Aug 17

Has Syndergaard Turned The Corner?

UPDATED: Adding quotes by Syndergaard and Collins.

For awhile last night it appeared Noah Syndergaard turned the corner and all would be right with the Mets again. However, as has been his pattern, he ran into the wall otherwise known as the sixth inning and was haunted by familiar ghosts.

I won’t go into the bone spur issue because when you live in a 98 mph., neighborhood, your arm has to be sound. Stolen bases are a problem – the Diamondbacks had four more Tuesday night and nine in his two starts against them – but one he should eventually solve with his experience.

SYNDERGAARD: Good and bad signs. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Good and bad signs. (AP)

The main issue with Syndergaard has been his pitch-count efficiency and inability to put away a hitter or shut down an inning. It’s why he doesn’t give the Mets the number of innings he should considering the number of pitches he throws.

Of his 23 starts, he has gone at least seven innings only nine times. Only twice did he venture into the eighth inning. Twice.

Last night he cruised through five innings and was good as advertised but unraveled in the sixth. Yes, he was hamstrung by T.J. Rivera‘s defense, but when you’re supposed to be an ace, you must find a way to get out of the inning. The Mets survived the inning, but not Syndergaard.

This is not what you’d expect from somebody deemed an ace, much less a Super Hero.

Roughly one of four pitches he throws is fouled off, meaning he’s not putting away hitters. He averages over a strikeout an inning, but only four times has he reached double-digits in strikeouts, the last being June 15 against Pittsburgh.

Double-digit strikeout games signify going deep into games. Syndergaard went deep with a two-run homer in the fifth but was done an inning later. He expects more of himself.

From how he overpowered the Diamondbacks early in the game, his final line of four runs on seven hits in 5.2 innings was a disappointment despite going to 10-7 in the Mets’ 7-5 victory. Also discouraging was he threw 106 pitches.

Syndergaard took a six-run lead into the sixth. He should have coasted the way he did against Pittsburgh and the Cubs on July 3, his last win before last night. He went into the eighth in those games.

Jake Lamb reached on Rivera’s error and moved to second on a wild pitch. Syndergaard struck out Yasmany Tomas, but gave up a single to Wellington Castillo and two-run triple to Mitch Haniger. A second error by Rivera let in another run. After an infield single, Syndergaard left in favor of Jerry Blevins and the last image of him was throwing his glove in anger in the dugout.

Sure, blame the inning on Rivera, but it’s up to the pitcher to overcome disaster and put away the next hitter, something Syndergaard didn’t do. With his mounting pitch count manager Terry Collins didn’t have the confidence to let him finish the inning.

When Syndergaard cruised early in the game, he challenged hitters inside, his command was sharp and his curveball had bite. All encouraging signs.

“In the middle innings I thought he threw the ball great,” Collins said. “When he commanded his fastball in the right spots they weren’t able to do much against him.”

But, he couldn’t sustain. Whenever he loses it quickly, it raises the question about the bone spur. The Mets believe – and Syndergaard concurs – this is a pain tolerance issue. The spur is something that should be dealt with by surgery in the offseason as it will be with Steven Matz.

“My arm felt great,” Syndergaard said. “I was fluid in my delivery. I felt it was a step in the right direction.;;

There are games, like those against the Pirates and Cubs – and for five innings last night – where he dominates and pitches to the ace-like levels of Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver. But, he’s not there yet on a consistent basis.

The elbow spur bothers me, and I’m sure it bothers Syndergaard more than he lets on. Of his last seven starts he reached the sixth three times before being pulled. Is it the spur or did hitters catch up to him?

Before last night, Syndergaard had four losses and two no-decisions in his previous six starts. In looking for an explanation for what’s happening one thing surfaces.

This is Syndergaard’s first full season and there are growing pains. His fastball averages 98 and his changeup averages 89, but there’s more to pitching than throwing hard. Just because he throws lightning and is built like a linebacker doesn’t mean he’s automatically Don Drysdale.

Syndergaard is ahead of most with his experience level, but not where he envisions himself. He needs more polish. He must learn to take something off his pitches; to reach back for the 100 mph., heater when he needs it, not with every pitch.

The bone spur is an issue, but one surgery should resolve. The real problem with Syndergaard is the expectations are exceedingly high from the Mets, his teammates, the media, and the fans. Everybody expects more of him – including the pitcher himself – than he is capable of giving.

Too many expect him to be the second Seaver instead of letting him develop into the first Syndergaard. He is still growing. He’s not the force he expects of himself to be.

Not yet, anyway.

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Jul 24

Piazza: “The Thing I Miss Most Is Making You Cheer”

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For eight years, Mike Piazza heard you, and today’s induction speech by only the second Met, joining Tom Seaver, to be enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame was his way of saying thank you for the encouragement, the prodding, the enjoyment, and most of all, for the love.

“How can I put into words my love, thanks and appreciation for New York Mets’ fans?” was one of the many highlights of his Hall of Fame induction speech, which timed out close to 31 minutes, which was the number he proudly wore during his magnificent career.

“You have given me the greatest gift and graciously taken me into your family. This brings me back to the best time of my life. … You guys are serious. The eight years we spent together went by way too fast. The thing I miss most is making you cheer.”

Today wasn’t about numbers, but emotions and memories and Piazza made sure to thank his father, Vince, saying: “We made it, dad. The race is over. Now it’s time to smell the roses.”

But, not before thanking a few more special people, from managers Tommy Lasorda and Bobby Valentine, to scores of teammates, including John Franco, who gave up his No. 31 when the former 62nd round draft pick was traded to the Mets.

Piazza’s speech embodied the way he played – from the heart.

We loved him for the numbers and moments, including his post-September 11 home run, with a reference on his plaque saying, “it helped rally a nation.” But, we also loved him for his class and humility.

Piazza acknowledged how many noted that home run in the proceeding weeks, but he chose to honor the first responders who selflessly gave their lives.

That home run might have been a symbolic gesture, but what the police and firemen did was a greater sacrifice.

Piazza gave us numerous memories to love him over those eight years. Today he told us he loved us back.

May 06

Mets List: Hall Of Famers With Mets’ Ties

Tom Seaver is the Mets’ only home-grown Hall of Famer, but unfortunately didn’t play his entire career with the team. Neither will this year’s inductee, Mike Piazza.

There have been no Met with Hall of Fame ties whose entire career was spent in flushing.

With today being Willie Mays’ 85th birthday, and yesterday’s post on Warren Spahn prompted this list of Hall of Famers with Mets’ ties:

Seaver, 1967-77, 1983

Richie Ashburn, 1962

Yogi Berra, 1965 (player), 1972-75 (manager)

Gary Carter, 1985-89

Mays, 1972-73

Eddie Murray, 1992-1993

Nolan Ryan, 1966, 1968-71

Duke Snider, 1963

Spahn, 1965

Casey Stengel, 1962-65 as manager

 

Apr 22

Mets Today: On The Blog

Good morning. The Mets are in Atlanta today for the beginning of a three-game series with one of their biggest rivalries, although things have cooled off in recent years as the Braves plunged into mediocrity.

mets-logoball-2 Harvey, Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom will start for the Mets who will be going after their third straight series win.

Today on the blog I’ll have for you:

* Today In Mets History.

* A list on some of the most memorable moments in the Mets-Braves rivalry, with the promise Armando Benitez won’t be in any of them.

* A short piece on Harvey.

* Today’s lineups.

And, of course, an analysis on any breaking news.

ON DECK: Today In Mets History: Big Day For Tom Seaver

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Apr 11

Today In Mets’ History: Grote Homer Beats Reds

Not known for his power, on this day in 1971 Mets catcher Jerry Grote’s homer in the bottom of the 11th was the difference in a 1-0 victory over Cincinnati at Shea Stadium.

Batting eighth, Grote homered off Wayne Granger to lead off the inning. Grote homered twice that season and 39 times during his 16-year career, which included 12 seasons with the Mets where he carved a reputation as a defensive specialist with a strong throwing arm.

GROTE: Mets' best defensive catcher. (AP)

GROTE: Mets’ best defensive catcher. (AP)

Grote was a National League All-Star in 1968 and 1974. In those days, the NL was strong behind the plate with the likes of Johnny Bench, Tim McCarver and Randy Hundley.

How good was Grote defensively? Bench once said: “If Grote and I were on the same team, I’d be playing third base.”

Tom Seaver started that day and pitched nine scoreless innings. He was relieved by Tub McGraw, who worked two innings for the victory.

Grote also played with Houston (1963-64), the Dodgers (1977-78, and 81), and Kansas City (1981).

Grote was inducted into the Mets’ Hall of Fame in 1992.

He is 73 and lives in San Antonio, Tx.

ON DECK: April 11, Mets’ Lineup Against Miami

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