Aaron Altherr

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Blow Another Series

You can understand blowing games against the Dodgers. They are both a really good and a relentless team. It really becomes an issue when you do it against mediocre teams like the Diamondbacks:

1. The most bizarre criticism of Mickey Callaway was his lifting Pete Alonso for a pinch runner in the eighth inning of a game where the Mets had a four run lead. By lifting him for Juan Lagares, you’re getting more speed on the basepaths, and you are helping bolster both the infield and the outfield defense. It was 100% the right decision.

2. The criticism over his use of Jeurys Familia and Robert Gsellman was understandable, but let’s not pretend there was another real option. Drew Gagnon was bad in his last two pressure situations. Tyler Bashlor had three consecutive blown saves, and he wound up being the losing pitcher in the game. Really, other than those two and with it being too early to utilize a fatigued Edwin Diaz, there really wasn’t a better choice.

3. On Familia, there appears to be two problems. The first is he’s walking too many. The second is the defense behind him. He has a career worst .344 BABIP (.312 career) and a 66.2% LOB (75.4%) career. Essentially, the Mets are combining a ground ball pitcher with a bad infield defense. Not a good mix.

4. We should again note that as of today Craig Kimbrel no longer has draft pick compensation attached to him. We should also note he is now only going to get a prorated portion of the salary he wanted. If you’re all-in, there’s absolutely no excuse for the Mets to not sign him today.

5. The Mets have a National League worst -48 DRS with Amed Rosario (-13), J.D. Davis (-9), Wilson Ramos (-7), and Robinson Cano (-4). That’s -26 DRS from your infield.

6. Davis had a hot start, but he’s regressed to the mean, and he’s now one of the problems with the team. His defense is unplayable across the diamond, and he has been hitting .248/.313/.385. Since May 1st, Davis is hitting .208/.238/.351. As a point of reference, Eric Campbell hit .221/.312/.311 in his career with the Mets.

7. Seeing Arizona is a reminder how much the Mets miss Wilmer Flores. Aside from the things he did well as a player, he would have been great for this clubhouse. Flores went through this in 2015 and 2016. He also knows what it’s like to go from struggling to fan favorite. His attitude, rapport with his teammates, and his ability to play is needed on this team.

8. Looking at the team Brodie Van Wagenen assembled, the players he brought in have combined for a -0.7 WAR. The best position player he has brought aboard was Adeiny Hechavarria. Not to unfairly dump on Hechavarria, who is playing the best baseball of his career, but no General Manager in the history of baseball should ever be in a position to say the most productive position player he added to the roster was Adeiny Hechavarria.

9. The Mets are winning behind the talented players left behind by Sandy Alderson. One of those players has been Dominic Smith, who the team didn’t even want to give a chance to win the first base position in Spring Training.

10. Smith has really proven himself. He’s in the best shape of his life, and he’s a better player having had better treatment of his sleep apnea. He’s been great in the clubhouse, and he finally got his chance. It’s an extremely small sample size, but he’s hitting .359/.519/.609 with a 1 DRS when he’s a left fielder.

11. The Mets are playing Smith and Davis in left field because the team went into the season with just two starting everyday outfielders. This has also led them to flipping coins over whether Carlos Gomez (79 wRC+, 0 DRS), Aaron Altherr (-40 wRC+, 0 DRS), and Lagares (40 wRC+, -1 DRS).

12. It should also be noted the Mets had a chance to give Keon Broxton more playing time to see if they could salvage him. Instead, they cut him so they could call up Gomez. Since being traded to the Orioles, Broxton is hitting .250/.300/.500 (0.2 WAR). That’s a clear upgrade over the mess they have now.

13. Between Broxton and Davis, that’s just five prospects and Bobby Wahl thrown away from nothing.

14. That is a good reminder when Adam Jones hit that game tying three run homer off of Gsellman. It’s important to remember here Jones signed for just $3 million. THREE MILLION!

15. Steven Matz needed to be better than what he was on Sunday. The team needed a lift, and he gave up two runs before he even recorded an out. He gave up five runs total. Yes, the offense and defense didn’t show up either, but the Mets needed more from him. To be fair, he at least gave them length to help the pen, and unlike most of the lineup, he actually had a hit.

16. This team sure looks a lot different when Seth Lugo is available. His ability to pitch well and give the team length certainly masks a lot of problems with the bullpen.

17. It is great to see the Jacob deGrom of last year return. Maybe it’s Tomas Nido, and maybe it’s just getting back into a groove, but he’s looked like the guy he was last year. Since May 1st, he’s allowed two earned or fewer in six of his seven starts. Even with the inexplicable clunker in Miami, he has a 2.68 ERA, 1.008 WHIP, and a 4.6 K/BB over this stretch.

18. The hysteria about the personal catcher for deGrom is muchado about nothing. If deGrom pitches well to Nido, let him pitch to Nido. We should also note his pitching to Nido also affords Wilson Ramos a little extra rest. That seems to be working for him with him hitting .293/.376/.500 since May 1.

19. Zack Wheeler could’ve been better on Friday, but he did give the Mets a chance to win that game, and he gave them length to help save that bullpen.

20. After playing 20 consecutive games and going 9-11 over the stretch, the Mets are in need of today’s day off. Seeing Mets fans completely overreact to Callaway’s every look and smile, the fans can use the day off as well.

20/20 Hindsight: Finally Back To .500

With the Mets taking 2/3 from the Tigers, the team is finally back to .500 effectively letting them hit the reset button and start anew:

1. The Mets should have swept the Tigers, but it’s hard to complain about winning two out of three and eight of nine, especially after being swept by the Marlins.

2. It won’t last, but with a pair of three run homers in the series, Adeiny Hechavarria is looking like the slugging second baseman Robinson Cano was supposed to be.

3. Wilson Ramos‘ power has returned exactly when the Mets needed. He hit three homers in the series and had four extra base hits against the Tigers after entering the series with just two homers and five extra base hits.

4. On Saturday, Ramos joined with Tomas Nido to hit three homers to carry the Mets offense in the 13 inning win. So far, Nido has been fine as a defensive minded back-up.

5. Todd Frazier is also stepping up. His bunt to beat the shift was almost as amazing as the diving stop he made to save a run. Over his last eight games, he’s hitting .321/.424/.429.

6. The Mets have completely mismanaged their outfield situation.

7. Brandon Nimmo was very hurt, and the Mets response was to drop him in the lineup, not get him checked out.

8. It’s fair to say Keon Broxton didn’t earn playing time, but the team had the chance to get him playing time and reap the rewards the Orioles are. To make it worse, the $500,000 bonus pool money was a nothing return as it needs to be spent by June 15 and any player deserving of the amount has been long signed.

9. That’s not to see there still aren’t players who could surprise. For example, not too long ago, the Mets signed Gerson Molina, who is impressing after not having played baseball in nearly three years.

10. Carlos Gomez is hitting .133. Aaron Altherr followed a homer in his first at-bat as a Met by going 0-for-5 and is now 2-for-36 on the season. Rajai Davis was designated for assignment.

11. As Sandy Alderson and Alejandro De Aza showed, and we’re seeing it again, you can’t completely overreact to the struggles of bench players for almost the sole purpose of throwing some red meat to your fans.

12. As great as it is to see Michael Conforto back, let’s hope he’s actually ready. Given what happened with Ryan Church, Mets fans should be holding their breath with the team flying to Los Angeles.

13. It didn’t work, but bringing in Edwin Diaz in the eighth was absolutely the correct move. It should also be noted with him needing 13 pitches to get that last out, pulling him after the inning was also the correct move.

14. Mickey Callaway pulled all the right strings in the Mets 13 inning victory, and he’s been much better recently.

15. Drew Gagnon deserves a pass for his tough outing. That said, it’s fair to question if he’s ready for that late inning set-up role.

16. Jason Vargas has only gone five innings against the five worst offenses in baseball. This is what an effective long man looks like, not a fifth starter. That’s still better than what Noah Syndergaard did.

17. Syndergaard has been quite mercurial this year, and it might be because of the new ball. He’s talked about having difficulty getting a grip, and if you track it, pitchers who use a slider instead of a curve seem to be disproportionately affected by the new ball.

18. Give Zack Wheeler credit for his ability to put a tough inning or start behind him and still go deep in a game. If he can just find a way to get into a groove the first time through the lineup, he’d be Cy Young material.

19. Seeing Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith play, the Mets should not be 100% convinced Alonso is the guy, especially as Alonso continues to regress.

20. You should take the time to read Nick Francona’s interview with Paul Lukas on Uni Watch, especially today.

Mets Catchers Beat The Tigers

With the Tigers having a bottom five offense, you knew Jason Vargas was good for five. Seriously, the only teams Vargas has gone five innings has been against the five worst offenses in baseball (Reds, Marlins, Tigers). As with the typical Vargas start, the question is how would the Mets get enough innings from their relievers to get through the game. The reason that was an issue today was this game went 13.

One reason it went 13 was Wilson Ramos carried the Mets offense today.

His second inning homer tied the score at 1-1. His fourth inning RBI single gave the Mets a 2-1 lead. After Tyler Bashlor surrendered a two run homer to Brandon Dixon, Ramos responded with his second homer of the game:

After having just two homers entering this series, Ramos has three homers over his last two games. He now looks like the catcher the Mets believe they were signing, and with the injuries the team had sustained, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

It also seemed like today was the perfect time to use Edwin Diaz for four outs.

Robert Gsellman was in his second inning of work, and he was in trouble. After hitting a double earlier in the inning, Josh Harrison was on third with two outs. Mickey Callaway went to Diaz.

Because the Mets are making JaCoby Jones look like Al Kaline (recycled joke), he got the game tying RBI single.

Not only did this mean, Diaz would blow his first save as a Met, but with him throwing 13 pitches, it meant the Mets would need relievers to step up big starting in the ninth.

Those relievers did step up big, and it looked all the bigger considering they got themselves into trouble.

Wilmer Font pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth and tenth. In the tenth, the Tigers had two on and one out. Font struck out Grayson Greiner and Jones to end the jam.

Daniel Zamora took the ball in the eleventh. He’d allow two hits in the inning, but no real threat would mount as Ramos picked Gordon Beckham off first on what was supposed to be a bunt play:

For a moment, it looked like the Mets would take that momentum into the bottom of the inning and win the game.

After Tomas Nido flew out to begin the inning, Ramos walked. With his backup catcher already in the game and the Mets looking to pull out the win, Callaway pinch ran Steven Matz.

As is the Mets luck, Dominic Smith and Todd Frazier followed with bloop hits, but Matz couldn’t score. Matz’s inability to score looked fatal because Aaron Altherr struck out, Adeiny Hechavarria popped out to end the inning, and the Tigers had the bases loaded with one out against Hector Santiago in the 12th.

Santiago stepped up striking out Jones on three pitches (after walking two of his last three batters) and getting John Hicks to fly out to end the jam. Santiago then breezed through the top of the 13th, and with him due up second in the bottom of the inning, you wondered if Callaway was going to stick with him.

On Buck Farmer‘s third pitch to Nido, it would become a moot point:

The homer gave the Mets a 5-4 victory and once again pulled the Mets to within a game of .500. With Nido hitting the homer, it was once again an unsung hero. With Nido homering, it was the Mets catchers with all the offense.

Consider this, Ramos and Nido combined to go 4-for-6 with three homers and all five RBI. The rest of the lineup was 3-for-38. When you take out Todd Frazier, who made a nice play in the field to save a run earlier in the game, going 2-for-5, this means the Mets lineup was 1-for-33 with that hit coming from Dominic Smith, who entered the game in the ninth.

Looking at it, Callaway might have had his best game as a manager. He made the right calls (even if they didn’t work out), and he put all of his players in a position to succeed. His bullpen did, and eventually so did Nido.

Game Notes: In typical Mets fashion, Brandon Nimmo‘s injury was worse than the Mets led us to believe. He has a bulged disc in his neck with whiplash.

Decisions Like Designating Sewald For Assignment Matter

Right now, the Mets outfield depth is a mess. Michael Conforto suffered a concussion, and while early indications are positive, no one can be quite sure when he will return. Jeff McNeil has been dealing with an abdominal issue. Keon Broxton was designated for assignment, and now, Brandon Nimmo was placed on the IL with a neck injury he’s been dealing with all season.

Due to that situation, the Mets needed to call up another outfielder. The problem there was with the 40 man roster full someone was going to have to be designated for assignment. That person wound up being Paul Sewald.

Assuredly, the reaction from most Mets fans is who cares, or that Sewald stinks, and he should have been designated for assignment long ago. With Sewald going 107 Major League appearances without a win and his having a career 5.18 ERA, you could understand the point. However, that point misses the overall point. Sewald had actual value and use to this Mets team.

So far this year, Sewald has made four appearances. Three of those appearances were for more than three outs. Yes, the Mets lost by a heavy margin in each of those games, and that is part of the reason why it was Sewald who pitched. It also underscores Sewald’s value to this Mets team. He is the pitcher who is able to come in and absorb innings saving the rest of the bullpen in these blowouts.

Last year, Sewald pitched multiple innings in 18 of his first 32 appearances. Overall in his career, he has pitched multiple innings in 30 percent of his relief appearances. When Sewald has been on the roster, this means he is the one who gets the brunt of the mop up work thereby leaving Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman to perform their multiple inning magic on another day.

And after Sewald mops things up, with his options, the team can just send him to Syracuse for another reliever. This matters, and it helps teams win.

More than what he does well, Sewald is just better than the pitchers the Mets kept over him. As previously explained, he has been a better and more effective Major League reliever than Jacob Rhame. Tim Peterson has a worse Major League ERA, FIP, H/9, K/9, and K/BB. Ryan O’Rourke has always had control issues as exemplified by his walking three of the six batters he faced this year. Clearly, Sewald has been better than these pitchers in his career.

In the end, that may be what matters most. The Mets had options upon whom to designate for assignment (or in Rhame’s case, release) with the aforementioned four relievers being the most likely targets. When boiling it all down, the Mets opted to remove the most effective reliever who also happened to be the one reliever who the organization could consistently rely upon to save the bullpen by going multiple innings in his relief appearances.

Yes, Peterson would be designated for assignment after the Mets claimed Aaron Altherr, but that is also besides the point. The point here is the thought process and manner of dealing and operating.

Ultimately, even if fans want to be dismissive of Sewald and the decision, this was a mistake. Worse yet, it was an unforced error. While we may not know the full impact of such a decision, it will have some negative impact on the Mets, no matter how small. Still, even if you don’t believe that, we should still wonder about the poor decision making process which led to keeping three inferior relievers over Sewald.

Five Homers Not Enough For Thor Or Gagnon

The Mets offense got home runs from Amed Rosario, Adeiny Hechavarria, Pete Alonso, Aaron Altherr, and Wilson Ramos resulting in eight runs scored. In essence, even though the lineup has been decimated by injuries, they did their job against Gregory Soto and the Tigers pitching staff.

This should have been the Tigers tenth straight loss. It wasn’t because Noah Syndergaard and Drew Gagnon were bad.

The Tigers went up 2-0 in the first before Syndergaard recorded an out. Actually, that’s not technically correct as the second run scored on a Miguel Cabrera sacrifice fly.

That lead grew to 4-0 in the second when JaCoby Jones, a career .195/.297/.335 career hitter who looked like Al Kaline tonight, hit a two run homer.

For a second, it looked like Syndergaard calmed down, and the Mets would rally to give him a 5-4 lead. He’d lose that lead surrendering a solo homer to Cabrera in the fifth.

The Mets handed him back the lead after the inning, and he’d hand it right back in the sixth leading to his having to be bailed out by Tyler Bashlor.

On the one hand, with Syndergaard due up in the bottom of the inning, you understand Mickey Callaway sticking with him, especially on a night where Edwin Diaz was unavailable. However, this is the same Callaway who loves double switching.

Despite it all, the Mets went to the top of the seventh with a 7-6 lead. Unfortunately, Gagnon just didn’t have it tonight.

There was a brief instant when you thought he’d get out of it. After a John Hick‘s double, the Tigers had runners at second and third with one out. Todd Frazier made a nice play on a Josh Harrison grounder keeping the runner at third and getting the out at first.

There was no bailing out Gagnon when Jones hit an RBI double after that giving the Tigers an 8-7 lead. After a Brandon Dixon RBI single, it was 9-7 Tigers.

In the bottom of that inning, it looked like the Mets were primed to come back again, but a Frazier double play killed that rally.

Ramos homered in the eighth, and later in the inning, Dominic Smith came up with Hechavarria at second with two outs. He’d strike out against Joe Jimenez to end the inning.

With that, the Mets would lose this game 9-8. They lost the game to a team who lost nine straight and were 11 games under .500. They lost the opportunity to get back to .500.

Game Notes: In addition to Altherr, Hector Santiago made his Mets debut. He pitched scoreless ninth. Like Altherr did tonight, former Met Keon Broxton hit a homer in his first at-bat with his new team.

Mets Once Again Destroy Nationals Bullpen To Pull Off The Sweep

Well, if you missed yesterday’s game against the Nationals, you were lucky because apparently today was the matinee of that game. While not quite Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer, Steven Matz and Stephen Strasburg proved to be capable understudies.

For the most part, Strasburg kept what was a woeful Mets lineup at bay. He’d keep the Mets off the board completely through four, but the Mets would get to him in the fifth. Carlos Gomez hit a leadoff single, and he’d steal second and move to third with no outs as Yan Gomes, who had a nightmare of a game, threw the ball into center.

The play was made all the more fun by Gomez’s shoe coming off between second and third. To his credit Strasburg limited the damage to just one run which came off a Juan Lagares sacrifice fly.

Again, it was Gomes who hurt Strasburg in the sixth. After J.D. Davis  singled and Strasburg hit Todd Frazier with a pitch, Strasburg would throw one in the dirt. While it was ruled a wild pitch, it was one Gomes should have had. This meant instead of having the double play in order with one out, the sudden ground ball hitting specialist Wilson Ramos would have an RBI chance.

Ramos would deliver with an RBI single scoring Davis, and Pete Alonso would make it 3-0 on a sacrifice fly. After the inning, Strasburg was done having struck out five Mets with only two of the three runs allowed being earned.

With the way Matz was cruising, you would think that was a sufficient enough lead. Certainly, it seemed that way with how Matz’s curveball was unhittable and his Houdini act. He was in trouble in the first and second with first and third with out one. Both times, he induced an inning ending double play. First, it was Howie Kendrick. Then, it was Gomes, who again, had a horrible day.

In the third, the Nationals had the bases loaded, but they couldn’t score as Anthony Rendon struck out looking at a curveball. It was one of a career high 27 curveballs Matz would throw with 16 of them being called strikes. Matz would not have one 1-2-3 inning all day, but it seemed like it wouldn’t matter as the Nationals kept shooting themselves in the foot and Matz would unleash a curve when needed.

That was until the sixth. Juan Soto hit a lead-off double, and he would score on what was a Brian Dozier infield single. On the play, Adeiny Hechavarria would throw the ball away. Dozier got greedy trying to go first to third on the play as he sought to take advantage on what he thought was Matz not paying attention to him at second. This led to an easy 1-5 put out.

With the way this game was going and how the Nationals season has been going, you sensed a team at its boiling point. We’d see them unleash their fury in the top of the eighth when Kendrick was called on a check swing Home Plate Umpire Bruce Dreckman called himself. Kendrick complained and was tossed. Then Nationals manager Dave Martinez had himself an old fashioned ejection:

The narrative will be this fired the Nationals up. Seeing them tee off on Robert Gsellman, maybe that’s true. For example, it did seem to wake up Gomes. He came up with runners at the corners with two out. Gomes’ double pulled the Nationals within one and put runners at second and third.

Now, it should be mentioned yesterday, the Mets have changed their stance. Mickey Callaway can now use Edwin Diaz for more than three outs. Callaway said Diaz being dry humped yesterday and pitched the previous two days. It should also be noted with all the injuries Ryan O’Rourke was called up. That meant the Mets had three lefties in the pen at their disposal. Instead, Callaway stuck with Gsellman, who admittedly has good numbers against left-handed batters.

The decision cost the Mets as Gerardo Parra hit a two RBI single giving the Nationals a 4-3 lead. Typically, you would believe this to be a back breaking hit which would have sent the Mets into a loss. Then again, this is the Nationals bullpen, who would need to significantly improve to be classified as terrible.

Wander Suero would come on to hold the lead, and right off the bat, it looked like history was going to repeat itself when Dominic Smith led off the inning with a pinch hit double. For a second, it seemed he would be stranded there as Alonso and Frazier would strike out back-to-back. For some reason, the Nationals would then decide to put the g0-ahead run on base to face Gomez. That would prove to be a huge mistake:

After that homer, the Mets were up 6-4, and finally, we would see Diaz for the save. After a 1-2-3 ninth with two strikeouts and Rendon doing his best Robinson Cano impersonation, the Mets had a four game sweep, and they are now within a game of .500. This also means the Mets are now within one game of being taken seriously again.

Game Notes: During the game it was announced the Mets claimed Aaron Altherr off waivers. To make room for him on the roster, the Mets designated Tim Peterson.