Tag: zack wheeler

Series Preview: New York Mets vs. Atlanta Braves

It was a very productive opening series for the New York Mets as they took two of three from the Washington Nationals to start off the season. Bartolo Colon was impressive on Monday, pitching six innings of three-hit ball in a 3-1 victory. Matt Harvey stole the show on Wednesday, pitching six shutout innings and striking out nine Nationals.

So the Mets are sitting at 2-1 and travel to Atlanta for a three-game series against the Braves at Turner Field. The Braves opened the season with a sweep over the Marlins in Miami, outscoring them 16-3. Fredi Gonzalez’s team is one of three undefeated teams in the National league, along with Cincinnati and Colorado.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: LHP Jon Niese (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. LHP Eric Stults (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Niese makes his 2015 debut on Friday after posting solid numbers last season. In 30 starts in 2014, Niese posted a 3.40 ERA and a 9-11 record — though his ERA predictors say he over-performed slightly with a FIP of 3.67.

Niese didn’t blow anyone away with a fastball that averaged 88.5 MPH in 2014, but ranked in the top 20 in the NL in keeping the ball in the yard, allowing only 0.82 HR per nine innings.

However, home runs were a major weakness for Stults, who allowed more HR per nine innings than any other qualified starter — despite making 13 starts at spacious Petco Park for the Padres last season. Stults was able to earn a spot in the Braves rotation based on a strong spring training.

Stults is another soft-tossing left-hander who will struggle to record strikeouts as he averages less than six per nine innings in his eight-year major league career.

Saturday: RHP Dillon Gee (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. RHP Julio Teheran (1-0, 1.50 ERA)

It was anticipated that Gee would be headed to the bullpen or possibly to a different team for the 2015 season until RHP Zack Wheeler was lost for the season with an arm injury. Gee only pitched 137.1 innings in 2014, posting a 4.00 ERA. As a student, a 4.0 is excellent, but as a pitcher that is the equivalent of a “C” average.

Gee saw his changeup improve drastically, a pitch that was only 0.7 runs above average in 2013, but improved to 9.9 runs above average in 2014. At only 28 years-old, Gee is still developing as a pitcher, but if he can keep having success with his changeup in 2015, then it will not be a stretch for him to keep his rotation spot for the whole season.

On the other hand, Teheran was the Braves Opening Day starter. He pitched well, allowing only one run over six innings and striking out six Marlins on Monday. Teheran was once a top prospect in the Braves system, but it took him longer than anticipated to develop into a No. 1 starter. However, he’s enjoyed a great deal of success in the last two seasons, recording a 3.20 ERA in 2013 and then improving on that with a 2.89 ERA last season.

Teheran was one of the few major pieces that Braves Interim GM John Hart did not trade this offseason, or right before Opening Day in Craig Kimbrel’s case. The right-hander ranks ninth in the NL in wins over the last two seasons with 28. Teheran has flashed some of his potential, but he could be due for a breakout season that puts him up there with Matt Harvey, deGrom and the whole Nationals rotation for the best young arms in the division.

Sunday: TBD vs. Alex Wood (1-0, 3.60 ERA)

The Mets have yet to announce a starting pitcher for Sunday’s contest, but we can assume it will be opening-day starter Bartolo Colon. Colon was impressive in the win over Washington, pitching six innings and surrendering only three hits and one run. In a game in which he became the oldest Mets pitcher to start on Opening Day (40), Colon looked like he 15 years younger (well, maybe five).

Colon’s effectiveness at his ripe old age is due to pinpoint control his fastball, spotting it on both sides of the plate and up and down in the zone. Surprisingly, Colon has won 43 games in the last three seasons, including a team-leading 15 in 2014 for the Mets. Location doesn’t necessarily go away with age, so we could see Colon putting together more solid outings as the year progresses.

Wood pitched five innings in a win over the Marlins in 2015 debut, allowing four hits and one run. He made 35 appearances last year, including 24 starts. Wood had great success in his 171.2 innings pitched and showed that he can strike hitters out at the major league level with 170 in 2014. Wood will get better as he continues to gain experience and has a secure spot in the Braves rotation.

Players to watch


I don’t know if Travis d’Arnaud could have asked for a better start to the season. He is 5-11 (.455 AVG) with 4 RBI to begin the 2015 campaign. According to Mark Simon of ESPN, d’Arnaud could become the first Mets catcher ever to have an RBI in each of the first four games of season. We’ll see if he can get it done against Stults on Friday.

Michael Cuddyer is your early clubhouse leader in strikeouts with five through three games. I know it’s early, but the 21-million-dollar-man might want to improve his .231 average before Mets fans jump to conclusions and assume that signing him wasn’t worth giving up a first-round pick; maybe some have already made the assumption.


With Jason Heyward, the Upton brothers and now Kimbrel gone, Freddie Freeman is the new face of the franchise. He was also unsurprisingly one of the top performers in the Miami series with five hits, including two doubles, in 13 at-bats (.385 avg.). If the Braves do any damage on offense this series it will be because of Freeman.

Eric Young Jr. will need to be more productive out of the leadoff spot for the Braves. The 2-10 he went in the opening series is not going to get the job done. Gonzalez has already used Jace Peterson to hit leadoff once and he could do it a whole lot more if EYJ continues to hover around the Mendoza line.

Though Mets fans are familiar with ex-Met EYJr, there are a number of other new faces on the Braves. The previously mentioned Peterson and Phil Gosselin platoon at second base; Jonny Gomes, Cameron Maybin, Nick Markakis, and Young, Jr., comprise the completely overhauled outfield; Christian Bethancourt, who was promoted from the minors at the tail end of last year, starts behind the plate — backed up by A.J. Pierzynski; Kelly Johnson returns to beef up the bench, along with Alberto Callaspo; and Jim Johnson, Jason Grilli, Cody Martin, and Brandon Cunniff are new arms in the bullpen. Oh, and Wandy Rodriguez, Trevor Cahill, and the aforementioned Stults make up the back of the starting rotation. Not exactly the Atlanta team you remember from 2014, eh? If nothing else, the 2015 Braves are … different.


Link Roundup: Playoffs. Playoffs?

Minor Leaguers

Three Mets minor league affiliates made the playoffs this year, but none are faring too well.

The Rookie league Kingsport Mets were swept by the Greenville Astros. The ‘Stros have been 100% focused on building their minor league system from the bottom-up over the past 2 years, and it appears to be paying off.

At the higher levels, the Double-A Binghamton Mets are down 2 games to none to the Trenton Thunder, and the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s trail the Salt Lake City Bees by the same margin.

Here’s a look at Rafael Montero’s less-than-stellar start last night.

Despite their performance in the post season, it’s encouraging to see the affiliates playing well. Win-Loss records are not the ultimate measure of the health of a farm system, but there’s no doubt the system is in better shape than it was a few years ago. Having a deep farm system not only produces some players who will stick around and play for the major league team, but it also gives the organization trade chips.

Tonight, the Mets open a series with the Cleveland Indians. Game 1 will be a matchup of former and current Mets prospects, Scott Kazmir vs. Zack Wheeler.

Kazmir has struggled lately, but overall, has had a solid bounce-back season, pitching to a 4.36 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP. He’s also struck out an average of 8.2 batters per 9 innings. Most importantly, he’s been healthy enough to make 24 starts. Wheeler has been outstanding after struggling during his first three starts. Overall, he’s 7-3 with a 3.36 ERA and 1.30 WHIP.

Finally, with Ike Davis done for the year, Lucas Duda will get a good, hard look at first base. One can’t always trust what one sees in September, but you probably have to break it down to a more granular level – what kind of competition they’re facing, is the opposing team in contention, etc. The Mets must figure out what to do with first base going into 2014.


Matt Harvey Has Partially Torn UCL

Because being a Mets fan isn’t infuriating enough, the team announced today that Matt Harvey has a partially torn UCL in his pitching arm. His injury will be evaluated over the next couple of weeks to see if surgery is necessary. It really depends on how partial the tear is.

Harvey has swelling, but he had not been experiencing pain in the elbow prior to his last start, Alderson explained. He has been getting preventative treatment for his elbow since Spring Training, as well as recent treatment for his forearm. However, there was no indication of tenderness in the elbow until after his last start.

“There is plenty of time for us to see how he responds in the near term, but there will always be the open question of how long that ligament will hold up,” Sandy Alderson said. “This is not a career-ending injury under any stretch of the imagination. We’re fortunate we have a lot of pitching depth in our organization.”

There has to be a way to keep young pitchers healthy. 25 year-old Steven Strasburg, for example, has already had Tommy John surgery, recovered, and is now back to pitching full time.

It’s not just a matter of curmudgeonly lamenting, “Back in my day, pitchers used throw 30 complete games a year,” but rather that it seems that more and more pitchers can’t even finish a full season.

I’m sure Joe, as a coach and former player, will have a more informed opinion on this, but shouldn’t pitchers be A) taught better mechanics at every level (High School, College, Minors) B) stretched out at every level in preparation for (eventually) a full season in the major leagues?

As for the way the Mets handled Harvey, I can think of two or three occasions where I felt Terry Collins let him throw too many pitches (over 110, which is high by today’s standards). Otherwise, they’ve been trying to give him extra rest, and have made it clear that he was on an innings limit of about 210 for the season, which would have been about 40 more than he pitched last year. Most major league teams use similar guidelines for their young pitchers.

Harvey threw 170 innings between Triple-A and the majors last year, and 178 this year. A 24 year-old should be able to handle that kind of workload. I’m not blaming Harvey – not at all – I blame the culture in baseball that seems to leave young pitchers unprepared for the major leagues.

This is yet another frustrating development for a team, and a fan base, that can’t seem to catch a break. However, like every sports franchise, the Mets must adapt to their new Harveyless world (for however long that will be the case), and have a backup plan that doesn’t include him for the better part of 2014.

Since I’m always looking for a silver lining (lest I go crazy), this could mean the Mets come out of Spring Training 2014 with a rotation of Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard joining Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese, and Dillon Gee, which isn’t half bad. That is, if they stay healthy. Remember, Niese is pitching with a partially torn labrum, and who knows who the next victim of arm trauma will be.

On a day like this, even the silver linings look gray.


Link Roundup: Trade Deadline, Wheeler Strong

The non-waiver trade deadline is scheduled to hit at 4 PM EDT today. To quote Douglas Adams, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” For the Mets, the deadline will likely whoosh by without any trades being made.

The Mets are in a delicate situation. Some pieces of the future puzzle have begun to fall in place, particularly on the mound. Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and closer Bobby Parnell would be valuable pieces of a 2014 team that, with a couple of offensive upgrades, could contend for a Wild Card spot. Conventional wisdom states that they’ll have about $40 million more dollars to play with during the offseason, which should make them players in the free agent market for the first time in the post-Madoff era.

Given that train of thought, a complete sell-off doesn’t make sense. The Mets have been gauging interest in players like Marlon Byrd, Daniel Murphy, and Parnell. The Mets don’t feel they can get a top prospect for Byrd, and Parnell, like most relief pitchers, just wouldn’t net a lot of value in return. For instance, the Houston Astros got a minor league outfielder who projects to be a fourth outfielder at best in the majors.

Parnell’s having a career year, despite the fact that his strikeouts are down (7.9 K/9) and his BABIP is low (.258), which could either mean he’s a little lucky, or he’s really keeping hitters off-balance, or both. Some of the ground balls he’s getting could start finding holes. If he does regress, I doubt if it will be that much.

Last night, Zack Wheeler threw strikes, got ahead of hitters, and took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. He lost the no-no and the lead in that frame, but the Mets got out of their own way long enough to score 2 runs in the 10th pull out a win against the mighty (against us, anyway) Marlins. But are the Mets messing with his mechanics too much? Also, check out this Chad Qualls celebration fail.

In other news, organizational cancer Frank Francisco advised Jenrry Mejia to stay in Port St. Lucie and collect his money instead of returning to the majors, just like his ol’ pal Frankie! It will be such a relief when Francisco’s contract runs out, and he’s as far away from the Mets franchise as possible.

And finally, for no particular reason, here’s Nino Espinosa.



The Annual Tease

Mejia started over again in Washington.

Mejia started over again in Washington.

Yesterday’s double header split was a small, concentrated example of how the Mets have teased us over the last few years.

They blew out the Washington Nationals, a preseason favorite to win the NL East, 11-0, in what was nearly a perfectly played game, then lost the nightcap 2-1 in typically frustrating fashion.


Link Roundup: More Harvey

Sure, the Mets lost last night, but let’s keep talking about Matt Harvey!  He’s a shining beacon of superstardom who lights up a murky sea of mediocrity.  Yes, when Harvey pitches, he not only stifles the opposition, but he seems to make the Mets a better team.

Fangraphs wins the award for best use of animated GIFs for baseball analysis.  Look at how remarkably similar Harvey’s pitches are until about halfway to the plate.  His curve has a little loop to it, but his fastball, slider, and changeup look the same until they dart off like a Blue Angel breaking formation.  When Harvey has the kind of command of his pitches he did on Tuesday night, he’s unhittable.  It’s that simple.

With Zack Wheeler seemingly righting his personal ship at Triple-A Las Vegas, it’s only a matter of time (and money) until the young right-hander is recalled to the big club.  Along with Harvey, 2013 could turn into the Summer of Aces.  Ron Darling talked to Mets Merized Online about the difference between the two young pitchers.

Here are a couple of Mets Twitter recaps from this week, including Harvey’s near-perfect game.  I’ve needed to take some time off from reading Mets Twitter during ballgames for the sake of my sanity, but fortunately, there are still some funny, smart people who partake. (@MetsToday and @PaulJFesta, btw)

Last night, Justin Turner played in the outfield for the first time in the majors.  Not to take anything away from Turner, who’s hitting .372/.391/.442 in 47 plate appearances, but that pretty much sums up the state of the Mets outfield.

By the way, has anyone noticed how hot Carlos Gomez is these days?  The hitter with the lifetime .697 OPS has a 1.106 mark this year.  Something clicked for the previously light-hitting outfielder.  It’s a shame that these days, as I write something like this, I have to push back the voices in my head that wonder if that something comes in pill or syringe form.  Hopefully not.

In any event, Mets Today authors never need PEDs.  We run on coffee.

Have a great end of your week and LGM.