Jacob deGrom

Thor May Be the Key to Everything

Even after all the trades, Mets fans knew/believed that the Mets would only go as far as their young pitching would take them. Mr he main focus was on the Matt HarveyJacob deGrom 1-2 punch. 

The problem is the rest of the NL has pretty good 1-2 punches in their own right, and that’s before you take Harvey’s innings limits into account. Let’s see who the NL playoff teams have: 

Dodgers

  1. Clayton Kershaw
  2. Zack Greinke

Cardinals

  1. Michael Wacha
  2. Carlos Martinez

Cubs

  1. Jake Arrieta
  2. Jon Lester

Pirates

  1. Gerrit Cole
  2. Francisco Liriano

With these matchups, you’d imagine the NL playoffs will be all about pitching. You can imagine the Mets being anywhere from up 2-0 to down 0-2. This is what makes Noah Syndergaard so important. He can give the Mets a lead in the series, put the other team on the brink, or get the Mets back in a series. 

Thor has answered every call thus far in a stellar rookie season. His games against the Nationals are much bigger than what he’ll experience this afternoon. Although, I suspect the crowd may have a little more juice. I’ll have faith in him no matter what happens today. 

October is going to become Hammer Time!

It’s My Island

This is a huge start for Steven Matz. As a local kid from Long Island, it’s his opportunity to stand up and proclaim, this is the Mets town. It’s time for a man named Steven to stand up and declare:

In all seriousness, Matz has something more important to stake his claim – a postseason roster spot. Right now the postseason rotation is still in flux. It seems the only one assured of a spot is Jacob deGrom

Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard both have innings limit issues. Jon Niese has been utterly ineffectiveBartolo Colon has beaten up on the NL East and sub-.500 teams. Logan Verrett is nothing more than a spot starter. There’s an opening for Matz, and frankly a left handed starter, with the Dodgers coming up in the NLDS.

The Dodgers feature a number of big left handed bats with Adrian GonzalezJoc PedersonAndre Ethier, and Chase Utley, who you know is chomping at the bit to beat the Mets again.  It would be great if the Mets could throw a lefty starter out there to neutralize those bats.  It’s all the more important without a lefty in the bullpen.  Niese has shown it shouldn’t be him. 

This will be the last Mets opponent over .500 until the last series of the season. The Yankees are in a dog fight in the AL East and Wild Card. They need the series a lot more than the Mets do. Most likely, he will face Jacoby EllsburyBrett Gardner, and Greg Bird. It’s a good primer.

Matz needs to step up. He needs to go out there tonight and pitch like the ace the Mets fans think he is. I want to see his grandfather celebrating all game long. If we see it, it means Matz is pitching well. It means he’s securing a postseason start. It means the Mets will have a better chance of winning the NLDS. 

It may lead further towards the Mets taking back New York. It may see mad, but it may become Steven’s Island. 

This Loss Seemed Bigger than it Was

Let me start with the preface that the Mets are going to win the NL East, and they may still get homefield advantage in the NLDS against the Dodgers. However, doesn’t September losses to the Marlins just seem bigger?

It just seemed like this was another poor start for Jacob deGrom in what not too long ago seemed like a potential cyGrom season. Tonight, he gave up 10 hits and six earned in only five innings. deGrom is the key to a Mets possible World Series run, and it appears like he’s falling apart at the seams. I checked Twitter during the game, and I found out he really wasn’t:

However, I still felt like Chicken Little, so I checked Baseball Reference. Aha!  deGrom has been worse in the second half. He was a superhuman deGrominator going 9-6 with a 2.14 ERA, 0.924 WHIP, and 8.9 K/9 in the first half. Coming into tonight, he was 4-1 with a 2.89 ERA, 1.043 WHIP, and a 10.4 K/9 in the second half. So yeah, he’s been pretty much the same pitcher in both halves of the season. 

That’s the thing with losses like tonight. You tend to overreact. You make deGrom’s outing out to be worse than it was. You focus on another poor Eric O’Flaherty outing. You miss things like David Wright hitting an RBI double and going 1-2 with two walks, a run scored, and an RBI. You miss Michael Conforto going 2-3 with a walk, an RBI, and a run scored. You grumbled when Bobby Parnell came into the game while neglecting the fact that he had a good, scoreless inning. 

The Mets won eight straight. They were due for a clunker. That was tonight. It seemed like they could do nothing right, including but not limited to Erik Goeddel pulling a Shawn Estes when he seemingly was trying to plunk Tom Koehler as retaliation for him plunking Yoenis Cespedes. This was further compounded with my man, Dario Alvarez limping off the field after allowing a Dee Gordon homerun. 

The Mets just need to put this ugly 9-3 loss behind them. I know I’ll forget about it by tomorrow morning. 

Reading Between the Lines

The New York Times has an excellent piece today on Yoenis Cespedes. There were some things we learned or were reaffirmed:

  1. Cespedes desperately wants to win;
  2. Cespedes was the only OF available for the Mets on the eve of the trade deadline; and 
  3. It’s going to be very expensive to re-sign him. 

In reading the article, there are some things I personally interpreted. 

The Tigers Were Desperate 

The Tigers used Jim Leyland to take advantage of his relationship with Terry Collins to tell him Cespedes was available. I’m not an expert, but I presume trade negotiations are not normally done between a manager and a former manager. 

This was a way to put pressure on the Mets to go get Cespedes, a player with whom the Mets had reservations. Everyone on the planet knew the Mets offense was terrible. Collins must’ve been going crazy filling out a lineup card that included John Mayberry, Jr. in the cleanup spot. I’m sure when Collins found out the Mets could get Cespedes, I’m sure he ran through the Mets offices telling anyone who would listen to get the deal done. 

Again, the Mets were split. Maybe this Leyland-Collins conversation is what finally pushed the Mets to go out and get Cespedes. 

The Mets Have Soured on Juan Lagares

One of the key aspects of the decision to get Cespedes was whether or not he could play CF. This was after the Mets failed attempts to get Carlos Gomez. Remember in that deal, the Mets were pushing to trade the Brewers Juan Lagares and his contract. It’s apparent the Mets didn’t just want a bat; they wanted a CF. 

I’m shocked as the Mets were high on him as long as a year ago when they gave him the extension. Now it seems, they want to move on. That’s a huge fall out of favor for a gold glove CF. 

The Mets Only Saw Cespedes as a Rental

As noted in the article, the Mets knew about the five day clause in Cespedes’ contract. They knew it would be difficult to bring him back to the fold in 2016 and beyond. The article further notes that Alderson doesn’t typically give out contracts to players of Cespedes’ age because Alderson likes his teams to have payroll flexibility. Cespedes will more likely recieve than David Wright‘s $138 million. That really restricts the Mets payroll flexibility when they will have to eventually pay these young pitchers. 

This May Be a Test Case for Future deGrom Negotiations

As luck would have it, Cespedes shares the same agent as Jacob deGrom. Their agent, Roc Nation, and chief negotiator, Brodie Van Wagenen, are known to be tough and to be able to get the maximum value for their clients. The Mets dipped their toes on what it will be like when Robinson Cano was a free agent. The Mets came off as looking like they weren’t serious. 

Whether the Mets eventually re-sign Cespedes or not, they need to put their best foot forward here. It’s possible the Mets will be outbid while still making a real, viable attempt to keep him. Remember there’s always a crazy team out there. Just look at contacts given to Jayson Werth and Ryan Howard

The point here is to look like a serious team that can and will spend money. 

Sandy Alderson Wants to Win Now

There was every reason not to make this trade. Cespedes was not the type of player the Mets sought out under Alderson’s regime: he swings wildly and doesn’t walk enough. The fact that Michael Fulmer could turn out to be the Mets best pitching prospect, current Mets pitchers included. There was dissension within the Mets front office whether to proceed. 

Alderson saw an opportunity, and he went for it. Sure he took advice from his advisors, but he made the final call. It was gutsy and risky. Whether or not you agree with the trade, you have to respect how Alderson made the call. 

There are some other nuances that are there, but these are the main ones in my opinion. In any event, while I disagreed with the trade, I’m loving the Cespedes ride. I’m not so excited about how the offseason will shake out. I’m putting that out of my mind right now. 

I’m just enjoying the ride for now. Lets Go Mets!

NL East All Swept Up

The Nationals resurgence was lead by the first overall picks Steven Strasburg and Bryce Harper. They were brilliant tonight. Strasburg went 7.1 innings with three earned and 13 Ks. The Mets barely touched him in the first seven innings. Harper went 3-4 with all three Nationals run scored on a double and two homers. It wasn’t enough. 

For the third straight night, the Mets rallied late to abuse the Nationals bullpen. For a while, it seemed that Travis d’Arnaud‘s second inning solo homer was all the Mets were going to get. Then in the eighth, Kelly Johnson pinch hit for Wilmer Flores [standing ovation], and hit a pinch hit homer to tie the game at 2-2. After a Curtis Granderson single, Strasburg was lifted. 

Matt Williams then brought on Drew Storen, who was completely ineffective in this series. Sure enough, he gave up the go-ahead homerun to Yoenis Cespedes. I know Cespedes isn’t a true MVP candidate, but his play has been nothing short of a miracle for the Mets. 

Harper hit his second homer in the eighth, and the Mets tacked on a run in the ninth to make the final score 5-3.  It was great to see deGrom get back on track and get the win. He had a good game with 7.0 innings, nine Ks, and only two earned. 

It was Mets second straight sweep of the Nationals. With the Mets now up seven in the NL East, it’s over. The Mets will win the division. These past three games were nothing short of amazing. They could’ve/should’ve lost all three, but they showed a resolve that championship teams show. Now they can begin rating their pitchers to gear up for October. 

It’s been seven years since we could say that. Only this time, our pitching is healthy. 

Who’s In, Who’s Out?

After last night’s big homerun, I wanted to write a post about Kirk Nieuwenhuis‘ chances of making the postseason roster. I then realized such conversation is premature without first discussing who is definitely going to be on the roster, and what the roster needs will be. 

Please note this list assumes all injured players will be healed and ready for the playoffs. And yes, I’m taking Matt Harvey at his word. So without further ado, here’s my best approximation:

Position Players

  1. Travis d’Arnaud
  2. Kevin Plawecki
  3. Lucas Duda
  4. Wilmer Flores
  5. Daniel Murphy
  6. Ruben Tejada
  7. Juan Uribe
  8. David Wright
  9. Kelly Johnson
  10. Yoenis Cespedes
  11. Michael Cuddyer
  12. Curtis Granderson
  13. Juan Lagares
  14. Michael Conforto

Pitchers

  1. Matt Harvey
  2. Jacob deGrom
  3. Bartolo Colon
  4. Noah Syndergaard
  5. Jeurys Familia
  6. Tyler Clippard
  7. Addison Reed
  8. Hansel Robles

While typically an MLB team carries 12 pitchers, that number is usually reduced to 11 relievers. That means there’s three spots open for pitchers like Sean GilmartinDario AlvarezCarlos Torres (if healthy), Erik GoeddelLogan VerrettJon Niese, and of course Steven Matz. Notice, I did not put Bobby Parnell and Eric O’Flaherty on the list. If all the position players make the list, there’s only room for 11 pitchers anyway. 

With an injury, like Cuddyer’s, the decision will come down between Nieuwenhuis, Eric Young, Jr., and yes, Eric Campbell

The Mets have tough decisions to make. They have about a month of tryouts. So far, Gilmartin, Alvarez, and Nieuwenhuis have made their cases. Other players have their opportunities as well. It’s nice having this conversation instead of talking about next year. 

The Mets Will Remain in First Place

Today’s game is the biggest game the Mets have played since they moved to Citi Field. It’s their biggest series in seven years. No matter what happens, they will leave Washington in first place. 

They’re carrying a four game lead into Washington. Even if the get swept, they will remain in first. If the Mets sweep, they will be seven up with 26 games remaining.  Like James Ingram, all I’m asking is that the Mets win “Just Once.”  That’ll give them a three game lead presumably forcing the Nationals to sweep the Mets in the last series of the season to have a shot of winning the division. 

The Mets set up their post-All Star Break rotation with Noah SyndergaardMatt Harvey, and Jacob deGrom facing the Nationals in their first two series against each other. After the Mets August 2nd win completing the sweep, the Mets have been in first place, and they do not look like they want to give it back.  The Nationals seem to have noticed. 

They have set up their rotation so the Mets face Max ScherzerJordan Zimmermann, and Steven Strasburg. While the Mets will lead-off with Jon Niese, they will follow with Harvey and deGrom. The last two games of this series is must see TV. Especially with Harvey and deGrom, I like the Mets chances. 

Since 2009, the Mets have had a losing record. We dreamed of the day that this young pitching would come together and lead the Mets to the playoffs and beyond. The Nationals are the only obstacle in their way. “I know we can break through it.”  

The Only Thing This Team Can’t Overcome is Collins

Where to begin on a day like today?  There’s Michael Cuddyer and his new wrist injury of unknown origins. There’s Lucas Duda‘s rehab assignment in Binghamton. There’s Daniel Murphy‘s platelet rich therapy treatment for his injured quad. And, oh yeah, there was something about Matt Harvey

There was a lot of noise, but this team is resilient. Jacob deGrom didn’t have his best stuff, and he was squeezed by the umpire. However, he made it through six with only three earned and was in line for the win due to a Yoenis Cespedes go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh. 

Sean Gilmartin and Addison Reed gave up the lead in the seventh. The go-ahead run was scored after Reed got squeezed on a 2-2 pitch and his 3-2 pitch wasn’t even close resulting in a bases loaded walk. They were picked up by Travis d’Arnaud, who sparked a two out rally in the ninth. Juan Lagares pinch ran for him and scored after consecutive singles from Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson. We all talk about the Cespedes trade, but we all neglect the trade that brought Uribe and Johnson aboard that really started to turn things around. 

The one thing the Mets couldn’t overcome?  Terry Collins. After having a decent game managing, he had to put Eric O’Flaherty in a position to fail again. O’Flaherty came in with an inherited runner and one out from Erik Goeddel‘s second inning of work. O’Flaherty got the lefty, and then for some reason Collins let him face Martin Prado

Of course, Prado hits a double down the right field line. Of course, it’s Lagares and not Cespedes on right. If Cespedes can’t play right, he’s not the player we all think he is. Sure enough, the run scores and the Mets lose in 11. With the Nationals win, the Mets lead drops to five. 

Again, the Mets get burned by Collins managing. If he can’t handle August and September, why do we think he can handle October? Of all the nonsense today, this was the most aggravating. 

Mets Playing Short in the Infield

There’s a saying in the NFL that if you have two QBs, you really don’t have a QB. The principal us that if you truly have a good QB, there’s no need for a QB competition. As a Giants fan, I remember the Dave Brown/Kent Graham days. People always debated who should start. It turned out everyone was wrong. When Eli Manning came along, there was no debate, and there have been two Super Bowls. 

I was thinking of this as I was contemplating the Mets SS situation. From my estimation, Wilmer Flores plays SS with flyball pitchers like Bartolo Colon and Jacob deGrom. Collins plays Ruben Tejada with groundballs pitchers like Jon Niese. Essentially, Collins is trying to hide Flores’ poor defense with flyball pitchers while hiding Tejada’s poor bat by playing him only with the groundballs pitchers. In essence, the Mets don’t have a good SS option right now, so Collins is forced to mix and match like with Dave Brown and Kent Graham. 

This wouldn’t be an issue if either Flores or Tejada fit the bill. Flores was supposed to be the offensive option. He’s hit .262/.294/.411, and that’s after a terrific last 20 games where he’s hit .324/.360/.521. Note, if he hits like this, you can live with his poor glove at SS. 

Now, Flores may not be the disaster defensively that I thought he might be originally. That’s a testament to his work ethic. Last year, his UZR at SS was 4.0, which is above average. This year, he’s at -2.8, which is below average. Overall, in a limited sample size, the advanced statistics tell us he has decent range. 

Now, this is where the advanced statistics conflict with the eye test. As per my eye test, he has limited range at SS. Furthermore, even though he’s better lately, he’s had trouble turning the double play. Also, why I don’t think errors are necessarily a true measure of defensive ability, it should be noted that Flores has the fifth most errors at SS in the NL despite playing only 85 out of a possible 132 games there. 

With his struggling defense, it seemed Collins was forced to play Tejada at SS. The problem is despite the Mets assumptions, Tejada is not a good defensive SS. The advanced statistics show his UZR is -5.2, which rates to be quite a below average defensive SS. To be fair, a partial season of UZR data is not entirely reliable. Instead, we should look at his career UZR, which is -1.1. Generally, speaking he’s been slightly below average. 

However, when applying the eye test, we see a SS who is much steadier than Flores. For all of Tejada’s faults, he looks to be more comfortable at SS, makes the routine play, and he is much better turning the double play. The problem is that’s all he is – steady. He will never even be thought of in the Gold a Glove competition. Furthermore, with a .253/.334/.338 triple slash line, it’s not like he’s hitting enough to justify his steady glove. 

That puts Collins in a bind. He had to choose between a better hitter who’s a poor fielder and a steady at best fielder who doesn’t hit well. In sum, he doesn’t have a real SS option. I have to admit that despite his recent rough stretch, Collins has handled this situation well.  He’s going to have to continue as the Mets have no other SS on the 40 man roster and cannot trade for one now. Actually they can, but that player won’t be eligible for the playoffs. 

It’s amazing to think the Mets are here with no SS. Hopefully, Tejada or Flores will step up and take control of the situation. If not, I trust Collins can continue juggling the situation for now without dropping a ball. 

Where Does Matz Belong?

The Mets have recently made a few very important announcements regarding Steven Matz:

  1. Matz will spot start in place of Noah Syndergaard on Saturday;
  2. The Mets will shift to a six man rotation; and
  3. Matz will not be a bullpen option

In my opinion, the Mets are trying to accomplish two things: (1) they’re trying to reduce the innings of the stud muffins; and (2) they’re holding open auditions for the postseason rotation. I’m still not sure they’re not tempting fate

Now, let’s start with the presumption that Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey will be in the postseason rotation. This leaves two open slots in the rotation because we know the Mets will not allow anyone to start a game on three days rest. Let’s look at the candidates individually. 

Noah Syndergaard

By any measure, Thor is the Mets third best starter. He is 8-6 with a 3.31 ERA and 1.136 WHIP. He averages just over a strikeout per inning. His 3.38 FIP is the third best on the team, and it profiles him as an above average to great starting pitcher. So what’s the problem?

First, more so than any other pitcher, he has an innings limit problem. Second, he has dramatic home/road splits. He has had 10 home and 10 road starts. Here’s how he’s fared: 

  • Home: 7-1, 2.15 ERA, 0.831 WHIP
  • Road: 1-5, 4.91 ERA, 1.558 WHIP

So, he is really good at home, but he’s bad on the road. One way to cure this is to set up the postseason rotation so he only starts at home. It may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Another thing to look at is how he’s pitched on the road against the Mets possible play-off opponents:

  • 5/12 @ Cubs (first career start): L, 5.1 IP, 3 H, 4 BB, 6 K, 3 ER
  • 7/3 @ Dodgers: ND, 6.0 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 ER
  • 7/17 @ Cardinals: L, 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 6 K, 2 ER

Looking at these stats, I’m comfortable with him starting on the road at these places. He needs to be in the rotation. 

Jon Niese

Well, we saw the return of the bad Jon Niese yesterday. He’s had a rough year to the tune of 8-10 with a 4.17 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP. His FIP is a team worst 4.44 FIP, which profiles him as a bad starting pitcher this year. 

We may have once assumed he was a lock for the postseason rotation after his strong June and July. He had respective ERAs of 3.00 and 2.87. His respective WHIPs were 1.333 and 1.021. Then the wheels came off. In August, he had a 5.17 ERA and a 1.309 WHIP.  He continued the free fall last night. He cannot be an option for the postseason roster. 

Bartolo Colon

Where to begin with Bartolo Colon?  He’s 12-11 with a 4.42 ERA. He has a 3.82 FIP, which profiles as an average starting pitcher, which is more than Niese can say. However, if you excuse the pun, Colon has fattened up on some bad teams.

Against the NL East, Colon has gone 11-1 with a 3.01 ERA.  That means against non-NL East teams, his record is 1-10. Against possible playoff teams (Cardinals, Blue Jays, Cubs, Dodgers, and Pirates), he has gone 0-3 with a 4.85 ERA. These aren’t great stats, and this may open the door for Matz. 

Steven Matz

First off, let’s start with the premise that while his first two starts were fun, we can’t glean anything from them. He’s a top prospect, but he is not better than Harvey or deGrom. You’d be hard pressed to convince me he’s better than Thor. Second, let’s remember he’s still building up arm strength. In his last start, he only threw 77 pitches. Finally, he won’t be pitching against the best teams in baseball. 

If the Mets go with a six man rotation starting on Saturday, Matz will make the following starts:

  1. 9/5 at Marlins
  2. 9/11 at Braves
  3. 9/18 vs. Yankees
  4. 9/24 at Reds
  5. 10/1 at Phillies

As we see with Colon, you can pitch well against bad teams, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to pitch well against the good teams. No one should read anything into starts against four bad teams . . . even if they’re bad starts.  No one should. Unfortunately, if he’s great, someone might. That’s dangerous.

Bullpen Option 

You know what you could determine?  You can determine if Matz can pitch in the bullpen. You can put him in high leverage spots. If you’re truly concerned about his health, you can institute a modified version of the Joba Rules. However, I have a real problem believing the Mets sincerity on the issue when Dan Warthen is playing doctor when Matz had injury complaints. Also, this is a way of limiting his innings and how much he needs to pitch with an abdominal tear. 

The Cardinals are famous for this. Mets fans know with Adam Wainwright how well this works.  We saw the Rays use this effectively in 2008 with David Price when they won the AL Pennant. I think the careers of Wainwright and Price have turned out just fine. 

After Matz has his start on Saturday, the Mets should move him to the bullpen. If you care about his health, you will limit his innings. You don’t use a September stretch run to stretch him out. Players get hurt that way. If you don’t want him to get hurt, put him in the bullpen. Let him pitch multiple innings. Give him a few days off afterwards. See how he responds. 

If he responds well, you have a dangerous weapon in the bullpen come October. If you’re not sold, just remember what happened at the All Star Game. Imagine that in a playoff game . . . .