Addison Reed

USA Is Just Not As Invested In the WBC As The Rest Of The World

This is not meant to be critical of players or their patriotism.  It isn’t.  Players, especially pitchers, have a certain shelf life, and no one should tell them to risk everything for a one month international competition.  Perhaps Noah Syndergaard put it best when he said, “I’m a Met. Ain’t nobody made it to the Hall of Fame or the World Series playing in the WBC.”  (Abby Mastrocco, nj.com).

If you go down the line, you will probably hear similar responses from the other players that did not play.  The problem is most of them are American.

The reigning Cy Young Award winners are Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello.  Neither are pitching, but to be fair Scherzer was slated to pitch before he suffered an injury.  The runner-ups were Jon Lester in the NL and Justin Verlander in the AL.  They aren’t pitching either.  Third place?  Kyle Hendricks and Corey Kluber respectively.  The two pitchers who started Game 7 of the 2016 World Series aren’t on the USA roster.  Dig deeper.  The best pitcher in baseball right now is Clayton Kershaw.  He’s not on the roster.  The best clutch pitcher in all of baseball right now, if not all time, is Madison Bumgarner.  He’s not on the roster.

This speaks to the absolute depth of the starting pitching among Team USA.  Arguably, the crop of starting pitchers on the USA roster right now is their 7th best option.  Maybe even worse.  And yet, they pitched brilliantly.  Chris Archer, Marcus Stroman, and Danny Duffy went out there and pitched as good as or better than any of the aforementioned pitchers would have pitched in that spot.

But then comes the bullpen.  As loaded as the USA is in the rotation, they should be just as loaded in the bullpen.  Zach Britton is coming off a historically great season, but much like the AL Wild Card Game, you are not going to see him pitching against a foreign opponent.  Addison Reed, a pitcher coming off a season with a 1.97 ERA isn’t on the roster.  It could be argued Wade Davis is the best closer in all of baseball, and yet, he isn’t on the roster.  The closest USA comes to having a terrific closer on the roster is Mark Melancon, who is on the provisional roster.

I kept thinking about all the aforementioned pitchers while Tanner Roark, a pitcher who wouldn’t make a squad of the best American born pitcher in the National League East, was getting tattooed by the Dominican Republic.  Oddly enough, it was the one pitcher for USA you trusted the most, Andrew Miller, the one who definitively belonged on the roster, was the one that ultimately blew the save.

Sure, you could have hoped USA scored more runs after jumping out to a 5-0 lead.  You could argue that the best young players in the game Mike Trout and Bryce Harper went to Spring Training instead of competing in this event.  You also wonder how much of an impact USA not bringing their best players had an impact on American born Manny Machado playing for the Dominican Republic.  You wondered a little more as he hit a Tanner Roark ball nearly out of the gigantic Marlins Park.

Personally, I was wondering what the heck Jim Leyland was doing with his lineup.  Two of the better hitters on the team, Andrew McCutchen and Daniel Murphy, were stapled to the bench while Eric Hosmer was batting fifth.  Mind you, Hosmer could very well be the worst hitter in that lineup.  He’s certainly the bottom two or three on the roster.  These are the things that happen when you name Leyland manager instead of giving the chance to Willie Randolph, a man who has had success at the major league level and in international play.

Seriously, aside from Buster Posey and perhaps Nolan Arenado and Ian Kinsler, you could argue the best USA players and coaching staff stayed home.  This is why USA has not won a WBC to date, let alone appear in a final.  And yet, in some strange way, it speaks about how much better USA is than the world in baseball.

In Olympic basketball, USA brings its best players in LeBron James and Kevin Durant, and yet, the team has to sweat it out to win Olympic Gold.  In hockey, Canada is absolutely stocked top to bottom.  Arguably, the team it leaves home would win Olympic Gold, and yet each Olympics teams constantly push Canada.  In the WBC, USA isn’t sending near its best, and they are having to play tougher games than expected.

Teams like Colombia try to keep their hopes alive with a gutsy performance from Nabil Crismatt.  Puerto Rico’s ace is Seth Lugo, a pitcher who can’t even find his way onto an All-American Mets starting rotation.  Israel has transformed Josh Zeid, a pitcher the Mets would not re-sign to a minor league deal, into their version of Andrew Miller.

USA may not have their best, but they have players like Adam Jones who well up with pride putting on the uniform and representing their county.  This is a roster full of players that are easy to root for and are good enough to win the WBC.  As an American and as a baseball fan, I’m happy these players chose to play, and they deserve to win it all because even though they might not be the best American players, they are the best team in the WBC.

Mets Themed Valentine’s Day

With today being Valentine’s Day, it is only right we get into the spirit of things by being as clever as Bobby Valentine was the time he used eye black to make a fake mustache.  Without further ado, here are some “clever” Mets themed Valentine’s Day lines you may see on one of those cards you used to pass out to your classmates in grammar school:

Jerry Blevins – Jerry?  Hello!  Be my Valentine

Josh Edgin – I’m Edgin my way closer to you.

Jeurys Familia – I want to become Familia with your sexy self.

Matt Harvey – If you thought 50 Shades of Grey was seductive, wait until you see the Dark Knight I have in store for you.

Seth Lugo – Lugo you want to get with this.

Rafael Montero – You might as well be my Valentine because we both know there’s not getting rid of me not matter how awful I am.

Addison Reed – You and Me Addison up to a great Valentine’s Day

Hansel Robles – You’re so hot right now

Fernando Salas – If I had to the same again, I would, my Valentine, Fernando

Josh Smoker – You’re so hot, I can see the Smoker from miles away

Noah Syndergaard – Can you handle this god’s thunder?

Yoenis Cespedes – There’s a lot of Potencia between you and I Valentine

Travis d’Arnaud – d’Arnaud it pains me to be apart from you

Lucas Duda – Duda right thing and be my Valentine

Wilmer Flores – I’ll cry if you put me in the Friends zone

Amed Rosario – Don’t Be Surprised Be Ready

Neil Walker – I would Walker 5,000 miles to be your Valentine

David Wright – It’s only Wright we would be Valentines

Jay Bruce – Let me be the Valentine you regret for years to come.

Michael Conforto – It’s a Conforto to know whether in NY or Vegas we’re Valentines

Curtis Granderson – It’s Grandy being your Valentine

Juan Lagares – You’re the only Juan for me

Brandon Nimmo – Nimmo I’m smiling because of you.

Ron Darling – Be my Darling this Valentine’s Day

Keith Hernandez – I mustache you to be my Valentine’s Day OR How about a Valentine’s Day mustache ride?

Happy Valentine’s Day

Tom Gorzelanny Was A Perfect Minor League Signing

If you look at the initial reactions to the Tom Gorzelanny signing, it was met with some anger and derision from Mets fans. It has led to a meme where Mets fans have begun to compare him to sloth from the Goonies:

Obviously, this anger comes from Mets fans wanting the team to do more to sign free agent relievers to fill the obvious holes in the Mets bullpen. Namely, Mets fans wanted the team to go out and sign Jerry Blevins, who for some strange reason remains on the free agent market. Because the Mets signed Gorzelanny and not Blevins, Mets fans have understandably overreacted. They shouldn’t.

Because this is a minor league deal, the Mets are not obligated to carry Gorzelanny on the Opening Day roster like they were Antonio Bastardo last season. Essentially, if Gorzelanny does not show the Mets he is not capable of being a part of their bullpen, they can leave him in the minor leagues as depth.

Now, if Gorzelanny does show he can be a solid contributor out of the bullpen, the Mets only owe him $1 million with incentives that could increase his salary to $2.8 million. Essentially, this is a low risk, potentially high reward signing.

And there is reason to believe Gorzelanny can be a solid contributor in 2017. For his career, he has limited left-handed batters to a .229/.302/.356 batting line. For the sake of comparison, Blevins allowed left-handed batters to hit .255/.313/.324 off of him last year. Now, Blevins has historically been better than that against left-handed batters. However, the Mets are looking to replace Blevins’ 2016 production, and judging from Gorzelanny’s career splits, he is more than capable of that.

Another reason to believe in Gorzelanny is his repertoire. He primarily relies upon a low 90s sinker and a low 80s slider. While he also can throw a change-up and a curveball, while he has gotten older he has more and more relied on his sinker and slider. As we have seen with pitchers like Addison Reed and Fernando Salas, Dan Warthen has been successful working with them to get better results with those pitches as they have had in prior stops. It also doesn’t hurt that Travis d’Arnaud and Rene Rivera are excellent pitch framers that will be able to help Gorzelanny get into pitcher’s counts and get him that borderline called third strike.

Also, consider some of the success he has had against some of the left-handed batters he is sure to see during the 2017 season:

At the end of the day, Gorzelanny may very well be considered a solid minor league free agent signing in the same ilk as Darren Oliver or Tim Byrdak.

On the other hand, it might not work out. But if it doesn’t, so what? It’s a classic example of nothing ventured, nothing gained. The million Gorzelanny is potentially earning should not stand in the way of the Mets re-signing Blevins and/or signing another free agent reliever.

And in fact, it didn’t. Not too long after the Mets signed Gorzelanny, the Mets then re-signed both Fernando Salas and Blevins. 

Still, Gorzelanny wasn’t the guy Mets fans wanted, but he could become the guy the Mets fans want on the mound against a left-handed batter this October.

Mets May Have Enough Internal Bullpen Options

With Baseball America‘s Adam Rubin reporting the Mets are considering using low A starter P.J. Conlon out of the bullpen, the Mets are really giving the impression that they may not sign any relief pitchers this offseason. This would coincide with earlier reports the Mets may not have the budget to acquire another player unless the team is able to trade an outfielder, namely Jay Bruce. When considering the difficulties the Mets have in trading Bruce, it’s becoming increasingly more likely the Mets will use internal options to build their bullpen.

The Mets should have varying degrees of confidence in returning relief pitchers Jeurys Familia, Addison Reed, and Hansel Robles. Last season, Reed and Familia combined to be the best 8-9 combination in baseball. Robles has shown versatility whether it was his bailing Jim Henderson out of a bases loaded no out jam or pitching 3.2 innings because Bartolo Colon left a game in the first inning with an injury.

While the Mets should have confidence in these three pitchers, they still need at least four other arms to complete their bullpen. Here are the leading options:

RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVERS

RHP Seth Lugo – While he should get the opportunity to compete with Robert Gsellman for a spot in the rotation, indications are Lugo will land in the bullpen. In limited bullpen duty last year, Lugo was terrific. In his nine relief appearances, he had a 2.65 ERA, 0.941 WHIP, and an 8.5 K/9. Pitching out of the bullpen should also permit Lugo to ramp his fastball up to 95 MPH and throw his curveball, which has the best spin rate in the majors, making him an even more dominant pitcher.

RHP Zack Wheeler – Like Lugo, Wheeler may get an opportunity to pitch in the rotation, but early indications are he will start the year in the bullpen. Wheeler’s fastball-slider combination should play well out of the bullpen, and it should lead to him recording a high number of strikeouts. Conversely, he may have a high amount of walks as well. Unfortunately, Wheeler may not be able to sustain the same workload of a relief pitcher as the Mets will likely want to ease him back after Wheeler missed two years due to Tommy John surgery.

RHP Paul Sewald – With a high 80s to low 90s fastball with a slider in the low 90s with a low 80s slider, Sewald doesn’t have the dominating stuff you would typically look for in a major league reliever. However, despite having “lesser” stuff, Sewald has succeeded at every level of the minor leagues including his being an effective closer for the 51s last year. Despite pitching in an extreme hitter’s league, Sewald had 10 saves with a 1.85 ERA, 0.945 WHIP, and an 11.8 K/9 in the second half of the season.

RHP Erik Goeddel – If Goeddel can return to his 2014 – 2015 form, the Mets have a reliever they can rely upon. During that time, he was on the New York – Las Vegas shuttle making 41 major league appearances. Over that stretch, he had a 2.48 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, and a 9.0 K/9. For many, it was believed Goeddel did it with smoke and mirrors, an impression that was given credence with his 4.54 ERA and 1.318 WHIP in 2016. With Goeddel able to strike out 9.1 batters per nine last year, he has at least shown he can get batters out, and as a result, should get another chance. His success in 2017 is going to depend on his ability to regain some of his fastball velocity or his ability to adapt to pitching without it.

RHP Chase Bradford – Like Sewald, Bradford has fringy stuff with a low 90s fastball and a low to mid 80s slider. However, unlike Sewald, Bradford has struggled in AAA. Over the past three years, Bradford has pitched to a 4.88 ERA, 1.454 WHIP, and a 7.2 K/9. It should be noted many pitchers, like Lugo, struggle in Las Vegas, only to have success in the majors.

RHP Ben Rowen – The submarine style Rowen was brought in on a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. The hope is that Rowen can be a modern version of Chad Bradford in what was an excellent 2006 Mets bullpen. However, given his low 80s fastball, and with both right-handed batters and left-handed batters hitting him hard in his brief 12 major league appearances, this seems more hope than reality.

RHP Rafael Montero – Despite being terrible for the Mets, he somehow remains a part of the Mets organization. As if his presence on the roster wasn’t baffling enough, Sandy Alderson even mentioned him as a possibility for the bullpen. (ESPN). It figures that this year is the year push comes to shove with Montero. Either he is finally going to trust his stuff and throw strikes at the major league level, or the Mets are going to designate him for assignment for someone who can.

RHP Gabriel Ynoa – Ynoa struggled with the Mets last year, but those struggles could have been the result of him being asked to pitch out of the bullpen when he’s never done that before and the team shifting him between the bullpen and rotation late in the year. Fact is Ynoa has real talent. He has a low to mid 90s fastball that he may be able to consistently get in the mid 90s if he was airing it out in the bullpen. His slider is also effective in generating a number of groundballs. With him in the bullpen as opposed to the rotation, he can primarily utilize his two best pitches to get batters out.

LEFT-HANDED RELIEVERS

LHP Josh Smoker – There are three things we learned about Smoker last year: (1) he strikes out a lot of batters; (2) left-handed batters absolutely crush him; and (3) he is not effective for more than one inning. Now, if Smoker is able to work with Dan Warthen to develop a slider to get help him get left-handed batters out, he’s got closer potential. If not, he’s still an effective arm out of the bullpen so long as Terry Collins acknowledges his limitations.

LHP Josh Edgin – Even with his reduced velocity, Edgin still showed the ability to get left-handed batters out. Until such time he re-gains his velocity, if it ever were to happen, he should primarily be used as a LOOGY. Now, with Familia, Reed, and Robles each being extremely effective against left-handed batters, the Mets are not in dire need of a LOOGY. Still, in a division with Freddie Freeman, Daniel Murphy, and Bryce Harper the Mets could benefit from having more than one pitcher who can get left-handed batters out.

LHP Sean Gilmartin – In 2015, Gilmartin was an important part of the Mets bullpen as the team’s long man. That season, he made 50 appearance pitching 57.1 innings going 3-2 with a 2.67 ERA, 1.186 WHIP, and an 8.5 K/9. Surprisingly, Gilmartin had reverse splits allowing a .216 batting average to right-handed batters and a .260 batting average to left-handed batters. Last, year, Gilmartin began the year in Las Vegas as a starting pitcher. Due to some bullpen issues at the major league level, the Mets had him fly on a red eye and pitch on short rest. Eventually, he would suffer a minor shoulder injury, and his promising season would tail off. Ultimately, the Mets will need a long man in 2017, and there is enough evidence here to suggest Gilmartin can competently fill that roll.

LHP David Roseboom – It’s not common for pitchers to go from AA to the Opening Day roster the next year, but Roseboom may just be capable of doing it. While a closer by trade, who is coming off a season with a 1.87 ERA, he is extremely effective against left-handed batters. Last season, he limited left-handed batters to a .141 batting average. Primarily, Roseboom is a sinker/slider pitcher who also has a change that allows him to remain effective against right-handed batters. While Roseboom primarily sits in the high 80s to the low 90s, he remains effective because he is able to effectively locate his pitches, and he induces a high rate of ground balls.

LHP P.J. Conlon – As touched on above, considering Conlon for the Opening Day roster was a surprise given he has not pitched in AA, he consistently throws in the mid to high 80s, and he was used as a starter last season. Another reason this was a surprise is the Conlon is better against right-handed batters than left-handed batters. The main reason for that is while Conlon is a four pitch pitcher, his out pitch is his change-up. Like with most left-handed pitchers, Conlon’s change-up is more effective against right-handed batters than left. Overall, it is highly unlikely he will make the Opening Day roster, but he should still benefit from the opportunity to further develop his slider.

PREDICTION

Barring unforeseen circumstances, Wheeler seems assured of being in the Opening Day bullpen with Familia, Reed, and Robles. Considering the Mets probably want to add another left-handed pitcher in the bullpen, and the fact that he is out of options, Edgin seems to be the next best guess as to a pitcher who will make the r0ster. Based upon their performance in the bullpen last year, it is likely the next two spots go to Lugo and Smoker. Right there, the Mets have a seven man bullpen with an interesting array of arms that can both register strike outs and induce ground balls to try to get a double play to get out of the inning.

If there is an injury, suspension, or someone proves to be ineffective, the Mets have interesting options behind this group in Rowen, Sewald, and Roseboom. There is also Gilmartin and Ynoa who can provide either a spot start or be able to serve in the bullpen if needed.

Ultimately, while you would feel much better with the Mets having at least one more veteran arm in the bullpen like a Jerry Blevins or a Fernando Salas, there is at least enough quality arms in the Mets system that can conceivably build a good bullpen.

 

New Year’s Resolutions

We are headed for another season of Mets baseball where we hope that once again these Mets can make it all the way back to the World Series.  Since 2015, we have seen a definite pattern emerge with the Mets, and I think as Mets fans, we should all try better this year to not react, some would say overreact, when one of the following things we know will happen, happens:

  • The Mets are not going to sign another big name free agent this offseason.  It’s not going to happen, and it just may happen that Jose Bautista winds up in the division and on a fairly discounted deal;
  • Jerry Blevins will sign an extremely reasonable two year deal . . . with another team;
  • Instead of fortifying the bench, the Mets are going to go with this year’s version of Eric Campbell -> Ty Kelly;
  • Terry Collins is going to use and abuse Addison Reed to the point where his arm may actually fall off.  This will go double if Jeurys Familia gets suspended;
  • Hansel Robles is going to go through a stretch in one week where he pitches five innings, 1/3 of an inning, two innings, and three innings, and everyone is going to wonder why his production has fallen off;
  • The infield of Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, David Wright, and Asdrubal Cabrera will be ridden hard despite their injury histories and capable backups like Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes on the bench;
  • Just pick a random player on the roster – he’s going to be on the DL for over two months with a back injury;
  • There will be a game with Reyes in center and Juan Lagares in right;
  • Travis d’Arnaud is going to get injured, and Kevin Plawecki is not going to be able to replace his bat in the lineup;
  • Matt Harvey will complain about the six man rotation that will be implemented at some point during the season;
  • Robert Gsellman will make an appearance throwing well over 100 pitches in five innings or less;
  • Rene Rivera will hit under the Mendoza Line;
  • T.J. Rivera will be raking in AAA and not get called up despite the Mets needing some offense;
  • Michael Conforto will not face one left-handed pitcher all season;
  • Yoenis Cespedes will not dive for a ball, run out a pop up, or run hard to first on a dropped strike three;
  • Curtis Granderson will have a better OBP than Reyes, but Collins will continue to lead off Reyes and his sub .330 OBP;
  • Collins will not know if Brandon Nimmo is faster than Flores and it will cost them a game;
  • No matter where he winds up this offseason, and no matter how poor his year is going, Chase Utley will hit two home runs in a game he faces the Mets;
  • Sandy Alderson will mortgage a part of the Mets future because he didn’t make a move in the offseason that he should have made;
  • Paul Sewald will pitch well in AAA, but the Mets won’t call him up because they would rather rip Sean Gilmartin or Gabriel Ynoa from the Vegas rotation to make a relief appearance on 2-3 days of rest;
  • Both Josh Smoker and Robles will be fully warmed up, and Collins will go to Smoker to pitch to the lefty;
  • For reasons the Mets themselves can’t quite explain, Rafael Montero will spend the full season on the 40 man roster;
  • d’Arnaud will come off the disabled list, play well for a stretch, and the Mets will lose him and Steven Matz in the same game;
  • Matz will have appendicitis, but the Mets will talk him out of the surgery because they need him to start against the Reds;
  • Dilson Herrera will tear it up every time he plays the Mets;
  • Wherever he lands, Jay Bruce is going to hit 30 homers and 100 RBI;
  • Collins will show up in the dugout without wearing pants, and the Mets still won’t fire him;
  • Noah Syndergaard will get ejected from a game for throwing inside.  A player who takes a bat to one of the Mets infielders in retaliation won’t;
  • Fans will clamor for Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith to get called up all season long;
  • Seth Lugo will bounce between the bullpen and rotation so much, MLB is actually going to test him to see if his arm is actually made out of rubber;
  • Bartolo Colon will pitch so poorly against the Mets, fans will wonder why they wanted a bum like him back;
  • R.A. Dickey will not only beat the Mets, but he will throw the team into a week  long offensive funk causing some fans to decry the trade;
  • One or more pitchers will get hurt, and fans that even question if the Warthen Slider could be an issue will be mocked mercilessly;
  • Some way some how Jon Niese will pitch for this team;
  • Rather than build Tom Seaver a statue, the Mets will issue #41 to Niese upon his return to the team;
  • Daniel Murphy will have another terrific year for the Nationals, and some Mets fans will still defend the decision to let him go;
  • Ricky Knapp will make a solid spot start for the Mets causing fans to think he is the second coming;
  • Mets will trade a good prospect for Kelly Johnson; and
  • Despite all of this the Mets will make it to the postseason

Honestly, I give it until April 9th when Collins declares the last game in a three game set against the Marlins is a must-win game.

Mets Don’t Need To Sign Left-Handed Reliever

In 2015, the Mets not only won the National League East, but they went all the way to the World Series.  During that wonderfully unexpected run, the team left a bevvy of left-handed relievers in their wake.  Time and again, the team tried to solve their presumed issues with not having a left-handed reliever to no avail.  Here is a look at all the left-handed relievers they went through that season:

  • Josh Edgin – needed Tommy John surgery before the season began
  • Jerry Blevins – appeared in seven games before suffering a broken arm
  • Alex Torres – pitched to a 1.515 WHIP and was released on August 4th
  • Sean Gilmartin – used as a long man in the bullpen due in part to his reverse splits
  • Jack Leathersich – shuttled back and forth between New York and Las Vegas before his season ended due to him needing Tommy John surgery
  • Dario Alvarez – appeared in six games before suffering a groin injury that cost him the rest of the season
  • Eric O’Flaherty – 13.50 ERA and left off the postseason roster

The lack of the left-handed pitcher did not prevent this team from making it to the postseason or to going to the World Series.  The main reason is that team’s right-handed relievers could pitch to left-handed batters.  In fact, the batting lines suggests the right-handed relievers performed just as well as a LOOGY would:

The moral of the story is that you do not need a left-handed pitcher to get out left-handed batters.  Rather, you need pitchers who are effective at pitching against left-handed batters to get them out.

There are some caveats.  First, the Mets did go with Jon Niese as the left-hander in the bullpen during the 2015 postseason, and he did get some big outs including a key strike out of Anthony Rizzo in the NLCS.  Second, Blevins was an extremely important part of the 2016 bullpen.  Without Blevins in the bullpen, it is quite possible the Mets do not get one of the two Wild Card spots.  This creates a problem as Blevins is now a free agent – a free agent that is about to cash in on a terrific year.

So far, we have seen arguably less talented left-handed relievers get big contracts.  Brett Cecil received a four year $30.5 million contract from the Cardinals.  Marc Rzepczynski received a two year $11 million contract from the Mariners.  Mike Dunn received a three year $19 million from the Colorado Rockies.   According to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, Blevins was already seeking a three year deal worth $5-$6 million per season.  Based upon the contracts already handed out, it is easy to assume Blevins will get the deal he is seeking.

However, it should be noted that deal is likely not coming from the Mets.  As already noted, Sandy Alderson does not want to give out multi-year deals to relievers.  Furthermore, it does not not appear the Mets are interested in investing $6 million a year on a left-handed reliever.  With that being the case, the Mets best chance might be to revert to the 2015 model thrust upon them.

From that team, Familia, Reed, and Robles still remain, and they are still effective as ever in getting left-handed batters out.  Here were their stats from the 2016 season:

  • Familia .239/.315/.313
  • Reed .210/.264/.269
  • Robles .179/.287/.299

There is also some promise with Edgin.  Despite him not fully regaining his velocity after his Tommy John surgery, he still showed the ability to get left-handed batters out in a very small sample size.  In 2016, he faced 20 left-handed batters, and he limited them to a .235/.300/.235 batting line.

Between, Familia, Reed, Robles, and Edgin, the 2017 Mets may already have sufficient bullpen depth to get left-handed batters out.  Moreover, with the Mets resportedly wanting to cut payroll from where it currently stands, the team may be forced to stick in-house and instead seek a seventh inning reliever.

That is certainly a justifiable route because the bullpen as constructed already has enough depth to get left-handed batters out.  As such, the team does not need to add a left-hander for the sake of adding a left-hander.

Re-Sign Fernando Salas

With Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia in the fold, the Mets have their eighth and ninth innings guys set up for next year. In 2016, that tandem was the best in baseball. However, it was also the most taxed. The duo pitched more innings than any other reliever combination in the major leagues. The main reason is that the Mets played many close games that necessitated Terry Collins going to the whip with them time and time again. It was needed in the regular season, but as we saw in September and the Wild Card Game, they were beginning to show some signs of fatigue. With that, obtaining a seventh inning reliever, preferably one with closing experience, should be a high priority this offseason.

With that in mind, the Mets should re-sign Fernando Salas.

Salas had a Reed-like impact on the 2016 Mets. In 17 appearances, Salas was 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA, a 0.635 WHIP, and a 9.9 K/9. With that, Salas completely took over the seventh inning, and he allowed both Reed and Familia some rest down the stretch. Understandably, between his usage and his statistics prior to joining the Mets, you could expect him to regress. That’s almost assuredly true of his 0.635 WHIP. However, his regression would not be as troublesome as one would have you believe because, like Reed, Salas has benefited tremendously from the Mets exceptional pitch framing.

Keep in mind, there was not change to Salas’ stuff or his pitching patters when he became a Met. It is similar to Reed who became a completely different pitcher when he became a Met. Before joining the Mets, Reed had a 4.20 ERA and a 1.275 WHIP. In Reed’s season plus with the Mets, he has a 1.84 ERA and a 0.957 WHIP. When Reed became a Met, he didn’t develop a new pitch or pitching patters. Rather, it was the Mets catchers getting the extra strike for him.

It is something Reed emphasized when he said of Travis d’Arnaud, “There’s been a couple of times just this season that I’ve went back and looked at video just because I wanted to see how low the ball was, and how good of a strike (d’Arnaud) made it look. He’s the best I’ve ever thrown to at doing that. Just the way he frames the ball, it’s unbelievable. He makes balls that are four or five inches below the zone look like they’re almost right down the middle by just the way he flicks his wrist. I couldn’t even tell you how he does it.” (ESPN.com)

Given the pitch framing having a similar impact on Salas, you could expect Salas to have a similarly terrific 2017 season.  With that, Collins can be more judicious in how he uses both Reed and Familia.  This would permit all three pitchers to be fresh come the stretch run to the 2017 postseason; and hopefully, dominant all the way up until the World Series.

Another important point is that pitching in New York is a completely different animal. Some guys can do it and others can’t. The best and most recent example of this was Antonio Bastardo. Prior to joining the Mets, Bastardo had a 3.58 ERA and a 1.198 WHIP. He spent 2015 with the Pirates, and he was 4-1 with a 2.98 ERA and a 1.134 WHIP. Those numbers were why the Mets gave him a fairly lucrative deal for a seventh inning reliever.

Sure enough, Bastardo was terrible with the Mets. Bastardo made 41 appearances with the Mets with a 4.74 ERA and a 1.420 WHIP. Things got so bad, the Mets actually welcomed back Jon Niese and the Mets actually giving the Pirates some money in the deal. Naturally, Bastardo pitched better with the Pirates with him having a 4.13 ERA and a 1.250 WHIP in 28 games for them.

Simply put, Bastardo is the risk you take when you sign free agent middle relievers who have never pitched in New York. At the time of the signing, no one knew if Bastardo could pitch in New York. Conversely, we found out that Salas absolutely could pitch in New York, and that he could pitch with a postseason berth on the line in New York.  With that in mind, the Mets should make every effort to bring back Salas to pitch in the bullpen next year . . . regardless of what happens with Familia.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online

Zack Wheeler Belongs In the Bullpen

Since the 2014 season ended, Zack Wheeler has thrown exactly zero pitches in the major leagues.  First, it was because he needed Tommy John surgery on the eve of the 2015 season.  Then, it was because he had a series of setbacks during this rehab from said surgery throughout the 2016 season.  With that, the Mets have no idea what they are going to get from Wheeler during the 2017 season.

Here is one thing you do know you are not going to get from him: 200 innings.  Asking Wheeler to make 30+ starts and pitch 200 innings is unrealistic, and it is unfair.  Realistically speaking, putting any expectations on him is unfair.

Quite possibly, the best thing for Wheeler for the 2017 season is to transition to the bullpen and have the Mets monitor his usage.  In essence, the Mets could go into the 2017 season enacting a set of Joba Rules for Wheeler.  It is a concept Sandy Alderson floated this offseason saying, “But it may be that coming back after two years, he’s better off pitching out of the ‘pen. He might have to be careful. He might not be able to pitch back-to-back. It might have to be two innings at a time. These are all hypothetical at the moment, but I don’t see any reason to just eliminate the possibility.” (nj.com).

Better put, it is time to give Wheeler the John Smoltz treatment.

Back in 2000, Smoltz had missed the entire season due to season ending surgery because he needed Tommy John surgery.  On the Jonah Keri Podcast, Smoltz stated the Atlanta Braves only wanted him to return as a closer, and because he wanted to remain a Brave, he did what was requested of him.  During his time as a closer, Smoltz stated he learned about mentally what it meant to close.  Notably, Smoltz stated he did not change the way he pitched when he closed games.  Smoltz focused on throwing strikes more than maxing out and trying to strike everyone out.  It is notable that Smoltz was able to save 55 games in 2001, which was his first season back from Tommy John.

While Wheeler won’t be closing with the presence of Jeurys Familia and Addison Reed, there is room for him in the bullpen.  Putting him in the bullpen would permit him to go out there and re-learn how to pitch in one to two inning increments.  It will allow him to rebuild himself as a pitcher much in the way Smoltz had done.  Wheeler could focus on throwing strikes, which has always been an issue for him, and it will allow him to mentally prepare himself to get those big outs in a game.  More importantly, it presents an avenue for Wheeler to help the Mets win the World Series.

What is notable about following the Smoltz model is the fact that Smoltz sees a lot of himself in Wheeler.  Previously on MLB Now, Smoltz stated Wheeler was the one pitcher in the major leagues right now that most reminds him of himself.  In making the comparison, Smoltz noted some factors including the repetoire and Wheeler’s use of the inverted W.  Another factor for the comparison was the player’s respective injury history.  The main difference between the two, aside from Smoltz being a Hall of Famer, was Smoltz’s ability to make adjustments and Smoltz’s having pitched out of the bullpen.

As we have seen, pitching out of the bullpen not only helped Smoltz become an important part of the Braves after his rehab, it also helped prolong his career.  The Smoltz model is one that has proven to be successful, and it proved it is not a bar to returning to the starting rotation.  With that in mind, this could be the preferable route to reintegrating Wheeler onto this Mets team.

 

Cespedes Is Back, Now What?

Last offseason, the Mets re-signing Yoenis Cespedes put the final touches on the team everyone hoped would compete for a World Series.  This year, the re-signing of Cespedes is really just a start for a team that still needs to make a number of moves this offseason.  Here is a look at the moves the Mets still need to make:

TRADE JAY BRUCE

With Cespedes back, Jay Bruce likely becomes the outfielder the Mets will trade this offseason.  In his nine year career, Bruce has been a .248/.318/.467 hitter who has averaged 27 homers and 82 RBI.  At $13 million next season, that production is arguably a bargain.  That is probably a reason why teams have been in contact with the Mets trying to inquire what the team will want in exchange for Bruce.  While it is hard to believe the Mets will be able to bring in a prospect like Dilson Herrera or a player that will have a similar impact that Bruce will have in 2017, it should not be ruled out that the Mets will be able to acquire a player of consequence that will help the team next season.

DETERMINE MICHAEL CONFORTO’S POSITION

If the Mets are going to trade Bruce, it is another sign that the Mets see Michael Conforto as an everyday player.  Where he will be an everyday player remains to be seen.  With Cespedes returning for four years with a no trade clause, the only thing we know is that Conforto will not be the teams everyday left fielder anytime soon.  That leaves center and right field.

During Conforto’s time in AAA last year, he began learning both positions.  In his limited time in the majors at both positions, he showed he may very well be able to handle either position on an everyday basis.  However, given the presence of Juan Lagares on this team, the best thing for Conforto and the Mets is to transition him to right field.  Let him get fully acclimated there and focus on getting back to where he was April of last year.  This will also let Lagares and Curtis Granderson handle center field duties next season, which was a platoon that may work very well for the Mets next year.

OBTAIN A LOOGY

Last year, Jerry Blevins had a terrific year out of the bullpen for the Mets as a LOOGY.  In fact, he proved to be a bit more as he had a career best year pitching against right-handed batters.  However, he is a free agent now, and the Mets do not appear as if they are able or inclined to give him the multi-year deal that he may command in free agency.

The internal left-handed options are Josh Edgin and Josh Smoker.  Edgin did have some success against left-handed batters in limited duty in the majors last year, but with his velocity still not having fully returned after his Tommy John surgery, it is hard to rely upon him in any capacity next year.  Smoker had outstanding strikeout rates in the minors and the majors last year, but he has reverse splits.  Therefore, the Mets are going to have to look outside the organization to figure out who will be the first lefty out of the pen next season.

OBTAIN ONE OR MORE LATE INNING RELIEVERS

The Mets bullpen really is in a state of flux at the moment due to the Jeurys Familia domestic violence arrest.  Pending an investigation by MLB, it is possible that Familia will miss a significant number of games next season.  If that is the case, Addison Reed should prove more than capable of closing games in Familia’s absence.  This begs the question of who will step up and take over Reed’s role in the short term.

It was a question the Mets faced most of 2016, and they did not find a good answer until they obtained Fernando Salas on the eve of the waiver trade deadline.  Given his late inning and closing experience, Salas would be a good option to pitch in the seventh, eighth, or ninth inning next year.  However, he is a free agent at the moment meaning the Mets are going to have to presumably sign or trade for someone to take over this role.  In fact, the Mets may very well need two late inning relievers to address the bullpen.

SIGN A VETERAN STARTER

The one lesson learned from the 2016 season should be that once again you can never have too much pitching.  With the return of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz, the Mets rotation is almost complete.  The question is who will become the team’s fifth starter.

The first name that will be mentioned is Zack Wheeler.  However, after missing all of 2015 and 2016, no one can be quite certain he is ready and able to assume the fifth starter’s role.  The next names that will be mentioned are Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.  Both pitched quite well for the Mets in the stretch run last year, but the Mets may prefer to have a veteran arm who is able to eat up innings and/or can go deeper into the season than any of the aforementioned pitchers.  Preferably, the pitcher they do sign would be willing to move to the bullpen in the event Wheeler, Lugo, or Gsellman wins the job in Spring Training or is ready to take over at some point during the season.

FIGURE OUT THE BACK-UP CATCHER SITUATION

Even with Rene Rivera back in the fold and despite his excellent work with Noah Syndergaard, there is still room for improvement on the catching front.  Many will mention the recently non-tendered Wellington Castillo, but people should realize he’s an average hitter at best. Moreover, he’s a terrible pitch framer. Mets need to do better than that, but to be fair, that may not be possible. 

Whatever the Mets decide to do, they first have to realize that Kevin Plawecki has twice proven he should not be relied upon to be the team’s primary back-up catcher.  Next, the Mets have to realize they need a viable backup who can handle playing a number of games due to Travis d’Arnaud‘s injury history.

There are some other matters that need to be figured out as well.  For example, do you want Ty Kelly and T.J. Rivera competing for the last spot on the bench, or do you want to re-sign Kelly Johnson?  The answer to this and many other questions will largely depend on how much money the Mets have to spend the offseason and/or what the Mets are able to obtain in exchange for Bruce.

Cespedes was a great start to the offseason, but the Mets work is far from over.

Mets Final Season Grades – Terry Collins

Throughout the season, I attempted to grade the different Mets players performances for each month of the season. In determining the year end grades, the aggregate of the monthly grades given was considered, but it wasn’t conclusive.  For example, one player’s awful month could be more than offset by having an incredible month.  Also, those decisions were made in the heat of the moment.  There has been a cooling off period in giving these finals grades, and with that, there is time for reflection.  It should also be noted the Wild Card Game did have some impact on these grades as that game was part of the story of the 2016 Mets.  Overall, the final grades assessed considered the monthly grades, but also took into account that player(s) overall impact on the Mets season (good or bad).    For the tenth and final set of grades, here is Terry Collins grade:

Sometimes grading a manager can be difficult.  For starters, we cannot truly know how much of an impact the manager has in the clubhouse.  For example, one person’s “player’s manager” is another person’s “letting the inmates run the asylum.”  Essentially, that narrative is written based upon the type of year the team had.

Furthermore, in the modern game, we are unsure how much of an impact the front office has on daily decision making.  It used to be that the General Manager would hire a manager, and then he would step aside and let the manager run the team as he saw fit.  Now, there is a some level of interference in each organization.  Some provide data and other tools to the manager while others are at least rumored to try to fill out line-up cards for teams.

If we are being honest, there really are times we do not know what is and what is not a manager’s fault.  However, we do know that everything lies at the manager’s feet, and it is ultimately the manager that will have to be responsible for the choices made.  Looking at Terry Collins’ choices is complicated.  Lets review:

The Good

If you are being fair, Collins did what he was paid to do by bringing the Mets to the postseason in consecutive seasons.  That is no small feat, especially for a franchise that has only done it once before in their entire history.  There was also a large degree in difficulty in doing so, especially when you lose Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz to season-ending surgeries at different points in the season.

He also had to deal with a number of other injuries.  There was the fairly expected ones like David Wright, the reasonably foreseen like Lucas Duda, and the out of nowhere like Wilmer FloresYoenis Cespedes dealt with a quad issue most of the summer too.  Once again, it was not a ringing endorsement of the medical and training staff this season.  Still, Collins dealt with it, and took a team that was two games under .500 in August, and the Mets claimed a Wild Card spot.  Again, teams normally collapse in these circumstances.  Collins’ team showed resolve, and for that, he deserves a lot of credit.

A major reason why was the emergence of Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.  These two young players contributed much earlier than expected and were better than anyone ever expected.  One reason why is Collins matched them up with Rene Rivera who has excelled mentoring young pitching.  Collins deserves credit for that as he does matching up Rivera with Noah Syndergaard to help alleviate the issues associated with Syndergaard holding on base runners.   Collins use of Rivera might’ve been the best decision he made all season, and it could very well have been the reason why the Mets returned to the postseason.

The Bad

The one issue I cannot get over all season was how reckless Collins was with his bullpen arms.  It wasn’t aggressive.  It wasn’t demanding.  The only real term to use was reckless.

In April, he put Jim Henderson into a day game after a night game despite Henderson coming off shoulder surgeries and Henderson having thrown a career high in pitches the previous night.  The reason?  Collins determined an April game was a must-win game.  In a sport that plays 162 games, no April game can be considered a must-win.  During that inning, Henderson had no velocity, couldn’t get a guy out, and he would have to be lifted from the game.  After that outing, Henderson wasn’t the same guy that made the team out of Spring Training, and he would have to be put on the disabled list with a shoulder injury.  He went from lock down seventh inning guy to removed from the 40 man roster as soon as the season ended.

Then there was Hansel Robles.  Collins treated him like every arm he ruined in his past.  Despite having a number of guys who could go more than one inning, including long man Logan Verrett, it was Robles who was called to the whip time and time again.  During a one week stretch in June, Robles threw 127 pitches over three mutiple inning appearances.  Then when he finally got some rest, Robles came right back out and threw 33 pitches over two innings.  Robles sustained the abuse well for most of the season, but then he tailed off at the end of the year.

Somehow, someway Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia never got injured.  It really is a miracle because they were used more than any other combination of relievers in baseball in 2016.  The wear and tear finally showed in the Wild Card Game when neither pitcher had much of anything left.  Both struggled in their respective innings of work.  Reed was able to get out of it, but Familia wasn’t.

While the bullpen usage was an issue, there were other problems with Collins.  He completely mishandled Michael Conforto this season.  Conforto had gone from one of the best hitters in baseball in April, to a guy Collins outright refused to play down the stretch of the season despite Conforto hitting nearly .500 in AAA during his demotion.

Keep in mind, Conforto was not the only player who regressed this season.  Travis d’Arnaud had looked prime to break out in 2016.  Unfortunately, his season was marked by injuries and regression.  With Conforto and d’Arnaud, there are two important young players who regressed under Collins.

Finally, there was the matter of how injuries were handled.  Harvey’s injury issues were blamed on mechanics.  Collins kept putting Cespedes out there everyday to play despite his clearly being hobbled.  Same goes for Asdrubal Cabrera.  The worst might have been talking Matz out of getting season ending surgery in order to pitch through what was described as a massive bone spur.  Eventually, Matz would have to scrap his slider, would experience some shoulder discomfort, and he would finally get shut down for the season.

Overall

In a sport where you are judged by wins and losses, Collins was successful despite the issues he faced.  However, many of those issues were self-inflicted.  Given the fact that he brought the team to the postseason for a consecutive year, he should have received a high grade.  However, Collins consistently risked the health of his players, and some were worse off as a result.  You need to look no further than Henderson who is right now looking to catch onto a team yet again.  Even worse yet, the young players the Mets need to take them to the next level next year are question marks due largely to Collins’ mishandling of them.  Altogether, Collins season earned him a C-.

Editor’s Note: the grades for April, May, June, July, August, and September/October can be found by clicking the links.