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20/20 Hindsight: Mets Escape Atlanta

Depending on how you look at things, the Mets either showed they can play with the Braves, or they showed they are not in the same class as the Braves or the best teams in baseball leaving the postseason hopes all the more futile. Really, this was a wild three game series with a lot happening:

1. The one injury the Mets could ill-afford to handle was Jeff McNeil. His versatility is arguably more important than his bat. In any event, his absence really exposes not the Mets lineup but really their depth.

2. As we saw with the Mets yesterday, they can compete without McNeil. For that to happen, Pete Alonso needs to be the first half Alonso, and Amed Rosario needs to continue his breakout. The Mets need higher levels of production from Michael Conforto, and ultimately, they need Juan Lagares and Joe Panik to be everyday players.

3. It has been a pure joy to see Lagares become good again both in the field and at the plate. Of note, Lagares has had as many hits in this series as he’s had in his previous 15 games combined. If Lagares plays like this, he’s an everyday player especially with that glove in center.

4. With respect to second, Panik has to play everyday because Ruben Tejada isn’t good. In one game, he showed why he hasn’t been in the majors in two years, and he looked skittish with his back turned on double plays. You can point to his Triple-A stats, but that ball is all the more juiced than the Major League ball is.

5. Since the Mets opted to go with Tejada, Dilson Herrera has responded by going 3-for-6 with three runs, two homers, five RBI, and two walks in the past two games. He is red hot with a seven game hitting streak. While you may want to say the juiced ball theory applies to him as well (it does), his production was near this level last season. Tejada’s wasn’t.

6. It should be noted the Mets are carrying an extra pitcher with Drew Gagnon, who was beyond terrible last night, and really that spot in the bullpen has been terrible all year no matter who has filled the role. Given how the Mets need some power off the bench, and Herrera presents another player who could play outfield, there is no reason why he spends another day in Syracuse.

7. While Gagnon was terrible out of the bullpen, the rest of the bullpen has stepped up. Brad Brach looks as rejuvenated as Jeurys Familia does as late. Along with Justin Wilson, this gives the Mets three battle tested relievers who are pitching very well right now in front of Seth Lugo. That’s suddenly a good bullpen.

8. Lugo blew it on Wednedsay. We can try to say he didn’t have time to warm up (he did), or say it was another problem (not really), but he just wasn’t good. Fortunately for the Mets, he’s going to rebound from this and continue to be great.

9. Mickey Callaway was right in lifting Lugo for Steven Matz. There were many factors at play with that decision, and he ultimately went with the team’s best available pitcher in a high leverage spot. When he doesn’t have it, the Mets aren’t going to win those one run games.

10. On Matz, he was brilliant, and he has been much improved in the second half. In his six second half starts, he is 2-1 with a 3.06 ERA and a 1.047 WHIP. If you’re getting that from your fifth spot in the rotation, you can beat the good and the bad teams.

11. Don’t make too much about Marcus Stroman‘s “struggles” since joining the Mets. He is adapting to a new team and a new pitching philosophy. The main takeaway from him is he has given the Mets a chance to win in his first three starts. This is probably the floor for his performance, and we should see him take off soon.

12. With Zack Wheeler, it was one poor start. Just one. Don’t overreact and just look forward to his next start against the Royals. On that front, it is interesting he is finally getting that chance to pitch against the Royals after he was supposed to be one of the team’s best starters in 2015 and his almost being traded away for Carlos Gomez that year.

13. The Mets really needed that game from Pete Alonso. He’s been struggling in the second half, and with McNeil down, they really need him to get back to being the All-Star level player. His five hit game was a reminder of just how good he can be. His tying Cody Bellinger‘s National League home run record with more than a month remaining in the season is a reminder as to just how good he has been.

14. Alonso and Rosario each having a five hit game in the same game was not only the first time it happened in team history, but it is a reason to get excited for the rest of the 2019 season and each of the ensuing years.

15. Yet again, we need to point out Rosario has figured things out, and he is now one of the best players on the team and emerging as one of the best shortstops in baseball. Since July 1, he is hitting .364/.399/.536, and in the second half he is a 3 DRS. Don’t be surprised, be ready.

16. Mets should have won this series, but they just couldn’t get that one big hit in either of the first two games. The main culprit was Conforto, but Wilson Ramos was also really bad. It should also be noted in Wednesday’s debacle, almost everyone was bad with the exception of Rosario, J.D. Davis, Luis Guillorme, Panik, and the pitchers not named Lugo.

17. Glass half full is the Mets showed they can play with the Braves. Glass half empty is the Mets chances of winning the division went from realistic to near pipe dream.

18. Starting this pivotal stretch of games 3-3 and being two out of the Wild Card is not a bad start. The Mets now have to make real headway in Kansas City before taking care of business at Citi Field. If they do that, we will have real season to be excited for the meaningful games in September.

19. Congratulations are in order to Howie Rose for being inducted into the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame. This is an honor long overdue, and it should hopefully serve as a precursor to both he and Gary Cohen being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

20. Gary Cohen and Howie Rose are no longer allowed to take time off at the same time. Gary Apple is terrible. He should never be allowed to do play-by-play again. Given his smug attitude, I wouldn’t care if he was gone from SNY all together.

6 thoughts on “20/20 Hindsight: Mets Escape Atlanta”

  1. Oldbackstop says:

    I think 3-3 in that stretch is accepable…keeps hope alive.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      It’s also acceptable as they are just two back.

  2. Blair M. Schirmer says:

    I’ve always felt one should put one’s money where the mouth is. Through midnight I’m happy to wager a total of up to $500 that the Mets will not make the postseason. That can be with one to any number of wagerers.

    I wish I felt differently about this team, but it’s the FO that makes genuine optimism impossible.

    ===Why the Mets Are Very Unlikely to Make the Postseason.

    That’s not a knock on the players. It’s a knock on management. On ownership and the halfwitted novice GM who just sent away a decent starter–to a division and wildcard rival, no less–which in turn moved Matz out of the bullpen for good while substituting for Matz Brad Brach, already released this year. It’s extrarordinary, the ineptitude of this set of moves. Think of it. Instead of Vargas in the rotation and Matz in the pen, with the surplus value accruing this offseason thanks to owning Vargas’s 2020 option, the Mets destroyed their starting pitching depth, swapped Brach into and Matz out of the bullpen, and added $1.45m to their payroll thanks to Brach’s player option for 2020. And the Mets did this while improving a division and wildcard rival.

    That level of stupidity is almost impressive.

    Sad to say, the root of their troubles is that the Mets are a 7-man team. Many of their lesser players are, unfortunately, actively destructive to the club’s prospects. If we must speak of fault, that fault lies w the FO for putting those lesser players in positions for which they’re simply unqualified. The bench, for example, actively undermines the work of the team’s productive players. The other night that bench was Panik (.583 OPS), Guillorme at .494, Nido at .547, and Altherr at .446. That’s when Lagares at .512 isn’t in the lineup. Every one of them is sub-replacement level. I didn’t think that was possible, but Wags found a way.

    Is there a worse bench in the majors, particularly on a contender? Both Mets defensive replacements in the OF are actually below average on defense. That can only happen with a truly incompetent FO. This also means that the FO’s terrible temptation across decades to play the team’s actually good players into the ground, will continue without remit.

    We saw another aspect of FO incompetence on August 13th, when Wheeler put 15 (!) men on base in 5 innings. Because the pen is so badly constructed, and because the traditional “long man” does not exist on this team, Callaway had little choice but to let Wheeler continue for those 5 innings despite giving up 3 runs in his first 2 ip. He put on enough men to basically load the bases every inning, but Callaway for lack of options stuck with Wheeler until he’d all but given away the game: 5 runs, in 5 innings. A decently built pitching staff will offer better options than letting the game get out of reach.

    And now with McNeil out the team’s lineup is little more than Alonso and Conforto, with no other position player on track to produce 2.0 bWAR over the season. Frazier and Rosario aren’t even close to borderline yet (each is headed to 1.6 bWAR, with Ramos slated for 1.4), but free spirits should add them in if they feel strongly. Note that the FO has played Frazier in 75 games straight and are probably wondering why his line since June 25th is a dismal .195/ .253/ .364; or why Ramos’ OPS+ since June 6th is 90, with a slash line of .259/.324/.399. If you’re going to put your old catcher in 49 of 59 games in midsummer, 27 of the last 30, and play him in 88% of your team’s games overall, that’s what you can expect–severe decline. Yet many Met fans claim disappointment in Ramos’ performance, while never noting his abuse by the FO.

    As for pitching, there’s the front four in the rotation and… Lugo. Even Justin Wilson’s FIP only recently got below 5.00.

    It’s stunning to see the team stick with Diaz in the closer role. I can’t recall a pitcher pitching worse than Diaz ever being allowed to continue in that role as long as he has.

    The team still has all of one reliever with more than 10 IP with a FIP under 4.00. That’s remarkable. It’s close to unprecedented.

    In any case, it’s no surprise the team lost 3 in a row against one good and one very good team. It took an extraordinary streak that included enormous luck against some of the worst teams in the league just to get a few games over .500.

    The Mets are 21-9 since their nadir at 11 below .500 on July 12, and 21-5 during their best stretch, from July 13th through August 10th. The unfortunate aspect of that surge is that it papers over exactly how bad Wags is, and probably bought him at least one more year in addition to whatever slack his salary commitment from ownership was likely to buy him.

    After the KC series, which the Mets desperately need to sweep, they play 25 straight against teams .500 and better, where the worst team in that group has a pyth W-L record of 67-55. They’re likely to be under .500 at the end of that stretch, if not out of it entirely. Such a shame. The players that contribute deserve so much better, while the players that don’t contribute deserve not to be embarrassed by being forced into roles they’ve already proven they cannot handle.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      I think you’re being way too pessimistic. They were .500 over the stretch, and they were in all six games.

      1. Blair M. Schirmer says:

        Perhaps, but the Mets lost tonight just as the blueprint suggests they’ll lose a great many games. The back half of the lineup, #5-9, went a punchless 2-16. Their new and wrong pen guy put the game out of reach.

        It’s nice to see Rosario and Davis hitting, but it’s not enough. –Though it is enough for the Mets FO to now treat Davis as a pretend starter going into 2020. Between his fielding, and his BAbip coming back to Earth, he has almost no chance of being worth a starting slot next year, but he’s cheap–so what do you think Davis is going to be, the starting LFer, or the starting 3Bman?

        1. metsdaddy says:

          Long term, Davis is little more than the next Flores.

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