Archive for June, 2010

Midwestropolitan On Vacation

June 29, 2010

It’s that time of year.  I am heading out of town for the good ole’ fashion Midwest Summer Vacation.  We are heading up to Madison, Wisconsin for some fun with family and friends.

We’ll spend some time on the lake and other assorted vacation related activities.  We may even check out a minor-league baseball game during the trip.

Why am I telling you this?

Because you probably won’t see anything new on this site until July 6th or 7th.

If you need a  Mets fix visit these friends of Midwestropolitan:

Metszilla

The Daily Stache

Metsmerized Online

Metstraduamus

and of course, the grandfather of all Mets blogs, Matt Cerrone’s MetsBlog.

What to Expect During My Time Away

Realistically, we should expect to see the Mets go 4-3 on this current road trip.  This particular trip is more difficult than many realize.

First, they have to play the Marlins in San Juan, Puerto Rico where there are two things working against them here.

1.  The obvious, they are in Puerto Rico which has to be throwing their routine off.

2.  The Marlins are renewed in a way.  Freddy Garcia is gone and they appear to be a bit more loose which means to me they feel like they have nothing to lose.  A dangerous situation.

Secondly, they travel to D.C. to play the Nationals.  The Nationals have given them fits this year.

Combine that with playing them on the road and the fact that the Mets will be facing Stephen Strasburg, and the Mets have their hands full.

AL Dominance: A Sign The Mets Are For Real

June 28, 2010

Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

It has been a well established fact that the American League has had the upper hand for quite some time when comparing the two leagues.

Take a look at All-Star Game results and inter-league records if you don’t believe me.

After another home-series clinching win over the Minnesota Twins, the Mets have completed the 2010 inter-league schedule with a very impressive 13-5 record.

They are by far the cream of the crop in terms of representing the National League.

To put it into perspective, the San Diego Padres (NL Best 45-30), own a 9-6 record.  The defending NL Champion Phillies finished up with a 10-8 record.

Granted, the Mets were fortunate to face the Baltimore Orioles and the Cleveland Indians, two of the worst teams in the American League.  I argue that the Amazin’s 6-0 record against these basement dwellers is still impressive based on the fact that all six games were played on the road.

The Mets were also charged with the task of playing the Yankees, Tigers, and Twins, three teams that are perennial playoff contenders.  They more than held their own, sporting a 7-5 record against these talent laden teams.

How Did They Do It?

The answer to this question is also the answer to how they have improved their team over all.  It comes down to two huge factors.

1.  Wright and Reyes have returned to form in every facet of the game.

As of today, David Wright is sporting a .300 batting average, fourteen home-runs, and is leading the National League with sixty-one RBI.  People also tend to forget he is one of the league leaders (currently seventh) in on base percentage.

He looks like a completely different player than he did a month ago.

After the “let’s bat Jose third in the lineup” debacle, Reyes has gotten his legs underneath him (literally) and is wreaking havoc on opposing pitchers at the plate and on the base paths.

His .279 average can be deceiving to opposing teams, especially considering his horrid start to the season.  He is second in the NL with six triples, second in the NL with 19 stolen bases, and fifth in the NL with fifty runs scored.

2.  Omar and Jerry have made the right decisions in terms of fixing the problems they had with their roster early in the season.  I’ll be the first to admit, most of the issues were of their own doing.  They deserve credit for recognizing that and making changes quickly.

We are quick to ask for their heads on a silver platter when things are going wrong.  It’s time to recognize what they did right.

  • Signed Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco to do the catching.  Both are strong defensively, and work very well with the pitching staff.  They have provided more offense than anyone expected in the first half of the season.
  • Removed Oliver Perez and John Maine (due to injury) from the starting rotation.  They’re hand was forced here, but I applaud Manuel for having a quick hook on Maine and demoting Perez to the bullpen instead of trying to fit a square peg in a round role.
  • Inserted R.A. Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi in the rotation.  Dickey has been one of the best stories in all of baseball with his 6-0 record in his first six starts.  Takahashi has been effective and eaten up plenty of innings for the Amazin’s.
  • Called up Ike Davis.  Ike Davis has cemented himself in the lineup and has been so effective that he is batting cleanup.  He has shown power, flashed the leather, and carries himself like a five-year veteran.

There are plenty of examples of teams afraid to make changes early in a season much to the dismay of their fans.  Omar and Jerry, in an effort to save their jobs, made adjustments until they found the right combination for success.

The Johan Santana Question No One Wants To Ask

June 27, 2010

Yesterday, Johan Santana had another rough outing, giving up five runs on eight hits in six innings pitched.

His recent “struggles” have been explained away as one of two things.

1.  He is a second half pitcher, he will be fine later in the season.

2.  This could be a physical issue involving his recovery from surgery last year or simply him getting older.

Should we be adding a third item to this list?

Normally, I am not the type of person to dig into an athlete’s personal life.  It is completely clear to me that they are human beings and suffer from the same faults and problems that you and I do.

Therefore, you won’t be reading about my judgments on what they do outside of the ballpark unless I feel it affects their play.

That being said, I think it is prudent to wonder if the recent issues with Santana’s personal life are effecting his ability to get hitter’s out.

Hear me out for a second.  Even accountants, teachers, lawyers, and police officers will tell you that their work can be affected if they are going through something stressful at home.

Baseball players are no different.

One of the thing’s that makes Johan so effective on the mound is his ability to focus.  You can see his intense concentration on every pitch.

If there is something going on that is making it difficult for him to have this intense concentration, wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume that this could be affecting his play?

Think about all of the times you have heard Ron Darling or any other baseball analyst talk about the complicated mechanics involved in being a big league pitcher?

The exact science involved in ensuring all of those moving parts operate in a manner optimal for success is astounding.

This concentration isn’t only needed in games.  Practice makes perfect, right?  So he needs this extreme focus when he does all of his side work as well.

Anything that deters him from this focus can be detrimental.

Maybe the recent outing of this issue is a necessary step for Johan to put this part of his life behind him so he can regain his focus.

David Wright Highlight Reel

June 26, 2010

Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

David Wright was everywhere last night.  If this were little league, he would have most certainly received the game ball for his play in the Mets’ 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins.

Offensively, he went two for three with two RBIs.  In the fourth inning, he tied the game with an RBI double, and in the sixth inning he added a home run that was a screaming line drive to right field.

Keith Hernandez commented that he felt Wright’s recent success at the plate could be attributed cutting down on his upper-cut and leveling his swing more.

Intangibles

Besides driving in his 58th and 59th runs, he again displayed why he is such a complete player.

In the second inning, Nick Punto bounced one down the third base line.  Wright charged quickly grabbed the ball on the second hop with his bare hand, and threw out Punto all in one motion.  This is a play that he is making more routinely, to the delight of Mets’ pitchers.

My favorite play of the game involving David occurred in the fourth inning. After knocking in Jose Reyes with an RBI double, Wright moved to third on a line drive single to center off of Ike Davis’ bat.  The throw from center was off-line and got away from the catcher a bit.

Alertly, Wright noticed no one covering the plate and bolted for home.

Base running is often an overlooked skill.  It is a great indicator of how intelligent a player truly is.

Pelfrey Back On Track

Mike Pelfrey returned to form as he earned his tenth win of the year.  He gave up two runs in six innings and struck out two Twins.

One of the reasons why Pelfrey has enjoyed success this season is that he has figured out how to pitch out of jams.

Last night, he found himself in a bit of a pickle with no one out and runners on first and third.   He was able to strike out the very dangerous Joe Mauer and get Justin Morneau to ground into a double play.

Josh Thole

Josh Thole made his 2010 debut last night.  I’m sure he would have preferred getting a hit, but he did a decent job behind the plate.  I’m sure there will be more from him to come in the future.

On Deck

Johan Santana takes the hill today as he faces Carl Pavano.

Mission Accomplished in The Tigers Series

June 25, 2010

I wanted a sweep.  You wanted a sweep.  We all wanted a sweep.

It would have been great if Hisanori Takashi showed up and was Terrific Tak.  I would have loved for David Wright or Ike Davis to come up with a hit in the seventh inning with the bases loaded.

It just didn’t happen.

Those are the breaks sometimes when you follow the National Past Time.

It would be prudent to keep in mind, the Mets accomplished their mission against the Detroit Tigers.  They won the series.  A sweep would have been icing on the cake.

Winning this series shows the rest of baseball that the Mets are a team that is going to be tough to beat, especially at home.

Besides winning series against divisional rivals like the Phillies and the Braves.  The Mets have shown they can beat the other division’s better teams.

They have series wins against the Yankees, Tigers, Padres, and the Dodgers.

I continue to be encouraged by how this team plays, no matter who the opponent.

Rueben Tejada Makes Me Say Luis Who?

I’ve mentioned in the past that the Mets’ defense is an underrated reason why they have had success.  Rueben Tejada has been an obvious upgrade at second base defensively.

He came up in a good situation.  Coming in to replace an injured player, I expected him to help out defensively and didn’t expect anything from him offensively.

Just like all the other Mets that have been called up to play, he has taken advantage of his opportunity.  He currently has an eight game hitting streak and owns a .260 batting average.

Tejada has also been able to cross home plate at a nice rate, thanks to Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan.  Rueben has scored nine runs in the thirteen games he has played  since his call up.

His play has caused me to forget about Luis Castillo almost entirely.  He is definitely going to make the Mets think twice about what to do with Castillo when he is ready to come back.


R.A. Dickey Is Ridiculous

June 24, 2010

Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images

R.A. does it again.  This story really can’t get any better.

Dickey pitched eight shutout innings to garner his sixth straight victory.  No other pitcher in Mets’ history has started their Met’s career off at 6-0.

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed that he didn’t get the opportunity to go the distance.  Jerry Manuel decided to have Francisco Rodriguez pitch the ninth because he had not had work in quite some time.

Manuel had this to say about the decision:

I know that we have to keep Frankie on some type of game regimen and it’s a difficult, difficult decision that you hate to deprive a guy of a complete-game shutout.

I understand Manuel’s reasoning and admire his commitment to making decisions for the long-term.  I’m not sure I would do the same thing.

That’s probably why I’m writing this blog instead of sitting in the Mets’ dugout making these types of determinations.

Dickey’s emergence is one of my favorite things about this team’s success.

Not only is his personal story an interesting one, but he has very quickly helped us forget about the constant roller coaster ride that Oliver Perez and John Maine gave us.

Side note:

Photos of Dickey give me a chuckle.

If you didn’t know he was a knuckleball pitcher when looking at his action photos, you would think he is throwing the ball 100 mph based on how he looks like he is letting out a primal yell when he is releasing the ball.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons why he has been so effective.  His delivery (including the grimace) combined with the unpredictable movement of the knuckleball makes him difficult to hit.

Hold Your Horses On The Carlos Beltran Talk

June 23, 2010

How much playing time will Angel Pagan get now that Beltran is back?

Should Beltran play in right leaving Francoeur the odd man out?

Jason Bay isn’t hitting for power so he should become the fourth outfielder?

Shouldn’t the Mets trade one of their outfielders for a starting pitcher?

Whoa people, slow down a little bit.

The news that Carlos Beltran will start his rehab assignment on Thursday has kicked off a great deal of speculation about playing time in the Mets’ outfield.

Although I think this is great news, I’m not ready to discuss the playing time topic yet.

Neither should you.

You see, there is still a long road to go before we see Beltran roaming center field at Citi Field.

Carlos has a number of steps he has to go through before he gets called up.  It is not impossible for there to be a set back during anyone of these steps. Keep in mind he still runs with a limp.

Mets’ officials tell us it’s because of his knee brace.  Truthfully, I am not sure if I buy that line one hundred percent.

First, Beltran has to test his knee during game situations for a while.

Don’t fool yourself if you think the extended spring training games were going to satisfy this step.  They served as a very controlled way to keep him active until he was ready for a minor-league assignment.

Once Carlos demonstrates his knee can handle real game situations, he will have to establish the fact that he can play day-to-day for an extended period of time.

This step should take several weeks in my opinion.  The worst thing the Mets can do is rush his return.

We saw what happened with Jose Reyes in terms of trying to get his feet underneath him while playing in major league games.  The Mets are contending for the pennant and control their own destiny.  They can ill afford Beltran “rehabbing” with the big league club.

It has been made very clear that Carlos will be playing center-filed when he returns.  So demonstrating he is ready means he has to show he can track down balls in the gap as well as Pagan is right now.  Another reason this running with a limp means we still have some time to go.

Make no mistake, Beltran will play when he returns.  One of the other three outfielders will be the odd man out.  The Mets need to make sure he is ready.

Keep this in mind, we don’t know what will happen with Bay, Pagan, or Francoeur in the near future.  Baseball is a funny game.

One of these players could get injured (knock on wood),  or in the immortal words of Jeff Francoeur, one of them could wind up “flat-out sucking”.

So let’s slow down a little and see what happens before we start trying to figure out playing time in the outfield.  There is still quite a bit of baseball to be played until any decisions need to be made.

The Rain Can’t Slow Down The Mets Offense

June 23, 2010

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

When it rains it pours.

At least that’s what the Tigers had to be thinking about the Mets’ offense last night.

The Amazin’s racked up fourteen runs on sixteen hits in a route.  Combined with a Braves loss, the Mets find themselves a game and a half out of first place.

Third Inning Of Fun

The Mets onslaught was highlighted by an eight run third inning, the longest third inning in recent history thanks to a fifty-eight minute rain delay.

Tigers’ pitcher Jay Sborz came in for Justin Verlander after the delay for his Major League debut.  It had to seem like a nightmare for him.  He never made it out of the inning, giving up five runs on five hits.

For the Mets, Bay and Davis doubled (Ike would later come up with a single as well), while Reyes, Pagan, and Wright singled in the inning.

Angel Stellar Again

Angel Pagan continued his torrid pace in this game.  He went four for six, drove in four, and scored three runs.

What’s impressive to me is that he is playing like this while the talk is heating up about him losing playing time when Carlos Beltran returns.

Not only has his play been outstanding, but he has handled this situation like a true professional.

What’s in my mind is to help the team as much as I can and to protect Carlos’ spot; that’s a big responsibility.

After last night’s game, Pagan is hitting .304.

David Wright went three for three, drove in two, and reached base in all five of his at bats.

Jose Reyes and Ike Davis each went three for six.

Jon Niese Probably Wasn’t A Fan Of The Rain Delay

The only Mets player that had room to gripe about the rain delay was Jonathon Niese.  He didn’t allow a hit in the first three innings.

Jerry Manuel opted to let him continue to pitch after the delay and tried desperately to allow him to get the win.  Unfortunately, Niese couldn’t get the final out in the fifth so he could not be the pitcher of record.

The ball got soggy. I just couldn’t make the adjustments.

I’m not sure if Jerry will take heat for this decision or not, but I liked it.  He could afford to give Niese a long leash after the Mets eight run explosion.

Fernando Nieve wound up with the win as he pitched effectively, picking up the final out of the fifth for Niese and then throwing an additional two innings.  He didn’t give up a run.

Bobby Parnell had a successful 2010 debut, throwing up a zero in the eighth. He threw consistently in the mid nineties which was a good sign.

On Deck

R.A. Dickey takes the hill with his 5-0 record as he faces Jeremy Bonderman tonight.

A Look At The Detroit Tigers

June 22, 2010

I have something to admit.

I don’t know a whole lot about the Detroit Tigers.  This may be shocking to many of you based on the fact that I am a Midwestropolitan and have driven through and past Detroit many times.

You never go to Detroit unless you have to.  It’s not a city like Chicago, Cincinnati, or Indianapolis that you plan to visit for the weekend.

Therefore, I haven’t.  I have heard that Commerica Park is a great place to watch a baseball game.  I’ve just never made the trip.

So I have taken it upon myself to do a little scouting report for the Mets’ upcoming series.

Tigers’ Lineup

This is a potent lineup.  Thankfully, this is a home series for the Mets, so Citi  Field should help them combat their offense a bit.

They have four players hitting over .300 (Brennan Boesch, Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera, and Austin Jackson).

Carlos Guillen and newly acquired, Johnny Damon, are not that far behind.

Miguel Cabrera is having a monster year, batting .328 with 19 home runs and 60 RBI.

Youth Movement

Twenty-five year old Brennan Boesch and twenty-three year old Austin Jackson have added some much-needed energy and pop to a lineup that was once aging its way out of relevancy.

They have given the Tigers a boost of confidence as well, helping create a dangerous middle of the lineup that can strike at any time.

Justin Verlander on Sunday’s game:
Through the first six innings, this was the kind of game that hurt us too often last season. We were struggling to get any run production and then ‘BOOM!’

Who knew Justin Verlander was related to John Madden?

Starting Pitching

This is an area where the Mets have a distinct advantage over the Tigers.  Beyond Verlander, the Tigers starting five don’t appear to be that impressive.

Of course, the Mets were not fortunate to miss Verlander so they will have to take advantage in games two and three of the series.

Take a look at their starter’s for yourself:

                  W  L  W-L% ERA  GS CG,IP   H  R  ER BB SO WHIP
Justin Verlander  8  4 .667  3.54 14  1 94.0 72 38 37 31 85 1.096
Jeremy Bonderman  3  4 .429  4.06 12  0 75.1 73 38 34 20 59 1.235
Max Scherzer      4  6 .400  5.67 13  0 73.0 81 51 46 27 67 1.479
Rick Porcello     4  7 .364  6.14 13  0 70.1 97 54 48 22 33 1.692
Dontrelle Willis  1  2 .333  4.98  8  0 43.1 48 24 24 29 33 1.777
Armando Galarraga 2  1 .667  3.32  6  1 38.0 33 15 14  9 15 1.105

The Bullpen

Reading up on the Tigers, I found out that many people feel the bullpen has improved vastly from last year.  Looking at their numbers, I tend to agree with that assessment.

Their bullpen is led by Jose Valverde, who has emerged as an extremely reliable closer this season.  He owns a 0.59 ERA and has amassed sixteen saves.

Here is a breakdown of their relievers:

              W L ERA   G SV, IP   H R  ER HR BB SO WHIP
Jose Valverde 1 1 0.59 31 16 30.1 10 3  2   1 12 27 0.725
Joel Zumaya   2 0 1.82 27 1  34.2 29 9  7   0  7 33 1.038
Eddie Bonine  3 0 2.10 24 0  34.1 24 8  8   3 12 17 1.049
Phil Coke     5 0 3.10 32 0  29.0 26 11 10  1 11 22 1.276
Ryan Perry    1 4 5.82 24 1  21.2 22 14 14  2 12 18 1.569

One of my favorite things about inter-league play is that it gives you a different barometer in which to gauge your team.

This series against the Tigers gives the Mets a chance to play against a solid American League team.

It will be interesting to see how the Amazin’s perform.


Off Day Observations: Jennry Mejia, Johan Santana, and More

June 21, 2010

Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

I find that on off days I like to reevaluate where the Mets stand in the baseball world.

Even thought they haven’t played inspiring baseball in their last two games, the Mets have put themselves in a nice position this month.

They are 2.5 games behind the Braves in the East and are leading the Wild Card chase.

Wild Card Teams W L PCT GB E# L10 STRK
NY Mets 39 30 .565 - - 8-2 L2
LA Dodgers 38 30 .559 0.5 94 4-6 L3
San Francisco 38 30 .559 0.5 94 6-4 W1
Cincinnati 37 33 .529 2.5 91 3-7 L3
Philadelphia 35 32 .522 3.0 92 4-6 L2
Colorado 36 33 .522 3.0 91 6-4 L1

Honestly, how many of you truly thought they would be in this position on June 21st at the end of May?

I know the end of the Yankees series was disappointing, particularly offensively.  That being said, I don’t believe the Mets recent winning streak was an aberration.   I still feel confident about this team.

Expectations For The Upcoming Home Stand

There is cause for relief in the fact that the Mets will be returning to Citi Field where they own a 24-10 record.

The next six games will be no cake walk, however.  Detroit and Minnesota are a combined 78-59.  They are fighting each other for first place in the AL Central and have established themselves as perennial playoff contenders.

It is time my friends.  We need to raise our expectations a bit.

Based on the fact that the Amazin’s play outstanding at home and they are a confident bunch, I expect the Mets to go 4-2 on this home stand.

Jennry Mejia Down, Bobby Parnell Up

Last week,  I wrote about Mejia and how he was being developed on the major league roster.

Apparently, those lessons have been learned and the Mets have decided its time to lengthen him out and have him develop his secondary pitches in the minors.

Bobby Parnell will take his place even though he hasn’t exactly burned it up in Buffalo.  He comes to the Mets with a 4.24 ERA in 40.1 innings.

The Mejia situation is another example of why the Mets appear to be without a plan when it comes to certain situations.

Is this a case of Jerry Manuel holding on to him as long as he could until Omar Minaya finally said enough?

It’s not like Mejia’s role has changed over the last few weeks.  Why now?  A complete head scratcher in my book.

Here’s what everyone involved had to say on the matter:

Jennry Mejia
I’m going down, but I don’t have to put my head down, because I’m going to continue to work hard.  I don’t think they’re sending me down because I didn’t do my job.
Omar Minaya
He has a focus, he knows what he wants to do and he knows where he wants to get.  He sees himself as a starter down the line.
Jerry Manuel
We felt that the development and the progression had leveled off here.  It was a tremendous experience for him and he did everything we asked, but we felt to get him to the next level he needs to pitch on a regular basis and work on a regular basis.

What’s Going On With Johan?

I have to admit, I am  baffled on what to think about Johan Santana.

I am officially on the fence folks.

Normally, when I am in this spot my heart and my head are at odds with one another.

My heart wants to believe in Johan so it agrees with Jerry Manuel’s assessment,

He’s historically been a second-half pitcher. I think he’s starting to gear up for that.  That’s been his history, but I’ll take what he’s been giving us. I still see a guy that competes.

My head is telling me that Johan is starting to show signs of decline.

Normally, I try not to read other blogs while I am in the middle of writing a post.  I don’t want them to influence what I see.  My normal operating procedure has me reading other work when I am finished posting.

As far as the Johan situation is concerned, I deviated from the norm.  In this case, my heart was fighting with my head.  It was telling me to look for ways to explain Johan’s decline.

Instead,  I found an excellent post that actually summed up my head’s perspective.  Sorry heart.

Tom Greenhalgh from The (Happy?) Recap wrote yesterday how he no longer expects greatness when Johan takes the mound.  He just hopes for a win.

Santana’s fastball has lost velocity. Therefore when he throws his change up, the differential in speed is smaller. The result? Unless he has pinpoint control, swings and misses are far and few between. Couple that with the fact that he hasn’t been compensating for his lack of “stuff” with great control, and you get statistics like this:
In his last four starts, Johan Santana has struck out a grand total of ten batters.

If my head’s perspective is correct, than what is the cause?

Is it simply the fact that Santana is getting older?  Could it be that he is still not completely recovered from his surgery?

Will it be heart or will it be head?  Only the second half of the season will tell.


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