Reds 7 Mets 4
What happened to the Mets is the same as the past tense of what a broom does.
Mets Game Notes
Although the linescore says that Matt Harvey allowed 4 earned runs in 6 1/3 innings pitched, it sure didn’t feel that way. Additionally, at least two of the runs came home on a grounder botched by Ike Davis; it could be argued that Davis’ lack of urgency resulted in a third. Hmm … three runs right there … I guess it could still be a tie ballgame right now.
Davis let the first run home when he stayed back on a high hopper with Joey Votto on third. He almost threw home, but made the right decision in holding on to the ball and getting the sure out. But he almost certainly would have had a legit play at the plate had he rushed forward and picked off the ball one bounce earlier — in the baseball clinics where I teach, we call it “charging in.” Yeah, I know, we do some cutting-edge things at Pro Player, but we figure if the kids today can figure out the “new math,” they can figure out when and how to run in on a slow-moving ground ball.
Then in the ninth, Ike made perhaps the most inexcusable decision of his career, letting the ball bounce by him as the go-ahead / winning run scampered home. It was the most bizarre non-play I’ve seen in a long time — he had plenty of time to get in front of the ball, chose instead to kneel down into a backhand position, then, instead of putting his glove on the ball, he just watched it bounce by and into the outfield. Obviously, he was guessing that it was a foul ball, but that’s exactly the problem: it’s not the player’s call, it’s the umpire’s. If there is ever even the slightest possibility that the ball is fair, the player must make an attempt to stop it. In fact, a player should always, always assume that a ball is fair until told differently by a man in blue.
After those two plays, and his continued ineffectualness at the plate, Ike Davis has to be at least benched, and more appropriately, sent to Las Vegas. He’s not playing Major League-caliber ball, and not showing any progression toward that level — every day, he regresses more and more.
Very strange move in the bottom of the ninth by Terry Collins. With two out and a man on second, three runs down, Collins sent Juan Lagares to pinch-hit for Rick Ankiel against Aroldis Chapman. Chapman completely overmatched Lagares, striking him out on four pitches. I guess Collins removed Ankiel because he’s a lefty hitter, and Chapman a lefty pitcher, but that’s weak logic. First of all, Ankiel is arguably the Mets’ hottest hitter (the only one hotter is Daniel Murphy). Second, Ankiel already had three hits on the day — two doubles and a triple. He was scorching the ball. Third, the lefty-lefty thing is an advantage for the pitcher when he throws a nasty slider or curveball. Can anyone tell me what Chapman’s best pitch is? That’s right, a fastball that flirts with triple digits. Yes, he also throws a little breaking pitch, but it’s the fastball that he uses to get guys out. In my mind, it doesn’t matter much whether there’s a LH or RH hitter at the plate — Chapman eats them up indifferently. Sure, the stats say that RH hitters hit for a batting average more than double the LHs — but it’s still only .225. The way I see it, when there is an elite, other-worldly entity on the mound, numbers go out the window — you have to put the player you believe is the most capable hitter you have available, on that day, in that moment. And right there, I’m taking my chances with Ankiel — for no other reason than he’s swinging the bat better than anyone on the club.
Speaking of Murphy, he had a 3-for-4 day, pushing his average above .300.
Did anyone notice that Joey Votto’s opposite-field blast came on a 3-0 pitch?
Although Ike’s brain freeze allowed the go-ahead run, some of the responsibility must be given to Bobby Parnell. Parnell has been lights out — a truly wonderful surprise — thus far. However, four of his six saves have come against the Marlins, Cubs, and Twins; three of his four wins came vs. the Dodgers, White Sox, and Pirates — not exactly the best teams in MLB. He has come up big against good teams like the Cardinals, Braves, and Nationals, but one has to wonder if he looks a little better than he really is because he’s been feasting on bad ballclubs?
Next Mets Game
The Mets have Thursday off to contemplate their erroneous ways. On Friday night they kick off a three-game series with the Braves at 7:10 p.m., with Jeremy Hefner facing Kris Medlen. The series precedes a four-game showdown with the crosstown Yankees. Step away from the ledge …
Reds 4 Mets 0
For the second time this season, the Mets were shut out as they lost for the 26th time this season, and 14th time in Flushing.
Mets Game Notes
I have always liked Mike Leake, even during his days at Arizona State. But, he’s not an exceptional pitcher — he’s a solid, steady, back-end starter who eats innings and gives his team a chance to win. So to see the Mets manage only three hits and two walks against him in seven innings probably says more about the Mets hitters than Leake’s prowess. Leake was hitting his spots, but he didn’t have filthy stuff.
It took Jonathon Niese 48 pitches to get through the first frame, which is not only unacceptable from the perspective of judging Niese but there’s also an argument that he should never have been left in that long. He was sucking wind by pitch 30, and I get that there were two outs so Terry Collins and Dan Warthen were just hoping the next pitch would turn into out three, but at that point there should have been urgency in getting a reliever warmed up and Niese removed from the game. It wasn’t until Niese was well over 40 pitches that Colin McHugh began tossing in the bullpen. Injuries occur when athletes are fatigued, and Niese was beyond fatigued.
After making Niese throw almost 50 pitches in the initial inning, I was a little surprised to see the Reds so aggressive in inning two. I suppose they figured Niese would be pounding the strike zone after that marathon inning, but I might have considered forcing Niese to throw a strike and try to push him out of the game and get into the Mets bullpen by the third or fourth inning.
During the postgame on SNY, Terry Collins admitted that he wasn’t going to allow Niese to throw more than 60 pitches in that first inning. WHAT???!!!!! Where does that number come from, pray tell? Does he normally throw a high-intensity, no-rest, 60-pitch bullpen session? If so, OK, maybe I understand the logic behind that. Otherwise, that kind of comment is grounds for death by firing squad.
To provide some perspective, most organizations automatically remove their young minor league pitching prospects from a game if they throw between 30 and 35 pitches in one inning, to protect them from injury. News flash: a 21-year-old arm and a 26-year-old arm are equally developed and have completed development; there’s no concern for damaging growth plates or anything. In fact, the older arm is more prone to a fatigue injury because it’s had more years of use. I’m not suggesting that Niese should have been removed at 35 pitches. Rather, I’m suggesting that there should be some kind of organizational edict that protects MLBers — they’re being paid much, much more money, after all, and if they go on the DL it’s much more financially painful than losing an A-ball guy. Sixty pitches? Really? Unbelievable. I wish a beat writer would ask Collins where that number came from.
Considering that Niese threw 48 pitches in the first frame, he gave the Mets pretty good length. I thought for sure he wouldn’t make it through the fifth inning, yet he managed to finish six full frames.
What’s wrong with Niese? I’m not entirely sure. We discussed the arm angle issue, but he’s been able to perform reasonably well with that issue in the past. He’s normally a bulldog who remains unflappable in the face of adversity, who keeps his confidence in tough spots such as he experienced in the first inning. But on this particular evening, his face changed — he looked lost. The battler we’re used to seeing didn’t show up. Is he pitching through pain? Is it the overall malaise of this club weighing down on him?
The Mets’ defense wasn’t helpful in picking up Niese in the first inning, but, in their, um, defense, it’s tough to keep focus and your edge when you’re standing out in the field for so long, watching ball after ball after ball.
I was mildly surprised to see Scott Rice appear in this game, and further surprised to see him pitch the entire 8th inning. I understand he had an entire day off since his last outing, but by that point in the game, it was clear that the Mets went in the tank and weren’t going to launch any kind of fight. Since Rice has been one of the Mets’ better-performing relievers of late, one would think you’d keep him fresh for Wednesday afternoon’s ballgame — you know, the one with Matt Harvey on the mound, the one that the Mets absolutely cannot let get away if there’s a chance of victory. More important than keeping Rice fresh is keeping him mysterious. While Rice has put up some decent numbers for a 31-year-old rookie, it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to realize that at least part of the minor-league journeyman’s success has to do with being unknown, unscouted, and under-exposed. Why show him to Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce, and Donald Lutz if you don’t have to, in a game in which you’re chasing a loss? Doesn’t it make more sense to preserve the mystery, knowing you might need him for a tight spot Wednesday’s game? Or, are you expecting Matt Harvey to toss a complete-game shutout? Maybe I’m overreacting, but as of the sixth inning, I’m sending McHugh out to take one for the team. I know it was only a three-run ballgame, but it felt like an eight- or nine-run game by that point.
Ike Davis has completely lost his confidence at the plate. He looks like a confused, fearful zombie with a bat in his hands. I don’t know what is the right thing to do at this point, but judging by his body language, it’s time to do something drastic. Throughout his slump this time last year, he rarely if ever showed facial expressions and body language that exuded that much negativity.
Something I noticed about Joey Votto: with two strikes, he moved a few inches closer to the plate, and choked up on the bat about an inch or two. That’s old school, and I can’t for the life of me understand why more hitters don’t do that.
Why is Lucas Duda swinging at the first pitch leading off the bottom of the ninth, down four?
Rick Ankiel followed by swinging through a 1-0 pitch. What am I missing? Seriously, has there been a rule change? Is it possible to hit an empty-bases grand slam if the ball hits the target on the dunk tank behind the beer garden / next to Blue Smoke?
Sam Lecure looks a bit like Bob McClure.
A comment was made by Gary Cohen that the Mets’ offense is built around a foundation of on-base percentage. Hmm … just one, minor problem with that: the Mets have very few players who have displayed above-average OBPs for a sustained period in MLB. Darn! Back to the drawing board …
Along the same lines, I watched the Moneyball movie again a few weeks ago, and it planted a seed in my mind: when are the Mets going to sign Scott Hatteberg and turn this season around?
Next Mets Game
The final game of the series begins at 1:10 p.m. Matt Harvey goes to the hill against Mat Latos in what should be a classic pitchers’ duel. I will be attending – look for the guy with the Paul Janish jersey in the left field landing. Well, shoot, you probably don’t need the location — I can’t imagine anyone else showing up to Citi Field with a bright red “Janish 7″ jersey. In fact, I can’t imagine too many people showing up, period — if Harvey wasn’t pitching, I wonder if attendance would be below 10,000 for a Wednesday afternoon game, facing a sweep.
It’s time for our second annual “Should The Mets Demote Ike Davis?” discussion. Rumor has it, demotion is once again a possibility for the struggling first baseman, just as it was last year at this time. Davis somehow pulled it together in June of 2012 and kept himself in the majors, finishing the season with 32 home runs. If it’s possible, Ike looks even more lost this year, however. Davis has a microscopic .487 OPS through 40 games this year. After his 40th game last year, he had a .518 OPS (which is only slightly less awful).
Adding insult to injury, Davis made a boneheaded play that cost the Mets at least one run in the first inning of last night’s game.
Also, according to Andy Martino of the Daily News, Ruben Tejada and Jordany Valdespin may be on the same flight to Las Vegas in the near future.
In the good news department, T-Shirt purveyor Darren Meenan has done a great job of organizing large groups of Mets fans to attend games at Citi Field. This past weekend, he got 505 Mets fans from all around the country (and from two other countries) to attend the three-game set at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
When all is said and done, isn’t that what baseball is about? People getting together to watch ballgames. Of course, it would be a lot more fun if the Mets were winning…
Reds 4 Mets 3
Mets just have a hard time getting more than three runs a game, and a team usually needs more than that to beat the Big Red Machine.
Mets Game Notes
Shaun Marcum ran into trouble in the first frame, and though he recovered well, that was the ballgame. He relied primarily on breaking pitches and change-ups to keep the Cincinnati sluggers off-balance, but that tough start was too much for the Mets to overcome. It didn’t help Marcum that the Mets made multiple mistakes in the field — one of the key ones was Ike Davis suffering from a catatonic brain fart that led to an obstruction call in that fateful initial inning. It was the right call, despite Terry Collins‘ disagreement, and I’m not sure what Davis was thinking by standing in front of the first base bag as Joey Votto approached.
Meanwhile, Johnny Cueto made his first start since coming off the DL and providing his typical maddening performance. At times he looks unhittable, at other times, like he couldn’t throw a strike if he were three feet away and throwing underhand. He showed flashes of both sides of his Jekyll and Hyde personality, but was enough Doctor to hold the Mets to three runs in five frames. Not a great outing by any stretch, but the Reds bullpen shut the Mets down the rest of the way to preserve the victory.
Were the Reds relievers that good, or are the Mets hitters that bad? Hard to say, but the Mets struck out 14 times in this ballgame, and that’s too many.
Marcum completely mystified Joey Votto, which fascinated me. Votto has been one of my favorite hitters to watch for the past few years, and it’s always surprising to me to see a pitcher get him off his game — which Marcum did successfully. Interestingly, going into this ballgame, Votto was 5-for-9 career against Marcum with 3 walks and a double.
Daniel Murphy‘s habit of playing short field instead of second base nearly resulted in a base hit by Jay Bruce in the fourth inning. I understand he plays that deep to broaden his limited range, but he has to be aware that charging grounders is part of the deal when that far back. He just sat back and waited for the ball to roll into his glove. It’s a similar approach taken by Ruben Tejada this year — sit back and wait — and though my forte is catching, I know enough about infield play to know that sitting back is not what is conventionally taught. Is this an unconventional philosophy created by the Mets organization? If there are any infielders out there reading, I’d like to hear your take.
An inning later, Murphy botched a throw on a potential fielder’s choice, rushing his throw and throwing off his right foot, falling away from the target, rather than gathering himself, setting his feet and making a strong throw. This turn-and-jump thing has become a habit of his, and he succeeded with it a few times, but he uses it far too often — that’s a last-ditch, desperation move and not something to use regularly. Fundies, it’s all about the fundies.
Speaking of that fourth inning, about five minutes of the top half were spent showing a live clubhouse interview with Matt Harvey — who pitches on Wednesday afternoon. Are Mets games so boring that a more entertaining option is to hear about a pitcher’s off-day workout? There wasn’t anything particularly earth-shattering or new to learn — basically, it was Harvey saying he’d be doing some upper-body weight lifting work, some throwing, and he’d be watching the Reds hitters to plan his attack. Hey, some of that dialogue I’m sure was enlightening for some people, but it’s the kind of thing you expect to see during pre-game, or maybe when the umpires are reviewing video on a homerun call or some other on-field delay. But not during game action.
Brandon Phillips is some kind of second baseman, ay? He is a once-in-a-generation fielder, so enjoy every moment you see him play.
Rick Ankiel swung away on a 3-0 count with two outs and the tying run on second in the seventh against Sean Marshall. He fouled off the pitch, then fouled off the next pitch, then grounded out to second base to end the inning, leaving David Wright on deck. Was it the right decision to be swinging there? I think so, even though the team’s best hitter was waiting behind him. Why? Because theoretically, Ankiel is not going to get a better pitch during that at-bat from Marshall, who is deadly against LH hitters. Chances are good that Marshall gets that 3-0 strike anyway, and the result is the same. If there was only one out, I might be more hesitant. But with two outs, you have to take advantage of any opportunity to drive the run home, not sit back and hope and wait for the next guy — even if the next guy is your best guy, because there’s no guarantee that your best guy is going to get the run home, either.
Terry Collins was fired up from the get-go, and was finally thrown out of the game after arguing LaTroy Hawkins‘ case after the conclusion of the top of the seventh. Hawkins was tossed first, for barking at home plate umpire Tom Hallion after the third out. I’m not sure what Hawkins was complaining about, as the only questionable call of the inning came when Phillips was hit by a pitch. Phillips had started his hands forward and turned his elbow into the pitch, so there was some argument that he could have offered at the pitch and it be called a strike instead of a hit-by-pitch, but it didn’t seem to me to be THAT controversial a call — not enough to tell the ump to bleep off. I went through each at-bat / pitch sequence from that inning twice and didn’t see any other ball/strike call that Hawkins could have had a legitimate gripe, so I’m guessing that either it was that HBP call, or maybe some verbal exchange between Hallion and Hawkins after the call that set off LaTroy. Hallion has been known to be less than couth when conversing with pitchers, as David Price will attest.
Next Mets Game
If you were visiting MetsToday in the spring, you may or may not remember a cautionary post comparing Jordany Valdespin to previous Mets problem children. It was in reaction to a story in NJ.com by Jorge Castillo about Valdespin’s “complicated clubhouse presence.”
This is what I typed:
… to see a story like this come out so early in a player’s career, before he’s really done anything, and knowing he’s swimming in the often-turbulent fish bowl of New York, playing for a team that is likely going to be less interesting on the field as the season progresses … well, it’s not what I’d say is an ideal recipe for the young man. This story came out mainly because there isn’t much else to talk about in Port St. Lucie right now — what happens in late July, if/when the Mets are out of contention, and again the beat writers are searching for stories and headlines? Valdespin might be the lightning rod, and — whether deserved or not — the result could be a public perception that becomes damaging to both the player and the organization.
Honestly, I thought if ‘spin was going to be at the center of a public storm, it would happen later in the summer — certainly not in mid-May. So here’s my question: do you think this most recent issue of Valdespin-as-problem-child going public has more to do with Valdespin, with the Mets’ losing record, or Terry Collins?
Some suggest Collins is a ticking time bomb, about to explode in a way similarly to every other managerial job he’s had. Some say the Mets players and manager simply don’t appreciate Valdespin’s flair for the game. What I wonder is how much about the Valdespin situation are we NOT hearing about? Is this just the tip of the iceberg? It might be, considering how infrequently ‘spin gets into the lineup.
I also wonder — is the Collins / Valdespin bomb going to go off just in time for the All-Star Game? Will the Mets considering jettisoning one or both of the two men prior to July, to avoid marring what may be the singular celebration at Citi Field in 2013?
Fire away in the comments.
Mets 4 Cubs 3
Mets win the rubber match to pass their sweet sixteen and gain win number seventeen at the quarter point of the season.
Mets Game Notes
A quarter of the season gone and the Mets have 17 wins. So, they’re on pace to win about 68 games. And they’ve already been through the easiest part of their schedule. Oh boy … long summer ahead.
Dillon Gee was again not great. His performance was again not acceptable. He hurled five frames and allowed three runs and nine baserunners. His ERA is now above six. His fastball was getting too much plate and elevated at a level too high. He tried very hard to get the curveball going, but couldn’t throw it for a strike — and left it up hanging hhigh far too often. His change-up was pretty decent in terms of location and movement, but it was thrown at 85 MPH, which isn’t much of a difference in velocity from his 88-90 MPH fastball. Or maybe that WAS his fastball? Only Gee and catcher Anthony Recker know for sure, though, I did see the radar gun light up at 90 and 91 on occasion. Gee’s slider was even slower than his change-up, at around 83-84 MPH. So in effect, the slider was more of a change-up than his change-up. I don’t know how a pitcher can be successful with that menagerie.
Travis Wood is an example of why I am profusely anti-DH. While most pitchers are not very good hitters, it doesn’t mean they have to be completely ineffectual offensively, and further, it is very possible to have good-hitting pitchers — and when there IS a good-hitting pitcher, it changes the landscape of the game. To me, having that variable in place is much more interesting than extending the career of an old, one-dimensional slugger — or creating a career for a hitter who can’t play a defensive position. Baseball, like life, has its flaws, and managing those flaws as well as being surprised by unlikely events is part of what makes the game so interesting and enjoyable.
I’m wondering if Daniel Murphy is Keith Hernandez‘s illegitimate son, because in Keith’s eyes, Murphy can do no wrong — and when he does wrong, Keith excuses it with stupid comments like, “but I like the aggressiveness!” Yes, it was Murphy’s homerun that won the game for the Mets. But his persistent stupidity on the basepaths is maddening, and in the long run, detrimental to the goal of winning. In the top of the third, with one out, Murphy hit a comebacker to Wood, who initiated a rundown that retired Juan Lagares. Murphy ran wildly into second base and barely made it safely after Lagares was put out — and I think the ump might have missed the call. Though Murphy was safe, the ends do not necessarily justify the means — it was a bad decision by Murphy due to the risk. He does this all the time — he makes baserunning decisions thinking he has Jose Reyes-like speed rather than the reality, and that’s a problem. There’s nothing wrong with being aggressive, but a player has to know his strengths as well as his limitations, and know how to leverage both. In the end it didn’t matter, because Murphy was safe and it made no difference to the final score. But it’s all about the process, and the process was flawed.
Murphy blasted his solo homer after I wrote at length about his waving at the ball with half-swings. So, yes, the post-game dinner for me was crow. But I still don’t like how he looks at the plate, despite his current hot streak and the dinger.
Speaking of homeruns, Juan Lagares also hit one, as well as a double. Does that mean he’ll get more starts, or only against LHPs? Or is it a bad idea to take at-bats away from the immortal Rick Ankiel? (For the record, Ankiel has always been a favorite of mine — but it doesn’t cloud my objectivity in terms of what the Mets should be doing with their young players.)
The Mets might just have something with Bobby Parnell, who continues to dominate hitters on sub-.500 clubs. Can he convert saves against the better hitters and better teams? We don’t yet know, but getting saves against the tomato cans helps his confidence, and confidence goes a long way toward success. Assuming Parnell can parlay these confidence-builders into success against the Reds, Braves, Yankees, etc., the question becomes: do the Mets deal him at the deadline for prospects? My vote is a loud “yes,” considering that Parnell is 28 years old and the Mets are going nowhere in 2013 nor 2014. Sell high and get some value before he rolls back down the hill or suffers an injury; from what I understand, he has some kind of “shoulder tightness” that is keeping Terry Collins from using him more often.
Nice job by the Mets bullpen, who shut out the Cubs through the final four frames. I’m chalking that up to mystery, as most of the Cubs hitters have not seen the submarining Greg Burke nor Scott Rice. Yes, I’m the opposite of the silver-lining finder; I’m a realist.
OK, positive note: I like Anthony Recker behind the dish. Offensively, not so much, but he continues to impress me with his mobility, footwork, game-calling, tempo management, and arm strength. A solid and acceptable backup backstop.
Next Mets Game
Cubs 8 Mets 2
Mets suffer post-Harvey traumatic disorder.
Mets Game Notes
There has to be some concern when it takes a few breaks going their way and an RBI hit by the starting pitcher to beat the Cubs by one run, despite Matt Harvey holding Chicago to two runs. So without Harvey on the mound — or in the lineup — this loss was hardly a surprise.
Jeremy Hefner lived up and middle in the strike zone and was punished for it. He left after four frames and four earned runs, then reappeared in the final two innings with the name “McHugh” on his back. Very tricky, crafty way to re-enter the ballgame — had Bobby Valentine mustache disguise written all over it.
Except, that really WAS Collin McHugh, and he picked up right where he left off at the end of 2012. Many pundits suggested that the McHugh we saw in September of last year wasn’t the real McCoy — er, McHugh — because the young righthander was tired after a long season in AAA. I would like to buy into that possibility, and will reserve judgment for at least a few more outings. As of right now, though, I’ve yet to be convinced that McHugh is anything other than a poor man’s version of Hefner.
Speaking of poor man’s versions, Daniel Murphy is officially the poor man’s Rod Carew. That might not be so bad, except, Murphy’s defense at second base is slightly worse than Carew’s, he doesn’t have Carew’s foot speed, he doesn’t make contact as consistently as Carew, and he has yet to prove to be a candidate to be the first MLBer to bat .400 since Ted Williams. Murphy went 2-for-4 and raised his average to .301, but his swing is weak — he just waves the bat at the ball with his bottom hand and has the goal of just making contact. Again, that’s great if you can continue to place little bloops just beyond the reach of infielders regularly, without slumping, and if you are the opposite of a detriment on the bases. But these little bloops and bleeders, followed by brain freezes on the basepaths and/or getting thrown out stealing, is the extent of a Murphy hot streak and not terribly productive.
Another oh-fer for Ike Davis, but at least he didn’t strike out. I suppose that’s progress?
Rick Ankiel was the only other Met with a two-hit day.
Overall, the Mets collected nine hits and one walk. I thought the Dave Hudgens philosophy was all about OBP? Ten baserunners in nine innings against the #4 starter of a team just a hair above last place isn’t impressive.
Next Mets Game
Mets 3 Cubs 2
The Mets won a game yesterday and won a game today, so that’s two in a row. If they win one tomorrow, that’s called a winning streak. It was happened before. So will they jack it up a little? (All apologies to Lou Brown.)
Mets Game Notes
The Wilpons should be thanking an omnipotent being every night for Matt Harvey. Where would the Mets be right now without him? Doing their best to keep from sinking below the Fish, that’s what.
Harvey won his fifth game of the year, though it wasn’t without drama. After allowing two runs in the initial inning, he simply shut down the Cubs — game over — using his trademark mix of well-placed, high-velocity fastballs, curveballs, sliders, and change-ups. The only chance he had of not winning the ballgame came when he exited. I do understand that he had thrown 106 pitches, but if I was a manager managing for a new contract, it would have been very difficult for me to place Harvey’s gem of a ballgame into the hands of Scott Rice and Greg Burke; it’s kind of like serving a Twinkie as dessert after a gourmet meal at Per Se — do you really want to do that? Do you really feel comfortable that dinner will be remembered the way you want it to, after that kind of finish?
With Darwin Barney on second base, one out, and Scott Rice relieving Harvey, David DeJesus rapped a hard-hit single to shallow right field. Barney got a late start, then stumbled, and was rounding third when Marlon Byrd picked up the ball about 40 feet from the infield dirt. The temporarily insane Bell waved Barney home, and was a dead duck by at least 15, maybe 20 feet, as Byrd threw a perfect strike to John Buck.
I would understand the decision to force the Mets to make the play if, say, the #8 hitter or pitcher was on deck, and there were two outs. But with one out, and the team’s two superstars — Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo — coming up next, I have zero explanation for the move, other than pure stupidity. Hey, people make mistakes, and coaching third base is a lot more difficult than it seems from the comfort of our sofa. But that was a really, really bad decision.
Of course, had Barney been held up, there’s no guarantee that he would have scored to tie the game; the Cubs are just as bad as the Mets when it comes to executing and fundamentals. But it would have been a very interesting ballgame had Bell not suffered vapor lock.
Also fascinating was Barney’s decision to play patty-cakes with Buck, rather than try to bowl him over. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, since MLB has become a league of sissies who are more concerned with hurting themselves and protecting their seven-figure salaries rather than providing Major League Entertainment. I understand that the younger generation of hyper-protected children is fine with this new style of ball, as they have been taught to avoid injury, contact, and risk from the time they emerged from the womb. But that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about this evolution. Perhaps, five to ten years from now, the NFL will be a touch-football game as well. Whatever. The way I see it, for the insanely obnoxious salaries these men receive to play a little boys’ game, the least they can do is make every effort within the rules to win. That was a situation where Barney had every right to try to clean Buck’s clock, but chose instead to consider the potential bodily harm he might incur. That’s fine — it’s exactly the brand of bland baseball Bud Selig has been promoting for the past 20 years.
Edwin Jackson pitched well but was a hard-luck loser. Stinks for you, Mr. Jackson, but next time feign illness when your opponent is Mr. Harvey.
Is it me, or has Ike Davis expanded the width of his stance by another two feet? I don’t understand how he can remain in that position without pulling his groin, much less swing the bat.
Was anyone else surprised to see Lucas Duda still in left field in the bottom of the seventh, and again in the bottom of the eighth? The reasoning, I’m sure, was that Collins wanted to get Duda another at-bat before removing him. But, considering how difficult it is for the Mets to get wins, and with Harvey on the mound, I would want the very best defense possible on the field with a one-run lead. There may be some statistical analysis proving my gut wrong, but I find defense to be much more important in holding and securing a one-run win. By leaving Duda in there, Collins was essentially saying, “I don’t trust Harvey to keep shutting down the Cubs,” and/or “I don’t trust Bobby Parnell to close out the game.” But, considering he put the fragility of the game in the hands of Rice and Burke, leaving Duda in makes some sense.
Speaking of Burke, it was nice to see him throwing more underhand / Dan Quisenberry-like on most of his pitches. That’s where he needs to be if he has any hope of staying in MLB for more than a week or two.
And as for Parnell, he was impressive, throwing 95-MPH sinkers at the knees. Granted, Anthony Rizzo may have tied the ballgame had the wind been different, but it wasn’t, and Parnell earned his fifth save.
Next Mets Game
Mets 5 Cardinals 2
Mets win on getaway day to escape a sweep in St. Louis.
Mets Game Notes
Caveat: I didn’t watch the entire game, only parts of it. I couldn’t watch it live because it was a day game and I have that full-time job thing, and by the time I got home was too tired to sit through all nine frames. But, I’ll share the little bit that I noticed, and you can fill in the rest.
Jonathon Niese had better results than in his previous two starts, but I didn’t see much difference in his delivery. Much ado was made about him working in the bullpen with Dan Warthen on “staying upright” and “throwing over his front leg” but to me he was the same old sidewinding Niese. He’s been getting away with this motion for over two years now, and been a fairly solid if somewhat inconsistent pitcher, so not sure whether it matters if he can “fix” his mechanics or not. Maybe the answer is to lower expectations, and see him for what he is — a nice #3 or #4 starter on a championship club with an intense competitive streak and the ability to make 30 starts a year and eat 180-190 innings. There’s a lot of value in that kind of pitcher — just ask Jeff Suppan, Randy Wolf, Jon Garland, John Lackey, or any of a number of middle-rotation pitchers who enjoyed extensive, profitable careers in MLB.
I did, however, notice Ike Davis‘ new mechanics. He looks kind of like he’s squatting in the woods because there’s no port-a-john nearby. He also looks like he’s thinking — A LOT — about his body movements, and getting them timed correctly. If you’ve ever played golf, you probably know it’s hard to think about your swing and hit the ball well. Now imagine if that ball was moving toward you at 90+ MPH, instead of sitting on a tee; it’s too much to think about — it’s next to impossible to think about your body’s actions and react to ball movement within a half-second. So it wasn’t surprising that Ike struck out four times in five at-bats.
On a positive note, Daniel Murphy has broken out of his slump and is on a hot streak. That’s great. What’s not great is that he’s not a homerun hitter, so his hot streaks are bunches of singles and an occasional double, and his cold streaks are a lot of outs. It would be nice if he could keep his performance more balanced and consistent, but he’s another one who, I surmise, does a little too much thinking and tinkering when he’s not going well.
Why do I sound so negative when the Mets just won a game? Maybe because they lost the previous six.
Cool thing I meant to mention three posts ago: the crowd’s reaction to Rick Ankiel. He left St. Louis four years ago, yet the fans still love him and support him. Those St. Louis fans are so awesome it’s annoying, right?
What’s going on with Ankiel in centerfield? Is he misjudging balls? Has he lost a step, and relied on his speed more than we thought? Is he affected by absolute neophytes flanking him on either side? I think it’s a combination of losing a step and non-outfielders around him. He missed a ball early on that probably should have been caught by Jordany Valdespin, and Gary Cohen suggested that Ankiel should know he’s playing next to an inexperienced right fielder. Really? Should he know that? If he doesn’t, is it 100% his fault, or can some of it be on the coaching staff? Is it really Ankiel’s responsibility to know that Valdespin has less than 60 games of pro experience in the outfield, and only a dozen or so games in RF specifically? Should he also know ‘spin’s blood type and favorite cocktail, after only three days with the club? I don’t think so. I think that a Major League outfielder should assume that he’s playing with other Major League outfielders, unless/until he’s told differently. These Frankenstein experiments to shove offensive production into open positions is a nice idea on paper, is great for Strat-O-Matic, and worked well when Brad Pitt played the part of Billy Beane in Moneyball, but in the real world, on the field, players who are less than adequate on defense not only expose themselves but frequently negatively affect the defense of those around them.
Also speaking of Ankiel — he got away with a terrible baserunning decision in the 7th when he was thrown out by a mile attempting to stretch a single to a double, but the umpire erroneously gifted him a ground-rule double. Remember this the next time a break goes against the Mets — it all evens out eventually.
Next Mets Game
So, the Mets have lost 6 games in a row, and have fallen to 14-23, 6.5 games behind the NL East leading Atlanta Braves here on May 16th. Besides Matt Harvey, the starting rotation has been horrible, besides Bobby Parnell, the bullpen has been unreliable, and the Mets’ offense, which lit up opponents the first two weeks of the season, has gone colder than Jeffery Loria’s Grinch-like heart.
Instead of another Mets blog post about how bad this team is, let’s try to find some rays of hope in this otherwise gloomy pallor of baseball.
This is the obvious one. Harvey is the Dark Knight in an otherwise dark night. He was pitcher of the month of April, nearly threw a perfect game two starts ago, and only gave up 2 runs in 7 innings when he had virtually no command of his pitches for the first 5 innings in his last start.
Jon Niese isn’t this bad
I’m not one to base all of my player evaluation on statistics (just as I’m not likely to base it all on scouting – one needs to use all available tools to thoroughly evaluate a player), but Jon Niese’s start to 2013 is clearly a statistical aberration compared to his career numbers. But let’s take a look at his last three seasons.
From 2010-2012, Niese averaged a 3.97 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9 IP, and 7.6 SO/9 IP. So far in 2013, he has a 5.93 ERA and 1.76. Most alarmingly, he has walked batters with much greater frequency (4.8 BB/9) and struck them out far less (4.6 SO/9).
Still, he was able to get by without his A-game until his last two starts. He gave up a total of 15 earned runs over that two-game span, inflating his 3.31 season ERA to an embarrassing 5.93.
So why the sudden downturn? He’s only 26, so he should be entering his prime, not departing it. He says he’s not hurt (but we all know most athletes don’t like to use injuries as excuses). He believes he’s dropped his release point this year, which has flattened out his breaking stuff, and given batters a longer look at the ball.
This article by Amazin’ Avenue seems to corroborate Jon’s self-analysis. While Niese is young, he has enough major league experience under his belt, not to mention the athleticism, to correct this issue. Based on his track record, there’s no way he can continue his poor performance.
Dillon Gee isn’t this bad
Dillon Gee will never be confused with a Cy Young-caliber pitcher. He’s very much an average major league pitcher who has shown bursts of above-average performance. But Dillon seemed to really be finding himself before he got hurt in the middle of the 2012 season.
He gave the Mets innings (averaging over 6 per start) and he honed his control to the point where he struck out an average of 8 batters per nine innings while walking an average of 2.4. Then he experienced numbness in his pitching hand. It turned out to be a result of a malformed blood vessel in his shoulder. He had surgery to correct the problem, but was lost for the season.
It seemed to take Dillon a few starts to build up his velocity. He started out this season reaching 85-87 MPH on his fastball. His velocity has increased to 89-91, which is about where he was last year. This increase in velocity creates more separation with his changeup. Mets analyst Ron Darling feels that Gee has also been dropping his arm angle, much like Niese. If Gee can correct that, he should be much more effective than he has been, even if it translates to a nice, average 4.50 ERA.
Shaun Marcum is still building strength
Marcum is a classic case of a guy who came back too soon from injury. Not because of the risk of reinjury, but because he hadn’t fully rehabbed and built strength back into his arm. The Mets, desperate for starting pitching, plugged him into the rotation before he was ready.
In his first three starts, Marcum wasn’t able to finish 5 innings of work. He showed major signs of improvement in his last start however, going 6.2 innings, allowing 3 runs (2 earned) on 5 hits, while walking only one batter. That’s more like a classic Marcum start, and it came against the tough lineup of the Cardinals.
Again, based on his track record, and the fact that he seems to be building stamina and arm strength, expect more starts like this one, and fewer like the previous three.
The offense should find a happy medium
The first two weeks of the season, the Mets were on a tear. At one point, they led the league in runs scored. Everyone in the lineup not named “Ike Davis” was contributing. Then suddenly, somewhere in the arctic conditions of Minneapolis and Denver (not using the weather as an excuse, mind you), the Mets bats froze.
Suddenly, everyone (including Davis, but except David Wright) found themselves in a slump.
There have been some signs of turn-around: Daniel Murphy is 7 for his last 16, John Buck picked up his first RBI in a while, and Wright continues to be consistent. It ain’t much, but at least the entire lineup isn’t in a funk anymore.
It stands to reason that there has to be a middle ground between their hot streak to begin the season and their current cold streak. And who knows, maybe Davis will find a way to turn it around in mid-June like he did last year.
Zack Wheeler will be up soon
Probably in mid-June, so he won’t be Super-2 eligible. Wheeler got off to a rough start for the Las Vegas 51s, but has pulled it together lately. In his last three starts, he’s 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA. He’s struck out 19 while walking only 3 in 20 innings.
He will miss his next start due to an inflamed clavicle, but all reports are it’s not serious (though we’ve heard that before, haven’t we, sports fans?)
The only way the Mets’ record could be worse is if they had overpaid for their roster. Remember 1992 and 1993? How about 2002 while we’re at it?
The L.A. Dodgers ($216 million payroll), Philadelphia Phillies ($159 million), L.A. Angels ($142 million), and Toronto Blue jays ($118 million) all have losing records.
At least the Mets ($88 million) didn’t overpay for their replacement and sub-replacement level players. Payroll seems to equal expectations in pro sports. Expectations were low for New York, and they’re meeting those expectations.
They’re not going to lose all of their remaining games
Most of all, there will be a time, be it today, tomorrow, next week or next month, when the Mets will win a game. I can almost guarantee it.
Cardinals 4 Mets 2
Shaun Marcum finally made it beyond the fifth inning. In fact, he pitched into the seventh. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to garner a win.
Mets Game Notes
Marcum pitched very well, allowing 2 earned runs on 5 hits and a walk in 6 2/3 IP. That’s the best non-Harvey start we’ve seen in a while.
However, the defense behind Marcum was less than stellar and the offense was unsupportive.
When you are a bad team playing an “A” team, you must bring your “A” game to have a chance to win — and hope that that “A” team has an off-night. On this particular evening, the “A” team from St. Louis didn’t have an off-night, but had a vulnerable night. Had the Mets brought their “A” game, they had a good chance to steal this one. But they didn’t. Instead, they brought their usual game, which is several letters away from “A.” They had an average number of hits and baserunners (for them), but went 0-for-4 with RISP — which makes it difficult to score runs, and runs are required to win games. Further, they made multiple mistakes both in the field and on the basepaths, and you just can’t make multiple mistakes against a club like the Cardinals, even when they’re on a slightly off-night. The very good teams may not have their offense every night, but they almost always have their fundamentals. Fundies, defense, and pitching generally don’t go into slumps; at the very least, very good teams will ALWAYS have at least two of those three working pristinely in every single game. And guess what? The Cardinals brought pristine defense, fundies, and pitching, while the Mets found ways to beat themselves.
When John Buck is hitting like Babe Ruth, you don’t mind so much if he makes a baserunning mistake. However, when John Buck is hitting like John Buck, there is zero tolerance for getting caught stealing or making a stupid mistake that results in getting doubled off on an outfield fly. So when both of those occurred … hmmm … I guess you’d say there is “sub-zero tolerance”?
Rick Ankiel hit his first homerun as a Met, driving in all of the Mets runs for the night. Yee-ha.
Ankiel was one of two Mets with more than one hit. The other? Shaun Marcum.
Not sure what else to say. The Mets stink, and that fact is more glaring when they play against good teams. It’s less noticeable against bad teams like the Marlins and so-so teams like the Pirates and Phillies. But against good teams? Ouch. The Mets look like cow bell for other teams. Meaning, fodder to feast on.
Next Mets Game
Cardinals 10 Mets 4
The end of the Mets’ losing streak will have to wait another day. On the bright side, the Mets offense exploded for 6 hits and 4 runs.
Mets Game Notes
Dillon Gee allowed 6 runs (5 earned) on 9 hits and 3 walks, striking out 5, in 4 innings. That sounds awful, yet the SNY crew — both GKR and Bobby Ojeda — attempted to lighten the situation by suggesting that the Cardinals’ three-run first inning might never had happened if only Ike Davis had made a proper throw to second base to initiate a double play. Well, yeah, maybe, but Gee wasn’t exactly mowing down the Redbirds outside of the first — they scored another 3 in the third.
What was curious was Gee’s exit for a pinch-hitter in the top of the fifth. The Mets were down by six by then, Marlon Byrd was on second base with two outs, and Terry Collins sent Ruben Tejada to hit for Gee. Why? Yeah, I get that Gee had already been tagged for 6 runs, but, hey, Gee had already been tagged for 6 runs, and what’s the difference? The game was pretty much gone at that point, and the bullpen is grossly overworked; this was a situation where Gee needed to “take one for the team” and go as long as he could. He had expended 90 pitches at that point, and certainly could have extended to at least 110 — which should have gotten through the fifth, and possibly the sixth. Why Collins was chasing a loss in this spot, instead of saving a much-needed inning or two from the bullpen’s toll, is up for discussion. Did he really believe the Mets had a shot to get back in the game? Did he want to spare Gee any further embarrassment? Did he think Gee couldn’t go at least another inning? While it’s true that the starting rotation (save for Matt Harvey) has been abysmal in terms of eating innings, at least a hint of the bullpen’s overworked state can be blamed on Collins’ gross mismanagement. Saving an inning here and an inning there can make a significant difference over the long term. The problem, however, is that Collins is a lame-duck manager managing for a contract, and trying to extract every possible win he can regardless of long-term consequences. It’s not unlike the approach taken by Jerry Manuel. Hey, I’m all for doing whatever can be done to win a ballgame, but one can’t lose sight of the big picture and long-term effect — and that’s ultimately the difference between average MLB managers and the elite.
What else is there to say? Robert Carson continues to stink, but that’s not news. He’s essentially a step above a BP pitcher. But he has a great personality, good sense of humor, and is well-liked in the clubhouse, so there’s that. I can’t imagine that he makes it through the end of this week on the 25-man roster, but on the other hand, who is there to promote?
Marlon Byrd had a big day, going 2-for-4 with a two-run homer. Again I’m going to state: Byrd will play just well enough to avoid being released.
Mike Baxter failed in his attempt to hit a pinch-hit six-run homer in the ninth, and instead made the last out of the game. If a six-run homer were possible, I bet he would have figured out a way to make it happen.
Old friend Carlos Beltran hit his tenth homer of the year, going 3-for-5 with 4 RBI on the evening. So, I suppose if you want to place someone responsible for this loss by the Mets, you could #BlameBeltran.
Next Mets Game
Cardinals 6 Mets 3
Often, baseball is a game won by the team that doesn’t beat itself. The Mets provided an example of that type of loss.
Mets Game Notes
Early on, it appeared as though this would be a wild one, as both starting pitchers struggled from the outset, walking batters and allowing multiple base hits. An hour into the game, it was still only the second inning, and about a hundred pitches had been thrown. Somehow, suddenly, and simultaneously, though, both Jeremy Hefner and Lance Lynn righted their respective ships and mowed down batters from innings three through six.
Lynn outlasted Hefner by one frame, and then it was a battle of the bullpens — was there any expectation that the Mets might win that one? Not from this viewer.
Interesting contrast by the two managers in handling their respective starters. Terry Collins pulled Hefner for a pinch hitter to lead off the top of the seventh; I suppose that’s the right move when on the road, but Hefner was in a groove, he’d thrown 97 pitches, and by removing him Collins was hoping against hope that his bullpen could hold the fort for three frames. Had Collins left Hefner in and the Cards beat him up, Collins would have been criticized; so, I guess he was in a no-win situation.
From the other dugout, St. Louis manager Mike Matheny not only allowed Lynn to start the seventh, but left him in after Daniel Murphy singled with two outs, putting the go-ahead run on base and bringing the Mets’ most dangerous hitter David Wright to the plate. Lynn was at 120 pitches at that point, and there were two relievers ready to go. Yet, Matheny left in his starter, who, somewhat surprisingly, went right after Wright. In a situation like this, especially with the .175-hitting Ike Davis on deck, one would expect the opposing pitcher to pitch around Wright, hoping to get him to chase three bad pitches out of the zone, and/or serving an unintentional intentional walk — then yielding the game to the LOOGY to whiff Davis on three sliders in the dirt. But Lynn stayed in and challenged Wright with strikes, breaking the Captain’s bat and inducing a weak, inning-ending grounder to short. That’s the kind of baseball I like to see, rather than the pussyfooting, bait-and-hope approach.
During Trevor Rosenthal‘s two-third of an inning, the Cardinal reliever threw a 91-MPH change-up. Think about that. The only other pitcher I can think of who throws a change-up over 90 is Stephen Strasburg.
The two Scotts were not great again. Scott Rice was tagged for two runs, including the go-ahead, and Scott Atchison allowed three hits and a run — via a solo homer by Matt Holliday — without retiring a batter. Atchison was lucky not to have allowed at least one if not two more runs when Yadier Molina missed a two-run blast by a few feet, and was awarded a ground-rule double on a drive that most certainly would have scored a run had a fan not touched the ball.
After the game, during the SNY postgame, Atchison revealed that his fingers had gone numb and he couldn’t feel the baseball. Well, that makes pitching difficult. Atchison has a partially torn UCL, but opted for rehab in lieu of Tommy John surgery last year. For those who are not loyal MetsToday readers, we discussed this elbow issue when the Mets signed Atchison back in January, and again during the Game Six recap, when Collins was already using Atchison at an alarming rate. No, I don’t have a crystal ball — I merely have a very basic, layman’s understanding of human anatomy, which is not affected by sabermetrics.
The go-ahead run came home on a bizarre play. With Ty Wigginton on second base, Matt Carpenter hit a liner off of Rice’s foot, sending the ball floating past the first base line in what seemed like slow motion. The Mets fielders were momentarily mesmerized by the ball’s knuckleball-like path, causing a vapor lock that resulted in home plate being left unattended. By the time Rice realized someone needed to cover, Wigginton was hustling in and evaded the tag with a well-placed, hard slide. On that play, Rice probably should have been covering, but I also have to blame Wright, who should have been trailing Wigginton down the third-base line; Ruben Tejada could have covered 3B in the event that Wigginton turned around. It was a bad play by the Mets, but not exactly the kind of thing that would ever be practiced, so it’s difficult to be overly critical. Still, it’s a basic tenet of defense to guard home plate, and someone needed to step up and get there.
Despite Lynn giving the Mets five free bases via the walk, the Mets couldn’t score more than three runs. Why? Well, for the second straight ballgame, they managed only four base hits — and three of them were by Daniel Murphy, who finally broke out of his prolonged slump. As mentioned in the last game recap, it doesn’t matter how robust the team’s OBP is if they can’t put the bat on the ball and chase those baserunners home.
Rick Ankiel made his Mets debut, installed immediately as the lefthanded-hitting portion of a platoon with Juan Lagares (how’s that for a slap in the face of Jordany Valdespin?). We discussed Ankiel very briefly over the winter, but most in the blogosphere agreed that he would be unnecessary since the Mets already had LH-hitting CFers Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt Den Dekker, as well as Mike Baxter, ‘spin, and Colin Cowgill (and Lagares, for that matter). Funny how that works out, eh?
With a .400 “winning” percentage, there is only one team in the NL worse than the Mets — the Miami Marlins. However, there are three teams in the Adulterated League with worse records right now, so there’s that. But, maybe Mets fans should start rooting for losses, so the Mets get a high draft pick in 2014? Decisions, decisions …
Next Mets Game
The Mets signed recent Astros castoff Rick Ankiel today.
Terry Collins said the lefty-hitting Ankiel and righty-hitting Juan Lagares will platoon in center field. That’s a blow to Jordany Valdespin, who Collins said may play some second base if Daniel Murphy continues to struggle.
Apart from his arm, Ankiel doesn’t provide much of an upgrade in the outfield. His last really good offensive season came in 2008, when he hit 28 home runs. This year, he has a .715 OPS which is less than that of the other left-handed hitting outfielders Mike Baxter and Valdespin.
Looks like Sandy Alderson is trying to catch lightning in a bottle. Or maybe the team was secretly hijacked by Omar Minaya.
Andrew Brown was optioned to Triple-A.
So there’s that.
OK, you’re probably reading the headline and thinking, “more like ‘Seven Guys Not Slumping at the Same Time is the Key to Mets Offense.’” Yes, the Mets are not exactly the reincarnation of the 1927 Yankees.
They don’t have an ideal leadoff hitter or a steady center fielder or right fielder. Ruben Tejada has been nearly as unspectacular with the bat has he has been with the glove this year, and Daniel Murphy, after a hot start, has slumped mightily. On April 25th, he was batting .346/.388/.538. Since then, he’s hit only .130/.161/.167.
It seems in late April, everyone went into a slump following their hot start. But the Mets need a stabilizing presence in the middle of the lineup to mitigate poor performance from the rest of the team – let’s say…a power-hitting left-handed bat. Someone like Ike Davis.
But how can we be sure that Ike Davis is Ike Davis? After a strong rookie season in which he hit 19 homers and stabilized first base for the Mets, he began the 2011 season with a .302/.383/.543 slash with 7 homers. He collided with David Wright in Colorado in an attempt to field a popup. He broke his ankle, deep-sixing him for the season (the collision eventually knocked Wright out with a fractured vertebra).
Last year, he started slowly, hitting .158/.234/.273 as of June 8th. People speculated: was it the Valley Fever he contracted during the offseason? Was it rust from missing so much of 2011? Was his ankle still weak?
Beginning on June 9th, Davis went on a nine-game hiting streak during which he hit 2 doubles, 2 homers, and batted .462/.576/.769. Translation: a switch flipped and he went from an automatic out to a hitting machine.
He finished the season with a total of 32 homers and 90 RBIs – remarkable numbers considering his horrendous start. What would he be capable of in a season where he’s 100% healthy and starts strong, we wondered? 40 home runs? 120 RBIs? Well, it hasn’t worked out that way.
His 2013 has become eerily similar to his 2012. After the game of May 12th of 2012, he was hitting .175/.236/.325 with 5 home runs and 13 RBIs. This year, on the same date, he’s at .180/.270/.306 with 4 home runs and 9 RBIs.
Will he turn things around? Will it take until early June like last year? And is this what we can expect from Davis for the rest of his career?
The Mets need Ike Davis to hit like the guy we saw from June-on last year. Tejada might go on streaks, Murphy might go on streaks, John Buck might go on streaks, but the Mets need to stabilize the middle of their order. If they don’t David Wright can expect more pitch-arounds and intentional walks, which is bad news for the Mets: their best hitter will never get a chance to hit with runners in scoring position. On Sunday, with a man on third and one out, the Pirates clearly pitched around Wright to get to Davis (the catcher even called for a slider 3-0 before being shaken off by the pitcher). Davis struck out, and the Pirates eventually got out of the inning.
Davis later apologized for letting his team down. At least he’s taking accountability for his struggles, which is something he hasn’t done all the time. He’s blamed the way teams pitch him and the umpires, and he’s been reluctant to take advice from hitting coach Dave Hudgens.
“Yeah, well, pitchers are hitting their spots two inches off the plate, and I don’t want to swing at that anyway,” Davis said on May 2 in a New York Times Article.
Terry Collins recently abandoned the concept of platooning Davis and hitting him sixth or seventh in the batting order, saying that Ike needs to start producing. And he’s right. Davis is being paid to hit cleanup and drive in runs, and it’s time to stop babying him.
Duda and Buck have had their moments this year, but neither has been consistent. Davis, when he’s right, is the best candidate for the cleanup role. And if he can’t handle the job, the Mets are going to have to find someone who can.
Steven Matz has endured one of the most stressful and unexpected journeys of any player in the New York Mets farm system. Selected in the 2nd round in the 2009 MLB Draft, it’s taken Matz four years to pitch in full-season ball. But he’s finally here.
After Tommy John surgery and two years of rehab, Matz debuted with Kingsport in 2012. Matz impressed in 6 starts, striking out 34 in 29 innings of work, while keeping opponents hitting .158. On the bad side, he was prone to giving up the walk, walking 17 in his limited innings. Matz was temporarily shut down with arm troubles and understands that the 2013 season is important for him.
“I just want to play the whole season healthy,” said Matz. “And keep my walks down. Those are my two main goals.”
Walks were a concern while Matz was with Kingsport, but he seems to have fixed the issue at Savannah. Matz and the Mets decided recently that they wanted to scrap the curveball. “The [curveball] wasn’t consistent. I just wanted a breaking ball that I can throw more for a strike.”
“The organization, him, and I. Basically what it is is like a slurve, a hard curveball, but we’re calling it a slider. It’s got late break, depth, but it goes according to his arm slot with a fastball and change-up. It’s the absolute perfect pitch to throw at the arm slot he is at,” said Viola. “And he can throw it two ways, as a strike pitch or a put away pitch. The more he throws it, the better he develops it, the more he can put two together and really make that a very advantageous pitch.”
Matz admits his best off-speed pitch is his change-up. In his outing on April 26 against West Virginia, Matz said he threw 17 changeups. “I don’t really have a true strikeout pitch,” said Matz. “I can get a lot of guys to chase on a high fastball.”
In that West Virginia start, Matz struggled to stay in the game. He was yanked after reaching his pitch count in 4.1 IP, allowing two earned runs on four hits, while talking two and striking out three. Frank Viola believes that start was the start of a new side to Matz.
“The other night was the first night I saw any resemblance of anger, feistiness, what have you. He had to leave, came out in the fifth inning, and had the no-decision because he didn’t complete the five innings because of the pitch count,” explained Viola. “And he threw the glove down, said a couple of choice words, but it was the first time I saw a little fire in his belly, which personally, is a great sign in my opinion.”
“I know it’s there and you have to realize, he’s played professional ball for 2 ½ years but he only has 10 professional starts. He’s had some experience but he doesn’t have a lot of experience from the mound itself. So every time on the mound is a learning experience and I think by the all-star break you are going to see a completely different Steven Matz.”
Viola hinted that Matz may not be around when the All-Star game comes around. Matz could be on the fast track to St. Lucie, but it all depends on whether the lefty can stay healthy. “I really believe he’s that close to really putting it together,” said Viola.
“Just to mentally keep it together with all the crap he’s gone through is pretty tough…You’re exactly right, many people wouldn’t be able to do that. He’s maintained it, he’s learned from it, and he’s using it to his advantage now.”
Pirates 3 Mets 2
Matt Harvey sh*ts the bed on Mother’s Day as the Mets lose the series and drop into fourth place in the NL East.
Mets Game Notes
Harvey was terrible, giving up two runs on five hits and two walks in seven innings of work. That’s one baserunner an inning — can you imagine? Geez Louise, it was like watching a mere mortal pitch. Maybe the pink bats are his kryptonite, I don’t know … I just don’t understand how he expected to win a game after allowing not one but two runners to score, and not hitting any homeruns to boot.
In all seriousness, the chatter by the SNY team was that Harvey “didn’t have his best stuff.” Well, hmm … I guess that’s technically correct. But, I’d rather describe the outing as Harvey having his regular stuff. In other words, I’m not so sure that what we saw in 5 of Harvey’s first 7 starts of the year should be the expected performance; his numbers were unreal. No pitcher, even in the dead ball era, has been able to sustain a 0.60 WHIP through an entire season. Harvey’s April was tremendous, and if he kept that up through the end of September, he would have to be tested not for PEDs but for radioactive spider bites or a birth certificate registered in Smallville.
So no, Harvey didn’t have his absolute “best” stuff, but his “regular” stuff is still pretty damn good. His fastball wasn’t consistently hitting 98 MPH on the gun but it was expertly placed all around the strike zone and had plenty of movement. His slider was outstanding. His curveball and change-up played more supporting roles. Velocity can be electric and exciting, but it’s hardly the most important factor for successful pitching. If it were, then the era prior to PEDs testing would have been known more for lights-out pitching than for homerun hitting.
At the same time, I do have to be slightly concerned about the abrupt drop in velocity; Harvey’s heater was sitting around 93-94 MPH instead of the usual 97-98. Did the daytime start have something to do with disrupting his recovery or routine? Does he need to have the adrenalin going to reach the upper 90s, and he just didn’t have that kind of motivation on this particular Sunday afternoon? Is there something physically wrong? Was he simply pitching through a hangover?
If Harvey wants to win ballgames, maybe he should take more batting practice. We’ve seen that he has the talent to hit, and perhaps with more BP he’ll be able to contribute more offensively. Because he certainly isn’t getting any help from the everyday / position players. Against the immortal Jeanmar Gomez, the Mets managed one run on two hits in five frames, and scored just one more run on two hits against the Sandy Koufax clones that make up Pittsburgh’s bullpen. The Mets struck out a dozen times, making it 28 Ks in a 24-hour period. In case your math isn’t so great, let me add up the hits for you: four. Four hits. But, they did walk four times, and getting on base is all that matters, right? In the four-game series, they scored a grand total of ten runs; remember when the Mets were leading the NL in runs per game? Yeah … we call this “regression to the mean.”
Though Rice was tagged with the loss, he didn’t get any help from Brandon Lyon nor Bobby Parnell. Lyon walked a batter to push the runners ahead a base, and Parnell allowed the single by Horace Mann grad Pedro Alvarez that drove in the go-ahead run. Parnell threw 30 pitches in his four-out outing, so I’m not sure he’ll be available for Monday night’s game in St. Louis.
Next Mets Game
The Mets travel down to St. Louis to play a series with the Cardinals. Game one on Monday night begins at 7:00 p.m. and will be broadcast by ESPN. The pitching matchup will be Jeremy Hefner vs. Lance Lynn.
In case you missed it, Zack Wheeler had another great outing on Saturday night. Wheeler, the New York Mets’ top pitching prospect, threw 7 1/3 innings of two-run ball and struck out seven on Saturday for Triple-A Las Vegas. He gave up six hits and walked one.
According to ESPN, over his last three starts, Wheeler has thrown a combined 20 innings, surrendering just three earned runs . He’s struck out 19 in that span, allowing 14 hits. Most importantly, he has walked only three batters. Something has clicked.
It’s time to bring him up. I have run out of adjectives to describe the team’s play: terms like dismal, boring, depressing can only be used so many times before they lose their impact. This year’s team was given little chance to do anything before the season even began, but I don’t think anyone really realized just how bad things would get so quickly. Wheeler is certainly not the answer to all of the Mets’ woes, but together, perhaps he and Matt Harvey can provide somewhat of a firewall, the way Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman did for the team back in 1968. Zack isn’t doing the Mets any good in Las Vegas.
And yes, I disparaged him somewhat in my last post, but I think Wilmer Flores should get called up also.
In their place, I would send Ike Davis and Jordany Valdespin down. Let Ike hit his next 25 homeruns in the PCL so they can trade him next winter. I say this only as a distant observer, but I wonder if being the son of a major leaguer and now playing in the big leagues himself has gone to Ike’s head. I am nowhere near the clubhouse, but he seems somewhat sullen and I wonder if there isn’t an entitlement mentality at work here. Keith Hernandez did hint at that a few years ago. That was a terrible at bat he had in the eight inning of Sunday’s loss. Remember when the Pirates offered the Mets Sterling Marte for him?
Valdespin was hung out to dry this past weekend. He has a lot of talent and I hope that whoever is running the club next spring can reach him. Those long bus trips in the PCL may give him some time to ponder turning over a new leaf.
Set up a Daniel Murphy/Justin Turner platoon at first and let Flores take some reps at second. Since the Mets aren’t going to hit at all this year, I suggest going with defense in the outfield; that means Juan Lagares in center and Mike Baxter in right. I would put Murphy/Turner in the two hole, David Wright in the three spot, Lucas Duda cleanup. For the remainder, whoever is hot can lead off (imagine if that is John Buck!) with the rest of the lineup balanced right/left as best as possible. I don’t think this translates into winning baseball, but it might be watchable, which I would take at this point.
What do you think? Time to bring up Wheeler? Got any other (reasonable) moves in mind? Sound off below.
Pirates 11 Mets 2
Not a great day for Jonathon Niese nor the Mets.
Mets Game Notes
For the second straight start, Niese was awful and unable to complete five innings. It was the fourth time in eight starts that Niese pitched five innings or less, and the third time he completed less than five. Reportedly, he’s suffering from back stiffness of some sort; could that be part of his problem? Absolutely. Can pitching through a back problem potentially damage other parts of his body, such as his arm? Absolutely. Should the Mets pull him from his next start if he continues to have back issues? Ideally, yes, but the problem is, who will take his spot? Collin McHugh?
As has been the case all year, Niese’s arm angle was lower than it should be, he threw from various arm angles, did not repeat his mechanics, and often telegraphed his pitches. For example, on the curveball he slows down his motion just a hair and tilts his shoulders slightly back toward second base. His fastball is completely flat — moving on one plane. His cutter wasn’t terribly effective. I didn’t notice the change-up. The curve, as mentioned, was telegraphed and it was hanging.
Though Mets pitching allowed a dozen runs, it didn’t much matter, since the offense managed to plate just a pair. They had 7 hits and 2 walks and struck out 16 times. SIXTEEN TIMES! For those who missed the game, Nolan Ryan did not come out of retirement to pitch in this ballgame. The Mets hitters K’d 16 times against the likes of Tony Watson, Justin Wilson, Bryan Morris, and Francico Liriano, who was making his first start of the season. And no, I’ve never heard of Watson, Wilson, or Morris, either.
Robert Carson — er, I mean, “Rob” Carson — seems like a nice guy, fun guy, and great teammate. Thus far, though, he’s not shown to be a very good pitcher. He gave up a run in his two-inning appearance, which seems to be his modus operandi — he’s allowed at least one run in four of his six appearances. My guess is he’s on the way down to the minors very soon.
Daniel Murphy had another oh-fer and is now down to .258. He’s pulling off the ball on every swing — just watch his head move up and turn down the first base line (and watch his front shoulder and hips follow, opening up too soon). When he does make contact, it’s the Rod Carew-style wave; it kind of resembles a tennis player trying to drop the ball just over the net. Further, Murphy’s body language is awful, and the look on his face screams confusion and lack of confidence. He expresses complete cluelessness and negativity.
In a pinch-hitting appearance, Jordany Valdespin was drilled in the right arm. Purposely? I’m thinking yeah. My guess is the Pirates didn’t take kindly to ‘spin’s showboating in Friday night’s contest. And you know what? I don’t necessarily blame them. I do like to see ballplayers express themselves, I love to see them showing they love the game, and I don’t see anything wrong with showing emotion while playing. But ‘spin’s actions sometimes go over the line, toward hot-dogging — some of his antics remind me of Tito Fuentes and Willie Montanez. Fuentes and Montanez added color to the game, and it was refreshing, but both established themselves as everyday, solid ballplayers who were maybe a tick below All-Star status in their primes, and hung around the big leagues for 13-14 years. What, exactly has Valdespin done in his brief MLB career to earn the right to watch homeruns like Reggie Jackson? I think that’s what gets under the skin of opponents (and teammates) — the fact that ‘spin has yet to really do anything substantial as a big leaguer. Sure, he has a handful of dramatic late-inning blasts, but otherwise, what’s he done? He’s a .240 hitter with an OBP under .300, and he has yet to crack the everyday lineup of team that is among the five or six worst in the league. Again, I enjoy expression and color in the game — and I think we need more of it. But, how about at least establishing yourself as an everyday ballplayer and performing well over a sustained period of time before waltzing around like you own the league?
Next Mets Game
It’s Matt Harvey Day and Mother’s Day as the Mets and Pirates play their final game of the series on Sunday afternoon at 1:10 p.m. The Bucs offer Jeanmar Gomez as the sacrificial lamb to god-beast Harvey.
Pirates 7 Mets 3
Mets are sunk by the Bucs but still in position to win or tie the series. Of course, they’re also in position to lose the series — but that’s only one outcome out of three possibilities, so, based on the math, there’s reason to be optimistic. Right?
Mets Game Notes
Shaun Marcum pitched really well, except for the second inning and the fifth. Take out those two aberrations and he spun a solid three frames. Baby steps.
Marcum became the first Mets pitcher in their history to fail to pitch at least five innings in his first three starts with the club. Not sure what that’s worth other than a quick bit of trivia in an otherwise uninspiring game recap.
On a positive note, Anthony Recker‘s second career home run gave Mets catchers 11 longballs on the season (John Buck has 10) — matching the total of homeruns hit by Mets catchers in 2011 and 2012 COMBINED. How about that, says the ghost of Mel Allen.
Ike Davis hit a single to left field and another up the middle. Therefore, he’s on the way back and we should interject a comment here from Dave Hudgens about Ike hitting to the opposite field, blah blah blah. Maybe I’m jaded but I’d like to see a sustained consistent approach for, say, a week or two before I’ll start to feel encouraged about Ike’s chance of turning things around.
Jordany Valdespin hit yet another late-inning home run, but this time it didn’t have much affect on the outcome of the ballgame.
Rutherford’s Vin Mazzaro spun two scoreless innings for the Buccos. Vinny fashions an Akadema glove and is a product of the ProPlayer facility (where I give lessons) so I deem it important to mention his performance. You go, Vin.
The Mets were 1-for-12 with RISP.
Pirates closer Jason Grilli threw three pitches to earn his 14th save. The Mets have 14 wins. Huh.