Dominic Smith

Mickey Callaway Officially The Mets Scapegoat

There were plenty of reasons to fire Mickey Callaway if you wanted. In fact, his incident with Tim Healey in and of itself was grounds for firing. To the extent it was Callaway and not the front office making some of those curious moves, you certainly have further justification.

However, what you really can’t do is pin the Mets failures to make the postseason at Callaway’s lap, which is what firing him does. That was all the more the case when Brodie Van Wagenen was trying to spin the 2019 season as a positive, including but not limited to noting Edwin Diaz had 26 saves.

Before proceeding, some background is necessary here.

By and large, the Mets were seen as a third or fourth place team in the division with around 85 wins. For example, ZiPS predicted the Mets would finish the year 87-75 in a three way tie for second place in the division. Looking at the 2019 season, the Mets Pythagorean was 86-76, and it just so happened, that was the Mets final record as they finished in third place in the division.

To that extend, the Mets neither over nor underachieved. Rather, you could argue they performed as expected. Of course, lost in that was all that happened during the season.

Pete Alonso had a season greater than anyone could’ve imagined. Jeff McNeil was an All-Star. Amed Rosario figured things out in the second half. The Mets got more production from J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith than they could’ve reasonably expected.

Looking at that alone, you would say the Mets should’ve finished much better than they did. After all, when you are getting that level of production from your young players, the Mets should have been in the Braves position. They would fall far short of that.

There were many reasons for that. Brandon Nimmo would miss over three months of the season. Jed Lowrie would record no hits in only nine pinch hitting attempts. Robinson Cano had an injury plagued year, and when he did play he was not up to his typical standards. Aside from Seth Lugo, the bullpen was mainly a mess. Noah Syndergaard would struggle with the new ball and the new catcher.

The Syndergaard point brings up another interesting point. All the moves Van Wagenen made this offseason proved to be a downgrade from what was already on the team.

Ramos’ 1.4 fWAR was lower than Travis d’Arnaud‘s 1.6. Another interesting note is d’Arnaud would have a 107 OPS+ with the Rays, which is the same Ramos would have with the Mets the whole year. The Mets would cut d’Arnaud after one horrible game leaving the Mets with Tomas Nido as the backup for the full season. He’d have a -0.5 fWAR, which is lower than both d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki (0.2).

Cano’s 0.3 WAR was lower than McNeil’s 5.0. Worse yet, it was only 0.1 higher than Justin Dunn‘s 0.2 in four games with the Mariners this year. In fact, Dunn’s 0.2 WAR was much higher than Diaz’s -0.6. Things get worse when you consider Anthony Swarzak had a 0.0 WAR.

Long story short, the Mets would have been better off in 2019 if this trade was never made. What makes this all the more scary is this was supposed to be the year the Mets benefited most. Things are going to get much worse as Jarred Kelenic continues his way to the majors.

Now, people will want to say not all of Van Wagenen’s moves were bad with Davis being held up as the ideal. On that note, Davis was terrible in the field. Among players with at least 550 innings in left, his -11 DRS was the worst in the National League. Among third baseman with at least 200 innings, his -9 DRS was the third worst in all of baseball.

All told, Davis had a 1.0 WAR on the season. That’s just 0.2 higher than Wilmer Flores despite his having played 51 more games. All told, the Mets would have been better off keeping Flores over trading for Davis and signing Lowrie. It would have been a much better allocation of resources than what Van Wagenen actually did.

Beyond all of that, the Mets had players like Aaron Altherr, Keon Broxton, and Carlos Gomez serve as outfield depth. They’d cycle through relievers like Tim Peterson, Stephen Nogosek, Hector Santiago, Brooks Pounders, and the like all season rather than adding that one other arm the bullpen needed. That would make Jeurys Familia‘s season long struggles and Justin Wilson‘s needing to be limited all the worse.

In the end, you can see all the good mitigated against all the bad. In fact, you could argue given all that happened, the Mets probably could’ve been worse than their third place finish. This is all to say the Mets probably did about as well as could have been expected.

That brings us back to Callaway.

Given the Mets did not underachieve, you have a difficult basis to fire him. If you want to argue a better manager could have gotten more from this team, you certainly have a point. If that is the case, the Mets have to now go out and get that guy. That means you hire Joe Girardi or maybe Buck Showalter or Dusty Baker.

But make no mistake here. By firing Callaway, the Mets are essentially pinpointing him as the reason why this team missed the postseason. In the end, if the Mets are going to sell everyone Callaway was the problem, the next manager is going to have to take the Mets to the postseason. That is the bar which has now been set.

If the Mets don’t make the postseason, then we’ll know what we have known since Spring Training. The Mets weren’t good enough not because of their manager. No, they weren’t good enough because the Wilpons didn’t invest enough money into this team, and the General Manager they hired failed to assemble the roster good enough to back up the “Come get us!” hype.

Mets Should Be Discussing Luis Rojas’, Not Mickey Callaway’s Future

In the very near future, the New York Mets will be meeting to discuss whether Mickey Callaway will return as the manager in 2020. There are reasons to both keep and fire Callaway, and in making the decision, the Mets will need to determine who is the best person to lead the Mets to their first World Series since 1986.

Like any other decision, there needs to be a balance of the present and the future. Both considerations should include what to do with Luis Rojas.

The Mets thought so much of Rojas they promoted him from the team’s Double-A manager to their Quality Control Coach. He was more than that. He also served a role working with the outfielders. Of note, he helped Jeff McNeil get up to speed in the outfield during Spring Training. During the year, McNeil would have a 2 DRS in 671.0 innings split between right and left.

Rojas’ working with McNeil is not the only impact he has had on this current club. As noted, he was previously a minor league manager. As a result, Rojas has had a hand in the development of many of the players on the Mets roster including Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Jacob deGrom, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Steven Matz, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, Amed Rosario, and Dominic Smith. When you have that type of an impact, it is no wonder the Mets see him as a potential future manager.

In fact, as Mike Puma of the New York Post noted, the team views Rojas as a “rising star.”

The question is whether the team views the 38 year old as ready to assume control of the team. While he has managed many of the players on the team, he would have to also be managing players who are, in terms of age, peers to him. These players include Robinson Cano and Wilson Ramos.

While it is fair to say he’s not ready from that standpoint, the Mets have to determine if they want to give him the role before he is not yet ready and have him grow into the role, or if they are willing to lose him.

At the moment, we do not know if any of the teams looking to hire a manager would have an interest in Rojas. The chances are they don’t. However, they may look to him as an option to join their new coaching staff. On that note, the San Diego Padres are interested in hiring Moises Alou as their manager. If Alou were to get the job, you do wonder if he would want his brother who is very good at working with young players and has a sharp analytical mind on his own coaching staff.

Really, when you look at it that way, you wonder why the Mets wouldn’t want that themselves. On the front, if they are truly grooming Rojas to be the next manager, they should be taking a proactive step in that direction. What that step is anyone’s guess.

On the front, the minimum the Mets should be considering is moving him up the ladder to be the Mets next bench coach replacing Jim Riggleman, who did not appear to have any real impact this year. If nothing else, Rojas on the bench would prepare him all the more to be the Mets next manager. In fact, you could argue that is what the Mets should do.

The Mets could keep Callaway and have Rojas waiting to take over for him. If nothing else, this would further prepare Rojas to be the manager the Mets want him to be. It would also prevent them from hiring another novice who could potentially hire the next Callaway.

In the end, no matter what the Mets do, they should be making a decision from the perspective of what they want to do with Rojas more than what they want to do with Callaway.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Sweep On Into 2020

The New York Mets season is officially over with the team finishing with an 86-76 record. It is just the third time they have had a winning record since the team began playing in Citi Field. To that end, the season has been a success even if it was disappointing from what was promised:

1. Congratulations to Pete Alonso for breaking Aaron Judge‘s rookie record and a whole host of rookie and Mets records during the 2019 season. He proved he was ready, and he showed himself to be more than that by donating money to charity, spear-heading the cleats and donating them to the 9/11 Museum this week, and just being a great teammate.

2. On the first base topic, you can’t help but feel great for Dominic Smith. He not only proved himself to not be a bust, but he would also show he’s a terrific team first player who is actually a tireless worker. He earned that at-bat late in the game, and he ended the season on about as high as note as you can end the regular season.

3. Of course, the Mets were in that position because the bullpen blew another lead. Unfortunately, it cost Paul Sewald his second career win. It won’t be his last time in the Majors, but it might be the last time he is with the Mets. If so, that would be a sad way to end his career after his being just a feel-good story who has overcome so much to be in the majors.

4. It was really unfortunate Juan Lagares did not get into the game on Sunday. It might’ve been his last time ever wearing a Mets uniform, and it would have been nice to see the best Mets defensive outfielder ever get one final ovation and thank you from the fans.

5. Hopefully, this won’t be a good-bye for Noah Syndergaard, who once again reminded everyone he is actually a very good pitcher, and that when you set him up to succeed with a good catcher like Tomas Nido he is going to succeed.

6. Syndergaard’s final start (of the season) and Smith’s walk-off was a feel good way to end the season, and we hope those positive vibes carry forward into 2020 and beyond.

7. Part of that is the Mets being much better run. There are reasons to both keep and fire Mickey Callaway. He has a two year body of work, and yet, somehow the Mets aren’t even going to meet to discuss his future. This is further evidence the Mets would have to rapidly speed up their processes to be considered reactive.

8. One of the biggest areas to address this offseason is going to be the bullpen. Given the budget, the team is going to have to hope players like Jeurys Familia and Edwin Diaz return to form. As we saw with Diaz’s final appearance, that is certainly a possibility.

9. It was great seeing Luis Guillorme have a strong finish to the season. This was just another example of how he has further cemented himself a real depth piece going forward who needs to be on the Opening Day roster.

10. If that was it for Todd Frazier, good luck to him. He gave the Mets what he had, and he earned his contract. Whoever gets him next year is going to get a real asset.

11. Considering his wanting to stay in the New York area, and the Mets not faring well against left-handed pitching, the Mets may well consider keeping him to play in the Jed Lowrie role which Lowrie, himself, couldn’t fulfill.

12. One note with Lowrie is he finished the season with fewer hits for the Mets than Marcus Stroman, a pitcher who spent the year with the Blue Jays. With respect to Stroman, his finish to the season gave us reason to be excited for his 2020 season.

13. Local players Brad Brach and Joe Panik really contributed to the Mets and their push for the Wild Card. They are winners who brought something to the team. It will be interesting to see if the team could keep them around next year.

14. On the topic of local Mets, Steven Matz had yet another strong start to finish his season. He has certainly been a different pitcher in the second half which is partially attributable to his moving to the middle of the rubber. The Mets should really consider signing him to a team friendly extension this offseason.

15. The Mets having a very local flavor is one of the reasons why this proved to be a fun season. A bigger reason why was this was a very resilient team who fought like few other Mets teams. Top to bottom, this roster earned our admiration and respect.

16. It doesn’t matter than it may or may not have counted for anything, sweeping the Braves is always a great thing. Hopefully, this sweep set them up for postseason disappointment. Of course, there’s no point in rooting for anyone in the NLDS because they are facing off against the Cardinals.

17. On the topic of the postseason, congratulations to Travis d’Arnaud on turning his season around and being a key reason why the Tampa Bay Rays made the postseason. Considering all he gave the team, Mets fans should be rooting for him.

18. The use of Seth Lugo for two innings on Saturday was just stupid, but we should note Callaway was very judicious in using him all season. This year, he was ticketed for 100 innings, and he was only used for 80, which is all the more surprising considering the team lost Robert Gsellman during the season.

19. Lugo may want to start, and he’s earned that right, but if the Mets were smart, they’d keep Zack Wheeler and Syndergaard making this a moot point. Like has been said a few times in this post, he should be signed to an extension.

20. For the last time this season – LFGM.

Dominic Smith Walks 2019 Off Into Sunset

With what happened this year, it was just perfect seeing the bullpen blow-up. It blew up all year, and unfortunately it would today. Sadly, when Adeiny Hechavarria homered off of Paul Sewald, the Mets would blow their 28th save of the season moving them into a tie with the Cubs for the fifth most blown saves in baseball.

It would also cost Sewald of his second straight win after not earning a win over his first 118 Major League appearances. That ended one feel good story. Actually, it was two feel good stories ended as local guy, Joe Panik, had hit an eighth inning homer to put the Mets ahead 4-3.

As the game headed into extras, you wondered who was going to be this year’s version of Oliver Perez. It turns out the answer was Walker Lockett.

Lockett allowed back-to-back homers to Hechavarria and Adam Duvall to put the Mets down 6-4. It seemed like that was the sour note upon which this season was going to end.

Of course, that overlooked how this team constantly got up from gut punches. It also overlooked how forgotten and overlooked players took full advantage of their chances. We saw that again in the 11th when Luis Guillorme hit a leadoff single against Jerry Blevins.

Then came a string where all three Mets catchers would bat. That should serve as a subtle reminder this is the last time there will be 40 man rosters in September. Of the trio, Wilson Ramos would get a single off Anthony Swarzak putting the tying run on with two outs.

That brought up Dominic Smith. Smith had not had an at-bat since July 26 when he landed on the IL with a broken foot. He was just activated last week but had not played until today. On the second pitch he saw from Grant Dayton, Smith would end the Mets 2019 season:

This was a great moment for Dom. Not only did he get back from a broken foot, but it put an exclamation point on a season where he rejuvenated his career. He earned this moment due to all the hard work he put in during the offseason and just to get back from his broken foot.

As Dom celebrated dancing his way to the plate, he and the Mets would walk off into the sunset. There’s a lot of different ways this Mets season could’ve gone better, but in the end, these players were easy to root for, and we should all look forward to seeing them all play next year.

Game Notes: Noah Syndergaard started the final game of the year for the fourth straight year. He took a no decision after allowing three earned and striking out nine over seven. Chris Mazza picked up his first career win.

Mickey Callaway Could Still Be Best Managerial Option

The Mets need to be very careful before they decide to fire Mickey Callaway and let Brodie Van Wagenen, the same man who built this flawed roster, replace him with another manager. Believe it or not, there are things he does well, and those things are a good fit for the Mets plan to contend.

First and foremost, since he’s been the Mets manager, we have seen him keep this Mets pitching staff very healthy. Considering the history which predated him, that’s no small feat.

Steven Matz has pitched in 30 games and pitched in 150+ innings in consecutive seasons after only topping 100 innings once.

Zack Wheeler has consecutive seasons with over 180 innings. He and Matz have also reached their potential with Callaway has been at the helm.

Of course, no one has raised their game as much as Jacob deGrom. Since Callaway’s arrival, deGrom has gone from a staff ace to the best pitcher in baseball, and he’s poised to win his second straight Cy Young.

Like deGrom, Seth Lugo has raised his game as well. Like the starters, Callaway has helped keep him healthy. That’s all the more of a challenge with Lugo and his partially torn UCL.

Remember, at its core, this is a Mets team built on pitching. We’ve seen Callaway and his pitching acumen have a real positive effect on these pitchers in terms of getting the most out of them and keeping them healthy.

In addition to the pitching, we have seen the young position players continue to improve under Callaway and emerge as good to very good players.

Entering last year, some considered Brandon Nimmo a fourth outfielder. As it turned out, he was the second best hitter in the NL last year, and when he was healthy this year, he put up similar numbers.

The Mets thought of Jeff McNeil as just a second baseman, and there were concerns he was just a role player. McNeil would turn into a modern Ben Zobrist playing all over the field and becoming an All-Star this year.

Pete Alonso improved his defense significantly from where it was at the end of last year, and he has the rookie home run record.

Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith entered this year being viewed as busts. Smith was very good at the plate forcing his way into the everyday lineup. Rosario had a big second half making huge strides on both sides of the ball.

The impact goes well beyond that. Even if you don’t want to give Callaway specific credit for what these players have accomplished, we see Callaway has created an environment where young players learn, improve, and prosper.

That is part of Callaway having the pulse of his clubhouse. Certainly, that’s been a factor in the Mets playing hard to the finish in each of the past two years.

Last year, the Mets had nothing to play for, and yet, they didn’t just play out the string. Instead, they played hard and had strong ends to their seasons.

In 2018, the Mets 38-30 second half record was the 11th best in baseball and the best in the National League. In fact, it tied the Braves for the best in the division.

This year, the Mets turned their season completely around. They went from 10 game under at the break to eight games over .500 in the second half. That run got them back onto the race.

Despite that, many will argue Callaway and his in-game moves hold the team back. While we know Callaway isn’t making many of these decisions and is fielding texts with instructions on moves to make from his GM, it’s difficult to defend some of these moves and decisions.

And yet, we see it’s not holding the team back. Last year, their Pythagorean was just one game better than their actual record. That’s the same thing this year. While there are other measures, we should acknowledge this indicates Callaway has gotten what he should’ve from the team.

On that point, you could argue another manager could’ve gotten more out of this roster. That’s fair, but the managers who can do that aren’t readily available. There’s also the doubt the Mets will pony up for a big name like Dusty Baker, Joe Girardi, or whomever else with a track record you COULD trust to take the Mets over the top.

If the Mets ate getting that top flight manager, then, by all means, get him. Callaway and his potential as a manager should not stand in the way.

If they’re not, they better be sure they’re getting a real upgrade. That’s easier said than done. The replacement needs to be able to keep the pitching healthy and performing at a high level to shield against the lack of depth.

The manager needs to be adept at developing talent and having the team fight like this team has fought the past two years.

Finding someone who can do these things are much easier said than done. Given the Mets history and Van Wagenen’s brief tenure, it’s more likely they do worse, much worse. With that in mind, absent the proven commodity, the Mets may very well be best suited to sticking with Callaway.

Thank You 2019 Mets Players

Now that the Mets postseason hopes are officially over, there will come a time to write post mortems to assess all that went wrong and how the Mets could improve in the future.

Before doing that, we should first acknowledge these Mets players fought tooth and nail giving all they could give to help make an improbable run. What we would discover is this is a tough and very likeable group who deserves our gratitude.

Pete Alonso – for having perhaps the greatest rookie season in MLB history while being just a good person.

Aaron Altherr – his RBI double and scoring later in the game proved to be the winning run in a game against the Pirates as the team looked to turn their season around.

Luis Avilan – limited LHB to a .104/.189/.188 batting line making him an exceptional LOOGY, perhaps the last true LOOGY with the incoming MLB rule changes.

Tyler Bashlor – had a seven game scoreless streak in May and another four game one from June to July where he picked up his first hold.

Brad Brach – came to the Mets like he always wanted, and he helped stabilize a bullpen which desperately needed his help.

Keon Broxton – had a go-ahead RBI against the Nationals in April helping the Mets get off to another great start.

Robinson Cano – returned from what should’ve been a season ending injury to do all he could to help get this team into the postseason.

Michael Conforto – reminded us how great he is when he is healthy. Yes, great.

Travis d’Arnaud – came back too soon, never complained, and he left the Mets with pride and dignity after a good Mets career.

J.D. Davis – had a season better than anyone could’ve imagined with a number of big hits. More than that, he became a fan favorite as he was a player who clearly loved being a part of this team.

Rajai Davis – the lifelong Mets fan came home, and he would deliver two absolutely huge pinch hits to keep the Mets afloat at times they needed them.

Jacob deGrom – we are experiencing greatness everytime he takes the mound, and at some point we will need to begin having Hall of Fame conversations about him.

Edwin Diaz – there was a real dignity with him when he faced the media everytime he struggled. He made no excuses, and he put the work in to try to get back to where he was in Seattle. From what we’ve seen, he will get back there next year.

Jeurys Familia – you have to say something about someone who loved being a Mets player, and he came back to be a part of another winning team. Hopefully, that will be next year.

Chris Flexen – reinvented himself as a reliever who showed potential with the ability to strike out batters.

Wilmer Font – showed the Mets real value as a reliever before he was inexplicably designated for assignment.

Todd Frazier – provided this team with real leadership and defense, and he had a number of hot stretches which helped the Mets get back into it.

Drew Gagnon – for a month stretch from late April to late May he was an extremely reliable reliever.

Carlos Gomez – came back to the Mets and started the fun “Ye! Ye! Ye!” rallying cry.

Robert Gsellman – before he began to breakdown due to overuse, he was putting together a really good season out of the bullpen.

Luis Guillorme – when he finally got his chance, he proved himself showing this team he needs to be a part of the future. His pinch hit homer was one of the biggest hits of the season.

Sam Haggerty – like Eric Young in 2015, he was a weapon as a pinch runner.

Donnie Hart – albeit in just one appearance, he’s one of the few pitchers in Mets history who has never allowed a run.

Adeiny Hechavarria – showed surprising power and helped keep the Mets going in May.

Juan Lagares – at the end, he reminded us of how great a fielder he can be, and he had one last hurrah with his first two home rungame.

Walker Lockett – his start in San Francisco was the lone win in what was otherwise a lost series.

Jed Lowrie – despite suffering significant injuries, he pushed onward to make himself a viable pinch hitting option.

Seth Lugo – he has been absolutely great, and he has kept an otherwise struggling bullpen afloat.

Steven Matz – for the second straight year, Matz made 30 starts, and he made huge strides forward with a big second half and being dominant at home.

Chris Mazza – a 29 year old rookie is a feel good story, and he had quite the debut against a very good Braves lineup.

Jeff McNeil – proved last year was no fluke, and his versatility allowed the team to get the most out of the roster.

Tomas Nido – was a terrific defensive catcher and framer who helped get the most out of the starters and help them get their minds straight.

Brandon Nimmo – came back from a bulging disc in his neck to pick up where he left off last year. His enthusiasm and love of baseball is always a breath of fresh air.

Stephen Nogosek – put together a great year in the minors to get to the majors.

Ryan O’Rourke – in his low moment, he gave us real human insight into what it was like being cut from a team.

Corey Oswalt – strong year in Triple-A giving the Mets real rotation depth going forward.

Joe Panik – came back home to New York to help keep the team afloat at the time the Mets were in desperate need for a second baseman, and he performed quite well.

Tim Peterson – earned his way onto the Opening Day roster,and he’d pitch fairly well in his limited opportunities.

Brooks Pounders – six of his seven outings were really good.

Wilson Ramos – turned what was going to be an awful year around with a great August, and his ability to frame the high pitch proved to be a real help to deGrom.

Jacob Rhame – before landing on the IL to end the year, he was showing glimpses of being the type of arm who could be a useful part of the bullpen going forward.

Rene Rivera – brought back warm memories from the 2016 season with him combining with Syndergaard to dominate the Nationals.

Amed Rosario – he made a fools out of people who didn’t believe in his work ethic and talent by showing he is going to be an impact player on both sides of the ball in the future.

Hector Santiago – picked up a big win in extra innings against the Tigers.

Paul Sewald – despite being an afterthought, he once again proved he was a Major League caliber reliever, and he would finally get that first win which proved to be so elusive for him.

Dominic Smith – despite his being maligned and dropped down the depth chart, he would get healthy, and he would show everyone just how good a player he is, and he showed himself to be a great teammate more interested in how he could help the team than his role.

Marcus Stroman – the man was born to pitch on the biggest stage, and he would show it to us. A full year of him is going to be a thrill.

Noah Syndergaard – with Nido and Rivera, he showed he’s a Cy Young caliber pitcher, and he has time and again said he wants to be a real part of this team going forward.

Ruben Tejada – there’s a poetic justice in his playing in 2019 and Chase Utley not.

Jason Vargas – he really helped the Mets Wild Card hopes by bombing with the Phillies.

Zack Wheeler – he desperately wanted to be a part of a Mets postseason push, and he not only got that chance, but he would be great down the stretch.

Justin Wilson – he put the elbow problems aside, and he had just a terrific year out of the bullpen.

Daniel Zamora – 13 of his 16 appearances were scoreless, and with his splits, he showed the Mets he could be a modern LOOGY with the changing bullpen rules.

Overall, while you may hate what Brodie Van Wagenen has done as the General Manager, and you can hate the Wilpons for not being invested in this team, you simply have to love each and every one of these players for all they gave this team. We should appreciate them for fighting to the finish and giving us hope for next year.

Simply Amazin Podcast Appearance (I Didn’t Hear No Bell)

On Thursday, I had the privilege of being to be invited on the Simply Amazin‘ Podcast. On the podcast, I mentioned Wilson RamosTomas NidoRene RiveraPete AlonsoGerson BautistaJarred KelenicJeff McNeilRobinson CanoEdwin DiazJeurys FamiliaBrad BrachDaniel ZamoraSeth LugoRobert GsellmanJ.D. DavisDominic SmithNoah SyndergaardSteven MatzMarcus StromanLuis SantanaKeon BroxtonFelix ValerioJuan LagaresLuis GuillormePaul SewaldLuis Avilan, and others.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Giving It All They Have

The Mets have swept the Arizona Diamondbacks, and once again they are back in the thick of the Wild Card race after having played their way out of it. This has been one of the most mercurial seasons in team history setting forth what should be a fun emotional roller coaster ride over the final 16 games.

1. If you want to get off to a great start, there is no better way to accomplish that than starting with Jacob deGrom. He proved that by going seven innings of shut out ball. When you follow that up with Seth Lugo for two innings, there is no team in baseball that has a chance.

2. To put into perspective how incredible deGrom’s season was last year, he may be the leader in the clubhouse for the 2019 National League Cy Young award, and his ERA this year is a full run higher than it was last year.

3. In terms of this year’s Cy Young Award, tonight will be the second time over his last three starts where he faces off against another Cy Young leader. He pitched better than Max Scherzer the last time out, and this time he is facing off against Hyun-Jin Ryu, who has not been the same pitcher he was in the first half.

4. It is not just deGrom who is pitching great for the Mets lately. Zack Wheeler has three straight starts of 7.0 innings and just one earned. It might’ve taken a little more time than expected, but second half Wheeler finally arrived, and it could not have happened at a better time.

5. As good as deGrom and Wheeler are going, that is nothing compared to Steven Matz at Citi Field. This year, he is 7-1 with a 1.94 ERA at home. This is part of his pitching very well in the second half with a 2.52 ERA limiting opposing batters to a .227/.281/.364 batting line.

6. Then Marcus Stroman followed this trio with his best start in a Mets uniform. With him keeping the ball on the ground, you got a glimpse on just the pitcher the Mets thought they were going to get when they traded for him.

7. On Stroman, you see the impact a catcher can have on a pitcher. With the Blue Jays, Stroman had a 44.2 GB%, but when Wilson Ramos was catching him, it went down to 44.2 percent. Yesterday, the Diamondbacks only got the ball in the air 40.7 percent of the time.

8. This is another reason why we should note Noah Syndergaard‘s objections over Ramos are fact based. Even if it’s not, there is clearly a psychological impact upon him. Really, if the Mets are interested in winning, they would pair Syndergaard up with Tomas Nido or Rene Rivera.

9. What was surprising was seeing Nido homer yesterday. That wasn’t as surprising as Juan Lagares having a two home run game. We had Gary Cohen’s voice cracking as evidence of that. It was a great moment for Lagares who has been a good Met likely playing his final games in a Mets uniform.

10. Homers were a theme in this series with the Mets setting a team record hitting five homers in two straight games. They also set team records for homers at home in a season (114) and homers in a series (13). What is really surprising about this stretch is while everyone went homer happy, Pete Alonso didn’t hit one over the final two games.

11. Alonso is struggling now in an 0-for-12 stretch with seven strikeouts. Things must be getting to him as he took time to go into the clubhouse and shave his mustache mid-game. Unfortunately, it didn’t work, and it may get worse with the Dodgers coming into town with Ryu, Clayton Kershaw, and Walker Buehler.

12. Of course, it was not all bad news with Alonso. He had a two home run game to surge to the Major League home run lead. However, that was nothing compared to his getting first responder cleats for the entire team. That was an incredible move which not only shows character, but it also shows he gets it.

13. The fact Alonso was forced to go that route is because yet again Major League Baseball refused to permit the Mets to wear the first responder caps. They did it while touting Sammy Sosa running with the American flag, and Mike Piazza hitting that homer.

14. They also sell special 9/11 patched caps. That’s Major League Baseball for you. They won’t let players do the right thing because it would interfere with their ability to profit off of a tragedy were many Americans lost their lives, and they continue to do suffering from 9/11 related illnesses.

15. It was not only special to see all the Mets wearing them, but specifically the local Mets like Matz, Stroman, Todd Frazier, Rajai Davis, Joe Panik, and Brad Brach. On that note, Matz pitched six shutout innings, and Frazier would homer wearing those cleats.

16. Matz wearing them was reminiscent of John Franco wearing an FDNY cap in the Mets first game post 9/11. With respect to Matz, he has undertaken charitable work to help those first responders, and due to his efforts he has been a Roberto Clemente Award nominee for the second straight year.

17. On Frazier, he his red hot right now. He has hit three homers over two straight games, and he is playing his usual good defense at third. He is getting hot just at the right time because the Mets need their absolute best from everyone right now.

18. That is something which has made this Mets team really special. They are all giving what they could give. Robinson Cano is playing as much as his leg would allow, and based upon what we heard from Mickey Callaway, J.D. Davis is doing the same. Brandon Nimmo has returned from a potentially season ending injury to play great. Brach is dealing with a shoulder injury, and Justin Wilson has an elbow issue. Right now, everyone is giving this team what they can. That deserves the fans’ love and admiration.

19. We’re also seeing players doing all they can to come back. Dominic Smith is hitting off a tee and running. Robert Gsellman is throwing on the side. They are both doing this despite both having suffered what really was season ending injuries. Again, say what you will about this team, but this is a special group of players.

20. The 1999 Mets overcame a two game deficit over the final three games of the season to force a one game playoff. This team has 16 games. Anything is possible.

Mets Loss Highlights Defense Matters

There are a number of reasons why the Mets lost this game to the Phillies. Going 0-for-11 with RISP and leaving nine runners on base certainly attributed to that. Behind that was defense.

The key play was in the first. The Mets loaded the bases with two outs, and Todd Frazier hit what should’ve been a bases clearing double off Drew Smyly. It appeared that was going to be the case until Adam Haseley made a leaping catch in right to end the inning.

Conversely, the Phillies four run fourth began when J.D. Davis had a brutal error allowing Scott Kingery to reach. From there, the Phillies continued to hit Marcus Stroman, who allowed a season high 10 hits. One of the reasons why was the BABIP gods were unfair tonight. There were others including defense. All told, it was a four run inning putting the Phillies up 5-0.

Those two errors were the difference as was the ability to capitalize on them. For example, the Mets had first and second no outs in the bottom of that inning with Todd Frazier and Juan Lagares reaching on successive Brad Miller errors.

That’s where Mickey Callaway made some very curious decisions. At that point, Stroman had been laboring all night, and the Mets were down five. This was their chance to capitalize, and Callaway stood in the way.

Knowing he was removing Stroman, he still let Tomas Nido hit over Wilson Ramos. After not using Ramos, he then didn’t have Ramos, who has been great in the second half, hit. Instead, he used Jed Lowrie who just rejoined the team after a very lengthy IL stint.

From there, the Mets never really threatened, and that Phillies continued to play very good defense. In the end, it was a 5-0 loss. That’s a loss the Mets cannot afford to have. They need to be better than this because they’re running out of time. That being better especially includes defense.

Game Notes: Drew Gagnon was recalled from Syracuse. To make room for him on the roster, Dominic Smith was placed on the 6 0 day IL.

Mets Apparently Are Set With Aaron Altherr

So far this season, Aaron Altherr is hitting .085/.141/.169 (-20 wRC+) in 47 games this season. Last year, Altherr played 105 games for the Philadelphia Phillies, and he hit .181/.295/.333 (75 wRC+). As on outfielder this year, Altherr has a -1 DRS in 127.1 innings, and he was a 1 DRS in 524.1 innings last year. That followed a -4 DRS in 837.1 innings in 2017.

Taking everything into account, Altherr is a bad baseball player, and he has been one for two years now. Despite that, the Mets have continued to keep him on the roster, and they do little to challenge his roster status.

When Jeff McNeil went down, the Mets had a need for someone who could fill-in in the outfield. Instead of a Dilson Herrera who has some outfield experience, the Mets instead went with Ruben Tejada, who was no threat to taking away his outfield reps. The team also didn’t call-up Rajai Davis, who also could have presented a threat.

On Davis, most fans remember his Uber ride and his hitting a pinch hit homer. What they don’t see is his hitting .287/.334/.410 with Triple-A Syracuse. That’s not as good as the .274/.384/.565 batting line Altherr put up in admittedly far fewer games with Syracuse. On the one hand, that makes the Mets decision to go with Altherr over Davis defensible. However, it is still curious why you would not even challenge Altherr when you needed that extra outfielder.

What’s all the more baffling is how the Mets let Billy Hamilton go to the Braves.

There are many things you can say about Hamilton and his deficiencies as a player. In 93 games with the Royals this year, Hamilton hit .211/.275/.269 (44 wRC+). That’s actually a step backwards for him as he hit .239/.299/.327 (69 wRC+) in 153 games for the Reds last year. No matter how you look at it, Hamilton is a bad hitter. Terrible actually.

That makes the fact he’s been a significantly better hitter than Altherr all the worse. Hamilton is also a much better outfielder. In fact, Hamilton is an elite defensive outfielder. In 716.1 innings this year, Hamilton has a 9 DRS. Since he was called up in 2013, his 60 DRS trails only Lorenzo Cain among qualifying center fielders.

Right there, Hamilton is a significantly better hitter and fielder than Altherr. When you factor in Hamilton’s great speed and base running, you realize Hamilton does EVERYTHING better than Altherr. Everything.

With rosters expanding in September, and the Mets depth depleted to the point where they have to not only carry Altherr on the roster but also play him, there is zero reason to not put in a claim for Hamilton. He was a significant upgrade, and he was someone the Mets were going to be able to carry on the roster into September. If the Mets were lucky enough to make the postseason, Hamilton would have been a huge weapon as a late inning pinch runner and/or defensive replacement.

Go back and ask the 1969 Mets about the Ron Swoboda and Tommie Agee catches. Go back and ask the 2004 Red Sox about Dave Roberts stealing a base. The ability or a player to make that one impact can make all the difference in the world. Instead, the Mets just let Hamilton go to the Braves, who were lower in the waiver priority, unchallenged.

The Braves will get the benefit of his base running and defense while the Mets cross their fingers on Brandon Nimmo being able to return from a bulging disc in his neck. They’re also hoping Dominic Smith, who is still in a walking boot and using a knee scooter, can return. They’re hoping J.D. Davis‘ leg won’t continue to be an issue. Same for McNeil, who has gone from being able to immediately come off the 10 day IL to needing a rehab stint. There’s also Jed Lowrie, a player who has fewer pictures of him in a Mets uniform than people have photos of Big Foot or the Lockness Monster.

Going into the season, Brodie Van Wagenen kept telling us the Mets were all-in, and the team would have no ifs. It’s August 20, and the team wouldn’t go all-in on improving their roster, and they are seeing IF one of their injured players could contribute. Mostly, they’ve decided the team is better with Altherr, who has been terrible for over a year now, than any of the better alternatives . . . like Hamilton.