Thursday, April 30, 2009


Nine wins, 12 losses.
If someone had told you before the season started that on the last day of April, with Carlos Beltran hitting close to .400, a rejuvenated Luis Castillo hitting over .300, Carlos Delgado driving in 16 runs, Ryan Church also hitting over .300 and a retooled bullpen featuring not one, but two established closers in Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz, and playing 15 games against non-playoff clubs like the Padres, Nationals, Reds, Cardinals and Marlins, would you believe the Mets record would be so dismal at this point?
Me neither.
But here are the top 10 reasons why the Mets are failing...
*No. 1: Incredibly sloppy defense at the worst possible moments
Whether it's Daniel Murphy twice already muffing routine plays in left field that cost games, Chruch committing a gaffe in right in another game and David Wright committing the same offense once at third base, or Pedro Feliciano balking in a vital go-ahead run in the late innings, the team appears fundamentally flawed. Not even Manager Jerry Manuel's making the team do infield and outfield drills before games has translated into results.
*No. 2: An offense that goes flaccid after the early innings.
If you score at home, notice how fewer pitches Mets hitters seem to see as the game progresses. Swinging early in the count and making outs kills potential rallies. None of the hitters -- at least late in games -- seem to believe in the old baseball adage "a walk is just as good as a hit."
*No.3: An offense that fails to support its ace.
I don't care if you're Cy Young himself, but any pitcher who gets a grand total of seven runs of offensive support in four starts, as Mets' ace Johan Santana has received so far this year, you're not going to be very successful.
*No. 4: Starters that can't last longer than five innings.
With the exception of one start each, both Oliver Perez and John Maine have struggled with control and getting lit up. In every start he's made so far, Livan Hernandez looks like a magician on the mound -- until the third time he goes through an opposition's batting order. Mike Pelfrey, who was in the 200 innings range last year, has yet to log six innings in a start. The short outings are taxing an already overburdened bullpen.
*No. 5: A re-tooled bullpen is struggling.
Both Putz and Sean Green started strong, but both have recently struggled with command and control. Green's ERA is 8.49 and Putz has walked more hitters (six) than he has struck out (four). Before his release, Darren O'Day allowed every runner he inherited to score, while Casey Fossum has already pitched himself off the roster with two ineffective appearances. Why Brian Stokes, who has yet to allow an earned run in 11 innings isn't getting more of an opportunity in crucial spots, is puzzling and Nelson Figueroa, a natural for a long relief role, was designated for assignment after making one of the few quality starts of the season and is now with the Mets' Triple-A Buffalo club.
*No. 6: David Wright looks lost at the plate.
Wright's late-season struggles with men on base last year have spilled over to this season and at his strikeout pace, legendary whiffer Rob Deer is somewhere feeling better about his career. Too often, Wright can't get around on hittable fastballs and takes too many hanging breaking pitches. His at-bats with men in scoring position are becoming predictable.
*No. 7: Absence of the running game and small ball.
Murphy doesn't belong in the No.2 hole, behind speedster Jose Reyes. While he possesses a great eye at the plate, he fouls off too many pitches and doesn't take enough to allow Reyes to run. Castillo, more of a "leadoff 1A" hitter is far better suited for the No. 2 hole, especially given his experience batting second and his impressive start with the bat. At times, Manuel appears to believe he's managing the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers, of the American League, instead of the National League Mets, sitting back and waiting for the three-run bomb instead of stealing, double-stealing, hitting-and-running and sacrificing. Playing in a big ballpark where home runs are infrequent, compels him to adopt more tactics to manufacture runs. At least twice this season in close games, with struggling hitters, Manuel has eschewed the sacrifice in favor of gambling for the ever-elusive extra base hit. Both times the hitters in question, Fernando Tatis and Wright, made unproductive outs.
*No. 8: Bullpen mismanagement.
Manuel's bullpen moves sometimes defy logic.
Tuesday night, for example, with the Mets clinging to a one-run lead and the Marlins sending up their eighth, ninth and leadoff hitters -- two of whom are switch-hitting speedsters and the fifth hitter a lefty -- Manuel opted to bring in the struggling Green, whose control and command have so far been suspect at best, instead of lefty Feliciano. Feliciano's presence would've made the speedsters turn around to bat right-handed, taking away a step or two out of the batter's box, if they decided to lay down bunts and if they got on base, put them at a disadvantage with a lefty on the mound. Green, a supposed ground ball pitcher, walked hitters and gave up a bomb and turned a 4-3 lead into a 7-4 deficit.
*No. 9: Not playing aggressively enough
The Mets have shown timidness on the basepaths by not running often enough, but also by not sliding when the situation called for it (twice, in Beltran's case) and not strongly breaking up potential double plays. On defense, does anyone remember the last time anyone on the Mets attempted to nab the lead runner on a sacrifice attempt?
*No. 10 Not doing the little things right
Stop me if you haven't seen the following: catcher's interference, throwing to the wrong base from the outfield, missing cutoff men on outfield throws, falling off the mound while throwing a pitch, failing to effectively block the plate, issuing leadoff walks, failing two nail the third out after the previous two batters made them and swinging early in counts when the situation calls for prolonging at-bats.
It's a wonder why the Mets aren't a lot worse than 9-12 right now.
If you have any more reasons to add to the list, then by all means, go ahead...

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