Hansel Robles

WBC Reminds You Of David Wright’s Greatness

On the dawn of the World Baseball Classic, Mets starter Noah Syndergaard made some waves when he stated, “I’m a Met. Ain’t nobody made it to the Hall of Fame or the World Series playing in the WBC.” (Abby Mastrocco, nj.com).

Judging from attendance at Spring Training, Syndergaard’s belief is not something that is universally shared in the Mets clubhouse. Jose Reyes is one of the few major league players that have appeared in all four WBCs. He is joined on the Dominican Republic team by Mets relievers Hansel Robles and Jeurys Familia.

Fernando Salas threw his first pitch this Spring for Mexico. Brandon Nimmo and Gavin Cecchini have been stars for Italy. Seth Lugo and T.J. Rivera, two players arguably fighting over the last spots on the Opening Day roster, are playing with Mets back-up catcher Rene Rivera for an undefeated Puerto Rico team. Ty Kelly is both fighting for a potential roster spot and for a spot in the semifinal for Israel.

Point is, while Syndergaard doesn’t believe in the importance of the WBC, many of his teammates do. That includes team captain David Wright, who said, “Everybody has their right to their own opinion, and obviously Noah doesn’t think too highly of it. But I do. So I’m not sure if it’s just a different mentality, and I’m not sure if there’s a right or a wrong. But getting a chance to represent your country, and put that jersey on, and hear the chants of ‘U-S-A, U-S-A’ — that’s one of the highlights of my career. (Anthony DiComo, mlb.com).

It should be noted Wright wasn’t calling out Syndergaard like the time he and Bobby Parnell threw Syndergaard’s lunch in the garbage. He wasn’t singling out Syndergaard either noting other great players like Clayton Kershaw have opted not to play in the WBC without having to face the same scrutiny Syndergaard has. Rather, Wright was merely trying to speak to what the WBC has meant to him.

It certainly was one of the highlights of Wright’s career. In the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Wright sent USA to the semifinals with a walk-off hit against Puerto Rico. In the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Wright would loom even larger. He hit the decisive grand slam against Italy that helped propel the United States back to the semifinals. In the 2013 tournament, Wright hit .438/.526/.750 with two doubles, a grand slam, and 10 RBI. Wright was named as the third baseman to the All WBC Team. If not for his intercoastal injury before the semifinals, who knows if USA wins the WBC that year?

Among USA players in WBC history, Wright is second all-time in games played, third in hits, second in doubles, and first in RBI. He is a ,333/.400/.458 hitter in WBC history. He had two huge go-ahead late inning hits that propelled the USA into the semifinals. It is why Wright was dubbed Captain American. Overall, you cannot discuss the greatness of Wright’s career without mentioning the WBC.

It is an event that has mattered to Wright as much as any moment in his career. As Wright said, “Up to this point if you say, ‘Hey, what’s the most fun you’ve had on a baseball field?’ I’d say the World Series. But I would say in the conversation of cool things that I’ve gotten to do on a baseball field, the World Baseball Classic is toward the top of that list for sure.”

Overall, during Spring Training and the WBC, Wright has been noticeably absent. As his health issues continue to linger and keep him off the field, the 2013 WBC and 2015 World Series seem farther and farther away. However, those moments should not serve as the epilogue to a great career for a great Met. Rather, they should serve as highlights.

Deep down, each and every Mets fan must hope Wright has another chapter left in him. It may not happen in the WBC. It may happen in the World Series. And it may just happen this year.

Mets Themed Valentine’s Day

With today being Valentine’s Day, it is only right we get into the spirit of things by being as clever as Bobby Valentine was the time he used eye black to make a fake mustache.  Without further ado, here are some “clever” Mets themed Valentine’s Day lines you may see on one of those cards you used to pass out to your classmates in grammar school:

Jerry Blevins – Jerry?  Hello!  Be my Valentine

Josh Edgin – I’m Edgin my way closer to you.

Jeurys Familia – I want to become Familia with your sexy self.

Matt Harvey – If you thought 50 Shades of Grey was seductive, wait until you see the Dark Knight I have in store for you.

Seth Lugo – Lugo you want to get with this.

Rafael Montero – You might as well be my Valentine because we both know there’s not getting rid of me not matter how awful I am.

Addison Reed – You and Me Addison up to a great Valentine’s Day

Hansel Robles – You’re so hot right now

Fernando Salas – If I had to the same again, I would, my Valentine, Fernando

Josh Smoker – You’re so hot, I can see the Smoker from miles away

Noah Syndergaard – Can you handle this god’s thunder?

Yoenis Cespedes – There’s a lot of Potencia between you and I Valentine

Travis d’Arnaud – d’Arnaud it pains me to be apart from you

Lucas Duda – Duda right thing and be my Valentine

Wilmer Flores – I’ll cry if you put me in the Friends zone

Amed Rosario – Don’t Be Surprised Be Ready

Neil Walker – I would Walker 5,000 miles to be your Valentine

David Wright – It’s only Wright we would be Valentines

Jay Bruce – Let me be the Valentine you regret for years to come.

Michael Conforto – It’s a Conforto to know whether in NY or Vegas we’re Valentines

Curtis Granderson – It’s Grandy being your Valentine

Juan Lagares – You’re the only Juan for me

Brandon Nimmo – Nimmo I’m smiling because of you.

Ron Darling – Be my Darling this Valentine’s Day

Keith Hernandez – I mustache you to be my Valentine’s Day OR How about a Valentine’s Day mustache ride?

Happy Valentine’s Day

Mets May Have Enough Internal Bullpen Options

With Baseball America‘s Adam Rubin reporting the Mets are considering using low A starter P.J. Conlon out of the bullpen, the Mets are really giving the impression that they may not sign any relief pitchers this offseason. This would coincide with earlier reports the Mets may not have the budget to acquire another player unless the team is able to trade an outfielder, namely Jay Bruce. When considering the difficulties the Mets have in trading Bruce, it’s becoming increasingly more likely the Mets will use internal options to build their bullpen.

The Mets should have varying degrees of confidence in returning relief pitchers Jeurys Familia, Addison Reed, and Hansel Robles. Last season, Reed and Familia combined to be the best 8-9 combination in baseball. Robles has shown versatility whether it was his bailing Jim Henderson out of a bases loaded no out jam or pitching 3.2 innings because Bartolo Colon left a game in the first inning with an injury.

While the Mets should have confidence in these three pitchers, they still need at least four other arms to complete their bullpen. Here are the leading options:

RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVERS

RHP Seth Lugo – While he should get the opportunity to compete with Robert Gsellman for a spot in the rotation, indications are Lugo will land in the bullpen. In limited bullpen duty last year, Lugo was terrific. In his nine relief appearances, he had a 2.65 ERA, 0.941 WHIP, and an 8.5 K/9. Pitching out of the bullpen should also permit Lugo to ramp his fastball up to 95 MPH and throw his curveball, which has the best spin rate in the majors, making him an even more dominant pitcher.

RHP Zack Wheeler – Like Lugo, Wheeler may get an opportunity to pitch in the rotation, but early indications are he will start the year in the bullpen. Wheeler’s fastball-slider combination should play well out of the bullpen, and it should lead to him recording a high number of strikeouts. Conversely, he may have a high amount of walks as well. Unfortunately, Wheeler may not be able to sustain the same workload of a relief pitcher as the Mets will likely want to ease him back after Wheeler missed two years due to Tommy John surgery.

RHP Paul Sewald – With a high 80s to low 90s fastball with a slider in the low 90s with a low 80s slider, Sewald doesn’t have the dominating stuff you would typically look for in a major league reliever. However, despite having “lesser” stuff, Sewald has succeeded at every level of the minor leagues including his being an effective closer for the 51s last year. Despite pitching in an extreme hitter’s league, Sewald had 10 saves with a 1.85 ERA, 0.945 WHIP, and an 11.8 K/9 in the second half of the season.

RHP Erik Goeddel – If Goeddel can return to his 2014 – 2015 form, the Mets have a reliever they can rely upon. During that time, he was on the New York – Las Vegas shuttle making 41 major league appearances. Over that stretch, he had a 2.48 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, and a 9.0 K/9. For many, it was believed Goeddel did it with smoke and mirrors, an impression that was given credence with his 4.54 ERA and 1.318 WHIP in 2016. With Goeddel able to strike out 9.1 batters per nine last year, he has at least shown he can get batters out, and as a result, should get another chance. His success in 2017 is going to depend on his ability to regain some of his fastball velocity or his ability to adapt to pitching without it.

RHP Chase Bradford – Like Sewald, Bradford has fringy stuff with a low 90s fastball and a low to mid 80s slider. However, unlike Sewald, Bradford has struggled in AAA. Over the past three years, Bradford has pitched to a 4.88 ERA, 1.454 WHIP, and a 7.2 K/9. It should be noted many pitchers, like Lugo, struggle in Las Vegas, only to have success in the majors.

RHP Ben Rowen – The submarine style Rowen was brought in on a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. The hope is that Rowen can be a modern version of Chad Bradford in what was an excellent 2006 Mets bullpen. However, given his low 80s fastball, and with both right-handed batters and left-handed batters hitting him hard in his brief 12 major league appearances, this seems more hope than reality.

RHP Rafael Montero – Despite being terrible for the Mets, he somehow remains a part of the Mets organization. As if his presence on the roster wasn’t baffling enough, Sandy Alderson even mentioned him as a possibility for the bullpen. (ESPN). It figures that this year is the year push comes to shove with Montero. Either he is finally going to trust his stuff and throw strikes at the major league level, or the Mets are going to designate him for assignment for someone who can.

RHP Gabriel Ynoa – Ynoa struggled with the Mets last year, but those struggles could have been the result of him being asked to pitch out of the bullpen when he’s never done that before and the team shifting him between the bullpen and rotation late in the year. Fact is Ynoa has real talent. He has a low to mid 90s fastball that he may be able to consistently get in the mid 90s if he was airing it out in the bullpen. His slider is also effective in generating a number of groundballs. With him in the bullpen as opposed to the rotation, he can primarily utilize his two best pitches to get batters out.

LEFT-HANDED RELIEVERS

LHP Josh Smoker – There are three things we learned about Smoker last year: (1) he strikes out a lot of batters; (2) left-handed batters absolutely crush him; and (3) he is not effective for more than one inning. Now, if Smoker is able to work with Dan Warthen to develop a slider to get help him get left-handed batters out, he’s got closer potential. If not, he’s still an effective arm out of the bullpen so long as Terry Collins acknowledges his limitations.

LHP Josh Edgin – Even with his reduced velocity, Edgin still showed the ability to get left-handed batters out. Until such time he re-gains his velocity, if it ever were to happen, he should primarily be used as a LOOGY. Now, with Familia, Reed, and Robles each being extremely effective against left-handed batters, the Mets are not in dire need of a LOOGY. Still, in a division with Freddie Freeman, Daniel Murphy, and Bryce Harper the Mets could benefit from having more than one pitcher who can get left-handed batters out.

LHP Sean Gilmartin – In 2015, Gilmartin was an important part of the Mets bullpen as the team’s long man. That season, he made 50 appearance pitching 57.1 innings going 3-2 with a 2.67 ERA, 1.186 WHIP, and an 8.5 K/9. Surprisingly, Gilmartin had reverse splits allowing a .216 batting average to right-handed batters and a .260 batting average to left-handed batters. Last, year, Gilmartin began the year in Las Vegas as a starting pitcher. Due to some bullpen issues at the major league level, the Mets had him fly on a red eye and pitch on short rest. Eventually, he would suffer a minor shoulder injury, and his promising season would tail off. Ultimately, the Mets will need a long man in 2017, and there is enough evidence here to suggest Gilmartin can competently fill that roll.

LHP David Roseboom – It’s not common for pitchers to go from AA to the Opening Day roster the next year, but Roseboom may just be capable of doing it. While a closer by trade, who is coming off a season with a 1.87 ERA, he is extremely effective against left-handed batters. Last season, he limited left-handed batters to a .141 batting average. Primarily, Roseboom is a sinker/slider pitcher who also has a change that allows him to remain effective against right-handed batters. While Roseboom primarily sits in the high 80s to the low 90s, he remains effective because he is able to effectively locate his pitches, and he induces a high rate of ground balls.

LHP P.J. Conlon – As touched on above, considering Conlon for the Opening Day roster was a surprise given he has not pitched in AA, he consistently throws in the mid to high 80s, and he was used as a starter last season. Another reason this was a surprise is the Conlon is better against right-handed batters than left-handed batters. The main reason for that is while Conlon is a four pitch pitcher, his out pitch is his change-up. Like with most left-handed pitchers, Conlon’s change-up is more effective against right-handed batters than left. Overall, it is highly unlikely he will make the Opening Day roster, but he should still benefit from the opportunity to further develop his slider.

PREDICTION

Barring unforeseen circumstances, Wheeler seems assured of being in the Opening Day bullpen with Familia, Reed, and Robles. Considering the Mets probably want to add another left-handed pitcher in the bullpen, and the fact that he is out of options, Edgin seems to be the next best guess as to a pitcher who will make the r0ster. Based upon their performance in the bullpen last year, it is likely the next two spots go to Lugo and Smoker. Right there, the Mets have a seven man bullpen with an interesting array of arms that can both register strike outs and induce ground balls to try to get a double play to get out of the inning.

If there is an injury, suspension, or someone proves to be ineffective, the Mets have interesting options behind this group in Rowen, Sewald, and Roseboom. There is also Gilmartin and Ynoa who can provide either a spot start or be able to serve in the bullpen if needed.

Ultimately, while you would feel much better with the Mets having at least one more veteran arm in the bullpen like a Jerry Blevins or a Fernando Salas, there is at least enough quality arms in the Mets system that can conceivably build a good bullpen.

 

New Year’s Resolutions

We are headed for another season of Mets baseball where we hope that once again these Mets can make it all the way back to the World Series.  Since 2015, we have seen a definite pattern emerge with the Mets, and I think as Mets fans, we should all try better this year to not react, some would say overreact, when one of the following things we know will happen, happens:

  • The Mets are not going to sign another big name free agent this offseason.  It’s not going to happen, and it just may happen that Jose Bautista winds up in the division and on a fairly discounted deal;
  • Jerry Blevins will sign an extremely reasonable two year deal . . . with another team;
  • Instead of fortifying the bench, the Mets are going to go with this year’s version of Eric Campbell -> Ty Kelly;
  • Terry Collins is going to use and abuse Addison Reed to the point where his arm may actually fall off.  This will go double if Jeurys Familia gets suspended;
  • Hansel Robles is going to go through a stretch in one week where he pitches five innings, 1/3 of an inning, two innings, and three innings, and everyone is going to wonder why his production has fallen off;
  • The infield of Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, David Wright, and Asdrubal Cabrera will be ridden hard despite their injury histories and capable backups like Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes on the bench;
  • Just pick a random player on the roster – he’s going to be on the DL for over two months with a back injury;
  • There will be a game with Reyes in center and Juan Lagares in right;
  • Travis d’Arnaud is going to get injured, and Kevin Plawecki is not going to be able to replace his bat in the lineup;
  • Matt Harvey will complain about the six man rotation that will be implemented at some point during the season;
  • Robert Gsellman will make an appearance throwing well over 100 pitches in five innings or less;
  • Rene Rivera will hit under the Mendoza Line;
  • T.J. Rivera will be raking in AAA and not get called up despite the Mets needing some offense;
  • Michael Conforto will not face one left-handed pitcher all season;
  • Yoenis Cespedes will not dive for a ball, run out a pop up, or run hard to first on a dropped strike three;
  • Curtis Granderson will have a better OBP than Reyes, but Collins will continue to lead off Reyes and his sub .330 OBP;
  • Collins will not know if Brandon Nimmo is faster than Flores and it will cost them a game;
  • No matter where he winds up this offseason, and no matter how poor his year is going, Chase Utley will hit two home runs in a game he faces the Mets;
  • Sandy Alderson will mortgage a part of the Mets future because he didn’t make a move in the offseason that he should have made;
  • Paul Sewald will pitch well in AAA, but the Mets won’t call him up because they would rather rip Sean Gilmartin or Gabriel Ynoa from the Vegas rotation to make a relief appearance on 2-3 days of rest;
  • Both Josh Smoker and Robles will be fully warmed up, and Collins will go to Smoker to pitch to the lefty;
  • For reasons the Mets themselves can’t quite explain, Rafael Montero will spend the full season on the 40 man roster;
  • d’Arnaud will come off the disabled list, play well for a stretch, and the Mets will lose him and Steven Matz in the same game;
  • Matz will have appendicitis, but the Mets will talk him out of the surgery because they need him to start against the Reds;
  • Dilson Herrera will tear it up every time he plays the Mets;
  • Wherever he lands, Jay Bruce is going to hit 30 homers and 100 RBI;
  • Collins will show up in the dugout without wearing pants, and the Mets still won’t fire him;
  • Noah Syndergaard will get ejected from a game for throwing inside.  A player who takes a bat to one of the Mets infielders in retaliation won’t;
  • Fans will clamor for Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith to get called up all season long;
  • Seth Lugo will bounce between the bullpen and rotation so much, MLB is actually going to test him to see if his arm is actually made out of rubber;
  • Bartolo Colon will pitch so poorly against the Mets, fans will wonder why they wanted a bum like him back;
  • R.A. Dickey will not only beat the Mets, but he will throw the team into a week  long offensive funk causing some fans to decry the trade;
  • One or more pitchers will get hurt, and fans that even question if the Warthen Slider could be an issue will be mocked mercilessly;
  • Some way some how Jon Niese will pitch for this team;
  • Rather than build Tom Seaver a statue, the Mets will issue #41 to Niese upon his return to the team;
  • Daniel Murphy will have another terrific year for the Nationals, and some Mets fans will still defend the decision to let him go;
  • Ricky Knapp will make a solid spot start for the Mets causing fans to think he is the second coming;
  • Mets will trade a good prospect for Kelly Johnson; and
  • Despite all of this the Mets will make it to the postseason

Honestly, I give it until April 9th when Collins declares the last game in a three game set against the Marlins is a must-win game.

Mets Don’t Need To Sign Left-Handed Reliever

In 2015, the Mets not only won the National League East, but they went all the way to the World Series.  During that wonderfully unexpected run, the team left a bevvy of left-handed relievers in their wake.  Time and again, the team tried to solve their presumed issues with not having a left-handed reliever to no avail.  Here is a look at all the left-handed relievers they went through that season:

  • Josh Edgin – needed Tommy John surgery before the season began
  • Jerry Blevins – appeared in seven games before suffering a broken arm
  • Alex Torres – pitched to a 1.515 WHIP and was released on August 4th
  • Sean Gilmartin – used as a long man in the bullpen due in part to his reverse splits
  • Jack Leathersich – shuttled back and forth between New York and Las Vegas before his season ended due to him needing Tommy John surgery
  • Dario Alvarez – appeared in six games before suffering a groin injury that cost him the rest of the season
  • Eric O’Flaherty – 13.50 ERA and left off the postseason roster

The lack of the left-handed pitcher did not prevent this team from making it to the postseason or to going to the World Series.  The main reason is that team’s right-handed relievers could pitch to left-handed batters.  In fact, the batting lines suggests the right-handed relievers performed just as well as a LOOGY would:

The moral of the story is that you do not need a left-handed pitcher to get out left-handed batters.  Rather, you need pitchers who are effective at pitching against left-handed batters to get them out.

There are some caveats.  First, the Mets did go with Jon Niese as the left-hander in the bullpen during the 2015 postseason, and he did get some big outs including a key strike out of Anthony Rizzo in the NLCS.  Second, Blevins was an extremely important part of the 2016 bullpen.  Without Blevins in the bullpen, it is quite possible the Mets do not get one of the two Wild Card spots.  This creates a problem as Blevins is now a free agent – a free agent that is about to cash in on a terrific year.

So far, we have seen arguably less talented left-handed relievers get big contracts.  Brett Cecil received a four year $30.5 million contract from the Cardinals.  Marc Rzepczynski received a two year $11 million contract from the Mariners.  Mike Dunn received a three year $19 million from the Colorado Rockies.   According to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, Blevins was already seeking a three year deal worth $5-$6 million per season.  Based upon the contracts already handed out, it is easy to assume Blevins will get the deal he is seeking.

However, it should be noted that deal is likely not coming from the Mets.  As already noted, Sandy Alderson does not want to give out multi-year deals to relievers.  Furthermore, it does not not appear the Mets are interested in investing $6 million a year on a left-handed reliever.  With that being the case, the Mets best chance might be to revert to the 2015 model thrust upon them.

From that team, Familia, Reed, and Robles still remain, and they are still effective as ever in getting left-handed batters out.  Here were their stats from the 2016 season:

  • Familia .239/.315/.313
  • Reed .210/.264/.269
  • Robles .179/.287/.299

There is also some promise with Edgin.  Despite him not fully regaining his velocity after his Tommy John surgery, he still showed the ability to get left-handed batters out in a very small sample size.  In 2016, he faced 20 left-handed batters, and he limited them to a .235/.300/.235 batting line.

Between, Familia, Reed, Robles, and Edgin, the 2017 Mets may already have sufficient bullpen depth to get left-handed batters out.  Moreover, with the Mets resportedly wanting to cut payroll from where it currently stands, the team may be forced to stick in-house and instead seek a seventh inning reliever.

That is certainly a justifiable route because the bullpen as constructed already has enough depth to get left-handed batters out.  As such, the team does not need to add a left-hander for the sake of adding a left-hander.

Mets Final Season Grades – Terry Collins

Throughout the season, I attempted to grade the different Mets players performances for each month of the season. In determining the year end grades, the aggregate of the monthly grades given was considered, but it wasn’t conclusive.  For example, one player’s awful month could be more than offset by having an incredible month.  Also, those decisions were made in the heat of the moment.  There has been a cooling off period in giving these finals grades, and with that, there is time for reflection.  It should also be noted the Wild Card Game did have some impact on these grades as that game was part of the story of the 2016 Mets.  Overall, the final grades assessed considered the monthly grades, but also took into account that player(s) overall impact on the Mets season (good or bad).    For the tenth and final set of grades, here is Terry Collins grade:

Sometimes grading a manager can be difficult.  For starters, we cannot truly know how much of an impact the manager has in the clubhouse.  For example, one person’s “player’s manager” is another person’s “letting the inmates run the asylum.”  Essentially, that narrative is written based upon the type of year the team had.

Furthermore, in the modern game, we are unsure how much of an impact the front office has on daily decision making.  It used to be that the General Manager would hire a manager, and then he would step aside and let the manager run the team as he saw fit.  Now, there is a some level of interference in each organization.  Some provide data and other tools to the manager while others are at least rumored to try to fill out line-up cards for teams.

If we are being honest, there really are times we do not know what is and what is not a manager’s fault.  However, we do know that everything lies at the manager’s feet, and it is ultimately the manager that will have to be responsible for the choices made.  Looking at Terry Collins’ choices is complicated.  Lets review:

The Good

If you are being fair, Collins did what he was paid to do by bringing the Mets to the postseason in consecutive seasons.  That is no small feat, especially for a franchise that has only done it once before in their entire history.  There was also a large degree in difficulty in doing so, especially when you lose Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz to season-ending surgeries at different points in the season.

He also had to deal with a number of other injuries.  There was the fairly expected ones like David Wright, the reasonably foreseen like Lucas Duda, and the out of nowhere like Wilmer FloresYoenis Cespedes dealt with a quad issue most of the summer too.  Once again, it was not a ringing endorsement of the medical and training staff this season.  Still, Collins dealt with it, and took a team that was two games under .500 in August, and the Mets claimed a Wild Card spot.  Again, teams normally collapse in these circumstances.  Collins’ team showed resolve, and for that, he deserves a lot of credit.

A major reason why was the emergence of Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.  These two young players contributed much earlier than expected and were better than anyone ever expected.  One reason why is Collins matched them up with Rene Rivera who has excelled mentoring young pitching.  Collins deserves credit for that as he does matching up Rivera with Noah Syndergaard to help alleviate the issues associated with Syndergaard holding on base runners.   Collins use of Rivera might’ve been the best decision he made all season, and it could very well have been the reason why the Mets returned to the postseason.

The Bad

The one issue I cannot get over all season was how reckless Collins was with his bullpen arms.  It wasn’t aggressive.  It wasn’t demanding.  The only real term to use was reckless.

In April, he put Jim Henderson into a day game after a night game despite Henderson coming off shoulder surgeries and Henderson having thrown a career high in pitches the previous night.  The reason?  Collins determined an April game was a must-win game.  In a sport that plays 162 games, no April game can be considered a must-win.  During that inning, Henderson had no velocity, couldn’t get a guy out, and he would have to be lifted from the game.  After that outing, Henderson wasn’t the same guy that made the team out of Spring Training, and he would have to be put on the disabled list with a shoulder injury.  He went from lock down seventh inning guy to removed from the 40 man roster as soon as the season ended.

Then there was Hansel Robles.  Collins treated him like every arm he ruined in his past.  Despite having a number of guys who could go more than one inning, including long man Logan Verrett, it was Robles who was called to the whip time and time again.  During a one week stretch in June, Robles threw 127 pitches over three mutiple inning appearances.  Then when he finally got some rest, Robles came right back out and threw 33 pitches over two innings.  Robles sustained the abuse well for most of the season, but then he tailed off at the end of the year.

Somehow, someway Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia never got injured.  It really is a miracle because they were used more than any other combination of relievers in baseball in 2016.  The wear and tear finally showed in the Wild Card Game when neither pitcher had much of anything left.  Both struggled in their respective innings of work.  Reed was able to get out of it, but Familia wasn’t.

While the bullpen usage was an issue, there were other problems with Collins.  He completely mishandled Michael Conforto this season.  Conforto had gone from one of the best hitters in baseball in April, to a guy Collins outright refused to play down the stretch of the season despite Conforto hitting nearly .500 in AAA during his demotion.

Keep in mind, Conforto was not the only player who regressed this season.  Travis d’Arnaud had looked prime to break out in 2016.  Unfortunately, his season was marked by injuries and regression.  With Conforto and d’Arnaud, there are two important young players who regressed under Collins.

Finally, there was the matter of how injuries were handled.  Harvey’s injury issues were blamed on mechanics.  Collins kept putting Cespedes out there everyday to play despite his clearly being hobbled.  Same goes for Asdrubal Cabrera.  The worst might have been talking Matz out of getting season ending surgery in order to pitch through what was described as a massive bone spur.  Eventually, Matz would have to scrap his slider, would experience some shoulder discomfort, and he would finally get shut down for the season.

Overall

In a sport where you are judged by wins and losses, Collins was successful despite the issues he faced.  However, many of those issues were self-inflicted.  Given the fact that he brought the team to the postseason for a consecutive year, he should have received a high grade.  However, Collins consistently risked the health of his players, and some were worse off as a result.  You need to look no further than Henderson who is right now looking to catch onto a team yet again.  Even worse yet, the young players the Mets need to take them to the next level next year are question marks due largely to Collins’ mishandling of them.  Altogether, Collins season earned him a C-.

Editor’s Note: the grades for April, May, June, July, August, and September/October can be found by clicking the links.

Mets Final Season Grades – Relievers

Throughout the season, I attempted to grade the different Mets players performances for each month of the season. In determining the year end grades, the aggregate of the monthly grades given was considered, but it wasn’t conclusive.  For example, one player’s awful month could be more than offset by having an incredible month.  Also, those decisions were made in the heat of the moment.  There has been a cooling off period in giving these finals grades, and with that, there is time for reflection.  It should also be noted the Wild Card Game did have some impact on these grades as that game was part of the story of the 2016 Mets.  Overall, the final grades assessed considered the monthly grades, but also took into account that player(s) overall impact on the Mets season (good or bad).    For the ninth set of grades, here are the other Mets relievers:

Hansel Robles B+

This was the second year of his career, and to date, he has yet to carve out a role for himself.  The main reason for that is Terry Collins has used him in every sort of role imaginable.  He has been used to bail the Mets out of a bases loaded no out jam.  He has been used as a set-up man in the seventh and eighth innings.  He has closed out a game.  He has also been called on to pitch over three innings in a game.  Without looking it up, it is safe to say Robles was the only pure reliever this year to throw a pitch in every inning this season.  Essentially, Robles has become the Mets version of Ramiro Mendoza

Robles was having a great year for himself too before Collins over-worked him.  In a one week span, Robles threw 127 pitches while making three appearances of over two innings.  Robles next appearance after that?  Well, it was four days later, and it was a two inning effort that needed Robles to throw 33 pitches.  By late August, he was spent having made many more appearances and having thrown many more pitches than he had his entire career.  Overall, Robles was 6-4 with a 3.28 ERA and a 1.352 WHIP.

Who knows what’s in store for Robles in 2017?  Whatever it is, we can reasonably assume he will perform well in that role.

Jerry Blevins B

With Blevins injured in 2015, the Mets had a long search for a LOOGY that never materialized.  In 2016, we all got to see what the Mets were missing as Blevins had a good year.  Overall, Blevins made 73 appearances going 4-2 with a 2.79 ERA and a 1.214 WHIP.  As luck would have it, Blevins would actually have reverse splits for the first time in his career.

Right-handed batters were only able to hit .182/.266/.345 off of Blevins while left-handed batters hit .255/.313/.324 off of him.  Those numbers are usually reversed, and in reality, right-handed batters typically hit him much harder than that.  This speaks to the strides Blevins made in becoming more than just a LOOGY.  He became a pitcher that can be relied upon to pitch a full inning.  It increased not just his value to the Mets, but also his free agent value.

Sean Gilmartin D

Gilmartin went from an important piece of the Mets bullpen in 2015 to having a lost year.  He began the year in AAA as a starter, but by the end of the year, it would be unclear what his role with the Mets would be in the future.

Initially, Gilmartin succeeded as a starter, but he would be called up to the Mets to pitch out of the pen.  He would be used on three days or less of rest.  Initially, he pitched well out of the pen for the Mets encouraging the team to do it more.  As a result, his numbers suffered, and he missed part of the year with a shoulder injury.  When it became time for the Mets to go to the minor leagues for starting pitching depth, Gilmartin was no longer an option on that front.  When the Mets were desperate enough in September to give him a start, he wouldn’t make it out of the first inning.

Overall, Gilmartin made 14 appearances going 0-1 with a 713 ERA and a 1.585 WHIP.  After a year like this, it will be interesting to see what role, if any, Gilmartin has on the Mets in 2017.

Erik Goeddel D

It appears that Goeddel may be the Eric Campbell of relief pitchers.  There are many people who point to a number of statistics to say he should be a capable major league player.  However, as the sample size grows and grows, his performance suffers as do his numbers.  In 36 appearances this season, Goeddel was 2-2 with a 4.54 ERA and a 1.138 WHIP.  This was a result of him becoming more hittable and his issuing more walks.  With all that said, there is still hope for him as he did post a 9.1 K/9.  Despite that, he looks like he will be best suited to starting the year in the minors.

Josh Edgin C-

In Edgin’s first year back from Tommy John surgery, he did not regain his velocity, and he had some trouble with his control.  Those two issues combined led to him issuing more walks and to batters getting more hits off of him.  In his 16 appearances for the Mets, he would to 1-0 with a 5.23 ERA and a 1.548 WHIP.

These are ugly numbers indeed, but there was some good news behind those numbers.  Edgin, who was supposed to be the Mets LOOGY entering 2015, did limit left-handed batters to a .235/.300/.235 batting line.  In that essence, Edgin proved he could handle the role as a LOOGY, and it appears the Mets just might given him that chance in 2017.

Josh Smoker C+

Here is what Smoker is: he is a fastball throwing left-handed pitcher that racks up strikeouts.  He is not a pitcher that can left-handed batters out, nor is he a pitcher that should ever pitch more than one inning.  Collins inability to recognize that led to Smoker’s numbers being worse than they could have been.  Keep in mind, Smoker was called upon to go more than one inning, three times, and on each occasion he allowed a home run.

Overall, Smoker was 3-0 with a 4.70 ERA and a 1.304 WHIP.  Most impressively, Smoker struck out 14.7 batters per nine innings.  With those strikeout numbers, Smoker belongs in a major league bullpen, and chances are, we may very well find himself in one next season.

Antonio Bastardo F

All you need to know about his season is the Mets traded him away and gave the Pirates money to obtain Jon Niese, who was having the worst year of his career.  When the Mets are giving other teams money to take players off their hands, you know a player was having a nightmare of a season.

Editor’s Note: the grades for April, May, June, July, August, and September/October can be found by clicking the links.

Who Could Replace a Suspended Jeurys Familia?

With Jeurys Familia having been arrested under suspicion of domestic violence, there are a number of questions that need to be asked and answered.  While it may seem tactless, at some point, we need to ask the question of how does this arrest impact the Mets organization.

Over the past two seasons, Familia has been leaned on heavily by Terry Collins, and Familia has responded.  In his two years as the Mets closer, Familia has made more appearances, converted more saves, pitched more innings, and finished more games than any other closer in Major League Baseball.  He has at least appeared to be the rare durable closer that can be relied upon year in and year out.

Many times Familia has not been given much of a margin of error.  For far too many stretches in 2015 and 2016, the Mets have found themselves desperate for offense putting a ton of pressure on their starters and their best relievers.  This past season Familia and Addison Reed combined to be the best 8-9 combination in all of baseball.  With the possibility of Yoenis Cespedes leaving in free agency, the uncertainty of the health of Neil Walker and whether he can return next season, and the myriad of other offensive question marks, the bullpen is once again going to be of great importance in 2017.

That’s where things get tricky with Familia.  While he has stated he is not guilty of the crimes, we have seen Major League Baseball levy suspensions for players regardless of criminal charges being filed or in the absence of a conviction.  The police never filed charges against Aroldis Chapman, and still he was suspended 30 games.  The charges against Jose Reyes were dropped, and he was suspended for 51 games.  If a Major League Baseball investigation finds Familia committed an act of domestic violence, it is possible he could miss 30 or more games to start the season.

With Reed, the Mets do have an internal option to close.  From 2012 – 2014, Reed served as a closer for the White Sox and the Diamondbacks.  In that time, he averaged 34 saves per season.  While his 4.22 ERA and 1.217 WHIP left a lot to be desired, it is important to note Reed has been a different pitcher since coming to the Mets.  As a Met, he has a 1.84 ERA and a 0.957 WHIP.  Certainly, Reed has shown the ability in the past to be a closer, and with the Mets Reed has shown the ability to be a dominant reliever.  Therefore, from a closing standpoint, the Mets have an internal option.

The real issue becomes who takes Reed’s spot in the bullpen.

Hansel Robles has shown a lot of promise.  He has struck out 10.0 batters per nine in his career, and he is effective getting left-handed batters out.  However, he is also mercurial in his performance, and slotting him into the eighth inning takes away one of his key attributes which is he is a guy that you can use for multiple innings or to get a big out.

Josh Smoker had great strikeout numbers in both the minors and in the majors this season.  In fact, he struck out 14.7 batters per nine.  However, he has severe reverse splits, and each time Collins asked him to pitch more than one inning this year, he allowed a home run in his second inning of work.

Seth Lugo could be an inspired choice to take over the eighth inning.  As we saw this season, the Mets envisioned his future role with the team coming out of the bullpen, and Lugo was effective in his limited time out of the pen for the Mets.  However, we also saw he was an effective starter, and with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz coming off season ending surgeries, we were reminded you cannot have enough starting pitching depth.

There are minor league pitchers such as Paul Sewald who could be effective.  However, with the Mets not turning to them in September, it is highly unlikely they will rely on them to be the seventh or eighth inning reliever to start the season.  It is further unlikely with him being subjected to the Rule 5 Draft.  It is very likely someone will pick him up in the draft.

From there, the Mets do not have many internal options.  In reality, this means with Familia potentially missing a significant portion of the season, the Mets will likely have to look on the free agent market to fill in the gap.

The first name that comes to mind is Fernando Salas.  In his limited time with the Mets, he was very effective.  In fact, he had the same reversal of fortune that Reed did in 2015.  Still, there is caution in over relying on a pitcher with a career 3.64 ERA to replace one of your two best bullpen arms.

There are a number of intriguing set-up men on the free agent market.  There is Joe Blanton who had a 2.48 ERA in 75 appearances for the Dodgers.  Former Met Joe Smith has been a good reliever for 10 years, and during the stretch drive with the Cubs this year, he had a a 2.51 ERA in 16 appearances.  Brad Ziegler is coming off a terrific year as a closer for the Diamondbacks and the Red Sox.  There are a bunch of other names as well.  However, as we have seen as recently as last year with Antonio Bastardo, many middle reliever performances tend to fluctuate year to year.  This leaves you wondering not only how to replace that player’s role in the bullpen, but also how to get out from under the contract.

Therefore, if you are going to add a reliever you should go after the dominant closer in free agency.  While there is debate over whether or not they are more of a sure thing, we do know there are three great closers available this offseason.

We can pick nits over who is better among the trio of Chapman, Kenley Jansen, or Mark Melancon.  However, the one underlying truth with any of those three is if you have one of them, you have a dominant closer in your bullpen.  As we have seen with Familia over the past two seasons, you are lucky to have any of these dominant closers.  With one of those three joining Reed, and eventually Familia, the Mets would have a bullpen similar to the one the Indians have rode all the way to the World Series.

The Mets will also have a lot of money invested in their bullpen.  According to the Los Angeles Times, it is believed that Jansen will not only receive and reject the $17.2 million qualifying offer, but also he will eventually sign a contract surpassing Jonathan Papelbon‘s then record setting five year $50 million contract.  With Jansen on the free agent market, and big budget teams like the Dodgers chasing after him, there is no telling how high the bidding will go for him.

For their part, Chapman and Melancon cannot receive qualifying offers as a result of them being traded in-season.  At least conceptually, that could drive up their prices as well because more teams may be interested in them because they will not have to forfeit a draft pick to obtain them.  Teams like the Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees, and who knows who else could be interested leading to each of them getting a huge contract.

This begs the question whether the Mets can even afford to pursue a big time closer.  Likely, they cannot.

According to Mets Merized Online, the Mets will have approximately $108 million wrapped up in 18 players who should make the Opening Day roster.  That number does not include money to re-sign Cespedes, Walker, Jerry Blevins, Bartolo Colon, or the aforementioned Salas.  If the Mets were to re-sign these players, or players of similar value to replace them, the Mets payroll is going to go well over $160 million.  Accoring to Spotrac, the Mets finished the 2016 season with a $156 million payroll.  It should be noted this amount does not include any insurance reimbursements related to David Wright‘s season ending neck surgery.

With that in mind, the Mets likely do not have the budget necessary to add a Chapman, Jansen, or Melancon.  If the Mets were to add one of them, it is likely to come at the expense of Cespedes or Walker.  While having a dominant trio to close out ballgames in enticing, the Mets would first need offense to get enough runs to give that bullpen a lead.  This puts a greater priority on Cespedes and Walker.

In the long run, the Mets best bet is to play out the entire process with Familia.  If there is a suspension, Reed can be an effective closer.  Re-signing Salas and/or bringing in a Ziegler would help as well.  It would behoove the Mets to roll the dice on a reclamation project like a Greg Holland or a Drew Storen because in reality that is the position the Mets are in budget-wise.

Mets Final Season Grades – Late Inning Relievers

Throughout the season, I attempted to grade the different Mets players performances for each month of the season. In determining the year end grades, the aggregate of the monthly grades given was considered, but it wasn’t conclusive.  For example, one player’s awful month could be more than offset by having an incredible month.  Also, those decisions were made in the heat of the moment.  There has been a cooling off period in giving these finals grades, and with that, there is time for reflection.  It should also be noted the Wild Card Game did have some impact on these grades as that game was part of the story of the 2016 Mets.  Overall, the final grades assessed considered the monthly grades, but also took into account that player(s) overall impact on the Mets season (good or bad).    For the seventh set of grades, here are the Mets spot starters:

Jeurys Familia B-

Familia would not repeat the dominance of his 2015 campaign, but still he would be among the best relievers in the game.  He would set a new Mets record for most saves in a season, beating the record he shared with Armando BenitezIn fact, he led the majors in saves and games finished.  He pitched more innings and made more appearances than any other closer.  Overall, he was 3-4 with 51 saves, a 2.55 ERA, and a 1.210 WHIP.  He was a deserving All-Star, and he cemented his place among the best closers in baseball.  Time and again, he answered the call . . . until he didn’t.

In the Wild Card Game, admittedly a game the Mets do not reach without him, Familia was not up to the task.  We can over-emphasize the three run homer hit by Conor Gillaspie, but that was just a part of an inning where Familia didn’t have his command, and he wasn’t fooling the Giants hitters.  It was a tragic end to what was a good season for Familia.

Addison Reed A+

One thing that was lost during the 2016 season was the eighth inning was supposed to be a question mark with Tyler Clippard departing in free agency.  We forget about this because Reed was just that great this season.  In 80 appearances, he was 4-2 with a 1.97 ERA and a 0.940 WHIP.  Overall, he probably was the best relief pitcher in the National League.  He combined with Familia to create the best 8-9 combination in the major leagues, and together, they walked a tight rope night-in and night-out.  With no margin for error, they made each game a seven inning game, and they were among the biggest reasons the Mets made the postseason.

Jim Henderson C

Henderson’s 2016 season is an example of why baseball is cruel.  After losing almost two full years due to shoulder injuries, he not only made the Mets out of Spring Training, but he was also handed the seventh inning job.  In April, Henderson excelled with his 95+ MPH fastball.  He was helping turn it into a six inning game with Reed and Familia behind him.  Then disaster struck.

After throwing a career high 34 pitches, Terry Collins would put him back in there a day game after a night game.  Collins’ excuse was it was a must-win game.  It was April 13th.  Henderson had nothing that day, and he would get lifted after loading the bases (Hansel Robles got out of the jam).  After that game, Henderson lost a bit off his fastball, and he would eventually need a long stay on the disabled list with a shoulder issue.  Even with the stay on the disabled list, he was never the same.  A promising year ended with him going 2-2 with a 4.11 ERA and a 1.371 WHIP.

Fernando Salas A

Salas came to the Mets at the waiver trade deadline, and he had a similar effect that Reed did for the 2015 Mets.  Essentially, Salas locked down the seventh inning, and he allowed the Mets to pull back a bit on the usage of Reed and Familia.  He responded well to the workload and the Mets pitch framing.  Overall, he would make 17 appearances going 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA and a 0.635 WHIP.  The Mets and Salas should be interested in a reunion this offseason.

Editor’s Note: the grades for April, May, June, July, August, and September/October can be found by clicking the links.

Mets Do Not Need Kenley Jansen

John Harper makes a case in the New York Daily News that the Mets need to obtain Kenley Jansen to return to the postseason stating, “If the Mets want to take a huge step toward re-claiming that supremacy next year and beyond, they should make a big splash this off-season by signing Kenley Jansen.” He figures the Mets could obtain Jansen for a four year $54 million contract. His reasoning is flawed.

First of all, there is nothing about the Mets to suggest they can win a bidding war against the Dodgers for Jansen’s services. This doesn’t even account for other bigger spenders like the Cubs, Nationals, and Yankees also potentially getting involved. More importantly, there is no underlying need for Jansen.

Furthermore, the Mets already have a dominant closer in Jeurys Familia. Over the past two seasons, Familia has accumulated more appearances, more innings, and more saves than Jansen. Additionally, despite the current narrative floating around, Familia has been better in the postseason. In 13 postseason appearances, Familia has a 2.30 ERA and a 0.638 WHIP. In 15 postseason apperances, Jansen has a 3.38 ERA and a 1.250 WHIP. People forget that because Familia’s defense let him down in the World Series and he threw a bad pitch to Conor Gillaspie in the Wild Card Game. They also forget because Jansen has had back-to-back great performances in the postseason. That makes you forget the times Jansen has failed or his 6.75 NLDS ERA.

More important than that, the Mets have Addison Reed in the eighth inning. It is quite possible there was no better reliever in the National League than Reed this year. Reed had an amazing season that saw him shatter the Mets record for holds with him recording 40 this season. It’s all the more impressive when you consider Reed made the third most in the majors with the fifth best 1.97 ERA, and the highest WAR among relievers (2.9). Long story short, Reed has the eighth inning locked down.

Overall, between Familia and Reed the Mets have already made games a seven inning game. With the Mets young starters going 6+ per game, they don’t need the 7-8-9 dominant trio that other teams require. In fact, up until the rash of Mets starting pitching injuries this season, the seventh inning wasn’t an issue at all. Terry Collins was able to utilize his full bullpen, notably Hansel Robles, Jerry Blevins (a pending free agent), and when healthy, Jim Henderson, to get through the inning. It wasn’t until Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman took over starting pitching spots that the seventh inning was an issue. It should be noted by that time, Fernando Salas (a pending free agent) locked it down.

The overriding point is the Mets do not need a three headed monster coming out of the bullpen to return to the postseason. Instead, the Mets need their starting pitchers healthy, and they need to re-sign Yoenis Cespedes. Therein lies the rub. As noted by MMO., Mets payroll commitments for the 2017 season already hover around $108 million, and that is before the Mets seek to re-sign Cespedes, Neil Walker, and/or Bartolo Colon.

If the Mets were to re-sign Cespedes to and average annual value commensurate with his 2015 salary figure, the Mets payroll would jump to $135 million. Keep in mind, the Mets 2016 Opening Day payroll was $135 million, and the team had to stretch it to that point to accomodate Cespedes. It is hard to imagine the Mets expanding on this payroll figure when they had a higher payroll in 2016 and didn’t have a long postseason run to offset some of the cost.

If you add Jansen at an average annual value of $13.5 million, that would increase the Mets 2017 payroll to $121.5 million before address the Cespedes, second base, and fifth starter issues. Adding Jansen, a very nice but unnecessary piece, only serves to build a more dominant bullpen at the expense of building a complete team. Adding Jansen overlooks the real need for the Mets, which is their starting pitchers returning next season fully healthy. Overall, the model the Mets shouldn’t be looking at is the three headed monster in the bullpen. Rather, the Mets should be looking at their 2015 model which is being emulated by the Cleveland Indians this postseason:

A dominant young starting pitcher going as deep into the game as possible and then a two-headed monster coming out of the bullpen to win the game.

The Mets already have that in place. What they do not have in place is Cespedes. They cannot do anything to damage their chances to lock him up and return to their 2015 form.