Aug 11

Mets’ Ike Davis Showing Breakthrough Signs

One of the hidden storylines for the New York Mets Saturday was Ike Davis’ batting average breaking .200 heading north.

The Mets stuck with Davis longer than they should have before demoting him July 9, but it was because a slow 2012 first half culminated with a late surge that saw him finish with 32 homers, and that’s production GM Sandy Alderson couldn’t ignore.

DAVIS: Scoring last night vs. D-Backs. (Getty)

DAVIS: Scoring last night vs. D-Backs. (Getty)

“He showed what he is capable of last year in the second half,’’ Alderson said in the weeks prior to the demotion in explaining why Davis was still taking his three empty swings and heading back to the dugout. “We have to keep that in the back of our mind.’’

Davis had two hits against Arizona to raise his average to .203, but also drew two walks. Not enough to warrant a contract extension, but consider Davis is hitting .300 since returning from Triple-A Las Vegas compared to .161 before the desert and you can see the difference.

Davis’ pre-Vegas strikeouts-to-walks ratio was 66-to-19; it is now, brace yourself, 22-to-25. He’s still not hitting for power with one homer and nine RBI, but first things first. His patience and pitch selection is far better, and if it continues, the run production will increase.

Davis has not done enough to warrant the Mets’ tendering him a contract this winter, but a strong finish would give Alderson reason to think, instead of looking at Josh Satin or Wilmer Flores or somebody in the free-agent market.

The Mets claim they’ll have more resources this winter, but they still are a franchise feeling financial strain. They aren’t about to throw money away, and that would include bringing back Davis at his current run-production.

Davis is making $3.1 million this season, which is chump change for a 30-homer bat. He has six homers and 25 RBI, which isn’t enough to keep him, but 15 homers and 50 RBI is definitely doable. That could change everything.

Currently working against him is a horrid first half that has him in a platoon with Satin, and with David Wright on the disabled list, pitchers can work around Davis.

As far as next year, Satin will be cheaper, but he doesn’t have Davis’ power. Perhaps he’s a right-handed Daniel Murphy at best.

Power is not expected from Satin and irrelevant now from Davis, what matters is having an idea and a light has switched on above his head.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 11

Six-Man Rotation Might Benefit Mets And Jon Niese

Jon Niese will make his first start for the New York Mets in nearly two months this afternoon today in Phoenix. It is arguably one of the most important starts by a Met starter this season.

Those made by Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler generated more excitement, but for future planning, this is hugely important because it dictates their off-season objectives.

NIESE: What's he thinking?

NIESE: What’s he thinking?

Niese lasted just 3.1 innings in his last start, June 20, at Atlanta, after which it was discovered he had a partially-torn rotator cuff. He went on the disabled list two days later. Niese passed all the medical tests, so it is assumed he’s good to go.

The Mets need to test Niese with kid gloves for the remainder of the season, and figuring no further complications it would streamline the Mets’ off-season shopping list.

If Niese is reinjured, don’t expect an early return next year, and assume they will attempt to add another starter this winter. They could go again with Jeremy Hefner, who has hit the skids since the All-Star break, or they could add another solution like Shaun Marcum.

Yeah, I thought that might get your attention.

Niese gave up three runs on eight hits in that start against the Braves, with five strikeouts and no walks. The most important number is where he landed on the pain meter, which was pretty high.

With Niese’s return to the rotation, the Mets will continue with a six-man starter, which under these circumstances is a prudent move for several reasons: 1) it protects Niese; 2) it lengthens the time between Hefner starts; and 3) it allows the Mets to reduce the starts, and thereby innings, of Harvey and Wheeler.

Most importantly, it will give the Mets an understanding of where Niese stands physically and their off-season needs while protecting him. That’s their most important pitching objective for now, even more than reducing Harvey’s and Wheeler’s innings.

Nobody knows whether the Mets will need to reduce Harvey and Wheeler next season, but assuming they will, this experience can only help them in developing a between-starts routine.

In four games against Arizona, Niese is 1-2 with a 6.85 ERA, including an 11-5 loss last July. However, those numbers aren’t as important as the simple fact Niese is starting another game this season.

For those thinking the Mets have nothing to play for or learn the remainder of the season, guess again.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 10

Mets Even Thinking Of Trading Wilmer Flores Is Absurd

All of a sudden, I’ve been reading with head-scratching confusion how several bloggers are suggesting the New York Mets trade Wilmer Flores.

Why? What good would it serve other than just giving away a prospect? What could they possibly get for him now? Their confused reasoning is since the Mets have few position player prospects they should trade their best one. Yup, makes sense to me.

FLORES: Don't even think of trading him.

FLORES: Don’t even think of trading him.

Flores has been with the Mets for just a handful of games, too small a window to ascertain his potential, and also way too tiny for another team to figure out what to do with him or how he could fit into their plans.

The reason the Mets are having a hard time figuring out what to do with him, and only brought him up because of David Wright’s strained hamstring, is because they don’t know where to play him because he doesn’t have a position.

Wright will occupy third base for much of the next decade; supposedly he doesn’t have the range to play shortstop or speed to go to the outfield; and Daniel Murphy is the second baseman for the foreseeable future.

Other teams also see that, and American League teams are reluctant to use young prospects as a designated hitter let alone trade for one to assume that role. Veteran bats caught in a position logjam, or those that can’t play the field, usually end up as the designated hitter.

I’ll bet you can’t name many prospects stuck in the DH role. At least none on a long-term basis.

So, where could Flores end up playing?

I wrote over a week ago he could be a first-base option should the Mets opt not to tender a contract to Ike Davis, who would then leave as a free agent. Assuming the high probability of that scenario, isn’t it likely other teams have reached the same conclusion?

And, given that, wouldn’t a team needing a bat, particularly a left-handed one, wait until Davis is a free agent instead of trading for him? Davis, after all, based on 32 homers last season, has a more immediate upside than Flores.

Trading Flores now is akin to giving him away because nobody – including the Mets – has a real understanding of his value this early in his career.

Flores could have trade value in the future, but not now. His value to the Mets, with Wright most likely out for the rest of the month, is to establish what he can and can’t do.

Even at the end of the season it would be premature to think of trading him. Should the Mets decide to test Flores at first base next year, they would want to play him there during the winter and let him compete for the spot during spring training.

Any move involving Flores prior to that would be a mistake. A knee-jerk reaction to the highest degree.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 09

LaTroy Hawkins Better Closer Option Than Committee

Isn’t it always the way with the New York Mets? There’s positives brewing, but something always seems to get in the way, such as Bobby Parnell’s bulging disk.

HAWKINS: Best option for closer.

HAWKINS: Best option for closer.

Once pegged to lose 100 games, the Mets are talking about .500 and finishing in second place in the NL East, but gone is Parnell, probably for the year if surgery is required.

The Mets’ bullpen has been stellar since the beginning of July, but there’s only one real choice to replace Parnell and that would be 40-year-old LaTroy Hawkins instead of going with a bullpen-by-committee, which rarely works and usually ends up using guys outside of their customary roles.

Hawkins saved the last two games of the Colorado series, and has 90 saves in his career. Not great over 19 years, but it is the best the Mets have going for them right now.

Hawkins struggled early in the season, but has been consistently effective. He has experience pitching in tight games, and Terry Collins has more trust in him than in Scott Atchison or Scott Rice or Pedro Feliciano.

Even at 40, Hawkins was throwing in the mid-90s against the Rockies. He can still bring it when he has to, and averages 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings, and only 1.6 walks per nine innings.

Perhaps Hawkins will eventually run on fumes, but if the Mets are cognizant about not getting him up constantly, and perhaps occasionally let their set-up reliever work into the ninth if there’s a three-run lead, it could preserve him.

Collins’ bullpen has been exceptional over the past month, but now he must make a significant choice: Does he go the committee route or give his trust to Hawkins?

The thought of saving Zack Wheeler’s innings by using him in relief is not a good idea as the change in routine creates the possibility of injury. And, please, nobody mention Frank Francisco. Please.

Hawkins has pitched well and is deserving of closing until he can’t it anymore.

I don’t think there’s any doubt Hawkins has to be the closer until Parnell returns, which as of now looks to be next spring.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 09

Mets Head West With Second Place On Their Minds

The New York Mets balked at trading Bobby Parnell and Marlon Byrd at the deadline, citing the desire to finish as strong as possible.

One Mets’ executive told me finishing at .500 would be defined as a successful season, one that began with many forecasting as many as 100 losses.

COLLINS and F. WILPON: Thinking about second.

COLLINS and F. WILPON: Thinking about second.

How close they come to reaching that objective will greatly be determined by this upcoming road trip.

After sweeping Colorado, the Mets begin a four-city, 11-game road trip starting tonight in Arizona. From there the Mets go to Los Angeles for a series against the Dodgers, then to San Diego and on their way home, stop in Minnesota for a make-up game layover against the Twins.

West Coast trips have often been killers to the Mets, and this one stands to be no different. There’s not an easy game on the schedule, then there’s that fun trip to Minnesota when then would be spent at the time.

“This might be, in my time here, the toughest road trip we’ve had to face,’’ manager Terry Collins said Thursday afternoon as his players packed to board a bus to the airport.

“You’ve got to face the two top teams in the National League West, who are playing very, very good, and we know San Diego has good pitching.’’

The Mets leapfrogged Philadelphia and are one game behind Washington for second place in the NL East. They are even in the loss column. Collins, who has made more than expected with little this year, has his eyes on second place, even if it doesn’t translate into the playoffs.

“I think it’d be huge,’’ Collins said. “I think it’d be an enormous lift not only for the team, because they certainly deserve everything they got, but the entire organization. Some of these young guys have come up and contributed to what we’re doing now. You got to keep battling. Right now we got 50 left. That’s still an uphill climb.’’

Sure it is, but it is better than the last three seasons when the Mets folded after the break. Finishing in second place – or at .500 – is a sign of significant progress, which will have the Mets head into winter with significantly fewer questions than in previous years.

Also, with the Mets saying they have the resources this winter, their situation might be more enticing to several free agents. You never know.

However, complicating their objective is possibly losing closer Parnell to season-ending surgery to repair a disk in his neck and David Wright on the disabled list with a strained hamstring. The Mets don’t expect Wright back during this trip.

Even so, there are no excuses. The Mets had to overcome injuries all season and must do it again as they attempt to play meaningful games in September.

Meaningful games in September? Who would have thought?

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos