Dominic Smith Should Be Mets 2022 First Baseman

With the signings of Mark Canha and Starling Marte, we can rest assured the days of Dominic Smith being an everyday left fielder are over. That is good for the team who needs better defense and for Smith who needs to return to being a first baseman.

Of course, the problem with that is Pete Alonso. By WAR, he was the best player on the Mets last season. That is partially because of his bat. He had a 134 OPS+ while hitting 37 homers. He has established himself as the best power hitter in Citi Field history, and he just might be the best power hitter ever produced by the Mets organization.

However, Alonso was more than just that. Alonso had a reputation as a bad fielder in the minors. He made significant strides to become just a poor fielding first baseman. In his first two seasons, he was a dreadful -5 OAA each year, and he combined for a terrible -4 DRS. By all measures,. he was a bad fielder at the position, albeit one who could stick due to his bat and ability to scoop balls.

That’s not Alonso anymore. He did the work to become a good first baseman. He had a 2 OAA and 5 DRS. He rated as a top 10 first baseman by OAA and top five by DRS. Anyway you look at it, he was a good first baseman, and he was an excellent hitter. However, that is only part of the equation.

After the current collective bargaining agreement negotiations, there is the expectation there will be a universal DH. If and when that comes, the Mets have to decide who should be the DH. There are some arguments for Robinson Cano, but who actually knows if he can hit without the PEDs and laying dormant for a season.

Notably, in 2020, the answer to that question was Alonso. It was not the initial plan, but for a myriad of reasons, it worked out that way. One of the biggest reasons why was Dominic Smith was just a better fielder at the position, and he was hitting.

Aside from his rookie season, he has put together good numbers at first. That includes his 2 DRS this season and 0 OAA. That was in a much shorter sample size than Alonso and with Smith spending time preparing to be the left fielder. For Smith, that’s part of the problem. Instead of honing his craft, he has been spending his time preparing to play out of position.

As we saw in 2020, when he is playing his natural position, he’s great. In that season, he was arguably the Mets best player. He hit, and he fielded. He was clutch and he did it in a very challenging time. The Mets need that player back.

At the moment, there is a discussion the Mets still need that bat. As we saw in 2020, Smith can very well be that bat. He just needs to be put in the best position to succeed. In left field, he was wasting energy trying to be good at a position he shouldn’t be playing. He also broke down cheating him of his ability to succeed at the plate.

That’s not to say Alonso should never play first. He needs to be kept up to speed. Injuries happen, and Smith could falter. However, when push comes to shove, in the event there is a universal DH, Smith should be the first baseman with Alonso at DH. In the end, if Smith is Smith, this will take the Mets to a whole new level, and it will help to further cement the Mets are true World Series contenders.

Buck Showalter Not Good Fit For Mets Job

October 4, 2016. Rogers Centre. American League Wild Card Game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays tie the score 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth. In the seventh inning, Buck Showalter used Donnie Hart to relieve Mychal Givens in the seventh. He went to Brad Brach in the eighth and ninth. When Brach was in trouble in the ninth, Showalter went to Darren O’Day. After using Brian Duensing to record an out in the 11th, Showalter went to Ubadlo Jimenez, who would lose the game.

The Orioles would be eliminated from the postseason, and it all happened while Zack Britton waited around for a save opportunity. That year, Britton was unequivocally the best reliever in baseball with a 0.54 ERA. He was awesome, but with elimination on the line, Showalter went with a number of different pitchers including Jimenez, a starter.

This was not an isolated instance in Showalter’s career. Go back to Game 5 of the ALDS. After pushing David Cone too far, the game was tied in the bottom of the eighth. Instead of going to John Wetteland, he opted for Jack McDowell, a starter. McDowell would lose the game in the 11th.

A lot changed in baseball from 1995 until 2016, and yet, Showalter hadn’t changed. Yes, there were instances he used a closer in a non-save situation on the road (Matt Mantei, Game 4 NLDS), but ultimately, this is who Showalter has been for better or for worse. He is not one to worry about leverage, stats, etc. He is going to manage by his guy more than anything else. As he puts it, he wants to use them to verify himself, not the other way around.

That’s not to say he hasn’t or won’t evolve. After all, his Orioles teams did implement shifting, and in an attempt to put his team in the best position to win, they tracked the results all season. However, when all is said and done, he’s going to do what he thinks is best. Again, this works at times and fails other times.

Here’s the big problem. He would be working for Sandy Alderson and Billy Eppler. Alderson notoriously wanted to minimize the manger role, and he wants constant input. It was something which beleaguered former Mets manager Luis Rojas, who had to strictly follow the scripts given to him.

Eppler was the Los Angeles Angels General Manager when Mike Scioscia “stepped down.” He then went with a more analytical and modern manager in Brad Ausmus, who was replaced after one season when the owner wanted Joe Maddon.

Another note here with Alderson and Eppler is the type of team they are building. They are clearly going heavy on older veterans in an attempt to win now. Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar, Starling Marte, and Max Scherzer are all in their 30s and have played for several years. That has usually been a bad mix for Showalter.

As noted when he was fired by the Arizona Diamondbacks, their veteran laden roster needed less of a disciplinarian and more of a player’s manager. That’s been his career. He is exceptional with younger teams teaching them the right way to play. He gets the most out of them. After a while, his personality and style of managing tends to wear on players, and he’s out.

None of this is to say he’s not a good manager. Showalter is a very good manager. If this were the 2019 Mets, he was a perfect fit for that younger team learning how to win. This is not that team. This is a very veteran team who needs a manager better suited to getting top performances from top players. They need more of a collaborator with the front office who will demand it.

Who the Mets new manager should be remains a very good debate. If they do wind up hiring Showalter, they will certainly win games. However, at the end of the day, this is a poor fit with Showalter and the Mets being better suited to finding a different match.

Mets Onto Managerial Search Because They Got Nothing Else To Do

The New York Mets slipped the signing of Max Scherzer in under the wire before the owners voted unanimously for a lockout. That means they officially can’t pursue free agents and can’t make trades (again, not officially), so they now need to turn their attention elsewhere.

That’s probably a good thing for this team because they need a manager. Really, aside from having Jeremy Hefner as pitching coach, they need to assemble an entire coaching staff.

It seems the early odds-on favorite is Brad Ausmus. Sandy Alderson wanted to hire him previously. Billy Eppler did hire him before he was told to fire him. It’s assumed Steve Cohen doesn’t want a first time manager.

The popular choice seems to be Buck Showalter, but it’s hard to see the fit. Alderson wants to script and control managers, and Showalter isn’t that guy. Also, Eppler fired Mike Scioscia, who was very much cut from the same cloth as Showalter.

There are bound to be many names we haven’t considered. After all, that’s what we saw with the front office search.

While it’ll probably never happen, it’ll be great to see Willie Randolph‘s name in the mix. We know he can handle New York, and he has unfinished business here. It would be great to see him get another chance.

Overall, we don’t know who the Mets are targeting. What we do know is the players are locked out, and they probably will be for some time. With that being the case, the Mets are probably going to go full bore trying to hire a new manager.

MLB Scapegoated Pitchers For Ball Change

In an excellent article by Bradford William Davis of Business Insider, he detailed how MLB knowingly used two different baseballs last season. The article had data from Meredith Willis detailing the two different baseballs and their impact on offense.

One of the balls was the heavily criticized one which led to the abundance of homers. The other ball was far more difficult to hit out, and as explained, it was the way almost to a fault.

What’s interesting there was this summer MLB wanted the world to know it was pitchers who were to blame for the decreased offense. At the time of the announcement MLB offenses had an all-time low .236 batting average.

Despite being fully aware of the changed ball, MLB said it was pitchers using foreign substances like spider tack. This led to much negative coverage of the sport, awkward press conferences, and the absurd theatre which was the foreign substance check.

That was what we were all led to believe. It was the pitchers. Oh, and the checks were working because offense did go up after the new policy.

Now, we know it was all a farce. MLB was really trying to get away with mixing up the balls, perhaps, even using the old ones to make it look like their enforcement efforts were working.

This is just another example of how MLB has operated under Rob Manfred. They lie and deceive players in the fans as to both what they’re doing and who is to blame for what is happening in the game.

Trevor Story Potential Third Base Option

With Javier Báez signing with the Detroit Tigers, the New York Mets are likely still looking for another infielder. One of the issues the Mets have is the pure second and third base options aren’t all that good.

The free agent shortstop class is so deep, and if the Mets could offer enough money, they could entice a shortstop to move to third. As we saw with Max Scherzer, the Mets have the money and are willing to offer it.

According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the Seattle Mariners have had discussions with Trevor Story to be their third baseman. Apparently, they’re not the only team.

Hopefully, the Mets are one of those teams as they still need to address third base. Given how Story has seen his once elite defense at short go from an 18 OAA two years ago to a -7 last year, it’s probably time for a switch for the 29 year old.

The decline coincided with him losing just a little bit of burst defensively. His speed has fallen from elite to good. That drop may impact his ability to play short but not third.

If you’re Story, the Mets are a good place to make that transition. Their shifting and positioning were extremely effective in putting players in a good position to make a play. He also gets to play next to Francisco Lindor who covers a lot of ground making his life a little easier.

A Lindor/Story left side of the infield has the potential to be elite defensively. It could also be very good offensively.

On this topic, let’s get one thing out of the way. There’s no reason to be concerned about Story leaving Coors Field. If you can hit at Coors, you can hit.

Of course, this refers to neutralized stats. In a down year at the plate, Story was a 103 OPS+. His career mark is 112. Generally speaking, he’s an above average hitter.

This is seen through the stats available on Baseball Savant. He hits the ball very hard, and he’s capable of squaring it up. Really looking at everything, there’s no overt reason why he had a down year by his standards, which means, he’s really likely going to go back to being the quality hitter he is.

If Story is willing to make the switch, he’d probably succeed in his attempts more in New York than anywhere else. He’s got the defensive potential and bat to be a star with the Mets. In many ways, it makes sense for both sides, and it seems like it could be a good fit.

With Max Scherzer, Mets Just Pulled A 2001 Diamondbacks

If you want to know the importance of what the Max Scherzer signing with the New York Mets is, look to the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks. That’s really the last time we saw this.

The Diamondbacks had added Curt Schilling at the 2000 trade deadline, but that team couldn’t stay in the race. That wouldn’t be an issue the following season.

Schilling combined with Randy Johnson to be one of the most lethal, if not the most lethal co-aces atop a rotation. The result was a 92 win season.

It’s difficult to argue they didn’t do it themselves. Schilling and Johnson both pitched over 249 innings and had an ERA under 3.00. The rest of the rotation struggled, and the bullpen wasn’t great aside from Byung-Hun Kim and Bret Prinz.

Offensively, that was one of the worst teams you could imagine for a World Series winner. Consider, Luis Gonzalez had a phenomenal year hitting 57 homers, and they still only had a team 97 wRC+.

That’s what having two of the best pitchers in all of baseball means. Their innings and greatness masks so much. Case-in-point, that team was 52-18 when Schilling and Johnson pitched, and they were 40-52 when they didn’t.

It was a feat replicated in the postseason. The Diamondbacks were 9-2 when they pitched, and they were 2-4 when they didn’t.

Good pitching beats good hitting. Great pitching wins World Series nearly single-handedly. That was the case in 2001, and it may be the case again in 2022.

With all due respect to Schilling and Johnson, if Jacob deGrom is healthy, deGrom and Scherzer are a more formidable duo.

Consider this. Schilling’s best ERA+ was 159, and his best FIP was 2.40. deGrom has bested that ERA+ three times and the FIP twice. Scherzer had a better ERA+ three times.

Johnson was on a different level than Schilling with a career best 197 ERA+ and 2.04 FIP. deGrom bettered than ERA+ and FIP once, and it would’ve been twice if he was healthy in 2021.

In addition to deGrom and Scherzer being the better duo, the 2022 Mets promise to be a better roster. This team is not done with their offseason, and they still have players like Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor, and Brandon Nimmo.

With deGrom and Scherzer, this Mets team is already a World Series contender. We need look no further than the 2001 Diamondbacks as proof of that. How great they will be will be determined by the rest of this offseason.

Max Scherzer To Mets Delay Neither Good Nor Bad

This is Max Scherzer‘s last big time free agent contract. He’s a 37 year old pitcher, and this contract may effectively carry him into retirement.

This is the place where he’s getting his last opportunity to chase another ring. It’s where his children continue to grow up and go to school. It may wind up where he spends the rest of his life.

He’s also a union leader. At a time when there’s an impending lock out, he probably feels responsibility to take the best offer over what’s best for him. That could conflict with what he wants for his family and his pursuit of further career accomplishments.

Keep in mind, there’s also the Boras factor. He’s going to get every single last cent, incentive, and perk he can get out of a team. That’s his job, and he’s better and more aggressive at it than most.

This isn’t a story about the Mets being used as leverage. They’re not being used at all. Boras doesn’t really operate that way. He goes and gets the best deal for his clients. Period.

The thing is you can push a 25 year old Alex Rodriguez to the Texas Rangers. Doing that with a 37 year old father of two who spent seven years hating the Mets is an entirely different story all together.

This isn’t Trevor Bauer again. That was a megalomaniac (and sociopath) basking and creating drama.

Scherzer is an adult and an intense competitor. He wants to win, and he wants to raise a family. In reality, he is looking for the best situation while juggling his many responsibilities and masters.

Scherzer is allowed to take his time on a life altering and impacting decision. At the end of the day, as Mets fans, we should just appreciate how serious this franchise is about not just signing him but also looking to compete in 2022.

Kevin Gausman Will Be Paid Off One Big Outlier Year

Free agency is difficult. Teams need to look not just at track records but also trajectory. Perhaps, the perfect embodiment of this is Kevin Gausman.

Before signing with the San Francisco Giants, Gausman made 154 starts with 37 relief appearances. He was 47-63 with a 4.30 ERA, 1.344 WHIP, and an 8.3 K/9.

Really, he was a below average pitcher. That was reflected in his 99 ERA+ and 4.13 FIP. It’s also reflected in his being designated for assignment by the Atlanta Braves in 2019.

To their credit, the Giants saw something in Gausman. To some extent, it was seeing his FIP and BABIP indicated he pitched better than his stats. It was also getting him to alter his pitch usage and sequencing. Gausman threw fewer fastballs and more splitters.

In the COVID shortened 2020, Gausman posted a 118 ERA+ and a 3.09 FIP. Up until that point of his career, it was his best FIP and second best ERA+ (minimum 60 innings). Much of that was driven by his strikeout rates skyrocketing from his 8.3 K/9 career mark to 11.9.

The problem was that was a shortened season. No one knew if he could do it for a full season. With that, the qualifying offer made sense for both sides.

Gausman responded with a phenomenal Cy Young caliber season. He was a real ace for a Giants team which won 107 games. In 33 starts, he was 14-6 with a 2.81 ERA, 1.042 WHIP, and a 10.6 K/9.

By nearly every measure, this was a career year for the 30 year old hurler. It was his career best in wins, ERA, starts, innings, strikeouts, ERA+, FIP, WHIP, H/9, HR/9, and WAR.

That’s not to say there weren’t some red flags. Gausman’s .275 BABIP and 78.4 LOB% suggests regression. Gausman was also a far better pitcher in the first half.

In the first half, Gausman had a 1.73 ERA while averaging 6.1 innings per start. In the second half, he had a 4.42 ERA while averaging 5.0 innings per start.

Now, considering no one pitched all that much in 2020, there was some drop off expected for all pitchers. After all, there was bound to be fatigue with everyone. That was most likely the cause with Gausman even though he is typically a second half pitcher.

So, here’s the issue. Gausman is turning 31, and he’s had exactly one half of a season pitching like an ace. Essentially, hex was Brodie Van Wagenen miscast Zack Wheeler to be.

Notably, Wheeler was much more than that. Gausman hasn’t been.

There’s other issues as well. The Giants are ahead of most teams on the analytical front. They also had Buster Posey behind the plate. Really, no MLB team can match that. That may go double for a team like the New York Mets.

Essentially, if you’re a team in on Gausman, you are boasting you can help him repeat some of his luck while matching the Giants front office and analytics department. You believe you can make that first half last a full season.

Look, it’s certainly possible. However, that depends on the team. The possibility turns into impossibility depending on the ultimate destination.

Overall, any team interested in Gausman needs to tread extremely carefully. This is the ultimate boom or bust singing. With pitchers like Max Scherzer and Marcus Stroman still available, it’s difficult to ascertain why a team would take this risk.

Mets Sign Regressing Mark Canha

Sometimes, when a player comes to mind, we tend to think of the one breakout year and not the collective body of work. Mark Canha is one of those players.

In 2019, Canha was terrific. He hit .273/.396/.517 with 16 doubles, three triples, 26 homers, and 58 RBI. He had a 146 OPS+ and a 4.1 WAR.

Defensively, Canha was good posting a 2 OAA in left and right. This was as complete and under appreciated and ballplayer as they come.

Canha was this player in 2019 and 2019 only. In all the other years of his career, he’s fallen far short of the OPS+ and WAR numbers. The more we see him, the more we see 2019 as his outlier year.

In many ways, that’s a problem. Remember, 2019 was the last year things were normal, and we tend to remember it more. Moreover, that year featured a juiced ball, and Canha with his career best .244 ISO benefitted.

Since that 2019 season, Canha hasn’t been the same player. He’s really been hurt by the lack the the juiced ball and aging.

Since 2019, when Canha was 30, he’s hit .235/.366/.393. He was a 115 OPS+ and 4.0 WAR player over that 200 game stretch. That’s not the same player.

That’s shown more through the metrics. His exit velocities dropped two straight years. The same goes for his barrels and hard hit rates. Put another way, this is a player making far less quality contact, and he’s at an age where these stats don’t typically improve.

Canha received a two year $26.5 million deal. That’s starter money. More to the point, Canha isn’t signing this early to sit on the bench.

The Mets could’ve and should’ve done better than Canha. Remember, he’s not the player he was in 2019, and he’s been regressing as he nears his mid 30s. Overall, this wasn’t a great move.

Eduardo Escobar Really Makes No Sense

Sometimes, it’s not about the player. Sometimes, it’s about the timing. Jumping the gun to sign Eduardo Escobar is terrible timing.

Looking at the stats and metrics, Escobar is a second baseman. As a third baseman, he’s not good. He was a -3 OAA last year and a -6 for his career. The obvious problem here is he’s been presumably signed to play third.

It’s not like he particularly has a bat which is going to play well at the position. He’s a player with a career 99 OPS+. He’s been better since 2018 with a 108 OPS+, which is an improvement but not great.

Keep in mind, this is a player who will play his age 33 and 34 seasons with the Mets. Honestly, his walk rates, hard hit rates, etc. are all over the map that it’s really hard to know what he’s going to give you year-to-year.

Overall, your best bet is a roughly 2,5 WAR player. Yes, that makes him a useful player. The problem is the Mets need more, and they need better.

Keep in mind, there’s still a lot better available. There are players like Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, and even Kyle Seager. There’s other shortstops the Mets could try to move to third like Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, or Trevor Story.

Really, it’s just the beginning of free agency. There are so many options and possibilities. Instead of exploring those, the Mets opted for Escobar, who does little to almost nothing to improve the team as an everyday player.