Apr 28

Niese In Must-Win Start For Mets

Managers have tried for over a century, but there is no prescription drug capable of curing sick pitching. And, it’s not as if sick pitching is like the flu where it will go away in a couple of weeks.

Sick pitching doesn’t go away easily, so it wasn’t as simple as dispatching Josh Edgin to the minor leagues. Robert Carson was disappointed in being sent down to the minor leagues to start the season, but not nearly as disappointed as the Mets were in seeing him come back again.

Yesterday was the Mets’ latest pitching calamity – both the miserable start from Shaun Marcum and Carson’s five-run relief bombing – as they lost for the eighth time in 11 games.

With the exception of days Matt Harvey pitches, the Mets are rarely getting length from their starters, and on the occasions they do, they get nothing from their offense. It’s a nice symmetry for losing teams, of which the Mets are again proving to be.

That’s why today is as must-win-a-game as a team can have for April. With the major league worst 5.28 bullpen ERA, the Mets desperately need innings from Jon Niese, who is pitching with a bruised right ankle sustained last Tuesday.

That he is even pitching in indicative of the Mets’ desperation. Niese only had a light throw day since taking a hard comebacker off his ankle. Many teams would have him skip a turn to make sure he is all right, but not the Mets.

The Mets have few options other than to let Niese go back out there. Desperation is their route, and it is imperative Niese gets them through the sixth inning.

“Our starters have to get us deeper in the game,” manager Terry Collins said. “We’re using guys in the fifth and sixth innings that should be pitching the seventh and eighth.’’

Or at worst, in the minor leagues.

Apr 27

Sluggish Mets Need Boost From Their Pitching

Dillon Gee didn’t pitch that badly last night, but the Mets’ struggling offense – five straight games of scoring three or fewer runs – brought nightmarish memories of last year’s second-half offensive drought.

The Mets made Kyle Kendrick look untouchable as they lost for the seventh time in their last ten games.

MARCUM: Makes first start today.

MARCUM: Makes first start today.

With their offense stagnant, the Mets will need a boost from their already stretched pitching staff. This afternoon they’ll ask journeyman pick-up Shaun Marcum to come up big in his first start of the season.

“I’m sure I’ll have a little bit of adrenaline, a little more than I had in the extended spring game,’’ Marcum said last night. “At the same time you got to know how to control it and use it to your advantage and know when to back off and when to add on a little bit. I’m looking forward to it and I’m definitely excited to get out there and get in situations in real games.’’

Marcum was signed to a free-agent contract in the offseason, but didn’t endear himself to manager Terry Collins when he reported to spring training in poor condition and attempted to justify matters by saying he only needed to make four exhibition starts. He didn’t even make those as he was sidelined with neck and shoulder pain.

“It’s been a while,’’ Marcum said. “Definitely looking forward to getting out there.’’

Marcum will be on a pitch count of 90, and if his command is off, he can get there by the fifth inning. If he does, the Mets would be in trouble. They could also be in trouble Sunday if Jon Niese isn’t able to make his start.

Niese took a hard-hit comebacker off his right ankle Tuesday, but said he felt fine after a light bullpen session Thursday. Yesterday he just played catch and ran in the outfield.

If Niese can’t go, he’ll be the third pitcher of the Mets’ projected five to miss a start, joining Johan Santana, whose career with the team is over, and Marcum.

Even so, the Mets remain adamant about not bringing up Zack Wheeler, whose wildness continues to be an issue. In his last two starts, Wheeler has walked nine batters over 9.1 innings.

The reports Collins is getting from Triple-A Las Vegas have not been encouraging. First, there was Wheeler’s blister problem, followed by his control. When Wheeler was optioned in spring training, he said he was told to concentrate on is his control.

However, concentrating on his control and getting command of it are two different things.

“What worries me the most is that he’s not pounding the strike zone,’’ Collins said. “We’ve got to have some strikes out of him because his stuff is going to play. If he’s in the strike zone, you’d be surprised at the outs because his stuff is just that good.’’

Then again, when he’s out of the strike zone it doesn’t matter how good his stuff is.

Apr 26

What’s Happened To Josh Edgin?

josh-edgin

What happened to the Josh Edgin who came up and immediately became one of the more reliable and dominant relievers out of our bullpen last year?

As if his his 10.80 ERA and 1.97 WHIP in 10 appearances wasn’t bad enough, I took a quick glance at his splits and it really showed me how bad things really have gotten for Edgin since last season.

  • Versus LH Batters – 368

  • Versus RH Batters – .333

Those batting averages against are just plain awful to look at and clearly a sign that something is amiss. He no longer exudes the confidence he once did and his entire demeanor on the mound has done a complete 180. This is not the same intimidating and effective force we saw in 2012. It’s as if he was replicated by one of those giant seapods from Invasion of the Body Snatchers?

Good God, what's happened to Josh  Edgin?

Good God, what’s happened to Josh Edgin?

Edgin burst onto the scene sporting a fastball with that had great late life and came in at 93-95 mph. The velocity and the movement are just not there anymore. His slider, which was so effective last season, is now “big and sloppy and flat”, according to Bobby Ojeda.

Terry Collins had a lot to say about Edgin after the game, and to say he’s very concerned is an understatement.

“One of the things I’m a little concerned about is that last year Josh Edgin made a lot of appearances. He also warmed up in the bullpen a lot of times and then didn’t come into the game. That also puts a lot of stress on your arm. Edgin pitched a lot last season and I’m afraid his arm isn’t responding well. I’m a little concerned that’s what we’re facing right now with Edgin.”

“I’ve had pitchers in the past where after their first full season the arm doesn’t respond well. I think that’s what’s happening. We’re going to talk to him and work with him tomorrow and try to see how we can get him back to what he was.”

josh edgin

You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling.

Collins was visibly frustrated while talking about Edgin and it sounded to me like his patience may be running out on his young southpaw.

“Command is everything when you’re in the major leagues,” Collins said. “Right now Edgin needs to do what got him here if he wants to stay here.”

When the Mets announced that they were calling up Robert Carson, you may remember I thought Edgin was as good as gone. Instead the Mets decided to part with Greg Burke. That was surprising to me. Now I see no other solution than to send Edgin to Triple-A Vegas or even Double-A Binghamton to recharge his batteries and get some of that confidence he once had back.

Edgin has lost his edge

Apr 26

Does Ike Davis Even Know The Fundamentals Of Hitting?

Ike Davis should log on to his computer, Google the book, “Ted Williams: The Science of Hitting,’’ and order a copy.

Maybe it is time both he and the Mets realize Davis isn’t just struggling, but that perhaps he doesn’t know too much about hitting. Davis homered yesterday, but for my money I would rather he slapped a single to left in the sixth with runners on second and third and two outs.

DAVIS: Another strike out. (AP)

DAVIS: Another strike out. (AP)

Instead, he struck out. Again. For those scoring at home, it was the 24th time he has walked back to the dugout in disgust, compared to just 12 hits. Old stats, new stats, it doesn’t matter, Davis is not producing.

Davis has four homers and seven RBI. He’s hitting .174 with a .260 on-base percentage, .348 slugging percentage and .608 OPS. However, the number that kills me is he’s on pace for 194 strikeouts.

I spoke with Davis about strikeouts and using the whole field and he told me he’s a home run hitter, he likes to hit home runs, and strikeouts are part of the equation. He’s missing the boat with that reasoning, much like he’s missing the breaking ball away.

Suppose Davis cut his strikeouts in half to 97, which is still a lot. That would be 97 times he would be putting the ball in play instead of throwing his bat. Think how many more homers he’d produce in those 97 at-bats, not to mention productive at-bats when he’ll drive in a run with a hit, sacrifice fly or ground out.

“It’s about contact,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “These big home run hitters, they’re going to strike out. That’s part of the program. Ike, when he’s going good, he gets hits. He just doesn’t get home runs.

“You go back two years ago in the first half where he drove in everybody who was standing at second base. They were base hits. They weren’t always home runs. I think if he again starts using the field more – especially the opposite field – it also takes that shift away from them, which a lot of teams play on him. And I think it’ll make a difference.’’

That’s what Williams preached in his book. Teams used the shift against Williams, and this is when he didn’t use his own advice. However, Williams was so good he produced over his own stubbornness. In his wildest dreams, Davis isn’t half as good as Williams.

Williams might have been the greatest hitter ever, even considering Babe Ruth. Williams’ average year was .344 with 37 homers and 130 RBI. When you factor in he lost five prime years of his career serving in World War II and the Korean War, his lifetime numbers would have been through the roof.

When you boil it down, Williams’ fundamental advice about hitting was get a good pitch to hit. Williams was so precise he broke down the strike zone into baseball-size segments to where he had each area had its own batting average.

“As we’ve studied his at-bats, they’re just killing him away,’’ Collins told reporters after Thursday’s loss.

Williams calculated the low-and-away pitch at best would produce a .230 average. Davis isn’t even giving the Mets that much. That average would increase, Williams said, if the hitter went that way instead of trying to pull. Instead, Davis is chasing everything, which means the pitch doesn’t have to be that good.

Collins sees that: “If he starts going that way to where he’s going to use more of the field to hit, he’s got some better opportunities to drive some runs in.’’

Unfortunately, Davis does not: “Sometimes they’re helpful. Sometimes they’re not. Me slapping the ball the other way early in the count is probably not helpful.’’

Rebuttal: How would Davis know if he hasn’t tried it routinely? He did when he first came up, but rarely since.

Either Davis doesn’t know the fundamentals of hitting, or refuses to listen to his coaches and manager. And, Collins and GM Sandy Alderson are wrong for accepting this kind of performance.

Listen, I don’t know how to build a watch, but I know how to tell time, and the time has come for Davis to change. Either him, or the Mets should.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

Apr 25

Are Mets Marketing Harvey Too Much, Too Soon?

While approaching Citi Field last night one couldn’t help but notice the monstrous digital image of Matt Harvey on a video board outside the stadium with the screaming caption, “Harvey-licious.’’

When logging onto the Mets’ website there was an advertisement plugging Harvey T-Shirts. And, all of this is for a guy who was starting just his 15th major league game.

HARVEY: Mets marketing a rock star. (AP)

HARVEY: Mets marketing a rock star. (AP)

I am waiting for the Mets to put him on a banner outside the stadium, joining the likes of Keith Hernandez and David Wright; Ed Kranepool and Bud Harrelson; Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack.

Make no mistake, Harvey is a good Met, but not yet a great one. There is plenty of time for him to reach that distinction.

“I don’t get caught up in the marketing angle,’’ manager Terry Collins said when asked if this is too much, too soon, much the way it was last winter for the Knicks and Lin-sanity.

“I don’t thing he gets caught up in it, either. Let’s ride the wave. This guy is ready.’’

He might have been ready last night, but clearly was not sharp against the Los Angeles Dodgers despite the relaxed definition of a quality start. The no-decision indicates Harvey still has growing to do, but does not diminish what he’s already achieved.

“I didn’t like it,’’ Harvey said of his performance in Wednesday night’s 7-3, 10-inning victory. “Tonight was about winning, and we did that. … I have work to do.’’

That humility is why the Mets believe they have something special. Technically, it was a quality start – three runs given up in six innings – but Harvey knows he has to do better than 90 pitches. He knows that many pitches should get him to, if not through, the eighth inning.

History is full of powerful young arms that captured the imagination of not only their fan base, but also those across the nation. Look at Tom Seaver, Vida Blue, Mark Fydrych, Fernando Valenzuela, Ron Guidry, Dwight Gooden and Stephen Strasburg.

The Mets are banking on Harvey to join this prestigious list. Last night won’t remove him from consideration and won’t stop the rumblings of him possibly starting the All-Star Game at Citi Field in July.

The Mets are riding the Harvey wave, but there is an underlying fear is the attention could be too much this early. The expectations of Harvey increase with each start, of which last night’s was nationally telecast by ESPN.

It has been a long time since the Mets had a pitcher of Harvey’s marketability. Gooden perhaps nearly 30 years ago? Or Seaver? No other homegrown Met arm comes immediately to mind.

Gooden was such a long time ago, so you can’t blame the organization for being excited about having somebody this charismatic to promote. As much as Collins raves about Harvey’s demeanor and composure, a case can be made for going overboard. All this attention is a lot to absorb.

The Mets made sure to handle Harvey with kid gloves before bringing him up, so why push things now?

Let him concentrate on pitching first and not being a rock star.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos