May 05

Mets Bullpen An Issue

This is why you don’t make declarations during the first week of the season, or for all of April for that matter. The season opened with four straight victories and four strong performances from the bullpen.

After Opening Day, the talking heads as SNY – and that’s not the game broadcasting crew – started pontificating about how the bullpen would be a team strength this season.

Four weeks later, you don’t hear talk like that anymore.

Last night they threw away a strong effort from Dillon Gee. Once again, the focus in on control, as a walk from Tim Byrdak with a man on lead to Arizona’s three-run rally in the eighth inning. Yes, the walk was important, but it was also one batter.

“That’s the thing that sticks out the most,” Collins said. “The base on balls out of the pen have certainly come back to really bite us.”

The bottom is two-fold. One, walks kill and they always have. And two, these guys are major league pitchers and can’t fall apart after one bad at-bat. That’s been a problem with Mike Pelfrey, and it also applies to the bullpen.

Where the pen attacked hitters early, lately they’ve been working deep into counts and losing the at-bat. The pen has been worked hard in recent weeks with the starters not going more than six for the most part and the loss of Pelfrey.

Jon Rauch blew the save and took the loss last night, but wouldn’t blame it on an increased workload. He said it was poor pitching.

“You can’t come in and throw balls and expect to get everybody out after that,” Rauch said. “So we’ve gotta do a better job. I know personally I need to do a better job, especially coming in with guys on base and not letting inherited runners scored.”

Glad to hear there were no excuses, but it would be even better to see improved execution.

Once four games over .500 and sensing optimism about the season, the Mets have lost four straight and are counting on Johan Santana – the pitcher they seemingly refuse to score for- to stop the slide.

Regardless of what happens today, success this season largely depends on the bullpen holding up its end. And, that’s not a premature pronouncement, but a statement of fact that can be made any time of the year.

 

May 03

Mets Must Sort Out Rotation And Houston Mess

Terry Collins spent much of the day deliberating his options regarding Chris Schwinden and the Mets’ rotation. After two rocky starts in place of Mike Pelfrey, Schwinden has proved not to be the answer.

After yesterday’s blowout, Collins wouldn’t say if Schwinden would come out of the rotation. He didn’t say he’d remain, either.

The Mets’ tissue paper thin depth was always going to be an Achilles Heel this year and it has come to pass. There are pitchers doing better than others on the minor league level, but nobody screaming for a promotion.

One option might be to keep Schwinden in the rotation in the hope he works out of this or if Chris Young is ready.

Whether it be on the minor league level or unsigned scrap heap free-agent, the odds against the Mets landing a workhorse in the rotation seems slim. I would have liked the Mets to sign a pitcher in the off-season, but that’s 20/20 hindsight.

There wasn’t a lot of things to like about the Houston series, although listening to the “Eyes of Texas,” during the seventh-inning stretch was good to hear, including David Wright’s comment the Colorado series drained the Mets.

That can’t happen, which Wright acknowledged and is a good sign. No excuses, said Wright, the Mets just played flat.

“You know, we knew we were going to have some ups and downs, especially with a lot of the young guys that we have on this roster playing right now,” Wright told reporters. “But this is what we need to fix if we want to become the team that we think we are capable of becoming. There are way too many inconsistencies right now. It seems like we play great for a series and then poorly for a series. And we’re going to have to straighten that out.”

One of the flaws of recent Mets teams has been their inconsistency. Win three, lose four. Managers constantly say they want their teams to just win series, one at a time. Win two or three, win three of four.

That is what the Mets did in 2006 and for five months in 2007.

Of course, consistency is easier to attain with better pitching which leads us to the hole in the rotation. The key game in the Houston series was the Jon Niese game. R.A. Dickey pitched well the previous night and Schwinden was awful. The game they needed to salvage the series was Niese’s start and he was anything but solid.

Growing pains? That all depends on how the Mets respond. Coming up are Arizona and Philadelphia, both good tests.

 

 

May 01

David Wright, Kirk Nieuwenhius Shine in April For Mets

April is in the books and the Mets are sitting well in the National League East at 13-10.  I am first to admit I never envisioned that record for the Mets a month into the season.

When the schedule came out, I penciled in seven or eight wins, tops. However, the Mets exceeded all expectations to make me wonder just how good a summer this could be.

WRIGHT: April Player of the Month

There’s been a lot to like, so let’s touch on some of April’s high points:

PLAYING THEM TIGHT: Including last night’s loss in Houston, the Mets are 8-2 in games decided by two runs or less. That is one of the best indicators a team is heading in the right direction. A team gives itself a chance to win when the score is close. There have been few games when you feel like turning off the TV in the early innings. The Mets are making you watch, and the record shows they have been worth the wait.

WINNING THE DIVISION: The Mets lost series to Washington and the Braves, the latter on the road. However, they swept the Braves and Marlins at home and won a series in Philadelphia. The NL East hasn’t been kind to the Mets in recent seasons, but they are standing up to their division rivals in the early going of 2012.

THE WRIGHT STUFF: Despite missing several games with a fractured pinkie, David Wright is back and stroking the ball with authority. Wright has hit in the clutch and posting good numbers. I’d like for him to hit with more power, but would take the average and RBI than have him slip into bad habits swinging deep. Wright is playing at a level where the contract extension should be a given.

THOLE TAKES A STEP: At the start of the season I wondered about Josh Thole, both offensively and defensively. He’s shown improvement in both areas and the staff likes throwing to him. The Mets’ catching will longer be a concern if Thole continues at this rate.

MURPHY TAKING TO SECOND: We all knew Daniel Murphy could hit, but just as important is his comfort level at second base. Last night he went into the hole and threw back to second for the force. Both catching the ball and throw have been problems. Murphy’s defense was a significant question now being answered in the positive.

TEJADA PLUGGED THE HOLE: We all wondered how Ruben Tejada would respond replacing Jose Reyes. Tejada’s glove was never in doubt, but he’s hit better than anticipated. Before it is over Reyes might have better numbers, but Tejada has not been the weak link.

HELLO NIEUWENHUIS: Andres Torres’ calf injury gave Kirk Nieuwenhuis an opportunity and it looks like one he won’t relinquish.  Nieuwenhuis plays an aggressive center field and is confident at the plate. There’s a lot to like, such as a swagger that says he belongs.

SANTANA IS BACK: Johan Santana’s recovery from shoulder surgery was one of the spring’s leading questions, and save one bad outing, he has been stellar. Wisely, the Mets have monitored his innings and will continue to do so. All they need is to score some runs for him.

ROTATION HAS BEEN GOOD: The Mets received a serious setback when they lost Mike Pelfrey to Tommy John surgery, but Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey have been solid. The Mets need more innings from their starters to stay out of the bullpen, but mostly the innings they’ve received from Niese, Dickey and Santana have been good. Much better than expected.

SURVIVING THE STORM: How the Mets respond from Pelfrey’s injury will dictate a lot about this season. They have been a resilient team and played through injuries to Wright, Jason Bay and Torres. They’ve also compiled a winning record despite little production from Ike Davis and an erratic bullpen. The pen has its positive moments, but there have also been several head-scratchers. Frank Francisco regressed after a fast start and now is nursing a hamstring problem.

I am picking Wright as my Player of the Month. Please check out the newest poll question and share your thoughts. Thanks.

ON DECK:  The newest poll.

Apr 27

Mets Shouldn’t Fool With Matt Harvey Now

Even if Chris Schwinden gets rocked tonight in Colorado, the Mets shouldn’t respond with Matt Harvey.

HARVEY: No need to force feed him.

There is a hole in the Mets’ rotation following Mike Pelfrey’s elbow injury and likely more than one candidate will be used to fill the void. Schwinden gets first crack. Who knows? Maybe he’ll be like Dillon Gee was last summer and win from the start.

However, if he doesn’t, the Mets would be making a mistake to dip into their minor league for Harvey, their first-round pick – and the seventh overall selection – in the 2010 draft out of North Carolina.

Harvey has pitched well for Triple-A Buffalo, and seemingly has all the tools. He’s  been clocked from 93 to 95 on his fastball and has a plus curveball and change-up.

But, he doesn’t know how to pitch in the major leagues and is just learning on the Triple-A level. Rushing him now could cause a setback in his development should he be hit hard. The Mets rushed Jenrry Mejia and Pelfrey, and shouldn’t take the gamble on Harvey.

Last night, the Mets fielded a home grown lineup for the first time in 41 years. They are developing a good, young core, and Harvey could be a key figure on the mound in the future. Despite the Mets off to a good start, the future isn’t now for them.

The prudent thing is to develop Harvey for this season, and perhaps give him a taste as a September call-up. Let him learn to walk before they let him run. They won’t regret that decision.

 

Apr 26

Mike Pelfrey To Have Tommy John Surgery

Mets doctors and orthopedic specialist Dr. James Andrews convened today in a conference call and Mike Pelfrey is headed for Tommy John surgery that will end his season.

PELFREY: Done for the year.

Pelfrey underwent a MRI Tuesday that revealed a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. A cortisone injection was discussed, but a shot wouldn’t guarantee the repair of the tear.

“They brought it up and there is a 10 to 20 percent chance it might work and I’d have to have surgery anyway,’’ Pelfrey said after today’s come-from-behind victory over Miami. “At 10 percent I figured `what’s the use?’ ’’

Continue reading