Sep 19

Mets Wrap: Offense And Season Defined By Strikeouts

Another day, another ten strikeouts for the New York Mets. This time the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner toyed with them the way a cat would a mouse.

With the Mets at 1,299 strikeouts for the season (an average of 8.6 a game compared to 8.2 hits), it stands to reason a lot of pitchers have had their way with them this summer.

For all the talk of a lack of power, unquestionably the Mets’ primary offensive concern for hitting coach Dave Hudgens – assuming he comes back – is to focus on is shaving down that number. No, make that hack at it wildly with an ax the way most of his hitters aimlessly flail at the plate.

Pause for a second to consider the carnage if the Mets had Ike Davis for a full season, and John Buck, and Marlon Byrd, and Lucas Duda, and David Wright. As it is, the Mets had two hitters with over 100 strikeouts – Byrd and Davis – and three more with over 90 – Buck, Duda and Murphy. Totally, they had seven with at least 75.

And, Murphy is supposed to be a contact hitter. Still, there’s time for Duda and him to break 100. It will take some doing for Juan Lagares (87) and Wright to do it. Lagares, for all the raves he’s drawn, he shouldn’t have that many in just 112 games played.

As the Mets rallied in the ninth inning Wednesday night, manager Terry Collins emphasized how his team worked the count. But remember, in doing so it usually leaves the hitters with two strikes. There’s no leeway after that. Wednesday was the exception; what happened today is usually the rule.

There are a lot of theories why strikeouts are so prevalent in today’s game, usually falling on the emphasis of hitting home runs. The strikeouts are supposed to be a tradeoff for power, but the Mets aren’t hitting many home runs.

Davis, when he was here, said, “I’m a home run hitter. I like to hit home runs, and strikeouts are part of the game.’’

How well did that work for him?

The strikeout ratio with Mets’ hitters is alarming. If strikeouts were hits, consider these numbers:

Mike Baxter: .217 strikeout average/.191 batting average. SKINNY: He was the starting right fielder in the beginning, but has always been more effective as a pinch-hitter. As the Mets look to upgrade their outfield, he won’t stick with those numbers.

Andrew Brown: .296 strikeout average/.237 batting average. SKINNY: Just not acceptable if he wants to play part time, let along full time. Has some power, but could produce more with better plate discipline.

John Buck: .269 strikeout average/.215 batting average. SKINNY: Gets a partial pass because of 15 homers and 60 RBI, most of which was accumulated before his dreadful post-April slump. Also, because of what he gave the pitching staff, which is underrated. Still, consider what his run production would have been with a reduction of empty at-bats.

Marlon Byrd: .284 strikeout average/.285 batting average. SKINNY: In today’s game, an equal average is passable if there’s an element of run production, which there was with Byrd (21 homers/71 RBI).

Travis d’Arnaud: .212 strikeout average/.163 batting average: SKINNY: There hasn’t been enough of a window for him, but the first impression isn’t good. The Mets still don’t know what they have in d’Arnaud. As of now, Anthony Recker has given them more.

Matt den Dekker: .354 strikeout average/.250 batting average: SKINNY: There’s no doubting his defense, but the Mets wonder about his run production. His window has been too small to make a decision. He has speed and as he showed Wednesday makes things happen on the bases. He just needs to get on.

Ike Davis: .318 strikeout average/.205 batting average. SKINNY: That ratio says it all, especially when there’s little run production. Until his strikeouts significantly drop and on-base percentage (.326) improves, he’s not what the Mets need. For over $3.1 million, he’s no bargain.

Lucas Duda: .310 strikeout average/.232 batting average. SKINNY: Has not provided the run production (14 homers/31 RBI) to justify 91 strikeouts in 293 at-bats. His .351 on-base percentage is better, but there’s clearly something wrong with his plate discipline. Of his 68 hits, 29 have gone for extra bases, which is a good ratio, but he doesn’t make enough contact. His on-base percentage masks that deficiency.

Wilmer Flores: .222 strikeout average/.211 batting average. SKINNY: It took awhile for Flores to get here, and it will take significantly better than that for him to stay next year – regardless of what position he plays. Flores has five walks to go along with his 20 strikeouts, a ratio that should be reversed.

Juan Lagares: .242 strikeout average/.251 batting average. SKINNY: Way too many strikeouts for a young player, showing lack of knowledge of the strikezone and opposing pitchers. Also shows lack of discipline.

Daniel Murphy: .145 strikeout average/.281 batting average. SKINNY: For his reputation as a contact hitter with plate discipline, Murphy’s 30 walks are not acceptable, and neither is his .315 on-base percentage. In comparison to Davis and Duda, I’d rather have Murphy hitting in the middle of the order where he could have more RBI opportunities. That is, unless the Mets add a bat in the offseason.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis: .336 strikeout average/.189 batting average. SKINNY: He made a good first impression, but has been a bust since. Injuries are part of the story. He has little plate discipline with 32 strikeouts to 18 hits. Lagares and den Dekker have clearly moved ahead of him.

Omar Quintanilla: .223 strikeout average/.227 batting average. SKINNY: No run production to speak of, which is a throwback to the good field-no hit shortstops of the Bud Harrelson era. However, filled a huge void when Ruben Tejada went down.

Josh Satin:  .290 strikeout average/.285 batting average. SKINNY: Is supposed to be a contact hitter, but if he struck out less he might warrant more playing time.

Ruben Tejada: .115 strikeout average/.202 batting average. SKINNY: All right, injuries were a part of his problem, but there was a definite drop-off. He’s had a miserable season, compounded by breaking his leg Wednesday night. Unless convinced there is an attitude change found in Las Vegas, the Mets will need to upgrade at shortstop.

Jordany Valdespin: .210 strikeout average/.188 batting average. SKINNY: Call this a parting shot at Valdespin. There were productive moments from him, but not enough to warrant a full time job. And, his attitude makes a roster spot impossible.

Eric Young: .175 strikeout average/.248 batting average. SKINNY: Has 31 stolen bases, but would be pushing 40, if not more, with a .270 average and a spike in his 34 walks. With his speed, Young should be bunting more and slapping the ball on the ground. He resolved the leadoff situation, but needs to greatly improve. As he is now, the Mets need considerably more.

David Wright: .188 strikeout percentage/.309 batting average. SKINNY: Has 77 strikeouts and would have cleared 100 had he not gone on the disabled list. His strikeout average is high by his standards, but with a .391 on-base percentage and .904 OPS he more than compensates. He hopes to be activated for Friday’s game in Philadelphia.

Overall, the Mets have more strikeouts than hits, and less than 500 walks to go with their 1,299 strikeouts. They have scored 588 runs compared to giving up 589. The bare numbers reflect the season, but there’s more to consider.

Sure, Davis likes to hit homers. What player doesn’t? But, his 101 strikeouts, and everybody else’s, represent empty at-bats. Occasionally, a strikeout can be a positive, as in a 10-pitch at-bat that raises the pitch count, but outside of that, it produces nothing.

Better plate discipline would result in more walks and hits – which is a chance to score runs – and more sacrifice flies, which drives in runs. It also advances runners into scoring position, and in the case of a fielder’s choice, it adds another base runner.

What does a strikeout add?

I am old school and don’t follow all the new numbers, such as WAR, but baseball is a very simple game and has been for over a century. The object is to hit the ball, and too often the Mets don’t. There are only 27 outs in a game and they are to be regarded as currency. The Mets are a shade under nine strikeouts a game, which is giving away three innings. Overall, when you look at the Mets’ strikeouts in contrast to the games played, their whiffs equal 48 games of doing nothing at the plate.

An oversimplification? Not really when you consider a 68-84 record. In this era of numbers, their strikeout numbers scream the loudest.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 18

Mets Wrap: Josh Satin Delivers Game Winner; Ruben Tejada Fractures Leg

It was a situation Josh Satin has experienced countless times, even before he did so tonight with the New York Mets.

“Incredible,’’ Satin said before a crowd of notepads and cameras. “It was one of the moments you kind of dream about, especially for me, a guy who has been in the minor leagues for the better part of five years.

SATIN: Comes through in clutch. (AP)

SATIN: Comes through in clutch. (AP)

“When I take batting practice, I say it,’’ he continued before taking the role of an imaginary play-by-play announcer. “Bases loaded, down by one run, two out in the ninth …’’

What would happen next, after battling off four straight sliders from Sergio Romo, Satin had a hunch.

“After he threw me four straight sliders I had a feeling in the back of my mind he would throw me a fastball,” said Satin.

Romo did and Satin ripped it to left to drive in two runs that carried the Mets, who for seven innings had been listless against Matt Cain, to a 5-4 victory over the champion Giants.

“It’s easy say, `We’re not supposed to hit this guy,’ ” manager Terry Collins said. “This could be a big lift for us.’’

Prior to the game, Collins said he wanted his team to leave an impression on him and his coaches.

“Any time you walk on a field somebody is watching, and most of the time it is me,’’ Collins said when if there was enough time left in the season for a player to make an impression, good or bad, regarding next year.

“Every time you leave the field make somebody talk about you. Run hard to first. Back up a play. Throw a curveball for strikes.’’

The Mets did very little of those things for seven innings tonight, but there’s a reason why they play nine.

“If you wonder what our offense is supposed to be about, it was in that ninth inning,’’ Collins said. “We put on one good at-bat after another.’’

The Mets stole a run in the eighth when Matt den Dekker singled, stole second, went to third on Buster Posey’s wild throw, and scored on Satin’s sacrifice fly.

That appeared to be a cosmetic run until the ninth. Andrew Brown drew a walk off Santiago Casilla. After Lucas Duda struck out, Brown took second on a wild pitch, and Casilla continued to walk Juan Lagares.

Romo replaced Casilla, and faced Zack Lutz, who  pinch-hit for Ruben Tejada, who fractured his right fibula in a collision with Brown in the top of the inning. Lutz doubled home Brown – “It was a fastball out over the plate,’’ Lutz said – and rookie Juan Centeno, in his major league debut, singled home Lagares.

After Omar Quintanilla flew out to shallow right, up was Satin, home in his backyard.

This time, his imagination was real.

“It’s been an incredible year,’’ said Satin, “and this was the best moment.’’

TEJADA INJURED: It wasn’t so great for Tejada, who fractured his leg in a collision with Brown. Tejada will be out from six to eight weeks before beginning rehab. “I dropped down like I’ve been trained to,” Brown said. “At the last second he clipped my leg. It makes me feel horrible.”

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 18

Mets’ Aaron Harang Pitching For Spring Training Invitation

With the New York Mets having several holes in their rotation, it’s never too late to make a strong impression heading into winter. Tonight, journeyman veteran Aaron Harang will attempt to encore his 10-strikeout debut against Washington with another quality start against San Francisco.

With Matt Harvey and Jenrry Mejia on the shelf and questionable for next spring, the Mets have two holes in their rotation. Harang could get one and Daisuke Matsuzaka will compete for another, as might Rafael Montero.

Harang, 35, could be the type of innings eater the team needs. He didn’t have great numbers with Seattle before coming over to the Mets – 5-11 with a 5.76 ERA – but he did throw 120.1 innings in 22 starts. His innings would represent the fourth highest on the Mets.

This morning I floated the idea of Tim Lincecum. I don’t believe the Mets will commit to that salary, but it was done to illustrate the type of arms that could be available.

Plugged into the Mets’ rotation for next season – assuming Harvey is not around – are Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Zack Wheeler.

Wheeler pitched a disappointing game Tuesday with six walks in five innings, but will get another start to redeem himself.

“He might get two,’’ manager Terry Collins said.

Niese will start Thursday in the series and homestand finale, while Matsuzaka, Gee and Carlos Torres will start over the weekend in Philadelphia. Wheeler, Harang and Niese will start at Cincinnati.

Collins hasn’t named the starters for season’s final weekend against Milwaukee, but despite being on an innings limit, Wheeler could get some work.

Here’s tonight’s lineup against the Giants’ Matt Cain:

Eric Young, LF: Has a career-high 38 stolen bases, including 30 with the Mets. He leads the majors with 23 steals in the second half.

Josh Satin, 3B: David Wright took grounders today, but is still not ready to be activated (hamstring). Has reached base safely in 29 straight starts, to tie the Mets’ rookie record (Steve Henderson, 1979).

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Is batting .364 with 10 doubles and 11 since August 28. He is tied for fourth in the NL with 173 hits.

Andrew Brown, RF: Has a career-high seven homers. Enters the game batting .083 (2-24) over his last ten games.

Lucas Duda, 1B: Is second to Wright (16) with 14 homers. Has a .356 on-base percentage.

Juan Lagares, CF: Is ties for fifth in the majors with 12 outfield assists. Takes an 0-for-19 slide into the game.

Ruben Tejada, SS: Is batting .200 with no homers and 10 RBI for the season.

Juan Centeno, C: Hit .305 for Triple-A Las Vegas. Noted for being a defensive specialist.

Aaron Harang, RHP: Struck out ten Nationals in his Mets’ debut.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 13

Is Mets’ Terry Collins Sending The Right Message?

New York Mets manager Terry Collins has recently been speaking with a sense of urgency we haven’t heard regularly this season.

With the Mets in the midst of losing 10 of their last 12 games, it can be hard to ascertain whether Collins’ intent is to spark his team with the allure of 2014 jobs or deflect attention of another lost season from himself.

Several times this summer I advocated an extension for Collins, and still believe so. However, recent comments come across as him throwing his young team and hitting coach Dave Hudgens under the bus, something a manager can’t do if he doesn’t want to lose his team.

COLLINS: Sending wrong message.

COLLINS: Sending wrong message.

Collins’ latest buzzword is “adjustments,’’ and that’s a direct reflection on Hudgens’ ability to teach.

“You’ve got to make adjustments,’’ Collins told reporters after the Mets were shut out for the second time in the series. “You can’t keep thinking you’re going to get balls to pull, or try to go up there and pull every pitch. … [You have to] realize what the opposing pitcher is doing to get you out, and try to come up with a plan to make an adjustment at the plate and put the bat on the ball.’’

That’s either saying his hitters are clueless or haven’t been taught properly by Hudgens. There didn’t appear that much angst with Ike Davis earlier this season, although there was some noise about Lucas Duda taking too much and Ruben Tejada hitting the ball too much in the air.

The Mets’ stated offensive approach coming out of spring training was to be patient, work the count and swing at your pitch. There’s been a disconnect in there somewhere.

“I know they’re young. That’s all part of it,’’ Collins said. “We want to see some guys get better. And part of that getting better is being able to gather yourself on the side, and get in the batter’s box, and put a good at-bat on.’’

Collins said there are jobs to be had and it isn’t hard to figure where he’s talking about: first base is between Davis and Duda; shortstop is open; and there’s room in the outfield.

“You’d think some of these guys would grab the opportunity that’s in front of them because of the injury issues on our club to say, `Here’s my chance to show I’m a major league player,’ ’’ Collins said. “And we’re not seeing it. We’re not seeing it at this moment, I can tell you.’’

Collectively, Collins said the Mets are starting to feel sorry for themselves.

“And I will not stand for that. Not in this clubhouse, not in this league,’’ Collins said. “You don’t feel sorry for yourself in this league. Nobody feels sorry for you in the game. Our guys in that room, because a lot of them are young, they better learn that lesson real fast. Because if they’re going to play here, they better learn how to bounce back.’’

That aspect of the game is mental and psychological, and a large part of that development falls on Collins. Part of his job when it comes to rookies and younger players is to put them in position to succeed and give positive reinforcement, but that doesn’t always happen here.

Players have played multiple positions, and some in which they are uncomfortable. These guys are smart enough to know their futures are on the line. They don’t have to be reminded of it. There’s enough pressure in this sport without the manager adding more.

There’s a fine line behind telling players the importance of a situation and crushing their confidence, and Collins has danced on it.

Then again, maybe I’m wrong and the problem is the players just aren’t good enough to begin with. If that’s the case, threatening them to get better isn’t going to work.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 12

Mets Wrap: Classless Frank Francisco Needs To Go

The New York Mets brought back Frank Francisco from oblivion this season because their bullpen was depleted, but also in the off chance somebody might be desperate enough to trade for him.

After his despicable display this afternoon at Citi Field, any team wanting him would not only be desperate, but stupid as well.

WERTH: Gets drilled by Francisco. (Getty)

WERTH: Gets drilled by Francisco. (Getty)

With the game in the balance in the eighth inning and behind 3-0 in the count, Francisco drilled Jayson Werth in the back after giving up back-to-back doubles to Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman. It was obvious; Francisco was in trouble and wanted his pound of flesh.

Of course, Francisco later said it was unintentional and he was “obviously all over the place,’’ but the Nationals weren’t buying. Players know, and Werth took out Ruben Tejada with an aggressive slide that could have broken the shortstop’s ankle.

Werth, obviously, was sending his own message. The retiring Davey Johnson, who likely managed his last game in New York, told reporters after the 7-2 victory, “it’s a good thing we don’t play them again.’’

There’s no misunderstanding what that meant.

Teams remember, and Terry Collins should have done something to diffuse the situation – and perhaps any future clash – by immediately pulling Francisco. In doing so, Collins would have been telling the Nationals, “I understand Francisco is an idiot and I’m getting him out of here.’’

It should have been his last pitch with the Mets. Clearly, nobody would want Francisco now, and if Collins is about sending messages to his rookies about playing the game the right way, this would have been the perfect opportunity.

The Mets were upset with Francisco’s work ethic in his rehab, and this bush league act should not be tolerated, not if the Mets want to be considered a classy organization. It was a thuggish act by Francisco with no place in the game. I don’t care if they owe him money, get him out of here.

The Mets have lost 10 of their last 12 games, and what was once a chance at respectability is now an attempt to avoid 90 defeats. Today was their 81st loss. They are now a season-low 17 games below .500 with 17 remaining to play.

If there was a positive today, it was Aaron Harang’s quality start of giving up three runs in six innings. All three runs came on solo homers, but he walked one and struck out ten. However, those strikeouts will be enough to get Harang another start and perhaps an invitation to spring training.

Meanwhile, who knows who’ll be dumb enough to extend such an invitation to Francisco?

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos