On Thursday, I had the honor and the privilege of being a guest on A Metsian Podcast. It was a lot of fun and cathartic, and I would hope you would all take a listen by clicking on the link provided.
I’m not sure if this is a reason to entice you to listen, but during the course of the podcast, I personally mentioned or discussed the following Mets players: Tom Seaver, Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Cliff Floyd, Nolan Ryan, Aaron Sele, Jason Vargas, Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, Roberto Alomar, Juan Samuel, Jim Fregosi, Bret Saberhagen, Vince Coleman, Noah Syndergaard, Chris Flexen, Paul Sewald, Sean Gilmartin, Darren Oliver, Pat Mahomes, Eric Hanhold, Steve Villines, Corey Oswalt, Jacob Rhame, Hansel Robles, Stephen Nogosek, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, Darryl Strawberry, and others. This list is off the top of my head.
Looking at that list, maybe that’s why they haven’t brought me back after my last appearance three years ago when I went on a Daniel Murphy rant.
While we all expect Jacob deGrom to receive little to no run support in his starts, this was the Marlins. When push comes to shove, you’d expect the Mets to give deGrom the run support he needed to get the win.
When opposing pitcher Sandy Alcantara doubled home a run in the third, you figured it would be the only run the Marlins got off deGrom. You’d be right too as deGrom allowed just one run over seven innings off five hits and one walk with eight strikeouts.
The Mets finally broke through in the fourth when Michael Conforto singled home Robinson Cano. Still, entering the sixth, it was tied at one, and aside from that fourth inning, the Mets did little against Alcantara.
Then, Pete Alonso and Conforto would make sure deGrom would get his win:
With respect to Conforto, the Marlins cannot get him out. After his going 3-for-3 yesterday with a HBP, walk, and homer yesterday, he was 2-for-3 with a walk and a homer tonight. Perhaps, he should be hitting higher than fifth, especially when you consider he’s probably the best hitter on the team.
Even with the two homers, Don Mattingly didn’t pull Alcantara. The Mets and deGrom would make him pay. After a Brandon Nimmo two our walk, Tomas Nido and deGrom hit back-to-back singles giving the Mets a 4-1 lead.
In the eighth, Mickey Callaway had some fun. He double switched Seth Lugo into the game putting him in a position to go two innings. He’d line up his defense as well with Dominic Smith, Todd Frazier, and Juan Lagares coming into the game. With the way Lugo pitched, it proved to be a superfluous move.
Diaz got the first two outs quickly, but after Diaz issued a walk to Jorge Alfaro, Harold Ramirez hit an infield single bringing Jon Berti up as the tying run. He’d line out to Conforto to end the game, and suddenly, the Mets are in position to not just go for the sweep tomorrow but also get back to .500.
Last night, Drew Gagnon absolutely bailed out the Mets. He took the ball in a bases loaded situation, and he got out of the jam. He then navigated through the 10th allowing Pete Alonso to deliver his first career walk-off RBI.
This was not the first time Gagnon impressed out of the bullpen. Back when Steven Matz couldn’t get an out against the Phillies, it was Gagnon who took it on the chin. Despite being on short rest, he pitched 5.1 innings. Yes, he would allow five earned, but three of those came after he was gassed and frankly pushed too far.
That’s been what we have seen from Gagnon in the Majors. In short spurts, he has been fine. When he has been pushed past two innings, he has not been nearly as effective. We saw that in his only start in the Majors, and we saw it in Philadelphia. But in those shorter stints, Gagnon has really showed something.
Last year, he made four relief appearances. In those relief appearances, he allowed one earned in 7.1 innings. His ERA this year may be 6.75, but he has pitched better than that. While it’s always a dangerous game to do this in evaluation, if you eliminate that one-third of an inning, his ERA would drop to a more impressive 2.70.
This is another way of saying Gagnon may prove to be something if he is used properly. As a long man or a short reliever, he could be effective. Since coming to the Mets organization, he throws strikes. He has struck out nearly a batter an inning. With the sinking action on his pitches, he has relatively low home run rates. Overall, while an opponent can beat him, Gagnon is typically not going to beat himself.
That hasn’t been the case for the Mets other options. We have seen Jacob Rhame, Tim Peterson, and Paul Sewald struggle at the Major League level. Tyler Bashlor and Eric Hanhold have yet to establish themselves. Considering the options at hand, the Mets would have to come up with a long list of excuses before sending him back down for one of these relievers.
After all, we have seen this happen in year’s past for the Mets. Pat Mahomes came up huge in 1999. The same happened with Sean Gilmartin in 2015. If given an opportunity, Gagnon may prove to be the 2019 version of that. It’s time the Mets found out if he has what it takes to be just that.
With the signing on Jed Lowrie, the Mets have been talking about just how deep this roster is. To a certain extent, they are right. Having infield options which include Peter Alonso, Robinson Cano, Todd Frazier, Jeff McNeil, and Amed Rosario in conjunction with Lowrie is incredible depth. However, that does not mean the Mets are a deep team.
First and foremost is the outfield. Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo are the only two healthy everyday outfielders on the roster. Juan Lagares has the glove to justify playing everyday, but he has hasn’t played more than 94 games since 2015, and in that season the Mets were desperate for an upgrade as they were making a postseason push.
Keon Broxton has hit .213/.296/.419 with an 85 OPS+ over the past two seasons indicating he has no business playing everyday. As bad as that is, Broxton is the last MLB outfielder on the 40 man roster.
After Broxton, the Mets are gambling on McNeil successfully transitioning to the outfield. It’s not an unreasonable gamble, and it is one we can expect to pay off. However, McNeil being an outfielder means the infield depth has taken a hit, which is a real issue should Alonso not be able to play first at the MLB level, or there are multiple injuries.
After McNeil is Rajai Davis and Gregor Blanco, both of them are over 35 years old, and neither of them have had a good season since 2015. Having just two starting outfielders with a couple of has beens and never will bes is not outfield depth.
And no, Yoenis Cespedes cannot be relied upon. He underwent double heel surgery, and no one can reasonably pinpoint when he is returning to the lineup, nor can anyone have any indication of what he will be when he is able to return.
With respect to the catching situation, the Mets are undoubtedly better with the signing of Wilson Ramos. However, that does not mean there is sufficient depth. Both Ramos and Travis d’Arnaud are injury prone putting more emphasis on Tomas Nido, who has hit .181/.210/.255 in limited Major League duty on top of hitting .272/.300/.431 between Double-A and Triple-A last year.
There is a real chance at least two of those catchers are injured as the same time leaving the Mets to depend on Patrick Mazeika and/or Ali Sanchez. Basiscally, this isn’t much different than during the 2015 season where the team grasped at straws cycling through Kevin Plawecki, Anthony Recker, and Johnny Monell while they pieced together the catching situation in d’Arnaud’s absence.
Then there is the rotation. All five of the Mets starters have significant injury histories. Jacob deGrom is the only starter to have consecutive seasons with at least 30 starts. Jason Vargas is the only other starter with 20 plus starts in each of the last two seasons. Behind this thin rotation, with Vargas having a 64 ERA+ and a 5.02 FIP last year, is very questionable starting pitching depth.
Looking at the roster, Walker Lockett, Corey Oswalt, Chris Flexen, Drew Gagnon, and P.J. Conlon. all posted an ERA over 5.00 in the majors last year. Hector Santiago was moved to the bullpen partially because he has had a 4.06 ERA since 2016. Kyle Dowdy, the Mets Rule 5 pick, had a 5.15 ERA between Double and Triple-A last year, and with the team being forced to keep him on the roster or return him to the Rays, he is going to be a bullpen option.
Now, to be fair, the Mets do have bullpen depth. The back-end with Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia is as good as it gets. You can also say the Mets swing men, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, are the best combination in the Majors. From a left-handed relief option, Daniel Zamora has exception spin rates, and former White Sox Luis Avilan and Santiago have pitched well out of the bullpen.
Beyond that group, the Mets have promising young right-handed power arms in Tyler Bashlor, Eric Hanhold, Ryder Ryan, and Drew Smith. Combine that with Paul Sewald and Jacob Rhame, the Mets have sufficient numbers and depth in the bullpen, albeit not the big seventh inning reliever you would want.
In the end, yes, the Mets have admirable infield depth, and there are enough arms here to at least figure out a good bullpen. However, past that, this is a paper thin roster at outfield, catcher, and starting pitcher. If the Mets face a number of injuries, and based on their history, they will, the 2019 Mets are going to be in real trouble.
Each and every offseason, the common refrain is the Mets are in need of an additional left-handed reliever in the bullpen. Mostly, it is a call for the Mets to add a second left-handed pitcher, but this offseason it is more of a need to add a primary left-handed reliever. Time and again, this call misses the mark because what the team needs, what any team needs, is good relievers regarded of handedness.
While not axiomatic, the 2015 Mets who went to the World Series are a good example of this. Their left-handed reliever situation was a mess. Jerry Blevins injured himself early in the year, and then he would injure himself again. Alex Torres was terrible until he was finally released. They took a flyer on Eric O’Flaherty late in the year, and he was worse than Torres. Their one left-handed pitcher who made the full season was Sean Gilmartin, who was the long man in the bullpen, and he actually had reverse splits.
The reason why the Mets were able to make it work was because the team had right-handed relievers who pitched well against left-handed pitching. In fact, if you just looked at the splits and ignored the handedness of the pitchers, you would believe each one of them was actually a LOOGY:
- Jeurys Familia .214/.291/.325
- Hansel Robles .167/.214/.346
- Erik Goeddel .189/.250/.270
- Logan Verrett .200/.293/.388
- Tyler Clippard .136/.229/.236
When you boil it down, who cares if the pitcher is right-handed, left-handed, or Pat Venditte? The goal is to get batters out, and you want the pitcher most effective at getting those outs on the mound. If you look at the current Mets bullpen, the team has right-handed pitchers who have had success against left-handed hitters:
Right there, your three most trusted relievers are pitchers you trust to get left-handed batters out in pressure situations. Delving into their young right-handed power arms, Tyler Bashlor and Eric Hanhold have also posted good numbers against left-handed hitters. This also overlooks Daniel Zamora who utilized his excellent spin rates to hold left-handed hitters to a .222 batting average against during his brief time in the majors.
Assuming the Mets go with Zamora and one of their young right-handed power arms, the 2019 Mets bullpen will have five pitchers who pitch well against left-handed hitters. Adding another arm to address getting left-handed hitters out is superfluous. Moreover, when you look at how Mickey Callaway uses his bullpen combined with this being an era of increased bullpen use, you really have to question the wisdom of having two of your seven relievers dedicated to getting one batter out a game.
Ultimately, this should be about getting the best relievers you possibly can. If that reliever happens to be left-handed, great. Certainly, someone like a Justin Wilson is good against right and left-handed batters. However, if that guy is Tony Sipp or someone of his ilk, you really have to wonder why this team would limit the manager and tax the better arms in the bullpen to get just two batters out per game. Really, when you break it down, the Mets need better, not more limited, arms.
With Brodie Van Wagenen being announced as the new Mets General Manager tomorrow, his work begins immediately. Right now, Jose Reyes, Devin Mesoraco, Jerry Blevins, Austin Jackson, and Jose Lobaton are free agents. With eight more players listed on the 60 day disabled list (Eric Hanhold, Rafael Montero, Bobby Wahl, Travis d’Arnaud, Phillip Evans, T.J. Rivera, Yoenis Cespedes, and Juan Lagares), the team needs to cut at least three players by Friday.
More than that, Van Wagenen will be entasked in improving the roster into a 2019 World Series contender. Here is Van Wagenen’s starting point:
Certainly, the Mets are set in the middle infield and the corner outfield spots. Obviously, Yasmani Grandal would be a significant addition to both the lineup and in the pitch framing department. Even if not Grandal, the catching position seems to be a real target to upgrade either on the free agent market, where real upgrades are limited, or on the trade front, where there are a number of rebuilding teams who could move a catcher (Buster Posey?).
As for the other positions, the Mets are going to have to move a player/contract. If the Mets really want to significantly upgrade this roster, the team is going to have to find a way to move Bruce, Frazier, or both. That not only opens room for a significant addition, but it also means the team will have some extra money on the budget to improve the roster.
In the end, there is real talent here, but talent which needs to be surrounded by the right players. Ideally, that is at least one right-handed power bat to balance out a lineup which already balances out Conforto, Nimmo, and McNeil. When doing that, Van Wagenen will need to buttress this group by building a strong bench, which is something which has not been done since the trade deadline maneuvers in the 2015 season.
That would start with Jay Bruce hitting a first inning homer, and it would continue thanks to the younger players on the Mets roster.
Nola would make a tough pitch, but with McNeil being excellent with his bat control, he was able to put a cricket swing on the pitch and hit it into right field for an RBI double.
For a moment, it looked like Bruce was going to drive home McNeil, but he was robbed by Carlos Santana.
At that point, it was tied at 2-2 with Steven Matz matching Nola pitch for pitch. Over his five innings, he allowed two earned on three hits while walking two and striking out eight.
Those two runs were the result of a Santana homer. As it would turn out, Santana would not be the only first baseman flashing leather and hitting homers.
In a surprise decision, Dominic Smith got the start at first against one of the best pitchers in the National League despite not having started a game in over a week. Despite the difficult circumstances, Smith would deliver:
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 8, 2018
That homer would tie the game at 3-3, but the Mets would not be able to pull this one out as the young bullpen was not up for the task.
Tyler Bashlor entered in the seventh, and he dominated the Phillies with two strikeouts and a pop out. The problem would be Callaway left him in for the eighth.
In the eighth, Rhys Hoskins hit a leadoff homer to put the Phillies up 4-3. The Phillies couldn’t muster a rally past that as McNeil and Smith combined to make a phenomenal defensive play:
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 8, 2018
Overall, the Mets would increase Nola’s ERA from 2.23 to 2.29, but they would also give him his 16th win of the season. Time will tell if this will be sufficient to help deGrom.
Game Notes: While downplaying the possibility David Wright will return this season, John Ricco admitted he has not spoken to Wright.
Right now, the Mets are 28-36. That puts them eight games under .500, 9.5 games back of the Braves for the National League East, and 8.5 games back of the Nationals for the second Wild Card. With the trade deadline about a month and a half away, it’s time to consider whether the Mets season is over. Our Mets bloggers provide their opinion in the latest roundtable:
To get to 85 wins, the Mets now have to go 57-41. That’s a .582 clip just to make it interesting. I’m guessing that won’t be enough with Atlanta, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Arizona and for fun, San Francisco and Philly in the realistic hunt for a wild card. I do agree and have said if there’s any hope, it’s in the starting rotation, but 85 wins right now is asking a lot for this bullpen and roster which lacks any sort of competitive edge in the heat, not to mention what they probably need which is another 60-62 wins, or a 62-36 record the rest of the way.
Fangraphs currently has the Mets’ playoff odds at 4.6%. It was 9.8% just two days ago; 22% at the start of June. The Mets’ offense has been historically bad. This is not an exaggeration: No team since 1900 has scored fewer runs and recorded fewer hits in an 11 game span than the Mets. So, what I’m trying to say is no the season isn’t over. Almost! But sadly no, we are not yet free. The starting pitching has finally been really, really good lately, and all without Noah Syndergaard. The offense cannot possibly continue to break records in futility, thanks to our new best friends the law of averages. In conclusion: it is definitely probably not over.
It’s hard to be as positive as I was prior to the season, but I still think it’s too early to call it “over.” I wish I had a better feel for the organizational plan here, but I don’t know if Callaway is setting his lineups and managing his bullpen or if he is following a front office script. Until I can determine that, I’m going to wait and see.
The season is far from over, but if the Mets can’t figure out how to score in more than one inning per game, they will be selling off pieces once again and we’ll all be counting down the days to the start of the football season.
The season is definitely not over. The Mets will find a way to pull us all back in again. Just as everything seems to be ok again, BAM! Back to DL and losing some more.
I allowed myself a modicum of optimism after the Mets won the final game of their otherwise winless homestand. Get on the road, get a little momentum going…but the two games in Atlanta disabused me of the notion. Except for playing 98 more games as mandated, the season is 98% done (I of course will hang on the 2% chance it’s not).
No, I don’t think it is. That could simply be the eternal optimist in me coming out, but it’s a very long season. There are 98 games left. The ’99 Mets were 28-28 when they fired their hitting and pitching coach and finished the season with 90+ wins. Our pitching staff is only getting better and the bats are sure to come around at some point. This can’t go on forever, right? Maybe Roessler needs to go. Who knows? But there’s more than enough time to make up for this awful stretch. There’s too much talent here to ’02 this thing.
Dilip Srindhar (MMO & MMN)
Not necessarily. The Mets could always get on some hot streak and get back to .500 given that their starting pitching has been pretty solid. That said, I really want them to realize how unlikely that would be and fully commit to playing the kids. For example, give Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo starts in the rotation. Give Dominic Smith a good long look at first. See what you have in Wilmer Flores. Also call up Tyler Bashlor, Drew Smith, and Eric Handold to see the bullpen. If we get a large sample of these guys, then we can assess the off-season better and not get stuck with making poor insurance investments. This would require the Mets to move Asdrubal Cabrera soon and let Flores play but it should be a nice couple months to see the team get younger and see what might be in fold for 2019.
The Mets can’t score, and even when their starting pitching has turned things around, the bullpen has blown either the narrow lead it was given, or they have let a one run game turn into a 10 run game. It would be worse, but really, a one run lead against this Mets team is like a 10 run lead.
Right now, we’re all pinning our hopes on Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes returning from the DL, but no one knows when or if that is going to happen.
Meanwhile, the Mets are continuing to keep Jose Reyes on the roster and go so far as to defend the decision. That means no young players like Jeff McNeil are going to get a change. Just when you think things couldn’t get more absurd, this team picked up Chris Beck and his career 5.94 ERA off waivers to try to help fix this bullpen.
Meanwhile, Jay Bruce can add a back back to his plantar fascitiis issues. In that way, he’s much like Cabrera in that he’s adding more injuries than base hits. Neither one of these players are even being considered for the disabled list.
Bartolo Colon is singing. It’s over.
What isn’t over is the excellent work these Mets bloggers put out over the course of a season. Much like GKR, these people give you reason to at least follow the Mets with their excellent work. I hope you enjoy their work as much as I do.
Despite Daniel Murphy winning the 2015 NLCS MVP, the Mets seemed all too happy to let him depart via free agency. Instead of Murphy, the Mets first sought after Ben Zobrist, who spurned them for the Cubs, before trading Jon Niese for Neil Walker.
Walker was supposed to stabilize the position, and there was hopes he would be a Met for the long haul with the team offering him the qualifying offer. Instead, Walker had two injury riddled years before he was traded to the Brewers for minor league right-hand relief prospect Eric Hanhold.
Now, the Mets are once again in the position of finding out who their next second baseman will be. That task becomes all the more difficult when Ian Kinsler rejected a trade to the Mets, upper management rejected a trade for Jason Kipnis, and the Mets are reportedly not entertaining trading Brandon Nimmo for Josh Harrison.
The end result likely is the second base quagmire will continue. That quagmire has seen the Mets play 12 different players at second base over the past two seasons. Can you name them all? Good luck!