Well, Opening Day is a week away, and Mets fans are getting excited for Mets baseball. Whether this will turn out to be 2015 or 2017 again remains to be seen. Depending on your point of view, you could argue the Mets winning the World Series just as competently as you could argue them having to once again sell at the trade deadline. With this season really up in the air, we turned to our Roundtable, and we asked them what they expect the Mets to do in 2018:
What do I expect? I expect hope. Pain. Happiness. Sadness. Great tweets. Bad tweets. Excitement. Anger. A reminder of the second half of 2015. A reminder of
#thatssomets moments. “Payroll flexibility”. Health. Injuries. Complicated high fives. Announcers giggling. Anxiety. Feats of power. Feats of nonsense. And I dunno, 83 regular season wins?
I know I am being optimistic, but I actually think Mets will be in contention for a wildcard all year, and if the rotation is healthy, could push the Nats for the NL East. I don’t say this as a Mets fanboy (and I think my record is very clear on how critical I can be), but as someone who believes the new on-field regime can take this club to whole new level. A competent manager who understands pitching, a bench coach who clearly knows what he’s doing, and a pitching coach who’s proven he can do more with less, for the first time since Bobby V and Bob Apodaca changed the culture in 1997, this team has the right guys in place. 90 wins.
It may be my lack of sleep from having a 1 year old, but I believe the Mets will win the East. Before the past few seasons started if the Mets were predicted to win, they lose. This year looks good for us, especially if at least 3 out of the 5 starting pitchers stay healthy.
Michael Mayer (MMO & MMN)
I expect the Mets to contend for Wild Card, though if the rotation returns to health and productivity we could see them at least hang around late in the season for the division.
I believe the Mets left side of the infield defensively is going to give the pitching staff a little boost as well.
If that rings true, the key to the season could come down to what Sandy Alderson does at the deadline to fill needs.
For your latest, my expectation is 84 wins, factoring in reasonable injury expectation. This bullpen has the ability to make a lot of starters unhappy and that will keep the win total down. Come back to me if they sign Greg Holland.
The Mets’ general creakiness at several positions concerns me, as does their tendency toward fragility, but what fun is pessimism? The Mets will compete better and longer than they did last year, and let the wins pile up from there.
I can’t answer these questions, because I’m a Mets fan, and I’ve always – literally, always – been convinced that we’re a few pieces, at most, away from being a pennant-winner. Look at this team – we’ve got what could be a very solid rotation, a lineup that could rake if the dice fall the right way, and a guy who has the potential to be a top closer in baseball when he’s healthy. Are things going to go that well? You tell me (the answer is no). But what fun is it to go through all the nightmare scenarios and predict which one will happen? For now, I’m sticking with the optimistic scenario: we come out of nowhere and shock the world. Doesn’t it sound both desperately far-fetched and surprisingly realistic?
Like most Mets fans, I’m an optimist on Opening Day. Right now, I expect Todd Frazier to be the 1999 Robin Ventura. I foresee Matt Harvey putting his career back together. I am all the more excited watching Michael Conforto healthy and already hitting homers. If you ask me right now, I’m going to say World Series contender.
Putting my enthusiasm aside, I’ll say this – The NL East is a little more open than we originally believed it to be. Daniel Murphy wont’ be ready for Opening Day, and who knows when he’ll come back. For that matter, who knows what he’ll be when he returns. No one can reasonably expect Ryan Zimmerman to produce like he did last year. It was an outlier. The Nationals are relying way too much on Michael Taylor having figured it out, and Matt Wieters isn’t good behind or at the plate. Also, they lost Dusty Baker, who was a manager who seemed to resonate with that clubhouse.
We take for granted the Nationals will win the division because the Mets have so many question marks and because we have seen the Nationals have great year after great year. They may very well have another one, but it’s far from a certainty. Immaculately, I think this is a closer race than we may have originally thought it to be.
So overall, the Mets Bloggers seem to be a little more bullish on the Mets than many other places. If you are curious why they feel this way, please click on the links next to their names to see their superb work which expounds upon their opinions about the Mets further.
In 46 games as a rookie last year, Amed Rosario hit just .248/.271/.394. Part of that was fueled by his being a rookie adapting to Major League Baseball. Another part of that was Rosario’s drawing just three walks in 170 plate appearances. What is scary is there is evidence to suggest Rosario may be due for a regression from these numbers.
Eno Sarris, then of Fangraphs, found Rosario had troubling exit velocities and launch angles. There is also the fear Rosario’s .330 BABIP will stabilize. Also, it shouldn’t be lost on anyone Rosario walked just three times in 170 plate appearances.
Arguably, the walk rate was the biggest issue with his biggest issue. In Double-A, his walk rate was just 7.6%, and in Triple-A, his walk rate was only 5.4%. Overall, this means the low walk rate is who Rosario is right now as a player. That is troubling, and for the moment, it should make you question where Rosario should hit in the lineup.
Believe it or not, there are some who see him as either an option to lead-off or the future lead-off hitter for this team. To be fair, we did see some glimpses of his being a Jose Reyes type of electric lead-off hitter. However, with his walk rate and OBP, Rosario should not be hitting anywhere near the top of the lineup.
Given his production, you can argue Rosario should be hitting eighth in the lineup. It’s not a far-fetched idea with him arguably being the worst hitter in this lineup. Still, you have to question if this would really be what is best for his long term development. You would be really hard-pressed to argue having a pitcher protecting him in the lineup would help him see better pitches and/or help him work on his ability to draw walks.
Taking everything into account, the Mets really should consider hitting Rosario ninth in the lineup.
By doing this, you are putting Rosario in a much better position to succeed. Instead of a pitcher protecting him in the lineup, he would have someone like Brandon Nimmo or even Michael Conforto. With the pitcher in front of him, there will be more than a few occasions where Rosario will bat with a runner in scoring position and first base open. That’s quite an advantageous hitting situation.
Similar to what Bobby Valentine did with Roger Cedeno in 1999, this could also help Rosario prepare to be a leadoff hitter. With Rosario batting ninth, there may be more than one occasion where he leads off the ensuing inning after the pitcher makes the final out. More than that, when he comes to the plate, Rosario will be able to do so with a table setter’s mentality. After all, with Yoenis Cespedes likely batting second, Rosario will need to find a way to get on base ahead of the run producers to put him in a position to score.
Ultimately, so long as Rosario is able to mentally prepare himself for hitting ninth, this is the ideal lineup position for him to start the year. Should Rosario begin to hit or he show an ability to being drawing walks, the Mets can then find a more prestigious spot in the lineup for him. Until such time, let him both learn how to best utilitze his speed as a table setter and permit him to be better protected in the lineup.
In what is a yearly tradition, the St. Louis Cardinals hold a fan vote over which player should be inducted into the Cardinals Hall of Fame. For a number of reasons, the Mets do not hold such a vote for their fanbase, but in vein of what the Cardinals are doing, the Mets Bloggers tackle the issue of who should be the next Mets great inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame:
What about owners? Nelson Doubleday Jr.
Recent reports indicate Robin Ventura and Brad Ausmus are not interested in the Mets managerial job. For Ventura’s part, it seems he’s just not interested in managing again. With respect to Ausmus, he’s interested in managing again, but he doesn’t want the Mets job. Ausmus is interested in the Red Sox job.
There are also reports other managers with managerial experience were out of the running as well. Specifically, Bob Geren and Chip Hale will not be reuniting with the Mets. Both were assumed to be well respected by the organization, but for unspecified reasons, neither is a candidate for the Mets managerial opening. With respect to these two, it should be noted, it was not known if they took themselves out of the running, or the Mets decided to go in another direction.
Really, the only manager with prior experience who is a candidate for the job is Manny Acta, who due to poor stints in Washington and Cleveland, probably won’t be a candidate for many managerial positions. Unless Acta gets the job, the Mets are going to hire a first time manager, and the top managerial candidate on the market, Alex Cora, appears destined to go to the Red Sox.
It really makes you question why there isn’t greater interest in the Mets managerial position? There may be a number of viable reasons why, but let’s not overlook the fact the Mets managerial position is somewhat of a dead-end job.
Since the Wilpons assumed team control in 2003, the team has gone through four managers. That’s five if you include Bobby Valentine who was fired after the 2002 season. Of those five managers, Valentine was the only one who would ever get another managerial job, and that was only after he first went to Japan, worked as an analyst on Baseball Tonight, and got the opportunity from a Red Sox ownership group eager to hire him. Otherwise, Valentine likely never gets another job.
There are several reasons why these managers never got another job. With respect to Terry Collins, he will turn 69 early in the 2018 season, and there were rumors before the announcement the Mets were reassigning him in the organization, Collins was going to retire anyway. Still, that didn’t prevent the Mets from trashing him on the way out.
It’s quite possible the scathing analysis of Collins as detailed in Marc Carig’s Newsday article was the Mets masterpiece. It may well be the result of all the practice they’ve had.
In a New York Daily News feature after it was announced Art Howe would finish out the season before being fired, Howe was characterized as soft, uninspiring, weak, and lacking credibility with players.
His replacement, Willie Randolph, was treated just as poorly on the way out. In addition to being fired after winning the first game of a West Coast trip, the Mets would again go to assassinate their manager’s character. As detailed by Bill Maddon of the New York Daily News, the Mets let it be known they had their reservations about even hiring Randolph and insisted the team won in spite of him. As if that wasn’t enough, the report stated the team believed Randolph, “lacked fire; the players, especially the Latino players, had tuned him out; he was too sensitive to criticism; he was overly defensive; he didn’t communicate with his coaches.”
Yes, there were other reasons why Randolph never got another job, but in the end, the character assassination levied upon him was a great disservice, and it played an important role in his never getting another job. Same went for Valentine and Howe.
Knowing how the Mets handle the firings of their managers, and knowing how their managers never get another job, why would a top candidate ever consider taking this job?
Is anyone surprised the Mets decided to smear Terry Collins before parting ways with him this offseason? Well, you shouldn’t be because it follows a pattern from this organization since the Wilpons have taken control of the team. While full ownership did not fully transfer until 2002, the Wilpons had gradually gained control throughout the years and were really front in center with an already hands-off Doubleday suffering health issues.
Coming off the heels of the 2000 World Series, Alex Rodriguez made it well known he wanted to play for the Mets, the team he’s always loved. Instead of the team letting themselves get outbid, they declared him to be a 24 and one player.
Instead of thanking managers like Bobby Valentine and Art Howe for their service, they talked about how their teams quit on them, which is as damning a statement you can make against a manager. Things went further for Howe calling him soft, weak, boring, and out of touch.
As poorly as Howe was treated on the way out, it pales in comparison to how Willie Randolph was treated. This went beyond the accusations he was out of touch and couldn’t get through to his players. No, they had to fly him out to California and fire him at 3:00 A.M. after a win! They then replaced him with Jerry Manuel, who was the person bad mouthing Randolph behind his back with, you guessed it, Jeff Wilpon.
It wasn’t just managers that received this treatment. Remember what happened with Yoenis Cespedes in the 2015 offseason? When the team made it clear they had wanted to pass on re-signing him? First, he was a round peg in a square hole that couldn’t handle center. It wasn’t just that, we heard whispers about whether a team could trust Cespedes on a long-term deal.
Now, the Mets have turned their attention to Collins. Reading Marc Carig’s Newsday article on the subject, the team couldn’t help but tear him down before parting ways with him this offseason. Reading the column, you can see the Mets have gotten much better at this detailing all of his faults:
- Constant tactical blunders;
- Resisted input;
- Poor relationship with players;
- Shielded by Fred Wilpon from firing;
- Front office had no confidence in him;
- Abused relief pitchers;
- No interest in playing young guys;
- Played players like Jeurys Familia into injuries;
- Inmates ran the asylum; and
- Team was miserable.
Any Mets fans who has paid attention to the team could tell you any of the above was true. We saw Collins staple Michael Conforto to the bench for under-performing veterans. He pressured Steven Matz to pitch through the pain. There was the drama surrounding Asdrubal Cabrera‘s position switch. There have been a wake of injured relievers during his career. All of the above has proven to be true.
Through all of it, the Mets kept Collins. They dismissed these concerns and even put forth the illusion he was great handling the clubhouse. However, now that Collins is on his way out, those positive narratives are gone; replaced by the truth or something close to it.
The sad part is this is completely unnecessary. Collins dutifully serves this organization since 2010 and managed them since 2011. He led the team to consecutive postseasons and delivered a pennant. Despite all of this, we all knew this was the end, and really, there was no one asking for him to return to the Mets. Most agreed it was time for the Mets to select a new manager, a new direction.
For some reason, the Mets couldn’t leave well enough alone. They had to tear the guy down on his way out. Sadly, this is not a new low for the organization because you can’t get any lower than how they treated Randolph. Rather, the team has become better and more efficient at doing it.
With the way Collins has been treated it makes you question what type of manager would be willing to accept a job from the Mets considering how they are treated and smeared on their way out the door.
Once Saturday’s game is over, Terry Collins will become the Mets all-time leader in games managed. With this, he will be above Gil Hodges, who may have owned the record himself if not for his sudden and tragic passing. He will surpass Bobby Valentine, who was the first Mets manager to lead the team to consecutive postseasons. Finally, he passes Davey Johnson, who led the Mets to the greatest stretch in team history.
All of the aforementioned managers have had better records then Collins, who owns the Mets mark for most losses as a manger. It leads to the question, why is it Collins lasted longer in New York than either Valentine or Johnson? The answer is a complicated one for a man who has led the Mets over a complicated time period.
Collins took the helm for the Mets after the disastrous Jerry Manuel Era. After bad mouthing his boss, Willie Randolph, he talked his way into the managerial job, and he oversaw his own collapse. Despite that, the Mets decided to retain him as the new team manager as the Mets opened up a new ballpark. In his two full seasons as Mets manager, his teams were 149-173. This was despite having talented rosters with players like David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran.
The Manuel Era was done in by a number of issues. First, the team was not built well for the then cavernous Citi Field. Second, high priced veterans like Luis Castillo and Jason Bay were playing up the standards of being an average major league player, let alone their contracts. Third, the team deal with a number of injuries – some of which were exacerbated by Manuel’s decision making. Mostly, the mix of manager, ballpark, and roster were doomed from the beginning. It was time for new blood across the organization.
This was the stage upon which Collins entered as the Mets manager in 2011. The team was mostly a mix of veterans nearing either the end of their contracts or their careers and some interesting players who could be talented major league players. In the early part of Collin’s tenure, the Mets were teams that overachieved in the first half of the season, and then with trades, injuries, or players coming back to earth, the Mets would fall apart as the season progressed.
During the early part of Collins tenure as Mets manager, no one realistically believed the Mets were going to be contenders. As a result, judging him by wins and losses seemed counter-intuitive. Rather, you want to look at managers like this through the prism of their ability to get the most out of the talent on their roster. Specifically, you want to see them develop some young players.
Things almost came to a head in 2014. The Mets first real prized free agent acquisition of the Sandy Alderson Era, Curtis Granderson, was struggling. The other, Bartolo Colon, was the staff ace, which meant Zack Wheeler was not progressing like the organization would have liked. There were also struggles from Dilson Herrera, Travis d’Arnaud, and others. It was not how the Mets envisioned this season would go, and if not for the Wilpons intervening, it would have been a different manager that led the Mets to the 2015 pennant.
It’s unsure to pinpoint the exact reason Collins survived. The biggest skeptics will pinpoint Collins was due money, and the Wilpons, who were dealing with the Madoff scandal, were loathe to pay two different managers. It’s possible Collins was saved because the Mets were not exactly under-performing. There were also some positive signs for the team.
Lucas Duda not only won the first base job, but he hit 30 home runs. Daniel Murphy was a first time All-Star. Jenrry Mejia showed he was closer material. Wheeler had a strong finish to the season. Jeurys Familia looked like a closer in waiting. Juan Lagares won a Gold Glove. Jacob deGrom was a surprise Rookie of the Year. Matt Harvey had just been the All Star Game starter the previous season, and he was set to return in 2015. R.A. Dickey won a Cy Young Award that allowed the facilitation of the trade to bring over d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard. Overall, you could see young pieces who could be part of the Mets’ future. These were players who were cultivated under Collins. It should also be kept in mind Collins created a certain atmosphere in the clubhouse that partially led to Wright signing a contract extension in 2012. Overall, the pieces for a future contender were there, and they were all cultivated under Collins.
There’s another factor that is not often discussed with Collins is the fact he’s a good human being. Time and again with Collins we hear little things he does that mean so much to people. He has reached out to grieving Mets fans to offer his condolences. He’s stopped the team during Spring Training to assemble them to spend some time with sick children. He struck the right chord between honoring Jose Fernandez and trying to keep the Mets team competitive in that three game set. That’s a harder job to do than we all give him credit. Having a man like this around your team and leading young men is always a good thing.
And yet, there are plenty of instances where you look at Collins’ tenure and wonder how he’s lasted this long. His usage of Tim Byrdak, Scott Rice, Johan Santana, Jim Henderson, and others have had a negative impact upon their ability to stay healthy. Certainly, it can be argued these pitchers’ arms were ruined by Collins.
There has also been his over-reliance on his veteran players. Despite Collins mantra that you hit you play, it really has only every been applied to young players. It has twice taken a litany of injuries to get T.J. Rivera in the lineup. Collins never would put Michael Conforto back in the lineup last year no matter his raking in Triple-A and his wrist being healthy. Instead, he watched Jay Bruce continue to flail at the plate. This year, we see him keeping Reyes and Granderson in the lineup despite their both hitting under the Mendoza Line.
More to the point, Collins allows the question to be asked over who exactly is in charge. There are always reports Alderson dictates to him what should be done instead of Collins being allowed to manage the team as he wishes. Collins allowed Reyes to pull himself from the last game of the 2011 season to preserve his batting title. One of the lasting images of the 2015 World Series was Harvey telling him not to pull him from the game.
That World Series is certainly one that will haunt the Mets. Collins made a number of questionable moves throughout that series which did not put his team in the best possible position to win. Given how the Mets are struggling now, it does beg the question whether that was this core’s best opportunity to win a World Series. But it’s more than that. We have consistently seen Collins ignore reliever’s workloads and splits when making pitching changes. He will send Wilmer Flores up there to pinch hit against right-handed pitchers even with other players still on the bench. Overall, it is his in-game managing that leaves a lot to be desired.
Despite all of that, Collins is still here. He has survived a lot to get to this point. There was the Madoff scandal. There was a rebuild that took a year or two longer than initially advertised. He has consistently tried to hold a team together that has seen a number of injuries, brutal losses, and disheartening losing streaks. He oversaw the transition from the Mets being a last place team to a team that almost won a World Series.
The Terry Collins’ Era will forever be a complicated one in Mets history. To a certain extent, it does not matter that he is the manager who has managed the most games in Mets history. That is mostly the result of circumstance. Arguably, the circumstances have dictated Collins remain on for as long as he has. Say what you will about the man, but he has always been accountable, never left you questioning his loyalty to the players or fans, and he has had the pulse of his clubhouse. If nothing else, Collins is a leader of men, and as a man, you are hard pressed to find a better human being in baseball.
It does not matter if you believe someone else should have this record. It’s Collins’ now. He deserves everyone’s congratulations for it, and he deserves the respect of Mets fans for his tenure.
It doesn’t matter how poorly the Giants are playing this season. If Zack Wheeler is going to pitch like he did tonight, he is going to beat even the best offensive teams.
Through six innings, Wheeler allowed just two hits and one run. The only issue was the four walks, but with the stuff he had there was no way the Giants were capitalizing. His slider was sharp, and he was getting his fastball up to 98 MPH. The only damage against him was a Buster Posey fourth inning solo homer.
By the time Posey hit that homer, the game was effectively over. The resurgent Mets offense jumped all over Jeff Samardzija.
Now, despite having a 6-1 lead in a May game against a terrible offense, Terry Collins managed the eighth inning like it was the eighth inning in the seventh game of the World Series.
After a scoreless seventh, Collins let Hansel Robles start the eighth. After Robles hit Justin Ruggiano, Collins brought in Jerry Blevins to pitch to the left-handed hitters Joe Panik and Brandon Belt. Collins went to Blevins despite him being used way too frequently early this season despite the score being 6-1, and despite left-handed hitters hitting just 1-19 off Robles.
After Blevins got the two lefties, Collins went to Addison Reed to face Hunter Pence because of a little known MLB rule that if Pence hits a home run in Citi Field in the eighth inning of a game played on May 9th with the Giants down by five runs, the home run counts for 10 runs.
This ladies and gentleman is why Collins has stuck around long enough to pass Bobby Valentine for the second most games managed in Mets history.
Naturally, given how close this 6-1 game was Collins went to Jeurys Familia to close it out in the ninth. Somehow, the official scorer did not give Familia a save for this one. In any event, thanks to Collins pulling out all the stops, the Mets are back to .500.
Tonight is a jam packed sports night. For Mets fans, no matter how bad things are, you are turning into the game against the Braves if for no other reason than to see Noah Syndergaard pitch. For Rangers fans, it is the first game of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Ottawa Senators and their old friend Derick Brassard. However, as we all know the first round of the NFL Draft will get the largest share of publicity. The NFL gets the lion share no matter what it is doing.
The NFL Draft does present someone of an intriguing possibility for Mets fans. One of the top QB prospects in this draft is Texas Tech Patrick Mahomes. He has quite the pedigree with him being the godson of former Mets reliever LaTroy Hawkins. Oh, and Patrick Mahomes is the son of former Mets reliever Pat Mahomes.
Unlike his son, Mahomes wasn’t really on anyone’s radar heading into the 1999 season. Through six major league seasons, he was 21-28 with a 5.88 ERA and a 1.627 WHIP. After a poor 1997 season, where he was only able to pitch in 10 games for the Boston Red Sox, Mahomes found himself pitching for the Yokohama Bay Stars of the Japanese Leagues. In his eight starts and two relief appearances, he was far from impressive going 0-4 with a 5.98 ERA and a 1.510 WHIP. Still, Mahomes must have done something right in that stint as the Mets signed him to a minor league deal in the offseason.
With Josias Manzanillo struggling to start the year, there was an opening in the Mets bullpen in 1999. Mahomes was called up, and he took complete advantage of his opportunity. Mahomes became the long man in the Mets bullpen, and he thrived in that role. While the long man in the bullpen is an overlooked role on most teams, it was vitally important to that 1999 team.
Al Leiter and Kenny Rogers were the only pitchers who averaged more than six innings pitched, and Rogers didn’t come to the Mets until July. One of the team’s better starters, Bobby Jones, was injured leading to a revolving door of fifth starters. Top options in Jason Isringhausen and Octavio Dotel had the talent, but they couldn’t go deep into games. Overall, the team needed a good long man. Mahomes was that and more.
During the season, Mahomes would make just 39 appearances, but he would pitch 63.2 innings. It should be noted Mahomes was partially able to pitch those innings because unlike most relievers Bobby Valentine could trust him at the plate. During the 1999 season, Mahomes was 5-16 with three doubles and three RBI. However, we all know Valetine kept going to him because of the results Mahomes got on the mound.
In Mahomes’ 39 appearances, he had a 3.68 ERA and a 1.272 WHIP. As a result of his terrific pitching, he finished the season with a perfect 8-0 record. Considering it was the steroids era, those are truly impressive numbers. Considering where he was just a season ago, they are inspiring.
Mahomes would continue pitching well into the postseason where he had a 2.25 ERA and a 1.250 WHIP in eight innings over four appearances. Notably, Mahomes pitched four shutout innings in at epic Game 6 of the NLCS which permitted the Mets to get back into the game. What was once unfathomable when Leiter gave up five innings in the first inning, the Mets took the lead in the seventh inning. While the Mets did not win that game, they were in that position because Mahomes stepped up big in that spot. That was a theme for him during the 1999 season.
So to that extent, we know that big game ability is in the Mahomes gene pool. We also know the ability to play in New York in high pressure situations is as well. To that end, maybe, just maybe, Patrick Mahomes would be a fine fit with either the New York Giants, as Eli Manning’s successor in waiting, or the New York Jets as the latest franchise quarterback.
The talent is there. In a recent Peter King MMQB column, Mahomes was compared favorably to Brett Favre. With talent like that and his background, there should be no doubt Mahomes can thrive in not just the NFL, but also in New York. His name may not get called tonight, but it will likely get called on Friday.
Whatever the future holds for him, the best of luck to Mahomes. His father was one of the players that made one of the most enjoyable seasons in Mets history happen. Hopefully, wherever Mahomes lands, he can provide those fans the same joy his father provided Mets fans. With any luck, that will be with the Giants.
During Terry Collins‘ first Spring Training press conference, he overtly stated Zack Wheeler is a starting pitcher. With the Mets publicly considering using Wheeler in the bullpen, at least to start the season, Collins’ statements reminded me of how Bobby Valentine once held a similar opinion about Jason Isringhausen.
Back in 1999, the Mets were using Isringhausen, who had a litany of injuries and surgeries at that point, increasingly out of the bullpen. It was a natural fit for him with his having only made six major league starts over a two year period. And yet, Valentine preferred using Isringhausen in the rotation, as only Valentine could so eloquently put it, putting Isringhausen in the bullpen is like “us[ing] an Indy car as a taxi in New York City.” (New York Daily News).
As we know Isringhausen would be moved later that season in the ill-fated and ill-conceived trade for Athletics closer Billy Taylor. As an Athletic, Isringhausen would work exclusively out of the bullpen. From there, he would become an All Star closer amassing 300 career saves.
Given the relative injury histories, the reluctance to put the pitchers in the bullpen, and the hope both pitchers carried with them as part of future super rotations, the Wheeler-Isringhausen comparisons are unavoidable.
To that end, it is important to note one of the supposed issues with Isringhausen in the bullpen was his control. This is certainly understandable given his career 1.520 WHIP and 4.0 BB/9 as a starter. And yet, when moved to the bullpen, and allowed to focus on his two best pitches, Isringhausen dramatically cut down on the hits and walks. As a result, the things that made people believe he was a dominant starter came into focus as he became a dominant closer.
The consistently noted fear with Wheeler in the bullpen is his control. His 3.9 BB/9 is similar to what Isringhausen’s was as a starter even if his 1.339 WHIP is considerably better. It should also be noted Wheeler struck out more batters than Isringhausen did as a starter. That is probably because Wheeler’s pure stuff is probably better than Isringhausen’s. According to Brooks Baseball, Wheeler’s fastball sits in the mid 90s and he has a slider that almost hits 90.
Understandably, with Isringhause and Wheeler being different pitchers, the comparison may seem a bit contrived or imperfect. With that said, we have seen how the Royals have transitioned pitchers with similar skill sets to Wheeler, and they converted them into dominant relievers.
Luke Hochevar was a struggling starter who gave up too many walks. He was not having success in the rotation despite a low to mid 90s fastball and a high 80s cutter. He was transitioned to the bullpen where he thrived. Before showing the effects of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, he was dominant in 2013 going 5-2 with a 1.92 ERA, 0.825 WHIP, and a 10.5 K/9.
While the Royals didn’t try Greg Holland in the rotation, they saw how well his stuff played in the bullpen. From 2011 – 2014, he was among the most dominant closers in all of baseball. Over the stretch he was 15-9 with 113 saves, a 1.026 WHIP, and a 12.6 K/9. Similar to Wheeler, Holland throws a mid to high 90s fastball and a slider in the high 80s.
Basically what we see in Isringhausen, Hochevar, and Holland is pitchers with great stuff can truly succeed in the bullpen. Moreover, pitchers who have had control issues as starters can better harness their pitches by focusing one the two or maybe three pitches they throw best and work out of the stretch. By focusing on what makes the pitcher great can, at times, led a pitcher down the path to greatness. That is even in the event said greatness occurs out of the bullpen.
Given Wheeler’s past control issues, his not having pitched in two seasons, and the emergence of both Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, it might be an opportunity for the Mets to move Wheeler in the bullpen where he may truly thrive. Of course, we won’t know that unless the Mets are willing to try. At this point, given Collins’ statements, it appears the Mets are not quite at that point yet. Maybe they should be.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online
With today being Valentine’s Day, it is only right we get into the spirit of things by being as clever as Bobby Valentine was the time he used eye black to make a fake mustache. Without further ado, here are some “clever” Mets themed Valentine’s Day lines you may see on one of those cards you used to pass out to your classmates in grammar school:
Jerry Blevins – Jerry? Hello! Be my Valentine
Josh Edgin – I’m Edgin my way closer to you.
Jeurys Familia – I want to become Familia with your sexy self.
Matt Harvey – If you thought 50 Shades of Grey was seductive, wait until you see the Dark Knight I have in store for you.
Seth Lugo – Lugo you want to get with this.
Rafael Montero – You might as well be my Valentine because we both know there’s not getting rid of me not matter how awful I am.
Addison Reed – You and Me Addison up to a great Valentine’s Day
Hansel Robles – You’re so hot right now
Fernando Salas – If I had to the same again, I would, my Valentine, Fernando
Josh Smoker – You’re so hot, I can see the Smoker from miles away
Noah Syndergaard – Can you handle this god’s thunder?
Yoenis Cespedes – There’s a lot of Potencia between you and I Valentine
Travis d’Arnaud – d’Arnaud it pains me to be apart from you
Lucas Duda – Duda right thing and be my Valentine
Wilmer Flores – I’ll cry if you put me in the Friends zone
Amed Rosario – Don’t Be Surprised Be Ready
Neil Walker – I would Walker 5,000 miles to be your Valentine
David Wright – It’s only Wright we would be Valentines
Jay Bruce – Let me be the Valentine you regret for years to come.
Michael Conforto – It’s a Conforto to know whether in NY or Vegas we’re Valentines
Curtis Granderson – It’s Grandy being your Valentine
Juan Lagares – You’re the only Juan for me
Brandon Nimmo – Nimmo I’m smiling because of you.
Ron Darling – Be my Darling this Valentine’s Day
Keith Hernandez – I mustache you to be my Valentine’s Day OR How about a Valentine’s Day mustache ride?
Happy Valentine’s Day