Collins Not in October Form

The beginning of this game recap has to start with the “Throwing Out of Baserunners” in the top of the ninth with the score tied 3-3. That Yoenis Cespedes throw was incredible. Against another player, Sean Rodriguez is standing on third as the winning run. Since there are no words to describe the play, here’s the play:

As for the rest of the game, it was a second straight extra inning game with both teams playing with intensity reminiscent of October baseball. This could prove to be a real good test for this Mets team. Tonight, we would see the person who needs the most improvement is Terry Collins. 

This includes Jon Niese. With his recent run, we forgot he was prone to mistakes after errors or bad calls. Balking Bob Davidson was doing Balking Bob Davidson things:

So yeah, bad call on a 3-2 count. Sure enough, next AB, Gregory Polanco hits a two run homer. Mets start the game down 2-0. Add a third inning dinger and the Mets offense reverting to June form against Charlie Morton, who was really channeling Roy Halladay, and all hope seemed lost. 

Then Juan Uribe leads off the seventh with a homerun to CF. Later in the inning, Michael Conforto pulled a homerun to RF tying the score at three. Seriously, this is why I say send him down or play him everyday. He’s got the potential to be a special player. 

Last night, I noted the difference in the game was the bullpens. The Pirates bullpen was very good again.  Luckily, the Mets other bullpen pieces were up to the task. Carlos Torres pitched a scoreless seventh. Hansel Robles then had three scoreless frames (10th, 11th, and 12th).  Sean Gilmartin would finally crack in the 14th, taking the loss due to questionable managing and defense. 

Specifically, Lucas Duda made a PH appearance in the 12th. He drew a two out walk. Of course, he didn’t appear earlier in the game, and the Mets burned Juan Lagares as a pinch hitter in the sixth . . . because you want him for his bat and not his late inning defense. Keep in mind Duda can’t play in the field right now. When Wilmer Flores [standing ovation] didn’t deliver, the Mets were down to Anthony Recker, some good hitting pitcher, and no double switch options. 

This turned out to be the key decision in the game. If Lagares was available to go in the game in the late innings, Francisco Cervelli‘s double becomes a single because Lagares would’ve been in CF and Cespedes would’ve been in LF. That changed the inning; not Daniel Murphy‘s misplay. Cervelli, the go-ahead run, would’ve been safe at third. I know it helped lead to an insurance run. My argument is tbst throw isn’t made because Cervelli wouldn’t have been on second. 

Sure enough, the last man on the bench, Recker would make the last out. The Mets lost 5-3. Who knows how it turns out if Collins managed it properly?  

50 Years Ago Today, Sgt. Pepper Taught the Band to Play

In a sport that has Yankee Stadium, Tiger Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, and Ebbetts Field, for one night, Shea Stadium was the most famous stadium in the world. The Beatles were playing there. 

It is still regarded as one of the greatest concerts of all time. For four more years, it most likely was the Mets’ fans favorite moment in the Big Shea. That would be until Davey Johnson’s fly ball fell harmlessly into Cleon Jones’ glove. 

The Beatles were a phenomenon on their way to becoming the greatest Rock & Roll group ever. They rocked the house: 

I was lucky enough to be able to attend Billy Joel’s Last Play at Shea over 40 years later. It was awesome. Aside from Billy Joel’s typical brilliance, he brought superstar guests onto the stage: Steven Tyler, Garth Brooks, and Roger Daltrey. Then, a miracle happened of the same ilk as a little dribbler up the first base line:

That’s right. McCartney would play in the two greatest concerts in Shea Stadium. We would later find out everyone moved heaven and hell to get him there. Much like the police escort the Beatles needed in 1965 just to get to the stage, McCartney needed one just to get to Shea on time. 

Then Billy Joel did the classiest thing I’ve ever seen: he ceded his stage to Paul McCartney to close out his concert:

I remember my then girlfriend, now wife, and I calling our families so they could hear it. Like Billy Joel, we wanted to share this experience with everyone. This was a moment I’ll never forget. 

As a native son, this was Billy Joel’s moment in his hometown. The Mets were letting him close down a stadium the Beatles opened. Instead, Billy Joel let the man who opened Shea close it down. 

Fifty years later, Citi Field has a post game concert starring NeYo. He’s got some massive shoes to fill. 

Murphy is Clutch

It may be hard to believe this, but this is the second time, Daniel Murphy is in a pennant chase. The first time was in 2008, when the Mets desperately needed another bat (sound familiar?). 

In 2008, the Mets had various injury issues (sound familiar?), and they rushed Murphy to the majors (sound familiar?). If you remember, this wasn’t a fun season. They were coming off a historic collapse, fired Willie Randolph after flying out to California, and they hired the man who back stabbed him to get the job. Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, there were the press conferences (that the Mets couldn’t stop hyping):

One of the few bright spots of that season was Murphy. As we now know, he was a terrific hitter. In 2008, he hit .313/.397/.473. With this he got his foot in the door, and he was named the starting LF the next year. We know how that worked out. 

However, we also know he’s a good hitter. Ironically, with him presumably having one foot out the door, he’s finally in a pennant race again. Again, he’s producing. In the second half he’s hit .292/.330/.448 (as compared to .277/.331/.405 in the first half). He’s also answered the call to play all over the infield due to injuries to different players or platoon splits. 

Ultimately, Murphy is going out the way he came in . . . by doing everything he can to get the Mets into the playoffs. I hope he succeeds this time. 

Wilmer Flores

Now batting for the New York Mets, the second baseman, WILMER FLORES!

Future of Cuban Baseball

As I’ve noted before, this is not a political blog. I have strong political opinions, but they won’t be presented here. However, this blog does touch upon baseball and fatherhood, so I decided it was important for me to address the reopening of the U.S. embassy in Cuba. 

From a baseball perspective, there has already been much written about a potential pipeline of talent to the U.S.  For various reasons, I’m not as intrigued by that possibility. Honestly, if Cuba ever allowed their baseball players to come to the U.S., I imagine it would follow the Japanese NPB system

Here’s what I’m more interested in: 

  1. Will Americans be eligible to play in the Cuban National League; and
  2. Will Cuban MLB players be eligible to play in the WBC?

American Eligibility to Play in Cuba

I’m interested in the first one because we have seen MLB players go to the NPB and be successful. The most notable was Cecil Fielder, who improved in the NPB, and became the first player to hit 50 homeruns in 13 years (back when that meant something). 

Since that time, there have been other players like Ryan Vogelsong, who have salvaged their games, there haven’t been any with the impact of Fielder. Now, the NPB seems to be used for a different purpose for American players. Kevin Youkilis went there to play one last season before retiring, rather than risking being cut for non-performance by an MLB team. Tuffy Rhodes decided to make a career out of being an NPB star than return to the U.S.  

Now, I don’t know if the Cuban Leagues are better than the NPB. In fact, I doubt they are. However, it would be good to have another option for MLB players to resurrect their careers. 

WBC

I know American baseball fans are as interested in the WBC as I am. Admittedly, there are many flaws in the series (innings limits, when it’s played), but I enjoy it anyway. 

Overall, the two teams that have really underachieved have been the U.S. and Cuba. With each defection, the Cuban team continues to worsen. Here are some of the Cuban MLB players not eligible to play for Cuba anymore:

  1. Jose Abreu
  2. Yoenis Cespedes
  3. Aroldis Chapman
  4. Yasmani Grandal
  5. Adeiny Hechavarria 
  6. Jose Iglesias
  7. Leonys Martin
  8. Yasiel Puig
  9. Alexi Ramirez

These are some good to very good MLB players. These players would really strengthen the Cuban national team. I want the U.S.A. to win the WBC, but I want them to beat the best to show they are the best. I want this to be more akin to Olmpic hockey and basketball, not a collection of guys willing to play. 

I think the addition of the Cuban MLB players would spark their team and the WBC.  There is a Cuba-U.S.A. baseball rivalry at the amateur level. Maybe the addition of the Cuban MLB players will cause the best American players to show up . . . not just some of them. 

Summation 

Overall, I have no idea of the political and baseball impact on the U.S. Embassy reopening in Cuba. While I know there are people who support it and those who vehemently oppose it, I think we all agree we want what’s best for the Cuban families. To a lesser extent, I think we would all enjoy better baseball. 

Mets Needed Relief

If it wasn’t so hot hot tonight, I swear it was October. Tonight’s game just had that feel to it. 

Speaking of October, we got a glimpse why the Pirates may be better suited to go deeper in the playoffs – their bullpen. Top to bottom, it’s terrific. The Mets bullpen is top heavy with Tyler Clippard and Jeurys Familia. I’m not saying I felt like the game was in the balance when Bobby Parnell was announced. I am saying I have no confidence in him. 

He did give up hard hits, and he left the game with no outs, runners on first and second, and the Mets down 2-1 in the tenth. Carlos Torres did his best to get out of it, but at the end of the top of the 10th, the Mets trailed 3-1. 

That insurance run was a doozy. Juan Lagares had a terrific AB against  Pirates closer, Mark Melancon, before hitting a double to right center. He would advance on a wild pitch and score on Curtis Granderson‘s sac fly. Cespedes would meekly strikeout. in fact, he failed to run with strike three in the dirt. That’s inexcusable. Juan Uribe would groundout to end the game. Final score was 3-2. 

It’s too bad the crowd wasn’t paying attention to the game.  You CANNOT do the wave in a tight, well played baseball game between two terrific teams. I’m not for outlawing the wave. There is a time and place for everything. There was no room for the wave tonight. 

If they were actually paying attention to the game, they would’ve noticed Bartolo Colon‘s great performance. [I can admit it when he pitches well]. He only allowed a first inning homerun to Neil Walker. Sure, he was occasionally helped by his defense, but he got the groundballs to induce those double plays to get him out of trouble. Amazingly, J.A. Happ was just as good.

If not for that Yoenis Cespedes‘ sixth inning homerun, I’m positive the Mets would’ve lost 1-0 in an excellently played ballgame by both teams. Needless to say, it turned out all for naught. 

In terms of the lineup, the Mets have shown Michael Conforto should’ve been sent down. They’re making him a platoon player, which could be detrimental to his career. He’s didnt start in 3/4 games against the Rockies, and he won’t start in 2/3 games against the Pirates. Monday is an off day. That means in one week he got one start and two PH appearances. Would it really have been that bad if those six plate appearances were divvied up between Eric Campbell, Kelly Johnson, and Juan Lagares?

I Hate the Pirates

It’s funny. The three divisional format in every league was supposed to, in part, amp up rivalries. The problem when they set up the NL East was that there were no rivalries amongst those teams. 

The teams I hated are all in the NL Central: the Cardinals, Cubs, and Pirates. I came to hate the Pirates in 1990. The Pirates crushed my young dream of seeing the Mets in the playoffs again. 

In 1990 , I rooted for the Reds in the NLCS. In 1991 and 1992, I rooted for the Braves. One of my favorite memories as a kid was this: 

It’s funny now to think of ever rooting for the Braves, but baseball was much different back then. It’s also funny to think Barry Bonds couldn’t throw out former teammate, Sid Bream. After the 1991 NLCS, the Pirates couldn’t resign Bobby Bonilla allowing the Mets to get him on what would become “The Worst Team Money Can Buy.”

Again, your memory is funny. When the Mets first got Bonilla, I was thrilled. You were too. You know what else is funny?  If you look over his stats, he was a pretty good player on the Mets. However, any sympathy I would’ve had for him went out the door with 1999 poker game. 

Anyway, after 1992, that was it for the Pirates. Barry Bonds would go to San Francisco, and the Pirates wouldn’t have a winning team again for another 21 years. I loved every minute of it. Now, however, the Pirates are a loaded, dangerous, and likeable team. 

With them it all starts with Andrew McCutchen, who is the best player in the National League. He’s a CF putting up consistent All Star and Hall of Fame stats. It seems like every year, he gets unexpected help. This year that man is Jung Ho Kang, who probably is the rookie of the year. 

A deep pitching staff is lead by Gerritt Cole, who is on the fringes of the Cy Young discussions. Luckily, they will miss him. Unfortunately, the Mets will throw Bartolo Colon. Also, Matt Harvey will be the only stud muffin to fm go in this series. 

Right now, the Pirates are the better team. However, the Mets play well at Citi Field while the Pirates are [barely] a sub .500 team in the road. Overall, I see this series as a measuring stick rest. I hope the Mets are up for the challenge. 

cyGrom?

According to Carlos Gonzalez, Jacob deGrom is the best pitcher in baseball. This is notable because he shares a division with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Madison Bumgarner. With that said, I wanted to take a way too early look at deGrom’s chances of winning the Cy Young Award. 

In doing this analysis. I wanted to take a look at different stats and predictors. I wanted to do this because I don’t think anyone one factor or stat should ever held to be dispositive. I went with the factors I fr most comfortable discussing. For each, I will only list the top five as that how many pitchers may be listed on a ballot. 

ESPN Cy Young Predictor

The ESPN Cy Young Predictor focuses more on traditional stats like wins, losses, and ERA. As of right now, here are the rankings:

  1. Zack Greinke
  2. Trevor Rosenthal
  3. Michael Wacha
  4. Jacob deGrom 
  5. Clayton Kershaw

WAR

WAR seeks to adjust the runs a pitcher allows in a season (I’m way oversimplifying, but fully explaining this is a post or 10 in and of itself). Here are the league leaders:

  1. Zack Greinke
  2. Max Scherzer
  3. Jacob deGrom
  4. Clayton Kershaw
  5. Jake Arrieta

FIP

Fielding Independent Pitching, or FIP, measures a pitcher’s effectiveness in preventing HR, BB, and HBP while causing strikeouts. Really, this measures the “Three True Outcomes.”  Here are the league leaders:

  1. Clayton Kershaw
  2. Max Scherzer
  3. Zack Greinke
  4. Jacob deGrom
  5. Jake Arrieta

ERA+

ERA+ adjusts a pitcher’s ERA for various factors like ballpark and defense. Here are the league leaders:

  1. Zack Greinke
  2. Jacob deGrom
  3. Jake Arrieta
  4. Max Scherzer
  5. Clayton Kershaw

Winner

To calculate the winner, I’m using the BBWAA 7-4-3-2-1 formula to select the winner, i.e. first place gets seven points and fifth gets one. 

  1. Zack Greinke (24 points)
  2. Jacob deGrom (13 points)
  3. Clayton Kershaw (11 points)
  4. Max Scherzer (10 points)
  5. Jake Arrieta (5 points)
  6. Trevor Rosenthal (4 points)
  7. Michael Wacha (3 points)

Analysis

Much of this seems to suggest what we already assume we know: Zack Greinke is going to win the Cy Young. It’s always great when the stats are in agreement. 

I think it also shows we are right in assuming the top pitchers also include Jacob deGrom, Clayton Kershaw, and Max Scherzer. However, it was enlightening to see Jake Arrieta is having a tremendous year, and yet, he wasn’t an All Star. 

Overall, deGrom is a strong second, but still second in projected voting. There is still a lot of season left, so there still might be a chance. Even if he doesn’t win, he’s still had a great year. 

Wilmer Flores

Now batting for the New York Mets, the second baseman, WILMER FLORES!

Arm Wrestling

About three weeks ago, I addressed the Mets innings limitations problem. Without completely regurgitating everything here, my conclusion was that without a spot starter, Jacob deGrom would be the only stud muffin able to make a postseason start. Even at that, he would only be available for one game. 

I thought with the latest go-round of stud muffin starts, it would be helpful to re-visit where we are on the innings limits:

Matt Harvey: I’ve noted his innings limits are between 180 – 190 innings. Right now, he’s at 148.0, or 42.0 innings before a hypothetical shutdown (don’t worry Collins said there’s no shutdown). By my rudimentary calculation, Harvey has nine starts left, at most. He’s averaging 6.2 innings per start meaning he will go over his limit by 18 innings (about three starts), not including the postseason. 
Jacob deGrom: I’ve noted his innings limits are between 208 – 214 innings. Right now, he’s at 146.2, or 71.1 innings before needing to be shutdown. With approximately nine starts left and his averaging 6.2 innings per start, he looks to finish the year with 206.2 innings. It looks like he will be below his limits, postseason aside. 

Noah Syndergaard: I’ve noted his innings limits are between 159.0 – 163.0 innings. Right now, he’s at 105.2, or 57.1 innings before needing to be shut down. With nine starts remaining and his averaging 6.2 innings per start, he looks to finish the year with 165.2 innings. He will be slightly above his innings limits right before the postseason.

So interestingly enough, if you’re only looking at the regular season, there isn’t an innings limitation problem with anyone but Harvey.  This is yet again a sign the Mets shouldn’t “Matz” with the rotation right now. 
While not addressing the pitching, Sandy Alderson did say, “[i]t’s about this year. Not next year.”  I hope he keeps this in mind and puts Steven Matz in the bullpen. Remember it’s all about this year.