Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Duuuuude-A

2011 stats - .292 BA, 10 HR, 50 RBI, 301 AB

If the expectations are high, yet solid, for Ike Davis, then those expectations for Lucas Duda are above average but cautious. 

Duda got his first call up to the big leagues in 2010 and mightily struggled during that stint.  The Mets had Duda up during parts of the early season in 2011 and those struggles continued for the outfielder.  However, none of those call ups gave Duda the chance to play every day and find a consistent groove.  Not until the Mets traded away Carlos Beltran in July did Duda get a chance to play every and once that happened, he showed what type of hitter he can be.

Lucas Duda has the build of your typical power hitter.  A tall, burly left handed hitter, he has drawn some early comparisons to Jason Giambi; very fitting considering those comparisons came from General Manager Sandy Alderson, the same man who drafted Giambi in Oakland years ago.  The Mets are saying all the right things publicly about Duda and expectations they have for the 26 year old this upcoming season, but they are not fooling anyone.  The organization is praying and banking on Duda to be the cap in the middle of the lineup, which should be Wright-Davis-Bay-Dude, hitting 3 through 6.  Putting up 20 HR and around 90 RBI would be exactly what this lineup needs from its right fielder.

A main concern with Duda is his ability to play a strong right field defensively.  The Mets are believing that with a full Spring Training, Duda will get plenty of work and will be able to perform his duties without an issue.  Another factor playing in his favor is the wall change over at Citi Field.  With the Mets evening out the walls and pulling them in some, especially in right field, Duda will have less ground to travel on his way to the baseball.  One final factor that is a plus for him is Andres Torres, his new center fielder.  Torres is known more for his defense and is a better fielder than Angel Pagan, the man who was next to Duda last season.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Lone Knuckler

2011 stats - 8 W, 13 L, 3.28 ERA, 208.2 IP

In 2010, RA Dickey turned into the best Cinderella story the Mets could have hoped for at the time.  He busted onto the scene in May, didn't look back and rung up a career high 11 wins and a sub-3 ERA.  Although the stats were not as impressive as that year, Dickey did not disappoint in 2011.  With a mostly inconsistent pitching staff, and a staff with no set ace nonetheless, Dickey provided some stability in the rotation.

With Tim Wakefield's retirement this past off-season, Dickey remains the last true knuckle ball pitcher in the big leagues.  It's a roll and trait that he has fully embraced and uses it well to his advantage.  Along with the knuckle ball, Dickey has learned a two seam and a four seam fastball, to use essentially in the opposite manner of a change up.

Dickey may be leaned upon quite a bit this season to be the main anchor for a very questionable starting rotation.  Last season's 'ace in training', Mike Pelfrey, failed miserably in that role so the Mets are doing everything they can to steer him away from that spotlight.  And with the uncertainty of Johan Santana and his left shoulder for the entire season, and especially the early months, even more pressure will fall on the right arm of Dickey to deliver quality starts and innings pitched.

One characteristic of Dickey that I have learned to like over the last two seasons is his outright honesty.  RA knows that this team, right now, does not have the make up or experience to make a strong run deep into the season and he hasn't been shy about relaying his feelings.  He made a number of comments in the off-season about the lack of money and payroll the Mets are showing for this season.  It concerns him, as it should.

Who knows what Dickey will bring the Mets this season.  One thing that should be counted on is his consistency to take the mound every five days and to be a true warrior when he has the ball in his hand.

Monday, February 27, 2012

We Like Ike!

2011 stats - .302 BA, 7 HR, 25 RBI, .925 OPS

It's a sad story when thought about, but the 2011 season for both Ike Davis and the Mets were tied together from the start.

Going into 2011, the Mets did not have as many questions marks as they do this season.  There was a small sense of optimism but still enough uncertainty to go around.  Davis performed very well as a rookie in 2010 and was being counted on to be a huge part of the offensive in his sophomore season.

The Mets started the season playing good baseball.  They weren't dominating anyone or making a statement that there would be meaningful September games, but they were competitive, had a great attitude, and fun (for the most part) to watch.  Davis was a step above the team though.  He was crushing the ball over the first six weeks of the season.  Hitting over .300 and in the Top-5 in both home runs and RBIs early on, many Mets fans began to envision the power days of Strawberry and Piazza.  But then that fateful afternoon came where Davis and David Wright collided during a routine pop up and the season was essentially over.

The initial injury was only an ankle sprain.  But it become more than that.  It became a five and a half month ankle sprain.  The doctors did not know what was wrong.  Was it more than a sprain?  Was it broken?  Were ligaments and tendons damaged?  Would surgery be required?  How about just rest and rehab?  As this was going on in the doctor's office, the Mets would lose control of their season.  More injuries began to snowball, specifically to Wright and Jose Reyes.  The decent pitching that was there in the first half of the season fell apart and tired out in the second half.  The carousel of infielders had trouble with a constant change of personnel at first. And we know how the rest played out.

Davis showed up early to Port St Lucie to get a jump start on his 2012 Spring Training.  He has be quoted many, many times as saying his ankle is 100% and there is no need for concern.  He even went as far a week ago to refuse to speak to any reporters who made further inquiries about his ankle.

Let's not beat around the bush or try to sugarcoat the obvious here.  The Mets need Ike Davis to have the type of season he was on pace for last season.  Manager Terry Collins already has Davis pegged for the cleanup spot and he needs to put up cleanup type numbers.  The average doesn't need to be as high as it was last season, but should stick around the .275 clip.  Davis though does need to approach 30 home runs and 115 RBI.  He needs to instill a fear in opposing pitchers which will offer some protection to Wright, who will be batting around of him in the everyday lineup.  Davis needs to be this generation's Strawberry and Piazza for this suffering Mets fanbase.

Also, lets not forget the simple thing with a power hitter.  Defense.  Davis has a fantastic glove and range over at first base.  This will help calm down a potentially shaky throwing infield and provide assistance to Daniel Murphy at second base.

This is a lot of pressure on a kid who has played in only 183 career games, but that's where we are now as Mets fans.  Owner Jeff Wilpon today stated a reason for the smaller payroll is because the organization has young, talented players who have to shine and produce.  I think he may have been specifically speaking about Ike Davis

1st Season with the Club

2011 stats - .249 BA, 43 R, 32 RBI, 93 KO

General Manager Sandy Alderson didn't make many moves to shape up the roster this season and the ones that he did mostly helped fill out the bullpen and the bench.  The signing of Ronny Cedeno officially names Reuben Tejada the starting shortstop and places Cedeno behind him on the depth chart.

Mostly the starting shortstop with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011, Cedeno will serve an important role as this is the first year Tejada will be an everyday player.  Some rest throughout the season will be needed and that is what the Mets are hoping Cedeno can provide.  A once a week stop gap that should hit low in the order when it's his turn to play.

Cedeno hit .249 last season, after hitting a career high .256 in 2010.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The New Hulk Hogan

2011 stats - 2 W, 1 L, 1 S, 3.82 ERA, 47 SO, 19 BB

Of course three out of the first four previous are middle relievers.  Doesn't make this difficult or overly exciting or anything like that.  But that's what baseball is sometimes.  There can be an amazing opening act and a phenomenal finale, but if the glue in the middle isn't there and isn't strong enough, the entire performance goes to waste.

Last season, Tim Byrdak was the main LOOGY (Left-handed One Out Guy) for the Mets bullpen.  This was evident by his combined 37.2 innings pitched in 72 total appearances.  But that's the role every bullpen needs.  Managers in today's game love the lefty lefty match-up, especially late in games, and that works perfectly for a guy like Byrdak.

At this time, the Mets do not seem to have another left handed option for the bullpen so it is safe to assume, for now, that Byrdak will again be that specialist for the Mets.

For some reason it does seem that Byrdak is calling out his inner Hulk Hogan this spring.  Maybe he's a bit nervous about making the roster and is looking to intimidate manager Terry Collins?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

More Middle Relief

2011 Stats - 2 W, 1 L, 4.30 ERA, 39 SO, 27 BB

Pedro Beato was a small breath of fresh air for the Mets in the early part of last season.  A Rule 5 draft pick from the Baltimore Orioles, Beato had to stick with the big club for the entire season (except for injury rehab session), or be offered back to Baltimore.  Well Beato did his part.  The 24 year old rookie started his career with 17 scoreless innings pitched as he worked his way into the 7th inning role.  A minor stint on the DL in the middle of May slowed down his momentum but he proved his worth throughout the summer and completed his rookie season as one of the reliable arms in a battered bullpen.

Looking ahead to the 2012 season, Beato falls into the same category as Manny Acosta.  With the bullpen additions the Mets made this off-season, the club should not be expecting much more from Beato in the upcoming season.  He most likely will not be classified as a specific inning guy, but rather as a fall back option to help give relief, no pun intended, to the other relievers.

One area that Beato can improve, and this may be nit picking a bit, is to miss more bats with his pitches.  Beato only recorded 39 SO in his 67 innings pitched so limiting the number of balls that are put into play can only improve his confidence and overall performance.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Continuing to Look at the Opening Day Roster

2011 stats - .245 BA, 12 HR, 57 RBI, 59 R

Today I look at potentially the biggest bust in Mets history, Jason Bay.  After the 2009 season, Bay signed a 4 year, $66 million deal and has largely failed to earn any of that money.  A concussion limited him to only 95 games in 2010 and other minor injuries and unproductive stats led to 123 games last season.

Bay is one of two hitters in the middle of the Mets lineup (David Wright being the other) that needs to rebound to a somewhat normal season in order for there to be a glimmer of hope in 2012.  Upper management has done their part to help out with the problem by readjusting the outfield walls in Citi Field.  The dreaded wall in left field has been reduced to 8 ft and the deep alley in right center has been brought in from 415 ft.  All of this is being done to help with the psychological nightmare that many believe Bay is living.  With a more neutral hitting park, the Mets are banking on Bay to finish somewhere between 18-21 HRs and 70-85 RBI.

There are a few factors, outside of the moved in walls, that can also help Bay this season.  He should hopefully have a full season's worth of protection around him with Ike Davis being healthy, a full season of Lucas Duda, and an improved David Wright.

No one is looking for Bay to be savior of the offense, a person who will carry the team on his back for games at a time.  The Mets just do not need Bay to be an every now and then singles hitter.  Some pop will be needed from his bat.  It's hard to have high expectations from everything we've seen the past two seasons.  This may be his final chance though to prove he will not be the largest bust in Mets history.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Manny Acosta - Relief Pitcher

Starting today and going through the end of Spring Training, I will be looking at all players that should be making the 25-man roster heading into the start of the season.  Some will have more in depth information than others and every now and then I'll include a prospect or two that may soon be seeing Citi Field.

2011 stats - 4W, 1L, 4S, 3.45 ERA, 46 KO, 15 BB

It's always difficult to start any evaluation of a team with a relief pitcher because that position is very fickle one year to the next.  Outside of top closers in the game, middle relief pitchers have up and down seasons and up and down careers.

Acosta is a player that had a very strong 2011 for the Mets bullpen and will be looked at to repeat that performance in 2012.  After starting the season in Triple A Buffalo, Acosta came up to the big club in early June and stayed the rest of the time.  For the most part, the Mets knew what they were getting out of Acosta each time he took the hill.  His season averages almost evened out at one hit and one strikeout per inning pitched.  Near the end of the season, Acosta picked up four saves as the Mets were in a closer by committee mode.

With the additions the Mets made to their bullpen for the upcoming season, Acosta will most likely be battling for innings this year.  Hopefully this will help him keep his head level and not take on as much pressure as a late inning pitcher.  A repeat performance from 2011 is exactly what the Mets need from Acosta this season.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Spring Training - 2012

This morning was a blissful morning.  Not because it was a Monday morning.  Not because it was a holiday morning and most of us had off of work.  No, this morning was blissful because it is the first day of spring training.  A fresh start.  A new beginning.  A clean slate.

It's been this way since the end of the 2007 season, 'The Collapse'.  Everything that possibly could have gone wrong for the organization, did.  Both on and off the field, the organization has struggled, up and down.

But, as of this morning, at least for a few days, that all goes away.  No one should look back at what was, but look forward to what can be.  Yes, there's a lot, and I mean a lot, that needs to go right for the Mets to be contenders this season, even if a second Wild Card spot is up for grabs.  But that doesn't mean we, as fans, can't hope for it.  Hope is what we have right now.  Hope is what this morning gave us.

It's something small for Mets fans, and that's okay.  While there are a number of other teams that open Spring Training this morning with legit dreams of a World Series in the fall, we should allow their fans to agonize and stress over the small things.  As Mets fans, we're suppose to have nothing to play for, nothing to aim for this season.  Let that be the case, let other people, the so-called experts, predict that the team will finish last in the NL East.  Maybe it'll happen, but maybe it won't.  Who knows?  No one, that's who.  That's why they play the game.

The whip of a pitch.  The crack of the bat.  The heat of the sun.  The smell of the grass.  It's all here now, it's time for Spring Training.  It's time for baseball.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Back and Better Than Ever

Apologies for my 9 month vacation, although it wasn't much of a vacation.  Moreso busy at work and tight with time.  I've come to realize that things need to change and I enjoy writing, even if no one is reading.

Starting this weekend, this blog will be once again active.

Let's go Mets!