After a sweep of the Giants in San Francisco, fans could allow themselves hope for the 2017 season again. Yes, the Giants are a dreadful team, but there was a lot to like about the Mets in that series. If you dig deeper, there is still things to like about this Mets team.
Jacob deGrom is in a stretch where he has gone at least eight innings in three consecutive starts. This could be the best stretch of his career, which is certainly saying something.
Rafael Montero has now had three consecutive strong outings allowing just two earned runs over his last 14.1 inning pitched. In this stretch, he not only finally looks like a major league pitcher, he looks like a good major league pitcher.
Curtis Granderson has been the best hitting National League outfielder in the month of June (204 wRC+), and he’s been hitting .297/.408/.595 with 13 doubles, two triples, nine homers, and 23 RBI since May 1st.
Jay Bruce has been resurgent hitting .315/.358/.629 with four doubles, eight homers, and 17 RBI. He’s on pace for his first 40 home run season and just his second 100 RBI season.
While acting unprofessional about the switch to second base in the clubhouse, Asdrubal Cabrera has been nothing but professional on the field going 7-14 in the series and playing a very good second base.
Lucas Duda is flat out raking hitting .375/.474/.813 over the past week, and as we know when Duda gets hot like this, he can carry the team for a long stretch. Just ask the 2015 Nationals.
Lost in all of that is Yoenis Cespedes being Cespedes, Addison Reed being a dominant closer, and Seth Lugo stabilizing the rotation. There is even the specter of David Wright returning to the lineup. When you combine that with the Mets schedule, this team is primed to reel off nine straight wins.
If the Mets were to win nine straight, they would be just one game under .500. At that point, the Mets will be red hot heading to another big series in Washington. Last time the teams played there, the Mets took two of three. After that is a bad Cardinals team before the All Star Break.
Combine this hypothetical Mets run with a Rockies team losing six straight, and the Mets are right back in the mix with a bunch of teams hovering around .500 for a shot at the postseason. Last year, the Mets were under .500 as late as August 19th, and they still made the postseason. Throw in a potential Amed Rosario call up, and you really have things cooking. Why not this year’s team?
Well, that’s easy. The bullpen is a mess. You have no idea when Noah Syndergaard and Neil Walker can return if they can return at all. Jose Reyes is playing everyday. The route to the postseason partially relies upon Montero being a good major league pitcher, and the Mets calling up Rosario. At this point, those are two things no one should rely.
As a fan? We should all enjoy the ride for as long as it will carry us. As Mets fans, we have seen miracles. We saw this team win in 1969. We saw a team dead in the water in 1973 go all the way to game seven of the World Series. We watched a Mookie Wilson grounder pass through Bill Buckner‘s legs. We saw Mike Piazza homer in the first game in New York after 9/11.
As fans, we can hold out hope for the impossible. We can dream. Sandy doesn’t have that luxury. He needs to look at the reality of the Mets situation and make the best moves he possibly can. That includes trading Bruce, Duda, Granderson, and any other veteran who can get him a good return on the trade market.
With the NHL having their expansion draft tonight, each of the pre-existing 31 teams will sit and wait to see which one of their players will be selected to became an inaugural member of the Vegas Golden Knights. With the Golden Knights being required to select one player from each NHL team, each franchise is going to see a player depart their franchise.
Occasionally, there have been discussions MLB will expand. Whenever that happens, each MLB team will have to go through the same exercise each NHL team just did. If that were to happen, it would be interesting to see exactly who each MLB team would protect.
In terms of the NHL draft, teams can protect somewhere between eight to 11 skaters and one goaltender depending on who the team decides to protect. Given an NHL has a maximum roster size of 23 players, the 8 – 11 paradigm is a good framework for a potential MLB expansion draft.
Assuming MLB lands upon eight players, it would be interesting to see who the Mets decided to protect. Now, where the Mets are lucky is players with less than two service years are automatically protected. As such, Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, and any other young player you would consider protecting are already protected. With that in mind, here are the eight players the Mets should protect should such a draft take place:
1. RHP Noah Syndergaard
Arbitration Eligible: 2018
Free Agent: 2022
Last year, Syndergaard emerged as the ace of the Mets staff with a repertoire that has never been seen by a Major League Starting pitcher. He has a fastball that tops off at 100 MPH and a slider that he can throw in the mid 90s. He also has a swagger on the mound, and he gets up for the biggest games. Again, like Cespedes, this is a no-brainer even with his lat injury this year.
2. LF Michael Conforto
Arbitration Eligible: 2019
Free Agent: 2022
Conforto has been around for only three years, but it has been a whirlwind. In 2015, he was a budding superstar. In 2016, he had a wrist injury, struggled, and was demoted to Triple-A multiple times. In 2017, he has emerged as an All Star. Even with a rough June, there’s reason to believe in Conforto being a budding superstar, including but not limited to his ability to hit left-handed pitching. Conforto is a foundation piece and should be the Mets right fielder for decades.
3. LF Yoenis Cespedes
Remaining Contract: 3 years $87.5 million
Given the fact players with no trade clauses must be protected in an expansion draft, the Mets would be required to protect Cespedes. Even if that wasn’t the case, the Mets need to protect Cespedes. He’s been a superstar with the Mets hitting .286/.354/.565 with 56 homers and 146 RBI since joining the team. More than that, he puts fans in the seats. You have to protect him at all costs.
4. RHP Jacob deGrom
Free Agent: 2021
After an injury riddled year, and some ups and downs this year, deGrom has rediscovered himself, and he’s back to pitching like an ace. That is evident with his being the National League Pitcher of the Week last week. We also saw what deGrom was made of during the 2015 NLCS when he outpitched both Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. There are only a handful of the pitchers on the planet that can do that, and when you have one of them, you don’t let them go.
5. LHP Steven Matz
Arbitration Eligible: 2019
Free Agent: 2022
When Matz is healthy, he has the potential to be an ace. Before his bone spur issues arose in late June last year, Matz was 11-3 with a 2.58 ERA, 1.167 WHIP, and an 8.9 K/9. In his return from season ending surgery, he has pitched well lasting seven innings in both of his starts. Overall, when he’s healthy, he’s terrific, and he’s not someone you part with so easily.
6. RHP Jeurys Familia
Free Agent: 2019
When you consider the Mets bullpen is in shambles, and they are going to have to rebuild it in totality, the Mets need to keep Familia at all costs. It is also important to keep in mind that despite his injury this year, Familia has been an absolute work horse for the Mets with his making the most appearances out of the bullpen and pitching the most innings from 2014 – 2016. If the medical reports are promising, there is every reason to believe Familia can return to being that pitcher again.
7. C Travis d’Arnaud
Free Agent: 2020
There is every reason to leave him unprotected. He has regressed in most aspects of his game, and he had yet another stint on the Disabled List this year. Still, d’Arnaud is a good pitch framer, who still has offensive upside. Before injuring his wrist, d’Arnaud was hitting .270/.357/.541. While his stats have dropped precipitously, his .223 BABIP suggests d’Arnaud is due. More than that, there’s really no better options available. The catching across Major League Baseball is on a downturn, and you need someone to bridge the gap until Tomas Nido is ready.
8. 3B David Wright
Remaining Contract: 3 years $47 million
As noted above with Cespedes, the Mets would have to protect Wright due to his no trade clause. Even without it, there is a case for keeping Wright. Wright is the team captain, and he is the guy you want leaving an impression on Rosario and Smith when they get to the majors. His contract is insured, so if he can’t play, you can reallocate the money. More to the point, could you possibly imagine Wright in another uniform? Me neither. Is this all a stretch? Sure, but fact is Wright will remain with the Mets until he finally decides it’s over.
As with any decision like this, there were hard choices. Matt Harvey has been a cornerstone of the Mets rebuild, but his injuries and impending free agency, you’d be forced to expose him. Zack Wheeler has had a strong return from the Disabled List, but even before he was injured, he was 18-16 with a 3.50 ERA, 1.339 WHIP, and a 100 ERA+ in 49 career starts. In 2017, he has not appeared to be more than that. That coupled with the rise of Gsellman and Lugo as well as other pitchers in the Mets farm system, you could very well expose Wheeler.
Overall, the hypothetical player that would get taken from the Mets roster would be damaging. That includes Juan Lagares, who is a Gold Glover that showed some promise this year, but still has a terrible contract. That also includes Wilmer Flores who still doesn’t quite have a position.
With all that said, it does speak to the talent Sandy Alderson has brought to this organization that the Mets could lose one of the aforementioned players and still have a team that could compete for a World Series next year.
Last year, new dad Jacob deGrom got the Father’s Day start against the Braves, and he took the loss. However, you could say it was a great day for deGrom because his son was in attendance at the game. This is the same son who had breathing issues after he was born earlier that year. To that end, it was a pretty great Father’s Day for deGrom.
This year was even better.
With his son in attendance, deGrom had one of his best games as a major leaguer. In fact, it if wasn’t for a Wilmer Flores error leading to a first inning unearned run, deGrom might have pulled off the Jerry Koosman.
For eight innings, deGrom dominated a Nationals lineup that has the highest slugging percentage in the National League and has scored the second most runs in the league. In fact, if it wasn’t for Travis d’Arnaud‘s inability to throw out Trea Turner (4-4 in stolen base attempts), no National would have reached third base after the first inning. Overall, deGrom pitched eight innings making it the first time in his career he has pitched eight innings in consecutive starts. His final line was eight innings, three hits, one unearned run, two walks, and six strikeouts.
As if that wasn’t good enough, deGrom helped his own cause hitting his first ever major league home run:
Jacob deGrom crushes his first career home run, a solo shot to left-center field to tie the game at 1 in the bottom of the 3rd inning!!! pic.twitter.com/mmQN93x4vH
— TheRenderMLB (@TheRenderMLB) June 18, 2017
For an extra added touch, deGrom used David Wright‘s bat to hit that home run, so in some small way, Wright has had a contribution this season.
After the home run, the Mets offense came alive against Joe Ross. In the fourth, d’Arnaud delivered with an RBI single scoring Lucas Duda sending T.J. Rivera to third base. Michael Conforto hit a two out infield single allowing Rivera to score putting the Mets up 3-1.
It was part of a big day for Conforto who finally seemed to get his bat going again. On the afternoon, he was 2-3 with a walk and two RBI. The second RBI came in the sixth inning when he singled home d’Arnaud. What was impressive about both of Conforto’s RBI was they were both with two outs.
After Curtis Granderson‘s RBI single scoring Jay Bruce in the seventh, the Mets were up 5-1, and there was no real chance they were going to lose this one. Still, it might have been too little too late for this Mets team that is now six games under .500 and 10.5 games in the division.
Game Notes: Mets moved Flores to second and Rivera to third to try to help Flores defensively and to help him get going again at the plate. Mets begin a 10 game road trip, and they get to face Clayton Kershaw in the first game of the road trip.
Ray Ramirez and Barwin Method jokes aside, do we really know who to blame for all of these Mets injuries? Thi has seemingly been an issue since Pedro Martinez was with the Mets when in three straight seasons the Mets suffered a rash of injuries to their starting rotation. It should be noted, Pedro put some blame on Jeff Wilpon’s shoulder for making him pitch hurt, but that doesn’t address how Pedro go hurt in the first place.
We saw it again last year with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz needing season ending surgery. It is happening again this year with Harvey and Matz both landing on the Disabled List. We also have seen Seth Lugo, Jeurys Familia, Tommy Milone, and Josh Smoker land on the Disabled List.
It goes further than that. The position players keep getting injured too. This year, Travis d’Arnaud, Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, David Wright, Asdrubal Cabrera (twice), Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Lagares (twice), and Brandon Nimmo have all landed on the Disabled List. If you’ll notice, you will have seen many of those names pop up on the Disabled List last year.
There’s a simple reason for that. Here’s example of how the Mets handle the situtaion:
Maybe if the Mets continue handling training and treatment of injuries the same way, maybe they’ll have a breakthrough. Just like the Futurama clip, it’s not going to happen.
When you have a magical season like the Mets had in 2015, there are a number of players that step forward to have remarkable seasons. For the Mets, one of those seasons came from the unlikeliest of sources in Sean Gilmartin.
With the return of Matt Harvey and the signing of Michael Cuddyer, the Mets were letting the baseball world know 2015 was going to be their season. There was just one small problem. They never could quite get the LOOGY they needed. Jerry Blevins was supposed to have that role, but he broke his pitching arm. Josh Edgin and Jack Leathersich would join him on the disabled list. The team traded for Alex Torres, but he was a disaster. That meant the only real lefty they had in the bullpen was Rule 5 pick Gilmartin.
Except, Gilmartin wasn’t a LOOGY. In essence, Gilmartin was a pitcher. In fact, prior to joining the Mets, Gilmarting had spent the entirety of his minor league career with the Braves as a starting pitcher. As a starter, Gilmartin had neutral to almost reverse splits. To that end, he wasn’t the guy you wanted as the LOOGY. Still, Gilmartin knew how to pitch, and when he was given the opportunity, he showed that to the Mets.
It took about a month and a half, but Terry Collins finally figured out Gilmartin’s role. Gilamartin becaume the long man out of the pen. It may not be the most glamorous of bullpen jobs, but it is of vital importance. You need a pitcher who can go out there and keep his team in the game. If there is an injury or a starter that just doesn’t have it, you need the long man to give the team an opportunity to make the comeback. In extra innings, you need the guy who can go out there and reliably soak up two or even three innings and put up zeros. Mostly, you need someone reliable who can save the bullpen.
Gilmartin was exception in that role. During the 2015 season, Gilmartin made 18 multiple inning relief appearances accounting for 37% of his relief appearances. Beginning on May 20th, which was really when he was made the long man, Gilmartin made 16 multiple inning relief appearances over his final 33 relief appearances of the season. Essentially, half the time Gilmartin was used for multiple innings about half the time thereby saving the bullpen. Namely, Gilmartin was saving Jeurys Familia, who Collins used over and over again because he was just about the only guy Collins trusted out there.
In Gilmartin’s multiple inning appearances, he was dominant. When he pitched multiple innings, he pitched 32.2 innings going 3-1 with a 1.38 ERA, and a 0.704 WHIP. Perhaps the key to this was the fact Gilmartin grew stronger as he pitched. He did his best work between pitches 26 – 50 limiting batters to a .161/.235/.194 batting line.
As for a highlight, pick one. There was his first career win. The Mets found themselves in a rare slugfest after Dillon Gee was bounced after 3.2 innings having allowed eight earned. Torres wasn’t much better. Gilmartin was the first pitcher to enter that game to put up multiple scoreless innings. He stabilized the game, and he put the Mets in position to win.
There was the July 19th 18 inning game against the St. Louis Cardinals. At that time, the Mets were so inept offensively, you could load the bases with no outs and start the batter with a 3-0 count, and the Mets still couldn’t score a run. Gilmartin came on in the 14th inning, and he pitched three scoreless to give the Mets a chance to win that game, which they eventually did with two runs in the 18th.
On August 24th, Gilmartin was overshadowed every which was possible. The Mets were off and running afte rthe team obtained Yoenis Cespedes. It was David Wright‘s first game since he came off the Disabled List, and he homered in his first at-bat back with the team. Lost in the shuffle was this was the rare poor start for Jacob deGrom with him being unable to get out of the fourth. Gilmartin came on and pitched 3.1 scoreless to give the Mets a chance to come back from an early 7-2 deficit.
More than that, Gilmartin got his first career hit and run scored. His sixth inning single got yet another rally started. He scored on a Daniel Murphy three run homer, the Mets lead had actually expanded to 12-7.
Ultimately, it was Gilmartin’s August 24th relief appearance that was the essence of what it means to be a long man in the pen. He not only went out there and saved the bullpen by tossing 3.1 innings, but he also gave his team a chance to win. It was a tremendous effort that was overlooked because Wright played in his first game in four months, and the Mets overcame a five run deficit to blow out the Phillies.
Initially, Gilmartin was left off the postseason roster, but after Erik Goeddel‘s struggles in the NLDS, the Mets did the right thing and put Gilmartin back on the roster. He’d make just one appearance pitching 0.2 scoreless in Game Two of the World Series. Part of the shame of that World Series was there were multiple occasions to bring on Gilmartin. Instead his role had gone to Bartolo Colon, who just wasn’t as effective in the role as Gilmartin.
After the 2015 season, the Mets wanted to use Gilmartin as a starter. With a loaded major league rotation, that meant Gilmartin started the year in Vegas. He was doing well there until the Mets started messing with him. With the bullpen not having the effective long man that Gilmartin was in 2015, this meant the team had to call him up to the majors on multiple occasions. This meant Gilmartin would have to fly cross-country, and the Mets would insert him into games despite his not having had full rest. He’d develop a shoulder injury. It may not have been enough to need surgery, but Gilmartin was never the same.
Instead of putting Gilmartin in a position to succeed, the Mets messed around with him until the point they felt his was expendable. For some reason, with this Mets team again needing a Gilmartin in the bullpen, they refused to give him a chance instead going with Josh Smoker and Neil Ramirez and their pair of ERAs over 7.00.
Gilmartin deserved better than this. He was a good pitcher who had a significant impact on a pennant winning team. It disappointing the Mets never again put him in a position to succeed. With that said, getting designated for assignment by the Mets was probably the best thing for his career. He will once again have an opportunity to be a good major league pitcher.
While the Mets have overlooked his importance, and fans have become frustrated with him, there are those that never forgot what he once meant to this team. Personally, I will always be grateful for his 2015 season, and I hope him nothing but success. He’s still a good pitcher, and he should soon remind everyone of that.
Thank you and good luck Sean Gilmartin.
When David Wright was diagnosed with the spinal stenosis, the comparisons to Don Mattingly were quick. Sadly, with each passing day Wright is unable to even throw a baseball, those comparisons become more and more apt.
Both were Hall of Fame talents that have seen their careers fall short of that mark because of their injuries. Mattingly was forced to retired a 34, and if Wright is unable to play another game, his career will be over at 33. They were both corner infielders for New York teams, and they both became team captains. They are both beloved by New York fans. With so many similarities between the two, the question is which is the better player.
In his 14 year career, Mattingly hit .307/.358/.471 with 442 doubles, 20 triples, 222 homers, 1,099 RBI, and 14 stolen bases. His 162 game averages were 40 doubles, two triples, 20 homers, 100 RBI, and one stolen base. He was named to six All Star teams and won nine Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers. Mattingly was the 1985 American League MVP, and he had three top five MVP finishes.
On the advanced metrics side, Mattingly had a career 42.2 WAR, 127 OPS+, and a 124 wRC+. More than that, Mattingly was a genuine superstar in the mid 80s, who was widely considered one of the best players in all of baseball.
For his part, Wright has played 13 years for the New York Mets hitting .296/.376/.491 with 390 doubles, 26 triples, 242 homes, 970 RBI, and 196 stolen bases. His 162 game averages are 40 doubles, three triples, 25 homers, 99 RBI, and 20 stolen bases. He has been named to seven All Star teams and won two Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers. Wright never won an MVP, and he had just one top five finish.
On the advanced metrics side, Wright had a career 49.9 WAR, 133 OPS+, and a 133 wRC+. Like Mattingly, Wright was a genuine superstar who was once named the Face of the MLB and who Bill James once said he would begin a franchise with Wright.
And at least in this debate, James is 100% correct. Between Mattingly and Wright, Wright is the better player. Looking at the traditional and objective stats, Mattingly leads Wright in batting average, doubles, and RBI. This means Wright leads in OBP, slugging, triples, homers, and stolen bases. While the two are reasonably close in most catergories, Wright added the dimension of speed to his game.
When looking at 162 game averages, Mattingly has the edge in just batting average and RBI, and with RBI, he only has an edge by one RBI per season. Year in and year out, Wright was the better player.
This is where many people will want to cite Mattingly’s Gold Gloves and MVP award. Now, it is fair to saw Mattingly was the better defender, but being a better defender does not make one a better overall player. Certainly, that’s where advanced stats like WAR come in handy as it analyzes a player’s complete game.
Not only does Wright have a higher career WAR, he averages a higher WAR per season. For his career, Wright averaged a 3.8 WAR to Mattingly’s 3.0. Another consideration is Wright has had better year’s than Mattingly’s MVP year.
In Mattingly’s 1985 MVP season, he hit .324/.371/.567 with 48 doubles, three triples, 35 homers, 145 RBI, and two stolen bases with a 6.4 WAR. In 2007, Wright hit .325/.416/.546 with 42 doubles, a triple, 30 homers, 107 RBI, and 34 stolen bases with an 8.3 WAR. That year, Wright finished fourth in the MVP voting.
It should be noted Mattingly never had a WAR as high as Wright had in 2007. Mattingly’s single season high in WAR was 7.2. Wright had two seasons of at least 7.0 WAR.
A final consideration is Wright did not have the benefits Mattingly had in his career. Mattingly had the short porch in left field at Yankee Stadium and ownership that was fully invested in winning. Wright had to deal with the cavernous and ill-conceived Citi Field during the prime of his career and ownership struggling under the Madoff scandal.
Overall, Wright was just a better player than Mattingly. That doesn’t diminish the terrific career Mattingly had. Unfortuantely, it doesn’t propel Wright into the Hall of Fame. Ultimately, that is the shame because both of these players should be in Cooperstown, but they aren’t through no fault of their own.
The Mets have a number of excuses why they are in the position they are. Those excuses mostly surround the pitching. Noah Syndergaard went down in April with a torn lat. Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom haven’t been the same since returning from their season ending surgeries. There has been a revolving door at the fifth starter spot that has seen the likes of Rafael Montero, Adam Wilk, Tommy Milone, and Tyler Pill. This has put stress on the bullpen, and the bullpen broke.
They broke because Jeurys Familia went down for the season. Hansel Robles couldn’t keep up with the workload and fell apart. Josh Smoker hasn’t been able to figure it out this year. Addison Reed is a much better set-up man than a closer.
Through all of this, despite playing a weak schedule, the Mets are seven games under .500. The Mets are THIS CLOSE to being sellers.
However, there is hope. Seth Lugo and Steven Matz are coming off the Disabled List. Last year, Lugo was 5-1 with a 2.68 ERA and a 1.149 WHIP. He followed that breakout performance with a breakout performance in the World Baseball Classic.
Matz is even better than Lugo. Before succumbing to the bone spur in his elbow last year, Matz had a stretch from April 17th to June 18th where he was 7-2 with a 1.91 ERA and a 1.047 WHIP. That was after his rookie season where he was 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA and a 1.234 WHIP.
That combination of Lugo and Matz vastly improves the Mets rotation. It also bumps a good pitcher like Robert Gsellman into the bullpen. Lately, Gsellman has figured it out. In his last four appearances, he’s 2-0 with hold posting a 2.66 ERA and a 1.082 WHIP. This will give the bullpen a fresh arm. More than that, it means one of Smoker or Neil Ramirez is going to be gone from the bullpen.
Finally, the Mets will have the pitching to help an offense that has tried to carry this team. In May, the Mets averaged the second most runs per game (5.7) in the National League. Things promise to get better with Yoenis Cespedes having played in his first rull rehab game for St. Lucie last night.
With that, the Mets will have as complete a team as they can expect for the reason for the season. Now, they just have to take advantage of their opportunities. That starts with the four game series with a Braves team who is a half game up on the Mets for second place in the National League East. Sweep them, and the Mets will find themselves just three games under .500.
After that, the Mets have a seven game home stand. First, there are the Chicago Cubs, who are not the same team they were last year. After that, the Mets have a four game set with the Washington Nationals.
If the Mets take care of business against the Braves and Cubs, that could be a HUGE series for this Mets team. Sweep the Nationals at home, and all of a sudden the Mets could be just eight games back in the division or better. That’s still a large deficit to overcome, but it’s not as daunting as the 12 games they are now.
The Mets don’t take advantage of this opportunity? It’s time to sell. At that point, the team should look to move everyone to pave the way for Amed Rosario, who frankly should be here now, and Dominic Smith to become the David Wright and Jose Reyes of this generation.
If the Mets don’t want to do that, it’s time to take care of business. That starts tonight with a huge start for Matt Harvey. This used to be the exact moment you wanted him on the mound. It is time for that to happen again.
On Monday, MLB draft will begin, and the Mets will look to add their next superstar. The hope is the player drafted becomes the next David Wright and not another Steven Chilcott. There’s certainly hope as with the exception of last year’s draft, every single one of Alderson’s first round draft picks have reached the majors.
Can you name Sandy Alderson’s first round draft picks with the Mets? Good luck!
Let’s be honest. With nearly two months gone in the season, there is not a lot of reason to believe in the 2017 Mets. The team is five games under .500 and just 14-16 against their own division. Important players like Yoenis Cespedes, Jeurys Familia, Steven Matz, Noah Syndergaard and David Wright have had extended stints on the disabled list. Presumably, Familia, Syndergaard, and Wright are done for the season. The team features two everyday players who are fighting to get and stay atop the Mendoza Line, and the entire pitching staff has underperformed. And despite all of these problems, and many more which have not been mentioned, there are very real reasons to be optimistic about the Mets as we head into the summer months:
1. The Starting Pitching Is Improving
In case, you haven’t noticed the Mets are no longer have the worst ERA in all of baseball. A huge reason for that is the starting pitching is not only improving, but they are also pitching deeper into games. That has started with the re-emergence of Jacob deGrom. Before last night’s debacle, in his last two starts, deGrom pitched 15.1 innings allowing just one earned run. He threw down the gauntlet, and the other starting pitchers have responded.
The Mets are now starting to put together quality starts with some regularity. Matt Harvey and Robert Gsellman are coming off their best starts in over a month. Zack Wheeler continues to pregress well in his first season in over two years. Matz and Seth Lugo will soon join the rotation. As we have seen time and again, this team goes as its pitching goes, and the pitching is trending in the right direction.
2. The Bullpen Is Settling Down
With the starters failing to go deep into games and Familia essentially being a non-factor this season, the bullpen has struggled. The struggles stem from both overwork and trying to slot guys into different roles than had previously been anticipated. With the starters going deeper, the bullpen is starting to get some rest, and the bullpen is starting to look better.
Another factor is the emergence of Paul Sewald. A player the Mets were willing to risk losing in the Rule 5 Draft has now become the Mets most important reliever. He has been used for multiple innings and to nail down the eighth inning. He has shown his success in Vegas was no fluke pitching to a 2.21 ERA in 20.1 innings. His emergence has allowed Terry Collins to ease up on some of his other relievers.Salas has responded by lowering his ERA by almost two runs in the month of May, has not blown one lead, and he has not allowed an earned run in 11 of his last 14 appearances. A rejuvenated Salas is good for the Mets.
Another key factor is the composition of the bullpen. Rafael Montero is gone. Neil Ramirez is on his way out as well. He should be gone once Hansel Robles figures things out in Vegas and/or Gsellman is moved to the bullpen with the return of Matz and Lugo from the disabled list. Certainly, the composition of arms is going to be much better down there, and with the starters going deeper, they will be better rested.
3. Help Is On The Way
As noted, Matz and Lugo will soon rejoin the rotation. Behind them, we may also see Robles return to the majors prompting the Mets to send down one of the more ineffective arms in Ramirez and/or Josh Smoker. But it’s not just on the pitching side that the Mets will improve, it’s also on the offensive side.
According to various reports, Cespedes is about 7-1o days away. When he returns, the Mets will be adding an MVP caliber player to play alongside Michael Conforto in the outfield, who is having an MVP caliber season himself. Cespedes not only lengthens the lineup, but he also adds a right-handed power threat which the lineup is sorely lacking right now. While the offense isn’t the issue so far, a team that is fighting to not only get back to .500, but also to get back to the postseason needs to upgrade everywhere it can.
It’s more than Cespedes. At some point, the moving target that is the Super Two deadline is going to comfortably pass clearing yet another hurdle for the Mets to call-up Amed Rosario. If Rosario does get called-up, it would significantly improve the Mets infield defense, and it could also improve the lineup. Through his first 50 games, Rosario is hitting .354/.393/.519 with 13 doubles, three triples, five homers, and 37 RBI.
With all that, there is legitimate reason for hope the Mets will be a better team over the final four months of the season. That team could catch the Nationals in the standings especially when you consider the two teams have 13 games against one another remaining. That is enough games to make-up the 9.5 game gap between the teams in the standings. That goes double when you consider the Nationals have bullpen issues of their own, and they are just 15-12 since losing Adam Eaton for the season.
If the Mets play as well as they can play, this is going to be an exciting summer at Citi Field. If the Mets play the way they are capable, this will soon become a pennant race.
Heading into this season, it seems like Wilmer Flores had crafted a role for himself as a platoon player. Flores has just absolutely killed left-handed pitching. Since 2015 when Flores was handed the starting shortstop job, Flores has hit .335/.377/.661 against left-handed pitching. Essentially, he’s Babe Ruth when there is a left-handed pitcher on the mound.
Unfortunately, as good as Flores has been against left-handed pitching, he has been that poor against right-handed pitching. In the same time frame, Flores has hit .248/.286/.358 off right-handed pitching. Whereas he’s Ruth with a left-handed pitcher on the mound, he’s Ruben Tejada at the plate when there is a right-handed pitcher on the mound. Because Flores is a poor defender out there, you can really justify using him in a platoon type of role. Now, there are many a careers made out of being that type of a player. As we have already seen with Flores, you can still be a revered player with a fan base being that type of a player.
But, Flores is a 25 year old player. He should want to be more than that, and at his age, he is capable of doing more than that. Certainly, he is paired with a hitting coach in Kevin Long who has helped other players, namely Neil Walker, to figure out how to become more of a platoon neutral bat. Looking at Flores this month, it appears as if he is starting to turn the corner against right-handed pitching.
Over the past month, Flores is hitting .380/.415/.520 with four doubles, a homer, and 11 RBI in 53 at-bats against right-handed pitching. Now, given the numbers, it is hard to treat this more than a fluky small sample size result. Flores’ .417 BABIP would seem to indicate that. There’s also the matter of who Flores is facing. Over the past month, he’s done his damage against pitchers like Jarred Cosart, Jesse Chavez, Tom Koehler, Matt Cain, and Matt Garza. This isn’t exactly Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz.
And yet, you can only face the pitchers the other team puts on the mound. The fact that Flores is hitting well against them is a credit to him, especially when you consider he may not have hit them as well in prior seasons. This also might be part of Flores’ maturation as a hitter. This year, he is pulling the ball more and striking out less. He appears to be more selective at the plate, especially against right-handed pitching. While you can’t expect Flores to hit .380 against right-handed pitching, it’s possible he could hit them well enough to play everyday.
In fact, this isn’t Flores first good stretch against right-handed pitching. With the injuries last year, Flores was unexpectedly thrust into an everyday role. Before he went out with his own injury, Flores was improving against right-handed pitching. During the month of June, he hit .267/.328/.433 off right-handed pitching. After slumping against right-handed pitching in July, Flores picked it back up again in August hitting .273/.313/.386. No, these are not outstanding numbers, but they are an improvement of his career .255/.289/.374 line against right-handed pitching.
Certainly, Flores has earned the right to show the Mets how much of the past month is a fluke. David Wright isn’t walking through that door anytime soon. Jose Reyes is hitting .202/.274/.326 for the season and .228/.287/.358 in the month of May. Also, for those wanting to keep Flores on the bench against right-handed pitching, Reyes is hitting .205/.269/.315 against right-handed pitching. Considering the option right now is between Reyes and Flores, the Mets have to go with Flores now.
If nothing else, Flores presents the Mets with something Reyes can’t – upside. Flores is a young player who could be coming into his own right now. However, we won’t know if that’s the case unless we see him play. Considering the alternatives, it’s time to make Flores the everyday third baseman and finally find out what Flores is as a major league player.