Aug 01

Pagan vs. Castillo ….

As a hitter, Luis Castillo’s best spot in the lineup is as a No. 2 hitter, where he can bunt, work the count and protect Jose Reyes. That spot in the order best utilizes his offensive skills.

However, his offensive skills pale in comparison to those of Angel Pagan, who can do everything Castillo can, only better. Plus, he can hit for power and at this stage of his career is a greater base stealing threat.

After batting Castillo second for much of the week, Jerry Manuel finally moved Pagan back to the two hole and dropped Castillo to eighth. Not coincidentally, the Mets finally won a game. Let’s hope Manuel learned from this and will continue that alignment in the order.

“(Angel Pagan has) done a terrific job of getting on base and setting the table and being a good situational hitter,” said David Wright. “It makes my job and Carlos’ job a lot easier when he’s creating havoc on the base paths and we’ve got a bunch of runners in scoring position…when we struggle offensively, the best thing to do is keep the line moving like we did tonight and let the next guy do the damage.”

It stands to reason the No. 2 hitter will get more at-bats than the No. 8 hitter, so why would you want to give Castillo that many more at-bats?  You don’t. Bat him eighth and be done with it.

Jun 23

Mets Chat Room: Dickey goes for club record.

Game #71 vs. Tigers

When things looked bleak for the Mets about a month ago, with three of their starters out of the rotation, the Mets brought up knuckleballer R.A. Dickey from Triple-A Buffalo to make a spot start.

He hasn’t left the rotation since, and it’s not hard to imagine where the Mets would be without in 5-0 record and 2.82 ERA.

Tonight he’ll be vying to become the first Mets starter to win his first six decisions with the team, and the first Met to go 6-0 since Mike Pelfrey in 2008.

Dickey was on the ropes in his last start at Cleveland, but was able to make an in-inning adjustment to hold on for the victory.

The adjustment came at the suggestion of pitching coach Dan Warthen, who told Dickey to light a fire under the butterfly.

“I had runners on second and third and he came out and encouraged me to throw the hard one,’’ Dickey said.  “It’s about 4, 5 mph harder than my comfort-zone knuckler. It was a good step in my evolution, learning to adjust in-game.’’

It’s a risky adjustment for a knuckleballer to make because there’s always the possibility the extra push could force the pitch to spin out into a slow fat batting practice fastball.

May 11

May 11.10: Finding the right order; Manuel has some thinking to do.

It’s obvious the Mets’ offense is in trouble, with once again last night demonstrating an appalling lack of ability to hit with runners in scoring position.

Jerry Manuel talks about “getting things going,’’ and that includes putting the players in the right position for success.

Clearly, they are not.

It’s time to re-juggle the lineup, which means put Jose Reyes back at leadoff. There are some who will argue he’s still stealing bases now, but that’s more attributable to his legs getting stronger than his spot in the order.

All too often I see Reyes swinging out of his shoes with little attempt at selectivity.

Reyes has the potential to be the game’s premier leadoff hitter. Put him there and leave him there.

The following order is thinking out loud with the hope of generating something until the next need to shake things up.

I like David Wright best hitting third, but his two hits last night notwithstanding, he’s still mired in some bad habits. It has worked before for Wright has struggled and it could work again, and that is to move him to second. Hitting second, where he’d have to protect the runner would help shorten Wright’s swing and hopefully lifting him out of his bad habits.

Because he’s been driving the ball and has the speed element, I’d put Angel Pagan third. And, yes, I fear the mentality of hitting third might do for him what it has done for Reyes. But, unlike Reyes, Pagan has hit all over the order so perhaps the transition would be a little less.

The guy who is really killing the Mets has been Jason Bay. He needs a day off and maybe he’ll get one with the promotion of Chris Carter from Triple-A Buffalo and the DFA of Frank Catalanotto. It makes no sense to bring up Carter unless they intend to play him, but who sits?

Give Bay a rest, time to collect his thoughts, and maybe he’ll be fresher. With that being said, because there are no other alternatives Bay would have to stay cleanup when he plays.

Next I’d elevate Ike Davis to fifth. Davis is one of the few Mets who seems to have an idea at the plate. I would be tempted to bat him fourth, but fear it might put too much pressure on him.

Sixth would be Jeff Francoeur, whose hot start is a memory. He’s another who might benefit from having a day off.

Seventh would be Rod Barajas, but with his slugging percentage it might not be a bad idea to elevate him past Francoeur. At one time I thought clean-up would be a temporary spot, but know the Mets would never go for it.

Eighth, unfortunately, will be Luis Castillo, who is taken out of his spot because the others aren’t doing their jobs. Castillo has been playing well and is the ideal No. 2 hitter, but getting Wright going is crucial.

There are no doubt flaws in this thinking, which, of course, I’m sure you will point out. This is not a permanent solution, but something temporary to jumpstart things.

If you’ve got other lineup suggestions, let’s hear them.

May 04

May 4.10: Chat Room, Game #27 at Reds: Looking for a bat.

The Mets have gone from streaking to sputtering in a matter of days, losing three straight after winning eight in a row. When the Mets speak of consistency, this isn’t what they had in mind.

They’ll try to right themselves tonight in Cincinnati against Bronson Arroyo, who has beaten them in his last four starts. John Maine, coming off a good start against the Dodgers, will go for the Mets. Maine (1-1, 7.15) is 0-3 with a 9.88 ERA in three career starts against the Reds. As far as trends go, this is not a good one.

The Mets’ immediate problem is offense. They have none. They were 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position last night, and left runners at least on second in the sixth, seventh and 11th innings. Nobody is consistently hitting with power.

Here’s the line-up for the Mets (14-12) behind Maine:

Angel Pagan, CF
Luis Castillo, 2B
Jose Reyes, SS
Jason Bay, LF
David Wright, 3B
Ike Davis, 1B
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Rod Barajas, C
John Maine, RHP

NOTE: I’ve got my class tonight and won’t be back until 9. See you then.

Apr 19

April 19.10: About Last Night: Maine will get another start.

GM Omar Minaya said he’d take one out of three in St. Louis. He got it, but is anybody really happy? They could have won all three with a little bit of hitting. Then again, they could have been swept, too.

John Maine was better last night, but the qualifier is he was better in comparison to his previous two rotten starts. Adam Wainwright pitched a complete game last night with 107 pitches. Maine was lucky to get through five with the 115 he threw.

Maine worked out of trouble in each of the first four innings, which showed some improvement, but gave up a three-run homer to Colby Rasmus in the fifth. How often does a manager pull a pitcher winning 3-0 after four scoreless innings?

If he had to do it all over again, that might have been the way for Jerry Manuel to go last night.

While Maine on a whole was a disappointment again, he showed enough to where he’ll get the ball again. He threw his fastball more, and the more he throws it the harder it will become. He’s still throwing it in the low 90s with little movement. It should get better.

The one thing the Mets have to take out of their 2-4 road trip to Colorado and St. Louis was a definite improvement in the rotation collectively. What they got received from their five they’ll take every time.

Of course, they’ll still come away 2-4 at best because they offense is non-existent, especially with runners in scoring position, hitting .155 on the trip.

Moving Jose Reyes to the three hole isn’t the answer, because he’s not getting on base anyway. Nobody is hitting, including now Jeff Francoeur, whose 10-game hitting streak has fallen into an 0-for-9 slide.

Jason Bay? Well, he’s still on the team, but you’d never know it by his production.

“I’m living what they are watching,” Bay said in St. Louis last night. “It’s just one of those things you go through… I’m just going through a slump.”

Although Bay struck out four times Saturday, he did scorch a line drive that was robbed of a hit late in the game. Given he finally made contact, I thought he would have played last night.

A lot of pressure will be put on Ike Davis when he arrives, presumably tomorrow, as he was in the starting line-up today in Buffalo.

I’m encouraged by the pitching on the trip, but also tempered because it is one time through the rotation. We’ll see what we get from Jon Niese tonight against the Cubs.