Chris Flexen

Bad Decisions Like Designating Chris Flexen For Assignment Matter

This past weekend, the Mets made a very shrewd move re-signing Brad Brach to help rebuild the Mets bullpen. The Mets got lucky Brach was released last year, and Brach made the best of the situation by pitching more like he did with the Baltimore Orioles. When you consider he only signed for $850,000 with an extremely reasonable $1.35 million option for 2021, this could be one of the best moves made by Brodie Van Wagenen.

Of course, Van Wagenen would follow it up with a flat out bad decision by designating Chris Flexen for assignment to make room for Brach on the roster.

With respect to Flexen, there have been many arguments which completely miss the point. First and foremost, there’s the argument others will be eventually designated for assignment, so the order doesn’t matter all that much. Of course, that is not true because more talented players like Flexen may have had some value to teams prior to his accepting a deal with the KBO. Also, it’s just plain bizarre supporting a team keeping worse players at the expense of better players.

The other argument was Flexen wasn’t good anyway, so why does it matter? This reasoning is one of the most problematic thought processes of them all.

It is without question Flexen struggled. While pitching with the Mets in parts of three seasons, he was 3-11 with a 8.07 ERA, 2.132 WHIP, 7.1 BB/9, and a 6.5 K/9. When you focus on the control issues, that is in no way a recipe for success at the Major League level or any level for that matter. However, there needs to be some context to those stats.

In 2017, Flexen was rushed to the Majors from Binghamton despite having thrown just 48.2 innings above the Single-A level. In the ensuing years, Flexen would deal with knee issues, and he would also be shipped back-and-forth between the minors and majors. There would be long periods of non-use, and there would be his being overused. Really, when you break it down, the Mets did not in any way set him up for any sort of success, and the numbers proved that out.

Going to Baseball Savant, we see Flexen has above-average fastball velocity and elite curve spin on his breaking pitches. In terms of just pure stuff, this makes him a poor man’s version of Seth Lugo. Put another way, Flexen absolutely has the arsenal to succeed as a reliever at the Major League level, but unlike Lugo, he has not found a way to quite harness his stuff and translate it to results.

Of course, this is the exact reason why the Mets hired Jeremy Hefner as their pitching coach. During his time with the Twins, Hefner become conversant in analytics, and he showed a real ability to translate them to players. We saw Twins pitchers attack the zone differently and improve their pitch sequencing in addition to buttoning up some of their mechanical issues. When you hire a pitching coach like Hefner, or really any pitching coach, you are looking for someone who is able to finally reach talented pitchers like Flexen and get them to pitch to the best of their ability.

With the Mets designating Flexen for assignment over far less talented pitchers like Chris Mazza, the team is not going to see a return on their investment on both Flexen and Hefner. To that end, this is more of the same from the Mets organization.

At different points in years past with the Mets, we have seen the team part with talented players who needed coaching like Flexen with the common refrain being they never did anything at the Major League level, so who cares? This was the refrain when the Mets parted ways with players like Heath Bell, Justin Turner, Hansel Robles, and many others.

In some instances, this did come back to haunt the Mets, and admittedly, in others, it did not. However, that is all besides the point. The real point here is the Mets had a very talented player, and they hired a pitching coach to help improve and develop pitchers like Flexen. Rather than proceed with that plan, the team decided they wanted to keep far less talented pitchers and not even bother getting the most out of someone with stuff which could have worked extremely well in the bullpen. When looking at it from that prism, designating Flexen for assignment made little to no sense.

Mets Things To Be Thankful For

With today being Thanksgiving, it is time to go around the Mets roster and say things we are thankful for:

Pete Alonso – he’s been better than even the highest and most absurd expectations anyone could have of him both in terms of his on the field play as well as the type of teammate and person he is

Carlos Beltran – for coming home

Robinson Cano – showed some late positive exit velocities showing there is some hope for a 2020 rebound

Yoenis Cespedes – for everyone questioning the drive of a man severely injured and needing career saving surgery, he is out there in the cold taking batting practice

Michael Conforto – re-established himself as one of the best young corner outfielders in the game, and with his talent, he’s on the verge of an MVP caliber season

J.D. Davis – quickly became a fan favorite and like few others seemed to really enjoy being a New York Met.

Jacob deGrom – best pitcher in baseball and starting to etch his likeness on the Mets Mt. Rushmore

Edwin Diaz – he survived the season, made no excuses, and he is doing what he needs to do to be the pitcher he was in 2018.

Jeurys Familia – he stopped using “Danza Kudro” meaning we no longer go to very bad places when that music begins blaring

Luis Guillorme – proved if given a chance he is a Major League caliber player giving the Mets some real needed middle infield depth

Chris Flexen – his move to the bullpen gives the Mets an interesting upside option in the bullpen

Robert Gsellman – he is one of those throwback type reliever who is always willing to take the ball no matter what

Sam Haggerty – it’s not often a player comes out of nowhere to provide real value to an organization the way Haggerty did with this speed

Jed Lowrie – to his credit, he did everything he could just to get those pinch hitting appearances late in the season

Seth Lugo – the best reliever in baseball who now gives Beltran a reliever who can break knees with his curve

Steven Matz – took that step forward and put to bed the unfair and wrong mentally weak narrative

Jeff McNeil – the man just does it all. He hits, plays everywhere, and he saves puppies.

Brandon Nimmo – if someone created a stat measuring the quotient of talent and enthusiasm, he’d be the Mike Trout of the stat

Tomas Nido – became the defensive minded back-up catcher many believed him to be, and he played a part getting Mets pitchers head in the right place during different parts of the year.

Stephen Nogosek – he is single-handedly trying to win the Addison Reed trade and the 2017 trade deadline for the Mets

Corey Oswalt – he put behind some injuries and gross mishandling by the organization to show he is a viable depth starting option for the organization

Wilson Ramos – drove in a number of big runs last year, and he has promised to be better behind the plate in 2020.

Amed Rosario – just a tireless worker who seems to be on the cusp of fulfilling the immense potential we all saw he had in the minors

Paul Sewald – he keeps proving himself to be better than the narrative, and he finally got his first Major League win to put an exclamation point on what is one of the better stories of the Mets farm system

Dominic Smith – that walk-off homer was a beautiful exclamation point on a season where he proved everyone who ever doubted him to be very wrong

Drew Smith – his coming back from Tommy John at some point in 2020 gives the Mets some hope for an improved bullpen.

Marcus Stroman – few have fully embraced being a Met like he has and fewer have been ready to thrive on the New York stage

Noah Syndergaard – not just a great pitcher, but also a guy who wants to be a New York Met.

Justin Wilson – was terrific in 2019, and with the LOOGY rules, he becomes an even more valuable bullpen piece in 2020

In terms of the talent still here, there is a lot to be thankful for. Hopefully, we will see the return of Zack Wheeler giving us all the more to be thankful for in 2020 and beyond.

Mets Who May Soon Be Designated For Assignment

With the Mets protecting Andres Gimenez, Jordan Humphreys, Ali Sanchez, and Thomas Szapucki from the Rule 5 Draft, the 40 man roster is completely full. With the Mets needing to address a number of areas of this team, this means ever trade, waiver claim, and free agent signing is going to require a player coming off the 40 man roster.

Obviously, Drew Gagnon was the first casualty, but he is not going to be the last. Here is a look at some of the other players sitting on the bubble:

Tyler Bashlor

2019 MLB Stats: 0-3, 6.95 ERA, 24 G, 22.0 IP, 1.727 WHIP, 7.0 BB/9, 8.2 K/9

The success Bashlor has had in the minors has not translated at all to the majors. In fact, his control issues have only been magnified, and he has not been able to blow his fastball by anyone. This left him hittable, and he has been hit hard.

Sam Haggerty

2019 Stats: 11 G, 4 PA, 0 H, 0 BB, 3 K

Haggerty was a September call-up with the Mets looking to add some late game speed as they were making a push for the Wild Card. With the current roster crunch, the Mets are too heavy on infielders. With Luis Guillorme firmly establishing himself as a Major League caliber utility player, Haggerty’s spot is all the more tenuous, and he’s very likely the first position player designated for assignment in the event a non-catcher is signed.

Chris Flexen

2019 Stats: 0-3, 6.59 ERA, 9 G, GS, 13.2 IP, 2.049 WHIP, 8.6 BB/9, 6.6 K/9

After struggling as a two pitch starter in his brief Major League appearances, Flexen was finally moved to the bullpen where he had fleeting success. You could argue with his stuff he could succeed next year in a bullpen role, but it’s very possible the Mets don’t see that happening as he was not called up last September. His being out of options may only accelerate a DFA decision.

Franklyn Kilome

2018 MiLB Stats: 4-9, 4.18 ERA, 26 GS, 140.0 IP, 1.343 WHIP, 3.9 BB/9, 8.0 K/9

Kilome is a promising prospect who has control issues and is coming off Tommy John surgery. So far, the Mets have indicated things are going well in his rehab, and he should be ready to pitch early in the 2019 season. That said, if he has a setback, he could be moved off the roster in short order.

Chris Mazza

2019 MLB Stats: 1-1, 5.51 ERA, 9 G, 16.1 IP, 1.592 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9, 6.1 K/9

Mazza was a 29 year old rookie who finally made his debut with the Mets last year. While he was on the September roster, he did not pitch in a meaningful game although he did pick up his first Major League win on the final game of the season.

Tomas Nido

2019 Stats: .191/.231/.316, 5 2B, 4 HR, 14 RBI

Nido got his chance to be a defensive minded back-up, and he worked well with pitchers like Noah Syndergaard. Still, he effectively hit like a pitcher at the plate, and his framing numbers, albeit good, were not at the point where you could justify keeping him in the Majors with the way he hit. With him being out of options, and the Mets looking to upgrade, he has the most tenuous spot on the 4o man roster.

Stephen Nogosek

2019 Stats: 0-1, 10.80 ERA, 7 G, 6.2 IP, 2.100 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9, 8.1 K/9

Nogosek seemed to turn a corner getting his control under wraps in Syracuse, but those issues would resurface in his brief Major League appearances. There is promise in his arm, but his control issues may eventually make him expendable.

Corey Oswalt

2019 Stats: 0-1, 12.15 ERA, 2 G, 6.2 IP, 2.250 WHIP, 8.1 BB/9, 6.8 K/9

Oswalt was added to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft after he was the 2017 Eastern League Pitcher of the Year. Since that time, he has struggled, and it was partially the result of how the team left him sitting dormant for stretches and asking him to pitch on very short rest. He also dealt with some nagging injuries last year. In July and August, when he was healthy and finally giving a stretch of starts, he pitched well posting a 1.98 ERA in 10 starts which will probably save his spot on the 40 man roster. Still, with his not getting a September call-up, it’s not a guarantee.

Paul Sewald

2019 Stats: 1-1, 4.58 ERA, 17 G, SV, 19.2 IP, 1.068 WHIP, 1.4 BB/9, 10.1 K/9

Last year, Sewald was designated for assignment, and yet again, despite the odds, he pitched his way back to the Majors. In fact, at the end of the year, he was arguably the most reliable right-handed reliever in the Mets bullpen not named Seth Lugo. He has a low walk rate, good strikeout rate, and had a better FIP than ERA. One thing which may save him is his still having a Major League option remaining.

Daniel Zamora

2019 Stats: 0-1, 5.19 ERA, 17 G, 8.2 IP, 1.731 WHIP, 5.2 BB/9, 8.3 K/9

Zamora is an interesting case. In his career, he has posted reverse splits, but he has a very good K/BB ratio against LHB flashing a wipeout slider. With MLB enacting rules effectively eliminating the LOOGY role, a pitcher like Zamora could actually have increased value, but for that to happen, he needs to harness himself better. Fortunately, he has options remaining.

Thank You 2019 Mets Players

Now that the Mets postseason hopes are officially over, there will come a time to write post mortems to assess all that went wrong and how the Mets could improve in the future.

Before doing that, we should first acknowledge these Mets players fought tooth and nail giving all they could give to help make an improbable run. What we would discover is this is a tough and very likeable group who deserves our gratitude.

Pete Alonso – for having perhaps the greatest rookie season in MLB history while being just a good person.

Aaron Altherr – his RBI double and scoring later in the game proved to be the winning run in a game against the Pirates as the team looked to turn their season around.

Luis Avilan – limited LHB to a .104/.189/.188 batting line making him an exceptional LOOGY, perhaps the last true LOOGY with the incoming MLB rule changes.

Tyler Bashlor – had a seven game scoreless streak in May and another four game one from June to July where he picked up his first hold.

Brad Brach – came to the Mets like he always wanted, and he helped stabilize a bullpen which desperately needed his help.

Keon Broxton – had a go-ahead RBI against the Nationals in April helping the Mets get off to another great start.

Robinson Cano – returned from what should’ve been a season ending injury to do all he could to help get this team into the postseason.

Michael Conforto – reminded us how great he is when he is healthy. Yes, great.

Travis d’Arnaud – came back too soon, never complained, and he left the Mets with pride and dignity after a good Mets career.

J.D. Davis – had a season better than anyone could’ve imagined with a number of big hits. More than that, he became a fan favorite as he was a player who clearly loved being a part of this team.

Rajai Davis – the lifelong Mets fan came home, and he would deliver two absolutely huge pinch hits to keep the Mets afloat at times they needed them.

Jacob deGrom – we are experiencing greatness everytime he takes the mound, and at some point we will need to begin having Hall of Fame conversations about him.

Edwin Diaz – there was a real dignity with him when he faced the media everytime he struggled. He made no excuses, and he put the work in to try to get back to where he was in Seattle. From what we’ve seen, he will get back there next year.

Jeurys Familia – you have to say something about someone who loved being a Mets player, and he came back to be a part of another winning team. Hopefully, that will be next year.

Chris Flexen – reinvented himself as a reliever who showed potential with the ability to strike out batters.

Wilmer Font – showed the Mets real value as a reliever before he was inexplicably designated for assignment.

Todd Frazier – provided this team with real leadership and defense, and he had a number of hot stretches which helped the Mets get back into it.

Drew Gagnon – for a month stretch from late April to late May he was an extremely reliable reliever.

Carlos Gomez – came back to the Mets and started the fun “Ye! Ye! Ye!” rallying cry.

Robert Gsellman – before he began to breakdown due to overuse, he was putting together a really good season out of the bullpen.

Luis Guillorme – when he finally got his chance, he proved himself showing this team he needs to be a part of the future. His pinch hit homer was one of the biggest hits of the season.

Sam Haggerty – like Eric Young in 2015, he was a weapon as a pinch runner.

Donnie Hart – albeit in just one appearance, he’s one of the few pitchers in Mets history who has never allowed a run.

Adeiny Hechavarria – showed surprising power and helped keep the Mets going in May.

Juan Lagares – at the end, he reminded us of how great a fielder he can be, and he had one last hurrah with his first two home rungame.

Walker Lockett – his start in San Francisco was the lone win in what was otherwise a lost series.

Jed Lowrie – despite suffering significant injuries, he pushed onward to make himself a viable pinch hitting option.

Seth Lugo – he has been absolutely great, and he has kept an otherwise struggling bullpen afloat.

Steven Matz – for the second straight year, Matz made 30 starts, and he made huge strides forward with a big second half and being dominant at home.

Chris Mazza – a 29 year old rookie is a feel good story, and he had quite the debut against a very good Braves lineup.

Jeff McNeil – proved last year was no fluke, and his versatility allowed the team to get the most out of the roster.

Tomas Nido – was a terrific defensive catcher and framer who helped get the most out of the starters and help them get their minds straight.

Brandon Nimmo – came back from a bulging disc in his neck to pick up where he left off last year. His enthusiasm and love of baseball is always a breath of fresh air.

Stephen Nogosek – put together a great year in the minors to get to the majors.

Ryan O’Rourke – in his low moment, he gave us real human insight into what it was like being cut from a team.

Corey Oswalt – strong year in Triple-A giving the Mets real rotation depth going forward.

Joe Panik – came back home to New York to help keep the team afloat at the time the Mets were in desperate need for a second baseman, and he performed quite well.

Tim Peterson – earned his way onto the Opening Day roster,and he’d pitch fairly well in his limited opportunities.

Brooks Pounders – six of his seven outings were really good.

Wilson Ramos – turned what was going to be an awful year around with a great August, and his ability to frame the high pitch proved to be a real help to deGrom.

Jacob Rhame – before landing on the IL to end the year, he was showing glimpses of being the type of arm who could be a useful part of the bullpen going forward.

Rene Rivera – brought back warm memories from the 2016 season with him combining with Syndergaard to dominate the Nationals.

Amed Rosario – he made a fools out of people who didn’t believe in his work ethic and talent by showing he is going to be an impact player on both sides of the ball in the future.

Hector Santiago – picked up a big win in extra innings against the Tigers.

Paul Sewald – despite being an afterthought, he once again proved he was a Major League caliber reliever, and he would finally get that first win which proved to be so elusive for him.

Dominic Smith – despite his being maligned and dropped down the depth chart, he would get healthy, and he would show everyone just how good a player he is, and he showed himself to be a great teammate more interested in how he could help the team than his role.

Marcus Stroman – the man was born to pitch on the biggest stage, and he would show it to us. A full year of him is going to be a thrill.

Noah Syndergaard – with Nido and Rivera, he showed he’s a Cy Young caliber pitcher, and he has time and again said he wants to be a real part of this team going forward.

Ruben Tejada – there’s a poetic justice in his playing in 2019 and Chase Utley not.

Jason Vargas – he really helped the Mets Wild Card hopes by bombing with the Phillies.

Zack Wheeler – he desperately wanted to be a part of a Mets postseason push, and he not only got that chance, but he would be great down the stretch.

Justin Wilson – he put the elbow problems aside, and he had just a terrific year out of the bullpen.

Daniel Zamora – 13 of his 16 appearances were scoreless, and with his splits, he showed the Mets he could be a modern LOOGY with the changing bullpen rules.

Overall, while you may hate what Brodie Van Wagenen has done as the General Manager, and you can hate the Wilpons for not being invested in this team, you simply have to love each and every one of these players for all they gave this team. We should appreciate them for fighting to the finish and giving us hope for next year.

Braves Win With Billy Hamilton And Mets Lose With Aaron Altherr

Because this is the way his starts have gone the past two years, Mike Foltynewicz and his 6.09 ERA entering the game would duel Jacob deGrom to a draw. Because this is the Braves, the Mets could do nothing against a bad starter and a bad Braves bullpen.

Really, the Mets position players couldn’t push a run across the plate in 14 innings. The only run the Mets would score would be when deGrom took matters into his own hand and hit an opposite field homer in the sixth.

The real shame was this was his only run support in seven brilliant innings. Against a great Braves offense, deGrom struck out 13 including a stretch where he would strike out eight in a row. His striking out 13 and hitting a homer in a game a second time this year would set a new MLB record.

His genius amounted to just a no decision as Freddie Freeman did the Freddie Freeman thing and drove home Ronald Acuna, Jr., who put himself in scoring position by stealing a base, in the top of the sixth.

Up until the 14th, the Mets pitching was phenomenal recording 23 strikeouts. Even though some of them got themselves in trouble, they’d work out of their jams. In total, Seth Lugo, Edwin Diaz, Luis Avilan, Brad Brach, Paul Sewald, and Justin Wilson combined to pitch six shutout innings allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out 10.

Notably, Diaz pitched great in the 10th working around a HBP and Billy Hamilton standing on third with one out after a sacrifice and stolen base. Diaz responded by striking out Acuna and Ozzie Albies.

This and other great performances should’ve been a springboard for a victory, but it wasn’t because the Mets couldn’t get out of their own way.

In the 10th, Amed Rosario swung at what should’ve been ball three to strike out and leave the bases loaded.

In the 11th, the Mets completely botched their shot after Joe Panik was plunked by a pitch. Panik would go to third off two wild pitches by Sean Newcomb. What was curious about the second one was Pete Alonso struck out on it, waved Panik to third, and he didn’t break for first. Who knows how different things would’ve been.

Michael Conforto struck out, and after J.D. Davis was intentionally walked, the Game was in Aaron Altherr‘s hands. He’d ground out weakly to end the inning in what was the Mets last chance to score. Keep this in mind.

Come the 14th, Mickey Callaway opted for Jeurys Familia did a third straight day instead of a fresher Chris Flexen. You can understand the decision, but Familia didn’t have it.

He was immediately in trouble walking Tyler Flowers to leadoff the inning and then allowing a double to Adeiny Hechavarria. Initially, it was an RBI triple, but upon replay, it was shown to be stuck in the wall and overruled to be a ground rule double. That was the last break Familia got.

After striking out Rafael Ortega, Hamilton hit a ball which Panik couldn’t field for the game winning RBI.

If you’re keeping tabs, the Mets decided they’d rather keep Altherr instead of claiming Hamilton. Altherr didn’t deliver in a spot the Mets desperately needed him to deliver, and he’s now hitting .082/.136/.164 on the season. Hamilton, the guy who the Mets didn’t bother claiming apparently believing Altherr to be the better option, stole a base, and he had the key hit.

You could point to any number of things you want to in the game. However, at the end of the day, the Mets lost because they decided they’d rather Altherr than Hamilton.

Game Notes: Tomas Nido was hit on the head by Josh Donaldson‘s backswing. Despite his going to the ground in pain, he’d stay in the game to finish the inning only to be lifted for Wilson Ramos in the seventh. Ramos extended his hitting streak to 17 games, and he’d steal a base for the first time in his career. .

Rain Ends Game, Not Mets Winning Streak

With Noah Syndergaard painting the corners and uncharacteristically dominating up in the zone, the starting pitcher had the stuff.

With J.D. Davis doing his best Mike Baxter impersonation, there was the catch.

Indians starter Adam Civale was doing his part as well pitching well keeping the game moving at a brisk pace.

The back-to-back doubles by Michael Conforto and Wilson Ramos in the fourth provided the 2-0 lead taking that concern out of the equation.

This was close to the optimal defensive lineup with Joe Panik at second, Todd Frazier at third, and Juan Lagares in center.

For a moment, the only real concern seemed to be the weather. Then, with one out in the sixth, Tyler Naquin hit a really tough pitch by Syndergaard up the middle which dropped just in front of Lagares who busted in as hard as he could.

With this being the 50th anniversary of the 1969 World Series, there’s the obvious Tom Seaver/Jimmy Qualls comparisons, this had more of a David Cone/Benny Distefano feel to it even if Syndergaard was perfect through 5.1 innings (Cone was “just” a no-hitter).

As we have seen when many no-hitters/perfect games are lost, we are then left with a ballgame; a ballgame where things are the doubt shifts from the ability of a pitcher to compete the no-hitter to the pitcher being able to maintain the lead.

After Naquin singled, Civale struck out to flip over the lineup. Francisco Lindor made things all the more perilous with a single. The speedy Greg Allen hit a ball hard to the right side which appeared to be a surefire RBI single.

Pete Alonso made an incredible diving play which alone would have prevented the run from scoring. But in direct contrast to the play with Brad Hand last night, Syndergaard busted it to first, and he’d beat Allen to the bag ending the inning.

While Naquin would rain on everybody’s parade, the actual rains came in the bottom of the sixth.

With the way it was coming down and for how long, the Syndergaard gem was over. His final line was 6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K. The line was both amazing and disappointing because we are all left wondering what could’ve been.

After a lengthy rain delay, the Mets brought in exactly the person you wanted to see pitch – Jeurys Familia. Unlike July 30, 2015, there would be no blowup for him. Instead, it was a scoreless inning.

As strange as that might’ve seen for some fans, the bottom of the seventh was all the more bizarre. Frazier initially reached and took second on a Tyler Clippard throwing error. The only reason Frazier didn’t go for third was he respected Yasiel Puig‘s arm. Of course, Puig threw the bell away when he was flashing the arm.

With Frazier at third, Lagares hit a ball to medium left field. Between the wet track and Naquin’s arm, there was zero shot Frazier would be safe, so of course, Gary Disarcina sent him. The ball beat him by a healthy margin as Kevin Plawecki tagged him out.

Thirty-four minutes after the first rain delay, there would be another delay. At this moment in time, Paul Sewald has just a perfect eighth, and due to the delay, the chances of using him for the ninth were gone.

The Mets had runners at the corners due to a Luis Guillorme leadoff pinch hit walk and an Amed Rosario opposite field single. At least that’s where things were when they finally decided to call the game. That means Guillorme and Rosario never reached base, but it does mean Sewald gets the save.

In the end, it’s a series sweep for the Mets who are now SEVEN games over .500. They’re now a half-game behind the Cardinals (one in the loss column) for the second Wild Card. Not too shabby for a fringe postseason team.

Game Notes: Jeff McNeil began a rehab assignment tonight. Ruben Tejada was designated for assignment to create room for the Mets to call up Chris Flexen.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Win A Series In Kansas City

The Mets went to Kansas City looking to sweep, and they wound up having to settle for less than that. Ultimately, they got the job done even if they did not perform well at all:

1. Alex Gordon may be the only Royals player remaining, but it was still good to see the Mets win a series in Kaufman Stadium, and it felt even better seeing Jeurys Familia get the win in a deciding game.

2. It’s also great to see Michael Conforto homer in a game against the Royals and not watch the Mets not blow the game. Seeing where Conforto hit that homer, we should have called that a Blue Moon Shot.

3. Congratulations to Pete Alonso for breaking Cody Bellinger‘s National League rookie home run record. He now joins Mark McGwire and Aaron Judge as the only rookies to hit 40 homers in a season. This has been a great ride, and he’s now in line to join Darryl Strawberry as the only other Mets position player to win Rookie of the Year.

4. It is criminal that when Alonso broke the record the call was made by Wayne Randazzo on the radio side and Gary Apple on the TV side. The Mets have all-time great broadcasters, and somehow that’s what we were left with for this great moment. Mets needs to do better when there are vacations.

5. There were two different times Alonso looked like he was going to break that record. The first ball was called foul, and to his credit, Alonso shook it off and delivered with a huge go-ahead two RBI single. The next time the ball actually hit the foul line towards the top of the right field wall. Many times we see people struggle or slump as they near a milestone; Alonso powered onward.

6. Jacob deGrom had his 12th start of the season pitching 7.0+ innings allowed two earned or fewer. That mark ties him with Hyun-Jin Ryu for the most in the Majors. This should only highlight how great deGrom has been this year and how deserving he is of another Cy Young.

7. Yes, Ryu is having a great year, but deGrom’s year is arguably better. For starters, deGrom has more innings pitched and strikeouts. Moreover, he has a higher K/9, K%, K-BB%, FIP, xFIP, fWAR, and bWAR while leading in other other categories as well.

8. One of the reasons the Mets took this series was Joe Panik playing great. Since joining the Mets, Panik is hitting .333/.379/.444 with a double, triple, and two RBI with two walks. On a side note, he was the second baseman when the Giants beat the Royals in the 2014 World Series.

9. With Jeff McNeil down, the Mets needed Panik to step up, and he has. The same goes for Juan Lagares, who has been the 2015 postseason version of Lagares who has hit .458/.458/.583 since August 13.

10. With the way Panik and Lagares are playing, it appears Todd Frazier is the guy who has to go to the bench. Since the All Star Break, he is hitting .192/.239/.377. If he’s hitting this way, he cannot be in the lineup.

11. Going forward, Frazier has hit .283/.359/.543 off left-handed pitching. To that end, he should work out a de facto platoon with Panik, and given his glove, he should be the third baseman when Marcus Stroman is on the mound. Short of that, he should be a power bat off the bench and late inning defensive replacement.

12. These two were needed all the more with J.D. Davis twice going down with a calf injury in this series. With how hot he’s been hitting, the Mets need his bat in the lineup, and they were without it in a series against the Royals. One side point here, good for Mickey Callaway for being cautious in taking him out rather than leaving him to run 90 feet.

13. Davis coming out of Sunday’s game forced Amed Rosario to play left field. It didn’t take long for the ball to find him, and the played the ball like he’s been out there all year. He also doubled in his only at-bat as an outfielder. Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise because Rosario has been legitimately great lately.

14. Since the All Star Break, Rosario has hit .368/.403/.544. He’s a 3 DRS at shortstop. When McNeil went down, he took over the leadoff spot, and he’s been hitting .333/.383/.535 in the leadoff spot. He is literally doing all that is being asked of him, and he is emerging as a legitimately great player. This has been a real joy to watch.

15. Rosario having to play left field only highlights the stupidity of the Mets going with Ruben Tejada over Dilson Herrera. What makes the move all the more hilariously stupid was the Mets justification for going with Tejada over Herrera was versatility. Between the two, Herrera is the only one with outfield experience. Since Tejada rejoined the Mets, he is 0-for-8 at the plate with two strikeouts and someone already a -0.3 WAR. Herrera is hitting .294/.368/.706 while playing second base and left field. Again, this decision made zero sense.

16. On the topic of baffling decisions, when Robert Gsellman landed on the Injured List, the Mets called up Walker Lockett over Chris Flexen. Between the two, Flexen has the better stuff, and he has experience pitching out of the bullpen.

17. One area where Callaway was criticized for making a baffling decision was using Edwin Diaz to get out of a bases loaded no out situation. While it was a near disaster with a grand slam overturned on replay, Diaz got out of the inning allowing just two runs. In his next appearance, he pitched a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts. Maybe, just maybe in the long run, this was a great decision by Callaway.

18. Zack Wheeler‘s start against the Royals was disappointing. That’s two straight disappointing five inning starts from him. This time, it was probably more bad luck than anything. However, this is his first real postseason race, so it will be interesting to see how he handles things in his next start.

19. The Mets would have been better off with a sweep, but they still won the series. They’re also just two games back of the second Wild Card. Overall, when looking at this stretch of six games, many are discounting just how hot and grueling that stretch of road games are in Atlanta and Kansas City along with their losing one of their hottest hitters.

20. Good for the White Sox for having Bill Walton and Michael Schur do color commentary with Steve Stone out. As noted on Saturday, that is what the Mets should have been doing by using the multitude of great local broadcasters and fans in Gary Cohen’s and Howie Rose’s absence. On a final note there, John Sadak did a great job on the radio. Here’s hoping there’s a spot for him in 2020.

Factors At Play In Mickey Callaway’s Decision To Remove Steven Matz For Seth Lugo

Steven Matz was absolutely cruising having thrown fewer than 100 pitches in the game. He had not allowed a hit for over four innings, and Josh Donaldson was due up in the bottom half of the inning. This was going to be the third time Matz was going to face Donaldson in the game. We all know where things went from there.

Mickey Callaway kept Matz in the game. He allowed a single to Freddie Freeman before allowing a go-ahead two run homer to Donaldson putting the Mets behind 4-2. Things quickly unraveled with Austin Riley and Ozzie Albies hitting consecutive doubles to expand the Braves lead to 5-2 before Callaway could get Chris Flexen into the game to get Matz out of the jam.

No, that wasn’t last night’s game. That was the June 19 game against the Braves at SunTrust Park.

This has been Matz throughout his Major League career. He has the tendency to show brilliant flashes only to suddenly lose it. Recalling back to Game 4 of the 2015 World Series, he completely shut down the Royals for four innings before the Royals got to him for a run in the fifth. He began the sixth allowing hard hits to Ben Zobrist and Lorenzo Cain leading to Terry Collins having to go get Jon Niese to bail him out.

These are just two of the countless examples where Matz seemed to be dominating only to unexpectedly lose it. This has left his managers scrambling to get people up in the bullpen to bail him out. On a number of those occasions, it is too late.

When you are sitting in the dugout, this is exactly what needs to go through your mind. You need to remember of all those instances where Matz blew it. You have to remember opposing batters hit .284/.330/.490 when facing him a third time in the game this year.

While you may want to say it’s the bottom of the lineup, but it still was not a good situation for Matz. Adam Duvall is hitting .400/.412/.800 against LHP this year. Johan Camargo is 3-for-7 with a homer against Matz. And of course, there was the Donaldson June 19 homer against the Braves in a similar situation to what we saw last night.

If you are a manager in the dugout, you have seen Matz for almost two full years now. In the bottom of the sixth, Ronald Acuna Jr., Albies, and Freeman each had hard hit balls. Likely, one or two of those balls drop if Juan Lagares wasn’t vintage Lagares last night.

You have seen him have random and sudden implosions. You have the numbers at hand. You saw him run the bases and deal with a delay when Dallas Keuchel was removed from the game. There was another delay when Pete Alonso‘s follow through hit Tyler Flowers in the mask.

Take everything into consideration. Are you still trusting Matz, or are you going to Seth Lugo, a pitcher you honestly believe is the best reliever in all of baseball? Even if you personally disagree with the move, taking everything into account, can you really sit there and say it was a dumb decision.

If you’re being objective, no, you cannot honestly conclude it was dumb to remove Matz for Lugo. It’s fair to disagree or raise reasonable objections. But to suggest this was a stupid decision is to completely ignore everything is just lying and being purely reactionary to one of the rare times Lugo didn’t have it.

 

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Sweep Marlins Like Good Teams Do

The Mets are three games over .500 for the first time since April 23rd. They are now just one game behind in the Wild Card race, and they are eight games out in the division. Things are much more interesting in Queens.

1. The Mets went 14-2 against an easy stretch of games which included the Padres, White Sox, Pirates, and Marlins. Malign this all you want, but this is exactly how good teams play against bad teams.

2. The pivotal point in this series was with the Mets trailing 4-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh in the second game of the doubleheader. The homers by J.D. Davis, Michael Conforto, and Pete Alonso saved the game, and it served not just as a launching pad for the Mets winning that game but also sweeping the series. Who knows how much further that inning will take them.

3. Davis has been the Mets best hitter at home. For some reason, Citi Field is like Coors Field to him. With the Mets having a lot of home games remaining, he becomes increasingly more important to the team.

4. Conforto has arguably been the Mets best player in the second half. Since the All Star Break, he is hitting .315/.406/.641. Before his concussion, Conforto was hitting .274/.412/.519. Ultimately, when he is healthy, this is the level of player Conforto is, and that level is being a great player.

5. Alonso has homered in three straight, and he is just two behind Cody Bellinger‘s National League Rookie record. He is four behind the Mets single season record shared by Todd Hundley and Carlos Beltran. He’s followed every bad month with a good month. His defense has been much better than it was last year. What else is there to say about him?

6. Like many of the Mets players, Wilson Ramos has stepped it up. So far in August, he is hitting .417/.440/.708. To a certain extent, this outburst should have been foreseen. Traditionally, August is Ramos’ second best month of the season, and he hit .337/.396/.483 in the second half for the Rays and Phillies last year.

7. The Mets need these bats and others to step up in Robinson Cano‘s absence. While Cano has been frustrating at times, his replacements have not fared that well this year. The combination of Aaron Altherr, Luis Guillorme, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Juan Lagares have combined to go 2-for-26 with a run, three walks, a double, and 10 strikeouts.

8. Seeing this production, the Mets should go out and claim Joe Panik. As noted yesterday, even at a 69 wRC+, Panik would be the best hitter of this group. His defense would also be an improvement over what Cano offered. It should also be noted Panik has some upside as well.

9. On the idea of upside candidates, the Mets need some bullpen help. The Mets appear loathe to use Donnie Hart and Chris Mazza, and the Mets cannot continue to operate with no trust at all with two of the arms in their bullpen. On that front, Cody Allen, Brad Brach, and Greg Holland are available. The Mets also have quality organization options in Chris Flexen, Eric Hanhold, and Paul Sewald.

10 One interesting development with no August trades is we are seeing teams designate players for assignment now instead of floating them through waivers and holding onto them until competing teams look to obtain them right before rosters expand to 40 in September.

11. As we have seen with Lee Mazzilli and Addison Reed, the player the Mets obtain in August can make a huge different for a team looking to win a pennant and a World Series. Given the team’s depth and bullpen issues, they need to take a hard look at whomever hits the waiver wire over the next few weeks.

12. There was a time where people were calling for Mickey Callaway to be fired, and now, we are seeing writers begin to advocate for his winning National League Manager of the Year.

13. Remember most discussions about the manager are narrative driven and are reflective of a team’s performance. They are rarely, if ever, resultant of actual analysis of player progression and effort.

14. The Mets need better than Wayne Randazzo on the radio. He has no sense of team history, and as evidenced by his being unaware of egg creams, he’s not even well versed in the area. Really, when you break it down, you really have to question what he does well.

15. It certainly isn’t analysis with his attributing Conforto’s success to Alonso. Aside from the studies refuting the concept of lineup protection, it’s absurd a hitter as good as Conforto needed lineup protection to succeed.

16. The Mets radio play-by-play job is perhaps the radio job with the highest standards there are. Two of the greatest to ever do it, Bob Murphy and Gary Cohen, have held that job. Howie Rose is every bit their peer. We need better than Randazzo.

17. The Mets defense has been much better of late. We saw this with the Mets infield turning 10 double plays against the Marlins. When you play defense this way, all the pitchers look better. The real key has been Amed Rosario becoming a plus defender at SS.

18. Jason Vargas getting roughed up by the Diamondbacks is a reminder bad players outplaying their peripherals regress, and the Mets trading him to the Phillies was the one trade which really helped the Mets chances of grabbing a Wild Card.

19. The last time things were like this with the Mets, they had just obtained Yoenis Cespedes right before sweeping the Nationals to tie for the division lead and make a march towards the pennant. This year is starting to have the same feeling.

20. Marcus Stroman‘s first Citi Field start is going to be absolutely electric. That game and the series cannot get here soon enough.

Why Are Chris Mazza And Donnie Hart On Mets Roster?

You can hardly blame Mickey Callaway for going to Robert Gsellman in the ninth last night. The Mets are in a race for the Wild Card, and they cannot afford to blow winnable games. With a five run lead in the top of the ninth, that was not a spot for Seth Lugo or Edwin Diaz, but the Mets needed to go with someone whom they can trust.

This meant Gsellman pitching a night after he threw 1.1 innings. He struggled a bit, but he pitched a scoreless inning. As a result, the Mets locked down their fifth straight win, and their 13th win over their last 15 games. They also will be without Gsellman in a game where the unpredictable Steven Matz is scheduled to pitch.

Now, you could argue the Mets could have gone with Luis Avilan or Jeurys Familia in that spot. For Familia, he has shown he has looked better with some rest, so you can understand not pushing him. You can really argue for Avilan with his being one of three relievers who did not pitch in Monday’s doubleheader. With his shoulder history, you can understand the need to save bullets in his arm.

What you cannot understand is not going to Donnie Hart or Chris Mazza last night.

In terms of Hart, the Mets did use him in the 13-2 blowout win over Pittsburgh. He would pitch a clean eighth. He only threw nine pitches in that game, so there were no fatigue issues. If he is a guy who you can only trust with a 12 run lead on the road, why did the Mets waste their time claiming him off waivers?

There’s also Mazza. After blowing the game against the Giants over a week ago, he made two starts in Triple-A before being recalled on August 2. He has not pitched since he was recalled. Make any argument you want as to his true talent level, but the team is not trusting him to close out a five run lead against the worst team in the National League.

Right there, the Mets have two pitchers they don’t trust in that spot. Instead, they opted to use Gsellman leaving him unavailable for today. If Matz doesn’t go deep into the game, that leaves the Mets possibly looking to Hart or Mazza, two pitchers they clearly don’t want to use.

If that is the case, the Mets need to call up one of Chris Flexen or Eric Hanhold. If they want to go off the 40 man roster, Paul Sewald would be a fine choice, especially since the Mets know they can at least trust him to preserve a five run lead. More than anything, this is proof the Mets need to bring in Brad Brach. At a minimum, Brach is someone the Mets can use to preserve a five run lead in the ninth. At a minimum, that makes him a much better use of a roster spot than Hart or Mazza, two relievers who the Mets apparently don’t trust at all.