Niese Good Under Pressure?

Over the past seven years, Jon Niese hasn’t become the pitcher we all thought he could be. The main reason is that he’s his own worst enemy. Whenever something went wrong, he would get angry and fall apart. It would lead to big innings. It made me believe he might not be good under pressure. 

It turns out I might be wrong. So far this postseason, when things are the most pressure packed, Niese has been good. The issue all along might not have been the pressure but his anger. So far this postseason, he’s already got two big outs. 

In Game Two of the NLDS, he came in with a runner in scoring position to face Andre Ethier (Justin Ruggiano pinch hit for him). In that horrendous inning, Niese was the only one who could get the big out to keep the Mets within striking distance. In an inning where everything went wrong, Niese was the one who kept his composure. 

In Game Two of the NLCS, he came in during another pressure packed situation. Niese came on for Noah Syndergaard in the sixth inning. Anthony Rizzo stepped up to the plate. Niese struck him out on a full count preserving the 4-1 lead. For the second time in the postseason, Niese came into a pressure situation and came up big:

At least for the playoffs, Niese may be the LOOGY the Mets have sought all year. I give Niese credit for asking for the role. He’s going to be needed with Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber in this series. Rizzo is now only 2-18 with one huge strikeout against him. Schwarber is hitting .143/.213/.268 against lefties. 

The Mets need Niese. They need him against lefties. They need him more now that he’s good under pressure. 

Justin Upton Was Right

I’m sure everyone remembers that dirty play by a coward named Chase Utley. In case you didn’t, here it is again:

Sure enough, there would be people who defended Utley even with Ruben Tejada suffering a broken leg. The best response came from Justin Upton

Did we hear outrage over the play?  Yes. However, there was no outrage over the umpiring. This crew botched the play entirely. They missed Tejada missing second base. They missed Utley interfering with Tejada, which would’ve resulted in an inning ending double play. They also missed Tejada trying to throw the ball, which would’ve made it a non-reviewable neighborhood play. 

Did anyone call to look into the umpiring?  No, of course not. However, when this happens . . . 

. . . people call for an investigation into the umpires. 

Justin Upton was right. All it took was for something to happen to Tulo instead of Tejada for someone to take notice the umpires have been terrible. 

You Really Want Kelly Johnson?

It’s no secret that Lucas Duda is struggling at the plate. Instead of sticking with him, like the Mets have with David Wright, the team is actively considering benching Duda in favor of Kelly Johnson against righties. I’m baffled. 

Yes, Duda hasn’t been good, but neither has Johnson. He’s gone 1-4 with two strikeouts in his pinch hitting attempts with two strikeouts. His career triple slash line in the postseason is .182/.250/.364 with no RBIs. I know Duda hasn’t been great, but it’s not like Johnson is even a good option. 

Furthermore, let’s look at Johnson’s numbers against the Cubs starters:

Jon Lester 1-15 with one RBI, two walks, and four strikeouts. 
Jake Arrieta 0-6 with three walks and four strikeouts. 
Kyle Hendricks 1-2 with one RBI and one strikeout
Jason Hammel 9-30 with one double, two homeruns, six RBIs, one walk, and 10 strikeouts. 
Looking over these numbers, you can only justify starting him against Hammel. I’m discounting the Hendricks stats to an extent because it’s only been three plate appearances. Besides Hammel, Johnson has no place in the starting lineup. He isn’t the hitter Duda is, and he’s historically been a poor postseason performer.

The Mets need to get Duda going. With the weather blowing out in Wrigley Field, it should be ripe for Duda to breakout. He better because Kelly Johnson isn’t the answer. 

Wrigley Has Not Been Friendly to deGrom

There may or may not be a good reason, but sometimes it doesn’t work for you in a particular place. I remember it was that way for Henrik Lundqvist in Montreal. He had not won there in over five years. Sure enough, he won the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals in Montreal en route to winning the series in six. 

As a Mets/Rangers fan, I found this to be informative. It shows that no matter what happens in the regular season, the best players raise their games in the postseason.  It doesn’t matter if it’s Nrw York, Montreal, or even Chicago. Yes, Chicago because it’s Jacob deGrom‘s Montreal. 

In his two starts in Wrigley Field, he’s been terrible. He’s 0-1 with a 7.20 ERA and a 1.700 WHIP. In his career, deGrom is 23-14 with a 2.61 ERA and a 1.047 WHIP. deGrom has struck out 7.2 batters per nine in Wrigley as compared to his 9.5 career numbers. He’s allowed a triple slash line of .263/.383/.553 in Wrigley compared to his career numbers of .220/.269/.321. It’s the reason why his innings per start has dropped from his career average of 6.1 innings per start to 5.0 in Wrigley. 

These are ugly numbers. They promise to get uglier with the current conditions in Wrigley. We know that when the wind is blowing out in Wrigley, it can get ugly for pitchers. So, how do you neutralize batters in conditions primed for hitters?  Strikeouts. 

This year deGrom has struck out 9.7 per nine. In Game One of the NLDS, he was pumped up, and he struck out 13. Overall, he averaging 13.8 strikeouts per nine this postseason. It’s a big reason he’s only allowed two earned runs in the deciding Game Five when he had nothing. When you can strike batters out, you can always get out of a tough inning. deGrom did that time and again in Game Five. 

Overall, I’ve seen it happen. How a player performs doesn’t depend on the venue, it depends on the player. deGrom is special, and he will special again tonight. Wrigley will finally be friendly to him. 

Mets Need deWin

The Mets biggest advantage this postseason is the incredible depth of their starting pitching. While we talk about the Dodgers and Cubs duos, the Mets are trotting out three aces. It worked to their advantage in the NLDS with Matt Harvey going up against Brett Anderson. Now, it’s Jacob deGrom against Kyle Hendricks

The Mets need to take advantage of this pitching matchup. Yes, the Mets have a 2-0 lead. However, as we’ve seen time and again, you don’t want to let a team back in a series. Beating deGrom would only further energize the Cubs. After that, the Cubs get to face a still rusty Steven Matz (I wasn’t as impressed as everyone) and Matt Harvey has a tricep issue. This is how teams that are on the mat get back into a series. 

Wrigley should be crazy. The weather should be warmer which will heat up the offenses. Although, I’m not sure how Daniel Murphy could get any hotter. The only thing that can cool down the Cubs bats is another terrific deGrom performance. As he’s shown, he doesn’t even need his A, B, or C game to win. He just needs to bring his guys and guile. 

The Mets need it because they need deGrom to get them deWin. 

I Don’t Hate Chicago

Before the NLDS, I detailed how much I hated the Dodgers. I didn’t do the same with the Cubs because frankly I don’t feel much animosity towards them. 

Sure, I believe the Mets true rivals reside in the NL Central. If the Mets were facing the Cardinals, I think I would be writing an anti-Cardinals post that would be over by Opening Day 2017. I’ve ready shared my take on the Pirates.  I guess I’ve never had reason to hate the Cubs. 

Yes, I know the Cubs were the Mets earliest rival. Of all the teams in existence in 1962, the Mets have performed best against them. I’m aware of the history of 1969:


However, we know the 1969 story ends with the Mets winning the World Series. Besides, 1969 was before my time. So was Rick Sutcliffe and the 1984 Cubs. I vividly remember the 1998 season, but I always put that on Mel Rojas more than anything (although he did come from the Cubs). 

Also, I happen to like the city despite its inferior pizza and hotdogs. My wife took me to Wrigley for my 30th birthday. It was a great trip. I got to meet Omar Minaya. I did the touristy stuff like the Chicago Museum of Art:

Hat tip Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Then, we finally made the pilgrimage to Wrigley Field. There were a lot of Mets fans at the game. Mets fans and Cubs fans were commiserating and joking about how both teams were terrible. We can now commiserate on how both teams are great. Everyone should sit in the bleachers once, and I’m happy I did before the renovations:

So overall, no, I don’t hate the Cubs. If this series starts to go differently, I might. However, I doubt it’ll happen. The Cubs are cursed, whether it’s a Billy Goat or something else. As a result, the Mets will advance past them en route to the World Series . . . just like 1969. When and if that happens, at least they have a place to drown their sorrows. 


By the way, great cheezborgers there. 

I’m Glad Citi Field Doesn’t Have a Retractable Roof

As you may or may not know, the original plans for Citi Field included a retractable roof like the one in Toronto and Houston. I thought about that as I sat in the cold on Saturday. 

It meant I was cold. It meant I couldn’t bring my son with me. It meant that the Mets would’ve lost a big aspect of their homefield advantage. This is a team built on pitching as good Mets teams traditionally have. In the cold October weather, that advantage becomes even greater because the ball doesn’t travel as far. If the Mets had a retractable roof, part of that advantage would’ve been taken away. 

Major League Baseball controls whether the roof is open or closed in the postseason. In these playoffs, they closed the roof on a 54 degree day with no threat of rain. They play in worse weather in April. They play in words weather in important September games. They played in worse weather for Games One and Two of the NLCS. 

The ultimate purpose of the dome is to prevent rain outs and delays. If teams want to close the dome for their fans’ comfort, it’s their prerogative for 162 games. A team makes the playoffs and all of a sudden MLB takes control. What’s the point of earning homefield advantage if a large part of it is taken from you. 

So yes, I was disappointed I had to leave my son home. I’m still hoping I can take him to the World Series.  I’m still hoping I can watch the Mets win the World Series with him. Citi Field not having a retractable roof will help that. 

Playoffs Now, Free Agency Later

With all of Daniel Murphy‘s heroics, everyone is questioning whether the Mets will re-sign him. As the Mets entered the playoffs, the same question surrounded Yoenis Cespedes

They are just two of the pending free agents on the Mets roster. The full list:

  1. Daniel Murphy
  2. Yoenis Cespedes
  3. Kelly Johnson
  4. Juan Uribe
  5. Bartolo Colon
  6. Tyler Clippard

Six free agents. On the one hand, we can all safely assume they’re all gone. They very well might. Their departures may hurt for different reasons. Personally, I’ll miss Murphy most of all. 

However, I’m not focused on that number six. I’m focused on the six wins the Mets need to win the World Series. What happens after that, happens. There’s no control over that. The only thing we can control is our focus. I’m choosing to enjoy this now and worry later. Let’s celebrate first and deal with everything else later. 

Lets Go Mets!

Mets “Closer” Than in 2006

In 2006, every Mets fan thought the Mets going to the World Series was a foregone conclusion. Confidence was at an all time high after Tom Glavine shut out the Cardinals in Game One. 

Then Game Two happened. The Mets terrific bullpen couldn’t protect a two run lead. It all started with a Guillermo Mota changeup to Scott Spiezio. I knew the Mora trade was rotten from the beginning. The Mets somewhat understandably didn’t re-sign Mike Piazza. Then the next year they bring in the guy who repeatedly beaned Piazza. Bad karma.

The game remained tied into the ninth when Billy Wagner allowed a go-ahead homerun to So Taguchi. SO TAGUCHI!  I still can’t believe it to this day. Wagner allowed two more runs. I’m still in shock nine years later that the Mets lost that game 9-6. It was the pivotal moment in the Cardinals upset over the Mets. By the way, do you remember who got the save in that game?  Adam Wainwright. Yup. 

I was thinking about that game a lot last night. The Cubs had a much better lineup. The Mets bullpen is not as good as the 2006 version. However, one part of the Mets bullpen was better. The closer. 

Wagner was a terrific closer during his major league career amassing 422 saves. He was great with the Mets in 2006 with 40 saves. However, he was a terrible closer in the postseason. He had a 10.03 ERA and a 1.971 WHIP. 

The Mets now have Jeurys Familia. In six games, he’s pitched 7.2 innings. He has not allowed an earned run, walked one, and struck out four. He has a 0.391 WHIP. He’s a perfect 4/4 in save opportunities. He’s better than anyone could’ve imagined. He’s the difference between a Taguchi homerun and a 2-0 series lead. 

The Mets are now the closest they’ve been to the World Series in 15 years. The better closer has brought them closer. 

Blue Jays or Royals?

I know the Mets are only halfway to the NLCS. Talking about the World Series is way too premature. However, that doesn’t mean it’s premature to consider the opponents. 

Blue Jays

These two teams are tough as nails. The Rangers had the Blue Jays dead. The Blue Jays already threw David Price and Marcus Stroman. They were heading to Arlington. The Blue Jays win both games and headed home. In the do or die Game 5, this happened:

For most teams, this would’ve been a death knell. Instead, this happened:

They’re down 2-0 to the Royals right now, but they’ve shown they’re not done. 


Speaking of the Royals, the only thing that’s been able to bring them down the past few years has been Madison Bumgarner. It took everything the best postseason pitcher we have in baseball right now to beat them. 

Jon Lester and a 7-3 lead going into the eighth inning in the AL Wild Card Game couldn’t stop them. The best player in baseball, Mike Trout, couldn’t stop them in the ALDS. They steamrolled the Orioles. They came within 90 feet of sending Game 7 of the World Series into extra innings:

How do the Royals respond to this heartbreaking loss?  They win the AL Central and earned homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. As a result, they got to match up against the 2015 version of themselves. In Game 4, they were all but left for dead:

Instead, the Royals had a five run eighth inning to take Game 4. They then went home, trailed 2-0 early in Game 5 and won 7-2 to advance to the ALCS. They now lead the ALCS 2-0. They’re on a mission. They’re going to be hard to stop. 


I could say I want the Blue Jays because the Mets already played well against them before they were at full strength. However, the NLCS has shown regular season results doesn’t mean anything in the playoffs.  Besides, the Mets have the pitching to beat anyone. 

Honestly, I just want to get there. I’m confident the Mets can beat anyone. Hopefully, I’m right.