While the Mets are trying to pull out all the stops against a Marlins team actively trying to lose games, over in Cincinnati, it seems Matt Harvey is starting to put things together.
Over his last three starts, Harvey has been terrific pitching to a 1.47 ERA, 0.818 WHIP, and a 7.0 K/BB ratio. Over these starts, opposing batters are hitting just .200/.257/.231 against the Dark Knight. What makes these starts all the more impressive is when you consider they have come against the Cubs, Braves, and Brewers.
That’s three quality offensive opponents in games all started in hitter’s parks.
But it’s more than just the opponents and the results. His velocity and control are back. As already noted, Harvey is no longer walking batters, and apparently, he’s not leaving the ball in a position to be teed up by opposing batters:
Matt Harvey, 96mph Fastball paint. 🎨🖼️🖌️👨🎨 pic.twitter.com/ZJ4RHx09yc
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 1, 2018
According to Brooks Baseball, Harvey is back to throwing 95+ with a slider near 90. Before getting traded to the Reds, Harvey was missing a tick or two on all of his pitches. In some of his outings, he had nothing but guts out there.
As noted by C. Trent Rosencrans of The Athletic, Harvey says he is feeling better than at any time since 2013. That’s notable because in 2013, he had Tommy John and in 2016 he was diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.
That could partially because the Mets never really let Harvey get back to full strength post TOS surgery. It also could be because Harvey always believed he was getting better and getting there. It just so happened that has actually proven true with the Reds.
Maybe the credit should go to Reds interim pitching coach Danny Darwin and an assistant pitching coach Ted Power. The duo, especially Darwin, are beginning to get credit for helping turn not just Harvey around, but also what was once considered a bad Reds pitching staff.
That’s not a criticism of Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland. After all, the Mets duo has helped Jacob deGromreach another level in his game. They have also seen Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz possibly turn the corner in their careers becoming more reliably and healthy starters.
What it is an indictment upon is the Mets patience and their ability to properly evaluate their own players. After all, Harvey’s spot in the rotation was effectively taken over by Jason Vargas to be an effective starter this season. Therein lies the problem.
To that point, here’s the series of transactions and moves the Mets made immediately after designating Harvey for assignment:
- May 5th – Call up Hansel Robles
- May 6th – Call up P.J. Conlon for spot start
- May 8th – Call up Corey Oswaltas an extra arm in the bullpen
Since that time, the Mets have designated both Robles and Conlon for assignment. We’ve also seen the Mets give chances to Buddy Baumann, Scott Copeland, and Chris Beck. At a minimum, this is really bizarre roster management, and you have to question what the Mets saw in Baumann, Copeland, and Beck that they didn’t see in Harvey.
Even if you invoke all the Justin Turner non-tender defenses (wouldn’t happen here and the like), that doesn’t mean getting rid of Harvey was the right decision.
It’s not the right decision when you look at the pitchers who have made appearances and struggled in his stead. It’s not he right decision when you consider the team miscalculated on whether Harvey had something left in the tank. Really, they miscalculated on his being a disruption.
Since his being traded, the Mets are 14-30 (.318). They just had a 5-21 month. On the other hand, the Reds 26-19, and they were 15-11 in June.
Overall, both the Mets and Reds are sellers, and right now the key difference between them is as a result of the deal, the Mets will be looking for someone to take Devin Mesoracowhereas the Reds will have Harvey, who is suddenly a pitcher who is building up trade value.
In the end, it’s funny. Harvey was partially traded to remove a distraction to help them win ballgames. In fact, in pure Metsian fashion, the opposite happened. They fell apart with his replacement in the rotation, Vargas, going 2-6 with an 8.60 ERA and a 1.832 WHIP.
Back in 2015, Hansel Robles was a revelation for a Mets bullpen needing an additional arm.
He made some further strides in 2016. After that, he was much worse. What made it so frustrating was his stretches of just absolute dominance.
As we all know, he’d follow that with a complete and utter inability to get an out. Inevitably, he’d be there pointing to the sky again and again and again.
It was the finger point that was the most frustrating. In his mind, that 500 foot blast was a pop up to second.
Part of the frustration really was how despite his talent, he just couldn’t get the results. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t trying.
Maybe it was too many cooks in the kitchen. Maybe it was him ignoring all four and doing his own thing. Who knows with him?
As always with Robles, no one quite knew the answer.
Robles being designated for assignment makes the second time this season the famed pitching gurus failed to get through to a pitcher. The other time was Matt Harvey.
At the moment, the Mets decision to designate Harvey for assignment does not seem to have come back to haunt them even with Harvey showing flashes. It also helps Devin Mesoraco has been much better than the Mets could have ever imagined.
That doesn’t mean it was the right decision to designate Harvey for assignment. It wasn’t.
For proof of that, look no further than Jason Vargas, who is 2-6 with an 8.60 ERA and a 1.832 WHIP while averaging just over four innings per start. Really, when he takes the mound, the only people he’s fooling is the Mets front office and coaching staff.
This same coaching staff and front office are once again fooling themselves by replacing one of their guys with another AL Central pitcher.
Heading into this season, Chris Beck had a career 6.38 ERA, 1.760 WHIP, and a 5.2 BB/9. To that end, this year is his career year with him posting a 4.18 ERA, 1.479 WHIP, and a 4.2 BB/9.
Despite these being career bests, they’re poor numbers, which is why a very bad White Sox team released him. For some reason, despite trusting their internal talent, the Mets picked him up, and he’s been worse.
And yet, it’s Robles, a guy who has actually performed well in his career and had some glimpses this year, who would be designated for assignment.
It should also be noted Marcos Molina still keeps his spot on the 40 man roster despite his losing his velocity and pitching very poorly this year. In fact, his last start for Binghamton lasted just 3.1 innings. In that start, he allowed 13 runs (10 earned) on 11 hits.
How do you look at either Molina or Beck and decide Robles is the real problem?
Sure, you can be frustrated with Robles and believe he has done more than enough to be designated for assignment. What he hasn’t been is worse than Beck or Molina.
We shouldn’t be surprised by this at all as this front office constantly makes just plain decisions like this all the time. After all, Jose Reyes and Rafael Montero continue to be members of this organization while a score of more talented players have left this organization in their stead.
Over in Washington, D.C., even though the Nationals and Yankees were facing even more pressure than the Mets and Blue Jays to get their game in, they postponed the roughly game and a half they had to play. Perhaps both teams were aware they had important players they did not want to see get hurt, and it was better to do this another day.
Not the Mets.
Despite torrential rains, the Mets decided to play. Despite a rain delay which required the grounds crew to empty the coffers of diamond dust to eliminate the standing puddles on the infield, the umpires decided to let these two teams play.
Actually, check that, it was the Blue Jays who played a game. The Mets were there to get drowned.
For Zack Wheeler things started well enough. Sure, he didn’t get an 0-2 pitch quite up and in enough to Justin Smoak, but other than that, Wheeler was good over the first three innings. In that time, he had struck out six while allowing just the one homer.
Then came the inane rain delay precipitated by J.A. Happ not liking how he landed on the mound. The umpires did the right thing delaying the game to get the field in playing condition. It would have been a better thing to call the game because that field was dangerous.
And yes, someone did get hurt. Juan Lagares went back on a ball, and his foot hit the wall causing a sprained toe. Maybe if the ground conditions were better, he gets back to the ball quicker, and doesn’t need to jump. Maybe in better conditions, he’s better able to plant and go up. Or knowing Lagares, maybe he gets hurt anyway.
Fact remains, he got hurt in nearly unplayable playing conditions. That’s not okay, and the Mets and MLB should be forced to answer to that.
Yes, we know there were problems with these pitchers, but they knew the job when they took it on. It would have been unfair to expect 2015 results from each of these pitchers, but it was fair to expect a progression based on what we saw last year. We haven’t.
That includes Wheeler falling apart after that lengthy rain delay. He began the fourth and fifth yielding lead-off walks. He got through the fourth allowing a two run homer to Teoscar Hernandez. He wouldn’t get an out in the fifth leading Callaway to go to his bullpen.
While the Blue Jays, who play their home games in a retractable roof, were not bothered by the conditions, the Mets couldn’t manage.
Considering in his last start Happ allowed seven runs in 3.1 innings, his two hit seven inning effort made the Mets offense all the more embarrassing. It gets worse when you consider one of those two hits was a Luis Guillorme infield single.
Perhaps, that is also a reflection of the 4-9 hitters having all spent time in Las Vegas over the past year. It’s also an indication Michael Conforto is not Conforto anymore. With each passing day, we get closer and closer to asking the question about whether this is shoulder related.
In the end, there were really no positives until there were two outs in the ninth. That’s when Brandon Nimmo battled back from down 0-2 in the count to hit an opposite field home run. Really, this team needs a lot more Nimmo than whatever it is this team has right now.
That was once again clear after this 12-1 loss.
Game Notes: Guillorme became the first Met since Steven Matz to being his MLB career going 3-3.
Heading into the game, there was much said about how Dave Eiland challenged or disrespected Noah Syndergaard in his saying Thor hasn’t accomplished much at the Major League level. During the broadcast, it was discussed, and Ron Darling said as a player, he would have taken it the wrong way.
Whatever the case, Syndergaard seemed motivated by it in the first inning as he struck out the side while needing just 15 pitches. You got all the more excited seeing Syndergaard knocking home Devin Mesoraco from first after he had drawn a leadoff walk against Jaime Garcia giving the Mets a 1-0 lead. For a moment, it seemed as if things would go rolling on from there, and we would see the Syndergaard we saw prior to the lat injury.
Instead, we saw the Syndergaard we have seen all this season.
In the third, he allowed a one out single to old friend Curtis Granderson, who was playing his first game against the Mets since being traded to the Dodgers for Jacob Rhame last year. After Josh Donaldson popped out, that should have been the end of any prospect of danger.
Instead, we got to see some of Granderson’s knowledge from his playing time with the Mets. He would put himself in scoring position stealing a base, and he would hold at third on a Justin Smoak single. It wound up being a terrible throw from Juan Lagares, but he charged the ball hard, and Granderson, being perhaps well aware of Lagares’ arm, held on third. It didn’t matter because after Syndergaard plunked Teoscar Hernandez with a pitch, Yangervis Solarte hit a two RBI single.
On the single, it is quite arguable any other second baseman but Asdrubal Cabrera gets to that ball, but he didn’t leading the the Blue Jays taking the 2-1 lead.
Seeing how the Mets have played of late, this was a real danger sign. Fortunately, the Mets offense would finally break out.
Beginning with a Jay Bruce double, the Mets would quickly load the bases for Syndergaard, who tied the score with a sacrifice fly. Amed Rosario then nearly hit one out with the ball hitting the top of the fence and bouncing in instead of out. In any event, it was a two RBI double giving the Mets a 4-2 lead.
It should be noted Jose Reyes, who started because with the left-handed pitcher on the mound, Wilmer Flores started at first and Adrian Gonzalez sat, somehow did not score from first. Really, he did not score from first on a ball which was nearly a homer to one of the deeper parts of the park. At best, this was shades of Timo Perez. At worst, this is a player who no longer belongs in the majors.
Lagares would make sure both Reyes and Rosario both scored as he slashed a two RBI single to center, and even with Donaldson cutting it off, he would get to second ahead of the throw.
.@Mets challenge call that Juan Lagares is out at 2B in the 4th; call overturned, runner is safe.
— MLB Replay (@MLBReplays) May 16, 2018
A Cabrera double after that, and the Mets not only had a five run inning, but they would also have a 6-2 lead. In the fifth, the Mets would add the runs needed to make this the laugher the Mets desperately needed.
Gonzalez, Rosario, and Brandon Nimmo would hit consecutive singles first scoring Mesoraco and later scoring Gonzalez. After that Lagares hit an infield single to third allowing Rosario to score.
When Gonzalez pinch hit for Syndergaard that inning, it was the end of Syndergaard’s night, but really, he was going to be pulled after the fifth anyway.
As noted earlier, Syndergaard labored through the third, and he would do the same in the fifth needing a Hernandez double play to get out of the inning. Overall, Syndergaard needed 103 pitches to get through five. He walked an uncharacteristically high two batters. While he’s been effective, he has not yet been Syndergaard this year.
Finally, in the eighth, the Mets would put a capper on this game. Lagares hit a leadoff triple, and he scored on a Luis Guillorme RBI single, his first RBI. After a force out, Mesoarco hit his second homer as a member of the Mets expanding the Mets lead to 12-2.
All-in-all, a pretty good night for the Mets. Mesoraco could not make an out going 2-2 with three walks, four runs, a homer, and two RBI. Lagares was just as good going 4-5 with two runs, a triple, and three RBI. Really, in a game like this, you are going to see everyone contribute somehow, and that’s what the Mets did. The only hope now is the team left some hits in those bats.
Game Notes: The Blue Jays have never beaten the Mets in Flushing going 0-12.
Up until that point, the Mets catching situation was actually one of the bright spots to what was a great start to the season. The combination of Plawecki and Travis d’Arnaud combined to hit .229/.341/.343 with six runs, a double, a homer, and four RBI. While they were catching, the Mets pitching staff had a 2.47 ERA, 3.2 BB/9, and a 9.9 K/9.
Since d’Arnaud opted to have Tommy John surgery and Plawecki’s hand has taken longer to heal than expected, things have gone quite differently for this Mets team with the new catching tandem of Jose Lobaton and Tomas Nido.
Whereas the Plawecki/d’Arnaud tandem was at least passable offensively, Lobaton/Nido have not. Combined, Lobaton and Nido have hit .164/.269/.218 with a double, triple, and four RBI.
While we should be cautioned not to rely upon things like catcher ERA or results in small sample sizes, the Mets pitching staff has had a 5.30 ERA. Surprisingly, the walks have come slightly down to a 3.0 BB/9 while the strikeouts have remained at a 9.9 K/9.
More troubling, the Mets who got off to a 10-1 start have gone 7-9 with their new catching duo.
There are many reasons for the difference in records including a natural regression from a team that started the season 10-1. Really, no one believed the Mets were going to go 147-15 for the full season.
And the catching situation has nothing to do with Amed Rosario regressing, Michael Conforto not hitting for power, or Adrian Gonzalez not contributing anywhere near what the Mets expected. Still, these catchers are part of a black hole the Mets have in the bottom of their lineup.
The Mets have also had two bad bullpen meltdowns with Lobaton behind the plate. The first one was the Nationals six run 8th inning. It was a complete meltdown, and no one quite knew how to stop it from happening. Not Mickey Callaway. Not Dave Eiland. Not Lobaton.
The second one, much smaller in scale was the Mets blowing a 3-0 lead to the Braves. Lobaton was on for the two run eighth, and Nido was there for the two run ninth.
Maybe these meltdowns were coincidences. It’s possible Matt Harvey would have regressed the way he has anyway. We’ve seen enough of Steven Matz to know we don’t know what he’s going to provide. AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins always had difficulty with walks. The list goes on and on.
Whatever the case, the one thing that is apparent, even if this stretch is not completely the fault of either Lobaton or Nido, the Mets miss their catchers. Unfortunately, d’Arnaud is gone for the season, and he may never suit up for the Mets again. As for Plawecki, he’s still a few weeks away. Seeing how the Mets are performing in his absence, he cannot get back here soon enough.
After another poor start, a frustrated and defiant Matt Harvey stood in front of his locker and declared, “I’m a starting pitcher. I’ve always been a starting pitcher. That’s my mindset.”
With an off-day and Jason Vargas not far away, Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland made the decision to removed Harvey from the rotation. On the move, Callaway said, “Dave and I have both seen guys go to the bullpen and come out of it better than they were before. I think that can be the case with Matt Harvey.” (New York Times).
Eiland was a little more assertive saying, “If he wants to be on this team, he has to do what’s asked of him to help this team win. And, if he wants to continue his career, he’s going to have to go out and pitch, and pitch well. What’s best for him is best for this team. It goes hand in hand.” (Matt Ehalt, Bergen Record).
Considering how Harvey’s stuff has dropped off, his assertions he is really best suited to the rotation, and the team finally making the decision to put Harvey in the bullpen, there are some parallels to be drawn here with Tim Lincecum.
Like Harvey did in 2012 and 2013, Lincecum burst onto the scene. He was more than an ace on a rotation of aces which included Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, he was the dominant figure of the group. He was the one who achieved the highest of highs, and as we have seen, he was the one who succumbed to the lowest of lows.
In 2012, the wheels came off for Linceum. The pitcher with two Cy Youngs and four straight All Star appearances was pedestrian. Instead of leading the league in strikeouts, he led the league in losses, earned runs, and wild pitches.
Come the postseason, the Giants made the tough choice. Instead of Lincecum joining Cain and Bumgarner in the rotation, it was going to be Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong. Years prio, it was unfathomable Lincecum would ever be bumped from any rotation for Vogelsong, and yet, there he was in the bullpen.
Lincecum turned out to be a revelation as a reliever. Over the course of that postseason, he made five relief appearances and one start. In his relief appearances, Linceum was completely dominant in his 13.0 innings. Overall, he was 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA, 0.385 WHIP, and an 11.8 K/9.
Basically, Lincecum was what we have come to see from Andrew Miller over the past few postseasons.
This should have been a strong indication to both Lincecum and the Giants the former Cy Young should have become a full-time reliever to be a dominant force in the bullpen, to once again become a game-changer. Instead, like what the Mets have been doing with Harvey of late, both sides agreed to have Lincecum continue on in the rotation.
The dip in velocity and effectiveness continued. In the ensuing two seasons, Lincecum was 29-27 with a 4.46 ERA, 1.373 WHIP, and a 79 ERA+. This was decidedly not the Lincecum who was both a vital part of the Giants rise to prominence and their first World Series title.
This was a different pitcher, one who no one really wanted. After a disaster of a stint with the Angels in 2016, he didn’t pitch in the majors last year, and now finally, he has accepted his fate as a reliever. He’s now sitting on the 60 day disabled list with blister issues hoping they’ll resolve themselves, and he will get another chance.
Right now, Harvey is in the spot Lincecum was in 2012. He’s seen the dip in both velocity and results. He’s not the same pitcher anymore. For now, the Mets have decided he’s a reliever, which must be hard to accept for Harvey because he’s behind Vargas, the Mets version of Vogelsong.
Like Lincecum in 2012, Harvey is in a position where he needs to decide to put everything into a reliever. Given the competitor he is, and with his ability to get into the mid 90s in Spring Training, it’s possible, Harvey is going to be a shut down reliever.
The question is what happens from there. Does Harvey let his ego and heart stand in his way, and he keeps searching for that next starting pitching shot? Or does he return to his place in baseball as a dominant pitcher, albeit one in the bullpen?
If Harvey opts the bullpen route, similar to what we once saw with injury prone pitchers with great stuff like John Smoltz, we may see Harvey become a great pitcher again. Ultimately, we may see him have the career Tim Lineceum should have had if he was willing to accept the fact he was really a relief pitcher and no longer that ace atop the rotation.
Last night, Matt Harvey had another low moment in his Mets career. Really after Terry Collins went to the mound in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series, it has been nothing but low moments for Harvey. He’s was diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, forever complained about his mechanics, and he had stress reactions from being rushed back to the rotation.
Now, this was supposed to be the year Harvey turned it around. He had Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland there to help get him back on track. He is also a pending free agent, and the assumption always is Scott Boras free agents always have their best years in their contract walk years.
In his first start of the season, there was a real glimmer of hope. In five innings, Harvey limited what is a pretty decent Phillies lineup to one hit over five scoreless innings while striking out five and walking one. He focused more on locating than blowing it by batters. Really, this is what everyone agrees Harvey needs to be now, and he looked great doing it.
Since then, he hasn’t been quite as good. Against the Nationals, he fooled no one allowing four runs on nine hits and one walk in five innings, and he only struck out two. That said, Harvey did keep the Mets in the game. That’s something he has failed to do in his two subsequent starts.
The worst of which being last night with the Braves tattooing Harvey in two separate innings to score six runs.
Even with that, if you wanted to find a silver lining, it was there for you as Harvey retired 11 of the last 12 Braves he faced. After the adversity of the first and third innings, he didn’t meldown. He refocused, and he at least got the Mets through the sixth inning. If you wanted to justify giving him another start, you had it right there.
As it stands anyway, it does not seem like Jason Vargas is going to be ready in five days. Corey Oswalt was held out of his last start with an illness meaning he’s no longer lined up for Harvey’s next start, and it’s not likely Chris Flexen is going to be lined up for Harvey’s next start either.
With the Mets in the midst of 10 straight games without an off day, and the team playing 15 games over the next 16 days, including stops at Atlanta, St. Louis, and San Diego, they should avoid using Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo for a spot start. The bullpen has issues of its own with the team twice needing to go into the minors to get a fresh arm, and after Gerson Bautista‘s performance last night, they may need to do it again. The bullpen issues need not be exacerbated for the sake of one start.
Really, all signs indicate Harvey should probably get just one more start. However, if that does happen Jose Lobaton cannot be the one who catches him.
In the two starts they have been paired, Harvey has an 8.18 ERA and batters are hitting .348/.367/.630 off of him. Contrast that to the 3.60 ERA and .250/.302/.375 batting line opposing batters have off of him when d’Arnaud caught him.
Maybe it’s just the reflection of small sample sizes. Maybe its’ the difference in opponents. Maybe Harvey doesn’t jive well with Lobaton, or maybe Harvey needs a good pitch framer to get those borderline strikes to ensure he doesn’t have to pitch closer to the strike and hitting zone.
Whatever the case, we’ve seen a glimmer of hope with Harvey. The team needs one more start out of him before Vargas returns. You’ve invested so much into him the past few seasons. Give him one last chance with the best chance to succeed with Tomas Nido behind the plate.
If that doesn’t work, you can honestly say you’ve tried all you can do, and it’s time to discuss bullpen, minors, or releasing him. But before you do that, just give him one last start with every chance for him to succeed.
It’s been a few years since Matt Harvey was Matt Harvey. However, there was hope we would see him again because now the Mets had Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland. That was not only the tandem who you wanted to help fix a pitcher, but they also believed in Harvey. Their belief was enough to convince the Mets not to consider trading him. That faith was something to help give the Mets fans faith in him and the team again in 2018.
For one night, we saw a glimpse of Harvey being a very good pitcher for the Mets yet again.
No, it was not quite vintage Harvey, but he was real good. Instead of pumping it up to the high 90s to near triple digits, he was living in the lower 90s. It didn’t matter because it was a good moving and well located fastball. Put another way, it was good enough to generate a number of swings and misses. Really, he had all of his pitches working for him including his change-up which looked like a real weapon for him.
However, in some sense this actually was vintage Harvey. Through his 86 pitches, he walked just one and struck out five. He limited the Phillies to just one hit and no runs. Like vintage Harvey, he got no run support.
For a while, it looked like it was going to be the Phillies who plated the first run. AJ Ramos was in immediate danger after a Cesar Hernandez bunt single and a Carlos Santana walk. Ramos bore down getting some luck on a hard hit liner hit by Aaron Altherr right at Todd Frazier, and he struck out Rhys Hoskins.
Callaway then went to Jerry Blevins in the sixth inning because that was the moment it called for his LOOGY to get the biggest out of the game. Blevins did just that by getting Odubel Herrera to pop out.
Having weathered the storm, the Mets offense began to go to work against Ben Lively. Before the sixth, Lively had actually matched Harvey zero for zero. However, in the bottom of the sixth, he would be done in by his control and his defense.
Lively put on Yoenis Cespedes by plunking him. Initially, it looked like Lively was going to stop a rally from building as he got Jay Bruce to hit what should have been a double play ball. The only problem for the Phillies is third baseman Scott Kingery stayed home at third. With no one there to field a throw, the only play was at first.
With the previous snow out, the Mets decided to skip Seth Lugo in the rotation. With him stretch out to start, and with him having no obvious chance to start over the upcoming week, he was in great position to pitch multiple innings. Lugo did just that by mowing down the Phillies. In his two innings of work, he struck out four of the six batters he faced. The two who did manage to make contact didn’t get it out of the infield.
That left Jeurys Familia his old familiar spot in the ninth inning looking to save a close Mets game. It wasn’t an easy one. A leadoff walk to Altherr quickly turned to first and third with one out. Kingery battled, but he eventually fouled out with Wilmer Flores making a nice play by the dugout. That led to a game ending ground out, and Familia saving the 2-0 win.
One of the things which really stood out in the game was the difference between the Mets and the Phillies choices for manager. Callaway seems in charge, and he has the Mets playing good baseball. More than that, his bullpen management tonight was phenomenal. Gabe Kapler has been a mess, the Phillies are failing to be in position to turn double plays, and the Phillies are now 1-3.
It certainly doesn’t hurt Callaway and the Mets when Harvey is pitching this well.
Game Notes: Jose Reyes got the start making him the last Mets position player to make a start this season. After drawing a walk in his first at-bat, he was thrown out in his stolen base attempt. Frazier had another good game going 2-4 with a run, double, and an RBI.
If you break it down, the Mets clearest path to the postseason is for the team to win at least 60% of Noah Syndergaard‘s and Jacob deGrom‘s starts. These are the Mets c0-aces, and they are the surest bet each time the Mets go through their rotation. Assuming they make 30 starts a piece, and the rest of the rotation pitches at least .500, the Mets will win at least 87 games, which should be good enough for one of the two Wild Card spots.
While wins are not pitcher dependent, there is usually a correlation between a pitcher pitching very well and his team having a chance to win the game. More often than not, if a pitcher is going to dominate the opposing offense, you are going to see your team win games. Overall, while you may not see Syndergaard or deGrom walk off the mound with the “W,” you may see the team have one once the game is over, and that’s what matters for this discussion.
We have seen both starters accomplish the feat. Back in 2015, the Mets were 20-1o (67%) in games started by deGrom. In 2016, the Mets were 19-12 (61%) in games started by Syndergaard. This isn’t to say it will happen. Rather, it suggests it is possible, and it looked all the more possible in their respective starts.
Still, for the formula to work, the rest of the rotation has to pull together to give the Mets at least a combined .500 record. With the injuries and struggles the past few seasons, that is far from a certainty.
Steven Matz‘s first start had to give you some reason for concern. Yes, he was squeezed by CB Bucknor, but the home plate umpire was not the reason why Matz was leaving pitches up in the hitting zone. Bucknor was just reason why Matz walked three and needed 89 pitches to get through just four innings.
Normally, you say Matz can only go up from here, but that would ignore how the Mets pitching performed in 2016 and 2017.
Where Matz failed, the Mets now need Matt Harvey to step up. Perhaps more than anyone Harvey has symbolized the Mets rise and fall and hopefully their rise again. There was hope with the Mets when Harvey returned in 2015. His ineffectiveness and further injury was a part of the 2017 despair.
Now, Harvey has a manager in Mickey Callaway and pitching coach in Dave Eiland, who believe in his talent. Neither wanted to see Harvery traded, and they gave him one of the top four spots in the starting rotation. Purportedly, they found and fixed the mechanical issue Dan Warthen has been talking about for years and had not been able to fix.
Is Harvey really fixed? We don’t know, and until Harvey puts together a significant number of good starts together, there will be doubters. Understandably, there may be doubters long after that.
What we do know is the Mets need to piece together wins in the games Syndergaard and deGrom do not pitch. Yesterday, Matz didn’t step up to prove he’s the next guy. Jason Vargas won’t pitch for a while, and there are questions after his second half last year. Seth Lugo won the job out of Spring Training, but there are issues about his long term viability in the rotation with his inability to go three times through the order.
That leaves Harvey, and that is why in many ways, the 2018 season truly begins today.
Entering the season, Yoenis Cespedes made the bold declaration the 2018 Mets were better than the 2015 Mets. Now, if you recall that 2015 team, it did feature players like Eric Campbell and John Mayberry. However, those players were not on the team at the same time as Cespedes. When Cespedes joined the Mets, he was on a much better roster, a roster which went all the way to the World Series.
With that consideration, it is certainly bold for Cespedes to make that declaration, but is he right? Let’s take a look:
Just looking at those names, you may be quick to think not much has changed in the catching situation. In reality, everything is different, and the main difference is these catchers stand on much different footing.
The 2015 season was d’Arnaud’s best as a player with him posting a 126 OPS+ and emerging as an elite pitch framer. Plawecki was overmatched at the plate, but he did handle the pitching staff exceptionally well. Since that time, both had gone on to disappoint in 2016 and much of 2017.
Things changed at the tail end of 2017. Plawecki finally looked like the player the Mets once thought he would become. d’Arnaud would finish the season with a strong September. As a result, they will look to begin the 2018 season in a unique time sharing agreement designed to keep both healthy and effective all year long.
VERDICT: 2018 – if both replicate their Septembers, this won’t even be close
2015: Lucas Duda
2018: Adrian Gonzalez
In 2015, Duda hit .244/.352/.486 with 27 homers and 73 RBI. He was as streaky as he ever was unable to carry the team when they needed his bat most, and he almost single-handedly beat the Nationals in a key late July series.
Gonzalez is coming off the worst year of his career, and he is still dealing with back issues which requires him to warm up two hours before the game starts.
VERDICT: 2015 – Gonzalez may not be around long enough to make a bad throw
We got a glimpse of what Murphy would became with him slugging .533 over the final two months of the season. Even with the increased power, no one could predict the home run barrage he’d unleash in the postseason.
For his part, Cabrera finds himself at second a year after protesting moving there or anywhere. He’s been a good hitter with the Mets, and he’s been terrific in the clutch. We’ll see if the injuries will permit him to be that again.
VERDICT: 2015 – Murphy’s postseason was an all-time great one
This was really the last hurrah for Wright in a Mets uniform. He was very good in the 30 games he played after coming off the DL hitting .277/.381/.437. He’d hit two emotional homers: (1) his first at-bat since coming off the DL; and (2) his first World Series at-bat at Citi Field.
Frazier has been a solid to somewhat underrated player. Over the last three years, he’s averaged 34 homers, 88 RBI, and a 110 OPS+. He’s been a good fielder averaging a 5 DRS over that stretch.
VERDICT: 2018 – Frazier is no Wright, but he’s healthy
Tejada was not supposed to be the starting shortstop in 2015. After wasting a few chances which led to Omar Quintanilla getting the bulk of the playing time over him, the Mets moved on to Flores. Eventually, Collins and the Mets went back to Tejada because: (1) he had steadier hands; and (2) he had a .362 OBP in the second half. Who knows how everything would have turned out had Chase Utley not broken his leg with a dirty slide/tackle.
Rosario is the future of the Mets. Yes, there are flaws in his game like his very low walk rate. However, this is a uniquely gifted player who is dedicated to being better. He’s electric, and he’s got the skill set to be a superstar for a very long time. For now, we will settle for him being a good defensive shortstop who brings real speed and upside to the table.
VERDICT: 2018 – Rosario’s ceiling is just way too high
Cespedes was just an otherworldly player when he joined the Mets. Despite his only being a Met for a few months, he finished in the Top 15 in MVP voting. Really, the MVP for the Mets that year was Granderson who was a leader in the clubhouse on the lineup. He had the most homers from a lead-off hitter, and he was a Gold Glove finalist. Conforto jumped from Double-A to post a 133 wRC+ and a much better than expected 9 DRS in left.
With respect to the 2018 outfield, we see Conforto is a much better play (when healthy), and Cespedes is nowhere near as good as he was when he joined the Mets. To be fair, there’s no way he could, but he’s still an All Star caliber player. This means the main difference between the squads is Bruce and Granderson.
VERDICT: 2015 – That Cespedes was just that much better.
From the moment Uribe and Johnson joined the Mets, they were game changers. They both brought a winning attitude and game winning hits. In addition to the two of them, Lagares was the defensive specialist, a role to which he is best suited, and Cuddyer was a platoon partner with either Conforto or Duda depending on whether Lagares started the game as well. Overall, it was a veteran bench who provided needed leadership.
The Mets current bench is similar to the 2015 bench with Reyes trying to emulate the Uribe role even if he’s not as productive a player. Flores is Flores, but a better hitter, and believe it or not, a worse fielder. Lagares rediscovered his range he lost in 2015. Nimmo should be in the everyday lineup and leading off, but early indications are he won’t.
VERDICT: 2015 – Uribe and Johnson were just that important
When you consider Vargas was basically brought in to replicate what Colon did in 2015, the question is whether you believe the Mets top four starters are better as a group now or then. Looking at it objectively, Syndergaard is the only one who has improved with no one knowing what Harvey and Matz can still provide.
VERDICT: 2015 – they were just healthier then
2015: Jeurys Familia, Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed, Hansel Robles, Jon Niese, Sean Gilmartin, Erik Goeddel
2018: Jeurys Familia, Anthony Swarzak, AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Paul Sewald
Familia was that good in 2015 that he was able to cover many of the warts in the 2015 bullpen. This resulted in Collins using him for multiple innings more than any other closer that year. Reed would begin his emergence as a great reliever, but a back injury would cost Clippard of his effectiveness. One surprise was Niese performing well as a lefty in the bullpen.
When you include Sewald’s Triple-A experience, this is a bullpen with three closers, six pitchers with closer’s stuff, and a very good LOOGY in Blevins. Even if Familia is not as good as he was in 2015, it won’t matter because there is enough depth here for the Mets to not need to rely upon him as much.
VERDICT: 2018 – they’re just deeper and with more upside
For all the warts and problems Mets fans discovered with Collins, he had his finest year as a manager in 2015. When the ship could have sunk multiple times, he pulled the team together and kept things afloat until the team got healthy and reinforcements arrived. Of course, he followed this up by helping cost the Mets the World Series with a series of baffling decisions which all blew up in the Mets faces.
Right now, Callaway looks like a genius. He’s innovative batting Cespedes second and Rosario ninth. He came down hard on Dominic Smith for being late. His players seem to love him, and the baseball world roundly believes the Mets made an excellent hire. However, the season isn’t even a week old. Even if everyone is a fan at the moment, let’s check back in a couple of months to see if he’s an innovative genius or if he’s a know-it-all who can’t leave good enough alone.
Verdict: 2018 – Collins did cost the Mets a World Series
If you break it down, the 2015 Mets were better at first, second, outfield, bench, and rotation. The 2018 version is better at catcher, third, short, bullpen, and manager. Looking at the breakdown, you can say it’s a 5-5 draw. However, in reality, it’s not. That 2015 team pitching rotation was just so dominant, and hypothetically, if these teams were going to step on the same field, the 2015 rotation would dominate the 2018 version.
That said, there is a lot of talent on this 2018 team, and from what we have seen so far, this is a roster tailor made to what we presume is Callaway’s talents as a manager. If Callaway is indeed as good as we hope it will be, we can see him and Dave Eiland taking this pitching staff as a whole to the next level. If that can happen, and with a little help, this Mets team could accomplish what the 2015 version didnt – win the World Series.