May 15

Mets Wrap: Losing Streak Reaches Six Straight

The Mets received a strong outing from Shaun Marcum and Rick Ankiel hit a two-run homer, but that was the extent of the highlights as the Cardinals scored the game-winning run in the seventh inning on Scott Rice’s run-producing wild pitch in the 4-2 loss. John Buck was doubled off second base and was caught stealing, and David Wright dropped the ball attempting to tag John Jay, who eventually scored. The Mets dropped to 14-23 with their sixth straight loss.

ANKIEL: Homered to tie game. (AP)

ANKIEL: Homered to tie game. (AP)

ON THE MOUND: Marcum had his best moment with the Mets, giving up three runs on five hits in 6.2 innings. Marcum walked one, but as fate would have it for the Mets, Daniel Descalso came around to score the go-ahead run on Rice’s wild pitch.

AT THE PLATE: Ankiel had two hits, including a game-tying two-run homer in the seventh. … Seven more strikeouts by Mets hitters, including three by Wright. … Ike Davis and Lucas Duda are hitting .164 and .205, respectively.

METS MATTERS: Zack Wheeler took a cortisone injection to his right shoulder and will resume throwing in 48 hours. He will miss at least one start.

THEY SAID IT: “Oh boy,’’ sighed Keith Hernandez when Cardinals went ahead in seventh on run-scoring wild pitch from Scott Rice.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5: Number of Mets in tonight’s lineup hitting less than .240.

ON DECK: Jon Niese (2-4) tries to win for the first time in six starts Thursday afternoon against Adam Wainwright.

Your comments are always welcome and I will attempt to answer them.

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May 14

Seeking A Villain For Mets’ Hitting Woes

Another night, another ten strikeouts, another loss. Hmmm. Let’s see, whom can we blame?

I know, batting coach Dave Hudgens and his approach to work the count and be selective; get a pitch and drive it.

k_104_lgThat’s it, his approach is wrong. It is why they are striking out so many times. They are taking, taking, falling behind, and then whiffing. Damn, it’s Hudgens’ fault.

That’s the current analysis of the Mets’ offensive woes and it is nonsense.

There is nothing wrong with the approach, the game plan, if you will. It is fundamental baseball, and it only doesn’t work if you don’t have the hitters with the ability to make it work.

There is nothing wrong in working the count and taking a strike. What IS wrong, is taking that strike if it is a pitch you can drive. This is about pitch selectivity and recognition, and Mets hitters don’t have it.

Remember when Yankees-Red Sox games lasted close to four hours? The approach from both teams was to run up the count. For the Yankees, when they faced Pedro Martinez, the magic number was 100. Once Martinez reached that number he became less effective.

Surprise, surprise, it works that way with all pitchers on a consistent basis. Some games they’ll have the stuff to go long, but usually they’ll break down.

imagesIt worked because those teams had hitters capable of recognizing their pitch and reacting. Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill and Manny Ramirez. The term used is “professional hitter.’’

Trouble is, when you look at the Mets, you don’t find many. David Wright, sure. You can even make a case for Daniel Murphy, but he’s in a dreadful slump, which happens to everybody.

We knew going in Ike Davis and Lucas Duda were strikeout machines. Looking at their roster, so is everybody else.

Of their most-used lineup, only Murphy and Ruben Tejada are projected to finish with less than 100 strikeouts, and their numbers of 93 and 79, respectively, are high for supposed “contact’’ hitters.

For all the talk of John Buck’s hot start, he has come to Earth average-wise and his power numbers have cooled. But, not his strikeouts; on pace for 162.

Here’s the projected numbers for the rest: Wright (106, which is a marked improvement from recent years), Duda (153), Rick Ankiel (154), and Marlon Byrd (139).

Even in his limited at-bats, Jordany Valdespin is on pace to whiff 65 times. Give him full time at-bats and it would be over 100, also.

images-1Given this, then why have an approach of taking pitches?

Answer: Because that gives them the best chance to succeed, if they have the ability to do so.

Early in the year we were thrilled about Duda taking walks and having a high on-base percentage. What went wrong is two-fold: 1) he fell back into bad habits and started chasing, and 2) he didn’t swing when he got his pitch.

Too often, Mets’ hitters still swing at garbage. In fact, they aren’t taking enough. Consider Davis’ last strikeout Sunday against Pittsburgh when he flailed at three pitches outside the zone, either low or away, or both.

If the Mets had a roster of guys such as Wade Boggs or Barry Bonds, who knew how to wait out a pitcher and what to do when he got his pitch, this wouldn’t be an issue.

But, they don’t. They have a roster of guys who aren’t major leaguers.

Pitchers know the Mets are taking, so they adjusted and are throwing down-the-middle strikes early and hard-to-reach strikes late in the count.

If the first pitch is there, swing at it. The approach isn’t about taking until you have two strikes. It is about driving one strike. Sometimes, that’s the only good pitch you’ll get.

Outside of Wright, who is getting better, few Mets know how to protect the plate with two strikes, which is shorten your swing, foul off pitches that are close, and go to the opposite field.

No, the problem isn’t the approach. The problem is a roster of hitters who don’t understand the fundamentals of hitting.

The problem is also general manager Sandy Alderson, who is about the funky stats of Sabremetrics, and has settled for a roster of players not able to hit.

But, the easiest thing to do is blame Hudgens, who after all, is only trying to get his hitters to understand Hitting 101.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

May 13

Mets Wrap: Jeremy Hefner Gives Quality Start; Offense Does Not

The newest Met, Rick Ankiel, couldn’t hold onto Ty Wigginton’s sinking line drive for a double. Wigginton then scored from second on an infield hit off pitcher Scott Rice. Matt Holliday followed with a two-run homer, and just like that it was over and the Mets had their fourth straight loss, 6-3, at St. Louis to fall seven games below .500.

HEFNER: Good, just not good enough. (AP)

HEFNER: Good, just not good enough. (AP)

ON THE MOUND: Jeremy Hefner had his third straight quality start, giving up three runs in six innings. Hefner retired the last ten hitters he faced. Even so, the Mets are now 0-7 when he starts. … Rice and Scott Atchison combined to give up three runs on five hits.

AT THE PLATE: The Mets had four hits, three from Daniel Murphy. … Ten more strikeouts by Mets hitters, surprisingly, none by Ike Davis or Lucas Duda.

METS MATTERS: Reliever Frank Francisco has a mild strain of the flexor pronator in his right elbow. He will be shut down for 72 hours before he resumes throwing. … Outfielder Andrew Brown was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas to make room for Ankiel.

THEY SAID IT:  “We aren’t scoring. I told him he got us to where we needed to be.’’ – Manager Terry Collins on Hefner’s performance.

BY THE NUMBERS: 12: Number of times in their last 16 games the Mets scored three runs or less.

ON DECK: Dillon Gee (2-4), Shaun Marcum (0-3) and Jonathan Niese (2-4) will be the Mets’ next three starters in this series against John Gast (0-0), Shelby Miller (5-2) and Adam Wainwright (5-2) for the Cardinals.

 

 

 

May 13

Mets Add Rick Ankiel As Their Season Goes To The Brink

How much will Rick Ankiel help the Mets is hard to say. After all, he misses on 42 percent of his swings, which even exceeds Ike Davis’ ineptitude.

Even so, I like today’s signing because he can play better defense in center than anybody else the Mets will throw out there. Plus, he can hit the occasional home run.

I guess best of all, is it should reduce Jordany Valdespin’s playing time even more.

Ankiel was hitting .194 with five homers before being released by Houston. Ankiel will start tonight, but the plan is to platoon him with Juan Lagares.

The Mets, losers of three straight to Pittsburgh, begin a four-game series tonight in St. Louis against the Cardinals, who have the National League’s best record.

Jeremy Hefner (0-4), Dillon Gee (2-4), Shaun Marcum (0-3) and Jonathan Niese (2-4) will pitch in this series against Lance Lynn (5-1), John Gast (0-0), Shelby Miller (5-2) and Adam Wainwright (5-2) for the Cardinals. That is a combined 4-15 against 15-5, which is about as lopsided as you can get.

After St. Louis, the Mets will have three games in Wrigley Field, where they have not played well in recent years.

The Mets will then have three games each against Cincinnati and Atlanta, and four with the Yankees. That’s an imposing stretch for the Mets, who are a season-low six games below .500.

It is sad to say, but the Mets could be a dozen games or more below .500 before June. Forget about them being out of it by the All-Star break, their season could be over before we get into summer.

Yes, the Mets’ season is clearly on the brink not long after they’ve thawed out from Minnesota and Colorado. If the rest of the month plays out as expected, then there’s not much else to look forward to than more Jordany Valdespin tantrums.

Here’s tonight’s lineup in St. Louis:

Mike Baxter, RF

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Ike Davis, 1B

Lucas Duda, LF

John Buck, C

Rick Ankiel, CF

Ruben Tejada, SS

Jeremy Hefner, RHP

Feb 07

Not expecting much between now and spring training.

I’ve always considered the start of the baseball season to coincide with the Super Bowl. As the Giants parade down Broadway, the Mets are about to pack their equipment trucks for Florida.

Spring training is two weeks away and I don’t see the Mets doing anything of significance between now and then. Not that Rick Ankiel would have been a franchise changer, but he did fit a need and the Mets wouldn’t cough up the million bucks the Nationals just gave him.

There is no new light on the Mets’ financial problems, but considering they wouldn’t – or couldn’t – compete with the Nationals on a role player, we must figure they are heading into spring training with what they have and the hope everything breaks in the positive for them.

Wishing and hoping isn’t much of a foundation.