Sep 20

Mets Bullpen Again An Issue

It was a horrible pitch and Josh Edgin is the first to admit it. He called the fastball Ryan Howard crushed last night “a meatball,’’ and it cost Matt Harvey a victory.

Even so, Edgin has been one of the few encouraging notes out of an otherwise negative bullpen this summer and had a streak of 16 straight scoreless appearances snapped last night. One stinker and 16 good games is a good ratio.

Discouraging about Edgin’s performance is the one thing he’s counted on to do, he didn’t, and that’s get out left-handed hitters. He walked Chase Utley and Howard went deep.

“If Josh Edgin is going to pitch in this league, he’s got to get one of those two guys out,’’ manager Terry Collins said.

Actually, both would have been better.

Overall, Edgin has been good against lefties, limiting them to a .148 average. All hitters are batting .196 against him. His 30-10 strikeouts to walks ratio is good. That’s a lot to like.

On the not-so-positive side, four of the 18 hits he’s given up have gone for homers.

A lot has gone wrong for the Mets this season, including GM Sandy Alderson’s inability to build a bullpen. The Mets overused lefty Tim Byrdak to the point where he blew out his arm, thereby giving Edgin and fellow lefty Robert Carson an opportunity.

Carson hasn’t been as effective, but had his moments, such as escaping a bases-loaded, no-out jam with no inherited runners scoring recently against Washington. He has a dynamite fastball. That and being left-handed will earn him a shot next spring.

This isn’t to say the Mets’ bullpen is fixed – far from it – but they have two lefties to build around for next season. That’s more than they had last spring.

Toronto imports Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco had their moments, mostly in the first half when the Mets were 46-40, but also showed why the Blue Jays didn’t keep them. Francisco has injury problems and another year on his contract.

There’s nothing certain about the rest of the bullpen. Ramon Ramirez can’t find the plate half the time; Manny Acosta has averaged giving up over a hit and close to a run an inning; and Bobby Parnell has been inconsistent and unable to grasp the closer or set-up roles when given the opportunity.

Edgin’s blown save gave the Mets a 59-2 record when leading after eight innings, which is more than fine. However, they have 18 blown saves on the season meaning the problem has been more during the bridge innings.

Building a bullpen is a crapshoot, but essential for a team to compete. Overall, Baltimore has given up more runs than it scores but has been dominant in one-run and extra-innings games, indicative of a strong bullpen. The Pirates are fading, but kept in contention in large part because of their bullpen.

Edgin has promise, but the Mets have a lot of work to do in building their pen if they are to become competitive again. A lot.

Sep 20

Harvey Scintillating In Finale; Mets Blow It Late

As the zeroes piled up, this thought surfaced: Matt Harvey and Cole Hamels in an old fashioned pitcher’s duel. If the Phillies weren’t the only ones with a postseason pulse there would have been real electricity in the air.

HARVEY: Something special. (AP)

As it is, it was something to look forward to.

Harvey gave up a homer to Jimmy Rollins on the game’s fifth pitch, but was lockdown after that, not giving up a hit and striking out seven in seven innings. As we’ve grown accustomed to Harvey’s strong pitching, he probably has grown used to how the game unraveled as the Mets scored two runs – a club-record 15th straight game in which they’ve scored three or fewer runs – and the bullpen imploded again.

This time, it was the heretofore impressive Josh Edgin giving up a game-winning homer to Ryan Howard.

Continue reading

Sep 19

Mets Matters: Ike Davis Responds To Report; Shutting Down Matt Harvey

Not surprisingly, Ike Davis and the Mets responded to the published report the team was considering shopping him.

Davis said his myriad of batting stances is indicative of being able to accept coaching and refuted the notion he’s a late-night party guy. Also, Terry Collins said there’s nobody “in that clubhouse,’’ who can’t get traded.

Of course, the Mets would never admit to actively shopping Davis, even if it were true, as to diminish his trade value.

Davis might have countless stances but what is in question has been his approach, which was first one of patience but has regressed. Davis says he’s fine physically, which makes this a problem of concentration.

Davis is on a 142-strikeout pace, which is considerable given his production. That he’s closing in on 30 homers shows all-or-nothing results.

I like Davis, but he’s really one of the few marketable players they have and if dealing him makes him better, than so be it.

In other Mets’ items:

* Matt Harvey will make his final start of the season tonight against the Phillies. It is clear Harvey is an asset they want to protect. If protecting is something they want to do next season, then here’s hoping they have a better plan than the one the Nationals had with Stephen Strasburg.

You shouldn’t just shut down a pitcher, but taper him gradually. Perhaps slot him so he’ll miss one start a month.

With Harvey out, the Mets will start prospects Jeremy Hefner (tomorrow), and possibly Jeurys Familia and Collin McHugh. Incidentally, R.A. Dickey will make his final home start this weekend, and get starts in Atlanta and Miami the final week.

* The Mets are one more loss from a fourth straight losing season and the magic number for their postseason elimination is down to four. That’s in case you were still wondering.

* The Mets are a dismal 4-22 at Citi Field since the All-Star break and have scored three or fewer runs in their last 14 home games.

* The shortest deal a team can sign with a minor league affiliate is two years, which is what the Mets did with Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League. Ideally, the Mets want a team in the Eastern Time zone, which is what they had in Buffalo and before that, Norfolk. However, those ties were cut – according to those cities – because the Mets didn’t do much to promote their affiliates. One can expect more of the same in Las Vegas as they search for another affiliate.

 

Sep 18

Are The Mets Shopping Ike Davis?

ESPN reported this morning the Mets are considering trading Ike Davis. It seems plausible explanation for why Lucas Duda has been getting more playing time at first base. Adam Rubin wrote it, so I trust the reporting.

DAVIS: Anguishing over another strikeout?

But, isn’t Davis one of the bright young talents the Mets are building around? Isn’t he one of the good products from what has been regarded as a weak farm system?

Yes, but there’s more to the story than just his age and power potential, which could reach 30 homers this season despite a slow start. He is on pace for 30 homers, but also on track to hit .223 with 142 strikeouts and only 60 walks.

Davis said he’d like to remain a Met, but understands the business side of the sport.

“If they trade me, they trade me – I can’t do anything about it,” Davis told reporters. “I have to do my job where I am at.” 

Trading Davis, despite his power potential, makes sense on several fronts:

1) The Mets have few chips they could spend and definitely are reluctant to tamper with their young pitching. Davis, with his potential and low salary, is a player who could bring in several pieces in return. In considering the available Mets that could be dealt, David Wright might bring back more, but his salary would be a deterrent. Davis is a player who could be tied up in a long term deal.

As being one of their few tradable chips is important considering GM Sandy Alderson has already spoke of keeping basically the same payroll next season, which would preclude spending lavishly in the free agent market.

2) While Davis is their frontline first baseman, the Mets have depth in the position with Duda. There’s absolutely no outfield depth and they would struggle to replace Wright or Ruben Tejada.

3) Reportedly, Davis hasn’t taken to being coached well and has a weakness for the night life. If this is true, the Mets wouldn’t want him around to influence the other young talent. Reports like this could work either way in the Mets’ attempts to deal Davis. First, Davis could be viewed as a problem, although there’s been no complaints about him in the clubhouse. Secondly, the perception could be that the Mets have been so poor in recent years that a player not being coachable could be interpreted as not that big a deal.

Davis debuted with a flair, but sustained a severe ankle injury last year and was struck by a virus this spring. He might be totally frustrated and resentful of how the Mets handled the ankle injury and this could explain any reluctance with the coaching. On the flip side, Terry Collins opted to keep him earlier this year when he was struggling instead of sending him to the minor leagues. That action must be regarded as the Mets having confidence in Davis, and that can’t be underestimated.

I often wonder what became of Davis’ approach at the plate. He arrived with a reputation of being patient, working the count and taking the outside pitch to left field. He would wait for his pitch to crush. However, we’ve been seeing less of that lately and more of him over swinging and trying to pull.

What Davis hasn’t realized, or it hasn’t been told to him – although I doubt that – is if Davis was more patient and went the other way, that he has the power to hit it out to left. Also, adding 40 points to his average would translate into more homers.

I can see Davis becoming a star player, but I can also see him evolving into an all-or-nothing slugger. If the Mets can swing a deal and fill a couple of holes elsewhere, then go for it.

 

Sep 16

Mets Matters: Should Chris Young Be Brought Back?

Chris Young took the loss today, but worked into the seventh inning, and in doing so passed 100 innings for the season and received a $150,000 bonus.

More importantly, he’s probably showed enough to warrant a contract for 2013, if not from the Mets, then somebody else.

“It means I’m healthy,’’ said Young. “I think I’ve pitched pretty well, better than my record probably indicates. But, there’s a lot of room for improvement.’’

There is, because although Young had his moments when he worked deep into games like today, there were others when he was rocked. Still, he started 18 games, his most since 2008.

Veteran arms are important, so we shouldn’t write off Young returning even though he’s not included in next year’s rotation. Although the Mets have ideas as to how their rotation will look, there are significant questions that make Young’s presence desirable.

Both Johan Santana and Dillon Gee are coming off injuries so there will be caution with them. You have to like Matt Harvey’s future, but it is premature to label him an ace right now.

Something will happen next year, you know it, so having depth is essential. If not Young, then the Mets will shop in the bargain aisle for veteran pitching depth. The advantage of bringing back Young is the Mets’ familiarity with him.

More Mets Matters:

* Terry Collins said Jeremy Hefner would likely get the start Wednesday against the Phillies. A couple of weeks ago this series meant nothing but the Phillies, like the Brewers, have become wild card contenders.

* David Wright now has 1,411 hits, seven shy of Ed Kranepool, the franchise’s career hit leader. Yes, statistics is what it has come down to for the Mets this season. I’d also like to see Wright finish with at least 90 RBI. He has 81. Another milestone would be Ike Davis hitting 30 homers, joining Eddie Murray, Carlos Delgado and David Kingman as Mets first basemen with 30 homer seasons.

* After Jenrry Mejia was shelled Saturday, pitching coach Dan Warthen said he views him as a reliever, claiming he didn’t believe he would be able to throw 200 innings year after year. I wonder how Warthen can make that assessment when the organization keeps bouncing Mejia around from being a starter to the bullpen.

* The opportunities are getting winding down for R.A. Dickey’s bid to win 20 games. He’s scheduled to start tomorrow night against the Phillies and maybe two more after that. He’s stuck on 18 victories.