Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mets are at a turning point in the season

The Mets are undoubtedly at an early crucial point of the 2014 season.  After a dreadful road trip and losing 8 of 9, the Mets rallied in the 9th and beat the Phillies in the 11th on Sunday, and last night beat the Yankees at Yankee Stadium in a 9-7 thriller.  The Mets have also called up pitchers Rafael Montero and Jacob DeGrom.  Montero will start Wednesday against the Yankees at Citi Field and deGrom will work out of the bullpen.  

Let's start with the terrible stretch.  What was especially discouraging was that the Mets found a bunch of ways to lose games.  In Colorado they got bad outings from Bartolo Colon and Zack Wheeler to lose the first two.  Then Mejia hit a wall in the 5th and gave up 8 runs, capped off by a Nolan Aranado grand slam. The Mets were still in a position to win a back and forth late inning game but Kyle Farnsworth gave up a walk off home run in the 9th to lose that one.  Then they simply didn't hit in game 4 and got swept.  In Miami the Mets wasted some good starting pitching.  Niese gave them seven shutout innings but Daisuke gave away a three run lead before Stanton delivered a walk off hit in the 9th.  Then the bats completely didn't show up in the final two games of that series, losing 3-0 and 1-0.  The final game was another walk off.  Then the Mets returned home against for the Phillies and in the first two games they couldn't get the big hit with runners in scoring position, losing both games.  In the finale they came from behind to score three in the 9th, aided by a Daniel Murphy two run homer and Ruben Tejada delivered a walk off hit in the 11th.

When Juan Lagares returned from the DL, Terry Collins said he would be employing some sort of four man outfield rotation.  Instead, we mostly saw Juan Lagares starting in center hitting leadoff with Eric Young Jr. on the bench.  While Lagares has had a nice year, Young provides something offensively, especially from the leadoff spot, that Lagares doesn't.  He's quick and steals bases.  His batting average isn't great but he gets on base and always finds himself in the middle of things.  Lagares profiles as more of a middle of the order type of hitter.  He runs well but doesn't seem like a base stealer like Young is.  Young provides a spark at the top of the line up and Terry needs to keep him in the line up.  I don't think it's a coincidence that the Mets lost all those games with Young not being utilized.  He had a big night last night and the Mets simply don't have a base stealing threat in their lineup without him.  

With Rafael Montero coming up from Las Vegas, Jenrry Mejia is going to be in the bullpen.  When I heard the news I thought it was a very quick leash for Mejia.  Yeah he's had a few bad outings and seems to run out of gas and become hittable once the lineup sees him a couple times but I thought he would get a couple starts to see if he can return to who he was earlier in the season.  He's also made it clear that he wants to start.  He had a great outing last night out of the bullpen though and that was encouraging.  I really don't feel comfortable with guys like Valverde and Daisuke.  Farnsworth has been ok but there's a reason he was a spring training invitee.  If Mejia can get on board with pitching out of the bullpen, he can be very useful.  Especially with the starting pitching down in AAA.  Montero's up now and we'll see Syndergaard soon enough.  deGrom is up as well and it'll be fun to see how he does at this level.

Here's why the Mets are at a turning point.  We all know they're still working at developing the young starting rotation and we're all excited at seeing Harvey,Wheeler, Niese, Gee, Syndergaard next year for a full season.  It's been a process but it's almost done.  With Montero and deGrom coming up, we're beginning to see the Mets transition away from the old stop-gap relievers like Daisuke and Valverde.  With the way Mejia looked last night I think Terry's going to turn to him a lot.  Same with Jeurys Familia who has looked fantastic as of late as well.  Montero's going to start Wednesday but it's not certain if his future will be in the rotation or the bullpen.  The bottom line is the Mets have really good young arms, arms that can build a dominant starting rotation, but also a bullpen as well.  Farnsworth, Valverde and Daisuke obviously aren't part of Sandy Alderson's blue print.  So it seems the Mets are at a turning point from a big picture, long term perspective.  But they're also at a turning point for this season.  Nothing was realistically expected from this team heading into the season.  They had gotten off to a pretty good start before the stretch of losing 8 of 9.  But they're coming off of 2 really good wins.  Granderson hit a home run last night and it seems like his bat might finally be waking up.  Chris Young  hit the game winning home run and he seems to be coming around as well.  Ruben Tejada even had a couple hits last night and delivered the game winner on Sunday.  Maybe Wilmer Flores' presence has pushed him a little bit.  The Mets have gotten fantastic starting pitching from Gee and Niese all year, and you have to think Wheeler's going to find some consistency.  Maybe the injection of the two young arms in deGrom and Montero will give the Mets the boost they need.  The team seemed to be playing loose last night and it was refreshing to see.  These games against the Yankees can be energizing and serve as a catapult for the next few weeks.  They're 18-19 and it's still only mid-May.  That 9 game stretch could've sunk them but that come from behind win on Sunday afternoon clearly gave the Mets momentum for this big four game set with the Yankees.  There's three more and I'm really looking forward to them.  These next three games will say a lot about this team and how they'll do the rest of the way.  It seems like Granderson and Chris Young are going to be providing a little bit of pop in the middle of the order.  We're getting our first look at some young arms in Montero and deGrom and we''re probably just a few weeks away from seeing Noah Syndergaard.  You can't expect young pitching to singlehandedly carry the team into the playoffs, but crazy things happen in baseball.  I think we're going to have a fun rest of the year, especially if they can be at or above .500 at the all star break.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mets start season 8-7

The Mets have gotten out of the gate 8-7 in 2014.  It could be a lot worse considering a few things.  One is the 0-3 start and how terrible the bullpen looked early on.  Also, Chris Young didn't start on opening day and has spent the season on the DL.  He's coming off the DL though and could be starting tomorrow.  Another is that the Mets lost Bobby Parnell to Tommy John surgery.  The bullpen was a concern even with Parnell closing games.  Jose Valverde's outings have been a little rocky and it remains to be seen if he can be a viable option the rest of the year.  Him and Kyle Farnsworth have done a nice job in the back end of games so far though.  It's interesting to watch guys who used to be flamethrowers take on different personas in the latter part of their careers.  Valverde seemed to be hitting 93-94 regularly in his last outing in Arizona but Farnsworth is nowhere close to the same pitcher he used to be.

One reason for the Mets' success is that they have scored some runs.  Juan Lagares has been really fun to watch.  He's developed tremendously at the plate.  He can hit the ball with authority to right center but is also quick enough to pull the inside pitch.  It's a shame he's going to be sidelined for two weeks with a hamstring injury and I really hope it doesn't slow him down when he comes back.  He's hitting .314 with 7 RBI's.

Lucas Duda has been the primary first baseman and has gotten off to a pretty good start offensively.  Ike hit that walk off pinch hit grand slam against the Reds but besides that hasn't done much in his limited role.  It's hard to perform with no job security, but Ike's been a professional about his situation.  Duda clearly seems more comfortable playing his natural position and he's really not a bad defensive player.  He seems very comfortable at the plate.  He has a very good idea of the strike zone and doesn't swing at a lot of bad pitches.  Ike can be over aggressive at times and the inconsistent at bats makes his plate disciple worse.  It is nice to have a power bat off the bench but the Mets can't go on much longer with both Ike and Duda.  With a 32 home run season under his belt Ike would be the more attractive trade option for other teams.  And to me, Ike is someone who could really benefit from a change of scenery and playing in a smaller market.  The last couple years have been rough on him with the extended slumps and spending time in AAA.  He's still 27 years old and a successful career could be ahead of him.  I just have a hard time seeing it happen in New York.  Turning the page and getting a fresh start could be just what he needs to revitalize his career.  And maybe the Mets could get a nice arm to throw in the bullpen in return for him.

There have been a few negatives on the offensive side: Travis d'Arnaud, Curtis Granderson, and Ruben Tejada.  Granderson hurt his wrist and shoulder I think colliding into the wall in Arizona a few days ago.  He should be good to go for tomorrow's game.  He's hitting just .167 and has struck out a lot but I'm not too concerned, I think he'll turn things around quickly.  d'Arnaud you worry about more because he doesn't have a track record to fall back on.  He has never hit at the big league level and didn't hit well this spring.  He's a great defensive player, he frames pitches well, and seems to have a good rapport with the starting pitchers which is obviously very important for a catcher. Anthony Recker has almost made up for his offensive struggles.  He hit a game winning home run in Anaheim and went deep again in Arizona this week.  He's really done a nice job, but d'Arnaud is supposedly the future.  It's only been a couple weeks though; hopefully he can figure things out at the plate.  Tejada is hitting just .186 and hasn't given you much of a reason to think he's going to start hitting.  His swing gets big and it seems like he forgets the kind of hitter he is.  He's basically a singles hitter who can occasionally hit a ball hard up the gap for an extra base hit.  His swing is too long and he hits way too many balls in the air, which has been a problem for him in the past.  I might want to get an extended look at Wilmer Flores is his struggles prolong.


Friday, March 28, 2014

2014 Preview

We're finally just a few days away from opening day.  The Mets will play exhibition games against Jose Reyes and the Blue Jays in Montreal tonight and tomorrow before heading to New York.  I'm really looking forward to finally watching games that mean something.  Spring training games are great but they're obviously not the same.

I think the opening day line up will look something like this:

Eric Young Jr.
Daniel Murphy
David Wright
Curtis Granderson
Chris Young
Lucas Duda/Ike Davis
Travis D'Arnaud
Ruben Tejada

It looks like Juan Lagares will be in the outfield mix as well.  EY will probably see more of the playing time early because the Mets need a lead off guy and he can steal bases.  We just have to hope he hits enough and gets on base enough to steal those bases.  Everyone knows how well Lagares plays defensively and we can probably expect to see him coming in late in games for defensive help.  The other outfielders are really solid defensively though, which is something that may be overlooked by some.  No Sandy didn't bring in a power bat like Nelson Cruz but this outfield can play defense.  And it's nice to have Granderson slated behind David to provide some protection that he hasn't had much of in recent years.  Chris Young had a really nice spring hitting .327 in 52 at bats.  Duda and Davis were hampered by minor injuries this spring and that competition never really happened.  That situation is something to keep an eye on in the early going.

The starting rotation will probably consist of:

Jon Niese
Dillon Gee
Bartolo Colon
Zack Wheeler
Daisuke Matsuzaka

I know Niese is going to miss at least his first start, possibly another, so Gee will start on opening day.  Dillon had a 1.08 ERA in his 4 spring starts and had a really solid year last year.  Colon of course signed a 2 year deal at the age of 40.  He's a workhorse though and we can expect to see him be reliable throughout the year.  It'll also be interesting to see how Wheeler fares in his first full year in the majors.  As far as the fifth starter goes, I personally would rather see Mejia get the nod rather than Daisuke.  I know Daisuke has it in his contract where he had the option to be released if he was still in the minors a month or two into the season or something like that and I'm not sure how that played into the decision making.  The couple times I saw him during spring training though his fastball wasn't getting much above 85.  He got guys out and put up some decent numbers in the spring but I would personally rather a young guy like Mejia get the chance to start the year in the majors.  We'll get a chance to see him tonight, as he's starting the game in Montreal.  And there might be a chance he could get a start in the first week of the season of Niese has to miss more than just opening day, which is pretty likely.  Daisuke obviously doesn't seem like a permanent solution and it would be nice to know what you have with Mejia by letting him start the season up in the majors.

The bullpen is expected to look something like this:
Bobby Parnell
Jose Valverde
Carlos Torres
Scott Rice
Jeurys Familia
John Lannan
Gonzalez Germen

I really liked what I saw from Vic Black at the end of last season but he had a very disappointing spring and will start the season in Las Vegas.  So I have Germen making the bullpen.  You just never know what to expect from bullpens.  Valverde looks to be the 8th inning guy, but that could blow up in the Mets' face.  Familia had a great spring and maybe he's looking to make a major stride in his development.  Look for him to be counted on in some big spots.  It'll also be interesting to see how Lannan adjusts to working out of the bullpen.  He has never relieved until his last few appearances in spring and he did a good job in that limited sample size.

The bench looks to be:
Duda/Ike
Juan Lagares
Anthony Recker
Omar Quintanilla
Andrew Brown

Quintanilla isn't exactly the most exciting option to have behind a shaky Ruben Tejada at shortstop.  Flores is but he'll probably start the year in AAA to get regular playing time.  If Tejada struggles out of the gate though, maybe Flores will get a regular look.

I think it's fair to expect this team to finish the year with a winning record, and if things go right, maybe compete for one of the wild card spots.  The starting rotation definitely leaves a little to be desired, but remember, Syndergaard and Montero will probably be up this season.  It'll be important to see how these young arms, along with Zack Wheeler continue to develop.  Prolonged and sustainable winning comes with a great starting rotation.  It obviously isn't here yet, but it's coming.  A rotation of Harvey, Niese, Wheeler, Syndergaard, and Gee could be in the works for opening day 2015.  Colon will be under contract too but let's not get too ahead of ourselves.  The bullpen is very inexperienced and frequent changes can probably be expected.  And despite the addition of Granderson, there's a lack of power in the line up.  I'm a little weary of the fact that the first base competition is still going on, but the Mets really need to get one of those potential 20-25 HR bats going.  If Chris Young can produce and D'Arnaud hits like many believe he's capable then the Mets could drive in some runs.  While most think 2015 is the year to start expecting the Mets to truly compete, they could surprise some people this year if things fall their way.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

More blogging in 2014

I've spent a lot of time away from this site.  Last season I did basically no blogging and was very inconsistent in 2012.  I started in 2011 and devoted a lot of time to this blog.  I did regular pre and post game posts for every game as well as other articles a few times a week.  I drifted away from blogging the last coupe years for a multitude of reasons and while I might not be able to be as committed as I was during the 2011 season, I'm going to be getting back into this more consistently.

Friday, October 4, 2013

2013 MLB Playoff Picks

I know I didn't pick the play in games and both NLDS series started last night but whatever.  Here are my playoff picks like a day late:

NLDS:
Pirates over Cardinals in 5
Dodgers over Braves in 4

ALDS:
Red Sox over Rays in 4
Tigers over A's in 5

NLCS:
Pirates over Dodgers in 6

ALCS:
Red Sox over Tigers in 5

World Series:
Red Sox over Pirates in 7

The Pirates lost 9-1 in Game 1 last night but they have a 5-0 lead right now in the 5th inning of game 2.  The Cardinals have been there before and they have a great mix of veterans and young players.  Starting rotation is top notch.  I just really think it's Pittsburgh's year.  They have a good mix and made the right late moves bringing in Morneau and Byrd.  I think they get past St. Louis and the Dodgers get past Atlanta easy.  Pittsburgh-LA is a fascinating NLCS match up.  The Dodgers got off to that awful start to the season but then Puig came in and gave them a spark.  They're really talented but I just don't know how well they'll perform in the postseason.  They're relatively inexperienced and are without Matt Kemp.  They have great starting pitching but I think they're a team that could see offense dry up in the playoffs.  I really think Pittsburgh is gonna get hot and play well enough to take this series, not even in 7 games.  

John Farrell did an amazing job in Boston this year.  He changed the vibe in that clubhouse from the start and established order.  They were consistent throughout the season and seem to be the best team in the AL.  Yeah the Rays had to win a few elimination games to get here but I think that took a lot out of them.  Boston is just too good for them.  I don't really know a lot about Oakland and for all I know they could show up and get past Detroit.  Verlander hasn't been what he has been but their offense is so good.  Cabrera's the best hitter in the playoffs and they have such balance in their line up.  I think they get by Oakland but won't put up much of a fight against Boston.  I think Farrell has this team playing well and peaking at the right time - just like Hurdle will do with the Pirates.

The Red Sox are way more talented than the Pirates, everyone knows that.  But I still think this would be a really competitive series.  The Red Sox have home field advantage and would host a Game 7.  It would be some run for Pittsburgh to get to that point, but I just have a hard time seeing this team winning a Game 7 at Fenway.  The Red Sox are just too good and they seem to have the right mix.  I think it's their year.