Archive for the ‘ Pitching ’ Category

Ike Davis and the Void Left Behind

Mike Piazza. Carlos Beltran. Aaron Heilman. Oliver Perez. Carlos Beltran. Jason Bay. Ike Davis.

Yes, Carlos Beltran is on this list twice. Yes, these players have absolutely nothing in common with each other on the surface.

But when Ike Davis got traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Zack Thornton and a player to be named later, he left a void within the DeMattia family and it took a couple of days for the devastation to kick in. In our house, we get together and calmly discuss who the team sad sack is.

The sad sack orginated back in 2005 with Mike Piazza. Don’t get me wrong; I love Mike Piazza as much as the next person, but in the last year of his Mets career, it seemed like he went up for each plate appearance with this angry/depressed look on his face. 2005 was a rough year, with new management and a new front office, so the sad sack was a fun way for us to get all of our frustrations out. The New Mets turned out to be a lot like the Old Mets. A. Lot.

I guess it was 2006 when Carlos Beltran made his comments about being 80-85% from coming back from God knows what injury. Beltran had the same angry/depressed look that Piazza had had the year before and not only did he become the next sad sack, but he also earned a new nickname, Mr. 85%. It was 2006. It was the best team we had fielded in a long time. I’m just going to leave it at that.

Somewhere in between the Unspeakable Event of 2006 and the Unspeakable Event of 2008, the sad sack evolved from the guy who looked the most depressed at the plate to the guy who was just, plain and simple, the worst player on the team. 2007 was supposed to be our year and so was 2008 (and so was 2009 for that matter). The sad sack turned into the scapegoat. It was easy to blame Aaron Heilman, Carlos Beltran, and Oliver Perez, especially after Perez got a 3-year/$36 million extension from Omar Minaya.

After Heilman was traded to Seattle in 2008 and Perez was released in 2011, the sad sack baton went back to Beltran. He was easy to blame. To this day, Mets Twitter has a “blame Beltran” hashtag and I am guilty of using it. But on July 28, 2011, Beltran was traded to the Giants for Zack Wheeler. And the search for a new sad sack commenced.

Enter Jason Bay. Bay signed a 4-year/$66 million contract on December 29, 2009. Bay played in only 95 games for the Mets in 2010 due to a concussion, sustained in a game against the Dodgers when he ran into a fenced wall and his head jerked back. Bay stayed off the radar, but the DeMattia family still had Beltran. Bay’s 2011 campaign started with another stint on the DL, but he still managed to play in 123 games. During his injury-plagued Mets tenure, Jason Bay never had a batting average over .260, including a dismal .165 in 2012. He did, however, hit his 200th career home run with the team and was only the third Canadian player to do so, behind Larry Walker and Matt Stairs.

On November 7, 2012, the Mets and Jason Bay agreed to terminate their contract a year early. Instead of pulling a Bobby Bonilla, the Mets paid Jason Bay $16 million to play for the Seattle Mariners. Enter Ike Davis. In 2010, we all liked Ike. He hit home runs. He flipped into the dugout to make catches. In 2011, he was limited to 36 games because of an ankle injury that was originally supposed to sideline him for one game. We watched Davis’ power numbers go down over the course of the next two years, and his angry face started to appear more often. People, myself included, actually started to boo Ike Davis. My brother, however, did purchase his jersey. But then again, my brother also has a Justin Turner shirt. I try not to judge him.

We all know how this spring went down. Davis and Lucas Duda were supposed to battle for the first base job. Then they both got hurt, in typical Mets fashion. However, Ike Davis was still my sad sack, even if he had to be it from the bench. Then Pittsburgh needed a left-handed bat and Davis got traded. I listened to Adele. A lot. Like on repeat. The last time I listened to Adele that much was when Matt Harvey announced he was getting Tommy John surgery.

At first, we couldn’t really pinpoint one player. There were multiple group texts and three way conversations that ended in three different answers. For a while, we considered Curtis Granderson, but even when he struggles, he’s always so nice and personable with the fans. My dad considered Wheeler. I nominated Ruben Tejada. When the Mets send someone to AAA specifically to learn your position, you automatically become the front runner for team sad sack.

I hope this trade works out the way Sandy Alderson hoped. I hope the reports about the PTBNL are correct and it’s a top player from the 2013 draft. But more importantly, is Thornton ready to pitch in the bullpen yet?

Merry Mets-mas!!!

The Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks will face off in this year’s Superbowl. Peyton Manning will be able to say “Omaha” as much as he wants.

But Jessica, this is a Mets baseball blog. But Reader, the Superbowl means we are that much closer to baseball. And let’s face it, now that we know the two best teams in football are going to the big game, hasn’t everybody already moved on to baseball anyway? I know I have.

I was ecstatic to find out that my dad and my twin brother are coming down for a spring training game this year. My younger brother, who, God love him, has the spring schedule on his kitchen wall, is already planning when he is going to the game. As for me, I’m more of an autograph seeker. My record is nine in two days (including David Wright, Daniel Murphy, Terry Collins, and ’86 hero Mookie Wilson), so I guess you can say I have a knack.

But I’m not just excited about autograph prospects. I’m excited about prospect prospects, namely Noah Syndergaard. Syndergaard was recently named one of the Top 3 prospects in the MLB, and not just pitching prospects. All the prospects. We can expect to get a good look at Syndergaard this spring, before he goes to AAA, on the same track as Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. The Mets expect to limit Syndergaard to 160 IP, and hopefully by then, I can spell Syndergaard without having to backspace on my keyboard.

It’s very possible that Syndergaard is used in relief in order to get him more big league innings, something akin to what the Cardinals did with Michael Wacha last season. One scout likened Syndergaard to his recovering teammate, Matt Harvey. Yup, you read that right. Two Matt Harveys. And that has me not only excited for this year, but also for 2015, when the rotation is at its full potential.

Okay, I get it. It’s not easy being a Mets fan. We lost our best pitcher to Tommy John surgery. We’re still paying Bobby Bonilla. But look on the bright side. We still have Zack Wheeler, and our rotation is only going to get better. Also, we actually have an outfield this year. Like, a real, live actual outfield that isn’t pieced together from the Las Vegas 51’s. And that outfield doesn’t include Jordany Valdespin.

So, Merry Mets-mas, Mets fans. Merry Mets-mas.

Bartolo Colon the Opening Day starter?

Sandy Alderson recently spoke at Chaminade High School and said that Bartolo Colon could get the ball on March 31.

The rotation is pretty much set with Colon, Dillon Gee, Jon Niese, and Zack Wheeler. The organization expects to fill the fifth spot in spring training. That could come from a player on a minor league contract or from a player within the organization. Knowing that we can’t expect to see Noah Syndergaard until July, I would hope that Rafael Montero or Jacob deGrom get the first shot.

But back to Colon as the Opening Day starter. His numbers alone have earned him a spot in the opening series. Last season for the Athletics, he went 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA while striking out 117 over 190.1 innings. Colon signed a 2-year, $20 million contract with the Mets during the Winter Meetings.

If Matt Harvey wasn’t injured, this decision would be easy. Give Matt the ball on Opening Day. And while I like Colon for the opening series, I don’t think he should get the ball Opening Day. I hope I’m not the only one that shares the sentiment that Niese and Gee would earn the first chances to try out for the Opening Day spot.

Last season, Jon Niese was the Opening Day starter and went 6 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on four hits. The Mets continued their streak of being awesome on Opening Day by winning 11-2. He certainly earned another chance to get the ball March 31.

Those who support Dillon Gee certainly have a compelling argument. Gee has battled back from season-ending surgery in 2012. Last year, he led the team with 12 wins and was one of the only players to make it through the entire season injury free. In 32 starts, he posted a 3.62 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP. His 3.0 K/BB was second to only Matt Harvey in 2013. Gee only got better after the All Star break, posting a 2.74 ERA in 13 starts.

As much as I like Wheeler, I don’t see him getting the ball on Opening Day just yet. I would like to think over the next few years that Wheeler and Harvey will make an unstoppable 1-2 punch, but we will have to wait until 2015 to see this roation’s full potential. And it makes me sad every day.

We really have to wait and see how spring training pans out for these four pitchers. The final decision will ultimately be Terry Collins’ to make, and he could go with any of these pitchers. I, personally, would like to see Gee or Niese, but that’s just me. They’ll have to earn it and spring training will be fun to watch.

 

Moving on from Game 162

metsfanWe all remember it. 2007. The year the Mets had a seven game lead with 17 left to play. Without bringing up any harsh memories, let’s just say that by the time I got to a TV for Game 162, the Mets were doomed. It was one of the greatest collapses in baseball history, if not the greatest. And then we watched it happen again in 2008. But I digress.

Tom Glavine, who started Game 162, allowed seven runs and failed to get out of the first inning. Earlier this week, after his Hall of Fame election, Glavine has come out and said that he wished his haters would move on from that one start.

“I wish that people could get past that a little bit and look at some of the other good things that I did, but I understand that there’s still some anger from some people out there,” Glavine said.

Glavine went 61-56 with a 3.97 ERA in his five seasons with the Mets. He won his 300th game with the Mets, on the road at Wrigley Field. Yet, some of the haters on Twitter and Instagram accused him of not being a true Met and being a mole for the Braves.

The thing about Glavine is that he’s a scapegoat. He’s a face we can point to and say, “And THAT’S why we didn’t make the playoffs.”

It doesn’t matter if David Wright wasn’t hitting well in the final 17 games of 2007 or if the bullpen blew one too many games. We all point to Glavine as the main reason the Mets collapsed.

The same thing happened to Carlos Beltran. It doesn’t matter that Guillermo Mota gave up a three-run triple to Scott Spezio in Game 2 that cost the Mets the game. It doesn’t matter that Aaron Heilman invalidated the greatest catch ever by giving up the game-winning home run to Yadier Molina. What people point to is Beltran striking out with the bases loaded to end the game. Sure, the #blamebeltran hashtag has become a fun thing for Twitter, but people still hate Beltran for striking out, and Beltran remains bitter about his time with the organization.

Glavine and Beltran are just two of the names in the Mets Scapegoat Hall of Fame, but unfortunately for Glavine, moving on from Game 162 is easier said than done. Since 2007, fans have endured another collapse, a year where the whole roster was injured, two years of purely bad baseball and at least two years of fielding a AAA team (and David Wright). The Mets haven’t had a record above .500 since 2008 and have been through three managers in the last seven years. Basically, they’ve made us question why we are still Mets fans more times than we can count.

The scar is still there from the missed opportunity that the Mets had in 2007. It was supposed to be the year we vindicated ourselves. Instead, it was the beginning of a donward spiral.

The good news for Glavine is that the Red Sox fans eventually forgave Bill Buckner for the passed ball; it only took them 18 years and their first World Series title in 86 years.

 

There’s No Crying in Baseball

metsfanLast night, the Mets completed their second six game losing streak in as many weeks.

Just to quickly summarize how bad things have gotten for the Mets: Justin Turner is your only .300 hitter, Shaun Marcum and Jeremy Hefner can’t win, even on a good day, and there is even a Twitter feed dedicated to telling fans whether or not Ike Davis struck out. The drama over Jordany Valdespin’s showboating and subsequent plunking against the Pirates isn’t exactly helping things either.

The breaking point had to be when my dad texted me last night to apologize for making me a Mets fan. Anybody that knows me knows that I live for the Mets, and have since I was four years old. Baseball is my sport; I can’t exactly call myself a football fan or a hockey fan since I only casually follow the Jets and the Islanders. When baseball season is over, I count down the days until pitchers and catchers report and Opening Day is my Christmas morning.

The last six seasons have been bad, each in their own unique way, but this season has been atrocious. In their last 26 games, the Mets are 7-19. Despite this, the Mets are still a safe 4.5 games ahead of the Marlins for The Battle for Fourth. The only days I look forward to are the days that Matt Harvey pitches, and even those aren’t guaranteed wins anymore. Harvey is easily the best thing about the Mets this season and should stand with an 8-0 record right now, but doesn’t due to lack of run support.

There is no set every day outfield; even our newest Met, Rick Ankiel, is platooned in center with Juan Lagares, who should be playing every day based on defense alone. If the outfield doesn’t produce anything offensively, then they should at least play defense. The bullpen is worn out because aside from Harvey, none of the starters have been going seven innings. It’s the same recipe for disaster that we had in 2012, except the 2013 Mets have imploded quicker than expected.

Through all of this, I can’t help but laugh. I have to make sarcastic remarks on Twitter (if you don’t already follow me, follow me here) otherwise I’ll go insane. There’s no point in getting depressed about the Mets because you have to expect it from them by now. I still plan on going to Citi Field in July and enjoying all the stadium has to offer me because it’s a beautiful ballpark that I haven’t visited in over two years. I still listen to Howie and Josh on the FAN religiously because I enjoy the banter. Maybe the Mets will win a game or two and I will find a reason to be slightly more optimistic, but for right now, there’s no crying in baseball because you’ll miss it when it’s gone in October.

 

 

R.A. Dickey’s Next Start is Critical

R.A. Dickey won his 19th game of the season today, which is the most wins by any Mets pitcher since 1990. That was the year that Frank Viola won 20 and Dwight Gooden won 19.

Today’s win against the Marlins also gives Dickey 12 wins in day games, which ties Cincinatti’s Johnny Cueto for the most in the majors.

The Mets swapped their rotation around to afford R.A. Dickey the luxary of pitching another game at Citi Field, this time against a more formidable opponent, the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are still in contention for a Wild Card spot.

This is a team that is coming off a nine-game losing streak at home, and a run where they scored less than three runs in 16 straight home games. We all know the offense is streaky and Dickey’s record should really reflect better than what is actually is. But people still come to Citi Field if they know Dickey is pitching. I had the privilege of seeing him pitch his one-hitter against Tampa Bay, and I was just in awe. Even in a matchup that seemed like a pitcher’s duel on paper (it was Dickey vs. David Price after all), Dickey dominated his opponent and did the job the Mets are paying him to do.

Dickey and pitching coach Dan Warthen suggested that Dickey pitch next Thursday’s home finale against Pittsburgh instead of pitching Friday in Atlanta. It may have been the best move Dickey has made this season; in his three starts against Atlanta, he has an 8.80 ERA (even though one of the games was waterlogged). In his start against the Pirates this season, Dickey has allowed one run over seven innings pitched.

I think Dickey’s 20 wins will give the Mets and their fans something to be proud of. In a season mostly downs, R.A. Dickey will dominate the highlight reel. In years to come, we will be able to go back and say, “Hey, 2012 wasn’t all that bad. That was the year Dickey won 20 games.”

And in 2013, we’ll hopefully see better things to come with Dickey and Matt Harvey sitting at the top of the rotation.

Can R.A. Dickey win the NL Cy Young?

R.A. Dickey is going for his 19th win of the season against the Phillies at Citi Field.

There’s no question he’s good; he’s 18-5 with an NL-leading 2.68 ERA and a 1.044 WHIP (2nd in NL) going into tonight. In 205 innings pitched, he’s accumulated 197 strikeouts (2nd in NL) against 48 walks.

The question for R.A. Dickey all season has been: can a knuckleballer win the Cy Young award? After all, a knuckleballer has never been honored with the prestigious award. The Braves’ Phil Niekro finished second in the voting in 1969 to some guy named Tom Seaver. Wilbur Wood of the Chicago White Sox also finished second in the voting in 1972, losing out to Gaylord Perry.

The Cy Young award appears to be a four-man field between Dickey, Johnny Cueto, Gio Gonzalez, and Clayton Kershaw, all of whom sit atop the NL leaderboards in most categories. The difference between Dickey and Cueto/Gonzalez/Kershaw is that the Reds and Nationals are both poised to win their divisions, with the Dodgers still in contention for one of two Wild Cards spots and R.A. Dickey isn’t pitching for anything.

I don’t need to remind anybody that the Mets sit 4th in the NL East with a 66-80 record going into play tonight. We’re not even playing to finish with a .500 record; we’re playing because we have to play 162 games and to avoid the cellar. The only accomplishments R.A. Dickey has left to play for are his own personal ones, such as a 20 win season and the NL Cy Young award.

But will the voters go for a pitcher on a 4th (or potentially 5th) place team? Tim Lincecum won the award in 2008 & 2009 despite the Giants finishing 4th and 3rd in those respective years. Felix Hernandez won the AL Cy Young award in 2011 despite the Mariners finishing with one of the worst records in the American League. Zach Greinke won the 2009 AL Cy Young award despite the Royals’ 65-97 record and last place finish in the AL Central.

But what does that all mean for the Mets, who haven’t seen a Cy Young winner since Dwight Gooden won the award in 1985? It means that the voters, the Baseball Writers Association of America will simply have to ignore the horrendous second half of the Mets and remember the R.A. Dickey that pitched two consecutive one-hitters during the month of June while not allowing a run for 32 2/3 straight innings.

The last three weeks of the season are not only crucial for Johnny Cueto, Gio Gonzalez, and Clayton Kershaw, but they are crucial for R.A. Dickey because he’s about the only good thing the Mets have left.

There Are No Words

Yesterday’s 8-3 loss to the Dodgers in the 12th inning can only be described with this sound effect:

“Acccckkkk!”

Or at least, that’s close to the sound effect I used to decribe yesterday’s 8-3 loss to the Dodgers in the 12th inning. Some fans might go for an expletive-filled response. Some fans might just hang their heads in shame.

There’s really no straight answer as to why the Mets are doing so bad coming back after the All Star break. It’s very easy to blame the bullpen, with a major league-worst 5.05 ERA. It’s very easy to blame the starters, whose combined ERA was 3.96 before the break and is 6.36 after the break. It’s very easy to blame the offense, who went 4-for-19 with runners in scoring position yesterday.

The consistent Achilles heel, however, has been the Mets bullpen, which ranks seond in the major leagues with 16 blown saves. You know that Terry Collins is desperate as a manager when he uses R.A. Dickey to pitch an inning of releif, and he still gives up two runs. The starting rotation had to be good and go deep into games because the Mets never knew what they were going to get from the bullpen.

Even the starters are struggling post-All Star break, with two huge vacancies in the rotation left by Johan Santana and Dillon Gee. Santana was placed on the 15-day Disabled List with an ankle injury that was causing him not to land properly and put extra stress on his arm. Gee was placed on the DL after an arterial blood clot was discovered in his right shoulder. Gee had successful surgery to widen the artery in his shoulder. It’s highly likely that Gee misses the remainder of the season. It has been announced that Jeremy Hefner will start on Wednesday while top pitching prospect Matt Harvey will make his major league debut on Thursday.

The offense, at best, has been streaky for the Mets. They’re either there or they’re not. While they have been their best when there are two outs in the inning, scoring a major league-best 198 runs in two out situations, they are stranding too many runners on the base paths and taking perfectly hittable pitches for strikes.

It has always been my personal opinion that when somebody is hitting the ball, you put them in the lineup. I understand the whole righty-lefty situational offense, but if you put Jordany Valdespin in to pinch hit, and he hits a home run, then it’s my opinion that he gets put in the starting lineup the next day, whether you have Jason Bay or not. If Daniel Murphy goes 4-for-5 one day, then I expect him to be in the lineup the next day. And if a lefty is pitching, Scott Hairston should always be in the lineup.

Call it an annual second half slide, go ahead, because that’s what it is. I wish I could say things will get better, but I’m not a crystal ball. I can only watch with the rest of you and cheer for my team, good times or bad.

 

R.A. Dickey Looks to Rebound from Normal Outing

The Subway Series against the Yankees this year was not pretty. The Mets lost five of six and R.A. Dickey saw his his magnificent run end. It was the first non-quality start he recorded since his April 18 start against Atlanta, in which the rain caused his knuckleball to be wild.

It’s not that R.A. Dickey pitched badly against the Yankees (6 IP, 5 ER, 3 K, 3 BB); we could all see that the knuckleball was not going to be his friend that night. It’s not even that the offense blew it for him; the Mets had tied up the game to earn Dickey the no-decision. It was just that R.A. Dickey pitched effectively enough to keep us in the game without dazzling the fans with a one-hit, 13 K outing.

So, where does Dickey go from here? Obviously, the Dodgers are a completely different team from the Yankees. While the Yankees were (and continue to be) red-hot when they played the Mets, the Dodgers are struggling. Before last night’s game, the Dodgers hadn’t scored a run in 33 innings and fell to second in the National League West.

Dickey has to find a place between that normal outing and that dazzling one-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles, where he set a career high strikeout record. For Dickey, the in between would be a quality start, around 7-8 K’s and 1-2 walks allowed. Dickey has always been one of those pitchers that after a sub-par start, he’ll bounce back and give you another run of 12 quality starts. I think the fans expect him to bounce back as much as R.A. expects himself to bounce back.

After his ERA went up to a catastrophic 2.31, I think we’ll be in for a real treat tonight against the Dodgers.

Shock the World

Whether or not R.A. Dickey’s personal mantra is “shock the world,” that is precisely what he is doing.

In fact, at this point in the season, Dickey appears to be the front-runner for the NL Cy Young award, with Matt Cain following close behind him in the race.

Did anyone expect Dickey, who entered the 2012 campaign with a career of 41-50 and 4.34 ERA, to be 11-1 with a 2.00 ERA and a WHIP of 0.889?

What Dickey did during his last two starts was phenominal. In case you were living in a rock, Dickey pitched two complete game one-hitters, while striking out 12 and 13 batters against Tampa Bay and Baltimore, respectively. The only run that he allowed to score was an unearned run in the bottom of the ninth inning against Tampa Bay.

Going back to Dickey’s last six starts, he has only allowed two runs (one earned), and struck out 63 batters in 48 and 2/3 innings. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no pitcher in major league history had ever struck out eight or more men without allowing an earned run in his last five starts before Dickey did it in his last five starts. I didn’t say no knuckleballer. I said no pitcher, knuckleball or not.

No knuckleballer has ever won the Cy Young award, even though the knuckleball was in 1959 winner Early Wynn’s arsenal. 1952 American League MVP winner Bobby Shantz also had a knuckler, but the Cy Young award wasn’t created until 1956.

Shantz used the pitch more prominently, but he wasn’t a pure knuckleballer like Dickey, who throws the pitch 85% of the time.

Dickey is performing so well that the team has even discussed pitching Dickey on three day’s rest. The reasoning behind any discussion of the sort is that a knuckleballer’s arm tends to heal up quicker than a fastball pitcher’s. And while Dickey may be a team player and want to get out there more often, I don’t think it’s such a good idea at this point in the season. As the old saying goes, “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.”

And for those of you who think R.A. Dickey’s season is a fluke, since that one bad start against Atlanta, Dickey is 9-0 with a 1.21 ERA, and the Mets have won the last 10 out of 11 of Dickey’s starts. I wonder how many pitchers will be mountain climbing in the offseason. Or writing their autobiography. Or both.

See you in Kansas City, R.A.

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