Aug 13

How The Mets Morphed Into A Team

With a few exceptions, the New York Mets resemble little the team that broke spring training. Only two players, Daniel Murphy and Ike Davis, were the expected starters this late in the season who were in the line-up Monday night in Los Angeles.

And, only recently is Davis’ performance at the plate reaching major league standards. And, Murphy will be the first tell you last night wasn’t major league standards for him defensively, but that’s another matter.

Davis is playing well, but not hitting for power and his spot next year is far from secure.

Around the infield, John Buck was to have been replaced by Travis d’Arnaud at catcher; Ruben Tejada was to be at shortstop, not Omar Quintanilla; and third baseman David Wright being on the disabled list gave Wilmer Flores an opportunity.

How well d’Arnaud plays on this level remains a mystery, and Tejada is playing his way out of the organization.

Ironically, Flores’ development could mean the end of Murphy’s tenure with the Mets as Terry Collins is talking about playing him at second base. However, he could sit after twisting his ankle.

From left to right in the outfield, we all knew Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Colin Cowgill in center, and Mike Baxter in right wouldn’t last. Cowgill hit a grand slam Opening Day and was on the bench within two weeks.

Duda is in the minor leagues saying he wouldn’t mind being a DH, which couldn’t make Sandy Alderson happy; Nieuwenhuis is in the minors while Cowgill was traded; and Baxter is again a role player.

Eric Young filled the lead-off hole and there’s no way Duda could replace him in left; Juan Lagares is the centerfielder of the present and future; and role player Marlon Byrd turned out to be the team’s best offensive player.

Anticipate Byrd asking for two years and not being retained.

Zack Wheeler and Jenrry Mejia weren’t in the Opening Day rotation and both are pitching as if they have plans to never leave. We know, barring injury, Wheeler isn’t going anywhere.

The bullpen has been superb the past month, but has also been patchwork. Bullpens always need tinkering; so don’t be surprised if there are new faces next spring.

The expectations of the Mets were low this spring and it is a reflection of how Matt Harvey’s development and how well Collins and his staff have done to where .500 or second place are even possible goals.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 12

No More Six-Man Rotation; Mets’ Pitching In State Of Flux

That six-man rotation the New York Mets wanted to establish will not happen. With the need to protect Jon Niese, who came off the disabled list Sunday, and wanting to limit the innings of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, the six-man rotation seemed an appropriate way to go.

HEFNER: DL bound?

HEFNER: DL bound?

Of course, six won’t work when there are only five pitchers. That’s because struggling Jeremy Hefner was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas to make room for Niese, and could wind up on the disabled list with an elbow problem.

Niese labored in beating the Diamondbacks Sunday, but came out feeling no pain in his shoulder. We’ll know more when he reports to Dodger Stadium later.

“I felt good,’’ Niese told reporters in Phoenix. “There was no pain. Everything felt good. … Let’s see how it feels [Monday].’’

Niese, held to a 90-pitch limit, gave up four runs in six innings. Not a quality start, but good enough to win. Niese averaged roughly 90 mph., on his fastball, which has been this season’s norm. His next start is scheduled for Aug. 16, at San Diego. The Mets have not placed a pitch count limit for that start, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep him on a strict limit for the remainder of the season.

Despite the return to a five-man rotation, GM Sandy Alderson believes both Harvey and Wheeler should be able to close out the season while reaching their innings limit.

METS ROTATION FOR AUGUST: ESPN’s Adam Rubin, who is on top of all things Mets, put together their projected rotation for the remainder of the month. Here’s what Rubin came up with:

AT DODGERS

Aug. 12: Jenrry Mejia

Aug. 13: Harvey

Aug. 14: Dillon Gee

AT PADRES
Aug. 15: Wheeler

Aug. 16: Niese

Aug. 17: Mejia

Aug. 18: Harvey

AT TWINS

Aug. 19: Gee

BRAVES

Aug. 20: Wheeler

Aug. 21: Niese

OFF DAY
Aug. 22 

TIGERS

Aug. 23: Mejia

Aug. 24: Harvey

Aug. 25: Gee 

 PHILLIES

Aug. 26: Wheeler

Aug. 27: Niese

Aug. 28: Mejia

Aug. 29: Harvey

AT NATIONALS

Aug. 30: Gee

Aug. 31: Wheeler

Of course, there’s no accounting for injuries or rainouts, so the rotation could change. It doesn’t appear Rafael Montero will be brought up in September because he would be close to reaching his innings limit. However, during the crush of games for the rest of the month, it might be prudent for the Mets to bring him up for a spot start.

Where they slot him could allow for more rest for Harvey and Wheeler. Plus, it gives the Mets a look at one of their top prospects under major league conditions.

It would be a win-win situation.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 11

Six-Man Rotation Might Benefit Mets And Jon Niese

Jon Niese will make his first start for the New York Mets in nearly two months this afternoon today in Phoenix. It is arguably one of the most important starts by a Met starter this season.

Those made by Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler generated more excitement, but for future planning, this is hugely important because it dictates their off-season objectives.

NIESE: What's he thinking?

NIESE: What’s he thinking?

Niese lasted just 3.1 innings in his last start, June 20, at Atlanta, after which it was discovered he had a partially-torn rotator cuff. He went on the disabled list two days later. Niese passed all the medical tests, so it is assumed he’s good to go.

The Mets need to test Niese with kid gloves for the remainder of the season, and figuring no further complications it would streamline the Mets’ off-season shopping list.

If Niese is reinjured, don’t expect an early return next year, and assume they will attempt to add another starter this winter. They could go again with Jeremy Hefner, who has hit the skids since the All-Star break, or they could add another solution like Shaun Marcum.

Yeah, I thought that might get your attention.

Niese gave up three runs on eight hits in that start against the Braves, with five strikeouts and no walks. The most important number is where he landed on the pain meter, which was pretty high.

With Niese’s return to the rotation, the Mets will continue with a six-man starter, which under these circumstances is a prudent move for several reasons: 1) it protects Niese; 2) it lengthens the time between Hefner starts; and 3) it allows the Mets to reduce the starts, and thereby innings, of Harvey and Wheeler.

Most importantly, it will give the Mets an understanding of where Niese stands physically and their off-season needs while protecting him. That’s their most important pitching objective for now, even more than reducing Harvey’s and Wheeler’s innings.

Nobody knows whether the Mets will need to reduce Harvey and Wheeler next season, but assuming they will, this experience can only help them in developing a between-starts routine.

In four games against Arizona, Niese is 1-2 with a 6.85 ERA, including an 11-5 loss last July. However, those numbers aren’t as important as the simple fact Niese is starting another game this season.

For those thinking the Mets have nothing to play for or learn the remainder of the season, guess again.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 08

Dillon Gee Continues Roll; Mets’ Rotation Looks Strong For Future

Never mind Matt Harvey for a moment, but the New York Mets must be thrilled with the continued solid production from Jenrry Mejia and Dillon Gee. If this season is about laying the groundwork for the future, then Mejia and Gee are good signs.

GEE: Superb again Thursday. (AP)

                                  GEE: Superb again Thursday. (AP)

Assuming they continue this run for the rest of the season, the Mets could enter the winter without the need to add another starter through free agency.

The Mets have several holes they must fill, and if another starting pitcher is not one of them, there would be resources for use elsewhere.

Gee was strong again today as the Mets completed a sweep of the Colorado Rockies. He is 6-2 with a 2.42 ERA in his last 13 starts, beginning with a May 30 victory over the Yankees. He’s proven durable from last year’s surgery and should go into spring training with a spot in the rotation. Gee got off to a slow start, perhaps attributable to the surgery, but is health is no longer an issue.

Of those 13 starts, 10 are defined as quality, which is giving up three or fewer runs in six innings. As a fourth or fifth starter, the Mets can’t ask for more. Mejia has a quality outing in each of his three starts.

Gee downplayed his numbers to reporters after the game: “I don’t worry about that stuff. At the end of the year, when you look up, you see what it’s been. I try to take it day by day, and hopefully we win the games.’’

The Mets’ pitching as been strong recently, and forecasting to next year, Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese, Gee and Mejia comprise a youthful rotation with potential. And, we haven’t even gotten to Rafael Montero.

The Mets began their season with Johan Santana and Shaun Marcum on the disabled list. Marcum is gone and Santana will never pitch again for the Mets. As bleak as that news was at the time, it turned out to be a fortunate break for the Mets.

METS MATTERS: The Mets’ catching is approaching a state of flux with John Buck to shortly leave the team for maternity leave. Buck’s wife was due to deliver several days ago. They could bring up Travis d’Arnaud for the allotted three-day period, or they could go elsewhere in their system. … Lucas Duda, on the DL with an intercostal strain, isn’t close to being recalled, and we might not see him until the rosters are expanded, Sept. 1. … Harvey, who took a liner off his knee Tuesday night, said he’s fine and his between starts routine should not be impacted. … The Mets’ bullpen has a 2.10 ERA dating back to July 1.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 02

Using Zack Wheeler Out Of The Bullpen Is A Bad Idea

There are bad ideas and really bad ideas, and the New York Mets considering using Zack Wheeler out of the bullpen falls into the latter category.

WHEELER: Leave him alone. (AP)

WHEELER: Leave him alone. (AP)

Wheeler has thrown a combined 114.1 minors-and-majors innings this season with a cutoff number at 180. With the intent of limiting his innings, manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen are mulling using Wheeler out of the bullpen.

This is a bad idea on so many levels, beginning with the up-and-down nature of a reliever. The Mets will say they will only use Wheeler at the start of an inning, but that’s no guarantee. It is still a change in routine and they must scrap this idea immediately.

The Mets’ goal of winning as many games as possible in the second half and limiting Wheeler and Matt Harvey aren’t mutually compatible. The best way to achieve their goal of making a .500 run is to not change their pitching, which has been good.

Pitchers are creatures of habit and Wheeler hasn’t pitched out of the bullpen since 2010. For the past three years, he’s worked in the routine of a starter. Bouncing from starter to reliever in the middle of a season is never a good idea. The Mets should know that by now with Jenrry Mejia, who went from reliever to starter and ended up having Tommy John surgery.

A coincidence? Perhaps, but why take the chance? Considering how the Mets handled Wheeler with kid gloves, thrusting him into a new role is counter productive. It might be different if the Mets were in a pennant race, but they are not.

Figuring ten more starts they should simply cut Wheeler at six innings a game and do not deviate under any circumstances. That would give him 174.1 innings, just under the limit. This way, it keeps Wheeler in his normal routine and eliminate the different strain on his arm caused by working in relief. A starter has a set program, but a reliever does not.

San Francisco used Tim Lincecum out of the pen last year, but he’s a veteran more capable of making the adjustment than Wheeler.

Currently, the Mets are operating with a six-man rotation, which could go back to five once Jonathan Niese comes off the disabled list. The Mets have not said they’ll continue with six when Niese returns. Doing so might not be a bad idea because it would accomplish the dual  purposes of monitoring Wheeler and Harvey, not to mention protecting Niese.

If the Mets go down to five, it would give Wheeler and Harvey additional turns. In that case, they should be skipped or pushed back a turn, which is preferable to shaving innings piecemeal..

The Mets haven’t said whether they will have an innings limit on Wheeler and Harvey next season, but if they do, they should map out their plan from the beginning than doing so mid-stream.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos