If that’s the case, it’s extraordinarily bad decision making, and really, it’s a poor assessment of the talent on this Mets roster.
Honestly, that is an assessment which should’ve been discounted last year. In 2021, Smith hit .283/.391/.509 against left-handed pitchers.
That wasn’t a one year anomaly either. In 2019, Smith hit .303/.361/.515 against them. Overall, since 2019, Smith has hit .291/.380/.512.
That means not only is Smith one of the Mets best hitters, but he’s one of their best against left-handed pitching too.
Now, you can argue this is too much of a reaction to just one game. After all, Pillar is going to have to get into games. There are also other factors like his defense why you’d play him.
That said, this was the Mets first game. There was literally no other competing objective than put your best team on the field. That makes their first game a clear indication they believe Pillar is a better player against left-handed pitching than Smith.
That puts Smith in a platoon role where he sits against left-handed pitching. With Smith being one of the best hitters against left-handed pitching, they’re flat out wrong and making a mistake.
Smith is an everyday player. In fact, he’s clearly one of their best, and there’s no reason why he isn’t playing everyday.
Maybe this is just the excitement which comes from Opening Day. Certainly, that is amplified by new ownership, the Francisco Lindor extension, and Jacob deGrom taking the mound. However, taking everything into account, this New York Mets team is the best one we have seen since 2015 and probably 2006.
Like most times the Mets are good, they are going to be led by pitching. Their starting staff is great, and when healthy, it is the best in baseball. Part of the reason why is deGrom is still the best pitcher in baseball. Behind him right now is Marcus Stroman. Stroman has made adjustments and added new pitches, and he looks set for a career year. That is really saying something considering he has been a gamer his entire career, and he was the World Baseball Classic MVP.
Noah Syndergaard and Carlos Carrasco may be the two most underrated pitchers in baseball. Looking at their FIP, they pitch at or near an ace level. In this rotation, they may be no better than third or fourth starters. It’s not just doing deGrom-Stroman-Syndergaard-Carrasco. This is one of the deepest rotations in all of baseball.
Behind that quartet is Taijuan Walker who was once a top 100 prospect, and he seems poised to take a big step forward after using analytics to help him improve. After Walker, the Mets have David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi, and Jordan Yamamoto, each of whom could be around a three in most rotations. For the Mets, they will eventually be on the outside looking in.
They are all going to be better pitchers because they have the tandem of James McCann and Tomas Nido behind the plate. Both of these players are strong catchers who are excellent pitch framers. Having catchers like that behind the plate make good pitchers even better. When your starting pitching is great and operating at a high level, you are going to win a lot of games.
This is paired with an incredible lineup. They Mets have an embarrassment of riches on that front. Consider Francisco Lindor, Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil have each been All-Star lead-off hitters, and they aren’t even the Mets best lead-off hitter. That’s Brandon Nimmo. With that group plus Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith, their 1-6 of their lineup can and probably should be hitting in the middle of the order.
Now, this Mets team isn’t perfect. Far from it. The first problem is their bullpen. The good news on that front is between Edwin Diaz and Trevor May, they have the last two innings covered well. The hope is at least one of Dellin Betances, Miguel Castro, or Jeurys Familia can figure it out to become that seventh inning reliever. That is at least until Seth Lugo is good to return. When that happens the Mets bullpen will be in great shape.
Another factor there is the Mets have some other interesting options. Sooner or later, Drew Smith will be healthy and ready to rejoin the bullpen. It should also be noted when the Mets have their full rotation, someone like Lucchesi can move down to the bullpen where his churve could be a weapon on par with Lugo’s curveball.
The other issue is the defense. Simply put, having J.D. Davis at third is unacceptable. He can’t remotely field the position. Having Dominic Smith behind him makes the left side defense one of the worst in baseball. To that, they may not be the worst in the division with the Atlanta Braves probably being worse with Austin Riley and Marcell Ozuna.
It’s very possible Brandon Nimmo can succeed with positioning in center. After all, he’s had positive OAAs in center most of his career, and he does have the speed for the position. Jeff McNeil seems more comfortable at second, and while Alonso has his defensive issues, he is quite adept and receiving throws around first.
While the lineup has serious defensive issues, the bench does not. Luis Guillorme is a Gold Glove caliber defender. Albert Almora and Kevin Pillar are also quite good. With the lead, we can and should see Luis Rojas run all three out with Smith moving to first base. When that happens, the Mets defensive alignment turns from questionable to really strong.
Therein lies the key. Aside from health, Rojas is going to be the biggest key to this Mets season. He is going to need a deft touch as to when to utilize his defensive replacements. He and Jeremy Hefner are also going to have to get their rotation healthy through the season, which is all the more challenging because of the shortened season last year. They are also going to have to find the right mix in the bullpen while making sure they don’t overuse their best relievers.
Right now, the Mets have the right mix to have a great season. They also have an owner willing to invest in the team, and they have Sandy Alderson in charge, who we know will not be shy making a key trade or two to improve this Mets roster.
Looking at the Braves, their pitching has durability issues, and their defensive issues may be worse than the Mets. The Phillies don’t have the starting pitching, and their bullpen was a disaster last year. The Marlins are young and not deep. The Nationals still don’t know what they are going at key positions on the field.
Taking everything into account, the Mets are the best team in the National League East. If Rojas is up to the task, and there is every reason to believe he will be, the Mets are well poised to return to the postseason again and let their pitching take them back to the World Series.
Steve Cohen purchased the New York Mets, and suddenly, everything got better. After Cohen purchased the Mets, things were different, very different:
1. It’s still unbelievable to think the Mets added $92.1 million to the 2021 payroll alone. If nothing else, that announced everything was different.
2. The Francisco Lindor trade was a franchise defining trade. He’s a superstar as future Hall of Famer.
3. It’s still hard to believe a contract extension won’t get done. After him, Noah Syndergaard may get one next.
5. Speaking of breaking records, Jacob deGrom looks primed to have a great year. He cane out in midseason form, and it’ll be a shock if he’s not the Cy Young.
6. When Syndergaard and Carlos Carrasco return, this will be an all-time Mets rotation.
7. It’s still curious the plan to start the year is to put David Peterson in a position where he bounces back and forth all year.
8. Speaking of curious decisions, how do the Mets make all of these moves and build a ground ball staff only to trust J.D. Davis at third.
10. Dellin Betances looks done. With him, we may find out just how much Cohen can tolerate and whether the Mets know how to handle a sunk cost.
12. For all the lip service Sandy Alderson gave to making the Mats a better defensive team, he did what he always did in putting multiple first basemen in the field.
13. They may be deadening the ball, but Pete Alonso looks ready to murder them. He’s completely locked in and looks poised to have a monster year.
14. Marcus Stroman also looks set to have a great year. He may be a surprise Cy Young contender, and it may behoove the Mets to lock him up before his price tag soars.
15. Stroman is a reminder the Mets never needed Trevor Bauer. Bauer may have another great year, but he’d be a fifth starter on this team, and he would’ve prevented the Mets from extending their stars.
16. All told, this is a team who has a deep lineup and a very good starting rotation. There are holes, but the team seems confident they can win.
17. The black jerseys returning does give this team big 1999 vibes.
18. Luis Rojas may emerge as a surprise manager of the year candidate. This team is that good and so is he. The key will Be how well he utilizes his defensive replacements in Guillorme (who should be starting), Albert Almora, and Kevin Pillar.
19. James McCann seems like the perfect addition to this team. The pitchers seem to be raving about his leadership and work behind the plate. If he hits a little (and he can hit a lot), he’s going to be great.
20. Everything about this organization is different. The team is vastly improved. They’re looking to keep their best players. They’re beefing up their analytics and player development. Overall, it’s a great time to be a Mets fan.
In case you were wondering just how much the Wilpons have scarred New York Mets fans, we see the reactions to the Francisco Lindor contract discussions. Seeing it, you’d think the Wilpons were again outbid for a borderline MLB reliever.
It should be noted the Mets have offered Lindor a 10 year/$325 million contract. That’s an AAV of $32.5 million which would pay Lindor until he’s 37 years old.
It would make it the largest contract in Mets history given to David Wright by more than double. It would fall only short of Mookie Betts and Mike Trout for the largest extensions in MLB history. It’s on par with the extension given to Fernando Tatis, Jr., and it would put him only behind Bryce Harper in the division.
Yes, Lindor has every right to negotiate for every last penny, and he’s in his right to reject that offer. After a big year, he could get a better offer, and perhaps he won’t. That said, you have to respect him betting on himself.
That’s what this is. It’s a mixture of Lindor thinking he’s worth more and betting on himself. You can say that because the Mets made an extremely fair and reasonable offer.
It’s part of a completely different offseason for the Mets where they added a lot of payroll. Seriously, you wouldn’t see the Wilpons make these moves in one offseason let alone two or three:
- Francisco Lindor $22.3 million
- Marcus Stroman $18.9 million
- Carlos Carrasco $12 million
- Taijuan Walker $10 million
- James McCann $8.15 million
- Trevor May $7.75 million
- Kevin Pillar $3.6 million
- Jonathan Villar $3.55 million
- Aaron Loup $3 million
- Albert Almora $1.25 million
- Jose Martinez $1.0 million
- Joey Lucchesi ~ $600k
Adding those salaries up, the Mets added $92.1 million. Read that again. The Mets added $92.1 million to the 2021 payroll.
What exactly about that is the same old Mets? If it’s missing out on Trevor Bauer, George Springer, or not extending Lindor yet, it’s over focusing on the negative. Likely, it’s schtick, scarring from the Wilpon era, or just a want to be miserable.
Whatever happens with Lindor will happen. We can judge that on Opening Day as well as the 2021 season and beyond. Whatever the case, this is a very different Mets organization than we’ve seen from the Wilpons, and it should be viewed and treated as such.
By not televising it, Baseball missed the opportunity to show two future Hall of Famers going head-to-head. Really, not televising this showed a basic misunderstanding of the sport.
One eternal truth in baseball is fans love high profile pitching match-ups. This was one. Mets fans would’ve loved to see deGrom dominate because they love deGrom.
Of course, we all missed a phenomenal match-up. In 3.0 scoreless innings, Greinke struck out four. And deGrom, well, he was deGrom:
Jacob deGrom tonight:
3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K
He was up to 102 mph
— Michael Mayer (@mikemayer22) March 11, 2021
Not only did deGrom strike out seven of the nine he faced, but he hit 102. 102!!! That’s insane even by his lofty standards. And yet, we all had to miss it.
That’s not all we missed. We also missed a phenomenal defensive play from Albert Almora.
What a catch by Albert Almora Jr.! 👏 pic.twitter.com/0NB0Pl5mYI
— SNY (@SNYtv) March 12, 2021
Finally, there was also a big homer from Pete Alonso, who is having a monster Spring so far.
Absolutely CRUSHED! 💪
Pete Alonso with a solo shot! pic.twitter.com/BAtCXAnsKr
— New York Mets (@Mets) March 12, 2021
But hey, no one thought anyone would want to watch this game, so it’s just these clips here and there. But don’t worry, MLB is tackling the real issues to increase the popularity of the game like base sizes.
When you look at the New York Mets 40 man roster, Albert Almora was probably the only player you trusted playing center field. Unfortunately, even with his success working with Chili Davis in the past, he really didn’t have a sufficiently good enough bat to stick in the lineup. That made Almora good depth, especially with his having a minor league option.
It appears Almora is going to use that option this year with the Mets signing Kevin Pillar.
Pillar, 32, used to be one of the best defensive center fielders in the game even if he didn’t have the Gold Gloves to show for it. In fact, from 2015 – 2017, Pillar only trailed Kevin Kiermaier in terms of DRS among center fielders. He had accumulated the sixth highest WAR among all Major Leaguers during this stretch.
After that, Pillar’s defense took a nosedive. From 2018 – 2020, Pillar has a -14 DRS. Essentially, he transitioned from Gold Glove caliber to a player who needs to move to a corner outfield position. To be fair, OAA has painted a slightly different picture with Pillar posting a -1 OAA over that stretch.
Regardless of whether you trust DRS or OAA, it should be clear Pillar’s days of being a defensive replacement are all but over. He no longer has the glove to be that late inning defensive replacement, and truth be told, Brandon Nimmo has posted not too different defensive numbers. In fact, over the last three years, Nimmo has a -11 DRS and -2 OAA albeit in fewer innings.
Looking at it that way, you could question what role Pillar would play. To that end, the answer very clearly could be as a platoon bat. In fact, over the past three years, Pillar has a 105 wRC+ against left-handed pitching. Over the past two years, that number is a 119 wRC+.
Of course, the problem is that’s not necessarily an upgrade for the Mets. Over the past three years, Michael Conforto has a 112 wRC+ against left-handed pitching. Nimmo has a 126, and Dominic Smith has a 128. That makes all three of the projected Mets Opening Day outfield as better hitters against left-handed pitching.
That said, Pillar is still a better option that players like Almora, Guillermo Heredia, and Mallex Smith. You can trust Pillar a lot more defensively than Jose Martinez. Really, when you break it down, Pillar provides good depth at all three outfield positions, and he gives the Mets some late inning pinch hitting and double switch opportunities.
Pillar is also a solid hedge against injuries. On that front, teams are going from 60 games to 162. There is likely going to be more attrition than we see over the course of a typical season. We will likely see some more injuries, and we almost assuredly going to see players need to take off more days than they usually would.
Undoubtedly, Pillar has improved the Mets depth. He’s a player you can trust in the starting lineup for extended stretches, and he pushes Almora to the minors. He is a late inning defensive replacement for a team starting a first baseman in left field, and he is a good pinch hitting option against left-handed pitching. All told, while not awe inspiring, this is a move which makes sense and makes the Mets better.
Brach grew up a Mets fan. In fact, he loved the Mets so much he went to Game 3 of the World Series as a fan despite being a member of the Baltimore Orioles at the time. Brach would say seeing David Wright homering in that game was one of his favorite moments.
"When David Wright hit that home run…it was probably one of the best baseball moments I've had"
Brad Brach is a huge Mets fan and was at Game 3 of the 2015 World Series pic.twitter.com/utq57MBFfS
— SNY (@SNYtv) August 9, 2019
Speaking of Wright, he was also a huge Mets fan growing up. Like Brach, he’s also not a part of the organization. While Wright was a part of the front office with the Wilpons, he’s not right now as his contract with the team expired.
As if that’s not bad enough, it appears his number 5 was given to Albert Almora. You’d have to assume this was a mistake, and yet, there it is. Not only is his role gone but apparently so is his number. On the former, the door could be open for Wright to have a role with the team in 2021.
The same can not be said for Wright’s former teammate Steven Matz. The Long Island native grew up a Mets fan. What was once a fairy tale with his grandfather literally jumping for joy ended with him being traded for the Toronto Blue Jays.
It could be worse. Rick Porcello grew up a Mets fan, and when he hit free agency for the first time, he actually took less money to fulfill his childhood dream to pitch for the Mets. What ensued was a career worst season.
Now, he’s a free agent, and at the moment, it seems like no one has any interest in him. That puts him in the same situation as Brach.
Two lifelong Mets fans who dreamed of pitching for the Mets only for it to all go wrong. Now, they’re looking for a new place to play because the place they wanted to play more than anywhere doesn’t want them.
All told, that just sums up just how bad of an offseason for a player to be a Mets fan. If you grew up a Mets fan, there just doesn’t seem to be a spot for you with the Mets in 2021 or beyond.
With the Mets signing of Albert Almora, it is important to understand what the signing is and is not. The signing wasn’t to find the Mets everyday center fielder. Rather, this was purely a signing for depth and defensive replacement purposes.
Almora, 26, is a defensive replacement for all three outfield positions. Since 2017, he has a 6 DRS and a 11 OAA. Most of those stats were accumulated during an outstanding defensive 2018. Past that season, he has been a slightly above average defensive centerfielder. For the Mets perspective, that makes him a significant upgrade defensively.
Offensively, Almora really isn’t a good player. Since 2014, he has declined precipitously at the plate. After posting a 104 wRC+ that season, he dropped all the way down to a 36 in 2020. That 36 wasn’t even fully attributable to the shortened and disjointed season. In fact, when the ball was juiced in 2019, Almora only mustered a 64 wRC+.
However, that doesn’t mean Almora is completely over-matched at the plate. In his career, he has been able to handle left-handed pitching. In his career, he has just an 85 wRC+ against right-handed pitching as opposed to a 95 against left-handed pitching. Perhaps, he can be more than that. In fact, we know he once was.
On Baseball Savant, we see Almora has been able to hit both fastballs and breaking pitches fairly well at different points in his career. However, he has not been able to do both in the same season. In fact, in 2020, he did neither. Still, that doesn’t mean he can never do it. That is something to keep in mind for a player entering his prime.
In many ways, that makes Almora akin to what Juan Lagares once was for the Mets. He’s a defensive replacement who can be a viable platoon partner when he is hitting well. Of course, the fair question is what can Almora possibly offer if he’s not hitting because as we know, if he’s not hitting, he’s not really a good enough hitter to justify taking up a roster spot.
On that front, Almora has an option remaining. That means, if he’s bad, the Mets can demote him to Triple-A Syracuse. Keeping that in mind, that makes him outfield depth this organization did not have over the course of the past two seasons. Mostly, because of that, this makes signing Almora a relatively risk free move.
If Almora recaptures something, he could emerge as an important part of this Mets team. If not, he’s a good depth piece. Over the last two years, we saw Brodie Van Wagenen trade valuable prospects to try to plug this role. This offseason, the Mets did this by signing him to a free agent deal. It was a good deal at that as well. That is why, in the end, this was a very good move for the Mets. They acquired depth and fulfilled a need without having to part with much.