Jul 26

Mets, Nationals Heading In Opposite Directions

There’s still a big chunk remaining to the season, but the New York Mets have a chance of, a) finishing over .500, b) finishing in second place in the NL East, c) finish with a better record than the Yankees, or d) all of the above.

It is possible, but also something nobody realistically considered at the start of the season. With a handful of days before the trade deadline, the Mets aren’t going to make a run at the playoffs, but instead have opted to keep a pat hand to ascertain how good they are at the end of the season.

It’s not a bad stance as it gives them a greater understanding of their offseason needs, important since they have close to $50 million coming off the books. Trading pieces such as Bobby Parnell, Marlon Byrd and Ike Davis will only create more holes.

Washington was seemingly given a free pass to the World Series by the national media, but the Nationals are fading fast and the Mets could leapfrog them this weekend, beginning with a doubleheader today.

With the exception of Jenrry Mejia going against Jordan Zimmerman in the first game, all the pitching match-ups favor the Mets.

Not many in the sport are feeling much empathy for the Nationals, who in their first taste of success in decades last season carried themselves with an arrogance that firmly stated “we’ll be back here often,’’ when it shut down Stephen Strasburg.

Instead of limiting his innings piecemeal, the Nationals cut him off at the end and kept him from pitching in the playoffs. That worked out well, didn’t it?

As the Mets attest, the playoffs aren’t a given. They haven’t been back since 2006, but coughed up opportunities the following two years.

I understand the Nationals’ reasoning, just as I understand the Mets’ doing it with Matt Harvey, but there’s a better way than just pulling the ball when he reaches an innings limit. The Nationals ignored the rest of their players and placed more an emphasis on Strasburg than anybody else.

They gave the impression the playoffs would be a given. However, manager Davey Johnson is retiring after this season; Strasburg is having a down year; their bullpen has holes; and the offense has been erratic.

The Nationals basically dismissed the rest of the NL East, which now belongs to the Braves.

The Nationals’ problems are well documented, as are the Phillies’ injuries. This time next week the Phillies could have traded several key pieces, although they say they are keeping Cliff Lee.

This time next week both could be looking up at the Mets.

Amazing.

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Jul 13

No Matt Harvey Day

The New York Mets will not have their best pitcher today in Pittsburgh, instead choosing to have Matt Harvey ready for the All-Star Game Tuesday night.

Harvey sits today and probably won’t pitch until next Sunday. The Mets say they are concerned about Harvey’s two blisters and limiting his innings for the second half. Never mind lessening their chances of winning today and possibly tearing open the blisters in the exhibition game.

HARVEY: Not today.

HARVEY: Not today.

While obviously placing a premium on the All-Star Game over the Pirates, the Mets say it’s just an inning on what would be his throw day. Of course, they conveniently ignore the fact he’ll be so amped up Tuesday that his effort won’t be anything like a throw day.

With the seriousness the Mets are taking with Harvey in the All-Star Game, you’d think they’d send him back to New York early so he could rest.

In explaining shaving Harvey’s innings now over skipping starts, say in September, Terry Collins said: “We’ve got to worry about the New York Mets. And I understand the integrity of the game and all that stuff. But we’ve got to worry about Matt Harvey and the New York Mets in the long run. What are the NL East teams going to say if this guy is not pitching in September?’’

Just one big contradiction.

I’m curious as to when this idea of limiting Harvey’s innings was hatched. Didn’t they learn anything from Stephen Strasburg last season?

The best way to cut the innings is skipping one start a month. That’s six over the season and estimating at least six innings a start, that’s 36 shaved innings.

Couldn’t anybody from Sandy Alderson to Collins to pitching coach Dan Warthen figure that out earlier?

Actually, depending on whom you speak with, the issue is pitch counts instead of innings. The cutoff is presumably 100 pitches, but Harvey routinely goes 110 or more.

Speaking of pitch counts, why would you pinch-hit for Jeremy Hefner in a tie game with Jordany Valdespin when he’s only thrown 78 pitches, and with your bullpen worn down and LaTroy Hawkins not available with a sore triceps?

Valdespin hasn’t done anything lately coming off the bench, Hefner was grooving, and did I mention the bullpen has been overworked? It all added up to rookie Gonzalez Germen making his debut in extra innings.

You had to figure something bad was going to happen, which, of course, it did.

Today the Mets will go with Carlos Torres, who worked two innings in San Francisco in a blowout win when it would have been a perfect time to break in Germen.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 10

Mets Figuring Out What To Do With Matt Harvey

The New York Mets shouldn’t skip Matt Harvey’s next game if the sole motivation is to have him available to start the All-Star Game. However, if the intent is to begin a program to give his blister a chance to heal and reduce his innings in the second half, then go for it.

HARVEY: What's the plan? (AP)

HARVEY: What’s the plan? (AP)

That the decision to cut his innings coincides with the break is a fortunate bit of timing for the Mets, as Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen will have some time to structure a schedule.

“Dan and I are talking about trying to figure out how to start to cut this guy back a little bit,’’ Collins told reporters yesterday in San Francisco. “We’ll have to decide what happens on Saturday.’’

It is beginning to look as if Harvey will miss the Pirates, but it might not have come to this had he and the Mets acted sooner. Harvey said after last night’s game he’s been bothered by the blister in his last three starts and skipped his between-starts bullpen session prior to Monday.

That is incredulous.

How do the Mets not sit Harvey for one of those games, especially if in the back of their minds they are contemplating cutting his innings? Presumably, he’s been getting treatment for the blister, but if he didn’t report it to the training staff, that’s incredibly stupid on his part. If that is the case, then he didn’t learn anything when he tweaked his back earlier this season.

If he reported the blister and the Mets still ran him out there, that’s irresponsible by them.

How can this be? How can the Mets be so bent on Harvey starting the All-Star Game, yet play fast and loose with him regarding his starts for them? What is the priority?

The best way to limit innings is to skip the occasional start and not piecemeal it an inning or two at a time. This is the route the Nationals did not take last year with Stephen Strasburg.

If Harvey doesn’t pitch Saturday, and with the likelihood of him not starting the first or second game coming out of the break, that would effectively take him out of two starts in July. Finding a game each in August and September shouldn’t be difficult. If this situation is big-pictured, one missed start a month over the course of a season would be six on the year, or 28 instead of 34. That’s something to think about next year.

Meanwhile, there are currently no plans to limit Zack Wheeler’s innings, but he’s already missed time with an injury and the call-up. Plus, in his four starts with the Mets, he’s worked six innings just once, and that was his debut.

However, with Wheeler the issue isn’t innings as much as it is pitches, with his lowest being 89 in a 4.2-inning outing against Washington. This comes with him not being polished and rushed to the majors. As it turns out, the Mets need these starts from Wheeler, because they are having issues with their rotation.

Jon Niese is on the disabled list with a slight tear in his rotator cuff and at least a month away. The Mets also announced Shaun Marcum will undergo season-ending surgery to repair an artery obstruction. The surgery is similar to what Dillon Gee had last year.

Carlos Torres will replace Marcum in the rotation, but could first start in place of Harvey.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 23

Mets’ Matt Harvey Good, But Hold Off On Great

Matt Harvey is having a terrific season for the New York Mets, and the team and its fan base should be thrilled and excited about his future. But, can we have a little perspective please?

I read a blog post where the writer said he wouldn’t trade Harvey for any pitcher “on the planet,’’ which is an overused expression to begin with, one having cliché proportions.

HARVEY: Good, not great. (AP)

HARVEY: Good, not great. (AP)

Harvey will be making his 26th career start this afternoon, so that’s clearly jumping the gun. As good a season as he’s having, there are others having better years; others with better career numbers; and others with futures seemingly as bright.

Clayton Kershaw and Clay Buchholz, Patrick Corbin and Jordan Zimmerman, Adam Wainwright and Felix Hernandez. They are all good, young pitchers with bright futures as gleaming as Harvey’s. And, don’t overlook Stephen Strasburg.

There’s also the majors’ best pitcher this year in Detroit’s Max Scherzer, and his teammate, Justin Verlander, who is regarded as the best pitcher in the majors overall.

Twenty-five career starts is not enough of a sample to say he’s the best. Very good, but let’s have a reality check for a moment.

It is understood Harvey pitches for a bad team this year, but in the 15 starts he’s made he’s had eight no-decisions. That’s not a great ratio. Great pitchers, regardless of the quality of their teams, usually find a way to win.

Like most everybody else this spring, I am fascinated by Harvey and he is must-see for me, whether at the park or on TV. But, he’s not the best pitcher “on the planet.’’ He’s trying, which is the best thing to like about him, but he’s not there.

If Harvey is to become a great, franchise pitcher the way Tom Seaver once was, he must find a way to convert those no-decisions into victories. And, if you think I’m dumping on Harvey, he would be the first to agree.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jun 03

Reflections Of A Lost Weekend For Mets In Miami

In the back of our collective minds, after winning four straight from the Yankees, who wasn’t surprised to see the Mets get beat up in Miami?

I thought they’d get a better showing from Matt Harvey, but other than that, nothing shocking really. Harvey was off his game, but had a chance to win if not for the bullpen, which reverted to pre-Yankees form. The offense continues to sputter.

 

DAVIS: Not excited by homer.

DAVIS: Not excited by homer.

Scott Rice was due for a stinker, which makes me wonder why Terry Collins would let him stay in to give up FOUR walks. Once a reliever gives up two walk, plus a hit, it is time to pull the plug. What was Collins waiting for?

Harvey’s no-decisions are starting to pile up which is a two-fold reflection on the bullpen and offense. I realize the Mets’ offense has been sucking wind lately, but friend Michael Baron put it in perspective: In 27 games in May, the Mets scored a mere 88 runs with a .222 batting average and .286 on-base percentage. That was second worse in the majors for the month.

It all can’t be pinned on Ike Davis, although he does get a large share of the blame. Speaking of Davis, he had two hits, including a home run Sunday. Please, under no circumstances, should the Mets consider hitting him higher than seventh. Let him stay there for a while until he shows real breakout signs. One game is not enough to assume anything about Davis. Certainly, he proved that after his RBI hit against the Yankees and two-homer game against the Dodgers.

Davis is not high on my Mets Concern Meter because frankly, he’s hit rock bottom. There’s no place to go but up, or Triple-A Vegas for him. I suppose I should forget about the minors because if the Mets haven’t done it by now they probably won’t ever.

On another sad offense note, Lucas Duda homered, giving him ten and 20 RBI on the season. In contrast, the Orioles’ Chris Davis hit his 20th homer Sunday. By the way, he has 52 RBI to go along with them. Duda’s HR-RBI is laughable. It shows pitchers are working around him with runners on base.

One of the biggest issues swirling around the Mets is who should go to make room for Zack Wheeler. The Mets are delaying Wheeler’s promotion for Super Two reasons, which is fine by me.

But, is he ready? Is he dominating on the Triple-A level to warrant the jump? I’m not sure, regardless of what Wally Backman might say. One thing I am sure of is Wheeler won’t make much of a difference as far as this year is concerned. Bringing up Wheeler won’t change all that is hurting this club. How will he help the bullpen? How will he help the outfield? How will he help the offense?

As far as who should go, the speculation is between Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee, with Shaun Marcum being excluded from the conversation because he’s a veteran making $4 million.

So?

The Mets must realize they aren’t going to be a contender this season, so what they should be doing is shopping Marcum to see what they can get. It won’t be a lot, but Marcum is gone after this year so why not? He’s had moments where he pitched well, Friday night for example before one bad inning.

The Mets are off today, which has an old joke resurfacing about what are their best days. They are in Washington tomorrow to start a series that lost a lot of edge with the Mets getting trounced. The Nationals aren’t playing well now and will be without Bryce Harper and possibly Stephen Strasburg.

 

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos