2015 Playoff Preview

Trivia Friday

Barring a surprise a team typically sends their best pitcher out there to begin the playoffs. In the Mets history, they have historically done that with two notable exceptions. 

For today’s quiz, with the Mets sending this year’s ace to the mound, I am looking to see if you can name the Mets Game One starters in the first round of the playoffs. Good luck!

Twenty, Twenty-four Hours to Go

The moment we’ve all been waiting for since the Carlos Beltran strikeout is now 24 hours away. Mets fans have been waiting for nine years. This last day is going to be the hardest part of the wait. 

I’m already pumped up.  I’m going to have a harder than usual time falling asleep tonight. know I’m going to be distracted all day tomorrow. I’m going to be thinking of every mechanization of tomorrow’s game. I’m going to be thinking of my write-ups and how I wish they were better. I’m going to wish I did more. 

I’m going to spend the whole day debating whether or not I should keep my son up to watch. I’m going to be happy I’m married to a smart woman who is going to tell me it’s a bad idea. I’ll know if she read my site today when I say here and now I’m going to let him watch some of it. 

I’m going to spend the next 24 hours all pumped up, and then once Clayton Kershaw throws the first pitch to Curtis Granderson, I’m going to be on edge for two to four hours. With my son asleep, I’m going to have be screaming into a pillow lest I wake him up. I will be texting friends an family like crazy. 

I know the time after Game 1 will seem even longer than the past week. The wait between Games 2 and 3 will seem like an eternity. I’m hoping that I’ll have to deal with the wait between the NLDS and the NLCS. 

I’ll deal with whatever wait I need to deal with this year, so long as I don’t have to wait another nine, or 29, years. 

Be Ready for Anything

You never know what is going to happen before or during a postseason series. How a team responds to it may determine if a team wins or loses a series. 

I was reminded of that with another playoff series against the Dodgers. Both times the Mets played the Dodgers, one of their starting pitchers was injured. 

In 1988, Bobby Ojeda suffered a potentially career ending injury on the same day the Mets clinched at least a tie atop the NL East. It threw the Mets postseason rotation off kilter. Dwight Gooden started Games 1 and 4 (on three day’s rest). He wouldn’t make another start in the series. 

I still don’t know what Davey Johnson was thinking. The Mets had a 2-1 series lead. They already won a game in which Orel Hershiser started. Johnson unnecessarily went to Gooden on three days rest, and then he left him in too long. Even more baffling is the fact that Johnson went to Sid Fernandez in Game 5 with the series tied 2-2. 

Honestly, I don’t think Johnson doesn’t make a ponderous decision like this if Ojeda was able to pitch. Ojeda was 2-0 in the 1986 postseason. He stabilized things in Game 3, and he gave the Mets a chance in Game 6. Johnson doesn’t skip his start in 1988, and the Mets probably don’t blow that series. 

Eighteen years later, the Mets again found themselves facing the Dodgers in the playoffs. Again, a key starting pitcher went down. Two days before the NLDS, El Duque, the scheduled Game 1 starter, went down with a torn calf muscle. Keep in mind, he was the second choice after Pedro Martinez suffered a rotator cuff injury

Willie Randolph gave the ball to John Maine. Maine lasted 4.1 innings before hitting trouble. Randolph quickly turned to his incredible bullpen who brought it home. The Mets responded better to the problem in 2006, and they won the series. 

It’s possible the Mets have already been presented with their Ojeda-El Duque dilemma with Steven Matz. Matz slept on a sofa, and he injured his back. The Mets now have a critical decision to make, especially with Matz having a successful simulated game. If he responds well, he may be on the roster. If not, it will be Sean Gilmartin

Whomever the Mets choose, history shows it’s not who you pick that’s important. It’s how you respond to the crisis that’s important. Fortunately, this is one of Terry Collins’ strengths. Hopefully, there won’t be any more surprises. 

Lets Go Mets!

Game 4 is TBA vs. TBA

Neither the Dodgers nor the Mets have officially announced a Game 4 starter. For the Mets part, it seems like they are waiting on Steven Matz. I’m not sure what the Dodgers reasons are for waiting. 

Overall, both teams are but on their starting pitching. For the Dodgers, it’s Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. For the Mets, it’s their stud muffins. With the way the NLDS schedule is set up, the Game 1 starter can pitch Game 4 on three days rest, and the Game 2 starter can pitch Game 5 on normal rest. 

With that schedule, I have to believe the Dodgers will start Kershaw on three days rest in Game Four whether the Dodgers are up 2-1 or down 1-2. On the Mets side, I think Jacob deGrom is the only pitcher they would consider pitching on three day’s rest, and I’m still not sure they will do it. I think Terry Collins and deGrom are lobbying behind the scenes to make it happen. 

However, Matz pitched well in a simulated game today. If his back responds well, we will be on the postseason roster. If that is the case, I believe the Mets will start him in Game 4, no matter what. Only time will tell if this is the right decision. 

Overall, the TBA I’m mostly interested in is who will win this series. The Game 4 starter will probably have a lot to say about that. 

He Turnered Things Around

In 2011, the Mets gave Justin Turner his first chance to play in the big leagues. He was the Mets primary second baseman. He played well while hitting .260/.334/.356 with four homeruns and 51 RBIs. 

In 2012Ike Davis would be healthy and the everyday first baseman. Daniel Murphy became the everyday second baseman again pushing Turner to a utility role. He would play in 94 games hitting .269/.319/.392. It was more of the same in 2013 with Turner hitting .280/.319/.385 in 86 games. 

Apparently, Turner’s performance wasn’t good enough for the Mets, and he was designated for assignment. It was a surprise to everyone, and it was first guessed by everyone. No one was happy about it, especially not Turner. Rather than just letting him go, they had to leak that Turner didn’t hustle. It was a low class move. 

Since that point, Turner has become a much better player. I don’t know if he’s motivated by the Mets slight. I don’t know if it was him coming home. Maybe the Dodgers coaching staff is much better.  It could just be that Turner hit his prime. In any event, the Dodgers got a much better player than the one the Mets released. 

Since joining the Dodgers, Turner has hit .314/.384/.492. This season, he was their starting third baseman, and he was the third best third baseman in the NL this year (according to WAR). The Mets could’ve used this player the past two years, but Turner was not that player with the Mets. He was a bench player with the Mets. He’s now a terrific player with the Dodgers. 

He was a fan favorite with the Mets, and I expect he will be cheered in pregame introductions before Game Three in Citi Field. The Mets and their fans have missed him. They missed the player he was. They could’ve used the player he became. Unfortunately, it wasn’t going to happen in New York. 

I’m just glad it happened for him somewhere. I just hope he goes cold for the next three to five games. 

Game Two Pitching Matchup

Yesterdsy, I looked at how the Mets fared against Clayton Kershaw. Game Two promises to have its own pitcher’s duel between Zack Greinke and Noah Syndergaard

That means if the Mets want/need to win Game Two, they will need to get some runs off of Greinke or get into the Dodgers bullpen. With that said, here’s how the Mets have fared against Greinke:

Starting Lineup

Curtis Granderson 10-52 with 2 doubles, 2 triples, 1 HR, 3 RBIs, and 11 Ks

David Wright 3-9 with 1 double and 2 Ks

Daniel Murphy 4-13 with 2 BBs and 1 K

Yoenis Cespedes 1-5 with 1 BB and 1 K

Lucas Duda 3-12 with 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 BBs, and 4 Ks

Travis d’Arnaud 0-0

Michael Conforto 0-2 with 1 RBI and 1 K

Ruben Tejada 0-6 with 1 K

Combined 21-99 (.212 BA) with 5 BBs (.274 OBP), 3 doubles, 2 triples, 2 HRs (.343 slugging), 5 RBIs, and 21 Ks


Kevin Plawecki 2-6 with 1 double and 1 K
Wilmer Flores 3-8 with 1 K

Kelly Johnson 0-9

Michael Cuddyer 10-40 with 1 double, 1 HR, 7 RBIs, 2 BBs, 10 Ks

Juan Lagares 1-8 with 1 HR, 3 RBIs, and 1 K

Kirk Nieuwenhuis 1-5 with 1 K

Combined 17-76 (.224) with 2 BBs (.244 OBP), 2 doubles, 2 HRs (.329 slugging), 10 RBIs, and 14 Ks

Team Totals 38-175 (.217 BA) with 7 BBs (.241), 5 doubles, 2 triples, 4 HRS (.337 slugging), 15 RBIs, and 35 Ks

Obviously, the .215/.241/.337 line indicates the Mets don’t hit Greinke well, but then again who does?  Greinke has limited batters to .187/.231/.276 this year. So, the Mets do hit Greinke than the league as a whole. 

This goes especially for the top of the Mets lineup. Granderson, Wright, and Murphy have historically hit Greinke very well. If the Mets want to score runs, it’s going to have to start at the top. 

As far as Syndergaard goes, he’s only faced the Dodgers once, and it was at Dodger Stadium. In that game, he pitched six innings allowing two hits, one earned, two walks, and six strikeouts. He got a no decision, but the Mets went on to a 2-1 win. That game was against Kershaw. 

Thor is certainly capable of repeating that performance. In his last four starts, he’s had a 2.93 ERA, a 0.651 WHIP, and a 12.0 K/9.  In this stretch, he’s limited opposing hitters to .163/.188/.337. He’s the key to everything. He’s primed for this playoff run. 

It’s strange to say I’m confident the Mets can pull a game out against Greinke, but Thor gives me that confidence. I can’t wait for him to take the mound Saturday night. 

Matz or Gilmartin

The Mets seem close to setting the NLDS roster (my projections were on point), but there is still one major decision left. The Mets need to decide if they want to put Steven Matz or Sean Gilmartin on the roster. It’s a major decision. 

In essence, the Mets are deciding between the pitcher they want to start Game Four and the last man in the bullpen. In reality, they hope that Matz doesn’t have to pitch (sweep), but they really don’t want Gilmartin pitching (starter knocked out early). Gilmartin flew to LA, and Matz flew to Florida. If Matz has a successful bullpen, he will be added to the roster. If not, it’s Gilmartin’s job. 

Personally, I would go with Gilmartin regardless. Matz has proven to be injury prone, and his back injury had lingered. If he sleeps on it wrong again, he’s out until the World Series. There are other more practical reasons why I would prefer Gilmartin.

First, if the Mets are down 2-1 in the series, I want to see Jacob deGrom on short rest, as was previously suggested by Kevin Kernan of the New York Post, over the Mets other options whether that pitcher be Matz or Bartolo Colon. If I’m going down, I’m going down with my best. This year it was deGrom. Noah Syndergaard can then start Game Five on normal rest. 
Second, the Mets are carrying Colon and Jon Niese on the roster. That’s two starters in the bullpen. If your best shot of winning this series is going with the stud muffins, then Matz serves no purpose on the team. He’s had zero bullpen experience. With that said, if the Mets feel an extra reliever is needed, they should carry the guy who is actually a reliever. Gilmartin has been used in a myriad of ways. He’s the more valuable bullpen piece, even with the reverse splits. 

Finally, Matz hasn’t pitched since September 24th, which will be 19 days between appearances. He’s going to be rusty. You don’t want a rusty pitcher pitching in a do-or-die game. Matz may be the Mets 4th best starter when healthy, but he hasn’t been. I think he can shake off the rust, but it’s only a guess. If you’re guessing at this time of the year, you’re tealky just gambling. You don’t gamble with Game Four. 

I’d send Matz to Florida to join the taxi squad. If the Mets advance, you’ll have a much better idea if he’s capable of starting a game. If he is, put him on the NLCS roster. If he’s not, you can stick with Gilmartin, who is accustomed to sitting for stretches at a time. 

I realize the Mets will go with Matz if they can. I just don’t think it’s the right time. I think his time is the NLCS. It’s Gilmartin’s time now. 

Why I’m Rooting for the Cubs Tonight

I know I shouldn’t be looking ahead to the NLCS, but the Wild Card Game between the Cubs and Pirates is tonight. Also, the Mets still don’t play for another two days. 

Despite the horrors of the 1988 NLCS, I don’t want to see the Cubs or the Pirates in the NLCS. I’d prefer the Cardinals, who will either be without Yadier Molina or will have a hobbled version of him. Furthermore, the Cardinals will also be without Carlos Martinez. I also believe Mike Matheny is not in the same league as Joe Maddon or Clint Hurdle as a manger. By the way, the Mets were also able to actually win a game against the Cardinals. 

Overall, the Mets went a combined 0-13 against the Cubs and Pirates. The Mets at least went 3-4 against the Cardinals. However, the Pirates were the only team to play the post-Yoenis Cespedes trade Mets. In that series at Citi Field, the Pirates swept the Mets. The main difference in that series was the dominant Pirates bullpen. It’s a buzz saw I don’t want to see the Mets walk into again. 

So with that said, I’m hoping the Cubs take care of the Pirates tonight. If not, I hope the Cardinals do. If it’s then up to the Mets, I like having to face the challenge because the Mets will have advanced to the NLCS and will have homefield advantage. 

With that said, I still hope the Cubs win tonight. 

Bullpen Advantage

Everyone is expecting great starting pitching in the NLDS. As seen earlier today, Jacob deGrom is as good against the Dodgers as Clayton Kershaw has been against the Mets. Potentially, this means the starting pitching will cancel each other out creating a battle of the bullpens. 

Working backwards (using ESPN’s depth chart) the Mets and Dodgers each have terrific closers: 

Jeurys Familia 2-2, 43 saves, 1.85 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, 9.9 K/9 (.207/.261/.309)

Kenley Jansen 2-1, 36 saves, 2.41 ERA, 0.783 WHIP, 13.8 K/9 (.176/.215/.298)

However, after that, the Mets have the better set-up men (note these numbers are the numbers with the team only):

Addison Reed 1-1, 1 save, 1.17 ERA, 1.043 WHIP, 10.0 K/9 (.200/.267/.273)

Tyler Clippard 4-1, 2 saves, 3.06 ERA, 1.052 WHIP, 7.2 K/9 (.200/.287/.336)

Jim Johnson 0-3, 1 save, 10.13 ERA, 2.036 WHIP, 8.2 K/9 (.381/.422/.524)

Carlos Frias 5-5, 4.06 ERA, 1.468 WHIP, 5.0 K/9 (.297/.356/.405)

This is a major advantage. If the Mets can stop the game from getting from the starter to Jansen, they can put runs on the board. However, according to Baseball Reference, the Dodgers have reshuffled their bullpen:

Juan Nicasio 1-3, 1 save, 3.86 ERA, 1.560 WHIP, 10.0 K/9 (.263/.358/.384)

Yimi Garcia 3-5, 1 save, 3.34 ERA, 0.953 WHIP, 10.8 K/9 (.209/.249/.346)

Pedro Baez 4-2, 3.35 ERA, 1.137 WHIP, 10.6 K/9 (.247/.288/.405)

These are much better, but hittable right handed pitchers. The Dodgers only have one left handed reliever right now, J.P. Howell, which means Terry Collins will get to pick and choose his spots with Michael ConfortoKelly Johnson, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. The Mets have a major matchup advantages in the late innings. 

The bullpen disparity and Mets roster construction is the biggest reason I believe the Mets can and will win this series. 

Update: Johnson is not on the roster. 

Dodgers Against deGrom

Earlier today, I covered how the Mets have fared against Clayton Kershaw. In Game One, Kershaw is going up against Jacob deGrom, and we’re expecting a pitcher’s duel. 

From the earliest post, we learned that while Kershaw has dominated the Mets, like he does every other team, the Mets have fared better against him than the average team. Here’s how the Dodgers have fared against deGrom:

Starting Lineup

Carl Crawford 0-3 with 2 BBs and 1 K
Howie Kendrick 0-3 with 1 K

Adrian Gonzalez 3-8 with 2 HRs, 5 RBIs, 1 BB, and 3 Ks
Yasiel Puig 1-6 with 1 HR, 1 RBI, and 3 Ks
Andre Ethier 2-6 with 1 triple and 1 K
Corey Seager 0-0
Justin Turner 0-5 with 1 K

Yasmani Grandal 0-3 with 1 K
Combined 6-38 (.158 BA) with 2 BBs (.200 OBP) with one triple, three HRs (.447 slugging), 6 RBIs, and 12 Ks


A.J. Ellis 0-2 with 2 BBs
Jimmy Rollins 1-8 with 1 BB and 2 Ks
Chase Utley 3-10 with 2 BBs and 1 K
Enrique Hernandez 0-0
Joc Pederson 0-3

Ronald Torreyes 0-0
Combined 4-23 (.174 BA) with 5 BBs (.321 OBP), no extra base hits (.174 slugging), and 3 Ks

Team Totals 10-61 (.164 BA) with 7 BBs (.250 OBP), 1 triple, 3 HRs (.344 slugging), 6 RBIs, and 15 Ks

So overall, the Dodgers have not hit deGrom well with the exception of Gonzalez, Ethier, and Utley. It also seems that when the Dodgers get to deGrom, they hit him hard. As long as deGrom can keep the ball in the ballpark, the Dodgers are going to really struggle to score runs. 

deGrom was amazing this season. He was the Mets ace. He’s shown he’s unhurt able when he’s amped up. He’s limited hitters to .215/.255/.318. He’s primed and ready to hold up his end of the bargain in an anticipated Game One pitcher’s duel. 

Against Kershaw, you normally do not have much hope. The Mets will because their pitcher is just as deGrominant.