Jul 31

Zack Wheeler Shows What The Fuss Was About

When the New York Mets traded Carlos Beltran, arguably one of their top three position players in history, for prospect Zack Wheeler, they said this guy was going to be good. Really good.

We got a glimpse of just how good Tuesday night in Miami when he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. He lost it, but also impressive was despite the emotions of losing history, he kept his composure enough to minimize the damage to two runs.

WHEELER: Domination. (Getty)

WHEELER: Domination. (Getty)

In what Wheeler called a learning experience that might have been the most important thing he took from the game. Wheeler also learned pitching to contact, when you’re throwing in the mid-90s is a positive. He showed it isn’t necessary to try to strike out everybody, which spikes his pitch count.

Wheeler has struggled with command, but after six innings he was at 65 pitches. There have been times when he had that many after three innings.

No-hitters, as exciting and a dominant display of pitching as they are, remain flukes with a certain element of luck. Averaging around ten pitches an inning is a sign of complete control.

Through six innings, Wheeler showed what all the fuss has been about. He showed why he was worth the wait.

“I felt smooth with my mechanics,’’ Wheeler told reporters last night. As evidenced by the pitch-tipping episode, that hasn’t always been the case.

“The rhythm was good. Good tempo in between pitches,’’ he continued. “Everything was just clicking well and I was hitting my spots.’’

When Wheeler made Giancarlo Stanton look foolish earlier, it looked as if he might get it, but his grasp at history slipped away when the non-descript Ed Lucas singled with one out in the seventh.

Who?

That’s right; things often get broken up by the unknown. It wasn’t a fluke hit, but a solid drive off a bad pitch. John Buck called for a fastball in, but Wheeler left it out over the plate.

Usually when a pitcher loses a no-hitter, the manager or pitching coach comes out to settle him down, to remind him there’s still a game. Surprisingly, pitching coach Dan Warthen wasn’t sent out after several more hitters, but by that time the shutout was lost and Wheeler was tinkering on disaster.

Wheeler later admitted he lost his concentration.

“I did get a little rushed after that,’’ he said. “I probably let down my guard a little bit, but it was a learning experience.’’

Wheeler composed himself enough to get an inning-ending double play, but he was too spent to go out there for the eighth.

Wheeler’s effort marked the fifth time a Mets’ pitcher took a no-hitter into the seventh this season. Matt Harvey has done it three times and Dillon Gee once.

Maybe Wheeler will throw a no-hitter someday. So might Harvey. Then they may not. However, they’ve shown us you have to watch.

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

Jul 27

Mets Opt To Protect Matt Harvey And Zack Wheeler With Six Man Rotation

How long the New York Mets’ six-man rotation will last nobody is willing to say. It could be until Jeremy Hefner is beaten for a third straight start or if Jenrry Mejia’s game Friday was a fluke.

The driving force for the decision is to space out the starts of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler with the intent of letting them pitch out the remainder of the season. Nobody wants to pull the plug in mid-September, especially if the Mets are making a run at .500, and shaving an inning or two off each start is not the best avenue, either.

For the remainder of this season, at least, the objective if is protect Harvey and Wheeler, and with the playoffs seemingly out of the picture, there’s nothing wrong with the concept, because everybody else is also getting more rest.

There have been teams in recent years to go to six starters, but only once or twice through the rotation, and usually because of a double header. As a matter or course for a season, I can’t recall it ever happening. I do remember four-man rotations. Too bad those are a thing of the past.

It is estimated each has about 75 innings left in their seasons.

Dillon Gee started Saturday and gave up three homers early in the game; Carlos Torres goes Sunday, followed by Hefner, Wheeler, Mejia and Harvey in Miami.

This all began with the decision to cap Harvey prior to the break. Harvey has had blister problems and slightly tweaked his back earlier they year, but his arm has been sound and the Mets want to keep it that way.

“Right now, if you pencil it out all the way through, Matt has about 10 more [starts],’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters Saturday in Washington. “So we should be able to spread those innings out to let him go out to pitch and be OK.’’

Collins wouldn’t say how long the Mets will stick with six, but said how well the team is playing could be a determining factor. The Mets were seven games under .500 after Friday’s double-header split. Currently, they are 11 games behind for the second wild card.

Another factor is Jon Niese’s rehab from a shoulder injury. Once he’s ready somebody will be out a job, likely Mejia unless he keeps throwing seven scoreless each time out.

The flip side of going with an extra starter is going with one less player off the bench. Of course, those numbers will change if the Mets make it until the September 1 call-ups.

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

Jul 24

Ike Davis Showing Signs

Ike Davis is nowhere close to where he wants to be as a player, and the New York Mets are taking the second half to see if he fits into their plans. Unless Davis goes on a complete tear the next two months, the odds are very good the Mets will not tender a contract and let him go as a free agent.

Understandably, their fear is he’ll walk and become a start someplace else. Nobody will blow them away with a trade offer, so he’s staying out the season.

DAVIS: Looking to smile again. (AP)

DAVIS: Looking to smile again. (AP)

Davis is currently in a platoon with Josh Satin, which he’s understandably not happy about, but he’s not moaning or complaining. He is supportive of Satin. Davis is being the good soldier, albeit publicly, about a disappointing time in his career.

Davis doubled in the tie-breaking run in the sixth inning Tuesday night, but I liked his failed bunt attempt more. It shows his head is in the game; it shows he’s trying to improvise. It shows he’s not going through the motions.

“I mean, I get out a lot anyway, so might as well give it a try,’’ Davis said. “If I get it down in the right spot, it’s a hit. I’m definitely gonna try to do that more often.’’

Davis is supposed to be a power hitter, but with only five homers on the year, he needs to just try to get on base. It doesn’t matter if it is a walk, or broken-bat bloop or a bunt.

Bunting against the shift is difficult because pitchers often pitch inside to induce the hitter to pull into the shift. Davis bunted back to the mound, but the important thing was he wasn’t thinking about driving the ball, but about getting on base.

It was a team first play by Davis, when he could have been tempted to swing for the fences. Later, Davis stayed back on a curveball for a double off the wall in right.

“It definitely feels great to get [a hit], off a curveball, and to get the winning run across the plate,’’ Davis said. “And to drive the ball — I hadn’t driven the ball in a while.’’

Davis is a young player with a lot of room to grow. He’s had good moments, such as hitting 32 homers last year. When he first came up he showed a propensity of going the other way with a pitch and showing patience enough to wait out a pitcher.

He’s hitting .178 overall, but .257 since returning from Las Vegas.  That’s certainly not great, but a sign of progress. We’re not going to see 32 homers from Davis, and probably not even 20. But, after how this season started, progress is a good thing.

ON DECK: Mets notebook

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

Jul 22

Contrasting Zack Wheeler And Matt Harvey

The New York Mets won the games pitched by Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey over the weekend, but their performances illustrated the gap between the two, and still the need for improvement of each.

Let’s look first at Wheeler, who is here to stay. He’s taken his lumps and will take some more. Wheeler’s problem remains command of all his pitches, beginning with the fastball that is the lead domino. Again, Wheeler had a high pitch count that didn’t translate getting deep into the game. He didn’t get out of the fifth Saturday.

When that happens, coupled with Jeremy Hefner’s mugging the previous night, it means a strain on the bullpen and the need for Harvey to work deep into his game Sunday.

Harvey is head-and-shoulders above Wheeler now, and the Mets did it right with Harvey in that they stopped him at seven innings. If they went six that leaves the bullpen working three, which will accomplish what the Mets want on cutting Harvey’s innings, but it increases that of the bullpen.

Harvey struck out ten, and here’s a case where being overpowering works against him. Strikeouts hike up the pitch count, and he could extend his mound time if he pitched more to contact. But, I could be too picky here, in that contact also increases the possibility of hits, and runs, and maybe losing.

Perhaps I am and others are expecting too much from Harvey based on the early returns. Damn, the guy is really good and I admit I am violating my own rule of just letting him pitch and enjoy what I am seeing.

However, what he’s already provided just fuels expectations, like no other Mets’ pitcher since Dwight Gooden.

Harvey’s early demeanor shows he can take it, but Wheeler remains not a concern, but a question. The feeling is the light will go on with him, too, but when?

Confidence can be fragile and you don’t want to see Wheeler labor as he has been. One hundred plus pitches should get Wheeler through seven innings, not just past the fourth.

However, the Mets chose to push the envelope with him, and times won’t always be easy. Barring something totally unforeseen, Wheeler isn’t going to see the minors again this year, or next.

It’s sink-or-swim, and so far he’s treading water.

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

Jul 16

Matt Harvey’s Moment In National Spotlight Is Here

 

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IT IS MATT HARVEY’S TIME (MLB)

For the first time since the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, the New York Mets will have their moment under the national spotlight tonight as they host the All-Star Game, with the maître being Matt Harvey.

The whispers were first heard when Harvey had a 5-0 record in mid-May. The no-decision kept coming, but they didn’t deter the whispers that finally became a shout: Harvey will start in his home ballpark before a sell-out crowd and national television audience.

Both the Mets and Harvey wanted this night, so let’s hope he comes out of it unscathed and with another notch on this 2013 belt, which includes national magazine covers and photo shoots, a hilarious spot on Jimmy Fallon’s show last night and the tabloids chasing him all over town to find him in a lip lock with his model girlfriend.

When his pitching days are over, he said he wants to be a movie star. No, with the exception of his biting slider in the dirt, Harvey does not lay low.

He reminds one more of Joe Namath and Walt Frazier in that regard than Dwight Gooden. But, when Harvey takes the mound, you can’t help but see No. 16, who has taken over Twitter in his praise of Harvey.

The year was 1985 and the Mets were a budding powerhouse, and in the twilight of San Francisco’s Candlestick Park he struck out Lance Parrish, Chet Lemon and Alvin Davis. He didn’t actually strike them out as much as he overpowered them.

It was a sign of dominance to come.

Let’s be clear, the 1985 Mets were on the brink of becoming a power. The 2014 Mets are on the verge of becoming relevant again. There’s a big difference, the first step in both is pitching.

The Mets have been on national television before from Citi Field, but this time is different as the entire sports world is watching. That’s different than a Saturday afternoon game against the Phillies.

The Mets want to show off their ballpark, and perhaps at the same time state their case they are a franchise worth watching.

I disagreed with placing Harvey’s start tonight over pitching against the Pirates on Saturday, but I understand where the Mets are coming from. I understand what they are trying to attain.

They are screaming to the baseball world that they should be taken seriously again, and there are few things in the sport more serious than a 98-mph. fastball.

Mike Trout, Robinson Cano and Miguel Cabrera will be the first three hitters he faces. Who knows what will happen, but a fastball under Cabrera’s chin might be a delight to build on.

NOTE: Please accept my apologies for the late post and not being online yesterday. My server was down and it was unavoidable.

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