Jacob deGrom

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 . . . . 

Harvey or deGrom?

Whenever Matt Harvey starts a home game, the Mets advertise it as “Happy Harvey Day.”  Jacob deGrom doesn’t receive the same type of advertising. I wonder why. I also wonder who Mets fans prefer. 

I thought the best way to look at it was by attendance figures. My experience as a fan is more people come to the ballpark when the ace is on the mound. Luckily, the Mets have two. I used the attendance figures from MLB.com. 

Harvey has had 13 total home starts. In these home starts, the Mets average attendance is 33,109. He has had eight weekend starts (Friday – Sunday). In this eight games, the Mets have averaged 36,627. In his five weekend starts, the Mets average 27,485. 

deGrom has had 12 total home starts. In these home starts, the Mets average attendance is 32,867. He has had only five weekend starts, and in those starts the average attendance is 37,775. In the seven weekday starts, the average attendance is 26,344. 

Honestly, these numbers don’t tell us anything. More fans come out for deGrom on the weekend, but Harvey does better on the weekdays. While Harvey gets the help from “Happy Harvey Day”, deGrom does get some help with things like his own t-shirt

Overall, Mets fans love them fairly equally. I know I do. I love being able to root for them with my son as the Mets are on the upswing, and hopefully, on their way towards the World Series. 

Colon Comes Up Big

The Mets bullpen was left in shambles by a combination of Sandy AldersonJacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard. With the injured wrist, we weren’t sure what Bartolo Colon could provide.

Well, it wasn’t always pretty, but he responded with seven innings of shutout ball. He was in trouble in the first. He was aided by a double play in the first inning, but he gets credit for inducing the ground ball. There was trouble again in the fourth, but he fought through that as well. After that, it was fairly smooth sailing. Maybe he was inspired by the pregame Backstreet Boys concert?  Whatever it was, the Mets desperately needed it. 

Unlike Thor yesterday, he was able to hold onto his three run lead. It started in the first inning with a misplayed ball off the bat of Curtis Granderson. The Mets cashed in with a Daniel Murphy RBI ground after Granderson moved to third on Yoenis Cespedes‘ infield single. Cespedes would score on Michael Cuddyer‘s RBI double. The first inning scoring would end with a Michael Conforto RBI single. 

These early runs would prove important as young Phillies starter, Jerad Eickhoff, would settle down after that. The Mets would not score another run off of him. However, as he surpassed 40 pitches in the first, he was only able to go six innings. 

The Mets were able to add three more runs off of a putrid Phillies bullpen. In the sixth, Juan Uribe singled home Conforto. In the eighth, Cuddyer hit a two run homerun making the score 8-0. It should be noted again that Cuddyer is healthy and contributing. 

Then in the eighth, the Mets sowed off their own putrid bullpen options. I don’t care if it’s a 20 run lead, you don’t let  Eric O’Flaherty pitch to righties. He did. He couldn’t get them or the lefties out. He left with two down, runners on first and second and one already across home plate. Carlos Torres came in and promptly allowed a two run double. 

Here’s where I think Terry Collins is starting to get better. He said enough of this nonsense and brought in Tyler Clippard. Clippard allowed an RBI single to Frenchy, but he then struck out Darnell Sweeney to put an end to the nonsense leaving the score at 6-4. 

In the ninth, the Mets then did something good teams do. They tacked on a run by taking advantage of a mistake. When Juan Lagares reached on an E-6, Granderson moved him to third with a hustle double. When the sweep tag was applied, the ball dislodged from the second baseman’s mitt. An alert Lagares scored easily from third. 
Cespedes then knocked in Granderson with an RBI triple. Cespedes then scored on a Murphy sac fly. Just like that the score was 9-4 removing the save situation permitting Collins to save Jeurys Familia. In place of Familia would be Clippard, who got to bat in the ninth, to permit him to record the four out save. 

It should’ve been a surprise to no one that David Wright didn’t play. He’s not quite ready to play everyday, so I have no problem easing him back (pun intended). I’m shocked Logan Verrett did not pitch. There were multiple spots to use him in the eighth. He could’ve been used in the ninth to give Clippard a blow. Him not being used tonight makes me nervousVery nervous

What I’m getting less and less nervous about is the division. With the Nationals loss, the Mets are now up 6.5 games with six head-to-head match ups remaining. The Nationals no longer have their own fate in their hands. 

This Feels Wright

In my family, there are a number of huge Mets fans. One of them is my Uncle Pat. The two things I always remembered him saying about the Mets were:

  1. How beautiful the Tom Seaver Number Retirement Ceremony was; and
  2. How classy it was that the Mets brought back Lee Mazzilli in 1986. 

I’m too young to remember the Lee Mazzilli heyday. However, I’m not too young that I don’t remember Ron Darling‘s playing days. The reason why I bring this up is because Mazzilli was traded to obtain Darling, who was a key part of the 1986 Mets. 

From what I hear, fans took trading Mazzilli hard. Not only was he a homegrown Met, but he was also a local kid. It’s part of the reason Mets fans have extra love for players like Ed Kranepool. It’s why we were even more excited when Steven Matz got called-up. 

Now, David Wright isn’t a local kid, but he did grow up a Mets fan. He is a homegrown Met. At times, he’s played like a superstar. In 2006. 2007, and 2008, we all thought he would bring us a World Series. It didn’t happen. The Mets then didn’t resign Jose Reyes and stopped spending money. Then the lean years came. 

This year was the first year in a while there was legitimate hope. The Mets had a healthy Matt HarveyJacob deGrom was coming off of a Rookie of the Year season. Offensively, as usual, it all seemed to hinge on Wright and his return from a shoulder injury. It lasted all of eight games before he went down. By necessity, Wright went into the rear view mirror. 

The Mets made their trades and the team took off. Wright wasn’t a part of the Mets Renaissance. We began to hear some nonsense about how Wright might upset the team chemistry. On Monday, Wright showed that notion was just noise. He’s still the leader. He’s still their best player. He’s still the fan favorite. 

That’s the thing. For a whole generation of Mets fans, he’s their Tom Seaver. He’s the guy with the Hall of Fame talent you hope can lead you to the World Series. He’s also their Lee Mazzilli. He’s the lifetime Mets fan who was the best player on a bad team. It wasn’t until he was gone that the team became a contender. 

However, unlike Mazzilli, Wright is back with something in the tank. Wright may not be able to play everyday right now, but he’s still their best option at 3B. I really hope the Mets make a long October run, and I hope Wright gets to be a large part of that like he was on Monday night. 

As we know when David was gone, it was fun because the team was winning, but it didn’t feel 100% “Wright” because he wasn’t there. He’s back, and it feels “Wright” again. Lets Go Mets!

The Wright Stuff

It’s easy to get wrapped up in all of the story lines from this game, and there were many. However, win, lose, or draw, this game was always going to be about David Wright‘s return. He started his return with a bang . . . or should I say a blast:

What a way to start!  He would finish the game going 2-5 with that homerun, a walk, three runs, and an RBI. He also made two errors in the field. Hey, he isn’t perfect. I’m willing to let him get up to game speed. We all know he’s going to work to get better and be better. Surrounding Wright’s return was quite an interesting game. 

While Wright was rising to the occasion, Jacob deGrom wasn’t ready for today. He had his worst outing in terms of innings pitched and runs allowed. His ugly line was 2.2 innings, 8 hits, 3 walks, and 7 runs (6 earned). He left the game down 7-2. Sean Gilmartin would come in and save not only deGrom, but also a depleted bullpen. He would go 3.1 innings striking out four and holding the Phillies to seven runs. That was important because the Mets offense was about to go off again in a bandbox. 

The team tied team records with eight homeruns and 15 extra base hits. Here’s the collection of homeruns:

  1. David Wright (solo, 2nd inning)
  2. Juan Lagares (solo, 3rd inning)
  3. Wilmer Flores [standing ovation] (2 run, 4th inning)
  4. Travis d’Arnaud (464′, solo, 4th inning)
  5. Wilmer Flores (3 run, 5th inning)
  6. Michael Cuddyer (solo, 5th inning)
  7. Daniel Murphy (2 run, 6th inning)
  8. Yoenis Cespedes (2 run, 9th inning)

It wasn’t until d’Arnaud’s two run double in the sixth that the Mets scored a run without hitting a homerun. It was the Murphy 9th inning double that broke the record, but it was the Cespedes’ “Feats of Strength” that put the cap on the evening. Overall, the Mets treated Citizens Bank Park so much like Coors Field that they scored 14+ runs for the third time in four games. They would win 16-7. 

In fact, things went so well from the Mets from the fourth inning on that Hansel Robles pitched a 1-2-3 seventh. Even Eric O’Flaherty had a 1-2-3 inning getting one righty and two lefties out. Carlos Torres‘ ninth inning was even fairly uneventful. 

Also, even with the questionable lineup, Terry Collins had a good game. He got deGrom out in time. He rode Gilmartin as long as he could, especially with the short bullpen. I’m not going to disagree with him leaving Wright in fir the full game. You could make a reasonable argument to pull him in a laugher. I liked keeping him in there for a full game. It’s his first major league game since April. Let him get fully up to game speed. Although with the Mets not having two relievers who can give multiple innings, I do question using Torres in the ninth. 

One another note, as I said before, these bandboxes produce some ugly and weird baseball. In the bottom of the eighth, Ryan Howard hit a hard line drive into the shift. Flores made a diving stop, but he couldn’t hold onto the line drive. As Howard was walking off the field, Flores got to a knee and threw it to first base. Howard then ran back to first, and because of the off the odd angle, he was heading towards second base when he ran through the bag. As Gary and Ron mused, it would’ve been interesting to see what happened if the throw didn’t beat Howard. 

Overall, it’s tough to figure out if Gilmartin or Flores gets the game ball. We do know the Mets expanded their lead to a season high 5.5 games. I’m going to celebrate with a cookie

Noah Nonsense is Flooding In

We all know the Mets are in bullpen trouble and they’re mismanaging the situation. You know the only way it could be worse?  Putting Noah Syndergaard in the bullpen.  

In 18 starts, he’s 7-6 with a 3.17 ERA. He’s got an ERA+ of 119, which loosely translated makes him 19% better than the league. He has a 9.5 K/9, which is better than Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom. His FIP is 3.16, which equates to him being a great starting pitcher. On a team with a weak bullpen, he averages 6.1 innings per start. On top of all of this, he’s going to finish within his innings limits

Now, please tell me why we should pull him from the rotation?  Is it because we don’t want to be successful?  Is it because we think Steven Matz MIGHT be better?  Is it because we’d rather him make a few appearances pitching one inning a piece over six starts at six plus innings a piece?  Fact is, there is no good reason. 

We know the Mets have a weak bullpen. One way to mitigate that is to keep the weak arms in the bullpen. You do that with pitchers, like Syndergaard, who go deep into games. I like out-of-the-box thinking, but I also like ideas that make sense. 

Syndergaard belongs in the starting rotation. 

cyGrom?

According to Carlos Gonzalez, Jacob deGrom is the best pitcher in baseball. This is notable because he shares a division with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Madison Bumgarner. With that said, I wanted to take a way too early look at deGrom’s chances of winning the Cy Young Award. 

In doing this analysis. I wanted to take a look at different stats and predictors. I wanted to do this because I don’t think anyone one factor or stat should ever held to be dispositive. I went with the factors I fr most comfortable discussing. For each, I will only list the top five as that how many pitchers may be listed on a ballot. 

ESPN Cy Young Predictor

The ESPN Cy Young Predictor focuses more on traditional stats like wins, losses, and ERA. As of right now, here are the rankings:

  1. Zack Greinke
  2. Trevor Rosenthal
  3. Michael Wacha
  4. Jacob deGrom 
  5. Clayton Kershaw

WAR

WAR seeks to adjust the runs a pitcher allows in a season (I’m way oversimplifying, but fully explaining this is a post or 10 in and of itself). Here are the league leaders:

  1. Zack Greinke
  2. Max Scherzer
  3. Jacob deGrom
  4. Clayton Kershaw
  5. Jake Arrieta

FIP

Fielding Independent Pitching, or FIP, measures a pitcher’s effectiveness in preventing HR, BB, and HBP while causing strikeouts. Really, this measures the “Three True Outcomes.”  Here are the league leaders:

  1. Clayton Kershaw
  2. Max Scherzer
  3. Zack Greinke
  4. Jacob deGrom
  5. Jake Arrieta

ERA+

ERA+ adjusts a pitcher’s ERA for various factors like ballpark and defense. Here are the league leaders:

  1. Zack Greinke
  2. Jacob deGrom
  3. Jake Arrieta
  4. Max Scherzer
  5. Clayton Kershaw

Winner

To calculate the winner, I’m using the BBWAA 7-4-3-2-1 formula to select the winner, i.e. first place gets seven points and fifth gets one. 

  1. Zack Greinke (24 points)
  2. Jacob deGrom (13 points)
  3. Clayton Kershaw (11 points)
  4. Max Scherzer (10 points)
  5. Jake Arrieta (5 points)
  6. Trevor Rosenthal (4 points)
  7. Michael Wacha (3 points)

Analysis

Much of this seems to suggest what we already assume we know: Zack Greinke is going to win the Cy Young. It’s always great when the stats are in agreement. 

I think it also shows we are right in assuming the top pitchers also include Jacob deGrom, Clayton Kershaw, and Max Scherzer. However, it was enlightening to see Jake Arrieta is having a tremendous year, and yet, he wasn’t an All Star. 

Overall, deGrom is a strong second, but still second in projected voting. There is still a lot of season left, so there still might be a chance. Even if he doesn’t win, he’s still had a great year. 

Arm Wrestling

About three weeks ago, I addressed the Mets innings limitations problem. Without completely regurgitating everything here, my conclusion was that without a spot starter, Jacob deGrom would be the only stud muffin able to make a postseason start. Even at that, he would only be available for one game. 

I thought with the latest go-round of stud muffin starts, it would be helpful to re-visit where we are on the innings limits:

Matt Harvey: I’ve noted his innings limits are between 180 – 190 innings. Right now, he’s at 148.0, or 42.0 innings before a hypothetical shutdown (don’t worry Collins said there’s no shutdown). By my rudimentary calculation, Harvey has nine starts left, at most. He’s averaging 6.2 innings per start meaning he will go over his limit by 18 innings (about three starts), not including the postseason. 
Jacob deGrom: I’ve noted his innings limits are between 208 – 214 innings. Right now, he’s at 146.2, or 71.1 innings before needing to be shutdown. With approximately nine starts left and his averaging 6.2 innings per start, he looks to finish the year with 206.2 innings. It looks like he will be below his limits, postseason aside. 

Noah Syndergaard: I’ve noted his innings limits are between 159.0 – 163.0 innings. Right now, he’s at 105.2, or 57.1 innings before needing to be shut down. With nine starts remaining and his averaging 6.2 innings per start, he looks to finish the year with 165.2 innings. He will be slightly above his innings limits right before the postseason.

So interestingly enough, if you’re only looking at the regular season, there isn’t an innings limitation problem with anyone but Harvey.  This is yet again a sign the Mets shouldn’t “Matz” with the rotation right now. 
While not addressing the pitching, Sandy Alderson did say, “[i]t’s about this year. Not next year.”  I hope he keeps this in mind and puts Steven Matz in the bullpen. Remember it’s all about this year. 

Thor LEFT Out There

Way back when the Mets used to be good, an old friend and I would always lament these days games. It wasn’t just because we had to intermittently listen to the game on the radio, but it was also because odd things tend to happen to the Mets in weekday day games. 

I was reminded of that a few weeks ago with that bizarre game against the Padres. With the way Noah Syndergaard started the game, I was afraid of another one of those games. In the first he let up two solo homeruns. The Mets got him the lead in the bottom of the first, and he gave it away in the third. 

It looked like this was going to be a high scoring game, and Thor would be lucky to get through five. The Mets upheld their end of the bargain by scoring 12 runs. The Rockies wouldn’t score past the third for a 12-3 final. Amazingly, Thir finished with five strikeouts, 2 walks, four hits, and three earned runs in seven innings. Good for Terry Collins for sticking with him. 

This may not have been the game in which he had his most impressive stuff or control, but it might’ve been his most impressive game to date. It’s one thing to win when it’s all working. It’s another to have a rough start with less than your best stuff and still find a way. This is the type of game where you say he could join Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey in being considered an ace. 

Offensively, the lefties were hitting on National Lefthanders’ DayCurtis Granderson went 1-3 with a walk, two runs scored, and a three run homer. Daniel Murphy went 1-5 with a run scored and an RBI double. Kelly Johnson went 3-4 with a double, a home run, a run scored, and three RBIs. Michael Conforto went 2-3 with a walk and three runs scored. The only left not in on the action?  Lucas Duda, who missed his third straight game with his back injury

It was also great to see Juan Lagares hit a pinch hit three run homer. He’s been going well pretty lately. It’ll be great to see him continue because the Mets could use his glove in the field everyday. 

On another note, you have to admit you feel great about this team right now. I’m sure there are fans still scared from 2007 and 2008, but this team isn’t that team. Plus, the Nationals aren’t the Phillies. The Mets swept the Rockies and made them look like a last place team. The Rockies beat the Nationals two out of three. 

I’m not guarantee in a division title, but I think it’s fine to feel confident and enjoy these games. Don’t let bad memories stop you from enjoying these new ones. 

Who’s in First?

Good morning Mets fans. For some reason, food tastes better this morning. The air smells a little sweater. Overall, everything seems just a little bit better.  Why?  Here’s why:

AL East

Team         W    L     GB

Blue Jays   63    52     –

Yankees    61    51   0.5

NL East

Team        W      L    GB

Mets         62     52     –

Nationals 58     55    3.5

That’s right. The Mets are in first, and the Yankees aren’t. It seems like an Abbott and Costello routine. Not even ol’ Sebastian Dimwitty could figure this one out. Do you know the last time the Mets were in first place and the Yankees weren’t this late in the season?  1990!

Here’s a snapshot of what things were like in 1990:

We know now that 1990 was the last hurrah for those 1980’s Mets teams. Now, it just seems like the beginning. Like I’ve said before, it’s a lot easier to raise a Mets fan when the Mets are good. It’s also easier when they’re better than the Yankees. 

I know this may only last a day, but let’s enjoy it while it lasts. I get a feeling the Mets are in first to stay. Let’s Go Mets!