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 23

Mets To Extend Alderson; Collins To Follow

The news many Mets’ don’t want to hear – a reported three-year extension for general manager Sandy Alderson – is expected to come down later this afternoon.

Not long after will come the anticipated return of manager Terry Collins.

ALDERSON: To be extended.

ALDERSON: To be extended.

After floundering much of the season between ten games under and five games over .500, the prevailing winds had many Mets’ fans howling for a change at the upper management.

Barring a complete collapse I never thought it would happen, and I still don’t.

Both were given “Get out of jail free’’ cards after the news Matt Harvey would miss the season. Despite that, a weak offense and myriad of other issues, the Mets are 76-80 this season after 156 games compared to 71-85 at the same time in 2013, an improvement of five games.

Just how could the Mets not bring them back, especially considering their mantra has been to make improvement?

Sure, there are grumblings about Alderson not spending – that’s ownership’s edict – and Collins’ in-game managing, but you can only do so much with limited resources.

For the most part, Alderson has the Mets in a better state than when he took over with potentially a strong core of starting pitching. Also for the most part, the Mets play hard for Collins.

I’m not always crazy about Alderson’s lack of aggressiveness in the free-agent market, and some of his decisions – particularly Chris Young and Frank Francisco in recent winters. However, I applaud him not being seduced by overpaying for the big fish.

Collins does make some head-scratching comments, such as suggesting New York isn’t that far from Washington, which only makes sense if your measuring stick is miles and not player talent.

The Mets have surpassed Philadelphia and Miami in the NL East and enter tonight’s game tied with Atlanta for second. Be honest, you would’ve taken that in a heartbeat if it was offered coming out of spring training.

The Mets still have a lot of issues after this season, but they aren’t the hopeless mess they used to be, even with their murky financial picture.

 

Sep 15

Why Not DeGrom Or D’Arnaud For NL Rookie Honors?

Why not Jacob deGrom? Or Travis d’Arnaud?

Usually, the Rookie of the Year Award goes to hitters, as the writers tend to favor offense and the everyday player. When it comes to that, deGrom’s stiffest competition could come from teammate d’Arnaud, who leads NL Rookies with 13 homers and is second with 40 RBI, despite a .243 average in 102 games.

DeGrom: Viable NL Rookie candidate.

DeGrom: Viable NL Rookie candidate.

Had d’Arnaud played the entire season he might he the consensus pick.

Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton figures to be the other best bet, hitting .259 with six homers and 48 RBI in a league-leading 144 games for NL Rookies. Cubs third baseman Mike Olt has 12 homers and 32 RBI, but with a .154 average.

Hamilton plays center field, while d’Arnaud is a catcher, both difficult positions to break in with considering the defensive responsibilities.

DeGrom, tonight’s starter against Miami at Citi Field, trails Arizona’s Chase Anderson in record, 9-6 to 8-6, but leads him in innings pitched (127.1-109.1) and strikeouts (121-100) and has given up far fewer homers (7-16). As far as pitchers go, it has to be one of the two.

Other Mets under consideration are Wilmer Flores, Eric Campbell and Jeurys Familia.

If a Met wins, he will become the fifth Rookie of the Year in franchise history, joining Tom Seaver (1969), Jon Matlack (1972), Darryl Strawberry (1983) and Dwight Gooden (1984).

So, why not deGrom or d’Arnaud?

Jul 03

Matt Harvey Making All-Star Push

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HARVEY: Should be named NL starter in All-Star Game

After tonight’s start for the New York Mets, the next time Matt Harvey steps on the Citi Field mound should be to start the All-Star Game.

Support for Harvey to start has gone on for several weeks to the point of it now being a brushfire. San Francisco and National League manager Bruce Bochy all but named Harvey the starter yesterday in a national radio interview. Speaking on MLB Network Radio, Bochy marveled at Harvey’s dominance and acknowledged the location of the game, “should play a part, if all things are equal.’’

After tonight, factoring in four complete days of rest, Harvey’s next starts should be July 8 at San Francisco in an up-close audition in front of Bochy and July 13 at Pittsburgh. The latter date is the Saturday prior to the break so there shouldn’t be any scheduling snags.

Terry Collins will undoubtedly speak with Bochy when the Mets are in San Francisco, and already said he would change his rotation if it meant getting Harvey a start.

St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright and Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw are having strong seasons, as are Washington’s Jordan Zimmerman and Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee. All are worthy in most years, but Harvey’s season is flying off the charts. He’s not first in wins, ERA or WHIP, but in the top five.

Harvey has just seven victories, but nine no-decisions, with him giving up three or fewer runs in seven of them.

“You look at Harvey, I don’t think what team he’s playing for,’’ Bochy said, which is a polite way of suggesting playing for the Mets shouldn’t count against him

“This guy should be strongly considered to start the game. It hasn’t been determined. That’s how good he is.’’

Starting the hometown pitcher is considered a goodwill gesture by the All-Star manager, but in Harvey’s case Bochy knows there’s no charity involved. Toronto’s Cito Gaston wouldn’t pitch the Orioles’ Mike Mussina in the 1993 game at Baltimore – Mussina made the team – and was booed the remainder of his career in Camden Yards.

Bochy is smart enough to know not to make any enemies if he doesn’t have to.

While the Mets have had a myriad of pitchers in the All-Star game, only Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver started.

While Harvey is nearly a given to make it three, David Wright is currently running away with the vote over the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval at third base to the point where he has nearly an 800,000-vote lead with two days remaining in the balloting.

For Wright, it will be his seventh All-Star Game and fifth as a starter. Seaver is the franchise leader with nine All-Star Games, while Mike Piazza and Darryl Strawberry each made it seven times.

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

Jun 28

Matt Harvey Starts Important Series For Mets

The New York Mets return home from a 7-4 road trip to face the Washington Nationals in a three-game series, with Matt Harvey going against left-hander Ross Detwiler.

The Mets are 5.5 games behind the Nationals in the standings, and four behind in the loss column. Yes, it sounds odd, perhaps premature to think, but a sweep could change the complexion of the NL East standings and maybe the Mets’ season.

HARVEY: Animated, as usual.

HARVEY: Animated, as usual.

A strong close to the first half could get them inside ten games below .500, which could bring some fun to Citi Field after the All-Star break. Too early to say playing meaningful baseball in September, but better than we thought a month ago.

Harvey, at 7-1, is an integral part of what the Mets are trying to do, and from his personal objective, a win tonight could go toward his being named a starter in the July 16 All-Star Game.

Harvey leads the NL with 112 strikeouts and MLB with opponent’s batting average (.188) and WHIP (0.88). If not for a lack of run support that has him with eight no-decisions, he might already have double-digit victories and his position as All-Star starter would be secure.

With Harvey going Friday and Zack Wheeler on Sunday, it could be and early version of the “Futures Game,’’ this weekend.

Incidentally, Wheeler is working with pitching coach Dan Warthen on not tipping his pitches. Just wondering why the Mets in his debut or at Triple-A Las Vegas didn’t pick this up earlier.

METS MATTERS: Doc Gooden will be at Citi Field tonight for a book signing. … Ruben Tejada begins a rehab assignment this weekend. Terry Collins said Tejada isn’t assured his job when he returns, claiming he has to beat out Omar Quintanilla, who has done nothing to warrant losing the starting position.

Here’s tonight’s Mets’ batting order:

Eric Young, LF: Hitting .556 (5-for-9) with RISP since joining the Mets.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Hitting .276 (16-for-58) with RISP.

David Wright, 3B: Hit .326 (14-for-43) on the trip.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Has six homers in June, a career-high for him in any month.

Josh Satin, 1B: Hitting .273 while playing good defense. Is he a keeper?

John Buck, C: Is on a 2-for-24 slide.

Juan Lagares, CF: Looks as if center field job is his to lose. With his speed, I wouldn’t mind seeing him getting a chance at hitting second and dropping Murphy into a RBI position.

Omar Quintanilla, SS: Takes a 0-for-13 slide into game.

Matt Harvey, RHP: Has reached the sixth inning or longer in 14 of 16 starts.

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