Mets Need A Long Man In The Bullpen

There are many problems with the Mets bullpen this year.  One of the most understated is the complete and utter lack of a long man in the bullpen for much of the season.  This has led to Terry Collins needing to trotting out a series of relievers whenever a starter can’t go deep into games.  It has led to Collins pushing relievers past their breaking points.

This has saw Hansel Robles completely break down to the point where he’s not even an effective Triple-A reliever.  Collins stretched Josh Smoker to the point where he first was sent down to the minors, and then to the point where he landed on the Disabled List.  With Smoker gone, Paul Sewald seems to be the guy who gets stretched out for three innings despite his being a 1-2 inning closer in most of his time in the minor leagues.

Doing that means Smoker and Sewald, two pitchers who should have been establishing themselves as late inning relievers this season, have been bounced around in their roles.  We have seen uneven performances from them this year to the point where the Mets really don’t know what they have in either pitcher.  More to the point, it has led to Neil Ramirez pitching in important spots.

The latest example was on Tuesday.  The Mets were riding high after a sweep of the Giants, and the team was in a soft part of the schedule where they could have reasonably been at or even over .500 going into the All Star Break.  At that point, who knows?

And this Mets team looked resilient last night.  Robert Gsellman went down in the top of the fourth.  Sewald came on and gave the team three good innings they desperately needed.  Travis d’Arnaud had two RBI, including a solo home run, to tie the game at 3-3 entering the bottom of the seventh.  With Sewald, one of the better relievers on the team, no longer available, Collins went with Ramirez.  To the surprise of no one, Ramirez would earn the loss.

Why was he and his demonic 6.66 ERA even an option?  Ultimately, it is because of the Mets refusal to carry a long man in the bullpen.  Instead, the team would rather carry a group of pitchers who ideally should be limited to two innings or less that can post high strikeout numbers.

Why couldn’t the Mets carry Tyler Pill as the long reliever.  Sure, he was predictably lackluster, but that is a significant upgrade from Ramirez being an abject disaster. While it is a small sample size, there are indications Pill could be useful as a long man.  In this three games, the first time through the lineup teams are only hitting .250/.296/.292 off of him.  Extrapolating this out, this means Pill could be good to keep the Mets into a game for about three innings.

This could led to the Mets turning the game over to their best relievers late in the game.  Instead, the Mets would rather pitch their pitchers past their breaking points.  They would rather pitch Ramirez in important spots.  While there are many things you can pinpoint for the Mets failures this season, it’s the lack of a long man in the bullpen needs to be front and center.

Matz Picks Up A Grandy Win

Another Steven Matz start and another seven innings. Since coming off the Disabled List, Matz has pitched seven innings in three of his four starts. Tonight might’ve been the best start of the lot. 

Matz pitched seven shut out innings befuddling the Marlins. No Marlins player would even make it to third base.  He pitched mainly to contact, weak contact, which permitted him to once again go deep in the game. Over the seven innings, he needed just 110 pitches. 

His final line was seven innings, six hits, no runs, one walk, and four strikeouts. 

And Matz would get the win in this game with some help of some veterans looking to boost their trade value. 

Curtis Granderson was great just like he’s been all June. In fact, he’s been among the top three hitters in the majors during the Month of June. 

To start the game, Granderson battled back from a 1-2 count to draw a nine pitch walk against Marlins starter Jeff LockeAsdrubal Cabrera followed with a home run:

He’s been much better since moving to second base. 

The rally continued with a Jay Bruce single and a Travis d’Arnaud two out walk. In what might’ve been his best game of the season Jose Reyes delivered with an RBI single making it 3-1. 

Overall, Reyes was 3-4 with a double and an RBI. With his seventh inning single, he passed Ed Kranepool for second on the Mets all-time hit list. 

The Mets offense would go silent from there until the Marlins brought Dustin McGowan into the game. d’Arnaud got it started with an RBI single, and he’d go to third on the aforementioned Reyes single. If that ball does not hit McGowan, Reyes has an RBI. 

That RBI would go to T.J. Rivera with his RBI groundout. It appeared to be a sure fire double play ball, but at the last second, it took a strange hop on Marlins shortstop JT Riddle

After a Matz sacrifice bunt, the Marlins brought in the left-handed Justin Nicolino to face Granderson. Granderson responded by hitting a bomb:

This was the third straight game Granderson hit a home run. 

The Mets would build on this 6-0 lead in the eighth. Brandon Nimmo continued his terrific work as a pinch hitter delivering a two out RBI single giving the Mets an 8-0 lead. That’s a lead not even this Mets bullpen could blow. 

Mets are back on track for at least one day, and they look to take the series tomorrow. 

Game Notes: Robert Gsellman was put on the DL, and Matt Reynolds was called-up to take his place on the roster. Reynolds came on for defense for Cabrera in the eighth. 

RIP Anthony Young

As we delve more into the numbers and become more knowledgeable about the stats which truly indicate what makes a pitcher good or bad, we have begun to dismiss win-loss record.  It has gotten to the point where many want to disregard it all together.  Reflecting back on the life of Anthony Young, it is hard to say that wins and losses don’t matter anymore.

Starting on May 6, 1992, Young would begin his MLB record setting 27 game losing streak.  He lost games in all ways possible.  He was the hard luck loser losing games when he had a good start.  He lost games getting his doors knocked off.  He came out of the bullpen, and he lost a game on a big hit.  He would leave with runners on base and another pitcher would let them score.  In the stretch, Young was 0-14 as a starter, and 0-13 as a reliever.

Something odd happened during this time.  Initially, Young was booed and booed mercilessly.  On an under-performing 90 loss Mets team who once had designs on winning the World Series, Young had become symbolic of all that was wrong with the Mets – talented people who were just not performing.  Eventually, those boos came to cheers; cheers that were almost willing Young to a victory.

Young was admirable in the stretch.  You didn’t see the quote in the paper ripping the team.  There was no Jon Niese moment of blaming his catcher, his defense, or anyone else.  He took it like a man, and he kept going out there doing his job.

He also got to lose all of those games because he was a talented pitcher.  Too often, that gets lost in everything.  Young was talented.  It is why when John Franco went down to injury, Jeff Torborg instilled Young as the team’s closer.  It was at that time, we learned a save does not in fact interrupt a losing streak.  For those that forget, Young was able to record 15 saves during that 1992 season.  One thing he wasn’t able to do was vulture a win.

No, that elusive win would not come until July 28, 1993.  On that day, his team would finally pick him up.  After giving up the lead in the top of the ninth, the Mets would rally against the Florida Marlins.  The rally would begin with Jeff McNeil.  There is an odd symmetry there as McNeil was another player from those teams who died too young.  A few years ago, McNeil would die of leukemia at the age of 52.

After an Eddie Murray RBI double, Young would finally get his win, and the Shea faithful couldn’t have been happier for him:

Without that losing streak?  Young is just a footnote in major league history.  With that losing streak, Young mattered.  He will forever be remembered, and it turns out he was a person worth remembering.

He left behind a family and former teammates that were devastated by his passing away.  He leaves behind a fan base who can now actually reminisce about those terrible 1992-1993 Mets.

As we know, Young fought and fought bravely.  Recently, there had been reports his inoperable brain tumor had taken a turn for the better.  There were reports the tumor was shrinking.  At that point, there was hope Young could beat a cancer more daunting than a 27 game losing streak.  Unfortunately, Young wasn’t getting better.  It was just a short lived victory.

At the age of 51, Anthony Young has passed.  With him passing, people have lost a family member and a friend.  Fans lost a player they once cheered.  Everyone lost a person who handled one of the toughest situations a professional can face with grace and humility.  When someone like Young passes, we all lose.

Looking back at the life of Anthony Young, it is hard to tell anyone that losses no longer matter in baseball.  In fact, losses matter more now than they ever have.

Lucas Duda Is Better Than You Believe

With the Mets announcement of selling, we have officially begun the silly season of people proposing ridiculous trade rumors.  However, that isn’t limited to fans like you and I.  That goes to people who are actually paid to write about baseball, and those that are paid to talk about it on the air.  The first doozy came from Mark Feinstand of MLB.com who wrote the Mets should trade Lucas Duda to the New York Yankees for Austin RomineShockingly, instead of being met with derision, Evan Roberts was right on board with this one.

How can anyone be on board with that trade?

Since becoming the Mets everyday first baseman, Duda is a .247/.347/.484 hitter who has averaged 28 homers and 83 RBI in the seasons he was able to play a full season.  This year, Duda is hitting .251/.362/.553 with 13 homers and 29 RBI in 53 games.  That’s a 40 HR and 89 RBI pace.

Since 2014, Duda is eighth among first baseman with a 129 wRC+.  Considering Edwin Encarnacion has been a DH more than 1B over that time, Duda is really seventh.  If you focus on his two full seasons of 2014 and 2015, Duda has a 134 wRC+, which would rank him seventh.  Again, if you view Encarnacion as a DH, Duda is sixth.  And with Duda’s stats this year, it looks like he’s back to that 2014-2015 form.

Sure, Duda can be prone to bouts of streakiness (like any other player), and he had one bad throw in the 2015 World Series.  That doesn’t detract from the fact Duda’s in the upper echelon of Major League first baseman.

His return should be much more than a career backup catcher like Romine.  Think about it. Romine’s career numbers are .219/.268/.342, but he is better this year hitting .268/.305/.423.  Sorry, those are Rene Rivera‘s numbers.  Romine is a career .224/.258/.325 hitter who is hitting .231/.262/.314 this year.

How can anyone believe Duda is worth a player worse than Rene Rivera?  The same Rivera who the Mets signed prior to the 2016 season because he was released by the Tampa Bay Rays after Spring Training.  And by the way for all the hand wringing over Travis d’Arnaud‘s arm, d’Arnaud has thrown out to 22% of base stealers in his career to Romine’s 21%.  At this point, you could even argue you would rather have Kevin Plawecki over Romine.

And yet, people believe Duda isn’t good enough to fetch more than a backup catcher . . . a bad one at that.  They say that despite the Yankees, Astros, Angels, Twins, Royals, and possibly other teams being in the market for a 1B/DH.

There is going to be a point where Duda is no longer the Mets first baseman.  He is going to go to another place where the fans are going to appreciate him for getting on base even when he’s cold at the plate.  They’re going to be in awe of a 30 home run caliber bat.  He’s going to play a good first base.

All the while, Mets fans will be bending over backwards to say no one could have expected this.  It’s just another case of Justin Turner and Daniel Murphy.  In reality, they’ll be wrong.  Duda was this good when he was in New York, but you just failed to appreciate him.

Seen This Loss Too Many Times This Year

The Mets fought hard to get back into this game.  In the end, it was the usual culprits that would let the Mets down – injuries, defense, and the bullpen. 

After Curtis Granderson led off the game with a home run off Dan StrailyRobert Gsellman would just give the lead back. 

In the bottom of the first, the Marlins had runners on first and second with two outs, but Gsellman couldn’t come up with that big pitch to get out of the inning. Justin Bour singled to tie the game, and Martin Prado doubled to give the Marlins a 3-1 lead. 

It was one of those nights where you knew Gsellman probably wasn’t long for the game. You’d be right, but not for the reason you’d expect. 

In the fourth, Lucas Duda got a rally started with a one out double, and it appeared as if the Mets would strand him there. Travis d’Arnaud came up with the big two out RBI single pulling the Mets within one. 

Then came the Gsellman injury. Gsellman would ground out to the pitcher. On the play, he’d vacillate between jogging and busting it. It led to a leg injury. Rather go on a rant here about another injury, it’s best to leave it to Ron Darling:

This led to Paul Sewald getting thrown into the game. He did a great job pitching three scoreless innings keeping the Mets in the game. It allowed d’Arnaud to tie the game with a solo shot off Kyle Barraclough

The hit got the Mets going, and it seemed as if the Mets might take the lead. Brandon Nimmo worked out a pinch hit walk, and Granderson smoked a grounder up the middle. 

That’s when JT Riddle made a phenomenal play on the Granderson grounder to get a 6-6-3 inning ending double play. 

With the game tied at 3-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh, Terry Collins went to Neil Ramirez and his 6.66 ERA. You knew nothing good would come of this. 

Ramirez would issue a leadoff walk to J.T. Realmuto, and Riddle would smoke a grounder towards Duda. It was difficult, but Duda needs to make that play. The ball hit off his glove setting up first and third with no outs. 
Like all Mets fans, Collins had enough of Ramirez and went to Jerry Blevins, who has pitched poor of late, to pitch to Ichiro Suzuki

Being the wily veteran with 3,049 career hits entering the game, Ichiro knew just where to hit it – right by Wilmer Flores, who went in the completely wrong direction:

From there, Blevins walked Giancarlo Stanton to get to the left-handed Christian Yelich.  The move didn’t work as Yelich hit a two run single giving the Marlins a 6-3 lead. 

This loss was the same loss that we’ve been seeing all season long. This is the same loss that has derailed the Mets season. 

Game Notes: Michael Conforto was not available to pinch hit after getting hit on the wrist in Sunday’s game. Erik Goeddel pitched 1.2 scoreless. He has three scoreless innings in three appearances this year. 

I Still Have Hope . . . Sandy Shouldn’t

After a sweep of the Giants in San Francisco, fans could allow themselves hope for the 2017 season again.  Yes, the Giants are a dreadful team, but there was a lot to like about the Mets in that series.  If you dig deeper, there is still things to like about this Mets team.

Jacob deGrom is in a stretch where he has gone at least eight innings in three consecutive starts.  This could be the best stretch of his career, which is certainly saying something.

Rafael Montero has now had three consecutive strong outings allowing just two earned runs over his last 14.1 inning pitched. In this stretch, he not only finally looks like a major league pitcher, he looks like a good major league pitcher.

Curtis Granderson has been the best hitting National League outfielder in the month of June (204 wRC+), and he’s been hitting .297/.408/.595 with 13 doubles, two triples, nine homers, and 23 RBI since May 1st.

Jay Bruce has been resurgent hitting .315/.358/.629 with four doubles, eight homers, and 17 RBI.  He’s on pace for his first 40 home run season and just his second 100 RBI season.

While acting unprofessional about the switch to second base in the clubhouse, Asdrubal Cabrera has been nothing but professional on the field going 7-14 in the series and playing a very good second base. 

Lucas Duda is flat out raking hitting .375/.474/.813 over the past week, and as we know when Duda gets hot like this, he can carry the team for a long stretch.  Just ask the 2015 Nationals.

Lost in all of that is Yoenis Cespedes being Cespedes, Addison Reed being a dominant closer, and Seth Lugo stabilizing the rotation.  There is even the specter of David Wright returning to the lineup.  When you combine that with the Mets schedule, this team is primed to reel off nine straight wins.

If the Mets were to win nine straight, they would be just one game under .500.  At that point, the Mets will be red hot heading to another big series in Washington.  Last time the teams played there, the Mets took two of three.  After that is a bad Cardinals team before the All Star Break.

Combine this hypothetical Mets run with a Rockies team losing six straight, and the Mets are right back in the mix with a bunch of teams hovering around .500 for a shot at the postseason.  Last year, the Mets were under .500 as late as August 19th, and they still made the postseason.  Throw in a potential Amed Rosario call up, and you really have things cooking.  Why not this year’s team?

Well, that’s easy.  The bullpen is a mess.  You have no idea when Noah Syndergaard and Neil Walker can return if they can return at all.  Jose Reyes is playing everyday.  The route to the postseason partially relies upon Montero being a good major league pitcher, and the Mets calling up Rosario.  At this point, those are two things no one should rely.

As a fan?  We should all enjoy the ride for as long as it will carry us.  As Mets fans, we have seen miracles.  We saw this team win in 1969.  We saw a team dead in the water in 1973 go all the way to game seven of the World Series.  We watched a Mookie Wilson grounder pass through Bill Buckner‘s legs.  We saw Mike Piazza homer in the first game in New York after 9/11.

As fans, we can hold out hope for the impossible.  We can dream.  Sandy doesn’t have that luxury.  He needs to look at the reality of the Mets situation and make the best moves he possibly can.  That includes trading Bruce, Duda, Granderson, and any other veteran who can get him a good return on the trade market.

That still shouldn’t stop us from dreaming.  Who knows?  Maybe Rosario, Gavin Cecchini, and Dominic Smith can led the Mets to the postseason after Sandy is done selling.

Mets Were Right To Move Cabrera to Second Base

For starters, lets concede that Jose Reyes has been playing so poorly he should unseat no one for a starting position unless he was going to play for the Long Island Ducks.  In turn, it also needs to be conceded Asdrubal Cabrera is no longer a major league caliber shortstop.  In his interview on the topic, Cabrera admitted as much saying, “I think next year, I have to go – I have to move to another position . . . I’m fine with that.”

Cabrera needs to be fine with that as he’s not a shortstop now.  His -10 DRS is the worst among shortstops with at least 100 innings played at the position.  His -5.5 UZR is the second worst in the majors among players with 100 innings played at short.  But it’s more than the advanced metrics.  Visually, you can see he no longer has the range.  His sure hands aren’t so sure anymore.  His 11 errors are the third most in the majors and are four more than he had all of last year.  The final indignity for him came when he had his Luis Castillo impersonation.

It was time to move Cabrera to second base.  With the team having an eye towards the 2018 season, it was time to see if the team should pick up his 2018 option in the offseason to play him alongside Amed Rosario.  With the team looking to sell, it was also a chance to improve his trade value.

Now, this isn’t the first time the Mets have asked Cabrera to change positions.  Earlier in the year, they asked him to move to third base.  He wasn’t amendable going so far as to demand the team pick up his 2018 option if they planned such a move.  Rather than promote discord throughout the clubhouse, Terry Collins dropped it.  The team had to know moving him to second base was going to create issues.

And it did.  Cabrera demanded a trade from the team.  Sure, part of it could be the Mets didn’t give him the courtesy of speaking with him first, or the team not giving him the opportunity to play some games at second base during his rehab stint in the minor leagues.  Still, even with the Mets mishandling the situation, given how Cabrera responded to moving to third base, this incident was going to happen anyway.

It is better for that incident to have occurred with Reyes supplanting him than Rosario.  It is hard enough for a rookie to get acclimated to playing in the major leagues.  It is even more difficult with a disenchanted veteran angry you took his job.  This is the same veteran you would want to mentor a young Rosario to help ease his transition.  Seeing Cabrera’s actions, this was not going to happen if Rosario was the one who replaced him.

That is why having Reyes take over at shortstop made sense.  Reyes is a veteran better capable of handling the situation, especially when he previously faced the same situation when the Mets signed Kaz MatsuiLet Reyes deal with the fallout now so all issues are resolved by the time Rosario is called up to the majors.

Overall, while we can quibble with how the Mets handled moving Cabrera to second base, we can all agree they made the right decision.  They got to find out more about Cabrera both in terms of his ability as a second baseman and how he handles a change in his roles.  More importantly, they made Rosario’s transition to the major leagues that much easier.

Thank You Brooklyn Cyclones

This past week my Dad turned 70 years old.  It is because of him that my brother and I have been lifelong Mets fans.  For that, I’m not sure to thank him or to curse him.  All joking aside, some of my fondest memories with my Dad have involved baseball.

There were the Mets games through the years.  We were there for Robin Venturas Grand Slam single.  We saw Todd Pratt‘s homer ending the 1999 NLDS.  We were there a year later as Bobby Jones propelled the Mets to the 2000 NLCS.  There was the last game at Shea Stadium, and the first game at Citi Field.

We saw Matt Harvey come so close to pitching a no-hitter against the White Sox.  We loved see Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero have their first ever start at Citi Field in the 2013 Future’s Game.  Our favorite moment at a Mets game hands down was Game 3 of the 2015 World Series.

But it was more than the Mets games.  There were the catches he used to have with my brother and I in the backyard.  There was him throwing pitches to help try me to become a catcher.  There were the times, he would throw batting practice to my brother and I.

When it came time to give him a gift, my family wanted to give him more than a present.  We wanted to give him a memory that would at least rival the fond memories we had of him.  With us not having 499 friends to invite to a Mets game, or the money to purchase those tickets, that left us with the Brooklyn Cyclones.

Brooklyn in and of itself was fitting.  It was the place he would commute over an hour each way in order for him to support our family, to put my brother and I through school.

After speaking with the Cyclones, Joe Senis specifically, we were able to arrange for my father to throw out the first pitch before Saturday’s Cyclones game. Not just that, but at my Dad’s request, they allowed his grandson to take the mound with him (and throw out a pitch of his own):

 

Personally, I think they both did a great job:

Also, great job by Kurt Horne catching both of those pitches and for taking a brief moment to shake my Dad’s and my son’s hands.  It was also great Edgardo Alfonzo, one of my Dad’s favorite Mets, gave us his autograph.

That’s not all the Cyclones did for us.  They also sent the mascot up to where we were sitting for some family photos . . .

 

and they put on a great postgame fireworks show:


It was a classy move from a classy group of people.  They gave my Dad and his family a memory we will forever cherish, and we are forever grateful to the team.

 

Montero Figured Out At Least One Thing . . . The Giants

The Mets have given Rafael Montero enough chances that he was bound to finally figure it out.  Still, it seemed like he never was.  Each and every year, Montero was getting worse . . . not better.  He stuck around while useful and promising pitchers like Gabriel Ynoa were sent away for a mere pittance.  Finally, in his ninth major league call-up, Montero seems to have figured it out.

Montero only got this last chance due to injuries.  Unlike the other eight times Montero got a chance, Montero finally took advantage.

With the Mets needing some innings out of the bullpen, Terry Collins twice turned to Montero.  In those two appearances, Montero pitched 6.2 innings allowing just one earned on three hits.  He only walked two while striking out eight.  If nothing else, he helped save the bullpen in those games.  More than that, he finally earned a start, which he got on Sunday.

On Sunday, Montero looked like the guy the Mets have been waiting for all these years.  He was throwing strikes and attacking the zone.  He was mixing up his pitches and using his change-up as a weapon and not as a panic pitch because he didn’t trust his other stuff to get outs.

Things were going smooth for Montero until the third inning.  After allowing a pair of one out singles, he walked Hunter Pence to load the bases with Buster Posey heading to the plate.  In the past, this is the exact point where Montero would fall apart.  He didn’t.  Montero bore down, and he got Posey to hit a sacrifice fly.  He then battled Brandon Belt when the Giants bailed him out.  Pence tried to steal a base, and Rene Rivera gunned him down to get out of the inning.

That wasn’t the only way Rivera helped his pitcher.  Rivera went 2-5 with two homers and three RBI.  Overall, he helped his pitcher behind the plate and at the plate.

But it was Montero who was great.  In 5.2 innings pitched, Montero allowed just one run on five hits while walking just two and striking out seven.  You could argue this was just the Giants terrible offense, but it should be remembered his last two appearances were against the Nationals and Dodgers, who are two of the best offenses in baseball.

Montero would get the win because of his terrific pitching and because the Mets offense continued to roll.

Again, it was Curtis Granderson who got things started drawing a lead-off walk against Matt Moore.  He’d eventually come around to score on a Jay Bruce RBI groundout.  Bruce’s next RBI came in the eighth when he hit a two run homer to put the game away.  The homer was Bruce’s 20th home run of the season.  At his current pace, Bruce will have his first 40 HR season and just his second 100 RBI season.

Throw in a Lucas Duda fifth inning RBI double and a Granderson ninth inning solo shot, and you have a Mets 8-2 victory.  More than that, the Mets have swept just their second sweep of an opponent this season.  If only the Mets had played like this earlier in the season.  We could have been talking about the Mets being about to go on a push to make the postseason.  Instead, it is probably too little too late.

Game Notes: After moving to second for the first two games in the series, Asdrubal Cabrera was back at shortstop with Jose Reyes getting the day off.

On Deck