Monday, April 30, 2012
Is Ike starting to break out of his slumber? I don't think one game can determine that, but if the Mets success in April is to continue to build in May then Ike Davis will be the key.
Look at what the Mets have done without Ike Davis. The Mets are 13-9 and a game out of first base without any production from Davis. Davis is batting .169 with 24 strikeouts and only 8 RBI while the Mets as a team are in the top ten in the league in average, OBP, SLG, OPS, hits, runs & home runs.
If Ike was his old self or the player we saw glimpses of last year, you would expect the Mets totals to be even greater. You also have to consider that at some point Thole is going to cool down as he's been on a hitting hot streak since the start of the season. Also David Wright is putting up MVP type numbers in April which you would expect to slow down in the coming weeks as well.
So it's imperative that Ike Davis adds some production to help offset any cool down from the red hot hitters in the Mets lineup. Davis is the linchpin of the lineup. His power bat and RBI threat is what can extend the batting order.
Plus the Mets have no other option at first base. They shouldn't move Murphy. Duda has had no real experience playing there and the two-headed monster of Baxter/Turner just aren't every day playing time options for what production you need from your first baseman.
It hinges on Ike. Davis can't control how the pitching staff performs, but if he can get back to the man he used to be the Mets will be in much better success to build on what they've done so far in April.
Friday, April 27, 2012
But you know what? I'm really having fun watching this team.
It could be the euphoria of a sweep of the Miami Marlins or the struggles Reyes was having at the plate during his return to Citi Field, but regardless the 2012 Mets are fun to watch.
Only this Mets team could make you feel like there are meaningful games in April. After the doubleheader disaster against the Giants on Monday, the Mets were perfectly stage for early season implosion. Lose 2 of 3 to the Marlins and they would be buried under .500 for the foreseeable future. On Twitter, Mets fans across the web were talking about how this would be the last time the Mets saw .500.
But then they exceeded our expectations. Late inning comebacks. Rookies playing clutch baseball. Minor leaguers replacing injured starters without losing a beat. Solid pitching and gritty play were all ingredients added to the mix during the Marlins series.
Justin Turner's at bat in the bottom of the 9th yesterday may have been the most fun I've had watching a player not get a hit. Seriously. He goes down 0-2 and then somehow fights his way back to a full count after fouling off what felt like a game's worth of pitches against a guy who regularly destroys the Mets. It was the most exciting walk in half a decade for Mets fans.
Captain Kirk's heroics to end the game were great, but it's the play of Murphy, the surprise success of Thole and the overachieving of the bullpen that's made this young 2012 season so entertaining.
The Mets are fun to watch. The pitching can still be suspect, but the product on the field is 10x better than I expected on Opening Day. And this is with Ike Davis being dazed and confused for the better part of a month.
The Mets are dysfunctional.. I can admit that. From Omar to the Wilpons to the seemingly perennial injuries there's always something going wrong with this organization. But for the first time in a long time, it doesn't seem to be affecting the spirit and production on the field.
Let's go Mets.
Photo courtesy of Facebook.com/Mets
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Some would say he already was, but last night he cemented his status as one of the most memorable Mets of all time. David Wright passed Darryl Strawberry as the Mets all-time RBI leader which is sure to be the first of many records that Wright will break. By the time Wright's career is over he could very well own almost every Mets batting record.
Wright is now untradeable. You can't do it. He's your lone star player and he's just etched himself into the team record books. He's the only legitimate All Star the Mets have and he's the most marketable player the team has had in the last two decades.
Think about it. Wright hasn't done anything wrong. He's had one down year in his tenure and while his power numbers have been up and down his RBI totals, batting average and productivity at the plate has been relatively consistent. The only issue is his fielding is often suspect at times.
Off the field, Wright is citizen of the year. No issues with the law. No drugs. No DUI's. No drama. He's an all-American type of guy who is off to one of the best starts of his career.
Should he have been traded years ago? Maybe. Is he the best player in baseball? No. Is he a future hall of famer? Probably not. But forget all that. David Wright is a guy you want on your team. He's become a real leader when just a few years ago we questioned his authority in the clubhouse. He's made it known that he wants to be a lifelong Met even when he saw this off season how the chances of winning a championship in the near future was unlikely.
It's time for Mets fans to stop looking at David Wright for what is not, and start appreciating him for what he has done and who he is. David Wright is the franchise whether you like it or not.
And by the time his career is done, Wright will be passing the likes of Piazza, Hernandez, and Strawberry on his way to the top of the Mets record books.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Honestly I'm sick of it and I'm saddened by the fact that I'm that much of a lemming that I felt the need to write a post about it. But I do think Reyes' return is different from anyone else's in Mets history and that he doesn't deserve the welcome that's being planned.
Reyes has never won anything. Strawberry left in a heated exit on both sides, but his return was one of a champion. He was an MVP candidate and World Series champion. He was larger than life and even though his time with the Mets was full of ups and down, highs (no pun intended) and lows, we were still welcoming back a champion.
Piazza never won a title for the Mets, but his exit was a mutual one. A classy one. And he will be the second Mets player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Met. Totally different playing field than Reyes.
When you think of Reyes' career with the Mets, what's the first thing that comes to mind? Injuries of course. Perhaps speeed. Maybe triples. But probably not living up to expectation is in there as well. He was going to be the future of the franchise. A leadoff hitter to rival other baseball greats. A perennial stolen base champion.
Instead what we got for most of Reyes' career was on often-injured player with an a amazing arm, a knack for stealing bases, and who couldn't resist from swinging at pitches down and in as a left handed batter.
Reyes is now the prodigal son. Instead of staying, he wanted to take his riches and go. I can't blame him for that, but I don't have to laud him when he returns with a rival. Outside of the 2011 season, Reyes really only had 1, maybe 2, really good (not even great) full seasons with the Mets.
There was suppose to be so much more, but there wasn't. And so his return to Citi Field is tonight. Big whoop. The only good thing that can come from this is that it provides closure and we can move on. I know I already have.
Long live Ruben Tejada.
Monday, April 23, 2012
After Saturday's game, there was a ton of talk about how Pelfrey needed to come out feeling good about himself and how it's a shame Pelfrey didn't get the win because of how he pitched. I say it's time to stop coddling Pelfrey.
Pelfrey can look to his right and talk to Johan Santana about what it's like to pitch an unbelievable game only to not get credit for it. This is one start for Pelfrey out of probably his last 20 starts where he was in total control for the 8 innings he pitched. This should be the norm for Pelfrey but it's not. It's a rarity.
People talk about how Pelfrey has looked good so far this season but I'm not buying it. 3 games does not a pitcher make. What we need is consistency. I want 10 starts of 6 innings plus. I need to see Pelfrey prove he can get out of a jam without crumbling on the mound looking for something to lick.
It's time for Pelfrey to be challenged and rise to the occasion. I hope he's on track for another 15 win season but let's not laud his return to prominence in April.
If he was truly a pitcher with command who demands our respect, Collins would have sent him back out for the 9th inning. Instead, the manager knew he couldn't risk a mental meltdown by Pelfrey should he give up a few runs so he pulled him. That's the sign of a pitcher who still has work to do.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
The Mets will be an offensive team. Wright is back. Murphy is what we hoped. Ike is getting back into the swing of things. And Duda looks promising. Even Thole is starting the season off well.
But the Mets will only be as good as their pitching. I tend to put more emphasis on the starting rotation. If Santana only goes 1 inning, that's a guaranteed loss. Dickey can't find his knuckleball, pack it in because that game is over. Pelfrey is already a known basket case. And if Gee & Niese can't keep opponents to 3 runs or less the Mets will have issues.
The bullpen has had its moments this year, but I honestly think it's in decent shape outside of Collins' infatuation with Miguel Batista who probably doesn't deserve to be on a major league roster. I like what I've seen so far from Rauch, Francisco and Parnell. That threesome, if consistent, can be a solid pen if the Mets' starters can go 6 innings.
The Mets will live and die this year with their pitching. The starters need to overachieve this year to remain competitive because while the Mets have done well against the NL East so far, this is a division that is stocked with great arms. And the Mets are the weakest of the bunch in that category.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Bay has more ups and downs than Alec Baldwin. Against Philly he hits a home run in the first inning to give the Mets a 3-0 lead, but then a few innings later with the bases loaded he grounds into a double play. Last night, he looks like he can't get a hit in a backyard game of wiffle ball and then he pounds another home run just after he robs a home run.
We know what we get from David Wright. He'll be on a streak for 3 weeks and then won't get a hit for 2 weeks only to follow that with another hot streak. Why can't we get any consistency from Jason Bay? It's baffling.
Currently, he has more home runs than he had through the middle of May last year, but his hitting isn't exactly a strong point in the lineup. The only consistent element Bay brings is his defense. While the Mets have question marks throughout their defense, Bay is the one guy who you know will the ball correctly and give you a solid outing in the field.
However, I would gladly trade an error or two in the field for a few more RBI's from Bay in the middle of that Mets lineup. I don't think we'll see a consistent Bay, but there will be a consistent outcry from Mets fandom should we suffer through yet another torturous year of Bay's offensive ineptness.
Monday, April 16, 2012
A sweep was within reach, but there was a sense throughout Sunday's game that this was not a win the Mets were meant to have. But even so there are some things that were revealed during this weekend series that I think we as Mets fans have to pay attention to:
- You evidently don't need a pinky to play baseball - David Wright never could throw very well to first base so ignore that aspect. Rattling off 5 hits in two games including a home run...I'll take it, pinky or not.
- RA Dickey is the Mets best pitcher - It's almost heresy to say this with Santana in the rotation, but 13 consecutive quality starts makes the case for me. You're always in the game when RA is on the mound.
- Pelfrey is still Pelfrey - Yes, he got out of a bunch of jams. Yes, he only gave up one earned run. Yes, he got the Phils to ground out a lot. But if you can tell me that you comfortable watch and enjoy Pelfrey on the mound...you're crazy. He's a slightly less insane version of Oliver Perez, but he can't hit.
- The bullpen is the key to the Mets season - Barring any more freak injuries, if the Mets can stay healthy their season may very well rest on the arms in the bullpen. Friday and Saturday showed how they have some quality arms who can hold a lead. Sunday on the other hand showed how if one thing goes wrong it can unravel faster than a Kardashian marriage.
- Jason Bay is needed more for defense than offense - I don't care that he hit a monstrous home run this weekend. Bay is still a nightmare at the plate. However, his glove in the outfield is the best asset he has. You saw this with Scott Hairston as our secondary option roaming around in left field. There were at least two plays that Hairston botched which led to runs that Bay would have potentially made. Is that really enough to keep Bay in the lineup? That's debatable.
So it's on to Atlanta. Brutal scheduling. If the Mets take 2 out of 3 in Atlanta, I think it would be more shocking than what happened this weekend in Philly.
Friday, April 13, 2012
In the grand scheme of things is this series with the Phillies important? Yes. Here's why: a win is a win whether it happens in April, July or September. In fact more wins in April puts you in a better position come the dog days of summer.
On top of that, the good will and positive feeling fans have for this team could quickly turn to apathy and disappointment should the Mets fold like a warm tortilla this weekend at Citizens Bank Park.
David Wright is still out at least for Friday's game. Bay is still Bay. And Santana won't be pitching this series so the outlook isn't ideal. The good news is we won't face Doc Halladay, but Lee kicks things off tonight.
I'm not about to say the season is over should the Mets get swept, but rather the warm, fuzzy reaction to this young team that we enjoyed opening weekend will quickly fade should the team fall flat in Philly. A win on Friday night could be just what the Mets need to stave off an early uprising.
Monday, April 9, 2012
Typical: Santana gets minimal run support while pitching masterfully.
Untypical: Bullpen holds a 1-0 lead including a 1-2-3 9th inning.
Typical: Jason Bay stinks.
Untypical: Jason Bay actually got an RBI.
Typical: Mets find a way to turn an almost no-hitter into a 4 run inning and threaten losing the game.
Untypical: Bullpen holds for a 3rd straight day.
Typical: David Wright is on a hot streak.
Untypical: Ruben Tejada has a 4 hit day and makes Mets fans wonder who played SS last season.
Typical: Mets starting pitching gives up multiple homers during the series.
Untypical: Mets hit more homes at Citi Field than opponent.
Typical: Mets bring in closer during close games.
Untypical: Francisco, who was atrocious during spring training, looks more like Rivera than Rivera on opening weekend.
Typical: Daniel Murphy is hitting.
Untypical: Lucas Duda is crushing.
Typical: Mets win opening day.
Untypical: Mets sweep the Braves.
It's only April, but no team needed a good start like the Mets. It puts fans in the seats, exceeds expectations and gives confidence to a young squad. Possibly the most impressive performance for me was not that Niese through 6 no-hit innings, but Bobby Parnell pitching really well in the game on Saturday.
The bullpen being consistent will be a huge asset this year as long as the starting pitching can keep the run totals at or below 3. The Mets will hit this year, but pitching will make or break their success.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
April is a long, brutal month for the Mets as they are scheduled to play most of their NL rivals in the first two weeks along with NL contenders. It could get ugly very quickly for this young ball club.
We'll have plenty of opportunity to armchair quarterback, second guess management and wish for better days.but for now hope, opportunity and the pure enjoyment of baseball games being played every day are the things we should be enjoying.
Forget Jason Bays' ineptitude, dismiss memories of injuries and ignore any conversation of Madoff or the Wilpons. It's Opening Day Mets fans. Let's enjoy it for the spectacle that is and what it represents for the game that we love.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
You don't have to navigate through too many baseball publications and preview articles to know what people are predicting for the Mets this season. You don't have to compare and contrast the opinions of Buster Olney, Jayson Stark, Peter Gammons,Tim Kurkjian or check in with any other baseball pundits and prognosticators. It's not looking too good -- in fact, its pretty terrible. So just how bad can we expect the Mets to be this season? Sportsbook.com has the over/under win total at 71.5. That's predicting them to finish about 20 games under .500. Only the Astros (63) and Orioles (69.5) have a lower over/under (NOTE: Seattle Mariners and Oakland A's odds are off the board since they started the season already in Japan). Sportsbook.com also has the Mets at 100:1 to win the World Series. Again, the Astros and Orioles are the only bigger long shots (300:1 and 200:1 respectively). The Mariners, Padres, A's, and Twins are all 100:1 too. To summarize using these "Vegas metrics" -- the Mets are being pegged as a bottom 5 team in baseball this season. Vegas has them in the absolute bottom tier of teams below the Pirates, Cubs, Indians, White Sox, and Royals -- YIKES!
Being the eternally optimistic Mets fan -- I want to believe more than anything that Vegas, the pundits, and all the naysayers are wrong. My inner Lloyd Christmas wants to believe there is a chance. So what will it take for the Mets to shock the world this season? How is it remotely possible for the Mets to contend in 2012 with the heavily favored Phillies, greatly improved Marlins and Nationals, and always solid Braves? To answer this question -- let's go down the Mets roster and play the "What If" game:
Johan Santana - What if Johan is 100% healthy after missing all of last season and returns to his dominant form? He's looked strong all spring, his velocity is back up to the 90-92 range....What if he starts 30+ games and gives us 185-200 innings? With a very good bullpen (more on that later) isn't it possible he can win close to 20 games, with a sub 3 ERA, and a 1.15 whip?
R.A Dickey - What if we get the 200+ innings he threw in 2011 with the 2.84 ERA and 1.19 Whip he put up in 2010? Isn't 18 wins and a 3rd great season from the late blooming knuckle baller doable?
Jonathan Niese - With 2 full seasons under his belt, and a new 5 year, $29 million extension coming his way -- can the 25 year old pitcher break out this season? No fan or scout will questions his "stuff" -- Niese has a Barry Zito in his prime curve ball in his arsenal. He's been a great 1st half pitcher that tends to tire out after the All-Star break --What if he stays strong for an entire season, keeps his walk totals down, and shows maturity and progression in his 3rd full season? Isn't 16/17 wins, a 3.25 ERA, and a 1.25 Whip reasonable?
Mike Pelfrey - So clearly Pelfrey isn't the 97 mph, flame throwing monster Mets fans were led to believe he was when we drafted him with the 9th overall pick in the 2005 draft. Seems like the Mets haven't had a hard-throwing SP in 20 years (since Doc Gooden). What if Pelfrey embraces the "pitch to contact" type pitcher he really is and actually throws a heavy sinker that stays down in the zone throughout the season? He's still only 28 years old. Derek Lowe -- one of the great "pitch to contact sinker ballers" of my generation didn't have a great season until he was 28/29 years old. How about a modest Derek Lowe type season of 200+ innings, 16 wins, 3.60 ERA, 1.27 WHIP? [BTW - Octavio Dotel started 14 games for the Mets in 1999 -- I think he was the last Mets starter to throw over 95 mph fastball consistently].
Dillon Gee - What if he puts up the same numbers as last season? 15 wins, 4.43 ERA, and 1.38 Whip from your 5th starter is very solid. All you want out of your 5th starter is someone that can eat innings and keep you in games. Although Gee cooled off after a hot start -- I'm confident he'll be steady overall again. He's about to turn 26 this season and for the first time in his career enters the MLB season knowing he's a lock for the rotation. What if he were to improve even just slightly this season?
1. Andres Torres - What if he returns to his 2010 form? That season he led off for the World Champion San Francisco Giants and hit 16 homers, 43 doubles, stole 26 bases and had an OPS of .822. That .822 OPS is higher than Reyes career OPS average.
2. Daniel Murphy - What if he picks up where he left off before getting injured last season? In 109 games last season, he had 125 hits, 28 doubles, and was hitting .320. He was emerging as a terrific contact hitter that put the ball in play. He's also gritty, heady, and understands situational hitting. What if he keeps it going and even adds to the 12 home run total of 2010? He can be a very nice bat and perfect hitter for the 2 hole.
3. David Wright - What if he is fully healthy and has a new found confidence with the new, more hitter-friendly dimensions of Citi Field? What if he gets back to the .300, 25-30 homer, 100+ RBI stud seasons we always use to count on him for?
4. Ike Davis - What if he breaks out as one of the stud young sluggers in the game? He was already on his way last season - hitting 7 homers and 39 hits in just 36 games played before going down to a freak calf injury. He just turned 25, and it looks as though we finally have a 1st round draft pick that has panned out. What if he can maintain the pace he was off to last season before getting injured and put up .300 BA, .383 OBP, and .927 OPS?
5. Jason Bay - What if he really was just spooked by the massive dimensions of Citi Field his first 2 seasons? What if bringing the fences in helps Bay get his swing back? Can he put up a year consistent with his seasonal averages of 22 homers, 80+ RBIs, .373 OBP, and .873 OPS?
6. Lucas Duda - What if "THE DUDE" picks up exactly where he left off last season? "The Dude" hit .292 with 10 homers and 50 RBIs in 100 games last season. He also led NL rookies in slugging and on base percentages last season. This guy is without a doubt the strongest hitter on the Mets and possesses some serious power. What if he maintains a strong batting average, and increases his power to the tune of 30 home runs and 95 RBIs?
7. Josh Thole - What if Josh Thole can be the effective contact/situational hitter he's shown he can be at times? He's very difficult to strike out and has a steady career OBP of .350. He will not give us the leadership and grittiness that Paul LoDuca gave us in 2006 [dam that feels like forever ago] but what if he gives us a similar type year at the plate: .300 batting average, 5 homers, 39 doubles, and .355 OBP. Lucas Duda is going to be in scoring position plenty for him....Mets are going to need him to deliver.
8. Ruben Tejada - .284 batting average and .360 on base percentage with 93 hits in 96 games last season. That is quality production from the 8 spot. Tejada has shown patience and great pitch selection in his short career thus far and he's looked impressive this spring. What if he builds on his nice season last year and becomes a stable bat and solid presence at the bottom of the lineup. Mets haven't had a quality bat at the bottom of the order since Jon Valentin in 2006.
What if a few of the Mets bench players prove they can be quality fill-ins and late-inning contributors? Scott Hairston has got power from the right side of the plate and hit a few big home runs last season. Justin Turner proved he could handle himself at the plate and should be a nice option to give Ike Davis rest at 1st base against tough lefties [The NL east is filled with those now - Cliff Lee, Hamels, Buehrle, Gio Gonzalez, and Mike Minor]. Ronny Cedeno is a very capable backup middle infielder. Mike Nickeas should be a solid defensive backup catcher and Mike Baxter could maybe give us a left-handed complement in the outfield.
The Mets slashed payroll in a major way this past off season - but the one area they chose to spend was in the bullpen. They invested over $15 million for the services of Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco. Both players have had successes closing out games. Mets also got a very nice bullpen piece in Ramon Ramirez in the Angel Pagan deal. What if these three pieces join together nicely along with Bobby Parnell, Pedro Beato, lefty specialist Tim Byrdak and either DJ Carrasco or Miguel Batista as the long man. The Mets bullpen has the potential to be one of the best in baseball this season.
The Mets will need mostly all of the "what ifs?" mentioned above to come true if they want to contend in 2012. The Mets can finally put the Madoff suit behind them and they possess some nice young players and prospects to build with. They also should be able to bring in some nice prospects via trade by the deadline this season. If Rauch and Francisco are pitching well they should bring back good value in a trade to a contender as they are reliable veteran bullpen pitchers on short term contracts.
Personally, I'm just hoping the Mets can play solid, competitive baseball this season and not be totally out of contention by May.
...you can follow Eli on Twitter at @miamicondoguy