Mickey Callaway Has Been Doing A Good Job
The Mets are currently four games under .500, and the season is slipping away. We see the press criticize the manager’s every move, and with each passing day, you get the sense the manager is going to be the fall guy for this Mets team. Overall, it seems to be a question of when not if. Still, when you weave your way through the narrative, you see Mickey Callaway has actually been doing a good job this year.
First and foremost, this team continues to play hard for him. Look at their recent games as an example. On Thursday night, the Mets had their hearts ripped from their chest. They had their hearts ripped from their chest twice on Friday and again on Sunday. Each time that happened, the Mets responded. They played competitive baseball with their team making comebacks.
The Mets losing these games is not a matter of the team not having fight or giving up. This team has fight, and not matter how many times they have a soul crushing loss, they are getting up off the mat, and they keep fighting. Last year, in a completely lost season, the Mets had the best second half in their division. No matter what the odds or the situation, Callaway’s players play hard for him.
The young players have played well and improved under his stewardship. Brandon Nimmo was regarded as a fourth outfielder entering last year, and he finished the season as the second best hitter in the National League. Pete Alonso was regarded universally as a defensive liability. He’s played to a 1 DRS at first base while also having the second most homers in the National League. Jeff McNeil went from just a second baseman to being a positive DRS at three different defensive positions while having a 131 wRC+. Amed Rosario remains frustrating, but he has made continual improvement in his pitch selection and power.
As impressive as that is, there’s Dominic Smith. Smith was being hailed as a bust. Well, that “bust” Callaway infamously benched last Spring Training has bought into a bench role, and he finally looks like the player the Mets drafted in the first round. This year, Smith has a team leading 172 wRC+ (albeit in part-time duty), and he has a 2 DRS at first and a 0 DRS in left.
Smith is an example of how Callaway’s players have improved during his tenure, and he’s also an example of how Callaway’s players have bought in and are willing to do whatever it takes to win games.
On the pitching front, we have seen Callaway and his pitching coach Dave Eiland work well with the starting pitchers. As we all know, they got career best seasons from Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler last year. More than that, we have seen them be able to keep their starting pitchers healthy. For example, Steven Matz made 30 starts last season, and this year, when the depth was so thin, this starting staff has yet to suffer a major injury.
One thing that has been impressive with their work with the pitching staff has been their ability to adapt. This year, Noah Syndergaard noted he cannot quite throw his slider with the new ball, so he’s had to adapt. As Syndergaard put it, “I’m still trying to find that slider, but it’s forcing me to continue to develop other pitches.” That’s meant more four seamers and curves. That’s not just for Syndergaard, but also for an entire starting staff who has turned things around as they have adapted.
When you look at this team, the real issue is the bullpen. Yes, Callaway and Eiland deserve some blame because they can’t seem to get through to pitchers like Jeurys Familia, and for some reason or another Edwin Diaz has regressed (as noted the new ball may be a factor). He did overwork Robert Gsellman to dangerous levels causing a total regression. That said, the bullpen has been an arm or two short even when everyone was healthy.
No manager can win with a bad bullpen. Sooner or later, a bad bullpen will always drag a team down. Even with Callaway’s and Eiland’s reputations as pitching gurus, you cannot make bad or Triple-A caliber pitchers good relievers by waving a magic wand.
Overall, when you cut through the narratives and actually look at the team, you see Callaway has been doing a good job as the Mets manager. Sure, you can pinpoint things here and there where he needs improvement. That’s the case with all managers. Still, when you have a manager who has players completely buying in and playing hard for him, and you have young players making improvements under his tutelage, you have a manager who is doing a good job.
And believe it or not, Mickey Callaway is actually doing a good job this year.