Angel Pagan

Sandy Alderson Should Want Focus On Payroll Instead Of His Record

In what has already been a frustrating offseason for Mets fans, Sandy Alderson has already uttered a statement that may prove to go down in “Panic Citi” history.  While speaking with reporters, Alderson suggested people “spend a little less time focusing on our payroll.”

If Alderson wants everyone to spend less time focusing on payroll, maybe it is time to focus on Alderson’s tenure as the Mets General Manager to see how it was the team has gotten to this position.

Injuries

During Alderson’s entire tenure, there have only been eight players who have played over 140 games in a season – Asdrubal Cabrera (2016), Ike Davis (2012) Lucas Duda (2014), Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2016), Juan Lagares (2015), Daniel Murphy (2012 – 2014), Jose Reyes (2017), and David Wright (2012).

This is because of a long list of injuries that have occurred to their position players.  This ranges from the ordinary (Yoenis Cespedes‘ hamstring issues) to the bizarre (Davis’ Valley Fever) to the tragic (Wright).

As poorly as things have gone for the position players, the pitching situation is even worse.  Johan Santana, Tim Byrdak, and Scott Rice suffered injuries that effectively ended their careers.  Same could be said for Bobby Parnell, Jeremy Hefner, and Jim Henderson.  The list goes on and on..

That list includes a starting pitching staff upon which this franchise was supposedly built.  Each of the treasured purported five aces have undergone surgeries that have cost them multiple months.  Matt Harvey may never be the same, and the same can be said for Zack Wheeler.

The irony is Alderson implemented the famed “Prevention & Recovery” mantra, and arguably things have gotten worse under his control.

Evaluating Own Talent

Now, there are varying reasons why teams choose to extend some players while not extending others, or why they choose not to re-sign other players.  Still, Alderson’s record is not exactly sterling on this front.

The main players discussed on this front are Murphy and Justin Turner.  However, there are some other less discussed players that have slipped through the Mets fingers.

The Mets traded Collin McHugh for Eric Young only to watch McHugh thrive elsewhere.  Chris Young was given a large one year deal, was released, and has been an effective player for the Yankees and Red Sox.  They released Dario Alvarez to see the Braves claim him and trade him to the Rangers for a former first round draft pick.  Finally, there was the Angel Pagan trade for a couple of players who amounted to nothing with the Mets.

The troubles evaluating their own players go beyond who they willingly let go.  It goes to those players the Mets opted to extend – Lagares, Jon Niese, and Wright.  None of these three ever amounted to the promise they had at the time the contracts were extended.  There are differing reasons for this, but in the end, the Mets proved wrong in those decisions.

The Draft

The glass half-full is that every first round draft pick made prior to 2015 has made the Majors.  Additionally, two of those players have made All Star teams.  The glass half-empty is the players the Mets have drafted have not lived up to their potential.

At a time the Mets need a starting center fielder, Brandon Nimmo isn’t even being considered.  This is not surprising as many see him as a fourth outfielder.

Coincidentally, the Mets also need a second baseman, and they are not even considering Gavin Cecchini for so much as a utility role let alone an opportunity to compete for a job in Spring Training.

The team was not at all enamored with Dominic Smith‘s rookie campaign, and they have publicly talked about bringing in insurance for him not being on the Opening Day roster.

The Mets had no 2015 draft pick because the team lost it signing Michael Cuddyer.  Effectively speaking, this decision cost the Mets two first rounders as the team’s lack of offense and health caused them to trade Michael Fulmer for Cespedes.  We have all seen Fulmer win a Rookie of the Year Award and make an All Star team in Detroit while the Mets have been desperate for pitching.

Justin Dunn has done little to quell the concerns he is a reliever and not a starter while Anthony Kay, the compensation for the reigning NLCS MVP, has yet to throw a professional pitch because of his Tommy John surgery.

This leaves Conforto, who should be a burgeoning superstar, but sadly we wait with baited breath looking to see if he is going to be the same player he was before separating his shoulder on a swing.

Free Agency

Alderson’s ventures into free agency have not been all that fruitful.  Of all the players who have signed multi-year deals, only Granderson has posted multiple seasons over a 2.0 WAR.  In fact, Granderson is the only player who has posted a cumulative WAR of over 4.0.

For those that would bring up Colon or Cespedes, their exploits are not attributable to their multi-year deals.  Colon accumulated 4.9 WAR with the Mets with 3.4 of that coming during his one year contract.  Cespedes has accumulated 7.2 WAR with the Mets with just 2.1 WAR coming last year in an injury plagued first year of a large four year deal.

It should be noted Alderson may not have much success on this front because the team has not gone crazy in free agency signing just a few players a year to Major League deals.

Depth

Even in 2015 and 2016, two years the Mets made the postseason, the Mets had depth issues.  This was why the team traded for Kelly Johnson in consecutive seasons.  It’s also a reason why in those consecutive years the Mets had to add to the bullpen.

Those seasons have taken a toll on the Mets prospect front.  They have sent away a number of assets and potential Major League contributors for a number of players who were attainable before the season began on reasonable deals.  Instead, the Mets thought they would be set with players like Eric Campbell

Synposis

Much of what is attributed to Alderson being a good General Manager is predicated upon a stroke of genius in obtaining Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wuilmer Becerra in exchange for R.A. Dickey.  Even with many fans wanting to give him plaudits for Cespedes, it should be noted the trade was made largely because of a series of missteps.  It should also be noted the Mets lost a pretty good pitcher.

Now, if you are going to defend Alderson by saying his hands have been largely tied due to the Mets payroll, remember, Alderson himself doesn’t want thinks we should spend a little less time focusing on that.

Sadly, we have to do that because the Alderson regime has had difficulties in evaluating their own talent and drafting high end talent.  If he had, the discussion would probably be the Mets fine tuning to make another postseason run instead of there being fan anger over how the payroll is restricting the Mets from building a World Series caliber roster.

Dreading the USA v. Puerto Rico WBC Matchup

In international competition, I am an American, and as such, I will always root for the USA to prevail.  In the Olympics, I root for the USA regardless of what Rangers are playing for the other country.  I love Henrik Lundqvist to death, but I would root for an American team full of Islanders, Devils, and Flyers if it was ever a USA-Sweden gold medal match.

The same goes for the WBC.

Surprisingly, the closest ties USA has to the Mets is Daniel Murphy and Tyler Clippard, both of whom were on the 2015 pennant winner.  Mostly, the USA roster is full of players you would rather not root for as a Mets fan.

There’s Eric Hosmer whose name cannot be mentioned in my house anymore.  I loved watching Michael Conforto take Danny Duffy deep in the World Series, but to be honest, Duffy got the last laugh.  Tanner Roark is a National, who also did all he could do to help blow the 5-0 lead against the Dominican Republic.  While I generally like both Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford, when seeing them play, you cannot help but be reminded of the heartbreaking loss in the Wild Card Game last year.  Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton have been a thorn in the Mets side on a Marlins team that seemingly exists just to be a Mets spoiler.

Overall, while I have found USA to be a likeable team, there are enough players there that harbor bad memories.

The Puerto Rican roster, on the other hand, is full of players I absolutely love.

Carlos Beltran may be the next Mets player inducted into the Hall of Fame.  T.J. Rivera grabbed a hold of the second base job last year after a number of injuries left the Mets searching for a capable player at the position as the team was fighting for a Wild Card.  Rene Rivera helped Noah Syndergaard improve as a pitcher last year.

Worse yet, Seth Lugo is going to start against the USA in what should prove to be an incredibly important game.  Lugo was an vitally important pitcher who helped get the Mets back to the postseason last year.  He may prove to once again be an extremely important pitcher for the Mets next year whether he is in the rotation, the bullpen, or both.  As a Mets fan, you do not want to see Lugo get bashed around by the USA in the WBC.  Rather, you want to see him continue to improve and be in the best possible position to help the Mets next year.

Not to be wishy-washy, but you hope that Lugo pitches well and the Americans still win.

And yes, despite all the Mets ties to Puerto Rico, including Angel Pagan, who was once a pretty good Met, I am still rooting for the USA tomorrow night.  Mostly, I am rooting for the USA because I am an American.

Also, ever since Aaron Heilman delivered that ill fated pitch, I can never bring myself to root for Yadier Molina.  At least in that respect, my Mets fandom and country pride are aligned.

Go USA!

Where’s Brad Emaus?

The first real playoff team Terry Collins managed with the Mets was in his first season with the team.  It is hard to believe now, but that team was full of players that are now members, if not significant contributors, to teams that reached the postseason this year:

Reading the names on that list, the two that immediately jump off the page are Murphy and Turner.  They jump off the page for a myriad of reasons. The first reason is the two players are currently facing off against one another in the NLDS between the Dodgers and the Nationals.  The series is tied at 1-1 in large part because Turner and Murphy have continued to be terrific postseason player.

Last year, Turner hit .526/.550/.842 with six doubles and four RBI against the Mets in the NLDS last year.  Overall, in Turner’s postseason career, he is a .500/.538/.875 hitter with six doubles, one homer, and six RBI.

Murphy was the bat that helped carried the Mets to the World Series last year.  In consecutive games, he hit homers off of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and Kyle Hendricks.  He would also homer off Fernando Rodney in what was a stretch of six straight games with a home run.  In addtion to the homers, Murphy’s going from first to third on a walk in Game Five of the NLDS helped changed the complexion of that game.  Additionally, up until the World Series, he had played exceptional defense (which admittedly is a rarity for him).  So far in the NLDS, Murphy is 4-6 with a walk and two RBI.  The first of the two RBI was the go-ahead RBI in Game 2 of the NLDS.

Between Turner and Murphy, the Mets had at one time two second baseman who have established themselves to be extraordinarily clutch and terrific postseason players.  They were also two players the Mets were eager to replace.

Turner was surprisingly non-tendered a contract after a 2013 season where he seemed to solidify himself as a utility or platoon player (at a minimum).  Instead, the Mets let him go with rumors circulating that he was a me-first player that didn’t hustle.  He was also characterized as a player that wasn’t progressing because he liked the night scene a little too much.  He would go to Los Angeles and blossom as a player.  The Mets internal replacement?  Eric Campbell.

When Murphy became a free agent, the Mets first aggressively pursued Ben Zobrist.  After failing to land him, the Mets quickly moved to trade for Neil Walker.  At no time did the Mets even make Murphy an offer.  Unlike Turner, Walker was an actual replacement with Walker having a great year for the Mets before needing season ending back surgery.  However, despite how good Walker’s year was, he still wasn’t anywhere near was good as Murphy was for the Nationals.

It should never have come as a surprise that both of these players were gone because the Mets, under Sandy Alderson’s reign as General Manager, never really wanted either player.  If you go back to that 2011 season, the Opening Day second baseman was Rule 5 Draft pick, Brad Emaus.  After a couple of weeks of him struggling, the Mets moved on and finally went to Murphy and Turner at second base.  Murphy would get the bulk of the playing time there until Ike Davis‘ ankle injury that allowed them to play side-by-side.  With Davis’ healing up and being ready for the 2012 season, the Mets proceeded with Murphy as the second baseman and Turner as the utility player.  As we know, that lasted just two year.

Ultimately, the Mets made the postseason this year without either player.  And yes, both players got their first chance with the Mets.  Quite possibly, neither player would be in the position they are in now without the Mets giving them a chance to prove they are major league players.  However, the Mets also made clear they didn’t want either player starting all the way back in 2011 when they anointed Emaus the everyday second baseman.  Eventually, the Mets would get their chance to move on, and they took advantage of that opportunity.

With that, Murphy and Turner are in the NLDS after the Mets lost the Wild Card Game with T.J. Rivera starting at second base.  One of those two will be in the NLCS with a chance to go to the World Series, a position the Mets thought they were going to be in as the season started.  With all that in mind, it begs the question: how much differently would the Mets season have gone if they had kept either Turner or Murphy?

 

Not So Great Scott: The Mets Missed Bob Geren

In the Wild Card Game, the Mets ran James Loney out to first base. In his very first at-bat, he snuffed out what could have been a rally by hitting into a double play on the first pitch he saw from Madison Bumgarner. In the seventh, he failed to field a groundball not hit too far from him that allowed Angel Pagan to reach on an infield single. That play effectively erased any chance that Noah Syndergaard could go back out for the eighth inning. Speaking of the eighth inning, with the Mets desperate for offense, Terry Collins pinch hit Eric Campbell for Loney.

Fact is, Loney shouldn’t have started that game. He didn’t have good numbers against left-handed pitching. He has been even worse against Bumgarner. However, he had to start with Lucas Duda not being ready to play, and with Wilmer Flores having suffered a season ending wrist injury.

All year long, Flores had demolished left-handed pitching. In 49 games against left-handed pitching, Flores hit .340/.383/.710 with 11 homers and 28 RBI. The Mets needed his bat in the lineup, and they needed him to play first base. However, he wasn’t available because of a crucial decision, or indecision, that was made on September 10th.

In that September 10th game, the Mets and Braves were tied 3-3 in the eighth inning, and Flores was standing on second base after a two out double. As we would soon see, with Flores’ speed, it was far from a guarantee that he would score from second on a base hit. Kelly Johnson would get a pinch-hit single. Flores “raced” around third, and he slid headfirst into home plate. In the ensuing collison, A.J. Pierzynski got him out – not just out at home plate, but also out for the season. Fact is, there is no reason why Flores wasn’t lifted there for a pinch runner. How did this happen?

Well, acccording to Collins, “We certainly had enough guys who could have ran for him, which we should have.” (Kevin Kernan, New York Post). Collins would go on to say, ““I was trying to get the pitching set up and get a pinch hitter in and got distracted, my faultI told [bench coach] Dickie [Scott], like I said, we were trying to get the pitching set up and get a pinch hitter, get somebody to hit for the pitcher who was coming up. I certainly should have had somebody ready to pinch run.”

Ultimately, Collins, being the manager and never one to make excuses, took responsibility for the failure to pinch run for Flores. However, it wasn’t just Collins’ mistake. It was also Bench Coach Dick Scott‘s mistake.

The bench coach’s job is more than just acting as a sounding board for the manager when seeking to make a move. The bench coach is also responsible for having a grasp of the matchups that are upcoming. They need to be aware of moves the team needs to be making in the next couple of innings. Overall, the bench coach needs to help prevent his manager, and ultimately his team, from making a gaffe that could cost them a game. During that confusion, Scott needed to remind Collins to get a pinch runner. He needed to be the clear head. If he did think of it, he needed to have a strong enough voice to get through to Collins.

What was simply astounding is the Mets almost repeated the mistake a week later. In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Mets were trailing the Minnesota Twins 1-0, and Ervin Santana was dealing. Loney was intentionally walked putting runners and first and second with no outs. Despite Loney representing the go-ahead run and being perhaps the slowest man in all of baseball, he was not pinch run for during Alejandro De Aza‘s at-bat. After De Aza walked, Loney was on second, again representing the go-ahead run. The Mets then sent Michael Conforto to bat for Jerry Blevins, and still Loney remained on second. After Conforto took the first pitch did the Mets send Ty Kelly out to second base to pinch run for Loney.

These weren’t isolated incidents. There are several other examples to pull from including the famous Collins’ rant about not knowing whether Jay Bruce or Brandon Nimmo is faster. If Collins didn’t know that, his bench coach sure should.

While Collins has his faults as a manager, there was never this sense of indecisiveness that we saw from the team this season. While Collins usually made head scratching moves, he usually had a justification for them. He would say that someone was swinging a hot bat, or the player has been a good player for them all season, or simply that he liked the matchup. He would never say there was distraction and confusion in the dugout. There was no reason for him to say it because Bob Geren was a good bench coach that helped not just his manager, but also his team. That calming presence and attention to detail was missed this year.

Geren’s work with catchers was also missed this year.

During Geren’s time in baseball, he has be renown for his work with catchers. If you recall, when Travis d’Arnaud had first come up with the Mets, there were many questions about his defense. In his first full season, he actually led the majors in passed balls, which is all the more alarming when you consider he spent a good amount of time in AAA. It wasn’t just the passed balls. During the season, d’Arnaud had trouble framing pitches, and his mechanics in all aspects behind the plate were out of whack – especially his throwing.

Working with Geren, d’Arnaud has built himself into one of the better catchers in baseball. He no longer has the issues with passed balls. He has shown the ability to call a good game. He is an exceptional pitch framer. There is probably no catcher better in the league in fielding a throw and getting the tag down without violating the plate blocking rules. In 2015, d’Aranud was actaully league average in throwing out base runners.

While d’Arnaud was good behind the plate this year, his mechanics throwing the ball took a step back. It could have been the shoulder injury, but it also could have been him missing the calming presence of Geren. Eventually, it became so much of an issue that Rene Rivera had to become Syndergaard’s personal catcher due to Syndergaard’s difficulties holding on base runners and d’Arnaud’s weak arm. There is no telling how all of this affected him mentally and whether this carried over to his offense.

So overall, the Mets truly missed Geren in the 2016 season, d’Arnaud especially. It was a rough first year for Scott as the bench coach. Despite it being a rough year, he will be returning to the staff next season. Although it has not been announced, he will presumably be returning to the same role. Hopefully, the growing pains are out of the way, and Scott will be a more effective bench coach in 2017.

Jeurys Familia Is Still a Great Closer

One thing that is strange about narratives is that they don’t stay static.  Rather, narratives are dynamic and are often change wildly with a strong recency bias.

Last year, the narrative was the Mets blew Game 4 of the World Series because Terry Collins didn’t go to his closer to start the eighth inning.  Instead, Collins brought in Tyler Clippard, who proceed to walk consecutive batters after retiring the first batter he faced.  With runners on first and second with one out, Collins finally went to Jeurys Familia.  Familia induced a ground ball that went under Daniel Murphy‘s glove loading the bases.  Two singles later, the Mets 3-2 lead turned into a 5-3 deficit.

In Game 5, again Collins was blamed for the loss because he did not go to Familia.  After eight absolutely brilliant innings, Collins allowed Matt Harvey to talk himself into pitching the ninth inning.  After a leadoff walk and an RBI double, Collins brought in Familia to now protect a 2-1 with a runner in scoring position and no outs.  Familia induced the groundout he needed for the second out.  On the play, Eric Hosmer famously tried to score from second while Lucas Duda infamously threw the ball away.

With that, Familia technically blew saves in Games 4 and 5 of the World Series.  The main reason why Familia blew these saves is his manager brought him into difficult situations and his defense abandoned him.  Now, all of a sudden, the narrative has shifted to he’s a choke artist.

In the Wild Card Game, Familia took the loss.  It started with a Brandon Crawford opposite field double to left-center.  On the play, Yoenis Cespedes, perhaps due to his lingering quad injury, made no effort whatsoever to cut the ball off before it went all the way to the wall.  Familia then struck out Angel Pagan, who had been attempting to bunt Crawford to third.  Familia then had Joe Panik 2-2, but he couldn’t put him away.  With Panik walking, there were runners on first and second with one out.  Familia got a sinker up in the zone, and Conor Gillaspie hit a three run go-ahead homer.  From there, Familia got out of the inning, but it was too late.  After the third out, he was booed off the Citi Field mound.

That’s right.  Mets fans booed one of the best closers in the game off the mound.  Worse yet, the narrative became Familia can’t pitch the big one anymore.

That’s nonsense.  In the World Series, if Murphy fields a ground ball, or Duda makes an even average throw home, Familia saves both of those games.  For what it’s worth, Familia had only allowed one earned run in the 2015 postseason, and neither were in that game.

Furthermore, focusing on those games ignores the work he did to get the Mets to the World Series.  In Game 1 of the NLDS, Familia came on in the eighth inning to bail out Clippard.  Familia would have to go 1.1 innings to get the save.  In the Game 5 clincher, Familia pitched the final two innings not allowing a baserunner to send the Mets to the NLCS.  In Game 1 of the NLCS, he came on for Harvey, and he pitched the final 1.1 innings to earn the save.  Between the NLDS and NLCS, Familia was a perfect 5/5 in save opportunities with a 0.00 ERA and a 0.414 WHIP.  This run is conveniently ignore in discussing how clutch Familia is.

What is also ignored is the phenomenal work Familia has done since taking over and becoming the Mets closer.  Yes, his work has been phenomenal.

Over the past three seasons, Familia has thrown more innings than any other reliever in baseball.  Over the past two seasons, he leads all major league closers in appearances, innings pitched, games finished, saves, and multi-inning saves.  Between the 2015 and 2016 seasons, he has made 154 appearances pitching 155.2 innings recording 94 saves with a 2.20 ERA and a 1.105 WHIP.  The advanced stats also indicate he’s been great as he has had a 2.56 FIP and an 180 ERA+.  In the 2016 regular season, he only allowed one home run.

During the 2015 season, when the Mets were not getting any offense due to a mixture of injuries and poor performances, the Mets bullpen had no margin for error.  From the time David Wright got injured until the Mets acquired Cespedes at the trade deadline, Familia made 42 appearances pitching 45.2 innings.  In that time frame, he recorded 24 saves with a 1.97 ERA and a 0.985 WHIP.  Each and every one of those 24 games he saved was important as for much of the summer, the Mets season was on the brink of disaster.  If not for Familia, who had been unexpectedly thrust into the role due to the injuries and suspension of Jenrry Mejia, the Mets may not have lasted in the NL East race.

All Familia would do for an encore this season was record the most saves by a Mets closer in a single season.  His 51 saves would also stand as the single season record for a Dominican born pitcher.  For a Mets team that tied with the Giants in the standings for the Wild Card.  By the Mets winning the season series against the Giants, they had the right to host the Wild Card Game.  In the three games he pitched against the Giants, Familia recorded two saves without allowing an earned run.  Without Familia, the Mets play the Wild Card Game at AT&T Park.

The Mets also finished one game up on the St. Louis Cardinals, each and every single one of these saves were important.  If Familia falters just one or two times more, the Mets miss the postseason.

Overall, if Familia is not the best closer in baseball, he’s in the conversation.  He’s also more durable than the other closers, and as we have seen with his work throughout the 2015 and 2016 seasons, he is clutch.  His defense failing him, and his making one bad pitch to Gillaspie doesn’t change that.  It’s a given that he will be the Mets closer next season.  And he should be, because if the Mets have any designs on getting back to the postseason, they are going to need Familia to repeat his successes from the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

Then in the 2017 season he can go out there and remind everyone just how clutch he is.

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

Simply Wild: Syndergaard/Bumgarner Was Every Bit Smoltz/Morris Was

Do you remember who got the game winning hit in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series?  It is one thing that is not often discussed because Jack Morris pitched a game so great that people cannot shake the idea that he should be a Hall of Famer.  In the other dugout was a young right-hander named John Smoltz who matched Morris pitch for pitch.  There were pivotal plays in that game you can point to as to why the Twins ultimately won.  However, the biggest reason was Morris was able to go the distance and the young Smoltz was only able to go 7.1 innings.

Last night wasn’t the World Series.  However, it was a winner-take-all game featuring just a tremendous pitching match-up.  The Giants had the grizzled veteran, Madison Bumgarner, who has laid claim to the best active postseason pitcher, if not all time.  The Mets were sending out Noah Syndergaard, who throws harder than anyone in baseball and is coming off a Cy Young caliber award season.   Simply put, you do not get better than this.

Bumgarner and Syndergaard were even more dominant than you would’ve thought they could be.  Combined, the two aces threw 227 pitches.  Only six of those pitches would result in base hits.  The two would combine for 16 strikeouts with just five walks.  No one would reach third base against them let alone score a run.  In July, this is a game that is game you would call an instant classic.  In the postseason, this is a game for the ages.

In the end, what did the Mets in was the fact Syndergaard was only able to go seven, and the Mets didn’t take advantage of their chances to score off Bumgarner.

The best chance came in the fifth when T.J. Rivera hit a leadoff double.  After a Jay Bruce strikeout, T.J. was quickly erased when Rene Rivera hit a grounder to the shortstop Brandon Crawford.  Being the Gold Glover and smart baseball player he was, Crawford caught T.J. straying just a little too far off second.  T.J. did alleviate some of the gaffe by forcing a run down that allowed Rene to get to second.  Ultimately, it didn’t matter as James Loney was intentionally walked, and then Syndergaard struck out to end not just the inning, but also the Mets only real threat of the game.

It was important to cash in there as no one was scoring off these pitchers today.  Syndergaard had a no-hitter going for 5.2 innings until Denard Span hit a single up the middle.  Span would try to turn this into a rally by stealing second (he was caught by Rivera earlier in the game), but it didn’t matter as Curtis Granderson turned into Endy Chavez for one play:

As we would find out later in the game, Endy Chavez was the right analogy.

Overall, the Giants could do nothing against Syndergaard.  He would pitch seven innings allowing just two hits while walking three.  He just dominated the Giants lineup.  Perhaps the best evidence of this is his 10 strikeouts on the night.

The turning point in the game was Syndergaard getting lifted.  It was completely the right move, and there should be no one second guessing it.  By that point, he had thrown 108 pitches, and he started to look gassed as he put the Giants to rest.

With Syndergaard out of the game, the Giants bats seemed to awaken.  Conor Gillaspie (more on him in a minute) greeted Addison Reed with a leadoff single.  After a Bumgarner sacrifice bunt, the Giants had a runner in scoring position with the top of their lineup coming up.  Reed would get Span to pop out for the second out setting the stage for a battle with Brandon Belt.  Reed really got squeezed in this at-bat with him throwing two or three clear strikes that were just not called.  Not only was Reed a bit flummoxed, but Rene seemed as if he was as well.  On the very next pitch, Reed got one over that Rene just missed (by the way the home plate umpire missed it too as it should have been called a strike).

This sent runners to second and third.  The Mets made the obvious choice there to intentionally walk Buster Posey to get to Hunter PenceThere was an ominous tone to the inning with the umpire missing strike calls, and the Giants seemingly gaining confidence with Syndergaard out of the game.  Reed then showed the world why he was the best relief pitcher in the National League this season by striking out Pence to keep the game tied up at 0-0.

After another feckless turn at the plate, the Mets brought in Jeurys Familia

He was in trouble immediately.  Crawford lined an opposite field double.  On the play, Yoenis Cespedes didn’t run hard after it.  If he was completely healthy, he has the speed to cut that ball off and keep Crawford at first.  What we don’t know is how healthy that leg is or whether or not he has that extra gear to cut that ball off.  What we do know if that he didn’t even try to do it.  With Crawford on second, the Giants had the exact situation the Mets squandered in the fifth inning.

Despite Angel Pagan trying to give himself up, Familia was having issues throwing strikes to him.  Many of his pitches landed short of home plate.  Still, Familia battled back into the at-bat, and after Pagan was unable to get the bunt down, Familia struck him out.  Familia then had similar issues with Joe Panik eventually walking him despite being 2-2 on him.  This set the stage for Gillaspie to have his Gene Larkin moment:

For what it’s worth, it was Alejandro Pena that gave up the walk-off hit to Larkin.  The Braves had obtained Pena from the Mets and made him the closer in the stretch drive.

Given Granderson’s catch earlier in the game, you could also refer to this as Gillaspie’s Yadier Molina moment.  Older Mets fans will call this the Mike Scioscia moment.

This was a crushing blow, not just because it gave the Giants a 3-0 lead, but also because it allowed Bruce Bochy to keep Bumgarner in the game instead of going to a bullpen the Mets were desperate to get into all game long.  Bumgarner came out in the ninth and made quick work of Cespedes, Granderson, and T.J.

This would be Bumgarner’s second complete game shutout on the road in the Wild Card Game.  He showed the Mets and the entire world why he is the best big game pitcher in all of baseball.  Oddly enough, he had been bested by the Mets young ace, Syndergaard.  While Syndergaard might’ve bested him, Bumgarner outlasted him.  Ultimately, that is why the Giants are going to Chicago and why the Mets season is over.

If you’re not a Mets fan, this has to be one of the best baseball games you have ever seen in your life.  If you are a Mets fan, you walk away taking stock in the fact that Syndergaard had the game of his life at a time when the Mets needed him most.  This year, Syndergaard didn’t just establish himself as the Mets ace; he established himself as one of the best pitchers in all of baseball.  Last night, he took that a step further by announcing he’s a big game pitcher that’s every bit as good as Bumgarner.  In what has been a tough end to the season, Syndergaard gives you hope for the future.

Noah Syndergaard Dominates the Giants Lineup

In Wednesday’s Wild Card Game, Noah Syndergaard will have to be at his best because Madison Bumgarner is not only a great postseason pitcher, but he is also great against the Mets.  In Bumgarner’s career, he has made six starts against the Mets going 5-0 with a 1.86 ERA and a 1.025 WHIP. In four starts at Citi Field, Bumgarner is 4-0 with a 0.62 ERA and a 0.828 WHIP.

The only time Syndergaard and Bumgarner have gone head-to-head was on May 1st of this year in a matchup that was best remember by Mets fans as the day Michael Conforto began struggling.  Bumgarner would get the better of that matchup earning the win over Syndergaard, who struggled in the wet weather.  In Syndergaard’s career, he has made three starts against the Giants going 1-2 with a 3.66 ERA and a 1.119 WHIP.  He’s going to have to be better than that if the Mets are going to have a chance to win the Wild Card Game.  Simply put, Syndergaard is going to have to be dominant against a Giants 40 man roster he has fared pretty well against in his career:

Presumed Starting Lineup:

  1. Denard Span 0-6, K
  2. Brandon Belt 0-6, RBI, 3 BB, 3 K
  3. Buster Posey 3-6, K
  4. Hunter Pence 1-5, HR, 2 RBI, K
  5. Brandon Crawford 2-8, K
  6. Angel Pagan 0-5, RBI, BB, K
  7. Joe Panik 2-6
  8. Conor Gillaspie – never faced
  9. Madison Bumgarner 0-2, K

Bench

Never Faced (2016 v. RHP):

Looking over the numbers, the only batter that scares you facing Syndergaard is Posey.  Fact is, no matter what the numbers were, you were going to be scared of him no matter what.  Other than Posey, and one bat pitch to Pence, Syndergaard has completely dominated this Giants team.  Therefore, if Syndergaard goes out there and pitches against the Giants players like he always does, the Mets stand to have an excellent chance of outlasting Bumgarner and winning the Wild Card Game.

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

Bakers Dozen

All you need to know about tonight’s game is the Mets scored a franchise record 12 runs in the third inning. Here’s how it happened:

As Ron Darling would later say, “You got the feeling that the inning might not ever end.”  This inning was a far cry from the 2015 Mets June/July offense. The Mets sent 15 batters to the plate. The only Mets batter that didn’t reach base or score at least once was pitcher Steven Matz. With his grand slam and six RBI, Yoenis Cespedes broke Butch Huskey‘s team record of five RBI in one inning. Who knew?  

The inning was so impressive Jake Peavy‘s ERA went from 6.86 to 8.61. The Mets scored half their runs off Peavy and the other half off of sacrificial lamb Mike Broadway. His ERA went from 3.86 to 11.81.

Matz lasted six innings allowing seven hits, zero earned, three walks, and four strikeouts. It wasn’t a dominating performance. He only had one 1-2-3 inning. With that said, he more than got the job done.  The only run scored by the Giants was a leadoff homerun on the seventh inning by Angel Pagan off of Jerry Blevins. It was a good decision by Terry Collins to give Blevins a full inning of work in a blowout. Blevins has been the least used member of the bullpen. 

As if they were irritated by Pagan’s homer, the Mets rallied again in the seventh to score a run. The 13th run of the game was scored on a Juan Lagares RBI single. Logan Verrett pitched a scoreless eighth, and Antonio Bastardo pitched a scoreless ninth to close out the 13-1 victory. I’m assuming Verrett, the long man in the pen, didn’t pitch two innings because Terry Collins’ Magic 8 Ball told him to do it. 

This was the Mets first game this season against a National League team that was expected to be a contender for not only the postseason, but also the World Series. 

Game Notes: Kevin Plawecki threw out Brandon Belt in the second. He’s now 5-9 in throwing out would be basestealers. Since taking over for the injured Travis d’Arnaud, he’s gone 2-13.  David Wright, who for some reason wasn’t pulled, continued his throwing issues with a throwing error in the eighth. Eric Campbell entered the game to play LF in the eighth. Michael Fulmer made his debut for the Tigers against the Twins. He went five innings allowing two earned, one walk, and four strikeouts. 

Distracting You from Zobrist

I remember back when Jose Reyes left the Mets for the Marlins. I was angry. The Mets were in the beginning stages of the Madoff fallout, and Reyes was the first casualty of that. 

After the Reyes’ signing, the Mets proceeded to become curiously active the next day. The Mets signed Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco. They also traded Angel Pagan for Ramon Ramirez and Andres Torres. Sure, the Mets lost their homegrown All Star shortstop, but look over here, look at the flurry of moves. Nothing to see in Miami. We’re having a press conference on SNY to announce the addition of FOUR . . . count them . . . FOUR NEW PLAYERS!  The Mets would be terrible in 2012 finishing in fourth place with a 74-88 record

Today had that type of feel to me. The Mets lost Ben Zobrist to the Cubs, and they didn’t look particularly good in the process. So naturally, the Mets went back to what they do best: deflection. Instead of rebuilding their bullpen, they rebuilt their middle infield by trading for Neil Walker and signing Asdrubal Cabrera

Now, I have said both of these players were worth investigating. However, I would’ve preferred keeping Daniel Murphy and Jon Niese over adding Walker. In that scenario, the Mets still could’ve added Cabrera. Right now, I’d probably be commenting how the Mets vastly improved their middle infield situation. Instead, I’m baffled how the Mets traded away another pitcher while adding a poor defensive SS on a two year deal. 

I’ll admit I was distracted a little bit four years ago. I wasn’t the biggest Angel Pagan fan. Now, I’m just wondering why the cost saving moves instead of bringing back the NLCS MVP. I’m also curious as to why an organization that values OBP added low OBP players. I’m nonplussed at the Mets adding yet another steroids guy to the roster. 

I would’ve accepted all of it if the Mets were made better in the process. However, they didn’t. They’re worse off defensively, and they lost a reasonably priced starting pitcher. I just see the same bluster I saw four years ago. 

It leaves me feeling sad. My son’s favorite player will be playing elsewhere next year. He’s disappointed to say the least. There’s nothing the Mets can do to make me forget that.