Jacob deGrom

The Starter I Would Trade

Let me start off by saying, I’m not in favor of trading the Mets starting pitching. They’re still cheap, and they’re the main reason the Mets won the NL East and went to the World Series. 

With that said, everyone wants at least one of the Mets young starters. It at least appears the Mets are shopping Zack Wheeler. There’s a lot of smoke surrounding the Mets moving Matt Harvey. It’s probably due to the double standards applied to him. It’s more likely that it involves him being arbitration eligible with the Mets having limited resources

In any event, the Harvey rumors and trade suggestions are abound. At my cousin’s wedding on Saturday (congratulations Brian and Alison), my brother and I discussed the Mark Simon article regarding the proposed Harvey for Mookie Betts trade. My brother’s main objection to the idea of trading Harvey was his value will only increase next year. If we’ve seen anything with pitcher’s recovering from Tommy John surgery, it’s they are better in Year 2. 

My brother is right in principle. You want to trade players at their peak value. Right now, that pitcher is Jacob deGrom. For much of the season, he was a Cy Young candidate. He was the story at the All Star Game. He had a terrific postseason. He’s not arbitration eligible until 2018, and he can’t be a free agent until 2021. His value may be at its absolute peak. 

He will also be 28 years old next year making him the oldest Mets starting pitcher, at least the oldest amongst those who the Mets have control over past 2016. In some ways, he emerged as the staff ace rendering him untradeable. In other ways, it makes it the right time to trade him. 

You don’t trade someone like Harvey who is still building up his trade value. You trade the player who you believe is at peak value. Again, while I don’t advocate trading a starting pitcher, we should at least identify the one who will bring back the most value and be at the most risk for regression. 

That player is deGrom. 

Who’s the Fourth Member of the Big 4?

When discussing the 2016 Mets, I see many people referring to their Big 4. Now, I knew there was a Big 3, who were referred to as stud muffins by Tom Seaver. My question is who is the fourth member of this proverbial Big 4. 

Let’s start with the obvious. It’s not Jon Niese. He’s the definition of an average pitcher. Also, even if he’s the fourth best pitcher, I’m assuming it’s not Jeurys Familia. I doubt a closer would be thrown in with a Big 4 starting pitching group.

No, the fourth member would be either Steven Matz or Zack Wheeler. I like both Matz and Wheeler, but they haven’t earned this distinction yet. 

In his career, Wheeler is 18-16 with a 3.50 ERA, 1.339 WHIP, and an 8.5 K/9. His ERA+ is 100, which means he’s just an average pitcher. That should be no surprise given his other statistics. While this is nothing to sneeze at, it does not merit putting him in the same conversation as Harvey, Thor, and deGrom. This is before taking his return from Tommy John into account. Wheeler is a tremendous talent, but he’s not a part of a Big 4 yet.

The more obvious choice for the Big 4 is Matz because he was in the postseason rotation. The only thing I can say about Matz right now is we had no idea what he is. He was incredible in his first two starts before being shut down with a lat injury. He was average when he came back only to hurt his back sleeping on the sofa. When he returned he was only good through five innings in the postseason. 

This isn’t a knock on him. He sat for long stretches which would challenge anyone’s effectiveness. The overall point is we don’t know what he is yet. He could very well reach the level of the stud muffins. He could also be nothing more than an average pitcher. 

Long story, short, there’s no Big 4. There could be one. There could be a Big 5. There’s a number of possibilities. However, right now it’s just a Big 3. 

Freaky Idea 

You know who used to be awesome?  Tim Lincecum. In 2008 and 2009, he won back-to-back Cy Young Awards. In 2010, he helped pitch the Giants to their first Workd Series title since they moved to San Francisco. 

After 2010, things have not gone well for Lincecum. His ERAs have been over 4.00, he’s had injuries, and he hasn’t been able to stay in the rotation. He was in the bullpen for the 2012 title run. He had only one relief appearance in the entire 2014 postseason. Last year, his year ended early because he needed hip surgery. He’s now a free agent. 

There’s a number of red flags. I look at that, and I see discount signs. It’s where you need to go if you truly have limited resources to improve in the offseason. You need to take what will hopefully be low cost, high reward signings. Ultimately, what the Mets would be looking for is the 2012 postseason version of Big Time Timmy Jim. 

Somewhat surprisingly, Lincecum was in the bullpen making six appearances (one NLCS start). He had a 2.55 ERA, 0.792 WHIP, and a 10.2 K/9. He showed a glimpse of having the ability to be great in the bullpen. What he hasn’t shown is the ability to be durable or good enough to make 32 starts per year. 

Long lost in baseball is the true long man. The player who could make a few appearances one week and make a start the next week. It’s something the Mets needed last year, and if they’re honest, they will want one next year with Matt HarveyJacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard throwing more innings last year than they’ve thrown before in their careers.

With all the troubles he’s had recently, it might be good to convince Lincecum he needs a new start. Convince him he could use a one year contract to re-establish his value so he may become the next Dennis Eckersley or John Smoltz. With two Cy Youngs and three World Series rings, you’re selling him on his Hall of Fame chances. His best chance would be moving to the bullpen. 

There’s one spot left in the bullpen. Why not offer it to Lincecum?  It may seem Freaky, but it may be equally beneficial to all involved. 

Collins May Be Costing the Mets a World Series

Yes, games are decided by the players on the field. However, the players that are on the field depends on the manager. I’ve already bemoaned Collins Game 1 performance. He’s also damaged the Mets chances of winning the World Series in every game since. 

Game 2 

Going into the fifth inning, the Mets had a 1-0 lead. Jacob deGrom pitched well for the first four innings, but he was losing it fast. To his credit, Terry Collins got Jon Niese up in the bullpen. Niese wouldn’t get in during that inning. The 1-0 lead would become a 4-1 deficit. 

The game would still be in reach, at least on paper. Instead, Collins decided to get Niese back up again after pitching two innings the prior day. He then tried to push Niese go two innings two days in a row. The end result was the Royals putting the game out of reach in a 7-1 loss. 

Game 3

No, Collins didn’t harm the Mets chances to win in a 9-3 win. However, he harmed the Mets chances of winning the World Series here. He used Addison ReedTyler ClippardJeurys Familia to close out a game with a six run lead. There was no reason for it. Worse yet, Collins admitted Familia pitching in Game 3 was a factor in him not using Familia for the four out save. He compromised his Game 4 bullpen for no reason. 

Game 4

I went on at length about this last night. I won’t belabor the points here, but it is important to re-examine his eighth inning:

  1. He immediately starts warming up Familia as the inning starts;
  2. He was waiting to use Familia once the go-ahead run got in base rather than nip a rally in the bud before it started; and
  3. He admitted to wanting to save Familia for Game 5. 

Excuse me?  You’re down 2-1 in the series. You win the game that’s in front of you. You have Matt Harvey tomorrow. He can give you length. Even if you lose Game 5, there is a tomorrow. 

Another thing that drove me nuts was pinch hitting Kelly Johnson for Juan Lagares. Johnson hadn’t hit all postseason in limited action. Lagares has had a terrific postseason with terrific at bats. The move made no sense. Predictably, Johnson didn’t reach base. No rally was started in the eighth. 

I still think the Mets can win the World Series, but if they don’t Terry Collins will be the biggest reason why. That’s something that should never happen. 

Where’s the Pitching?

Before the series, I detailed how the Mets would win this series because they essentially had three Madison Bumgarners. I have to admit after two games, I have to admit my comparison doesn’t look good. I obsess over everything, and I have to know why. Note to my son, good luck dealing with me buddy. 

When I first looked at everything, I saw that Bumgarner established his fastball and then mixed in his breaking pitches. It’s how the Mets three stud muffins pitched all year long. My eyes told me in Game 1 and 2 that Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom abandoned who they were. 

They didn’t establish the fastball. Instead, they started mixing in the offspeed changes immediately. When they needed to get the big outs in the fifth for deGrom and sixth for Harvey, the Royals had seen everything, and they weren’t surprised by anything. However, I’m a fan. I see a lot of things, and usually what I see is pro-Mets. 

Here is deGrom’s breakdown from the regular season:

  • 96.23 MPH fastball 37.89%
  • 96.44 MPH sinker 18.01%
  • 86.54 MPH change 15.84%
  • 90.03 MPH slider 12.01%
  • 81.63 MPH curve 16.15 %

Here’s deGrom last night:

  • 95.48 MPH fastball 28.72%
  • 95.48 MPH sinker 27.66%
  • 86.53 MPH change 10.64%
  • 87.96 MPH slider 13.83%
  • 81.02 MPH curve 19.15 %

Here’s what I see. He had a slight dip in velocity. He was throwing more lower in the zone and not moving the ball horizontally in the zone. He threw more breaking pitches than changing speeds. In more ways than one, he was a different pitcher. 

Harvey was more successful, but he couldn’t hold a lead. I’m curious what, if anything, he did different than deGrom and/or during the regular season. Here’s Harvey’s regular season:

  • 95.86 MPH fastball 59.56%
  • 88.08 MPH change 11.48%
  • 90.29 MPH slider 14.75%
  • 84.01 MPH curve 14.21%

Here’s his Game 1 start:

  • 94.72 MPH fastball 37.50%
  • 87.56 MPH change 25.00%
  • 89.57 MPH slider 21.25%
  • 83.09 MPH curve 16.25%

Like deGrom, he had a slight velocity dip. He was more drastic in how he pitched. Harvey pretty much threw any pitch at anytime. I’m not sure if that indicates he kept the Royals more off balance and that’s why he went deeper in the game giving up more runs. I’m not sure if Harvey’s secondary pitches are just that much better. 

What I do see is that Harvey and deGrom changed how they pitched. Personally, I think it’s from an over reliance on scouting reports. I’m not a dinosaur. I think you have to scout your opponent to find out how to best beat your opponent. 

However, you also have to scout yourself. You need to find out the things you do well. The Mets didn’t do enough of that in Kansas City, and they suffered. It’s a lesson for Noah Syndergaard. You have to be yourself on the mound. Establish the fastball and mix in your secondary pitches. 

It worked against the Royals last year. It’s worked for Thor this year. It’s how the Mets will turn this series around. 

No Need to Panic

Remember when #PanicCity was a thing?  I do too. It was justified then. When Sandy Alderson bestowed the moniker on Mets fans, here was the previous night’s starting lineup:

  1. Curtis Granderson
  2. Ruben Tejada
  3. Lucas Duda
  4. Michael Cuddyer
  5. Wilmer Flores
  6. Darrell Ceciliani
  7. Kevin Plawecki
  8. Jacob deGrom
  9. Dilson Herrera

Look at that lineup. The number two and five hitters rotate in the eighth spot, at least until Tejada went down. The number three hitter bats fifth. The cleanup hitter is on the bench. The seventh hitter is a backup. The sixth and ninth hitters are not on the playoff roster. 

This is a different team than that one. This team was one out away from winning Game One. They had a bad game against an erratic pitcher, who has pitched well against the Mets in the past. Why must it be more than that?  

We just watched our young pitchers now down an incredible Cubs offense. We know good pitching beats good hitting. It’s the reason the Mets are in the World Series. This isn’t the same old Mets offense. They can actually hit now. 

The Mets are getting a needed day off to collect themselves. They’re going to set things straight. They’re going out tomorrow, and they’re going to play their best game of the year. Then they’ll go out in Game 4 and do the same thing, and so on and so on. 

Ya Gotta Believe!

Cueto Completed Dominant Royals Effort

Honestly, I thought the one run was going to hold up. Lucas Duda had an RBI single in the fourth. Johnny Cueto was starting to get wild. Jacob deGrom was dealing. Then the fifth inning happened. 

When the game started, I lived deGrom’s approach. He established the fastball and used his breaking pitches well. The Royals were making contact, but it wasn’t solid contact. I’m not sure what happened next, but there are some theories:

Whatever it was, it was a slow death for deGrom. The Royals batted around. They had four runs on one leadoff walk and five hits. To put it in perspective, deGrom let up five hits in Game 1 of the NLDS, six hits in Game 5 of the NLDS, and four hits in Game 3 of the NLCS. He practically let up as many hits in that inning as any game this postseason. It certainly leads credence to Adam Rubin’s information when you consider:

Regardless, deGrom didn’t have it in the fifth. Maybe it was Game 5 of the NLDS. Maybe Collins just wanted to outdo yesterday’s ineptitude. In any event, he let the game slip away with Jon Niese ready I the pen. 

Don’t worry, Niese warmed up again after an effective Hansel Robles appearance in the sixth. Collins would go an inning too long with Niese because why not?  The game was within reach at 4-1 going into the bottom of the eighth. It would be out of reach at 7-1 after that. On top of that the Mets probably lost Niese for at least Game 3. I really don’t know what Collins was thinking. 

To make matters worse, the Royals outpitched the Mets in this game. deGrom went five. Cueto pitched a two hit complete game. 

Tonight, the only good news was Duda. He was 2-3 with an RBI. He got the only two hits on the night. I guess the other good news is that the Mets are getting out of town. 

The Shin Guard Needs to be Addressed

Pursuant to Rule 3.01, no player may put any substance on the ball. That includes pine tar. That includes catchers. 

Was it pine tar on Salvador Perez‘s shinguard?  With it being a wet night with the rain, it probably was. It wouldn’t surprise me. Elston Howard used to cut the balls off his shin guard for Whitey Ford. It’s what catchers do for their pitchers. I’m sure he was using it not only to help his pitchers, but also to help his throwing against would be base stealers. 

It is widely assumed that it’s something everyone does. However, as we saw last year with Michael Pineda, you can’t make it obvious. While it wasn’t a giant glob on the neck, it was on the outside of Perez’s equipment. Now that the cameras caught it, it’s obvious. I can understand Terry Collins saying it’s no big deal, but it is. We should also note, it is a big deal. The common denominator here is the pitching coach Dave Eiland. It seems his players have a history of this now. 

The reason is because it’s an opportunity. Perez is important to the Royals. If he’s caught, at a minimum, he had to change his gear. Without the pine tar, the Royals pitching from the starters to the bullpen suffers. More likely, he’s ejected and could face a possible suspension. 

The goal here is to win the World Series. As long as things are on the up and up with Jacob deGrom and/or Travis d’Arnaud, you have to try. The only reason not to try is because you’re doing the same thing. If you don’t try, it’s not doing everything to win. I saw enough of that. 

It’s time to do everything you can do to win. 

Big Game Pitcher

Those 90’s Braves teams were built on pitching. By any measure, the third best pitcher was John Smoltz. However, he was the best postseason pitcher. It’s a big reason why he’s in the Hall of Fame. 

Curt Schilling was on the same staff as Randy Johnson with the 2001 Diamondbacks. He was on the same staff as Pedro Martinez in 2004. Again, Schilling was not as good as those legends. However, when the postseason came the manager have Schilling the ball because he was the better postseason pitcher. 
Tonight, this is what is on the line for Jacob deGrom. He’s been terrific this postseason. He’s 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, and a 12.2 K/9. He’s won a deciding Game 5 on the road with nothing. Now, he’s on the verge of making major league history:

You can argue if Matt Harvey or Noah Syndergaard are better. I have. Right now, this isn’t about who’s the better pitcher. It’s about who is the clutch pitcher. Who’s the great postseason pitcher. deGrom is on well on his way to showing he belongs in the class of Smoltz and Schilling. He can cement that status tonight. 

He’s the reason Mets fans should be optimistic. He may be the reason why the Mets may win the World Series. It’s time for him to firmly establish his newly earned status as a Big Game Pitcher. 

Reasons for Optimism

Last night was a tough loss. It was bad from the beginning. Yoenis Cespedes turns a flyball into an inside the park homerun. The Mets blew a two run lead. Yet, the Mets were in position to win Game 1. Unfortunately, Jeurys Familia blew the save with one bad pitch. 

I’ll tell you what. If the Mets are in the same position again tonight, I like the Mets chances. Familia rarely blows a save. After his last blown save, he had 16 saves with a 1.30 ERA and a 1.048 WHIP. Before last night, he was 5/5 in save attempts with a 0.00 ERA and a 0.207 WHIP. He’s not blowing another save. 

Also, keep in mind almost everything had to break right for the Royals to win. They had a routine flyball turn into an inside the park homerun. Matt Harvey had to blow a 3-1 lead. He doesn’t blow leads like that. Twice the Mets picked themselves off the mat and twice got the lead. As much as the Royals fought back, the Mets did as well. 

Another important development was Wilmer Flores was terrific at SS last night. He made all the plays. At one point, he ranged into the hole, made a nice backhand pickup, and made a strong throw to first getting a speedy Alcides Escobar. He’s played this well since Ruben Tejada went down

We also know Michael Cuddyer is not getting three at bats in another World Series game. In fact, it’s possible he won’t get three more at bats in total during the rest of the series. He killed two rallies. He shouldn’t be in a position to kill another rally. 

Also, for all the talk of the Royals bullpen, the Mets bullpen was good. Addison Reed was terrific. Tyler Clippard needed some help from Familia, but the Mets did not allow a leadoff double to lead to a run. Jon Niese was terrific. It looks like the Mets bullpen can hold up in this series. 

Speaking of bullpens, the Royals used Game 4 starter, Chris Young, for three innings. The Mets were over anxious in extra innings against him. However, it can’t hurt to have seen him once. Also, he threw 53 pitches, and he will have to come back on three days rest for Game 4. 

With Johnny Cueto always being a risk for a meltdown, the Royals may need to go to the bullpen early. They will need to do it again in Game 4. The Royals terrific bullpen could quickly become taxed. Their greatest strength can quickly become a liability. 

Finally, as we all know momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher. That starting pitcher is Jacob deGrom. He’s been the Mets ace. In the postseason, he is 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, and a 12.2 K/9. The Mets still have the starting pitching edge. The Mets have seen the Royals up close and can adjust their pitching accordingly

All the Mets needed in Kansas City was a split. That’s still on the table. There’s still reason for optimism. They can still win tonight. 

Lets Go Mets!