Aug 16

Mets Bullpen Has Surprised This Season

gonzalez germanAfter 3-4 consecutive seasons of bullpen failures and a couple of unsuccessful revamps and overhauls by Sandy Alderson in 2011 and 2012, it looks like the Mets have finally turned a corner and figured things out this season. In doing so they’ve also uncovered a few potential keepers for 2014 and beyond, some of them developed through our system and others who were key acquisitions straight from the scrap heap.

One such find has been Gonzalez Germen, who recorded the final six outs in last night’s 4-1 win against the San Diego Padres to notch his first major league save. It was a big moment for Germen who plans to give the game ball to his mother. Germen stepped in for LaTroy Hawkins who was unavailable due to a sore groin. Hawkins too, has been a key cog in this now very effective bullpen.

Since July 1, the Mets pen has a 2.10 ERA (30 earned runs/128.2 innings), ranking third in the majors. New York’s pen has a 1.83 ERA (seven earned runs/34.1 innings) this month, the sixth-best mark in the majors. The pen’s 3.64 overall ERA, ranks 15th in the majors after two straight seasons of ranking 29th in 2011 and 2012.

Even more telling is that Met relievers have stranded 141 of 189 inherited runners, the fifth-best percentage (74.6) in the majors. The Mets’ bullpen has been coming into games in critical spots and have done a great job of limiting the damage and stranding runners. It’s time to give Sandy Alderson his due for a job well done this season.

The Mets bullpen has endured losses to their close Bobby Parnell who was in the midst of the best season of his career, and also losing second-year reliever Josh Edgin was a significant blow as well. Since his return from the minors, Edgin led the bullpen in BAA and WHIP.

Some player performances of note are that of Scott Rice, who leads the team with 61 appearances and has surprised everyone while limiting opposing batters to a .224 average and posting a 3.34 ERA in his rookie season. The 32-year old late bloomer, has held lefthanded batters to a .162 average and has allowed just one home run all season in 45.1 innings pitched. Boom…

Scott Atchison was another scrapheap signing and all he’s managed to do is post a 3.34 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 31 appearances since joining the Mets.

As a reliever, perhaps the best performance of this season belongs to Carlos Torres whose 0.65 ERA is the best mark among all relievers in the game. His 0.87 WHIP ranks fifth in the NL and he has 5:1 strikeout to walk ratio.

So while not everything has gone perfectly for the Mets this season, there have been some very notable bright spots and certainly the bullpen has been one of them.

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

Mets’ Ike Davis Showing Breakthrough Signs

One of the hidden storylines for the New York Mets Saturday was Ike Davis’ batting average breaking .200 heading north.

The Mets stuck with Davis longer than they should have before demoting him July 9, but it was because a slow 2012 first half culminated with a late surge that saw him finish with 32 homers, and that’s production GM Sandy Alderson couldn’t ignore.

DAVIS: Scoring last night vs. D-Backs. (Getty)

DAVIS: Scoring last night vs. D-Backs. (Getty)

“He showed what he is capable of last year in the second half,’’ Alderson said in the weeks prior to the demotion in explaining why Davis was still taking his three empty swings and heading back to the dugout. “We have to keep that in the back of our mind.’’

Davis had two hits against Arizona to raise his average to .203, but also drew two walks. Not enough to warrant a contract extension, but consider Davis is hitting .300 since returning from Triple-A Las Vegas compared to .161 before the desert and you can see the difference.

Davis’ pre-Vegas strikeouts-to-walks ratio was 66-to-19; it is now, brace yourself, 22-to-25. He’s still not hitting for power with one homer and nine RBI, but first things first. His patience and pitch selection is far better, and if it continues, the run production will increase.

Davis has not done enough to warrant the Mets’ tendering him a contract this winter, but a strong finish would give Alderson reason to think, instead of looking at Josh Satin or Wilmer Flores or somebody in the free-agent market.

The Mets claim they’ll have more resources this winter, but they still are a franchise feeling financial strain. They aren’t about to throw money away, and that would include bringing back Davis at his current run-production.

Davis is making $3.1 million this season, which is chump change for a 30-homer bat. He has six homers and 25 RBI, which isn’t enough to keep him, but 15 homers and 50 RBI is definitely doable. That could change everything.

Currently working against him is a horrid first half that has him in a platoon with Satin, and with David Wright on the disabled list, pitchers can work around Davis.

As far as next year, Satin will be cheaper, but he doesn’t have Davis’ power. Perhaps he’s a right-handed Daniel Murphy at best.

Power is not expected from Satin and irrelevant now from Davis, what matters is having an idea and a light has switched on above his head.

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 10

Mets Even Thinking Of Trading Wilmer Flores Is Absurd

All of a sudden, I’ve been reading with head-scratching confusion how several bloggers are suggesting the New York Mets trade Wilmer Flores.

Why? What good would it serve other than just giving away a prospect? What could they possibly get for him now? Their confused reasoning is since the Mets have few position player prospects they should trade their best one. Yup, makes sense to me.

FLORES: Don't even think of trading him.

FLORES: Don’t even think of trading him.

Flores has been with the Mets for just a handful of games, too small a window to ascertain his potential, and also way too tiny for another team to figure out what to do with him or how he could fit into their plans.

The reason the Mets are having a hard time figuring out what to do with him, and only brought him up because of David Wright’s strained hamstring, is because they don’t know where to play him because he doesn’t have a position.

Wright will occupy third base for much of the next decade; supposedly he doesn’t have the range to play shortstop or speed to go to the outfield; and Daniel Murphy is the second baseman for the foreseeable future.

Other teams also see that, and American League teams are reluctant to use young prospects as a designated hitter let alone trade for one to assume that role. Veteran bats caught in a position logjam, or those that can’t play the field, usually end up as the designated hitter.

I’ll bet you can’t name many prospects stuck in the DH role. At least none on a long-term basis.

So, where could Flores end up playing?

I wrote over a week ago he could be a first-base option should the Mets opt not to tender a contract to Ike Davis, who would then leave as a free agent. Assuming the high probability of that scenario, isn’t it likely other teams have reached the same conclusion?

And, given that, wouldn’t a team needing a bat, particularly a left-handed one, wait until Davis is a free agent instead of trading for him? Davis, after all, based on 32 homers last season, has a more immediate upside than Flores.

Trading Flores now is akin to giving him away because nobody – including the Mets – has a real understanding of his value this early in his career.

Flores could have trade value in the future, but not now. His value to the Mets, with Wright most likely out for the rest of the month, is to establish what he can and can’t do.

Even at the end of the season it would be premature to think of trading him. Should the Mets decide to test Flores at first base next year, they would want to play him there during the winter and let him compete for the spot during spring training.

Any move involving Flores prior to that would be a mistake. A knee-jerk reaction to the highest degree.

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