Apr 10

Bruce Red Hot; Value Enhanced

How can you not feel good for Jay Bruce? Booed by when he floundered last year following the trade that brought him from Cincinnati and into a pennant race, and whom GM Sandy Alderson desperately wanted to trade over the winter, has emerged as the Mets’ hottest hitter.

And, it isn’t close.

BRUCE: Sizzling (AP)

BRUCE: Sizzling (AP)

It started with three walks on Opening Day and continued Monday night in Philadelphia with a pair of homers in a 4-3 victory over the Phillies.

Bruce hit a solo drive off Phillies starter Jared Eickhoff to pull the Mets within 2-1 in the fourth, then put them ahead with a two-run drive off his image on the video board against reliever Joely Rodriguez.

“I think it is an approach,” was how Bruce explained his hot start to reporters. “I concentrate on being ready. Every day, I go into the game looking for the right pitches and taking a good swing.”

Bruce insisted he wasn’t daunted by the pressures of playing in New York when he struggled last summer, and that he didn’t want to leave his new team.

And, Alderson shouldn’t be in any hurry to deal Bruce, even if those teams that played hardball with him over the winter start calling him now.

It’s early, but Bruce leads the Mets with four homers and six RBI, and overall, they aren’t hitting, and in each of the last two seasons, they went into lengthy hitting droughts in the second half.

Quite simply, there will be a time this summer when the Mets have to count on Bruce carrying them the way he did the Reds for so many years.

Bruce, who has had 30-plus homers in four of his last six years, was moved to the clean-up slot to replace Curtis Granderson, and will likely remain there in the foreseeable future as the latter struggles.

Bruce, 30 is making $13.1 million this year, while the 36-year old Granderson is pulling in $15 million, which could give him a greater long-term value to the Mets.

Granderson has more of an immediate value to the Mets because he can play center field. However, that shouldn’t last too long because Juan Lagares will be coming off the disabled list shortly, at which time Michael Conforto will be shipped to Triple-A Las Vegas.

The Mets will need Bruce this year, and likely they’ll need him next year. I can’t see the Mets bringing back both Bruce and Granderson. If they don’t bring back either, having just Lagares and Conforto next season to complement Yoenis Cespedes probably won’t be good enough and the Mets could go shopping again in July.

Meanwhile, at 37 next season, the Mets could lowball Granderson and bring him back for less in 2018. However, they couldn’t pull that off with Bruce because after a good year, his free-agent market value would he higher than Granderson’s.

 

Apr 05

Mets’ Lineup, April 5, Braves

Mar 23

Mets Boast Formidable Lineup

The Mets’ batting order will vary depending on the opposing pitcher and who are the hot hitters. However, the lineup manager Terry Collins started Wednesday against the Miami Marlins is the one he’ll likely write in most days.

And, when clicking it can be very formidable.

REYES: The catalyst. (AP)

REYES: The catalyst. (AP)

Jose Reyes, 3B: With David Wright to open the season on the disabled list and Reyes playing every day, there’s no need to search for another leadoff hitter and we won’t see him in the outfield. Backup: Wilmer Flores, T.J. Rivera.

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS: He produced in this slot last year and there’s no reason to change. He has the power to be a run- producer high in the order and bat control to advance runners. Backup: Reyes with Flores playing third that day.

Yoenis Cespedes, LF: Traditionally, your best hitter bats third. That’s Cespedes, no question. Backup: It will depend whether Michael Conforto or Brandon Nimmo are on the roster.

Curtis Granderson, CF: He homered twice Wednesday and if he’s hitting that’s sufficient protection for Cespedes. A potential issue is stacking two high-strikeout hitters back-to-back. Backup: The only true center fielder is Juan Lagares.

Neil Walker, 2B: I like putting a switch-hitter between Granderson and Jay Bruce. Let’s hope he shows the power he did last season. Backup: Rivera and/or Flores.

Bruce, RF: Let’s face it, there will be no immediate trade involving Bruce. And, with the $13 million they are paying him, he will play which could leave Conforto on the outs. He could open the season in the minor leagues to get consistent at-bats. Backup: If he stays, Conforto could be a factor. If not, Granderson would return to his natural position.

Lucas Duda, 1B: He’s healthy – knock on wood – for now. With the hitters immediately ahead of him, Duda should have plenty of RBI opportunities. Duda has had a good spring and has been driving the ball to the opposite field. Backup: Flores is the first option. Potential backup Bruce hasn’t gotten enough playing time at the position.

Travis d’Arnaud, C: Somebody has to hit eighth. He’s had a good spring at the plate, but his throwing needs work. Backup: Rene Rivera, but we’ll see Kevin Plawecki this summer.

Collins consistently said last year’s offense was built to hit the long ball, and this season should be no different as he has four sluggers who have hit 30 homers in a season, with three of them – Granderson, Bruce and Duda – left-handed added to Cespedes. Even so, it was encouraging to hear Collins say he wanted to push the envelope offensively and manufacture runs. The flip side is those four are also capable to strike out over 100 times.

For that to happen, the Mets must strike out less and walk more and emphasize the need for making productive outs and improve their hitting with runners in scoring position.

Mar 08

Syndergaard’s Command Off; Bruce Homers In Win

They might have tuned in to see Tim Tebow, but the Mets most worth watching were Noah Syndergaard and Jay Bruce.

Making his second start of the spring, the Mets’ Opening Day starter again had command issues despite throwing 2.1 innings. Throwing mostly fastballs and change-ups, Syndergaard threw 47 pitches to get those seven outs – six pitches per out – which isn’t going to get it done on most days in the regular season.

BRUCE: Has big day. (AP)

BRUCE: Has big day. (AP)

Meanwhile, Bruce, the player Sandy Alderson most wants to trade, had a big day with a two-run homer, RBI double and run-saving diving catch in right field in Wednesday’s 8-7 victory over Boston.

Syndergaard didn’t give up any runs, but that wasn’t the story.

“I threw about 85 percent,” Syndergaard said. “I pulled it back a bit to work on my mechanics. I wanted to close my shoulder on my way to the plate.”

In the regular season, Syndergaard’s pitch count put him on pace to throw 4.2 innings, which is not what he has in mind.

Syndergaard said he gained 17 pounds of muscle in the offseason – disputed by manager Terry Collins – for the purpose of being strong enough to work longer in games. However, what Syndergaard doesn’t realize is what kept him from going deeper into games isn’t a matter of losing strength, but losing command and running up his pitch count.

Syndergaard touched 100 mph. several times and threw mostly in the high 90s – frankly, I don’t see where he dialed it back – but pitching isn’t about velocity. A pitcher relies on location, movement of his pitches and velocity, with velocity the least important.

METS NOVELTY: With the Mets sending a large contingent to the World Baseball Classic and playing a split-squad game, they were in need of bodies and that opened the way for Tebow’s chance to play – as a designated hitter.

Tebow struck out in his first at-bat on four pitches, grounded into a double play in his second to drive in a run and produce a standing ovation, and was hit by a pitch in his third.

Mar 07

D’Arnaud’s Start Good Sign

One of the Mets’ spring training concerns is off to a good start. You wouldn’t be wrong saying Travis d’Arnaud is facing a make-or-break season.

The combination of not performing – at the plate or behind it – and not being able to stay on the field has kept d’Arnaud from being the impact player they envision when they acquired him from Toronto in the R.A. Dickey trade. Believe it or not, there were some who rated d’Arnaud higher than Noah Syndergaard in that deal.

D'ARNAUD: Good start. (AP)

D’ARNAUD: Good start. (AP)

It’s been only 20 at-bats, but d’Arnaud is hitting .450 (9-for-20) with two homers and four RBI. His discipline is better, evidenced by a .450 on-base percentage.

It’s rather simple, d’Arnaud explained to reporters: After working with hitting coach Kevin Long this winter, d’Arnaud ditched his former stance in which he wrapped his bat around his head, he’s seeing the ball better.

Translation: Seeing the ball enables him to hit it.

“My results are more swinging at strikes and hitting the ball on the barrel,” d’Arnaud said. “For me, me it’s being able to see the ball longer and not have to cheat to get to some pitches and just keeping everything slow and not try to do too much.

“We made the swing so it’s more direct and I don’t have to overcommit.”

Even a fraction of a second would give d’Arnaud enough time to recognize and turn on a pitch. It’s the difference between driving a pitch and popping it up or missing it entirely.

For d’Arnaud, it could be the difference between a productive year in the major leagues, or not being there at all.