Before the game, the Mets activated Juan Lagares from the disabled list for the sole purpose of being a late inning defensive replacement.
The reason for the decision is Lagares hasn’t had an opportunity to face live pitching with the minor league affiliates having completed their seasons before Lagares was ready to start a rehab assignment. So the Mets aren’t sure if Lagares can face live pitching, but they do know he’s the team’s best defensive center fielder. He may even be the best in the game especially with him getting back to his Gold Glove form this year.
So naturally, with Terry Collins going to late inning defensive replacements, he turns to Alejandro De Aza?
To set the stage, De Aza was left in the game after pinch hitting for Bartolo Colon in the bottom of the seventh. After the inning, De Aza stayed in the game shifting Curtis Granderson to right field. As a result, Collins pulled his worst defensive outfielder, Jay Bruce, from the game. By the way, Bruce, the guy Collins has confidence in went 0-3 with a walk. It also helped that Bruce made the last out of the inning.
While the defensive alignment Collins out out there was better than what he had to start the game, it wasn’t optimal. In limited action in CF, De Aza has a -2.1 UZR and a 0 DRS. While it’s a small sample size, it isn’t too far off his true talent level as he averages a 0 UZR and -1 DRS over his career. Whether you rely on this or the eye test, Lagares is undoubtedly a better center fielder.
The argument Lagares could’ve hit the next inning doesn’t carry much weight. He was due up ninth. If he bats, it means the Mets blew the game open. At that point, you can instruct him to look at three strikes or you can remove him for Michael Conforto or Brandon Nimmo.
Fortunately, it wouldn’t be a factor in this game. However, that doesn’t mean Collins had the correct thought process.
Speaking of defensive replacements, Matt Reynolds replaced Asdrubal Cabrera in the ninth. It wasn’t a move to improve the shortstop defense; it was a move precipitated by Cabrera having leg cramps. While Cabrera’s knee was purportedly not an issue, it’s important to remember Collins hasn’t taken advantage of the opportunities to lift his ailing plsyers early in games.
The Mets have 17 games remaining in their season, and at the moment, they still do not know who their second baseman is going to be on a game-to-game basis.
For most of the season, the answer was Neil Walker. Even with him struggling in the middle of the season, at a time where he couldn’t feel his toes, he was having the best season of his career. It was more than tying his career high in homers. He became a much better hitter from the right side of the plate. He was much improved defensively. He was a big part of the Mets. However, his season was over as he needed season ending surgery to address the herniated disc that prevented him from feeling his toes over the summer.
Fortunately, the Mets had a good backup option with Wilmer Flores and Kelly Johnson. Flores hit .306/.346/.542 with five homers and 19 RBI in August. He mostly did the damage against lefties, but he was also maturing as a hitter with him starting to hit against righties. Flores didn’t need to be overexposed against righties though because Johnson was having a resurgent season as a part time player with the Mets. In his 71 games with the Mets, Johnson has hit .269/.328/.473 with nine homers and 23 RBI in 73 games. The Mets very well could have rode this platoon the rest of the season. However, disaster struck again.
On Saturday, Flores slid headfirst into homeplate, and he injured his neck. He is having difficulty just taking batting practice. There is no telling when he will be able to fully warm up for a game let alone play again. This would be an opportune moment for Johnson to step up, but he has been slumping. Over the past two weeks, Johnson is hitting .188/.212/.313 with one homer and three RBI. While Johnson has been terrific all year for the Mets, it is quite possible that he has been overexposed playing semi-regularly after the Walker injury. Given Flores’ injury and Johnson’s slump, Terry Collins had to do something drastic, and that was starting T.J. Rivera last night.
Rivera had not started a game since the September 5th finale for AAA Las Vegas where he overtook Brandon Nimmo for the Pacific Coast League batting title. Rivera answered the call. He would make three terrific plays in the field. The third one in the ninth got overlooked because Daniel Murphy busted it out of the box to beat the throw, and because, as usual, James Loney didn’t stretch. However, it was at the plate where Rivera really stood out. Rivera came through in the clutch time and again delivering in both of his RBI opportunities with a two out RBI single in the first and a sacrifice fly in the fifth. When there were two outs in the top of the 10th, Rivera delivered with a home run off an 0-2 pitch from Mark Melancon, who had not allowed a home run since July 17th. With this game, Rivera made a case for himself on a Mets team that does not have an answer to second base right now.
This is unexpected as many thought this opportunity would never come. During the season, the Mets gave chances to Eric Campbell and Ty Kelly first while Rivera was thinking of new ways to try to get called up to the majors. The Mets would have to go through a rash of infield injuries for him to even be considered. He waited so long, in part, because he doesn’t fit the Mets profile. He’s an aggressive contact hitter at the plate. He’s not working the count. He’s finding his pitch, and he’s going to drive it somewhere.
So no, at no point during the first 140+ games this season did anyone, especially the Mets, think that Rivera would ever be the solution at second base. However, the Mets are looking for an answer at the position right now, and Rivera stepped in and helped the Mets win a game they lose any other time in their 54 year history. It really might just be time for Rivera.
Collins also played a hunch starting T.J. Rivera at second. Rivera was the Mets offense last night, and he was the biggest reason the Mets won. Rivera made two nice defensive plays in the field, but it was his bat that was the difference. He was 3-4 with three RBI and a game winning homer against Mark Melancon.
These heroics were in part due to Collins’ insistence on playing Jay Bruce.
Since joining the Mets, Bruce is hitting .190/.271/.317 with four homers and 11 RBI. He’s gone from the major league RBI leader to just another Met not able to hit with runners in scoring position. He’s gone from an RBI machine in Cincinnati to a near automatic out.
Yesterday was more of the same from Bruce. He was 0-4 with a walk leaving three runners on base.
Since the rosters were expanded on September 1st, with .212/.297/.394 with two homers and five RBI. That coincidentally is the same time Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo were called-up to the majors. When they were called up, Conforto was hitting .493/.541/.821 with six homers and 13 RBI, hitting both righties and lefties, in his most recent demotion to the minors. Nimmo was hitting .407/.474/.651 with four homers and 14 RBI in the month of August before he was re-called.
Conforto and Nimmo were hot at the plate, and yet, Collins didn’t care. He was going to play Bruce no matter what. Conceptually, you understand it because Bruce was the big bat the Mets added at the deadline. The cost of adding Bruce was Dilson Herrera. You want to get him going to help your chances of going to the postseason, and hopefully, the World Series. Collins is relying on his proven track record. The only problem is that track record isn’t what people think it is.
For his career, Bruce is a .247/.318/.466 hitter averaging 26 homers and 81 RBI. Over the prior three seasons, Bruce has been a .237/.303/.433 hitter with 25 homers and 87 RBI. Keep in mind, Bruce has been hitting in the Great American Ballpark which is a hitter’s ballpark. Bruce has been a low OBP hitter who has been a slightly better than average home run hitter.
Worse yet, he’s poor defensively. In fact, he is the Mets worst defensive outfielder. Playing Bruce moves Curtis Granderson to center field. Granderson isn’t a center fielder anymore. Playing Bruce keeps Alejandro De Aza on the bench, and De Aza is the Mets best defensive center fielder. By the way, Conforto has acquitted himself well in center, and he has shown himself to be a player capable of being a much better offensive player than Bruce.
So overall, on a night were Collins made a number of decisions that helped the team win, his insistence on playing Bruce continues to hamper the team offensively and defensively.
This one was obvious to everyone except Terry Collins.
In Rafael Montero‘s last start, he only lasted 4.1 innings against the Reds allowing three runs while walking four. In the start before that it was a minor miracle he allowed no runs against the Marlins despite walking six over five innings. By any measure, Montero had no business starting against the Washington Nationals yesterday.
This would be the Collins’ decision of the game except there is the possibility the choice to start Montero tonight was either a collaborative decision or a decision made by the front office.
Giving Collins the benefit of the doubt here, the decision of the game was not pinch hitting for Montero in the top of the second inning.
At that time, the Mets were only down 2-1. However, they were down 2-1 because Montero issued not one, but two . . . TWO! . . . bases loaded walks. Realistically, the Mets could’ve been trailing by a lot more than one run with the way Montero pitched in a 37 pitch first inning.
Another factor was there was a runner in scoring position with two outs. You know Montero isn’t bringing that run home. Sure, you normally wouldn’t want to go to your bench that early in the game, but there are expanded rosters. You’re not going to run out of pinch hitters with the following available:
- Michael Conforto
- Brandon Nimmo
- Alejandro De Aza
- T.J. Rivera
- Matt Reynolds
- Gavin Cecchini
- Ty Kelly
- Eric Campbell
Collins might’ve said differently in the post game, but the bullpen shouldn’t have been a consideration. Gabriel Ynoa and Sean Gilmartin were fairly rested and capable of pitching multiple innings. Same goes for Hansel Robles. Also, it’s important to note the Mets only needed to find five innings because if it was close, the Mets were going Fernando Salas–Addison Reed–Jeurys Familia to close out the game anyway.
With September call-ups, the Mets had the depth to handle Collins lifting Montero. More importantly, with the Mets amidst the Wild Card race, they can ill-afford to give Montero a second inning because it could cost you the game.
Collins didn’t lift Montero, and he imploded in the second. It was not a result that was all that surprising. It was a result that helped cost the Mets the game. It was another poor managerial decision by Collins.
For much of this season, it is fair to say that the Mets have underachieved which has put them in a fight for the Wild Card instead of a fight for the division. Nothing speaks more to that than the Mets going 3-13 against the Diamondbacks, Rockies, and the White Sox. Flip that, and you have the Mets a game up on the Nationals right now.
If you want to argue the Mets are in this position due to injuries, you have to admit the Mets have exacerbated those problems. Jim Henderson‘s usage may not have caused the shoulder impingement, how he was used early in the season certainly didn’t help. Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera were thrown out there game after game despite dealing with leg injuries. Neil Walker was playing everyday during the summer despite him not being able to feel his toes. This doesn’t even address pitching Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz with injuries of their own. Overall, the decisions to play these players was either Terry Collins‘ call or was a decision made in conjunction with him.
It’s important thing to keep in mind with Collins now being lauded for his managing and some wanting to put him in the Manager of the Year discussion. People want him in the discussion despite all that he has done to harm the Mets chances (and possibly players) to put them in position to return to the postseason. People want him in the discussion despite Collins making a poor decision each and every game that is at a minimum puzzling, and at worst prevents the Mets chances to win the game. Accordingly, after each game, I will have a separate entry highlighting Collins’ poor managerial decision making.
Yesterday, the Mets annihilated the Braves 10-3. In the fifth inning, the Mets had a 10-1 lead. The chances of blowing that game are next to nothing, and yet Collins kept his starters in virtually the entire game.
Asdrubal Cabrera has a balky knee. With the expanded rosters, the Mets had both Gavin Cecchini and Matt Reynolds available to take over for him. Behind them were Eric Campbell and Ty Kelly. There was plenty of depth not just to get Cabrera out of the game, but also to have pinch hitters and infielders available. Instead, Collins kept him in until the eighth inning.
Yoenis Cespedes has had an injured quad that has hampered him for most of the season. Curtis Granderson has shown signs of fatigue with his playing center field. The Mets had Jay Bruce, Brandon Nimmo, and Michael Conforto on the bench. Instead of getting Cespedes and Granderson out of the game, Cespedes played the full game and Granderson only came out in the eighth.
So no, Collins didn’t prevent the Mets from winning yesterday’s game. However, his decisions may have far-reaching implications for the Mets in the stretch run of the season.
While the Mets should go out and beat this Braves team each time they face them, it’s unrealistic to expect them to go 19-0 against them. It’s the nature of baseball that a bad team can beat a good team on any given day. With that said, this is not a game the Mets should’ve lost.
The Mets jumped on former farmhand John Gant immediately scoring two runs in the first. It was all the more impressive when you consider the Mets didn’t get a hit in the inning. Jose Reyes reached on a leadoff walk, and he would come around to score on consecutive Braves errors. One of those errors allowed Yoenis Cespedes to reach, and he would score the second run of the inning on a Jay Bruce groundout. Yet another example of how Bruce is an RBI machine.
Bartolo Colon would give the lead back on a night there was no lead he could hold. In the first, Matt Kemp hit a sacrifice fly scoring Ender Inciarte. If it was Cespedes or a healthy Juan Lagares in center, Inciarte still most likely scores, but it would’ve been more interesting than it was with Curtis Granderson, who really had no choice than to throw it back to second base.
In the fourth, Nick Markakis would tie the score with a solo home run.
The Mets would regain the lead on a Cespedes home run to dead center in the fifth. It should’ve been the game winner. Instead, Colon gave up a game tying home run to Kemp, who has been a pain in the neck at the plate (even if he’s been a blessing in the field).
Right then and there, the Mets blew a game they should’ve won.
The Mets did have a chance to win the game, but Terry Collins and Tim Teufel would make decisions that would help cost the Mets the game.
In the eighth, Wilmer Flores hit a two out double. At the time, the Mets still had a pretty full bench, and a Gavin Cecchini who has still yet to appear in a game despite the Mets feeling completed to call him up. Perhaps, for all Collins knew Flores was faster than Cecchini or Brandon Nimmo for that matter.
Still, the Mets decided to keep the lead footed Flores in the game, even with capable and arguably defenders in James Loney and Eric Campbell available. There was no reason to keep Flores in the game, and yet, there he was.
T.J. Rivera would hit a pinch hit single to right field. Teufel would send Flores, who inexplicable slid head first into home plate. To add insult that was Markakis nailing Flores at the plate, Flores suffered an injury on the play and had to leave the game.
With the game tied and heading into extras, Collins went through his bullpen piece by piece bringing in everyone but Jeurys Familia. That’s what happens overworks his two best relievers AND when the manager manages to the save rule.
That led to Collins going to Erik Goeddel in the tenth. Keep in mind, the Mets are fighting for a postseason berth, and Collins went to the worst reliever in his pen who has been idle for a whole.
Of course, Goeddel would get into trouble and take the loss. Before he could blink, there were runners on first and third with one out. He’s strike out Tyler Flowers, and Collins would bring on Josh Smoker. Smoker would get Inciarte to fly out on a ball not deep enough to score the run, especially with it going to Cespedes.
It was a game the Braves never should’ve won. It was a game the Mets decision making allowed them to win. With the Giants and Cardinals winning, it’s a game that pushed the Mets out of a Wild Card position. They should be kicking themselves for that.
The Mets just about blew this game in every way, shape, and form. And yet, Yoenis Cespedes wouldn’t let them lose.
Rafael Montero was handed a 2-0 lead as a result of Curtis Granderson and Jose Reyes solo home runs off Brandon Finnegan. However, Montero would give it back as his high wire act came crashing down to Earth.
In the third, Montero issued a one out walk to Zack Cozart. Montero then paid no attention to him, so Cozart stole second. It was your classic Travis d’Arnaud didn’t throw out the runner who got a massive jump situation. After that, Montero would break an 0-27 streak opposing batters had against Mets pitching with runners in scoring position when Adam Duvall crushed a game tying two run homer.
The Reds would then go ahead in the fifth with Montero still struggling. He allowed a lead off triple to Hernan Irabarren. He would then issue a one out walk to Cozart. At that point, through 4.1 innings where Montero allowed three hits and four walks, Terry Collins had seen enough. He went to the bullpen to get a left-handed to pitch to Joey Votto to get the biggest out in the game.
Collins could’ve gone with Jerry Blevins, who has been the Mets best lefty out if the pen. He could’ve gone with Josh Smoker who is a strikeout machine. No, Collins went with his worst possible option with Josh Edgin, who still has not regained his velocity.
Votto would lift a fly ball to right. Jay Bruce, the man with the highly touted throwing arm, made a weak and offline throw to home plate allowing Irabarren to score giving the Reds a 3-2 lead.
It seemed it would stay that way after a brutal top of the sixth. Bruce led off with a single, and he moved to second on a brutal Duvall fielding error. First, d’Arnaud couldn’t get him home as he flinched on a pitch that was clearly a strike. After a Granderson hit by pitch, Kelly Johnson, pinch hitting for Matt Reynolds, just beat out the relay throw to avoid the 3-6-3 double play. Michael Conforto, pinch hitting for Ynoa, struck out looking on a ball that looked off the plate. Apparently, it was too close to take.
In the seventh, Cespedes would start to take over. Asdrubal Cabrera summoned all he could with his injured knee to leg out an infield single to get on in front of Cespedes. Cespedes then did his thing:
The ball just cleared the center field wall to give the Mets a 4-3 lead.
In the eighth, Cespedes wouldn’t let the Reds get something going. Mets killer Brandon Phillips lined a ball to the left field wall off Addison Reed. Cespedes fielded the ball cleanly as it ricocheted off the wall, turned, and delivered a perfect strike to Johnson.
From there, Alejandro De Aza hit a pinch hit homer, the Mets 11th of the season, to give the Mets a 5-3 lead. That two run cushion was more than enough for Jeurys Familia who recorded his 46th save of the year.
This game was another example of how important Cespedes is to the Mets, and how much they need him healthy down the stretch.
Right now, the Mets are four games out of a Wild Card spot, and they are desperately hoping with Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera coming off the disabled list this week that the team goes on a run that will bring them back into the postseason. Whether or not that works, it is fair to ask if this is the Mets last chance to win the World Series.
The foundation of this team is its starting pitching. Matt Harvey has gone from Opening Day starter to question mark with his season ending surgery to address his thoracic outlet syndrome. There is no telling how effective he will be if he is able to come back.
Zack Wheeler was supposed to be back by the All Star Break. Now, it appears that he will miss his second consecutive season. While rehabbing from the surgery, Wheeler has had to have a second surgery to deal with forearm irritation caused by stitches, sensory nerve irritation, and now a flexor strain. He had been treated by Dr. Dave Altchek, and he sought a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews. We are continuously assured there are no structural issues, and yet, time and again there is a new excuse why he can’t pitch. At the end of the day, it does not matter if he is unable to pitch due to his elbow or for other reasons. Who knows when he can return or how effective he will be when returning.
There are more question marks in the rotation. Steven Matz has yet to have a healthy season in the majors. Bartolo Colon will be 44 years old next year meaning there is no guarantee that he pitches beyond this year. Even if he does, there is no guarantee he will be this effective. Logan Verrett has shown he is not capable of being a member of the starting rotation. Sean Gilmartin‘s season ended early with shoulder problems. The Mets aren’t going to pick up Jon Niese‘s option, and even if they did bring him back, you should probably expect more of the same from him.
The Mets other options are Gabriel Ynoa and Robert Gsellman, both of whom are probably not ready to start in the majors. Even if they are, both realistically project to be middle to back of the rotation starters. That certainly helps, but that also a huge drop off from someone like Harvey.
As if the starting pitching wasn’t a big enough issue, there is the issue of the Mets offense.
As we saw this year, you cannot rely upon David Wright at all. The Mets have no internal options to replace his bat in the lineup. Worse yet, there is a lack of very good options on the free agent market choices available even if the Mets were so inclined to add a bat. Keep in mind, they may also have to replace Lucas Duda at first base. In 2015, Duda had a disc issue. This year, Duda will miss almost the entire season with a stress fracture in his back. There is a very real chance that he is a non-tender candidate. The Mets do not have a first base option in the minors who is on track to play in the majors next year, and again, the free agent market is less than promising. That means James Loney can once again be the Mets best option, and as we have seen, he is not a terribly good everyday option.
This isn’t even the Mets biggest problem, not by a long shot.
Cespedes can opt out of his contract at the end of the season, and he will easily become the best free agent available. The narrative coming out of last offseason was how much Cespedes wanted to be a Met, and that is why he returned. That’s the hope why he will stay. However, it’s more narrative than fact.
The fact is Cespedes didn’t get a fair market value offer on the free agent market. Judging from the free agent contracts handed out, teams placed a higher value on Jason Heyward and Justin Upton. The teams you would think would be interested in Cespedes gave the money to somebody else. The Nationals were interested, but due to budgetary constraints, they only offered Cespedes a largely backloaded deal. It is possible that after another postseason berth, and Jonathan Papelbon‘s salary off the books, the Nationals could make another run at Cespedes in the offseason. It is also possible that the Giants, Dodgers, Rangers and/or the Angels could emerge as suitors for Cespedes. There’s always the phantom mystery team that could join the bidding.
It is certainly plausible the Mets get outbid from Cespedes, or they simply move on from him. Keep in mind, there were rumblings all over that the Jay Bruce trade was made, in part, as insurance for Cespedes leaving in the offseason. If that is the case, the Mets outfield will yet again be left without a true center fielder.
The main task may first fall to Curtis Granderson, who has struggled mightily this year and should not be counted on to rebound in 2017. The Mets could go with a Juan Lagares/Brandon Nimmo platoon in center, but that would leave no room for Michael Conforto to play everyday.
Speaking of Conforto, there is another major issue with this Mets team. Both Conforto and Travis d’Arnaud have regressed this year. Certainly, Conforto’s wrist and d’Arnaud’s shoulder are factors, but the fact remains, they have regressed. Couple that with Kevin Plawecki not progressing at all, there is a major issue. Either the Mets young talent is not as good as anticipated, or there are impediments at the major league level that is preventing them from reaching their full potential. In order for the Mets to remain contenders, they will need their young players to step up.
Between the aforementioned free agent market and lack of major league ready prospects, the Mets only real hopes of improving the roster is on the trade front. The problem there is the cupboard is getting bare. The Mets have already moved big pieces in Michael Fulmer and Dilson Herrera. They’re not willing to move Amed Rosario, and they are really unlikely to move Dominic Smith. The Mets could move Nimmo, but that depletes from their depth for next season, and as we have seen, the Mets need all the depth they can get.
Keep in mind that over the past two seasons, the Mets have also moved Robert Whalen, Luis Cessa, John Gant, Akeel Morris, and Casey Meisner. They lost Matthew Bowman and Dario Alvarez without getting anything in return. Their departures leaves a gap of mid-tier prospects the Mets could move for upgrades.
Yes, the Mets can field a very competitive baseball team next year. As long as you have pitchers like Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, you are going to have a chance to compete. With another year of Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia, it is a seven inning game for the Mets. It’ll become a six inning game if Hansel Robles takes the next step. But after that?
You’re counting on Neil Walker returning, which is not a guarantee. You’re counting on Asdrubal Cabrera developing more range at shortstop while hitting better than .255/.308/.410. He was a .249/.307/.405 hitter from 2013 – 2015. You’re counting on Jose Reyes to hit better than his .250/.302/.466 and be healthy all of next year. Reyes hit .274/.310/.378 while hitting in two of the best hitter’s parks last year. You’re counting on Wilmer Flores being able to learn to hit righties. You’re counting on the Mets not having to rely on the Eric Campbells and Ty Kellys on the world for prolonged stretches of time over the next season. It’s all possible, but it’s not likely.
As things look right now, the Mets better start winning some ballgames and make a run because there is no guarantee that the Mets window to contend will remain open past this season.
There were a number of reasons why the Mets made the move for Jay Bruce. There was the obvious reason that Bruce was the major league RBI leader and he was hitting well with runners in scoring position. His addition was meant to address the Mets issues in those areas. The Mets also obtained Bruce as Yoenis Cespedes insurance, not just for this year with Cespedes quad, but also for next year in the event the Mets cannot re-sign him after he opts out. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, the Mets acquired Bruce due to the struggles of Michael Conforto.
It’s at least a possibility that the Mets never make the trade for Bruce if Conforto was hitting like he should. Instead, Conforto was mired in a horrific slump for two months after a hot April all but forcing the Mets hands. The team would have to send him to AAA to try to set him straight.
Conforto would start out hitting pretty well when he came back from his stint in AAA. In his first 12 games back, he hit .267/.371/.400 with four doubles and two RBI. He was taking the right approach at the plate by not only looking to hit he ball the other way, but by also hitting it the other way with authority. However, Conforto’s success wouldn’t carry forward. Terry Collins outright refused to give him regular playing time. He sat Conforto against lefties, and he sat him against tough righties like Justin Verlander and Jose Fernandez. Collins sat Conforto at times in favor of Ty Kelly because apparently Collins thought Kelly gave the Mets a better chance to win. By the way, the Mets are 7-14 in games in which Kelly plays.
Predictably, the young player gets lost on the bench, and he starts to press and lose his way. Conforto began to slump, and he found himself amid a 2-20 slump. In that stretch, Conforto only started in five of the Mets eight games, and he had only started 13 out of 23 possible games. Naturally, the Mets decided to send Conforto back to the the minors . . . again . . . so he could get more playing time. Apparently, this was a better solution than telling the manager the obvious – Play Conforto because he is a much better baseball player than Kelly.
In fact, Conforto, even at his worst, has been a better hitter than the other options the Mets have. Even with Conforto struggling this year, consider this:
- Michael Conforto – hitting .200/.298/.340 with four doubles, one homer, and three RBI in the 19 games he played after he spent time in AAA
- Brandon Nimmo – hitting .237/.297/.288 with one homer and five RBI in 20 games with the Mets
- Ty Kelly – hitting .186/.280/.256 with one homer and four RBI in 21 games with the Mets
- T.J. Rivera – hitting .222/.211/.278 with a double and three RBI in six games (none in the outfield).
In relatively similar small sample sizes, Conforto has hit better than Nimmo, who had been called up in his stead when Conforto was first demoted. Furthermore, Conforto has hit better than Kelly and Rivera, who the Mets have on the major league roster over Conforto now.
Also, take into consideration the Mets have a real center field problem. The aforementioned Bruce is struggling in right field this year meaning he is not suited to play center field. That leaves the Mets with the following two options to play in center field:
- Curtis Granderson – hitting .187/.265/.293 with two doubles, two homers, and two RBI in his last 20 games
- Alejandro De Aza – hitting .196/.339/.304 with two doubles, one homer, and three RBI in his last 20 games
Essentially, it is only Conforto who is being punished for being in a slump. Remember that during an epic postgame rant following a 9-0 loss to the Padres on August 11th, Collins had this to say, “Starting tomorrow we’re going to get after it. And those that don’t want to get after it, I’ll find some who do. Because in Las Vegas there is a whole clubhouse of guys that want to sit in this room. And that’s all I have to say.” (NJ.com). After that game, Conforto was the only position player sent down because apparently he was the only player in that clubhouse that needed to be taught a lesson.
The end result is the Mets getting diminishing returns from Granderson as he is forced to play every day in center field. It is also resulting in the Mets playing De Aza, who is once again slumping at the plate, against righties and Kelly, who cannot hit major league pitching, against lefties. Even with his struggles, Conforto was better than the numbers those three are putting up right now. Instead, the Mets would rather watch Conforto play everyday in AAA and tear the cover off the ball. Since his ill advised punishment, sorry demotion, Conforto is 5-9 with a hit by pitch, three runs, a double, a homer, and two RBI.
This isn’t a AAA mirage either. We’ve seen Conforto do that at the major league level. However, in order for him to do that he actually has to play. Instead, the Mets would rather leave him in the minors while fielding the worst possible team they can muster. If the Mets really want to win, they would call up Conforto and play him everyday because at his worst, he’s still better than what the Mets are throwing out there right now.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online
The Mets have a serious problem with Curtis Granderson. He is looking every bit of his 35 years of age hitting .226/.317/.420, and it is getting worse as the season progresses. Since the All Star Break, a time when players can rest up and get rejuvenated, Granderson has been hitting .186/.250/.304 while striking out in 21% of his plate appearances. When he does hit the ball, he is hitting an excessive number of grounders into the shift. It’s a major problem as Granderson has the lowest batting average on groundballs among active players. Keep in mind that list includes players like David Ortiz and James Loney, both of whom could lose a race to Sid Bream.
Even worse for Granderson is while he was a finalist for the Gold Glove in right field last year, he has taken a real step backwards defensively. Granderson’s defensive metrics in right field have dropped considerably with him having a -4.9 UZR and a 0 DRS this season. Fortunately, Granderson isn’t the Mets right fielder anymore . . . he’s their center fielder.
More than anything else, that is the issue with Granderson. He is the team’s best option in center field meaning he has to play everyday despite the fact he has stopped hitting and despite the fact he is no longer a good fielder.
The Mets got to this point for a number of reasons. The first is injuries. Yoenis Cespedes was supposed to be the everyday center fielder. However, with his quad injury, he will be unable to play center for the rest of the season. The Mets platoon option against lefties, Juan Lagares, is on the disabled list after needing surgery to repair a torn tendon in his left thumb. The recently imported Justin Ruggiano played only three games with the Mets before needing to go on the disabled list himself. With the injuries, that leaves the following options on the roster to play center field:
With respect to De Aza, he has come crashing back to Earth after a torrid July. So far in the month of August, De Aza is hitting .088/.244/.176. As bad as things have been with Granderson, he hasn’t been that bad.
With respect to Bruce, he’s miscast as a right fielder. After two bad years in Cincinnati where he averaged a -5.2 UZR and a 0 DRS, he is at a -13.2 UZR and a -13 DRS this year. Honestly, the Mets should be looking for a way to take him out of the outfield and put him at first base rather than put him at a position he is ill equipped to play and last played eight years ago.
That leaves Kelly and Rivera neither of whom are center fielders. However, they are the Mets next best option as the team decided both should be in the majors over Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo. While you can certainly make the argument that one of them should be on the roster with the need for another third base option with Asdrubal Cabrera on the disabled list moving Jose Reyes to shortstop, it is unfathomable why both of them are on the 25 man roster. It’s unfathomable to have them both on the roster when you consider Conforto and Nimmo are better hitters than either one of them despite their struggles in the majors this year.
The rationale is the outfield is too left-handed with Granderson, De Aza, and Bruce is quite poor reasoning. Granderson is a career .224/.296/.398 hitter against lefties, and that hasn’t stopped Collins from playing Granderson against lefties. Yet somehow, Collins decides that Conforto and Nimmo, two players who have hit lefties in the minors, cannot possibly hit lefties. The end result may very well have been that Collins is right as his refusal to play either against lefties may have created a mental issue with them.
Regardless, the Mets only options right now in center field are Granderson and De Aza. While Granderson has struggled mightily this year, he is currently the Mets best option in center field. With that in mind, Granderson simply has to play every day. He has to play every day despite his slump. He has to play against lefties despite him hitting .225/.290/.392 off of them this year. He has to play in center because the Mets have no other options.
Ultimately, that is the real Granderson problem. It’s not that he’s struggling. It’s that the Mets don’t have a better option than him right now – especially since the team decided Kelly and Rivera were better than Conforto and Nimmo.