Jun 23

Playing The Blame Game With Mets’ Hitting

Once ten games over .500, the Mets are a team dangerously close to having an even ledger should they lose tonight to Milwaukee, a team they should have pushed around in Citi Field, but did not.

Eleven-game winning streaks are to be built on, not used as a safe haven to play mediocre ball. For a team unable to score runs, Jon Niese is not the guy you want on the mound tonight.

The Mets have blown two 1-0 starts from Matt Harvey and one from Jacob deGrom. They have lost 16 of their 35 games by two runs or less. Had they won half those games they would be 44-27, good for first in the NL East and with the second best record in baseball behind the computer-hacking St. Louis Cardinals.

Hitting coach Kevin Long is basically saying, “these things happen and we just have to break out of it.’’

If you think that’s an oversimplification, it is not.

There’s no help coming from the minors; they won’t trade any of their young starting pitching for a big bat; the pitchers they would trade, Dillon Gee, Niese and Bartolo Colon, nobody really wants, at least not now; and they don’t have any position players to deal.

You can blame the Wilpons for not opening their check book last winter, or you can blame Sandy Alderson for not doing anything significant in the offseason. You can certainly blame the hitters for not producing. You can also blame Terry Collins, because after all, blaming the manager always seems like the easy option.

There’s a lot of blame to go around, but precious little hope right now.

Jun 10

Giants Light Up Dark Knight

Another game, another bunch of homers hit – no, make that crushed – off the Mets’ Matt Harvey.

The Giants looked comfortable in slugging three homers off Harvey and ripping him for seven runs. It was the second time in four starts he was blistered for seven runs.

HARVEY: Ripped again. (AP)

HARVEY: Ripped again. (AP)

Harvey (now 6-4 with a 3.62 ERA) has given up 12 homers and 24 extra-base hits overall in 12 starts. After Harvey was rocked for 11 runs in consecutive losses to Pittsburgh and Miami, manager Terry Collins suggested the problem was a dead arm.

Harvey quickly dismissed that stock theory for when a pitcher gets torched a couple of times, which made sense because he was clocked in the mid-90s and including the Marlins game, threw over 100 pitches in back-to-back starts.

So, what’s the problem? Why has Harvey given up eight homers in his last four starts, after giving up eight homers in his previous 26?

First, consider Wednesday was Harvey’s 48th career start, which puts him in the equivalent of his second full season, which is when the real learning takes place. And, don’t forget, the hitters are learning, too.

We also must remember he’s coming off Tommy John surgery and perhaps his arm isn’t what he would want. His breaking pitches, in particular his slider, don’t have the same bite they had in 2013 when he was an All-Star and achieved cult status.

We must also look at his walks. He’s only walked 14, which is a great stat, but it also means his pitches are usually in the strike zone. Although he still throws hard, Harvey must recognize he can’t get by simply throwing heat. It also suggests his pitches, although thrown hard, don’t have the darting movement needed.

Knowing Harvey’s control is exceptional; hitters don’t hang around to fall behind in the count. Harvey has given up three homers on the first pitch (overall hitters are batting .450 off him on the first pitch). He’s also given up five homers after being behind 1-0 in the count.

So, it isn’t just one thing, but several contributing factors to why hitters are lighting up the “Dark Knight.’’

 

Jun 08

Mets Need Another Parnell Injury If They Want To Keep Him

The New York Mets’ injury news continues to get worse. Former closer Bobby Parnell’s 30-day maximum rehab assignment stay expires Wednesday, at which time the Mets are obligated to activate him from the disabled list.

PARNELL:  Due back soon (AP)

PARNELL: Due back soon (AP)

If this scenario sounds familiar to Mets’ fans that’s because it is – they went through this several years ago when they didn’t want to bring back Oliver Perez. You remember how well that worked out, don’t you? The Mets were forced to activate Perez otherwise he would have exercised his right to become an immediate free agent. The Mets would loved to have traded him, but knew they’d get nothing in return.

Parnell, who underwent Tommy John surgery, April 8, 2014, has not done well in his rehab. Parnell’s fastball, a 96 mph., average with the Mets, but had touched 100 mph., is at 92 mph.

Going for the reach as he often does, manager Terry Collins said he’s hoping adrenaline will add some steam to his fastball.

While at Double-A Binghamton, Parnell was 0-2 with a 14.21 ERA in seven games. In 6.1 innings, he’s given up 11 hits and six walks. Parnell is clearly not ready to return to the Mets, and more to the point, bringing him back now would only weaken the team.

While the best thing would be to keep him on the disabled list, the Mets don’t have that option. They could try to trade him, but would get nothing, and nobody will deal for an injured pitcher with a $3.7 million contract.

The Mets could release Parnell, but that won’t happen. As is often the case with the Mets, their best option is to hope – that they can find some other injury and stash him back on the disabled list.

 

 

Jun 06

Mets Bag Six-Man Rotation; Gee’s Trade Value Drops

Although the Mets did what I suggested and scrapped the six-man rotation, how this scenario unraveled depicts an organization without a compass. What began coming out of spring training with a short bench and an abandoned batting order, continued today with manager Terry Collins announcing the six-man rotation that was supposed to carry the Mets into August is something to be thought of in the past tense.

GEE: Sent to the pen. (Getty)

GEE: Sent to the pen. (Getty)

Of course, this being the Mets, Collins suggested you never what could happen in the future. Well, not exactly. We do know that no matter the issue, the Mets will continue to waffle.

Collins said he changed his mind after he and pitching coach Dan Warthen discussed the rotation and noticed there would be several times when pitchers would sometimes go on seven days rest. Just asking, but wouldn’t this have been something they would have mapped out before making the decision in the first place?

However, I am more inclined to believe this was the result of some pitchers – Matt Harvey, take a bow – moaning about their work schedules. It is unlikely it would be rookie Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom. I doubt it was Bartolo Colon, who probably would benefit the most from the extra rest. I also doubt Gee went to the manager because he has no leverage. I also doubt it was Jon Niese, because he’s pitched so poorly lately that he also doesn’t have any pull. When you’re losing you shut the hell up.

I believe it was Harvey who screamed loudest because he has a history of confronting management. I also believe Collins went through this with Warthen beforehand and was falling on the sword to protect Harvey.

Don’t be surprised if that theory eventually surfaces soon.

There was nobody else but Gee to go to the pen. Obviously, it wouldn’t be Harvey, deGrom or Syndergaard. Niese is the only left-hander, plus he has a history of arm injuries, and you wouldn’t risk him in the up-and-down routine of a reliever. And, Colon isn’t one to work out of the pen.

When this began, I wrote one of the benefits of the six-man would be in showcasing Gee for a possible trade at the deadline, but that’s now a moot point.

Within the past year the Mets waffled on who would play shortstop; who would comprise the bullpen, and who would be closer; who would be the leadoff hitter; what would be the batting order; how many bench players and relievers the team would carry; and now, the composition of the starting rotation.

Frankly, it makes Collins look bad, but it’s not really him, is it? Doesn’t this all fall at the feet of GM Sandy Alderson? How can it not?

Jun 05

Six-Man Rotation Or Bench; Mets Must Decide Quickly

Part of me wants to see the Mets make a run at using a six-man rotation, but with Daniel Murphy going on the disabled list, the bench already perilously thin and the offense sputtering, the prudent option might be to bring up infielder Matt Reynolds and use the conventional five starters.

MURPHY: Injury makes tight situation even tighter (AP)

MURPHY: Injury makes tight situation even tighter (AP)

The Mets are currently in first place in the NL East, but how long will it be before Washington gets hot again? This team is not in position to swing a trade for a bat, so GM Sandy Alderson has to give Reynolds a shot and hope Jon Niese finds himself in the rotation.

As for Dillon Gee, I’d rather have a bat.

Murphy was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday after an MRI exam showed tightness in his left quadriceps and Danny Muno was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas to take his spot on the roster. Wilfredo Tovar is with the team in Arizona, awaiting the Mets to make a decision on Eric Campbell or a reliever.

Reynolds had a strong spring training, but is currently slumping at Triple-A Las Vegas, so even if they promote him there’s no guarantee he will provide the spark the Mets need. As for making a trade for a bat, let’s face it, neither Niese nor Gee will bring back much and the Mets don’t want to part with Noah Syndergaard and aren’t ready to bring up Steven Matz and dump Niese.

Thanks to an 11-game winning streak in April, the Mets got away with using a short bench. It is doubtful they can be so lucky a second time.