Jacob Rhame

Rob Manfred Capitalizing On Global Pandemic To Kill Minor League Baseball

Let’s call it what it is. Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball sought to kill the Major League draft not because of the COVID19 pandemic. No, he used it as a ruse to facilitate his plan to contract minor league baseball.

Remember, Baseball America first reported Manfred’s plans to contract 42 minor league teams in November. That plan included reducing the draft to 20 rounds, and it was going to be pushed back from June to August. There was also going to be a limit of 150-200 minor leaguers for each organization. Currently, there is no limit.

By and through these plans, short season ball is going to be effectively eliminated. In terms of the Mets, that means no more Kingsport Mets, and it means the Brooklyn Cyclones will have to pay a fee in the ballpark from $8 – $12 million dollars to move from the New York-Penn League to Double-A.

That also effectively puts the Binghamton Rumble Ponies in limbo. Actually, that’s not entirely true. The Rumble Ponies have already been pegged as one of the 42 teams subject to contraction. It is something they are fighting fiercely.

One of the key elements to having no short-season ball is to not accumulate a larger number of minor league players. With fewer minor leaguers, you do not have enough players for leagues like the Appalachian, Gulf Coast, New York-Penn, and other leagues. By moving the draft back to August, you no longer have the need to have a league for college and high school players to get some playing time in before the end of the year.

This is exactly what Major League Baseball is doing a year earlier, and they are using the COVID19 pandemic as an excuse. They’ll say they didn’t have an opportunity to scout players who are entering this year’s draft due to high school and collegiate years being shut down, but that’s a lie. Major League Baseball has been well aware of those players they were going to draft, and they have been scouting them for years.

What they missed is the opportunity to see them grow or regress. Keep in mind, they have no issue using their big money on those draft picks as the first five picks receive the largest bonuses. This was more about cost control by prorating bonuses paid to minor leaguers over a few years, by capping the bonuses given to now undrafted players, and by taking a step forward in eliminating a significant portion of the minor leagues.

To show you how short-sighted this plan is look at the New York Mets roster by where they were drafted:

Think about that for a second. Under this plan, the reigning two-time Cy Young award winner who has established himself as the best pitcher in baseball would not get drafted in 2020. Looking further, under Manfred’s master plan, Mike Piazza, one of two Mets in the Hall of Fame, would never have been drafted, and it is questionable if he ever would have received an opportunity due to the cap on minor league players.

Looking at this plan and agreement, there is one glaring omission. In addition to deferring payments to 2020 draftees, there was no provision in this agreement to pay minor league players their 2020 salary. On that note, both Rob Manfred and Tony Clark should be ashamed of themselves.

Really, this entire agreement is an embarassment for baseball. The sport needed better leadership than what they are providing, and worse yet, the commissioner is taking advantage of global pandemic to take away money and jobs from players and minor league employees.

Mets Can Be Patient With Dellin Betances

The New York Mets signed Dellin Betances to be a big piece of their bullpen. The question for Betances and the Mets is when exactly that is going to happen.

Betances dealt with shoulder issues entering the 2019 season, and he would never quite regain his full velocity. When he was able to finally pitch he would partially tear his achilles. That set forth a trip into free agency with a number of questions marks and suppressed value on the market.

With there being just weeks before Opening Day, Betances has yet to play in a Spring Training game. Moreover, Betances’ velocity is still down, which isn’t all that unusual for him at this point in the year.

With the velocity down and Betances not appearing in a Spring Training game, the conversation about his availability for Opening Day needs to begin. While he COULD theoretically be ready, the Mets need to discuss whether he SHOULD be there.

No matter what the decision, one thing should be clear – the Mets don’t need to push Betances because the Mets have viable short-term alternatives at their disposal.

At the outset, it should be noted the Mets do have a bit of a Spring Training battle for the last spot in the bullpen. With Brad Brach, Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Seth Lugo, and Justin Wilson guaranteed spots, there are three bullpen spots up for grabs. One of those is likely going to Michael Wacha, and when he is healthy, Betances takes the other leaving one.

It’s very likely that last spot goes to Robert Gsellman, but the Mets do have him spend the offseason preparing to be a starter. In the potential absence of Betances, he should be all but guaranteed a bullpen spot. That leaves some interesting options behind him.

Jacob Rhame is out of options, and as noted, he may be a sneaky candidate to make the Opening Day roster. Walker Lockett is in the same position as Rhame, but he does not have the same spin rates or velocity as Rhame, and he has also been more of a starter in his career.

Paul Sewald is continuously overlooked, but when he gets his chance, he does pitch well in spurts. He has shown versatility as a one inning reliever and as a late inning reliever. With the exception of one poor outing, he allowed one earned or less in 16 of his 17 relief appearances. His penultimate one last year yielded his first Major League win.

As enticing as Sewald may be, Daniel Zamora may be more so. With the new three batter minimum rule, left-handed relievers who can get right-handed batters out become all the more valuable. In his professional career, Zamora has reverse splits, and he has pitched well against them during Spring Training.

In terms of Zamora, with the three batter rule, you could argue he should be a leading candidate for the Opening Day bullpen even if Betances was ready.

Of course, Betances could be ready for Opening Day making this all academic. Still, the Mets need to prepare for that eventuality, and perhaps even if Betances might be ready, they could opt to give him some additional time. After all, Betances has thrown all of 0.2 innings over the past year.

If nothing else, you wonder how deep into the season he can go after not throwing many innings at all last year. No matter what the Mets do, they need to remember it is not about Opening Day. It is about October – how to get there and how to win when they get there. Fortunately, they have the depth options to get Betances there.

Jacob Rhame May Be Part Of Opening Day Roster

With Major League Baseball’s new rules, teams can only carry 13 pitchers, and seeing how the Mets have operated the past few seasons, the Mets will very likely carry 13 pitchers in 2020. With the five man rotation, this means the Mets will have an eight man bullpen.

Right now, barring injury, the Mets have Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Dellin Betances, Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson, and Brad Brach as absolute locks for the Opening Day bullpen. That is going to leave two bullpen spots open with one of them going to the pitcher who loses the bullpen battle. That pitcher is most likely going to be Michael Wacha.

That is where things begin to get a bit interesting.

On the surface, it would seem Robert Gsellman has an inside track for the last bullpen job. After all, he has been a reliever for each of the past two seasons. However, he has not performed well out of the bullpen with an 87 ERA+ and 4.03 FIP over that stretch. When you combine the Mets wanting him to spend the offseason working as a starter, you wonder if a pitcher who still has options remaining will begin the year in Triple-A as a starter.

On the topic of options, Jacob Rhame is out of options, and the Mets will have to expose him to waivers if they are going to keep him in the organization.

Rhame is coming off a season where he had ulnar transposition surgery. That is the same surgery Jacob deGrom underwent in 2016. In his first year after the surgery, deGrom was a good starting pitcher, and in the ensuing two years he emerged as the best pitcher in baseball.

Now, that is obviously not Rhame’s ceiling. However, we do see after undergoing that surgery a pitcher can reach their full potential. While many may debate what exactly that is for Rhame, the Mets clearly have some interest in finding out as they have kept him throughout this offseason despite fully knowing he is out of options.

With Rhame having a career 6.23 MLB ERA and a Triple-A 4.05 ERA, you have to wonder what exactly the Mets are seeing in him.

Looking at Baseball Savant, Rhame throws in the mid-90s, and back in 2018, before he needed the transposition surgery, he had above average movement on that fastball. While he did not get much vertical movement on his splitter, it had very good horizontal movement, which is part of the reason why it was a swing-and-miss pitch for him.

Ultimately, that is what the Mets see in Rhame – his potential. Since the day they obtained him from Curtis Granderson, they knew they were getting a big arm with relatively untapped potential. He still has the ability to generate strikeouts, and as we saw with Rhys Hoskins, he has a bit of a nasty streak where he won’t back down or take anything from the opponent.

Based on what we have seen this offseason, the Mets are going to allow Rhame to work with new pitching coach Jeremy Hefner to show his potential can yield results. Presumably, he is going to get an opportunity to show the Mets he is a better option in the bullpen than Gsellman, who may belong in the rotation, or Walker Lockett, who is also out of options.

In the end, the Mets have kept Rhame around for a reason. Perhaps, that reason is to have him be a part of the 2020 Opening Day roster. With pitchers and catchers reporting soon, he is going to get the opportunity to prove he belongs.

 

Five Second Half Games Which Helped Cost The Mets The Wild Card

Michael Conforto would put it off for a day, but now, the Mets are officially eliminated from postseason contention. With the Mets falling short in the fashion they have, there are a number of what ifs which occurred during the course of the season.

One of those what ifs is what if the Mets didn’t blow this game or lose that game. While there were several of those games in the first half, that was all the more the case in the second half when the team was playing well and making a charge. With the Mets being five games out, here are five games in the second half which the Mets certainly wish they had back:

Reds 3 – Mets 2
Saturday, September 21

The Mets absolutely had to have this game. For the Mets to actually grab a Wild Card spot, they were going to have to win out or come very close to it. With a big pitching mismatch between Zack Wheeler and Anthony DeSclafani, this seemed like a game the Mets should win easily.

The Reds would score two first inning runs due to a Todd Frazier error and misplay. It would be hard to put this loss on Frazier as he would collect two of the Mets three hits on the day, and he would score one of their only two runs scored.

Ultimately, the team squandered two huge opportunities. They only scored one run after having runners at second and third with no outs in the third. They’d only score one run with the bases loaded and one out with the top of the lineup coming up in the top of the fifth.

The loss was made all the worse with Justin Wilson getting into trouble, and Seth Lugo allowing one of his inherited runners to score. As bad as that was, it would be Christian Colon who delivered the RBI single, off a Lugo curveball to boot, to put an effective end to the Mets season.

Marlins 8 – Mets 4
Friday, July 12

The Mets were 10 games under .500 heading into the All Star Break. Despite the team being that many games under .500, they had a favorable schedule in the second half, and with their being only seven games back of the second Wild Card, they did have an opportunity. The key for them was getting off to a fast start out of the break.

Instead of putting their best foot forward, they started Jason Vargas. Vargas would blow a third inning 2-0 lead allowing homers to Curtis Granderson and Garrett Cooper in the third. Vargas would last into the sixth where he would implode again. Overall, he’d allow six earned over his five plus innings.

After the bullpen couldn’t keep it closer, the Mets ninth inning rally would fall short in an 8-4 loss. Sadly, this would not be the only time the Mets were beaten by Caleb Smith and the Marlins in the second half.

Giants 3 – Mets 2 (16)
Thursday, July 18

Back when the Mets were pairing Noah Syndergaard with Tomas Nido to get the best out of Syndergaard, they’d get a great performance from Syndergaard with him allowing just one earned over seven innings. Much like the 2016 Wild Card Game, the Giants had Madison Bumgarner match him pitch for pitch, and we’d see Bumgarner last nine innings.

After nine, it was tied at 1-1, and the Mets would get an opportunity they didn’t have in that Wild Card Game. They’d get to face the Giants bullpen.

In the 10th, that appeared serendipitous as they loaded the bases with just one out against Will Smith only to see Conforto and Jeff McNeil strike out. The Mets would also squander opportunities in the 13th and 15th as their bullpen put forth their best effort of the season.

Then finally, the Mets broke through as Pete Alonso would break out of his slump hitting a huge go-ahead homer in the 16h inning giving the Mets a 2-1 lead. That’s when seemingly innocuous decisions made previously would present their ramifications.

In Minnesota, the Mets had used Chris Mazza to pitch the final two innings of a blowout 14-4 victory over the Twins. What was curious about that decision was the Mets had Jacob Rhame available for that game, and they knew he had a suspension looming from an April incident. Before the game against the Giants, Rhame agreed to a suspension making him unavailable for this game.

With Mazza being the last guy in the bullpen, the Mets would look on as a tired pitcher could not record one out as the Giants would score two in the bottom of the inning to win 3-2. This loss was made all the worse because there was a clear hangover with the Mets being unable to score a run over 10 innings leading them to waste yet another Jacob deGrom start.

Braves 2 – Mets 1 (14)
Friday, August 21

The Mets were flying high entering this series having won 16 out of their last 18 games. As a result, they were seven games over .500 for the first time since April 24, 2018. At the time, the Mets were only 1.5 games out of a Wild Card spot putting them in the thick of the postseason race. With a strong series against the Braves here, the Mets had an opportunity to put the division in play.

Instead, the Mets would get swept by the Braves leading to the team losing six straight games. Even though the Mets would make another run at it, they ultimately could not overcome this stretch, and it would being with an absolutely brutal loss.

Mike Foltynewicz, a pitcher with a 6.09 ERA entering this game, would allow just two hits over seven innings. Ultimately, the only batter to get to him was deGrom, who would hit a sixth inning homer to tie the score at 1-1. As bad as the Mets bullpen had been all year, you could argue the Braves bullpen was worse. That combined with the Mets having last licks, you could argue the Mets were in position to pull out this game.

The Mets had a huge opportunity in the 10th against former teammate Anthony Swarzak. The team would put together a two out rally and load the bases, but Amed Rosario would strike out to end the inning.

The Mets blew an 11th inning chance as well. After Joe Panik was hit by a pitch by Sean Newcomb, he’d move to third after two wild pitches during Alonso’s at-bat. Alonso and Conforto would strike out, and the Braves intentionally walked J.D. Davis to force Brad Brach out of the game and to face the Mets last pinch hitter on the bench – Aaron Altherr. He’d ground out to end the inning.

What would make that even more maddening was the Mets passed on the opportunity to claim Billy Hamilton, who would have been a real upgrade to this team, off waivers. As luck would have it, Hamilton would face Jeurys Familia, and he would drive home the go-ahead run.

What made that all the more maddening was it was an Adeiny Hechavarria ground rule double which put the go-ahead run into scoring position. In essence, the player the Mets cut rather than pay him a roster bonus, and the player the Mets would not claim so they didn’t have to pay him more than the league minimum Altherr, would prove to be two players who helped cost the Mets the game.

As we know, that was a winnable game the Mets needed to have. While it did not push the Mets out of contention, it would prove to be the first in a series of losses which took the Mets from the thick of the race to the periphery.

Nationals 11 – Mets 10
Tuesday, September 4

After a potentially season ending sweep against the Cubs, the Mets got off the mat taking two of three from the Phillies, and they took the first game in the series against the Nationals to pull within 4.0 games of a Wild Card spot. They were up 10-4 and about to pull within seven games of the Nationals for the top Wild Card spot.

The Mets had a 99.7 percent chance of winning that game, and they were 806-0 in franchise history when they led by six after nine innings.

That’s when we saw an epic bullpen meltdown; one we have never before seen the Mets have in their history. Paul Sewald, Luis Avilan, and Edwin Diaz combined to record just one out as the Nationals scored seven ninth inning runs. While many in hindsight would question removing Seth Lugo or question not using Justin Wilson against two batters with great numbers against left-handed pitching, the truth of the matter neither of those things were the problem.

The problem was this Mets bullpen was so unreliable that they cannot even be trusted to hold a six run lead. Therein lied the problem with this game, and it was a big problem throughout the season. It was a contributing factor in this and other losses the Mets suffered both in the first and second half. Huge soul crushing losses. That makes this bullpen just one of the biggest reasons why the Mets are not going to be in the postseason this year.

Thank You 2019 Mets Players

Now that the Mets postseason hopes are officially over, there will come a time to write post mortems to assess all that went wrong and how the Mets could improve in the future.

Before doing that, we should first acknowledge these Mets players fought tooth and nail giving all they could give to help make an improbable run. What we would discover is this is a tough and very likeable group who deserves our gratitude.

Pete Alonso – for having perhaps the greatest rookie season in MLB history while being just a good person.

Aaron Altherr – his RBI double and scoring later in the game proved to be the winning run in a game against the Pirates as the team looked to turn their season around.

Luis Avilan – limited LHB to a .104/.189/.188 batting line making him an exceptional LOOGY, perhaps the last true LOOGY with the incoming MLB rule changes.

Tyler Bashlor – had a seven game scoreless streak in May and another four game one from June to July where he picked up his first hold.

Brad Brach – came to the Mets like he always wanted, and he helped stabilize a bullpen which desperately needed his help.

Keon Broxton – had a go-ahead RBI against the Nationals in April helping the Mets get off to another great start.

Robinson Cano – returned from what should’ve been a season ending injury to do all he could to help get this team into the postseason.

Michael Conforto – reminded us how great he is when he is healthy. Yes, great.

Travis d’Arnaud – came back too soon, never complained, and he left the Mets with pride and dignity after a good Mets career.

J.D. Davis – had a season better than anyone could’ve imagined with a number of big hits. More than that, he became a fan favorite as he was a player who clearly loved being a part of this team.

Rajai Davis – the lifelong Mets fan came home, and he would deliver two absolutely huge pinch hits to keep the Mets afloat at times they needed them.

Jacob deGrom – we are experiencing greatness everytime he takes the mound, and at some point we will need to begin having Hall of Fame conversations about him.

Edwin Diaz – there was a real dignity with him when he faced the media everytime he struggled. He made no excuses, and he put the work in to try to get back to where he was in Seattle. From what we’ve seen, he will get back there next year.

Jeurys Familia – you have to say something about someone who loved being a Mets player, and he came back to be a part of another winning team. Hopefully, that will be next year.

Chris Flexen – reinvented himself as a reliever who showed potential with the ability to strike out batters.

Wilmer Font – showed the Mets real value as a reliever before he was inexplicably designated for assignment.

Todd Frazier – provided this team with real leadership and defense, and he had a number of hot stretches which helped the Mets get back into it.

Drew Gagnon – for a month stretch from late April to late May he was an extremely reliable reliever.

Carlos Gomez – came back to the Mets and started the fun “Ye! Ye! Ye!” rallying cry.

Robert Gsellman – before he began to breakdown due to overuse, he was putting together a really good season out of the bullpen.

Luis Guillorme – when he finally got his chance, he proved himself showing this team he needs to be a part of the future. His pinch hit homer was one of the biggest hits of the season.

Sam Haggerty – like Eric Young in 2015, he was a weapon as a pinch runner.

Donnie Hart – albeit in just one appearance, he’s one of the few pitchers in Mets history who has never allowed a run.

Adeiny Hechavarria – showed surprising power and helped keep the Mets going in May.

Juan Lagares – at the end, he reminded us of how great a fielder he can be, and he had one last hurrah with his first two home rungame.

Walker Lockett – his start in San Francisco was the lone win in what was otherwise a lost series.

Jed Lowrie – despite suffering significant injuries, he pushed onward to make himself a viable pinch hitting option.

Seth Lugo – he has been absolutely great, and he has kept an otherwise struggling bullpen afloat.

Steven Matz – for the second straight year, Matz made 30 starts, and he made huge strides forward with a big second half and being dominant at home.

Chris Mazza – a 29 year old rookie is a feel good story, and he had quite the debut against a very good Braves lineup.

Jeff McNeil – proved last year was no fluke, and his versatility allowed the team to get the most out of the roster.

Tomas Nido – was a terrific defensive catcher and framer who helped get the most out of the starters and help them get their minds straight.

Brandon Nimmo – came back from a bulging disc in his neck to pick up where he left off last year. His enthusiasm and love of baseball is always a breath of fresh air.

Stephen Nogosek – put together a great year in the minors to get to the majors.

Ryan O’Rourke – in his low moment, he gave us real human insight into what it was like being cut from a team.

Corey Oswalt – strong year in Triple-A giving the Mets real rotation depth going forward.

Joe Panik – came back home to New York to help keep the team afloat at the time the Mets were in desperate need for a second baseman, and he performed quite well.

Tim Peterson – earned his way onto the Opening Day roster,and he’d pitch fairly well in his limited opportunities.

Brooks Pounders – six of his seven outings were really good.

Wilson Ramos – turned what was going to be an awful year around with a great August, and his ability to frame the high pitch proved to be a real help to deGrom.

Jacob Rhame – before landing on the IL to end the year, he was showing glimpses of being the type of arm who could be a useful part of the bullpen going forward.

Rene Rivera – brought back warm memories from the 2016 season with him combining with Syndergaard to dominate the Nationals.

Amed Rosario – he made a fools out of people who didn’t believe in his work ethic and talent by showing he is going to be an impact player on both sides of the ball in the future.

Hector Santiago – picked up a big win in extra innings against the Tigers.

Paul Sewald – despite being an afterthought, he once again proved he was a Major League caliber reliever, and he would finally get that first win which proved to be so elusive for him.

Dominic Smith – despite his being maligned and dropped down the depth chart, he would get healthy, and he would show everyone just how good a player he is, and he showed himself to be a great teammate more interested in how he could help the team than his role.

Marcus Stroman – the man was born to pitch on the biggest stage, and he would show it to us. A full year of him is going to be a thrill.

Noah Syndergaard – with Nido and Rivera, he showed he’s a Cy Young caliber pitcher, and he has time and again said he wants to be a real part of this team going forward.

Ruben Tejada – there’s a poetic justice in his playing in 2019 and Chase Utley not.

Jason Vargas – he really helped the Mets Wild Card hopes by bombing with the Phillies.

Zack Wheeler – he desperately wanted to be a part of a Mets postseason push, and he not only got that chance, but he would be great down the stretch.

Justin Wilson – he put the elbow problems aside, and he had just a terrific year out of the bullpen.

Daniel Zamora – 13 of his 16 appearances were scoreless, and with his splits, he showed the Mets he could be a modern LOOGY with the changing bullpen rules.

Overall, while you may hate what Brodie Van Wagenen has done as the General Manager, and you can hate the Wilpons for not being invested in this team, you simply have to love each and every one of these players for all they gave this team. We should appreciate them for fighting to the finish and giving us hope for next year.

Chris Flexen and Eric Hanhold Among Five Relievers Mets Should Consider Calling Up

For most the season, the Mets have been cycling through relievers trying to find the right fit for the last spot in the bullpen. Their inability to find the right fit has cost them a few games in what has been a very critical stretch of the season.

Chris Mazza couldn’t hold down a lead in San Francisco. Tyler Bashlor put a winnable game out of reach in Pittsburgh. That’s just two recent games, and there are countless others. As a result of different relievers failing, the Mets continue to cycle through them trying to find the right fit. Part of this process is the Mets having traded away Wilmer Font and releasing Hector Santiago. The team has also designated five different relievers for assignment. Still, there are some interesting options available.

Chris Flexen has made the transition to the bullpen this year after having struggled as a starter. In his brief five game stint as a pure reliever in the Mets bullpen, Flexen allowed two runs on four hits in 6.1 innings pitched. After one poor outing against the Braves, he was sent back down to Triple-A.

Since being sent down to Syracuse, Flexen has had a 6.94 ERA in 11 appearances, but six of those appearances were scoreless. Perhaps more important that the results is Flexen’s control. The pitcher who has always had issues with control threw 68 percent of his pitches for strikes resulting in his striking out struck out 12 (9.2 K/9) with just one walk in 11.2 inning pitched. If Flexen is able to sustain this level of control, he could be a real improvement in the bullpen.

Looking deeper at the 40 man roster, Eric Hanhold has had a 1.47 ERA since June 20. Over that stretch, he is 2-0 with two saves, and he is holding opposing batters to a .203/.282/.313 batting line. This recent run led to his being promoted again to Triple-A Syracuse. His second stint in Syracuse is going better than his first with him allowing just one earned over 4.0 innings.

In terms of his stuff, Matt Eddy of Baseball America said Hanhold “has a potent power fastball-slider mix that could play in a high-leverage role.” For Hanhold, he doesn’t need to be that yet. Rather, the Mets just need another reliable arm, and he certainly has the stuff to fulfill that role.

Like Flexen and Hanhold, Brooks Pounders has had success for the Mets at the Major League level. In his seven appearances for the Mets in June, he was 1-0 with a 6.14 ERA, 1.500 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, and a 6.1 K/9. Looking deeper into those appearances, Pounders had six scoreless appearances.

His lone blow-up was his June 24 appearance against the Phillies. Notably, four of the five runs he allowed was in his second inning of work. Part of the focus on that appearance should include his rebounding three days later against the same Phillies team with a scoreless appearance. Looking at that, you could make the argument he should be recalled now. The argument against that is his struggles in Syracuse once he was sent down. In 10 appearances since his demotion, he has a 7.82 ERA allowing batters to hit .310/.410/.528 off of him.

Looking beyond the 40 man roster, there are some choices, but each of those options has their own limitations. The Mets are also further hampered by the fact Ryley Gilliam is on the injured list since July 12.

Perhaps the top option from players not on the 40 man roster is Paul Sewald. Sewald was on the 40 man roster earlier this year, and he pitched well in his four appearances in the Majors this year. In his 38 appearances for Syracuse, Sewald is 3-3 with a 3.61 ERA, 1.437 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, and an 8.7 K/9. Overall, in terms of Sewald, he is not the most exciting of choices. However, it should be noted he has shown a knack at the Major League level to be a good long man who can both eat up innings and keep the Mets in games. Given the other Mets relievers failures on that front, Sewald’s ability should not be discounted.

The other reliever not on the 40 man roster who stands out is Steve Villines. This year, Villines has dominated Double-A with a 1.11 ERA in 22 appearances. However, he has struggled in Triple-A Syracuse with a 6.75 ERA, 1.938 WHIP, and a 1.50 K/BB in 13 appearances.

Two things to keep in mind with Villines. First, the sidewinder has fared well against right-handed batters limiting them to a .245/.286/.309 batting line. However, he has struggled against left-handed batters with them hitting .253/.371/.437 batting line. With those splits, you could see the Mets benefiting from pairing him with Luis Avilan much like the 2006 Mets did with Chad Bradford and Pedro Feliciano.

The one caution the Mets should have with Villines is his walk rate has increased and strikeout rate has decreased as he has progressed to each level of the minors. With the aforementioned 1.50 K/BB in Syracuse, it should give the Mets pause before promoting him to the Majors in the middle of a chase for the Wild Card.

Overall, it would appear the Mets best options at the moment are Flexen or Hanhold. That is at least the case while Jacob Rhame is on the Injured List. In the end, it may just be the case the Mets need to actually pick a reliever and let them work closely with Mickey Callaway, Phil Regan, and Ricky Bones to figure things out at the Major League level to permit them an opportunity improve and contribute at the Major League level.

Mets Should Be Considering Brach And Allen

While the Mets did not make a trade to improve their bullpen at the trade deadline, they did improve the bullpen by adding Marcus Stroman. Much like in 2015, the Mets are relying upon their starters going deep into games thereby requiring less from their bullpen. When that happens, a bullpen which only needs to use pitchers like Seth Lugo, Edwin Diaz, Justin Wilson, and Robert Gsellman suddenly looks very good.

Then, there is Friday night in Pittsburgh. With Steven Matz only lasting 3.2 innings, the Mets had to go to the part of the bullpen they have not had to in a while. It eventually caught up with the Mets with Tyler Bashlor allowing three earned over 1.1 innings putting a winnable game out of reach.

With the Mets cycling through relievers like Bashlor, Jacob Rhame (10 day IL), Chris Mazza, Stephen Nogosek, and others, it is clear the team is at least a bullpen arm short, and they are attempting to cycle through these pitchers until one sticks. So far, that hasn’t happened, and it is time for the Mets to make a real move. There are some free agent options available.

Brad Brach was recently designated for assignment by the Chicago Cubs in a season where he has gone 4-3, 6.13 ERA, 1.765 WHIP, 6.4 BB/9, and a 10.2 K/9. After seeing his ERA jump in each of the two seasons since his 2016 All-Star season, Brach has put up a career worst 6.13 ERA and a 6.4 BB/9. Beyond the walk rate, opponents have been hitting the ball harder against him, and as a result, he has a high .375 BABIP.

Conversely, he also has the best K/9 since 2016 and the best K% since 2017. Baseball Savant indicates he is above league average in fastball velocity, K%, and xSLB. All told, he still has Major League talent. With Phil Regan and Mickey Callaway, it would be well worth signing a pitcher the Mets have actively pursued over the past few seasons.

Another veteran pitcher who is available as a free agent is Cody Allen. Allen is available because the Los Angeles Angles released him on June 18, and he was released by the Minnesota Twins on July 31 after pitching to a 3.38 ERA with a 1.500 WHIP and 1.40 K/BB for Triple-A Rochester.

The season had gotten off to a good start with Allen converting four save chances to begin the season. Since that time, he has an 8.10 ERA in the Majors. One of the possible reasons for his struggles is his losing fastball velocity. Another reason may be his over reliance on the curveball. While it has been a good pitch for him, he has thrown it with much more frequency with worse results. To be fair, the same can be said for his fastball. Ultimately, with Allen, this is now two straight down years for him, and really, this could just be a sign he is no longer the same pitcher he was for Cleveland.

The hope with Allen is reuniting with Callaway would pay off dividends. Similarly, there may be hope an Addison Reed return to New York would work out well for both sides.

Reed was released by the Twins before throwing a pitch for the team this year. In total, he only made five appearances for Triple-A Rochester during a rehab assignment for a left (non-pitching) thumb sprain. He was shelled over those five appearances allowing eight runs over 5.0 innings. Since being released on May 21, he has not signed with another team.

With Reed, he had not been the same pitcher with the Twins than he was with the Mets. There are a number of reasons including his losing about two MPH off of his fastball making him more hittable. Given the state of the Mets bullpen and depth, it may be well worth bringing him back to the organization on a minor league deal and seeing how he performs in Syracuse.

In the end, the Mets external options are extremely limited. Given how the internal options have performed, it may be well worth claiming Brach and having him work with Callaway and Regan. With his strikeout rate, he could well be worth a flyer. The same can be said with Reed on a minor league deal. Overall, with the performances from the pitchers the Mets are willing to pitch, these players present not just a current upgrade, but also more upside than what we’ve seen.

 

Wilson Ramos Defense Giveth, His Bat Finally Taketh

Wilson Ramos was terrible tonight. He wasn’t getting pitches for Marcus Stroman. Stroman was also charged a wild pitch on what should’ve been ruled a passed ball. Ramos allowed two stolen bases.

Again, like he’s been all of this season, he was flat out terrible behind the plate.

But at the plate, he was vintage Ramos. He had an RBI single in the first to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. Overall, he was 3-for-4 including a huge go-ahead two run homer in the eighth:

As shocking as that was, the homer was set up by a Robinson Cano double. This probably marks the first time this year Ramos and Cano have combined for back-to-back big hits.

That gave the Mets a 4-3 lead with the other non-Ramos run coming off a Jeff McNeil pinch hit homer in the seventh. McNeil sat after struggling the past few days with a sore wrist. Taking his spot stop the lineup was Amed Rosario, who continued to hit well with a 3-for-4 night with a walk and a stolen base.

Up until the homers, the Mets trailed 3-1 in Stroman’s debut.

As noted, Ramos was not helping him at all. The combination of Ramos and a stingy home plate umpire led to a 35 pitch first inning. In that inning, he allowed a run to score before he got an out, and he walked in a run. Things would’ve been worse if Stroman wasn’t a Gold Glover on the mound:

Stroman did well to settle in until the fifth. In that inning, he’d leave with one out and runners on the corners. With his being on a pitch limit due to a prolonged time between starts resulting from the trade, he was done, and Luis Avila came in. He’d walk a batter and hit another to force home a run.

Surprisingly, Jacob Rhame kept the Mets in the game pitching 1.1 scoreless. There was also scoreless frames from Justin Wilson and Seth Lugo. It was setting up for an interesting ninth with a struggling Edwin Diaz to get the save in a one run game.

That trepidation fell by the wayside with Ramos hitting a bases clearing double in the eighth giving the Mets a 7-3 lead. It was Ramos’ first six RBI game of his career, and it was his first 3 RBI game since May 25.

As it turns out, the Mets needed the insurance with Diaz allowing a two run homer to Starling Marte in the ninth. Diaz settled back in and got the final outs to preserve the 7-5 win.

The Mets are back to two under .500 as a result of a huge come from behind victory. They need to keep this up as they’re nearing a return to Citi for a huge homestand.

Game Notes: Dilson Herrera left the game early in Syracuse. Mets claimed Donnie Hart off waivers prior to the game.

Bring Matt Harvey Home

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim who used to be of California first designated Matt Harvey for assignment and then later released him. This marked the second time Harvey was designated for assignment in as many years.

Looking at the numbers, you can’t blame the Angels. In 12 starts, he was 3-5 with a 7.09 ERA, 1.542 WHIP, 4.4 BB/9, and a 5.9 K/9. This isn’t the Harvey we all knew from 2012-2015, and it’s not even the Harvey of last year. TOS will do that to you.

The question now is what if anything Harvey has left?

If you want to be positive, he performed reasonably well with the Reds last year. In 24 starts, he was 7-7 with a 4.50 ERA, 1.250 WHIP, 2.0 BB/9, and a 7.8 K/9.

Looking deeper at last year, he was a different pitcher. According to Brooks Baseball, he threw his fastball 58.35%, his change 11.82%, his slider 23.44%, and his curve 6.00%. This year, we have seen him throw his fastball less and his curve much more.

In fact, his fastball usage is down 13.73% and his curve is up 8.81%. His change and slider usage is relatively the same. On the surface you understand the change with Baseball Savant noting Harvey having a slightly better than average spin on his curve and Fangraphs noting his fastball velocity is down.

Whatever the case, the mix isn’t quite right. For that matter, neither has Harvey. Maybe, he will never be right.

That said, when you’re a team nine games under .500 and continue to dwindle from the limelight, it would make sense to give Harvey another look.

First off, the Mets are currently sending out pitchers like Chris Mazza, Jacob Rhame, Stephen Nogosek, Tyler Bashlor, and a number of other similarly talented pitchers to come out of the bullpen. Looking at it from the Mets perspective, aren’t you better off getting a look at Harvey out of the bullpen to see if you can rekindle something in Harvey? Maybe with Harvey focusing on an inning or two, he can feel more comfortable letting it loose instead of trying to hold something back for later in the game.

With the Mets possibly moving Zack Wheeler and/or Jason Vargas at the trade deadline, the team will need another starter. You could go with Walker Lockett and/or Corey Oswalt (presuming Anthony Kay isn’t ready). You could also see if Harvey could perform better after arguably being “humbled” after leaving.

It’s also possible he will feel more at home with Phil Regan as the pitching coach. Maybe being around friends and teammates like Jacob deGrom can help him rediscover something or find a way to be good again.

As the season progresses, the Mets look all the more like a team playing out the string. In those situations, teams have to make judgment calls, and if teams are properly run, they’re not just going to lose as many games as possible to improve a draft position. Ideally, they’ll try to lose with a purpose.

If the Mets pitch Harvey, either in the bullpen or rotation, they’re losing with a purpose. They’re going to see if they can get him to be an effective pitcher again. Really, if you can get him to pitch out of the bullpen, all the better because with his issues, that may be the best place for him.

Better for the Mets to see if they can get him to be a quality reliever and help a bullpen in need of a few arms than to cycle back through the relievers they’ve seen fail time and again.

Overall, if the Mets are going to lose, they should learn something. It also wouldn’t hurt them to be a little more interesting. If anything, the Wilpons and Brodie Van Wagenen will have a lightning rod to take the attention away from them. Taking all into account, the Mets should just take the flyer on Harvey. After all, there is no possible way things can get worse with him here.

20/20 Chances: Mets Leave Postseason Hopes in San Francisco

The Mets went to San Francisco with a chance to take a series against the Giants, pull to at least five games under .500, and surpass the Giants in the Wild Card standings. Instead, they managed to blow three games and probably leave their chances of making the postseason in San Francisco.

1. The Mets outscored the Giants by a healthy margin in this series, but that was only because of Saturday’s blowout. Putting that game aside, both teams were as feckless as can be at the plate. In some ways, both teams being alive in the Wild Card chase is a black mark for baseball.

2. The play which blew the Friday night game perfectly encapsulates the season. Dominic Smith doesn’t make a play partially because he is playing out of position. Unlike Robinson Cano, Alex Dickerson hustled around the base paths. Then, after Todd Frazier astutely cut it off, Wilson Ramos was nowhere near the play, nor did he even attempt to get into position.

3. In short, on one play we saw the effects of the Mets playing guys out of position, playing poor defense, and having their high priced veterans not perform up to the level they need to perform. Throw in the Mets blowing a completely winnable game, and you have the 2019 Mets in a nutshell.

4. The more you look at it, the more you realize Ramos is the biggest issue with this team. His catching has forced the pitching staff to bring pitches up in the hitting zone because of his framing and inability to effectively block pitches. As we saw on Friday night’s play, there are times you question how fully engaged he is. Finally, he’s a shell of himself offensively. Moving him at the trade deadline needs to be a priority.

5. By they way, for the cost of Ramos ($7.25) and Jed Lowrie ($10), the Mets could have had Yasmani Grandal this year and been a vastly superior team.

6. As pointed out by @MeekPhil_ on Twitter, last year’s gaffe between Smith and Amed Rosario happened last year against the Giants. With this being the Mets, no one should be surprised by this.

7. The way Smith responded to the play was incredible. On the first pitch he saw, he would hit a homer. In that game, he was 3-f0r-5 with that homer and four RBI. The way Smith put everything behind him speaks well to his future.

8. Of course, we should not be surprised about Smith’s response. After all, this is the same guy who responded to struggling in parts of his first two Major League seasons, getting surpassed on the depth chart, and his battles with sleep apnea. Smith is a fighter and a hard worker. Dealing with him this offseason is going to be a conundrum.

9. As we saw with his snapping the bat over his leg, Pete Alonso is both fatigued and frustrated. That sums up how every Mets fan feels after staying up or trying to stay up for the Thursday and Friday night debacles.

10. Alonso sitting on Saturday is a testament to the veteran presence of Frazier, who told Alonso and Mickey Callaway about the fatigue which sets in after the Home Run Derby. Considering how the Mets clubhouse fell apart when the Mets moved Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce in 2017, the Mets should consider keeping someone like him around to help this team continue to develop and prepare to be contenders in 2020.

11. It should also be noted with all the deals Van Wagenen has made in his Mets tenure, no one should trust his ability to trade anything for any value at the trade deadline. In all likelihood, when he is done, we will long for the days of the return of “prospects” like Nogosek, Gerson Bautista, Jamie Callahan, Ryder Ryan, Will Toffey, Drew Smith, etc.

12. Maybe it is time Jeff McNeil gets a day off. So far in the second half, he is hitting .268/.318/.488. Mets need much more from him than this.

13. It gets frustrating seeing how Mets fans choose to overlook some guys while constantly making others a perennial target. For example, Michael Conforto was chastised for not coming through in one pinch hitting attempt on Friday night, but McNeil, who three times failed to knock in the go-ahead run, had nary a bad word said about him.

14. Really, Mets fans don’t deserve Conforto much in the same way they don’t deserve Noah Syndergaard. With both players, all we hear is nitpicking over them instead of just enjoying them for the really good players they are.

15. The Mets offensive cold snaps were beyond frustrating in this series. After scoring a run in the first inning of the first game, they did not score another run until the 16th inning. After that, they didn’t score another run until Saturday’s game. After hitting two homers in the second inning Sunday, they didn’t score another run. If you’re not scoring runs, you can’t win.

16. The pitching staff was as good as you could ask during this series. The only blips were Chris Mazza and Stephen Nogosek. For Mazza, he was pressed into action in a spot where it was going to be difficult to succeed, and Nogosek struggled in mop up work.

17. Going back to Mazza, it shows how seemingly meaningless decisions come to matter. When the Mets needed someone to wrap things up in what became a laugher in Minnesota, the Mets turned to Mazza for the final two innings. The team did this despite knowing Jacob Rhame had a suspension looming. The end result was being an arm short in a 16 inning game the subsequent day pressing Mazza, a pitcher who just threw two innings, to work multiple innings again.

18. In what is becoming a lost season (if it wasn’t one already), the Mets need to stop pushing Seth Lugo. He’s too valuable a bullpen arm going forward. Don’t mess that up to chase games in July and August when you did nothing to really build the bullpen when you had the opportunity.

19. The hopes for a Cano turnaround are quickly fading with him now three for his last 21. If Brodie Van Wagenen had a clue, he’d spend the offseason finding a way for a team to take on Cano’s contract because Cano is one of the reasons why the Mets are going to struggle to compete in the ensuring seasons.

20. It was sad to see Matt Harvey get designated for assignment. For years, he was the source of hope for Mets fans, and he really did all he could do to get the Mets a World Series in 2015. Hopefully, he finds a way back to the Mets to work with Phil Regan and build himself back to being a good pitcher. More than that, here’s hoping he finds a fit like he did in Cincinnati last year where he can get the most out of the stuff he still has.