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New York Mets: How About We Throw Some Strikes?

On the whole, baseball is a simple game. The pitcher takes the ball and throws it over the plate, while the batter either watches it go by, puts the ball in play or swings and misses.

Pretty simple, right?

Well, our beloved Mets have of course found a way to skew the most basic facet of the game: throwing strikes.

Both the Mets’ starters and relievers have struggled with walks in the early going, which has definitely played a factor in the early-season losses. The Mets were in most of their games until they were burned by the walk.

On Opening Day, right before John Buck hit that morale-crushing grand slam, Mike Pelfrey walked two hitters.

After the Mets overcame a seven-run deficit in Philadelphia last week, Blaine Boyer had a huge walk in the bottom of the fifth, which allowed the Phillies to tack on an insurance run.

Last night, Jon Niese walked Seth Smith with one out that later set up early NL-MVP candidate Troy Tulowitzki’s three-run homer.

Let me start this off by saying that walks are undoubtedly going to happen. Though pitchers are paid to throw strikes, they sometimes try to get too fancy in spotting their pitches and miss the strike zone.

I can live with a starting pitcher doing this, since he is likely to see each hitter at least 2-3 times per start.

However, the relievers need to throw strikes. In tight games, walks kill a team, especially walks that lead off an inning. The opposing team can then sacrifice the runner over and then has two chances to drive in the run.

The Mets have a putrid 4.83 bullpen ERA (25th in the league). Even worse, they are second only to the LA Angels with 21 bullpen walks.

The Mets have only played 11 games, so that’s almost two bullpen walks per game, which is unacceptable.

Granted, the Mets’ bullpen ERA has been ballooned by Boyer’s eight earned runs in just 6.2 innings of work. Luckily, Jason Isringhausen replaced Boyer and may be able to provide some stability in the pen.

Tim Byrdak and Taylor Buchholz have also struggled with walks. Byrdak has two walks in 4.0 innings, which has played a role in his 9.00 ERA. Buchholz takes the cake, however, with five walks in just 6.2 innings.

Bobby Parnell hasn’t been great throwing strikes, either, with three walks in 4.1 innings.

Let’s all just take a deep breath.

One thing the Mets have shown this year is a little bit of fight. They’ve shown they can come back in games (at least to some degree).

However, the team’s efforts are squandered when the bullpen cannot hold the lead. They need guys in the pen that can come in, throw strikes and give the Mets’ bats a chance to either continue their comeback or tack of some insurance runs.

I wonder how patient the Mets will be if the bullpen keeps up these walks. I’m sure there are relievers in the Mets’ system that can throw strikes.

If necessary, bring up the “Boof.”

Follow me on Twitter @JMMancari.

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2011 New York Mets Can Be an Addicting Team

I have an addiction.

Unfortunately, many young men my age have bigger problems than I do. Some have fallen to drug or alcohol addictions, which is always a sad situation. They have their whole lives ahead of them, but they succumb to their addiction.

I have an addiction.

The first part of dealing with an addiction is to admit you have one. Just this past week, I came to the conclusion that I am addicted to New York Mets baseball.

My story is different than a drug or alcohol addict who may have had a string of incidents that led to their downfall. My addiction stems from the passion I have for my team and their affinity for losing.

I have an addiction.

Monday night’s loss is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. The Mets jumped out to an early lead only to give it up. They regained the lead only to give it up again on a Carlos Gonzalez 10-hopper that squeaked through the Mets infield shift. “WHY WAS THE SHIFT ON WITH TWO STRIKES?” I yelled.

To make matters worse, not only were the bullpen arms (except Izzy) pretty bad, but they also couldn’t make routine plays. Ryota Igarashi got a tailor-made double play off Gonzalez’s bat in the sixth and botched the throw home. Though this was a tougher play, Bobby Parnell overthrew Josh Thole on a play at the plate by almost five feet.

Speaking of Parnell, just when we needed him to keep the game tied, he gives up a three-run laser to Troy Tulowitski, which normally would crush the chances of a comeback.

Here’s where my addiction kicks. First batter in the bottom of the eighth: David Wright home run. Next batter: Carlos Beltran double (by the way, he’s starting to swing a hot bat) followed by an Ike Davis RBI single.

That made it 7-6, no outs, runner on first, bottom of the eighth. “We can do this, boys,” I said with a glint of hope in my eyes.

I have an addiction.

Of course, as most of you already know, the Mets failed to score and then looked like little leaguers against Huston Street in the ninth.

At 4-6, the team is far from eliminated, but it has been the way they have lost games recently that has already driven fans away. But not me.

Despite the drizzle last night at around 5:30 p.m., I hopped in my car and headed to Citi Field, hoping I could bring the Mets some luck.

I waited 20 minutes for a Shake Shack burger and settled into my seat. As soon as I took that last bite, the public address announcer came over the loudspeakers.

“Your attention please. Tonight’s game has been postponed due to rain and will be made up as part of a day-night, single admission double-header on Thursday.”

I have an addicition.

For me, last night’s rainout is a blessing. Now I get to sit through not one, but two games of my beloved Mets.

If this was September and the Mets were already eliminated, I’d be there. If the Mets had just lost 10 straight games, I’d be there. If the Mets brought back Luis Castillo and even Oliver Perez, I’d be there.

I’m almost certain that many of you readers share in my addiction to varying degrees. I’m sure some of you have been fans since 1962. I can only imagine what it was like those first few years of the franchise. But then 1969 happened. And awhile later 1986 happened.

I had my chance in 2000, but that didn’t end so well. Somehow though, losing to the Yankees made me an even bigger, more diehard fan.

I have an addiction.

Luckily for me and my fellow fans who share my addiction, there is a remedy. If our team can go out and play ball like we know they can, our addiction can be considered a passion. We enjoy seeing good baseball from our favorite players and hope the team can turn it around.

The Mets got off to such a good start which gave me even more hope than I already had coming into this season. However, the team is looking like the Mets of old: not the ’69 and ’86 Mets, but the ’62-’67 Mets.

Let’s just stick by our team and hope they can get hot. The journey toward recovery begins tonight at 7:10 p.m., with the pre-game show at 6:30. True addicts watch the pregame, of course.

*Note: This piece was meant to be mostly facetious. I understand that an actual addiction is a serious matter, and my thoughts and prayers go out each day to those fighting to overcome their addictions.

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New York Mets: Top 25 Prospects and When We May Be Seeing Them at Citi Field

In their 49-year history, the New York Mets have had some success in developing minor league prospects. Though many of these players went on to play for other teams, the Mets still did their job of ensuring these players were as Major League-ready as possible.

Tom Seaver, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Jose Reyes and David Wright all were drafted by the team and made an immediate impact for the big club.

Though the current Mets roster is full of veterans, some prospects may be expected to contribute on the big-league level at some point this season. With the way the injury bug has plagued this club the past few years, we may see these prospects sooner rather than later.

Even if there’s no place for them on the Mets roster, these prospects can be used as trade bait to acquire a proven player.

Here are the top 25 New York Mets prospects.

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New York Mets: Darryl Strawberry and the Top 10 Power Hitters in Team History

Home runs are the most exciting part of a baseball game.

Over the years, players have made a living on their ability to hit the long ball.

Though the New York Mets have been known for developing strong pitching prospects like Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Jon Matlack and Nolan Ryan, the team has had a handful of good power hitters in their 49-year history.

Shea Stadium and the Mets’ current home, Citi Field, aren’t exactly hitter-friendly ballparks, which speaks volumes for the players that actually put up good power numbers in Mets uniforms.

Here are the top 10 power hitters in Mets history.

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New York Mets: Battle for Final Bullpen Spot a 3-Man Race

One of my colleagues, Nicholas Pugliese, recently wrote a piece on his thoughts about who will claim the final spot in the Mets bullpen.

As he said, Francisco Rodriguez, Bobby Parnell, Taylor Buchholz, D.J. Carrasco, Tim Byrdak and Pedro Beato have all earned spots.

However, a three-headed race has emerged for the final spot between Jason Isringhausen, Blaine Boyer and Manny Acosta.

Each reliever has several pros and cons and different contractual status that will make this a tough decision for Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins.

Here are those pros and cons and my prediction on who will secure the spot.

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Ike Davis: Is New York Mets 1B Ready to Break Out into Superstar Status in 2011?

New York Mets first baseman Ike Davis burst onto the scene last year en route to having a successful rookie campaign.

After Daniel Murphy’s injury in spring training 2010, Davis appeared to be the likely successor. However, the Mets opted to use veteran Mike Jacobs at first.

That experiment flopped, which allowed Davis to get his chance.

With one year under his belt, Davis is poised to have a breakout year in 2011. He may not put up Albert Pujols-type numbers, but then again, not many first basemen can.

Davis will look to improve upon his rookie season as spring training wraps up.

Here are 10 reasons Davis is ready to become a superstar this season.

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MLB News and Rumors: Oliver Perez Finally Released by the New York Mets

After months of speculation, the New York Mets finally released their erratic lefty Oliver Perez.

The release appeared inevitable at some point this off-season, but the Mets decided to give Perez an opportunity to prove himself during spring training.

Perez auditioned as both a starter and a left-handed specialist but failed to impress. The Mets will be on the hook for the $12 million he’s owed.

Perez’s career highlights for the Mets are rather brief. He pitched six innings of one-run ball against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS (Mets lost).

He tied John Maine for the team lead in wins with 15 in 2007.

Other than that, Perez’s Mets career has been filled with issuing walks, surrendering big hits and refusing to improve his game in the minors.

Here are 10 reasons why the Mets released Perez at the right time.

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New York Mets: Daniel Murphy, Chin-Lung Hu Are Best Options at Second Base

New York Mets manager Terry Collins has said that he would like to get each of his potential second base candidates some more at-bats over the next few days, as he starts to whittle down the playing field.

Today we learned that Daniel Murphy is likely out of the competition, and will be used more as a super-utility player. If that’s the case, at least Murphy will have a spot on the team.

That being said, Murphy is starting today at second base, so it begs the question of whether or not he’s really out of the competition.

Collins and Sandy Alderson have been saying all along that they want second base to be an offensive position, then why on earth would they settle for Hernandez?

Hernandez is a .245 career hitter who’s played for three different teams. Maybe the Mets are hoping this Hernandez hits like Keith? That’s unlikely.

Hernandez has looked decent at the plate so far this spring, but in limited action. He’ll be starting at shortstop today.

He’s also out of options, so he would have to clear waivers before being sent to Buffalo. Most likely, another team in need of middle infield depth would pick him up. However, he wouldn’t be the a terrible loss.

The Mets have other players out of options as well, most notably Nick Evans. I would rather see the team keep Evans as a bench player than have Hernandez as the starting second baseman.

If Collins and Alderson are true to their word, Murphy is the answer at second base. Unfortunately, Murphy hasn’t had enough chances in the field at the major league level to show if he is ready.

Murphy has six doubles this spring and has driven in seven runs. He would be a nice compliment to the back end of the Mets lineup.

At first, I was worried that if Murphy were the starter at second, the bottom of the order would be chock full of lefties. Murphy, first baseman Ike Davis and catcher Josh Thole all bat left-handed.

However, if the Mets were to face a tough left-hander, Ronny Paulino could get a start behind the dish, and Chin-lung Hu, not Brad Emaus, could slide in at second.

That’s right: Chin-lung Hu. He can also be a late defensive replacement for Murphy.

Though Hu has swung the bat well this spring, Hu and Murphy would at most be a defensive platoon. If even that much.

Murphy would start and hopefully get a few hits and drive in some runs. If the game is close late, Collins could insert Hu defensively to sure up the middle infield, especially if a double play is necessary.

If this were the case, the following would all have to occur before the season starts: Emaus would be sent back to Toronto, Luis Castillo is released, and Luis Hernandez is either picked up by another team or sent to Buffalo.

Justin Turner appears destined for Buffalo anyway, since he has options left. The Mets would also likely have to carry Nick Evans to provide some right-handed punch off the bench because they wouldn’t get that from Hu.

The speculation will continue to evolve in the coming days about which player or combination of players, will man second base

It’s a tough call either way, so I’m glad I’m not the one making the decision. I don’t think Hernandez is the answer, but other than that it’s really just a guessing game until we find out who is.

Follow me on Twitter@JMMancari.

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MLB Predictions: Breaking Down Who Will Lead Rookies in Each Stat Category

MLB rookies always have a tough task of being expected to produce immediately. While some crack under the pressure, others rise to the occasion and place themselves in the conversation for Rookie of the Year.

Last season, a few impact rookies—especially Neftali Feliz and Buster Posey—burst onto the scene to help their teams. In the cases of Feliz and Posey, they even aided in their respective team’s World Series runs.

A rookie’s stats usually play a key role in Rookie of the Year voting, so here are my predictions of which rookie will lead each of the major statistical categories.

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Lucas Duda or Fernando Martinez: Can They Fill the Void Left By Carlos Beltran?

Surprise, surprise. Carlos Beltran is hurt once again.

After he resumes baseball activities sometime in the next few days, who knows how long it will take the New York Mets’ new right fielder to get in baseball shape?

While part of me was hoping Beltran would finally return to the field healthy and productive, the other part of me knew it was probably too good to be true.

If Beltran is out for an extended period of time, the Mets are going to need a permanent solution to fill the void in right field and in their lineup. Already, there appear to be several candidates the Mets could consider.

I will present a few options and weigh the pros and cons of each decision.

I’ve heard that a possible platoon between Scott Hairston and Willie Harris could occur.

Hairston has some pop from the right side and has played adequate defense his entire career. He obviously won’t be the offensive force that a healthy Beltran could be, but he would do a nice job filling in.

Harris is a superb defender, as Met fans have witnessed countless times, especially late in games. He also has hit well this spring and still has good speed.

These two players certainly have experience, but they could also be valuable members of the bench. Their value to the team would be in more of a limited role, since that’s what they’ve done for most of their careers.

I might as well throw Nick Evans’ name into the conversation. Evans has been mostly playing the corner infield spots during spring training, but now might see some time in the outfield.

Evans is raking so far this spring and is making a bid to make the team, even if just as a bat off the bench.

However, his defense in the outfield is suspect, and it would be an adventure for him at Citi Field. Still, if Hairston and Harris see the bulk of the time, Evans may be needed on the bench.

If Beltran were to be out more than a month or two, it might be a wise decision for the Mets to promote one of their outfield prospects. Kirk Nieuwenheis and Cory Vaughn may need some more seasoning in the minors, so that leaves Lucas Duda and Fernando Martinez as the most major league-ready prospects.

Duda has been hitting well this spring and with extended time could put up big numbers. Maybe not healthy Beltran numbers, but still productive in the middle of the order.

He actually looked decent at times in left field late last season, but once again right field at Citi Field is challenging. With lots of work, Duda could become an adequate right fielder, but the question is whether the Mets have that kind of time.

Now onto Fernando Martinez. He’s also been swinging the bat very well this spring. He’s young, he can run, he’s got some pop, he has a good arm. What’s not to like?

The problem is that F-Mart has had a chance to prove what he can do in extended play in the majors, and he flopped.

However, that doesn’t mean that he would flop again. The Mets are content with having him play a full season in the minors before handing over the reins (or even exploring a trade option).

With Beltran out though, I wonder if the Mets decide that F-Mart is ready.

In the best case scenario, Beltran’s knee tendinitis doesn’t prove to be a major problem, and he returns healthy in a week or two.

If that’s not the case, my pick for the Mets’ right fielder would be Lucas Duda, but also with Scott Hairston getting regular at-bats as well. Maybe it wouldn’t be quite a platoon, but Duda could play four games a week and Hairston would play the other two.

We’ll see what happens over the next few weeks, but if one of these prospects starts impressing, the name “Carlos Beltran” could be quickly forgotten in New York.

Follow me on Twitter @JMMancari.

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