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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“We want Rauch! We want Rauch!”
Frank Francisco stepped to the pitcher’s mound in the top of the ninth inning only to be bombarded by boos and even demands that Terry Collins replace him with Jon Rauch. But Terry has said that he is sticking with Francisco as his closer.
“He wanted to be in there bad tonight,” Collins said after the game, “I thought I should give him that opportunity.”
While Francisco did go on to record his ninth save of the season, he was not able to preserve Miguel Batista’s shut out as he gave up a run, two hits, and a walk in his outing last night. Francisco’s numbers haven’t helped his case either: 14 ER in 14.2 innings pitched and that 8.59 ERA don’t look pretty compared to closers throughout the league. But then again, 14 closers have lost their jobs this season due to ineffectiveness.
Francisco is just the latest in a lineup of Mets closers that have made fans squirm in their seats during the ninth inning. Even two of the game’s greatest left-handed closers, John Franco and Billy Wagner were unable to keep fans from covering their eyes during the ninth. Do I even mention Armando Benitez, Frankie Rodriguez and the Bobby Parnell experiment of late 2011?
This offseason, Sandy Alderson’s main priority was revamping the bullpen. The offensive pieces, whether we liked it or not, were all there. The starting pitching was there. So Sandy turned to the bullpen, depleted by the trade of K-Rod, who had been doing some good work for the Mets, but not without typical Mets cringe-worthy ninth inning moments. We acquired Ramon Ramirez from the Giants, and signed Rauch and Francisco with the spending money that ownership and the Mets provided for payroll. And then they went quiet for three months. Sure, we signed a few players to minor league contracts, but we didn’t make a big splash by magically coming up with the money to re-sign Jose Reyes, or get another starter like Mark Buerhle.
We signed two closers in Francisco and Rauch, but Rauch has mainly been relegated to eighth inning work. There are other options in our bullpen, including Rauch, Parnell, Ramirez, Manny Acosta, and even Tim Byrdak. But it looks like Terry is going to continue to go to Francisco in ninth inning save situations, whether we like it or not. Here’s an iea; maybe if the Mets took a four run lead into the ninth, Frank Franc wouldn’t have to be used for the save. Just a thought. Let’s go Mets.
For the past two seasons, Dan Warthen has done well making something out nothing. Pitching has become both our greatest asset and out biggest need. 2011 without Johan Santana was tough; watching Mike Pelfrey pich was tougher.
For 2012, the Mets are expecting Santana to be healthy and ready. Realistically, we can’t expect Santana to be what he was; I would take 80-85% (which is 100% if you’re Carlos Beltran). But Santana at 80% is better than our de facto ace, Mike Pelfrey.
With Santana locked in as our Opening Day starter (barring further injury), we still need rotation spots 2-5.
I would put R.A. Dickey in the two hole. The knuckleballer’s 8-13 record might not be the most accurate stat given his performance in 2011. This season, Dickey pitched 208 2/3 innings and posted a 3.28 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 134 K’s. He also ended the season with 14 consectutive quality starts. This is someone I want in my rotation. Dickey is also fun to follow on Twitter. His handle is @RADickey43.
Dillon Gee gets the benefit of the doubt for being a rookie. The first season is always the toughest for pitchers because they get fatigued by September. Despite this, Gee still posted a 13-6 record with a 4.43 ERA, a 1.38 WHIP, and struck out 114 batters. Gee fits in the middle of the rotation because like Santana and Dickey, Gee still pitches to keep the team in the game. Santana-Dickey-Gee might be the best 1-2-3 punch we have, unless we sign a #2 starter. A improbable possibility would be C.J. Wilson.
We also have Chris Capuano and Jon Niese to consider. When they’re good, they’re good. When they’re bad, it’s not pretty. Capuano has the run support but not the ERA. Niese has the ERA but not the run support. If the Mets wanted to keep their rotation younger, they would go with Niese, but for the past two seasons, I think Niese has shown himself to be an injury risk. Sure, Capuano had two Tommy John surgeries, but he stayed healthy all season, right? If we don’t sign a free agent, I’d take them both. If we do sign a free agent, then I’d go with Niese, solely based on my bias towards younger players.
Mike Pelfrey is my odd man out. I truly believe that Dan Warthen has done everything he can to help Pelfrey improve his game. But Pelfrey hasn’t done jack squat except for lick his hand, lick the ball, lick the Gatorade cooler in the dugout, etc. We should cut our losses and tell Pelfrey bye-bye.
Like I said, even if a team has pitching, except if you’re the Phillies, you’ll always need pitching. I’m really okay with the rotation we do have. Now the offense has to give Johan, R.A., Dillon, Chris, and Jon some run support. Especially Johan, he’s always been hard for luck with this team.