371 strikeouts. All those strikeouts add up to over 50 games without touching the ball.

Foul balls excluded.

All those strikeouts is yet another statistic that defines this summer, the Mets’ fifth straight losing season and fifth consecutive with a drop in attendance.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos