At this point, it’s a sick joke. Really, you have to wonder if someone is doing it on purpose. It just has to be a prank or a gag.
deGrom’s final line was 8.0 IP, 5 H, R, ER, 0 BB, 14 K. The 14 strikeouts tied a career high for deGrom.
His reward for this effort? A loss.
It’s not even like deGrom didn’t help himself. In fact, he had one of the Mets three hits.
After Edwin Diaz allowed two in the ninth, the Mets would go on to lose 3-0.
Michael Conforto would be booed, and we would see J.D. Davis put on the IL before the day was over. We’d also see Jonathan Villar start over Luis Guillorme due to his offense only to go 0-for-3 with three strikeouts.
This was a complete disaster which seems to be the case when deGrom takes the mound. Put it this way. On the season, deGrom has allowed just one run over 14.0 innings. He’s allowed eight hits and walked two while striking out 21.
For all that, he’s 0-2.
Game Notes: Jed Lowrie claimed he sought to have knee surgery while with the Mets only to be told if he went through with it the team would file a grievance. This is similar to the Carlos Beltran situation only he called the Mets bluff.
The New York Mets did not get off to the best of starts to the 2021 season. Their first series was canceled due to the Washington Nationals being infected with COVID. They blew Jacob deGrom‘s first start, and they could never recover from David Peterson getting blitzed.
The team returned to Citi Field with a 1-2 record, and the team had a number of issues. There were a number of players scuffling, and that included Jeff McNeil. With McNeil, things were very different than they had been in past seasons.
Through no fault of his own, McNeil was dropped from the top to the bottom of the lineup. After starting the season 0-for-7, he was given the day off in the series finale. On his birthday, he was dropped to seventh in the lineup hitting behind Jonathan Villar. After starting the day 0-for-2, McNeil was due to lead-off the ninth with the Mets on verge of losing their home opener in very frustrating fashion.
In uncharacteristic fashion, McNeil did not swing at the first pitch. Of course, the pitch being out of the zone by a good margin does that. McNeil would work the count in his favor, and then Miami Marlins closer Anthony Bass would throw one inside, and McNeil would tie the game with his first hit of the season:
— Athlete Logos (@athletelogos) April 8, 2021
After connecting, McNeil would have a bat flip reminiscent of the one Asdrubal Cabrera had roughly five years ago. No, this was not a game of the same magnitude, but this was a special game. It was the Mets home opener, and it was the first home game with fans in the stands since the end of the 2019 season.
Lost in that hit was the fact McNeil had actually been hitting the ball extremely hard to start the season. Going to Baseball Savant, McNeil was hitting the ball hard and was barreling it up. It really was only a matter of time before we start to see McNeil hitting the ball like we knew he could. McNeil chose the best time to do it. He would not only tie the game, but he started a rally which ended with the Mets winning the game.
With McNeil busting out of his early season slump and his getting the Mets first real big hit of the season, his homer and bat flip is our first Neon Moment of the Week for the 2021 season!
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I am very appreciative Athlete Logos has agreed to participate in this feature. If you like his work as much as I do, please visit his website to enjoy his work, buy some of his merchandise, or to contract him to do some personal work for yourself (like I have).
When the Mets signed Taijuan Walker, the expectation was when everyone was healthy, he was going to be the team’s fifth starter. If his first start of the season was any indication, Walker is going to be much more than that.
Before delving into his first start as a member of the New York Mets, it is important to start with Walker the prospect. Before Walker was called up by the Seattle Mariners in 2013, he was a rated as a top 10 prospect in all of baseball.
John Sickels, then of Minor League Baseball, wrote Walker was in the conversation for “Best Pitching Prospect in Baseball honors.” Fangraphs said Walker “has the ceiling of a No. 2 starter.” Bleacher Report said “If you were to build a prototype for what you want in a potential No. 1 starter, Taijuan Walker would hit all the marks.” Baseball Prospectus said:
He produces seemingly effortless 92-98 mph velocity from his strong frame, presenting it to hitters on a steep downward plane. His cutter––which can touch 93 mph––is another potential plus-plus pitch; it has hard, short break with some late tilt, and he’ll use it as a weapon against both left- and right-handed hitters.
All told, the expectation was Walker was going to be a top of the rotation pitcher. It didn’t happen due to a combination of his being rushed to the majors and his dealing with injuries. In many ways, that made his 2020 season very important in that he had to prove he could stay healthy and that he could stick as a starter. By and large, he did that and more.
In 2020, Walker looked lack a solid middle to back end of the rotation starter. For a Mets team loaded with top of the rotation talent, this made New York a perfect landing spot for Walker. What no one really considered was what if Walker could be more than he has shown in recent years.
Notably, Walker has been about a five inning pitcher, but that was partially a function of the injuries. The same could also be said about his velocity dipping to the low 90s. On that point, Walker is a 28 year old pitcher reaching his prime, and he is a player who is another year away from injuries. It is very possible he is finally healthy again, and he is ready to pick up where his career left off before his first major injury.
Taijuan Walker, 96mph Fastball (foul) and 87mph Slider (Swinging K), Individual Pitches + Overlay pic.twitter.com/IUAc9lyxmF
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 8, 2021
Yesterday, Walker was throwing consistently in the mid to upper 90s. His average velocity was 95.4 MPH which is over 2 MPH faster than he threw last year. In fact, Walker hasn’t averaged 95 with his fastball since 2014. As noted by Michael Mayer of MMO, Walker hit 97 MPH with his fastball, a mark Walker had not hit in four years.
We also saw Walker was tighter with his release points. More than that, we saw Walker was able to get more spin on all of his breaking pitches. The end result was a pitcher who was more difficult to pick up. With him pitching like that, the Marlins went hitless through the first 4.1 innings, and when the Marlins did make contact, Walker generated weaker contact.
This should come as no surprise for two reasons. First, as noted, he’s healthy. Second, as noted in an interview with Fangraphs, Walker has been working at Driveline to see how analytics could help make him a better pitcher. He used the analytics to hone his pitching and get the most out of his talent.
In terms of his first start with the Mets, we saw what health and increased work on his craft could do for him. The Walker we saw yesterday did not look like the back end of the rotation starter we all thought the Mets were getting when he signed a free agent contract. Rather, Walker looked like the top of the rotation pitcher many expected him to be when he was first called up to the majors.
This is a very exciting development for Walker and the New York Mets. With more games like this under his belt, the sky is the limit for both Walker and the Mets chances of winning the World Series in 2021.
With the reaction to Michael Conforto sticking out his elbow, you would’ve thought he committed treason. For some reason, just this once, trying to get hit by a pitch, is now the worst thing a player has even done.
Before getting into it, let’s take a look at the play again:
MICHAEL CONFORTO GETS HIT BY A PITCH AND THE METS WIN IT 3-2!!!!! pic.twitter.com/R1QdgiRQJ5
— SNY (@SNYtv) April 8, 2021
Lets call it what it is. Conforto got fooled by a pitch he thought would be more in than it was. You could see that by a function of his taking all the way (with two strikes) and his turning his back.
Because of that, a scuffling player booed earlier in the game, stuck his elbow out. He got hit with the pitch, and he fooled the home plate umpire. As a result, he took his base, and the Mets won.
With respect to the play, Conforto said, “Obviously not the way I wanted to win the ballgame. I wanted to go up there and put the ball in play, drive the ball somewhere.” (Mike Puma, New York Post).
For what is worth, Conforto claimed he wasn’t trying to get hit. In fact, he said, “With two strikes I just went into battle mode and I tend to lean over the plate when I get into battle mode.”
You can choose to believe him or not. Fact is, he did it, and he won the game. Really, he is no alone in what he did.
This is a part of the game. Batters get up there trying to get on base any way they can. They’ll lean into pitches, and yes, they’ll purposefully flinch at pitches to try to get it called a ball.
We see catcher after catcher try to get better at framing pitches. Framing is designed not just to make sure a strike is a strike but also to attempt to get the borderline pitch, which should’ve been a ball, called a strike.
Here’s a hypothetical. Instead of that pitch being in the strike zone, it’s just off the plate and inside. Conforto gets out of the way, but the way Chad Wallach frames it, the umpire calls it a strike.
Is anyone vilifying Wallach? No, of course not. Will people be calling for him to be run over first chance a runner gets? That would be seen as absurd.
And yet, when Conforto did what many did before him, he’s chastised, mocked, and there are calls to drill him.
Now, no one wanted to see the game end that way. It did take some shine off the win. However, every single player in that Mets clubhouse and every single fan would rather winning on that play than losing.
That goes double for the Miami Marlins.
Let’s not forget, this is the same team who unapologetically took the field while infected with COVID. They put the season, and more importantly, lives in complete jeopardy.
Their screwing up the schedule was a factor in their making the postseason. Did they offer to forfeit the games? No. Did Don Mattingly refuse the NL Manager of the Year Award? Of course not.
Keep in mind, this is the same Mattingly who was chasing down the umpires for a replay review while Ruben Tejada was getting carted off the field because his player, Chase Utley, broke Tejada’s leg on a dirty play. Mattingly had ZERO issue winning because of that play.
Of course, he had one yesterday.
The 1986 Mets had a problem with Mike Scott scuffing balks. None of the right teams Gaylord Perry played for had an issue with his spitter. The Reds and Dodgers didn’t have an issue with Trevor Bauer‘s use of pine tar. People tip their caps to Yadier Molina and his framing.
As we know, there are certain things in baseball which are just accepted. Catchers steal strikes. Pitchers doctor balls. Batters lean into pitches. That’s the way it is.
The only time people are aggrieved is when it doesn’t benefit them. The only time the world notices is when it’s a game winning run. In the end, that’s all there is to take away from Conforto leaning into a pitch.
There’s no mincing words here. Home Plate Umpire Ron Kulpa blew the call, and he would later admit it. While Kulpa blew it, Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling immediately knew it was a blown call, and they said Conforto should’ve been out.
MICHAEL CONFORTO GETS HIT BY A PITCH AND THE METS WIN IT 3-2!!!!! pic.twitter.com/R1QdgiRQJ5
— SNY (@SNYtv) April 8, 2021
As you can hear, they said a lot more than just that. First and foremost, we heard Cohen knew the rules cold, and he knew it wasn’t getting overturned.
Both Keith and Ron spoke about how that should’ve been called an out, and Darling took it a step further to point out it’s ridiculous replay can’t overturn this call.
Keep in mind, this is the Mets, not the Marlins telecast. GKR wanted it called correctly because they’re honest about what they see. They’re honest even when it comes to a player in Conforto they really like and respect.
Now, this should be the norm, but we all know it isn’t. What we got there, what we always get from GKR, was an honest assessment of what transpired. These are three people who love the game, and it always shows.
Mets fans are lucky to have GKR as is all of baseball. They don’t rely on shtick, and they’re not embarrassing homers. Rather, these are three people who are honest about what they see on the field no matter how much they all love the Mets.
Being a starting pitcher isn’t always fair. You can have a great outing like Taijuan Walker and still not get the win.
Walker came out throwing heat hitting 97 MPH on his fastball. With a little help from Francisco Lindor, he’d keep the Miami Marlins hitless through 4.1 innings.
The problem for Walker was the Mets offense was non-existent. Well, their offense with runners in scoring position.
In the fourth, the Mets loaded the bases with one out, but Walker couldn’t help his own cause hitting into the inning ending double play. Finally, the Mets would break through in the fifth, but they were unlucky.
The Mets loaded the bases with one out with Dominic Smith at the plate. Smith hit a long fly to center which looked like it would clear the bases one way or another. Instead, Starling Marte would make a great read and play limiting Smith to a sacrifice fly.
Unfortunately, Walker gave the lead right back. Mets killer Jon Berti singled to lead off the inning. Walker came very close to picking him off, and it would cost him.
Corey Dickerson hit a double to right, and when Conforto fumbled with the ball which bounced off the wall towards center, Berti scored easily. Marte would later move Dickerson to third on a fielder’s choice.
Walker then battled Jesus Aguilar. Aguilar had a great at-bat battling back from 0-2, checking his swing on a nasty pitch, and then singling home the go-ahead run on a full count.
On the bright side, the Mets bullpen, who struggled in Philadelphia, was excellent. Miguel Castro, Trevor May, and Edwin Diaz combined for three scoreless innings which gave the Mets a chance in the bottom of the ninth.
Jeff McNeil, who for reasons beyond comprehension is only batting seventh in the lineup, led off the ninth after starting the season 0-for-10. Actually, make that, 1-for-11.
Bottom 9. Down 1. Home opener. Also your birthday.
Seems like a good time for a DINGER! 🥳 pic.twitter.com/joFGHyyD1f
— New York Mets (@Mets) April 8, 2021
That homer off Marlins closer Anthony Bass tied the score at 2-2. The Mets weren’t done.
Luis Guillorme pinch hit for Diaz, and he hit an infield single to second. After Nimmo doubled, the Marlins walked Lindor to load the bases to put the pressure on Conforto who has been struggling at the plate.
What looked like strike three nicked Conforto’s shoulder forcing home the winning run. Conforto successfully stuck his elbow out to get the win.
It was quite the redemption story for Conforto who needed that hit. It was also a great start to the season for Diaz getting that win. It’s even better the Mets won their first game of the season.
After the opening series against the Washington Nationals was canceled due to COVID19, the New York Mets finally played their first series of the season. They should’ve taken the series, but didn’t;
1. That was your typical Jacob deGrom start. He’s dominant. The Mets don’t score. The bullpen blows it.
2. Much was made of deGrom coming out after six. People overlook deGrom being part of and agreeing with the decision. He had a long layoff, and it’s going to be tricky getting everyone through the season.
5. Pete Alonso looks like a man on a mission. He’s completely locked in at the plate, and his defense has never looked better. He could be on the verge of an MVP type season.
6. It was actually surprising to see his ball didn’t go out on Tuesday night. Last year and the year before those balls might’ve been 20 rows deep. Instead, that ball died at the wall. That may be a real sign the ball isn’t traveling like it did in prior years.
7. The Mets were down because the bullpen hasn’t been great so far.
8. Trevor May has struggled in both games, but it was good to see him come into the second game, fight it, and get out of the inning unscathed. That and his taking ownership of his poor performance is an indication he is going to be just fine in New York.
9. The Aaron Loup signing was curious, especially given the three batter rule. We saw just how that can help a team implode. After he plunked Bryce Harper, he was facing J.T. Realmuto. It should come as no surprise that inning got out of control.
10. There were some good signs out of Jeurys Familia and Miguel Castro. Overall, with Edwin Diaz not getting into a game, the Mets best reliever in the series was Joey Lucchesi, who is also their fifth starter.
11. There could be some questions as to how Luis Rojas managed these games, but it is first important to remember he is not the one who fills out the lineup card. Some of his decisions are also very defensible like leaving in Kevin Pillar in the fourth inning of a game where the Mets had deGrom on the mound and had a 2-0 lead.
12. The fact the Mets would not bat Brandon Nimmo atop the lineup is beyond crazy. Even with a left-handed pitcher on the mound, it’s crazy. In fact, Nimmo has been the Mets best hitter against left-handed pitchers the last two years. The second best? Dominic Smith.
13. Dominic Smith isn’t a platoon player, and he shouldn’t be treated as such. He showed that on his first at-bat of the season.
14. Jeff McNeil has hit the ball with real authority so far this season. It was probably a good idea to get him a mental break ahead of coming to New York.
15. On that note, we are likely going to see a number of players miss some unexpected games here and there as they get vaccinated and deal with the side effects. Well, everyone except Davis.
17. Francisco Lindor has been everything as advertised so far this season. His defense has been great. He is giving good at-bats. He was a real leader talking to David Peterson after a rough outing. The Mets are very lucky to have him around for the next decade.
18. The long layoff was probably a factor, but Peterson showed he probably needs more time in Triple-A, which is fine. It would’ve been better to put Jordan Yamamoto in the rotation to start the season. That goes double when the Mets could have skipped the fifth starter, which they are.
19. Michael Conforto struggled with runners on base during this series, so naturally people are going overboard in their reaction. Fact is, Conforto is still a .271/.393/.512 hitter with runners in scoring position in his career. He’s going to be fine, and the Mets should still be pushing to sign him to an extension to make him a Met for life.
20. The Mets were put at a disadvantage not playing the Nationals series, and the Atlanta Braves got to fact that decimated Nationals team. Mets showed some rust, but this is still a very good team. They’re now in the flow of things, and we should look for them to have a good first homestand of the season.d
If not for the need to call him up last season, David Peterson would arguably be the Mets top prospect heading into the season. To a certain extent, you’d expect the Mets to handle him like a top prospect.
After all, for the success he had, there were some real reasons for concern. His walks and FIP were too high. His slider was his only consistent weapon. He succeed was very BABIP dependent, and he didn’t go deep into games.
Still, partially the result of the injuries to Noah Syndergaard and Carlos Carrasco, Peterson was in the Opening Day rotation. With that should come with the responsibility of treating him like a prospect and protecting his arm and development.
The Mets failed him and their team miserably on the front today.
There are many studies out there on what causes pitcher injury. As detailed by Keith Woolner of Baseball Prospectus, fatigue is one of the biggest causes. Sameer Mehta of Science Direct surmised many pitcher injuries happen early in the season due to pitcher usage and their ramping it up too early.
In 2018, we would see Jacob deGrom lifted after a 45 pitch first inning. The rationale is 40 pitches is just too much of a workload and puts you at risk for injury.
In the first inning of the Mets loss to the Phillies, Peterson threw 38 pitches in an inning where he allowed four runs.
Despite that heavy workload, one which one day would’ve gotten deGrom pulled, Peterson went back out there. He went back out there.
He went back out there despite Joey Lucchesi warming up and the Mets not needing a fifth starter for at least another turn through the rotation.
Really, there was no reason for him to pitch. And yet, they put him back out there. Sure, the results improved, but what did it accomplish?
The Mets pushed him when there was zero reason to do it. The bullpen was mostly fresh, and they had another starter ready to go. It was a complete failure by the team.
The failing of Peterson also went to the offense. The team was 1-for-12 with RISP leaving 14 on base. Michael Conforto was the biggest culprit going 0-for-5 leaving NINE men on base.
Overall, this 8-2 loss was just one of those losses you just want to forget. Put it out of your mind, hope there are no long standing ramifications, and go home for the opener.
Game Notes: Jonathan Villar made the start for Jeff McNeil and was a homer short of the cycle. Dellin Betances made his season debut. He topped out at 93, which he hit just once, and his last fastball dipped under 90.
The numbers weren’t good. Two runs (one earned) on two hits and a walk. Put the results aside for a second.
Jeurys Familia looked like he could be in line for a very good season.
Just look deeper than the results. Neither of the two hits were really indicative of how well Familia was pitching, and as an extension of that, neither was the runs against him.
Neither the Adam Haseley single or Rhys Hoskins double were hit all that hard. In fact, the Hoskins double was the second weakest hit ball of the night. Really, no one made good solid contact against Familia. That’s evidenced by the lack of barrels against him.
With any luck, that’s a 1-2-3 inning. Instead, Pete Alonso throws the ball away trying to get Hoskins at second allowing Haseley to score.
What happened next is important. With everything going haywire, and the day after the Mets blew a late lead with a horrendous inning against the Phillies, Familia bore down. He made quick work of Andrew McCutchen striking him out.
Familia then didn’t give Bryce Harper a chance to launch a homer to let the Phillies back into the game. Instead, like a veteran, he tried to get Harper to bite, and when Harper didn’t, he drew a walk.
We would see the epitome of defensive indifference that inning as well. Hoskins was just allowed to walk to third. That’s one of the only reasons why he scored the second run.
After the Harper walk, Familia faced J.T. Realmuto, and he got him to hit the ground ball he needed. Unfortunately, even with Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil turning it quickly, the ball just wasn’t hit hard enough to turn two.
Again, we saw the defensive indifference as the Mets just let Realmuto go from first to third undaunted. Familia didn’t let this get to him as he got Didi Gregorius to fly out to end the game.
Breaking it down again, let’s review what we saw from Familia.
First off, Familia has really good stuff hitting 98 MPH with his fastball. For a pitcher with real command problems last year, he only went to three balls to Harper, a batter he was arguably pitching around to get to Realmuto.
We saw him respond to a bad and unlucky start to the inning by striking out McCutchen. Also, no one was able to square him up and make good contact against him.
If we see Familia have good velocity, induce weak contact, get big strikeouts, and stay poised when things around him go haywire, he’s going to have a big year. In the end, that’s the biggest takeaway from his appearance, and really, that’s great news for the Mets.
Despite his having an argument for being the Mets second best starter, with all the injuries, Marcus Stroman got the tab by default. You wouldn’t have known that with how dominant he was.
— New York Mets (@Mets) April 7, 2021
In his six innings, the Phillies could only muster three hits. Unfortunately, one of them was a Didi Gregorius solo homer marking the only run Mets starters have allowed over 12.0 innings this season.
One of the reasons Stroman got away with just the one run was his defense. There was one double play turned, and Pete Alonso robbed Gregorius of what should’ve been a game tying extra base hit.
👀 Pete pic.twitter.com/sqTjbfeta2
— New York Mets (@Mets) April 7, 2021
— New York Mets (@Mets) April 7, 2021
Just like deGrom, Stroman was lifted after 6.0 innings despite only throwing 85 pitches. Unlike deGrom, that move didn’t backfire.
The reason was Phillies reliever Vince Velasquez had a maddening seventh. He faced eight batters in the game (going back to the sixth), and not one batter put a ball in play.
Luis Guillorme led off the seventh, and he’d fall behind quickly 0-2. He battled back in the at-bat, and he drew the first of four walks in the inning.
One of those four walks was to Kevin Pillar who pinch hit for Stroman. After his pinch hitting appearance, Brandon Nimmo came up, and well, his drawing a walk against a pitcher trouble locating is a near lock. After his walk, it was 3-1.
Nimmo and Pillar tacked on another run with a well executed double steal. Michael Conforto then capped off the inning with an RBI double.
With the Mets entering the bottom of the seventh ahead 6-1, you’d assume they’d be in cruise control. It was far from it.
After an Alec Bohm single, Luis Rojas made a very questionable decision. There were two outs, Bryce Harper was up, and Aaron Loup was warmed up. Rojas stuck with Castro, and he was rewarded for it when Castro got Harper to line out to center to end the inning.
In the eighth, Rojas gave Trevor May an opportunity to shake off his first appearance of the season. May was quite shaky allowing two hits and throwing a wild pitch. Still, he’d settle down and get Roman Quinn to end the inning.
Alonso would hit a two run homer in the top of the ninth to expand the Mets lead to 8-2. With that large gap, Rojas went to Jeurys Familia to finish the game.
Haseley led off the ninth with a single, and Hoskins followed with a cue shot double. Alonso went back to get the ball, but his throw trying to get Hoskins was errant allowing Haseley to score. Notably, neither ball was hit particularly hard.
Those two hits against Familia probably had a combined xBA of .120 …. I hate this, but I love baseball.
— Good Fundies Brian (@OmarMinayaFan) April 7, 2021
In the end, it was an 8-4 win. Stroman was great. Smith and Alonso homered. The offense finally exploded, but man, the Mets bullpen has looked shakier than we suspected it might be.