Jul 22

Contrasting Zack Wheeler And Matt Harvey

The New York Mets won the games pitched by Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey over the weekend, but their performances illustrated the gap between the two, and still the need for improvement of each.

Let’s look first at Wheeler, who is here to stay. He’s taken his lumps and will take some more. Wheeler’s problem remains command of all his pitches, beginning with the fastball that is the lead domino. Again, Wheeler had a high pitch count that didn’t translate getting deep into the game. He didn’t get out of the fifth Saturday.

When that happens, coupled with Jeremy Hefner’s mugging the previous night, it means a strain on the bullpen and the need for Harvey to work deep into his game Sunday.

Harvey is head-and-shoulders above Wheeler now, and the Mets did it right with Harvey in that they stopped him at seven innings. If they went six that leaves the bullpen working three, which will accomplish what the Mets want on cutting Harvey’s innings, but it increases that of the bullpen.

Harvey struck out ten, and here’s a case where being overpowering works against him. Strikeouts hike up the pitch count, and he could extend his mound time if he pitched more to contact. But, I could be too picky here, in that contact also increases the possibility of hits, and runs, and maybe losing.

Perhaps I am and others are expecting too much from Harvey based on the early returns. Damn, the guy is really good and I admit I am violating my own rule of just letting him pitch and enjoy what I am seeing.

However, what he’s already provided just fuels expectations, like no other Mets’ pitcher since Dwight Gooden.

Harvey’s early demeanor shows he can take it, but Wheeler remains not a concern, but a question. The feeling is the light will go on with him, too, but when?

Confidence can be fragile and you don’t want to see Wheeler labor as he has been. One hundred plus pitches should get Wheeler through seven innings, not just past the fourth.

However, the Mets chose to push the envelope with him, and times won’t always be easy. Barring something totally unforeseen, Wheeler isn’t going to see the minors again this year, or next.

It’s sink-or-swim, and so far he’s treading water.

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

Jul 19

Matt Harvey Spins Into Damage Control

The New York Mets appear to have a prize in Matt Harvey. However, after reading the Men’s Journal story I had to wonder. He couldn’t have meant what he was quoted as saying, could he?

As far a being a Derek Jeter-wannabe, the context was strictly in the pursuing female sense, and as you know, the Yankee shortstop has a bit of a reputation. But, he is Teflon and nothing sticks to him. Harvey doesn’t have that, yet. He may never have it, but at least he’s proving he has the smarts to enter damage control.

HARVEY: Damage control alert.

HARVEY: Damage control alert.

Today, Harvey came out with this tweet: “It really sucks how words get used and completely taken out of context.’’

Yes, it does.

I don’t doubt it is an accurate quote, as these style interviews are usually recorded, but in reading the article there was precious little set-up as to the context of the quote. There didn’t appear to be an effort on the writer’s part to create the scene or ask a follow-up for clarification. It came off as a “money quote,’’ so let’s run with it.

And, if Harvey did try to clarify on the spot, there was no mention there, either.

Harvey isn’t yet a grown man, but he’s getting there. His determination on the mound and work ethic is admirable. It is what franchises want to build around. But, he’s still a young man learning on the fly.

Harvey is having a dream season and appears to love the trappings of being a young star in New York, arguably the best and worst city, in which to be a star. A tip off is having the tabloids chase him around town for photos of him kissing his girlfriend.

Hooray for his model girlfriend, who couldn’t have been happy reading the quotes. Maybe it was after hearing it from her he went into damage control, the way he bears down with runners in scoring position.

I am glad Harvey is trying to rectify things because being a hound isn’t a reputation he really wants. That is, unless he doesn’t mind the whispers or cares about the consequences. If nothing else, if he wants to prowl, at least carry a bullpen in his wallet, or as some athletes and celebrities are doing, carry a pre-sex contract.

It’s Harvey’ love life and he can do what he wants with it, but he would be prudent to calm things down a bit. Harvey isn’t Joe Namath, Walt Frazier or Jeter, for that matter. Not yet, anyway.

NFL great Jim Brown said nothing good happens after midnight, and it is true, especially if one is clubbing in New York. There are those that will always want a part of him, those with a cell phone camera, and athlete-hunting females. Stalking might be a better word.

If somebody on the Mets hasn’t already, they should tell him to tone it down. Somebody always wants a piece of a popular jock, and as composed as he appears on the mound, he’s shown vulnerability off it.

Personally, I don’t care whom Harvey sleeps with or what he drinks. I don’t care as long as it doesn’t interfere with his performance on the mound. So far, it hasn’t. Hopefully, he’s learned something here.

The Jimmy Fallon piece was hilarious, but it won’t be long before that anonymity is lost. And, after midnight is when he’s most likely to lose it.

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

Jul 16

Matt Harvey’s Moment In National Spotlight Is Here

 

BPO5xYnCcAAtFu4-1

IT IS MATT HARVEY’S TIME (MLB)

For the first time since the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, the New York Mets will have their moment under the national spotlight tonight as they host the All-Star Game, with the maître being Matt Harvey.

The whispers were first heard when Harvey had a 5-0 record in mid-May. The no-decision kept coming, but they didn’t deter the whispers that finally became a shout: Harvey will start in his home ballpark before a sell-out crowd and national television audience.

Both the Mets and Harvey wanted this night, so let’s hope he comes out of it unscathed and with another notch on this 2013 belt, which includes national magazine covers and photo shoots, a hilarious spot on Jimmy Fallon’s show last night and the tabloids chasing him all over town to find him in a lip lock with his model girlfriend.

When his pitching days are over, he said he wants to be a movie star. No, with the exception of his biting slider in the dirt, Harvey does not lay low.

He reminds one more of Joe Namath and Walt Frazier in that regard than Dwight Gooden. But, when Harvey takes the mound, you can’t help but see No. 16, who has taken over Twitter in his praise of Harvey.

The year was 1985 and the Mets were a budding powerhouse, and in the twilight of San Francisco’s Candlestick Park he struck out Lance Parrish, Chet Lemon and Alvin Davis. He didn’t actually strike them out as much as he overpowered them.

It was a sign of dominance to come.

Let’s be clear, the 1985 Mets were on the brink of becoming a power. The 2014 Mets are on the verge of becoming relevant again. There’s a big difference, the first step in both is pitching.

The Mets have been on national television before from Citi Field, but this time is different as the entire sports world is watching. That’s different than a Saturday afternoon game against the Phillies.

The Mets want to show off their ballpark, and perhaps at the same time state their case they are a franchise worth watching.

I disagreed with placing Harvey’s start tonight over pitching against the Pirates on Saturday, but I understand where the Mets are coming from. I understand what they are trying to attain.

They are screaming to the baseball world that they should be taken seriously again, and there are few things in the sport more serious than a 98-mph. fastball.

Mike Trout, Robinson Cano and Miguel Cabrera will be the first three hitters he faces. Who knows what will happen, but a fastball under Cabrera’s chin might be a delight to build on.

NOTE: Please accept my apologies for the late post and not being online yesterday. My server was down and it was unavoidable.

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

Jul 14

Mets To End First Half Standing Pat

The first half of the season for the New York Mets, despite losing their last two games in Pittsburgh, ends today on the plus side with comments from GM Sandy Alderson his intent to keep Bobby Parnell and Marlon Byrd.

Alderson said not to expect a second-half makeover. It would easy to trade either, but doing so would create further holes. Doing so would be taking a step in reverse.

BYRD: Looks like he's staying.

BYRD: Looks like he’s staying.

Regarding Byrd, Alderson told Newsday: “We’re not looking to move Marlon. Obviously, we have our eye on the future, but we want to be as good as we can be this year as well. Now, if what we can get for the future exceeds the value of the present, we’d have to look at that. But we’re not anxious to do it.’’

The Mets entered spring training needing an outfielder, and Byrd has produced 15 homers while playing strong defense. Nobody would be saying anything if he were ten years younger, but production is production, and they are getting it from Byrd. They are also getting a sense of professionalism.

Maybe Byrd will ask for two years in the offseason as Scott Hairston did and the Mets will let him walk. But for now, they aren’t going to do much better.

As far as Parnell, if the Mets are to compete next season as they anticipate, they will need a closer who is an economic bargain. That would be Parnell, who after several stumbles, is finally grasping the brass ring.

“We’ve been looking for a closer for two years. Looks like we’ve found one,’’ Alderson said. “Why would we want to give him away immediately? This is not a guy we’re looking to move, either.’’

If the Mets are blown away with offers for either, they should look at them. But, they shouldn’t trade just because somebody called their phone.

The statement the Mets are making is to see how good they can be this season, so they’ll have a clearer picture of their off-season decisions. Trading what commodities they already have will be taking a step back. And, the Mets have made enough of those in recent seasons.

After Saturday’s loss, the Mets optioned Jordany Valdespin, who was on a 2-for-36 slide, to the minor leagues. With Kirk Nieuwenhuis playing well, and before him, Juan Lagares, plus Byrd and the acquisition of Eric Young, there was less playing time for Valdespin after his failed audition at second base.

The Mets were never enamored with Valdespin to begin with, and it wouldn’t be surprising if we never saw him again. I would suggest trading him, but Valdespin’s value is clearly diminished.

The Mets end the first half excited about Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, and before long could have two other young pitchers in their short-term plans as prospects Rafael Montero (World Team) and Noah Syndergaard (Team USA) will start in today’s Futures Game at Citi Field. We could see Montero before the season is over.

In addition, 2011 first-round pick infielder Brandon Nimmo is on the Team USA roster.

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

Jul 13

No Matt Harvey Day

The New York Mets will not have their best pitcher today in Pittsburgh, instead choosing to have Matt Harvey ready for the All-Star Game Tuesday night.

Harvey sits today and probably won’t pitch until next Sunday. The Mets say they are concerned about Harvey’s two blisters and limiting his innings for the second half. Never mind lessening their chances of winning today and possibly tearing open the blisters in the exhibition game.

HARVEY: Not today.

HARVEY: Not today.

While obviously placing a premium on the All-Star Game over the Pirates, the Mets say it’s just an inning on what would be his throw day. Of course, they conveniently ignore the fact he’ll be so amped up Tuesday that his effort won’t be anything like a throw day.

With the seriousness the Mets are taking with Harvey in the All-Star Game, you’d think they’d send him back to New York early so he could rest.

In explaining shaving Harvey’s innings now over skipping starts, say in September, Terry Collins said: “We’ve got to worry about the New York Mets. And I understand the integrity of the game and all that stuff. But we’ve got to worry about Matt Harvey and the New York Mets in the long run. What are the NL East teams going to say if this guy is not pitching in September?’’

Just one big contradiction.

I’m curious as to when this idea of limiting Harvey’s innings was hatched. Didn’t they learn anything from Stephen Strasburg last season?

The best way to cut the innings is skipping one start a month. That’s six over the season and estimating at least six innings a start, that’s 36 shaved innings.

Couldn’t anybody from Sandy Alderson to Collins to pitching coach Dan Warthen figure that out earlier?

Actually, depending on whom you speak with, the issue is pitch counts instead of innings. The cutoff is presumably 100 pitches, but Harvey routinely goes 110 or more.

Speaking of pitch counts, why would you pinch-hit for Jeremy Hefner in a tie game with Jordany Valdespin when he’s only thrown 78 pitches, and with your bullpen worn down and LaTroy Hawkins not available with a sore triceps?

Valdespin hasn’t done anything lately coming off the bench, Hefner was grooving, and did I mention the bullpen has been overworked? It all added up to rookie Gonzalez Germen making his debut in extra innings.

You had to figure something bad was going to happen, which, of course, it did.

Today the Mets will go with Carlos Torres, who worked two innings in San Francisco in a blowout win when it would have been a perfect time to break in Germen.

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