Can Terry Collins hit the sweet spot with Scott Hairston’s PT?

Scott Hairston has been pretty terrific this season.

Hairston has 99 ABs so far in 2012 and if he keeps up his current pace, he would finish the year with 286 at-bats. In the past 20 years there have been 1,702 players in MLB to finish a season with between 100 and 300 ABs and at least 75 games played. These parameters were chosen to look for guys who spent the majority of the season in the majors, yet who were not full-time regulars.

If Hairston finishes with 286 ABs and his current 162 OPS+, he would be tied for the sixth-best mark among players in this group.

It makes one wonder if Terry Collins is maximizing Hairston with his current playing time mix or if he would be better served to get one of the club’s best hitters into the lineup more often. The injury to Jason Bay opened up more playing time for Hairston and the veteran has come through with flying colors, as he has a .293/.340/.626 line in 106 PA.

But Bay will be returning soon and Hairston figures to lose significant playing time. The injury to Mike Baxter eliminated whatever small chance Hairston had of being cut from the major league roster, as Vinny Rottino will likely be shipped out when Bay is activated. But with all indications that Bay will return to make outs as the everyday left fielder, Hairston will be mostly limited to pinch-hitting duties.

The possibility does exist that the Mets will send down Ike Davis, move Lucas Duda to first base and use Hairston as part of a platoon in right field. This would be an ideal situation for Hairston, who has absolutely crushed LHP here in 2012. Here are his splits:

vs LHP – .361/.400/.770 in 65 PA
vs RHP – .184/.244/.395 in 41 PA

The fans are ready to send Davis to Buffalo to rediscover his swing. However, Davis is less than thrilled with that plan and management has given no indication it is ready to send Davis down over his objections. So, perhaps the platoon to get Hairston’s bat in the lineup can come at first base, where he could spell Davis?

Interestingly, Hairston, now in his ninth season in the bigs, has never played a single inning at first base in his career in the majors. Earlier in the year, Terry Collins vowed not to move Duda to first base to fill in on a temporary basis. But, Duda is again showing awful fielding numbers in right field, with the worst Defensive Runs Saved (-8) and UZR (-10.6) numbers of the 23 qualified right fielders.

It would appear easy for Collins to back off from his earlier vow to keep Duda in the outfield, saying that he absolutely has to get Hairston’s bat in the lineup against LHP. Since Hairston’s never played first base, it makes more sense to play Duda there when a LHP in on the hill. This way Duda still sees the majority of his time in the outfield, where theoretically he keeps improving, but once a week or so the pitchers get someone who can aspire to be league-average defensively out there.

Somewhere along the line, platooning became a dirty word. It makes sense why players are against it but managers should love it. The same skippers who bend over backwards to get the platoon advantage in the late innings pitching-wise are too chicken to do so over multiple ABs early in the game. It makes no sense.

At the bare minimum, Hairston needs to start against every LHP, especially with the lefty-heavy Mets’ lineup. I would rather see him out there than Bay but because Hairston makes a tiny percentage of what Bay does, he’ll ride the pine so the inferior player (at this point in time) can soak up the ABs.

It is an open question if Hairston can handle a full-time starter’s load at age 32. He’s never had more than 464 PA in a single season and he might be exposed if forced to face RHP on a regular basis. But there’s no reason to limit him to a role as a late-inning PH where he gets just 3-4 PA per week. It’s up to Collins to make sure he hits the sweet spot with Hairston’s playing time.

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Gavin Cecchini and the Mets’ draft picks in the first 15 rounds

Round 1: Gavin Cecchini – There are quite a few Met fans who are angry with this decision.  The Mets could have gone after Hawkins or Giolito… but I think that Gavin actually fits pretty well into the Met’s farm system.  Obviously, the Mets are not gifted with a plethora of SS options in their minors (the draft will prove this point) as Ruben Tejada is the MLB short-stop and Wilfredo Tovar (Ruben Tejada Lite) is the only thing close to a prospect behind him (Port St. Lucie).  Add to this the fact that Gavin is a runner who projects as a prototypical lead-off hitter.  The Mets have a few options for that type of player but even Darrell Cecilianni isn’t an extreme base stealer.  It was a good selection although not the sexiest choice that could have been made.

Supplemental Round 1: Kevin Plawecki – I got the sense that people were less upset about this one.  Sure he hasn’t shown much power, but he has a contact oriented swing and he’s a bigger guy.  Power might come… and it might not.  He should hit like a right-handed Josh Thole.  That isn’t exactly terrible.  UPDATE: Reports are that a deal is already in motion.  NICE!

Round 2: Matt Reynolds – This pick left me scratching my head.  He’s got good defense at 3rd but a bat that doesn’t play unless he’s switched to SS or 2B.  He’s a light hitting 3B who will hit line drives and WILL hit, but at a certain point the Mets need to have people who hit the ball with more authority.

Round 2: Teddy Stankiewicz – He already throws hard (up to 93 MPH) and there is reason to believe he can get the ball even faster with more conditioning.  He also throws 4 pitches and projects as a guy who could land in the latter half of a rotation within 3-5 seasons.  It was a solid pick but also a pick that leaves me a little bored.  Picks that make me bored are often the best picks made.

Round 3: Matt Koch – This was a great pick.  He’s a reliever who could be a high leverage guy down the road.  The big key to Koch is he has a hard fastball and a sharp slider and could be in the majors in very short order.

Round 4: Brandon Kaupe – It seemed that people got more excited about this pick as they thought about it.  He’s short (5’7”) and Hawaiian and he plays SS and is a switch hitter.  Look at the video on him: Link.  He has a solid swing and a solid frame.  I don’t know if he can develop into a “Hitting SS” but he might.  He also doesn’t strike out… EVER.

Round 5: Brandon Welch – A really good pick in the 5th.  He might end up in relief but he has the “Stuff” to succeed as a starter if his 6’1” body can last through the innings.  He’s already known as a dominating reliever and was regarded as a great closer candidate.  My bet is that he winds up in relief.

Round 6: Jayce Boyd – A little like Matt Reynolds in that he isn’t hitting for power… YET.  Boyd also has a big body and a really sweet swing.  His swing seems to be a little be more naturally inclined towards power so I have higher hopes for him developing into a power hitter.

Round 7: Corey Oswalt – Drafted as a pitcher he also played SS.  As a pitcher he’s already hitting 90 MPH and has good movement on his pitches.  As a hitter he has quite a lot of power.  I kinda wish the Mets wanted to use him as a hitter as this 6’4” SS with good contact and power is more intriguing than this solid framed pitcher with average stuff.  If he were to stick as a hitter you can bet he’d move to 3rd.

Round 8: Tomas Nido – Mayo and ESPN don’t agree.  ESPN writes that Nido has some power but a long swing and GOOD defensive abilities.  Mayo doesn’t believe in the defense.  Either way this was an 8th round pick and I’d seen Nido ranked as the #9 catcher in the draft.

Round 9: Richie Rodriguez – Sorta strikes me as Danny Muno.  He has little power with some speed and solid contact.

Round 10: Paul Sewald – He’s a tall thin guy with a thin build.  He’s got sink on his fastball and an 11/5 curveball that should play as he rises through the ranks.  Need to get more information on his velocity before I know much more.

Round 11: Logan Taylor – He’s a big guy who is still very up in the air.  If the Mets manage to sign him I can easily see him being a steal with a FB already in the low 90s and a sharp breaking (if wild) curveball.

Round 12: Robert Whalen – Seems like the standard ilk of a 12th rounder.  He has a decent fastball and little else.  His fastball will need to improve and his breaking pitches will need to develop for him to be worth anything.

Round 13: Matthew Bowman – The general scouting report of low 88-89 with a height disadvantage doesn’t sound great.  Apparently he threw 95 in a Met workout though.  If that’s true… I’m happy.

Round 14: Chris Flexen – He’s only 17… he throws 93.  There is some “effort” in his delivery but this is not the kind of guy I expect to find in the 14th round.  Could be a bargain!

Round 15: Nicholas Grant – There isn’t a lot of information available.  He’s got a good frame and had a lot of success through high school.  Gave a decent interview to a local paper after an impressive game.

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Mets Card of the Week: 1973 Jon Matlack

1973 TOPPS JON MATLACK

They say the camera adds 15 pounds. If that’s true, I shudder to think how skinny Jon Matlack was back in the day.

The Mets had pitchers with thick legs – Tom Seaver jumps immediately to mind – and Matlack stood out in contrast. Especially given the skinny jeans uniform he was sporting. Lee Mazzilli gets all of the credit for wearing tight pants but Matlack could have given him a run for his money. I think we should all be glad that his follow thru covers his groin area.

But actually, what I really want to talk about with this card is the trophy. Each year Topps would pick an All-Rookie team and the following year the players on the team would have a giant trophy pictured on their card. If you look at the 1968 Seaver, you’ll see what I mean.

I thought that trophy was great, something a man could be proud of. Yet for some reason, starting in 1973, they went away from the big trophy to this saucer trophy, one that seemed more suited for a little girl’s tea party. It was yet another disappointing aspect of the 1973 Topps set.

The previous year, Topps foreshadowed The Eagles’ 1975 hit when they decided to “Take it to the Limit” with their set. The 1972 Topps set featured 787 cards with psychedelic overtures, “In Action” sets, “Boyhood Photos of the Stars,” “Traded” cards and a host of other bells and whistles.

In 1973 they pulled back in every sense, seemingly foreshadowing Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty.” The set was only 660 cards and it was the plainest, most boring set since their 1962 offering. Yes, the position graphics in the lower right were kind of interesting, but it worked better in isolation than over an entire set. Plus, when the pitcher had a follow-thru pose, like Matlack here, it really took away from the graphic. And vice versa.

The saucer trophy was so poorly received that Topps didn’t include any trophy on the All-Rookie cards in 1974.

Matlack’s card was a good one for the 1973 set, but that’s damning with faint praise. It should have been majestic, like the 1966 Ron Swoboda featured in our header image. Instead it looks inferior, leaving the viewer wondering why they airbrushed an old man’s hat on his head, especially since Matlack never played for another team at this point in his career.

Topps made it up to Matlack somewhat, as he had pretty cool cards in ’74 (despite the landscape orientation), ’75 and ’77. But he deserved better in ’73.

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Should Jon Rauch get more rope than Manny Acosta?

Remember when Jon Rauch opened the season with 11 scoreless appearances? It seems like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it? The only reason I remember is that I spent all offseason saying the Mets made a mistake giving $3.5 million to Rauch and then he started off great. Earlier, I gave props to Rauch for his good start but included this caveat:

“I still expect regression to kick in and it would not surprise me to see Rauch post numbers like he did in either last year or 2009, when he had an xFIP in the 4.56 neighborhood.”

As Grey from Razzball would say – that’s me quoting me!

In his last 12.2 IP, Rauch has given up 12 ER and now has a 4.76 ERA and a 4.28 xFIP. Just a few weeks ago some fans were clamoring for Rauch to take over from Frank Francisco as the team closer. Instead he’s moving the opposite direction in the bullpen pecking order.

Earlier in the year when he was pitching well, Rauch was featuring his slider as his main pitch. In mid-April, his slider usage was at 58.2 percent. After his outing on Monday, Rauch has thrown his slider 36.9 percent of the time and his fastball 46.9 percent. Coincidentally or not, Rauch now reports elbow tenderness.

Regardless, a few more outings like yesterday’s and he should be joining Manny Acosta in the ranks of the DFA. Anyone who has read this site for awhile knows that I led the Acosta parade. But after being a quality reliever in 2010 and 2011 for the Mets, Acosta was horrible for the Mets this year and earned his release. And Rauch is traveling down that same path.

In 22.0 innings with the Mets this year, Acosta posted an 11.86 ERA and he allowed runs in 11 of his 19 appearances. Like mentioned earlier, he earned his ticket out of town. Acosta pitched more than an inning in eight of his 19 games this year. Meanwhile, Rauch has an 8.53 ERA in his last 15 games and that’s without ever going more than an inning pitched.

So, should the Mets cut ties with Rauch? Let’s say he pitches four more games and gives up enough runs in those outings to push his ERA to double digits. If Acosta was justifiably sent packing with a double digit ERA over 19 appearances, shouldn’t Rauch be held to the same standard? Or does his hot streak at the beginning of the season buy him more time? And if the early hot streak does earn him a longer lease – is that a justified position for the Mets to take?

Prior to 2012, Acosta had 86.2 IP with a 118 ERA+ for the Mets. Included in that stretch was his final 37 games last year where he had a 2.04 ERA and a 1.235 WHIP over 39.2 IP. I don’t see why Rauch’s 10.0 IP stretch at the start of the season should buy him more rope than Acosta’s 39.2 IP stretch last year. Especially when you factor in that Rauch was not good last year with a 4.85 ERA.

Rauch has five losses to his name in less than half a season and he’s allowed runs in four of his last six outings. Ideally, he runs off another stretch of 11 scoreless appearances. But if he continues to give up runs at an alarming rate, the Mets should be as ready, willing and able to cut the cord with Rauch as they were with Acosta.

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How I Spent Johan Santana’s No-Hitter

I should admit, right off the bat, that I was not riveted to my TV from inning one through the post-game pie. I did not sit there chewing my nails to my knuckles when there were two walks in the second inning. I did not see Carlos Beltran’s fair foul in real time.

I was out to dinner.

My wife and I and another couple had made plans for a semi-damp Friday night, a night which started out not at all extraordinary. I caught the first two frames at home, then resolved to follow best as I could. Just your garden variety Friday night. Yes, I knew Johan Santana was pitching, but I didn’t think he’d be long for this game off his route-going performance the previous Saturday. I thought Terry Collins would treat him with the kid gloves he’d been using all year to keep that egg-shell shoulder intact through September. And it was the Cardinals. Their World Championship patches – a crass uniform adornment, in my opinion: imagine if the Yankees put one of those on every year! – and 2006 nostalgia notwithstanding, the Cards really aren’t that big a deal anymore. Yes, they won last year, but it ain’t the Phillies, Braves, Yankees or Red Sox, y’know? They may as well be the Pirates or the Rockies or the Padres: just another team from the hinterlands making their only foray of the year into the Big Town. I was interested, in the sense of “Hey! There’s a Met game tonight. Hope they win,” as I am every night there’s a Met game. There just wasn’t any blood lust or angst present. So we went out to dinner.

The restaurant was packed. It seemed every Little League team in the Tri-State area was having postgame dinner. As we waited, I peeked around the corner to catch a glimpse of the score on the lone TV in the bar area that had the Met game on. Still scoreless as the fourth began. I had resigned myself to following along on my Blackberry. Finally, we were seated, as luck would have it, in the bar area. So my phone could rest awhile. Good news. Our booth was waaaaaaaay down the other end of the room – about a subway car’s length – from that lone TV. Bad news. Ah, well… I could carve out a rough narrative from a silent, disjointed image. I’m just that good. We had our orders in as the bottom of the fourth started. That’s when the fun began. I’d lean over to see the screen occasionally, and every time I did, there was some Cardinal or other rooting around the base of an outfield wall. A lot of blue pinstriped legs churned around the bases and across the plate. This could only be a good thing, I posited.

We ate. Couple more innings went by. More outfielders rooting, more legs churning. Pretty cool game, I thought. Nice to win after dropping two-of-three to Philly. Seeing as my friend was driving, I thought I’d get caught up when we got in the car. I saw an 8-0 tally and told my wife. “Cool!” she said. I checked the scoring summary and delighted in Lucas Duda’s three RBI, Daniel Murphy’s triple and David Wright’s general David Wrightness. I decided to “watch” the rest until we got home, pitch by pitch. Cards were up in the eighth, Rafael Furcal the batter. They had Johan’s pitch count at 122. Why the heck is Collins leaving him out there in the eighth at 122 pi-WOOOOH!

I checked the stats and saw the big ol’ goose egg under the “H” column. We got home, just in time for the Mets to finish batting in the bottom of the eighth – a mercifully scoreless frame, then commenced to counting down the outs while having the feeling of a mild stroke. Matt Holliday, Allen Craig and David Freese became history book fodder and the New York Mets finally, finally, FINALLY had their no-hitter.

Tough going to bed right away…

Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley

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Mets Minors: Collin McHugh ready for the next step

The Mets have a lot of pitchers in their system that seem to succeed despite being later draft picks.  Collin McHugh is one such example.  Drafted in the 18th round of the 2008 draft, McHugh left college for the big leagues.

When I look back at McHugh’s time with the Mets it’s hard for me to find too much to fault.  He signed quickly and played in Rookie Ball back in 2008.  Throughout his minor league career he has averaged a K/9 of 9.0, a K/BB of 3.22 and an ERA of 3.30.

2012 has seen McHugh repeating in AA.  He’s not in AA because he’s not ready for AAA or the majors… he’s just blocked by a plethora of arms.  We’ve been through it before, but the Mets cannot promote McHugh or Wheeler while Harvey, Familia, Schwinden, Hefner and others are vying for starts in AAA.  Now that Chris Young has been promoted we are moving closer to the point where the Mets could.

In this season and through 10 starts, McHugh is 5-3 with a 2.17 ERA.  He’s a bit off his career K/9 but nothing to get too concerned about; especially when his BB/9, H/9 and WHIP are all among the lowest of his career.

On the 28th McHugh went out and had his best outing of the year.  He pitched 8.0 innings, gave up 2 runs on 5 hits and 1 walks and struck out 8.  We should appreciate that Collin has gotten beyond the 6th inning in 5 of his 10 starts.  He seems to be developing into a good back of the rotation work-horse.

I have projected McHugh into the future Met rotation since last season.  I’d slot him in as a #4 or #5 pitcher and I think that he might actually be closer to living up to that than a number of people in AAA.

Around The Minors:

AAA:

Josh Satin Promoted – Satin is back in the majors and I really hope he stays there.  He is a great match for a PH Util guy.  Has a great eye and some pop.

AA:

Matt Den Dekker Needs to Stop K-ing – In the past 10 games he’s hit 3 HRs and a double.  He’s also K’d 14 times.  He needs to get that K-rate closer to 1 per game to be a pro.

Zack Wheeler Looking at Appartments in Buffalo – 7 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 0 BBs and 8 Ks.  He’s definitely got AA hitters figured out.

A+:

Wilmer Flores Proving Fickle Scouts… Fickle – Another week with an OPS over 1.000.  His HR pace is actually picking up momentum.

Wilfredo Tovar’s Eye Looks Major League – Without much power Tovar managed an OPS of .932 in the past 10 games.  Perhaps the .512 OBP helped.

A:

Travis Taijeron Mashing SAL Pitching – I can’t remember the last time Travis had an OPS for the last 10 games under 1.000.  He has a season SLG of .552.  Get excited.

Aderlin Rodriguez Refuses to be Forgotten – OPS of 1.000?  Child’s play…  Try: 1.148 for the past 10 games.  Aderlin mashed 4 HRs and 2 doubles in that time… he also had 4 BBs and 4 Ks which has me hoping for discipline.

Montero, Pill and DeGrom Looking Like the Next Generation of Collin McHugh – Pill was a 4th rounder, DeGrom a 9th and Montero went undrafted.  Yet all of these pitchers are performing to a HIGH caliber in A-Class Savannah.  Combined they have 18 BBs and 123 K’s.  In case you couldn’t guess… that’s a pretty good ratio.

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Who will the Mets take in the 2012 Draft?

The combination of the homegrown Mets – Davis, Duda, Gee, Niese, Nieuwenhuis, Parnell, Tejada, Thole, Wright – contributing to the first-place 2012 Mets, along with the emphasis on the draft of management, means that more attention is being played on this year’s Draft than any in team history, eclipsing even the 1994 Draft, when the Mets had eight of the top 100 picks in the draft.

In hindsight, the 1994 Draft did not turn out too well, as injuries knocked out some promising arms.  We can only hope the 2012 Draft turns out better.  But, unlike in 1994 when the Mets held the first pick and it was a foregone conclusion they would take Paul Wilson, we have no idea who they will take with their first pick, the 12th overall selection in the first round.

Times like this it’s good to turn to the experts, but even those who live and breathe the draft can’t come to any consensus.  Shoot, the top six forecasters each have a different guy they see the Mets pulling the trigger on when their pick arrives.  Of course, some of that is disagreement on who will be taken ahead of the Mets, still it goes to show how no one has any idea who the Mets are eyeing.

Here are the six forecasters and who they project the Mets to take.  This is being written shortly after 8:00 AM Eastern time and it’s certainly possible that the draftniks will put out another mock before the actual draft and change their minds on who the Mets grab.

Mack Ade (Mack’s Mets) – An “official pick” should always be who a person thinks the Mets will do, not what they hope the Mets will pick. Much of the guesswork gets thrown out the door when Zunino, Buxton, Appel, Zimmer, Almora, Correa, and Gausman go early. That leaves four picks before the Mets pick. I think there will be a run on shortstops that will take Cecchini and Merrero off the board before #12. I also think there will be an early run on “bats” because there aren’t that many decent ones in this draft. Hawkins and Dalh will probably be picked right before the Mets pick:  Clemson 3B/1B/OF Richie Shaffer.

Jim Callis (Baseball America) – New York appears to be deciding between the high school position players and college pitchers. In this scenario, it would come down to Dahl or Cecchini vs. Wacha.
Projected Pick: David Dahl.

Kevin Goldstein (Baseball Prospectus) – The Mets want to show that last year’s Brandon Nimmo pick was not an anomaly, and they are truly focused on upside over cost certainty. That’s created some Lucas Giolito whispers here, but even as high as 12, Giolito could still be an impossible sign. McCullers has as much velocity as any healthy high school arm in the draft, and is considered signable.  Projected Pick: Lance McCullers

Keith Law (ESPN) – They’re also on to Cecchini, Dahl, North Carolina prep third baseman Corey Seager and Texas A&M righty Michael Wacha. Giolito is a dark horse here. This is probably Zunino’s floor, and it’s definitely Fried’s floor.  Projected Pick: Max Fried.

Jonathan Mayo (MLB.com) – If Marrero doesn’t go to the Pirates, he could land here, as could one of those college arms, but for now, the Mets likely will go with a high school hitter for the second successive year. If Cecchini doesn’t go here, he could drop a bit.  Projected Pick: Gavin Cecchini.

John Sickels (Minor League Ball) – He won’t need long in the minors, and would fit nicely on a future pitching staff with Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, and Jeurys Familia.  Projected Pick: Michael Wacha.

*****

The first five prognosticators had the Mets taking a high school player.  Only Sickels, forecasting Wacha out of Texas A&M, had the Mets taking a collegiate player in the first round.  This makes sense, as the Mets made such a big deal out of drafting upside when they took Nimmo last year.

My take is that the Mets would prefer to take a hitter with their first-round pick.  If by some miracle, University of Florida catcher Mike Zunino falls to them, I think that’s who the Mets take.  That seems unlikely.  When it’s time for the Mets to pick, they see the value is in pitching.  They will have their choice between injured prepster Lucas Giolito (thought to be the #1 pick before coming down with an injured elbow) and Wacha.

If the Mets take Giolito, it will most likely mean going above the slot recommendation.  This will require them to go cheap elsewhere or pay the penalty.  It seems unlikely they will pay extra to go above slot.  So expect the Mets to take Wacha, assuming Fried is gone.

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Dickey and Santana and pray for manna

R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana have pitched back-to-back shutouts in the past two games for the Mets, becoming the first two pitchers to accomplish the feat since … Dickey and Santana in 2010. Both pitchers have had less than great luck in picking up Wins in their tenure with the Mets, due to poor offensive support and questionable bullpen relief. But it is becoming increasingly clear that Dickey and Santana can match up with any two pitchers in the game today.

Both Dickey and Santana have made 11 starts. Dickey has broken through and is piling up Wins, as he is 8-1 this year. Santana is having more of the same bad luck, as he is just 3-2 so far this season. But in games where one of the two has started, the Mets as a team are 15-7. When someone else toes the rubber, the Mets are 15-16.

Even that 15-7 figure is a bit misleading. In their 22 starts, Dickey and Santana have pitched well 20 times. The only two bad outings for the duo came early in the season, when both had a hard time in Atlanta against the Braves. Dickey’s outing was partially explained by bad weather. Recounting his start in Atlanta, Dickey said it was like throwing “a wet water balloon.”

How good have their other starts been? If we go by Bill James’ Game Scores, the next-worst outing for either pitcher was Dickey’s start against the Marlins on May 12th, when he allowed 2 ER in 6 IP and picked up the win. That one checked in with a Game Score of 45.

Meanwhile, the other pitchers who have started a game for the Mets have combined to have 10 outings with a Game Score under 40. In one-third of the games started by someone other than Dickey or Santana, the SP is not giving the Mets a realistic chance to win the game. Eight of those 10 games had a Game Score beneath 30. On May 2nd, Chris Schwinden gave up 5 ER in 4 IP and earned a Game Score of 29.

It’s just another head scratcher in what has turned out to be a tremendously fun season for the Mets. The Mets have a winning record despite having a negative run differential. They are seven games above .500 despite a .467 mark in night games. And they would make the playoffs if the season ended today despite the non Dickey & Santana pitchers combining for a 5.08 ERA.

It’s reminiscent of the 1948 Braves, who featured Hall of Famer Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain, a pitcher who won 20 games in four out of five seasons. Sports editor Gerald V. Hern penned a poem in their honor, after the duo went 8-0 in 12 days without another pitcher starting a game.

First we’ll use Spahn
then we’ll use Sain
Then an off day
followed by rain
Back will come Spahn
followed by Sain
And followed
we hope
by two days of rain.

I want to believe that this is the year that Jonathon Niese finds consistency and can pitch a full season. I want to believe that Josh Thole behind the plate really makes a difference for Dillon Gee. I want to believe that Chris Young can come up and give the Mets 15 starts equal to the four he gave them in 2011. I also want to believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

Here in 2012, no one remembers the full poem that Hern wrote. Instead it has been boiled down to “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain.” I have no illusions of being a poet. Instead I am merely an observer. While I write down what I see, my hope is that you will be moved by the results, not the words (flowery or cold as they may be) used to get there.

Still, there’s something to be said for an eloquent phrase. So, with apologies to Hern, here’s the mantra for the 2012 Mets:

Dickey and Santana and pray for manna.

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Lucas Duda powers Mets during recent hot streak

It’s hard to concentrate on anything other that Johan Santana’s no-hitter right now and it is an achievement that deserves every bit of attention it is receiving. But with two stories on the site already about it, I’d like to talk about another recent development that is big news for the Mets. And that’s the return of Lucas Duda’s home run stroke.

Duda delivered a home run in Santana’s masterpiece, giving him 4 HR in his last 23 ABs, a stretch covering seven games. The Mets are 5-2 in that stretch. Before the recent longball outburst, Duda went 77 ABs without a homer. In that stretch, which went from April 29th to May 24th, the Mets were 12-12.

Santana’s remarkable comeback from shoulder surgery has been a key item in the Mets’ surprising play in 2012. David Wright flirting with .400 has been a fun little ride and his return to form has been the other key storyline for the surprising start that the Mets have enjoyed in the first two months of the 2012 season.

But if the Mets hope to keep their hot start going, they will need to have production from Duda. This was probably a necessary thing anyway, but the pronounced struggles at the plate from Ike Davis – and to a lesser extent the complete lack of homers from Daniel Murphy – has only magnified the need for power from Duda.

In 2011, the Mets played their best baseball when Davis and Wright were on the DL and the team hit very few homers. The lineup put runners on base at a high rate, thanks to big efforts from Beltran, Reyes, and Murphy, and kept rallies alive by not striking out. While they missed the power of Davis and Wright, they compensated by not having hitters in the heart of the order strike out one-quarter of the time.

But the 2012 team has high strikeout guys in Davis, Duda and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. And the lineup suffered a hit when Josh Thole went down and was replaced by guys with higher strikeout rates. And it is the increased strikeouts that make over the fence power a necessity in 2012 that it wasn’t a season ago, at least while Beltran and Murphy were in the lineup.

Now the club has Thole back and Duda hitting for power, we can hope for continued good things from the Mets. The team is 15-8 when Thole starts behind the plate and 5-1 in games when Duda homers.

Last year Duda did not hit his first homer until July 23rd. But he hit 10 HR in his final 185 at-bats of the season. Hopefully he is in the beginning of a prolonged homer binge. In his last 10 games, Duda is batting just .235. But the Mets are 7-3, thanks to his homers. It’s a tradeoff the Mets should be happy to make.

Continue reading "Lucas Duda powers Mets during recent hot streak"

Santana no-hitter captivates New York; sets Twitter ablaze

Just call him No-Han!

Well, it FINALLY happened!

After waiting through 8,019 games Johan Santana finally achieved the Mets’ first no-hitter on Friday night in thrilling fashion. It was as much exhilarating as it was exacerbating, as Santana kept mowing down Cardinal hitters while also accumulating an alarming pitch count.

The game was rife with drama and suspense, but after compiling a career-high 134 pitches, Santana got David Freese chasing on a 3-2 changeup with two outs in the bottom of the 9th to finally get the Mets in the record books with their first ever no-hitter.

As with any no-hitter, you have to look back to see how this happened and one of the key plays that made all of this possible was an incredible catch by Mike Baxter in the seventh inning. In what surely looked like a hit off the bat of Yadier Molina, Baxter recovered and retreated towards the left field wall and leaped to make a breathtaking catch to keep the no-hitter intact. The catch did come with consequence, as Baxter had to leave the game with a shoulder contusion.

The game also was not without its controversy as none other than Carlos Beltran (whose homecoming was overshadowed on this night) roped a scorcher down the third-base line in the sixth inning. Umpire Adrian Johnson was quick to call it a foul ball and, initially, it looked like the right call. However, after review, apparently the ball did hit the line and should have been ruled a hit. Instead, Santana was issued a mulligan and outside of the Molina drive he was never really threatened the rest of the way (although he did issue five walks).

Sometimes the umpires taketh away (see Jim Joyce, Armando Galarraga) and giveth away. However, with no instant replay, this is what you get.

This should not taint Santana’s no-hitter, though. Running on pure adrenaline, Santana was simply not going to be denied this night. After dangerously going beyond his pitch count, Terry Collins made sure the call was up to Johan to finish what he started. Now this could backfire, but you can’t interfere with fate and Collins wasn’t going to be the one who stood in the way of history.

It’s astonishing and only fitting that Santana achieve this mark; something Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver or Doc Gooden could never accomplish here. For Santana to battle all the way back from major shoulder surgery and hurl this gem (not to mention last week’s shutout) is quite amazing.

There is just so many words to describe this feat. So, let’s turn to Twitter to see what some others are saying about Santana’s masterpiece:
First, from the man himself:
El Gocho believe it! ‏@johansantana
Tonight we made history @mets, i want to thank all my teammates and all the fans for the support…Believe it!! You guys are the best!!!

Others chiming in:

R.A. Dickey ‏@RADickey43
I’ve never been more proud of a teammate. Congrats to Johan Santana for the mets first no hitter in franchise history.
Linda Cohn ‏@lindacohn
Never thought I would see it in my lifetime. Thank you Johan! #Santana #Mets
Jon Heyman ‏@JonHeymanCBS
The long local nightmare is over. Congratulations to Johan Santana and the ny #mets.
Buster Olney ‏@Buster_ESPN
On the 134th pitch, Santana STRIKES OUT FREESE!!!!! First no-hitter in Mets’ history!!!!!!!!!!
Jon Rauch ‏@jrauch60
@johansantana. First ‪#Mets‬ No-Hitter. Ever. ‪#GreatDayToBeAMetsFan‬!
Justin Turner ‏@redturn2
WOW @johansantana
Dwight Gooden ‏@DocGooden16
Congrats to Johan Santana for throwing the first no hitter in #Mets history! Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy, very happy for Mets fans
Adam Rubin ‏@AdamRubinESPN
David Wright: “Short of Tom Seaver, I can’t think of a better person to pitch the first one.”
Steve Serby ‏@NYPost_Serby
What a bulldog Johan Santana is. Still, Mets have never had back-to-back no-hitters.

Follow me on Twitter @Stacdemon

Continue reading "Santana no-hitter captivates New York; sets Twitter ablaze"