Sep 03

Mets Should Take Notice Of Marlins Heading Into Offseason

For those of you who think stocking up on big ticket free agents should be cognizant of what happened in Miami if they believe that is the way to go in building a team. A look at the Red Sox would do them good, too.

It’s not about spending the money, but spending it wisely. The Marlins, who went crazy with Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes, were swept this weekend by the Mets and are in last place in the NL East. This isn’t to say the Mets’ method of not spending and hoping for the best isn’t the best answer, either.

It’s about spending wisely and being aware of chemistry.

When you go nuts and start casting off pieces in July, you know you screwed up in building your team.

When you look at what did in the Mets this season, it is the same flaws they had going in, and that was the bullpen and starting pitching depth. Yes, there was that stretch they just came out of when they didn’t score any runs, but by that time their season was over.

Building a bullpen is about finding the right role pieces and being aware of chemistry. Sandy Alderson’s pen rebuilding effort was a complete bust, and also revealing is that Bobby Parnell continues to be non-descript.

Chris Young was good yesterday, but he’s not the answer as the fifth starter. And I won’t insult you by reading anything into Jason Bay’s slam. The Mets should either release him or play him in a platoon with Lucas Duda. As far as Young goes, the Mets will probably bring him back because of, 1) concerns about Johan Santana’s durability, 2) not knowing what Matt Harvey will give them over a full season, 3) not having a ready answer of who will eat Mike Pelfrey’s innings, and 4) hot having any guarantees from the minor league system.

The Mets must look at the availability of FA starters capable of eating innings, and I’ll be examining their options as the month progresses.

I hope you all had a great Labor Day weekend, made better by the sweep of the Marlins.

 

Aug 31

On Shutting Down Matt Harvey

Enjoy it while you can. The Mets plan to shut down Matt Harvey after 175 innings max, which is about three more starts.

While he’s been one of the bright spots to a disappointing season, I have no problem with the decision as there’s nothing to be gained by running him into the ground. If he’s as good as projected, he’ll be throwing 200-plus innings soon enough.

Harvey has been impressive through his first seven starts, in particular in limiting the damage when he gets in trouble. The ability to fight through threats, whether it be by improvisation or pure power and guile makes for the foundation of a good career.

This is something we also so yesterday from Jon Niese, who was in constant trouble but held the Phillies to single runs in three straight innings. We’ve seen worse from Niese, so this is another good sign.

Overall, I expected more from Niese than 10-9 at this point. His sub-4 ERA says he hasn’t always gotten the most run support. While there have been rocky nights for him, in the long run there’s still a lot of potential there and the combination of him and Harvey, plus R. A. Dickey and comebacks from Dillon Gee and Johan Santana, gives the Mets the basis for a good rotation next season.

Now, if they can only score some runs and redo the bullpen.

Aug 30

Gotta Like Terry Collins On Third Place Talk

OK, the Mets can move into third place with a victory this afternoon in Philadelphia. Matt Harvey’s strong performance last night, aided by a Lucas Duda homer, marked the Mets’ fourth victory in a row to give the team a pulse after a lifeless July and August.

Third place?

Big deal, says Terry Collins.

Collins wants .500, which would be difficult, but not impossible being eight games under with 31 to play. It could be done.

“You know, it’s not a goal. I don’t know where that’s coming from,” Collins said about third place. “It’s not a goal. The goal is to play as good as we can for as long as we can. For me, our goal should be to try to get back to .500. That should be our goal. Wherever that puts us at the end of the year, it puts us at the end of the year.

“But, believe me, we are not playing for third place. We’re trying to win as many games as we can. … I don’t want these guys coming in here every day looking at the box score, seeing who is in fourth. That does nothing for me.”

Play as good as they can for as long as they can. At one time, the Mets were eight games over .500. Imagine where the can be had they simply played .500 the last two months. It could have been a fun summer.

The Mets have holes, but how they played in the first half is indicative how what they can do with limited talent if they just play the game the right way.

Collins knows teams will only reach the next level if they play consistently hard and are fundamentally sound. There were too many times over the past two months when the Mets mentally took off too many plays.

It’s a long season, sure. Handling the grind is what defines a playoff caliber team. Those that concentrate and don’t take plays offs are the ones who persevere over the long haul.

I know this next comment is getting off the track a bit, but the long haul is why I hate interleague play and the unbalanced schedule so much. It used to be every team ran the same course, played the same teams, and there was a purity in determining the best over 162 games.

That’s not the case these days with some teams playing easier schedules based on their interleague schedule. The purity of the schedule, plus the limited playoff field is what long separated baseball from the other sports.

Aug 29

A Lot To Like About Matt Harvey, Who Doesn’t Remind Us Of Mike Pelfrey

It is premature to say Matt Harvey will surpass Dwight Gooden and become one of the Mets’ career aces. Even so, there’s a lot to like about him, which we can enjoy watching tonight in his start at Philadelphia.

HARVEY: A lot to like. (AP)

Harvey is already in the Mets’ history books with 43 strikeouts through his first six starts. That’s an average of seven a game – and only once did he work past the seventh – is indicative of potential dominance. If he gets nine strikeouts tonight, he’ll pass Gooden’s mark of 51 strikeouts in his first seven games, set in 1984.

Harvey’s money-pitch is a high fastball that has hitters wailing in the air. Harvey has shown an ability to “climb the latter,” and the higher he gets in the strike zone the harder it is for hitters to resist. It is if the ball is teasing the hitters, saying “swing at me.”

Doing so subsequently enables him to so far be effective with his secondary pitches. That’s something Mike Pelfrey has been unable to consistently master. It has been a small sample, but Harvey is ahead of Pelfrey at a similar stage of their careers. Who knows? He might already be ahead of Pelfrey.

There are all kinds of numbers to measure a pitcher’s dominance, and ESPN posted hitters are batting .085 (6-for-71, 43 strikeouts, 10 walks) when Harvey gets two strikes. That’s slamming the door.

The inability to put a hitter away when the count is in the pitcher’s favor has been something Pelfrey, John Maine – he burned out quickly – Bobby Parnell and a few others haven’t been able to master.

Harvey’s emergence makes it more and more unlikely the Mets will re-sign Pelfrey, who is making $5.68 million this season while on the disabled list. Knowing that number would be the bottom of what the tight-fisted Mets would pay, and with Harvey and a few others knocking at the door, strongly suggest the Mets will walk away.

 

Aug 24

Astros, Mets Kindred Spirits?

They were born the same year, 1962, as expansion teams, and in the Houston Astros’ final National League appearance against the Mets in New York, both teams are playing like expansion teams.

Although linked by their entry, the Mets and Astros never developed an substantive rivalry in these 50 years. Playing in different divisions dulled the potential of a rivalry.  Both had long stretches of mediocrity, or worse, and there were few times they were good at the same time.

Then there was 1986.

The Mets rolled through the regular season. They dominated as manager Davey Johnson boasted at the start of the season. But, the Astros wouldn’t cave and made it a memorable series.

The Mets prevailed, 4-2, but needed 16 innings to oust the Astros in Game 6. They were on the brink of elimination in the ninth inning but rallied for three runs to force extra innings. The teams traded runs in the 14th inning. The Mets scored three in the top of the 16th, but the Astros’ rally fell a run short.

With the win, the Mets avoided facing Astros ace Mike Scott in a Game 7. The Mets could not touch Scott and to this day Keith Hernandez admits he was in their heads. The Mets were convinced Scott was scuffing the ball, but never caught him.

The series that begins tonight is the last time time the Astros will play here as a National League team as they will move to the American League in 2013.

I don’t like the idea of the Astros leaving the league. It will be odd not playing them, but then again things have been odd since interleague play and the unbalanced schedule. It’s just not the same race for every team.

As bad as the Mets have been since the break, going 11-28 and having just been swept by Colorado, the Astros have been a horrid 6-33. Part of it is playing poorly and going with young, inexperienced players, but a lot of that has to do with gutting their team in a July fire sale.

While the Mets have played some incredibly horrid baseball in August, the month did produce a bright spot in the emergence of Matt Harvey and yesterday’s stunning debut by Collin McHugh.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll look back at this month as the time when the Mets found the core of a new pitching rotation.