Oct 03

Top 20 Questions For 2015

I recently reviewed how the Mets answered their most pressing questions entering the last season. Many were addressed in the positive, but that’s not to say they won’t have any heading into next year.

Here are the 20 most pressing:

Q: What can be expected from Matt Harvey?

A: It’s anybody’s guess, really. Tommy John surgery has proven to be successful, but everybody’s body is different and there are no guarantees. As of now, GM Sandy Alderson said there are no restrictions. That’s as good as news as possible for now.

WRIGHT: Must bounce back. (AP)

WRIGHT: Must bounce back. (AP)

Q: Will David Wright bounce back?

A: Seems like we’ve been asking that question for a while now. Wright sustained a left shoulder injury and is currently on an extensive rehab program. However, at the end of the six-week program, if he’s not able to swing the bat without pain, there could be surgery, and with it a longer rehab period. The bottom line is Wright, who will be 32 next season, is no longer a given to hit .300 with 25-30 homers and 100 RBI. He needs help. They can move the fences in all they want, but if Wright is injured it won’t do any good.

Q: Will they trade Daniel Murphy?

A: That question has been asked a lot recently. Murphy is their most reliable hitter, but they seem hot on wanting to deal him. Could it be the $8 million they will pay him in 2015? I can’t say this enough, but Murphy by himself won’t bring the power bat they want. They’ll have to include pitching.

Q: Will the bullpen continue to progress?

A: It was much improved in 2014, but bullpens usually have a lot of moving parts. If they lose somebody, say Carlos Torres, or if Jeurys Familia regresses, or Jenrry Mejia has any injury, it’s not as if they can plug somebody right in.

Q: Does Jacob deGrom progress or takes a step back?

A: DeGrom caught a lot of people by surprise this year, but hitters have a way of catching up to a hot pitcher.  He had a solid season and is the leading contender for the National League’s Rookie of the Year Award. That ensures nothing for 2015.

Q: Speaking about pitchers who must progress, what about Zack Wheeler?

A: Wheeler has a good second half, but 11-11 is nothing to get excited about. Wheeler still lacks command and throws way too many pitches, which prevented him from being a 200-inning pitcher and adds to the bullpen’s workload.

Q: Who plays shortstop?

A:  Manager Terry Collins said the job is open and Ruben Tejada is still a candidate. Even so, the offensive upside is greater with Wilmer Flores, who improved defensively.

Q: Who plays left field?

A: Since Alderson said they won’t be big spenders, the assumption is he’ll come from within. Will the Mets give Matt den Dekker or Kirk Nieuwenhuis a real chance, and by this I mean more than 100 at-bats? Odds are they won’t, but will the Mets keep Eric Young?

Q: Can Juan Lagares play a full season – and hit?

A: Lagares ended the year early with a right elbow injury, and has the best arm in the outfield. At the plate, he hit .281 with an on-base percentage of .321, of which the latter needs to get better. His 87-20 strikeouts-to-walks ratio is terrible for a leadoff hitter.

Q: What about the injured guys?

A: In addition to Wright, Lagares, Travis d’Arnaud, Vic Black and Mejia are all coming off seasons in which they are injured. Injuries derailed the Mets before, and they are not any deeper now. Then, there’s the matter of Bobby Parnell, who missed the entire season.

Q: Another 200 innings from Bartolo Colon?

A: That would be sweet. The popular belief is he’ll be traded at the deadline, which would mean the Mets wouldn’t be a contender. Better off to pay him the $11 million for a full season if they are in the race.

Q: Will Jon Niese finally cash his potential check?

A: Only once in his seven-year career has Niese had a winning season. He’s been either injured or ineffective, and 2014 was more of the same as he was 9-11 to raise his career record to an unimpressive 52-51. The Mets have long resisted trading Niese because of his age (27) and reasonable contract ($25 million over five years), but might be inclined to pull the trigger this time.

Q: Another 30 homers from Lucas Duda?

A: With the job his to keep, Duda responded with a 30-homer, 92-RBI season. That might go up if the fences are brought in. He also had an outstanding .349 on-base percentage and showed he can flash the glove. There is nothing but higher expectations for 2015.

Q: Who will be gone next year?

A: Niese is the top trade chip, unless they are willing to gamble on dealing Wheeler. Of course, we’ve talked about Murphy and Young not coming back. Another possibility with Harvey returning and should Noah Syndergaard be ready by June, is dealing Dillon Gee.

Q: Will Curtis Granderson play up to his contract?

A: Twenty homers won’t cut it, especially with a puny .227 average and .326 on-base percentage. He’s a strikeout machine with 141 compared to only 128 hits. That must change. The Mets would love to trade him, but who’ll take such poor production for so much money ($60 million over four years)? You already know the answer to that one.

Q: When will the new guys come up from Triple-A?

A: Don’t bet on before June for Syndergaard. Catcher Kevin Plawecki and lefty reliever Jack Leathersich are also intriguing and could come sooner. Also interesting is lefty starter Steven Matz, who might make it more palatable to trade Niese.

Q: Can the Mets improve within the NL East?

A: They were 38-38 in the division, but a miserable 4-15 against the Washington Nationals. Enough said.

Q: Can the Mets finally have a home field advantage at Citi Field?

A: They were 40-41 in 2014, which was better, but not nearly good enough. Contenders traditionally have a strong winning record at home and play around .500 on the road. The problem is the Mets have never gotten the players they need to compete in their spacious park. They said they would build around pitching and defense, yet their first big signing was Jason Bay, who set them back for years.

Q: Who will lead off?

A: Another annual question. Young is the best base stealer, but neither him nor Lagares have stellar on-base percentages, walk enough and strikeout too much. No question this is a black hole in their lineup.

Q: Can they survive a slow start?

A: Much depends on how they get out of the gate. Will they fold up and start dealing, even before the deadline? A bad start will also hurt at the gate, and lead to questions about when Syndergaard is coming up and Collins’ job security. They finished this season on a high note and can’t afford to regress.

Sep 20

Niese Wins, But Can’t Slam The Door

At 27, left-handed and with a reasonable contract, there’s a lot to like about Jon Niese, both from the Mets and the opponents that tried to pry him away from them.

However, a combination of poor run support, a porous bullpen, injuries, and above all else, the inability to put away an inning once he gets in trouble, explains his 51-51 record and only one winning season – 13-9 in 2012 – during his seven year career.

NIESE: Good, but not dominating. (Getty)

NIESE: Good, but not dominating. (Getty)

There was always the belief by the Mets the light would click on and by interested teams that he could use a change of scenery.

Niese’ biggest problem is he lets innings get away, evidenced by giving up three straight singles to load the bases, before giving way to Josh Edgin, who immediately gave up a two-run single.

Niese cruised through seven innings, but things unraveled in the eighth. What happened Saturday has defined Niese’s career with the Mets.

Now at 9-11 with Saturday’s 4-2 victory, one must wonder if Niese will ever reach the next level and that this might be as good as it gets.

GRANDERSON HOMERS: Although the Mets never thought Curtis Granderson would be the 40-homer stud he was with the Yankees.

Granderson hit his 20th homer Saturday for 63 RBI and raised his average to .223.

Of course, much will be made of Citi Field’s dimensions, but coming off injuries and not having a productive David Wright ahead of him all contribute to a down season.

However, like Niese, Granderson has been a disappointment.

MONTERO TO GET START: Rafael Montero is scheduled to get a start against Houston in the final series at Citi Field next weekend.

Montero threw 5.1 scoreless innings in his last start, Sept. 10, against Colorado.

At one time it was believed Montero would compete for a job in the rotation, but Jacob deGrom’s emergence has pushed him out.

Assuming no departures, and everybody is healthy, next year’s rotation figures to be Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Niese, deGrom and Bartolo Colon.

That leaves Montero in the bullpen or as trade bait.

Sep 14

Reflections Of The Week: Don’t Cash 2015 Checks Yet; Niese Worth Keeping

It has been well documented the Mets are gearing for 2015 because of Matt Harvey’s anticipated return following Tommy John surgery.

Not so fast.

mets-matters logoWith Sandy Alderson saying there won’t be much activity in the free-agent market, where will the power come from? David Wright hasn’t come close to 30 homers since 2010, when he hit 29. That was four years ago. He’s averaged 15 homers a year since.

And, while Lucas Duda has proven to be better than Ike Davis, he’s still not a monster masher.

Plus, despite his chirping, there are no guarantees what Harvey will do next year. Also, Zack Wheeler, despite his stuff, still throws way too many pitches and is a six-inning pitcher.

* Jon Niese pitched well in today’s 3-0 loss to Washington, but is 8-11 with one winning season since his career began in 2008. Still, he’s left-handed, has a reasonable contract and is only 27. All good reasons to keep him.

* It was definitely the correct decision to shut down Wright the remainder of the season. The playoffs won’t happen despite the math. And, finishing .500 isn’t worth the risk of further injury, plus there are things to look at, such as seeing more of Dilson Herrera and Daniel Murphy at third base. It’s always a positive to get as much information as possible.

* With the Mets losing three of four to the Nationals, it makes Jenrry Mejia’s post-game gesturing even more foolish. C’mon, act like you’ve been there before.

* Reliever Vic Black already hampered with a herniated disk in his neck, his fastball down by 3 mph., saying his shoulder aches, why not shut him down for the rest of the season? What is there to be gained?

Finally, I would be remiss if my wide range of thoughts from my first week back blogging on the Mets didn’t include expressing my gratitude for the acceptance and well wishes you’ve given me in my return.

I wasn’t sure of your reaction, and frankly I am overwhelmed.

I am working hard in my rehab, which includes pumping hard on an exercise bike. It is imperative to build up my leg strength. My legs have atrophied to where they are stick-like.

Thanks also go out to Joe DeCaro of MetsmerizedOnline.com and Adam Rubin of ESPN for promoting my return. Also, to the Mets’ Jay Horwitz for continuing my access should I be able to get out to Citi Field this month.

Thanks again.

Sep 12

Gee Pitching For Next Season, Likely Not With Mets

Dillon Gee has pitched well for the New York Mets and he’s pitched poorly. He beat the Washington Nationals tonight, but Gee wasn’t sterling, giving up three runs in 5.1 innings. He was lucky he didn’t lose tonight.

By definition, it wasn’t a quality start, and illustrated why Gee is what he is for the Mets and won’t be anything more than a fifth starter. And, if things go as the Mets envision, he won’t have one of those spots next season.

The 2015 rotation figures to be Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob de Grom, Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon. Gee threw 108 pitches tonight, which doesn’t get it done. One hundred pitches should have put him through seven and into the eighth. That not only applies to Gee, but the other starters, also. Wheeler and Niese are also known for running up the pitch count.

Normally, I might say Gee is pitching for a look-see next spring. Barring an injury, Gee would make the team out of the bullpen, but the logical spot-starter/long relief role is earmarked for Carlos Torres.

Gee made $3.6 million this season and is arbitration eligible this winter. However, he’s 7-7 with a 3.80 ERA, numbers that hardy warrant a huge raise.

Gee is a gamer. He pitches with guile and grit, and at 28 has a lot of innings remaining. He just doesn’t have the stuff of a Wheeler or Harvey. He’ll probably get two more starts this year to make an impression.

Somebody is sure to have noticed and he’ll be in somebody’s camp next spring. It just doesn’t figure to be in Port St. Lucie.



Mar 20

Mets’ Pitching Updates: Gee Could Be Opening Day Starter With Niese To DL

They are called “probable’’ pitchers for a reason. It’s because anything can happen, and for the Mets they frequently do.

Injuries to his shoulder and now elbow bumped Jonathon Niese from his scheduled Opening Day start, and thrust Dillon Gee into that role. However, manager Terry Collins has not shut the door on Bartolo Colon.

The current plan is for Niese to open the season on the disabled list and not pitch him until April 6, the fourth game of the season against Cincinnati at Citi Field. He received a cortisone injection Monday to treat elbow inflammation.

Based on his consistency last season and leading the staff with 199 innings pitched, Gee is deserving of the honor of starting Opening Day, March 31, against Washington at Citi Field. Gee had been penciled in start the third game of the season, also against Washington, because of his 4-2 record with a 2.72 ERA last year against the Nationals.

Gee had career highs last year in: innings (199), starts (32), complete games (two), strikeouts (142) and ERA (3.62).

The Mets’ rotation to open the season figures to be: Gee, Colon and Zack Wheeler against the Nationals, followed by Daisuke Matsuzaka, Gee and Niese against Cincinnati.

The Nationals’ projected starters in the first series will be Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman.