Minimizing the damage while slumping

Apr 30, 2007 11:19 AM

Teams slump. This is a known fact; the season is 162 games long and no one stays hot for that entire time. Some immortals come close, but as a team it’s hard to always string together hits, always pitch well and always play well. They’re only human after all.

Good teams still win. The Mets are a good team, and despite the lackluster hitting this weekend they won two out of three. Obviously the Washington Nationals aren’t the cream of the crop, but they’re still professionals. They’re still going to win at least 50 times this year. Saturday night, even down 2-1 in the ninth against a closer that has previous been great against them, they managed to scratch out a run to tie it. Even after Moises Alou erased David Wright by grounding into a double play; a rally killer if I ever saw one, and with Cordero only needing one out to seal the deal, the Mets get that run across. Once they pushed it to extra innings, even being on the road you just had the feeling that the Mets weren’t letting this game get away. They didn’t, they put up the best offense of the whole series in that 12th inning to win 6-2, with Billy Wagner closing it out, probably silently wishing they could’ve scored one less so he could have a save.

The Mets helped him out the next day, or more precisely, John Maine helped him out by keeping the Nationals from scoring. A brilliant performance by Maine highlights what just may be the most reassuring part of the Mets this season. Everyone that thinks, or thought the Mets weren’t going as far this year as last cited the starting pitching as the reason. John Maine is putting them to shame with the way he is pitching, and putting Baltimore to shame too, for letting him get away.

The baseball season is a grind, and what makes champions is being able to minimize the damage when you’re down, and capitalize when you’re up. So far this year the Mets seem to be doing that. Despite the minuses from this weekend, namely Jose Valentin, Aaron Heilman and Orlando Hernandez, the Mets showed me plenty to be optimistic about.

Walk Off Drag Bunt

Apr 25, 2007 11:20 AM

Four words that you don’t hear very often. They certainly don’t have the poetic nature of walk off grand slam, or bases clearing double. Baseball games never seize to amaze, even after over a century of play. When Reyes made out without sacrificing Green in, Mets fans were just pleading with Endy to hit one solidly, or bloop one into the outfield. When he laid down that beautiful beautiful bunt just past the pitcher, it was such a shock that you waited for the replay just because it was a “You can’t believe your eyes” type scenario. Like the wild pitch that got the Mets into a do-or-die game against the Reds in 1999, it’s exciting to win in different ways. Sure it’s fun to out-slug the opponents every game, but it’s games like this that are truly memorable. It also make opponents wary, in the same way having Jose Reyes on the bases makes pitchers wary. You never know what’s going to happen. Maybe next time the opponents remember Chavez, and don’t play as far back; and then someone bloops on right over the infielders to land just beyond their reach.

The Mets have a winning attitude, and they’re have that drive, that desire to find a way to beat you. They can find the flaws in your defense, the one bad pitch in the 30 you throw, the hole in the infield that you’re overshift exposes, or the weak arm in your outfield. When they find this things, they know how to extract runs and wins from them. That attitude and ability is what is going to enable the Mets to go far this year.

11.11% into the season, and the Mets are on top

Apr 24, 2007 11:42 AM

The Mets are 12-6 after 18 games. They’re in first place. They’ve nearly got the best record in baseball. This sounds a lot like 2006, despite the miniscule half game lead. John Maine’s surprising with his good pitching, Heilman’s struggling in some spots, people are wonder when and if Lastings Milledge will be the everyday outfielder, and plenty of so-called experts are trumping up the Braves as one of the teams to beat to win the division.

I do worry about the range of the corner outfielders, but they’re both hitting very well. If Milledge was slotted in, we’d almost have to trade one of them, and who knows what we could get. I trust Omar Minaya, and I wonder if he’s shopping Milledge around at all. They can’t keep implying that next year Milledge will be the starting outfielder forever. Personally I’d rather have kept Cliff Floyd around than Alou if we weren’t going to play Milledge. There are other outfield prospects in the Mets system that they’re proud of, and it might be beneficial to get something out of Milledge now while his value’s still high off his torrid spring ; he’s not doing so bad in New Orleans either.

On the other hand, Jorge Sosa, Jason Vargas and Philip Humber are all doing pretty good down there too, and especially coupled with how the Mets starters are doing I’m not even sure where the biggest weakness is yet. Rather than trading someone now for someone that may or may not be a key for later, It’s probably a better bet to see what doesn’t hold up for the whole season and fix it then.

I still hear a lot of negativity from Mets fans, and with a winning percentage of .667 there is really little more you could hope for. Delgado and Wright have one home run between them in the middle of the order and they’re still winning. With the exception of one cold start, Oliver Perez has looked good since game 7 last year and Maine is more then we could’ve hoped for. There are three guys with good era’s waiting in the wings and the excitement when Pedro returns, even if it’s three months from now, is going to be great. I expect to be seeing a World Series game in person this year.

Back In First

Apr 14, 2007 12:19 AM

Sure they’re technically tied for first, but it’s first nonetheless. I have a feeling this might be the closest any team gets for the rest of the season. The Mets are playing all division games for the next week, and I expect them to heat up with the weather. Expect to see some home runs when the Mets visit Philadelphia on Monday. I would not be surprised if the Mets hit seven in the two days, including two by David Wright.

Enough predictions, I’ll be out at Shea for my third game tomorrow, seeing John Maine pitch again. He had a little bit of control problems on Monday, and with the slightly warmer weather tomorrow, 51degrees, I expect him to have a little better grip. I’m thinking 7-2 Mets. Oops, i thought I was done with predictions.

David Wright swiped his third base of the season last night. He stole 20 last year, and right now is on pace for 48. I doubt he’ll reach that, but with Beltran looking to steal more this year too, you’ve got spots one, three and five in the batting order that look to be pesky and distract the pitchers. I’m sure this was one of the considerations Willie was thinking of when he thought about batting Wright second.

I’d love to see both Reyes and Wright one day be 30-30 players. How awesome would that be?

The First Stumble

Apr 12, 2007 05:03 PM

The Mets are now 5-3, two games out of first and one day removed from Oliver Perez’s Walk-a-thon. The pessimists are all pointing and saying “See? How are we going to compete with starts like this?”, but I’m not panicking. Perez pitched well in game 7 under pressure, he pitched well in the spring and in his first outing this year. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and blame this on the cold. Maine’s situation was similar, he struggled with his control, but he kept it manageable. This was a lot like how he pitched last year; struggling and then getting out of it. I have confidence that they’ll both improve over the course of the season. It will be interesting to see how Pelfrey does on Friday, but I think he’s ready to make an impact. The Mets bats started out well, but now they seem to have lost that groove, but only fools think that they’re suddenly not going to be able to hit. Atlanta won’t stay this hot, and the Mets are not going to struggle like this for long. If anything can get the Mets hitting going strong, it’s the upcoming series against Washington Nationals pitching.

That Home Run Swing

Apr 09, 2007 12:46 AM

David Wright’s power numbers were down the second half of last season and he’s off to a little bit of a rough start this year. However, one thing I’m tired of hearing about is the Home Run Derby and how it messed up his swing. This is not an exclusive argument to Wright and has been applied to many players. Obviously the biggest detractor from the argument is to look at how the Derby champion, Ryan Howard, did afterwards. His swing certainly didn’t look messed up.

I find it really hard to believe that a professional hitter, which is what all of the participants of the Derby are, can be messed up by a couple of hours of extracurricular fun. Why do those 50 or so swings have a bigger effect then the dozens more a player does between the derby and his next regular season game. At the very least he’s got the All-Star Game and any warm-up associated with that, plus batting practice of the next game after the break. Besides the hours of batting practice Wright and other such players had for the last 80 games or so, there is also a hitting coach and 24 other players (Okay, more like 12 other hitters) on the team that can help out if his swing looks a little off.

So does the Home Run Derby actually affect a player’s power numbers for the second half of the season or is it just another stat anomaly that people read too much into? My bet’s on the latter.

Mets Sweep Out the Spring Training Rust

Apr 04, 2007 11:02 PM

The Mets finished out the sweep of the World Champion Cardinals. They played very sound baseball, and John Maine pitched magnificently. If he pitches this well all season, there is little doubt that all the worries about the Mets rotation were short-sighted. Alternatively the Cardinals looked horrible. They scored two runs, in three games. They made errors, and the bullpen exploded. The Mets will definitely face stiffer competition this year, but it’s nothing this team can’t handle. They seem to be in mid-season form.

And it begins

Apr 02, 2007 02:06 PM

The Mets played wonderfully last night. There were some blips here and there, and some nice plays to get them out of trouble too. Watching them play like a continuation of 2006 and nothing like this past March just reaffirms how I feel about them taking this division. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them be the first team to clinch a spot in the playoffs again this year.

Willie Randolph is a big part of that. Even when I disagree with his moves, I can see what he’s thinking and understand it. I love that he continues to put Wagner out there in non-save situations, challenging him to be ready always. He won’t be surprised again to come into a four run game and blow it. I also like that he’s open to change, experimenting with David Wright batting second in the spring. I really like Joe Smith, think he could be a big part of the team this year, and it was great to see Willie put him in last night where he could get his feet wet.

The season continues, A-Rod’s already made an error and struck out with runners in scoring position. Hopefully the Mets will continue to make news so that we don’t have to listen to the jibes about A-Rod and if he will opt out of his contract all year.

Bad Spring doesn’t mean Bad Season

Mar 28, 2007 05:11 PM

Just a couple of more days until the season starts, and the Mets still seem to have plenty to figure out after they tied the club record for most losses in spring training today. Duaner Sanchez is sidelined for at least a couple of months and after what amounts to about a year off, will he even be as good as he was at the beginning of last year? Will Heilman still be able to be good this year with his starting ambitions and his tendonitis? How long does Shawn Green get before he gets benched for Milledge, and is Milledge ready to be a major-league contributor? What about Jose Valentine and second base? Can Anderson Hernandez learn to hit major league pitching well enough to take his job if he struggles? The starting rotation is either old or mostly untested, which leaves one question. Is this going to keep the Mets from getting to the World Series, where both the organization and fans expect them to be?

I believe that it won’t keep them from it. Spring training games mean nothing, and the players know this. The beginning of the season is full of motivating to get pumped and get into the game. First they open the season by watching the Cardinals ceremony, reminding them of their failure last year, and I’m sure the reporters there that day won’t be hesitant to ask them about it. The next series, on Friday, is Atlanta’s home opener. While none of the current Mets really have connections to the Mets struggles at Turner Field and with the Braves, they’re still a division rival who wants their title as Champions of the East back. If that wasn’t enough they come home Monday to play the home opener in front of 55 thousand fans whose last glimpse of the Mets was watching Wainwright’s pitch go past Beltran for strike three. They open against the Phillies who many people have picked to win the division this year, Shortstop Jimmy Rollins included.

The Mets have enough offense to get some runs produced, plenty of speed, and good defense in most positions. While everyone points to the Mets rotation as the weak point of the team, they do it from a pessimistic standpoint. Who’s to say John Maine, Oliver Perez, and Mike Pelfrey aren’t going to be good this year? These statements aren’t made out of recent history, as there is very little of it, and most of it’s good. John Maine and Perez pitched well last year, and came through when they were needed in the playoffs. Despite being decimated by injuries, it wasn’t the Mets starting pitching that kept them from the World Series last year.

There were many candidates for the 5th starting spot in spring, and while most of them didn’t pitch so well, it is only spring. Pelfrey will get his shot by mid-April and if he doesn’t succeed, chances are one of these other guys has been pitching well in New Orleans and can come up and pitch.

Omar Minaya shouldn’t be forgotten either. It’s perfectly legitimate to expect that he could make some moves and bring in help where it’s needed mid-season. However, without having to even do anything, the Mets will bring in a top, Hall of Fame destined pitcher around the trade deadline in Pedro Martinez. Is anyone else involved in a playoff run at the time going to be able to do as much to improve the rotation?

More Than They Appear

Mar 05, 2007 04:14 PM

Baseball is more than stats and numbers. The Mets are more then they appear. A lot of people are talking about a lot of issues the Mets have; Unknown back end of the rotation, questions at second base, iffy corner outfielders. They compare the Mets to other teams, like the Phillies, and match them up position by position. Appearances are not all they appear however; the Mets are more valuable then they would appear on paper.

Can you quantify the effect a player like Jose Reyes, who is always playing 150%, always smiling, and leaves no doubt that he absolutely loves what he’s doing? How about the zany antics of Pedro? The incredibly intelligent book-keeping of Delgado on all the pitchers he faces, and his willingness to impart his knowledge in the clubhouse? What about the competition imparted by having nine competitors for the last three spots in the rotation, and the knowledge that even after they get it, there are a bunch of guys possibly pitcher well in triple-A that could take the spot? Not to mention that they’re still competing within the rotation because Pedro is coming back to claim one of the spots.

What about the bench? A lot of big plays and moments come from players who are just bit players. This was probably one of the Mets problems last year, and Omar worked at fixing it for this year. There are a couple of players that are looking good this spring, and players like Endy Chavez still looks good. I’d like to see him get 40-50 starts this year.

The Mets rotation will likely continue to be good this year. Heilman, Sanchez and Wagner should still be good, and some other guys in camp, like Joe Smith, are impressing.

Overall baseball is about more than stats and formulas. The Mets may not be as impressive on paper to be a sure thing to win the division, but there are factors there that people are missing. The drive of individual players is very important. Delgado, Reyes, and Beltran are just some of the everyday players that have come out early in camp talking about their statistical goals for the season, the ways they are going to improve. Expect good things from the Mets this year, and you won’t be disappointed.