Antonio Bastardo

Mets August 2016 Report Card

The Mets entered August 6.5 games back in the NL East race behind both the Nationals and the Marlins.  They also trailed the Marlins by 1.5 games for the last Wild Card spot.  The Mets have also fallen behind the Cardinals in the Wild Card race as well.

By going 15-14, August turned out to be just the second winning month the Mets have had this season.  They now trail the Nationals by nine games in the NL East.  After what has been a crazy month, the Mets still remain 1.5 games back of the final Wild Card spot.  Only now, the Mets trail the the Cardinals after having helped put the Marlins away having won the first three against them in a four game series.  Given the Mets weak September schedule, it should be an interesting finish to the season.

Bear in mind, these grades are on a curve. If a bench player gets an A and a position player gets a B, it doesn’t mean the bench player is having a better year. Rather, it means the bench player is performing better in his role.

Position Players

Travis d’Arnaud (C).  After the Jonathon Lucroy rumors died down, d’Arnaud starting hitting again.  However, he has cooled off to hit at a rate slightly better than his 2016 totals.  Part of the reason may be Collins playing Rivera over him with the Mets needing to throw a lot of young pitchers out there.

Kevin Plawecki (Inc.)  Plawecki spent the entire month down in AAA where he has started hitting again.  He should be among the first group of players called up today.  It’ll be interesting to see what, if any, impact he has over the final month of the season.

Rene Rivera (C).  Rivera came crashing back to Earth offensively.  However, his value has always been as a receiver, and he has done that job fairly well helping usher some of these young pitchers into the big leagues.

Lucas Duda (Inc). Duda is most likely gone for the season, and the debate will soon begin about whether he will be a Met in 2017.

James Loney (F).  He didn’t hit for average or power, nor did he get on base much during the entire month.  Worse yet, he has not been good in the field.  The next ball he stretches for will be his first.

Neil Walker (A+).  What has happened to Walker is nothing short of heart breaking.  He had completely turned his season around, and he appeared to be headed for a massive payday this offseason with him standing out as one of the better options in a weak free agent class.  Instead, Walker is going to have season ending back surgery to end his season.

David Wright (Inc.).  It’s clear he’s done for the season, but it is nice seeing him around Citi Field and looking better.

Asdrubal Cabrera (A+).  Since his return from the disabled list, Cabrera has been a blonde bombshell.  He moved into the second spot in the order, and he he has combine with Reyes to form a dynamic and powerful 1-2 duo at the top of the lineup.  The only concern is how much he is going to actually be able to play with that lingering knee issue.

Wilmer Flores (B+).  Flores has continued to rake putting up numbers at an unprecedented.  This month he hit seven homers.  He has benefited greatly by mostly facing left-handed pitchers, and now he’s hitting righties better. The Mets will need his versatility all the more as injuries mounted during the month.

Eric Campbell (Inc.) Campbell did not play in a game during the month, and the Mets are not likely to call him up again until rosters expand in September.

Matt Reynolds (D).  Reynolds didn’t hit well during his 10 games with the Mets this month.  Worse yet for him, he has been passed over on the team’s depth chart by Rivera.

Ty Kelly (A).  During his limited August playing time, Collins was able to maximize Kelly’s abilities by making him a short-lived platoon left fielder with Cespedes dealing with his quad injury.  In his nine August games, Kelly hit .381/.500/.524 with a double and a triple.

Michael Conforto (D).  After a stretch in which the Mets bottomed out, Conforto was sent down as he was a young player unable to handle sporadic playing time.  Since being sent down to AAA, Conforto has hit everything including lefties.  He should be called up today, and most likely, never play as Collins is his manager.

Yoenis Cespedes (A).  It was admirable that Cespedes played until he could play no longer (even if his golfing might’ve been part of the reason why).  Since his return, Cespedes is hitting home runs again.  He has had another incredible month, and he had a walkoff with a legendary bat flip to help the Mets beat the Marlins.

Curtis Granderson (D).  It hasn’t been fun seeing last year’s team MVP struggle the way he has this month.  He lost his job in right, moved to center, and now has become a part time player.  The hope is that with the time off, he rests up, and he returns to the Granderson of old.  Those hopes don’t seem that far fetched after he came off the bench the other night to hit two home runs.

Juan Lagares (Inc).  Lagares didn’t play in August due to the thumb surgery.  It remains questionable if he can return in September as he will most likely not be ready for rehab games until after the minor league affiliates have ended their seasons.

Alejandro De Aza (C-).  De Aza followed a great July with another poor August.  Mixed in there were a couple of terrific games that helped the Mets win a pivotal game against the Cardinals.  Right now, what he brings more than anything is the ability to play center field.

Kelly Johnson (A+).  Johnson continues to be the Mets top pinch hitter as well as a platoon option in the infield.  Over the past month, he has hit for more power including a surprising five homers.  His bases loaded double last night might’ve buried the Marlins.

Brandon Nimmo (Inc).  He only played two games before being sent down to AAA.  Given the fact that he’s one of the few healthy center fielders in the organization, he may see some real time when he gets called up with the expanded rosters.

Jose Reyes (A).  You could say we’re seeing the Reyes of old, but Reyes has never been this good in his career.  He has adapted extremely well to third base while playing a steady shortstop when the Mets have needed him to play over there when Cabrera has been injured or needing a day off.  The one caution is he still isn’t hitting right-handed pitching that well.  Still, his numbers were terrific.

T.J. Rivera (B).  After all this time, Rivera finally got his chance.  He made the most of it hitting .289 in 13 games while playing decently at second and third base.

Justin Ruggiano (Inc).  When he plays, he hits, but he is now on his second disabled list stint already with the Mets. With him being put on the 60 day disabled list, he’s now done for the season.   Seeing what we have seen with the team, there may be something in the water.

Jay Bruce (F).  Since coming to the Mets for Dilson Herrera, he has just been bad.  But hey, it’s not like the Mets need another second baseman, right?


Matt Harvey (Inc).  Harvey is done for the season after having had successful surgery to remove a rib.  For a player who has been criticized in the past for attending Yankee games while being gone for the season, Harvey has been a fixture in the Mets dugout during games.

Jacob deGrom (D).  deGrom had been pitching great until August rolled around.  In back-to-back big games against the Giants and the Cardinals, he couldn’t deliver pitching two of the worst games in his career.  Hopefully, the Mets skipping his last start will help get him back on track.

Noah Syndergaard (B). Syndergaard has had an uneven month, but after his last start, it appears he is dealing better with the bone spurs, and he is getting back to the pitcher who was dominant over the first half of the season.

Steven Matz (C).  Just as you thought he turned things around with his flirting with a no-hitter in his last start, he goes down with a shoulder injury.  At this time, it is unknown as to when or if he can return.

Bartolo Colon (A).  Colon stopped his good start-bad start streak in August, and he started pitching much better during the month of August at a time when the Mets needed him the most.

Logan Verrett (F).  Look, he shouldn’t have been tapped as the Mets fifth starter after Harvey went down, but with that said, he did everything he could to lose the job pitching to a 13.50 ERA in August.  He eventually lost the job to Niese of all people

Jeurys Familia (A).  That’s the Familia we all know and love.  He not only had a sub 1.00 ERA, but he also broke the single season Mets save record he shared with Armando Benitez.

Addison Reed (B+).  You knew he wasn’t going to keep up what he has been doing, but even with him coming back to Earth slightly, he has still be incredible.

Jim Henderson (F).  After being on the disabled list for so long with yet another shoulder injury, Henderson has made his way back to the majors.  Unfortunately, he’s not the same pitcher.  Collins owes him an apology.

Hansel Robles (F).  Robles showed how much he has been overworked this season by Collins this month.  Hopefully, with some rest, he should finally be able to rebound and contribute in September and beyond like he had done for most of the season.

Jerry Blevins (B+).  His 2.16 ERA was terrific, but his 1.560 WHIP gives some reason for pause.  Both righties and lefties are starting to hit him, and he has been allowing inherited runners to score.

Antonio Bastardo (Inc.)  Thankfully, he is gone, and it was worth it even if it meant the Mets had to take back Niese.

Rafael Montero (Inc.) He got an unexpected start due to injuries, and he fought his way through five scoreless innings.  Good for him.

Sean Gilmartin (Inc.)  Gilmartin has only made three appearances since being recalled, and he hasn’t pitched particularly well.  Whether it was the shoulder injury or teams figuring him out, he’s not the same guy he was last season.

Erik Goeddel (F).  There used to be two factions of the Mets fan base: those who thought Goeddel was a good major league pitcher, and those that didn’t.  Seemingly, everyone is now in the latter camp now.

Seth Lugo (A).  Lugo has been nothing short of a revelation this year.  Due to injuries, he has had to go from the bullpen to the rotation.  He has not only shown his stuff translates as a starter, but he also shown he could actually be more effective as a starter.  He has gotten his 2014 deGrom moment, and he has taken advantage of it.

Jon Niese (F).  Somehow, he was worse with the Mets than he was with the Pirates.  He has failed in the bullpen and the rotation.  Hopefully, for him, the reason is because of his knee injury that has required surgery.

Robert Gsellman (Inc.) It’s been a mixed bag for Gsellman.  In his one relief apperance and his one start, he has given the Mets a chance to win.   However, he’s a powder keg out there as it seems as if he is in trouble each and every inning.  To his credit, he has gotten out of most of the jams.  It’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here.

Gabriel Ynoa (Inc.) Ynao was surprisingly called up to pitch out of the bullpen.  In three rough appearances, the only thing you can fairly conclude is he isn’t comfortable yet pitching out of the bullpen.

Josh Edgin (D) Edgin has gone through the long Tommy John rehab process, but he’s not quite back yet.  His velocity isn’t quite there.  With that in mind, he has struggles getting major league batters out.

Josh Smoker (B) After a rough start to his major league career, he has gone out there and gotten better each and every time out.  He is getting his fastball in the upper 90s, and he is a strikeout machine.  He could be a real factor over the next month and in the postseason

Terry Collins (D)  He iced Conforto.  He continues to overwork the bullpen.  He makes baffling lineup decision after baffling lineup decision.  He is even worse with in-game management.  However, with the Mets on a stretch against some bad teams, and the Wild Card frontrunners not having run away with it, he may once again be in position to ride some good luck into the postseason.

How Did It Come Down to Jon Niese?

Hopefully, the Mets will be in peak defensive form as the team is going to send Jon Niese to the mound in a critical three game set in St. Louis.  How did we get to this point?

Plain and simple, a mixture of bad luck and bad planning.  Niese was never supposed to be a Met in 2016.  The Mets traded him for Neil Walker, and with his reasonably affordable option years, it was presumed that he would be a Pirate through the 2018 season.  However, Niese was horrendous this season leaving the Pirates to demote him to the bullpen.  They were clearly going to let him walk after the season was over.  Fortunately for the Pirates, they were able to get rid of him even sooner.

The Mets had to contend with Matt Harvey‘s season ending surgery which left a hole in the rotation Logan Verrett couldn’t quite fill.  Despite know this, the Mets kept turning to Verrett as they did not trust Gabriel Ynoa, Robert Gsellman, or Seth Lugo. Sean Gilmartin went down with a shoulder injury.  Additionally, the Mets had the under-performing Antonio Bastardo in the bullpen.  The Mets were probably the one team who could use Niese as a bullpen arm and/or a possible fifth starter.  They were probably also the one team that believed they could salvage Niese.

As it turns out, the Mets desperately needed Niese.  Verrett couldn’t handle being the fifth starter.  Ynoa appeared as if the wasn’t ready in his short stint in the Mets bullpen.  Gsellman isn’t putting up great numbers in AAA.  Worst of all, Steven Matz was just diagnosed with a mild rotator cuff strain.  It is quite possible the Mets will need to not only replace Harvey, but also Matz for the rest of the season.  That will put Seth Lugo in the rotation.  It also means the Mets will have to keep Niese in the rotation for the remainder of the season.

It’s strange to think about it.  Niese was the first pitcher removed from the rotation last season.  The Mets seemingly wanted to get rid of him.  Now?  Now, he is a key part of a rotation that is taking the ball to start what is the Mets most critical series to date.

Niese has his fair share of detractors due to his struggles and his inability to accept any blame for his poor pitching.  Detractors could also be synonymous with Mets fans in this case.  With a big finish to the season, Niese can win over a large group of Mets fans.  That all begins tonight.

Somehow, some way, the Niese are relying on Jon Niese yet again.  It’s strange how it came to this point, but here we all are.  Let’s hope Niese makes the best of it because if the does, the Mets will return to the postseason.

The Jay Bruce Mets Score Runs & Hit With RISP

Pick a date from this season including last night. If anyone told you Alejandro De Aza and Travis d’Arnaud would lead the Mets offensively to a win, you’d either stare in disbelief, or you’d call that person an outright liar. Frankly, a James Loney stolen base would seem more believable. Well, tonight not only would Loney steal a base, but De Aza and d’Arnaud would lead the Mets offensively. 

It started in the bottom of the third when, at the time, Masahiro Tanaka seemed to have no-hit stuff. The early no-hit bid was broken up by Jacob deGrom, and he would score when De Aza homered to give the Mets a 2-0 lead. 

This was more evidence that De Aza has been the Mets best offensive player for more than a month now, and the Mets need to find him playing time especially with the team having no true center fielder on the roster. 

That 2-0 lead would grow to a 3-0 lead when d’Arnaud hit a solo shot to lead off the fifth. 

Since the rumored Jonathan Lucroy fell through, d’Arnaud seems like a much more relaxed and better player. 

This was more than enough support for a deGrominant deGrom. The final line for deGrom was seven innings, four hits, no runs, no earned runs, one walk, and eight strikeouts. His velocity and swagger are almost completely back. When he’s this good, you’re reminded why the Mets should not be counted out. 

In the seventh, the Mets would put the game far out of reach seemingly taking out their aggression from last night’s game and a season long struggle hitting with runners in scoring position.  

It started with Wilmer Flores singling and advancing to second on a Brett Gardner error. He would come home to score on a Michael Conforto RBI double. He would score on a Matt Reynolds RBI single. He’d move to third on a deGrom single, and he would score on a Yoenis Cespedes pinch hit infield single. The hobbled Cespedes certainly turned on the jets when he smelled a base hit. Terry Collins would still play it safe pinch running Curtis Granderson for him. The fourth and final run of the inning would score on a Neil Walker RBI double. 

In the inning, the Mets would send nine batters to the plate scoring four runs on six hits. 

Jon Niese made his first appearance since the trade, and he was less than warmly greeted by a fan base who remembered him bad mouthing everyone out the door. He worked his way into a bit of a jam in the eighth before striking out Brian McCann on a borderline pitch to end the rally. However, Niese wouldn’t escape the game completely untouched as Didi Gregorious would hit a solo shot off of him in the ninth to break up the shutout. On the bright side, he pitched much better than Antonio Bastardo, which, admittedly, isn’t saying much. 

One Met that was warmly greeted was Jay Bruce:

The Mets got Bruce, in part, to revitalize the offense and hit with runners in scoring position. On his debut, Bruce would go 0-4 with two strikeouts, but the Mets overriding goal was achieved for at least one night as the Mets scored seven runs while going 4-10 with runners in scoring position. 

Following the 7-1 win, this seems like a different Mets team for at least one night.

Game Notes: Conforto had a great game going 2-4 with one run, two doubles, a walk, and one RBI. 

Welcome Back Jon Niese . . . No Seriously

There were very limited circumstances upon which the New York Mets could bring back Jon Niese, and Mets fans would universally accept the deal.  Sandy Alderson showed off his GM chops, and he found a way by acquiring Niese in exchange for Antonio Bastardo.

Bastardo was an absolutely terrible acquisition by the Mets in the offseason.  With the Mets, he had a 4.74 ERA and a 1.420 WHIP, and he probably wasn’t even that good.  What is most shocking is the fact that he didn’t record one loss with the Mets.  Conversely, it should be a surprise to no one that Bastardo had no wins with the Mets.  It is quite fitting that Bastardo’s lasting image with the Mets was allowing Carlos Gonzalez hit a ball to the Shea Bridge.

In Niese, the Mets actually get an interesting bullpen piece.  Yes, the Mets will utilize him out of the bullpen.  Niese was great for the Mets out of the bullpen in the postseason last year, and he was good for the Pirates in the bullpen in a limited sample size this year.  Overall, there is a real reason to believe Niese could be a very valuable piece out of the bullpen.  Given the fact that he was traded for a player who was absolutely terrible, this was a no brainer for the Mets.

On a side note, this is a good deal as well as Niese has a $500,000 buyout after the year is over whereas Bastardo was slated to receive $6,625,000.  That means the Mets will have approximately $6.1 million for next season to dedicate any number of places including but not limited to Yoenis Cespedes who will most likely opt out of his contract at the end of the season.

Even better for the Mets, they get some measure of revenge against Niese.  For a player that complained about the Mets defense, Sandy Alderson has handed him a defensive outfield of a hobbled Yoenis Cespedes in left, a miscast Curtis Granderson in center, and a declining defensively Jay Bruce.  The lesson as always is to never bad mouth Sandy Alderson or his roster.

The only question remaining with Niese is where he is going to live as Neil Walker is living in his apartment.  Wherever he resides, he is going to be an improvement over Bastardo, so with that, Welcome Back Jon Niese.

Mets July 2016 Report Card

The Mets entered June six back of the Nationals and a half a game ahead of the Marlins for the second Wild Card.  After a 13-13 month, which was their first month at or above .500 since April, the Mets find themselves 6.5 games back in the NL East race behind both the Nationals and the Marlins.  They not only trail the Marlins in the NL East race, but they are 2.5 games behind them for the last Wild Card spot.  The Mets have also fallen behind the Cardinals in the Wild Card race as well.

Bear in mind, these grades are on a curve. If a bench player gets an A and a position player gets a B, it doesn’t mean the bench player is having a better year. Rather, it means the bench player is performing better in his role.

Position Players

Travis d’Arnaud (D). It has been more of the same for d’Arnaud in July, and as such, the Mets were forced to inquire on Jonathan Lucroy at the trade deadline.  On the bright side, he began to hit for some power hitting two home runs.

Kevin Plawecki (F). Plawecki was sent down to AAA, and he began hitting like everyone else in the Pacific Coast League.  The jury is still out on him.

Rene Rivera (B+).  While his defense has dipped a bit, Rivera has been absolutely raking.  He has clearly benefitted from facing left-hand pitching.  Still, he’s here to be the defensive backup, and he hasn’t been as great as he has been in year’s past.

Lucas Duda (Inc). He missed the entire month with his back injuries, and no one knows when or if he will be able to return in 2016.

James Loney (B). Loney has continued to hit, but his power numbers have regressed to the mean.  He still can’t hit lefties a lick.  Furthermore, his defense hasn’t been great.  His error in the Rockies game helped lead to a loss.

Neil Walker (C).  He was actually hitting worse in June than he had been in May and June, which is saying something.  He was even briefly benched by Terry Collins.  Then he woke up in the Rockies series, and yesterday he hit a home run that just might turn his and the Mets season around.

David Wright (Inc.).  Wright is not going to play again in 2016 due to the neck surgery.

Asdrubal Cabrera (C). Cabrera started out hot to start the month, but he cooled off.  As a result, he put up similar numbers that he did in May and June.  On the bright side, he did break his 0-32 streak with runners in scoring position.  He had a nasty injury yesterday that threatens to end his season early.

Wilmer Flores (B+).  Flores has continued to rake putting up numbers at an unprecedented.  This month he hit seven homers.  He has benefited greatly by mostly facing left-handed pitchers.  The Mets will need his versatility all the more as injuries mounted during the month.

Eric Campbell (Inc.) Campbell did not play in a game during the month, and the Mets are not likely to call him up again until rosters expand in September.

Matt Reynolds (Inc).  Reynolds only played in one game during the month before getting sent down to AAA.

Ty Kelly (Inc).  Kelly did not play in the majors during the month of July, and his 40 man roster spot appears tenuous.  If the Mets make a move for a position player, he will likely be the first to be removed from the roster.

Michael Conforto (C+)  After an initial hot streak when he came back up, he has cooled off, possibly in part to Terry Collins giving him inconsistent playing time again, and possibly in part to him having to learn center field and right field on the fly given Cespedes’ and Lagares’ injuries.  For what it’s worth, he has handled both defensive positions well.

Yoenis Cespedes (B+). While his power numbers have decreased with his injured quad, he has become more patient at the plate putting up a season high .392 OBP in July.  His power is still there with a .530 SLG; it’s just that those balls are doubles now instead of homers.  His injury has hurt the team as he can no longer play center.

Curtis Granderson (C-). Granderson had his second worst month of the season hitting .235/.337/.410, and he is not playing right field at the Gold Glove level he played it last year.

Juan Lagares (D). It turns out Lagares just couldn’t play through the torn ligament in his left thumb hitting .160/.263/.300.  He has shut it down, and he is going to get surgery to repair the problem.

Alejandro De Aza (A+). De Aza had an amazing month of July .300/.500/.531. As you can plainly see, he’s hitting everything including lefties.  It speaks a lot about both him and the Mets that he was their best offensive player during the month.

Brandon Nimmo (B-).  In 13 games, Nimmo was showed signs he could be a major league player in the near future in his two stints with the Mets.  Overall, he hit .229/.325/.314 with one huge home run.  For some reason, even with the gap in center field, Collins still refuses to let him play there.

Jose Reyes (C)  Reyes quickly acclimated to third defensively as he appeared to have been a very good defender at the position for years.  At the plate, he had some uncharacteristically good power numbers while struggling to get on base with a .239/.278/.493 batting line.  He has been unable to hit righties doing most of his damage against lefties.  He is currently on the disabled list with an intercostal strain, and it is unknown when he can return.

Justin Ruggiano (Inc). The Texas Rangers AAA castoff has played in only two games for the Mets going 1-4.


Matt Harvey (Inc).  Harvey only made one start in July before the Mets finally discovered he has thoracic outlet syndrome which may explain the struggles he has had all year.  Harvey had season ending surgery, and he will hopefully return in 2017.

Jacob deGrom (B+).  In a month where the Mets needed someone to step up, degrom heeded the call posting a 3-1 record with a 2.27 ERA including his first shutout.  However, he did have a clunker against the Marlins who are now ahead of the Mets in the Wild Card standings.

Noah Syndergaard (B). Syndergaard has lost some velocity and movement on his pitches since it was discovered he is dealing with a bone spur in his pitching elbow.  For the month, he was a respectable 1-2 with a 2.45 ERA.  The main cause for concern is his walks have gone up.

Steven Matz (C-). Matz has been clearly bothered by the bone spurs, but he is starting to learn how to pitch effectively with him.  He rebounded from a terrible June to post a 1-4 record with a 3.19 ERA.

Bartolo Colon (D-). Aside from one good start in the second end of the double header against the Cardinals, Colon has had a miserable month with a 5.51 ERA and a 1.347 WHIP.

Logan Verrett (B-). Verrett was thrust into the starting rotation with the Harvey season ending injury.  He has performed well enough as a starter going 0-1 with a 4.32 ERA and 1.240 WHIP that the Mets did not feel compelled to go out and get a starter during the trade deadline or call up a pitcher like Gabriel Ynoa to take his place in the rotation.

Jeurys Familia (C-) Familia was walking a tightrope for a while with his struggling command, and he finally blew two saves in back-to-back appearances that were just devastating.

Addison Reed (A+).  In 13 innings, only five people reached base against him, and none of them scored.

Jim Henderson (Inc).  Henderson is still on the disabled list, and he suffered a leg injury during his rehab stint.  There is no telling when or if he will be able to return.

Hansel Robles (A+). When the Mets were looking for a veteran seventh inning reliever, Robles just went out there and took the job.  In 10 appearances he was 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA.

Jerry Blevins (A).  Aside from his last game when he had a minor hiccup, Blevins had a terrific July allowing just two hits and one earned run in 13 appearances.

Antonio Bastardo (F). Bastardo seemed to be slowly turning things around in non-pressure situtations.  However, as we saw Carlos Gonzalez launch one near the Shea Bridge, Bastardo cannot be relied upon in any game that is remotely close.

Rafael Montero (Inc.) Didn’t pitch in the majors in June as he’s been demoted to AA.

Sean Gilmartin (Inc.)  Gilmartin is on the seven day disabled list with a shoulder injury.  There is no timetable for his return.

Erik Goeddel (F).  Goeddel really struggled in the month of July posting a 6.10 ERA in 11 appearances.

Seth Lugo (B) He was electric in this first three appearances even making Anthony Rizzo look silly by striking him out with a curveball that hit Rizzo’s foot.  He has been solid since then, but he has come back to earth a bit.  For the month, he has a 2.60 ERA and a 0.968 WHIP.  He would be helped by getting regular work.

Terry Collins (F). While it could be argued he has been dealing with an injury plagued roster (he has), Collins still does not make sound decisions on a day-in and day-out basis.  For the man who said, the Mets couldn’t be in a position to both win-now and develop players like Conforto, he has managed to do neither.  He also seemingly alienated his players at the All Start Game.

Mets Needed to Emulate Matz’s Guile

Steven Matz deserved a much better fate. He danced in and out of trouble all night. Even with that balky elbow, he reached back and found something to make the pitch to get out of the inning. That was until the sixth inning. 

Mark Reynolds hit a double to set up second and third with no outs.  Now, Reynolds should have been out. Center fielder Michael Conforto fielded the ball cleanly off the wall and made a terrific one hop throw to Neil Walker well ahead of Reynolds. However, Walker had trouble catching the ball like he’s had trouble hitting since May 1st. 

After David Dahl popped out, the Rockies sent up their eighth place hitter Nick Hundley. Instead of intentionally walking him and setting up the double play with the opposing pitcher Tyler Chatwood coming to the plate, the Mets decided to pitch to him. 

Hundley would hit a ground ball past Wilmer Flores. Flores should have had it, but for whatever reason, when he plays third, he has fall down left, fall down right range, and in this instance, he didn’t fall down fast enough. It would be a 2-1 lead, which for the Mets lately seems insurmountable. 

It wasted Matz’s gutsy performance. His final line would be six innings allowing 10 hits, two earned, one walk, and five strikeouts. 

The only run support he received was a James Loney second inning solo shot. It was the first home run Chatwood allowed outside Coors Field this year.

Coming into the game, he was 5-0 with a 1.30 ERA and a 1.014 WHIP. Tonight it was more of the same with him going seven innings allowing only three hits, one earned, and four walks with four strikeouts. When Chatwood was on the mound, hitting with runners in scoring position wasn’t that big an issue as no one would get on base. Officially, the Mets were 0-3 with runners in scoring position against Chatwood. 

You’d tip your cap to him, but you don’t know if he was great again, or if the offense is that bad. When he exited the game, he had a 3-1 lead after a Mark Reynolds seventh inning laser to left field off of Erik Goeddel

Then there was a cruel sense of déjà vu. A day after Jake McGee couldn’t get anyone out, he couldn’t get anyone out today allowing back-to-back singles to Alejandro De Aza and Curtis Granderson. It was first and second with no outs, and the Rockies would go to Scott Oberg to bail them out. With him facing this inept Mets team, of course he did. 

Travis d’ArnaudYoenis Cespedes, and Loney came up swinging at the first pitch. d’Arnaud was sawed off, and he grounded to third. Cespedes popped out to the first baseman.  Loney weakly grounded into the shift. At that point, the game was effectively over. 
In case anyone had any delusions of grandeur of the Mets coming back, Antonio Bastardo took care of that allowing a three run bomb to Carlos Gonzalez. At 3-1, the game was over. At 6-1, it felt like the Rockies were beating a dead offense with a stick. 

Antonio Bastardo Is Good Again?

Over the past month, Alejandro De Aza has completely turned his season around. He has been unrecognizable in July hitting .333/.484/.500 with a double, a home run, and an RBI. With De Aza being and useful and productive player, it seems like anything is possible including but not limited to Antonio Bastardo becoming a competent part of the Mets bullpen. Yes, even that. And it has happened.

In Bastardo’s has 10 appearances, he has pitched 12 effective innings. Over this stretch, he has a 2.25 ERA and a 0.833 WHIP. Batters are only hitting .205/.222/.341 against him. This is a completely different pitcher than the one who pitched to a 5.46 ERA and a 1.618 WHIP over his first 29 appearances that saw batters hit a whopping .261/.372/.443 off of him. He has gone from a guy Terry Collins justifiably buried in the bullpen necessitating the Mets to seek out a reliever on the trade market to a potentially valuable piece in the bullpen. What has happened?

As strange as this may sound for a pitcher on the Mets, Bastardo has benefitted from throwing his slider more frequently. Coming into this season, Bastardo had used his slider 31% of the time, and it proved to be a plus pitch for him. Batters didn’t make much contact off the pitch swinging and missing 44.46% of the time. When a batter was able to put the bat on Bastardo’s slider, it usually resulted in weak contact with the batters having a .168 batting average and isolated power of .091. For whatever reason, Bastardo has shied away from this pitch in the beginning of 2016.

To start the season, Bastardo’s slider usage rate dropped from 31% to 24%. Instead, Bastardo began to throw more changeups, which is a very bad idea. Over his career, batters tee off on Bastardo’s changeup hitting .375 off the pitche with a .609 slugging percentage. Essentially, every batter turns into Babe Ruth when they get a chance to hit Bastardo’s changeup. In reality, there is no reason for Bastardo to ever throw his changeup especially when you consider that batters see it coming. Over his career, batters swing and miss only 26% of the time. Overall, batters aren’t fooled by the pitch, and they do some real damage when they make contact. Over Bastardo’s last 10 appearances, he is still throwing way too many changeups, and the pitch is still being hit hard and frequently. However, he is able to compensate for that by throwing more sliders.

In what has been Bastardo’s best stretch of the season his slider usage rate is back up to 33%. He is still generating similar swing and miss numbers (39.13%), and batters are still unable to do anything with the pitch hitting .125 off the pitch with an isolated power of .000.

Perhaps more important than the pitch selection is the fact that Bastardo is throwing strikes. The main issue with Bastardo has always been control, and those issues were really prominent to begin the year. In his first 29 appearances, Bastardo was averaging 5.5 walks per nine innings. He was only throwing strikes 60% of the time. Now, he’s getting the ball over the plate throwing strikes 70% of the time. He has only walked one batter over the last 12 innings. With him throwing his slider more frequently, and getting the pitch over the plate, he has become a more effective pitcher. He has become the pitcher the Mets thought they were getting when they signed him to a two year $12 million contract in the offseason. So is he back?

It might be too early to say. We have seen some flashes here and there only to be disappointed once again. The Mets have only used him ONCE over this stretch to get some batters out in a close game. That resulted in Bastardo allowing Daniel Murphy to hit a home run off of him to make it an 8-7 game. Other than that, Bastardo has been used mostly in blowouts and to preserve the bullpen arms when the Mets have been behind. While Bastardo is pitching much more effectively, it is difficult to determine if he’s ready to once again pitch in a pressure filled situation with the game on the line.

With that in mind, the Mets should keep their current 7-8-9 combination as Hansel RoblesAddison ReedJeurys Familia. If Bastardo keeps pitching well, he could crack that group for a night or two to give one of those guys a breather. He could also be called on to get big outs in the sixth inning. That could be his role, and he can do it extremely well so long as he keeps throwing his slider, and he keeps throwing strikes.

Stanton Owns deGrom

Fun fact: Giancarlo Stanton absolutely crushes Jacob deGrom:

How do you hit the scoreboard in that park?  It’s bigger than Yosemite. That ball travelled 441 feet, and it gave the Marlins a 3-2 lead. 

Stanton would follow with an RBI single in the fourth expanding the lead to 4-2. On the year, Stanton is 5-5 with three homers against deGrom this year. 

It was part of a night that saw deGrom get chased early from the game.  In his prior starts, his velocity seemed to be increasing, but in the fourth inning it dropped to the 90-91 MPH range. After he departed in the fourth, Seth Lugo would walk Marcell Ozuna and Derek Dietrich back-to-back thereby walking in a run which was charged to deGrom. deGrom’s final line would be 3.2 innings, 10 hits, five earned, one walk, and five strike outs. This outing would raise deGrom’s ERA from 2.38 to 2.76. 

For his part, Lugo would finally allow his first earned run in the majors when Prado hit a fifth inning RBI single scoring Adeiny Hechavarria

It should be noted Lugo was double-switched into the game along with Alejandro De Aza as Terry Collins seems to be the only person remaining who has faith in De Aza. De Aza took over for Juan Lagares, who started the game despite the Marlins starting the right-hander Jose Fernandez. Lagares was presumably starting as Yoenis Cespedes is still dealing with the quad, and the Mets didn’t want to see Curtis Granderson in center again. 

Eventually, the game got out of hand. As a result, we got to see Antonio Bastardo pitch two innings only allowing a run (minor miracle). It got out of hand enough for Collins to put Michael Conforto in center in the bottom of the sixth. He would get only one chance catching an Ozuna pop out with aplomb. 

Conforto getting an opportunity in center was about the only good thing that happened on the night. Jose Reyes continued his struggles against righties going 1-5. Asdrubal Cabrera channeled his inner Gregg Jefferies going 0-2 with runners in scoring position stretching his streak to 0-31 (Jefferies was 0-37). Neil Walker continued to be Neil Walker. All that combined, and you get a 7-2 loss. 

Game Notes: The Mets two runs came off a Cespedes third inning RBI single followed by a James Loney sacrifice fly. 

Additional Bullpen Targets

Earlier today, I posted an analysis regarding some potential bullpen targets the Mets may be pursuing.  Sure enough, there has been some additional reporting on some additional relievers the Mets may be pursuing on the trade market.  In the sake of my sanity and for the sake of completion, here are some additional names the Mets are considering:

Huston Street – Each Perhaps due to his early season oblique injury, Street has lost a tick or two off his fastball. The end result is Street having a career worse season with a 5.03 ERA and a 1.932 WHIP in 23 appearances. The hope with him is Dan Warthen can have a similar effect on him as he has had on Addison Reed, who is having a tremendous year without a mid to high 90s fastball. One major obstacle for Street is his contract. He is due to make $9 million next year with a $10 million option with a $1 million opt out for 2018.

Joe Smith – Strangely enough, Smith might be the player who has played the best out of all the players in the ill fated J.J Putz trade. Since leaving the Mets, Smith steadily improved, and eventually became a very good reliever who could be used against righties and lefties despite his submarine style of pitching. This year, he has struggled a bit this year with a 4.36 ERA and a 1.396 WHIP in 33 appearances. Like his teammate Street, his velocity is down by a hair this year. He will be a free agent this season.

David Robertson – The former Yankee has shown he can pitch well in a pennant race in New York. Since leaving the Yankees, Robertson has been a very good closer, but he has not been as dominant as he was with the Yankees. His early career walk troubles have re-emerged this year as he is walking 5.0 batters per nine innings. On the year, he has 23 saves in 26 chances with a 4.03 ERA and a 1.447 WHIP. Aside from one disastrous appearance in Game Three of the 2003 ALCS against Texas, he has only allowed two earned runs in 16.2 postseason innings while striking out 16 batters. He is still not a realistic option as he has two years and $25 million remaining on his contract.

Overall, the contracts for each of these players will most likely preclude the Mets from acquiring any of these relievers in a potential trade.  Again, the best bet for the Mets is to take a flyer on a guy like a John Axford, for Jim Henderson to get healthy (not likely), or for Antonio Bastardo to start pitching better and become the guy the Mets thought they were getting when they signed him as a free agent in the offseason.

Mets Potential Bullpen Targets

Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia have combined to hold the lead in 33 of 34 chances in which they have been given a lead in the eighth inning or later.  Jerry Blevins, the purported LOOGY, has actually held right-handed batters to a lower batting average while pitching to a 2.08 ERA.  Hansel Robles has been a veritable Swiss Army knife in the bullpen.  One day, he’s pitching 3.2 innings to help preserve the bullpen after a starter gets knocked out a game early.  The next, he’s coming into the game to get the Mets out of a no out bases loaded situation unscathed.  With these arms, the Mets have a dominating bullpen.

However, behind these arms is a question mark.  Jim Henderson has started to pitch well in his rehab assignment.  However, he has been a different pitcher since his ill advised April 13th appearance.  Seth Lugo has pitched six scoreless innings over three appearances.  However, each of these appearances were in low pressure situations, and Terry Collins does not appear to trust him enough to try him in a pressure situation.  Erik Goeddel entered the season with a 2.48 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, and a 9.0 K/9, but he has struggled this year pitching to a 4.50 ERA, 1.143 WHIP, and an 8.4 K/9.  There remains intriguing options in the minors like Josh Edgin, Josh Smoker, and Paul Sewald.  Between this group, the Mets could piece together a fine bullpen.  However, as the Mets are in heat for playoff spot, they do not want to take any chances.

The Mets are even more committed to finding that one bullpen piece considering how the team now has some question marks in the rotation with Matt Harvey‘s season ending surgery, Steven Matz‘s bone spurs, and Noah Syndergaard‘s dead arm.  According to Marc Carig, the Mets lost out on Kevin Jepsen and believe the pricetag for Brewers closer Jeremy Jeffress will be too high.  Further hampering the Mets pursuit are the trades the team has made over the past year and a half.  Still, they are looking to preferably add a reliever who can lock down the seventh inning thereby taking some stress off their starting pitchers.  With that in mind, here are some options the Mets could pursue:

Jeremy Jeffress – As noted the pricetag should be high as Jeffress has the Brewers closer has recorded 23 saves with a 2.35 ERA and a 3.39 WHIP.  He is also under team control until 2020.

John Axford – Axford has some ugly numbers this year with a 5.21 ERA and a 1.579 WHIP for the last place Oakland Athletics.  However, it should be noted that his velocity is still there and he still has the same bite on his curveball.  A new voice and a pennant race could rejuvenate him.  It should also be noted in the postseason, Axford has a 1.42 ERA, 1.026 WHIP, and a 12.8 K/9.

Brad Hand – Like many relievers, Hand has seemingly figured things out in San Diego after having mostly struggled in his first five years with the Marlins.  He has a 2.94 ERA and a 1.269 WHIP this year as opposed to the 4.71 ERA and 1.424 WHIP he had with the Marlins.  Part of the reason for his success is his increased use of his slider which is a pitch that has generated a high percentage of swings and misses.  Hand does profile as the type of pitcher Dan Warthen has had success with during his tenure with the Mets.

Ryan Buchter – The 29 year old career minor leaguer and Sewell, New Jersey native has taken full advantage of his first read shot in the majors with a 2.41 ERA, a 1.098 WHIP, and a 12.5 K/9 in 44 appearances.  Like what Antonio Bastardo was supposed to be, he is a cross-over lefty.  Like his teammate Hand, he relies upon his fastball and slider to get outs.  However, unlike Hand, he throws it with greater velocity with a 94 MPH fastball and an 87 MPH slider.  Again, he is the type of pitcher that typically fairs well under Dan Warthen’s tutelage.

Chris Withrow – In his first season post-Tommy John, Withrow has a 3.38 ERA and a 1.313 WHIP in 33 appearances for the woeful Atlanta Braves.  He is a Mets kind of pitcher as he is a power pitcher out the bullpen that has a mid nineties fastball and a high eighties slider.  He may not come cheap as he is under team control until 2020, and the Braves consider him their future closer.

Tyler Clippard – The main thing that will prevent Clippard from becoming a Met is his contract.  He is in the first year of a two year $12.25 million contract that will pay him $6.15 million next year.  Further diminishing the chances of a reunion is the fact that Clippard is having a career worst season with a 3.53 ERA and a 1.234 WHIP.  Like with Axford, the much cheaper option, the Mets would be hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.  Like with Jose Reyes, the Mets would be hoping he is energized by putting on a Mets uniform again.

Adding one or more of these players should improve the Mets bullpen.  Regardless of whether or not the team adds one of these pitchers, or somebody else all together, they need Familia, Reed, Blevins, and Robles to continue pitching well out of the pen.  They also need Bastardo to figure things out sooner rather than later as it is his struggles that are precipitating this bullpen search.