Chris Flexen

20/20 Hindsight: Did Cardinals Expose Mets?

After losing two out of three to the Cardinals, the Mets have lost six of their last eight games, and they are now just one game over .500. In the series and this bad stretch as a whole, we are starting to see some troubling patterns emerge:

  1. This Mets team was supposedly all-in, and Brodie Van Wagenen had a “Come get us!” bravado. Somehow, this led to Jason Vargas and Chris Flexen starting in back-to-back games. The season isn’t even a month old, and the Mets complete lack of pitching depth is already getting exposed.
  2. There is no good explanation why the Mets would have Jacob deGrom skip a precautionary MRI when he landed on the disabled list due to an elbow injury.
  3. Moreover, in a game against a team the Mets may very well be competing for a Wild Card spot this season, the Mets threw Flexen, Luis Avilan, Jacob Rhame, and Paul Sewald.
  4. If Avilan is not going to be used as a LOOGY but instead as a mop up reliever, you have to question why he is even on this roster.
  5. At some point you do have to question if this is really a bad team. Through 21 games, the team has a -19 run differential. The only team with a worse run differential in the National League is the Marlins.
  6. Again, the defense the Mets put behind their pitching is embarrassing. Their -22 DRS is the worst in the National League, and the combination of Amed Rosario and J.D. Davis form the worst left side of the infield in the majors by a pretty healthy margin.
  7. With respect to Rosario, at some point we have to question if this is who he is. He’s not making real progress in any parts of his game, and it’s getting to the point where he is hurting the Mets (again) on both sides of the ball.
  8. It is possible Rosario could use a day off. However, the short sighted Mets decided Luis Guillorme again did not merit a fair opportunity and instead chose to carry a string of Four-A relievers. So in addition to no pitching depth, the Mets have no shortstop depth.
  9. On Davis, there is no way you want him in the outfield. He’s slower than Freddie Freeman, Hanley Ramirez, and Jay Bruce among others.
  10. Davis’ inability to play third and the fact he can’t hit the fastball (.167), you cannot continue to play him once Todd Frazier is up. Sure, he had one or two nice games, but you cannot let small sample size successes blur the picture, especially when his defense is killing the Mets out there.
  11. If you look at Noah Syndergaard‘s advanced numbers, he’s the same pitcher he has always been. The biggest issue for him has been the defense. When the ball is in play, it’s a hit as evidenced by his .346 BABIP against (he’s at .311 for his career) and his 50.6% strand rate (career 73.7%).
  12. Really, Syndergaard has been unlucky because the fielding behind him is putrid. Hence, he has a 2.92 FIP.
  13. On the subject of Syndergaard, narratives are just tiresome. For example, when Syndergaard is bad in Philadelphia, not one word is said about Wilson Ramos‘ catching, but when it’s Travis d’Arnaud, we hear trumped up charges saying he’s not a good catcher or game caller. In the end, it’s confirmation bias.
  14. With respect to d’Arnaud, it’s clear he wasn’t yet ready to return. Certainly, you have to question why they rushed him back when the team was winning, and Tomas Nido was doing a quality job in the games he played.
  15. Robert Gsellman has been terrific of late. Not only did he bail the Mets out of that eighth inning jam, but he also pitched three innings to save the bullpen yesterday. If the Mets aren’t going to do the right thing and sign Gio Gonzalez or Dallas Keuchel, it may be time to start stretching him out to replace Vargas in the rotation.
  16. Good for Pete Alonso to respond to his first slump by mashing the ball against the Cardinals. Also, you have to love him talking his way into the lineup a day after having to leave the game with his getting hit by a pitch on the hand.
  17. The umpires handling of Robinson Cano getting hit on the hand was embarrassing for baseball and the umpires. There was no way he swung, and when you make a call that egregious, you cannot throw out Mickey Callaway.
  18. We are seeing Jeff McNeil in his first real slump as a Major Leaguer. In the series, he was 1-f0r-11. It will be interesting to see if the Cardinals discovered something other teams could emulate, or if St. Louis is just a terrible place where good things go to die.
  19. With all the troubles the Mets are having right now, Keon Broxton is getting saved from the spotlight, which is good for him because he has been terrible.
  20. If the only impediment to signing Craig Kimbrel is he wants to close, the Mets are even dumber than you could have imagined for wanting to have Rhame on the roster just so they could have Edwin Diaz close.

All-In Mets Throw Four-A Pitchers

In the offseason, the Mets traded over five prospects. Why? They were all-in.

The Mets opted to forego a year of control over Pete Alonso by having him start the year on the Opening Day roster. Why? The Mets we’re all-in.

The Mets opted to go with just four MLB caliber starting pitchers in their organization because that’s apparently being all-in as well.

Well, after Jacob deGrom lands on the IL, the Mets were left with Chris Flexen a day after Jason Vargas gave the Mets just four innings.

On the bright side Flexen was throwing 96 MPH. On the downside was everything else.

Flexen got through the first unscathed, but the wheels would come off starting with a Wilson Ramos passed ball allowing Jose Martinez to score. During that at-bat, Miles Mikolas would deliver with a two RBI single giving the Cardinals a 3-0 lead.

That was it. Game over.

Mikolas was cruising, and one pitcher after another couldn’t get out of their own way. Here are their disappointing but not unexpected final lines:

  • Chris Flexen 4.1 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 0 K
  • Luis Avilan 1.1 IP, H, 2 R, 2 ER, BB, 2 K
  • Jacob Rhame 1.1 IP, H, R, ER, 2 BB, 0 K
  • Paul Sewald 1.0 IP, H, R, ER, 0 BB, 0 K

Mets didn’t do anything offensively until the seventh when Amed Rosario tripled home Jeff McNeil. By that time, it was 9-1 in a game the Mets would lose 10-2.

Against a team the Mets are likely going to fight for a Wild Card spot, the Mets threw Flexen, Avilan, Rhame, and Sewald. They did it because they came into the season with no depth, and by mid-April, it’s already become an issue.

We also the Mets play continued shoddy defense. We also saw their offense begin to regress to the mean meaning it wasn’t there this time to bail out the pitching or defense.

Other fun notes include the Mets opting not to have deGrom undergo an MRI despite him having an elbow injury significant enough to put him on the IL. Alonso was hit on the hand with x-rays fortunately being negative.

Mostly, the Mets have been outscored by 17 runs this year, and they’ve allowed over 10 runs five times. It’s still early, but we’re starting to see very real problems with this team, and the way Van Wagenen built it, you legitimately have to ask how fixable they are.

Game Notes: McNeil beat Moises Alou‘s club record by recording his 100th hit in 291 at-bats. Brandon Nimmo returned after missing a couple of games with a neck issue.

Gio Gonzalez Should Be Pitching a New York Team Tomorrow

According to his deal with the New York Yankees, Gio Gonzalez can opt out of his minor league deal today. If and more likely when he exercises his opt out, the Yankees have 48 hours to decide whether or not they want to call him up to the majors or release him.

Now, calling him up may not be as clear cut with him due $300,000 per start. If he were to make even 20 starts, he’d be due $6 million on top of his $3 million base salary. You’d have to imagine even for the Yankees $9+ million is a lot for a sixth or seventh starter.

Of course, the Yankees could circumvent this two ways. First, they can use their exclusive window to renegotiate a deal. On that front, it is interesting to see if Gonzalez switching from Boras to CAA would serve as a benefit or impediment in those discussions.

The other option would be to call him up and put him in the bullpen. If he was in the bullpen, he’s not earning $300,000 per appearance. It should be noted this isn’t necessarily a bad faith decision as Chad Green and Jonathan Holder have gotten off to poor starts.

In the short term, Gonzalez can be a boost in the bullpen, and in the long term, he’s insurance for a Yankees rotation who still does not know when or if Luis Severino will return.

While the Yankees have plenty of incentive to keep him, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports the Yankees are not expected to keep Gonzalez thereby making him a free agent.

If the reports are true, the Mets need to immediately pounce.

With the news Jacob deGrom is headed to the Injured List with a not yet known elbow injury, we’re reminded how thin the Mets starting pitching depth is. We’re also reminded how much the Mets rotation needs another starter with each and every Jason Vargas start.

With respect to Gonzalez, he has been good in his last two Triple-A starts. Over his last 11 innings, he has allowed two earned while walking three and striking out 18. It should be noted that’s good, not great. But by the same token, unlike Dallas Keuchel, he has actually pitched in competitive games and can be ready to pitch literally tomorrow. For that matter, he promises to be much cheaper.

With respect to Gonzalez, it’s difficult to argue he’s much more than a fifth starter. He walks too many, and his strikeouts have continuously declined since 2012. Last year, he walked 4.2 per nine while striking out just 7.8 per nine. That’s a rather unacceptable 1.85 K/BB.

According to Baseball Savant, Gonzalez did have excellent spin rates while being above average in yielding hard hit balls and exit velocities. Still, Gonzalez has been quite hittable, and as noted, he makes matters worse with the free passes.

And yet, he’s a better option than Vargas, who has pitched just 9.1 innings over three starts because the Mets have no faith in him past 80 pitches. That’s if they even have faith in him with his first 80.

At the point, Corey Oswalt, Chris Flexen, and Drew Gagnon have yet to prove themselves at the Major League level. We can ascertain the Mets level of faith in each of them by them not really being put in a position to push Vargas during Spring Training.

So overall, it’s fairly clear the Mets need another starter, and they need that starter now. While Keuchel is the pitcher most everyone wants, Gonzalez is the guy who is cheaper and will be ready to pitch sooner. When you break it down, the Mets can do worse than Gonzalez.

In fact, the team has been doing worse than him, which is why they need to act fast to sign him as soon as he becomes available.

Diaz Dictate

Last night, we once again saw Mickey Callaway‘s go to Robert Gsellman, who is arguably the team’s fifth best reliever with the game on the line in the eighth inning. Callaway did this because he had little other choice.

Much like what Brian Cashman once did with Joe Torre and Joba Chamberlain, Brodie Van Wagenen has implemented his own version of the Joba Rules. A Diaz Dictate if you will.

As Brodie Van Wagenen and Callaway would explain, Edwin Diaz is only to be used for three outs in the same inning, and he is to be used for save situations only.

This means when the game is on the line with one or two outs in the seventh, the Mets must pitch anyone other than Diaz. It does not matter if the team had a short start from someone like Jason Vargas and has to throw Chris Flexen the following day in place of an injured Jacob deGrom.

This means the Mets will have to send in lesser relievers against the Phillies, a team they will fight season long for the division, or the Cardinals, a team the Mets will potentially be competing against for a Wild Card spot.

This means if there is a tie game on the road, Diaz doesn’t enter the game. Like we saw in Philadelphia, Diaz stays in the bullpen like Buck Showalter once had Zack Britton infamously stay in the bullpen in a tie game waiting for a save opportunity which may never arise.

Right now, there’s no gray area. There’s no assessing the team’s and bullpen’s needs day-to-day. Instead, the Mets are putting a premium on limiting Diaz’s usage.

Ultimately, like with the Joba Rules, it means the General Manager does not trust the manager with a young reliever. It means despite all the Mets gave up to acquire him, the Mets are not going to allow Diaz to be the game changing closer they purported him to be. It means a supposed all-in team is willing to lose games to save a closer for a postseason run which may never materialize.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Waste Another Opportunity

The Mets went to Atlanta in first place, and they leave a half-game back. At one point, it didn’t seem like it was going to be the case, but that is how it proved to shake out. There were a number of reasons why:

  1. The Mets had the Braves on their heels, and they were in a position for a statement making four game sweep. Instead, they walk away with a split. The biggest reason why is they started Jason Vargas.
  2. The Mets need to give Corey Oswalt an opportunity to succeed. They had him rush to be ready to relieve on three days rests, and they instead had him on extended rest. They then decide to have him rush his warm-ups to enter a game with runners on base. How did they think his outing on Saturday was going to go.
  3. The Mets have to make a decision once and for all with the fifth starter spot. Enough of these half measures. It’s either Vargas or an open try out. You can’t keep pushing Vargas back and putting more pressure on the rest of the rotation. It’s still April, and the Mets are running their rotation like it’s late September and there’s a postseason spot on the line.
  4. Dave Eiland said it well when he said no one can succeed with how the Mets are handling Vargas. If the team doesn’t trust him, name Oswalt or Chris Flexen the fifth starter or sign Dallas Keuchel. If they do trust him, keep him in the rotation on regular rest. Overall, don’t make things worse than they already are.
  5. If the Padres get Keuchel on top of signing Manny Machado and having Fernando Tatis Jr. being the season in the majors, the Padres will be everything Brodie Van Wagenen has purported the Mets to be.
  6. The Mets sold us they needed Pete Alonso on the Opening Day roster to win the division. In that time, they won eight games. With their starting Vargas, they gave one of those wins back, and Vargas (or the fifth starters spot) has at least 28 starts to go.
  7. Just as we all expected, Steven Matz has been the best pitcher in the Mets rotation. If he continues to be so, he’s going to help overcome a lot of the problems created by the fifth starter spot.
  8. Zack Wheeler and Brandon Nimmo showed in Atlanta we should not overreact to slow starts from people who have historically performed. That is something to remember as Robinson Cano is hitting .183 with a -0.3 WAR.
  9. Michael Conforto is playing like an MVP candidate. Mets should be looking to lock him up, and don’t play the Scott Boras card. The Nationals locked up Stephen Strasburg. It may be an uphill climb, but it is possible if you have the will.
  10. With Jacob deGrom struggling with Wilson Ramos behind the plate, we can probably put to rest the insane notion deGrom’s last start was attributable to Travis d’Arnaud.
  11. The biggest warning sign with deGrom is batters hitting the long ball against him again. It may be just a slight adjustment, but he needs to find a way to keep the ball in the ballpark again. On the other hand, deGrom is striking out batters more than he ever has (14.7 K/9).
  12. Ramos really needs to step up his game. He’s been quite poor behind the plate with very poor pitch framing and balls getting by him. While he’s hitting, he’s bound to regress as he’s hitting for no power, and he’s hitting the ball on the ground.
  13. While J.D. Davis hit that homer, his defense is hurting the team. Yesterday, his inability to make a play on an Ender Inciarte infield single helped drive up deGrom’s pitch count, and it led to deGrom not being able to have the pitcher lead off the top of the third. These little things always look large.
  14. Mets defense is the worst in the National League, and Davis leads the way with a -5 DRS. This is why when Todd Frazier is ready, the team should give consideration to keeping Luis Guillorme up. Another reason why is Amed Rosario (-3 DRS) has not played a particularly good shortstop.
  15. If Frazier was smart, he would not come up one second before he was ready. He can ill afford another injury plagued year, and with the team’s depth, if he doesn’t get off to a hot start, he may never get off the bench.
  16. It’s odd how quiet things are surrounding Jed Lowrie.
  17. Sometimes we over focus on what guys are instead of understanding their roles. Paul Sewald is well suited for mop up duty and for eating up innings. The 1.1 innings he gave yesterday helped save the pen a bit.
  18. The Mets offense is humming, but there are some warning signs. Alonso is striking out 30.6% of the time. Jeff McNeil has a .439 BABIP. Ramos has a 64.1% ground ball rate. Who knows what to make of Rosario yet?
  19. The Mets have missed an opportunity in the past two division series losing a series to the Nationals at home and missing a chance to win or sweep a four game set against the Braves.
  20. With Tiger Woods winning The Masters, the Game of Thrones premiere, and the extensive Hank Aaron interview during the game, the Mets were a complete afterthought yesterday, which is a shame because that was a first place Mets team playing a bitter rival.

Gsellman Needs To Open Vargas Starts

After last night’s game, Mickey Callaway indicated the team was looking to get only five innings out of Jason Vargas. This was the plan even with Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia being unavailable and with Seth Lugo feeling sick. With the Marlins hitting rockets off Vargas, Callaway held hard and fast to the plan removing Vargas after just 74 pitches.

While the win was nice, Vargas’ performance and the plan for him is troubling. After all, if the Mets cannot trust Vargas to go more than five innings against the Marlins, what are they going to do when he faces the other teams in the division? Do the Mets see him even reaching the fifth against lineups featuring Ronald Acuna, Jr. and Freddie Freeman, Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins, or Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto?

The answer is probably no, and the question is how the Mets plan to adapt.

The obvious choice is to remove Vargas from the rotation. The issue there is their Triple-A starters did not fare well in the Majors last year. While you may believe in Corey Oswalt‘s increased Spring velocity or Chris Flexen‘s new physique, it would be wise to give them time in Syracuse first to see if their offseason progress translates to results.

Since dipping into Triple-A isn’t the answer yet, nor is rushing David Peterson or Anthony Kay, the Mets most likely and perhaps most successful option would be to utilize an opener.

Last year, the Rays were the first to utilize an opener. In tabbing Sergio Romo as his opener, Rays manager Kevin Cash said, “The way that their lineup stacks generally speaking is very heavy right-handed at the top It allows us in theory to let Sergio to come in there and play the matchup game in the first . . . .” (Marc Topkin, Tampa Bay Times).

In essence, the goal of the opener is to get a traditional reliever to start the game and face a platoon advantage in the first. After the reliever gets through the top of the order, the starter can come in and “start” his game against the bottom of the lineup thereby permitting him to not only get an easier start to the game, but arguably, to get deeper into the game.

In the case of Vargas, you saw the Marlins stack right-handed batters against him. After all, it makes sense with right-handed hitters hitting Vargas well. Since the beginning of the 2017 season, right-handed batters are hitting .262/.324/.464 off of him, which translates to a 4.74 FIP.

As a result, the Mets need an opener who can counteract a team loading up their right-handed batters against Vargas. Given his history as a starter, it would make sense for the Mets to make Robert Gsellman as the opener on the games Vargas starts.

From what we see so far this season, Gsellman is not part of the late inning mix. That is reserved for Diaz, Familia, Lugo, and Justin Wilson. Rather, Gsellman is going to be used like he has been so far in this series. When the starter goes five (or less), he is going to be the first guy out of the pen to eat some innings before handing it to the late inning relievers.

If the team is going to use Gsellman for an inning or two whenever Vargas starts, why not make it at the beginning of a game? Why not put pressure on the opposing manager to opt for either having right-handed batters face Gsellman so they’re in place to face Vargas later, or to start their left-handed batters and have a wave of substitutions to face Vargas?

The point is by starting the game with Gsellman, Callaway would be creating a situation that is beneficial for Vargas to enter the game. If you are only getting five innings from him, why not make it against a team’s worse hitters? Why not use Gsellman against a right-handed lineup without fear of seeing a pinch-hitter? If nothing else, it can’t hurt.

2019 Mets Postseason Doppelgangers

There have been a few times in the Mets history where they have surprised or even shocked the World in making their run to the postseason. The biggest example is 1969, which occurred 50 years ago. The Mets would make their Miracle run in 1973, and they would emerge in 1999, 2006, and 2015.

When you look at those rosters, there are players who are comparable to the players on this year’s Mets roster. Here’s a look at how it breaks down:

Catcher

Travis d’Arnaud (Todd Pratt) – d’Arnaud may very well be pressed into action more than anticipated, and as we saw in the 2015 postseason, he can deliver some big hits when needed.

Tomas Nido (Jerry Grote) – A defensive oriented catcher who helps takes his pitchers over the top and more than makes up for whatever offensive issues he may have.

Wilson Ramos (Paul Lo Duca) – Ramos may not have been the catcher the Mets may have originally expected to bring in during the offseason, but like Lo Duca, he could be the perfect fit for this team and surprisingly be a very important piece to this club.

Infield

Pete Alonso (Michael Conforto) – Alonso is the young prospect who is getting thrown into the fire and expected to be a key bat in a lineup who are trying to overcome the Nationals.

Robinson Cano (Rickey Henderson) – Cano was brought in to be the Hall of Fame caliber player who could take this team over the top.

J.D. Davis (Matt Franco) – Players who will predominantly be pinch hitters who are going to be counted upon to provide those key unexpected game winning hits.

Todd Frazier (Ed Charles) – Both were better before joining the Mets, but they proved to be glue guys in the clubhouse making the team better for their presence alone.

Luis Guillorme (Anderson Hernandez) – Tremendously gifted middle infielders whose gloves helped earn them a spot on the Opening Day roster.

Jed Lowrie (Jose Valentin) – Switch hitters who were brought to serve as a bench piece for the Mets who could be pressed into duty more than anticipated, which could be of great value to the team.

Jeff McNeil (Cleon Jones) – Homegrown Mets ready who show their previous year breakouts were not flukes, but rather an indication they are key members of a winning team.

Amed Rosario (Jose Reyes) – Reyes figured it out in 2006, and he became a dynamic and exciting player. This can be that year for Rosario.

Dominic Smith (Ed Kranepool) – Both probably rushed and mishandled as prospects, but they both still had a lot of hits in their bats making them valuable pieces for their club.

Outfield

Keon Broxton (Xavier Nady) – The imported outfielder who has not yet lived up to expectations has an opportunity to prove himself on a talented roster.

Yoenis Cespedes (Donn Clendenon) – The Mets are relying on a big bat to come after the All-Star Break and get this team a World Series, who better than the guy who delivered that in 1969?

Michael Conforto (David Wright) – The time is now for the homegrown player to put it all together and have an MVP caliber season to put this team over the top.

Juan Lagares (Endy Chavez) – Chavez was the defensive oriented player who was pressed into more action than anticipated, and his play on the field was a big reason the 2006 Mets came withing a game of the World Series.

Brandon Nimmo (Edgardo Alfonzo) – Homegrown Met oft overlooked who may actually prove to put up the best season of all the players on the roster.

Starters

Jacob deGrom (Tom Seaver) – deGrom is the staff ace coming off a historically great season, who needs to stay at a high level for the team to make the postseason.

Noah Syndergaard (Noah Syndergaard) – The Mets need Thor to be Thor.

Zack Wheeler (Jacob deGrom) – It was deGrom’s building off of a surprising 2014 season which helped take the Mets over the top in 2015. It’s exactly what everyone is expecting from Wheeler in 2019.

Steven Matz (Al Leiter) – Hometown left-handed pitchers who have a chance to help be a big part of the reason why the Mets make a run to the postseason.

Jason Vargas (Bartolo Colon) – Vargas is the veteran below-league average starter who needs to stick in the rotation while just eating up innings.

Corey Oswalt (Logan Verrett) – The Mets need a low round drafted prospect to put together a string of great starts to help put this team over the top. With his increased velocity, this could be Oswalt.

Chris Flexen (Octavio Dotel) – Spot starters who have the repertoire to potentially do much more damage in the bullpen.

Hector Santiago (Darren Oliver) – Pitchers who once had success starting who could be valuable long men in the bullpen.

Bullpen

Edwin Diaz (Billy Wagner) – Wagner was the sure-fire reliever at the end of the bullpen who helped make games an eight inning affair.

Jeurys Familia (John Franco) – One time great Mets closer is now serving as the set-up man for a young brash fireballer brought in during the offseason.

Seth Lugo (Nolan Ryan) – Just pure dominating stuff out of the bullpen from a guy who would probably be a starting pitcher for any other Major League team.

Robert Gsellman (Pat Mahomes) – The key piece of the 1999 bullpen who permitted the Mets bullpen to be as great as it could possibly be.

Justin Wilson (Dennis Cook) – Pitchers who are more than LOOGYs who raise their game in the biggest stages.

Luis Avilan (Pedro Feliciano) – Feliciano was the LOOGY out of the bullpen who was a weapon the Mets could utilize to neutralize the opponent’s top left-handed batters.

Tim Peterson (Greg McMichael) – Strike throwers who don’t have dominating stuff.

Jacob Rhame (Heath Bell) – The guys whose stuff have not quite yet translated to performance leading them to bounce between Triple-A and the Majors.

Paul Sewald (Carlos Torres) – Jack of all trades reliever who does yeoman’s work eating up innings.

Daniel Zamora (Royce Ring) – Promising young LOOGYS who should dominate in their limited opportunities.

And finally, there is Mickey Callaway, who we are hoping will be able to accomplish what Willie Randolph accomplished by proving himself a good manager in his second year and by leading the Mets to being the best team in the National League.

 

Mets Should Hire Johan Santana In Addition To Leiter, Franco, And Mendoza

During this offseason, the Mets have certainly made splashes hiring David Wright, John Franco, Al Leiter, and now Jessica Mendoza in a player development role for the organization. These are all intelligent baseball people, who if utilized properly, can have a profound impact upon the Mets organization.

Seeing how three of these hires were popular Mets players, the team should consider doing the same and bringing back Johan Santana.

There are plenty of superficial reasons why the Mets should bring Santana back to New York. He is the only pitcher in Mets history to pitch a no-hitter. His 2008 season was great, and he would pitch the last great game seen at Shea Stadium. To this day, he remains popular with the fanbase. All that said, the real reason the Mets should bring back Santana is his change-up.

Santana’s changeup was a truly great pitch. It was a pitch he used to win two Cy Young awards in what was a borderline Hall of Fame career. It was a pitch which earned him a massive contract with the Mets. It was the final pitch he threw to strike out David Freese to end his no-hitter. It was the pitch he taught to Jacob deGrom, which forever changed the trajectory of deGrom’s career.

Back in 2011, deGrom was rehabilitating from Tommy John surgery, and Santana was rehabilitating from shoulder surgery. As the two worked at the team’s rehabilitation facility in Port St. Lucie, their paths would cross. As reported by the New York Times, Santana would teach deGrom the pitch that made Santana a Cy Young award winner and would one day make help make deGrom one as well:

[W]hile doing his rehabilitation work at the Mets’ rehabilitation facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla., deGrom fell into conversation with Johan Santana, the Mets’ injured ace. Santana proceeded to teach deGrom his famous changeup, how to grip the ball, how it should look the same as a fastball coming out of his hand. Santana told him to practice throwing at 180 feet. If he threw it correctly, the ball would fall well short.

As noted by the Fangraphs, deGrom’s changeup was the second most valuable changeup in all of baseball last year making it his best pitch last year. According to Brooks Baseball, opposing batters hit just .139 off of his changeup. The pitch is a large reason why deGrom was second in the league in getting batters to swing at pitches outside of the strike zone, and why he had the fifth most swings and misses against him.

Much of what deGrom accomplished began when he was rehabbing at the same time as Santana. If the Mets were wise, they would bring back Santana to have a profound impact on someone else’s career. He may help Corey Oswalt or Chris Flexen go to that next level. It’s possible David Peterson, Anthony Kay, and Thomas Szapucki each take a huge step forward in their development.

Perhaps, there is some pitching prospect who is not well known at this time who could learn Santana’s changeup and have his career take off. After all, that’s what happened to converted shortstop and former ninth round pick Jacob deGrom.

 

Mets Forgot Some Things On The Moving Van

Today was the day the Mets loaded the moving vans to head down for Spring Training in Port St. Lucie. While the Mets were careful to laod the equipment, there were several things the Mets have forgotten to bring down with them:

1. A Starting Center Fielder

When Juan Lagares is healthy, he is as good a defender as there is in all of baseball. His glove alone makes him an everyday player. With the improvements he made offensively, you could see him being an above average MLB center fielder. The problem is he’s never healthy. Over the past three years, he has not cracked 95 games played. Behind him is Keon Broxton who has hit .221/.313/.421 in his Major League career.

Behind them is a collection of has beens and never will bes. For all the moves the Mets have made this offseason, it is difficult to believe this is what the Mets envisioned as their center field solution.

2. Starting Pitching Depth

After being named a 2017 All Star, Jason Vargas has been terrible. Since that All Star Game, he has a 6.04 ERA, and opposing batters are hitting .278/.351/.506 against him. Consider for a moment he is probably the team’s best fifth starter option. That is because behind him the Mets have a collection of players who have posted ERAs above 5.00 at the Major League level the past few seasons.

This was the problem when the Mets traded Justin Dunn. The team lost its best internal sixth starter. They lost the pitcher who could get called up and be a real difference maker to put the team over the top. Instead, they are hoping Chris Flexen is a significantly better pitcher after his knee surgery, or Hector Santiago turns back the clock four years to be the guy who put up good stats with shaky peripherals.

3. Last Piece of the Puzzle

Undoubtedly, the projected 2019 Mets roster is better than the roster the Mets had last season. After all, when you’re a below .500 team, when you add a few quality players, you don’t have anywhere to go but up. Still, what the Mets have added is not enough.

Looking at the Fangraphs projected standings, the Mets are still just the second best team in the National League East. That puts them square in the Wild Card race. Consider for a moment, that is before the other three big teams in the division are done adding to their rosters. Certainly, a closer for the Braves, or the Phillies making one to three significant additions completely changes that dynamic.

Whether you are in the boat of the Mets adding a Bryce Harper or Manny Machado or not, you have to admit the Mets parting with five prospects, including their two best in Jarred Kelenic and Dunn, while taking on Robinson Cano‘s contract, is not worth it when you are putting all of your eggs in getting to a one game playoff.

Sure, we have seen teams like the Giants and Royals use that game to propel them to the World Series. We also saw the Mets waste a gem from Noah Syndergaard in that game. Point is, the Mets haven’t done enough. Fortunately for them, there are still significant pieces available even with pitchers and catchers reporting next week. They need to go out and do something.

Mets Have Insufficient Depth

With the signing on Jed Lowrie, the Mets have been talking about just how deep this roster is. To a certain extent, they are right. Having infield options which include Peter Alonso, Robinson Cano, Todd Frazier, Jeff McNeil, and Amed Rosario in conjunction with Lowrie is incredible depth. However, that does not mean the Mets are a deep team.

First and foremost is the outfield. Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo are the only two healthy everyday outfielders on the roster. Juan Lagares has the glove to justify playing everyday, but he has hasn’t played more than 94 games since 2015, and in that season the Mets were desperate for an upgrade as they were making a postseason push.

Keon Broxton has hit .213/.296/.419 with an 85 OPS+ over the past two seasons indicating he has no business playing everyday. As bad as that is, Broxton is the last MLB outfielder on the 40 man roster.

After Broxton, the Mets are gambling on McNeil successfully transitioning to the outfield. It’s not an unreasonable gamble, and it is one we can expect to pay off. However, McNeil being an outfielder means the infield depth has taken a hit, which is a real issue should Alonso not be able to play first at the MLB level, or there are multiple injuries.

After McNeil is Rajai Davis and Gregor Blanco, both of them are over 35 years old, and neither of them have had a good season since 2015. Having just two starting outfielders with a couple of has beens and never will bes is not outfield depth.

And no, Yoenis Cespedes cannot be relied upon. He underwent double heel surgery, and no one can reasonably pinpoint when he is returning to the lineup, nor can anyone have any indication of what he will be when he is able to return.

With respect to the catching situation, the Mets are undoubtedly better with the signing of Wilson Ramos. However, that does not mean there is sufficient depth. Both Ramos and Travis d’Arnaud are injury prone putting more emphasis on Tomas Nido, who has hit .181/.210/.255 in limited Major League duty on top of hitting .272/.300/.431 between Double-A and Triple-A last year.

There is a real chance at least two of those catchers are injured as the same time leaving the Mets to depend on Patrick Mazeika and/or Ali Sanchez. Basiscally, this isn’t much different than during the 2015 season where the team grasped at straws cycling through Kevin Plawecki, Anthony Recker, and Johnny Monell while they pieced together the catching situation in d’Arnaud’s absence.

Then there is the rotation. All five of the Mets starters have significant injury histories. Jacob deGrom is the only starter to have consecutive seasons with at least 30 starts. Jason Vargas is the only other starter with 20 plus starts in each of the last two seasons. Behind this thin rotation, with Vargas having a 64 ERA+ and a 5.02 FIP last year, is very questionable starting pitching depth.

Looking at the roster, Walker Lockett, Corey Oswalt, Chris Flexen, Drew Gagnon, and P.J. Conlon. all posted an ERA over 5.00 in the majors last year. Hector Santiago was moved to the bullpen partially because he has had a 4.06 ERA since 2016. Kyle Dowdy, the Mets Rule 5 pick, had a 5.15 ERA between Double and Triple-A last year, and with the team being forced to keep him on the roster or return him to the Rays, he is going to be a bullpen option.

Now, to be fair, the Mets do have bullpen depth. The back-end with Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia is as good as it gets. You can also say the Mets swing men, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, are the best combination in the Majors. From a left-handed relief option, Daniel Zamora has exception spin rates, and former White Sox Luis Avilan and Santiago have pitched well out of the bullpen.

Beyond that group, the Mets have promising young right-handed power arms in Tyler Bashlor, Eric Hanhold, Ryder Ryan, and Drew Smith. Combine that with Paul Sewald and Jacob Rhame, the Mets have sufficient numbers and depth in the bullpen, albeit not the big seventh inning reliever you would want.

In the end, yes, the Mets have admirable infield depth, and there are enough arms here to at least figure out a good bullpen. However, past that, this is a paper thin roster at outfield, catcher, and starting pitcher. If the Mets face a number of injuries, and based on their history, they will, the 2019 Mets are going to be in real trouble.