New York Mets: Juan Lagares

Lagares' return raises outfield questions

June, 25, 2014
Jun 25
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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.

Juan Lagares returns to Citi Field

May, 21, 2014
May 21
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NEW YORK -- New York Mets centerfielder Juan Lagares returned to Citi Field on Wednesday. Lagares missed Tuesday night’s game because he was in the Dominican Republic due to a death in his family. An aunt helped who raise him as a child passed away over the weekend.

“We were really close,” Lagares said.

Lagares will be in the lineup, leading off against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Lagares, 25, had been 3-for-8 with a home run and four RBIs in his previous two games before having to leave the team briefly.

• Catcher Travis d’Arnaud, currently on the seven-day concussion disabled list, passed impact and physical tests that the Mets put him through, and manager Terry Collins says he’s feeling much better. Collins said d’Arnaud will visit a doctor on Thursday before the next step in his progression toward a return can be determined.

• Rookie right-hander Jacob deGrom will get at least one more start at the major-league level aside from Wednesday night, Collins said. Righty Dillon Gee (strained lat muscle) will throw on Wednesday, and is feeling much better. Gee plans to make a minor-league rehab start before returning from the DL.

• Despite hitting some balls hard, third baseman David Wright has just one extra-base hit in his last nine games. In his last 40 at-bats, Wright has struck out 11 times.

“I just told David to be himself. Be a good hitter, and the power will come,” Collins said. “And he is a good hitter ... but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to be frustrated once in a while. It comes with part of being in the game. But he’s gotta keep continuing to put good swings on the ball and make solid contact. And when he does that, things start to change around here weather-wise and we’re going to see those power numbers again.”

Liberated Juan homers, takes away homer

May, 17, 2014
May 17
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Mitchell Layton/Getty ImagesJuan Lagares reaches over the center-field wall to take away a homer from Jayson Werth.
WASHINGTON -- Yes, Twitterverse, Juan Lagares will start again Sunday, even if Terry Collins is not making any promises beyond that.

After three days out of the starting lineup, during which fans repeatedly tweeted the hashtag #freejuanlagares to bemoan his lack of playing time, Lagares had a dazzling return to center field in Saturday’s 5-2 win against the Washington Nationals.

Lagares became the first major-league player this season to both homer and take away a homer, according to ESPN Stats & Information’s Mark Simon.

He finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs, including a two-run shot against left-hander Gio Gonzalez, as his average climbed to .304. Lagares also reached over the center-field wall to take away a solo homer from Jayson Werth, a day after Werth robbed Daniel Murphy of a potential game-tying three-run homer in the ninth.

“I didn’t think that he had the ball, but when I saw the ball in his hand, I was pretty happy,” Bartolo Colon said through an interpreter about Lagares’ snag.

Said Eric Campbell: “I wasn’t surprised, as probably any of you weren’t. He does something like that every day. It’s unbelievable. ... I’ve seen him do it probably 10 times now. As soon as I see a ball like that hit and I see Juan get a good first step, I know it’s an out.”

Collins, seemingly aware of the groundswell among observers clamoring for Lagares to play, plans to accommodate that wish again Sunday.

Asked if Lagares may now be the starter for a stretch, Collins said: “Well, he’ll play tomorrow, if that’s what you’re asking.”

Collins added about that inquiry: “Oh, I knew it was coming. Of course it’s coming. He had a good game. That’s great. That’s why we put him in there today. It’s a good scenario. I put him in against a left-handed pitcher. Gio is not easy to hit, but he’s got a better chance to have some success against a lefty than he has been against righties. So I got him in there.”

In recent days, Lagares worked with assistant hitting coach Luis Natera -- who also was his Double-A hitting coach -- on keeping his hands more still as he began his swing as a way to improve reaction time.

“I’ve been working hard to try to be more ‘quiet,’” Lagares said. “Sometimes I move my hands too much. That’s why I can’t get to the ball. I missed a couple of fastballs. That’s going to happen sometimes. We worked a lot on that.”

Lagares said he handled the recent benching by staying positive and working hard.

“I know I can play,” he said. “That’s what I do. That’s what I’m here for. It’s like I said, I just want to come here ready to play.”

As for the catch on Werth’s shot, Lagares added: “I knew he hit it good. I just go like I always go -- hard -- and tried to make the catch. … I think it’s just reaction -- go hard and try to make the catch.”

Which does he like to do more: belt homers or take away homers?

“I like to do both,” Lagares said.

Where does Granderson best fit?

December, 10, 2013
12/10/13
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Curtis GrandersonAP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackCurtis Granderson's Mets cap fit fine on Tuesday. How will he fit in the Mets' lineup?
The key to the Mets signing of Curtis Granderson may come down to how they position him, both at bat and in the field.

What do we mean?

At the plate: Where to hit him?
There will be a variety of ideas on where Granderson hits in the Mets lineup and there will likely be a strong push for him to bat in the No. 4 or No. 5 spots.

But it might be worth giving consideration to Granderson batting second, which could mean David Wright protecting him instead of the other way around.

The chart on the right provides Granderson's numbers when hitting second versus when he hits elsewhere in his two best seasons with the Yankees (he only hit second in one game in 2013). He thrived hitting in front of Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez in 2011, and Mark Teixeira in 2012.

In sum, Granderson's slashline (Batting Average/On Base Percentage/Slugging Percentage) was .261/.356/.540 in nearly 800 at-bats when hitting second and .217/.313/.483 in about 400 at-bats when hitting elsewhere over those two seasons.

Three points with that:

1) Granderson fared better against both left and right-handed pitching in the No. 2 spot in that stretch (he was .257/.340/.533 in 257 at-bats as a No. 2 hitter against lefties), so pitcher-handedness would not be a deterrent to hitting him there.

2) It's worth noting that Granderson's line-drive rate was 20.5 percent as a No. 2 hitter, about four percentage points higher than in the other lineup spots.

3) Granderson does not hit into double plays often. He hit into a double play in about seven percent of at-bats in the No. 2 spot in double-play situations in 2011 and 2012 (situations in which first base was occupied with less than two outs). The average No. 2 hitter hits into one in about 11 percent of his at-bats in double play situations.

I'll admit: The sample is modest in size and the differential could be attributable to any number of things.

But it's food for thought given that the Mets want to make Granderson as comfortable as possible in his start with the team.

In the field: Where to position him?
When talking about where the Mets will position Granderson defensively, it's a two-fold question:

At what position do you play him? And how do you play him at that position?

Though it seems likely that the Mets would put Granderson in left field, Juan Lagares in center field and Chris Young in right field, don't set that in stone just yet.

Per advanced metrics Lagares has the best range and arm ratings of the three. Young rates way ahead of Granderson in range (at least when it comes to center field), but a little behind him in terms of throwing arm ability.

So the Mets have a couple of decisions to ponder heading into spring training. They could play Granderson in left and Young in right if they want to prioritize Young's ability to cover ground, which seems logical. Or they could play Young in left and Granderson in right if they feel Granderson can make up the difference from Young in range with his arm.

Or they could put Young in center, if they feel that playing him in center and Lagares in right is a better combo than the other way around.

The other thing to remember with Granderson with regards to his defense is that he had a history of playing a very shallow centerfield with the Yankees. The component of Defensive Runs Saved that measures the ability to turn batted balls into outs rated Granderson consistently poor at fielding balls hit to the deepest parts of the ballpark.

The Mets positioned their outfielders deep last season, particularly Eric Young Jr. in left field, figuring it was easier for him to use his speed coming in on a ball than going back for one. The payoff was that Young's defensive metrics changed from negative with the Rockies to positive with the Mets and Young wound up a Gold Glove finalist.

It will be worth watching to see if the Mets take the same approach with Granderson.

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

October, 3, 2013
10/03/13
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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 series in Metrics (Mets vs. Reds)

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
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The Mets won two of three in Cincinnati, playing spoiler to the Reds' hopes of winning the NL Central or hosting the NL wild-card game. Though they hurt their draft position with the two wins, they did finish the road portion of their schedule with a 41-40 mark. Here are some of the statistical highlights.

An improbable shutout
The Mets defeated the Reds 1-0 in the series finale, the first time they beat the Reds 1-0 since April 12, 1985, a game in which Gary Carter homered and Pete Rose had two hits.

It is the second time the Mets won 1-0 in Cincinnati. The other was an amazing game in 1965 in which the Mets were no-hit for 10 innings by Jim Maloney (who struck out 18) before Johnny Lewis hit a homer to win the game in the 11th inning.

This marked the first time the Mets had any sort of shutout win in Cincinnati since beating the Reds 5-0 in the one-game playoff for the wild-card spot in 1999.

Murphy’s streak continues
Daniel Murphy extended his streak of consecutive successful steal attempts to 20 in Wednesday’s win. He became the third Mets player to have a single-season streak of 20 in a row, joining Howard Johnson (26 in 1989) and Kevin McReynolds, who was 21-for-21 in 1988.

Murphy entered the season with 19 steals in 30 attempts in his career.

Murphy got a steal in a game that Billy Hamilton did not. Hamilton was caught stealing for the first time by Juan Centeno after being successful on his first 13 steal attempts.

Matsuzaka’s gem
Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched his best game with the Mets, 7 2/3 scoreless innings. It was the first time Matsuzaka pitched at least 7 2/3 scoreless innings since April 23, 2011, when he pitched eight one-hit innings against the Angels.

Matsuzaka had a pair of 1-0 wins in 2007, but hadn’t had one since until Wednesday.

Black’s first save
Vic Black earned his first career save in the second game of the series. He became the 128th pitcher to earn a save for the Mets since the save rule became official in 1969.

Juan and done
Juan Lagares threw out Shin-Soo Choo trying to score in the second game of this series. It was Lagares’ 13th assist of the season, a Mets record for rookie outfielders, breaking the mark of 12, previously set by Tsuyoshi Shinjo in 2001.

Choo preview
Choo had a nice series against a team that will likely try to sign him this offseason. Choo was 5-for-12 with two walks, a double, a triple and the walk-off hit in the series opener. Choo entered the series hitting .201 against left-handed pitching, but was 4-for-6 against lefties in this matchup.

Rapid Reaction: Mets 4, Reds 2

September, 24, 2013
9/24/13
10:23
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CINCINNATI -- Daniel Murphy hit the big home run, but New York Mets rookies made their own noise in a 4-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday.

Two teamed up to prevent a run, a third drove in his second in two games, and right-hander Vic Black capped it off with his first career save.

Center fielder Juan Lagares set a team rookie record for outfield assists in a season when his throw to first-year catcher Travis d'Arnaud cut down Shin-Soo Choo at the plate trying to score from second base on Ryan Ludwick’s single in the bottom of the first inning. The assist was Lagares' 13th, one more than the 12 racked up by Tsuyoshi Shinjo in 2001.

Shortstop Wilfredo Tovar, who drove in a run in his major league debut Sunday in Philadelphia, made it two in two games, sparking New York’s four-run second inning with a line-drive RBI single to center field that gave the Mets a 1-0 lead. Later in the inning, Murphy blasted a 392-foot, three-run homer into the right-field seats, giving him a career-high 13 this season. He hit 12 in 2009.

Murphy extended his hitting streak to six games while helping the Mets pick up their first win in five games against the Reds this season.

Niese job: Jonathon Niese gave up singles to the first two batters he faced, but escaped with Lagares' help and ended up lasting seven innings. One of the two runs he allowed was set up when Lagares misjudged Choo's screaming liner in the fifth, turning it into a leadoff triple. Niese (8-8) ended up throwing 113 pitches, four short of his season high.

Choo ended up scoring on Joey Votto's double-play grounder, the first of eight consecutive batters set down by Niese before he was finished.

What’s next: The Mets can clinch a winning road record in Wednesday's 12:35 p.m. series finale. Right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka will make his first career appearance against the Reds, but he’s seen way too much of Choo, who’s hit two home runs against the former Red Sox hurler.

August's top MLB defender: Juan Lagares

September, 2, 2013
9/02/13
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AP Photo/Alex Brandon
Juan Lagares has made tough catches look routine since being recalled by the Mets.

Juan Lagares had to beat out the best of the best to win the ESPN.com Sweet Spot blog Defensive Player of the Month award for August.

Lagares topped two-time 2013 winner Andrelton Simmons and impressive Colorado Rockies rookie Nolan Arenado to take the award this month.

The award is voted on by ESPN.com writers, including Jayson Stark and Doug Glanville, baseball researchers for ESPN Stats & Information and other baseball media.

It was well-earned. Lagares led the majors with 12 Defensive Runs Saved in August (one more than Simmons, three more than Arenado). That value came both from his ability to range far outside his position to catch balls, but also from a throwing arm that has ranked among the best in the sport since his arrival.

Lagares was credited with 22 “out-of-zone” putouts by Baseball Info Solutions in August, with an “out-of-zone” catch being one made in an area in which center fielders turn batted balls into outs less than 50 percent of the time.

Lagares had 67 out-of-zone plays in 663 2/3 innings in center field through the end of August. His rate of one out-of-zone catch for every 9.9 innings (basically one per game) played ranks best in the majors at that position.

Good examples of his glove work include these two plays, one in which he came in to rob Jedd Gyorko of the San Diego Padres and this one in which he went all the way back to the fence to steal a hit from Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Lagares, a converted infielder, didn’t even figure to be the team’s top defender coming through their farm system. That honor belonged to recent call-up Matt den Dekker, who made ESPN’s Top 10 plays a couple times before even making the majors. But when den Dekker got hurt this spring, and the Mets needed a lift from their outfield reserves after Collin Cowgill fizzled in an initial tryout, Lagares took advantage of his opportunity.

“His confidence is sky high as far as going to get balls,” Mets outfield coach Tom Goodwin told Adam Rubin prior to Sunday night’s game against the Washington Nationals. “You lose that instant excitement when you first get here, and the jitters, and he doesn’t have that any more. He just goes out there and plays the game. That’s the biggest compliment I can give him. He’s really matured beyond his years.”

Lagares leads the National League and ranks second in the majors in outfield assists with 12, trailing only Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon. He’s become a base-running deterrent both due to his positioning (he likes to play shallow) and his instincts (he gets to balls quickly).

“You’ll see him get to some balls where they’re line drives and he’s getting to them on the first hop, instead of two or three hops later,” Goodwin said. “His routes are outstanding. His reads are outstanding. And when he comes in, he makes good, strong, accurate throws.”

The series in Metrics (Mets vs Braves)

August, 21, 2013
8/21/13
7:50
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Notes from a split of the two-game series with the Atlanta Braves:

Wheeler turning in a good direction
Elias noted that Zack Wheeler became the second Mets rookie to beat the Braves three times in a season, joining Tom Seaver, who beat them four times in 1967.

Wheeler induced 14 swings-and-misses, matching his career high done twice previously (both against the Braves).

For those curious after seeing our article assessing Wheeler's pitching in report-card form, the Inside Edge grading system gave Wheeler a B. It liked his first-pitch strike rate (64 percent), but didn't like his offspeed strike rate (54 percent).

The Mets are now 9-3 in Wheeler's 12 starts. That matches the most wins in starts by the Mets for a pitcher within that pitcher's first 12 career appearances, tying Jason Isringhausen and Octavio Dotel.

Lagares' wonderful arm
Juan Lagares recorded his 11th outfield assist in Wednesday’s loss. The Mets outfield record is 19, by Rusty Staub in 1974. The most by a centerfielder is within Lagares' reach, 13 shared by Del Unser (1975) and Carlos Beltran (2006).

Satin's streak still alive
Josh Satin extended his streak of starts reaching base to 29. That's the second-longest streak of starts to start a season in Mets history, trailing only John Olerud's 57 straight to start 1999.

Nicely done for Niese
Jonathon Niese allowed one run in seven innings, striking out nine in Wednesday's no-decision. He's the first Mets lefty to strike out at least nine hitters in consecutive appearances since Johan Santana did so in 2008. Only three Mets lefties have had a streak of three straight such appearances -- Jon Matlack (twice), Sid Fernandez (three times) and Oliver Perez (once, in 2007).

Extra, Extra
The Mets have now played 17 extra-inning games and still have an outside shot at the franchise record of 25, set in 1978, when they lost 17 extra-inning games.

They now have 10 extra-inning losses, their most in a season since 2001 (when they went 10-10 in extended games). They haven't had more than 10 extra-inning defeats in a season since they had 11 in 1987.

Ike fixing his flaws
Ike Davis was 2-for-4 with a home run in Tuesday’s win, upping his batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage since his recall to .282/.448/.455 in 40 games since his recall.

Davis' most conscious change has been in his plate approach. He's gone from missing on one-third of his swings to missing only 18 percent of the time.

Davis' timing against offspeed pitches has been abundantly better.

When he was sent to the minors, Davis was 8-for-82 in at-bats that ended in an offspeed pitch (curveball, slider, or changeup). He's 16-for-54 against them since his recall, cutting his miss rate from 45 percent to 30 percent in the process.

The heat map below and the chart on the right shows how Davis has fixed the holes in his swing and covered more plate.


ZacKKKKKKKKKKKK's regret: too K-happy

August, 16, 2013
8/16/13
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Denis Poroy/Getty ImagesZack Wheeler struck out 12 in six innings Thursday night.
SAN DIEGO -- About the only problem with Zack Wheeler's performance Thursday night at Petco Park was the rookie getting carried away with his strikeout total and driving up his pitch count.

Wheeler struck out a career-high 12 while throwing 115 pitches in six innings. He surrendered only one run. The pitch count was the highest he's reached in a professional game.

"Early, I was keeping my pitch count pretty low," Wheeler said after the Mets' 4-1 victory against the San Diego Padres in the series opener. "But after the second or third inning, I got a little carried away and I was trying to strike some people out and I lost a little command of my fastball. It didn't help. My pitch count went up,and I had to work a lot more.

"You can ask any pitcher: You get that going and you're like, 'Oh, man. I can strike out a lot of guys tonight. My stuff's pretty good.' You can't get carried away. You've just got to stay aggressive, because they're going to start trying to take pitches and not strike out. So they're going to try to make you work a little bit. That's when you take advantage of that and just pound fastballs and all that kind of stuff."

Wheeler, who has now made 11 major league starts, said he trusts his pitches more now than when he debuted. Originally, he would try to make the perfect pitch. Now, he's content letting go and letting the baseball's natural movement frustrate the hitter. Wheeler has walked only one batter over his past two starts after walking five against Kansas City two starts ago and 28 overall in his first nine major league starts.

"I feel like I'm getting better every time out," Wheeler said. "It's a learning experience. That's the biggest thing. Every time out you learn something new. I didn't think I had my best stuff today. I thought I was getting underneath the ball a little bit. That's when my slider was pretty big, instead of straight down. It was effective, yeah, but not how I like it. I want it shorter and sharper. It's a learning process.

"When I first came up, I was just trying to do a little too much. 'Oh, I've got to hit the outside corner to this guy.' Or, 'I've got to throw in to this guy.' You need to just throw it inside and let your ball run and do its own thing. I don't have to make the perfect pitch with my slider every time -- just throw it and trust that it's going to break."

Of course, Wheeler benefited from the defense behind him. Eric Young Jr. reached over the left-field wall and swatted a would-be homer from Rene Rivera back into the ballpark for a triple, and Rivera was eventually stranded. Two innings later, Juan Lagares picked up his 10th outfield assist by throwing out Tyson Ross at the plate while attempting to score from second base on a single.

"Those guys in the outfield -- [Marlon] Byrd, Lagares and Young -- they go hard every single game," Wheeler said. "It makes it easy on us to have guys who play their butts off in the outfield and go full speed all the time. They aren't scared to run into the walls and stuff. I really appreciate it. I'm sure all of our pitchers do. It definitely saved a run with Young's and Lagares' [plays]. I appreciate that."

Morning Briefing: D'Arnaud cameo soon

August, 10, 2013
8/10/13
5:15
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PHOENIX

FIRST PITCH: Well, at least the Mets still occupy third place in the NL East after losing to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night.

The first-place Atlanta Braves now have won 14 straight, the longest single-season winning streak in the majors since the Oakland Athletics won 20 straight in 2002.

In the runner-up category in the NL East, Washington (55-60) has a two-game lead on the Mets (52-61), a three-game lead on Philadelphia (52-63) and an 11-game lead on Miami (43-71).

The Mets try to rebound at 8:10 p.m. ET today when Zack Wheeler (4-2, 3.73 ERA) opposes right-hander Brandon McCarthy (2-5, 4.94).

Saturday’s news reports:

• Travis d’Arnaud is the catcher the Mets intend to call up when John Buck requires paternity leave sooner or later, a team insider told ESPNNewYork.com. D’Arnaud played for Triple-A Las Vegas on Friday night for the first time since fracturing the first metatarsal in his left foot on April 17. He went 1-for-3 with a walk.


Adam RubinTravis d'Arnaud is expected to fill in once John Buck goes on paternity leave.


“I feel like my timing is back,” d’Arnaud told the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin before departing Double-A Binghamton on Thursday. “I feel good at the plate. I feel good behind the plate. I just feel good in general.”

• David Laurila at fangraphs.com has a Q&A with Mets manager of baseball analytics Ian Levin.

“Trying to better quantify defense is something teams are working on, and some of that information isn’t necessarily in the public domain,” Levin tells Laurila. “To find a way to value defense appropriately -- within the environment of how we value it with offense and pitching -- would be extremely valuable. That’s where some players get a lot of their value, and ideally you can quantify just what that value is. That’s easier said than done.

“While we’re very good at quantifying offensive performance, I think there are variables that can’t be completely measured. There are still things that aren’t quantifiable in terms of projecting how players are going to develop and perform in future situations. Fielding is the same way, but with fewer clearly measurable variables. First, we’ll need to be confident in our explaining past defensive performance properly through objective metrics.

“If we can do that, we might be able to get to where we want to be. Some of the information that can help is available at the major-league level but isn’t available at the minor-league level, and probably isn’t going to be anytime soon. I think there is always going to be a strong need for the scouting perspective. I think scouting is the most important component of defensive metrics, and it may continue to be.”

Scott Atchison surrendered a walk-off homer to Paul Goldschmidt and the Diamondbacks beat the Mets, 5-4, at Chase Field. Jeremy Hefner allowed four runs in five-plus innings. Marlon Byrd and Juan Lagares were thrown out on the bases. Justin Turner contributed three RBIs.

Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Newsday, Times, Star-Ledger, Record and MLB.com.

Jeurys Familia, who had surgery to clean out his right elbow in early June, is due to step on a mound for the first time since the procedure any day. Meanwhile, Frank Francisco has not been on a mound in weeks.

David Wright remains in New York getting treatment on his strained right hamstring, and Terry Collins is unsure when he will return. Read more in the Star-Ledger and Newsday.

Josh Rodriguez produced a tiebreaking RBI double and Chase Huchingson recorded his first professional save as Binghamton earned a doubleheader split with a 7-6 nightcap win against Erie. Pedro Perez drove in three runs for Kingsport. Read the full minor league recap here.

• Jorge Castillo in the Star-Ledger writes about Ike Davis sitting Friday against left-hander Patrick Corbin, as has been Davis’ pattern against southpaws since returning from the minors.

LaTroy Hawkins retweeted an ESPNDallas.com story quoting Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban being critical of MLB commissioner Bud Selig. Cuban accuses Selig of being the equivalent of a mafia boss.

Asked if he endorsed that sentiment given his retweet, Hawkins would only say: “I like Mark Cuban. I like Mark Cuban a lot.”

Earlier in the week, Hawkins retweeted this in which a person writes about Biogenesis and PEDs in baseball: “Selig allowed it to happen, got rich because of them & is now backstabbing all of them for it. He should be tried & jailed.”

BIRTHDAYS: Brandon Lyon, released earlier this season by the Mets, turns 34. He subsequently pitched briefly for Triple-A Pawtucket, but opted out at the beginning of the month and has not resurfaced. … Gerald Williams is 47. … Chuck Carr is 46.

TWEET OF THE DAY: YOU’RE UP: How do you think Travis d’Arnaud will perform at the major league level this season when he finally gets his chance?

Notes: Atchison on HR, Hef on struggles

August, 10, 2013
8/10/13
1:23
AM ET
PHOENIX -- Paul Goldschmidt now shares the NL home-run lead with Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez.

No. 27 came at a costly time for the Mets.

Goldschmidt sent a 1-1 cutter from Scott Atchison over the right-field wall with one out in the bottom of the ninth as the Arizona Diamondbacks produced a 5-4, walk-off win against the Mets on Friday night at Chase Field.

“I work him like anybody else -- try to be aggressive, get in there and get ahead,” Atchison said about the dangerous Goldschmidt. “I was able to do that and then just left a cutter up. He’s a good hitter and obviously has good power to all fields, especially there. He made me pay for a bad pitch.”

Oh, Jeremy: Jeremy Hefner is now 0-2 with a 9.13 ERA (23 ER in 22.2 IP) over his past five starts. The four earned runs Hefner allowed in five-plus innings snapped a string of 10 straight outings in which the Mets starter allowed three runs or fewer.

“I wasn’t missing too many bats,” Hefner said. “I had the outfield running all over the place. I just wasn’t very good.”

Said Terry Collins: “Especially in the fifth inning, and even the start of the sixth inning, if you look back, he had two strikes on a lot of the hitters. He couldn’t put anybody away. He’d get two strikes on them and leave something in the middle of the plate and they’d certainly get a good swing at it.”

Opposing pitcher Patrick Corbin got a two-out rally started in the fifth with a double. Adam Eaton and Martin Prado followed with doubles, too, as the D-backs took a 2-1 lead at that point.

In Hefner’s previous outing, against Kansas City, it also was the opposing pitcher who helped start to unravel Hefner’s performance. After two scoreless innings against the Royals, George Kottaras opened the next frame with a solo homer and then pitcher Bruce Chen singled in what became a three-run frame.

“I got two outs, and two outs really quick,” Hefner said about Friday’s fifth at Chase Field. “And I fell behind [Corbin]. I’m not trying to walk the guy. If the guy puts the ball in play and gets a hit, then I’ll tip my cap. I just didn’t execute the pitch and left it down the middle. He put a good swing on it.”

Hefner said his problem is pitches he intends to get inside drifting over the plate.

“It’s an easy fix,” he said. “Instead of missing over the plate, you either hit the corner or you miss at them.”

Collins said he left Hefner in for what became a two-run sixth after the fifth-inning struggles because the starter was only at 80 pitches and the bottom of the order was due up.

Running into trouble: Collins said he spoke with Juan Lagares about making the final out of the seventh trying to stretch an extra-base hit into a triple with the Mets trailing by two runs.

While applauding the hustle, Collins said he told Lagares: “You have to understand the circumstance.”

As for Marlon Byrd getting thrown out at the plate attempting an inside-the-park homer, Collins noted that was Tim Teufel’s call, since Byrd had his back to the play. And Collins was not going to question his third-base coach.

“The one thing we’ve talked about all year long is to try to be more aggressive on the bases, to try to make the opponent make big plays and make throws,” Collins said. "And they did. Tonight in two situations they made good relay throws.”

JT: Justin Turner drove in three runs -- his first multi-RBI game since April 20 against Washington.

“You always feel good when he’s up at the plate because you know you’re going to get a good at-bat,” Collins said. “So I’m not surprised he got some RBIs.”

Rapid Reaction: D-backs 5, Mets 4

August, 10, 2013
8/10/13
12:37
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PHOENIX -- The Mets' charge toward second place had a hiccup Friday night in the opener of a four-city western swing.

The Arizona Diamondbacks produced a 5-4 walk-off win at Chase Field as Paul Goldschmidt produced a one-out homer against Scott Atchison in the ninth.

The Mets have 10 walk-off losses this season, second-most in the majors. Miami has 12.

Turner classic: Justin Turner drove in three runs, the final on a bases-loaded groundout against ex-Met Heath Bell in the eighth that pulled the Mets to within 4-3 (and ended Bell's streak of 11 straight scoreless appearances). With two then in scoring position and one out, Wilmer Flores followed with a game-tying groundout.

Turner drove in the Mets’ first two runs against Diamondbacks starter Patrick Corbin, who ended up saddled with a no-decision. Starting at shortstop over Omar Quintanilla against the left-handed Corbin, drove in Josh Satin in the fourth as the Mets took a 1-0 lead. Turner then evened the score at two and plated Daniel Murphy in the sixth with a single.

Turner’s three RBIs were his most since producing four against the Atlanta Braves on Aug. 6, 2011. Flores had five RBIs in his first four major league games.

Jeremy’s song: Jeremy Hefner surrendered five doubles in a two-inning span, including a two-run double to Wil Nieves in the sixth as Arizona took a 4-2 lead.

Hefner’s final line: 5+ IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 1 K. He threw 93 pitches.

Three straight two-out doubles in the fifth against Hefner staked Arizona to a 2-1 lead. The barrage began with a two-bagger by the opposing pitcher Corbin. Adam Eaton and Martin Prado then followed with run-scoring doubles.

Base threats: Marlon Byrd and Juan Lagares both were thrown out on the bases.

Byrd was retired at the plate attempting a leadoff inside-the-park homer in the second inning. Byrd’s ball bounced awkwardly off the center-field wall and third-base coach Tim Teufel waved him home, but a 7-4-2 play retired Byrd at the plate.

The Mets have 26 inside-the-park homers in franchise history. The last two were legged out by Angel Pagan (May 19, 2010 at Washington and Aug. 23, 2009 versus Philadelphia).

Lagares made the final out in the top of the seventh, trying to stretch an extra-base hit into a triple.

What’s next: Zack Wheeler (4-2, 3.73 ERA) opposes right-hander Brandon McCarthy (2-5, 4.94) at 8:10 p.m. Saturday.

Mets outfield now statistically respectable

August, 9, 2013
8/09/13
11:45
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AP PhotoThe defense of Juan Lagares and Marlon Byrd has been key to the Mets' improvement.
The Mets season didn't necessarily turn when Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit his dramatic walk-off homer to beat the Chicago Cubs on June 16.

It changed for the better because of a decision made after that game, and we're not talking about that which led to the arrivals of Zack Wheeler and Eric Young Jr.

One of the other things that happened prior to their five-game series with the Atlanta Braves: The Mets made the decision to move Lucas Duda out of their outfield.

That move improved the team significantly both in the field and at the plate.

That outfield will be tested this series on the offensive end by pitchers like Arizona Diamondbacks ace Patrick Corbin and on the defensive end by a spacious ballpark with nooks and crannies in the deepest parts of the park.

As the chart on the right notes, the Mets outfield has gone from living up to the expectation that it would be among the worst in franchise history to being respectably average.

The three players who have gotten the most at-bats -- Marlon Byrd, Juan Lagares and Young, are hitting a combined .286 with eight homers and 59 RBI since June 17. The overall outfield batting average is 60 points better and their OPS has jumped 64 points.

The Mets outfield has hit a little bit of a skid recently (a .212/.280/.318 slashline in seven games this month), but that has not impacted their play on the other side of the ball.

By the eye test, you can tell that the Mets outfield defense has played well recently, but we can apply the numbers to show that too.

One of the tools at our disposal allows us to estimated batted-ball distance, and though there is some margin for error (due to the way data is collected), the before/after differences for the Mets are stark. Again, refer to the chart on the right for specifics.

An increase in out rate of four percentage points may not sound like much, but think of it of what it is in terms of on-base percentage -- about a 40 point difference.

And they've also succeeded in making the more difficult play.

Instead of the stumbles and missteps that took place in the season's first two-and-a-half months, you're seeing plays like the diving catch Eric Young Jr. made to rob Todd Helton of a bases-loaded hit on Tuesday night, the frequent sprinting catches by Lagares, and the terrific throws from Byrd (save for his one day last week battling the sun).

The Young catch was one of 20 "Good Fielding Plays" (think Web Gem nominees, as charted by a video-review crew from Baseball Info Solutions) Mets outfielders have made on catch attempts in the last 48 games.

That's the same number that they had in the first 64 games of the season. In those games they made more misplays/errors (also charted by video review) than catches. Since the start of the Atlanta series, the Mets have had more positive plays than negative ones.

The sum of this has been that a better outfield has made for a better and more watchable team. The Mets were 25-39 prior to changing their outfield look.

They are 27-21 since then.

TC intends to again use Hawkins as closer

August, 7, 2013
8/07/13
5:17
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NEW YORK -- Terry Collins, who has predicted he will mix and match his closer in Bobby Parnell's absence, expects LaTroy Hawkins will close for a second straight game today. Hawkins produced his first save of the season Tuesday night despite allowing a pair of two-out singles.

• The Rockies placed slugger Carlos Gonzalez on the disabled list with a sprained joint in his right middle finger. Lefty Jeff Francis was promoted from Triple-A Colorado Springs.

• Collins said Daniel Murphy is the best hitter on the team and therefore merited batting No. 3 in the lineup, where he can drive in runs. Collins said an added benefit is lengthening the lineup by having Marlon Byrd bat fourth and Ike Davis bat fifth. Hitting coach Dave Hudgens recommended to Collins that Juan Lagares bat second.

Justin Turner replaced Wilmer Flores at third base for the ninth inning Tuesday, but Collins said he is not looking to regularly double-switch Flores out of the game to improve late-inning defense. Collins said his motivation in the series opener was Flores making the final out of the bottom of the eighth and a double-switch ensuring Hawkins could pitch multiple innings without batting if the game became tied in the top of the ninth.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Bartolo Colon
WINS ERA SO IP
15 4.09 151 202
OTHER LEADERS
BAD. Murphy .289
HRL. Duda 30
RBIL. Duda 92
RD. Murphy 79
OPSL. Duda .830
ERAJ. Niese 3.40
SOZ. Wheeler 187