David Wright Not Even In the Discussion Anymore

Back in 2008, Bill James, the man who was at the forefront of the revolution of the use of advanced statistics in Major League Baseball, said in a 60 Minutes interview that David Wright would be a top pick on his “dream team.”

At that time, Wright was coming off a 30/30 season that also saw him win his first Gold Glove.  In total, Wright hit .325/.416/.546 with 42 doubles, one triple, 30 homers, and 107 RBI.  He posted an astonishingly high 8.3 WAR, which serves not just as a career best, but also as the highest WAR a Mets position player has ever posted.  Wright was just 24 years old, and he seemed well on his way to Cooperstown.

A lot has happened over the past decade.  In 2009, the Mets moved into Citi Field.  Under its original configuration with the high outfield walls and the needlessly deep right-center field, the ballpark was an affront to what exactly made Wright a great hitter.  After that were two injury plagued seasons that served as a harbinger of things to come.

In 2011, Wright spent over two months on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his lower back.  In 2013, Wright saw an All Star season derailed as he missed 45 games due to a right hamstring strain.

The next time Wright would suffer a right hamstring strain was on April 14, 2015.  Initially, everyone thought Wright would bounce back and help lead the team to their first postseason appearance in almost a decade.  It didn’t turn out that way.  Wright’s recovery from the hamstring strain was taking longer than expected leading to subsequent examinations.  Those examinations revealed Wright was suffering from spinal stenosis, a condition that will forever limit him.

Still, there was hope for Wright.  After missing 115 games, he would return to the Mets, and in his first at-bat, he would hit a home run.  As the Mets pushed towards the postseason, Wright hit a very respectable .277/.381/.437 with four homers and 13 RBI in 30 games.  While you knew he was going to be limited due to the spinal stenosis, there was at least some evidence that Wright could be a productive player.

Those hopes were fortified early in the 2016 season.  Through 24 games, Wright was hitting .258/.405/.472 with four homers and eight RBI.  While he couldn’t play each and every game, and while there were some holes in his game, he was putting up good numbers.  From there, Wright’s season began to fall apart.  Over the next 13 games, he hit .167/.231/.375 while striking out 42.3% of the time.

Wright had a new injury this time.  He had a herniated cervical disc requiring him to undergo season ending surgery.   This forced the Mets to move on from him and eventually sign Jose Reyes to be the team’s everyday third baseman.

Wright was gone, but he wasn’t forgotten.  There were the rehabilitation updates.  The Reyes signing sparked the nostalgia of seeing the two players celebrating the team clinching the NL East back in 2006.  Then Wright was able to return to Citi Field to watch the games from the bullpen.  However, he was not able to even come close to stepping foot on the field.  With that, Wright was was never overlooked or forgotten.

It is not forgotten that he was one of the top players in the game, possibly the best player in the game.  However, times are changed, and to a certain extent no one can reasonably expect anything from him.  We were reminded of that again on Sunday night.

During the offseason, MLB Network runs down the Top 10 players at each position.  Various analysts contribute their opinions of who should be in that Top 10.  The final ranking is then determined by “The Shredder.”  Here were the list of third baseman considered for the 2017 season:

Wright wasn’t even in consideration, nor should he have been.  Wright can no longer be in the discussion for anything until we see him step foot on the baseball field again.  Based upon reports on his rehabilitation, that should happen during Spring Training.  That’s great news for Mets fans everywhere.  Still, those Spring Training games will do little to alleviate the now heightened concerns Wright can withstand the rigors of a 162 game schedule.  Based upon his start to last season, even Wright starting the season off well will do little in terms of the Mets ability to count on Wright producing over the course of the season.

Overall, no matter what Wright does, it will do nothing to elevate his diminished status in the game.

Three Current Mets and Their Hall of Fame Outlook

The Hall of Fame inducted Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez in what should be the first of many Hall of Fame classes we see without a Mets player being inducted.  The Mets had to wait 23 years between the elections of Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza.  Depending on which hat Carlos Beltran selects when he is likely inducted into the Hall of Fame, the Mets may be waiting even longer than that.  How long the Mets wait may depend on the Hall of Fame worthiness of one of the players currently on the Mets roster.  Here are some players with a chance to be Hall of Famers one day:

#1 David Wright

Career Stats: .296/.376/.491, 949 R, 1,777 H, 390 2B, 26 3B, 242 HR, 970 RBI, 196 SB

Awards: 7X All-Star, 2X Gold Glove, 2X Silver Slugger

Advanced Stats: 49.9 WAR, 133 OPS+, 133 wRC+

Hall of Fame Metrics: 40.0 WAR7, 45.0 JAWS

The Case For: With his spinal stenosis, Wright has been that rare breed of player that not only spends his whole career with one team, but also winds up owning almost all of a team’s offensive records.  At this point in time, he is the career leader in runs, hits, doubles, and RBI.  He is only 10 behind Darryl Strawberry for the team home run lead.  It is rare that with a franchise in as existence as long as the Mets that the team’s best ever offensive player is not inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Superlatives aside, there is a statistical foundation for Wright’s induction.  His 133 OPS+ would be the sixth best by a Hall of Fame third baseman putting him ahead of the likes of Wade Boggs and Ron Santo.  His 133 wRC+ would be the third best among third base Hall of Famers with him trailing just Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, and Home Run Baker.  His OBP would be the fifth best among Hall of Fame third baseman putting him ahead of the likes of George Brett.  His slugging would be third among Hall of Fame third baseman putting him ahead of players like Brooks Robinson.

No matter how you look at it, Wright has been a top five to top ten third baseman all-time.  As seen with his Gold Gloves, he is one of the more complete players we have ever seen at the position.

The Case Against: Due in large part of the spinal stenosis, Wright’s peak was not as high as it would be for a traditional Hall of Famer.  In fact his WAR, WAR7, and JAWS trail the 67.5/42.7/55.1 an average Hall of Fame third baseman has accumulated in their career.  In fact, Wright trails  Robin Ventura in WAR and JAWS, and Ventura didn’t garner the 5% necessary to stay on the ballot.  Overall, while you can say that Wright at his peak was one of the best third baseman ever, his peak did not last long, and he become too injury prone to put together a great career.

Verdict:  Fortunately for Wright, he still has time to put up some more numbers to help bolster his Hall of Fame chances.  However, with his spinal stenosis and now cervical fusion, it is hard to imagine him putting up positive WAR seasons that will move the meter enough to classify him as a Hall of Famer.

#2 Yoenis Cespedes

Career Stats: .272/.325/.494, 406 R, 743 H, 149 2B, 22 3B, 137 HR, 453 RBI, 40 SB

Awards: 2X All-Star, 1X Gold Glove, 1X Silver Slugger

Advanced Stats: 18.7 WAR, 124 OPS+, 123 wRC+

Hall of Fame Metrics: 18.7 WAR7, 18.7 JAWS

The Case For: Unlike Wright, who is winding down is career, Cespedes, 31, seems to have quality years ahead of him.  The belief in the possibility of becoming a Hall of Famer started on August 1, 2015, which is the first time he set foot in the batter’s box as a member of the New York Mets.  Cespedes had the type of finish to the 2015 season people will talk about for years to come.  In the final 57 games of the season, Cespedes hit 17 homers and 44 RBI.  The Mets went from being three games over .500 and two games out of the division to finishing the season on a 37-22 run and winning the division by seven games.  In his Mets career, the Mets are 110-79 with him in the lineup, and a game under .500 when he is not.  Simply put, Cespedes is a difference maker.

He’s also a completely different player.  From 2012 – 2014, Cespedes was a .263/.316/.464 hitter who averaged 24 homers and 87 RBI.  Since coming to the Mets, Cespedes is a .282/.348/.554 hitter who has a 162 game average of 42 homers and 119 RBI.  Before becoming a Met, he averaged 3.1 WAR per season.  In 2015, his first truly great season, he posted a 6.3 WAR.  Last season, in part due to his injuries and his playing out of position, he regressed back to a 2.9 WAR.  With him returning to left field, where he is a Gold Glover, he should return to being a player who can post six WAR seasons.  If so, Cespedes has a shot of clearing the 65.1 WAR, 41.5 WAR7, and 53.3 JAWS an average Hall of Fame left fielder has accumulated.

The Case Against: Cespedes is already 31 years old, and to ask him to put forth five more MVP level type seasons is unrealistic.  The unfortunate truth is Cespedes may have gotten too late a start to his career due to his being born in Cuba, played at a horrendous ballpark in O.co Stadium for a player of his skill set too long, and he became a much improved hitter too late in his career.

Verdict: Unfortunately, Cespedes didn’t do enough early in his career, and it is not likely he’s going to be a truly great player into his mid to late 30s.  Overall, is going to go down as a beloved Met, but much like Keith Hernandez, he is going to fall short.

#3 Noah Syndergaard

Career Stats: 23-16, 2.89 ERA, 55 G, 54 GS, 333.2 IP, 384 K, 1.103 WHIP, 10.4 K/9

Awards: 1X All Star

Advanced Stats: 137 ERA+, 2.72 FIP, 7.4 WAR

The Case For: In some sense, Syndergaard represents the trio that includes him, Matt Harvey, and Jacob deGrom.  The reason why Syndergaard was selected was he is the youngest, has a fastball that gets over 100 MPH, and he is the only one without any injuries in his young career.  Naturally, like with any young pitcher, health is going to be the key.

Last season, we saw Syndergaard scratch the surface of what he can be as a starter.  He not only posts high strikeout numbers, but he generally induces weak contact.  In fact, his 0.5 HR/9 was the best mark in the major leagues last year.  Not so coincidentally, so was his 2.29 FIP.  To cap off the season, Syndergaard pitched in a do-or-die Wild Card Game against Madison Bumgarner, who is the best big game pitcher we have in baseball.  Syndergaard not only matched him scoreless inning for scoreless inning, he also out-pitched Bumgarner for those seven innings.

Syndergaard has slowly been moving from one of the most talented pitchers in the game to one of the best pitchers in the game.  At 23, we can expect him to have many great seasons, and quite possibly multiple Cy Young awards.  Really, at this point in his career, anything is possible.

The Case Against: That’s the problem with anything being possible.  At one point in time Dwight Gooden was a no-doubt Hall of Famer.  In fact, Gooden’s 1985 season was one of the greatest regular seasons a starting pitcher has ever had.  However, as we know Gooden never made the Hall of Fame.  Yes, much of that had to do with Gooden’s drug problems, but it should also be noted Gooden dealt with arm injuries as well.  He probably threw too many innings at an early age, and he would eventually needed shoulder surgery.  This as much as anything had to do with Gooden’s career falling apart.

Besides Gooden, you can name any number of pitchers who went from great to broken.  That’s the nature of pitching.

Verdict: Syndergaard not only has the talent, but he also has the drive to be truly great.  As long as luck holds out, and he listens to his body, like he did last year, Syndergaard should remain healthy putting him in good position to make a run at the Hall of Fame.

Mets Need Bryce Harper

Of course, the Mets could use Bryce Harper.  Any team could as Harper is one of the best players in the game.  With that said, the Mets could use Harper because he is a player willing to do this:

Naturally, if you are a Nationals player or fan, you are left a little frustrated by this offseason.  It seems like every player went to another team.

This offseason alone free agents like Yoenis Cespedes, Kenley Jansen, .  On top of that, they were unable to secured trades for Chris Sale, Andrew McCutchen, and Charlie Blackmon leading to them sending a big haul of prospects to the White Sox for Adam Eaton.  By the way, in that deal, the Nationals were not able to get the White Sox to include David Robertson.

What makes this all the more frustrating is this comes of a similar experience for the Nationals last season, which was capped off with Brandon Phillips refusing to waive his no trade clause.

Even with the Eaton acquisition, the Nationals still have two holes due to both Mark Melancon and Wilson Ramos departing in free agency.  This has led to the Nationals pursuit of both Matt Wieters, even with the Derek Norris trade, and Greg Holland.  Arguably, both players could fill the voids in the Nationals roster.

However, the team is stuck in a standstill for budgetary reasons, and they are armed with excuses.  This has led to their best player calling them out publicly.

The Nationals situation is not too different from the Mets situation.  This Mets team has failed to completely address the holes on their roster.  Even more aggravating is the Mets once again citing budgetary reasons as their excuse for not going out and signing even a mid-tier relief pitcher like Brad Ziegler.  Instead, the Mets were content to let him go to a a team in their division.

This pattern of (spending) behavior by the Mets has been maddening since Sandy Alderson took over as General Manager after the conclusion of the 2010 season.  Now, this isn’t Alderson’s fault per se.  It is more on the Wilpons and how they have chosen to spend their money, and their lies about restrictions on payroll.  Sometimes, you want a player to speak out and scream they don’t want another season with an Eric Campbell on the bench or the team having to trade for bad relievers like Alex Torres on the eve of Opening Day because you didn’t have the money to spend on quality arms.

With the Mets not adding arms this offseason, you want someone to scream.

Now, admittedly, Harper can be a bit much.  We saw that with his asking where his ring was when the Nationals signed Max Scherzer.  Even with that said, wouldn’t it be better for the Mets to have a player that would keep them accountable?  Wouldn’t it be better if the Mets felt like they needed to aggressively attack the window in the offseason rather than trading away minor league arms with upside for Kelly Johnson when the Mets easily could have signed him in the offseason?

For me, the answer is yes especially when you consider how close Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard are to being split up due to their respective free agencies on the horizon.

Good Luck Alejandro De Aza

Sometimes deals were not a good idea at their inception.  At other times, deals don’t just work out as planned.  Then there was Alejandro De Aza‘s tenure with the New York Mets.

Back when De Aza signed with the Mets, he was supposed to be the left-handed platoon option to go along with Juan Lagares in center field.  It was an extremely unpopular signing at the time beacause it was a clear indication the Mets were not going to sign Yoenis Cespedes.  Except the Mets, due to a combination of sheer luck and the depth of top end outfielders on the market, did actually re-sign Cespedes.

Just like that De Aza went from the platoon partner getting the bulk of the at-bats to being the team’s fifth outfielder.  Considering the talent level ahead of him,  he seemed like he was going to be the team’s seldom used fifth outfielder.  Anyone would struggle under those circumstances, and De Aza did.

In the beginning of July, he was only batting .158 with just five extra base hits.  Keep in mind, both of those extra base hits came in the same game.  Essentially, the irregular to lack of playing time was wrecking havoc with his ability to produce, and it was affecting him mentally.  It got to the point where Terry Collins began to question his work ethic.

With all that in mind, De Aza deserves a lot of credit.  De Aza went on a tear in July hitting .375/.487/.531 in 21 games and six games started.  The tear came at the right time too because it was a Mets team seemingly falling apart.  Lagares had a thumb issue.  Cespedes would deal with a quad injury.  Both Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto were struggling as well.  In fact, the entire Mets offense including Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera was struggling.  The Mets needed this boost from him, and they go it.

De Aza would also step up as the Mets were making a push for the Wild Card.  In a crucial late August series against the Cardinals, with Seth Lugo making his second ever major league start, De Aza came up huge not only robbing Matt Carpenter of a home run in the first at-bat in the bottom of the first, but also by hitting his own three run home run.  It was all part of how De Aza came up big when the Mets needed in most.  In fact, over the final month of the season, he would hit .265/.366/.353 in 25 games.

Overall, De Aza’s tenure with the Mets was a disappointing one with all involved.  However, he made significant contributions to the Mets when they needed them most.  That should never be overlooked even if ultimately he was usually the outfielder overlooked when Collins was filling out the lineup card.

De Aza’s struggles are a large reason why he was only able to muster a minor league deal with the Oakland Athletics.  With that said, he is in a much better situation than he was in 2016.  This should allow him to return to being the player he never really got the chance to be with the Mets.  Hopefully, he gets back to that point.

Trivia Friday – Mets Who Have Had Tommy John Surgery

With this Mets team once again built on pitching, the fear continues to be that one of these pitchers will suffer an injury.  An even bigger fear is that injury will require Tommy John surgery.  This usually means a pitcher is gone for over a year, and as we have seen with Jeremy Hefner and Bobby Parnell, it is not an easy road back, nor is it a guarantee the pitcher will return to form.  That is why the route Seth Maness has chosen is so important to the Mets and all of baseball.  It creates the possibility that a player can return in-season rather than missing over a year.

Can you name the Mets currently on the 40 man roster who have undergone Tommy John surgery?  Good luck!


Jacob deGrom Josh Edgin Chris Flexen Erik Goeddel Matt Harvey Marcos Molina Zack Wheeler

The Importance of Seth Maness 2017 Season

Back in 2013, Mets fans were shocked and depressed when Matt Harvey missed the remainder of the regular season with a torn UCL.  Initially, it seemed Harvey did not want the surgery, but eventually he agreed to have the surgery.  Fortunately for Harvey, he went through the rehabilitation process with no setbacks, and he became an important part of a 2015 rotation that went all the way to the World Series.

While rehabilitating, he worked alongside former Mets starter Jeremy Hefner.  In 2012 and 2013, Hefner had performed better than expected with the Mets, and he finally seemed to carve out some type of a role in the organization.  The team even tendered him a contract while he was rehabbing from his own Tommy John surgery.  However, disaster struck, and Hefner would need another Tommy John surgery.  He would miss all of the 2014 and 2015 seasons.  The Mets would non-tender him, and he would have to agree to a minor league contract with the St. Louis Cardinals.  Now, with another arm injury, he has since retired.

These are just two of the countless stories we have seen with the Mets when it comes to Tommy John surgery.  Recently, we have heard terrific stories about how Jacob deGrom learned how to throw the change-up from Johan Santana while deGrom was rehabiliting from his own Tommy John surgery.  It was a great story, and it was something that forever changed the trajectory of deGrom’s career.  There have been other Mets who have had their career trajectories change due to the surgery.

At one point in his career, Bobby Parnell was deemed the closer of the future.  In 2013, he seemed to take over the role when he recorded 22 saves.  In 2014, he would be named the Opening Day closer.  It lasted all of one inning as Parnell was shut down and had Tommy John surgery.  He tried to come back in 2015, but he did not have the same velocity, and he did not have his command.  The Mets showed no interest in re-signing him leading to Parnell signing a minor league deal with the Tigers.  After six major league appearances that saw him post a 6.75 ERA, Parnell was released in August.

Of course, the biggest name with the Mets to have issues post-Tommy John surgery was Zack Wheeler.  Right before the 2015 season was set to begin, Wheeler was diagnosed with a torn UCL.  He would have the surgery, and he would have a number of set-backs.  He was initially slated to be a part of the Mets starting rotation around the 2016 All Star break.  Instead, he would have a number of setbacks, and eventually, the Mets would shut him down for the season.  In total, he threw one inning for St. Lucie in a rehab appearance.  Now, the Mets are discussing whether they should move him to the bullpen for at least the start of the season.

Hefner, Parnell, and Wheeler show exactly why the experiment Seth Maness is undergoing is so important to the game of baseball.

For the past four seasons, Maness has been an effective reliever for the St. Louis Cardinals.  Because of his own torn UCL, Maness would make his last appearance on August 13th, and it was assumed he would be headed for Tommy John surgery like so many other people have with the same injury.  He didn’t.

Derrick Gould of the St. Louis Dispatch reports Maness underwent a surgery called “primary repair” which is ” a repair and buttressing of the existing ligament at the bone, not Tommy John’s reconstruction of the ligament.”  Like Tommy John once was, Maness is now a trailblazer that may have the name of a surgery attached to him.  The physician that performed the surgery, Dr. George Paletta, spoke about the procedure saying:

In select cases of UCL tears, with this technique, they have the real potential to not miss the next year.  This is potentially a huge stride forward in three ways. First, early results show a high success rate. Second, a return to play is cut by 40 percent. That’s a huge factor. We are able to accelerate the return-to-throwing (rehab) program for the athletes. With this technique at the end of 2016 we have a pitcher who is ready to pitch in games by opening day.

And the third way, as a consequence of this, in the right setting, one would feel more confident moving to surgery early on.

Believe it or not, Maness is a week away from being able to take the mound after a little more than seven months after the surgery.  It is expected the free agent reliever will be ready to pitch on Opening Day.  Once he takes the mound, there is going to be a lot of interest in his performance.

Dr. Jeffrey Dugas, another surgeon who performs this surgery and the managing partner at the Andrews Sports Medicine & Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, AL noted there is now a lot of interest in how Maness performs post-surgery:

People are watching this and it’s an interesting thing for all of us.  There is a lot that we need to learn from Seth, a lot that we need to learn from all of the guys (who have had it). We need the data. There are still so many hurdles to go over, but we’re excited to watch what is going to happen because of what is possible. We’re going to follow him very closely.

Therein lies the rub.  We had gotten to the point with Tommy John surgery where it had felt almost routine; where we looked at pitchers like Masahiro Tanaka and wondered why he just didn’t get the surgery.  The “primary repair” or Seth Maness Surgery is far from that point.  However, if Maness has a strong 2017 season, and a couple of more pitcher follow his path, and have similar success stories, the treatment fo UCLs may have been revolutionized.

There may no longer see the Harveys of the world miss more than a season.  We may also see an alternative route for the Hefners, Parnells, and Wheelers of the world.  Ultimately, when there is at least a chance pitchers will miss less time and have an alternative surgery that may work better for them, it is a time for cautious optimism.

And with that, a middle reliever who induces a number of groundballs could have one of the most important seasons in major league history.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online

Jeremy Hefer and the Highs And Lows of Baseball

At the same time, baseball can be beautiful, and it can be a cruel sport with absolutely no forgiveness whatsoever.  When you are discussing pitchers, the highs can reach into the heavens and the lows seem to abut the depths of hell.  Perhaps no one knows this better than Jeremy Hefner.

For those unaware, the former Mets pitcher announced his retirement from baseball.

In his announcement on Facebook, Hefner said he was retiring because he needs yet another surgery.  This surgery would be to repair a partially torn rotator cuff in his pitching shoulder.  Hefner tried rest twice, but it didn’t work.  If he is going to continue his career as a baseball player, he will need to have another surgery.

And with Hefner, we learned that surgery isn’t routine.  Back in 2013, when seemingly everyone was pushing Matt Harvey to just accept his fate and get Tommy John surgery, Hefner had already decided to have his surgery.  He was actually ahead of Harvey in the rehabilitation process.  While Harvey was chomping at the bit to try to pitch for the Mets at the end of the 2014 season, it was Hefner who would actually get that chance.

Catastrophe struck.  Whatever the cause, whatever the reason, Hefner suffered a stress fracture and a second tear of his UCL, which required a second Tommy John surgery.  In baseball today, Tommy John isn’t seen as major reconstructive surgery.  Rather, the surgery itself and the rehab required to pitch again is seen as routine.  Hefner proved it was anything but.

With Hefner needing a second surgery, the Mets needed to move on.  In some sense it was strange seeing the Mets move on from Hefner because he was a player they had coveted.  Hefner was twice drafted by the team, but he never signed with them.  After he was waived by the Pirates and the Padres in 2011, the Mets picked him up, and they put him on the path to the majors.  When Hefner suffered his first UCL, the Mets believed it was worth the $500,000 to keep him around for a season of rehab.  But with the second surgery, he was gone.

During this time frame, it was hard to remember all of the high points in Hefner’s career.  In fact, Hefner was actually the answer to a trivia question as he had done something in baseball that no one had ever done before.

On April 23, 2012, Hefner made his debut as a reliever in the first game of a doubleheader between the Mets and the Giants.  When Hefner entered the game, he was the first ever 26th man on the roster to play in a major league game.  In essence, Hefner became the 21st Century version of Ron Blomberg

The first ever batter Hefner faced was Buster Posey, a player who is one of the best baseball players in the game today.  Hefner got Posey to ground-out to shortstop.  It was all part of an impressive three scoreless inning relief appearance.  Due to the quirks of the 26th Man Rule, Hefner would go back to AAA after the game.  It would not be the last the Mets heard from him.

On May 19th, Hefner once again had to enter a game to bail out Miguel Batista.  During this five inning relief appearance, Hefner would record his first ever strike out by getting Edwin Encarnacion swinging.  On May 24th, Hefner would make his first ever start against the San Diego Padres.  Then, on May 29th, Hefner would pitch six strong innings against the reigning NL East Champion Philadelphia Phillies to record his first ever major league win.  However, that May 29th game would be remembered for more than just his first win:

During that entire 2012 season, Hefner showed the Mets enough for them to make him a part of their future.  In fact, Hefner would be part of the Opening Day rotation.  Hefner proved he belonged.  In a stretch from April 25th to July 12th, he had made 15 starts going 4-4 with a 2.78 ERA and a 1.053 WHIP.  He had a 7:2 strikeout to walk ratio.  He was averaging over six innings per start.  Especially in a time where Jacob deGrom had yet to establish himself, Noah Syndergaard was in A ball, Steven Matz was dealing with his own Tommy John issues, and Bartolo Colon was an Oakland Athletic, Hefner was showing the Mets he could be a part of this Mets pitching staff over the long haul.

Hefner showed everyone he was a major league pitcher.

While these highs were great, there is one thing that stands out to me about Hefner – his perseverance.  After facing the daunting task of having had two Tommy John surgeries, not having thrown a pitch in a major league game in over two years, and with his being released by the Mets, he didn’t give up.  He would pitch, and pitch well, in Winter Ball at the end of 2015.  He showed enough for the St. Louis Cardinals to sign him to a minor league contract.

While he pitched well through April, the injuries, new and old, began to catch up with him.  He would struggle, be released, and now, he finds himself as a retired baseball player.  Hopefully, Hefner finds himself a retired baseball player who is proud of all that he accomplished in his career.

Hefner not only got the chance to pitch in the major leagues.  It’s all the more impressive when you consider about 30% of fifth rounders even play in the major leagues.  Hefner was part of an Opening Day rotation for a franchise known for its pitching.  Hefner has not only collected a win, but he also has a home run to his credit.  In fact, Hefner did something in the major leagues no one had ever done before.

Overall, Hefner had an all too brief career, but it was a career of consequence.  It was a career with highlights.  It was a career, he should feel pride in having.

Why The Mets Have Not Traded Jay Bruce Yet

With the Toronto Blue Jays nearing a deal for Jose Bautista and the Philadelphia Phillies signing Michael Saunders, the list of teams interested in Jay Bruce has preemptively shrunk by two. This is troubling because the market for Bruce seemed limited from the outset of the offseason.

This begs the question as to why Bruce, a player that is capable of producing 30 homers and 100 RBI in a season has so little interest. Surprisingly, the answer isn’t because Bruce hit .219/.294/.391 with just eight homers and 19 RBI in his 50 games as a Met. Rather, it is because there are better options still available.

After Bautista and Saunders, Mark Trumbo is arguably the best player remaining on the free agent market. In 2016, Trumbo hit .256/.316/.533 with 47 homers and 108 RBI. He posted a 120 OPS+ and a 123 wRC+. For his career, Trumbo is a .251/.303/.473 hitter who averages 30 homers and 86 RBI as an everyday player. He has a career 112 OPS+ and a 111 wRC+.

Comparatively, Bruce is a career .248/.318/.467 hitter who has averaged 28 homer and 90 RBI since 2010. For his career, Bruce has a 109 OPS+ and a 107 wRC+. Last season, Bruce hit .250/.309/.506 with 33 homers and 99 RBI while posting a 112 OPS+ and a 111 wRC+.

Basically, Trumbo is the better hitter over the course of his career, and he is coming off a better season. While he has a qualifying offer that will cost the team a first round draft pick, Trumbo is not going to cost another team a player. Still, with Trumbo’s high contract demands and the qualifying offer, it is arguable that a team would rather pursue Bruce than Trumbo. Once you look past Trumbo, the reason why teams are not interested in Bruce begins to emerge.

Chris Carter is coming off a season where he hit .222/.321/.499 with 41 homers and 94 RBI. Carter’s 2016 season saw him post a 114 OPS+ and a 112 wRC+. Since becoming an everyday player in 2013, Carter is a .219/.315/.470 hitter who averages 33 homers and 82 RBI a season. For his career, he has a 112 OPS+ and a 112 wRC+.

If a team is more interested in a left-handed power bat, there is Pedro Alvarez. In 2016, Alvarez hit .249/.322/.504 with 22 homers and 49 RBI in just 109 games. In those 109 games, he had a 115 OPS+ and a 117 wRC+. Alvarez became an everyday player in 2012, and since that time he has hit .239/.312/.463 while averaging 27 homers and 73 RBI. In his career, he has a 108 OPS+ and a 107 wRC+.

Looking at Carter and Alvarez, they are comparable if not slightly better players than Bruce. Looking solely at their OPS+ and wRC+, they had a better 2016 season that Bruce, at least suggesting they are in line for a better 2017. More importantly, Carter and Alvarez will likely sign free agent contracts worth less than the $13 million Bruce will receive in 2017. Moreover, the team giving Carter or Alvarez a contract will not have to forfeit a draft pick or a player to acquire them.

Ultimately, that’s the Mets problem in a nutshell. There are players on the free agent market who, at worst, are as good a hitter as Bruce is. Moreover, there are players like Aaron Hill, Brandon Moss, or Mike Napoli, who present a low-cost low-risk gamble.

Quite possibly, the teams you would expect need a power hitter will look to sign Trumbo, Carter, or Alvarez. The teams you think would be willing to roll the dice on a player will look to Hill, Moss, or Napoli. This is the real reason why the Mets have not been able to trade Bruce. It could also be the reason why Bruce may be on the Opening Day roster.

Mets May Get Lucky With the Reliever Market

First and foremost, it should be noted the Mets unwillingness or inability to sign one or more players before trading away an outfielder, namely Jay Bruce, is aggravating.  Despite the Mets attendance growing and the team’s revenues increasing, the Mets still do not have a payroll commensurate with either their position as a potential playoff team or their stature as a big market team in the biggest market in the world.  It is unfathomable the Mets still cannot have more than a league average payroll.  As a result, we have seen players who could help the Mets sign with other teams.

Fortunately, there are plenty of options still available on the free agent market.  At least conceptually, this means there are more relievers than there are teams in need of them.  Ideally, this means the price for these players should be suppressed.  This goes doubly so with pitchers and catchers reporting in less than one month (February 13th).  In sum, this means the Mets may be able to add one or more of the following on a team friendly deal:

LEFT-HANDED RELIEVERS

Jerry Blevins

2016 Stats: 4-2, 2.79 ERA, 73 G, 2 SV, 42.0 IP, 1.214 WHIP, 11.1 K/9

Heading into free agency, it was assumed Blevins was as good as gone as he wanted a multi-year deal worth approximately $6 million per season.  With teams looking elsewhere in free agency, Blevins remains on the market.  Worse yet, it does not appear that many teams are interested in Blevins services.  That is odd considering he had a career best year pitching to right-handed batters, and for his career, he has limited left-handed batters to a .214/.266/.322 batting line.  In the end, this could spell the Mets being able to re-sign him to a one-year deal at a modest raise over his $4 million 2016 salary.

Chris Capuano

2016 Stats: 1-1, 4.13 ERA, 16 G, 24.0 IP, 1.583 WHIP, 10.1 K/9

Back in 2011, Capuano came to the Mets looking for a place to rejuvenate his career, and under the tutelage of Dan Warthen, he largely succeeded.  Now, the 38 year old finds himself with another elbow injury that limited him to 16 games in 2016.  He also finds himself in need of an opportunity.  He could be worth a flyer as a LOOGY with left-handed batters slashing .244/.302/.360 against him in his career and .212/.297/.333 in 2016.

J.P Howell

2016 Stats: 1-1, 4.09 ERA, 64 G, 50.2 IP, 1.401 WHIP, 7.8 K/9

Howell has been effective against left-handed batters in his career limiting them to a .229/.306/.317 batting line.  From 2013 – 2015, he was an extremely effective reliever posting a 1.97 ERA over that time span.  However, last year was a struggle for him due largely to left-handed batters hitting him much better.  In 2016, left-handed batters hit .302/.343/.417 off of him.  The question is whether this is the start of a downward trend or just a one season blip for him.

Boone Logan

2016 Stats: 2-5, 3.69 ERA, 60 G, SV, 46.1 IP, 1.014 WHIP, 11.1 K/9

In some respects, it is astounding there is not more interest in Logan with him coming off an effective season while pitching half of his games in Coors Field.  The main reason could be his .225 BABIP against which is well below his career .326 number.  Still, he dominated left-handed batters limiting them to a .142/.222/.255 batting line.  Overall in his career, he has limited left-handed batters to a less impressive .233/.308/.361 batting line.

Travis Wood

2016 Stats: 4-0, 2.95 ERA, 77 G, 61.0 IP, 1.131 WHIP, 6.9 K/9

In the last two years for the Cubs, Wood has transitioned to the bullpen for the Cubs.  If judging by ERA+, Wood is coming off the best season of his seven year career.  In his career, he has been extremely effective getting left-handed batters out limiting them to a .206/.276/.316 batting line.  He was even better in 2016 limiting them to a .128/.208/.239 batting line.  In addition to his pitching, we have also seen him handle left field.

RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVERS

Fernando Salas

2016 Stats: 3-7, 3.91 ERA, 75 G, 6 SV, 73.2 IP, 1.113 WHIP, 7.8 K/9

For the past few years with the Angels, Salas was on a downward trend.  However, when he joined the Mets, Salas was seemingly rejuvenated.  Whether it was being in the Wild Card hunt or pitching to much better pitch framers, the results were dramatically different for Salas.  In his 17 games for the Mets, he had a 2.08 ERA, 0.635 WHIP, and a 9.9 K/9.  While it is unrealistic to expect him to put up those numbers, it is reasonable to believe he could perform well for the Mets next season.

Joe Blanton

2016 Stats: 7-2, 2.48 ERA, 75 G, 80.0 IP, 1.013 WHIP, 9.0 K/9

After sitting out the 2014 season, Blanton has come back to the majors as a very good relief pitcher.  According to Brooks Baseball, over the past two seasons, Blanton has predominantly become a fastball/slider pitcher who strikes out a batter per inning.  Generally speaking, Blanton has also shown the ability to keep the ball in the ballpark.  While Blanton is not a closer, he has shown the ability to be an extremely effective late inning set-up man.

Neftali Feliz

2016 Stats: 4-2, 3.52 ERA, 62 G, 2 SV, 53.2 IP, 1.137 WHIP, 10.2 K/9

Feliz began his career as a dominant closer.  However, he began to make multiple trips to the disabled list, and in 2015, it all caught up to him as he struggled throughout the season.  Last year, he began pitching much better in Pittsburgh.  Still, he struggled in the second half, and again he needed to be shut down over the final month of the season due to arm problems.

Luke Hochevar

2016 Stats: 2-3, 3.86 ERA, 40 G, 37.1 IP, 1.071 WHIP, 9.6 K/9

Like Matt Harvey, Hochevar needed seasons ending surgery to alleviate the effect of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.  Unlike Harvey, Hochevar will not be ready for Opening Day.  As we saw in 2013, when healthy, Hochevar is capable of being a dominant reliever.  However, between his Tommy John surgery in 2014 and his most recent surgery, it is debatable whether he can be that pitcher again.

Greg Holland

2015 Stats: 3-2, 3.83 ERA, 48 G, 32 SV, 44.2 IP, 1.455 WHIP, 9.9 K/9

Judging from the rather ordinary 2015 stats, you knew something was wrong with Holland.  From 2011 – 2014, he was 15-9 with a 1.86 ERA, 1.026 WHIP, and a 12.6 K/9.  During this stretch, he averaged 62 appearances, 64.0 innings, and 28 saves.  Holland would need Tommy John surgery robbing him of the remainder of the 2015 and the entirety of the 2016 season.  At this point, Holland is seeking a two year deal worth $11 million per season with an opt out after the first year.  If he returns to form, he may look like a bargain.  If he doesn’t, the contract will be a burden.

Seth Maness

2016 Stats: 2-2, 3.41 ERA, 29 G, 31.2 IP, 1.326 WHIP, 4.5 K/9

Maness’ 2016 season was abbreviated because it was thought he was going to need Tommy John surgery.  Except Maness did not get the surgery.  Rather, Maness opted for a sugery dubbed “primary repair” which seeks not to reconstruct the ligament, but to repair and stabilize it.  He is the first major league pitcher to ever elect this surgery over Tommy John meaning we do not know how successful this will be.  Maness’ 2017 season is going to be an extremely interesting, if not important, one.  If he is truly able to pitch with this surgery, and pitch as well as he has in his career, the Mets may have not only found a quality reliever, but the whole baseball industry may be in the beginnings of a revolution.

Sergio Romo

2016 Stats: 1-0, 2.64 ERA, 40 G, 4 SV, 30.2 IP, 1.076 WHIP, 9.7 K/9

Behind what were some good numbers for Romo in 2016 was an injured plagued year and a drop in velocity.  Still, Romo had a solid season with numbers in line with his career norms.  Unless his elbow injury is worse than believed, it is hard to imagine why a quality reliever like him, one who has closing experience, remains on the free agent market.

Joe Smith

2016 Stats: 2-5, 3.46 ERA, 54 G, 6 SV, 65.1 IP, 1.250 WHIP, 6.9 K/9

Like his former teammate Salas, Smith had regressed in 2015, and he was performing worse in 2016.  Also like Salas, Smith was traded to a postseason team with a excellent pitch framers, and he thrived.  In 16 appearances for the Cubs, Smith posted a 2.51 ERA, 1.116 WHIP, and a 9.4 K/9.  Despite his success in those 16 appearances, Smith was left off the Cubs postseason roster.

Overall, there are a number of relievers still remaining on the free agent market.  Some of these players may be able to be acquired on a minor league deal.  Others may still command major league deals, and yet some more may still get a multi-year contract.  Each one of these pitchers at least has potential to be a contributor to a major league bullpen in 2017.  With all of these choices remaining, it remains possible the Mets are able to add a quality reliever at a reasonable or even discounted price.

 

Sign Your Child Up For Ice Skating Lessons

In December, we fantasize about the cold weather and the snow.  It’s all part of the magic and wonder that is part of the Christmas season.  You dream of sleigh rides, curling up in front of the fire, and of course, the White Christmases.  By the time January rolls around, the cold weather and snow is nothing more than anything that keeps you locked inside the house.  If you have a toddler, you’re locked inside the house without a real outlet to let your child burn off all of that energy they have.

With that in mind, my wife and I made a concerted effort to make sure we signed our son up for something this winter.  In the past, we had done Gymboree.  However, at three my son is way too old for it.  Frankly, around two years old, you are really at the point of diminishing returns.  So, it was time for something new.

We debated on a number of different options.  Swimming lessons in the winter are much too expensive.  Gymnastics seemed like a good outlet to run around and burn off some energy.  There were a few more options we inquired about, but ultimately, we decided to go with ice skating lessons.

There are a few good reasons for it.  The first is the ice skating lessons near us was reasonably priced, and it included free ice time so the children can practice what they learned in their lessons.  Second, ice skating is great exercise, and it is something more apt to tire our son out and lead to him taking a nap on the weekends.  Third, it is a unique skill set that is easier to teach now when he has no fear that when he is older and may have some fear of falling on the ice.  Fourth, unlike gymnastics, this is an activity he can do throughout his life.  Fifth, and perhaps most importantly, this is something I can do with him.

Two notes on that.  First, there is no way I’m ever going to try the rings.  Second, and this is important, ice skating is not like riding a bike.  I hadn’t skated in about 20 years, and when I hit the ice, it felt like it was my first time skating.

One added benefit we had in the ice skating experience was we spoke with one of our son’s friends, and his parents signed him up for the same class.  As with anything in life, it is better to have a friend go with you than to try something alone.  The lessons are going great.

The first lesson took place off the ice.  The children were taught by the instructors how to fall.  While off the ice, the children were also taught how they should get up should they fall.  Lastly, they were taught how to balance themselves while on the ice.  After that, it was time for them to hit the ice.

This is where an added benefit came into focus.  The children were out there on their own.  In fact, the parents were told to sit in the stands rather than hang out by the glass.  The reasoning was they wanted the children to be focused on ice skating and not distracted by their parents.  It is a good rule, but it was still odd to find yourself in the position of not being out there or being too close to your son.  Ultimately, that is a very good thing.  When my son fell, which was quite often, he didn’t look for me or my wife.  Rather, he just got up, and tried again.

That brings up another benefit.  Your child is going to learn how to do something without you.  Your child not only is becoming more independent, but they are also getting a sense of accomplishment.  This isn’t daddy holding his hands and skating him around the rink.  It is him going out there on his own, falling down, picking himself up again, and then trying again.  This builds character.  It builds confidence.  Utlimately, this is the exact reason why we want our children playing sports.

There is also the pride you feel in seeing your child succeed out there.  Certainly, it was great seeing how well he did in his first class, and how well he’s doing:

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​I have to admit, part of me got way ahead of myself, and I was imagining him skating on the Garden Ice for the Rangers.

Overall, whether you have a boy or girl, ice skating lessons have tremendous benefits for both the child and the parent.  I know this is something we will continue in the future.