May 06

Lucas Duda Unfairly Criticized On Plate Approach

Ever since Lucas Duda burst into our consciousness in 2010, nobody has been satisfied with his plate approach. Too many strikeouts and not enough walks, I frequently wrote. He gives away too many at-bats. He tries to pull too much and doesn’t use the entire field.

All valid in the early Duda critique.

DUDA: Has the right approach (AP).

DUDA: Has the right approach (AP).

Now, unbelievably, he’s become too selective, too patient at the plate. No matter how hard I try, I don’t get this one.

Even Keith Hernandez, who has forgotten more about hitting than most of us will ever know, has been after Duda on his patience. Hernandez believes Duda should be more aggressive with runners in scoring position. Yesterday in that position, Duda worked deep into the count. And, as the at-bat continued and the talk was for him to be more aggressive, Duda lashed a 3-and-1 pitch through the right side of the infield for a RBI single in a perfect piece of hitting.

Until that swing, the conversation was about Duda’s growing patience, as if it was a fatal, fundamental flaw  instead of a strength.

Duda has a .417 on-base percentage, in large part to 21 walks. While the season is still young, his on-base percentage and OPS are the best of his career. For much of the spring he had more walks than strikeouts, but that has reversed.

However, what people are noting most are his six homers with only 11 RBI. Surely, with that much power, he should have more RBI. It it is a plausible argument, but not an all inclusive one.

Pitchers, wary of Duda’s power, have been exceedingly cautious and try to get him to chase. However, when he might have swung earlier in his career, he’s now waiting them out. Instead of giving away at-bats, he’s learned to take the walk, but that’s not a flaw.

Do you really want to see Duda be another Ike Davis, who gives away countless at-bats by flailing a pitches he has no chance of hitting?

The best thing for Duda would be to continue being patient and taking his walks. If somebody – are you listening Davis? – provided more protection behind him, then Duda might see more pitches, fastballs to be exact, in the zone.

Trust me on this one, the last thing you want is for Duda reverting to bad habits and chasing junk. The more walks he takes, the better he’ll become at recognizing pitches. He’ll waste fewer at-bats and eventually get his pitch to drive.

The expectations for Duda to walk less and swing more have been brought on by the Mets’ overall woeful offense.  The problem isn’t in Duda is taking too many pitches, but others in the batting order are not.

May 03

Mets Wrap: Late Magic Beats Braves

As it usually is for the Mets in Atlanta, things weren’t easy as they rallied to beat the Braves in the kind of game they often would lose in Turner Field. The Mets tied the game in the ninth against closer Craig Kimbrel on David Wright’s fourth homer of the season and added RBI singles from Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy to win, 7-5 in ten innings. The Mets scored the game-winner when Jordany Valdespin drew a two-out walk as a pinch-hitter, stole second and scored on Tejada’s single.

ON THE MOUND: Shaun Marcum did not come up with the quality start he hoped, giving up three runs on six hits and three walks with four strikeouts in 4.1 innings. … The bullpen was taxed again, giving up two runs in 5.2 innings. … Jeurys Familia pitched the tenth to earn his first major league save. … Overall, the Mets used seven pitchers.

AT THE PLATE: The Mets got homers from John Buck (10th of the season with 29 RBI), Lucas Duda, Marlon Byrd and Wright. … The Mets were 3-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5: Runs scored by the Mets after two were out.

THEY SAID IT: “There’s a reason why No. 5 (David Wright) is a star.’’ – Manager Terry Collins on Wright’s game-tying homer.

ON DECK: Jonathan Niese (2-2, 3.31) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (1-0, 5.08), 7:10 p.m. ET.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 02

Mets Matters: Andrew Brown To Join Team; Harvey Honored

ESPN reports the Mets will promote outfielder Andrew Brown for this weekend’s series at Atlanta.

Brown’s numbers at Triple-A Las Vegas are .367 with two homers and 27 RBI. The Mets’ corresponding move could be either returning Juan Lagares or Collin Cowgill to Triple-A.

Brown played in 57 games the past two seasons with St. Louis and Colorado, where his numbers were hardly eye opening at .224 with five homers and 14 RBI.

Mets right fielders are hitting a combined .219 with one homer and 12 RBI. And, all that comes with a .288 on-base percentage.

The Mets’ anemic performance in right field has been brought into focus with the team in Atlanta and the Braves featuring Justin Upton. The Mets had a shot at Upton when Arizona shopped him over the winter, but they did not want to part with Zack Wheeler.

The Mets’ unwillingness to part with prospects and/or draft picks is also why they did not go after Braves’ free-agent Michael Bourne because they did not want to give up the compensatory draft pick.

Meanwhile, the Mets’ top-rated outfield prospect Brandon Nimmo is in Single-A and not close to being ready.

HARVEY RECOGNIZED: Matt Harvey, Sunday’s scheduled starter, was named the National League’s Pitcher of the Month for April.

Harvey is 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in six starts, with him getting no-decisions in his last two. In 40.1 innings, Harvey has 46 strikeouts and has issued 12 walks.

The last Mets pitcher to win the monthly award was R.A. Dickey in June 2012.

METS-ATLANTA ROTATION

Friday: RHP Shaun Marcum (0-2, 7.94) vs. LHP Mike Minor (3-2, 3.13), 7:30 p.m. ET.

Saturday: LHP Jonathan Niese (2-2, 3.31) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (1-0, 5.08), 7:10 p.m. ET.

Sunday: RHP Matt Harvey (4-0, 1.56) vs. RHP Tim Hudson (3-1, 3.86), 1:35 p.m. ET.

METS-BRAVES: By The Numbers

The Mets have lost their season series to the Braves in six straight years, and only once since 1997. … The Mets were 6-12 last season against the Braves, including 2-7 at Turner Field. … Overall, they are 325-400-1 against the Braves, including 140-189 in Atlanta.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

Apr 30

Mets Wrap: Anthony Recker, “Hefner Didn’t Deserve This.”

Just when they needed him most, Jeremy Hefner pitched a lights-out game for the Mets with eight shutout innings, but was betrayed by another ninth-inning collapse in a 2-1 loss to the Miami Marlins, which extended their losing streak to six games. Pinch-hitter Chris Coghlan led off the ninth with a single, took second on a passed ball by catcher Anthony Recker, advanced to third on umpire Tim McClelland’s blown call and scored on Donovan Solano’s single. The Marlins scored the game-winner on Brandon Lyon’s run-producing wild pitch, a ball Recker should have blocked.

HEFNER: Tough luck loser (AP)

HEFNER: Tough luck loser (AP)

ON THE MOUND: Hefner encored his strong start last Thursday (one run in seven innings against the Dodgers) by going eight scoreless innings, giving up four hits and no walks with eight strikeouts. Hefner told reporters after the game on dealing with the disappointment: “I go back to what the definition of a starting pitcher is which is go nine innings and give the team a chance to win the game. … I wish I could have finished.’’… Lyon assumed the closer role after Bobby Parnell pitched two innings the previous night.

AT THE PLATE: Daniel Murphy broke a 1-for-20 slide with a leadoff double in the fifth off Marlins starter Kevin Slowey, took third on a fly ball and scored on Recker’s sacrifice fly. … Murphy was dropped to fifth in the order. … Five Mets in the batting order are hitting .250 or below. … The Mets have scored four or fewer runs in eight of their last nine games.

WRIGHT PLAYS: Wright did not start Monday because of a stiff neck, but appeared as a pinch-hitter and struck out. Wright said he wasn’t sure if he would play tonight, but a decision was made after batting practice. Wright was hitless in four at-bats and his average dropped to .294.

BLOWN UMP CALL OF THE GAME: It seems as if every game has one, and tonight’s came at a most inopportune time for the Mets. Replays showed third base umpire McClelland missed Wright’s tag when Coghlan over slid third base on Juan Pierre’s bunt attempt. Coghlan scored on Solano’s single to right and defeat was merely pitches away.

WHEELER OUTSTANDING: Zack Wheeler produced his best start of the season for Triple-A Las Vegas, as he gave up one run on five hits in 6.2 innings. He struck out eight, but more importantly walked only one, and that was the last batter he faced. Two or three more starts like today and the Mets might be seeing Wheeler sooner than later.

METS MATTERS: Shaun Marcum, who volunteered to pitch in relief Monday, said he should be able to make Friday’s start in Atlanta. Marcum didn’t endear himself to the Mets’ hierarchy by not reporting to spring training in top shape, but should have made some points last night. … John Buck, who caught 15 innings Monday, had the night off. He finished the month with nine homers and 25 RBI.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Mets started their 22nd different lineup in 25 games.

THEY SAID IT: “I’m pissed off. I’m extremely pissed off. … You have to get out here and act like a pro and play tomorrow.’’ – Manager Terry Collins after tonight’s late-inning collapse.

ON DECK: Dillon Gee (1-4. 5.96) goes against lefty Wade LeBlanc (0-4, 6.20), tomorrow at 12:40 p.m. … The Mets are off Thursday, and start a three-game series in Atlanta, Friday. Marcum, Jon Niese and Matt Harvey are scheduled to start for the Mets.

Apr 26

Does Ike Davis Even Know The Fundamentals Of Hitting?

Ike Davis should log on to his computer, Google the book, “Ted Williams: The Science of Hitting,’’ and order a copy.

Maybe it is time both he and the Mets realize Davis isn’t just struggling, but that perhaps he doesn’t know too much about hitting. Davis homered yesterday, but for my money I would rather he slapped a single to left in the sixth with runners on second and third and two outs.

DAVIS: Another strike out. (AP)

DAVIS: Another strike out. (AP)

Instead, he struck out. Again. For those scoring at home, it was the 24th time he has walked back to the dugout in disgust, compared to just 12 hits. Old stats, new stats, it doesn’t matter, Davis is not producing.

Davis has four homers and seven RBI. He’s hitting .174 with a .260 on-base percentage, .348 slugging percentage and .608 OPS. However, the number that kills me is he’s on pace for 194 strikeouts.

I spoke with Davis about strikeouts and using the whole field and he told me he’s a home run hitter, he likes to hit home runs, and strikeouts are part of the equation. He’s missing the boat with that reasoning, much like he’s missing the breaking ball away.

Suppose Davis cut his strikeouts in half to 97, which is still a lot. That would be 97 times he would be putting the ball in play instead of throwing his bat. Think how many more homers he’d produce in those 97 at-bats, not to mention productive at-bats when he’ll drive in a run with a hit, sacrifice fly or ground out.

“It’s about contact,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “These big home run hitters, they’re going to strike out. That’s part of the program. Ike, when he’s going good, he gets hits. He just doesn’t get home runs.

“You go back two years ago in the first half where he drove in everybody who was standing at second base. They were base hits. They weren’t always home runs. I think if he again starts using the field more – especially the opposite field – it also takes that shift away from them, which a lot of teams play on him. And I think it’ll make a difference.’’

That’s what Williams preached in his book. Teams used the shift against Williams, and this is when he didn’t use his own advice. However, Williams was so good he produced over his own stubbornness. In his wildest dreams, Davis isn’t half as good as Williams.

Williams might have been the greatest hitter ever, even considering Babe Ruth. Williams’ average year was .344 with 37 homers and 130 RBI. When you factor in he lost five prime years of his career serving in World War II and the Korean War, his lifetime numbers would have been through the roof.

When you boil it down, Williams’ fundamental advice about hitting was get a good pitch to hit. Williams was so precise he broke down the strike zone into baseball-size segments to where he had each area had its own batting average.

“As we’ve studied his at-bats, they’re just killing him away,’’ Collins told reporters after Thursday’s loss.

Williams calculated the low-and-away pitch at best would produce a .230 average. Davis isn’t even giving the Mets that much. That average would increase, Williams said, if the hitter went that way instead of trying to pull. Instead, Davis is chasing everything, which means the pitch doesn’t have to be that good.

Collins sees that: “If he starts going that way to where he’s going to use more of the field to hit, he’s got some better opportunities to drive some runs in.’’

Unfortunately, Davis does not: “Sometimes they’re helpful. Sometimes they’re not. Me slapping the ball the other way early in the count is probably not helpful.’’

Rebuttal: How would Davis know if he hasn’t tried it routinely? He did when he first came up, but rarely since.

Either Davis doesn’t know the fundamentals of hitting, or refuses to listen to his coaches and manager. And, Collins and GM Sandy Alderson are wrong for accepting this kind of performance.

Listen, I don’t know how to build a watch, but I know how to tell time, and the time has come for Davis to change. Either him, or the Mets should.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos