Jacob Rhame

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.

Soul Crushing 16 Inning Loss To Giants

In 2016, the Wild Card picture was all jumbled up like it is now with the Mets having a favorable second half schedule and a need to leapfrog a number of teams. That season turned around with a road trip to San Francisco.

Tonight, the Mets began a similarly pivotal series in San Francisco. Like in 2016, we would get Noah Syndergaard against Madison Bumgarner, and like last time, we’d get a real pitcher’s duel.

Jeff McNeil hit the first pitch of the game for a double, and he moved to third on a J.D. Davis single. This allowed him to score on a Pete Alonso double play. The Mets had a 1-0 lead, but Bumgarner would go on to retire 13 in a row after the Davis single.

Things were not as easy for Syndergaard, but he’d have equally as impressive results.

In the second, he worked around an Alex Dickerson leadoff triple. In the third, he worked around a Brandon Belt two out double. On the double, Juan Lagares couldn’t make a play on it reminding us all he’s no longer that type of defender anymore.

The Giants finally got to Syndergaard in the fourth loading the bases with one out. Fortunately, due to Pablo Sandoval making Sid Bream look like Usain Bolt, he was held up on a Mike Yastrzemski single. He would however score on a Kevin Pillar sacrifice fly. On the play, Davis misplayed it forcing him to make a leap, and thankfully, he came down with it.

Syndergaard would have to summon the magic again in the seventh. This time, it was Yastrzemski who led off the inning with a triple. After a Pillar ground out to the drawn in Todd Frazier, Joe Panik was intentionally walked to set up a double play and bring Bumgarner to the plate.

The decision was made easier with no one warming in the Giants bullpen. However, the strategy was rendered moot with Panik stealing second on a 3-1 pitch. There was no throw from Tomas Nido due to his framing the pitch and the jump Panik got with Syndergaard not even bothering to keep Panik close.

It would up not mattering as Syndergaard struck out Bumgarner, and he got Belt to fly out to end the inning. At 108 pitches, he was done after a strong and gutty performance. Like three years ago, the Mets were going to the bullpen, and Bumgarner pitched nine brilliant innings.

Fortunately, Conor Gillaspie hasn’t played baseball since 2017. As a result, we’d see Seth Lugo pitch a scoreless eighth and Luis Avilan pitch a scoreless ninth to send the game into extras. This would mean the Mets would get into the Giants bullpen.

Robinson Cano led off the 10th with a single off Will Smith. Amed Rosario then continued his torrid July with a hit. Cano would actually go first to third on the single to left, and with Alex Dickerson throwing to third, Rosario went to second on what was ruled a double.

Nido struck out, and Wilson Ramos, the last right-handed bat on the bench, pinch hit for Lagares. He was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Michael Conforto pinch hit for Avilan, and he struck out putting the inning on McNeil. In uncharacteristic fashion McNeil struck out to end the inning.

Overall, it was a bizarre inning for Mickey Callaway (or the texting Brodie Van Wagenen). Instead of pinch hitting Ramos for Nido, he pinch hit for Lagares. Then, he pinch ran Luis Guillorme for some reason thereby burning him and Ramos.

Edwin Diaz came on for the 10th, and he worked his way around a leadoff walk showing he can in fact pitch in tie games. That paved the way for Jeurys Familia to pitch the 11th. Again, Gillaspie wasn’t coming off that bench, and as such, Familia pitched a scoreless inning despite him pitching his third game in as many days.

With the options dwindling, Callaway double switched Robert Gsellman into the game with Dominic Smith going to right, McNeil going to second, and Cano being done for the night.

After Gsellman pitched a scoreless 12th, the Mets got something brewing in the 13th against Derek Holland, who had pitched 1.2 innings yesterday. He was pulled with runners at the corners and two outs for Trevor Gott with Alonso coming up to the plate.

That’s the benefit of Bumgarner going nine. As a result, Bruce Bochy can play the matchups in the 13th. That ability led to an Alonso fly out to end the jam. With that flyout, Alonso was 0-for-6 on the night.

Because of the curious decision to pinch run Guillorme earlier in the game, Steven Matz pinch hit for Gsellman in the 14th after Gsellman’s two scoreless innings.

Justin Wilson got himself into trouble in the 14th with a lead off walk, which was actually first and second with two outs. He was bailed out by a terrible check swing third strike call against Pillar, and then with the Giants without position players, he got to face and strike out tomorrow’s (today’s?) starter Tyler Beede to end the jam.

Williams Jerez came on for the 15th for the Giants, and he was in immediate trouble walking Nido and allowing a one out single to Conforto. For third time in extras, McNeil had a chance to get the big hit. This time he hit into a 3-6 fielder’s choice. Davis would follow with a foul out.

In the bottom of the 15th, Chris Mazza, a 29 year old rookie who pitched two innings in the previous game, entered to pitch. He got through the inning setting the stage for Alonso to get his first hit in his seven at-bats:

Because baseball is a cruel sport, Dickerson and Crawford hit back-to-back doubles to begin the 16th to tie the game, and Mazza hit Austin Slater. Of course, there was no other option than Mazza with Rhame serving his suspension, so he and he alone had to get out of it.

Pillar singled to load the bases with no outs. This meant the Mets went to five infielders and drew everyone in. It didn’t matter as Donovan Solano hit one past Alonso to end the Mets four game winning streak.

This is as soul crushing as it gets.

Game Notes: Brandon Nimmo has begun baseball activities, but he’s still about a month away from a rehab assignment. Jacob Rhame‘s appeal was heard, and his suspension was reduced to one game making him unavailable for this game.

Mets Bullpen Somehow Holds On To Beat Twins

With Zack Wheeler landing on the IL, the Mets needed to start Steven Matz a day sooner than the Mets had wanted. The bad news was the Twins were hitting rockets off of him all night. The good news is he would get some help by the outfield defense:

That catch would not be Michael Conforto‘s lone contribution to the game. He was 4-for-4 at the plate with a key RBI.

The Mets initially took a 2-0 lead against Michael Pineda and the Twins due to some terrible defense. Jeff McNeil and Conforto led off the game with back-to-back singles. They then moved up a base on a Jason Castro passed ball.

A Robinson Cano sacrifice fly made it 1-0. A Pineda wild pitch advanced Conforto to third allowing him to score when Jonathan Schoop made a throwing error on a Wilson Ramos ground ball. After the inning, you wondered how the Mets only had two runs after that comedy of errors.

You were also wondering when the Twins were going to get to Matz who was not sharp.

The first run would come off a Schoop third inning lead off homer. The tying run came in the fourth.

After an Eddie Rosario leadoff single, C.J. Cron hit an opposite field double. Even with the Mets leaving second vacant and no one getting a ball thrown to second immediately, Rosario stayed put. He’d score on a Max Kepler RBI groundout.

To his credit, Matz bore down. He fooled Miguel Sano with a changeup to get a strikeout. He’d intentionally walk Schoop to pitch to Castro. On a 1-2 pitch, Schoop broke for second. As noted by Ron Darling, the Mets rarely throw through in those spots. They did tonight, and they got Schoop before Cron could even think about heading home.

Matz, who was limited to 80 pitches due to his temporary move to the bullpen, was done after four. In some ways, he was lucky to leave after allowing just two earned on somehow just five hits. Then again, he did bear down when needed. It nothing else, it was a step forward.

The Mets took the lead in the fifth on a rally started on a one out Amed Rosario double. He’d score on a Conforto two out RBI single.

The Mets would have a chance to build on this lead in the eighth, but they would absolutely squander it. After a Conforto one out single, Pete Alonso walked. This time, it was a Mitch Garver passed ball moving the runners up a base.

Conforto broke on the Cano grounder, and he was dead to rights. He had a half hearted attempt to get into a run down, but there was no use. On the play, Alonso had a TOOBLAN needlessly breaking for third and getting thrown out to end the jam. It was a rare double play where Cano hit a grounder, didn’t run it out, and he was the only one safe on the play.

Fortunately, the Mets inability to add insurance runs didn’t hurt them as their bullpen was good enough.

In the fifth, after Robert Gsellman got himself into a jam, Luis Avilan came on to bail him out. After Avilan walked Sano with two outs in the sixth, Jeurys Familia got Schoop to ground out. Justin Wilson and Seth Lugo pitched back-to-back scoreless innings to put the game in Edwin Diaz‘s hands.

It wasn’t easy.

After he made quick work of Sano, he was 0-2 on Schoop. Schoop hurt himself on a swing, and the pick hitter Luis Arraez had a great at-bat to earn a walk. Garver then ripped a single to left to put the tying run on second.

After a Jorge Polanco fly out, Marwin Gonzalez hit a dribbler to third which Todd Frazier had no option to eat. Diaz’s former teammate Nelson Cruz came up with the bases loaded, and he worked the count full. After a foul ball, Frazier was able to make a play on a foul out.

Suddenly, the Mets bullpen is getting big outs, and the Mets are winning three straight on the road. It’s too early to get excited, but it’s not too early to notice.

Game Notes: Jacob Rhame, who has a two game suspension pending appeal was called up to take Wheeler’s spot on the roster.

Appearance On A Metsian Podcast

On Thursday, I had the honor and the privilege of being a guest on A Metsian Podcast. It was a lot of fun and cathartic, and I would hope you would all take a listen by clicking on the link provided.

I’m not sure if this is a reason to entice you to listen, but during the course of the podcast, I personally mentioned or discussed the following Mets players: Tom SeaverJeff McNeil, Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Cliff Floyd, Nolan Ryan, Aaron Sele, Jason Vargas, Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, Roberto Alomar, Juan Samuel, Jim Fregosi, Bret Saberhagen, Vince Coleman, Noah Syndergaard, Chris Flexen, Paul Sewald, Sean Gilmartin, Darren Oliver, Pat Mahomes, Eric HanholdSteve VillinesCorey OswaltJacob RhameHansel Robles, Stephen NogosekSeth LugoRobert GsellmanDarryl Strawberry, and others. This list is off the top of my head.

Looking at that list, maybe that’s why they haven’t brought me back after my last appearance three years ago when I went on a Daniel Murphy rant.

 

Mets Scapegoated Wrong Coach For Brodie Van Wagenen’s Failures

A night after the Mets blew a game partially because Gary Disarcina had an unfathomly bad send of J.D. Davis, the Mets decided to fire pitching coach Dave Eiland and bullpen coach Chuck Hernandez. Seeing Brodie Van Wagenen’s press conference where he refused to accept any personal responsibility, you could see this was nothing but a scapegoat decision to deflect from his failures as a General Manager. In typical Van Wagenen fashion, he scapegoated the wrong person because that’s what a terrible General Manager with no accountability does.

On the surface, you may want to pinpoint how the pitching has not lived up to its billing. After all, the Mets team 4.74 ERA is the 11th worst in baseball, and their 5.37 bullpen ERA is the third worst in baseball. Of course, there are some other considerations behind those numbers.

On the starter ERA front, the Mets top four starters have a 4.27 ERA. While not where you may not want it, it’s still a half a run lower than the staff ERA. That is because the rest of the staff including Corey Oswalt, Chris Flexen, and Wilmer Font have combined for a 7.19 ERA.

The bullpen ERA also needs to be put in perspective as well. That ERA comes from pitchers like Drew Gagnon (7.65 ERA), Tyler Bashlor (5.40 ERA), Luis Avilan (9.28 ERA), Hector Santiago (6.57 ERA), and Jacob Rhame (8.10 ERA). Say what you want about Eiland, but much of the team’s pitching struggles are related to the team not having Major League quality arms and having a complete lack of pitching depth.

Another factor is the Mets horrible defense. Their -55 DRS is the second worst in the Majors. That’s a year off of them being the second worst team in the National League with a -121 DRS. Their inability to field is part of the reason why the Mets pitching staff has a 4.27 FIP, which is 11th best in the majors. That includes a 3.99 FIP for their starters.

On that front, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Zack Wheeler each have an FIP better than that mark with each of them in the top 30 among Major League starters meaning they are actually pitching like top of the rotation starters. Put another way, Eiland had the good pitchers on this staff actually pitching well, at least most of them.

Going back, what hasn’t been happening is the Mets playing well defensively. As noted by Mark Simon of The Athletic, the Mets are the worst shifting team in baseball. In fact, they are one of just a few teams whose shifting has cost the team runs. As noted by ESPN‘s Paul Hembekides, the Mets infield defense has an MLB worst 70 percent out rate on ground balls, .270 batting average on ground balls allowed, and 218 ground ball hits allowed.

That wasn’t the case back when Tim Teufel was the infield coach. No, he had the team where they needed to be, and in fact, back in 2015, when the Mets had Daniel Murphy at second, Wilmer Flores playing shortstop, and Eric Campbell playing more infield than anyone, the Mets had a positive 15 DRS.

No, things went real south when they hired Disarcina.

On the topic of Disarcina, we have not only seen Amed Rosario not fulfill his Gold Glove promise, but he has really struggled defensively. Part of that is the shifting, and part of that is Disarcina not doing the job he was hired to do. That is not too dissimilar from when he sent Davis home (another player he has not been able to help with his infield defense) among his other bad sends this year. It’s also not too dissimilar from when he failed to properly run quality control last year as the team’s bench coach last year leading to Jay Bruce batting out of order.

If you’re looking to scapegoat a coach, the Mets should have scapegoated the coach who has not performed well in his job. On that topic, Glenn Sherlock hasn’t performed well either. We have seen both Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki pick it up to the levels they were with Bob Geren, but that required them leaving the organization and getting competent coaching elsewhere. There’s also Chili Davis, who is the hitting coach for a team hitting ground balls 46.0 percent of the time and a hard hit rate of 35.3 percent (both bottom six in the majors) at a time when the juiced ball is flying out of ballparks.

If the Mets were looking to scapegoat a coach for the poor job Van Wagenen did to build this roster, he should have picked Disarcia, Sherlock, or Davis. Instead, he picked Eiland, a pitching coach with two World Series rings, a man who was actually doing his job well because he needed a scapegoat to hide from his complete failure to build necessary pitching depth.

At some point in time, Brodie Van Wagenen is going to have to finally take some personal responsibility, something he refused to do yesterday, and admit he has done a very poor job. Maybe at that point, he can stop with the half measures and scapegoating and instead focus on making the changes needed to turn the Mets into they type of club he hyped them to be heading into the season.

Phil Regan’s And Ricky Bones Job Now Tenuous

Before the game last night, the Mets fired pitching coach Dave Eiland and bullpen coach Chuck Hernandez because somehow they were not able to make a bullpen full of names like Drew Gagnon, Tim Peterson, Jacob Rhame, Hector Santiago, and whatever else Triple to Four-A relievers Brodie Van Wagenen supplied to create a viable bullpen.

This meant Phil Regan was once again a Major League pitching coach, and we saw the return of Ricky Bones as the bullpen coach. Their first duty was to make Walker Lockett a viable starter in a game against the Chicago Cubs. It worked for exactly two innings.

Entering the bottom of the third, the Mets had a 3-0 lead. The first run came when Carlos Gomez killed a rally by grounding into a double play with the bases loaded and no outs. The other two came against another epic Pete Alonso homer. It would prove to not be nearly enough.

In the bottom of the third, the only out Lockett would get was on a sacrifice bunt by the opposing pitcher Tyler Chatwood. It was an ugly six run inning which included five hits, two walks, and just further ugly play behind the plate by Wilson Ramos with a passed ball and wild pitch. At that point, it was 6-3 Cubs with the Mets having no real shot at a comeback.

The final score was 7-4 because Javier Baez homered off Robert Gsellman in the seventh, and Todd Frazier homered in the ninth off Adbert Alzolay. Speaking of Alzolay for a second, he was absolutely electric when he piggybacked this start allowing just that homer to Frazier while walking two and striking out five.

When you looked at these teams, you saw the Cubs as the team with a stable organization who was willing to spend and had a stable plan. When the Cubs needed to win a World Series, they hired Theo Epstein and not a former agent who was way in over his head. This is how you get the Cubs winning 90+ games every year, and you have the Mets falling apart since 2015.

Game Notes: New pitching coach Phil Regan is 82 years old. To put in perspective how old he is, he pitched against Ted Williams, and he was teammates with Hall of Famers like Sandy Koufax and Al Kaline. Another interesting note is he was part of the 1969 Cubs team who lost the division to the Miracle Mets.