Just look at the names: Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Seth Lugo, and now Dellin Betances. That is a list of names which is the envy of each and every Major League team, and when you break it down, it has the makings of being an all-time great bullpen.
In 2018, Diaz was as dominant as we have seen any closer be. In 73 appearances, he recorded a Major League leading 57 saves with a 1.96 ERA, 0.791 WHIP, and a 15.2 K/9.
Familia is the best right-handed closer in Mets history. From 2015 – 2016, he was second in the Majors in saves while having the third most innings pitched and ninth best ERA.
Lugo has been as dominant a reliever as the Mets have ever had, and really he has emerged to be as dominant as any reliever in the game. To put it in perspective of just how dominant and overlooked he has been, over the past two years, he has a better FIP while throwing more innings than two time All-Star Josh Hader.
As great as this group is, you can argue none of them are anywhere near as good as Betances has been. From 2014-2018, he was quite possibly the best reliever in all of baseball. In fact, his 11.2 fWAR was second best. He was best in innings pitched, third in K/9, fourth in fWAR, and fifth in appearances.
When you can line-up this level of relievers in a row, you’re making every game a 5-6 inning game for a starting staff which includes Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Marcus Stroman. That is not only a recipe for success, it is a recipe for pure dominance.
However, it is important to note next year is 2020, and based on the last few years, only Lugo has been pitching at this high a level.
Last year, Diaz had a career worst year. After the offseason, he talked about how he struggled handling New York, and as reported by Laura Albanese of Newsday, the Mets finally admitted he had been dealing with some health issues.
Familia also had a career worst year. With his having an arterial clot removed in 2017 and his dealing with shoulder issues again last year, you wonder if he can ever get back to the pitcher he was in 2018 (3.13 ERA) let alone his dominant form of 2014 – 2016.
Finally, there is Betances. Before partially tearing his Achilles last year, Betances had been shut down at the beginning of the 2019 season due to a bone spur issue in his shoulder, inflammation in the joint, and a strain to his his right latissimus dorsi muscle. When he finally came back, he had lost velocity on his pitches.
That was also before partially tearing his Achillies. The good news on that front is it did not require surgery, and he is expected to be ready for Spring Training. The downside is no one can quite be sure what type of pitcher he will be in 2020.
Long story, short, this all means Jeremy Hefner has his work cut out for him. He has been handed an incredibly gifted bullpen which needs a lot of help getting back to their respective levels of dominance. If he is able to get this group at or near their apex, this Mets bullpen will be the best in the game, and when you factor in the talent and potential of relievers like Justin Wilson and Robert Gsellman, you could have an all-time great bullpen.
On the other hand, it is difficult to coach away injuries and diminution in stuff. To that end, no one can be quite sure how this bullpen will perform. As such, this “boom or bust” bullpen will be one of the key reasons why the Mets succeed or fail in 2020.
For a moment, let’s assume the 2019 season was similar to the 1998 or 2005 season in that it was a stepping stone to real World Series contention.
While we can and should dicker about whether the 2020 team will be better than the 2019 team, there is hope for optimism as Carlos Beltran begins his second act in a New York Mets uniform.
Behind that optimism is a cold dose of reality.
We didn’t know it in 1998, but that Mike Piazza led team had two seasons as a contender. That was basically the same case with the David Wright and Jose Reyes led 2005 team we all thought would be good forever. This will likely be the same fate this core faces.
After the 2020 season, Marcus Stroman and Rick Porcello will be free agents leaving the team to try to scramble to either re-sign them or attempt to sign a starter from a free agent class nowhere as good as the one which saw the Mets lose Zack Wheeler.
After 2021, Michael Conforto, Steven Matz, and Noah Syndergaard will be free agents. That leaves the Mets looking to invest in four spots in the rotation over the next two years as the farm system is not prepared to provide that help in a way it could’ve if Justin Dunn, Anthony Kay, and Simeon Woods Richardson were still with the organization.
Yes, we should see David Peterson grab one of those rotation spots, and a Stephen Gonsalves or Franklyn Kilome may emerge. However, they likely don’t have the same ceiling the 2015 – 2019 rotations had thereby eliminating the key competitive advantage the Mets had.
If you really want a heavy dose of reality look a year past that, and you’ll see Nimmo and Lugo will be a free agents, and deGrom can opt out of his deal. That’s going to happen as Alonso, McNeil, and Rosario are likely getting big arbitration salaries.
This means by 2022 this entire core could be completely gone with Alonso being the player designated to build around much in the same way the Mets opted Wright for that honor.
Overall, this means unless things change dramatically, the Mets have a two year window. That could be opened longer if Steve Cohen flexes some financial muscle, and/or he opts to bring in an actually qualified and competent GM to replace Brodie Van Wagenen.
To that end, there’s hope even if Jeff Wilpon will be running the show. On that point, we can all hope it’s just a title with no real opportunity to drag the organization down.
No matter what the case, it’s imperative the Mets realize this is their shot, and they need to start acting like it instead of making a series of half measures hoping it adds up to a whole competing roster.
According to reports, the New York Mets are currently looking to upgrade their bullpen and backup catcher situation. While Tomas Nido was a strong defensive catcher, he had just a 40 wRC+, which probably necessitates this search.
Ideally, whomever the Mets acquire can offer the Nido’s defensive abilities while also providing a better bat. Also, given the Mets shoestring budget, the player they acquire is likely going to have to be cheap. Here are five catchers who should meet those requirements:
The mention of Plawecki may not excite Mets fans who had grown exacerbated with his never quite fulfilling his offensive potential. Even with his offensive struggles in Cleveland, Plawecki’s 63 wRC+ was far better than Nido’s. If he reverts to the catcher who had a 10.8% walk rate and 96 OPS+ in his final three years with the Mets all the better.
Another factor with Plawecki is he has historically been a strong pitch framer. As noted by Baseball Savant, Plawecki was a strong pitch framer on the lower half of the plate. That is of no small significance with a pitching staff which includes Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, Jeurys Familia, and Edwin Diaz.
On the topic of the Mets pitchers who need the low strike to succeed, there was a Grantland article which described Martin’s strong framing, which included his exceptional work on the lower half of the zone. While he is not the same framer he was in his prime, he is still one of the better framers in the lower part of the zone getting a called strike a little over 50% of the time.
In addition to framing the low strike, Martin had a strong offensive season for a backup catcher with an 83 wRC+. However, it should be noted that was part of a three year drop off offensively, and he is 36 years old. Still, Martin is a respected veteran presence, and that should not be underestimated.
If the Mets do change course and go with the personal catcher route, it would be much more palatable to Ramos and the clubhouse for the Mets to defer to a catcher of Martin’s stature than it probably was with Nido last year. Overall, this should help the clubhouse and the pitching staff. Speaking of saving the pitching staff, Martin can be relied upon as a reliever in blow out games.
With the Mets hiring Jeremy Hefner as the pitching coach, the organization is looking for an advanced analytical approach to help bring the pitching staff to bring them to the next level. This requires the implementation of a new organizational philosophy across the board. That process could be helped along by the Mets bringing in Castro, who worked with Hefner in Minnesota.
In addition to his knowledge of what Hefner is looking to do, Castro is a strong framer, and like aforementioned catchers, he is strong in the lower parts of the zone. He is also exceptional at getting the corners. Unlike the aforementioned catchers, he was an above average league hitter with a 103 wRC+.
On that note, it was the highest mark he had in six years, and it was just the second time in the past decade he was an above-average league hitter. Of course, some of the impact to that is the ball which was much maligned last year. Despite that, Castro is still a good hitter for the position with strong framing metrics.
Looking beyond these three, it is difficult to find a catcher who would fulfill the criteria of being a better hitter than Nido as well as a strong framer, especially in the lower half of the zone. The framing in the lower half of the zone really needs to be a focus for this Mets team given their pitchers and in their attempts to find a complement to Ramos.
Other popular names like Martin Maldonado may not come as cheap, and others like a Francisco Cervelli do not have the lower half framing numbers you want. Those three catchers should be the overall upgrade at a cheap cost over Nido, who the Mets may very well lose as he is out of options.
After all that transpired during the 2019 season and the complete organization overhaul, it’s clear the Pittsburgh Pirates are rebuilding their organization. While the name we have heard floating in trade rumors is Starling Marte, it is very possible the Pirates would be willing to move Chris Archer as well. If that is the case, the Mets should be interested.
One of the reasons to pursue him is Archer is likely at the nadir of his trade value after what has been a terrible stint with the Pirates giving a team an opportunity to obtain him and return him to what he once was with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Putting aside his short Major League debut in 2012, Archer set career worsts in ERA, IP, ERA+, FIP, WHIP, HR/9, and BB/9. He was also near his worst in other categories. Additionally, Archer would be shut down towards the end of August with right shoulder inflammation. Although, it should be noted that did not stop the Pirates from picking up his $9 million option.
Even with the down year, Archer did show a flash he could be a very good pitcher again. In his four August starts before being shut down, he had a 3.00 ERA, 1.278 WHIP, and a 13.5 K/9. It is a short sample size for sure, but it was an encouraging sign. There were other encouraging signs as well.
According to Baseball Savant, Archer had above average fastball velocity and elite curve ball spin. This was part of the reason why he had a very good strikeout rate. For him, that did not translate to dominating results. One of the reasons why is his location was poor and/or he was pitching to the wrong parts of the strike zone. It certainly didn’t help that he was not catching the bottom of the strike zone like he once did, and he was hit hard.
To a certain extent, that’s not unlike the struggles Noah Syndergaard experienced in 2019. To that end, the same issues which Syndergaard faced with the new ball affected Archer’s performance as well. Conversely, as noted by Thomas Bassinger of the Tampa Bay Times, this has been an issue with Archer since 2018. Ironically, his catcher that year was Wilson Ramos.
When it comes to Syndergaard, new Mets pitching coach Jeremy Hefner is going to have to find a way to figure out how to get Syndergaard to succeed with Ramos behind the plate. If he is successful, we should expect Syndergaard to return to his 2016 level. If Hefner is going to be successful in that endeavor, he can have the same exact impact on Archer who attacks batters and the zone in a similar fashion.
If you are the Mets, you are gambling on Hefner making things work between Syndergaard and Ramos. The season is going to sink or swim based upon his ability to get through to the two of them. If that is where you are hedging your bets, you might as well go all-in and try to do the same with Archer.
This is the boat the Mets are in now that they let Zack Wheeler go to the Phillies. The question for the team is do they try to sink or swim with an Archer or slowly drift out to sea with a pitcher like Rick Porcello. Given the Mets plan, Archer seems like the better option.
One thing is abundantly clear – the Mets love them some Jeremy Hefner!
The Mets drafted him not once, but twice. After he didn’t sign with the team after the 2004 or 2005 draft, the Padres drafted and signed Hefner in 2007.
When he was designated for assignment by the Padres in 2011, he was claimed by the Pirates. When the Pirates did the same a month later, there was the Mets pouncing and finally getting their man.
A year later, Hefner would finally make his Mets debut. It would be quite notable as Hefner would become the first 26th man in Major League history when he entered in relief in the first game of the April 23rd doubleheader against the San Francisco Giants.
Hefner showed real promise in 2013 with a 1.80 ERA in June and a 3.33 first half ERA. Unfortunately, like Matt Harvey, his promising season ended when he succumbed to a torn UCL requiring Tommy John surgery.
Harvey would return for 2015 glory, but Hefner wouldn’t. While he rehabbed with Harvey, something went wrong, and he would need another Tommy John surgery. He’d be a warning sign for Harvey causing the team to force him to ease up on his rehab. For all we know it also caused the Mets to be smarter with Zack Wheeler, who missed two years with his own Tommy John surgery and ensuing complications.
Like Wheeler, Hefner was a Met in name only as he watched the team won a pennant. Sadly, he’d be released at the end of the year, and his comeback attempt with the Cardinals didn’t lead to another shot in the majors.
Hefner landed on his feet as a member of the Twins organization as a scout, and this past year, he was the assistant pitching coach. He’s become very well regarded in the game in very short order. Once again, the Mets pursued him.
This time, it was much easier. Following a theme with their hiring Carlos Beltran, the team brought back Jeremy Hefner. Once again, he’s home with the Mets where he belongs. Once again, the Mets finally got Hefner in a Mets uniform.
Over the weekend, the Mets traded Kevin Plawecki to the Cleveland Indians for a pair of prospects. This has left the Mets with just three catchers on the 40 man roster.
Of course, that was the same position the Mets were on April 11 last season. On that date, Plawecki was hit on the hand with a Tayron Guerrero fastball. That pitch left the Mets with the catching tandem of Jose Lobaton and Tomas Nido.
After that April 11 game, the Mets record was 11-1. From that game up until the second game of a doubleheader, the Mets would go 14-24.
Over that stretch, Lobaton, Nido, and eventually Devin Mesoraco combined to hit .212/.300/.356. As much as Mets fans were down on Plawecki and Travis d’Arnaud, it’s likely even one of them being active would have bolstered those numbers, and hopefully, would have helped prevent the Mets freefall which would be capped off with a 5-21 June.
While there were other mitigating factors at play, a significant issue was the Mets catching depth or lack thereof. It’s an issue which may rear it’s ugly head in 2019.
While Wilson Ramos is undoubtedly an upgrade over d’Arnaud and Plawecki, he’s been an injury prone catcher in his career.
There have only been four times Ramos has played over 100 games. Since 2009, he has been on the disabled list nine different times. That includes last year when he was limited to 111 games.
He’s a 31 year old catcher. He’s at an age when players tend to become more injury prone playing a position where the players tend to be more injury prone.
By the way, his backup is d’Arnaud, who is a catcher who averages 66 games a season on account of his being an injury prone player. That includes him being limited to just six games last year due to a torn UCL requiring Tommy John surgery.
While the Mets believe d’Arnaud will be ready to start the year, the organization has seen its fair issues with Tommy John rehabilitation.
Zack Wheeler missed the 2015 and 2016 seasons due to the surgery and complications during rehab. In 2017, he missed time with a stress reaction, and he did not really get to form until June last year.
There’s also T.J. Rivera who underwent Tommy John surgery in September 2017. He was supposed to return around the All Star Break. Except he didn’t. Rivera missed the entire 2018 seasons, and no one is quite sure what he can contribute in 2019.
Despite this very spotty history and d’Arnaud’s own suspect health history, the Mets are going with him to backup an injury prone catcher. They are taking the chance d’Arnaud never plays, and in the event he does, there’s a chance he misses significant time.
Best case scenario is Nido backs up Ramos. Nido is a very strong defensive catcher who has hit .181/.210/.255/ in 100 Major League plate appearances. While you could hope he would be a better hitter than that, he did hit just .272/.300/.431 between Double and Triple-A.
While you may have concerns about what he would do if he was pressed into action, the real issue is what is behind him on the depth chart.
Sure, the Mets could bring on a veteran catcher, but what veteran wants to backup Nido in Syracuse? If you can decipher that, you gave to question who among that group you’d either want backing up or even starting at the Major League level.
After trading Plawecki, that’s where the Mets ate. They’re crossing their fingers their top two catchers, who have not stayed healthy in their careers, stay healthy, so we don’t find out what’s behind their already suspect catching depth.
In what has already been a frustrating offseason for Mets fans, Sandy Alderson has already uttered a statement that may prove to go down in “Panic Citi” history. While speaking with reporters, Alderson suggested people “spend a little less time focusing on our payroll.”
If Alderson wants everyone to spend less time focusing on payroll, maybe it is time to focus on Alderson’s tenure as the Mets General Manager to see how it was the team has gotten to this position.
During Alderson’s entire tenure, there have only been eight players who have played over 140 games in a season – Asdrubal Cabrera (2016), Ike Davis (2012) Lucas Duda (2014), Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2016), Juan Lagares (2015), Daniel Murphy (2012 – 2014), Jose Reyes (2017), and David Wright (2012).
This is because of a long list of injuries that have occurred to their position players. This ranges from the ordinary (Yoenis Cespedes‘ hamstring issues) to the bizarre (Davis’ Valley Fever) to the tragic (Wright).
As poorly as things have gone for the position players, the pitching situation is even worse. Johan Santana, Tim Byrdak, and Scott Rice suffered injuries that effectively ended their careers. Same could be said for Bobby Parnell, Jeremy Hefner, and Jim Henderson. The list goes on and on..
That list includes a starting pitching staff upon which this franchise was supposedly built. Each of the treasured purported five aces have undergone surgeries that have cost them multiple months. Matt Harvey may never be the same, and the same can be said for Zack Wheeler.
The irony is Alderson implemented the famed “Prevention & Recovery” mantra, and arguably things have gotten worse under his control.
Evaluating Own Talent
Now, there are varying reasons why teams choose to extend some players while not extending others, or why they choose not to re-sign other players. Still, Alderson’s record is not exactly sterling on this front.
The main players discussed on this front are Murphy and Justin Turner. However, there are some other less discussed players that have slipped through the Mets fingers.
The Mets traded Collin McHugh for Eric Young only to watch McHugh thrive elsewhere. Chris Young was given a large one year deal, was released, and has been an effective player for the Yankees and Red Sox. They released Dario Alvarez to see the Braves claim him and trade him to the Rangers for a former first round draft pick. Finally, there was the Angel Pagan trade for a couple of players who amounted to nothing with the Mets.
The troubles evaluating their own players go beyond who they willingly let go. It goes to those players the Mets opted to extend – Lagares, Jon Niese, and Wright. None of these three ever amounted to the promise they had at the time the contracts were extended. There are differing reasons for this, but in the end, the Mets proved wrong in those decisions.
The glass half-full is that every first round draft pick made prior to 2015 has made the Majors. Additionally, two of those players have made All Star teams. The glass half-empty is the players the Mets have drafted have not lived up to their potential.
At a time the Mets need a starting center fielder, Brandon Nimmo isn’t even being considered. This is not surprising as many see him as a fourth outfielder.
Coincidentally, the Mets also need a second baseman, and they are not even considering Gavin Cecchini for so much as a utility role let alone an opportunity to compete for a job in Spring Training.
The team was not at all enamored with Dominic Smith‘s rookie campaign, and they have publicly talked about bringing in insurance for him not being on the Opening Day roster.
The Mets had no 2015 draft pick because the team lost it signing Michael Cuddyer. Effectively speaking, this decision cost the Mets two first rounders as the team’s lack of offense and health caused them to trade Michael Fulmer for Cespedes. We have all seen Fulmer win a Rookie of the Year Award and make an All Star team in Detroit while the Mets have been desperate for pitching.
Justin Dunn has done little to quell the concerns he is a reliever and not a starter while Anthony Kay, the compensation for the reigning NLCS MVP, has yet to throw a professional pitch because of his Tommy John surgery.
This leaves Conforto, who should be a burgeoning superstar, but sadly we wait with baited breath looking to see if he is going to be the same player he was before separating his shoulder on a swing.
Alderson’s ventures into free agency have not been all that fruitful. Of all the players who have signed multi-year deals, only Granderson has posted multiple seasons over a 2.0 WAR. In fact, Granderson is the only player who has posted a cumulative WAR of over 4.0.
For those that would bring up Colon or Cespedes, their exploits are not attributable to their multi-year deals. Colon accumulated 4.9 WAR with the Mets with 3.4 of that coming during his one year contract. Cespedes has accumulated 7.2 WAR with the Mets with just 2.1 WAR coming last year in an injury plagued first year of a large four year deal.
It should be noted Alderson may not have much success on this front because the team has not gone crazy in free agency signing just a few players a year to Major League deals.
Even in 2015 and 2016, two years the Mets made the postseason, the Mets had depth issues. This was why the team traded for Kelly Johnson in consecutive seasons. It’s also a reason why in those consecutive years the Mets had to add to the bullpen.
Those seasons have taken a toll on the Mets prospect front. They have sent away a number of assets and potential Major League contributors for a number of players who were attainable before the season began on reasonable deals. Instead, the Mets thought they would be set with players like Eric Campbell.
Much of what is attributed to Alderson being a good General Manager is predicated upon a stroke of genius in obtaining Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wuilmer Becerra in exchange for R.A. Dickey. Even with many fans wanting to give him plaudits for Cespedes, it should be noted the trade was made largely because of a series of missteps. It should also be noted the Mets lost a pretty good pitcher.
Now, if you are going to defend Alderson by saying his hands have been largely tied due to the Mets payroll, remember, Alderson himself doesn’t want thinks we should spend a little less time focusing on that.
Sadly, we have to do that because the Alderson regime has had difficulties in evaluating their own talent and drafting high end talent. If he had, the discussion would probably be the Mets fine tuning to make another postseason run instead of there being fan anger over how the payroll is restricting the Mets from building a World Series caliber roster.
The Marlins had no chance against deGrom who had all his pitches working. His velocity was back as well with him even hitting 99 on the gun. Through seven innings deGrom had only allowed four hits, which includes the two solo home runs, and one walk while striking out 13 batters.
After seven innings, deGrom had thrown 97 pitches, and with a 4-2 lead, he seemed poised to win the game.
You knew Conley wasn’t going to have it when he walked Jose Reyes to lead-off the game. By the way it’s interesting that it only took Reyes to be good in one hand for him to reclaim the lead-off spot on the team. It should be noted after the leadoff walk, he went 0-3. Still, Reyes would score on a Neil Walker double giving the Mets a 1-0 lead.
The Mets tied the game in the seventh on a Curtis Granderson RBI triple. The ball tipped off Christian Yelich‘s glove with Yelich trying to emulate a catch Juan Lagares made earlier in the game. Granderson scored on Michael Conforto‘s sacrifice fly giving the Mets a 3-2 lead.
When Asdrubal Cabrera hit a solo home run in the eighth, it seemed as if the Mets’ 4-2 lead would be enough to win the game. It wasn’t.
To much consternation, deGrom didn’t start the eighth. However, it was a very defensible position considering deGrom was already at 97 pitches and his having season ending elbow surgery last season. It was also a very defensible position to use Fernando Salas in the eighth inning. That’s the reason the Mets signed him in the offseason. He was to be the eighth inning guy until Jeurys Familia returned from his suspension. At that point, Salas would become the seventh inning guy.
As happens in baseball, Salas didn’t have it. It’s part of being a reliever. Sometimes you just don’t have it. It also happens when you lead the majors in appearances this season. In fact, dating back to September 1, 2016, his first game with the Mets, Salas is the most heavily used reliever in all of baseball. He was bound to struggle sooner rather than later.
What was strange with Salas was how quickly it just happened. He made quick work of Ichiro Suzuki and Dee Gordon to begin the inning. Then he issued a four pitch walk to Miguel Rojas. Believe it or not, this was Salas’ first non-intentional walk as a member of the New York Mets. This set the stage for a matchup against Yelich. Now, it should be noted Jerry Blevins was warming up just for this situation. If you are going to have Blevins warming up, this is the exact situation you bring him into the game. Plain and simple.
Instead, Collins elected to go with Salas. Note, Salas pitching to Yelich wasn’t a bad move per se. Salas is your guy for this spot, and he did make quick work of the first two batters. However, Blevins was already warming in the pen. If he’s up, bring him in, get out of the jam, and give Addison Reed a two run lead. Instead, Collins left in Salas, who gave up the game tying home run to Yelich. He then gave up a go-ahead home run to Giancarlo Stanton. To add insult to injury, Collins brought in Blevins to get out Bour to get out of the inning.
And with that, the Mets 4-2 lead became a 5-4 loss. Sure, you can’t completely pin the loss on Collins as he made some defensible moves. That was at least until he left a warm Blevins in the pen. You could argue that doesn’t mean Salas should give up a home run. You’d be right, but you’d also ignore the simple fact that Collins didn’t put his team in the best position to win. Because of that, this loss is on him.
Perhaps knowing that, he was angry and downright rude to the beat reporters after the game. In the video, Collins explained every reason for his decisions, omitting some key facts:
Terry on Salas. Pulled deGrom to be cautious as team wants to be with starters. pic.twitter.com/fPSPYQIvrw
— Matt Ehalt (@MattEhalt) April 16, 2017
Look, we all agree the starters should be protected, but that doesn’t mean you ruin the arms and the careers of the relievers. There’s a balance, and the fact that Collins doesn’t see that is downright frightening. It’s probably the reason why we saw him run through damaged relievers like Tim Byrdak and Jim Henderson in his career. Apparently, Collins only protects the arms of those pitchers he deems more valuable.
That’s not right, and it needs to stop. Another thing that needs to stop is the faulty logic. If Collins was that concerned over Blevins, under no means do you have him warming up. You either want him rested, or you want him pitching. If you want him pitching, get him in the game against the big left-handed threat in the lineup. Afraid of Stanton, get Reed up. He’s the most rested reliever in that bullpen. Considering how the long games has wrecked havoc on the bullpen, it actually made sense to go with Reed for a four out save.
Right now, Collins is picking and choosing who to abuse and who not to abuse. It is having a tangible effect on the effectiveness of the relievers. It may soon have an effect on their health. We have seen this before with Collins. Hopefully, we won’t see it again. On that front, no one should be hopeful.
Game Notes: With the left-handed Conley on the mound, Collins went with a Yoenis Cespedes-Lagares-Granderson outfield to start the game. Rene Rivera got the start over Travis d’Arnaud giving d’Arnaud two days off after he caught 16 innings. Mets have now lost four of seven to the Marlins. Last year, the Mets were 12-7 against the Marlins.
With this Mets team once again built on pitching, the fear continues to be that one of these pitchers will suffer an injury. An even bigger fear is that injury will require Tommy John surgery. This usually means a pitcher is gone for over a year, and as we have seen with Jeremy Hefner and Bobby Parnell, it is not an easy road back, nor is it a guarantee the pitcher will return to form. That is why the route Seth Maness has chosen is so important to the Mets and all of baseball. It creates the possibility that a player can return in-season rather than missing over a year.
Can you name the Mets currently on the 40 man roster who have undergone Tommy John surgery? Good luck!
Back in 2013, Mets fans were shocked and depressed when Matt Harvey missed the remainder of the regular season with a torn UCL. Initially, it seemed Harvey did not want the surgery, but eventually he agreed to have the surgery. Fortunately for Harvey, he went through the rehabilitation process with no setbacks, and he became an important part of a 2015 rotation that went all the way to the World Series.
While rehabilitating, he worked alongside former Mets starter Jeremy Hefner. In 2012 and 2013, Hefner had performed better than expected with the Mets, and he finally seemed to carve out some type of a role in the organization. The team even tendered him a contract while he was rehabbing from his own Tommy John surgery. However, disaster struck, and Hefner would need another Tommy John surgery. He would miss all of the 2014 and 2015 seasons. The Mets would non-tender him, and he would have to agree to a minor league contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. Now, with another arm injury, he has since retired.
These are just two of the countless stories we have seen with the Mets when it comes to Tommy John surgery. Recently, we have heard terrific stories about how Jacob deGrom learned how to throw the change-up from Johan Santana while deGrom was rehabiliting from his own Tommy John surgery. It was a great story, and it was something that forever changed the trajectory of deGrom’s career. There have been other Mets who have had their career trajectories change due to the surgery.
At one point in his career, Bobby Parnell was deemed the closer of the future. In 2013, he seemed to take over the role when he recorded 22 saves. In 2014, he would be named the Opening Day closer. It lasted all of one inning as Parnell was shut down and had Tommy John surgery. He tried to come back in 2015, but he did not have the same velocity, and he did not have his command. The Mets showed no interest in re-signing him leading to Parnell signing a minor league deal with the Tigers. After six major league appearances that saw him post a 6.75 ERA, Parnell was released in August.
Of course, the biggest name with the Mets to have issues post-Tommy John surgery was Zack Wheeler. Right before the 2015 season was set to begin, Wheeler was diagnosed with a torn UCL. He would have the surgery, and he would have a number of set-backs. He was initially slated to be a part of the Mets starting rotation around the 2016 All Star break. Instead, he would have a number of setbacks, and eventually, the Mets would shut him down for the season. In total, he threw one inning for St. Lucie in a rehab appearance. Now, the Mets are discussing whether they should move him to the bullpen for at least the start of the season.
Hefner, Parnell, and Wheeler show exactly why the experiment Seth Maness is undergoing is so important to the game of baseball.
For the past four seasons, Maness has been an effective reliever for the St. Louis Cardinals. Because of his own torn UCL, Maness would make his last appearance on August 13th, and it was assumed he would be headed for Tommy John surgery like so many other people have with the same injury. He didn’t.
Derrick Gould of the St. Louis Dispatch reports Maness underwent a surgery called “primary repair” which is ” a repair and buttressing of the existing ligament at the bone, not Tommy John’s reconstruction of the ligament.” Like Tommy John once was, Maness is now a trailblazer that may have the name of a surgery attached to him. The physician that performed the surgery, Dr. George Paletta, spoke about the procedure saying:
In select cases of UCL tears, with this technique, they have the real potential to not miss the next year. This is potentially a huge stride forward in three ways. First, early results show a high success rate. Second, a return to play is cut by 40 percent. That’s a huge factor. We are able to accelerate the return-to-throwing (rehab) program for the athletes. With this technique at the end of 2016 we have a pitcher who is ready to pitch in games by opening day.
And the third way, as a consequence of this, in the right setting, one would feel more confident moving to surgery early on.
Believe it or not, Maness is a week away from being able to take the mound after a little more than seven months after the surgery. It is expected the free agent reliever will be ready to pitch on Opening Day. Once he takes the mound, there is going to be a lot of interest in his performance.
Dr. Jeffrey Dugas, another surgeon who performs this surgery and the managing partner at the Andrews Sports Medicine & Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, AL noted there is now a lot of interest in how Maness performs post-surgery:
People are watching this and it’s an interesting thing for all of us. There is a lot that we need to learn from Seth, a lot that we need to learn from all of the guys (who have had it). We need the data. There are still so many hurdles to go over, but we’re excited to watch what is going to happen because of what is possible. We’re going to follow him very closely.
Therein lies the rub. We had gotten to the point with Tommy John surgery where it had felt almost routine; where we looked at pitchers like Masahiro Tanaka and wondered why he just didn’t get the surgery. The “primary repair” or Seth Maness Surgery is far from that point. However, if Maness has a strong 2017 season, and a couple of more pitcher follow his path, and have similar success stories, the treatment fo UCLs may have been revolutionized.
There may no longer see the Harveys of the world miss more than a season. We may also see an alternative route for the Hefners, Parnells, and Wheelers of the world. Ultimately, when there is at least a chance pitchers will miss less time and have an alternative surgery that may work better for them, it is a time for cautious optimism.
And with that, a middle reliever who induces a number of groundballs could have one of the most important seasons in major league history.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online