David Wright

Not Much Hope Jose Reyes Will Improve

Through his first 14 games of the season, Jose Reyes is hitting an insanely putrid .100/.182/.140 with no stolen bases.  Even if you track the three year plus decline Reyes is currently on in his career, this streak is completely and utterly unexpected.  Over an offseason, Reyes has gone from being a decent stop gap for David Wright to a player hoping he could put up Eric Campbell type numbers.

Given his .267/.326/.443 batting line last year, you could reasonably expect for Reyes to eventually snap out of it and become at least a league average hitter.  There are stats you could point to to provide hope for that conclusion.  For example Reyes BABIP is only .139 which is well off of his career mark of .310.  It’s also off the .306 mark he posted from 2014 – 2016.  Couple that with Reyes’ speed, you would expect him to at least leg out a few hits.

However, there is an underlying reason why Reyes’ numbers and his BABIP are so low this season.  Reyes has become a different hitter at the plate.  Now, 14 games is a small sample size, but let’s compare some of Reyes’ numbers this year to previous seasons.

For his career, Reyes has generally been a player with low strikeout totals.  In his career, Reyes has never struck out more than 82 times in a season, and he has only struck out in just 10.8% of his career plate appearances.  This year, Reyes is striking out in 25.5% of his plate appearances.  For those looking for some glimmer of hope, Reyes struck out in 17.6% of his plate appearances last year, which is a similarly unacceptable rate.

Unfortunately for Reyes, it is more than just his inability to make contact. According to Fangraphs, in his career, Reyes’ contact is as follows 21.6% soft, 54.0% medium, and 24.4% hard. This year Reyes is making weaker contact hitting 19.4% soft, 63.9% medium, and 16.7% hard. Ultimately, when you make softer contact, you give fielders the ability to make more plays on the ball, which they have this year.

Even more troubling than the severity of the contact is the direction. One of Reyes’ strengths was he was a hitter who used the whole field. According to Fangraphs, his career spray chart is 39.3% pull, 35.1% up the middle, and 25.7% opposite field. This year Reyes has been much more of a pull hitter with him pulling the ball 44.4% of the time, and him hitting it up the middle just 25% of the time. Essentially, Reyes has gone from a player who it was difficulty to shift against to a player susceptible to the shift.

That’s lethal to a player that has typically been a ground ball hitter. For his career, Reyes hits the ball on the ground 43.8% of the time. It’s more exacerbated now with Reyes hitting the ball on the ground 48.6% of the time.

Long story short is Reyes is making it easy on the defense. He’s making weaker contact on the ground, and he’s become more susceptible to the shift.

Yes, it is still early, and this is a small sample size. Certainly, you could argue Reyes hasn’t had much luck this season. However, until Reyes makes some type of adjustment, it’s hard to believe he’s going to become a much better hitter than he is now. It’s harder to imagine he’s capable of staying in the lineup much longer even with Terry Collins bending over backwards to keep him in the lineup.

Time To Call Up Gavin Cecchini

This may seem irrational. It’s most likely premature, but in reality, the Mets can’t keep languishing away with Jose Reyes at third base.  Last night should be the last straw. 

In the game, Reyes dropped a routine flyball that set the stage for the game tying rally. He got on base, and then he was caught between first and second on a pitch in the dirt. He got lucky that Cesar Hernandez hit him in the back. 

It’s at the point where Reyes can’t make routine baseball plays. He’s fighting it. He’s hitting .100/.182/.140. Those numbers are unfathomably low. It’s really difficult to justify playing him right now. 

He’s fortunate that Wilmer Flores is a platoon bat that can’t hit right-handed pitching. He’s also lucky that Flores is also a poor fielder. T.J. Rivera is also a poor fielder at third base. Rivera is also stuck in Triple-A until next week, and he doesn’t draw enough walks to play everyday. 

This leaves the Mets looking for out of the box options. Even if the Mets were to bring back Kelly Johnson, he still needs time to get ready for the season. 

The common refrain is for Amed Rosario. It’s still too soon for him. The Mets likely don’t want to call him up before the Super Two deadline. Moreover, he only has 51 plate appearances above Double-A.  He still needs more time. 

That leaves the Mets looking at Gavin Cecchini

The Mets 2012 first round draft pick has thrived in Triple-A. Entering last night’s game, he played 130 levels in Triple-A hitting .320/.389/.451 with 31 doubles, two triples, 10 homers, 62 RBI, and seven stolen bases. 

During Cecchini’s cup of coffee with the Mets last September, he showed he wasn’t intimidated playing in the majors. In four games, he was 2-6 with two doubles and two RBI. 

The issue with Cecchini is where does he play?  With his throwing issues and the rise of Rosario, he had been moved to second. The plan was also to have him work at and expose him to short and third this year. 

The early returns of Cecchini at second are good. He’s played well at the position, and he has started the season playing 12 errorless games. The issue is the Mets have a second baseman in Neil Walker

On that front, the Mets could move Walker to third base. Entering the season, Walker indicated he would be willing to play wherever the Mets needed him to play. (Anthony DiComo, mlb.com). Given Reyes’ play, Walker may be needed at third. 

The other option could be playing Cecchini at third. However, with so little time there, and the concerns over his past throwing errors, Cecchini is probably not the best bet for third. Then again, it’s hard to argue that the Mets have there right now is any better. 

Yes, this is a drastic move, but seeing Reyes play and with David Wright likely not close to returning, the Mets have little choice but to pursue the drastic measure. The choices now are really either continue playing Reyes, play a guy who can’t hit right-handed pitching, or roll the dice on a former first round pick. 

At a minimum, it’s hard to argue Cecchini would be any worse. In fact, if Cecchini were to go 1-5 every night while playing mediocre defense, he would be an immeasurable improvement over Reyes.  For that reason alone, it’s time to give Cecchini a chance. 

Mets Emulating The Cubs With Cecchini and Rosario

Last season, the Chicago Cubs became one of the most versatile teams we have ever seen, and it played a large part in that team winning their first World Series in over 108 years.

National League MVP Kris Bryant is a natural third baseman also played first, short, and all three outfield positions last year. Javier Baez, a well thought of young defensive shortstop, showed off his talents at second base much of the season showing the world he is the best at getting the tag down. Russell would also play first, third, and left field. Of course, the Cubs also had Ben Zobrist who was playing multiple positions with the Tampa Bay Rays before it became a thing.

With all baseball being a copycat league, teams and organizations have been looking for ways to make their rosters more versatile. The New York Mets will look to do that with their top prospects in Triple A this season.

According to Betsy Helfand of the Las Vegas Review Journal, the Mets plan on giving both Gavin Cecchini and Amed Rosario time away from their middle infield positions during the course of the 2017 season. Specifically, Rosario will play third base every 10-12 games, and Cecchini will play shortstop every 10-12 games. Presumably, Cecchini will play shortstop in those games Rosario plays third.

In addition to learning second base and seeing time at his natural shortstop position, there are now unspecified plans in place for Cecchini to see some time at third. This exposure is important for Cecchini because in all likelihood, he may be the best major league ready player in Las Vegas. In his brief cup of coffee last September, Cecchini was 2-6 with two doubles and two RBI. In that small sample size, he didn’t look overwhelmed, and he looked like he belonged.

That is important because the Mets may need him sooner rather than later. No one knows when David Wright is going to return. Both Lucas Duda and Neil Walker are returning from serious back injuries. Asdrubal Cabrera dealt with a knee injury all last season. No one realistically knows if Jose Reyes can handle third base everyday, and his start to this season hasn’t exactly inspired confidence either. Wilmer Flores is a platoon bat. This creates an opportunity for Cecchini. Cecchini can best take advantage of that opportunity if he is able to play more than just shortstop.

For that matter, it also opens up an opportunity for Rosario. If the Mets feel confident with him at third base, it gives them ability to call him up even if there is no significant injury to Cabrera.

In addition to Cecchini and Rosario, the 51s also have Matt Reynolds and Phillip Evans. Reynolds, a good fielding shortstop, has also received playing time at second and third base last season. This year, Reynolds is slated to be the Opening Day left fielder. For his part, Evans, the 2016 Eastern League Batting Champ, has split time between second, third, and short in his minor league career.

With Cecchini, Rosario, Reynolds, and Evans, the Mets are developing a group of young and versatile players. This should make these players more opportunities to get called up to the majors. It should also allow the Mets to put the best players on the field should there be any injuries at the major league level. These players and the Mets organization as a whole will be better off for making these prospects more versatile players.

Enough Excuses, Lock Up These Starters

Looking at this Mets team since 2015, one thing has been perfectly clear: this team is built on pitching, and it will only go as far as the pitching carries them. In 2015, when their starters were healthy and able to last the season, the Mets were able to win the National League Pennant. In 2016, with three of the arms going down, the Mets were still good enough to enter the postseason as the top Wild Card.

The Mets have been fortunate because the pitching has been cheap. It was not until recently that Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Jacob deGrom entered their arbitration years. Noah Syndergaard won’t be arbitration eligible until after this season. It is interesting because it is after this season that things begin to become murky. Harvey and Wheeler are scheduled to become free agents after the 2018 season with deGrom becoming a free agent the season after that.

With the Mets success rising and falling on their pitching, it begs the question why haven’t the Mets selected at least one or two pitchers and come to terms on a contract extension. The common refrain among Mets fans is the team should keep Syndergaard and deGrom and join them in a rotation that one day may also feature Robert Gsellman, Justin Dunn, and Thomas Szapucki. For now, even with the clock ticking, the Mets aren’t making a move.

While it may not make sense to most Mets fans, in a report by Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the New York Mets have advised why they have not entered into contract extension discussions with any of their young pitching:

1. Injuries

As GM John Ricco explained, “[GM] Sandy [Alderson] has not said let’s be aggressive in that area, and that [injuries] is the biggest reason.”

Fact of the matter is each one of these pitchers have an issue. Harvey, deGrom, Matz, and Wheeler have all had Tommy John surgery. Harvey, deGrom, and Matz all had season ending surgery last year. Even someone healthy like Syndergaard dealt with bone spurs last year. Point is, the Mets pitchers have not been exactly healthy, nor do they inspire confidence they will be healthy going forward. To that end, the Mets relative inactivity has been understandable.

2. Lack of Urgency

As noted in Sherman’s piece, the Mets do not have a pending free agent until the after the 2018 season, and Syndergaard isn’t a free agent until after the 2021 season. Honestly, this reason is a bit disingenuous. With Harvey’s pending free agency many expect this is Harvey’s last season in a Mets uniform as the team does not want to risk him walking in free agency and the team getting nothing in return for him.

3. Pitchers Aren’t Interested In Extensions

According to Ricco, who would know this better than fans, extension discussions are typically begun by the player and his agent. Again, with fans not being in the business, it is hard to challenge him on this. With that said, it is hard to believe the Mets would be willing to let all their pitchers go to free agency without so much as initiating contract disucssions with them. Frankly, it is harder to believe when you consider back in 2012, the Mets pounced on an opportunity to give Jon Niese a five year contract extension.

4. Personalities

As noted in Sherman’s piece, when you give a contract extension to one player, it is going to have ripple effects. As Ricco said, “You would have to manage personalities because if you do [an extension] with one, how does it impact the others?”

Now, this is a bit of an overstatement on Ricco’s part. Entering into contract extensions with the pitchers should be part of an overall plan. For example, when Omar Minaya was the General Manager, he was faced with Jose Reyes pending arbitration in 2006, he agreed with a four year pact with his shortstop. Minaya then quickly moved and locked up David Wright to a six year deal. While Alderson is dealing with more than just two players, Minaya’s actions certainly show if the team has a plan an executes it, there should be no issues.

5. Budget

It is something Mets fans don’t want to hear, but it is a reality. After this season, the Mets will have Reyes, Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, Addison Reed, and Fernando Salas as free agents. The team will have to decide on options for Jerry Blevins and Asdrubal Cabrera. In addition, all of the Mets marquee starting pitchers will be in arbitration thereby escalating their salaries. Furthermore, Jeurys Familia will also be owed a lot of money in arbitration if he has another stellar year. Long story short, the Mets will have to spend some money this offseason.

In order to do that, the Mets need to have the money. As Ricco explains, “Once you’ve locked in [on an extension], you do limit flexibility in some ways.”

Now, it is easy to say the Mets can plug in Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith next year, but at this point, it is not known if they will be ready to be 2018 Opening Day starters. Putting forth such a plan would be folly, especially for a team that can still compete for a World Series.

Overall, the Mets concerns over not extending their pitchers have some merit, especially when you consider the injury issues. Still, the longer the Mets wait, the more expensive each of these starting pitchers will become. As they become more expensive, the chances of locking up more than one of them significantly decreases. Sooner or later, the Mets are going to have to take a chance on a couple of these pitchers if they have designs of competing for World Series over the next decade. With Harvey being a free agent after next season, the sooner the Mets begin executing a plan, the better.

Rosario Won’t Come Up Until June At The Earliest

With no one realistically knowing when David Wright can play again or what he could contribute and Jose Reyes struggling mightily, the question becomes when you dip into the minor leagues to bring up reinforcements. 

The answer is likely Friday, June 9th. 

Why that date?  Well, it is likely the Mets will try to avoid risking taking one of their big prospects and allow them to reach Super Two status. For those that qualify for Super Two status, they get an extra year or arbitration. That means a young player gets four years of arbitration instead of three. That means for one year instead of making near the league minimum, they’re making real major league money. They also have a higher base for future arbitration years. 

While the date changes each year, and while it is an over generalization, Fangraphs notes teams are usually safe waiting 65 service days, i.e. days on the roster. With Opening Day having been Monday, April 3rd, 65 days later is June 8th. With that being an off-day, the hypothetical player would be activated on June 9th. 

Now, let’s be more specific. We all know the player most fans want to see called-up is Amed Rosario. Not only is Rosario the top prospect in the Mets farm system, but according to ESPN Insider Keith Law, Rosario is the top prospect in the game. 

But Rosario is more than that. He represents hope. He represents the future. He represents what could be the spark this team in a way Michael Conforto was for a 2015 Mets team that went all the way to the World Series. 

However, it is still way too early to pull that trigger. For starters, Conforto was not called up to the majors until July 24th, and that was only because others failed, and Michael Cuddyer went on the disabled list. 

Right now, Reyes is struggling, but we can’t say he’s failed nine games into the season. Even if you did, both T.J. Rivera and Wilmer Flores have done enough to at least earn an opportunity to fail should the Mets finally decide Reyes isn’t the answer. 

You’re going to need time to parse through Reyes, Rivera, and Flores. More importantly, Rosario is going to need time as well. Overall, Rosario has only played 61 games above Single-A. 

The other issue is where does Rosario play. It’s easy to say he’ll play short and Asdrubal Cabrera will move to third, but the Mets appear to like Cabrera at short. Therefore, Rosario may need to play third. The plan is to get him in a game at third base once every 10+ games. 

For the Mets to even contemplate Rosario at third, they have to be comfortable he can play the position. At this time, there’s no guarantee he can.  You can really only gauge when he plays the position. That’s going to take some time. 

As of the moment, the first place Mets have time to let the situation sort itself out. They can wait for both Reyes and Rosario to figure out what they need to figure out in order to succeed against major league pitching. They can wait until the Super Two timeline has passed. 

And who knows when Wright comes back?  If he does, this conversation about Rosario is moot. If he doesn’t come back in time, we all sit and wait for someone to establish themselves. 

If someone doesn’t do it by mid-June, the Mets may very well call-up Rosario. However, in all likelihood, the Mets wait just a little longer. 

Reyes Cannot Hit Lead-Off Anymore

After the game last night, Terry Collins joked, “I’ve got the FBI looking for the real Jose Reyes right now.”  

Instead of having the FBI look for Reyes, Collins should have the FBI look for a better option at third base and to bat lead-off. 

Now, no one can reasonably believe that Reyes is as bad as his current 1-27 streak. Even with Reyes fighting it since Spring Training, you’d expect him to at least beat out a throw with his speed. Reyes is better than this.

And yet, Reyes still isn’t good enough to be asked to play everyday and lead-off. Since Reyes’ career year in 2011 when he became the first ever Mets player to win a batting title, Reyes has been on a decline. That decline has been accelerated the past three years. 

Consider during his first go-round with the Mets, Reyes was a .292/.341/.441 hitter who averaged 25 doubles, 11 triples, nine homers, 47 RBI, and 41 stolen bases a season.  In that time, he accumulated 27.9 WAR. However, Reyes was more than just stats He was a dynamic shortstop whose exuberance pumped up the team and the crowd. 

Since leaving the Mets, Reyes has been a .281/.331/.410 hitter who has averaged 21 doubles, four triples, eight homers, 37 RBI, and 20 stolen bases. The bulk of those stats come from Reyes first year in both Miami and Toronto. The numbers get worse from there.

In the last three seasons, Reyes is a .279/.321/.400 hitter who averages 24 doubles, three triples, eight homers, 43 RBI, and 21 stolen bases. 

Now, with Reyes coming back to the Mets last year, the narrative was Reyes would be rejuvenated by playing for the Mets again. As we see with Reyes’ 1-27 streak this season, that has been proven false. 

Reyes is a 33 year old player in decline. He’s more in decline as a left-handed batter as he has been a .225/.276/.347 hitter. 

When you can’t hit right-handed pitching anymore, you can’t play everyday. When you have a .321 OBP over the past three seasons, you can’t hit leadoff. 

The issue here is that this is a problem with no easy solution. Wilmer Flores has the same issues against right-handed pitching. Many Mets fans solution would be to platoon him with Kelly Johnson, but Johnson is still a free agent. 

T.J. Rivera was a big part of the Mets push to the Wild Card last year, but it’s doubtful he can play everyday as his aggressiveness at the plate has suppressed his OBP in his minor league career. 
It’s probably still too early to consider Gavin Cecchini or Amed Rosario to get the call-up. No one can reasonably say when David Wright will return. 

And with that, the Mets are likely out of third base options. Arguably, Reyes is still the best option at third base. That argument gets harder and harder to defend with each out he makes. 

One thing that is indefensible is batting him lead-off. His .321 OBP over the past three years demands he hit lower in the lineup. His struggles this season beg for it to happen sooner rather than later. 

In his place, the Mets can literally pick anyone else as they cannot possibly be this poor. Ideally, that someone would also play third base. Unfortunately, that player does not exist, at least right now. 

Perhaps that player will be discovered as part of the FBI investigation. 

Upon Review 2017 Will Be Different Than 2016

For a Mets team that brought in no new players this offseason, it is quite fitting this team picked right up where they left off last season.  For those that forgot, and how could you, Noah Syndergaard was dominant, and the Mets couldn’t get that big hit off the other team’s ace.

Today, Syndergaard was dominant.  His final line was six innings, five hits, no runs, none earned, no walks, and seven strikeouts.  Basically, he was just as dominant as he was in his last game only he pitched one less inning.  He pitched one less inning as he had to depart with a blister on his pitching thumb.  Again, the Mets are picking up where they left off last year.

Overall, Syndergaard was up to his old tricks.  Fastballs at 99 MPH.  Change-ups and sliders between 90 – 94 MPH.  Hitters frustrated and overmatched.  The real surprise is that he had to get out of two separate jams.  In the fourth, he worked around a one out triple off the bat of Freddie Freeman (ball was played terribly by Jay Bruce in right) by striking out Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis.

In the sixth, Syndergaard had runners at the corners with one out.  Again, he struck out Kemp by keeping the ball low in the zone.  He then induced a harmless fly ball off the bat of Markakis to end the inning.

Offensively, the Mets struggled against Julio Teheran.   While Teheran was 7-10 last year, he is a terrific pitcher whose record really was hindered by a lack of run support.  In addition to the 7-10 record, Teheran had a 3.21 ERA, 1.053 WHIP, 129 ERA+, and an 8.0 K/9.  Against the Mets last year, he was 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA, 0.600 WHIP, and a 5.4 K/9 in four starts.  Struggling against him is certainly no red flag.

And yet, if you are a pessimistic Mets fan, you saw some troubling signs.  The team did rack up six strikeouts in six innings.  There were seven left on base, and the team was 0-3 with RISP.  The main culprit there was Lucas Duda who twice came up with a chance to knock in a run and both times he came up short.

With Syndergaard leaving with a blister and Teheran leaving due to his pitch count, the game became a battle of the bullpens.  Fortunately, the Mets, even without the suspended Jeurys Familia have a terrific bullpen.  Hansel Robles added a slight hesitation in his delivery to go with the quick pitch, and he mowed down the Braves in the seventh.

The deja vu would end in the seventh.  With Ian Krol allowing a lead-off hit to Rene Rivera, Wilmer Flores hit into a fielder’s choice, and he stole second off Tyler Flowers.  After Jose Reyes walked, Asdrubal Cabrera lined a single up the middle, and Flores was sent home.  Center fielder Ender Inciarte nailed Flores at the plate.

Or did he?

Upon replay, it shows Flores just got his foot in front of the tag from the way too far behind home plate Flowers.  With that, the Mets got the lead and momentum.  After Yoenis Cespedes walked to load the bases, Curtis Granderson hit a sacrifice fly off former Met Eric O’Flaherty to make it a 2-0 lead.  He then walked Neil Walker and Jay Bruce back-to-back to force in a run to make it 3-0.

While Bruce had a misplay in right field, it was a very encouraging day for him.  On the day, he had four good at-bats going 0-1 with three walks and an RBI.  He looked more patient at the plate and more willing to take a walk.  If he continues this for the full season, its going to be a huge year for him.

After the Bruce walk, Duda finally got a hit with runners in scoring position with a bases clearing double off of O’Flaherty.

O’Flaherty’s work in the seventh inning was the most he has done to help the Mets than all he had done for them in 2015.  His final line was 0.1 innings, one hit, two runs, two earned, three walks, and no strikeouts.  For Mets fans, it was nice being on the other side of an O’Flaherty outing.

In the fateful seventh, the Mets sent 11 batters to the plate, and the team scored six runs on three hits, five walks, and a sacrifice fly.  Basically, this Mets team featuring a number of smart veteran hitters feasted on a poor bullpen.  With the six run seventh, Robles would be the winning pitcher.

Cabrera was easily the best Mets player on the day . . . well, Mets player not named Noah Syndergaard.  He went 3-4 with an RBI and a stolen base.  It was a refreshing change of pace from the Cabrera who seemingly went the first half of the 2016 season without a hit with RISP.

Cabreras wasn’t the only one in midseason form.  Gary, Keith, and Ron were great today including them honoring the late Bill Webb. Keith Hernandez told a terrific story about how Webb used to get Keith fined $100 by filming him smoking in the first base tunnel.  Keith deadpanned about how all Mets fans knew he used to smoke.

Overall, this was about as good a start to the 2017 season as you reasonably could have asked for.  While you were obviously concerned about Syndergaard leaving the game with a blister, you had to be encouraged by Robert Gsellman entering the game in the ninth because Gsellman would be the guy to start in Syndergaard’s place should there be an issue serious enough to cause him to need to miss a start.

After Gsellman’s scoreless ninth, the Mets are 1-0 and in first place where we expect them to be after Game 162.  The win also improves the team’s MLB best Opening Day record, which is now 35-21.

Game Notes: Mets fans complain about d’Arnaud, but Flowers is much worse.  Both Cabrera and Flores were able to steal bases off of him.  In his first Opening Day with the Mets since 2011, Jose Reyes was 0-3 with a run, walk, and two strikeouts.  Reyes also became the first Met since Ty Wigginton to be the Mets Opening Day third baseman other than David WrightTravis d’Arnaud entered the game in the sixth inning as a pinch runner for Rivera.  This marks the first season without Bill Webb as director of the Mets games.

Opening Day Lineup Makes No Sense

When the Mets take the field later today, they do so with probably the worst possible lineup that could’ve been assembled. For those that haven’t seen it yet, it’s:

  1. Jose Reyes 3B
  2. Asdrubal Cabrera SS
  3. Yoenis Cespedes LF
  4. Curtis Granderson CF
  5. Neil Walker 2B
  6. Jay Bruce RF
  7. Lucas Duda 1B
  8. Rene Rivera C
  9. Noah Syndergaard P

There are many things to focus on here, but it would probably be belaboring the point. Reyes has a .321 OBP over the last three years. Michael Conforto should be the everyday right fielder. Basically, you can pick a part of this lineup and have room to really disagree with it.

Instead of focusing on those issues, it is probably more important to focus on the decision to bat Bruce over Duda because it is a microcosm of everything that is wrong with this lineup.

Due to a myriad of factors in the lineup, Terry Collins had little choice but to bat his two left-handed sluggers back-t0-back in the lineup.  Normally, you would like to split them up for many reasons, but the one most often cited is you don’t want to give the opposition the opportunity to bring their LOOGY into the game to pitch to consecutive lefties.  Effectively speaking, putting consecutive lefties in the lineup makes the opposing managers decision making that much easier.

At first glance at this lineup, it was one of the things I thought about, but then after careful consideration, I realized batting Bruce and Duda back-to-back in the lineup could be a stroke of genius.  If handled properly, you are baiting the opposing manager into bringing in a LOOGY, which in turn, would permit the Mets to unleash their weapon – Wilmer Flores.

Last season, Flores wasn’t friendly to left-handed pitching hitting .340/.383/.710 against them.  Basically speaking, Flores transforms to Babe Ruth when a left-handed pitcher on the mound.  More than anyone not named Cespedes, this is the player on the team you want at-bat with a left-handed pitcher on the mound.  By putting the lefties back-to-back in the lineup, you create a situation where you get to pick your spot to put Flores up at the optimal time.  When that manager goes to the LOOGY, the Mets can then go to Flores.  It’s actually quite brilliant.

Except it isn’t.

This would really only work if Duda hit in front of Bruce.  Remember this is a National League team, and as such, the Mets have some constraint using bench pieces.  You need to hold back a bat or two to pinch hit when the pitcher’s spot comes up.  If you hit Flores for Bruce, this means you are then going to have to bring another player into the game to play right field.  This means in one at-bat you have burned two players.

When you extrapolate further, it makes less sense.  Between the two lefties, Bruce is the better hitter against left-handed pitching.  For his career, Bruce is a .226/.292/.419 hitter against left-handed pitching to Duda’s .224/.295/.364 batting line.  Assuming you’re not going to have back-to-back pinch hitters, you want to keep Bruce in against the LOOGY over Duda.  Keep in mind, this is really the only situation in which you should prefer Bruce over Duda as a hitter.

In 2014 and 2015, Duda was the Mets everyday first baseman, and over that time frame, he hit .249/.350/.483 while averaging 28 homers and 82 RBI with a 133 OPS+.  Now, to be fair, Duda did struggle last season with the back injury hitting just .229/.302/.412 with 7 homers and 23 RBI in 47 games.  However, Duda did look better this Spring, and in reality, if you think Duda is going to be that type of hitter again, he should be on the bench.  With the Mets tendering Duda a contract and not trying to move Conforto to first, it appears they believe he will return to form.

From 2014 – 2016, Bruce has hit .231/.295/.440 while averaging 26 homers and 84 RBI with a 98 OPS+.  Keep in mind, Bruce did this while hitting at the band box that is the Great American Ballpark instead of Citi Field.  Looking at that, wouldn’t it be fair to say Duda is the better hitter than Bruce, and therefore, should bat higher in the lineup?

And that is where we come to the problem with the lineup.  At the core, the lineup shows Collins believes Bruce is a better hitter than Duda, which is just wrong.  It is this lack of critical thinking that is reflected in each and every part of this Mets lineup from the lead off hitter straight down to the seventh spot in the lineup.  It’s a problem.

Hopefully, Bruce goes out there and has an incredible season besting what Duda’s averages has been.  Hopefully, Bruce makes Collins look like a genius.  Hopefully, the only changes needed for this lineup is Travis d’Arnaud catching the rest of the staff, and David Wright triumphantly returning to the lineup.

There’s a lot to hope for there, but it is Opening Day where we all get to hope that everything will break right, and the Mets will win the World Series.  With the Mets pitching, there is a legitimate reason to hope.

Sewald and Rowen May Force a Roster Move

During Spring Training, Paul Sewald and Ben Rowen have emerged as real possibilities for the Opening Day bullpen. The issue with adding either player to the Opening Day roster is neither reliever is on the 40 man roster. Moreover, there is currently no room on the 40 man roster. Therefore, if the Mets want to carry either Sewald or Rowen on the Opening Day roster, the team is going to have to make a roster move.

The first possibility is putting David Wright on the 60 day disabled list. At this point in time, Wright is still not throwing, and there is no known timetable as to when he will be able to throw. Accordingly, it is eminently possible he will need an extended stay on the disabled list. If so, putting Wright on the 60 day disabled list would open up one spot.

The issue arises if Wright does not need a stay on the 60 day disabled list or if the Mets were going to look to add both Sewald and Rowen to the roster. To that end, there are some players who could be moved off the roster.

Normally, this is where most Mets fans would point to Rafael Montero. However, Montero has pitched quite well this Spring. It’s more than the 2.70 ERA. Montero has been trusting his stuff more, and he has been pounding the strike zone. As a result, we are finally starting to see what the Mets have seen with their decision to keep Montero on the 40 man roster all these years. Now, if you are keeping Montero, this means someone else is going to need to be removed from the roster.

The most likely candidate is Josh Edgin. Prior to his Tommy John surgery, Edgin could throw 95 MPH. With his fastball, he dominated left-handed batters, and he could hold his own against right-handed batters. Post-surgery, Edgin is throwing in the high 80s to the low 90s. He has not been the same pitchers since, and the results are no longer there. He’s also struggling this Spring. With him being out of options, it’s hard to justify having him block someone else’s path.

Erik Goeddel is another Mets reliever who struggled in 2016 that is also struggling in 2017. Last year, Goeddel pitched through bone spurs, and he had a 4.54 ERA. Unfortunately, things have not been better after the surgery. Goeddel does not seem to have his command or velocity, and as a result, he has posted a 9.95 ERA in seven appearances.

Another pitcher who struggled last year and is struggling in Spring Training is Sean Gilmartin. Gilmartin was a terrific long man in 2015 to a pitcher without a role last year. He bounced back-and-forth between Triple A starter and major leauge reliever. He did not handle the transition well. Now, he is struggling yet again posting a 6;75 ERA.

Certainly, the Mets could hope that Edgin, Goeddel, or Gilmartin rebound in 2017. However, those hopes are not going to stand in the way of the team putting together the best possible bullpen they can put together on Opening Day.

Jose Reyes Isn’t Good Enough For This Nonsense

It’s a fact of life that if you are supremely talented, you get away with more than other people.  It’s an unfortunate fact of life.  However, what is baffling is when people who aren’t even that good get away with stuff.

Take Jose Reyes.

Last year, Reyes was a .267/.326/.443 hitter in 60 games for the Mets.  If you’re being honest, that is much worse than you would have thought considering the fanfare that surrounded him last year.  Over the past three seasons, Reyes has been a .279/.321/.400 hitter who averages 21 stolen bases a year.  While people are arguing that he’s the Mets best leadoff hitter, he’s not even good enough to play everyday.  Certainly, his 96 OPS+ and his 96 wRC+ will tell you he is a below average hitter.  Basically speaking, the argument should be whether he should be batting eighth or if he should be playing at all.

However, he is playing because David Wright can’t right now.  He’s playing because Wilmer Flores is a platoon bat, and the Mets refuse to admit a guy who hit .239/.293/.371 against right-handed pitcher last year is every bit the platoon bat Flores is.  The Mets are also not willing to give T.J. Rivera a shot at the third base job due in part to his OBP fully ignoring Reyes’ .321 OBP the last three years.  Gavin Cecchini won’t get a chance to play third because he’s never played there before.  Of course, that didn’t stop the Mets from playing Reyes there last year.

Simply put, there is a wide chasm between the Jose Reyes that was a superstar with the Mets from 2003 – 2011 and the player Reyes is now.  Consider in Reyes’ first stint with the Mets, he was a .292/.341/.441 hitter who averaged 25 doubles, 11 triples, nine homers, and 41 stolen bases a year while playing a good defensive shortstop.  Now?  Reyes doesn’t have the same ability to hit, the same speed, or is that good defensively.  Also, consider the distraction Reyes is.

Last year, Reyes was arrested for allegedly beating his wife.  The only reason the case did not go to trial was because Reyes’s wife did not cooperate with prosecutors.  After serving a suspension and being released, Reyes found himself back on the Mets.  It was that rare second chance.  Still, Reyes could not be on his best behavior.

Now, we find out, much like Bartolo Colon, Reyes has another family.  Apparently, in addition to allegedly beating his wife, Reyes also has an alleged history of cheating on his wife.  He also has a child with his paramour, who claims that not only does Reyes not see his child, but he also does not pay sufficient child support.  Reyes’ attorneys state he has met his obligations.  Reading between the lines, this may reference child support, which is still to be determined, but not in terms of being an actual father to his other daughter.

Look, it could be a case of someone trying to maximize upon Reyes being back with the Mets.  The child support claims could be patently false.  However, it does not change the fact that it gets harder and harder to root for Reyes.  It does not change the fact that Reyes is no longer a good baseball player . . . that is unless you expect him to be that rare middle infielder whose game is predicated upon speed to get better during a season in which he turns 34 years old.

At this point, you have to ask yourself, what’s next with Reyes?  How much longer can the Mets put up with this nonsense?  Turns out, it will be quite a while because the team is only paying him $507,500 this year.

The funny thing is the Mets once took a stand against stuff like this like they did when Francisco Rodriguez attacked his girlfriend’s father.  For that, the Mets put him on the restricted list.  Then again, the Mets found their courage there because K-Rod was making a little over $12 million back in 2010.  Perhaps if K-Rod was making the league minimum, the Mets would have ignored that situation as well.

So, despite the Mets having legitimately better options, and Reyes possibly serving as a distraction, the team will keep the cheap player because in reality the Mets only really have the courage to do the right thing when they owe a player actual money.  It’ll be interesting to see the Mets no comments or diversion tactics if something else happens with Reyes.  Based on recent history with him, you can’t discount that from happening.