On Thursday, I had the privilege of being to be invited on the Simply Amazin‘ Podcast. On the podcast, I mentioned Wilson Ramos, Tomas Nido, Rene Rivera, Pete Alonso, Gerson Bautista, Jarred Kelenic, Jeff McNeil, Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Brad Brach, Daniel Zamora, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, J.D. Davis, Dominic Smith, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Marcus Stroman, Luis Santana, Keon Broxton, Felix Valerio, Juan Lagares, Luis Guillorme, Paul Sewald, Luis Avilan, and others.
In 2007, the Mets were seven games ahead with 17 games to play. We all know that season ended with Tom Glavine melting down against the Florida Marlins. That humiliating collapse is not a good memory for Mets fans, but it should serve as a reminder that anything can happen.
There are better and more positive stories in Mets history on this point.
The 1969 Mets entered September five games back of the Cubs, and they’d go 24-8 to finish the season and win the division going away en route to winning one of the more unlikely championships in professional sports history.
In 1973, the Mets entered September 4.5 games of the Cardinals and Pirates. The “Ya Gotta Believe” Mets pulled it off with a 82-79 record. They’d then push off one dynasty another year by beating the Big Red Machine in the NLCS, and they’d come within one game of knocking off another.
As we know, recent history hasn’t been as kind. The 1998 Mets entered September just one game out of the Wild Card. On September 21, they were one game up in the race only to lose their final five games including getting swept by the Braves. What made that all the more difficult was they only needed to win just one game to tie the Cubs and Giants for what was then the only Wild Card spot.
In 1999, it did seem like there was going to be another collapse with the Mets losing seven straight in October, and they’d lose five of six to the Braves with Chipper Jones telling Mets fans to get their Yankees jerseys out of the closet. They’d get some help sweeping the Pirates to over come the two game deficit with three games remaining in the season before Al Leiter‘s one hitter propelled them to the NLDS.
Heading to the future, the Mets collapsed in 2007, and they did it again in 2008 with Jerry Manuel going to Scott Schoeneweis to end the season. There were bleak times ahead before the 2015 and 2016 season. In terms of 2016, it was a somewhat similar situation to this year where a down National League allowed the Mets to linger in the race.
It should be noted that 2016 team was just 1.5 games back of he St. Louis Cardinals for the second Wild Card. It was not the five game deficit this Mets team faced. In any event, that whole run left a bitter taste as Jeurys Familia allowed a three run homer to Conor Gillaspie to end that season.
Overall, it has been quite a mixed bag for the Mets in these late September Wild Card races. We’ve seen them collapse in 1998 and 2007. We have seen them force a one game playoff in 1999 and go on a magical run. Under a different system in 2016, they got to that game, but they couldn’t win it.
No matter how you break it down, there is one theme for all of those years – the Mets had a chance. As we have seen you have a chance even if you are down seven games with 17 remaining. You can look at that all as a negative all you want. That’s your prerogative.
However, this Mets team has Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz pitching great. Seth Lugo is the best reliever in baseball. Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, and Michael Conforto have played great all year, and Todd Frazier seems to be getting hot at the right time. There are so many more positives behind these players.
At the end of the day, there is legitimate reason for hope. As long as there is hope, there is every reason to believe the Mets can pull this off. We should all be excited at the opportunity before this team.
LETS GO METS!
During the 2019 season, the New York Mets are going to wear all sorts of crazy caps for all sorts of reasons. Here are some examples of the hats MLB has chosen for their teams to wear to commemorate different dates on the calendar this year.
For Mother’s Day, teams wore special pink caps like they have for a few years now:
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) May 12, 2019
For Armed Forces Weekend, teams wore a special camouflaged cap:
— New York Mets (@Mets) May 19, 2019
For Memorial Day, all teams wore a patch on their cap and a poppy on their uniforms:
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) May 27, 2019
Like with the pink caps on Mother’s Day, there would be blue caps for Father’s Day:
— New York Mets (@Mets) June 16, 2019
For the Fourth of July, MLB teams would wear stars and stripes themed caps:
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) July 5, 2019
There would be more than few caps for the All-Stars for the game played in Cleveland:
The best of the National League and American League come together. Back your favorite All-Star with The Official On-Field Cap of the All-Star Game @NewEraCap https://t.co/ZGRczbaB9N pic.twitter.com/NajbWtRuHs
— New York Mets (@Mets) July 5, 2019
— New York Mets (@Mets) July 9, 2019
Then, to much controversy, there was the Player’s Weekend caps and uniforms the players and fans seemed to hate with the teams being forced to wear them:
This one was special. pic.twitter.com/BUpAP4jWt4
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 25, 2019
Crafty Matzy. 💪💪💪 pic.twitter.com/OCc0wQbAOm
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 25, 2019
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) August 25, 2019
So for the year, Major League teams have worn pink and blue caps. They’ve worn camouflaged and stars and stripes caps. There was two different All Star Game caps as well as black and white caps. What we won’t see is the First Responder caps the Mets wore after 9/11 to help a city and a country heal.
He helped the City heal after the 9-11 attacks. Hear @BobbyValentine reflect upon the Mets-Braves game, the first sporting event in NYC after September 11. Gives a vivid account of @mikepiazza31’s classic home run. https://t.co/4JxfLRbYVh pic.twitter.com/ofFA2IeFYi
— Jay Horwitz (@Jay_HorwitzPR) August 9, 2019
The reason we will not see the caps is because Major League Baseball will not allow it. To be fair, they didn’t allow it in 2001, but Todd Zeile would not stand for it, and he on the field with the rest of his teammates. He would have the support of his manager Bobby Valentine and the entire Mets organization.
The only thing Major League Baseball has permitted is for them to be worn pre-game when the game is not televised. It’s at the same time players can basically wear whatever they want making this nothing more than a hollow empty gesture especially since MLB officials go scrambling to collect the caps before the National Anthem.
As R.A. Dickey once noted, they’re not even allowed to be on the field for the commemorative ceremonies, and players are threatened with fines. The last player who tried to defy Major League Baseball to do the right thing was David Wright, but the caps were gone before he had the chance to do it.
To their credit, the Wilpons have tried and have been rebuffed. The players have tried and were rejected. The fans have begged for them. Through all of it, one thing remains clear: Major League Baseball still doesn’t care, and they clearly forgot.
Just remember that the next time you see a “fun” pink or blue cap on the field.
During Saturday’s game against the Phillies, Steve Gelbs did a segment to discuss why the Mets are one of the least shifting teams. When you boil it all down, the Mets believe the shifting has a negative impact on the Mets pitchers psychologically leading to them making mistakes:
When they discussed it I immediately checked for your take. pic.twitter.com/aC1M9OfNhE
— Roger Cormier (@yayroger) September 8, 2019
It should be noted these conclusions aren’t because Fred Wilpon or someone else in the Mets front office being staunchly against the numbers and wanting to play the game the way it was played back in the Brooklyn Dodgers days. Rather, it is the result of the work of Russell Carlton, who literally wrote the book on the shift entitled The Shift: The Next Evolution in Basebal Thinking.
He would also write a piece on the topic for Baseball Prospectus. In his article, he would write about how the shift has correlated to an increase in walks and generally how “pitchers often talk about how The Shift made them uncomfortable.” His ultimate conclusion was there is much research left to be done with the shift, and ultimately, “The Shift should be used very cautiously.”
It should be noted the Mets hired Carlton this past year. What they haven’t done is hired someone who has written at length about the significance of the pitcher/catcher relationship. That was made abundantly clear yesterday.
In an exclusive article by Joel Sherman and Kevin Kernan of the New York Post, it was revealed how Noah Syndergaard has become increasingly frustrated by the Mets pairing him with Wilson Ramos instead of Tomas Nido or recently Rene Rivera.
When it comes to Syndergaard, the Mets apparently have little to no regard for his psyche. As noted in the article, “Van Wagenen’s front office believes the pitcher-catcher dynamic is overstated and favors the best offensive matchup against the opposing pitcher.”
As noted previously in an article on this site, the conclusions derived by the Van Wagenen front office are not factually sound. Rivera and Nido have excelled at framing the low pitches, which is an area where Syndergaard needs the calls to be effective. We’ve seen that play out recently with Syndergaard pitching seven shut out innings with no walks and 10 strikeouts sandwiched between complete and utter duds with Ramos behind the plate. This was after a stretch where Syndergaard pitched extremely well with Nido behind the plate.
Perhaps, this is nothing more than psychological with Syndergaard, and that despite all the data to the contrary, the Mets front office is right there is nothing really to personal catchers. That is all well and good, but it is really odd that the same front office which doesn’t shift much in response to the impact on the pitcher’s frame of mind completely disregards the impact a catcher has on a pitcher’s psyche.
In essence, the Mets front office believes there is more bearing on where the second baseman stands than who is standing behind the plate.
There is really no making sense of that. There is also no sense in weighing 3-4 at-bats Ramos will get in a game over the 20-30 batters Syndergaard or another Mets pitcher will face in a game. Essentially, the Mets think four at-bats from Ramos is more important than 20 from the opposition.
The best way to sum this up is the Mets believe in pitcher psychology until they don’t. They believe in the impact a shift has on a pitcher but not the impact framing and pitch calling has. They believe in doing all they can do to support Ramos but not Syndergaard.
In the past offseason, Brodie Van Wagenen opted to non-tender Wilmer Flores making the player who once cried at the thought of leaving the Mets a free agent. Last night, he not only returned to New York, but he would face the Mets for the first time. In the fifth inning last night, he would homer against his former teammate Jacob deGrom:
Welcome back, Wilmer! pic.twitter.com/yFPAOZc3YY
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) September 10, 2019
The homer was a bittersweet moment for Mets fans. In fact, there was a smattering of applause in the stands as the Mets still love and respected Wilmer. It should also be bittersweet because non-tendering him was a real mistake.
Looking back at it, Flores was a 0.5 WAR player last year. Given the construct of 1.0 WAR being worth $9 million on the free agent market, Flores was worth about $4.5 million last year, which coincidentally, was roughly what he would have been worth in arbitration.
But seeing what he was worth last year is not exactly the point. The point is when you look to sign a player, whether in free agency or arbitration, you are looking to pay for future value. With that in mind, It is important to remember Flores was a player turning 27 years old and entering his prime.
But it was more than just his entering his prime. He has cut down on his strikeouts and increasing his contact rate at the plate. It wasn’t just more contact, but it is also harder contact. It’s part of the reason why he had been above league average hitter. Part of that development as a hitter was his transitioning from being a platoon bat to being a player who could hit both right and left-handed pitching.
This is typically the part where someone jumps in to point out his defense. No, Flores is not a good defender. No one can or should claim he is. However, Flores has shown himself good at first base and passable at second. In a pinch, he is someone you could have play at third or short. No, not for more than a game or two, but there is value in his ability to stand there for a short duration.
Looking at the defense, we should remember he would have been depth on the Mets. He was a guy who could have been on the field when Todd Frazier and Robinson Cano went down. With Jeff McNeil‘s ability to play third and outfield, the Mets could have limited Flores to second. An important note here was he was a player who never complained about his role and was a good guy in the clubhouse. There is an immense amount of value in that.
We also know Flores has the clutch gene as the Mets all-time leader in walk-off hits. In extra innings, Flores is a .378/.404/.667 hitter in extra innings. This, along with the crying and his being one the players who stayed on the field longest signing autographs, made him a beloved Mets player.
So far this year, Flores is a 0.7 WAR player. That’s a higher WAR than any current Mets bench player. This highlights the Mets mistake in letting him go, and that mistake is further exacerbated when you consider the Diamondbacks are ahead of the Mets in the Wild Card standings. As time elapses, the Mets are going to have to contend with Flores helping other teams and reminding the Mets of the mistake it was letting him go.
On Friday night, the Mets led 4-2 heading into the ninth inning. Mickey Callaway then sent Edwin Diaz out there to earn the save. In the offseason and April, this would’ve seemed like a no-brainer. However, not hasn’t been the case all year. Everyone has lost faith in him.
After a Jean Segura one out single, J.T. Realmuto homered to tie the game. It was the 14th homer he allowed all year, which is just one fewer than he had allowed over the previous two seasons combined. It was the latest down point in a series of down points. In a bit of irony, he’d get the win because of the Mets two out rally culminating in a Pete Alonso walk-of win.
On Saturday, the Mets were tied 4-4 heading into the sixth inning. After Paul Sewald allowed a leadoff double to Rhys Hoskins. After a sacrifice bunt, Luis Avilan came in and had perhaps his worst outing of the season allowing an RBI single to Phil Gosselin before allowing a two run homer to Maikel Franco. Why Avilan was left in to face Franco is anyone’s guess.
With the Mets rallying back in the sixth to make this a 7-6 game, Callaway turned to Justin Wilson, his second best reliever, to start the inning. For the first time since he came off the IL, Wilson didn’t have it. When he didn’t have it with Scott Kingery hitting a two run homer off of him, Tyler Bashlor came in to relieve him.
For his part, Bashlor would walk Sean Rodriguez and allow a double to Franco. Then, for reasons which confounded everyone, Andrew Knapp and his career .219/.329/.322 batting line was intentionally walked to allow Bashlor to face Bryce Harper, who was pinch hitting for reliever Mike Morin.
Bashlor, and his MLB career 4.6 BB/9, which includes a 6.6 this year, was allowed to face Harper with the bases loaded. You could see the walk coming a mile away, and arguably, the walk, driving home the Phillies 10th run of the game, could be argued to be a much better outcome than what could’ve happened if Harper made contact.
With the season on the line, and in the highest leveraged situations the Mets faced all year, the bullpen gave up six runs over two innings. That was after Diaz blew the lead on Friday night. While the bullpen melted down in those two games, Mets fans watched on bewildered and horrified. Do you know who else was watching on?
Somehow, in the latest in a series of the Mets biggest series of the season, Lugo didn’t throw one pitch. Not one. If memory serves, he didn’t even soft tossing let alone warm up in any of those games. Potentially, the Mets chances at winning a Wild Card went by the wayside while the team’s best reliever watched it happen.
As horrible as we all feel, you could only imagine how Brad Brach felt. Remember, he was a member of that 2016 Orioles team who lost to the Blue Jays in 11 innings as Zack Britton, clearly the best reliever in the game that year, never entered the game. At some point, you have to wonder if he was having flashbacks.
With respect to Lugo, it should be remembered he threw two innings on Thursday. That was a day game after a night game, and in that night game, he threw an inning. That’s three innings over a 24 hour period. That’s a lot for a reliever with known UCL issues. It’s a lot for a reliever the Mets have been careful in trying to get him rest so as to not burn him out or injure him.
What we don’t know is whether he was unable to rebound after throwing those three innings. We also don’t know if Callaway was waiting for a late inning situation on Sunday which never presented itself. No matter what the case, the only thing we know is with the season on the line Lugo didn’t throw a pitch. If there is no injury issues, and there very well may be, that’s inexcusable.
The only thing more inexcusable than that is the fact that the Mets do not have another arm who could get a key out or pitch a scoreless frame in those three key innings.
There is a wealth of information which proves to us CERA is not a reliable source of information upon which to base decisions. The sample sizes are too small to draw any sort of conclusions, and there are too many variables at play like home plate umpires and opposing lineups. Despite all of that, the pairing of Noah Syndergaard and Rene Rivera seems significant.
Certainly, it felt that way in Washington last week. After a Trea Turner leadoff single, Syndergaard retired the next 16 batters in a row striking out nine of them. Syndergaard’s final line was 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 10 K. The last time Syndergaard pitched seven innings walking none and striking out 10 was April 20, 2017. His catcher that day? Rene Rivera.
Now, Syndergaard has had plenty of dominating performances since he was last paired with Rivera. That said, he seemed to be much more consistently dominant with Rivera behind the plate. For example, Syndergaard started the 2017 season allowing just two earned runs in his first three starts while averaging 6.1 innings per start. In those games, he struck out 20 and walked none. Syndergaard would have similar runs in 2016 including but not limited to his GREAT performance in the 2016 Wild Card game.
Overall, Rivera has caught Syndergaard 29 times. In those 29 games, Syndergaard has a 2.52 ERA. When Syndergaard is caught by another catcher, he has a career 3.57 ERA. When Syndergaard is caught by Rivera, he has a 1.9 BB/9 and a 10.3 K/9. When he is caught by anyone else, Syndergaard has a 2.2 BB/9 and a 9.5 K/9. Again, these numbers could be explained by sheer randomness, but seeing the disparity, it does call for further examination as to why the discrepancy.
On that front, Rivera has long been noted for his pitch framing skills. In fact, he has elite pitch framing skills. Specifically, he has quite the ability to frame that low pitch. As the Hard Ball Times put it in 2014, Rivera’s ability allows “pitchers to have dominion over the low, outside corner, nabbing strikes that hitters would have to lunge to make contact with. It seems like it was part of a consistent strategy for Rivera and his battery mate to nip that corner on 0-0.”
Considering how Syndergaard likes throwing his sinker, he needs a catcher like Rivera to thrive. When you also consider Rivera’s years of experience behind the plate, Rivera also serves as a mentor of sorts for Syndergaard. He knows how to read Syndergaard knowing when he does and doesn’t have it. He knows what pitch to call in each situation. There is a comfort between the two, and based on Rivera’s skill behind the plate matching Syndergaard’s ability on the mound, they bring out the best in one another.
With the Mets making a push for the Wild Card and trying to get the best out of their starters, they should be pairing Syndergaard with Rivera. That goes double when there is a day game after a night game. As an aside, when the two aren’t paired, Rivera should be counseling Tomas Nido, a catcher who has a similar skill set and has gotten similar dominance from Syndergaard.
Ultimately, when it comes down to it, the Mets need to do what is best for their starters. Like in 2016 and 2017 and with his last start, Syndergaard needs to be paired with Rivera.
The New York Met did not lose last night’s game because of Mickey Callaway. They lost the game because the Mets bullpen could not hold a six run lead in the ninth inning. That’s not on the manager, and if you think it was, honestly, you are going to blame him for anything that goes wrong.
Sure, the Mets could have left Seth Lugo in the game and had a much smoother finish. However, by pulling Lugo, you save him to pitch today in what should have been an opportunity for a sweep. Again, this was a six run lead with the bottom of the Nationals linuep. If you can’t trust the rest of your bullpen to hold that lead, you’re not winning any games from here on out.
Callaway brought in Paul Sewald. Since he was called back up on August 20, he had allowed one earned run over 7.1 innings with 13 strikeouts and one walk. In his last appearance against the Phillies, he came into the game with two outs and the tying run on second, and he would get J.T. Realmuto to pop out to end the inning. As it stands, Sewald has become the Mets most reliable right-handed reliever not named Lugo.
Sewald just didn’t have it. With Anthony Rendon coming up and Juan Soto on deck, the Nationals had a run home with runners at the corners. At this point, it should be noted Brad Brach has allowed at least one run in three of his last six outings. Jeurys Familia had just blown the Phillies game, and he has not been good all year. At this point, it was very reasonable to give Sewald one more batter.
After Rendon’s RBI single, Callaway went and brought in Luis Avilan to face Soto. Entering last night’s game, left-handed batters were 2-for-38 off Avilan. Again, Avilan had allowed TWO HITS ALL YEAR to left-handed batters. TWO. He is exactly the guy you want in that situation to face Soto.
Again, he didn’t get the job done allowing a single to load the bases.
Now, the Nationals were going to pinch hit Ryan Zimmerman for Matt Adams with Avilan on the mound, and Kurt Suzuki was on deck. Before commenting this was a spot for Justin Wilson consider the splits Zimmerman and Suzuki had.
- vs. LHP
- Zimmerman .382/.417/.559
- Suzuki .349/.373/.587
- vs. RHP
- Zimmerman .195/.280/.356
- Suzuki .237/.308/.439
Look at those splits. You bring in the right-handed pitcher to face them. This was the exact situation you bring in Edwin Diaz, who just so happens to be the pitcher Brodie Van Wagenen traded Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn while taking on $100 million of Robinson Cano‘s contract to acquire.
If you’ll remember, when Familia was blowing the game against the Phillies, people were screaming Callaway should have brought in Diaz. The narrative then was Diaz had figured out his slider after working with Jacob deGrom, and he was much better. After all, he had struck out six of the last eight batters he had faced. He also had a streak where he allowed runs in just one of his past eight appearances.
You could argue for Wilson. However, Zimmerman and Suzuki annihilate left-handed pitching. Absolutely, destroys them. Chances are if you are blaming Callaway for not using him, you’d blame him for his ignoring the splits if Zimmerman and Suzuki beat him. Diaz was hot, and it had been argued Diaz figured it out. Also, just like Sewald and Avilan, this was a spot Diaz has to succeed.
Zimmerman doubled. Suzuki walked it off. That’s seven runs in one-third of an inning.
To recount, Callaway made the right move lifting Lugo to have him available for today’s game. By doing that, he could get an inning from him instead of having to use one of the guys who can’t get the job done. He went to Sewald, who has been great lately. He then went to Avilan who had allowed two hits to left-handed batters all year. He then went to the guy the Mets mortgaged the farm and payroll flexibility to close out games. That same guy had been really good entering yesterday’s game.
Ultimately, the Mets lost this game because of the inexcusable performance of three relievers who had been very good of late. This wasn’t on Callaway. Not everything is. As for his postgame comments, who cares? They’re meaningless. What matters is how he handles that clubhouse. We’ll see that in today’s game.
Overall, Callaway made the right moves. Sure, you could argue for Wilson or to stick with Lugo, and if they do that, maybe they win last night. However, at some point, you have to go to relievers not named Wilson or Lugo, and they need to succeed. That’s the case all the more with Wilson and Lugo each having elbow issues.
If no one other than Wilson and Lugo can’t get the job done, blame the relievers who can’t hold a six run lead. Blame the General Manager who assembled this disaster of a bullpen. At some point, Callaway has to use these guys, and a six run lead in the ninth was the right spot. He’s not to blame for it.
The Mets had an opportunity to seize the second Wild Card spot by sweeping the Cubs. Those hopes died when they were shut down by Yu Darvish.
They arguably had their chance to still control their own destiny, but Noah Syndergaard was shelled for 10 runs (nine earned) over three earned. After that, the Mets made it VERY interesting, but they just couldn’t deliver that key hit.
It now all comes down to Jacob deGrom. He wins today, and the Mets are three out with a real shot. There is no one you would rather have on the mound between his greatness and his big game experience. It’s up to the offense to finally support him.
Can the Mets come back from five back with over a month to play? Absolutely, but the task is much more difficult, especially with the season ending with the Mets playing the Braves. That last point is the most troubling.
This run has been fun, but there’s been a bit of a reality check losing at least 5/6 to the Braves and Cubs. Runs are great, but in the end, this is about winning the World Series. The Mets have the pitching to do so, and we’ve seen more unlikely runs than this in baseball history, but that said, that’s been the biggest issue over these six games.
That all said the Mets still have deGrom, and when you have deGrom, you always have a chance. Because of that, stay excited for today, the rest of the season, and hopefully, that magical postseason run.
Let’s Go Mets
Where no Met has ever gone before… pic.twitter.com/2YtUHdNscd
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 28, 2019
The only record now before him is Aaron Judge‘s rookie record of 52. On that front, Alonso hit 10 homers in May, which is the most he’s hit in any month thus far. He’s going to have to replicate that just to match.
Overall, there’s more than enough games to do that. That goes double when you consider there’s still trips to Coors and The Great American Ballpark remaining. With those series remaining, Alonso has a good chance.