Sep 28

Mets Wrap: Numbers That Add To Another Loss

There are a lot of statistics to define the 2013 New York Mets. One is 40-41, the Mets’ record in games decided by two or fewer runs. The other is 32-24, their record at Citi Field after today’s 10-inning, 4-2 loss to Milwaukee.

It was the Mets’ third straight loss by a 4-2 score after winning five of six on the road. That inconsistency is also emblematic of how the Mets have played this season.

There are two ways to interpret the first statistic. With half their games decided by two runs – they are 28-28 in one-run games – the Mets have been competitive, which is an encouraging sign.

Not so encouraging is they haven’t been good enough to take the next step over the line. The 40 victories mean they’ve played well enough to stay in the game. That they’ve been that competitive is why manager Terry Collins will reportedly be offered a two-year extension.

To be that competitive considering the season-ending losses of Matt Harvey and Bobby Parnell; the lengthy injury to David Wright; the horrific lack of production from Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda; a makeshift bullpen and outfield; Jon Niese’s off-year; and the trade of Marlon Byrd and John Buck.

All that and it is a wonder their record isn’t worse.

The 41 losses indicate breakdowns in the bullpen, defensive lapses a failure to hit in the clutch, plus all of the above.

The Mets’ home record? Well, that’s just bad baseball.

Their overall record at home has been abysmal since Citi Field, and the sad thing is this year’s staff might have been the Mets’ best, even without Johan Santana.

When the Mets opened Citi Field, they moved into a cavernous stadium a promised a team build on pitching, speed and defense. Power was a fourth priority, and yet when the Mets’ needs are mentioned it always comes down to adding a power-hitting outfielder.

However, the most telling offensive stat isn’t their 130 homers – only the traded Byrd hit more than 20 – but 1,371 strikeouts. All those strikeouts add up to over 50 games without touching the ball.

Foul balls excluded.

All those strikeouts is yet another statistic that defines this summer, the Mets’ fifth straight losing season and fifth consecutive with a drop in attendance.

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

Sep 27

Tact Not A Virtue Of Mets’ Terry Collins

Tact is not a strong suit of New York Mets manager Terry Collins when it comes to dealing with the media.

Collins has had several abrasive moments this season, notably when he said he didn’t care what the fans thought during in the Jordany Valdespin episode. Everything about the Valdespin incident was handled poorly, which I partially attribute to Collins’ lame duck status. Collins immediately spun into damage control and it didn’t hurt when the team started playing better soon after.

COLLINS: Lighten up.

COLLINS: Lighten up.

Then there was his dumbfounded denial of ever hearing of Matt Harvey’s sore forearm that led to his elbow injury. The manager gets an injury report from the training staff whenever a player has treatment, so Collins knew. Denial about injuries is not the way to go.

He’s had two more the past few weeks.

The first was when Ruben Tejada went down with a broken leg in the ninth inning of the Mets’ furious rally to beat San Francisco. Tejada was injured in the top of the ninth, yet finished the inning on the field. There was no announcement in the press box about the injury, and also no surprise when he was lifted for a pinch-hitter.

After the game, toward the end of the questioning session, a reporter asked how Tejada was feeling.

“He broke his leg,’’ snapped Collins, in a demeanor that elicited muffled laughter because nobody knew and the impression was the manager was being sarcastic.

Collins’ first words after every game, to alleviate any confusion, should be an updated injury report. The questions will be asked, so get it out of the way. The reporter asked an innocuous question because the Mets made no announcement and Collins didn’t volunteer the injury.

Lastly, last night came his barbed response to the question whether he would consider giving Dillon Gee an inning so he could reach the 200-inning milestone, something the pitcher deeply covets.

“Why?’’ Collins said. “I mean, seriously? I don’t think so.’’

He never said why he wouldn’t.

Collins was accused in his managerial stint with the Angels of not being in touch with his players. How could he not know this was important to Gee? If the concern was injury related, then say so. Or, he could have said something along the lines of “that’s 200 innings as a starter, it would cheapen the milestone to give him an inning as a reliever.’’

Instead, Collins came off as condescending. He’s been around long enough to know the question would be asked, so he should have had a better answer. The appearance was he was surprised, and bothered, by the question.

If all else fails, he could have simply said, “I don’t know. That’s something I will have to discuss with Dillon.’’

It is expected Collins will get an extension. Hopefully, he’ll come back more tactful and less sensitive.

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

Sep 22

Mets Wrap: Whether They Finish Third Or Fourth, Mets Have Plenty Of Questions

In the grand scheme, we won’t know for years to what degree finishing third or fourth will impact the New York Mets in regards to their draft position and subsequent pick. Will finishing third give them a lesser pick and deprive them of selecting the next Derek Jeter?

Nobody can project with any accuracy baseball draft picks. Even No. 1s have been busts. And, David Wright is right in his line of reasoning it really doesn’t matter where you finish if there are no playoffs?

COLLINS: One of many questions. (AP)

COLLINS: One of many questions. (AP)

However, considering the expectations, the abundance of injuries, and dreadful second-half offense which led from a slide of seven games under .500 to their current position of 13 under, finishing strong the last week, and in third, couldn’t hurt in laying the groundwork for next year.

However, whether it is third or fourth, it will not reduce the number of issues for the 2014 Mets. Sweeping the Phillies this weekend might give them a feel-good confidence heading into the offseason, but does not eliminate their immediate off-season issues:

1) How long will they string Terry Collins along, or will they do the right thing and make an announcement the day after the season finale, or that Sunday?

2) The Mets have been saying for years this is the offseason they will spend, if so, how much?

Will Matt Harvey opt for surgery or go into the season riding a gamble?

Regardless of Harvey’s decision, will the Mets add a veteran starter, because as of now they have just three plus Aaron Harang?

Is there something to worry about after Zack Wheeler was shut down for the year after tightness in his shoulder following Saturday’s start?

GM Sandy Alderson has been trying to build a bullpen for three years. Will this be a fourth?

Will they cut ties with Ike Davis or extend this torturous experiment into next spring?

Should they pass on tendering Davis a contract for 2014, how confident are they in Lucas Duda or do they need to add a first baseman?

Are they confident of Bobby Parnell’s recovery from surgery, or will they feel the need to add a closer?

Will they decide to see what they have in Ruben Tejada in spring training or add a shortstop?

Is their outfield plan to platoon Matt den Dekker and Juan Lagares in center field or have them both play in the outfield?

What is their satisfaction level with Eric Young, knowing if they replace him it will be in left field and as a leadoff hitter?

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

Sep 20

Mets’ David Wright Wants To Play As Gesture To Fans

David_Wright_on_June_23,_2008

DAVID WRIGHT WANTS ONE MORE SWING

There are several reasons why David Wright wants to be in the New York Mets’ lineup tonight in Philadelphia, but catching the Phillies for third place in the NL East is not among them.

The Mets will have their fifth consecutive losing season, with long odds of catching the Phillies as they trail by three games with ten to play.

“In my eyes, third place, fourth place, you’re still going home,’’ Wright told ESPN. “So, to me, it’s not all that important. What’s important is that we try to go out there and win each game, to try to play good baseball and finish strong.’’

That has been the Mets’ mantra since mid-August, when they were swept in a three-game series in Los Angeles to fall back to ten games under .500. The Mets had been making overtures about finishing .500, and even catching Washington for second place, but those three games against the Dodgers – all winnable – deflated their season and shifted everybody’s attention to 2014.

When Matt Harvey was shut down shortly after, there was a winter chill in Flushing, and currently, the Mets’ roster has a Kissimmee travel squad look.

As team captain, Wright has been supportive of manager Terry Collins, and continued to echo his sentiments.

“I think there is something to be said – especially when you have a young team like this – to finish strong,’’ Wright said. “Where you have guys competing for jobs for next year, guys competing for playing time. With the injuries that we’ve had, with the trades that we’ve made, it sure has opened up some chances for guys that probably wouldn’t have a chance right now.’’

Collins has been saying that for weeks.

Wright knows his return won’t mean anything in the standings this season, but it could instill something that might in the future. As captain, Wright is giving his teammates a year-end glimpse into this work ethic, which could be of value to Lucas Duda, Ruben Tejada, Travis d’Arnaud and Juan Lagares to name a few.

Significantly, they play positions where the Mets are looking for upgrades or improvement. Wright also wants to play to get a feel of his health heading into winter, but there is something more.

Although Wright is too modest to say it, his coming back is a gift to the Mets’ fan base that hasn’t had much to cheer about since Carlos Beltran took a called third strike from Adam Wainwright in in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.

Wright knows expectations have been low in this Ponzi era, and the fans were disappointed again this season, with seemingly much of the anticipation for 2014 diminished with Harvey gone.

If nothing else, Wright wants to show Mets fans he still cares about his profession, playing well and performing for those who cheer for him. It is his way of thanking them for sticking by the team as the season faded.

It might not seem like much, but heading into an uncertain winter and future, it is a classy gesture by the classiest player the Met have to offer.

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

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