Nov 10

Mets’ deGrom Should Win NL Rookie Award

The New York Mets should be in the national baseball news today as the postseason awards start this afternoon. It’s just another step in the Mets’ climb toward relevancy.

In an informal poll of voters, pitcher Jacob deGrom is favored to become the Mets’ fifth rookie of the year winner, joining Tom Seaver (1967), Jon Matlack (1972), Darryl Strawberry (1983) and Dwight Gooden (1984). For those believing in omens, the Mets played in the World Series within two years of each previous winner.

DeGROM: Gets my NL Rookie vote. (Getty)

DeGROM: Gets my NL Rookie vote. (Getty)

To say deGrom could be the next Seaver or Gooden is a stretch, but there is a lot to like about him and it isn’t farfetched  to say he’s ahead of Zack Wheeler, and he’s definitely part of the core of young arms.

What was most impressive about deGrom was his composure and ability to command his secondary pitchers. These are things Wheeler must improve. Wheeler also has a tendency to run up his pitch count, frequently forcing an early exit. The Mets could count on deGrom getting into the sixth inning.

A ninth-round pick in the 2010 amateur draft, deGrom made the first of his 22 starts, May 15, and made an immediate impression by giving up just one run in seven innings in a 1-0 loss to the Yankees. He gave us a glimpse of his 96-mph. fastball and darting slider with six strikeouts and only walked one and gave up four hits.

DeGrom turned out to be the kind of workhorse the Mets need by working into the sixth or longer in 19 starts. Ten times he took a game into the seventh or longer.

DeGrom worked 140.1 innings this year, but in this era of pitcher preservation – not recognized by the Giants and Madison Bumgarner – he was pulled from his last start against Houston.

“Obviously, I wanted to make my last one, but they talked to me about it,’’ deGrom said at the time. “The decision was made for me not to, and to end the year healthy. I respect that decision and I look forward to next year.’’

The decision was made in large part by a season-low 92 mph., in his proceeding start against Atlanta, and manager Terry Collins said with a 9-6 record and 2.63 ERA, there was nothing left for him to prove. The lower speed is indicative of a tiring arm.

“We explained the big picture,’’ Collins said. “One more start isn’t going to vary any votes. One more start isn’t going to show everybody that he belongs here.

“One more start could lead to some trouble. The big picture was to make sure when this season was over that those five [rotation] guys were going to be healthy. We think we’ve reached that point.’’

By votes, Collins meant from the Baseball Writers Association, which concludes its voting after the season. Postseason performance is not included, for one reason it gives some players a larger body of work. For example, if the postseason were included, Bumgarner would easily win the NL Cy Young over the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.

The other National League candidates are Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton and St. Louis’ Kolten Wong. Hamilton fizzled at the end and Wong wasn’t a clear-cut standout, although he was impressive in the postseason.

The American League candidates are frontrunner Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox, the Yankees’ Dellin Betances and the Angels’ Matt Shoemaker.

 

Nov 04

Cuddyer Not Happening For Mets

An early surprise at the start of the free-agent Hot Stove season is the Colorado Rockies’ decision to give 35-year old outfielder Michael Cuddyer a $15.3 qualifying offer.

CUDDYER: Not happening.

CUDDYER: Not happening.

That’s bad news for the Mets, who were reported to be interested in Cuddyer. There’s no way the Mets will go that high, especially for a player who missed two months because of hamstring issues.

Sure, he won the NL batting title in 2013, but that was two years ago. He only hit 10 homers last season, and only hit as many as 20 twice since 2009. For an average defender, that’s not a lot of right-handed power.

Even more discouraging is his average of playing in only 93 games in each of the past three years. I can’t see the Mets paying over $15.3 million for a part time player with declining production.

By keeping Cuddyer, the Rockies could be shopping Carlos Gonzalez, but he’s no bargain either. Injuries limited him to only 70 games last season.

Gonzalez will make $16 million, $17 million and $20 million in the next three years. In 2010, Gonzalez, 29, hit 34 homers with 117 RBI and a .376 on-base percentage and .974 OPS, by far his best season.

But that was four years ago and he had protection in the order from Troy Tulowitzki.

There’s been speculation for years the Mets would mine the Rockies for Tulowitzki and/or Gonzalez, but they were too pricey. Then it was Cuddyer, but they won’t afford him, either.

Time to look elsewhere.

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?