Dominic Smith

Pete Alonso Should Be Mets Initial DH In 2020

With the universal DH coming in 2020 (to the extent there even is a 2020), the common refrain is the Mets are one of the few NL teams well situated for this. After all, J.D. Davis is a positionless player who was terrible at third and LF last yearRo, Yoenis Cespedes is coming off double heel surgery and a broken ankle,and Robinson Cano is 37 years old. They also have a player like Dominic Smith who may well be an everyday first baseman for many Major League teams.

While we hear those names in the mix, one name we don’t hear as a DH possibility in 2020 is Pete Alonso. While the possibility is ignored, it shouldn’t.

Looking at Alonso’s rookie season, he was much better than he had been advertised in some circles. Before his rookie season, some gave the impression Alonso could little more than just stand a first base. Truth be told, Alonso put in a lot of work on his defense, and he made very clear strides. As a result, we saw him make many highlight defensive plays in 2020:

This caused many to question those scouting reports and just how much those scouts knew. However, when you peel back the highlights, while Alonso is FAR from the inept defensive player he was portrayed in some circles, he was still not a good defensive player.

On the year, he was a -3 DRS and a -7 OAA. That had Alonso ranked as the third worst defensive first baseman in the game by DRS and the worst defensive first baseman by OAA. In the end, even with the defensive gems, Alonso was just not good at first base in 2019.

On the other hand, Smith was very good at first base. In his limited attempts there, Smith had a 1 DRS and 1 OAA. Both marks put Smith in the top 20 out of the 84 players who played first base in the majors last year. With Smith, his defensive reputation in the minors proved true as he played a good defensive first base.

Just looking at Alonso and Smith, if you are going to put one in the field and one at DH, wouldn’t it make sense to put the far superior player in the field? There really isn’t an argument on how playing Alonso at first base with Smith at DH helps the team win more than by putting the vastly superior defender in the field.

Admittedly, there are caveats to this.

With the Mets selecting Alonso as their first baseman of now and the future, you can understand the impetus to keep Alonso at first. After all, why would you sacrifice one year of development for Alonso at first for the sake of trying to win in 2020?

There is also the Cespedes factor. At the moment, no one knows if he can play at all in 2020. If he can play, no one is quite sure what he can contribute. However, if he can hit, we have seen they type of dynamic game changing bat he can be, and it is going to be difficult to keep him out of the lineup, especially when you can certainly play Alonso at first.

Even if Cespedes can play the field and play it at a near facsimile to how well he played it in his career, he is still likely going to need his days off. In the end, if Cespedes can play and hit, he is the obvious and probably the best choice for DH.

If he can’t the Mets are likely juggling between a group of first basemen and designated hitters on their team. While many see this as a possibility to load the Mets lineup with bats, the reality is this should be a way for the Mets to be able to put a very good defensive team on the field and surround them with very good bats.

With that being the case, the Mets ideally should have Alonso at DH, Jake Marisnick in CF, and Smith at first base. They can certainly move that around as needed based on match-ups and to give players like Cano a day off here and there. Certainly, injuries are going to play a factor. However, in the end this is the Mets best lineup to try to win the 2020 World Series . . . assuming the 2020 season ever gets played.

Similated Recap: Dom Hits Go-Ahead Homer In Ninth

Good teams pull out victories late in games. They show resiliency and rise to the challenge. In tonight’s simulated game, we see how good this Mets team could’ve been had they actually played games:

Down 3-2 in the ninth with the threat of their winning streak being snapped, Brandon Nimmo led off the top of the ninth with a double. Amed Rosario went the other way advancing him to third, and Dominic Smith hit a game winning two run homer to give the Mets a 4-3 victory.

The home run happy Mets also got homers from Yoenis Cespedes and Jeff McNeil. Justin Wilson earned the win in relief, and Edwin Diaz recorded the save.

Simulated Recap: Mets Torch Marlins

Last night, the Mets blew a 3-0 lead. Tonight, the Mets were not going to repeat that performance. No, this time Michael Wacha and the Mets made sure to put the Marlins away:

Before you could blink it was 7-1 Mets.

In the first, Robinson Cano hit a bases loaded single giving the Mets a 1-0 lead. In that four run inning, we’d also see Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario deliver RBI single. Smith would knock in another run with a sacrifice fly in the three run second.

Later in the game, Pete Alonso and Michael Conforto would homer in the Mets 9-2 win.

Simulated Recap: Gsellman Takes Loss In Ninth

A real nice touch to tonight’s simulated game was seeing all the Mets and Braves players wearing 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson. It was extra special seeing Dominic Smith homering while wearing the number.

Hopefully, we’ll get to see that happen in 2021.

The Mets other run came off a Brandon Nimmo lead-off homer. With those two runs, the duel between Rick Porcello and Felix Hernandez turned into a battle of the bullpens.

Ultimately, Robert Gsellman wasn’t up to the task allowing two runs in the top of the ninth. That rally began with a leadoff walk to Mets killer Charlie Culberson.

42 Ways To Honor Jackie Robinson

Today, every baseball player is going to wear the number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson. It’s a noble concept which has grown somewhat stale and has not entirely hit the mark Major League Baseball has intended. In honor of Jackie’s number, here are 42 different things baseball can do to honor Jackie a better way:

  1. As written previously, let players choose whatever numbers they like. For example, allow Puerto Rican players wear 21 in honor of Roberto Clemente. After all, Jackie’s legacy is much more than himself. It’s his opening the game for everyone.
  2. Perhaps it would be more effective to have just one player wear the number 42 or have just a few. This way when you see it, it’s more eye catching.
  3. The players who stand out as options to wear 42 are former Rookies of the Year, MVPs, batting and stolen base champions. Put another way, choose the players who have accomplished something Jackie accomplished wear the number.
  4. Overall, make this akin to player’s weekend with teams having special jerseys with special numbers. Also, instead of their name, have the name of a special player, or let their jersey have a special message.
  5. The Dodgers should wear their Brooklyn uniforms and their position players should wear the uniforms their counterparts wore in 1947.
  6. The match-ups should be specialized where possible. For example, it would also be a nice touch to have the Dodgers and Braves face-off.
  7. Considering Robinson first played in the minor leagues in Montreal, the Blue Jays should always be home to permit them to have a special ceremony. That is, unless, they put a team in Montreal again.
  8. Ideally, the Mets should have a home game on April 15th not only because Jackie Robinson was a New York National League player, but also because they have the rotunda they can showcase.
  9. Similar to the 42 in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, each home team should have their own makeshift 42 or other designation where fans can take pictures and promote Jackie Robinson on social media to further promote the day and his legacy.
  10. Player segments during the game with them speaking on what Jackie Robinson means to them.
  11. There should be an MLB produced video which airs before the game. It can be telecast inside the ballpark, and it should be shown on each regional network airing a game.
  12. There should be a separate event on July 5th to honor Larry Doby, who broke the color barrier the same year in the American League. At the very least, the Indians players should wear his 14 or 37. Perhaps, all of the American League can do the same on that date.
  13. With Frank Robinson being the first African American managers, all managers and coaching staffs could wear the number 20.
  14. Invite and honor living Negro League players to the ballpark.
  15. Invite and honor players who were the first to break the color barriers for each MLB team.
  16. In addition to teams having universally retiring Robinson’s 42, teams should also retire the number of the player who broke the color barrier for their franchise, or at a minimum, a special designation inside the ballpark for that player.
  17. Teams should annually hold a day honoring the players who first broke the color barrier for their franchise on the day they broke the color barrier.
  18. Pay honor to Fleet Walker, who had played 42 games in 1884 before baseball denied black players from playing in a game necessitating Robinson to break the color barrier over 50 years later.
  19. Special events at the Negro League Museum with baseball dignitaries there. This should be aired on MLB Network and/or ESPN.
  20. Speaking of MLB Network, they should be televising Jackie Robinson’s games and specials all day.
  21. The day should be an event, and it should be treated as such. It should have the same pomp and circumstance as any big occasion.
  22. Bring Little League teams to the games as part of the honor and celebration.
  23. With his being part of the military, have tank battalions do the honor guard as part of the pre-game ceremonies.
  24. Host educational events such as e-classrooms across the country to teach about who Jackie Robinson was and what his legacy is.
  25. Instead of selling the hats online, teams should give 42 hats as a promotion at the ballpark.
  26. It would also help to give away hats and other things at local schools.
  27. While having the players wear the 42 for a game is a good idea, baseball should consider wearing the caps with a patch for a full week or even month.
  28. Have alumni of the RBI Program host baseball clinics for players before the game.
  29. Promote alumni of the RBI Program like Dominic Smith. They can speak to players and television outlets about how the program helped them.
  30. Like with the Stand Up 2 Cancer during the World Series, there should be a moment of silence during the game with players and fans holding signs with a word or phrase to describe Jackie Robinson and his legacy.
  31. Have teams put a 42 on the field somewhere. It could be first base where Jackie Robinson played his first game. There could be a 42 behind second base which was his primary position, or it could be in center or behind home plate which would be the most eye catching.
  32. Kansas City Royals should wear Monarchs uniforms as Robinson go his start playing for them, and their opponent can wear the uniforms of another Negro League team.
  33. Coordinate with UCLA (Jackie Robinson’s alma mater) to have events at the collegiate level.
  34. Look to incorporate other sports and famous athletes into the celebrations. After all, Robinson also played football, basketball, and he was an NCAA champion in the long jump.
  35. Remember, this day is more than just about baseball. It is about how Robinson changed the world, and the event should be treated as such. The more your incorporate other sports and people outside of sports the more you really push to honor all of what Robinson did.
  36. Pay special tribute to those players who were accepting of Robinson and encouraged him. Those players include, but are not limited to, Pee Wee Reese, Lee Handley, Hank Greenberg, and George Sisler.
  37. Treat 42 as sacred and be careful of how you use it. For example, don’t contract 42 minor league teams. By doing so, you are taking away opportunity, which is the opposite of what this day should stand for.
  38. Making minor league opening day April 18, the day Robinson broke the color barrier in the minor leagues.
  39. Schedule special Cooperstown events for July 23, the day in which Robinson was the first black player inducted into the Hall of Fame.
  40. Provide special funding for diabetes research and treatment as Robinson was afflicted with diabetes, and it was one of the reasons he died so young.
  41. This should be a day where baseball is reminded it needs to do more. This one day is not enough.
  42. Overall, remember Robinson was more than just a baseball player. Whatever baseball does, they should look to honor the man and not just the moment.

Simulated Recap: Mets Brew Up Comeback Victory

The Mets blew a few leads in this one including a 2-0 first inning lead courtesy of solo homers by Pete Alonso and Yoenis Cespedes. Unfortunately, Rick Porcello wouldn’t get out of the inning without the Brewers tying the game up.

A Brandon Nimmo two run shot in the second gave the Mets another two run lead. However, the Brewers would not only tie it, but they’d also take the lead heading into the ninth.

With Josh Hader on the mound, the Mets staged a great comeback in the top of the ninth.

The Mets tied the score with back-to-back doubles from Cespedes and Robinson Cano. Nimmo hit one which ate up Keston Hiura to give the Mets a 6-5 lead.

That chased Hader, and the Brewers went to David Phelps. Amed Rosario doubled, and Dominic Smith hit a pinch hit sacrifice fly to give the Mets a 7-5 lead.

Edwin Diaz got the first two out in the ninth before getting into trouble, allowing a run to score, and Luis Rojas going to Seth Lugo for the one out save. When Lugo got the only batter he faced out, the Mets won 7-6.

Rob Manfred Again Using COVID19 Pandemic To Push Agenda

While the world is dealing with COVID19, and trying to figure out how to get back to our lives as usual, Rob Manfred is taking advantage of the pandemic to push his agenda. A few weeks ago, that mean shortening the draft, which, when you break it down, really only served the purpose of having fewer players. With fewer players, it is easier to push forward with the plan of contracting 42 minor league teams.

Now, Manfred is doing this again to try to implement the universal DH.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported MLB is considering utilizing Spring Training facilities to allow MLB to play the 2020 season. With the Grapefruit League and Cactus League being split up by an East/West designation rather than an AL/NL designation, in order to effectuate this plan, there will need to be radical realignment for one year.

With that radical realignment would come a universal DH.

Now, if a radical one-year re-alignment is necessary to pull off baseball in 2020, no one is going to complain. With AL teams being built for the DH, you can understand implementing a universal DH under this plan. After all, it is difficult to ask teams like the White Sox with Edwin Encarnacion to find a place to put him in the field for a full season.

If you look to the Mets, you could make the argument this benefits them. This would allow the team to DH Yoenis Cespedes in the last year of his contract. Digging deeper, J.D. Davis really belongs in a DH role. You could also look to DH Pete Alonso to permit the superior defensive first baseman in Dominic Smith to play first.

However, this isn’t an argument for what is best for the Mets. Rather, this is an analysis about what is best for baseball. Maybe, a truncated season split up like this for one year is what is best for everyone. Maybe, you do need the universal DH to make this work.

On a one year basis, we should be willing to do whatever is necessary to have baseball in a safe fashion. Safety is the first priority.And yet, this once again appears like Manfred is really taking advantage of the situation.This time, instead of reducing the amount of minor leaguers with no specific purpose, he is now pushing for a universal DH for these games.

It is difficult to come to a different conclusion when the original proposed plan was to have all 30 teams in Arizona and effectively quarantining them as a league there. Now, the plan is to have half the teams in Arizona and the other half spread across the State of Florida. The very minute this shifted from lockdown to travel is where suspicions should arise.

Maybe, this is all bluster, and nothing will come of this. It is possible this is just the brainstorming which needs to and should occur. You can argue all that you want, but after we get through every plausible explanation, there is still the air of suspicion which should surround the commissioner moving on from limiting the draft to finding a way to implement a universal DH.

In the end, it just appears like Manfred is using this situation to push through his agenda knowing there won’t be much opposition due to people’s safety concerns. There is a phrase for this – it’s called taking advantage.

Simulated Recap: No Fooling, Mets Finally Win

Well, it finally happened. Behind the pitching of Jacob deGrom, the Mets finally have a simulated win for the 2020 season.

For a while, it looked like a typical deGrom start with him shutting down the other side and the Mets not scoring runs. Jeff McNeil was thrown out at the plate, and Brandon Nimmo struck out with the bases loaded.

Finally, Robinson Cano hit an RBI single in the third, and Dominic Smith would hit a three run homer to give the Mets a 4-0 lead. Pete Alonso, who has struggled in 2020 (for what very little that’s worth) also homered in the game.

It was a very rude homecoming for Zack Wheeler who only lasted four innings and would take the loss.

The Phillies didn’t get to deGrom until Nick Williams hit a two run homer in the seventh, but that only pulled the Phillies to within 5-2.

Seth Lugo got touched up for two in the eighth, but Edwin Diaz would shut the door in the ninth to preserve the Mets 5-4 win, their first of the season.

Dominic Smith, Catcher?

Right now, players are finding ways to work out to stay in shape in the event baseball is played in 2020. For Marcus Stroman that means going out into the street and pitching to Dominic Smith.

What is interesting with Smith is this isn’t his first foray into catching. In fact, Smith told Michael Mayer of MMN he caught in high school. As seen above, he hasn’t completely given up on it as he was slated as the Mets emergency catcher in 2019. Overall, reviews of his limited work behind the plate are somewhat positive.

Looking at 2021 and beyond, Wilson Ramos is going to be a free agent, and Smith is a player who is blocked from playing his everyday position of first base by Pete Alonso. Seeing him catching Stroman, being an emergency catcher last year, and the positive reviews of his limited work back there, you do wonder if the Mets should try to move Smith behind the plate.

Before addressing the point in full, as noted by The Hardball Times, Jack Clements is the only left-handed catcher in Major League history to catch at least 1,000 Major League games. His last game was in 1900. To that end, you could consider him the only true left-handed catcher in Major League history, and he played in the Dead Ball Era.

There have really been a handful of left-handed catchers in Major League history (14 in total) with Benny Distefano being the last one to appear in a game. What is somewhat interesting about that is he played first base and the outfield from 1984-1988 before he was permitted to catch three games in 1989, which was a function of his preparing to be an emergency catcher. More interesting than that was the fact he didn’t catch in his professional career before those three games.

With his limited experience, Distefano noted the issues for a left-handed catcher were bunt plays towards third base as well as applying tags at the plate. (New York Times). The Hardball Times addressed this in their article, and they noted there is a slight issue with it, but they also noted a left-handed catcher would not have the same issues with a right-handed batter the right-handed catcher would.

The bigger issue is getting the tag down, which The Hardball Times confirms. On both issues, it was noted it is such a small part of the catcher’s duties it likely would not have a real impact on the game. That is all the more so when you consider the advantages a left-handed catcher would have including fielding plays right in front of the plate and catching breaking pitches from right-handed pitchers.

In total, at least in theory, there would be no real discernible difference between right and left handed catchers other than the fact seeing a left-handed catcher would look strange. In the end, it is not like a left-handed shortstop or third baseman where playing the position is an impossibility.

Seeing how it could happen, we revisit the question of whether the Mets should look to move Smith behind the plate.

Certainly, it helps he already has some experience in terms of high school, preparing to be an emergency catcher, and now catching Stroman. Being a first baseman, he is accustomed to the bunt plays towards third and making the left-handed throw to third base.

We know he has the agility to do it between his first base and left field experience. In terms of left field, we know he has the ability and willingness to learn a new position if it means helping out the team. Overall, he has shown himself to be a team first person, who may prove willing to do this. That may prove to be all the more the case if it meant a regular position for him.

In terms of the Mets, Ramos has a $10 million option for 2021 which may or may not be picked up. Tomas Nido is a defensive back-up with no remaining options. Ali Sanchez may be nothing more than a better defender and possible a worse hitter than Nido. The shot in the dark is Patrick Mazeika who is still just a part-time catcher in the minors.

Really, from an organizational standpoint, the Mets are exactly the team who should experiment with this. After all, Smith is an everyday caliber player, and he has the experience. More than that, he has nothing to do now but work out on his own and to meet up with Stroman to catch him.

The more he catches Stroman, the better prepared for the transition he will be. Speaking of Stroman, Jose Bautista working out with him led to his getting work outs to try to return to the Majors as a pitcher. At the end of the day, there isn’t much reason not to at least see if this could happen.

 

Can Eduardo Nunez Be Michael Conforto’s Replacement?

With the news of Michael Conforto straining his oblique, he will likely miss Opening Day, and it is possible he will miss approximately a month. That is a month to figure out what is the best way to manage his absence. That is a problem all the more problematic given how the Mets only have two outfielders who are everyday caliber with Conforto being one of them.

There are a number of potential solutions, each of which are fraught with with their own problems.

The Mets could go with J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith in the corners. However, with their OAA and sprint speed that is not a viable defensive solution. They could also go with Jake Marisnick in center, but he was a well below average hitter and among the worst hitters at his position even when he knew what pitch was coming.

The Mets could better mix and match in the outfield if they could put Jeff McNeil back in a corner outfield position. As we saw last year, he was a good defender out there, and as we saw, he was an All-Star in left last year. However, in order for that to happen, the Mets need to have a replacement for him at third as McNeil is slated to be the everyday third baseman.

On that note, Eduardo Nunez is having a good Spring Training, and according to reports, he feels the healthiest he has in years. As reported by Tim Britton of The Athletic, Nunez took time off to heal as he said, “Last year, I couldn’t even play defense, I couldn’t hustle, I couldn’t steal any base, I couldn’t hit for power, so it was really tough.”

If he’s completely healthy, which Nunez asserts wasn’t the case in Boston, he appears to be on track to making the Opening Day roster. More than that, he could insert himself into the everyday lineup with Conforto’s injury.

In his 10 year career, despite his speed, Nunez has never been a good defender. In fact, he is a negative defender at every infield position. That said, his best infield position is third base. That’s not exactly inspiring with him having a -22 DRS there in his career. However, notably, he amassed a -12 DRS in his two years with the Red Sox.

Prior to the 2018 and 2019 seasons, Nunez had not been all that bad at third. After posting a -4 DRS in 2014, he had a -3 DRS over the ensuing three seasons with two of them being at a 0 DRS or better. It should be noted his OAA numbers were not all the positive with a -6 in 2017, 0 in 2018, and -3 in 2019.

All told, he is just not good at third. However, what he appears to be is playable there over a shorter duration. Of course, the question is whether it is worth playing him there. On the surface, the answer is probably not. In his two years with Boston, Nunez’s wRC+ was 70, which is worse than Marisnick.

Of course, that number was dragged down by Nunez’s woeful 2019 season. Looking back to the three seasons prior to Nunez’s Boston years, he had a 106 OPS+ making him slightly above league-average. Slightly above league average with the bat and below league average as a fielder isn’t a bad mix for a solid utility player.

However, for an everyday player it is less than ideal. In fact, it is not a recipe for success. Ultimately, this means Nunez shouldn’t be the solution for Conforto in his absence. That would then mean McNeil stays at third, and the Mets are left with either a center fielder who can’t hit or a pair of first baseman in the corners.

Right now, if the Mets don’t make a move, they are going to need Yoenis Cespedes to make unexpected progress, or they are going to need Luis Rojas to show deft touch in mixing a matching his lineup. That is not an enviable position to be in, but that’s where the Mets stand due to their not addressing their outfield depth this past offseason.