The Mets finished up their three game set against the Marlins with a 2-1 series victory last night. New York has an interesting parallel with their division rivals from Miami, in that both organizations have dwelled at the bottom of the NL East cellar for many years now, but through those years they also stockpiled young, athletic players with the potential to be stars. Let’s see how the Met’s youngsters stacked up in this edition of 3 Up and 3 Down.
1. Matt den Dekker, Juan Lagares and Kirk Nieuwenhuis are a stellar defensive unit in the outfield, they’re fast and fearless, but that speed and tenacity has transitioned recently at the plate. Of the three, I’ve been most impressed with den Dekker as of late. The indictment against Matt has always been that his offense may never develop enough to give his glove an everyday spot in the lineup. I’m only evaluating a small sample size, but MDD is showing improvement in areas that project future success. Mainly, he’s reverted to a shorter, more compact swing, allowing him to turn on pitches quickly. He’s also showing vast improvements in his plate discipline. In his first 12 games in August, he was seeing an average of 12.4 pitches per game. In his last seven, that number has gone up to 16.4 pitches per game, with a 22% increase in strikes. His walk rate has remained relatively flat, but now Matt is seeing better pitches and taking better swings. The results are fantastic as den Dekker left Miami with a triple slash line of .545/.615/1.252, plating a run, swiping a base and scoring twice. His defense holds up pretty well to his counterpart in center field as well.
2. Juan Lagares is no stranger to Mets fans at this point. He continues to improve in every facet of his game, becoming more of a student, while retaining his ‘hair on fire’ style of play. Lagares took tremendous strides in this series and gave us a glimpse of a superstar in the making. First base coach Tom Goodwin has challenged Juan to transition his speed in the outfield to the basepaths and unsurprisingly, it’s been a success. Juan had three stolen bases in three attempts against the Marlins this series. In his last six games, he is 5-for-5, as Goodwin at times has forced him to steal. Lagares noted that he had previously been hesitant given the duress on his hamstring, but at 100%, he seems unstoppable. Prior to his recent streak, he was 4-for-7 all year. It also seems that the coaching staff is making a unique case for Lagares’ approach at the plate by ditching the one-size-fits-all philosophy and building on Juan’s strengths. Pitchers began to recognize his ability to hit balls on the outside of the plate, so they started going inside to him. Lamar Johnson worked with Lagares to pull the ball on the inside and it translated into home run power. Opposing pitchers are once again pitching him low and outside the strike zone and Juan has adjusted nicely by continuing to drive those balls to the opposite field. Tuesday, Lagares put his talents on exhibition, going 4-for-4 with a walk and two stolen bases. Overall, the center fielder batted .500 with an OPS of 1.105 in South Beach.
3. Little “d” on the mound and behind the plate, means a W in the books. The battery duo of Jacob deGrom and Travis d’Arnaud has produced a team record of 5-3 in the games they start together, allowing a meager 1.07 walks/hits per innings pitched. Last night kept pace with that production, as deGrom went 6.0 innings, allowing only one earned run while striking out six. He has lowered his ERA on the season to 2.87 and kept his name hot in the hunt for Rookie Of The Year. Meanwhile d’Arnaud (the little ‘d’ is killing my auto-correct) continues to emerge as one of the top offensive catchers in the league. He already leads all rookies in home runs with 12, but had a great series, giving his pitchers a boost on offense. Travis produced a triple slash line of .500/.571/1.155 this series and is now a point away from having a .300 OBP and .700 OPS on the year, which is fairly remarkable given his woes prior to returning from AAA Las Vegas. Consistency is the name of the game for the youngsters, it’s the only true measurement of projecting sustained success in the future, and these players named so far have done a great job making the future very bright.
1. Pitching was atrocious for the most part in this series, which for the Mets, has been their strength all year. Zack Wheeler was fortunate enough to have minimal damage done to his ERA, as it now sits at 3.45. He only gave up two earned runs in Monday’s loss, but as a whole, he allowed five runs total while he was on the mound. Wheeler again turned in a brief outing, going only 4.2 innings with five hits and two walks, using 114 pitches to get through it all. Zack clearly has the material to be an ace, but he has yet to figure out a way to keep his pitch counts down and go deeper into games. Pitching coach Dan Warthen has got to prioritize this and reverse the trend or Wheeler may never reach his full potential. Jon Niese remarkably was able to walk away with a win on Tuesday, thanks entirely to an eight-run offensive outburst by his teammates (Jon did go 1-1 with a run scored to be fair), but he still surrendered 10 hits and six earned runs.
2. Errors absolutely killed this team. Jeurys Familia is a relief pitcher, so I’m slightly less aggravated by his two errors in the series, although they were total blunders. Dilson Herrera committed two errors in his three starts and David Wright also had a pair in the series, giving him 15 on the year. Wright is a seasoned vet and a former gold glover, although watching his errors gave me hope and disappointment simultaneously. Hope, because they had nothing to do with injury or lack of range. Disappointment because he was back on his heels when he committed a fielding error and he wasn’t squaring his body up when he made a poor throw. When David struggles from injury, I’m probably his biggest apologist and have been all year. This series was not a good display of The Captain leading by example though.
3. In game decision making by the manager, in my opinion, cost the Mets their only loss in this series and could have cost the team another loss last night as well. In the top of the 7th of a tie ball game on Monday night, Terry Collins made an offensive switch to bat Eric Campbell against lefty reliever Mike Dunn, taking Matt den Dekker out of the game. Conventional wisdom agrees with Collins’ move here, but there were different elements that immediately made me feel like this was a poor choice. The Marlins were producing runs all night, using all parts of the outfield to knock out base hits. Den Dekker is clearly the better defensive choice, and had also been producing at the plate that night too. In a game where the Mets pitchers were getting lit up, it made sense to leave den Dekker in. The result was Campbell flying out to center and in the following frame he dropped a ball he dove to catch in left field, It was the beginning of an error-filled meltdown. Hindsight is 20/20, but den Dekker was playing great that night and he undoubtedly would have made that catch. This isn’t a knock on Soup, but he’s not an outfielder. I also understand situational hitting, but at the same time, this is supposed to be a developmental period for our up and coming youngsters. All position players who are looking to lock down a job in 2015 should be tested in all situations across nine innings of baseball to see what they’re really made of. As for last night, leaving Carlos Torres in to bat with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the eighth, instead of pinch-hitting Curtis Granderson, was a dangerous choice that just barely paid off. The entire reason behind that decision was so that Torres could face Giancarlo Stanton in the bottom of the eighth. The result? Stanton cranked his 36th home run of the year, a magnificent bomb to left field. Again, this is another case of hindsight after the fact, but I was baffled when I saw Torres toss a batting helmet on. If it weren’t for a slick defensive play by Lucas Duda to rob a rocketed baseball off the bat Marcel Ozuna and end the inning, it most certainly could have backfired.