AJ Ramos

Callaway May Be Overworking The Mets Bullpen

After an epic eighth inning bullpen meltdown against the Washington Nationals, the fans and media began the process of second guessing Mets manager Mickey Callaway. With that the central question was why Callaway went to Seth Lugo instead of allowing Jacob deGrom to face Howie Kendrick, who deGrom has completely dominated both that night and over the course of his career.

As we know, Lugo did the inexcuable and walked Kendrick on four pitches. This led to Jerry Blevins, AJ Ramos, and Jeurys Familia not getting the job done. With the exception of Blevins, there were ensuing questions about how each reliever was used in that inning.

These questions are interesting for debate, but they are missing the larger issue here. In his brief managerial career, Callaway has ridden the bullpen too hard for this team to have sustained success over the course of a 162 game schedule.

There are a number of caveats many people will cite. There have been a number of off days. The Mets pitchers aren’t going deep enough into games thereby forcing Callaway’s hand. The bullpen can’t possibly be overworked because they have pitched just the 17th more innings in the majors.

Here are some other key stats to consider. There are 15 pitchers in baseball who have made double digit appearances this season. The Mets have three of those pitchers with Familia, Ramos, and Blevins. By the way, they were also the three pitchers who failed to get the job done that fateful eighth inning.

By the way, the Mets are the only team to have three relievers make double digit appearances, and that number will grow to four when Robert Gsellman, who has scuffled a bit of late, makes his next appearance.

We tend to over-focus just on the number of appearances, innings, and pitches relievers throw. Them getting up to warm up also counts. It is part of the fatigue which can set in for a reliever.

At this point, we can not be definitively sure any of the Mets relievers are gassed even with the recent drop-off. Really, that can be explained by regression to the mean or just a fluke small sample size.

Here’s what we do know. For most of this season, Callaway has had a bullpen with an extra arm in it. Despite that, the Mets have had to make roster moves on two separate occasions to get a fresh arm into the bullpen. First, it was Corey Oswalt for a day. Now, it’s Gerson Bautista for who knows how long?

The answer to that one may just be up until he gets gassed and the Mets need to go back to the minors to pull up Hansel Robles or Jacob Rhame again. Maybe this time, it’s Tyler Bashlor who comes up to the majors straight from Double-A.

Point is, the way Callaway is using this bullpen is having an effect, and it is causing the Mets to need to dip into their minor league depth to get fresh arms into this bullpen. Maybe this was the plan all along, and that plan is buttressed by Sandy Alderson’s moves at the trade deadline last year. Probably not.

Whatever the case, the Mets are going to have to figure something out because this cannot continue for 162 games.

Mickey Callaway’s Eighth Inning

Look, it was bound to happen.  The revamped and praised bullpen was finally going to have a meltdown.  Mickey Callaway was going to have a game leaving fans scratching their heads a bit leading up to him getting criticized.  The fact it came against the Nationals was tough.  The fact it was a blown 6-1 lead was tougher.  The combination of the two left a really sour taste in your mouth despite the Mets 12-3 start.

In that eighth inning, the Mets would use five pitchers who allowed six runs on five hits, three walks, and a hit batter.  Two of those walks were bases loaded walks.  With the exception of Jacob deGrom, each and every pitcher who appeared that inning has some explaining to do.

Naturally, when you have a complete bullpen meltdown like that, much like we saw cause the 2008 Mets collapse, there are going to be some questions about how Callaway handled the inning.  Let’s take a look.

Questionable Decision No. 1 – Lifting deGrom

At the time Callaway lifted deGrom, the Mets had a 6-1 lead in the top of the eighth.  A Michael Taylor strikeout was book-ended by a pair of singles by Moises Sierra and Trea Turner.  At that point, deGrom had thrown 103 pitches, and he was about to go to the Nationals lineup a fourth time.

Before moving on, some key stats should be considered.  In his career, batters hit .277/.300/.447 when facing deGrom for a fourth time.  However, that stat should be mitigated by the batter Howie Kendrick.

For his career, Kendrick is hitting .087 with no walks or extra base hits against deGrom.  Last night, Kendrick was 0-3 with three strikeouts against deGrom.

Considering Bryce Harper is hitting behind him, and you have Jerry Blevins warming in the pen to face him, there’s no way you second guess Callaway for leaving deGrom in the game.

By removing deGrom, Callaway opened himself up to second guessing.  That second guessing grew louder when Seth Lugo, who had been excellent this year, walked Kendrick on four straight pitches.

Question Decision No. 2 – Using Lugo for One Batter

As noted above, with Harper on deck and Blevins warming, whoever you brought into the game to face Kendrick was only going to be in for one batter, so why Lugo?

There is a time to experiment with your bullpen guys to give them a different taste of different moments, but a game against the Nationals just isn’t that moment.  Not when there was something brewing that caused you to go out there and bring in a reliever to nip a potential rally in the bud.

Since you are bringing Blevins into the game to face Harper anyway, you could have used him to pitch to Kendrick.  After all, Kendrick is just 1-8 off Blevins.  Even if Kendrick hits an unlikely homer, you are still up 6-4 at that point, and you have Blevins to face Harper.

Instead, Lugo was put in an unfamiliar situation, and he struggled.  That doesn’t excuse Lugo’s performance in the least.  He should have gone out there and recorded the out, or at least forced Kendrick to put the ball in play.  Really, this at-bat was a seminal moment as this is where the rally really began to build momentum and begin to spiral out of control.

Questionable Decision No. 3 – Using Ramos

Iseemed odd Callaway would go to AJ Ramos over getting Jeurys Familia into the game at that spot.  Heading into this season, Callaway spoke about getting his best relievers into the biggest spots of the game regardless of whether there was a save situation or not.  That’s not what happened.

Instead of using Familia to nip the rally in the bud and let Ramos start a clean ninth, Callaway took a page out of Terry Collins book and saved his closer.  He also used Ramos, who has allowed 24.5% of inherited runners to score in his career.  Now, to be fair, Callaway may have wanted to shy away from Familia who has had a fairly high workload this season. Still, you have to wonder why Ramos there.

Out of anyone in the Mets bullpen, Ramos has the highest walk rate with a scary 4.9 BB/9 for his career.  That included his walking six batters in the 6.1 innings he had pitched entering last night’s game.  Bringing Ramos into this game into a powder keg of a situation could potentially light a fuse and blow the game.

It started out well with Ramos over powering Ryan Zimmerman to get the second out, and the Nationals sent up Matt Reynolds to the plate.  Right here was why the Mets should have never lost this game.  It’s also why using a walk prone Ramos is dangerous.

Reynolds, who is a career .224/.294/.393 hitter with an 8.1% walk rate, walked on four straight pitches to make it 6-4.

Questionable Decision No. 4 – Double Switching Flores into the Game

When Callaway brought Familia into the game, he obviously had the intention of using him for the four out save.  With the pitcher’s spot due up second in the bottom of the inning, Callaway understandably double switched him into the game.

What is interesting is Juan Lagares had made the last out of the bottom of the seventh.  By the book, you swap him out.  Being smarter than that, Callaway didn’t do that instead opting to keep his best fielder in the game in a crucial spot.  Instead, he went back and pulled Adrian Gonzalez.

Now, Gonzalez isn’t the four Gold Glove Gonzalez anymore.  In 92.1 innings this season, he has a -1 DRS and 0.1 UZR.  It’s a small sample size, but it is in line with what he’s been the past few seasons.  His dimished skill and range were prevalent when Harper had hit an RBI single earlier that inning between him and Asdrubal Cabrera.  That was more on Cabrera’s range, but it did speak to the limited range on the right side of the Mets infield.

Now, Flores arguably has more range than Gonzalez with a 0.2 UZR at first this year and a 2.3 UZR over the past three seasons.  However, he’s not yet good enough to consider using him for defense late in games at any position.  In fact, he also has a -1 DRS at first this year but in just 45.2 innings.  Flores’ poor defense and relative inexperience MIGHT have been at play when Wilmer Difo hit a single by him.  Whether Gonzalez gets to that or not, we’ll never know.

Another important point here is with Flores being double switched into the game, you do not get to deploy him against a left-handed pitcher.  Instead, you have to use him against a right-handed one.  Flores has improved against right-handed pitching, but not to the point where he’s your first option over Yoenis Cespedes or Jay Bruce.

As an aside, what would have been so wrong if Familia batted?  If he immediately gets out of the inning, you have a two run lead.  Let him go up there and take his strikeout, and you have your optimal defense for the eighth and ninth innings.  Instead, you weakened your infield defense with a power sinker pitcher, and you didn’t try to get a platoon advantage with Flores coming off the bench.

Questionable Decision No. 5 – No Gsellman At All

Arguably, Robert Gsellman has either been the Mets best or second best reliever this season.  In a pressure filled spot, you would think you would’ve found a spot for him, especially at a time when you were looking to get a ground ball double play to get out of the inning.  Instead, Callaway decided to go with Ramos and an obviously fatigued Familia.

Synopsis

When you have a complete meltdown like the Mets had, there is little a manager can do but pray.  Really, Callaway is getting second guessed because the Mets lost a game where they had a five run lead with one out in the eighth inning.  You should never lose those games.

Lugo can’t walk Kendrick on four pitches.  Blevins has to get Harper out in that situation.  Ramos can’t walk and hit batters.  Familia needs to dig just a little deeper and not hit a batter or walk in the go-ahead run.

Also, someone needed to make a play.  Two balls where hit between the first and second baseman.  Cabrera couldn’t make a play on either.  Certainly, you could argue an infielder with even average range gets to the Harper single.  Cabrera would then exacerbate his inability to make a play in the field by getting bizarrely aggressive on the base paths getting thrown out at third with one out in the ninth inning.  That was inexcusable.

Really, this game was your typical Callaway game.  When it comes to his bullpen, he’s going to be a little more aggressive than most in what is typically his attempt to put his players in the best position to succeed.  In his first 15 games, it seems he’d rather put players in a position to succeed than leave them out there and let them  make a play.

Until last night, that made Callaway look like a genius.  Last night?  Well, it made him look like a meddling over-manager.  Ultimately, that’s the way it goes with not just managing, but managing in New York.

Whatever the case, after that brutal loss, we are really going to find out something about both Callaway and this Mets team.  Do they get off the mat and show the Nationals they’re the better team?  Do they come out shell-shocked and lose this game?

Right now, we don’t know, but we are soon going to find out just how special both this team and this manager is and can be.

 

 

 

Mets Lose On Ugly Eighth Inning Meltdown

With two outs in the top of the first inning, Bryce Harper would hit one of the most incredible home runs you will ever see off of Jacob deGrom:

Harper was sawed off, and he still hit a no doubt home run.  Because of who the Mets are this season, they would immediately respond.

In the bottom of the first, Michael Conforto hit an opposite field double off of Jeremy Hellickson that Matt Adams just could not corral. After that, Todd Frazier, who is suddenly the hottest bat in the Mets lineup followed with a two out RBI single tying the game at one.

In the third, it was Frazier again.  After an Asdrubal Cabrera single and Conforto walk, Frazier ripped a go-ahead RBI double giving the Mets a 2-1 lead.  It could have been more but the Nationals nailed Conforto at home.

 

Juan Lagares would create the first rally after drawing a walk off of Matt Grace.  During Jose Lobatons at-bat, he would steal both second and third base. That led to Mickey Callaway surprising everyone by calling a squeeze:

With the ball scooting away, this allowed Lobaton, who had reached earlier by walk, to get to third.  This put him in perfect position to score on an Amed Rosario fielder’s choice giving the Mets a 4-1 lead.

The Mets would quickly make that a 6-1 lead in the seventh.  Brandon Nimmo began the inning with a triple off the outstretched glove of Michael Taylor, and he’d score when Cabrera hit a two run homer off A.J. Cole.

At 6-1, the Mets looked to be in great shape. deGrom was pitching like the ace he is being the first Mets starter to pitch into the eighth inning.  His final line would be 7.1 innings, six hits, three runs, three earned, one walk, and 12 strikeouts.

At the time the Mets added four tack on runs, it didn’t look like deGrom needed them.  While he might not have a suddenly imploding Mets bullpen would actually need more than a five run cushion.

After allowing a pair of singles, deGrom was done with one out in the eighth.  Seth Lugo relieved him and walked Howie Kendrick to load the bases.  This led Callaway to call on Jerry Blevins, who allowed Harper to hit a two RBI single to bring the Nationals to within 6-3.

All three runs were charged to deGrom, but the last two were allowed to score by the Mets bullpen.

With Lugo and Blevins not getting the job done, Callaway summoned AJ Ramos with two on and one out in what was now a ballgame.

Ramos would strike out Ryan Zimmerman before allowing a single to Pedro Severino to load the bases.  That put the game in the hands of former Mets infielder Matt Reynolds, who pinch hit for Cole.  After a four pitch walk. the Nationals were within 6-4 and still with the bases loaded with two outs.  At this point, Callaway had little choice but to go to Jeurys Familia.

Familia would choose a bad time to blow his first save of the year as he allowed Wilmer Difo to tie the score with a two RBI single.  It got worse with him hitting Moises Sierra, a player who has not played in the majors since 2014, before issuing a bases loaded walk, the Mets second of the inning, to Taylor to give the Nationals a 7-6 lead.

In the ugliest inning of the year, the Mets bullpen would allow six runs (two inherited) off three hits, three walks, and a hit by pitch.  That really is embarrassingly bad and reminiscent of last year’s terrible Mets team.

Kendrick would homer off Hansel Robles in the ninth to ensure the entire Mets bullpen would pitch poorly on the evening.

Just to make sure this loss would sting all the more, Cabreara would hit a one out double off Ryan Madson, he would try to get to third on a pitch that got away from the catcher.  The play would be reviewed, Cabrera would appear safe, but the out call was upheld.  In the end, it doesn’t matter, Cabrera made a real bone headed decision.

The Mets came into this series with a chance to maybe bury the 2018 Nationals in April.  Instead, they may have breathed new life into a team which desperately needed a shot in the arm with this 8-6 loss.  This is really the Mets first taste of adversity this year.  Let’s see how they respond.

Game Notes: Yoenis Cespedes did not start the game for the first time this year.  He pinch hit in the eighth and flew out.  Jay Bruce didn’t start again today with his plantar fascittis flaring up again.

Wilmer Homer Was a Family Affair

Due to a family event, I was unable to use the Mets tickets I had originally purchased for the game.  Considering it was me who scheduled the family event, it was REALLY poor planning on my part, except for one thing . . . .

With the exception of one of my uncles, an uncle who harbors no ill-will towards the National League team, we are all Mets fans.

We are all split on football and hockey.  Generally speaking, we all prefer NCAA basketball to the NBA, with us each having our own colleges we support.

Despite the many differences we have as a family, it is our being Mets fans that bind us.  Perhaps more than the blood itself.

So, when you have a group of us together, if there is a television around, any and all family occasions will eventually turn into us sitting there watching and rooting for the Mets.  Yesterday was no exception.

We talked about what a great and underrated pickup Todd Frazier was when he delivered an RBI single in the first.

While we all agreed we loved Mickey Callaway, we loudly wondered what the (blank) he was thinking pinch hitting for Tomas Nido with an open base and Thor on deck.

This led to a discussion as to what exactly the Mets should be doing about the cdatching situation.  Some wanted J.T. Realmuto.  Others, myself included, wanted the Mets to go with the catcher who would get the most out of this pitching staff.  Regardless, we all debated what the Marlins would want for Realmuto presuming the discussions would start with Justin Dunn and Peter Alonso.

We marveled at just how dominant Noah Syndergaard was with him finally returning to form early this season with his striking out 11.  We also groaned in that sixth inning when the Brewers plated two unearned runs on an Amed Rosario throwing error.

My family had smiles bigger than the one on Brandon Nimmo‘s face when he hit a game tying homer in the bottom of that inning.  All right, almost as big a smile.

We got nervous and held on for dear life as AJ Ramos had one of those heart in your throat innings, and he was not helped by Jose Lobaton. To a man, we agreed wild pitch or not, your catcher has to get that.  Regardless, Ramos got out of the inning with some help from Jerry Blevins.

Surprisingly, no one seemed that nervous about Hansel Robles anymore.  Sure, he may not have been everyone’s first choice, but there was a calm believing he could get the job done. For Robles, that must’ve been a different feeling from past years.

And in my family, we are smart baseball fans, so there was no waiting for Jeurys Familia to lose the game in the ninth.  We’re better than that, and with his stretch, I hope all Mets fans are getting to that point as well.

Finally, like Citi Field and wherever you were, we cheered and celebrated when Wilmer Flores hit the walk off homer.

Did I get to go to the Mets game yesterday?  No, I didn’t.  However, one of the reasons we go to games is to sit in the stands and have a shared experience.  Considering I watched yesterday with my family, and it was bitterly cold yesterday, I think watching it from an Italian restaurant a state away was probably a much better experience.

The next experience will hopefully be the group of us at Citi Field as we look to recreate one of our old traditions.  Hope to see you all there.

Game Notes: Wilmer’s second career walk-off happened against the very same Brewers team he was supposed to be traded to back in 2015.

Mets Beat Nationals Bullpen Again, Familia Great Again

In the Mets first game against the Nationals, the Mets let the Nationals and all of baseball know that at their best, this Mets team is as good as any in all of baseball.  Now, that’s easy when you have Jacob deGrom on the mound, Michael Conforto returning to the lineup, and Yoenis Cespedes hitting homers.  The next question and perhaps the real question is what happens when these factors weren’t present.

Well, with Steven Matz starting and Mickey Callaway giving Juan Lagares the start, the Mets were going to find out.  As it so happened, those questions started to get answered in the second inning.

Brian Goodwin would draw a two out walk, and he’d quickly steal second base on the duo of Matz and Travis d’Arnaud.  On a 3-2 with a chance to get out of the inning, Pedro Severino singled up the middle, and the speedy Goodwin dared challenge Lagares’ arm:

That’s the Gold Glove Lagares who re-emerged last year.  Whether or not his new swing and approach are for rule almost seems inconsequential when he plays center this way.

Another note here is in this game, you got to see all that d’Arnaud is as a catcher.  When his pitchers aren’t even bothering to hold on base runners, much like Matz didn’t in this game, he’s not going to have a real shot to throw out anyone trying to steal a base.  The Nationals know that better than anyone, and they stole five bases in five attempts off of him.

However, he offsets that deficiency in other ways.  As we see in the Lagares play, he’s exceptional in fielding a throw, blocking the plate, and getting the tag down.  Really, he’s the best catcher in baseball on the front.  He’s also a very good pitch framer.  That came into play on a day when Mets pitchers would record 10 strikeouts while walking just three.

That pitch framing led not to not just a third inning strikeout of Anthony Rendon, it also led to his ejection on what was a horrible overreaction by Home Plate Umpire Marty Foster:

That ejection was the Mets gain because Rendon is a great player who kills the Mets.

Even with Matz pitching well, the Mets still could not get ahead of Gio Gonzalez.  That’s not unusual because he came into this game 14-5 with a 2.93 ERA against the Mets in his career.  That left the Mets with little margin for error. That margin of error went away on two plays centered around Todd Frazier.

The first play was in the fourth inning.  Jay Bruce hit a two out double to right.  The much maligned Glenn Sherlock could have sent Frazier to have him challenge Bryce Harper‘s arm.  It would make sense with two outs and Matz due up next.  Instead, Sherlock stopped Frazier, and Matz struck out.

This decision was magnified in the fifth when Frazier threw a ball away on a Michael Taylor grounder.  After a Goodwin sacrifice bunt, Severino plated him with an RBI single giving the Nationals a 1-0 lead.

What made the game interesting and the start of this season interesting was how the Mets immediately responded.  In the sixth, Frazier atoned for his error by hitting an opposite field one out double that nearly went out.  He’d then score on a d’Arnaud RBI single (the other aspect of his being a complete catcher) tying the game at 1-1.  The Mets would have a chance to get the lead, but Jose Reyes could not deliver in a pinch hitting situation.

On came Hansel Robles.

To start the 2018 season, he has been a bit of a revelation.  He went from send down to Triple-A to start the year to getting a big sixth inning opportunity against Harper.  Mets fans expected him to melt down and point to the sky.  Well, in his defense, it was a a really good pitch:

All this proved was Harper is a great player.  What Robles proved from there was he could settle in, limit the damage, and give the Mets a chance.  The Mets took that chance with some exceptional base running in the seventh.

Amed Rosario led off the inning with a single up the middle, and he’d fly around the bases on the ensuing Asdrubal Cabrera RBI double getting just ahead of the Severino tag.  Not to be outdone, Cabrera would go from second to third on a Cespedes grounder to short.  Knowing Ryan Zimmerman can’t throw, the Cabrera, who can’t really run, read the situation perfectly and took the extra base.

After the pinch hitting Conforto was intentionally walked,  Cabrera scored on a Frazier RBI groundout.  The Mets finally had the lead at 3-2, and it was time to see if this so far improved Mes bullpen could hold the lead.

First up was AJ Ramos, who pithced a 1-2-3 seventh.  Surprisingly, the next test went to Jacob Rhame.

Rhame proved up to the task by getting former Met Matt Reynolds to groundout.  What was surprising was where Rhame succeeded, Jerry Blevins didn’t as he issued a one out walk to Harper.  This set the stage for Jeurys Familia.

In what was his biggest moment since he faced Conor Gillaspie in the 2016 Wild Card Game, Familia was in a position to get a big save.  With him needing to get five outs, he was going to be tested.  That should say tested in theory.  The Nationals were no match for him, and as a result, the Mets came away with a 3-2 victory.

It’s April and the season is barely a week old.  However, this is a different Mets team.  They’re getting the most out of every ounce of their ability.  They’re playing smart baseball.  They’re fighting.  They’re special.  They’re showing that to the Nationals, and they may soon show it to the rest of baseball.

Game Notes: Mets pitching has recorded 10 or more strikeouts in six of the seven games they have played.  The one time they did not record 10 strikeouts was in their sole loss of the season.

A Gsell Of A Win

These are the types of games that have traditionally tripped up the Mets.  Day games.  Get away games.  Games with a rain delay.  All of those things combined have always seemed to get in the Mets way.  Harkening back to 2015, these were all present in the fateful loss against the San Diego Padres which nearly derailed the Mets season.  Those conditions were present today.

With rain waiting, the game had a delayed start until 2:45.  Initially, all seemed well for the Mets.

Yoenis Cespedes hit a monster two run homer off Aaron Nola to give the Mets an early 2-0 lead.  Noah Syndergaard would start the game striking out five Phillies over the first two innings.  Then, all of a sudden, everything would come off the rails in a 36 pitch third inning for Syndergaard.

The odd thing for Syndergaard was even though he was in trouble he was so close to getting out of it.  There were runners on first and second with one out after a Carlos Santana double.  After a Nick Williams RBI groundout, Syndergaard was well in position to get out of a tough inning with the Mets still having a 2-1 lead.

Surprisingly, Syndergaard, who typically has excellent control, immediately went 3-0 against Rhys Hoskins.  He battled back into the count in what was an eight pitch at-bat where he then couldn’t put Hoskins away.  On the eighth pitch, he walked Hoskins.  That walk proved important.

With Aaron Altherr down 1-2 in the count, Hoskins broke too early for second, and it looked like he was picked off.  The ball went to second with Asdrubal Cabrera covering, and he walked back Hoskins while keeping an eye on Santana.  After Cabrera flipped it to Adrian Gonzalez, Hoskins ran out of the baseline (not called), and Santana beat Gonzalez’s throw home.

The game was tied at 2-2.  At that point, Syndergaard wasn’t going to be able to make it through five innings, and the Mets offense had just one hit after the Cespedes homer.  This made this the type of game you’d expect the Mets of very recent vintage to blow.

However, Robert Gsellman came out of the bullpen and gave the Mets a lift.  He was nearly as impressive as Seth Lugo was yesterday throwing two hitless innings while striking out three.  Like Lugo, Gsellman gave the Mets a shot in the arm and a real chance to win.

That chance came in the sixth when Nola, who was infamously lifted by Gabe Kapler on Opening Day after 5.2 innings, walked Cabrera to start the sixth.  After a Gonzalez lineout, Andrew Knapp error, and a Kevin Plawecki ground out, Wilmer Flores pinch hit for Gsellman and drew a walk.  That’s where Amed Rosario, who has hit ninth in every game he has started on the young season, was in prime position to deliver the big hit.

Rosario did a nice job going the other way with the pitch, and he was able to line the ball over Williams, who was playing aggressively in in right field.  The end result was a two run triple giving the Mets a 4-2 lead.

The Mets bullpen, who has had an incredibly strong start to the season, stepped up and shut the door.

Believe it or not, that started with Hansel Robles striking out the side in the seventh.  AJ Ramos and Jeurys Familia would each pitch a scoreless inning a piece to preserve the Mets 4-2 win.

And yes, it is April, which is way too early to focus on these things, but the Mets are now traveling to Washington a half game up in the division and with Jacob deGrom on the mound.

Game Notes: This game was broadcast only on Facebook with former Phillie John Kruk and former Met Cliff Floyd doing the color commentary.  With Michael Conforto being activated from the disabled list, Phillip Evans was optioned down to Triple-A.  He was 0-3 with a strikeout and a GIDP.

Somewhat Vintage Harvey in Mets Win

It’s been a few years since Matt Harvey was Matt Harvey.  However, there was hope we would see him again because now the Mets had Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland.  That was not only the tandem who you wanted to help fix a pitcher, but they also believed in Harvey.  Their belief was enough to convince the Mets not to consider trading him.  That faith was something to help give the Mets fans faith in him and the team again in 2018.

For one night, we saw a glimpse of Harvey being a very good pitcher for the Mets yet again.

No, it was not quite vintage Harvey, but he was real good.  Instead of pumping it up to the high 90s to near triple digits, he was living in the lower 90s.  It didn’t matter because it was a good moving and well located fastball.  Put another way, it was good enough to generate a number of swings and misses.  Really, he had all of his pitches working for him including his change-up which looked like a real weapon for him.

However, in some sense this actually was vintage Harvey.  Through his 86 pitches, he walked just one and struck out five.  He limited the Phillies to just one hit and no runs.  Like vintage Harvey, he got no run support.

For a while, it looked like it was going to be the Phillies who plated the first run.  AJ Ramos was in immediate danger after a Cesar Hernandez bunt single and a Carlos Santana walk.  Ramos bore down getting some luck on a hard hit liner hit by Aaron Altherr right at Todd Frazier, and he struck out Rhys Hoskins.

Callaway then went to Jerry Blevins in the sixth inning because that was the moment it called for his LOOGY to get the biggest out of the game.  Blevins did just that by getting Odubel Herrera to pop out.

Having weathered the storm, the Mets offense began to go to work against Ben Lively.  Before the sixth, Lively had actually matched Harvey zero for zero.  However, in the bottom of the sixth, he would be done in by his control and his defense.

Lively put on Yoenis Cespedes by plunking him.  Initially, it looked like Lively was going to stop a rally from building as he got Jay Bruce to hit what should have been a double play ball.  The only problem for the Phillies is third baseman Scott Kingery stayed home at third.  With no one there to field a throw, the only play was at first.

Frazier would make the Phillies pay by ripping an RBI double to left field.  After an Adrian Gonzalez ground out, Travis d’Arnaud would deliver an RBI single giving the Mets a 2-0 lead.

With the previous snow out, the Mets decided to skip Seth Lugo in the rotation.  With him stretch out to start, and with him having no obvious chance to start over the upcoming week, he was in great position to pitch multiple innings.  Lugo did just that by mowing down the Phillies.  In his two innings of work, he struck out four of the six batters he faced.  The two who did manage to make contact didn’t get it out of the infield.

That left Jeurys Familia his old familiar spot in the ninth inning looking to save a close Mets game.  It wasn’t an easy one.  A leadoff walk to Altherr quickly turned to first and third with one out.  Kingery battled, but he eventually fouled out with Wilmer Flores making a nice play by the dugout.  That led to a game ending ground out, and Familia saving the 2-0 win.

One of the things which really stood out in the game was the difference between the Mets and the Phillies choices for manager.  Callaway seems in charge, and he has the Mets playing good baseball.  More than that, his bullpen management tonight was phenomenal.  Gabe Kapler has been a mess, the Phillies are failing to be in position to turn double plays, and the Phillies are now 1-3.

It certainly doesn’t hurt Callaway and the Mets when Harvey is pitching this well.

Game Notes: Jose Reyes got the start making him the last Mets position player to make a start this season.  After drawing a walk in his first at-bat, he was thrown out in his stolen base attempt.  Frazier had another good game going 2-4 with a run, double, and an RBI.

Who’s Better: 2015 or 2018 Mets?

Entering the season, Yoenis Cespedes made the bold declaration the 2018 Mets were better than the 2015 Mets.  Now, if you recall that 2015 team, it did feature players like Eric Campbell and John Mayberry.  However, those players were not on the team at the same time as Cespedes.  When Cespedes joined the Mets, he was on a much better roster, a roster which went all the way to the World Series.

With that consideration, it is certainly bold for Cespedes to make that declaration, but is he right?  Let’s take a look:

CATCHER

2015: Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki
2018: Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki

Just looking at those names, you may be quick to think not much has changed in the catching situation.  In reality, everything is different, and the main difference is these catchers stand on much different footing.

The 2015 season was d’Arnaud’s best as a player with him posting a 126 OPS+ and emerging as an elite pitch framer.  Plawecki was overmatched at the plate, but he did handle the pitching staff exceptionally well.  Since that time, both had gone on to disappoint in 2016 and much of 2017.

Things changed at the tail end of 2017.  Plawecki finally looked like the player the Mets once thought he would become.  d’Arnaud would finish the season with a strong September.  As a result, they will look to begin the 2018 season in a unique time sharing agreement designed to keep both healthy and effective all year long.

VERDICT: 2018if both replicate their Septembers, this won’t even be close

FIRST BASE

2015: Lucas Duda
2018: Adrian Gonzalez

In 2015, Duda hit .244/.352/.486 with 27 homers and 73 RBI.  He was as streaky as he ever was unable to carry the team when they needed his bat most, and he almost single-handedly beat the Nationals in a key late July series.

Gonzalez is coming off the worst year of his career, and he is still dealing with back issues which requires him to warm up two hours before the game starts.

VERDICT: 2015 Gonzalez may not be around long enough to make a bad throw

SECOND BASE

2015: Daniel Murphy
2018: Asdrubal Cabrera

We got a glimpse of what Murphy would became with him slugging .533 over the final two months of the season. Even with the increased power, no one could predict the home run barrage he’d unleash in the postseason.

For his part, Cabrera finds himself at second a year after protesting moving there or anywhere. He’s been a good hitter with the Mets, and he’s been terrific in the clutch. We’ll see if the injuries will permit him to be that again.

VERDICT: 2015 – Murphy’s postseason was an all-time great one

THIRD BASE

2015: David Wright
2018: Todd Frazier

This was really the last hurrah for Wright in a Mets uniform. He was very good in the 30 games he played after coming off the DL hitting .277/.381/.437. He’d hit two emotional homers: (1) his first at-bat since coming off the DL; and (2) his first World Series at-bat at Citi Field.

Frazier has been a solid to somewhat underrated player. Over the last three years, he’s averaged 34 homers, 88 RBI, and a 110 OPS+. He’s been a good fielder averaging a 5 DRS over that stretch.

VERDICT: 2018 – Frazier is no Wright, but he’s healthy

SHORTSTOP

2015: Ruben Tejada
2018: Amed Rosario

Tejada was not supposed to be the starting shortstop in 2015.  After wasting a few chances which led to Omar Quintanilla getting the bulk of the playing time over him, the Mets moved on to Flores.  Eventually, Collins and the Mets went back to Tejada because: (1) he had steadier hands; and (2) he had a .362 OBP in the second half.  Who knows how everything would have turned out had Chase Utley not broken his leg with a dirty slide/tackle.

Rosario is the future of the Mets.  Yes, there are flaws in his game like his very low walk rate.  However, this is a uniquely gifted player who is dedicated to being better.  He’s electric, and he’s got the skill set to be a superstar for a very long time.  For now, we will settle for him being a good defensive shortstop who brings real speed and upside to the table.

VERDICT: 2018 Rosario’s ceiling is just way too high

OUTFIELD

2015: Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson
2018: Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Jay Bruce

Cespedes was just an otherworldly player when he joined the Mets.  Despite his only being a Met for a few months, he finished in the Top 15 in MVP voting.  Really, the MVP for the Mets that year was Granderson who was a leader in the clubhouse on the lineup.  He had the most homers from a lead-off hitter, and he was a Gold Glove finalist.  Conforto jumped from Double-A to post a 133 wRC+ and a much better than expected 9 DRS in left.

With respect to the 2018 outfield, we see Conforto is a much better play (when healthy), and Cespedes is nowhere near as good as he was when he joined the Mets.  To be fair, there’s no way he could, but he’s still an All Star caliber player.  This means the main difference between the squads is Bruce and Granderson.

VERDICT: 2015 – That Cespedes was just that much better.

BENCH

2015: Michael Cuddyer, Wilmer Flores, Kelly Johnson, Juan Lagares
2018: Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares, Brandon Nimmo, Jose Reyes

From the moment Uribe and Johnson joined the Mets, they were game changers.  They both brought a winning attitude and game winning hits.  In addition to the two of them, Lagares was the defensive specialist, a role to which he is best suited, and Cuddyer was a platoon partner with either Conforto or Duda depending on whether Lagares started the game as well.  Overall, it was a veteran bench who provided needed leadership.

The Mets current bench is similar to the 2015 bench with Reyes trying to emulate the Uribe role even if he’s not as productive a player.  Flores is Flores, but a better hitter, and believe it or not, a worse fielder.  Lagares rediscovered his range he lost in 2015.  Nimmo should be in the everyday lineup and leading off, but early indications are he won’t.

VERDICT: 2015 – Uribe and Johnson were just that important

ROTATION

2015: Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Bartolo Colon
2018: Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, Jason Vargas

When you consider Vargas was basically brought in to replicate what Colon did in 2015, the question is whether you believe the Mets top four starters are better as a group now or then.  Looking at it objectively, Syndergaard is the only one who has improved with no one knowing what Harvey and Matz can still provide.

VERDICT: 2015 – they were just healthier then

BULLPEN

2015: Jeurys Familia, Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed, Hansel Robles, Jon Niese, Sean Gilmartin, Erik Goeddel
2018: Jeurys Familia, Anthony Swarzak, AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Paul Sewald

Familia was that good in 2015 that he was able to cover many of the warts in the 2015 bullpen.  This resulted in Collins using him for multiple innings more than any other closer that year.  Reed would begin his emergence as a great reliever, but a back injury would cost Clippard of his effectiveness.  One surprise was Niese performing well as a lefty in the bullpen.

When you include Sewald’s Triple-A experience, this is a bullpen with three closers, six pitchers with closer’s stuff, and a very good LOOGY in Blevins.  Even if Familia is not as good as he was in 2015, it won’t matter because there is enough depth here for the Mets to not need to rely upon him as much.

VERDICT: 2018 – they’re just deeper and with more upside

MANAGER

2015: Terry Collins
2018: Mickey Callaway

For all the warts and problems Mets fans discovered with Collins, he had his finest year as a manager in 2015.  When the ship could have sunk multiple times, he pulled the team together and kept things afloat until the team got healthy and reinforcements arrived.  Of course, he followed this up by helping cost the Mets the World Series with a series of baffling decisions which all blew up in the Mets faces.

Right now, Callaway looks like a genius.  He’s innovative batting Cespedes second and Rosario ninth.  He came down hard on Dominic Smith for being late.  His players seem to love him, and the baseball world roundly believes the Mets made an excellent hire.  However, the season isn’t even a week old.  Even if everyone is a fan at the moment, let’s check back in a couple of months to see if he’s an innovative genius or if he’s a know-it-all who can’t leave good enough alone.

Verdict: 2018 – Collins did cost the Mets a World Series

VERDICT

If you break it down, the 2015 Mets were better at first, second, outfield, bench, and rotation.  The 2018 version is better at catcher, third, short, bullpen, and manager.  Looking at the breakdown, you can say it’s a 5-5 draw.  However, in reality, it’s not.  That 2015 team pitching rotation was just so dominant, and hypothetically, if these teams were going to step on the same field, the 2015 rotation would dominate the 2018 version.

That said, there is a lot of talent on this 2018 team, and from what we have seen so far, this is a roster tailor made to what we presume is Callaway’s talents as a manager.  If Callaway is indeed as good as we hope it will be, we can see him and Dave Eiland taking this pitching staff as a whole to the next level.  If that can happen, and with a little help, this Mets team could accomplish what the 2015 version didnt – win the World Series.

2018 Mets Player by Player Projections

As I do from time to time, we need a “completely serious” analysis and projection of each and every Mets player who is expected to contribute during the 2018 season.  While there are many prjoection systems which claim to be fool-proof, there are none that will be this accurate about the Mets:

Sandy Alderson – The other 29 GMs in baseball will be left in complete hysterics when Alderson is calling around for a right-handed reliever to help boost the team’s chances to making the postseason.

Mickey Callaway – The writers will overwhelmingly vote him as the National League Manager of the Year.  The most cited reason for giving him the award will be the fact he didn’t insist on playing his worst players or forcing his players to play through crippling injuries.

Dave Eiland– Multiple Mets pitchers will hug him for actually fixing their mechanics and for listening to them when they say they’re hurting.

Tyler Bashlor – When someone notices how similar his name is to the ABC reality show hit The Bachelor, they’ll say how “The Bashlor” is handing out strikeouts like they’re roses. We should all hate that person.

Jerry Blevins– Until he eats a sandwich, the socks given away in his honor will hang around his ankles

Bryce Brentz– He’s going to be the guy who has one or two at-bats this season, and someone is going to invoke his name as a former Met to try to sound like he knows more about the Mets than you know anything.

Jay Bruce– After a four home run game, all Mets fans will want to talk about is when he is going to move to first base.

Asdrubal Cabrera – After a slump, Callaway will move Cabrera down in the lineup causing Cabrera to bring his kids to the clubhouse and have them ask why Callaway doesn’t want them to eat.

Jamie Callahan– His wearing #43 will serve as a constant reminder that not only was he part of the return for Addison Reed, but also how the Mets turned quality MLB players into six right-handed relief prospects. That will be the worst possible sequel to I Know What You Did Last Summer.

Yoenis Cespedes – After an MVP caliber first half, he will feel like he has earned just one game of golf as a reward during the All Star Break.  He will immediately be vilified.

Michael Conforto – After a huge cut and a swing and miss, Conforto will wince for a moment thereby causing a passionate Mets fans behind home plate to have a heart attack.  This will led to a call for the netting to be filled in and for fans to have to watch the game on a tape delay.

Travis d’Arnaud– During a remarkably healthy season, he will finally be forced to catch Syndergaard, who had spent most of the seaosn with Plawecki as his personal catcher.  On the first pitch of the game, Syndergaard throws a 101 MPH fastball which immediately shatters d’Arnaud’s hand.

Jacob deGrom– After a slump, he’s going to look to grow his hair out.  Once he realizes his hair cannot possibly reach it’s old length during the 2018, he’s going to grow a really long beard and change his entrance music to “Legs” by ZZ Top.

Phillip Evans– When he cashes in his check for his postseason share, Evans will fondly remember that April pinch hitting appearance.

Jeurys Familia – After he gives up a seventh inning homer to Conor Gillaspie costing the Mets a game, fans will scream for him to pitch in the ninth inning again.

Wilmer Flores – He will be in such hysterics during his struggles in his first game in the outfield his crying on the field in 2015 will look like a case of the sniffles.

Todd Frazier– It will take many Mets fans a long time to come to grips that Jersey Boy Todd Frazier does not use a Bruce Springsteen song as his walk-up music.  That point will finally come when they realize Frank Sinatra is from Hoboken and not NYC.

Adrian Gonzalez – He will become James Loney2.0.  He will hit well enough for the Mets to stick with him, and the front office will continue to stick with him long after he has since been useful.

Robert Gsellman – As he continues to wait in Las Vegas for his opportunity to get back to the Majors, he will eventually care what Sandy Alderson thinks of him.

Matt HarveyHe’s going to pull a reverse Ben Affleck by going from The Dark Knight moniker to Daredevil.  He will earn that name by following Eiland’s instructions to throw inside with such reckless abandon to the point where people start to question if he’s gone blind.

Juan Lagares – After once again injuring his thumb on a diving attempt, the Mets will finally realize Lagares’ injures were the result of him literally using a gold glove to try to play center.  While they found the answer and solution for the thumb injuries, they will still be perplexed on how to fix his hitting.

Seth Lugo– We won’t know if people keep referring to the hook with him because of his incredible curveball or because of how Callaway won’t let him face a lineup for a third time.

Steven Matz– In addition to the sandwich he has named after him at the Se-port Deli, he will have one named after him at the cafeteria at the Hospital for Special Surgery.

Brandon Nimmo– Despite putting up great numbers, the Mets will inform Nimmo they unfortunately have to send him down to Triple-A due to a temporary roster squeeze.  When he’s still smiling through the ordeal, they will force him to seek psychological counseling.

Kevin Plawecki– On a day when the Mets are getting blown out, the frustrated Plawecki will use the last of his six mound visits to derisively tell his pitcher he can pitch better than this. The pitcher will remind him he has a better batting average than Plawecki.

AJ Ramos – After striking out Giancarlo Stanton in a Subway Series game, he’s going to go home and find his friend has moved out of their shared apartment.  Odd Couple style hilarity ensues.

Jose Reyes– One day, he will hit a triple and score on a mad dash to home plate.  He will have that old Reyes smile, and it will electrify the crowd.  It will also cause everyone to forget that he is one of the worst position players in all of baseball.

T.J. Rivera – After he comes off the disabled list, he’ll deliver in the clutch for the Mets and his teammates will honor him as the player of the game.  The Mets will make sure he’s not standing in front of Plawecki’s locker when they take a photo to tweet out.

Hansel Robles– Many will credit him with the discovery of extra terrestrials by his discovery of a UFO in the Vegas night.  Years later, Robles will sheepishly admit all he was doing was pointing up at another homer he allowed.

Amed Rosario– To the surprise of us all, Rosario will strike out looking when the pitcher throws him a pitch which he was surprised at and was not ready to swing at. Entire belief systems will be shattered.

Jacob Rhame– Like Jason Phillips, he will soon realize fans may first like you for the googles and smile in your photo, but really, they’re only going to love you if you produce.

Paul Sewald– After having spent a year with Terry Collins, he’s going to be the player most comfortable with having no defined role in the bullpen.  However, it will be an adjustment for him not having to warm up multiple times per game.

Dominic Smith – When he gets called up to the Majors as part of September call-ups, he will be late on a pitch causing his manager to believe he learned nothing from Spring Training.

Anthony Swarzak – The jokes about not knowing how to spell his name will get old by mid-April.  The jokes will be rediscovered in August when more fans tune it to a Mets team that is a surprising contender.  The jokes will continue to not be funny.

Noah Syndergaard– He will continue his “Twitter Feud” with Mr. Met.  It will be discussed ad nausesum during nationally televised games.  America will think it’s amusing only fueling the spat even further and giving no hope to Mets fans who have long since found this to be unfunny.

Jason Vargas – When Reyes introduces himself, Vargas will remind him they were teammates in 2007.  Both recall that season and will agree it never happened.

Zack Wheeler– He will be converted to a reliever, and in a surprise to us all, he will lead the league in saves. In a surprise to him that league will be the Pacific Coast League.

David Wright– He will apologize and sheepishly admit the Mets crown was an embarrassingly bad idea.  He will try to come up with a way to rectify it, but no one will listen to his ideas on the topic anymore.

Trivia Friday: Mets Seasons With Multiple Closers

Early on, Mickey Callaway announced his intentions to use his best relievers in the highest leverage spots and not just in the ninth inning.  As a result, in addition to Jeurys Familia, we may very well see AJ Ramos, Anthony Swarzak, Jerry Blevins, or even Hansel Robles out there looking to close out a game.  This creates the possibility of the Mets having multiple relievers with over 10 saves.

This is something that has happened 12 times in Mets history.  Sometimes, it was due to injury.  Others, it was the intended plan.  Whatever the case, can you name the closers who have at least 10 saves in the same season another Mets reliever had at least 10 saves?  Good luck!


Ron Taylor Cal Koonce Tug McGraw Doug Sisk Jesse Orosco Roger McDowell Randy Myers John Franco Anthony Young Armando Benitez Bobby Parnell Latroy Hawkins