Apr 11

Mets Matters: What Went Wrong In Philly?

jeremy hefner

The Mets aren’t quite a Lindsay Lohan train wreck, but today in snowy and cold Minneapolis perhaps they can reflect on what went wrong in Philadelphia and some of these very visible cracks:

STARTING PITCHING: At 5-4, the Mets are better than expected and received strong starts in six games, but Matt Harvey and Jon Niese followed by three days of rain isn’t going to happen.

In three of their last four games the back end of the rotation has been exposed. Dillon Gee says he’s fine, but there was something wrong Tuesday night. The Mets might be better off leaving Jeremy Hefner home when they go to Philadelphia. Aaron Laffey is starting until Shaun Marcum is ready, but nobody knows what to expect when he returns.

BULLPEN: There have been some stinkers, that’s to be expected. But, nine games in and Terry Collins is already worried about overworking his relievers. That comes when there’s no back end of the rotation.

The pen is working close to three innings a game, and at this rate will be fried by July. If you recall, the porous bullpen precipitated last year’s second-half collapse.

NO POWER: Yes, they’ve homered in every game, but that’s misleading as most of that is John Buck and Daniel Murphy, with a little Lucas Duda on the side.

Nobody expects Buck to keep his pace (five homers in nine games), but if he did you can bet they’ll be shopping him in July if they aren’t winning. Ike Davis is in a dreadful slump and David Wright is joining him.

Of Wright’s 32 at-bats, 15 have come with runners on base, but he only has four RBI. Wright’s slugging percentage is way down with only two doubles and his batting average is at .250. He could use the day off.

Meanwhile, Davis has more than twice as many strikeouts as he has hits and he’s well on his way of duplicating last year’s slow first half.

Duda has been a plus, especially with his patience and ability to take the walk. He’s among the league leaders in walks. This patience will translate into home runs.

NO LEADOFF HITTER: This was a problem going into spring training and it is a problem now. CollinCowgill has the most opportunities, but hasn’t produced. Neither has Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who might be on his way to the minors as the Mets need a utility infielder.

Mike Baxter had the best game of the leadoff hitters, but Collins is reluctant to give him an extended chance. The same applies to Jordany Valdespin, who always seems to make things happen, good and bad, because of his speed.

OUTFIELD: The only constant is Duda, has Collins has gone to a platoon in the center and right, something he said he wouldn’t do. Marlon Byrd had a good start, but he’s not an everyday player.

CONCLUSION: Rocky times could be ahead. The Mets took advantage of solid starting pitching to get off to a 5-2 start, but that hasn’t continued outside of Harvey and Niese. The Mets need more from the back end of their rotation as to cut the bullpen’s innings.

The offense scored 19 runs in the first two games, but only 30 in the following seven. Buck is not going to keep this up all season. Eventually, Wright and Davis must produce or it will be a long summer.

Oct 22

Mets Matters: Ike Davis Could Score In Arbitration Process

There’s little that passes for news from the Mets these days as the club braces for a winter of non-spending.

Their primary contractual concerns are extending David Wright and R.A. Dickey, both of which will be pricey. The two are linked in that both said their decisions to test the free-agent market after next season is contingent on the efforts the Mets will take to be competitive. Dickey flat out said he would follow Wright out the door.

The Mets also face the prospects of going through the arbitration process with Josh Thole, Ike Davis, Manny Acosta, Daniel Murphy, Bobby Parnell, Andres Torres and Mike Pelfrey.

They also faced arbitration with Rob Johnson and Fred Lewis, but both chose free agency instead. It’s not as if the Mets can’t live without them.

Pelfrey and Torres are expected to be non-tendered, which would remove them from the process. Pelfrey, however, might cause the Mets to think twice because he’s 28 and their rotation has numerous questions. The Mets also have outfield issues, but Torres proved he’s no Angel Pagan. I never thought I’d write that line.

Acosta isn’t worth keeping, but Davis, Murphy and Parnell are potentially valuable pieces. Thole has regressed, but the Mets have few catching options other than him.

The owners cry about free-agency causing the spike in player salaries, but in reality arbitration is the culprit. In the process, both player and management submit figures to an arbitrator, who picks one or the other. The arbitrator can’t find a compromise number. The owners usually lowball the players, while the players aim high. The arbitrator’s decision isn’t based on career numbers, injuries or other factors, and is usually determined by the salaries of other players.

So, if a player has a one-time good season the arbitrator will review what players with comparable stats are making and rule that way. It’s why the owners frequently get smoked in this process.

Meanwhile, the Mets usually attempt to settle before the arbitration hearing.

Of the players eligible for the Mets, Davis has the potential to be the most costly.

In other Mets Matters:

* Dickey underwent surgery in Philadelphia to repair a torn abdominal muscle. After his final start Dickey revealed he’d been pitching with discomfort for most of the season.

Perhaps throwing the knuckleball helped Dickey get through the season because there’s less stress involved throwing that pitch. Even so, he’s testing the muscle with each pitch and it has to hurt. That, combined with his numbers, is why Dickey should win the Cy Young Award.

* Jordany Valdespin has played both right field and second base during the Dominican Winter League.

* Last week I started a series on Player Profiles of the 2012 Mets, analyzing their preseason expectations, what they accomplished this summer and what to expect.

I’ll continue tomorrow with those pitchers not in the rotation who made starts.

 

Oct 02

Mets Matters: Last Look At Dickey As A Met Tonight?

We will get our last look at the best part of this season tonight when R.A. Dickey goes for his 21st victory to make his final Cy Young audition against the Miami Marlins.

It might even be Dickey’s last appearance as a Met if the team deems him to expensive to re-sign and opts to trade him this winter.

The Mets say bringing back David Wright and Dickey are priorities, but if Wright signs first and it is decided they can’t afford Dickey they might not have any other choice.

Whatever happens this winter, it has been a thrill watching Dickey pitch this summer. Every five days he gave the Mets a chance to win, and he did it on the mound with guile and grit, and off the mound with class and humility.

It would be a shame to see him go. There are so few like Dickey these days.

In other Mets Matters:

* CEO Jeff Wilpon and GM Sandy Alderson are with the team in Miami. The Mets say they are optimistic about retaining Wright, but have not announced an off-season timetable or give an indication how much it would cost. For that matter, they haven’t done likewise with Dickey.

Wright indicated he’d like to return, but also left open the possibility of leaving. That’s smart because he doesn’t want to bid against himself.

Wright’s decision to return will not only be money – he said he’s not interested in every last nickel – but what steps the team is willing to take to improve. As of now, all signs point to limited spending.

Wright said he would not negotiate in season in 2013.

 

* Thanks to Joe DeCaro for posting this morning about Terry Collins wanting Mike Pelfrey back. Considering the holes in their staff and potential concerns in the rotation, it could be a smart move. However, Pelfrey will open the season on the disabled list and I don’t expect the Mets to tender him a contract.

* The Mets will make everybody available this off-season in a possible trade. Reportedly, Boston is scouting the Mets in regards to Ike Davis.

It has been reported the Mets could trade Davis, but it comes with the presumption Lucas Duda fill his power void. Since there’s no assurances Duda will develop as the Mets hope, they would need to receive power in return. If that’s the case, why bother? Especially since Davis’ contract is reasonable.

Sep 29

Mets Matters: Braves Prez John Schuerholz Tells It Like It Is

You have to love Braves president John Schuerholz, the architect as general manager of Atlanta’s spectacular playoff run.

He’s always been a straight shooter and last night during the Chipper Jones’ ceremony said something you don’t hear from Major League Baseball executives when he called Hank Aaron, “the true Major League Baseball home run champion.’’

Finally, an executive with the guts to put the steroid mess in its proper light. Baseball cherishes its records and the home run records – career and single season – are the most revered.

We all know Barry Bonds used steroids, and like Mark McGwire, will be shunned by the Hall of Fame voters. He won’t get mine unless there’s a drastic revision in the process.

The Hall of Fame is a baseball museum honoring its history, and history is sometimes messy. If there was a provision where on the player’s plaque there was a notation he used PEDs, I’d be more inclined to vote for him.

Until then: No.

Bravo to Schuerholz for telling it like it is.

Niese to have heart procedure: Jon Niese, who pitched brilliantly last night to earn his career high 13th victory, said he’ll have a heart procedure at the Cleveland Clinic to correct a rapid heartbeat that resurfaced in June.

Niese said after the game he wants to build off this season.

“I’m never satisfied with the number I put up,’’ Niese said. “With what R.A. (Dickey) has been doing this year, having a season like that is something to look forward to.’’

Niese said the next step is to reach 200 innings, 15 victories and increase his starts total (he had 30).

Parnell will close out season: Frank Francisco is finished for the year with elbow tendinitis and Bobby Parnell will be the closer for the remaining five games.

Parnell has the stuff to be a closer, but has spit the bit in every opportunity he’s been given. There’s nothing wrong with his velocity, but there are times when his fastball flattens out and becomes easier to hit.

Duda flashes power: Coming out of spring training there was a lot of optimism surrounding Lucas Duda’s power potential.

He has the strength to reach 30, but will finish with at least half that number. He hit his 15th last night, a three-run blast to beat Tim Hudson.

Even more impressive than the distance was that Duda was behind 1-2 in the count, but worked it full.

“Obviously I can improve in every aspect,’’ Duda told reporters last night. “There’s not really like a number I can put on it. Obviously it wasn’t the season I wanted to have — getting sent down and things like that.’’

Sep 28

Mets Matters: Last Time Facing Chipper Jones

The Mets are in Atlanta tonight to start a three-game series against the Braves and long-time nemesis Chipper Jones.

Jones has taken his farewell tour among National League parks and has been given numerous gifts ranging from a pop-art painting of Shea Stadium from the Mets, a surfboard from the Padres, and maybe the best of all, an autographed Stan Musial jersey from the Cardinals.

The Braves will honor him prior to tonight’s game and he’ll have three more shots at tormenting the Mets.

Jones will go down as one of the top four switch hitters in history, along with Mickey Mantle, Eddie Murray (both over 500 homers) and Pete Rose (the career hits leader).

He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Niese starts for Mets: Jonathan Niese will make his final start of the season. The pre-season goal was 15 victories, but Niese stands at 12-9 with a very respectable 3.49 ERA, and an improved 1.18 WHIP (from his career of 1.36).

He has a very good 152-46 strikeouts-to-walks ratio, but needs to cut down on homers allowed (21).

Perhaps most importantly, Niese will end the season injury free with 30 starts.

Gee goes home: Dillon Gee is at his off-season Fort Worth, Texas, home today, having been sent home by the club after the Citi Field 2012 finale.

Gee threw a bullpen session Monday, his first time on the mound since July 13, when he had surgery to repair an artery in his pitching shoulder that caused numbness in his arm.

Gee said he had never thrown off a mound this soon after an extended down period and came away pleased.

“All I wanted to do was see how much I could build up before the end of the season,” Gee said. “And, to be honest with you, normally I’m not on the mound this early. So to be up on the mound this early and feel pretty good is encouraging. That was a goal.’’

It was important for the Mets to see Gee throw before winter, even if it was only 25 pitches so they could get a feel of his physical status.

Gee said he’ll start working out immediately after the season and begin throwing in December, as he does every year. That there are no restrictions on him is very encouraging.

Citi Field, 2012, numbers: The Mets finished 36-45 at home, a number that must at least be reversed if they are to become regarded as a contender. They scored 287 runs, their fewest at home since 1994, when they scored 235 runs. They did homer 67 times, their most at home since opening the park, but were outhomered by five.