J.D. Davis

J.D. Davis Struggles Aren’t A Small Sample Size

As is normally the case a week into the baseball season, you will see some players perform above their talent level and some below theirs. When it comes to the slow starts, people typically take more notice and begin to look for reasons and question what is wrong.

When you see Robinson Cano hitting .188 and Brandon Nimmo hitting .087, the prudent course of action is to take a wait and see approach. These are two hitters with a track record, especially Cano, and it is very possible they emerge from these struggles and return to their career norms.

While you are inclined to give Cano and Nimmo the benefit of the doubt, J.D. Davis is a different case. When you look at his hitting .150/.227/.250, it is actually fair to ask if this is what he really is as a hitter.

Certainly, it is fair to point out his 22 plate appearances is an extremely small sample size. If you want to extrapolate it further, his 203 career plate appearances, especially since they are split up over parts of three seasons, are a small sample size as well. That said, it is somewhat troubling that with his receiving more and more opportunities, his OPS+ continues to drop.

At some point, we need to investigate why and if there is more at-hand than the variations associated with a small sample size.

Davis’ biggest proponents will point out how he led the Pacific Coast League in batting average last year. Hitters league or not, Davis put together a solid season hitting .342/.406/.583 with 25 doubles, two triples, 17 homers, and 81 RBI. The disparity between those numbers and his Major League numbers do require closer analysis.

In Triple-A last year, Davis had a 9.5% walk rate and a 18.3% strikeout rate. When Davis made contact, he hit it on the ground 40.6% of the time, and he pulled it 47.2% of the time. By and large, these numbers held true throughout Davis’ minor league career, but it should be noted the strikeout rate was a career low for him. Since he started playing for full season affiliates, Davis had struck out between 23.2% – 28.4% of the time.

Putting aside his results in the majors, his offensive profile looks similar to the type of hitter he was in the minors. In his 203 Major League plate appearances, he has walked 7.9% of the time, and he has struck out 27.1% of the time. He has a 54.2% ground ball rate, and he pulls the ball 45.8% of the time.

When looking at scouting reports, Baseball America said, “It will always come with a significant number of strikeouts and he’s unlikely to hit better than .230-.240 albeit with decent on-base percentages because he draws some walks. While many Astros have embraced hitting more fly balls, Davis’ swing leads to a lot of screaming ground balls.”

Really, when you break it down, this is what Davis is. He’s a hitter who is going to hit the ball very hard on the ground. At a time in baseball history where teams shift and even over-shift, the balls Davis hit for singles and even doubles at the Triple-A level are going to go for ground outs.

Moreover, in an area with advanced data, Major League pitchers are going to be able to pitch Davis much better than a Triple-A pitcher would. They have the scouting reports and ability to pitch it in areas not only where Davis is prone to swing-and-miss, but they are also able to locate it in areas where they know Davis will just pull a grounder into the shift.”

Unfortunately, when you break it down, even though Davis’ raw power rivals that of Pete Alonso, his production is more akin to Eric Campbell, another player who hit the ball very hard on the ground to the left side of the infield. As such, until Davis makes significant adjustments, his career is not going to “launch” the way the Mets anticipated, and sooner or later, he’s going to have be “grounded.”

Callaway Didn’t Cause The Loss But . . . .

There were many reasons why the Mets lost this game. For his part, Noah Syndergaard would blame the travel schedule which had them playing a night game last night and a 1:00 P.M. start tonight, which does seem like it was avoidable.

If fact, it was with Major League Baseball giving the Mets the option to start at 4:00 with the Mets passing at the opportunity.

There was the fact the Mets were facing Stephen Strasburg, a very good pitcher having a very good day. It certainly didn’t help the Mets were 0-for-3 with RISP and left seven runners on base.

Syndergaard had some bad luck. We was squeezed in the second leading to two walks and actually a wild pitch and run bunted home. Certainly, it was an odd box score with the Nationals having a run and no hits for the first five innings.

It looked just as odd when the Nationals had two runs on one hit with Victor Robles leading off the sixth with a solo homer.

There were certainly a number of factors at play. Unfortunately, Mickey Callaway was also a factor with his decision making in the seventh inning being a key factor.

In the seventh, the Mets had Strasburg on the ropes after a pair of two out singles from Jeff McNeil and Amed Rosario. With Juan Lagares due up and the left-handed Matt Grace warming in the bullpen, Callaway had a key decision to make.

With Strasburg at 108 pitches, he might’ve been coming out of the game anyway. Perhaps, things would be different if the Mets stuck with Lagares or pinch hit Luis Guillorme.

It should be noted last year batters hit .271/.322/.436 in their third plate appearance against Strasburg.

It should also be noted in a very small sample size, Guillorme has been a good pinch hitter (3-11, 2B, RBI, 4 BB). Of course, that’s if the Nationals didn’t take Strasburg out of the game.

Point is if a left-handed batter came into the game, Dave Martinez was likely going to Grace. While Guillorme might’ve given him pause, he was definitely going to Grace for Dominic Smith.

Callaway opted to go with Smith to force Grace into the game. Apparently, Callaway did this to get the matchup he wanted, which for some reason was J.D. Davis. The only acceptable explanations for this decision were: (1) Callaway has not watched one minute of Mets baseball this season; (2) Jim Riggleman was goading Jim into it so he could take over as manager at some point this year; or (3) Brodie Van Wagenen was holding his family hostage forcing Callaway to use Davis.

Given the options, Davis was probably the last option you wanted to see there. Even if the Mets were inclined to burn their best pinch hitter (which is bizarre in its own right), Davis was the absolute wrong choice as he’s done nothing to show he’s even as good as former whipping boy Eric Campbell (Campbell has a much higher OPS+).

If you take into account Lagares was out of the game, Keon Broxton is a .252/.357/.445 hitter off left-handed pitching, and the Mets needed someone to come play center with Lagares gone. Of course, sticking with Smith was also a viable option.

Instead, Callaway went with Davis who struck out looking.

This would put McNeil in left where he would make a terrible throw home on a Ryan Zimmerman sacrifice fly allowing Anthony Rendon to score the first of two ninth inning runs.

That situation was created because Callaway opted to bring in Seth Lugo to pitch the ninth despite his being ill recently and has had diminished velocity lately. With his UCL issues, we can only hope this a combination of illness and fatigue from over-use.

Callaway’s treatment of Lugo is at Terry Collins levels. Remember, Collins was the pitcher who disregarded pitcher health and used them dangerously. It would have an impact and eventually lead the end of the careers of Tim Byrdak, Scott Rice, and Jim Henderson.

Right now, the Mets are winning and off to their second hot start with Callaway at the helm. However, it looks like Callaway is regressing, and if he continues to do so, we may see him continue to put the Mets in disadvantageous situations.

Game Notes: Since his big Opening Day, Robinson Cano has struggled and is now hitting .188. Devin Mesoraco was officially put on Syracuse’s suspended list.

20/20 Hindsight: First Place Mets Sweep Marlins

After the Mets swept the Marlins, they’re now 5-1 and in first place as they come home for their home opener. Here’s the 20/20 observations from the last series:

  1. When Pedro Martinez compared Jacob deGrom to himself, you got the perfect comparison to just how dominant deGrom is right now. Although we can be sure the Dodger loving Wilpons think Sandy Koufax (either way you take it).
  2. With deGrom pitching great with Wilson Ramos on Opening Day and Tomas Nido yesterday, we’re seeing giving any credit to Devin Mesoraco was nonsense. Moreover, we’re seeing how better catchers help produce better results.
  1. In addition to their producing well on the field so far, it’s great to see Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith cheering for one another. Since late last year, and perhaps before that, they were adversaries as far as the future of first base was concerned. They rose above it to show they’re better people than they are players.
  2. While we believe Juan Lagares‘ extension was a mistake, there’s no doubt he impacts the game when he’s on the field. In the series, we saw him hit a game tying homer, and with his hustle, he reached base even on outs. He’s already at a 1 DRS, and he’s flashing his arm again. He’s potentially a difference maker.
  3. When the Mets traded Ross Adolph, Scott Manea, and Luis Santana, they paid a hefty price for J.D. Davis. It’s becoming increasingly clear, he’s not going to hit well or play good defense. As a result, each game the Mets force him into the lineup only serves to make a bad situation worse.
  4. On Davis, do yourself a favor and don’t look at the Astros 1B/DH situation.
  5. While it was nice to see Luis Guillorme finally get into a game, he needs to see more action, especially with Davis playing his way to a demotion.
  6. It’s very cool to see Yoenis Cespedes‘ brother Yoelkis regarded as one of the top Cuban prospects available. Here’s hoping the Mets can find a way to add him to the organization.
  7. The schadenfreude seeing the Yankees follow a Mets-like offseason with a series of Metsian injuries (CC Sabathia, Luis Severino, Dellin Betances, Didi Gregorius, Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Andujar, Troy Tulowitzki, Jacoby Ellsbury) is off the charts.
  8. With respect to Brandon Nimmo, it was shocking to see him not get a day after getting hit on the hand. Even if he was alright, with him scuffling, it made sense to give him the extra day.
  9. Mickey Callaway‘s handling of the bullpen in the series was both bad and dangerous. He pushed a Luis Avilan, a LOOGY with a history of shoulder injuries, to try to pitch two innings. He also pushed Seth Lugo to try almost 40 pitches despite his being ill. That’s how you make two laughers nail biters.
  10. That said, Robert Gsellman needs to be better. It was his performance which led to Callaway needing to turn to Edwin Diaz for the save.
  11. Even with the struggles from the rest of the pen, the Mets are more than alright with Diaz, Jeurys Familia, and Justin Wilson ready to go 7-8-9 to close out a win.
  12. If the Mets can’t trust Jason Vargas to go more than five innings against the worst team in baseball when the bullpen is short, why is he in the rotation, especially when Dallas Keuchel is still a free agent.
  13. With the Mets not trusting Vargas, we need to keep a close eye on Anthony Kay who impressed in Spring Training and will be the Opening Day starter for Binghamton today.
  14. It was hard to tell on TV, but with a large contingent of Mets fans at Marlins Park, is booing Peter O’Brien still going to be a thing.
  15. Umpire Ron Kulpa’s behavior was unnecessarily confrontational and unbefitting to the impartiality and temperance we should expect from an umpire. A.J. Hinch was right to confront him, and now it’s time for MLB to confront and potentially begin to suspend umpires who behave this way.
  16. With respect to Ron Darling‘s book, former teammates Dwight Gooden, Kevin Mitchell, and Darryl Strawberry defending Lenny Dykstra doesn’t mean Darling is lying. There’s a lot of room between those players not hearing something and it actually happening even if Oil Can Boyd said he didn’t hear anything.
  17. More troubling than the Darling/Dykstra controversy is Darling saying Bob Murphy would pass out drunk in the clubhouse and saying Gary Carter tried to stuff the All-Star ballots. Dykstra is a man who is all too eager to defend himself. Dead men like Murphy and Carter can’t.
  18. It’s going to be sad to not hear David Wright‘s name announced with the team on Opening Day. It’s not too similar from 2006 when we didn’t hear Mike Piazza‘s name. Hopefully, this will be like 2006 in more ways than one.

Lagares And Alonso Blasts Beat Marlins

No matter how good things are for the Mets, it appears like the Marlins are always there to ruin things. There are awful memories stemming from Tom Glavine, Scott Schoeneweis, and even Duaner Sanchez‘s cab ride. No matter how good things are, it seems like Miami is there to screw things up for the Mets.

To matters worse yesterday, the Marlins were starting Caleb Smith, who has pitched very well against the Mets.

Things did not start out well yesterday with Smith striking out Amed Rosario, Pete Alonso, and Robinson Cano to start the game. Then, in the bottom of the first, Wilson Ramos botched catching a third strike allowing Miguel Rojas to reach. One bad pitch from Steven Matz later in the inning, and Starlin Castro would make it 2-0.

The Mets would respond partially because Michael Conforto continues to hit left-handed pitching. After a Ramos single, Jeff McNeil would drive him home with an RBI double.

What was interesting about McNeil hitting the double was he got the hit off the left-handed pitcher Smith a day after being benched against Patrick Corbin. There were a few reasons for this including his historic performance against left-handed pitching and the Mets apparently wanting to get J.D. Davis into the lineup. You really have to wonder why that is.

It’s true Davis did hit his second double of the season, and that lead-off double in the fourth led to the Mets tying the game against the Marlins (scored off a wild pitch). However, when you look at his performance thus far, he is very much the same player who struggled in his limited Major League appearances with the Astros.

While he had the double, Davis again continued to struggle in the field. He would lollypop two throws to second with one of those throws putting Cano in position to get blown up. He cost Juan Lagares an assist when he failed to catch a ball and tag out Rosell Herrera. He also couldn’t field a ball off Castro’s bat leading to a run being scored.

With the Mets trading Luis Santana, Ross Adolph, and Scott Manea, they gave up a lot for Davis, so apparently they are going to force this work, at least until Todd Frazier or Jed Lowrie return. It’s at the point where he is playing more than Keon Broxton and Lagares, and as we have seen, he has hit clean-up twice with him hitting ahead of hitters like Conforto and Ramos.

Davis playing third nearly cost the Mets this game too. His weak throw to Cano on a Herrera grounder prevented the team from turning a double play. As noted, he couldn’t field Lagares’ throw when Herrera froze on a Brian Anderson liner. He then didn’t have the range to get a Castro hit.

This gave the Marlins a 3-2 lead, and it put Steven Matz in a position to take the loss.

With respect to Matz, he shook off the first inning, and he would pitch pretty well. Over 5.2 innings, he allowed three runs (one earned) on six hits with no walks and three strikeouts. If not for shoddy defense, he may have shut out the Marlins, and he might have been able to get through the sixth. Overall, he was not great, but he was certainly good enough to beat the Marlins (or even a Major League team).

While Lagares was not able to make a difference in the field (thanks to Davis), he would actually make a difference at the plate. The Marlins brought in the right-handed Tyler Kinley to face him, and Lagares would launch his first home run of the season:

Tim Peterson stepped up pitching 1.2 scoreless. His performance not only allowed the Mets to tie the score, but it would save a bullpen which had started to accumulate some innings. This and the scoreless inning from Jeurys Familia was exactly what this bullpen needed, and it was what the team needed to try to win the game. They would thanks to a big ninth inning rally against Drew Steckenrider.

The rally started with Dominic Smith pinch hit single. In not too surprising fashion, the Mets opted to have Lagares even though there’s more than enough evidence to suggest it’s the wrong play. Fortunately, the Mets were bailed out as Steckenrider would hit Lagares with the pitch (x-rays on the finger were negative), and the umpires would completely miss Lagares failing to pull back the bunt in time.

After Brandon Nimmo struck out (he’s really struggling), Rosario would come up huge with the go-ahead RBI single giving the Mets a 4-3 lead. Speaking of huge, Alonso would follow with his first career homer:

Alonso absolutely destroyed that pitch. The 444 homer had a 112.8 exit velocity. The homer gave the Mets a 7-3 lead meaning the warmed up Edwin Diaz was entering the game in a non-save situation.

Perhaps it was just yesterday, but we saw Diaz is like most closers where his focus is not quite what it is in a save situation. He’d load the bases to start the ninth before unleashing some filthy sliders to strike out Jorge Alfaro, the evil Peter O’Brien, and JT Riddle to end the game.

If you want to harp, there was a lot not to like. Davis was poor, and the Mets defense failed Matz. This was a battle against a clearly inferior team. However, at the end of the day, the Mets got the win, which is what matters most.

Game Notes: Smith has been off to a terrific start in his own right hitting .500/.600/.500 earning him the start in today’s series finale against Jose Urena.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Take Opening Series

For this season, there is going to be a new feature after every series wraps up called “20/20 Hindsight.” Essentially, the concept is to look back at a series, and make 20 quick observations about the state of the Mets. This can include both things which directly affect the Mets and those which circumstantially affect the Mets. Without further ado, here is the initial 20/20:

  1. With Jacob deGrom opening the season with six shutout innings, he’s continued his streak of consecutive starts with three earned or fewer and is one off Bob Gibson‘s Major League record for consecutive quality starts. Sooner or later, the conversation with deGrom is going to focus on his being an all-time great pitcher.
  2. Seeing deGrom, Max Scherzer, and Aaron Nola pitch great on Opening Day, this is already shaping up to be a fun and exciting race for not just the National League East but also the National League Cy Young.
  3. Pete Alonso has so far been everything the Mets touted him to be. After going 0-for-3 against Scherzer, he was 6-for-9 with a run, two walks, three doubles, and three RBI.
  4. Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler do not pitch well at Nationals Park. Syndergaard is still winless there, and Wheeler has a 4.24 ERA and a 1.441 WHIP at the park.
  5. The Nationals bullpen is once again terrible highlighted by Trevor Rosenthal and his INF ERA after failing to get an out in two appearances.
  6. While we focus on the NL East aces, we already see the division being loaded with MVP candidates including Robinson Cano, Michael Conforto, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, and Trea Turner. With respect to Turner, he single-handedly beat the Mets on Sunday.
  7. It wasn’t a popular decision, but Mickey Callaway made the right decision sitting Jeff McNeil on Sunday. In addition to McNeil having durability issues in his professional career, he only hit .255/.331/.390 off left-handed pitchers in the minors last year. Don’t let Patrick Corbin foul him up when he is going good.
  8. McNeil has been off to a hot start picking up where he left off in 2018. If he keeps this up, he’s going to cost at least one of Todd Frazier or Jed Lowrie a job (whenever they can return to the lineup).
  9. The Mets quickly showed they are not going to be neutralized by left-handed pitching whether that is in the form of a Corbin or a LOOGY like Tony Sipp. So far, Cano and Conforto have combined to hit 6-f0r-16 against left-handed pitching.
  10. It was shocking to see Stephen Strasburg look like a shell of his former self. A guy who lived at 98+ MPH is now in the 93 MPH range. That follows a trend of diminished velocity from him last season. Nationals need him to be great to win, and he didn’t look like he’s up to the task.
  11. J.D. Davis made some flashy plays at third which overshadowed his lack or range at the position, and his error on a routine play on Saturday, set-up the bullpen machinations which partially attributed to Sunday’s loss.
  12. Callaway had some bad luck on the reliever front. He got trapped looking to ride Seth Lugo to easily close out a seven run lead in the ninth, and he looked bad not having someone ready in time. On Sunday, he tried to do the right thing by double switching Tim Peterson into the game, but the rally took him out and left Callaway looking to get two innings out of Justin Wilson.
  13. While he was trapped in those two games, Callaway’s use of his bullpen remains to be an issue dating back to last season. Given his experience as a pitching coach, his troubles handling a bullpen is particularly odd.
  14. Callaway also has to let go of the manager fear of not removing a starting catcher from the game. On Saturday, Wilson Ramos was on third in a tie game in the eighth inning. With speedy runners on the bench, he should have been substituted out of the game for a runner.
  15. It’s odd Luis Guillorme has not seen any game action yet, especially when the Mets have opted for late inning defense in their games.
  16. It’s still very early for Brandon Nimmo, but his striking out in half of his plate attempts is problematic. On the bright side, he got off the snide with a single against the left-handed Corbin.
  17. Keon Broxton showed he has to play against left-handed pitching. In his lone start, he was 2-2 with a walk off Corbin with a stolen base. For his career, he hits .242/.357/.445 off lefties.
  18. Phillies sweeping the Braves was certainly eye opening, but we should take into account Jake Arrieta walked six against a fairly aggressive Braves lineup, and Nick Pivetta couldn’t even get out of the fifth.
  19. Dominic Smith has gotten off to a good start in his own right going 1-for-3 with a run, walk, and two RBI on top of being a defensive substitution. His start makes you wonder if he should start seeing some outfield time to occasionally fit him into the lineup.
  20. The Mets being the best Opening Day team in Major League history is perfect for a team who continuously builds up Mets fans hope only to quickly dash them. Hopefully, this is more like 2006 than it is just about every other year in Mets history.

Trea Turner Almost Single-Handedly Beat The Mets

Hearkening back to the maddening pitcher Zack Wheeler was before his breakout, he needed 95 pitches to get through five innings. In those five innings, he allowed four earned on six hits. On the surface, this was reason to get concerned not just about Wheeler, but his and the Mets prospects for the 2019 season.

However, when you go deeper than the surface, there wasn’t much of a reason to overthink things. For starters, Wheeler’s stuff looked as good as it ever has. Also, for a pitcher who has long had control issues at at times has had difficulty putting batters away, he walked just one and struck out seven. When you break it down, this was just one of those starts pitchers have from time to time.

One of the issues was Trea Turner hits Wheeler well. Turner has hit .375/.444/.625 off of Wheeler including yesterday’s three run homer. Really, when you go up-and-down that Nationals lineup, they have all faired well against Wheeler:

Combine that with Wheeler pitching to a 4.24 ERA and 1.441 WHIP at Nationals Park, and you realize this was more of a bad matchup for Wheeler than anything else. Still, despite the tough matchup, Wheeler was largely effective against anyone not named Trea Turner.

In addition to Turner’s three run homer, he would steal a base in the fifth, and he would score on a Rendon two out RBI single. Turner was a one man wrecking crew in this game, and he would beat not just Wheeler, but the entire Mets team.

What was interesting about the Mets was how they got back into this game.

Through five innings, the Mets only plated one run off of Patrick Corbin due to a Pete Alonso double in the third. In the top of the sixth, the Mets would get a rally started with runners at the corners and no outs after a J.D. Davis double and a Michael Conforto single. The promising rally ended there when Davis scored on an Amed Rosario double play.

The Mets seemed like they were going to be getting back into this game, especially with how poor the Nationals bullpen already looks. However, Robert Gsellman was not good himself giving the one run the Mets got right back with him allowing a pair of doubles to Yan Gomes and Victor Robles in the bottom of the sixth.

This is where things got a bit dicey for Mickey Callaway.

In Saturday’s game, Davis misplaced a routine grounder, and the end result was instead of the Mets getting out of the inning, Callaway had to bring in Seth Lugo to bail Jeurys Familia out of a jam. Lugo would then have to get bailed out himself. The end result of this was Lugo and Familia basically being unavailable yesterday.

With yesterday’s game close, Callaway opted to chase the game. This meant utilizing Luis Avilian to get Juan Soto instead of allowing Gsellman to pitch an entire second inning. In Callaway’s defense, Gsellman created that situation too by allowing a hit to Rendon.

In that seventh inning, Callaway used Gsellman, Avilan, and Tim Peterson. It became an issue because the Mets went to work against the Nationals bullpen in the eighth.

With the heart of the lineup up, Dave Martinez went to Tony Sipp. Sipp bracketed retiring the right-handed hitting Davis by allowing singles to the left-handed hitting Robinson Cano and Conforto. Martinez brought in Trevor Rosenthal to pitch to Rosario, who, this time, delivered an RBI single.

With the Mets now down by just two, the Nationals went to Sean Doolittle, and Callaway emptied his bench. With the combination of durability history, the left-handed starter, and just trying to get guys into a game to start the year, Jeff McNeil and Wilson Ramos did not get the start. They would be two in a wave of four consecutive players who started the game on the bench getting key at-bats in the inning.

While McNeil struck out, Ramos and Juan Lagares would deliver RBI singles to tie the game at 5-5. Unfortunately, Dominic Smith could not get that big hit the Mets needed to take the lead.

With Callaway having to pinch hit for Peterson to try to take the lead, he would have to go to Justin Wilson for more than an inning. Wilson would mow down the first four Nationals he would face before Turner hit the walk-off home run.

By no means was this a perfect game for the Mets. The Nationals continued to run on them with five stolen bases in the series. Wheeler didn’t look like the ace he was in the second half. Corbin looked like last year was no fluke, and the Mets bullpen was as creeky as the Nationals bullpen looked in the series. Moreover, Callaway did not look like a manager who was taking a step forward this year.

Despite the issues you may want to glean from the loss, the fact of the matter is the Mets fought to get back into this game. It was a tough loss, but it was one where the Mets showed character. It’s one where the team showed they have fight in them, and they are ready to take it to the Nationals and the rest of the National League East. While you hate a loss like this, you should really like how this team handled the situation.

Game Notes: With Avilan and Peterson pitching in the game and Tomas Nido starting at catcher, Luis Guillorme is now the only Mets player on the Opening Day roster who has yet to play in a game. Brandon Nimmo broke his hitless streak to begin the season with a hit off Corbin.

Alonso And McNeil Power Mets

When the Mets bucked conventional wisdom and put Pete Alonso, the rationale was this was a tight National League East, and the Mets needed every possible game they can get. Well, in the second game of the season, Alonso helped them win a divisional game against the Nationals.

It began right away with his hitting a single in the top of the first to set up a three run first inning rally. That rally also featured a Wilson Ramos double and a Jeff McNeil triple (more on him later).

That three inning first would become a 4-1 lead when Alonso annihilated a Stephen Strasburg pitch for a double.

This Strasburg start should have the Nationals very worried. Any hope last season was a blip for him were quickly dashed. According to Brooks Baseball, he was throwing 93 MPH. Remember, this is a guy who used to be able to get it up to 100 MPH. Now, he looks ordinary, and the Mets made him look as such.

Strasburg pitched six innings allowing four earned on seven hits. His eight strikeouts were good, but it’s not going to do him as much good if he’s going to be this hittable.

Despite Strasburg’s struggles, he got the no decision.

The main reason was Noah Syndergaard wasn’t sharp. Like Strasburg, he allowed four earned over six. However, Syndergaard’s game shouldn’t elicit as much concern for the Mets.

For starters, he has never pitched well at Nationals Park. In five starts, he’s now 0-3 with a 5.79 ERA. With Syndergaard’s velocity and location there, you could chalk this up to the quirks of a pitcher just not pitching well at a particular park.

The other issue was Mickey Callaway pushing him too far.

Syndergaard looked done after getting a huge strikeout of Anthony Rendon to end the fifth.

At the time, it was 4-3, and Syndergaard was at 86 pitches. He was battling most of the game, and Victor Robles was set to lead off the inning.

Robles would hit a ball through the shift, and he turned it into a double with Michael Conforto not getting over in time. The Nationals would then get him over and in with a Kurt Suzuki sacrifice fly.

The game was 4-4 entering the bottom of the eighth, and as we would soon learn, the once again retooled Nationals bullpen stinks with Trevor Rosenthal, Matt Grace, and Wander Suero combining to give up seven runs over the final two innings.

The go-ahead hit was a J.D. Davis opposite field bases loaded single to give the Mets a 6-4 lead. Alonso would soon be heard from again hitting a two run double giving the Mets an 8-4 lead.

On the day, Alonso was 3-4 with a run, two doubles, and two RBI. The doubles were smoked. At the bag, he had a pick a few balls out of the dirt. Overall, this was a great game for him, and it was the exact type of game the Mets envisioned when they put him on the Opening Day roster.

As good as Alonso was, McNeil might’ve been even better. In addition to the first inning RBI triple, he had a ninth inning RBI double. On the day, he was 4-5 with two runs, a double, triple, and two RBI.

His ninth inning double made it 9-4, and Dominic Smith‘s two RBI single made it 11-4. With respect to Smith, he’s also had quite the start to the season. In his limited duty, he’s 1-2 with a walk and two RBI while serving as Alonso’s defensive replacement.

Unfortunately, this was not a laugher as the Mets bullpen was not quite up to the task with Justin Wilson being the only set-up man to do the job with a scoreless seventh.

In the eighth, after a Davis error, the Nationals loaded the bases with two outs against Jeurys Familia. Callaway didn’t risk the inning or game getting out of hand, and he brought on Seth Lugo.

Matt Adams swung at the first pitch and gave it a ride, but it would fall short with Conforto catching it near the wall.

With the Mets having a seven run lead, Callaway opted to not waste any more relievers, and he stuck with Lugo. For whatever reason Lugo didn’t have it.

As the Nationals rallied, Callaway wasn’t as quick to respond and the relievers weren’t getting loose quick soon enough.

Rendon was hit by a pitch to force in a run, and then Ryan Zimmerman hit a bases clearing double to pull the Nationals within 11-8. Even with there being two outs, Callaway had no choice but to go to Edwin Diaz, who needed just one pitch to record the save.

Behind the win and the success of the Mets duo of Alonso and McNeil (the latest Mets bromance) was a poor game by Callaway.

He started Davis over Juan Lagares and Keon Broxton, two superior defenders who also have had better offensive production in the majors. Davis responded with a 1-5 day with a big error.

Davis did deliver the go-ahead RBI single. On the play, the slow footed Ramos was at third. Instead of using Broxton to pinch run, he stuck with Ramos. The Mets got away with it.

Finally, while starting Lugo in the ninth was the right move, Callaway was probably too slow to react, especially with Lugo’s pitches not being sharp.

Still, even with the Callaway lapses, the Mets won mostly because Alonso and McNeil were great. The Mets have taken the first series from the Nationals and are now in a position to sweep the fist series of the year.

Game Notes: Wilson picked up the win in his first appearance as a Met. Alonso joined Conforto, Kazuo Matsui, Nick Evans, and Preston Wilson as Mets who began their careers with three hits and two extra base hits over their first two Major League games (hat tip Mathew Brownstein).

2019 Mets Postseason Doppelgangers

There have been a few times in the Mets history where they have surprised or even shocked the World in making their run to the postseason. The biggest example is 1969, which occurred 50 years ago. The Mets would make their Miracle run in 1973, and they would emerge in 1999, 2006, and 2015.

When you look at those rosters, there are players who are comparable to the players on this year’s Mets roster. Here’s a look at how it breaks down:

Catcher

Travis d’Arnaud (Todd Pratt) – d’Arnaud may very well be pressed into action more than anticipated, and as we saw in the 2015 postseason, he can deliver some big hits when needed.

Tomas Nido (Jerry Grote) – A defensive oriented catcher who helps takes his pitchers over the top and more than makes up for whatever offensive issues he may have.

Wilson Ramos (Paul Lo Duca) – Ramos may not have been the catcher the Mets may have originally expected to bring in during the offseason, but like Lo Duca, he could be the perfect fit for this team and surprisingly be a very important piece to this club.

Infield

Pete Alonso (Michael Conforto) – Alonso is the young prospect who is getting thrown into the fire and expected to be a key bat in a lineup who are trying to overcome the Nationals.

Robinson Cano (Rickey Henderson) – Cano was brought in to be the Hall of Fame caliber player who could take this team over the top.

J.D. Davis (Matt Franco) – Players who will predominantly be pinch hitters who are going to be counted upon to provide those key unexpected game winning hits.

Todd Frazier (Ed Charles) – Both were better before joining the Mets, but they proved to be glue guys in the clubhouse making the team better for their presence alone.

Luis Guillorme (Anderson Hernandez) – Tremendously gifted middle infielders whose gloves helped earn them a spot on the Opening Day roster.

Jed Lowrie (Jose Valentin) – Switch hitters who were brought to serve as a bench piece for the Mets who could be pressed into duty more than anticipated, which could be of great value to the team.

Jeff McNeil (Cleon Jones) – Homegrown Mets ready who show their previous year breakouts were not flukes, but rather an indication they are key members of a winning team.

Amed Rosario (Jose Reyes) – Reyes figured it out in 2006, and he became a dynamic and exciting player. This can be that year for Rosario.

Dominic Smith (Ed Kranepool) – Both probably rushed and mishandled as prospects, but they both still had a lot of hits in their bats making them valuable pieces for their club.

Outfield

Keon Broxton (Xavier Nady) – The imported outfielder who has not yet lived up to expectations has an opportunity to prove himself on a talented roster.

Yoenis Cespedes (Donn Clendenon) – The Mets are relying on a big bat to come after the All-Star Break and get this team a World Series, who better than the guy who delivered that in 1969?

Michael Conforto (David Wright) – The time is now for the homegrown player to put it all together and have an MVP caliber season to put this team over the top.

Juan Lagares (Endy Chavez) – Chavez was the defensive oriented player who was pressed into more action than anticipated, and his play on the field was a big reason the 2006 Mets came withing a game of the World Series.

Brandon Nimmo (Edgardo Alfonzo) – Homegrown Met oft overlooked who may actually prove to put up the best season of all the players on the roster.

Starters

Jacob deGrom (Tom Seaver) – deGrom is the staff ace coming off a historically great season, who needs to stay at a high level for the team to make the postseason.

Noah Syndergaard (Noah Syndergaard) – The Mets need Thor to be Thor.

Zack Wheeler (Jacob deGrom) – It was deGrom’s building off of a surprising 2014 season which helped take the Mets over the top in 2015. It’s exactly what everyone is expecting from Wheeler in 2019.

Steven Matz (Al Leiter) – Hometown left-handed pitchers who have a chance to help be a big part of the reason why the Mets make a run to the postseason.

Jason Vargas (Bartolo Colon) – Vargas is the veteran below-league average starter who needs to stick in the rotation while just eating up innings.

Corey Oswalt (Logan Verrett) – The Mets need a low round drafted prospect to put together a string of great starts to help put this team over the top. With his increased velocity, this could be Oswalt.

Chris Flexen (Octavio Dotel) – Spot starters who have the repertoire to potentially do much more damage in the bullpen.

Hector Santiago (Darren Oliver) – Pitchers who once had success starting who could be valuable long men in the bullpen.

Bullpen

Edwin Diaz (Billy Wagner) – Wagner was the sure-fire reliever at the end of the bullpen who helped make games an eight inning affair.

Jeurys Familia (John Franco) – One time great Mets closer is now serving as the set-up man for a young brash fireballer brought in during the offseason.

Seth Lugo (Nolan Ryan) – Just pure dominating stuff out of the bullpen from a guy who would probably be a starting pitcher for any other Major League team.

Robert Gsellman (Pat Mahomes) – The key piece of the 1999 bullpen who permitted the Mets bullpen to be as great as it could possibly be.

Justin Wilson (Dennis Cook) – Pitchers who are more than LOOGYs who raise their game in the biggest stages.

Luis Avilan (Pedro Feliciano) – Feliciano was the LOOGY out of the bullpen who was a weapon the Mets could utilize to neutralize the opponent’s top left-handed batters.

Tim Peterson (Greg McMichael) – Strike throwers who don’t have dominating stuff.

Jacob Rhame (Heath Bell) – The guys whose stuff have not quite yet translated to performance leading them to bounce between Triple-A and the Majors.

Paul Sewald (Carlos Torres) – Jack of all trades reliever who does yeoman’s work eating up innings.

Daniel Zamora (Royce Ring) – Promising young LOOGYS who should dominate in their limited opportunities.

And finally, there is Mickey Callaway, who we are hoping will be able to accomplish what Willie Randolph accomplished by proving himself a good manager in his second year and by leading the Mets to being the best team in the National League.

 

Jeff McNeil Must Stay In Left Field

With Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier suffering injuries this Spring, the temptation may be to shift Jeff McNeil to third base and to play Juan Lagares in center. There is sound logic in the thought process. Lagares is the best center fielder on the team, and if Lowrie and Frazier cannot go, McNeil is clearly the best player available to play third.

While there is logic behind the thought process, the Mets should resist the temptation.

Heading into this season, McNeil has played just 65.1 innings in the outfield in his professional career. He has played 35.1 of those 65.1 innings in left field, the position he is slated to play in 2019. That includes just 17.0 innings in left field for Las Vegas last season. While he notably worked on the position with Tony DeFrancesco last year, and he has put his time in working at the position during Spring Training, he lacks game experience.

There are aspects to McNeil’s game which would indicated he can succeed in left field. According to Baseball Savant, McNeil has the same sprint speed as Andrew Benintendi (4 DRS), which would indicate he has the speed to cover the position. It’s also worth noting McNeil is a smart player who has moved all over the field in his professional career. He is accustomed to adapting and learning a new position.

While you may point to McNeil’s arm in left as a concern, the greater concern is his lack of experience at the position. It is one thing to have him play fewer than 20 innings in the minors, and it is a whole other thing to expect him to play over 1,000 innings at the position at the Major League level. No matter how much time he spends on the back fields working on it, there is no substitute for in-game experience, and McNeil is in need of that.

If the long term plan is to have McNeil as the team’s left fielder, the team is going to have to stick with that plan. You don’t want a situation where he plays third for a week or even a month only to later have him shift to left field. It doesn’t help him improve at the position, and you face the risk of him losing experience out there costing the Mets a game in the future.

Ultimately, the Mets have built a team where they are best suited to having McNeil playing everyday in the outfield. This is partially the result of finding a place for him to play and partially the result of the lack of real outfield depth. Considering that is in the team’s best interests, they need to make sure McNeil is the best possible defensive left fielder he can be.

That means resisting the temptation of having him play at third base while Frazier and Lowrie are unable to go. Instead, the Mets need to be looking at their other options like J.D. Davis and T.J. Rivera at third and leave McNeil in the outfield. Essentially, they need to treat McNeil just like they would any other outfielder.

Checking Mets Depth Chart, Tebow On The Opening Day Roster Is Laughable

With Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier suffering injuries during Spring Training, the Mets depth is being tested early. Most will point to how this clears the path for Pete Alonso. You could see how this in an opportunity for J.D. Davis. While the Mets may not initially want to move Jeff McNeil to third, if they would it could present an opportunity for Dominic Smith to make the roster.

You can also make a case for T.J. Rivera, Rajai Davis, Gregor Blanco, Gavin Cecchini, Luis Guillorme, and many more. Really, when you break it down, you can make a case for almost anybody:

https://twitter.com/BMonzoRadio/status/1100489206353281026

Okay, well almost anybody. Really, to suggest Tim Tebow has an opportunity to make the Opening Day roster borders on the absurd. Really, just look at the Mets complete left field depth chart:

  1. Michael Conforto
  2. Jeff McNeil
  3. Brandon Nimmo
  4. Juan Lagares
  5. Keon Broxton
  6. Rajai Davis
  7. Gregor Blanco
  8. J.D. Davis
  9. Rymer Liriano
  10. Dominic Smith
  11. T.J. Rivera
  12. Dilson Herrera
  13. Danny Espinosa
  14. Kevin Kaczmarski
  15. Braxton Lee

Also consider the Mets have the option to move players like Cecchini to the outfield. As the season progresses, players like Desmond Lindsay may move ahead of Tebow. However, this is about right now, and right now there is nothing to suggest Tebow is anywhere close enough to cracking the Mets Opening Day roster. Really, the mere suggestion of it is beyond absurd.