Daniel Murphy

Good Luck Neil Walker

The Neil Walker legacy with the Mets is a complicated one.  For many, he’s only to be judged as his not being Daniel Murphy.  For others, they rejoice over the fact Walker coming to the Mets meant Jon Niese was no longer a Met (he would return).  Putting aside who he was not, Walker had an interesting legacy as a Met.

The one thing that was obvious was when Walker was actually able to play, he played extraordinarily well.

Walker impressed everyone right away with a tremendous April last year.  During his torrid month, he hit .307/.337/.625 with a double, nine homers, and 19 RBI.  While the nine homers really stood out, what was the most impressive was his hitting from the right side of the plate.  Although he was a switch hitter throughout his career, Walker never did much of anything as a right-handed hitter.  That changed with him putting in the work with Kevin Long.  Seemingly overnight, he became a power threat from both sides of the plate.

More than that, he was a very good defensive second baseman.  While he may not have had the range he once did, he was a smart and smooth player out there.  More than anything, he didn’t make mistakes or unforced errors.  In sum, Walker was a pro’s pro at the plate and in the field.

After April, Walker’s play fell off a cliff.  We’d soon find out the reason was Walker needed season ending back surgery.  Many a game, Walker took to the field with numbness in his feet.  Baseball is an extraordinarily difficult game to play.  It’s even more difficult when you can’t even feel your toes.

In a somewhat surprising move, the Mets made Walker a qualifying offer.  In a much less surprising move, Walker accepted it.  The Mets tried to work out a long term deal with the player to try to stretch out some of the $17.2 million Walker was due, but for good reason, Walker didn’t want to reduce that salary even if he was sincere in his wanting to remain a New York Met.

Again, when Walker was healthy, he was productive with the Mets.  In 73 games this season with the Mets, Walker hit .264/.339/.442 with 13 doubles, two triples, 10 homers, and 36 RBI.  Over the course of a 162 game season, those numbers prorated would have been 28 doubles, four triples, 23 homers, and 81 RBI.  That’s tremendous production from the second base position, especially with the solid defense Walker gives you.

However, that was the issue with Walker’s tenure with the Mets.  He was just couldn’t stay on the field.  Last year, it was back surgery.  This, year it was a torn hamstring.

Still, when we did get to see Walker play, we saw a good ballplayer.  More than that, we saw a player who was great in the clubhouse.  After Amed Rosario got caught up in a tough play that led to a Mets loss, Walker met up with Rosario before the players left the field to talk to him about it.

When he reported to Spring Training this year, Walker brought with him a first, second, and third baseman’s mitt to prepare for the season.  Walker didn’t just want to just be a second baseman, he wanted to be someone who did whatever he needed to do to help the Mets win.  We learned how rare a trait that could be in a player.  Ultimately, Walker would see time at first and third.  Eventually, this did lead to his being traded to the Brewers.

As a Mets fan, I want to see him go out there and do all he can do to take down the hated Cubs and Cardinals.  As someone who has grown to really appreciate Walker, I want to see him succeed.  In fact, with the Mets having holes to address this offseason at second and third, I’d like to see him return to the team.  Until that point, here’s hoping he has a long postseason run.

Hopefully, this isn’t the end of Walker’s Mets career.  If it is, I’ll appreciate him doing all his body would let him do, and I appreciate him trying to do everything he could do to not only improve as a player, but also to help the Mets win.

What Do We Make Of Wilmer Flores?

Heading into the 2015 season, the Mets made the somewhat controversial move to make Wilmer Flores the everyday shortstop for a team that believed they could compete for a spot in the postseason.  As the season progressed, Flores would lose his job to Ruben Tejada.  From that point forward, Flores has had opportunities to prove he is a starting player in the majors.

Starting with Lucas Duda‘s back injury on May 20th last year, the entire Mets starting infield would go on the Disabled List for an extended period of time.  With David Wright going out for the year on May 27th, there was a permanent spot open in the starting lineup for Flores.

For the most part, Flores earned that spot.  From May 29th until his ill-fated slide into home plate on September 10th, Flores had good overall numbers that masked his extreme platoon splits. Flores hit .373/.409/.807 with three doubles, 11 homers, and 28 RBI in 88 plate appearances against left-handed pitching.  Comparatively, Flores hit a meager .241/.297/.362 with nine doubles, four homers, and 19 RBI in 192 plate appearances.  Put simply, with splits like that, Flores proved he was nothing more than a platoon bat.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t even been that in 2017.

So far this season, Flores is hitting .281/.311/.448 with 12 doubles, a triple, seven homers, and 25 RBI.  Against, left-handed pitching, he is only hitting .292/.304/.462 with five doubles, two homers, and six RBI in 69 plate appearances.  Against right-handed pitching, he is hitting better than his career numbers, but he’s still only at .276/.314/.441 with seven doubles, one triple, five homers, and 19 RBI.

The end result is a player with just a 97 wRC+.  That’s not a bat the Mets can keep in the lineup, especially when Flores has a glove that shouldn’t be in the field:

Innings DRS UZR
1B 244.2 2 1.9
2B 633.0 -6 -0.2
3B 893.0 -15 -4.4
SS 1313.2 -15 -0.2

At this point, Flores has been in the majors for five years, and he has yet to truly make a case for the Mets to keep him around.  All we get out of him is glimpses.  We do not see any sustained success.  That’s problematic considering the Mets are in a strange place as an organization.

The team needs to start making some decisions on some players.  They need to decipher who can be a part of the next World Series Championship team.  With the emergence of T.J. Rivera coupled with Gavin Cecchini, Amed Rosario, and Dominic Smith awaiting their own opportunity to prove they belong in the majors, it becomes harder and harder to keep Flores on this roster.

Still, Flores is still just 25 years old.  It is quite possible he may still figure things out and become a good major league ball player.  The unfortunate reality is he’s running out of time to prove it.  He is already in his arbitration years, and he is due to be a free agent after the 2019 season.

Sooner or later, the Mets will have to make a decision on Flores.  Is he a piece of the Mets next World Series title?  Is he a guy who can become the next Justin Turner or Daniel Murphy?  At this point, we don’t know, and we are running out of time to find out.

Pretty Good Day For All Star Michael Conforto

Things got off to a pretty good start in the All Star Game when Michael Conforto actually had his name announced during player introductions. 

Things got better for him. He’d enter the game in the sixth. In his only chance in the game, he would make a nice leaping grab on an Avisail Garcia liner. He finally got to bat in the bottom of the seventh, and he singled against Roberto Osuna:

Conforto’s big moment came in the bottom of the ninth. With the game tied and runners at the corners, he faced off against Craig Kimbrel. Unfortunately, he struck out to end the inning. 

It was a good day for the Mets star, but unfortunately, it won’t be the moment we will be talking about for years to come. That moment will be Nelson Cruz taking his phone to the plate and having Yadier Molina take a picture of him with Home Plate Manager Joe West:

Molina then followed this moment by hitting an opposite field homer against Ervin Santana

Your MVP would be Robinson Cano. Cano’s 10th inning homer off Wade Davis was the difference in the game. On the bright side, the Mets weren’t the only New York team to lose an All Star second baseman. 

Former Mets: In addition to Conforto, there were more than a few ex-Mets on the field. 

Jason Vargas pitched one scoreless inning. 

Justin Turner was 0-1 in his lone at bat.  
Daniel Murphy, who was the National League’s starting 2B, was 1-2. The ball Murphy couldn’t quite get to led to the first run of the game. 

The American League’s sole run came when Miguel Sano blooped a single into a Bermuda Triangle of Nationals – Murphy, Bryce Harper, and Ryan Zimmerman
Having pitched Sunday, Michael Fulmer did not appear in the game. 

Watch The All Star Game To See Michael Conforto

Everyone has an opinion on why the All Star Game isn’t as popular anymore.  For some, it is due to the free agency because it allows players to shift leagues.  For others, Interleague Play has taken the fun out of the one time we see American Leaguers play National Leaguers.  Finally, there is a case the accessibility of games with cable and the internet takes some of the interest out of the All Star Game because you can see the best players of the game whenever you want.

Despite the passing interest, for me, it is always exciting when you see a young Mets player make his way to the All Star Game for the first time.

Back in 2006, we saw David Wright help launch himself into superstardom.  In his first ever All Star at-bat, he hit a homer.  In 2013, Matt Harvey got the the start before the home crowd, and he pumped up the home faithful with two scoreless innings.  It was Jacob deGrom‘s turn in 2015 when he became the story of that All Star Game striking out the side with just 10 pitches.

Now, it is Michael Conforto‘s turn.

The last time he was on a big stage was the 2015 World Series.  In that World Series, he was one of the best Mets on the field with a .333 batting average.  In Game Four, Conforto had seemingly propelled the Mets into tying the series hitting two home runs.  The point being Conforto will not shy away from being on the big stage.  This is his chance to once again make a name for himself.

What better time to do it than right now for the 24 year old budding star.  He will be on a field with the biggest names in the game.  Right now, Bryce Harper, Jose Altuve, Daniel Murphy, Buster Posey, Nolan Arenado, Chris Sale, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, and even Aaron Judge are his peers.  Like Wright, Harvey, and deGrom before him, Conforto has a chance to have a moment tonight that sets himself apart, to have the whole world take notice.

We know Conforto is capable.  We’ve seen him do it.  He has been great all year hitting .284/.403/.542 with 14 homers and 41.  That is why he is the youngest Mets outfielder to be named an All Star since Darryl Strawberry.  That is why I’ll be watching tonight.

Tonight can very well be Conforto’s moment, and I can’t wait to see it happen.

Trade Addison Reed To The Team With The Best Offer

In a report by Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, the Washington Nationals are interested in obtaining Addison Reed from the New York Mets at the trade deadline.  However, Cafardo also notes the Mets may not be inclined to trade Reed to the Nationals.

If true, this makes little sense.

Reed is a pending free agent.  If the Mets do not trade him at the trade dealine, the best they can recoup for him is a second round draft pick, and that is only if the Mets were inclined to extend him a qualifying offer.  When you consider the qualifying offer for last year was set at $16.7 million, it seems like the amount will be too high for the Mets taste.  As a result, the Mets will likely lose Reed as a free agent with nothing in return if they do not move him at the trade deadline.

If the Mets are indeed trading him because the team is selling, there should be one and only one guiding principle in making a trade – Make the best trade possible.  It should not matter if that team is the Yankees or the Nationals.

In fact, the Mets have already benefited from making a trade with the Nationals.  On the eve of the 2015 season, the Mets traded outfielder Matt den Dekker for LOOGY Jerry Blevins.  For his part, Blevins was lights out for the Mets that season before breaking his arm.  With a good relationship already established, the Mets and Blevins have agreed to two different one year deals since.  In Blevins time with the Mets, he is 9-2 with two saves, a 2.76 ERA, 1.187 WHIP, and a 11.4 K/9.

Where would the Mets have been if they refused to make an intra-division trade back then?

Speaking of the 2015 season, the Mets moved prospects John Gant and Robert Whalen for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson.  Uribe and KJ were both important members of the 2015 team.  Again in 2016, the Mets acquired KJ from the Braves.  Again, KJ was an extremely important part of a Mets team that made the postseason.

In 2015, the Mets made two trades with division rivals, and those two trades helped them win the pennant.  Now that they are selling, they should once again be willing to trade with teams in the division.  The only guiding principle in making a move is to judge whether the trade is the best return the Mets can get for a particular player.

Will seeing the Nationals win the World Series with Daniel Murphy, Reed, or anyone else the Nationals may acquire from the Mets?  Absolutely.  However, wouldn’t getting a top prospect like Victor Robles patrolling center field for a World Series winning Mets teams more than ease that pain?  Again, absolutely.

Now, can the Mets get Robles for Reed?  Probably not.  Then again, seeing the prospects got in exchange for Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman last year, it’s possible.  That being said, if the Nationals won’t give up a prospect of the caliber of Robles, someone may very well do so.  Again, the overriding point here is the Mets need to make the best trade possible . . . even if that trade is with the Nationals.

Why Does Sandy Get A Pass on Murphy And Turner?

Ever since the Mets parted ways with Justin Turner and Daniel Murphy, it is as if the Mets former second baseman have made it a point to show the Mets why they were wrong to get rid of them.  Not only are both drastically improved players, but they also make it a point to beat up on the Mets.

Since joining the Dodgers in 2014, Turner is a .309/.381/.509 hitter who hit 27 homers and 90 RBI last season accumulating a 16.9 WAR.  His 147 wRC+ is the best in baseball in that time frame among Major League third baseman.  In his 21 regular season games against the Mets, Turner is hitting .290/.380/.551 with six doubles, four homers, and 12 RBI.

As we remember from the 2015 NLDS, he was the Dodgers offense hitting .526/.550/.842 with six doubles, and four RBI.  Fortunately for the Mets, they had Murphy, who had one the best postseason runs in Major League history.  Unfortunately, the Mets have parted ways with Murphy as well.

Since leaving the Mets, Murphy has become an MVP candidate.  In one plus seasons, Murphy has hit .342/.390/.585 with 72 doubles, seven triples, 39 homers, and 159 RBI with an 8.4 WAR.  He leads all major league second baseman in batting average, OBP, OPS, doubles, and wRC+.  Simply put, he’s the best hitting second baseman in the majors.

He’s put that on display in his games against the Mets.  In 30 games against the Mets, Murphy is hitting .388/.438/.698 with 10 doubles, a triple, eight homers, and 29 RBI.

Each and every time Turner and Murphy batter the Mets, the debate is sparked over why the Mets let both players walk in the first place.

The defenders of Sandy Alderson fall back on the position that no one could have reasonably foresaw the production from either one of these players.  In his four years with the Mets, Turner was a .265/.326/.370 hitter who was nothing more than a utility player.  Murphy was a much better hitter than Turner with the Mets hitting .288/.331/.424.  There were spurts with Murphy where he was a 2014 All Star and his 2015 postseason run, but you’d be hard pressed to argue he’d be a better hitter than Jose Altuve and Robinson Cano.

So yes, you could point to those stats and say no one could have foreseen Turner and Murphy becoming the best hitters at their position since leaving the Mets.  However, why is this is a defense of Sandy Alderson?

Isn’t Alderson tasked with identifying talented players and predicting who will improve and who will regress?  Shouldn’t it be part of his job to put coaches in place that best helps cultivate the talent on his roster?  More importantly, how could it be a General Manager whiffs on evaluating two players who were under his control?  Put another way, how is it that Sandy Alderson didn’t know what he had in Turner and Murphy?

For all the good Sandy has done, especially getting Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud for R.A. Dickey, he has failed here.

We can make all the excuses we want for him, but it doesn’t change the fact he let two extremely talented players, who were with his team, slip out from under their fingers.  Even if you argue the other General Managers didn’t see this coming, those other General Managers did not have Turner and Murphy on their roster.

Worse yet, the Mets need help now at second and third base right now.  More than that, they need an answer for those positions going forward.  It’s time to stop giving Sandy a pass for his failure to see what Turner and Murphy would become.  After all, that is literally what his job is as a General Manager.

 

Mets Beaten By Murphy Again

After the 2015 pennant, Sandy Alderson wanted no part of NLCS MVP Daniel Murphy. He offered the perfunctory qualifying offer, and when Murphy rejected it like all those before him, Sandy refused to negotiate with Murphy. Eventually, this led to Murphy signing with the Nationals. 

Since that time, the Nationals have a .598 winning percentage, which is a 97 win pace. Conversely, the Mets have s .510 winning streak, which is an 83 win pace. Considering where the Mets are right now, they’d kill for an 83 win pace. 

We can point to a number of reasons why this has happened. Injuries. Regressions.  Bad managing. All could apply. Perhaps the biggest reason is Murphy changed teams. 

Entering today’s game, Murphy is hitting .388/.438/.698 with 10 doubles, a triple, eight homers, and 29 RBI. The Nationals are 21-10 against the Mets since Murpjy joined their ranks. 

Today, there were a number of reasons why the Mets lost:

  1. Seth Lugo falling apart in the fifth;
  2. Injuries forcing Yoenis Cespedes and Curtis Granderson out of the lineup; or
  3. Terrible defense highlighted by Jay Bruce overrunning a ground ball or Rene Rivera letting a pitch go through the wickets. 

Pick a reason. Any will suffice. When doing that, don’t ignore the Murphy effect. 

Today, it was more of the same. He was 4-5 with a double and five TBJ raising his batting average to a league leading .341. 

The Nationals shut down the Mets. Their repaid is a 11-4 even with the Nationals starting Joe Ross and his 5.12 ERA. 

Watching this game, it’s apparent the Nationals are just that much better than the Mets. A large part of that was Murphy . . . AGAIN. He will continue to be so for as long as he’s a National. 
Game Notes: With the injuries,  T.J. Rivera started the game in left field. He would subsequently be removed from the game due to cramps. 

Can’t Say I Miss This

Oddly enough, I missed the game because I forgot it was a 4:11 start time. I missed the game in part because I thought there was no way the Mets would play in the rain that was pouring down where I was. I missed it even though I really wanted to see Seth Lugo pitch. 

Mostly, I missed the game because no one seems to be as interested in the Mets right now. They were outclassed by the Nationals in consecutive games. Sandy Alderson says the Mets have a talented roster, will not call-up Amed Rosario, or take any other action to improve the team or hold others accountable. 
Well judging from the post-game as I caught on the radio, and the comments on Twitter:

Nationals playing home run derby again. More Daniel Murphy heroics. Mets not taking advantage of the Nationals awful bullpen. The Mets falling to 11.5 games back. 

I’m shocked I didn’t watch, but based on everything, I wouldn’t say I missed it. 

Mets Squandering Chances In Game . . . East

There’s one fatal flaw if the strategy against the Nationals is to get into their bullpen – you have to actually get into their bullpen. With how dominant Max Scherzer has been against the Mets, and how dominant he’s been this year, that wasn’t happening tonight. 

That’s not to say the Mets didn’t have their chances. The Mets grounding into three double plays only confirms the Mets had their chances. Like all double plays, these were back breakers. 

In the second, Mets had first and second with no outs and a chance to take the lead. Travis d’Arnaud grounded into the double play. The Mets wouldn’t score when Jose Reyes flew out to end the threat. 

The following inning, Steven Matz tried to help his own cause with a lead-off single, but he was erased when Michael Conforto grounded into the double play. The shock here was that entering tonight’s game, Conforto actually hit Scherzer well going 6-15 with three homers off him. Tonight, Conforto was 0-3 with a walk and two strikeouts. 

Finally in the sixth, the Mets had runners on first and second with one out. That rally ended with Wilmer Flores grounding into the inning ending double play. It was the latest sign Flores is cold. After scorching through May and earning a starting job, Flores is 2-19. 

The squandered opportunities cost the Mets. It put Matz, who was making his second start off the Disabled List, in the unenviable position of having to be perfect. Unfortunately, Matz was just good. 

While he generally kept the Nationals off the basepaths, he was victimized by the long ball. Matt Wieters and Michael Taylor went back-to-back to start the third. In the sixth, Anthony Rendon hit an opposite field two run homer that just cleared the wall. 

With that, the Nationals were up 4-0 and in position to win despite the Matz pitching fairly well. His final line was seven innings, eight hits, four runs, four earned, no walks, and four strikeouts. 

With Dusty Baker understandably not wanting to go to his bullpen, a tiring Scherzer pitched the eighth. Things got a little interesting with Reyes leading off the inning with a homer, and Curtis Granderson sending one to the wall in his pinch hitting appearance. 

This is where Scherzer showed how great he is. He was clearly on fumes, but he bore down. He made quick work of Conforto before entering a battle with Yoenis Cespedes. Despite Scherzer quickly getting up 1-2 in the count, Cespedes fouled off a number of pitches, and the count would go full. On the 11th pitch, Scherzer finally got his strikeout. 

Still, it was within striking distance at 4-1. That’s when the Mets defense blew their chances. 

Taylor led off the inning with a well placed bunt single. Flores made a nice play, but with his arm, he had no shot at Taylor. Same went for d’Arnaud when Taylor stole second.  Taylor was certainly helped by Fernando Salas not even bothering to hold him on. 

Despite all of that, the Mets had a chance to get out of the ninth inning unscathed. There were runners at the corners with one out, and Brian Goodwin hit a tailor made double play ball.  For some reason, T.J. Rivera lollipopped it over to Reyes, who had no shot to get the speedy Goodwin. 

After a Bryce Harper single, Ryan Zimmerman hit a single to left. Goodwin seemed like he would score with ease, and for some reason, Harper headed to third. Cespedes made a one hop throw to third Flores could not field. It at least appeared if Flores fielded it cleanly, Harper would’ve been out before Goodwin scored thereby negating the run. 

It didn’t happen that way and because official scorers do that the do, Cespedes was charged with the error despite his heads-up play and good throw. 

Then Terry Collins does what he does best. He made a questionable move. 

After walking Daniel Murphy intentionally to load the bases, Collins brought in Neil Ramirez and his 7.3 BB/9 into the game. To a surprise to no one, Ramirez walked in a run to make it 7-1. 

Despite the Nationals bullpen being bad, they’re not six runs in the ninth inning bad. The real shame is the Nationals bullpen pitched as expected with Jay Bruce greeting Shawn Kelley with a lead-off home run in the ninth to make it 7-2. The Mets would get no closer. 

The Mets have had two cracks at the Nationals to help them make some headway in the National League East. They responded by playing some of their worst baseball this month. They were not fundamentally sound, nor were they smart. They didn’t effectively work counts to get into that bullpen, and they played poor defense. 

The most the Mets can hope for now is a split. If they continue playing like this, it won’t happen. 

Game Notes: Mets pitchers have allowed 13 home runs over the last four games. Brandon Nimmo and Matt Reynolds were called up, but they did not play. 

Five Mets Not Alive

Through the first four innings, this was a game. The Nationals got to Robert Gsellman, but the damage wasn’t as bad as it could have been. 

He made two mistakes. The first Bryce Harper hit for a long first inning home run. The second was a Matt Wieters fourth inning double. He came home to score on a Gio Gonzalez single. That’s problematic because Gonzalez is terrific at Citi Field. 

He was again tonight. The Mets had just one hit through the first three innings, and he looked like he was going to make that 2-0 lead stick. 

Still it was only 2-0 because in the third inning, Juan Lagares nailed Harper at the plate:

In the fourth, Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce hit back-to-back one out doubles to bring the Mets within 2-1. Considering how terrible the Nationals bullpen has been, that isn’t a bad position for the Mets.  If they kept it close, you had to like their chances. 

The Mets didn’t keep it close as the Nationals went to work in the fifth inning. 

Daniel Murphy continued to torture the Mets hitting a two run triple with a ball Lucas Duda couldn’t knock down and Jay Bruce couldn’t pick up. Murphy then scored on an Anthony Rendon single that tipped Lagares glove as he dove for it. The Nationals capped off the inning with a Michael Taylor homer. 

At that point, it was 7-1 Nationals. The only thing left was to add some injury to insult. 

Because this is the Mets that happened. On Lagares’ dive, he broke his left thumb, the same one he injured last year. 

It really just kept getting better and better. With Gary, Keith, and Ron discussing Amed RosarioWilmer Flores made an error. With all the injuries the Mets have had, there was a Hospital for Special Surgery advertisement behind home plate. I

After that, there was insult to injury. Rafael Montero came on in the sixth, and he dominated the Nationals. He had three straight 1-2-3 innings, and he struck out three batters. 

All the Mets had to do was keep it close, and they couldn’t do that. The Wilmer Flores homer off Joe Blanton was a stark reminder of that. 

But no, the Mets lost to the Nationals, and they lost badly. With Lagares getting hurt and Neil Walker and Matt Harvey landing on the DL, it’s once again hard to see how things are going to get better.

Game Notes: Rene Rivera hit an opposite field homer in the fifth. Gavin Cecchini struck out in his pinch hitting attempt. Matt Reynolds was scratched from the Vegas lineup meaning he’s likely ticketed for the Mets.