#Murphtober

Once the Mets clinched the NL East, I actively wondered what type of October this would be. In Game 1 of the NLDS, it looked like it would be Jaketober. Game 3 lead me to believe it would be Yotober. However, it’s official after last night, it’s Murphtober. 

This should surprise no one. In the limited chances he’s had, Daniel Murphy has shown himself to be clutch. He’s taken advantage of every little opportunity given to him. He’s made himself an All Star. He’s turning into an October legend. He already has his own highlight reel:

    

He’s been a terrific Met since 2008. He’s making the most of this postseason chance. No one should be surprised because he’s always been clutch. I know Mets fans aren’t. Everytime he does something, we cheer him like this:

We will continue to be like that all Murphtober long. 

Why Three Aces Are Better Than Two

While Terry Collins has made some strange tactical decisions, he made one very good one. He has started Noah Syndergaard in Game Two of the NLDS and the NLCS. This means he has gone up against Zack Greinke, and he will go up against Jake Arrieta. Depending on your point of view, he will have gone up against the two best pitchers in the NL this year. 

It also means the Mets have set themselves up nicely in a pivotal Game Three of a series. In the first round, Thor had actually outdueled Greinke, but for an egregious call. As a result of that call, the NLDS was tied 1-1 instead of 2-0. The Mets got a 2-1 lead in large part because of the big advantage the Mets had in the Matt HarveyBrett Anderson matchup. 

Regardless of what happens tonight, the Mets have a huge advantage in Game Three. The Mets will be throwing Jacob deGrom (14-8, 2.54 ERA) against Kyle Kendricks (8-7, 3.95 ERA). Now, anything can happen, but you have to like the Mets chances to go up 2-1 or 3-0. 

The Mets are fortunate they have three great pitchers. Yes, Thor is their third best pitcher, but he’s almost as good. As he showed in the NLDS, he can matchup with the best pitchers in the game. Anytime he toes the rubber, you have to believe the Mets have a chance to win. The Mets will tonight. They will in Game Three too. 

They have a chance to win the World Series. 

Lagares Has Quietly Had a Good Postseason

There has been understandable handwringing over the Mets refusal to play Michael Conforto against lefties. THE handwringing turned into a public outcry after Michael Cuddyer‘s awful game in LF in Game One of the NLDS.

Instead of switching to Conforto against lefties, the Mets went to Juan Lagares. Lagares was the 2014 Gold Glove winner. He was once thought to be the leadoff hitter this year. However, he was injured and underperformed. At the trade deadline, the Mets sought out a CF and landed on Yoenis Cespedes. It made Lagares a platoon player only batting against LHP.
After Game One of the NLDS, he returned to that role starting in Games Three and Five. In the NLDS, he hit .429/.500/.714. He had three runs, two doubles, and a walk. Last night against Jon Lester, he went 2-3 with two runs and a stolen base. In some ways, he’s been the Mets best offensive player not named Daniel Murphy

In particular last night, he showed us why Collins once thought of him as a leadoff hitter. He started off the inning with a single and moved to second on a sac bunt. He then watched Lester and was timing his jump. You could see from the seats he was itching to run. He took off and stole third. He then scored on Curtis Granderson‘s sac fly. Lagares manufactured that run with his legs. 

He’s finally showing us why everyone thought he had all of this offensive potential. He’s doing it in the most important time of the year. Even with last night’s misplay, he’s still been a great defensive player. He’s finally putting it all together. You wouldn’t know it because he’s been overshadowed by great pitching and Daniel Murphy. 

He’s quietly having a great postseason. 

So is Wright Sitting Today?

In Game One of the NLCS, the Mets benched Lucas Duda in favor of Michael Cuddyer. They did this even though Duda has gone 3-8 with a homer off of Jon Lester. They did this even though Cuddyer is 5-19 off Lester with no extra base hits. It gets better:

Seriously? Kelly Johnson has been good since coming here. However, he’s not Duda. Furthermore, this doesn’t address the real drain on the lineup – David Wright

Wright is hitting .053 in the playoffs. Let that sink in .053!  Yes, he’s played well defensively, and he’s drawn some walks. But .053 is .053. He’s currently 0 for his last 16. Are the Mets talking about moving him down in the lineup? He is batting second. Are they talking about sitting him in favor of Johnson?  No. 

Nor should they. The idea of sitting your best players in October is absurd unless they are injured or if a particular pitcher just had their number. None of that was present last night. 

Duda needs to stay in the lineup the rest of the playoffs. Same goes for Wright. You don’t overreact to a cold streak like the Mets did yesterday. 

Harvey Turned the Cubs into Jokers

I really thought Matt Harvey was going to pitch a no-hitter. He had the Cubs batters off balance. It seemed he already got his tremendous defensive play with Wilmer Flores leaping to snare a sure to be line drive base hit. He had all the run support he needed from a Daniel Murphy first inning homerun (of course) off of Jon Lester

Then the fifth inning happened. By the way, the fifth inning is the reason why I think the Mets are going to win the World Series this year. 

Harvey started the inning by plunking Anthony Rizzo. He then let up a line drive to Starlin Castro. Immediately off the bat I thought right to Juan Lagares, easy out. Lagares misplayed it into an RBI double. The score was tied 1-1. Then the Javier Baez got the Cubs first true hit off of Harvey:

It was Yoenis Cespedes with the “Throwing Out of Baserunners.”  The Cubs rally was over. 

The Mets responded in the fifth. Flores and Lagares got basehits. Harvey botched a sac bunt attempt leaving runners on first and second. The Mets were lucky Kris Bryant dropped the ball on what could’ve been an inning ending double play. Curtis Granderson then hit an RBI single to reclaim the lead. 

The Mets responded to the Cubs run. They would score in three consecutive innings. In the sixth, Travis d’Arnaud hit a homerun into the homerun apple. In the seventh, Lagares would single, and this time, Harvey would bunt him over. Lagares  was gradually expanding his lead, and then  he took off and stole third. This allowed him to score on a shallow fly ball to left. 

It was a tremendous slide by Lagares to just beat the tag. Tim Teufel was smart to send Lagares because he was taking advantage of Kyle Schwarber‘s inexperience in LF (he was a catcher in the minors). It was a good throw, but it took him a while to throw it. Schwarber would be heard from again in the eighth when he hit a homerun to CF, London, or Vancouver.  I can’t tell because he hit it so far I think it crashed through a window on a flight out of Laguardia. 

The Schwarber homerun knocked Harvey out of the game. It took that long homerun to do it. The Cubs couldn’t even knock him out of the game when a comeback line drive hit Harvey in his pitching arm. His final line was 7.2 innings, four hits, two earned, two walks (one intentional), and non strikeouts. He walked off the mound to a well earned standing ovation. Terry Collins brought in Jeurys Familia, who recorded the four out save. 

The save was punctuated by a Murphy sliding stop and throw to first. He looks like he can do everything right now. So do the Mets. They beat the Cubs 4-2, and they’re up 1-0 in the series. They looked like a pennant winner. They looked like a champion. 

Thank You Harvey

Tonight, Matt Harvey takes the rubber in Game One of the NLCS. It’s fitting since, he promised Terry Collins that this would happen. 

He delivered on his promise. He was 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA and a 1.019 WHIP this year. His first after Tommy John. He pitched 189.1 innings in the regular season. He pitched the clincher in the regular season. He won Game Three of the NLDS without his best stuff. Tonight, he should go over the 200 inning threshold. He certainly will do in this series as he will pitch more than once this series. 

People may not like him off the field, but when he goes that rubber he gives the Mets a chance to win. He’s a special pitcher pitching in a special time of the year. He’s been the Mets best pitcher against the Cubs. He will have to be again this series. 

None of this is possible without Harvey. Whether anyone will admit it or not, he pushed himself to help the Mets win it all this year. He gives the Mets the best chance to win. 

Thank you. 

NLCS Prediction

All offseason into this season, we heard how well the Mets young pitching would matchup with the Cubs young hitting. Sure, they meant for a trade. However, now, we’re going to find out how they matchup in the NLCS. 

In this series, many will point out how the Mets went 0-7 against the Cubs this year. This ignores the fact that half of the Mets lineup has changed. Therefore, that information may be as useful as saying the Cubs had a better record against anyone. Also, the Cubs haven’t really faced the Mets pitchers much. The Cubs did beat the one starter they faced twice, Jacob deGrom

I’ve looked over everything. You could say the Cubs have offensive and defensive advantages. You could say the Cubs have the better manager. The Cubs just beat the 100 win Cardinals in the NLCS after defeating a very good Pirates team in the Wild Card Game. They seem to believe fate is on their side. What advantage do the Mets have?

Pitching. They have Jacob deGrom, Matt HarveyNoah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz starting with Jeurys Familia in the bullpen. The Mets may have two very good starters. The Mets have four. These four just outpitched Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, who are much better pitchers than Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta

They way the Cubs rotation shakes out, they need Lester and Arrieta to go 4-0. Game One?  Lester versus Harvey. Already, right off the bat, the Cubs path to victory is tenuous. If you’ve ever played poker, you k know four aces are better than two. The Cubs are about to find out the same. 

Mets in six. 

Better Duo?

The Mets just won a series in which Clayton Kershaw and Zack a Greinke pitched in four of the five games, and they pitched well. In those four games, the Mets could only muster nine runs or 2.3 runs per game. The only way you win those games is by having better pitching, and the Mets did. 

The Mets now enter yet another series lead by two big starters. The Cubs feature Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta. In order to beat them, the Mets pitchers are going to have to be better again, especially since the Cubs have a much better offense. The other issue is how much better must the Mets offense be?

We saw how great Kershaw and Greinke were in the regular season and NLDS. Their regular season numbers were as follows:

Kershaw 16-7, 2.13 ERA, 1.99 FIP, 0.881 WHIP, 11.6 K/9 with a triple slash line of .194/.237/.284

Greinke 19-3, 1.66 ERA, 2.76 FIP, 0.844 WHIP, 5.00 K/9 with a triple slash line of .187/.231/.276

Lester 11-12, 3.34 ERA, 2.92 FIP, 1.122 WHIP, 9.1 K/9 with a triple slash line of .240/.288/.373

Arrieta 22-6, 1.77 ERA, 2.35 FIP, 0.865 WHIP, 9.3 K/9 with a triple slash line of .185/.236/.271

Essentially, the big two for the Cubs is overstated. At the very least, they are not comparable to Greinke and Kershaw. If you want to argue that Wrigley Field is harder to pitch in, you’re only partly right. Sure, when the wind blows out it becomes a bandbox. However, when the wind blows in, it becomes Petco Park. Also, when you look at park neutralizing FIP, the Dodgers duo is still much better. 

The anticipated counter argument is postseason numbers. Lester does have good numbers. In 15 postseason games (three starts), Lester is 6-5 with a 2.66 ERA, 1.051 WHIP, and a 9.00 K/9. These numbers belie the fact that Kershaw blew the Wild Card Game last year. He allowed eight hits and six earned over 7.1 innings while walking two. This was after bring handed a 2-0 lead. 

Furthermore, if you are going to look at postseason numbers, you also have to look at Arrieta’s. He’s only made two starts; both this year. His first start was dominant. His next?  Not so much. He allowed four earned over 5.2 innings.

So overall, the Mets just beat two much better pitchers in the NLDS. They did it by out pitching them. It’s hard to believe they can’t do it again.   Personally, I’ll take the Mets three stud muffins over any duo in baseball. 

Lets Go Mets!

Should There Be NLCS Roster Changes?

There are two schools of thought in postseason roster construction: (1) don’t fix it if it’s not broken; or (2) you recalibrate your roster to maximize matchups in the next round. I’m in the later camp, however, my guiding principle is always to defer to the better player. I believe the Mets agree with this principle, and are reportedly considering roster tweaks. 

Overall, I don’t think there will be any changes to the position players. Terry Collins announced Juan Uribe hasn’t had any baseball activities since the playoffs started. He won’t be on the NLCS roster, and if the Mets make it, he probably won’t be on the World Series roster. 

Also, there won’t be a change in the rotation. The Mets will stay with the se four starters. This means if there is a change, it will be in the bullpen. With Bartolo Colon becoming a good setup man, anything is possible. However, I think most of the bullpen will remain the same. 

Ultimately, the players on the bubble are most likely Jon Niese and Erik Goeddel. Neither pitched much in the NLDS. Niese pitched in Game 2 striking out the only batter he faced. Goeddel pitched in mop up duty in Game 3. He didn’t record an out. He allowed four hits and three earned. He was so bad, Collins was forced to bring in Jeurys Familia

I think with Colon now being a valued set-up guy, it may open up a role as a long reliever. With Goeddel pitching so poorly in his only appearance, the Mets may look to add a set-up man instead. The two most likely candidates are Logan Verrett and Sean Gilmartin. Verrett has been pitching in the instructional league. Gilmartin has been idle, while traveling with the team. 

Ultimately, I think no change is made. With Gilmartin being idle, I do not foresee him reprising his role as the long man. The role could go to Verrett, but I think the Mets want a lefty in the bullpen with Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber

The Mets could consider swapping Goeddel for Verrett, but I’m not so sure it will help. Goeddel has gotten his feet wet in the playoffs, whereas Verrett hasn’t. Goeddel has pitched well against the Cubs, but that was only in two strong innings. It should be noted Verrett pitched well, but he has bounced back and forth between being a spot starter and the bullpen.  

I’m starting to think will no changes will be made. I believe it’s the right choice. 

Mets Must Stick with Duda

The Mets were trailing 2-1, and no one could hit Zack Greinke except Daniel Murphy. Murphy would lead off the pivotal fourth with a hit, and Lucas Duda drew a one out walk, which precipitated this: 

No, Duda is not the reason the Mets won. However, he contributed. Murphy stole the base, but it was made possible by the shift and walk. Duda is still a feared hitter. Rightfully so. He’s hit 27 homers and 33 doubles. He’s second on the Mets in OBP and first in slugging. 

Also, he’s hit well against the Cubs this year. Generally, he’s always hit well against the Cubs starters:

Starters

Jon Lester 2-6 with 1 HR, 1 RBI, and 3 K
Jake Arrieta 4-11 with 3 BB and 5 K

Travis Wood 4-15 with 1 double, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 5 K
Jason Hammel 0-1 with 2 HBP
Combined 10-33 (.303 BA), 3 BB, 2 HBP (.395 OBP), one double, 2 HR (.515 slugging)

I know it’s a small sample size, but you need to start a player with these numbers in this series. Duda is primed to bust out of this slump. This is the series to do it.