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Many Mets fans may be concerned about the team. I know I am at times but here is the positive…

The Mets are a half game out of first place considering:

  • Matt Harvey has been awful
  • Jacob deGrom has not been as dominant as he was a year ago
  • The eternal Bartolo Colon had two bad outings in a row but straightened out Monday night in a brilliant outing.
  • The Mets offense goes cold for extended periods of time. It seems if they do not hit home runs (but they do hit a lot of them) they don’t score any runs.
  • The injury bug has struck the team with Wilmer Flores, Travis d’Arnaud (yet again), and now Lucas Duda on the disabled list. Asdrubal Cabrera left yesterday’s game with back spasms. Hopefully it is not a major issue. We also had a scare with Stephen Matz missing a turn in the rotation with elbow soreness but thankfully he’s okay. And to prove it he has pitched two outstanding outings in a row including eight innings of shutout ball in yesterday’s rubber game.

So by no stretch of the imagination has 2016 been a dream season so far. However, the team is playing quite well regardless of their issues. How great is it to see David Wright do something big like last Monday night and yesterday with two big home runs? All we hear is how David is not the same player because of the spinal stenosis, blah, blah, blah. Well it is true that he’s more challenged than he used to be but I think he still has something to offer. And let’s face it, no one works harder or cares more about the fortunes of the Mets than David Wright. He is Mr. Met. (He even looks a little like the baseball headed mascot and I mean that in a positive way.)

Now about Matt Harvey… While everyone assumes his problems are mental, maybe they are not. He’s hitting 95-97 on the radar gun but is he doing it the same as he had in the past? Is he fatigued from last year and now doing things differently, perhaps even unconsciously altering his mechanics ever so slightly to achieve the velocity while losing his command? Suffice to say, it’s probably to be expected that Harvey was going to have a bad stretch at some point during his career. He never had slumped, especially after Tommy John surgery when he threw in excess of 200 innings. Add to that the bladder infection that curtailed the end to his spring training. Instead of giving him his next start, maybe what the guy needs is some rest to build up his body strength. But then again, what the hell do I know?

Should Harvey have stayed around to talk to the press after his latest debacle? Yes he should have but only for his teammates. I can’t imagine he endeared himself to his mates much after bolting from the locker room. In fact he still hasn’t spoken to reporters. The Mets’ Dark Knight is not showing the same confidence and strength as the real caped crusader that protects Gotham.

The Harvey fiasco shows just how important it is to have pitching depth. We Mets fans salivate at the thought of a rotation of Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz, and Wheeler. Will it ever come to pass that those five are running on all cylinders at the same time? Well it could but the reality is not necessarily. We still are waiting for the return of Wheeler and who really knows if he will be able to live up to expectations, at least at this stage. deGrom has also shown his vulnerability this season, not being the dominant pitcher he was for so long. Thankfully Thor and Matz are battling it out for ace of the staff. Who knows where the Mets would be without these two studs.

The Dodgers come to town for three over this weekend as the celebration of the 1986 World Championship Mets commences. Should be fun.

What is with the Phillies?

Are they for real? This morning, the Mets find themselves sitting a game and a half behind the division leading Washington Nationals and a full game behind the Philadelphia Phillies who are sitting in second place.

The experts predicted that in the NL East, the Braves and Phillies would be fighting each other to stay out of the basement. Clearly they got it right when referring to Atlanta. However, the Phillies have stunned all of baseball with their fine play and it is mostly due to their pitching. The Phillies team WHIP is 1.21, two one-hundredths better than the Mets pitchers at 1.23. The Phillies and Mets’ WHIP is fourth and fifth best in the National League respectively. The Nationals are third with the Cubs and Dodgers are one and two.

In saves, the Phillies lead the league with 18 while Mets are fourth with 14. Strikeouts are where you would expect the Mets to lead but they’re fifth while the Phillies are number one in the NL with 374. The Nats are number 2 with 372 and the Mets are in fifth place behind the Dodgers and Cubs with 343 strikeouts.

The Mets are the stingiest in the league at giving up the walk. The Mets through last night have given just 91 batters a free pass. The Phillies have given up 118 and the Nats have given up 115. In average against, the Phillies are better than the Mets too. Against Philly pitching the league is hitting .238 while against the Mets, it’s .253. The Cubs lead the league in this category with an average against of .199 then the Nationals with a .225 average, tied with the Dodgers.

So who are these guys in Philadelphia? Are they really this good or are they playing above their heads so far this young season?

The ace of the Phillies staff is shaping up to be Vince Velasquez. The 23 year old right hander is 5-1 with a 0.99 WHIP. Velasquez came from Houston with four other pitchers in a trade for shortstop Jonathan Arauz and right handed pitcher Ken Giles and so far, the move looks to be brilliant. Velasquez has struck out 59 batters in 48.1 innings over 8 starts this season.

In another trade the Phillies made, they sent pitcher Sam McWilliams to Arizona for right hander Jeremey Hellickson. Hellickson is 4-2 with a 1.29 WHIP and 50 strikeouts in 49.2 innings. Aaron Nola (22), a Philadelphia draft pick, came up to the big club last season. He has a 3-2 record with a WHIP of 0.85 and 58 strikeouts in 53 innings over eight starts. So the Phils have three starting pitchers that so far can go up against anybody. They’re struggling beyond the third starter with Jerad Eickhoff who has gotten off to 1-6 start. But twenty-eight year old Jeanmar Gomez has 16 saves on the season. That leads all closers in the major leagues.

Where the Phillies are struggling is in offense. They are third from the bottom of the National League in major offensive categories and second from the bottom with just 31 homeruns and 126 RBIs. That’s not good for a team that plays 81 home games at Citizen’s Bank Park.

Now with a 24-17 record, the Phillies have played twenty of their 41 games against teams with losing records. However, they lost the first four games of the season in a row, getting swept by a dreadful Reds team and the Mets home opener. They won the next two against the Mets and have fared well against good teams since. The highlight of the season for the Phillies was when the swept a three game set from the Nationals which helped the Mets to move into first place for a while.

So it’s anyone’s guess as to the legitimacy of the Phillies. Time will tell. Frankly right now, I am more concerned with the legitimacy of the Mets. Their offense is suspect unless they are hitting a flock of homeruns. Three of their starting pitchers have velocities down from last year and that’s likely due to the workload they had to deal with on their way to a league championship.  Now they are chasing two teams, the Nats and the Phillies and who knows, maybe the Marlins before long.

Where Are The Runs?

The Mets don’t score enough runs. It’s as simple as that.

I said a while back that if the Mets do not hit home runs, they don’t score runs. While that is not necessarily one-hundred percent accurate, it is pretty close. In the past four games, all losses, tied with the longest losing streak of the season, the Mets scored a total of nine runs. The first of those four was a shutout at the hands of the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw. No shame in that. They scored just two runs the next night in Colorado and I heard something about getting into Denver at four in the morning. That might have had the players more tired than usual by the time they got to the ballpark. They scored four the next night but lost when Logan Verrett didn’t have the same magic he had last August in Coors Field when he spot started to give Matt Harvey a blow. A very bad call by the home plate umpire helped to open the flood gates on Saturday but can we stop with all the excuses already?

On Sunday the Mets got off to a 3-1 lead but could never put the game away. You knew a two run lead was not enough, not in that ballpark with less air and lighter gravity (yes, Einstein was right about that but likely unmeasurable) than any other ballpark in baseball.  Another bad call didn’t help either but where are the runs this offense was supposed to produce? Where are the big bats?

In the currently completed road trip that saw the Mets go 4-7, they scored a total of 32 runs, an average of 2.9 runs a game. That included being shut out twice so take those two games out, the average goes up to 3.6 runs per the nine games but still not good. Mets pitchers gave up 42 runs over the road trip, an average of 3.8 runs a game. Of the 32 runs scored by the Mets offense, 18 were generated via 13 homeruns. Three homeruns were from pitchers for a total of six runs. That means the position players hit 10 home runs accounting for 12 runs. 14 runs were scored via not hitting homerun but two of those were from Jacob deGrom and Stephen Matz driving in a run. If you remove the pitchers’ offensive contribution, the Mets offense produced 24 runs over the eleven game journey, and average of 2.2 runs per game.

But here’s the most startling of all statistics when uncovering the Mets hitting woes. In the eleven games played in San Diego, Los Angeles, and Denver, the Mets left 149 runners on base. Let me type that again. The Mets left 149 runners on base over the 11 game trip, an average of 13.5 runners per game.  With runners in scoring position over the road trip, the Mets hit .182, 14 for 77. Twice the Mets left 20 runners in scoring position but the irony is they won those two games!

The narrative after games tends to focus on the pitching studs in the Mets rotation. What’s wrong with Harvey that he let in two runs or why is there no hop on Jacob deGrom’s fastball like last year? Noah Syndergaard wasn’t as sharp as he was in the beginning of the season. On an on it goes. But the real issue is not pitching. You can’t expect Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz and Colon to throw a shutout every time out. Even with the Mets current poor play, it’s a testament to the pitchers that they are five games over .500 just a game and a half back of the Nationals.

This offense relies too much on the homerun. While they have a tremendous weapon in that so many in the lineup can go yard, some small ball to get them through homer famine would not be such a bad idea.

For example, how is it that major league caliber players are unable to hit the ball the other way to thwart the shifts that are being used against the Mets?  The opposition puts on the shift against Granderson, Duda, Cespedes, Walker, and Conforto religiously. Yet none of them seem capable of hitting the other way to put an end to it. Why do teams shift against the Mets? Because the Mets keep hitting into them. Ted William’s head must be rolling over in its jar.

I know it’s a long season and all teams are going to go through slumps and have a four or five game losing streak. It happens in a sport where teams play 162 regular season games. But for crying out loud, the Mets players need to use their skills that got them to this level. When the hits aren’t falling in, they need to make things happen. If it means that three guys in a row need to bunt away from the shift then so be it. Didn’t they learn anything watching that team on the other side of the field in the World Series?

Tonight they must face the resurgent Washington Nationals and Max Scherzer who struck out 20 batters his last time out. Well for a Mets team that strikes out a lot, they certainly have their work cut out for them to prove last season was no fluke. Should be interesting as Daniel Murphy comes back to Flushing with a .400 average.

Don’t Forget About Koosman and Cardwell

As you know by now, because only a die hard Mets fan would be reading this website from the boondocks, Noah Syndergaard hit two home runs that accounted for all four Mets runs in the game last night against the Dodgers. During the telecast, Gary Cohen and Ron Darling made mention of the only other Met to do so. That was Walt Terrell back in 1983 at Wrigley Field. The right handed pitcher, who was eventually traded to Detroit for Howard Johnson, hit two two-run home runs. Like Noah’s bombs last night, Terrell’s dingers accounted for all runs scored in the game, a 4-1 Mets victory over the Cubs.

But did you know there was another strange pitcher generated run occurrence in Mets history? It happened during the magical season of 1969, the season that this site’s name is dedicated. It happened on September 12th. The Mets were in first place two games ahead of the Chicago Cubs with a doubleheader scheduled in Pittsburgh. That day, the Mets won both ends of the twin-bill by identical scores of 1-0.

Mets lefty Jerry Koosman started the first game of the Friday night twi-nighter against the Pirates at old Forbes Field. Koosman pitched a complete game shutout and drove in the only run of the game when he singled to right driving in Bobby Pfiel in the fifth inning.  In the night cap, veteran right handed pitcher Don Cardwell pitched eight scoreless innings and like Koosman, drove in the only run of the game. With two outs in the second, Bud Harrelson doubled. Cardwell then singled to center scoring Harrelson. Tug McGraw got the save and the Mets swept the doubleheader by scores of 1-0 over the Pirates. With the wins, the ’69 Mets gained a half game on the Cubs who also won that evening. Twelve days later the Mets would clinch their first division title in history on their way to their first world championship.

I don’t know what is more impressive, the Mets winning two games with the pitchers driving in the only runs or the fact that only three pitchers were needed to get through eighteen innings of baseball. How times have changed.

Cryin’ the Blues

Now that the Nationals have signed Stephen Strasburg to a long term 175 million dollar contract, will an offer to Bryce Harper be far behind?

Well I certainly hope so.

Look, there is only one reason why I would want Harper to sign an extension with the Nationals. That’s so Yankee fans can shut the f%#! up about eventually him signing with the Yankees. We are now seeing the Yankee millennial generation crying the blues because their team is not winning. For many of these babies, it’s the first time they have ever witnessed the Yanks a losing mess. To them I say walk a mile in our shoes (our being the collective group of Mets fans who have suffered far more years than enjoyed).

In Yankee fans’ minds, it’s a forgone conclusion that Harper will sign the largest contract in baseball history with the Bombers once he hits the free agent market post season 2018. That sure is short changing Yankee general manager Brian Cashman’s plans for rebuilding. So what’s he to do? Risk it all on the hopes the Yankees can sign Harper? Considering how the new Steinbrenner regime is regardng money, I’m not so sure they could stomach a contract that could be well over 400 million dollars when all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed. I’m not even suggesting this is something the Yankee brain trust is considering in the bowels of Yankee Stadium. I give them more credit than that.

The fans though, it’s in their mind that Harper will wear the pinstripes come April 2019. The reality is a lot can happen by 2019.

If anyone has been paying attention, the formula for winning has changed somewhat over the last several seasons. Typically teams are “rolling their own” so to speak. A strong farm system is paramount to winning as witnessed by what the Mets have been able to do over the past several seasons. While the major league team was losing and Mets fans lost their minds on sports talk radio, Sandy Alderson and his staff were building a sustainable future for the Mets franchise. They kept Jeff Wilpons’s fingers out of the pie while they drafted stud pitchers and helped them to develop in a completely retooled system. Then as the pitchers started to flourish others were used to bring in Yoenis Cespedes, the Juan Uribes, and the Kelly Johnsons as the Mets captured the National League flag last season.  They also have brought in other free agents, not back page headline guys but solid players like Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker who was traded for Jon Niese who became expendable with all the pitching riches the Mets have.

Now I am not suggesting the Yankees are not following suit. It looks as if they are. They are willing to suffer a couple of seasons while their payroll gets cleared up. They have some very good hitting prospects and some good pitchers on the way too. Once they don’t have to pay CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran, and Mark Teixiera any longer, the Yanks will be able to spend wisely like other clubs again. The question is will they dump close to half a billion dollars on one player if he’s available? That is a huge expenditure and even though Bryce is very talented and will be just twenty-six years old, it could prove too costly. Clearly one player does not win a world championship. That’s obvious from the also very talented Mike Trout of the Angels. With him, the Los Angeles Anaheims have won nothing.

I would love to see the Nats sign Bryce to an extension just to shut up these so entitled Yankee fans who think the world of baseball revolves around them.

Here’s another thing that drives me crazy about the Yankees. Why do they get such an unfair advantage at home when it comes to the long ball? Monday night, the Yankees hit five home runs. In Citi Field and most other ballparks, those home runs, at least four of them, would have been fly ball outs. I know the argument could be made that the other team has the advantage too. That’s true but not eighty-one times a season. It’s surprising the Yankees were allowed to build such dimensions in the new ballpark when other clubs that have built new ballparks must have a minimum of 320 feet down the lines.

Maybe Some Small Ball Once In A While

As good as the Mets offense has been they could find themselves in difficulties if they don’t change some of their ways.

In last night’s game, first of eleven on the road, the Padres employed a shift against most hitters and it worked pretty well. Hard hit ball after hard hit ball was hit into the shift and turned into outs. The Mets score so many runs via the homerun that if they stop hitting them, they don’t score. After last night’s action, the Mets are tied in homeruns (42) with Colorado but the Mets play at sea level. In other words, the Mets are really socking the ball, hitting those homeruns over the wall…” They did so last night but too little too late. Granderson’s solo shot and Cespede’s two run tracer into the left field corner in the ninth inning did little more than make the score look respectable.

Jacob deGrom didn’t have it last night although he wasn’t awful. But it was a night where he needed to dominate while the Mets figured out their offense. Unfortunately the Mets are unable or unwilling to hit the ball the other way to neutralize the shifts being used against them. Well, I guess it’s easier said than done but while the Mets lead the league in homers, they’re in the bottom third of the league in hits. Point is the Mets aren’t a station to station team.

Don’t get me wrong. Power pitching and power hitting is a great combination. But there are going to be times like last evening when it is going to be frustrating. Now in fairness, the Mets hit the ball hard and in a couple of cases they were robbed helping Padres starter Colin Rea bring a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Unlike the Mets, the Padres never have thrown a no-hitter and yes, I did intend that to sound funny.

But I just wish that at times, especially after seeing how the Mets went down the first time through the order, Mets hitters would take a different approach. How about bunting down the third base line when all the infielders are on the right side? At least make the pitcher get off the mound and tire him out. The Mets play large ball and so far it has worked in their favor but some small ball from time to time would not be a bad idea.

Update – May 7, 2016 Interesting that in game 2 in San Diego, the Mets hit no home runs and scored no runs at all. This is a concerning problem with the Mets offense. When a power outage occurs, they are not up to the task of playing small ball. Too bad a nice effort by Noah Syndergaard was wasted. And the hot Marlins are moving up, now ahead of the Phillies and just a game behind the Amazins.

After April

The Mets are 15-8 this season. That’s exactly where the Amazins were one year ago following the same number of games. The difference in one year however is where they are in the standings. Last year at the end of play on April 30th, the Mets were 4.5 games ahead and never looked back. The Washington Nationals were 10-13. This season, the 15-8 Mets are 1.5 games behind the 17-7 Nats. That spells out a completely different scenario than the early 2015 season.

Here’s something else that’s different. The Phillies are 15-10 (same number of wins as the Mets) just 2.5 out of first. What’s up with that? Last season at this time, they were in last place 8-15, 7.0 games behind the Mets. It’s hard to believe the Phils will be able to maintain this success but give them credit. Their young players including some very good pitchers have stepped up.

So many things change in one year. The good news is that after a rough start the Mets appear to have picked up right where they have left off last season. Neil Walker has done an outstanding job for the Mets replacing Daniel Murphy’s offense with more power and more solid defensive play. The Mets are more stable at short as well with the addition of Asdrubal Cabrera. He and Walker have provided the Mets stellar pitching staff with much more solid middle infield defense than a year ago. Wilmer Flores now becomes a nice option to have off the bench filling in for Cabrera, David Wright, and Lucas Duda when necessary.

So the Mets appear good again but so does the rest of the division. The Nats are out to prove last year was a fluke. They are ten games above .500 getting solid pitching and their offense is outstanding with Murphy playing well at second and hitting like he can. Washington is not going anywhere.

Just as the Mets had their eight game streak stopped yesterday by Madison Bumgarner and the Giants, the Marlins had their seven game winning streak snapped by Milwaukee. The Fish are a much improved team as well with a healthy Jose Fernandez heading up the rotation and Giancarlo Stanton hitting monstrous home runs.

The Mets have a great opportunity this week with the one bad team in the division coming to town for their first visit, the Braves. Bartolo Colon, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz get the starts before the Mets head out for what will be a major test in the form of an eleven game road trip. The Mets will head to San Diego (4), Los Angeles (4) and Colorado (3). Now is not the time for a letdown against Atlanta.

The first month is over and now it’s on to May. Last May, the Mets struggled (13-15) having lost a bunch of players to the disabled list. The Mets have fared much better this season as far as health goes, only losing Travis d’Arnaud to the DL so far (no surprise there unfortunately).

In other news it was the annual “have the Mets taken back New York?” conversation the other day during one of the Mets pregame shows. When is the Mets media going to learn to stop with this? As bad as the Yankees have been this year, the Mets still have a long way to go to have the bragging rights the Bombers do. Something about two world championships to 27 comes to mind. Yes for the month of April the Mets have played great while the Yankees have shown their age. To me, it’s not something I think about. Let the Yankees fans worry about their troubles. One bad start to the season does not sink the Yanks. Even last year when they were predicted to finish below .500, the Yankees made the playoffs although just for one game.

How much would it cost to put a retractable roof over Citi Field? Not one that seals in the heat but like the one they have in Seattle, a roof that keeps the rain and snow out. The weather in the northeast in April and much of May has been dreadful the last few years. It doesn’t make seeing games in person much fun with cold rain pelting down on the stands. A roof would help keep the wind down too making for a much more pleasant experience. Alas, doubtful that could happen financially or architecturally.