Apr 03

New Season Brings High Expectations For Mets

Talk about your mixed metaphors for this Mets’ season: I woke this morning to the sounds of birds chirping, but when I looked out the window there were still patches of snow on the ground. The sounds of spring and the sites of winter.

So, what will it be for the Mets? Will there be a third straight playoff appearance or will they sputter and stay home in October? I’ve read in several places where they’ll return to the World Series and in many others they’ll be frustrated.

SYNDERGAARD: High expecattions. FOX)

SYNDERGAARD: High expecattions. FOX)

“You have to embrace it,” manager Terry Collins said of the expectations swirling around his team. “The expectations are what they are. We have a room full of guys who have won and who expect to win.”

There are two keys to winning: staying healthy and getting strong starting pitching. If that happens they’ll be right up there and contend with Washington. Are they better than the Nationals? Potentially, they are, but they have a multitude of issues and concerns.

There’s the bullpen that will be without Jeurys Familia for the first 15 games. There’s defense, including Jose Reyes getting a full season at third base. There’s Yoenis Cespedes and whether the security of a four-year contract will help or hinder him. And, perhaps as important as anything is their offense, especially hitting with runners in scoring position.

Above all else, the key is for their starters to stay healthy. Four of them – Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler are coming off surgery. Matz opens the season on the disabled list and after a sluggish start, Harvey seemed to close spring training on a high note.

Of all the Mets’ pitchers, the highest expectations are that of Opening Day starter Noah Syndergaard, who, if he stays healthy, has the ability and stuff to win 20 games and win the Cy Young Award. He can be that dominant. Syndergaard’s primary issues are: 1) the effectiveness of his change-up, 2) whether the bone spur that bothered him on-and-off last season, and 3) his ability to prevent runners from running wild against him (48 stolen bases when he was on the mound last year).

So many things must happen for a team to reach, and win, a World Series. The Mets have the potential pieces to make that happen.

Thanks, and wishing you all a great season of watching.

 

Mar 28

Why Is Alderson Rushing Wheeler And Matz?

Zack Wheeler insists he’s ready and Steven Matz is desperate to convince the Mets they should save a seat for him on the plane to New York at the end of the week.

MATZ: What's the rush? (AP)

MATZ: What’s the rush? (AP)

While I appreciate the competitive nature of both, the bottom line is it’s a long season and the Mets don’t have to commit to both, or either, right now, especially with there being other options.

Let’s get to Matz first. He’s coming off elbow surgery and he was shut down from his start earlier this week and could get a few innings this weekend. As it is now, Matz has thrown 12.2 innings this spring, which traditionally is not close to being enough.

What’s the rush?

As for Wheeler, he’s coming off a good start, which followed a bad one. He’s thrown 12.1 innings this spring. He’s barely worked the past two seasons following Tommy John surgery.

Again, what’s the rush?

Seth Lugo is coming off a poor outing, but for the most part had a good spring at the WBC. Rafael Montero has also had a good spring, and the Mets have three off-days in the first 24 days of April.

Wheeler and Matz are coming off surgery; the Mets have other options plus off days; neither have had a lot of work this spring; and there’s usually lousy weather in April leading to rainouts and delays.

This isn’t manager Terry Collins’ decision, it is GM Sandy Alderson’s, and rushing either would be a bad one.

While I appreciate the desire for each to want to pitch, part of that desire is fueled on emotion. However, Alderson is supposed to be the adult in the room. He’s supposed to make decisions based on logic instead.

Mar 19

Montero Making Bullpen Push

The high hopes the Mets have had for Rafael Montero might finally be coming to fruition this spring. What held him back in previous seasons was his command, which ran up his pitch count as a starter and was death as a reliever.

Montero was a bright spot in the Mets’ loss today to the Marlins – Jacob deGrom‘s start was another – with two scoreless innings in which he struck out three, but most importantly didn’t walk a hitter. Overall, he has 20 strikeouts and 2.70 ERA in 13.1 innings spanning eight appearances.

“We’ve known that I get a lot of strikeouts and throw a lot of strikes. It’s just been a matter of working on my command, but I’ve been working hard on that,” Montero told reporters. “I’m using the curveball in the dirt a lot and the fastball outside. … It’s just a matter of getting ready quickly and preparing myself mentally. I’m here to help the team. Wherever they put me, I’m going to do my job.”

If Montero can continue at this pace he could merit consideration in a set-up role to Addison Reed.

Montero could always throw hard, but now his location is better and his pitches have movement and are catching the corners, where it previously flattened out over the plate or sailed. His improvement has been one of the most potentially important developments of the spring.

“Right now, he’s locating his pitches that he hasn’t done in the past,” manager Terry Collins said. “He works the edges of the plate, and this year he’s catching those edges. He’s starting to show us things we know he’s got.”

Mar 14

DeGrom Ready; Mets Should Rest Ill Syndergaard

If spring training is all about getting ready for the season, it would be safe to conclude of all the Mets’ high-profile starters Jacob deGrom is the closest to being ready.

In three spring starts, he has given up one run in ten innings with 13 strikeouts, including six in four innings in today’s 2-1 victory over Houston. Now, who wouldn’t take that?

DeGROM: Ready. (AP)

DeGROM: Ready. (AP)

The best thing about deGrom today was his ability to pitch out of trouble. He walked and gave up a single to start the game, but pulled it together to strike out the side, including the last two in the high 90s.

DeGrom didn’t have his best changeup and got it done with his fastball and breaking pitches.

“You’ll have those days in spring and throughout the season,” deGrom told reporters. “So, you have to find other ways to get outs. My slider was good today and I mixed in a few curveballs.

“I’m happy with how things are going. The main thing is to stay healthy. I’m just happy that I feel good and I’m looking forward to starting the season.”

Health does not only include elbows and shoulders. It includes illness, which brings us to Noah Syndergaard, who has been struggling with bronchitis the past month and a half. Six weeks is a long time to fighting illness and this isn’t just a cold or the sniffles.

“He’s like many people, including myself, that when it gets in their lungs and they get bronchitis, it can affect you for a while,” manager Terry Collins said. “He’s fighting that. He’s been on medication. He is getting better, but he just ran out of gas.”

Syndergaard threw in the high 90s Monday, but later said he felt tired and his delivery was out of whack. He admitted it could have been because of being ill.

So, Syndergaard said being ill could have sapped his strength and Collins admitted the same. So, why don’t Collins and GM Sandy Alderson do the smart thing and sit Syndergaard for his next start if he’s still feeling lousy?

Now, Syndergaard, like any other Mets’ pitcher will fight Collins if he wants to rest him. Matt Harvey already has … several times.

But, Collins and Alderson are supposed to be the adults in the room and should be smart enough to tell their kids not to go outside and play when they are sick. And, enforce it.

If spring training is all about getting ready for the season, then shouldn’t that include not letting Syndergaard getting run down?

Mar 08

Syndergaard’s Command Off; Bruce Homers In Win

They might have tuned in to see Tim Tebow, but the Mets most worth watching were Noah Syndergaard and Jay Bruce.

Making his second start of the spring, the Mets’ Opening Day starter again had command issues despite throwing 2.1 innings. Throwing mostly fastballs and change-ups, Syndergaard threw 47 pitches to get those seven outs – six pitches per out – which isn’t going to get it done on most days in the regular season.

BRUCE: Has big day. (AP)

BRUCE: Has big day. (AP)

Meanwhile, Bruce, the player Sandy Alderson most wants to trade, had a big day with a two-run homer, RBI double and run-saving diving catch in right field in Wednesday’s 8-7 victory over Boston.

Syndergaard didn’t give up any runs, but that wasn’t the story.

“I threw about 85 percent,” Syndergaard said. “I pulled it back a bit to work on my mechanics. I wanted to close my shoulder on my way to the plate.”

In the regular season, Syndergaard’s pitch count put him on pace to throw 4.2 innings, which is not what he has in mind.

Syndergaard said he gained 17 pounds of muscle in the offseason – disputed by manager Terry Collins – for the purpose of being strong enough to work longer in games. However, what Syndergaard doesn’t realize is what kept him from going deeper into games isn’t a matter of losing strength, but losing command and running up his pitch count.

Syndergaard touched 100 mph. several times and threw mostly in the high 90s – frankly, I don’t see where he dialed it back – but pitching isn’t about velocity. A pitcher relies on location, movement of his pitches and velocity, with velocity the least important.

METS NOVELTY: With the Mets sending a large contingent to the World Baseball Classic and playing a split-squad game, they were in need of bodies and that opened the way for Tebow’s chance to play – as a designated hitter.

Tebow struck out in his first at-bat on four pitches, grounded into a double play in his second to drive in a run and produce a standing ovation, and was hit by a pitch in his third.