Category Archives: Baseball

The Second Half

A sense of optimism

Let’s get this out of the way to start. No, I don’t expect the Mets to be in the playoff hunt. I wouldn’t even be surprised to see them fall apart like they’ve done the last few seasons. Yet I’m still excited for what’s in store. I feel like I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Mind you this light isn’t piercing. It’s simply the first time I’ve seen any in a while.

Even with mild expectations (and that was probably optimistic), the season started out disappointing. Once again Ike Davis had a slow start. The only hitter outside of David Wright with true star potential on the roster, and he put up some of the worst numbers in all of the majors. Ruben Tejada went from a possible starter to a minor leaguer, and Jon Niese has suffered through some poor starts and an extended stint on the DL that almost saw his season come to a close. Not to mention an injury to top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud, the main impact player in the Dickey trade that was supposed to premier with the big league club.

So why am I optimistic for the second half? It’s Matt Harvey looking like a Cy Young candidate in his first full season. It’s Zach Wheeler flashing the promise of a staff ace in his first few starts. It’s Niese avoiding season ending surgery. It’s Jeremy Hefner turning from a stop-gap to a potential piece of the puzzle. It’s Bobby Parnell turning into a big trade chip, and a stud young closer. It’s wanting to see if there is any way in hell Josh Satin and Eric Young Jr. can keep it up. And it’s hoping to see d’Arnaud in the majors sooner than later. Basically, it’s a lot.

I want to see the progression of these players because honestly the Mets could be a competitive team as early as next season (competitive as in second wild card contender…which is a lot when you consider the last several seasons).

And it’s almost entirely because of the pitching depth in the system. Harvey, Wheeler, Niese, Hefner, Dillon Gee, Noah Syndergaard, and Rafael Montero. That’s seven strong starting pitchers in the majors or the high minors. Pick any five and you have yourself a strong rotation to build around, and that leaves you two strong trading chips (If I had to guess I’d say Niese and Montero are most likely to be traded).

Ok, hitting might leave more to be desired. But Wright has become the leader of this team. He has been the best third baseman in the National League, and one of the most productive players in the majors despite having very little around him (outside of Marlon “Are you absolutely sure PEDs are not involved in any way?” Byrd).

There is still the chance d’Arnaud can establish himself as a solid hitter before the season ends. And let’s not forget all the money coming off the books at the end of the season. If the Mets can use the payroll flexibility to add a bat and trade for another (entirely possible) the Mets lineup could be respectable by next season (and with the rotation that’s good enough).

All Things Come to an End

Today was the final day of the 2012 regular season. Once again the Mets finished below .500 and are hoping some offseason magic can make them relevant sooner rather than later. Because it is no fun to reflect on a season in which the team hasn’t been competitive or in the playoff race for months, we will instead look to next season.

So, should Mets fans be optimistic going into next year?

To be honest I’m not entirely sure. I know this is a bit of a cop out, but with Sandy Alderson claiming to be very active in the trade market, this team might be entirely different by the time the 2013 season gets underway.

But let’s pretend the Mets will largely keep the same team intact going into next season.

The biggest weakness of this club is the outfield. Who on the Mets makes you feel confident going into next season? Jason Bay? Lucas Duda? Matt Den Dekker?

There is a chance one of the young players on the Mets could blossom into an everyday starter, but we have yet to see it, and everything said by scouts says we will never see it. So unless Alderson makes some moves, the outfield situation should not be much better next year. There may be small individual improvements among the players, but nothing drastic.

The infield is less of a question mark. Daniel Murphy has proven to be a steady hitter, and (this may be generous) serviceable second baseman. Best part? He is probably the weak link. David Wright is a perennial All-Star, Ruben Tejada had a remarkable year, and Ike Davis rebounded in the second half to belt 31 hrs. Even catcher has been decently reliable for the Mets ever since the trade for Kelly Shoppach.

So how about the rotation?

Going into next season the rotation looks to be a strength. R.A. (Cy?) Dickey will be returning. As will Jon Niese and Matt Harvey. Top pitching prospect Zach Wheeler will be up sooner than later, and the Mets will potentially have Johan Santana, Dillon Gee, Mike Pelfrey, and/or Chris Young to choose from as the fifth starter. Not to mention a spot starter and long reliever in Jeremy Hefner.

The bullpen may still be a weakness, but with the improvement of Bobby Parnell, and the expected additions of Jenry Mejia and Jeurys Familia the bullpen should be at least serviceable moving forward.

So outside of the outfield things seem good. Does that mean the Mets could be in the playoff race?

They could. Stranger things have happened, but if I had to bet I would say no. Why? Well there are just too many questions that face the Mets.

First, can RA Dickey have a similar season? How will Matt Harvey look during his first full season? How will Zach Wheeler perform in the majors? Will Santana be a solid starter? Are they even bringing Pelfrey or Young back? How will Gee recover from surgery? Those are just the questions for the rotation.

Murphy is still a reliability at second, Davis hasn’t put together an All-Star season yet. Tejada is good, but isn’t a star yet. And with no outfield, and maybe one star in the infield, the offense will struggle. On top of that, we still aren’t sure how much better the bullpen can be expected to be next season.

I guess in short: the Mets have talent. In my opinion I think they are doing a nice job of building within, especially considering where they were. But they aren’t there yet. Perhaps Alderson can do something in the offseason to change this, but as of now the Mets look at least a season away from being real playoff contenders.

Some Time to Think

Back in 2005 there were high expectations for Mike Pelfrey. As a Boras client, many teams worried about his signability, allowing him to fall to the Mets at number nine despite many teams believing he projected to be an ace. Last season that potential seemed to be realized. In the first half, Pelfrey posted a 2.69 ERA and had 10 wins. Unfortunately for Pelf and the Mets, he regressed in the second half and has been spiraling down ever since.

I wouldn’t say Pelfrey has been terrible this year, but he has not been reliable. He has had his good games and he has had his bad games. My problem is he still has the stuff to be an ace. Could you imagine if Pelfrey had the poise and command of Dillon Gee?

Several analysts are pointing to Pelfrey’s mechanics as a reason for his problems. So the question becomes, would Pelfrey benefit from some time in the minors?

Pelfrey has always been a headcase, and the pressure of winning in New York could keep him from focusing on his mechanics. In AAA, against lesser competition and with less pressure to win, Pelfrey could take the time to get his head on straight.

The Mets have been notorious for rushing prospects to the majors and Pelfrey may be one of the worst cases. (ok, ok. Mejia was the worst case by far. I will never forgive Manuel for that) Without that time to develop, Pelfrey has continued to struggle. If that time could help Pelfrey realize his potential, it would be well worth it.

I can understand the counter arguments. He is still young and should be able to find his way in the majors. With the Mets still gunning for the Wild Card, they need him in their rotation as he has still given them innings and they don’t have many other options to fill out the rotation.

My point is, he has been given ample opportunities to correct his mistake and has yet to show that he can. He has glaring mechanical problems that have only gotten worse throughout the course of the season. He is a known headcase who unravels as things get harder. Trying to make this adjustment on a team in the middle of a playoff push is not conducive for Mike Pelfrey’s progression. This strategy has been used on veteran pitchers before. For example Steve Trachsel, Bobby Jones and even Roy Halladay have been sent down to the minors to refine their games. This strategy has worked for all three players.

At the end of the season the Mets have to decide if they want to tender Pelfrey, knowing he is likely going to get a raise. For a team looking to keep payroll down, they may not want to take the risk on a player who has consistently been unable to be a reliable major league pitcher. Sending him down to the minors now will give him a chance to refine his game and possibly make some September starts to show the Mets brass that he can be a front-end starter. Perhaps that seems a bit soon, but both Trachsel and Jones were able to make it back after only a few weeks.

Getting Pelfrey on track could be a major victory for a team that is looking to compete for a championship sooner rather than later.

Reverse Jinx

After Gary Cohen pointed out Bay’s inability to crank out extra-base hits, Bay has had a quite a streak. After going 50+ games without a double, Bay has cranked out three in the last two days, with one of them clearing the bases. Generally an announcer mentioning a streak jinxes the team in a bad way. Somehow Gary Cohen managed what seems like a reverse jinx. This gave me an idea…

Jason Bay, you are so bad at hitting that you couldn’t hit water if you fell out of a boat. OOOOOOOHHHHHH! Burned!

You hear that Jason Bay? I have officially given up on you. What, you think I’m gonna fall for your antics again? Just because this is the best you’ve hit since your grandslam in Texas does not mean I’m gonna believe you’ve gotten out of your slump? You got that?

Jason Bay, you are easily the worst outfielder in the major leagues. You are so bad, that I am actually writing an article about you because you have gotten three extra base hits in what seems like the last month! That would be fine, if you were at least hitting for average, but .223 is not cutting it. Hell, I would be ok if you just avoided grounding into a double play or striking out every time you come up with runners in scoring position.

I’m gonna keep writing about how bad you are in every one of my articles (yes, even if I write about football, or basketball, or hockey) until you prove me wrong. I am reverse jinxing you back to baseball prominence even if it kills me (don’t ask me how it could kill me…it just can ok?!?)

So, thank you for actually contributing to the team for once. It was greatly appreciated. Just don’t think I’m gonna start expecting it from you, Jason GAY! How did you like that offensive and childish insult that I already feel stupid for saying? Huh?!?

Next time I’m bringing out the momma jokes! Start hitting Bay!

Bittersweet

Today I was planning on writing a post on why I didn’t think the Mets HAD to trade Beltran. Well amid reports that the Mets will trade Beltran to the Giants for top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, I guess that post would be pretty useless.

First, let me just say that prying Wheeler from the Giants for a two month rental is a fantastic move for the Mets. Alderson has made all the right moves in his first season as general manager, and he has impressed me once again with this one. Wheeler is projected to be a top of the rotation starter, who could even turn into an ace. He throws a fastball, curveball and changeup. Both his fastball and curveball are expected to be plus pitches and his changeup should become an average to above average pitch. His big problem right now is his command, which can be erratic at times. He averages 10k/9IP, but also walks 4+ in that time. If he can correct the command issues he should be able to contribute to the majors by next season, or as a September call-up if the Mets fall far enough out of it. (though I wouldn’t count on either happening. I’d say he starts next season in AA and eventually makes his way to AAA with Harvey, Familia and Mejia. One of those four WILL make it to the majors next year)

So that is the sweet part. Now to look at the bitter. Ever since Beltran signed with the Mets he has been one of the Mets’ best players. He has added a huge lift to this lineup, and his presence in the lineup and clubhouse will be sorely missed. The young players clearly looked up to him and it will be interesting to see how his departure impacts them.

From a fan standpoint, it is devastating to see him leave. Like I mentioned before, he has easily been one of my favorite players. It is a shame we will not be able to see him in the Mets’ lineup again this season.

Looking forward to his impending free agency, it will be interesting to see if the Mets make a move for him. He is almost certain to test the free agent market, so the Mets will have a chance. Right now Lucas Duda has every opportunity to show the Mets brass that he should be the team’s right fielder next season, but if he fails to impress then your only other in-house options are Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Fernando Martinez. Both have the tools to be successful, but both have had injury problems. Martinez has had problems throughout his entire career, never lasting a full season without a setback, while Nieuwenhuis’ injury has sidelines him for the rest of this season. The point is, can you trust any of these three to be your starter opening day? Couple that with the reports that Angel Pagan may be non-tendered and the Mets have a glaring hole in the outfield. What are the chances the Mets decide re-signing Beltran in the offseason for two years? Let’s just say, as a big fan of Beltran’s, I hope it can work out.