May 17

Mets Must Option Ike Davis; It’s The Only Way To Save Him

The Mets’ lineup for today’s game in Chicago has Ike Davis batting clean up, just where Terry Collins promised he would. Collins said Davis will hit fourth today and tomorrow, but doesn’t know where he’ll bat – if he bats at all – Sunday against left-hander Travis Wood.

“Through this weekend,’’ Collins told reporters yesterday in St. Louis after Davis went 0-for-5, including four strikeouts. “I told him last week that this week, when we play against right-handed pitchers, he’s going to hit fourth. That’s where he belongs. And that’s where he’s supposed to hit.’’

DAVIS: We've seen this reaction a lot.

DAVIS: We’ve seen this reaction a lot.

That is, of course, if he’s hitting at all, which Davis is not. He takes a 0-for-22 slide and .157 average into today’s game. Davis already has 45 strikeouts and is on pace for 192. Here’s another way to look at things: If his strikeouts were hits, he would be batting .354.

I realize this is a different era, but Davis’ strikeouts are inexcusable. He didn’t seemed concerned about them when I spoke with him earlier this spring, telling me he’s a home run hitter, that he likes to hit home runs and strike outs are part of the package.

That’s nonsense, and in some ways, just as selfish as Jordany Valdespin’s styling after hitting a meaningless home run.

No matter how you slice it, a strike out is a wasted at-bat. So many things can happen if you put the ball in play: you can get a hit; reach on an error; drive in a run; or simply advance the runner into scoring position.

You don’t do anything when you strike out, and the worst thing about Davis now is that he doesn’t grasp that concept.

Mets hitters average just under ten strikeouts a game, which,means they aren’t putting the ball in play for a third of the game. No wonder they are losing.

Everybody in the normal starting line up but Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy are on pace for over 100 strikeouts, and the double-play combination is on pace for nearly 170, so it’s not like we’re talking that great an improvement.

I don’t know what Collins will do after this weekend, but the Mets need to move Davis, and I don’t mean to seventh in the order.

If the Mets honestly believe Davis is their future first baseman based on the 32 homers he gave them last year, then sending him to the minor leagues is their best option so he can straighten his head and shorten his swing. If the Mets don’t believe he’s their future, then sending him to the minor leagues is their best option because it will give somebody else a chance to play.

Davis said he’s been hitting the ball well during this slide, which is puzzling, and he’s not even in agreement with Collins on what’s the problem. Collins said Davis is missing off-speed and breaking pitches, but Davis says otherwise.

Collins said teams are giving Davis a steady dose of off-speed pitches. Davis said that’s only partially true. He’s missing fastballs early in the count and becomes vulnerable for the off-speed pitches with two strikes.

“It’s not the off-speed that I’m missing,’’ Davis said. “I’m missing the fastballs. When you miss the fastballs, they have pretty good off-speed pitches in the big leagues. `And when you have two strikes, you’ve got to protect [against] the fastball at 97 mph. And then there’s a good off-speed pitch. The bottom line is I need to hit the pitch earlier in the count that’s over the plate, and hit it in fair play.’’

Huh? Did you get all that? If you did you should get frequent flier miles for following him all over the map.

Overall, Davis is missing the off-speed pitch because that’s what he’s getting. There’s not reason why a pitcher would throw him a fastball. Yes, he’s missing them, too, when he gets one.

One scout told me Davis isn’t doing anything right at the plate, that he’s pull happy and doesn’t use the entire field, let alone go to left. He said Davis is in love with the home run, which is killing any chance he has to become a solid hitter.

Is it too late for Davis to live up to the expectations?

Davis can be salvaged, but not on this level. When he gets home he’ll hear the booing just as Jason Bay heard them and the pressure will only intensify.

The Mets must send him to the minor leagues and keep him there until he changes his approach. Minor league results are meaningless; the Mets must see a change in style. Davis must learn to be patient and wait for his pitch. He must eschew the low-and-away breaking stuff; he must stop trying to pull everything.

If his approach improves and he’s making consistent contact, the home runs will come. If he stays on his current approach, he’ll soon be an ex-Met. Josh Statin and Zach Lutz can be brought up, if nothing else, to see what they can give the Mets. As of now, it can’t be any less than what Davis gives  them.

Your comments are appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

Mar 24

Mets Roster Taking Shape; Matt Harvey Rocked

The Mets are closer to settling on their Opening Day roster, and being the Mets, some of their decision-making is predicated on injuries.

MURPHY: DL bound?

MURPHY: DL bound?

Half their infield – third baseman David Wright and second baseman Daniel Murphy, both of whom are slowed with strained intercostal muscles – will be determined at the end of the week, but the disabled list remains very much in play for both.

Wright reported no problems after taking live batting practice today, but how he felt after his swings is not the story.

“It’s the next step,’’ Wright told reporters. “Any time you get to the next step, it’s a significant step. It’s one step closer. … It’s important that I see how I feel tomorrow. I’ve said all along that Opening Day is my goal.’’

In all probability, Wright and Murphy will open the season backdated to the disabled list, meaning they would miss only the first five games of the season. It they were to play in a major league exhibition game and are injured, their DL stints would be backdated to the day after the injury.

Murphy played in a minor league game today and saw his first meaningful pitch since last season said it was “like trying to hit an aspirin.’’ Murphy went 1-for-2 with a walk, but said the biggest test might have been when he checked his swing and didn’t feel anything.

Because of the structure of minor league spring training games, Murphy could get as many as five or six at-bats a game, but that could increase the possibility of overdoing things and sustaining another injury.

If both Wright and Murphy go on the DL, one scenario has Justin Turner playing third and Jordany Valdespin at second. Another has Zach Lutz playing third and Turner at second.

Brandon Hicks is no longer a third base option as he was outrighted to the minors today, leaving way for Omar Quintanilla to make the team.

In addition, the Mets optioned to the minor league camp left-hander Aaron Laffey, Andrew Brown, Brian Bixler and Jamie Hoffman. By sending down Laffey, the Mets are reasonably sure Shaun Marcum – who missed his last start and took a cortisone injection in his shoulder – will be able to rejoin the rotation Thursday. Of course, if he’s not, it’s easy enough to recall Laffey.

A long shot to make the Opening Day roster, despite their need for defense in the outfield, was center fielder Matt den Dekker. That’s not going to happen now as broke his right wrist attempting to make a catch today. Compared to Jim Edmonds, den Dekker has had an exceptional spring in the field, but has struggled until recently at the plate.

METS OPTION d’ARNAUD: The Mets’ key to the R.A. Dickey was getting catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who was sent to Triple-A Las Vegas.

The Mets gambled keeping d’Arnaud around this week because had he been injured he would have opened the season on the major league disabled list, which would have started the clock on his service time. Should d’Arnaud, who hit .343 this spring, spend the first 20 days of the season in the minor leagues, his free agency would be delayed from after the 2018 season to after the 2019 season. His arbitration status would also be delayed a year if he’s not one of the top 22 percent of rookies called up.

That’s irrelevant insists GM Sandy Alderson.

“I know people talk about control and all of that,’’ Alderson said. “If John Buck gets hurt tomorrow, Travis d’Arnaud is the front-line catcher.’’

THE GAME: Matt Harvey’s next-to-last spring training start was not a good one, as he was hit for four runs in five innings in a 9-4 loss in a split-squad game to Detroit. In the other game, the Mets rallied from six runs down to beat St. Louis as Jamie Hoffman, Lutz and Mike Baxter homered.

Harvey struck out the side in the first, including Triple-Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, but it was all uphill from there. Harvey said he let his emotions get away from him and overthrew after the first inning.

“Definitely something I learned is try not to get too pumped up for a team and a lineup like that – back off and let everything work,’’ Harvey said.

Also not having a good day was set-up reliever Brandon Lyon, who gave up five runs on six his in one third of an inning.

Mar 23

Mets Batting Order Reveals How Unsettled Team Is

There must be times Mets manager Terry Collins sits in his office with the door shut, puts his head in his head and wonders how he is going to handle his team.

There are probably times he thinks retirement might not be such a bad thing.

COLLINS: What's he thinking?

COLLINS: What’s he thinking?

In most camps, positions and batting orders are set a week from Opening Day. That isn’t the case with the Mets, where Collins is still juggling his options with one eye on the calendar.

Maybe he’s hoping that blizzard in Denver last night during the soccer game hits Citi Field on Monday.

In fairness, the order hasn’t been helped by the absences of David Wright and Daniel Murphy. Also, in fairness, he doesn’t have much to work with, as there will be no late arriving help for a roster, such that it is, that for the most part is set.

However, there’s nothing fair about baseball, and a manager must figure out what to do with the cards he’s dealt, good or bad. That’s his job; that’s what Collins signed up for.

There are times the batting order is a team’s GPS, as it tells you exactly where the team his headed. Today’s line-up is indicative of Collins’ dilemma:

Collin Cowgill, CF: If they aren’t going to carry Matt den Dekker in center, then Cowgill is the best option defensively. He’s there today, but has moved around all spring both in the outfield and his position in the order. It was thought Ruben Tejada could lead off, but he’s not hitting.

Justin Turner, 2B: With Wright out, Turner is supposed to play third. So why is he at second today? He’s hitting second, as has at least half a dozen Mets this spring. It’s clear the Mets aren’t settled at the No. 2 spot in the order.

Marlon Byrd, RF: I recently suggested Byrd hit third because he’s a veteran and arguably one of their more versatile hitters. I didn’t say best. If Byrd has the inside track to hit third, he should stay there this week. Byrd appears to have won the right field job from Mike Baxter.

Ike Davis, 1B: Hitting him third was never a good idea, but he has the most power. Clean-up figured to be his spot, so he never should have been hitting anywhere else this spring.

John Buck, C: I was wondering when they were going to insert a right-handed hitter between strikeout-prone Davis and Lucas Duda. Righty or lefty, somebody needs to hit between them as you can’t afford a combined 300 potential strikeouts hitting back-to-back.

Lucas Duda, LF: Duda is here for his power potential. But, with it comes his high strikeout potential and low on-base percentage. The Mets sent him down last year when he struggled, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same thing this summer. He’s still a work in progress, both at the plate and in the field.

Zach Lutz, 3B: He’s hit clean-up this spring, which is pointless because that’s for Davis. He’s still getting reps at third base, which means they are thinking of him there. That would also mean they are also thinking of Turner at second and not Jordany Valdespin.

Ruben Tejada, SS: Tejada is having the kind of spring offensively that would have sent most players to the minors. The Mets don’t have the depth to make that move. Until he starts hitting, he stays eighth.

Rafael Montero, RHP: Getting the spot start today because there are already holes in the rotation.

Sad to say, the only consistent and sure thing about the Mets’ batting order is the pitcher hitting ninth.

Mar 21

Mets’ Batting Order Analysis

Without David Wright and Daniel Murphy available because of strained intercostal muscles, manager Terry Collins doesn’t have much to work with regarding his everyday line-up, which seems to change every day.

Here’s today’s Mets-Cardinals lineup and how it might translate to the regular season:

Marlon Byrd, rf: If Jordany Valdespin makes the team as it appears, he’ll lead off. So, what’s Byrd doing here? I don’t know. He’s also hit cleanup this spring. Actually, if he has the skills to hit cleanup and leadoff, then why not give him a shot batting third? I’d much rather have Ike Davis hitting fourth, which is where he’ll be when Wright returns.

Ruben Tejada, ss: Tejada’s miserable spring has the Mets wondering whether last year was a fluke offensively. Second would seem like a reasonable slot since he’s had success there in the past. Also, having Davis behind him could enable Tejada to see more fastballs in the zone which could snap him out of his slide.

Ike Davis, 1b: Your No. 3 hitter should be your best hitter in terms of contact and power. That’s Wright when he’s healthy. It looks as if Davis will hit third at the start. Only question is will there be runners on base ahead of him.

Zach Lutz, 3b: Lutz is expected to open the season in the minors. His presence today at clean-up only indicates Collins will separate strikeout machines Davis and Lucas Duda, who conceivably in a full season could strike out a combined 300 times.

Lucas Duda, lf: With Wright out, Duda is the only other power to complement Davis, and the leftfielder has not had a good spring. He’s fifth today, but expect him lower in the order when the season comes, and definitely when Wright returns.

John Buck, c: Buck is a decent hitter, but nothing that makes you roll your eyes. He’s made for lower in the order. However, there are times I can see him moving up and slotted between Davis and Duda.

Matt den Dekker, cf: This is a major league glove headed to the minor leagues. Den Dekker drove in the game winning run last night and has been hitting better lately. If he’s consistent offensively he should be at Citi Field. Valdespin has had a good spring with the bat, but he’s never put it together for a full season. And, that includes his attitude and hustle.

Omar Quintanilla, 2b: With all the injuries in the infield and the expectation of Tejada being pulled for a pinch-hitter at times, Quintanilla should make the roster and have a defined role off the bench. He’s not much with the bat, so eighth is perfect for him.

Jeremy Hefner, rhp: Hefner is the fifth starter in place of Johan Santana, and if he’s effective could remain there for a month or more.

 

Mar 18

Mets’ Injury Updates And Today’s Batting Order

The Mets can realistically expect to have three, perhaps four, significant players open the season on the disabled list: David Wright, Johan Santana, Frank Francisco and possibly Daniel Murphy.

Murphy remains sore after playing five innings of defense in a minor league game last Friday. Terry Collins said to expect him to play no sooner than Wednesday, and if he’s not playing by the weekend he’ll open the season on the disabled list. Although Murphy has taken batting practice, he has not played in an exhibition game so he hasn’t faced game pitching.

Wright said he’s shooting for Opening Day, but is uncertain. He’s telling Collins he’s ready, but that could be wishful thinking. Since this has been fouled up enough as it is, the prudent thing is to make the decision to DL him where he’ll miss the least amount of time. That includes playing him in minor league games if he’s available to get on the field before Opening Day. If Wright were to play in major league spring training games and be injured, his DL time would be backdated from then.

Justin Turner, the projected third baseman while Wright is down, hopes to play by Thursday after spraining his right ankle last week. X-Rays were negative and he’s moving around, so the disabled list is unlikely,

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who is out with a bruised left knee, hopes to bat in a minor league game today, but will not run the bases. That means no inside-the-park homers.

The following is today’s lineup against St. Louis at Jupiter:

Jordany Valdespin, cf: It is clear he has made the team, with his versatility being an asset. He’s also been hot at the plate, with another homer yesterday. Will play second if Murphy is not ready.

Ruben Tejada, ss: Hit well last year, but is on a miserable stretch this spring. Is it a slump or regression?

Lucas Duda, lf: Not hitting as the Mets hoped. Will bat lower in the order during the season. Strike outs and low on-base percentage remain issues.

Zach Lutz, lb: Wright’s injury has given him an outside chance of sticking early.

Matt den Dekker, rf: He would have a spot if he could hit.

Brandon Hicks, 3b: Getting the audition while Turner is ailing.

Omar Quintanilla, 2b: With injuries to Wright, Murphy and Turner, his versatility is a definite plus.

Matt Harvey, rhp: Lining up as the No. 2 starter behind Jon Niese.

Also pitching today for the Mets are LaTroy Hawkins, who looks like he’ll make it in the set-up role. Bobby Parnell will also go today as will Josh Edgin and Scott Rice.