Are the Royals Stealing the World Series?

The Mets threw their two best pitchers to start the World Series, and things didn’t go as planned. There were some suggestions that Jacob deGrom was tipping his pitches. For what it’s worth, Dan Warthen disagrees

Now, there is a way that the Royals knew what was coming without deGrom tipping his pitches. It’s the art of sign stealing. There’s no definitive proof right now, but we know it’s something everybody tries to do. I think there might be something to it because some the Royals seemed paranoid about it in the ALCS. To be fair, the Blue Jays do have a history. 

Right now, there’s nothing definitive to prove this is happening. The only thing we can really look at is the team’s home and away splits. At home, the Royals hit .279/.334/.426 averaging 4.6 runs per game. On the road, they hit .259/.310/.399 averaging 4.3 runs per game. There’s a definitive contrast there.

Now, there are many logical explanations other than sign stealing. Teams are built for their ballpark. Players are more comfortable at home. However, the Royals are noted as comparatively free swingers. Kauffman Stadium is a pitcher’s park. Despite that, the Royals have a better OBP and slugging percentage at home. 

There’s smoke, but you can’t definitely prove there’s fire. I don’t have a problem with the Royals doing it. It just means the Mets have to be smarter. They have to change up their signs. Travis d’Arnaud has to hide the signs better.

Whatever it is the Royals are doing is having an effect. However, the Mets are coming back to Citi Field. Things should be different the next three games. The Royals won’t be stealing anything here. 

Tired of the Cowards

I’ve been watching Mets baseball for over 30 years. It doesn’t matter if it’s the 1986 or the 2015 team, it’s never easy. After last night’s admittedly disheartening loss, I saw way too many Mets fans giving up and/or trying to come to terms with losing the World Series. It reminded me of this:

We saw a historically inept offense transform with two trades, some health, and yes, some luck. The team had a debilitating loss to the Padres. They rebounded, swept the Nationals, and claimed first place. They would’ve give it back. 

The Mets then lost a potential clincher at home in the NLDS forcing them to have to travel cross-country to face presumptive Cy Young winner Zack Greinke. The Mets would win the do or did game on the road to advance to the NLCS to face the favored Cubs. The Mets swept the Cubs and won the pennant

Yes, the last two games were hard, but you know what?  We’ve all forgotten how hard the regular season was. It was brutal. That coupled with putting themselves on the brink of losing the NLDS, the entire season has been one tense moment after another. What have anyone the idea that: (1) this was going to be easy; and/or (2) the Mets don’t have what it takes to win this series now. 

The Mets are going home, and they have Noah Syndergaard pitching in Game 3. We all know he’s dominant at home. It just takes that first win to get things going. You have to like Thor’s chances. It then becomes a series, and that’s where things will get interesting.

Overall, nothing is over. Look how far the Mets are. Look at his they got here. If you don’t think the Mets can pull this off, I don’t know what to tell you other than:

LETS GO METS!

Cueto Completed Dominant Royals Effort

Honestly, I thought the one run was going to hold up. Lucas Duda had an RBI single in the fourth. Johnny Cueto was starting to get wild. Jacob deGrom was dealing. Then the fifth inning happened. 

When the game started, I lived deGrom’s approach. He established the fastball and used his breaking pitches well. The Royals were making contact, but it wasn’t solid contact. I’m not sure what happened next, but there are some theories:

Whatever it was, it was a slow death for deGrom. The Royals batted around. They had four runs on one leadoff walk and five hits. To put it in perspective, deGrom let up five hits in Game 1 of the NLDS, six hits in Game 5 of the NLDS, and four hits in Game 3 of the NLCS. He practically let up as many hits in that inning as any game this postseason. It certainly leads credence to Adam Rubin’s information when you consider:

Regardless, deGrom didn’t have it in the fifth. Maybe it was Game 5 of the NLDS. Maybe Collins just wanted to outdo yesterday’s ineptitude. In any event, he let the game slip away with Jon Niese ready I the pen. 

Don’t worry, Niese warmed up again after an effective Hansel Robles appearance in the sixth. Collins would go an inning too long with Niese because why not?  The game was within reach at 4-1 going into the bottom of the eighth. It would be out of reach at 7-1 after that. On top of that the Mets probably lost Niese for at least Game 3. I really don’t know what Collins was thinking. 

To make matters worse, the Royals outpitched the Mets in this game. deGrom went five. Cueto pitched a two hit complete game. 

Tonight, the only good news was Duda. He was 2-3 with an RBI. He got the only two hits on the night. I guess the other good news is that the Mets are getting out of town. 

I Can’t Kill Wright

Last night was a mixed bag for David Wright. He made some good plays during the game, but ultimately he wasn’t there when the team needed him most. 

He  2-7 at the plate last night. In the 9th, he came up and got a basehit off of Luke Hochevar. He seemed to be getting a rally started to get an insurance run in a 4-3 game. However with Daniel Murphy at the plate, he was caught stealing. It was close, but he was out. The Mets didn’t get the insurance run, which would haunt them. 

Wright then came up in the 11th with runners on first and second with two outs. He was facing Ryan Madson, who he has had success against. Coming into the night, Wright was hitting .308 with 3 homers and five RBIs. He struck out to end the rally. It was the last time the Mets threatened. 

In the field it was a similar story to what happened at the plate. He had one web gem:

However, as we know, he made a throwing error in the 14th. It allowed the go-ahead run on base, which scored. 

 

If Wright comes through last night in any of three spots, the Mets win the game. He didn’t, and the Mets lost. However, I’m not killing him. The loss was a team effort. 

He didn’t allow the Alex Gordon homer. He didn’t blow a two run lead. He didn’t allow the base hits after the error. He wasn’t the only one who failed. 

There was some good things that Wright did in last night’s game. If he continues to play good defense, as he has all postseason, and he has a .286 series average, good things will happen. 

The Shin Guard Needs to be Addressed

Pursuant to Rule 3.01, no player may put any substance on the ball. That includes pine tar. That includes catchers. 

Was it pine tar on Salvador Perez‘s shinguard?  With it being a wet night with the rain, it probably was. It wouldn’t surprise me. Elston Howard used to cut the balls off his shin guard for Whitey Ford. It’s what catchers do for their pitchers. I’m sure he was using it not only to help his pitchers, but also to help his throwing against would be base stealers. 

It is widely assumed that it’s something everyone does. However, as we saw last year with Michael Pineda, you can’t make it obvious. While it wasn’t a giant glob on the neck, it was on the outside of Perez’s equipment. Now that the cameras caught it, it’s obvious. I can understand Terry Collins saying it’s no big deal, but it is. We should also note, it is a big deal. The common denominator here is the pitching coach Dave Eiland. It seems his players have a history of this now. 

The reason is because it’s an opportunity. Perez is important to the Royals. If he’s caught, at a minimum, he had to change his gear. Without the pine tar, the Royals pitching from the starters to the bullpen suffers. More likely, he’s ejected and could face a possible suspension. 

The goal here is to win the World Series. As long as things are on the up and up with Jacob deGrom and/or Travis d’Arnaud, you have to try. The only reason not to try is because you’re doing the same thing. If you don’t try, it’s not doing everything to win. I saw enough of that. 

It’s time to do everything you can do to win. 

Duda Busting Out?

There may not be more of a streaky hotter than Lucas Duda. His regular season stats were .244/.352/.486 with 27 homers and 73 RBI, but that’s only part of the story. 

He started the season guns blazing. In April and May he hit .298 with 9 homers. In June, he was ice cold hitting .187 with one homer. July was not better with him hitting .178. However, in a four game stretch at the end of the month he hit six homers. It catapulted him to a good August that saw him hit .304, albeit with only three homers. 

He then had the back injury that the Mets mismanaged. He hit six homers in September, but he only hit .227. The postseason was a nightmare. He was 2-18 in the NLDS. He looked so lost he sat in Game 1 of the NLCS. However, he came back with a vengeance:

In the NLCS, he was 4-10. In the clinching Game 4, he had the aforementioned homerun. He was 3-4 with a homer and 5 RBI. Last night, he came out hitting in the World Series. He was 2-6 with two hard hit balls through the shift. He’s now 5 for his last 10. 

For a hitter as streaky as Duda, this is a great sign in short series. It looks like Duda is breaking out at exactly the right time. 

Big Game Pitcher

Those 90’s Braves teams were built on pitching. By any measure, the third best pitcher was John Smoltz. However, he was the best postseason pitcher. It’s a big reason why he’s in the Hall of Fame. 

Curt Schilling was on the same staff as Randy Johnson with the 2001 Diamondbacks. He was on the same staff as Pedro Martinez in 2004. Again, Schilling was not as good as those legends. However, when the postseason came the manager have Schilling the ball because he was the better postseason pitcher. 
Tonight, this is what is on the line for Jacob deGrom. He’s been terrific this postseason. He’s 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, and a 12.2 K/9. He’s won a deciding Game 5 on the road with nothing. Now, he’s on the verge of making major league history:

You can argue if Matt Harvey or Noah Syndergaard are better. I have. Right now, this isn’t about who’s the better pitcher. It’s about who is the clutch pitcher. Who’s the great postseason pitcher. deGrom is on well on his way to showing he belongs in the class of Smoltz and Schilling. He can cement that status tonight. 

He’s the reason Mets fans should be optimistic. He may be the reason why the Mets may win the World Series. It’s time for him to firmly establish his newly earned status as a Big Game Pitcher. 

Two Things Sticking in My Craw

In the 14th inning, there were two pivotal plays. The first was the David Wright error allowing Alcides Escobar to score. Here’s an image of the play:

 

The next was Escobar scoring the winning run on a sacrifice fly that inning. Here’s why it bothers me. Neither play was reviewed. We didn’t see Terry Collins ask for a review. 

What I don’t know is if the reason was because the team’s agreed to go without replay after the blackout in the telecast:

 https://twitter.com/ken_rosenthal/status/659179564585889792
However, we do know that eventually replay again became available during the game:

If it was, then the Mets missed an opportunity. We’ve already seen strange things happen with replay this postseason. Are we 100% sure Lucas Duda wasn’t on the bag. It’s possible he was. We may never know because there was no replay. 

If Collins thought there was replay that call needed to be replayed. It’s the 14th inning. You need to use your challenge at some point. If Collins thought there was no replay, why isn’t he out there arguing. Maybe he forces an umpire huddle and an overturn of the call. It’s not likely, but we’ve seen it happen. 

If there was replay, how do you not challenge the last play of the game?  I’m 99.999% sure Escobar didn’t leave early, but if he did it’s no two outs and the Mets can get out of the inning. The replays may not have changed anything, but don’t you have to at least try?

Dykstra is Full of It

By now, you’ve heard that Lenny Dykstra used private eyes to gather information on umpires for his benefit: 

Do I think Dykstra is capable of this?  Absolutely. However, he’s capable of it. I still don’t believe him. 

Now, we need to pinpoint the veracity of his claim, we need to figure out when it supposedly happened.  He wasn’t definitive when, but he knew the net result was the walks. The key to his statement was the year after he did this, he lead the league in walks. Looking at this, his statement proves out. 

In 1992, he only had 40 walks. The next year his walks soared astronomically. He went from those 40 walks to 129 walks. It’s also true there was money at stake because Dykstra was arbitration eligible.  This is where the story falls apart. 

In 1992, Dykstra made $2,316,667. The typical percentage paid to an agent is 5%. That reduces his income to $2,200,834. Union dues were $3,660. It’s negligible, but it reduces the income to $2,197,173. Now, there’s the tax issue. The tax rate in 1992 was 31%. There are deductions and the like which would reduce the effective tax rate. However, he also has state and city taxes to pay. Pennsylvania had a flat rate of 2.95%. To be conservative, let’s assume Dykstra paid 25% in taxes. 

Dykstra’s disposable income would then be $1,647,880.  This doesn’t even include living expenses. Are we to believe Dykstra spent roughly one-third of his disposable income on blackmailing umpires. I can’t. There’s a bigger reason beyond the financial feasibility. 

It doesn’t make sense. Let’s say Dykstra did as he said. Wouldn’t the catcher use the same information to get strike calls for his pitcher. Was there a spike in catcher walk rates I don’t know about?  Of course not. Let’s call it for what it is. He had a career year. 

Besides that, his walk rate declined. It was 0.80 in 1993 and 1994. The next year?  It was 0.65. Did the umpires start ignoring him?  No. He had two good years. Why?  We it just so happens he started using steroids. His slugging percentage went from .402 to .482. He went from 6 to 19 homers. He went from 18 to 44 doubles. Pitchers will be more careful and more likely to walk you. 

However, that’s not the main reason I don’t believe him. The main reason I don’t believe him is he’s a fraud. Literally. He lead everyone to believe he was a money genius. He was just cheating the system just like he did with the steroids. He’s lied and concealed. It’s the behavior that makes you think he could’ve spied on umpires. Ultimately, however, it seems more like the typical braggadocio he’s had his entire life.

It sure made a good story, but that’s all it is. A story. 

Reasons for Optimism

Last night was a tough loss. It was bad from the beginning. Yoenis Cespedes turns a flyball into an inside the park homerun. The Mets blew a two run lead. Yet, the Mets were in position to win Game 1. Unfortunately, Jeurys Familia blew the save with one bad pitch. 

I’ll tell you what. If the Mets are in the same position again tonight, I like the Mets chances. Familia rarely blows a save. After his last blown save, he had 16 saves with a 1.30 ERA and a 1.048 WHIP. Before last night, he was 5/5 in save attempts with a 0.00 ERA and a 0.207 WHIP. He’s not blowing another save. 

Also, keep in mind almost everything had to break right for the Royals to win. They had a routine flyball turn into an inside the park homerun. Matt Harvey had to blow a 3-1 lead. He doesn’t blow leads like that. Twice the Mets picked themselves off the mat and twice got the lead. As much as the Royals fought back, the Mets did as well. 

Another important development was Wilmer Flores was terrific at SS last night. He made all the plays. At one point, he ranged into the hole, made a nice backhand pickup, and made a strong throw to first getting a speedy Alcides Escobar. He’s played this well since Ruben Tejada went down

We also know Michael Cuddyer is not getting three at bats in another World Series game. In fact, it’s possible he won’t get three more at bats in total during the rest of the series. He killed two rallies. He shouldn’t be in a position to kill another rally. 

Also, for all the talk of the Royals bullpen, the Mets bullpen was good. Addison Reed was terrific. Tyler Clippard needed some help from Familia, but the Mets did not allow a leadoff double to lead to a run. Jon Niese was terrific. It looks like the Mets bullpen can hold up in this series. 

Speaking of bullpens, the Royals used Game 4 starter, Chris Young, for three innings. The Mets were over anxious in extra innings against him. However, it can’t hurt to have seen him once. Also, he threw 53 pitches, and he will have to come back on three days rest for Game 4. 

With Johnny Cueto always being a risk for a meltdown, the Royals may need to go to the bullpen early. They will need to do it again in Game 4. The Royals terrific bullpen could quickly become taxed. Their greatest strength can quickly become a liability. 

Finally, as we all know momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher. That starting pitcher is Jacob deGrom. He’s been the Mets ace. In the postseason, he is 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, and a 12.2 K/9. The Mets still have the starting pitching edge. The Mets have seen the Royals up close and can adjust their pitching accordingly

All the Mets needed in Kansas City was a split. That’s still on the table. There’s still reason for optimism. They can still win tonight. 

Lets Go Mets!