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.

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Jun 22

Mets Should Not Be Seduced By Davis’ Vegas Numbers

Las Vegas, I learned in grade school geography and reinforced by the movie “Casino,’’ is located in the desert, and when lost in the desert one can fall victim to a mirage. Surely, the New York Mets know this, too, and should not be seduced by the mirage of Ike Davis hitting back-to-back two-homer games.

Davis, once considered part of the Mets’ core, is in Vegas gambling he still has a major league future. He and the Mets are encouraged he’s riding a five-game hitting streak where he is 9-for-16 with four homers and seven RBI. Overall, in 11 games, he is hitting .333 with a .480 on-base percentage.

DAVIS: Not ready. (AP)

DAVIS: Not ready. (AP)

Good, but not good enough, and the Mets would be foolish to fall for the mirage Davis is now a major league hitter. Eleven games means nothing; he needs more than double that amount, perhaps triple it, to prove he’s ready.

Las Vegas manager Wally Backman talks boastfully about correcting Davis’ nasty hitch, and Mets manager Terry Collins said his reports are good in that regard.

It’s still not enough, as Davis’ problems aren’t just mechanical, but mental. His approach is wrong, and I am afraid the four homers will underscore Davis’ problem in bold.

“I am a home run hitter. I like to hit home runs,’’ Davis said this spring. “Strikeouts come with that.’’

It was a faulty answer this spring and it is just as bad now. Davis’ most impressive statistic is seven walks, but in 39 at-bats, Davis has nine strikeouts, so you tell me what he’s learned.

Davis needs to forget about pulling the ball and hitting home runs. He must concentrate on working the count, shortening his swing and using the entire field. Once he’s capable of doing that, then he’ll be putting the ball in play more and consequently his home runs and run production will increase.

That’s the approach Davis must learn, and emphasize to Backman it is something ingrained in him. If he can’t do that, then he’ll come back to the Mets and fall into the same old habits.

The Mets warned not to be discouraged by Zack Wheeler’s numbers because they are skewed by the conditions of the desert. The ball flies in the Pacific Coast League. By the same logic, shouldn’t we also consider Davis’ numbers with skepticism?

The sampling of Davis’ work is too small to make the determination he’s ready to come back. This is no time for the Mets to be fooled again.

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Jun 09

Mets Finally Demote Ike Davis

Falling under the category of it being about time, the Mets demoted Ike Davis this afternoon, along with outfielder Mike Baxter and left-hander Robert Carson to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Davis has struggled all season and there has been speculation of him being optioned for several weeks, but GM Sandy Alderson has been reluctant to make the move. He finally ran out of patience following the Mets being swept for the second straight weekend.

“At some point you just have to say to yourself this is not in his best interest,” Alderson said. “I was one of his biggest supporters. I just felt at some point we’ve got to get him out of here. Hopefully he’ll be back in a short period of time. But he needs to go there. He needs to be able to play every day. He needs to be able to work on his swing without worrying necessarily about the outcome. We think it’s in his best interest.”

Davis struggled early last year but rebounded in the second half to finish with 32 homers. After a similar slow start this season, Davis vowed things would be different, but they’ve been even worse. Davis has been adamant in insisting he believes he needs to resolve his issues on this level and wouldn’t benefit from the minor leagues.

On the issue of strikeouts, Davis maintains he’s a home run hitter and strikeouts are part of the package, and has shown no interest in shortening his stroke or going to the opposite field. Davis proved vulnerable to high fastballs and breaking pitches away last year and demonstrated no improvement this season.

Davis is hitting .161 with five homers and 16 RBI, a .242 on-base percentage and a .258 slugging percentage. Davis has 30 hits and 19 walks this year compared to 66 strikeouts. He is on pace to strike out 184 times and hit just 14 homers.

Alderson said the Mets will promote three players Monday, including a first baseman and would not move Daniel Murphy or Lucas Duda to first.

 

Jun 04

David Wright Personifies Slumping Mets’ Offense

We’ve seen this before from David Wright, a hot start cools and descends into a frigid abyss where he’s consumed by mechanical flaws borne out of a major psychological problem – the need to carry the Mets on his shoulders.

We can’t blame it on the pressures of being captain, as he’s fallen into this trap before, notably last season said manager Terry Collins, whose lineup includes as many as six starters hitting below .240. Teams can’t win with such limited production, and Wright can’t catch the free-falling Mets, who come into Washington tonight ten games under .500 and 11 ½ games behind the first place Braves.

WRIGHT: Where did this swing go?

       WRIGHT: Where did this swing go?

“He did it in the second half of last year, too,’’ Collins told reporters after the Mets were crushed in a three-game series in Florida. “When things started to go bad last year, he took it upon himself to be the guy to get us out of it.’’

The slide begins with a gradual expansion of the strike zone; the balls Wright once resisted off the plate he’s now chasing. The walks decline; the strikeouts increase. His average plummets.

Instead of driving the ball to center and right field, Wright falls into the habit of trying to pull, with the results often pop-ups and weak ground balls. His swing is now long and slow instead of short and quick. The more he tries to break out of it the more suffocating becomes the slump. There is such a thing as pressing and that’s what’s happening to Wright the past two weeks with a .163 average, .241 on-base percentage with one homer and two RBI.

Wright alluded to his problems after the Yankees series when he said: “I’m maybe trying to do a little too much and trying to make things happen. … I can’t be going up there and getting myself out or swinging at pitcher’s pitches early in the count.’’

However, that’s what he’s doing and it defines the futility and anguish of a slump. Wright hasn’t yet reached Ike Davis proportions, but is headed in that direction.

On some teams, a slumping player can be camouflaged, or at least protected, if others in the lineup are hitting. However, Daniel Murphy is the only one and he doesn’t do it with power. Considering his track record, Davis’ homer Sunday must be looked at as an aberration and not a sign of a breakout. Lucas Duda has 10 homers, but only 20 RBI, which the more you think about it is hard to believe. It’s almost unfathomable.

Collectively, the Mets are averaging less than four runs a game and hold the major league’s worst team average at .227. Their hitters are averaging under ten strikeouts a game.

At one time, you might have been able to say, “where would they be without Wright?’’

Well, they have him and only three teams in the major leagues hold a worse record than the 22-32 Mets. There are a lot of numbers that define how poorly they are playing, but what I find most discouraging is the Marlins have won just 16 games this year, with six coming against the Mets.

You’re tempted to think it can’t get much worse than this, but you realize as a Met fan, it can.

ON DECK: Looking at Washington series.

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Jun 03

Reflections Of A Lost Weekend For Mets In Miami

In the back of our collective minds, after winning four straight from the Yankees, who wasn’t surprised to see the Mets get beat up in Miami?

I thought they’d get a better showing from Matt Harvey, but other than that, nothing shocking really. Harvey was off his game, but had a chance to win if not for the bullpen, which reverted to pre-Yankees form. The offense continues to sputter.

 

DAVIS: Not excited by homer.

DAVIS: Not excited by homer.

Scott Rice was due for a stinker, which makes me wonder why Terry Collins would let him stay in to give up FOUR walks. Once a reliever gives up two walk, plus a hit, it is time to pull the plug. What was Collins waiting for?

Harvey’s no-decisions are starting to pile up which is a two-fold reflection on the bullpen and offense. I realize the Mets’ offense has been sucking wind lately, but friend Michael Baron put it in perspective: In 27 games in May, the Mets scored a mere 88 runs with a .222 batting average and .286 on-base percentage. That was second worse in the majors for the month.

It all can’t be pinned on Ike Davis, although he does get a large share of the blame. Speaking of Davis, he had two hits, including a home run Sunday. Please, under no circumstances, should the Mets consider hitting him higher than seventh. Let him stay there for a while until he shows real breakout signs. One game is not enough to assume anything about Davis. Certainly, he proved that after his RBI hit against the Yankees and two-homer game against the Dodgers.

Davis is not high on my Mets Concern Meter because frankly, he’s hit rock bottom. There’s no place to go but up, or Triple-A Vegas for him. I suppose I should forget about the minors because if the Mets haven’t done it by now they probably won’t ever.

On another sad offense note, Lucas Duda homered, giving him ten and 20 RBI on the season. In contrast, the Orioles’ Chris Davis hit his 20th homer Sunday. By the way, he has 52 RBI to go along with them. Duda’s HR-RBI is laughable. It shows pitchers are working around him with runners on base.

One of the biggest issues swirling around the Mets is who should go to make room for Zack Wheeler. The Mets are delaying Wheeler’s promotion for Super Two reasons, which is fine by me.

But, is he ready? Is he dominating on the Triple-A level to warrant the jump? I’m not sure, regardless of what Wally Backman might say. One thing I am sure of is Wheeler won’t make much of a difference as far as this year is concerned. Bringing up Wheeler won’t change all that is hurting this club. How will he help the bullpen? How will he help the outfield? How will he help the offense?

As far as who should go, the speculation is between Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee, with Shaun Marcum being excluded from the conversation because he’s a veteran making $4 million.

So?

The Mets must realize they aren’t going to be a contender this season, so what they should be doing is shopping Marcum to see what they can get. It won’t be a lot, but Marcum is gone after this year so why not? He’s had moments where he pitched well, Friday night for example before one bad inning.

The Mets are off today, which has an old joke resurfacing about what are their best days. They are in Washington tomorrow to start a series that lost a lot of edge with the Mets getting trounced. The Nationals aren’t playing well now and will be without Bryce Harper and possibly Stephen Strasburg.

 

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