Wednesday, April 28, 2010

There’s No Place Like Home…


Incredible what a difference a week or so makes.

Now, do not get me wrong. I’m not suddenly calling the Mets “the team to beat”… but the way they have looked on this 8-1 homestand (and the series before it) has been nothing short of mind blowing.

Despite the struggles of John Maine and Oliver Perez, the team is getting lights out pitching… and thriving.

Does that mean all is perfect in MetLand though? No.

First off, I still feel Jerry Manuel is playing with fire by not letting his starters go a little further in games. The bullpen has been great, but overuse them and you’ll burn them out by July.

I also would really like to see him use the speed on the team more and run. With the speed on this team there should be three to five stolen base attempts and more hit and run situations every game.

Far be it from me to critize though. With this run the Mets are obviously in a good groove. The 20 inning win over the Cardinals was a plus. The promotion of Ike Davis has been a jolt of energy (one where I was wrong, since I was not sure Davis was ready for the Majors yet). The elevation of Mike Pelfrey’s game has been nothing short of miraculous. Hisanori Takahashi and Jonathan Niese have been a much needed shot in the arm for the pitching staff… looking just great in their appearances. Things are clicking all over.

But here come the Phillies.

This weekend will be disected as a huge weekend… but I don’t think it is. At least, not as much as it will be made out to be.

The Phillies are hurting right now. Losing seven out of their last ten, and seeing a number of their team hitting the DL… something they barely had to deal with last year. This is still a dangerous team that, frankly, is still better than the Mets right now… even if they are not playing like it. I think a series win is more important to the Mets than the Phillies at this point of the season. I don’t think either team should get too high or too low on what happens over the weekend series, since there is a lot of baseball to be played.

Winning this series would be great for the Mets though. I will say this… you cannot win a division championship in April… but you sure can lose one.

In any case, the Mets are playing like gamebusters. Here’s hoping it lasts. With a smart move here and there, and eventually getting Beltran back… I think it can. The Mets ARE a good team and CAN contend. They are not the best in the NL, but they are solid enough to play good baseball all summer. Let’s hope what we’re seeing now is closer to what the team is than the first 11 games or so of the season.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Middle of the Order is Pressing

David Wright. Jason Bay. Jeff Francor. Not exactly the names you would expect to hear when discussing the Met players that are hurting the offense right now, but there they are in black and white. The middle of the Mets’ line-up is struggling.

Wright and Francour started off 2010 swinging hot bats. Since hitting two home runs in Colorado however, Wright is 4 for his last 24 with 1 RBI and 11 strikeouts and Francour is 4 for his last 29 with 1 RBI and 3 strikeouts. Bay has struggled most of the year batting .241 with 0 HRs and 3 RBI in the first 15 games of the season, including 5 for his last 23 with 2 RBI and 12 strikeouts.

One of the problems could be that the three righthanded hitters are all bunched in a row, batting in the 3, 4 and 5 spots in the order, thus making them a little susceptible to righthand pitching. Jerry Manuel commented that he plans on breaking the three up the next time they face a righty.

Listen, players have slumps and I don’t think it’s going to be a long term concern that these players are hitting, but to have them all slumping at the same time is rough. Out of the three, the one you might have the most concern for would be Francour, but he has done nothing since he’s come to the Mets but hit, so you have to think he’ll get himself out of this.

The desire to get off to a fast start might also have these guys pressing a little too much. Wright likely wants to erase questions about his power from last year, Bay wants to show his new team he’s a good fit and Francour wants to just continue to impress with the bat like he has since the trade that brought him here. The thing is, the Mets will be hard pressed to score runs without these guys. Jose Reyes is back, Angel Pagan is swinging a hot bat and Ike Davis has arrived, but the middle of the order needs to perform and help the offense click. The pitching for the most part has been much better then anyone would have thought, but it’s time the offense carried its weight.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Big Pelf Does it Again

This is something Met fans could get used to.
Mike Pelfrey is making a serious case to be taken seriously here. He’s now 3-0 with a 0.86 ERA in three starts (plus 1 for 1 in save oppertunities which is wild considering he’s a starter).

This, just one day after Jonathan Niese pitched another strong outing and young phenom Ike Davis made his major league debut. Add in the fact that Jose Reyes went 4-5 with a triple, 2 RBIs, a run scored and a stolen base tonight and suddenly the Mets 2010 isn’t so bleak as it seemed a few days ago. Thanks Cubbies!!!

Ok, the past two days doesn’t mean the Mets are suddenly a 95 win club, but the pitching situation certainly is not the nightmare everyone has been worried about. Pelfrey and his shiny new split fingered fastball, and Niese’s solid composure on the mound has lessened the concern a little. Oliver Perez’s excellent outing against the Cardinals was a nice thing, but Ollie’s turned in big gems before. I’d like to see a little consistancy from him before I consider him fully on track. That leave John Maine as the guy dragging the rear.

Also, the Mets bullpen, considered a huge problem when the season started, leads the National League in ERA and is looking pretty damn solid so far, although Ryoto Igarashi pulled up lame afte trying to field a bunt in the 8th inning. He is scheduled to have an MRI in the morning and hopefully the injury bug hasn’t bitten again.

So, enjoy the Mets first offical winning streak of the season. Two in a row and three out of four. Also enjoy this thought… Pelfrey, Niese, Davis… even Reyes tonight… are all homegrown. When’s the last time a handfull of young homegrown players made the Met fans so happy?

It’s way too soon to start considering the Mets suddenly a strong contender, but the last few days have certainly been a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Something just occured to me…

… while thinking about Mike Pelfrey’s start tonight. After saving Saturday’s insane 20 inning affair against the Cardinals, Pelfrey actually leads the Mets in Wins AND Saves.

Which also means that before last night’s win over the Cubs, he had played a prominent role in 75% of the Mets wins.

How bizarre is that?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Business as usual in the Bronx

So the Yankees got their world series rings today just before their home opener began, and then just got back to business with solo home runs from Derek Jeter and Nick Johnson and some timely hitting bringing them to a current 5-0 lead over the Angels in the bottom of the 6th.

The Yankees have looked loose and fairly smooth so far over the first week of the season. C.C. Sabathia followed up his ugly opening day start by bringing a no-hitter into the 8th inning on a hot-shot Rays team, Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada and Curtis Granderson have been swinging hot bats, and Nick Johnson has managed to not hurt himself licking a postage stamp or anything. Meanwhile Jeter and Rivera continue to be… well… Jeter and Rivera.

The Yankees first week has to be seen as a great beginning. They took two out of three both from their two huge division rivials (The Red Sox and Rays) after losing the first game of the series and on the road to boot. This is going to be a hell of a battle with these three teams as they are the cream of the crop of the entire Major Leagues. The only real concern for the Yankees (as previously stated) is age and injury and so far neither has looked to be an issue. Of course we are only a week into the 2010 season, but the rest of the AL East has to know they cannot let the Yankees get to a big lead early, or the rest of the season might be just the battle for the wild card.

I don’t think the bombers will just walk away with the Division… in fact I suspect the Rays might the best of the three teams (this is more of a gut feeling then a true decree) but the boys in pinstripes are the best suited to stand up to the three-way war that is coming. The Yankees right now are boring… boring in the fact there is no concern or controversy anywhere near the team right now. Will that last the entire season? It might.

So lean back Yankee fans, the ride will likely not get bumpy for a while. Things should start to get intense as the season goes on, but barring something unexpected, things should be hopping in the Bronx for a while.

Good Bye Mike, Hello Ike

Well… that was quick.

As AC Wayne mentioned as a possibility below, Ike Davis is on his way to Citifield now that Mike Jacobs is on his way to unemployment. I like Jacobs, but he had to go. I wish him luck and hope he is able to catch on with someone somewhere… just as long as it isn’t with the Mets. His 2nd run here with the team was a mistake… one I’m glad to see resolved quickly rather than dragged out.

There’s going to be a lot of excitement with the promotion of Davis, and rightfully so. However if people are expecting him to come smashing out of the gate and rescue the Mets’ struggling offense, odds are you’re going to be disapointed.

Davis has a busload of talent. That much is certain. His glove and bat will be improvements over Jacobs in just about every way… that is certain also. But you have to temper your expectations. Could Davis start off strong and stay solid for the year? Sure he could. I remember when Robinson Cano was brought up (along with Chien-Ming Wang) by the Yankees in 2005 in what seemed like a desperation move by a Bombers team that was struggling and both had great rookie seasons. Cano especially stood out and finished second in the Rookie of the Year balloting. Davis could absolutely have the same success. However, forgive me if I’d prefer to allow for some serious growing pains first.

Davis had an excellent spring and made it look like he could belong, but anyone who knows baseball knows that you have to be careful on how much stock you take in spring training stats. This is not to say Davis doesn’t have what it takes. I think he does. I think in the end he’ll be fantastic. I just don’t know if the time is right. The Mets are off to a horrible start, despite their better play this weeknd, and at 4 – 8 to start the season they need to do something to make sure the seats in Citifield get filled. From a fan perspective, this was a smart move. it will sell tickets and give the fans, who feel like there is little to be excited about, something to cheer for.

With the addition of Davis, the Mets have an infield made up of young corner-stone players who are expected to carry the load for this team. Davis gets to join Jose Reyes and David Wright on the big stage… but is he ready? Only time will tell.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Mets Get a Big Lift from Big Pelf

Nine games into the season (and with only three wins), the Mets have one of their starting pitchers with a 2-0 record, a 1.38 ERA, 10 K’s and only 4 walks in 13 innings. This pitcher has twice stopped losing streaks.

If that was the only info you had, odds are you would say “That has to be Johan Santana.”

Amazingly though, it’s not. May I introduce one of the few bright spots for the Mets so far in 2010: Mike Pelfrey.

While it’s way too early to start proclaiming Pelfrey to be the #2 starter the Mets have been needing, he’s taken some strides to return to the success he enjoyed in 2008 when he won 13 games with a 3.72 ERA and began to establish himself as a solid starting pitcher.

One of the reason for his early success seems to be the addition of a split-fingered fastball to his repertoire. Mixing up his pitches has served him well, as seen yesterday in seven shutout innings, where he didn’t allow a walk… a big change from his last appearance in Coors Field when he allowed six earned runs and walked five, lasting only four innings in what became a 10 – 9 loss.

As everyone has been saying all through the offseason and into the first nine games… the mets NEED someone to step it up and have a solid 2010 for them to have a prayer to complete. Pelfrey, who was the ninth overall pick in the 2005 draft, has been a highly touted pitcher for a while and after a great second half in 2008 has been expected to be a front end of the rotation guy.

As I stated before in earlier posts, I think Pelfrey has the ability to be the guy they need at the front end of the rotation. He’s a strong power pitcher with good stuff. Pelfrey’s biggest problem however… is Pelfrey. He has shown on occasion to allow a bad start to get into his head (like when he spent an hour doing running sprints in the Coors Field parking lot after his last disasterous start mentioned above) and has had issues with balks when he gets over excited on the mound.

Despite that, I believe he has it in him to be what the Mets need. Only time will tell, but right now he has given the Mets a huge lift with his great start. if he can keep up this type of performance, coupled with Santana, the season looks less bleak already.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Showing some heart

Just a quick observation about the 8th and 9th inning tonight in the Mets/Rockies game. The Mets showed some grit late to force extra innings. Nice job. And if Francour keeps swinging the bat like they way he has so far he’s going to find himself in the cleanup spot very soon.

I liked what I saw from Niese tonight. His first start in the high mountains of Denver wasn’t as bad as the line looked. His only REAL mistake was the two out homerun ball. Overall he kept his composure and battled. He’s going to be a fairly solid starter. Not a #2 guy… but someone you can count on to keep you in a game.

UPDATE: Not sure what Jerry Manuel was thinking when he pinch ran Fernando Tatis for Mike Jacobs. That left only Henry Blanco to counter LHP Randy Flores and he was the last man on the bench. So Alex Cora stayed on to face Flores and lined a weak shot to 2nd base, leaving runners at 2nd and 3rd. Tatis would have been the perfect guy to bring up in that spot.

UPDATE #2: And just like that the game is over. Putting the rookie in there like that was not the best of ideas. I think this one may prove to be the first of the nails in Jerry’s coffin. We’ve already discussed Jenrry Mejia’s being pushed up too soon… and Coors was not the place to put him in position for his first major league loss. The team battled back tonight, but the result was the same. Not leaving a good feeling around the team here folks. I could see the Mets getting into panic mode quickly. It’s way too early to say a game is a must win, but… hey… tomorrow is a must win.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

It’s Getting Late Early…

Ok Met fans… repeat after me.

“It’s only seven games. It’s only seven games.”

Try extending your arms, close your eyes and breathe deep. Repeat your new mantra and rotate your arms in a small circle.

Does that feel better?

Ok, no, I didn’t think it would.

I’d like to tell people to relax… that it is WAY too early to get those feelings of despair. That there is 155 games left in the season. That a 2-5 start isn’t actually a season killer.

And while all of this is true, it’s hard to believe it, isn’t it?

Listen, as much as I’m all for patience and understanding, at some point the Wilpons need to take a seriously hard look at the way their franchise has performed and has been run. Right now, confidence is at an all time low. Except for two blowout wins, the team isn’t scoring runs, and the guy they have tagged as their number two pitcher followed up a rather lackluster start last week with a downright horrible one last night.

So is there a simple solution? I don’t think there is. The Mets are in a very bad spot here. It’s too early to panic, but their past history shows a string of bad decisions and uneven play. The Phillies are already 6-1 and despite the likely loss of Jimmy Rollins to the DL that offense is not going to struggle too much to score runs in his absence. The rest of the division is struggling also and most of the NL is looking average at the moment. However, at this point the Mets need to face facts… they are a franchise that is not taken very seriously and is regarded as being the modern equivilant of the Keystone Cops. Two straight year end collapses and last year’s injury nightmare was followed up by an offseason of indecision and inactivity for the most part. Well, it might be time to change that.

While rumor has it that pitchers like Adam Harang and Roy Oswalt are on the market (both who I think would be good fits in Flushing). Both are making some good money and likely can be had without trading any real talent if the Mets would be willing to take on the contracts. It’s time for the Mets to make up their minds on something… they either want to win or they want to save money. They have the fourth largest payroll in baseball (behind the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies) just ahead of the Cubs and Tigers. At this point they are not getting a return on their investment. As much as I like John Maine, the leash on him cannot be long. He needs to show some improvement in his next start in St. Louis or the Mets need to start thinking about a replacement and one that can handle a front half of the rotation role.

They also need to rectify the 1st base situation. Forget that Ike Davis is hitting over .450 in AAA. As much as I like the kid, he needs some time in AAA. Don’t rush him. Get Chris Carter up here and send Mike Jacobs packing.

As far as I am concerned, Jerry Manual needs to get this team going. The situational hitting is not there. They need to be aggressive. You have to start thinking about batting Angel Pagan second in the order between Wright and Reyes and starting to use the speed you have by pumping up the running game two fold. For a team with so many guys who can steal, the Mets are hardly running.

I’m not in panic mode, but the Mets should be prepared to go in a different direction if things do not start to change in the next week to a week and a half. It’s early, but it won’t be for long.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Glaring Issues in Queens

Well it’s only been a week (six games to be exact) and a lot of Mets fans are ready to jump off a bridge. After a 2-4 start and two straight losses to the lowly Nationals it’s hard to blame them, but it HAS only been a week so the need to panic should not have set in yet.

That is not to say the Mets don’t have a few glaring issues however. Right now I would say their inability to hit with runners in scoring postion is the largest. It’s something that the Mets always seem to have a problem with, no matter who is on the team. It’s bizarre.

To me though, one of the largest problems is first base. While Jacobs did hit a home run yesterday (a towering shot in the 8th), he was 2 for 16 before that and has basically been unreliable at the plate. It’s exactly as I feared… he’s all power and no substance. He’ll hit you home runs (maybe even as much as 30 to 35 in a full season) however he’ll do nothing else. This is beyond frustrating when you see Chris Carter doing well at AAA Buffalo after having a great spring. It’s not even like Jacobs is so good with the glove that you’ll take the lousy batting average and non-contact at-bats. The entire thing makes no sense.

It doesn’t help that Gary Mathews, after a good opening day has been as “unclutch” as you can be. He’s been up at least six times with two out and runners in scoring postion (four times yesterday alone) and hasn’t gotten one hit.

Overall the Mets are 10 for 53 with runners in scoring position. That’s a .189 batting average. That is 2nd worst in the NL (behind only Houston). Seeing that Jacobs and Matthews have been hitting mostly in the 4th, 5th and 6th positions you can see where a lot of that lost production is coming from.

It’s only been six games. Jacobs himself has only started in four. However, it’s already getting to be time for the Mets to see what they have in front of them and act. Release Jacobs (or send him down… trust me… he’ll clear waivers), bring up Carter and start playing Pagan in Center at least four or five times a week until Beltran returns.

The starting pitching hasn’t been amazing, but it hasn’t been downright horrible either. Niese and Pelfry both had good starts while Maine and Perez’s starts were lackluster but not disasters. The bullpen has been outstanding so far. Reyes has looked a little sluggish since his return but I would expect that to improve quickly.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Nice Job by Niese

Quick note about the Mets game tonight… was going back and forth on it sporatically, but what I saw of Jonathan Niese was encouraging. One night after a uneven start by John Maine, the Mets needed a lift, and while they didn’t get a win (the offense was flat) they did get a fairly solid performance from the young pitcher.

Fernando Tatis and Angel Pagan got their first starts of the 2010 season , Tatis made a nice play in the 3rd, picking up an errent throw by David Wright with two on and two out, and Pagan had two hits.

The best news of the night was Niese though. In a season where every starter besides Johan Santana seems to be a question mark, having Niese step up and be a solid turn in the rotation would be a welcome sight.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Not a Mets Game until…

So sitting here watching the Mets game and what could have been a nice comback in the bottom of the 7th was stimied by a baserunning blunder… Fernando Tatis, not exactly known for his speed, was thrown out at the plate to end the 7th on a passed ball that only went about five feet away. Granted the catcher made an outstanding throw to the pitcher, who was in perfect position… but still… two runs were in… the bases were loaded and David Wright was up. You want Jose Reyes or Angel Pagan to go in that spot? Ok, that I could maybe handle… but anyone else needs to see that ball roll a hell of a lot further away to commit going home there.

In any case, I got a txt message thirty seconds later from my friend Chris… whose txt read: “It’s not a Mets’ game until there is a terrible baserunning error. What the hell was he thinking?”

This brings up the current mindset of the basic Mets fan. We’re always waiting for the one big mistake to happen that kills the rally or opens the floodgates for the other team. It’s not a fun place to be.

My Summer Family blogger Taryln Cooper commented that the Mets are basically Johan and the four rainouts. In other words, pray for four days of rain to get Johan on the mound more. While I am willing to give John Maine, Ollie Perez and Mike Pelfry a few starts each to show what they can do, tonight’s start by Maine was not encouraging (Four earned runs in 5 innings)… something I’m sure the gloom and doom Mets fan will be ready to lament about tomorrow.

However, no matter what the condition of the starting pitching, the Mets cannot give away oppertunity like the did here. Smart baseball… it’s what Jerry Manual needs to pound in these guys heads.

Monday, April 5, 2010

And So It Begins…

Opening Day is upon us. A day that hope springs eternal… or at least until mid-June.

The Yankees lost their opener 9-7 in Boston thanks to a late inning comback by the Red Sox. Blowing a 5-1 lead is not something you’d expect from C.C. Sabathia, but he had a lousy opening day start last year too. No reason to expect him to suddenly struggle. The Yankees 2010 season looks quite bright.

The Mets are in the process of kicking the tar out of the Marlins helped by David Wright’s first homerun of the season, excellent pitching from Johan Santana and a few errors by the Marlins. They currently hold a 7-1 in the top of the 8th. I was a little surprised by Jerry Manual pulling Santana after the 6th. He pulled him for a pinch hitter (Pagan) with a 4-1 lead and only 69 pitches thrown. I wouldn’t have done that, but the Mets scored twice more that inning to make teh score 6-1. No harm no foul I suppose, but I still would have let Santana go out for the 7th at least.

The question really is… what do you expect from these two teams. As the defending champs, as with a stacked team, the Yanks only real issues is mostly possible injury and age. They are an older team (which did get a little younger with Curtis Granderson replacing Johnny Damon in the outfield and Nick Johnson replacing Hideki Matsui at DH) and you do have to be at least aware of Pettite, Posada, Jeter, and Rivera’s age. Rivera has almost no injury history to worry about. Same with Jeter for the most part. Posada and Pettite could be a concern. With injury, A.J. Burnett and Johnson are both higher injury risks when you note their history (although you must note that Burnett stayed healthy all last year). The only other real possible concern would be the Division. The three best teams in the AL are all AL EAST teams in the Yanks, Red Sox and Rays. One of those three is not making the playoffs.

For the Mets, the season is starting without two of their top players in Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, as well as first baseman Daniel Murphy. Reyes will be back by next week however, and Beltran and Murphy should both be in games by early May. The main concern for this team is the starting pitching, but no one really knows just what they are going to get from the 2-5 starters. Unlike the rest of the world, I do feel the Mets can contend… and while they don’t have the stacked lineup of the Phillies or the sexy starting pitching of the Braves, they have a soild team that will be quite good as long as someone from the trio of John Maine, Oliver Perez and Mike Pelfry can repeat past success.

This early in the season though… it’s easy to dream and dream big. Enjoy 2010!