Mar 08

No Brainer Harvey Will Be Opening Day Starter

The Mets like to say they don’t have one ace, but a whole rotation full of aces. It’s the politically correct thing to say, of course. It’s also nonsense because everybody knows it’s a no-brainer Matt Harvey will get the ball on Opening Day in Kansas City.

HARVEY: Should be the OD starter. (Getty)

HARVEY: Should be the OD starter. (Getty)

Jacob deGrom had a better season statistically – traditionally a yardstick in naming an Opening Day starter – and Noah Syndergaard might have a higher upside, but Harvey is the arm the Mets first boast about.

Harvey, today’s starter against the Braves at Disney, last pitched in Game 5 of the World Series when he convinced manager Terry Collins to go out for the ninth inning, and we all know how that worked out for the Mets.

Harvey was 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA last year, but most importantly in his comeback season from Tommy John surgery was he made 29 regular-season starts and threw 216 total innings without any hint of re-injury.

Many times in the second year back from surgery the pitcher will come back even stronger and there are reports from Florida Harvey’s slider is back and his fastball has that last-second bite it lacked at times in 2015.

Harvey will make over $4 million this year, more than deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz and Zack Wheeler combined. The Mets will say when they finally make the official announcement money had nothing to do with their decision, but that would be a misnomer.

Harvey makes the most because his age put him first in line. That’s a fact, but it’s also symbolic. You see, the Mets were going to rebuild with their young pitching and Harvey was the first. He was the one they were going to build around.

Then came Wheeler, and deGrom, then Syndergaard and Matz. Come July when Wheeler is back and Bartolo Colon is relegated to the bullpen, will the Mets’ rebuilding plan be whole.

But, symbolically Harvey was the first step, which is why he’ll get the ball in Kansas City. It’s symmetry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mar 07

The Telling Distinctions Between Colon And Pelfrey

The unveiling of the 2016 Mets’ starting rotation this week unveils an interesting match-up Monday when Bartolo Colon goes against former Mets Ace of the Future Mike Pelfrey in a split-squad game against Detroit.

In the other split-squad game, Steven Matz starts against St. Louis. Matt Harvey starts Tuesday, followed by Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. No, you can’t determine from this who will be the Opening Day starter.

But, there’s intrigue with Colon vs. Pelfrey in it shows a contrast of styles and expectations. It also explains why one is a Met and another is not.

PELFREY: What could Wright say that would help? (Getty)

PELFREY: What could Wright say that would help? (Getty)

Colon was signed as a two-year stopgap when Harvey went down. However, he exceeded all expectations, kept the team afloat at times and even proved his worthiness working out of the bullpen. And, there was never any shortage of comic relief.Colon exceeded all expectations by mostly doing two things: 1) throwing strikes, and 2) minimizing the damage when things got dicey.

Colon exceeded all expectations by mostly doing two things: 1) throwing strikes, and 2) minimizing the damage when things got dicey.

For the most part, Colon cut off big innings before they developed. Had Pelfrey done those things with any consistency, he might still be with the Mets.

What do you remember most about Pelfrey? For me, it was his habit of letting little things get to him which eventually turned into big innings. This was never more apparent than three balks in one inning against San Francisco. Most pitchers don’t balk three times in one year. Guess how many career balks Harvey, deGrom and Syndergaard have in their careers?

Yup, zero.

All three, while not perfect, have the ability to maintain their composure while under pressure and to throw strikes. There were times Pelfrey resembled a right-handed Oliver Perez. Enough said.

I always liked Pelfrey, but he drove me crazy to watch him at times. And, you could see it coming. If he didn’t get a strike call, or there was an error, or a broken-bat blooper, or any of a half-dozen other things.

When something went wrong Pelfrey would start chewing on that damned mouth guard and the strike zone would disappear. One walk would become two would become three and before you knew it the Braves or Phillies or whoever would have three runs.

Those were long days.

Meanwhile, nothing seems to bother Colon, who is always full of surprises, such as that behind the back flip in Miami.

Mar 03

Mets Lineup Against Nationals

Here’s the Mets lineup against Washington for today’s exhibition opener. The note next to the player’s name is his expected Opening Day role:

Alejandro De Aza, DH: Role player. Mets say they aren’t shopping him.

Juan Lagares, CF: On the bench with playing time severely limited after Yoenis Cespedes resigned.

Michael Conforto, LF: Opening Day starter in left. Batting third might not be a bad spot for him.

Wilmer Flores, 3B: Backup at all four infield positions.

Kevin Plawecki, C: Backup catcher.

Marc Krauss, 1B: Minor leagues.

Eric Campbell, RF: Minor leagues.

Ruben Tejada, SS: Bench player.

Dilson Herrara, 2B: If he makes the team it will be off the bench.

Rafael Montero, RHP: Starter in minor leagues.

 

Feb 20

I’m Liking How Mets Are Protecting Pitchers Early

The Mets are starting early this spring in protecting their young rotation. They eliminated any speculation as to what they will do with the announcement they won’t use their starters for the first five exhibition games.

They’ll still get their work in, but they’ll shave off a couple of innings they’ll work in spring training. Traditionally, each starter in the rotation should get 30 innings and work themselves up to 100 pitches by Opening Day.

“We’re addressing it just by what we do this spring,” pitching coach Dan Warthen told reporters in Port St Lucie. “We will probably cut down four or five innings on almost everybody in the spring. … We’ll still try to get to where they’re close to 100 pitches to open the season.”

Warthen said the first game for a projected starter will be March 8 when the Mets play the Braves in Orlando. Warthen indicated the decision to skip the first week is a reaction to the Mets making the World Series, which necessitated the young pitchers to work an extra month. All those young arms reached career highs in innings pitched, some by as many as 60 innings as in the case with Noah Syndergaard.

Then there was Matt Harvey, who started the season projected to throw 180 innings and wound up with 216.

The Mets aren’t expecting anything less this summer.

Dec 08

Cubs Beat Out Mets For Zobrist

The Mets are back to Plan B, which is another way of saying Square One, as the MLB Network reported tonight with second baseman Ben Zobrist, this winter’s object of their affections agreed to a four-year, $56-million contract with the Chicago Cubs.

Mets manager Terry Collins texted Zobrist today, a clipped “We want you,” but like a teenage girl being asked to the prom, such flirting doesn’t always work.

ZOBRIST: Going to Cubs. (AP)

ZOBRIST: Going to Cubs. (AP)

Zobrist met with the Washington Nationals today and Mets on Monday, but the Cubs emerged as a late player. In the Cubs, the 34-year-old Zobrist finds a comfort level in Chicago, which is close to his offseason Nashville home. The Cubs, who won 97 games last season, offer a better line-up to protect Zobrist, a better hitter’s park, and reunites him with his former manager Joe Maddon.

Zobrist is a switch-hitter whose 162-game average is .265 with a .355 on-base percentage, 17 homers and 77 RBI. Frankly, $56 million is too much for that production. But, for a team like the Cubs that has deeper pockets.

The Cubs are also going after outfielder Jason Heyward and Miami ace Jose Fernandez, whom the Marlins say they won’t trade. The Giants and Dodgers are also reportedly interested in Fernandez. If the Cubs make those two moves they should be favored to get to the World Series. Even if they don’t, the Cubs are better situated to getting to the Series than the Mets.

To make room for Zobrist, the Cubs are discussing a trade of second baseman Starlin Castro to the Yankees. Ironically, the Mets’ loss at second base is the Yankees’ gain.

Despite being swept out of the NLCS by the Mets, the Cubs are in better position of getting into the playoffs next year, despite the Mets’ cache of young arms. In addition to second base, the Mets have holes in centerfield (they have to replace Yoenis Cespedes) and bolster the middle of their bullpen.

The Mets are also banking on a bounce-back year from David Wright and the continued development of outfielder Michael Conforto and their young pitching.

As they are presently constructed, and with the Nationals expected to be aggressive, the Mets aren’t a slam dunk to get back to the playoffs.

Clearly, they have work to do.