What could Terry Collins do differently?

Collins Camp 13The Mets are now ten games out of first place as they begin an 11 game home stand that leads into the All-Star break.  The last road trip through Pittsburgh and Atlanta was a “gut-punch” to a team that was striving so hard to get over a trend of losing close games.  The Mets lost six of seven, by a total of eleven runs, continuing their ineptness at situational hitting thus plummeting the team to 11 games under .500 for the first time this season.

While the offense has sputtered in driving in runs, the starting pitching has been inconsistent, specifically Zack Wheeler and Daisuke Matsusaka.  The surprising success of the newly constructed bullpen has given this team a real chance to win many of these close games, so it’s difficult to summon up a remedy for the struggles in these games that seem so winnable.  Now that the team is 10-20 in one-run games, it’s fair to ask the question:  Is there anything Terry Collins can do to help?

It’s not fair to place blame of all the team’s failures on the manager; he’s only capable of doing so much from the clubhouse before and after games, to the managerial moves he imposes during them, but he should take some of the criticism.  After all, when the 2012 Baltimore Orioles posted a 29-9 record in one-run games, while going 16-2 in extra-inning games, many people referenced skipper Buck Showalter’s knack for instilling the winning recipe and resolve in the team to persevere; not to mention pushing all the right buttons late in games.  To be fair that O’s team had a superior lineup, and the bullpen at the end of games was a key factor because their starters were in fact inferior to today’s Mets rotation. A comparison to that team is really just a reference to show how a club’s season can be completely different by being able to win close games, something the Mets just don’t do.

So back to the question, what can Collins do differently to help this team win?

The biggest challenge for the manager is to find a method to alleviate the pressure and anxiety of those clutch at bats.  The Mets have been able to mount multiple scoring threats in games by getting numerous men on base, only to squander those chances with unproductive at-bats.  The same players who thrive on getting on base, for whatever reason, falter when it’s their turn to drive in a run.  Take the series in June at Wrigley field, when the Mets were swept by the Cubs; the offense batted 4-30 with RISP with 31 LOB.  Then there was the game last Sunday in Pittsburgh when the team managed only two runs while hitting 2-for-15 with RISP, while leaving 11 men on base.  The team batted 11-for-24 in at-bats with no RISP.  So the problem seems to a mental block, as opposed to dumb luck or great pitching.  There’s only so much you can credit the other team before you acknowledge what has become a disturbing trend.  The team needs to be more relaxed and focused in these game-turning situations, not passive, anxious, or stressed.  Easier said than done, but Collins needs to get this team playing like a team that hates to lose, not afraid to lose.

Then there’s the lineup.  Whether you subscribe to lineup construction methods or not, the main goal for Collins should be to find depth and maximum opportunities for his best hitters to drive in runs…again, easier said than done.  Granderson in the leadoff spot could reap benefits providing Murphy continues to bat second. Finding Kirk Nieuwenhuis more at-bats should be another tactic providing he continues his balanced approach with a quick stroke; much different than the player seen last season who was lost at the plate.  Collins probably needs to micromanage the lineup more late in games, which he has been doing lately. Since the bullpen has been terrific, leaving a starter in to hit with a men in scoring position should be nixed more, regardless of how well the starter has pitched.  Collins should maximize every opportunity to score runs, whenever he can.

As crazy as this notion might have sounded before the season, finding a good spot for Bobby Abreu to hit late in a game, even if it’s at Juan Lagares, Ruben Tejada, or Travis d’Arnaud’s expense, could be productive too. Implementation of the hit-and-run with Daniel Murphy can also help due to his uncanny ability to hit tough pitches.  The team is at the league bottom in SLG, so making it easier to run first to third on a hit obviously can assist in scoring more runs.

Finally, and this is nothing different, Collins should keep using his bullpen wisely.  The past few seasons we’ve all witnessed his tendency to use three or four pitchers in an inning to get three outs due to his love for lefty/right splits.  This year, fans have seen less of that, probably due to a higher quality of pitching, but nonetheless a more efficient and effective bullpen management.

It’s getting late quick in this season; maybe the Met’s still have some life left.  Perhaps Collins can help if he pushes more of the right buttons.

 

Follow Sean Flattery on Twitter @SeanFlatts

11 comments for “What could Terry Collins do differently?

  1. eraff
    July 4, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Bobby Abreu is 2-24 as a Pinch Hitter. As a 40 year old Starter, he’s taking ab’s away from young players. As a PH, he’s unproductive……So much for “Good late game spots” for his Bat.

    • July 4, 2014 at 11:44 pm

      I did not realize he was so poor as a PH. That makes his line as a starter pretty darn good. Coming into Friday, he had a .324/.400/.485 line. Seems like he should be starting 3-4 times per week.

  2. July 5, 2014 at 12:39 am

    You just can’t teach clutch hitting. Some players thrive in that situation, others wither away. The Mets are just an inconsistent below average team. They rank next to last in slugging, 27th in BA and surprisingly 21st in OBP. I don’t think you can put all that on TC. The bullpen has been a disaster for 4 years for SA. I just wish he had more confidence in the kids instead of reclamation projects in the bullpen who throw away games and eventually get released. Waste of time,energy and resources that can be better utilized elsewhere. So the question Sean is if the Mets had a different manager (Showalter or Backman) would this team have a better record? Absolutely Yes!

  3. Name
    July 5, 2014 at 1:23 am

    These are just the general things i can remember off the top of my head. If i had a pen and pencil and recorded everything for each game, i would probably have a novel.

    1. The 3-headed monster first base situation at the beginning of the year.
    2. Chris Young. Forced to play him? Bat him 8th! No frigging way should he be batting 5th.
    3. Lucas Duda. Best hitter on the team since late May and it took him until late June to finally move him ahead of Chris Young.
    4. Granny. Refused to move him out of the cleanup spot during his historically bad start.
    5. No trust in Gee or Niese. Consistently takes them out too early.
    6. Scott Rice. enough said.
    7. John Lannan. tried to use him as a LOOGY. complete disaster.
    8. Abusing Carlos Torres all year. Constant Abuse.
    9. Abusing Germen in April, and then not using him in May.
    10. Put Familia in the doghouse at the beginning of the season for no apparent reason.
    11. Too much faith in Valverde.
    12. Letting Mejia get shellshacked as a starter.

    …I could go on for days

    • Chris F
      July 5, 2014 at 11:23 am

      Benching Lagares early in the season.

  4. July 5, 2014 at 8:46 am

    Kirk N could not hit less than C Young, and he has a great glove.
    Batting over .300 since his return, Travis D should not be batting 8th, with no protection. Was he not thought to be a “slugger”?

  5. Metsense
    July 5, 2014 at 8:59 am

    1. The Mets need a platoon in LF. The choice is between EY Jr with his 348/333/681 , Abreu with his 370/424/794 and Kirk 344/536/879 vs RHP. I would start EY Jr and lead him off with his 348 OBP. CY is the other part of the platoon, by default, and should bat 7th.
    2. I would keep the Duda/Campbell platoon at 1B and they should bat 5th.
    3. I would scrap the idea of Edgin as a LOOGY and have him pitch the entire inning when possible.
    4. I would abandon the idea that Granderson lead off. His bat should be in the clean up spot.
    5. TdA with his Renaissance should be given the 6th spot as his own as a confidence builder and show of good faith that TC believes in him.
    6. Lagares is the CF, period. Bats leadoff vs LHP and 7th vs RHP.
    7. Tejada always bats 8th with a little more hit and run with Lagares or CY in front of him.
    8. The 8th and 9th belong to Familia and Mejia. The 7th to either Black or Edgin.
    Dice K , Torres and Eveland eat up multiple innings. Solid enough bullpen so don’t burn it out with a LOOGY.
    9.Stop over managing and let the game come to you.

  6. July 5, 2014 at 10:23 am

    TC can’t help who he is. If we as fans can see how outdated his game management skills are why can’t SA and the Wilpons?

  7. Jerry Grote
    July 5, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    The first question is, are we managing for 2014 or 2015? That would answer a lot of questions regarding platoons/positional players time. One way or the other, using Chris Young is completely unforgivable and more so when he bats anywhere above 7th.

    Beyond that? I haven’t watched a ton of games, but when I have Terry has the infuriating habit of letting a pitcher go to the dish in the bottom of the 6th or 7th inning, having already thrown 100-115 pitches and shown clear signs of failing, only to remove the guy in the next inning after one batter.

    He is A) giving away the out, B) creating additional stress on the starter’s arm *and* C) increasing tension in the pen.

    Showalter had five pen guys with an ERA+ >150, so when you have that kind of depth of talent it goes a long way towards winning one run games.

  8. Kevin Buckley
    July 5, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    The Mets announcers were questioning TC pitching to Beltre and then later not pitching to Odur. TC is totally unfathomable at times.

    They also questioned TC having d’Arnaud bunt and TC not showing confidence in his hitting. Other than for pitchers, I don’t think the Mets should be giving up those outs.

    C Young needs to be cut. Too bad because he seems like a great guy but a LF platoon of “Soup” and “Captain Kirk” makes much more sense.

  9. Patrick Albanesius
    July 7, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    “The biggest challenge for the manager is to find a method to alleviate the pressure and anxiety of those clutch at bats.” TC can do that by alleviating pressure and anxiety in the clubhouse. I certainly don’t know what it’s like down there, but a little Joe Maddon ridiculousness would probably go a long way to loosening this team up. I don’t know if TC has that kind of levity in him, though.

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