Dec 07

Mets Need Breakout Years From Davis, Duda, Niese And Others

DAVIS: Mets need breakout year from him. (Getty)

Let’s assume for a moment – and this isn’t much of a reach – the Mets don’t do anything for the remainder of the winter. How then, can the Mets be competitive if another assumption that R.A. Dickey won’t be back?

A lot of things must happen, beginning with David Wright regaining his power stroke. If he does, and Johan Santana has a good year, that’s only the beginning. So much else has to happen in terms of their young players having breakout seasons. It could happen. It has before.

JOSH THOLE: I won’t be going out on a limb if I said Thole would again be the starting catcher. As much as there’s talk of the Mets needing a catcher, they have more pressing needs, such as the bullpen and outfield. Those areas must be addressed first. Thole made a good first impression hitting .321 in 2009 with his bat control, ability to work a count and go to the opposite field. Maybe he was corrupted by watching others with no plate presence, but his average has declined every year since and he provides no power. Even worse, has been his defense. If the Mets are to open their wallets after 2013 – that’s what they tell us so it must be true – they will address catching so this is Thole’s last chance.

IKE DAVIS: Davis was a beast in the second half and finished with 32 homers. He must learn to put two halves together, and it begins by being more selective at the plate. His power production could soar if he cuts his strikeouts and increases his walks. Davis can be dangerous, but has too many holes in his swing and goes into long stretches where he tries to pull everything. Since the Mets are void of power, any trade talk involving Davis is ridiculous.

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Nov 01

2012 Mets Player Review: Toronto Imports Jon Rauch And Frank Francisco

FRANK FRANCISCO, RHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS:  The Mets thought they plugged two serious bullpen holes with the signings of Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco, both of whom pitched effectively at times for Toronto in 2011. The two combined for 107 appearances, so the Mets knew they were getting some reliability. However, obviously overlooked by the Mets were the reasons why they weren’t brought back by the Blue Jays in the first place. Francisco walked 18 and gave up seven homers in 50.2 innings. And, he did it for $4 million. Rauch gave up 11 homers in 52 innings. In Rauch, the Mets had to deal with a pitcher who didn’t pitch after Sept. 2, 2011, with a knee injury. And, he did so at the bargain rate of $3.5 million. The Blue Jays decided they could get mediocre production for less. Meanwhile, the Mets decided to give Francisco and Rauch $5.5 million and $3.5 million, respectively.  For that kind of money, the Mets had a right to expect holes would be filled. With the Mets no longer sold on Bobby Parnell at the time, they envisioned Rauch in the set-up role and Francisco as the closer.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: It was hit and miss all season for both. Rauch got off to a good start going 3-0 with three holds and a 2.53 ERA in April, but was 0-4 with a 5.56 ERA in May. Rauch was strong in July and August, but was hammered in September, giving up four homers in nine innings. For the season, Rauch had a decent 1.22 WHIP, but also blew four saves and gave up seven homers. Francisco was strong at the start of the season when the Mets’ bullpen was decent, but struggled in the second half, went on the disabled list and ended the season with a strained side muscle watching Parnell close for much of September. Francisco saved 23 games, which any closer should get by accident. Francisco averaged 14.5 base runners per nine innings (10 hits and 4.5 walks), so he was always in trouble. A 5.53 ERA says the same thing.

LOOKING AT 2013: Francisco will be back simply because he is signed for $6.5 million. His is a contract the Mets would love to scuttle, but he’ll be back in the closer role. Rauch was erratic to the point where the Mets won’t be inclined to bring him back as they know they can get similar production for less money on the free-agent market.

NEXT: Josh Thole

Oct 31

2012 Mets Player Review: Bobby Parnell

BOBBY PARNELL, RHP

PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Actually, considering his new role entering spring training, the expectations of Bobby Parnell – he of the fastball of 100 mph. – were minimal. Parnell could not seize the closer, set-up and even starter roles when given the opportunity in previous seasons, so the Mets dropped him to the seventh inning in the wake of signing Jon Rauch (set-up) and Frank Francisco (closer) from Toronto in the offseason. Parnell has exceptional stuff capable of three figures on his fastball, but hasn’t consistently commanded his secondary pitches or been able to challenge hitters with his location and pitch selection. In addition, that overpowering fastball often didn’t have movement and looked like it was on a tee. Anybody’s fastball can be hit if there’s no lateral or dip movement. So, knowing his inconsistencies, despite his potential, the Mets penciled Parnell in for the seventh inning role.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: Parnell struggled early as five of eight inherited runners scored against him in April. However, Parnell righted himself and only four more out of 20 scored the rest of the season. When Rauch hit the skids and Francisco was injured and erratic, Parnell inherited their roles and was exceptional. Parnell was 1-1 with two holds and three saves (no blown saves) in September, and went 2-1 with a save in August. Parnell still had his fastball, but his sinker and command was much better as the season progressed. Parnell finished at 5-4 with a 2.49 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. Parnell had streaks of wildness in the past, but last season walked only 20 in 68.2 innings pitched. He also struck out 61 and batters hit .249 off him with a .303 on-base percentage. The batting and on-base averages were career bests.

LOOKING AT 2013: Parnell made $504,000 last season, and should be offered arbitration for 2013. With Rauch not expected back and Francisco another year remaining on his contract to close, expect Parnell to be slotted into the eighth-inning set-up role, or close if Francisco isn’t physically able. The Mets have given up on Parnell as a potential starter and now figure him as their closer-of-the-future – again. It takes some pitchers longer than others to reach their potential and Parnell had been erratic since 2008 until the end of last season. The Mets’ bullpen unraveled late last year with the exception of Parnell and Manny Acosta late. I don’t know if Parnell will ever fulfill his long-range expectations, but for the first time in several years the Mets aren’t pulling their hair out over him. That has to be a plus, right?

Oct 24

Mets That Should Come Back In 2013

When you scan the roster of the 2012 Mets, there are only a handful you can justify returning, and only fewer they should bring back. The following are the Mets you know will be back next year:

JOHAN SANTANA: I’d love for them to find a taker of his $25.5 million contract, but you know that’s not going to happen. Santana will go down as one of the Mets’ worst trades for what they got from him after signing him to a long-term deal. Never mind the prospects for they didn’t amount to much, but the salary became an anchor that dragged down the franchise, especially considering how often he was injured. The Twins’ asking price forced the Yankees and Red Sox to pull out, essentially leaving the Mets to bid against themselves, both in prospects and salary. He’s back because he can’t be unloaded. That’s the only reason.

R.A. DICKEY: I don’t know what it will take to bring Dickey back, but the Mets can always pick up his 2013 option and continue to muddle through negotiations. My confidence level of GM Sandy Alderson reaching a contract extension is low. Whether the Mets bring Dickey back to continue negotiations or to trade him is uncertain, but he’ll be on the Opening Day roster.

JON NIESE: He’s signed long-term, which is a smart signing by the Alderson administration. Young, left-handed arms are at a premium. The Mets could get a lot for him, but his real value is in building around him.

MATT HARVEY: He made such a good first impression that he’s already penciled into the Mets’ 2013 rotation, and hopefully will stay there for years to come. When teams call the Mets to talk trade they invariably ask about Harvey and are properly turned down.

NIESE: A building block.

DILLON GEE: The returns on Gee’s surgery are good and he’s expected to be ready for spring training. The Mets could find a veteran capable of giving them Gee’s production, but not at his salary. Gee has been a find, and if healthy, he’ll be a reliable No. 5 starter.

BOBBY PARNELL: Parnell did not grasp the opportunity to be the Mets’ closer and struggled as the set-up option. However, when Frank Francisco went down and Jon Rauch struggled, Parnell showed improvement in the second half. Parnell’s fastball is overpowering and he’s continued to develop his secondary pitches. That he’s healthy and can throw a ball through a wall would make him attractive in the trade market. Considering his age, that’s also why the Mets should continue in developing him.

ROBERT CARSON/JOSH EDGIN: Opportunities are found in the strangest places, and Edgin and Carson found theirs with Tim Byrdak’s injury. The Mets blew out Byrdak’s arm, and desperate for lefty help in the bullpen, dipped into their minor league system for these two. Both struggled at times, but also showed glimpses of what they could bring to the table. Unless the Mets get lucky this winter, they’ll go into spring training with these two lefties in the bullpen.

 FRANK FRANCISCO: He has another year on his contract – a foolish deal, agreed – which is why he’ll be in Port St. Lucie. But, if the Mets can make a deal for him they should as he really doesn’t add much to their porous bullpen.

JOSH THOLE: Both Thole’s defense and offense have regressed. Alderson seems pleased with the way he handles the staff, but he does get healthy. In a perfect world, the Mets would trade for, or develop, another catcher, but won’t as they have little to trade and little in the minor leagues. Thole comes back because the Mets have too many other priorities to address instead of their catching.

IKE DAVIS: Don’t listen to the trade rumors. He’s not going any where. A team void of power and is pinching pennies isn’t about to deal their 32-homer hitting first baseman. Not at his salary. Unless the Mets can get a boatload in return, what’s the incentive in dealing him? And, with Lucas Duda a question, why would they take that risk?

DANIEL MURPHY:  It’s too bad Murphy doesn’t hit for power otherwise he’d be a keeper. Murphy played better at second to the point where the Mets don’t have a red flag waving at the position anymore. As with Thole, he’s good enough to stay at his position while the Mets address other issues.

RUBEN TEJADA: Tejada more than adequately replaced Jose Reyes and should be here for years. If he has another year like he had in 2012, the Mets should think of an extension to keep him away from arbitration and free-agency. Will he ever be as good as Reyes? Probably not, but he’s more than good enough.

DAVID WRIGHT: I don’t see him going anywhere. As with Dickey, if the Mets don’t get anything done they’ll pick up his option and see what they can get in the trade market. It’s harder to trade a player these days during the winter because teams have the free-agent option to improve. I believe the Mets will eventually work out a deal with Wright, who said he wants to be like Chipper Jones and play his entire career with the same team.

JASON BAY: Like Santana, Bay is back because they can’t deal that contract. His value to the Mets is staying healthy and having a strong first half so the team might be able to deal him. But, after doing nothing the previous three years, that’s not likely.

SCOTT HAIRSTON:  It is hard to say good-bye to 20 homers, but that’s what I can see happening with Hairston, who’ll likely get a better offer in the free-agent market while the Mets wait things out. Hairston, despite being a role player, what the Mets’ most productive outfielder. Whether as a starter or coming off the bench, there should be a place for him with the Mets.

LUCAS DUDA: He’s back not based on 2012 production but potential. Duda had a rough season, but he’s strong as a bull and the Mets need the power. Yes, he’s a butcher in right field, but I’d consider flipping him with Bay and playing him in left field.

 

Sep 29

Mets Matters: Braves Prez John Schuerholz Tells It Like It Is

You have to love Braves president John Schuerholz, the architect as general manager of Atlanta’s spectacular playoff run.

He’s always been a straight shooter and last night during the Chipper Jones’ ceremony said something you don’t hear from Major League Baseball executives when he called Hank Aaron, “the true Major League Baseball home run champion.’’

Finally, an executive with the guts to put the steroid mess in its proper light. Baseball cherishes its records and the home run records – career and single season – are the most revered.

We all know Barry Bonds used steroids, and like Mark McGwire, will be shunned by the Hall of Fame voters. He won’t get mine unless there’s a drastic revision in the process.

The Hall of Fame is a baseball museum honoring its history, and history is sometimes messy. If there was a provision where on the player’s plaque there was a notation he used PEDs, I’d be more inclined to vote for him.

Until then: No.

Bravo to Schuerholz for telling it like it is.

Niese to have heart procedure: Jon Niese, who pitched brilliantly last night to earn his career high 13th victory, said he’ll have a heart procedure at the Cleveland Clinic to correct a rapid heartbeat that resurfaced in June.

Niese said after the game he wants to build off this season.

“I’m never satisfied with the number I put up,’’ Niese said. “With what R.A. (Dickey) has been doing this year, having a season like that is something to look forward to.’’

Niese said the next step is to reach 200 innings, 15 victories and increase his starts total (he had 30).

Parnell will close out season: Frank Francisco is finished for the year with elbow tendinitis and Bobby Parnell will be the closer for the remaining five games.

Parnell has the stuff to be a closer, but has spit the bit in every opportunity he’s been given. There’s nothing wrong with his velocity, but there are times when his fastball flattens out and becomes easier to hit.

Duda flashes power: Coming out of spring training there was a lot of optimism surrounding Lucas Duda’s power potential.

He has the strength to reach 30, but will finish with at least half that number. He hit his 15th last night, a three-run blast to beat Tim Hudson.

Even more impressive than the distance was that Duda was behind 1-2 in the count, but worked it full.

“Obviously I can improve in every aspect,’’ Duda told reporters last night. “There’s not really like a number I can put on it. Obviously it wasn’t the season I wanted to have — getting sent down and things like that.’’