Oct 21

2012 Mets Player Review: Matt Harvey

MATT HARVEY, RHP 

 PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: The expectations of Matt Harvey were minimal for this summer. The Mets’ 2010 first-round pick out of North Carolina – and the seventh choice overall – was to continue his development in the minor leagues. The best-case scenario had him continuing his development at Triple-A Buffalo and join the Mets as a September call-up, when he would make two or three starts to give the big club an idea of whether he would fit into their plans for 2013. Even when the Mets’ rotation started to crumble, the talk was he wasn’t ready and GM Sandy Alderson didn’t want to rush him to the major league level. The scouting report on the 23-year-old Harvey was he had a plus-fastball, good secondary pitches and the ability to keep his composure on the mound. At similar points in their careers, Harvey was rated ahead of Mike Pelfrey, the Mets’ first-round pick in 2005.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Harvey was 7-5 with a 3.68 ERA in 20 starts for the Bisons before the Mets promoted him in late July. Minor league hitters batted .233 against him and he had 112 strikeouts and only 48 walks in 110 innings, numbers that clearly indicated he was overpowering batters. With the Mets’ rotation in shambles, Alderson had no option but to elevate him to see what he could do on the next level. At the time, the Mets were fading and the summer was spiraling out of control. Unable or unwilling to make a midseason acquisition – take your pick – Alderson had to do something to keep the dwindling attention of Mets fans and Harvey was the answer. Harvey pitched 5.1 scoreless innings at Arizona, July 26 to win his major league debut. He struck out 11 and walked three to have Mets fans drooling about the possibilities. However, he was victimized by the Mets’ dismal offense and lost his next three starts – they gave him only four runs in those games – but there was still a lot to like about Harvey’s game, especially his willingness to challenge hitters and his walks-to-strikeouts ratio. Unlike Pelfrey, Harvey possessed a poise and calmness about him. His command was exceptional and his stuff overpowering. He seemed to get a strikeout whenever the situation demanded. Harvey finished his first year at 3-5 with a 2.73 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. He struck out 70 with 26 walks in 59 innings, and batters hit a paltry .200 with a .338 slugging percentage against him. The Mets shut him down after his Sept. 19 start against Philadelphia to conserve his arm.

LOOKING AT 2013: I don’t know if the Mets will conserve his innings next summer the way the Nationals did Stephen Strasburg. Let’s hope not, but if they are inclined to jump on that bandwagon, let’s hope they don’t yank the rug out from under him in September, but perhaps have him skip a start once a month. That would mean six starts and possibly up to 42 innings for the summer. The Mets are counting on him to be in the rotation on Opening Day and develop into a solid, consistent starter. Actually, they are counting on him to become a star. Anything less than that would be a disappointment.

NEXT:  A look at the other pitchers who started games for the 2012 Mets.

Oct 20

2012 Mets Player Review: Mike Pelfrey

MIKE PELFREY, RHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: After falling far short of the expectations of a No. 1 draft choice in 2005 – the ninth overall selection – Mike Pelfrey had what was thought to be a breakout year in 2010 when he went 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA and career high 204 innings. Pelfrey did not have dominating numbers, but clearly made progressions in his approach to pitching that suggested he might become the pitcher the Mets hoped. Pelfrey finally was pitching with poise and guile. There was an undeniable composure he never displayed before and his pitch selection was far better. Hitters could no longer sit on his fastball because he was getting his secondary pitches over in fastball counts. Could Pelfrey finally become an ace? Well, no. Pelfrey regressed in 2011 going 7-13 with a 4.74 ERA. Hitters ripped him at a .286 clip with a .344 on-base percentage and crushed 21 homers. With two back-to-back polar opposite seasons, the Mets didn’t know what to expect from him for the $5.6 million they would pay.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Pelfrey started fast this year with a 2.29 ERA in three starts and resembled his 2010 performance. He pitched with composure in that window and the thought was perhaps he would take the next step. However, Pelfrey sustained an elbow injury and underwent Tommy John surgery that finished his season. Would it also finish his Mets’ career?

LOOKING AT 2013: The cost conscious Mets, despite holes in their rotation, aren’t expected to tender Pelfrey a contract this December, even if they were to offer the maximum 20 percent cut from his $5.687 million contract. Many pitchers have rebounded from Tommy John surgery, so even if the Mets don’t bring him back there will be interest as there is no shortage of teams with pitching needs. If the Mets think they can cut him loose and bring him back at a discount, they should think again because at 28, he’s young enough to where his career isn’t over. Pelfrey is a career 50-54 with a 4.36 ERA and .284 batting average against him. Of all the statistics on his resume, his age is the one most likely to cause the Mets to take a flier on him again. Considering the potential holes in the Mets’ rotation and bullpen and inevitable need for pitching, he might be worth the gamble. If healthy, he could give the Mets close to 200 innings. With Johan Santana gone after 2013, the Mets will need a starter and there are no guarantees from Matt Harvey, Zach Wheeler or Jenrry Mejia. The idea has also been floated of putting Pelfrey in the bullpen with potential of eventually becoming the closer.

NEXT: Matt Harvey

Oct 19

2012 Mets Player Review: Chris Young

                                                              CHRIS YOUNG, RHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: With veteran Chris Young there was first a hope before any expectations. Signed as a stop gap starter to begin with prior to the 2011 season, Young pitched effectively at first before injuring his shoulder. In four starts he was 1-0 with a 1.88 ERA, giving the Mets six innings a start. Although an injury risk, when sound he was a veteran presence who pitched with composure and guile an a sharp curveball. He could pump up his fastball if needed, but wouldn’t overpower hitters for any length of time. Young was coming off a shoulder surgery as severe, if not moreso, than Johan Santana’s. The Mets didn’t when he’d be ready when they signed him to a minor league deal in late March. He was signed as a reward for a good April in 2011, his desire to remain with the organization, and the inevitability there would be breakdowns in the rotation. After all, there always is. If Young could pitch, they were hoping for the same calming presence whenever that time came.

 

2012 SEASON REVIEW: That’s exactly what the Mets got when they purchased his contract in June. As expected, there were health cracks in the rotation when Mike Pelfrey went down early, Santana became ineffective following his 134-pitch no-hitter, and Dillon Gee went down with numbness in his arm. A breakdown from Young never happened and he gave the Mets 20 starts. Some were solid, others not so much, but he did reach an innings incentive in his contract which the club probably didn’t expect. Young finished at 4-9 with a 4.15 ERA and 1.35 WHIP, but he pitched better than his numbers and was often frustrated with a lack of run support and porous bullpen evidenced by seven no-decision. Realistically he could have finished at 7-7, which is acceptable for a No. 5 starter who made 20 starts.

 

LOOKING AT 2013: As of now, there isn’t a clear spot in the rotation for Young, with presumably Santana and Dillon Gee – both coming off injuries – R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese and Matt Harvey ahead of him. Then again, that rotation is a house of cards. What if Santana and Gee aren’t ready? What if the Mets can’t extend Dickey’s contract and they trade him? What if Harvey has a setback? All of those things are possible and would leave the Mets with gaping holes in their rotation. So, if not Young, the Mets would need a veteran like him to fill the emergency void. There’s a sense of familiarity with Young, and last year he earned a reasonable $1.1 million salary. The Mets would be lucky to get 115 innings for that price somewhere else in the market. Young’s starts and innings could induce a contending team with a rotation hole to give him a shot as he proved his durability.

 

NEXT: Mike Pelfrey

Oct 18

2012 Mets Player Review: Dillon Gee

DILLON GEE, RHP


 
 
PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Dillon Gee made a strong first impression with the Mets as a 2010 September call-up when their rotation was in tatters. He made five starts and gave the Mets at least six innings in each and didn’t up more than three earned runs in any. His 2.18 ERA and ability to keep his composure caught the Mets’ eye. When they were beset by injuries in 2011, Gee was brought up and won his first seven decisions and eight of nine. Gee finished 13-6 with a 4.43 ERA to earn himself a spot in the 2012 rotation. He showed guile and grit and an ability to challenge hitters, more with command and movement on his pitches than overpowering stuff. While there was a school of thought 2011 might have been a fluke and to expect a regression, there was also one that suggested he might be the real thing and could build on his initial success as the No. 5 starter. It was the latter belief, in part, as to why the Mets didn’t aggressively pursue and middle-tier veteran starter that offseason.
 
2012 SEASON REVIEW: Gee made 17 starts this year, 10 fewer than in 2011 before he was shut down in July. After complaining of numbness and a lack of strength in his arm, he underwent season-ending surgery to replace artery damage in his shoulder.  Gee struggled out of the gate and wasn’t pitching at his 2011 form when he was injured. He was 6-7 with a 4.10 ERA and 1.25 WHIP before he called it a season. On the positive side, he had a 97-29 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. Gee worked at least into the seventh in nine starts. The Mets gave him three or fewer runs in nine starts, so his record was attributable in large part because of a lack of run support, a malady that struck the whole staff.
 
LOOKING AT 2013: The surgery was deemed successful, but we won’t know whether his shoulder is at full strength until he begins throwing. Assuming he’s physically able, Gee should enter spring training as the No. 5 starter. That is, of course, assuming the best for Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey, and perhaps the long-shot possibility of Mike Pelfrey being tendered a contract. He would likely be slotted behind hot prospect Matt Harvey. There’s a lot to like in how Gee challenges his hitter and his command. This is a pitcher with more to learn, but appears to be smart and someone who could develop into a reliable starter. If 2010 wasn’t a fluke, the Mets would take 13 victories in a heartbeat.
NEXT: Chris Young
Oct 11

What Should Mets Learn From Playoff Teams?

So far, this has been a compelling playoffs with the possibility of all four series going to a deciding fifth game. Major League Baseball is thrilled, and hopefully this trend will continue in the League Championship Series and World Series.

That’s what baseball should be about.

Hopefully, the Mets are taking notes. Four of the teams in the playoffs – Oakland, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Washington – have payrolls less than the $100 million the Mets shelled out this year for the joy of finishing 14 games below .500.

Here’s what the playoff teams have that the Mets lack:

1) Pitching: Both starting and bullpen are vital to winning. Always has been, always will be. That’s why I get frustrated when I hear complaints about the Mets’ lack of power. Home runs are the great eraser and the Yankees proved that last night. But, they were in position to win because of pitching. Three games against the Orioles and their starters reached the eighth inning each time. Unheard of. All of the teams have solid pitching and a good bullpen. As I wrote earlier today, Baltimore’s Darren O’Day is making $1.35 million this year, so it can be done inexpensively. However, that requires an aggressive front office and superior scouting, two areas where the Mets need improvement.

2) Strong minor league base: It would be foolish to say each of these teams were built solely on their farm system. Detroit and the Yankees all acquired significant talent from the outside, but there is core home grown talent from all. Just look at Matt Wieters, Joey Votto, Matt Cain and Bryce Harper. I would have mentioned Stephen Strasburg, but the Nationals pulled him from the playoffs. It could bite them in the butt, and what if the Nationals never get back here? It is possible. That is why it was encouraging this summer when several times the Mets fielded a full home grown-lineup and why I am opposed conceptually to trading Ike Davis. The Mets have a home product who hit 32 homers this year. Those don’t come along often, and rarely for the Mets. Davis is a start, along with Jon Niese, Matt Harvey and Ruben Tejada, not to mention David Wright. Bolstering the farm system and improving the scouting are essential for long-term growth. Free-agent signings should be to complement what’s already there.

3) Strong catching: Wieters is clearly the catcher with the most upside in the group. Regardless of how Russell Martin has played in October, the idea of pursuing him is outlandish and it was a ridiculous idea in the first place. Obviously, a slow news day. Martin is too old and too expensive for a rebuilding team, and let’s not kid ourselves, that defines the Mets. I was initially optimistic about Josh Thole, but those feelings have waned. He’s not hit for average or power and his defense has regressed. And, let’s not blame R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball for it. Catching is an issue, but I don’t believe it is as high on the Mets’ priority list as adding outfielders and relievers.

4) Timely hitting: It doesn’t get more timely than what Raul Ibanez did last night. The Mets were clutch in the first half, but their hitting with runners in scoring position disappeared in the second half. It all fell on Wright after the All-Star break and he couldn’t handle the strain. Each of these teams has an offensive core, hitters that concern an opposing manager. After Wright, and at times Davis, who is frightening in the Mets’ lineup. Scott Hairston had a good season coming off the bench, as Ibanez did, but after hitting 20 homers for the first time he might be too expensive to bring back.

5) Home field advantage: So far, it hasn’t helped San Francisco and Cincinnati, but nonetheless each of the teams in the postseason had a winning record at home. The Mets can’t ever be a serious contender until they learn to use Citi Field as an advantage. I understand the Catch-22, that part of that advantage is having people in the stands. The Mets need to improve the first four before this will take root. When Citi Field opened the Mets were vocal in saying they would build around pitching and defense, so naturally the first thing they did was sign Jason Bay. That’s the final lesson I hope the Mets learn …

6) Have a plan: Where are the Mets headed? If they don’t bring back Wright and Dickey, then it is back to square one. The team is operating as if they have no money and that’s a discouraging sign. GM Sandy Alderson said the team had the resources to add at the trade deadline, but waited until the team had fallen out of contention before deciding it was too late. On one hand, the Mets are singing the praises of their young pitching, but on the other it is exploring trading Davis, and could not bring back Wright or Dickey. What gives?