New York Mets: Eric Young Jr.

Lagares' return raises outfield questions

June, 25, 2014
Jun 25
NEW YORK -- The plan has been for Juan Lagares to return to the New York Mets on Thursday in Pittsburgh. And that means the plan for how manager Terry Collins uses his outfielders is about to become more complicated.

"Good question," Collins said Wednesday afternoon. "Great question."

Lagares, who has missed more than three weeks with a right intercostal strain, figures to get most of the time in center field. Curtis Granderson, who has shaken off his early-season slump and is the top 10 in the majors in June OPS (1.043), will continue to play virtually every day, as well.

That leaves one spot, with Collins wanting to find at-bats for Chris Young, Eric Young Jr. and Bobby Abreu. While the Mets discussed releasing Chris Young when Lagares is activated, any chance of that happening seemingly ended when Young hit two home runs Tuesday.

"You look at what Bobby Abreu has done when he has played, it's been very, very good," Collins said. "When Eric Young is in the lineup and he gets on base, we win. And you're hoping that what Chris Young did [Tuesday] is just the start.

"I don't have an answer [for who plays], but I'm going to make sure those at-bats are divvied up. Right now, I don't know."

Lagares went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Tuesday at Double-A Binghamton, before being scratched from the Binghamton lineup on Wednesday because of a wet field. Collins said the Mets' plan for him hasn't changed. While the manager didn't come out and say that Lagares will be activated Thursday, he had indicated earlier that the plan was for him to be in the big leagues by the middle of the week.

EY Jr. begins rehab stint

June, 12, 2014
Jun 12
NEW YORK -- Eric Young Jr., on the New York Mets' disabled list since May 25 with a right hamstring strain, began a minor league rehabilitation assignment by going 1-for-4 with a walk Thursday afternoon for Class A St. Lucie.

Young played the entire seven-inning game (the first game of a doubleheader) in left field for the St. Lucie Mets.

Young started 34 of the Mets' first 44 games. The Mets are 18-16 in games he has started, and 11-20 in games he hasn't.

Rapid Reaction: Yankees 4, Mets 0

May, 14, 2014
May 14
NEW YORK -- Sandy Alderson described this one as David versus Goliath.

"One guy's never lost, the other guy's never pitched," the New York Mets general manager said Wednesday afternoon. "We'll see how many rocks Raffy has."

Not enough.

The guy who's "never lost" -- New York Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka -- still hasn't. He was outstanding, again, in a 4-0 Yankees win Wednesday night at Citi Field.

Raffy -- Mets debut starter Rafael Montero -- couldn't keep up. Most wouldn't have.

The Mets mustered just four hits against Tanaka, never advanced a runner to third base and advanced only two runners as far as second base. After scoring 21 runs in two days at Yankee Stadium, they were shut out for the fifth time this season.

Don't blame the ballpark, not on this night. On this night, Goliath was just too tough to tame.

Decent debut: While it wasn't a dream major league debut for Montero, it certainly wasn't bad. He went six innings and gave up three runs on five hits, but his defense cost him one of them. Montero allowed solo home runs to Yangervis Solarte and Mark Teixeira.

Montero came to the big leagues with a reputation as a "strike-thrower," as manager Terry Collins said repeatedly over the last week. And while he found himself in plenty of deep counts early -- he needed 69 pitches to get through three innings -- Montero was still able to make it through six.

E-Why?: Eric Young Jr. has given the Mets plenty of early leads, but on Wednesday he gave them an early deficit. With two out, a runner on first base and the pitcher on deck, Brian Roberts hit a sinking line drive to left. Young made an ill-advised attempt at a diving catch, and when he missed the ball (by quite a ways), Roberts ended up with a triple and the Yankees ended up with a 1-0 lead.

0-for-the record: When Montero struck out in the third inning against Tanaka, it left Mets pitchers 0-for-64 at the plate this season. According to research by Elias Sports Bureau, the only pitching staff that had a longer 0-fer in a single season was the 1914 Cleveland Indians, who went 0-for-92.

Tanaka did get his first big league hit, an eighth-inning single off Jose Valverde. It was the eighth hit the Mets have allowed to an opposing pitcher this season.

Shift-beaters: The Yankees shift more than any team but the Houston Astros, and the Mets tried to take advantage -- with their legs. Daniel Murphy stole second base in the first inning while Tanaka held the ball and the Yankee infielders moved around. Chris Young tried to steal second in the fifth, but Tanaka threw him out at second base.

Subway Series buzz?: The Mets announced their third-largest Citi Field attendance of the season: 35,577. They announced more on Opening Day (42,442) and on the first Friday night of the season (35,845).

What's next: For the second night in a row, the Mets will have a starting pitcher making his major-league debut, when Jacob deGrom faces the Yankees in the Subway Series finale. The difference Thursday is that the Yankees will also have a debut starter, in 24-year-old Chase Whitley. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.

Mets early WAR leader? Surprise, it's EY

April, 29, 2014
Apr 29
Who has been most integral to the Mets' success this season? Oddly enough (perhaps not given the Mets' slow offensive start), their Wins Above Replacement leader through the first 25 games is a guy hitting .216 with 26 strikeouts in 23 games -- Eric Young Jr.

The samples are still small and the numbers can be unreliable, but Young has already accumulated more WAR (1.1) than he had in his modestly impressive 2013 season. He's actually tied for 10th in the NL in that stat.

With Juan Lagares hopeful of returning to the lineup soon, Young may be the odd man out of the outfield, but his value to the team may warrant more playing time.

How does a player with such unimpressive basic numbers have that much WAR already?

The obvious skill: Speed
Young has been a burner on the bases in 2014, with 12 steals in 13 attempts (he’s 50-for-58 as a Met) and he’s scored three times from second base the four times a single has been hit.

That’s part of the reason he’s scored 20 runs despite having only 19 hits and 12 walks. He’s also only hit into one double play, important because it means he’s avoided killing rallies.

Young’s baserunning has already been valued at being worth three runs for the Mets, padding his WAR total a bit.

Surprising skill: Defense
Young has been a far better defender than advertised since joining the Mets. He earned a Gold Glove nomination in left field last season and that success has carried over.

His six Defensive Runs Saved rank second among leftfielders in 2014.

Those six Runs Saved have been split three ways. Young has been solid at getting to the balls he should get, which accounts for two runs. He’s gotten to base hits quickly, deterring baserunner advancement, which accounts for two runs saved, and his robbery of a Brandon Phillips' home run in the opening week of the season also netted him a pair of runs saved.

Skill that could be better (but isn’t as bad as you think): Hitting
Young’s hitting has come in spurts this season. He’s hitting only .135 at Citi Field, but is 12-for-36 with 12 runs scored and nine steals in nine road games.

Young is striking out at a very high rate, with 26 in 88 at-bats, but he’s also done well at drawing walks, with 12. That takes a .216 batting average and turns it into a .320 on-base percentage, which is actually 11 points better than the National League average and 24 points better than the team’s average.

Being average is a good thing, per Wins Above Replacement. Being slightly above is worth a couple of runs at this point in the season.

Looking ahead
Young has only finished with a positive WAR total in one of his five previous major-league seasons, and there’s a long way to go. His basestealing success and defensive numbers are going to be very tough to sustain, and that will likely keep his WAR in check.

But at least for now, he’s proven to be an integral player, whose overachieving but respectable start still leaves room to get better. Just like the Mets themselves.

Series review: Mets net one win

April, 20, 2014
Apr 20
The New York Mets salvaged the series finale from the Atlanta Braves with their marathon win on Sunday.

Here are some of the statistical highlights from the weekend.

The Grandy Man Can … and Does
Curtis Granderson’s walk-off sacrifice fly marked his first walk-off RBI since the 2006 season.

Granderson is hitless in his past 16 at-bats and is hitting .127 this season. That’s the fifth-lowest batting average in the majors and explains why Eric Young Jr. was walked, even though David Wright (who had four hits in the game) was waiting to hit after Granderson.

It is the second-longest game the Mets have won by a walk-off sacrifice fly. They had a 15-inning win against the San Diego Padres in 1983, with the sacrifice fly coming from Brian Giles.

Daisuke’s stellar effort
Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched three hitless innings with five strikeouts on Sunday, one of the better relief efforts by a Mets pitcher in some time.

The last Mets reliever to throw at least three hitless innings with five strikeouts was Pat Mahomes against the St. Louis Cardinals in 1999.

The new closer
Kyle Farnsworth becomes the third pitcher to be appointed Mets closer this season, following Bobby Parnell and Jose Valverde.

One thing to be wary of with Farnsworth: Even though he has a 1.08 ERA in nine appearances, he’s been hit hard.

Our video-tracking system has Farnsworth as having allowed seven hard-hit balls in 8⅓ innings already, or the same number as Jenrry Mejia in 7⅔ fewer innings.

As for the old closer, Valverde allowed a home run for the third straight game in the middle game of this series. That he was able to avoid allowing one in a fourth straight saved him from a historical distinction. Three Mets relievers have allowed a homer in four straight appearances -- Mark Bomback (1980), Randy Myers (1987) and Jonathan Hurst (1994).

Setting the pace
With the season one-ninth done (18 games), here are three paces that Mets players are on so far, with an observation on each:

1. Wright is on pace for 216 base hits (he has 24), which would be the most in his career, but only nine home runs, which would be the fewest in his career.

2. Lucas Duda is on pace for 27 home runs and 81 RBIs. Last season, the Mets got only 15 home runs and 59 RBIs from their first basemen.

3. Young is on pace for 90 steals (he has 10), which would break Jose Reyes’ single-season record by 12.

View from the other side: Harang’s awesome night
Aaron Harang became the second pitcher to throw at least seven no-hit innings against the Mets and not be credited with a no-hitter.

The other was Clay Kirby, who threw eight no-hit innings for the 1970 San Diego Padres but left trailing 1-0. The Mets would get two runs and three hits in the ninth inning to win the game, 3-0. The Padres have still never had a no-hitter.

Rapid Reaction: Braves 7, Mets 5

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
NEW YORK -- Freddie Freeman is so good against the New York Mets, it hardly matters whether he hits the ball 40 feet or 400.

Or whether he hits it off his own foot.

The biggest play in the Mets' 7-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Saturday did indeed deflect off Freeman's foot, or so it appeared on television replays. The ball ended up rolling down the third-base line, and when Mets starter Bartolo Colon threw it away down the right-field line, the Braves had two runs and a third-inning lead they would never give up.

Freeman had yet another hit against the Mets. He would finish the night with three of them, including an RBI double in the fifth inning that gave him 41 RBIs in his past 40 games against the Mets. Freeman is hitting .350 with 12 home runs in that span.

It's worth noting that Freeman hits well against everyone (his batting average this season is .413). Also worth noting is the fact that the Mets are now 2-6 at home this season, as opposed to 6-3 on the road.

To replay … or not: The new instant-replay system hasn't helped the Mets the past two nights. On Friday, it was a questionable call at first base that was followed by a "fourth out" at third base, which kept manager Terry Collins from putting in a challenge.

Then came the key play in Saturday night's game, the third-inning Freeman infield single. Television replays showed the ball might have hit Freeman's front foot, which would have made it a foul ball. Collins asked the umpires about it but was never able to put in an official challenge because the replay rules don't allow managers to challenge fair/foul calls when the ball doesn't leave the infield or was hit off the batter's foot. There was some disagreement on how conclusive the replays were, anyway.

Not so Grand: The boos at Citi Field are getting louder for Curtis Granderson, the $60 million cleanup hitter whose Mets career is off to a dreadful start. Granderson was hitless in five at-bats Saturday, dropping his average to .140 through 16 games. Worse yet, he has just four RBIs after leaving six more runners on base in this game.

More boos: Is Jose Valverde really still the Mets' closer? Valverde didn't pitch in a save situation Saturday, but the long three-run homer he allowed to Justin Upton deprived Braves closer Craig Kimbrel of a chance at a save. Valverde has allowed four home runs in his past three appearances, and the latest one looked bigger after the Mets scored two runs and left the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.

Luke vs. Ike: The first-base competition that never was essentially ended when the Mets traded Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday. But minutes after Davis doubled in his first at-bat Saturday night in Pittsburgh, Lucas Duda doubled to lead off the second inning for the Mets. Davis reached base safely in his first three plate appearances for the Pirates and scored two runs. Duda ended the night 1-for-4 after just missing a go-ahead home run on an eighth-inning fly ball to the wall in right field.

Young firsts: Chris Young, who missed two weeks with a quadriceps injury, finally got his first Mets hit, a leadoff double off Ervin Santana in the fourth inning. Meanwhile, Eric Young Jr. was caught stealing for the first time this season after being successful on his first 10 tries (including one that led to the Mets' first-inning run Saturday).

The Colon show: Colon was neither as good as he was 10 days ago against the Braves (seven shutout innings) nor as bad as he was last Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels (nine runs allowed), but Colon (three earned runs in seven innings) was as entertaining as ever, especially when he came to the plate. He struck out in both at-bats Saturday, seeing six pitches and swinging violently at five of them.

On one swing in the second inning, Colon swung so hard his helmet came off. Perhaps not the best thing for a pitcher who complained last week of back spasms, but entertaining nonetheless.

What's next: The Mets and Braves close out this three-game series Sunday at 1:10 p.m. Zack Wheeler (1-2, 4.67 ERA) starts for the Mets, while rookie right-hander David Hale (0-0, 2.89) pitches for the Braves.

Morning Briefing: Home sweet home?

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18

FIRST PITCH: The New York Mets are back at Citi Field on Friday night, after going 6-3 on their opening road trip of the season and enjoying an off day on Thursday.

They are above .500 for the first time since last April 24 (8-7), but must improve their play at home in order to remain relevant. The Mets were 41-40 on the road last season, but just 33-48 in Queens.

Jonathon Niese (0-1, 3.46) will make his third start of the season for New York. Aaron Harang (2-1, 0.96) is the scheduled starter for Atlanta. Harang had a brief stint with the Mets last September, going 0-1 with a 3.52 ERA in four starts.

The first-place Braves (10-5) have only lost one series this season -- to the Mets, who took two of three in Atlanta to begin that impressive road trip.

Friday's news reports:

Chris Young is expected to be activated and return to the Mets lineup on Friday. Young has played just one inning for the Mets this year, in the second game of the season, before landing on the disabled list with a quadriceps injury.

Curtis Granderson could also return to the lineup after suffering forearm, ribcage and knee bruises in a collision with the outfield wall in Arizona. And the Mets will have to make a corresponding roster move in order to activate Young, with Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Andrew Brown the two most likely candidates to be demoted.

Read more about Young's expected return in the Daily News.

• Granderson is batting just .167 this season, with one home run and four RBIs. But he is not worried about his slow start -- read more in the Record.

Eric Young Jr., on the other hand, is off to a rather good start. He is batting .255 overall, and went 6-for-12 with two walks in the series against the Diamondbacks. Better yet, he is second in the National League in both runs scored (12) and stolen bases (nine). Read more about Young Jr. in the Post and Newsday.

Josh Satin has gotten just 12 at-bats in the first 15 games of the season. He has just two hits (.167 average) and six strikeouts. Satin is one of the Mets' most confounding hitters, says the Star-Ledger.

• The Secret Service threatened to kill Mr. Met? Read more in the Daily News, Post and Star-Ledger.

From the bloggers ... Faith and Fear takes its time machine to the day Shea Stadium opened. ... Rising Apple suggests if the Mets want to contend, they have to make upgrades at shortstop and closer. ... Mark Berman at Blogging Mets uses baseball cards to chart the evolution of Mets uniforms.

BIRTHDAYS: Rico Brogna turns 44 today. ... Brady Clark is 41. ... Infielder Doug Flynn was born on this date in 1951.

TWEET OF THE DAY: YOU'RE UP: Who do you think the Mets should send down to Triple-A, in order to activate Chris Young?

Series review: Starting pitching carries Mets

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
The Mets have won five straight road games against the Diamondbacks. It is their second longest winning streak in Arizona, trailing only a run of 13 straight wins there from 2004 to 2007.

What else was of note from this series?

Start with the Starting
The Mets starting pitching was terrific in the series, with Jenrry Mejia and Dillon Gee throwing 12 scoreless innings in the last two games and Zack Wheeler yielding two runs in 6 1/3 innings in the series opener.

Mets starting pitchers had allowed at least six runs in each series this season prior to this one.

The last time the Mets got consecutive starts in which their starting pitchers allowed no runs was last July 21 and 22, when Matt Harvey and Gee each pitched seven scoreless against the Phillies and Braves respectively.

Gee won in a way he doesn’t usually do so, with high fastballs.

The Diamondbacks went 0-for-9 when Gee threw a fastball to the upper-third of the strike zone or higher, with a couple of those outs being long fly balls.

Gee had allowed seven hits and netted only nine with that pitch in that location all season prior to Wednesday.

Thievery pays
Eric Young Jr. had two more stolen bases in Wednesday’s win to give him nine on the road trip. Young has stolen a base in five different games this season. The Mets have won all five.

Young is now 12-for-36 on the road this season after his 2-for-19 start at Citi Field.

“I talked to Eric about it in spring training,” Terry Collins said. “I said, ‘If you have a .350 on-base, you’re going to score 120 runs on this team.’ Coming out of this road trip I think his on-base is .360 or something right now, and he’s scored a lot of runs. That’s exactly how valuable he is.

“He tried some things early to try to make better contact, eliminate some strikeouts. He just felt very uncomfortable. He finally got back to his regular swing and he’s done a good job.”

Outfield (issues), what outfield (issues)?
The Mets lost both Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson to injury in the first two games of the series, but that was of little consequence, thanks to the efforts of Young, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Andrew Brown. The Mets outfield was 10 for 27 with eight RBIs in the last two games of this series.

Closer in waiting?
Reliever Gonzalez Germen is off to a fantastic start this season. Germen threw three scoreless innings in the middle game of this series and has allowed only one run, three hits and two walks in 10 1/3 innings this season.

Opponents are 3-for-34 against Germen this season and 7-for-62 with 21 strikeouts and four walks dating back to last Sept. 9.

Opponents have missed on 41 percent of their swings against Germen over that span and have missed on 24 of their last 41 swings against Germen’s changeup.

Ballpark Recker
Anthony Recker hit his second home run of the season, giving the Mets a 1-0 lead on Wednesday. Recker has now hit eight home runs in two seasons with the Mets and if it seems like his home runs have been important, it’s because they have.

The last seven have either tied a game or given the Mets a lead.

Series recap: Young a road sparkplug again

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
Eric Young Jr. continues to be a dominant player for the New York Mets once he gets out on the road.

Young was 3-for-5 with three stolen bases and four runs scored in Thursday's 6-4 win over the Atlanta Braves. He’s the first player with three hits, three steals and four runs in a game since Emilio Bonifacio for the Miami Marlins against the Washington Nationals in 2009.

He’s also the first player in Mets history to record such a stat line, and the first player to have such a line against the Braves since Bobby Bonds in 1973.

Eric’s father, Eric Sr., hit those benchmarks in a game once, in a 16-15 loss to the Montreal Expos during the 2000 season.

Young led off three innings with hits, and in those three innings, the Mets scored four runs (one in the first, two in the third, one in the fifth).

Throughout his Mets career, which spans a little less than a full calendar year, Young has been a much more productive player away from Citi Field. He’s hitting only .191 at home as a Met, but on the road he’s hitting .299 with a higher ground-ball rate, a higher line-drive rate and a better walk rate.

Young had a nice bounce-back in this series, going 5-for-12 with five runs scored. The one blemish on his record was that he struck out for the eighth straight game to start the season.

Young made one adjustment this series after meeting with Mets management. "We just had a meeting. They told me to be comfortable,” he said. “I said, ‘Obviously, we’re going to have some bumps and bruises, but the main thing is being comfortable up there.’ I’m not really trying to be too mechanical up there. I’m just relaxing and letting my natural ability show. I think I was listening to a lot of outside factors and thinking about it too much in the box instead of keeping it simple.”

Young accounted for three of the Mets' five stolen bases on Thursday. The five steals matched the most the Mets have ever had against the Braves in a game. They also had five in a game in 1985.

Torres is Freeman’s Kryptonite
Carlos Torres struck out Freddie Freeman in the seventh inning, continuing his run of success against the Braves star.

Freeman is 1-for-8 against Torres in the past two seasons. He’s hitting .372 against all other Mets pitchers during that span.

Colon achieves a Mets rarity
Bartolo Colon pitched seven walk-free innings in a scoreless start on Wednesday. He’s one of only three pitchers in Mets history to throw seven scoreless walk-free innings in Atlanta. The other two are Tom Seaver (1968) and Kevin Appier (2001).

The view from the other side
A tip of the cap to the ESPN Stats & Information home-run tracking crew for this one: The 477-foot homer hit by Justin Upton on Thursday is the second-longest against the Mets in the past nine seasons. Prince Fielder hit a 484-foot homer against Jose Lima in 2006.

Wright, Young fall short in Gold Glove bids

October, 29, 2013
David Wright came up short in his bid for his third career Gold Glove. Colorado rookie Nolan Arenado instead won the award.

The honor was announced on ESPN2 on Tuesday night. Wright won Gold Gloves in 2007 and 2008.

Juan Uribe was the other finalist for the third-base honor in the National League.

Eric Young Jr., one of three finalists in left field in the NL, did not earn the Gold Glove either. The award went to Carlos Gonzalez.

Wright, Young are Gold Glove finalists

October, 25, 2013

Getty ImagesDavid Wright and Eric Young Jr. are Gold Glove finalists.
David Wright and Eric Young Jr. have been nominated for Gold Glove awards.

The other National League finalists at third base are Colorado's Nolan Arenado and Los Angeles' Juan Uribe.

The other finalists in left field are Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez and Pittsburgh's Starling Marte.

The winners will be announced at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday on ESPN2.

Despite producing a franchise rookie record with 14 outfield assists, Juan Lagares was not among the finalists in center field. The finalists are Milwaukee's Carlos Gomez, Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen and Washington's Denard Span.

Wright has won two previous Gold Gloves -- in 2007 and 2008. San Diego's Chase Headley won the award in 2012.

D'Arnaud, Wheeler & Co. have room to grow

October, 3, 2013
Read or listen to any interview with Sandy Alderson and he’ll bring up the idea that the Mets don’t just need to get better players, they need to find ways to make their own players better.

With that in mind, let’s look at the roster and cite the five biggest improvements that would be key to getting better performances in 2014.

D'Arnaud: Bat wrap
As John Kruk pointed out after watching Travis d'Arnaud on "Sunday Night Baseball," the Mets catcher takes a long time to get his swing going.

As the heat map on the right shows, d'Arnaud did not have success in areas of the plate in which it would be necessary for a good hitter to perform well.

D'Arnaud acknowledged this at season’s end.

"That was more me trying to hit the ball 600 feet," he said. "When I would try to do that, I would overwrap or overswing pretty much, and it would just dig me in a bigger hole."

Now it’s up to him to fix it.

Wheeler: Fastball command/third pitch
The Mets saw a couple of different versions of Zack Wheeler in his first 100 big league innings.

One distinction was between the Wheeler who commanded his fastball and the Wheeler who didn’t. Wheeler’s five best starts of the year in terms of fastball strike rate and fastball called-strike rate were a match.

The chart on the right shows the difference between how Wheeler fared in those games versus how he fared in his other 12 starts.

That’s not to say he didn’t have good games when his fastball command was erratic, but good fastball command for him was a key to success.

The other key for Wheeler will be gaining confidence in his curveball or changeup. Wheeler averaged about 10 curves and three changeups per game but threw them for strikes about half the time. His curveball strike rate ranked 11th worst among the 143 pitchers who made at least 10 starts and threw at least 100 curves.

Murphy: Defense
Daniel Murphy played a good first 500 innings in the field this season. He looked comfortable at second base, was effective turning double plays and overall rated as a major league average defender, well better than he did in previous tries at the position.

Then came a switch to first base when Ike Davis was demoted. After the results of that were not good, Murphy returned to second base and returned to his former struggling self. He started botching routine grounders he was previously fielding, as the chart on the right (which focuses on the sabermetric stat RZR) shows.

Murphy finished the season at minus-13 Defensive Runs Saved at second base, two runs worse than he did in 2012 in about 200 more innings.

Unless it improves, Murphy’s defense is going to be a hindrance to his overall value (costing him 1.5 Wins Above Replacement in 2013).

The first two months of the season showed his defense could improve. It’s something he needs to continue working on with Tim Teufel.

Young: Home cooking
When Alderson spoke Monday about the Mets needing players to hit better at Citi Field, he was talking about players like Eric Young Jr.

Young had a .201 batting average at home as a Met, compared to .293 on the road.

There’s a specific reason his home numbers weren’t as good. Young’s ratio of balls hit on the ground (including bunts) to balls hit in the air was 107-to-67 on the road but only 75-to-65 at home. And in Citi Field, Young was hitting twice as many fly balls as line drives, whereas on the road, the two were an even split.

Citi Field is a big ballpark. Young’s fly balls are conducive to easy outs. He hit .140 when he hit one there, .235 when he hit a ground ball.

Young’s role on this team is to get on base and turn singles into doubles and triples by stealing bases. The easiest way for him to do that is to hit the ball on the ground as often as possible. That’s the mindset the team will be looking for, as Terry Collins acknowledged throughout September.

Lagares: Smarter approach
Juan Lagares produced tremendous value with his defense, but his offensive game needs a lot of work.

Lagares’ chase rate (how often he swung at pitches out of the strike zone) and called-strike rate (how often he took a pitch called a strike) were both about 6 percentage points above the league average.

In other words, Lagares often took when he should have swung and swung when he should have taken.

Much of this stemmed from Lagares’ inability to handle a good slider from a right-handed pitcher. Lagares made 58 outs and had eight hits and two walks against that pitch.

Every Mets right-handed-hitting position player fared better, and most were considerably better.

Lagares needs to do with sliders what he does with fielding fly balls -- catch up to them.

The Mets' best moments of 2013

October, 1, 2013
AP Photo/Kathy WillensThe Mets were a jubilant group after a walk-off win against the Yankees.
The Mets finished 74-88 for the second straight season, but this year had more of an upbeat feel to it than 2012, with come-from-behind wins, some prospects heralded and unheralded coming to Citi Field, and plenty of exciting wins as the Mets went 49-48 in their last 97 games.

We're not looking to sugarcoat what was another rough year for Mets fans (particularly once Matt Harvey got hurt). But the good times should be remembered.

Here is a chronological look at the Mets most memorable moments of 2013.

April 24 -- 'Spin for the Win
The Mets had 10 walk-off wins in 2013 and one of the most exciting ones came when they rallied to beat the Dodgers.

David Wright tied the game and kept Matt Harvey's unbeaten record intact with a two-out hit in the ninth inning. Jordany Valdespin won it with a 10th inning grand slam.

Stat to Remember: This was the sixth walk-off grand slam in Mets history, the first since Kevin McReynolds hit one against the Expos in 1991.

May 3 -- Wright goes deeper than ever before
The Mets scored a dramatic 7-5 win over the Braves. Trailing by a run in the ninth inning, Wright took invincible Braves closer Craig Kimbrel deep.

The 464-foot homer marked the longest one in Wright's career. They would pull ahead in the 10th inning on a pair of 0-2 RBI hits, one by Ruben Tejada, the other by Daniel Murphy.

Stat to Remember: The Mets won seven games in which they were trailing entering the ninth inning, their most such wins in a season since they had seven in 1998.

May 7 -- Almost Perfect
Matt Harvey pitched a lot of great games in 2013 (an early-season win over Stephen Strasburg just missed our cut). His best was his nine scoreless innings against the White Sox, a game in which the only baserunner he allowed was an infield single by Alex Rios in the 7th.

Harvey would get a no-decision (a theme throughout 2013) in a game the Mets would win on a walk-off hit in the 10th inning by Mike Baxter.

Stat to Remember: Harvey is the only pitcher in Mets history to throw nine scoreless innings, allow one hit or fewer, strike out at least 12 and walk none.

May 26-29 -- Sweeping the Yankees
There were minimal expectations for the Mets heading into their four-game series with the Yankees. But the Mets pitching dominated, allowing only one run in three of the four games, winning all four.

Murphy won the opener with an eighth-inning hit, then started an improbable two-run rally in the ninth inning with a leadoff double in a 2-1 walk-off win against Mariano Rivera the next day.

The Mets bats had one really good day, knocking out David Phelps in the first inning of a 9-4 romp. Dillon Gee closed the series with an unlikely 12-strikeout gem that turned his season in the right direction.

Stat to Remember: This was the first time in Mets history that they swept the Yankees in a season series.

June 16 -- A "Nieu" beginning
Terry Collins would point to this game, not Harvey/Wheeler day (the next on our list) as the one that got the Mets headed out of their early-season doldrums.

Trailing 3-0 in the ninth inning, the Mets were the recipients of an implosion from Cubs closer Carlos Marmol, who first gave up a leadoff homer to Marlon Byrd, then allowed a three-run walk-off shot to Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who entered that at-bat 3-for-31 for the season.

Stat To Remember: This marked the second time in the last 30 seasons that the Mets won a game on a walk-off homer that game with them down by at least two runs. The only other instance in that span was Bobby Bonilla's game-winning homer against Rob Dibble and the Reds on August 30, 1992.

June 18 -- Harvey/Wheeler Day
This marked the brightest-looking day for the Mets future when Harvey and Zack Wheeler beat the Braves in a doubleheader sweep.

Harvey struck out 13 and took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning of the opener. Wheeler wowed in his debut with six scoreless (albeit a little wild) innings in the nightcap.

Those wins started the 49-48 season-ending run.

Stat to Remember: This marked the Mets first doubleheader sweep of the Braves in Atlanta since 1987.

July 8 -- Leaving their hearts in San Francisco
The Mets played a bunch of long games in 2013, though none ended later than the 3:41 a.m. conclusion to the 4-3 win in 16 innings against the Giants.

The game might have actually gone longer had Brandon Crawford cleanly fielded Anthony Recker’s grounder with runners on the corners and two outs in the 16th, which produced the winning run. The teams combined to go 2-for-24 with runners in scoring position.

Stat to Remember: The Mets played 57 extra innings in 2013, three shy of the club record of 60 set in 1979 and 1985.

July 16 -- Star of Stars
Harvey proved he belonged on the game's biggest stage when he started the All-Star Game for the National League at Citi Field. After allowing a leadoff double to Mike Trout and hitting Robinson Cano, Harvey retired the heart of the American League lineup (Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis and Jose Bautista), then pitched a 1-2-3 second inning, highlighted by a 10-pitch strikeout of Adam Jones.

Stat to Remember: Harvey became the second Met to throw at least two scoreless innings as an All-Star Game starter. The other was Tom Seaver in 1970.

August 6 -- Young's Mookie-like dash
In the eighth inning of a tie game against the Rockies, Eric Young Jr. brought back memories of Mookie Wilson scoring from second on an infield single by Juan Lagares. That would give the Mets a win and a nice moment for Young, who was traded from the Rockies to the Mets earlier in the season.

Stat To Remember: The Mets led the majors in Fangraphs' advanced baserunning metric (UBR) due largely to plays like the one that won this game.

September 20 -- Wright Passes Piazza
Wright homered in his first at-bat against Cole Hamels after missing seven weeks with a hamstring injury and passed Mike Piazza into second place on the club's career home run list. The Mets would go on to sweep the Phillies in Philadelphia, those wins making the difference as they finished in third place in the NL East, one game ahead of the Phillies.

Stat to Remember: Wright finished with a .307 batting average, a .390 on-base percentage and a .514 slugging percentage. Wright has four .300/.390/.500 seasons in his career. The only other Met with more than one is Mike Piazza, who has two.

Player-by-player predictions for 2014

September, 30, 2013
NEW YORK -- Here is a player-by-player primer on each Met, broken down by contract status:

Free agents

LaTroy Hawkins, right-handed reliever. Hawkins appears the most likely to be re-signed, even though he will be 41 years old next season. He was productive stepping into the closer’s role after Bobby Parnell's injury, while dialing his fastball up to 95 mph.

Daisuke Matsuzaka and Aaron Harang, right-handed starters. Terry Collins liked Dice-K, so perhaps it is not out of the realm of possibility to re-sign him as a fifth-starter competitor who would allow Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom to open the season in the minors. For that matter, Harang fits that profile, too.

Tim Byrdak and Pedro Feliciano, left-handed relievers. Both returned from shoulder injuries after missing substantial time. It likely is time for the Mets to move on from both, but their careers do not appear over yet.

David Aardsma, right-handed reliever. Productive, although he wilted with too much use. Aardsma could be useful to re-sign if the price is right.

Frank Francisco, right-handed reliever. The ex-closer collected $6.5 million this season while mostly nursing a sore elbow and irking Mets officials. No chance he returns.

Johan Santana, left-handed starter. The one-time ace wants to pitch again after undergoing a second surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder. If he is capable, he very likely would sign elsewhere. The best news: Santana's $31 million owed in 2013, including a buyout of next season, comes off the books.

Signed to contracts

Jonathon Niese, left-handed starter. After missing nearly two months with a rotator cuff strain, Niese finished strongly and should help anchor the 2014 rotation. His salary jumps to $5 million next season, up from $3 million this year.

David Wright, third baseman. The captain sees a major salary bump. Wright will earn $20 million in 2014 -- a raise of $9 million.

Arbitration eligible

Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, first basemen. It is likely one gets traded, although there is a slim chance Duda opens the season at Triple-A with Davis at Citi Field. Davis made $3.125 million this year and could receive an ever-so-slight pay cut. The Mets insist he will not be non-tendered. Duda, first-time eligible for arbitration, likely only makes $700,000 or $800,000 in 2014.

• Parnell, closer. Doctors assure Collins that Parnell will be fine for spring training after undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck, but the manager is concerned. Vic Black would be the alternative. Parnell’s salary should creep upward after he earned $1.7 million while converting 22 of 26 save chances.

Dillon Gee, right-handed starter. Gee missed 200 innings by one frame. He will be first-time eligible for arbitration.

Daniel Murphy, second baseman. hears the Mets will listen on offers for Murphy, but the best bet is he is the Opening Day second baseman. Murphy is due to get another raise after earning $2.925 million this season.

Ruben Tejada, shortstop. After the broken leg mends, Tejada needs to seriously demonstrate his work ethic to the organization. Still, that may not be enough if the Mets can find the right external shortstop addition.

Justin Turner, infielder. The best bet is that he serves as a backup infielder again next season.

Eric Young Jr., outfielder/second baseman. The Mets recognize they need his speed in the lineup. So Young should be in the starting lineup somewhere next season, whether that’s in the outfield or at second base.

Scott Atchison, right-handed reliever. Believe it or not, while Atchison is 37 years old, he does not have enough MLB service time to be eligible for free agency. He is a definite non-tender candidate in December.

Mike Baxter, outfielder. Baxter should be arbitration eligible as a Super 2. Regardless, his 40-man roster spot appears in jeopardy. That does not preclude Baxter from being re-signed to a minor league deal. The 2013 Baxter, who hit .189, did not resemble the 2012 Baxter. The Mets believe the shoulder injury suffered in Santana's no-hitter may have hurt Baxter's swing.

Omar Quintanilla, shortstop. The Mets view Q as a backup, not a full-time player.

Under control

Matt Harvey, right-handed starter. The question remains: Tommy John surgery or no Tommy John surgery? Harvey should be airing it out in about six weeks, perhaps in the Arizona Fall League, to see whether the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow will hold up.

Zack Wheeler, right-handed starter. Wheeler should be good for 200 innings in 2014.

• Black, right-handed reliever. If Parnell is not ready to close because of a slow recovery from surgery, the hard-throwing Black is the primary alternative. Otherwise, Black projects as handling the eighth inning next season.

Travis d’Arnaud, catcher. He’s the guy behind the plate, but needs to shorten his swing after hitting .202 in his first major league season.

Juan Lagares and Matt den Dekker, center fielders. Lagares had a franchise-rookie-record 15 outfield assists and is very likely the full-time center fielder in 2014, even with some offensive difficulties. Den Dekker is just as likely to open next season in Triple-A. The Mets do not plan to platoon Lagares and den Dekker in the majors -- not in April, anyway.

Josh Edgin and Scott Rice, left-handed relievers. Both are coming off surgeries. The Mets need to find a lefty from outside the organization they can trust, but Rice and Edgin could be useful complements.

Jeurys Familia and Gonzalez Germen, right-handed relievers. Both should vie for a bullpen role in 2014.

Jeremy Hefner, right-handed starter. Hefner will miss most, if not all, of 2014 recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Anthony Recker, catcher. After a nearly full season in the majors, Recker could find himself in Triple-A in 2014. Sandy Alderson has suggested he needs to find a veteran catcher in case d’Arnaud’s injury propensity continues.

Josh Satin, infielder. A year after being taken off the 40-man roster and clearing waivers, Satin is now viewed as a valuable righty bat for the bench who can get on base. Look for him to have a backup role in 2014.

Carlos Torres, right-handed starter/reliever. Torres would appear to have a legitimate shot as the long reliever/spot starter.

Jordany Valdespin, infielder. The Biogenesis suspension is his latest baggage. It would be surprising if he makes it to spring training as a Met.

Greg Burke, Robert Carson and Sean Henn, relievers. If they survive the winter on the 40-man roster, they look Triple-A bound.

Andrew Brown, Juan Centeno, Wilmer Flores, Zach Lutz and Wilfredo Tovar, 51s. Centeno and Recker could be the Triple-A catchers. Flores likely is ticketed for Las Vegas, according to Collins, if the infielder is not going to be a starter at the major league level. Lutz and Tovar probably open next season in the minors, too. Brown’s 40-man roster spot is an open question.

Jenrry Mejia, right-handed starter. Mejia showed flashes as a starting pitcher before surgery to clean out his right elbow. He is a logical fifth-starter competitor in spring training.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, outfielder. Getting snubbed for a September call-up does not bode well for Nieuwenhuis’ future with the organization.

Five offseason questions for Mets

September, 30, 2013
Illustration by Remie GeoffroiEven with the Mets expected to spend this offseason, the payroll figures to go down because so much is coming off the books.
NEW YORK -- GM Sandy Alderson has no shortage of work to do this offseason to reconfigure the New York Mets' roster.

Here are five questions that must be resolved:

1. Who gets dealt?

Something figures to give at first base between Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, but that is not the most intriguing trade chip the Mets possess. Team insiders say the Mets also will listen on Daniel Murphy.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesThe Mets are expected to listen on offers for Daniel Murphy this offseason.
That does not mean the Mets expect to trade Murphy. It means if they get a quality offer that would address, say, a shortstop or outfield hole, they would strongly weigh making such a move.

How would the Mets adjust to trading Murphy? Fans may clamor for Wilmer Flores to take over at second base, but the early insider speculation is that Eric Young Jr. most likely would handle the position.

While not labeling it a mistake to let Jose Reyes walk given the contract he received from the Miami Marlins, Mets execs recognize they have lacked a speed element since his departure. At least, they lacked a speed element until Young arrived in a June 18 trade with the Colorado Rockies for Collin McHugh.

So absent another leadoff hitter and deficient in speed throughout the lineup, Young likely is a starter somewhere on the Mets next season -- even though he may be best-suited on a top team as a fourth or fifth outfielder.

As for Duda or Davis, there are strong internal preferences about which first baseman to retain. An survey found seven of nine scouts preferred Duda.

But the Mets’ approach is expected to be to solicit offers on Davis and Duda and see which commands the more generous offer relative to his internal value.

While it seems likely one departs, Duda does have a minor league option remaining. So there is a scenario in which both return and Duda opens the season at Las Vegas while the Mets see whether Davis again starts the season slowly.

Regardless, there seems to be no consideration to nontendering Davis in December, despite his $3.125 million salary in 2013.

2. What’s the 2014 payroll?

Money always seems to be the question with the Mets.

And brace yourself: The payroll likely will go down from its 2013 level of roughly $95 million.

Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsJohan Santana's $31 million for this season, including a 2014 buyout, comes off the books.
Wait, wait, wait ... before you have a coronary:

Mets insiders suggest they have more than adequate flexibility to be aggressive in free agency if they choose. But, they add, it would not be “sane” after getting out from under albatross contracts to reinvest all that money in one offseason and likely get saddled with a new crop of bad contracts down the road.

Coming off the books:

Johan Santana, $31 million (including a $5.5 million buyout)
Jason Bay, $21 million (albeit $15 million deferred as much as two years)
Frank Francisco, $6.5 million
John Buck, $6 million (less what the Pittsburgh Pirates picked up for September)
Shaun Marcum, $5 million-plus (including incentives)

That’s roughly $70 million right there.

David Wright’s contract calls for a $9 million raise, and Jonathon Niese gets a $2 million raise. A handful of other players eligible for arbitration will have salary increases too.

But there is little chance those raises, plus external additions, match the amount coming off the books.

So figure the Mets’ payroll to go modestly down in 2014, even with several external additions.

3. Will the Mets sign a top-tier free agent?

As it turns out, the Mets will have a top-10 draft pick -- meaning they will not need to forfeit their first-round selection if they sign a premium free agent such as Shin-Soo Choo.

Harry How/Getty ImagesBidding for Shin-Soo Choo figures to exceed the Mets' appetite.
Still, a team insider said, with the exception of Choo, the Mets do not intend to pursue those types of free agents anyway (think outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Curtis Granderson). So the protected/unprotected issue was wasted energy to debate.

The Mets, according to an insider, also do not intend to offer more than a Michael Bourn-type contract for Choo, which means four guaranteed years. Their reasoning: Choo is not an exceptional fielder. And his power potential is not equivalent to outfielders who have received megadeals, such as Jayson Werth (seven years, $126 million in December 2010).

So if Scott Boras can do better -- and the bet is he can, especially with Hunter Pence getting five years and $90 million to stay with the San Francisco Giants -- Choo likely is headed elsewhere.

Look for the Mets to adopt the Boston Red Sox's model from last offseason, which means spending money on five or six middle-tier free agents.

Last offseason, Boston signed:

Shane Victorino, three years, $39 million
Ryan Dempster, two years, $26.5 million
Jonny Gomes, two years, $10 million
Stephen Drew, one year, $9.5 million
David Ross, two years, $6.2 million
Mike Napoli, one year, $5 million
Koji Uehara, one year, $4.25 million.

They also acquired Joel Hanrahan in a trade.

4. Will Harvey need surgery?

The Mets and Matt Harvey clearly are on different pages about the need for Tommy John surgery.

The Mets’ press release at the time of Harvey’s announcement that he would attempt rehab and a throwing program for six to eight weeks clearly implied Harvey needed to disprove the need for surgery with that two-month program.

Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsMatt Harvey is not out of the woods yet as far as Tommy John surgery.
Alderson said Friday he can really count only on Niese, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee in 2014.

So the Mets likely need to obtain one veteran starting pitcher as a hedge against Harvey missing next season. If Harvey ends up OK, that starter could compete with youngsters such as Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.

The question becomes: Will the acquisition be at the Bronson Arroyo-type price? Or at the Daisuke Matsuzaka/Aaron Harang level?

(If Harvey commits to surgery within a couple of months, the Mets likely would need to be more aggressive.)

One reunion hears is unlikely to occur: the Mets and Scott Kazmir.

Right-hander Cory Mazzoni -- a Double-A starter this season -- could compete for a bullpen spot out of spring training but is not in the rotation consideration right now. Double-A closer Jeff Walters may be a relief factor too.

Down the road, watch for right-hander Gabriel Ynoa -- a 17-game winner at low-Class A Savannah this season -- to rise quickly through the system and threaten to crack the big league rotation.

5. Who mans shortstop?

It might be easier to answer the question: Who doesn’t man shortstop?

It remains unclear whether the Mets will go outside the organization, although that would seem the better course.

Team insiders believe that if the Mets can get above-average production from the corner outfielders they add this winter, then maybe they can go with a defensive-oriented shortstop.

The organization consensus is Omar Quintanilla cannot hit enough to be an every-day guy. And team brass believes Wilfredo Tovar needs more time in the minors for seasoning, despite the positive start to his major league career.

Terry Collins recently described the shortstop job as Ruben Tejada’s to lose among internal candidates. But that was the manager going rogue and not the organizational view.

So Tejada’s days with the Mets, at least in the majors, may be numbered.

The Mets do not view Tejada as a backup middle-infielder candidate. That is Justin Turner’s job in all likelihood in 2014.

So it likely is starter or bust for Tejada. And he is going to have to bust it to get into shape after his fractured leg heals to prove he merits the job.



Daniel Murphy
.289 9 57 79
HRL. Duda 30
RBIL. Duda 92
RD. Murphy 79
OPSL. Duda .830
WB. Colon 15
ERAJ. Niese 3.40
SOZ. Wheeler 187