Mets look to stay competitive in the second half of the season.
With the MLB All-Star break giving New York Mets fans a few days off from watching the Amazins’, WFUV’s Matt Moro and Kris Venezia decided to take a look at the highs, lows and the future of the ball club. The two also interviewed players and television play-by-play broadcaster Gary Cohen on Saturday.
Kris: The pitching has been terrific, both the starters and, after some early season troubles, the bullpen have kept the Mets close to .500. The rotation was a bit of a concern with Matt Harvey most likely out for the entire year, and the situation became hairier when Dillon Gee missed a chunk of time with a bum left shoulder. But the starting pitching has given the offense plenty of chances to win ball games, the team ranks sixth in Major League Baseball when it comes to quality starts. Zack Wheeler continues to mature and has been nearly unhittable in his left five outings. Dillon Gee came back from his injury firing on all cylinders with a gem against Atlanta. Bartolo Colon, after the first inning, consistently goes deep into games with little damage. Jonathon Niese was the team’s ace for a majority of the season, and Mets fans are hopeful his injury doesn’t keep him sidelined for too long. Jenrry Mejia adjusted well after moving from the starting rotation into a closing role. Daisuke Matsuzaka threw great in Spring Training and has done everything the Mets have asked of him, whether it be occasional spot starts or coming out of the bullpen.
Kris: Mets fans had little cheer about when they were at Citi Field in 2013. The Amazins’ finished the season 33-48 at home, but this year has been a different story. The Mets go into the break with a 25-23 mark at home, and the improved record, along with the popular promotion Free Shirt Friday, should drive more New Yorkers to the ballpark in August and September. The road record looks uglier than the home one, 20-27, but the squad gets a chance to better it with a road trip out west which begins Friday.
Kris: Sticking with the positives, the Mets also bring momentum into the All-Star break. The squad has won eight of its last ten, and the offense has finally come alive. Travis d’Arnaud, Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda, David Wright and heck even Ruben Tejada swung the bat well during that stretch. The warm July in New York City must have influenced the offense because the bats are hot. Nobody wants to take control of the National League East, and if the Mets carry this momentum past the break, they could be in contention come late August.
Matt: Ruben Tejada, Travis d’Arnaud, and Lucas Duda were at no point absolute solutions at their respective positions. And they still have plenty to prove, but as of late they’ve become bright spots for the Mets in an up and down 2014 campaign. In the case of Tejada, it’s no secret that the Mets organization has been looking elsewhere for shortstop production for quite some time. Even as recently as May, Wilmer Flores was called up from AAA Las Vegas to take over as the starter at the position. But since that point, Tejada has turned a corner. He has looked much like the player who hit in the .280’s two straight years in 2011 and 2012, looking for line drives and hard hit balls on the ground all across the field. Stuck in the .180’s at the time of Flores’ promotion in late May, Tejada sported a .263 average in June. His manager Terry Collins admits that he has benefited from hitting in the eight spot most of the year, but the numbers don’t lie; Tejada has the 3rd highest on base percentage for shortstops in the NL at .353.
Matt: D’Arnaud started off even worse than Tejada this year, so much so that he earned a demotion after a June 6 game in San Francisco. He raked down in Las Vegas, and the hits kept coming once he returned to the Mets lineup on June 24. He homered in that return, 1 of the 3 he’s had in the 16 games since coming back and good for 3 of his 10 RBI in that stretch. Compare that to 3 homers and 9 RBI in the 39 games to start the year and it’s obvious that d’Arnaud is seeing the ball much better. He now has the ability to drive the ball on the outside part of the plate, something he had trouble doing since being called up last year, and has shown the flashes of power that had been promised as one of the top prospects in baseball.
Matt: Lucas Duda found himself stuck in the middle of a three man platoon at first base to start the season, but shortly afterwards found himself as the only guy left from the three on the Mets big league roster. But at time it felt as if the Mets had given Duda the first base job full time by default, due to their commitment to parting ways with his main competition Ike Davis. But with Davis now in Pittsburgh, Duda has done everything to show the Mets made the right choice. He’s on pace for 25+ homers and 90+ RBI, while Davis has just 5 home runs right now for the Pirates. New York’s decision to put their faith in Duda looks better each and every day.
Kris: The offense. Yes, it has gotten significantly better in July, but even David Wright has not looked like his normal self at the plate for the majority of the season. Daniel Murphy is the lone exception, the barrel of his bat has been addicted to the ball this year. He was rewarded appropriately, with a trip to Minnesota to play in the All-Star Game. Curtis Granderson had a horrible start to his life as a Met, but he has adapted to Citi Field in the past month. Travis d’Arnaud’s bat was allergic to the ball at the beginning of the season, but some time in Las Vegas was exactly what the doctor ordered. Since returning to the big leagues from Sin City, the catcher has raked. The problem with the offense is the lack of a big, powerful bat in the middle of the lineup. Granderson was supposed to provide that slugger, but he looks more comfortable at the top of the order. Lucas Duda is a big guy, but his bat does not do enough to provide protection for Captain America.
Kris: Chris Young. Thankfully the Mets signed him to a one year contract, but they are paying him way too much for very little. The worst part is that the outfield is better off without him. Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson should be the everyday guys, with Eric Young Jr., Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Bobby Abreu getting their starts depending on the opposing hurler. Chris Young holds a .202 average, and that is not worth over $7 million.
Kris: The end of July, August and September have been tough months for the Mets the past few years. It would be cruel for the Amazins’ to go on a tear into the All-Star break, only to flop the rest of the month. But as the Mets faithful know all too well, the past few seasons have been tough to watch, especially in the latter summer months. Manager Terry Collins said the division will be decided by the head-to-head matchups against other NL East foes. The squad has a 21-20 mark in the division, and if the season was decided Wednesday solely on the records of head-to-head divisional matchups, the Mets would finish third.
Matt: Injures have absolutely decimated the Mets in 2014, including one that happened in 2013, with Matt Harvey being lost to Tommy John surgery. 2014 was meant to be the year of the Mets, and without Harvey those expectations were thrown right out the window. As the Mets tried to wage on without their sidelined ace, the injury bug bit them in several other unwanted places. Closer Bobby Parnell was lost for the season on Opening Day, also to Tommy John, and left the bullpen unsteadied until the young arms could hold on to the reins. Dillon Gee got the opening day nod and pitched well until he too went down. Jonathan Niese would have been the man on the mound March 31 but had to sit out due to shoulder issues, and is currently on the DL thanks to more of the same. Throw significant DL time for Juan Lagares and a shoulder issue that could have very well contributed to the lackluster numbers of David Wright and it’s fair to say to the 2014 New York Mets have been far from healthy.
Matt: Chris Young. I don’t mean to sound repetitive, but yeah, Chris Young. His stat line alone makes him a bust as a free agent signing, as he struggles to stay above .200. And even though he is only signed for one year, that $7.25 million could have been spent on much more than an insurance policy for Juan Lagares. Which in itself is a frustrating excuse, seeing as Young underperformed in center and is now used exclusively in left.
Matt: While the Mets may have had a terrific run to end play before the All-Star Break, they still have plenty of ground to make up thanks to a May and June with a combined record of 22-35. They are 7 games out of first place in the NL East and 7 games back in the Wild Card standings. Even with the recent 8-2 homestand, the team is 5 games under .500 and would need to play near flawless baseball to seriously compete this season.
Kris: As I look into my crystal ball, I see the Mets failing to make the playoffs in 2014. Not exactly a bold prediction, but for fans, this playoff drought has to be difficult. The years ahead, 2015 and beyond, should feature a much stronger ball club. Matt Harvey will return, Zack Wheeler will have more experience under his belt and Noah Syndergaard has electric stuff, despite his poor stats in Las Vegas. With young talent sprouting on the mound and behind the plate, the front office has some big decisions to make in the near future. The Mets have over two weeks before the trade deadline, the team needs to start shopping around for some buyers. Bartolo Colon’s value is high right now, and with injuries popping up all over the league, the Mets should look for a good deal. The team also needs to figure out what to do with the overflow of terrific youngsters. There is no reason to have both Kevin Plawecki and Travis d’Arnaud on the roster in 2015, and the catcher’s spot can be overvalued by teams, see Brian McCann in the Bronx. The Mets also have Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Dillon Gee and Jonathan Niese, so that is six starters not counting Bartolo Colon. DeGrom has a great head of hair, but a Head & Shoulders commercial does not win ball games. The dream deal would be finding a way to land Colorado’s stud shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. The Mets would have arguably the best hitting middle infield with Murphy and Tulowitzski in the lineup. In an alternate universe, the Mets would convince the Arizona Diamondbacks to deal first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, but with Tony La Russa now in the front office, I doubt that will happen. The move would be much more feasible if General Manager Kevin Towers was alone in that front office, he could be persuaded to give away his best player for a bag of underwear and a large iced coffee. Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson has been hush about potential trades in late July, but I have to imagine he is making phone calls behind the scenes.
Matt: Unfortunately, as I’ve already pointed out, 2014 was intended to be the future that Mets fans had been talking about for years. But now that this season seems to be headed down the same road as seasons past, it’s time to figure out what happens next. There’s no question deals need to be done for this team to be serious contenders. Maybe it’s an impact player at shortstop, or a power hitting corner outfielder, but this team seems to be at least one big bat away from being a real dangerous lineup. Bartolo Colon has reportedly been made available for trades by the Mets leading up to the deadline later this month, and seeing as Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel are already off the market, to the same team no less, the calls should be pouring in for a veteran starter who knows how to win. But even though another big bopper in the lineup is a must-have for this team right now, they should be wary of moving some of the younger arms. Fans have seen what injuries can do to guys like Harvey, Niese, and Gee, and although there may be a few too many arms at the moment to fill out a rotation when all are healthy, there’s no guarantee they’ll be healthy together. At the end of the day, trades will have to be made, and pieces will have to be given up, but the Mets will need to do the best they can to figure out who they need to keep, and who are willing to give away.
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