Jerry Koosman

Jeurys Familia Is Becoming the Mets Best Closer Ever

For an organization known for its pitching, it should come as no surprise that the Mets have had their fair share of good closers.  What may come as a surprise is that Jeurys Familia might just become better than them all.

The Mets first notable closer was Tug McGraw.  His contributions extend well past his coining the phrase “Ya Gotta Believe!”  Up until the 80’s, in a time when managers began to pitch to the save rule, McGraw was the Mets all-time leader with 86 saves.  He is also the only Mets to be a closer to for a team that won a World Series and a Pennant.  In 1969, he shared closing duties with Ron Taylor.  In 1973, he was not only the man, but in many ways, the vocal leader of the team.  The only record McGraw has remaining in the record books is most innings pitched by a Mets reliever  with 792.2 innings over his nine year Mets career.

The next Mets closer to appear in multiple postseasons was Jesse Orosco.  When discussing Orosco, there are always three things you need to mention: (1) he was part of the return the Mets received when they traded Jerry Koosman to the Twins; (2) Keith Hernandez warned him not to throw a fastball to Kevin Bass (he didn’t); and (3) his glove has still not landed.  After his eight year career was over, Orosco was both the Mets all-time leader in saves (107) and the Mets single season saves leader (31 in 1984).  To this day, he remains the only Mets closer to save a World series clinching game.

Orosco would eventually be surpassed by John Franco on both the saves list and the Mets all-time saves list.  Somewhat ironically, Franco’s entrance song was Johnny B. Goode as his ninth inning appearances were always a high wire act.  Still, throughout all of it, Franco has more saves by any left-handed closer in history with 424, and when he retired he was third on the all-time list trailing only Lee Smith and Trevor Hoffman.  Franco recorded 276 of those saves with the Mets.  His 276 saves are the Mets record by a fairly wide margin.

In fact, Franco leads Armando Benitez by 116 saves on the Mets all-time list.  Coincidentally, Benitez is the man who replaced Franco as the Mets closer in 1999.  With the Mets having made consecutive postseason appearances in 1999 and 2000, Benitez remains the only Mets closer to pitch in consecutive postseasons.  While Mets fans loved to hate him, Benitez did show flashes of complete and utter dominance.  As of right now, his 43 saves in 2001 still remains the Mets single season record.

However, that record is in jeopardy.  Last year, Jeurys Familia, in his first season as the Mets closer, tied Benitez’s single season record.  This year, he has tied it again en route to him most likely breaking the tie with Benitez.  With Familia having saved 43 games for consecutive seasons, he has already set the mark for most saves by a Mets closer in consecutive seasons.  Even with Familia only having been the Mets closer for one plus seasons, he now ranks fifth all-time with 92 saves as a Met.  With 16 more saves, he will jump both Orosco and Billy Wagner to put him third all-time.

If the Mets current charge continues, he could join Benitez as the only Mets closer to appear in back-to-back postseasons.  If the Mets get into the postseason, anything is possible including seeing Familia join Orosco as the only Mets pitcher to earn a save to close out the World Series.

That’s just the thing with Familia.  He’s already a great closer, and he’s already writing his name all over the Mets record books.  As long as he is the Mets closer, anything is possible.  It’s also possible that we could be watching the best closer in Mets history.

Ya Gotta Believe Again

On August 22, 1973, the Mets won their second game in a row to raise the Mets record to 57-67 leaving them 6.0 games out in the National League East behind the first place St. Louis Cardinals.

From that point forward, the Mets would be the hottest team in baseball going 25-12 carrying them to an unlikely division championship. The Mets rode the hot streak to beat the Big Red Machine 3-2 in a best of five NLCS, and they came within a win of disrupting the Oakland A’s dynasty.

The popular story was the Mets were spurred by Tug McGraw screaming “Ya Gotta Believe!” after a M.Donald Grant “pep talk” in July. However, the truth is that team just got healthy at the right time, and when the team was at 100%, they were among the best teams in baseball.

During that year, the team was hampered by injuries. Jerry GroteJohn MilnerBud Harrelson, and Cleon Jones all missed significant time. Rusty Staub player through injuries all year.  On top of that phenom Jon Matlack was having a down year a year removed from winning the Rookie of the Year Award.  He was joined by Jerry Koosman in having a surprising down year.  Willie Mays looked to be every bit of his 42 years of age.  Young fill-ins like Don Hahn just were not producing.  The Mets were forced to do anything they could do to improve the team like releasing dead weight like Jim Fregosi.  About all that went right that season for the Mets was Tom Seaver; that and the fact that no one ran away with the division allowing the Mets to enter the postseason with an 82-79 record.

Isn’t that what this Mets season has been.  With Matt Harvey, David Wright, Lucas Duda, Adrubal Cabrera, and Yoenis Cespedes, we have seen this Mets team be hampered time and again by injuries.  We have seen countless Mets play through injuries like Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz with their bone spurs.  We’ve seen replacements like Eric Campbell, Ty Kelly, and Matt Reynolds not play up to snuff.  Players like Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Conforto had surprising down years.  About the only thing that has gone right for the Mets this year is the fact that Jacob deGrom has continued to pitch like an ace, and the fact that no one has ran away with the second Wild Card spot.

Maybe, just maybe, this is 1973 all over again.  That 1973 team was much further back in both the standings and more teams to leapfrog in the standings.  All they needed to do was to get healthy and to get hot.  Right now, with Cespedes back and hitting home runs for the Mets again, this team is healthy, and they are on the verge of getting hot.  If that happens, the Mets can very well take that second Wild Card spot and get into the postseason.

As we saw in 1973 as well as last year, with great Mets pitching, the Mets can beat anyone in the postseason.  They can shock the world.  Anything is possible so long as they get hot and get into the postseason.

The Mets Have Four Aces

Lost in all the offensive struggles is the fact that this Mets team is built upon pitching.  As a franchise, the Mets always have and always will be built upon pitching.  It started with Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Jon Matlack in the late 60’s.  It was continued in the 80’s with Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, and David Cone.  The mantle was supposed to be picked up this year by the Mets young rotation.

However, the rotation has had some struggles.  Matt Harvey struggled mightily going 2-4 in May with a 5.91 ERA.  To a lesser extent, Jacob deGrom struggled in May going 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA.  The concern with deGrom was not so much the results but the seemingly precipitous drop in velocity.  These were to the two aces the Mets road all last year and into the postseason.  These were supposed to be the two aces this year leading the team while the younger starters developed.  Instead, the reverse has been true.

Noah Syndergaard has taken the next step this year.  He is 5-2 with a 1.84 ERA and a 0.958 WHIP.  He is throwing fastballs up and over 100 MPH, and more impressively, he is throwing sliders around 95 MPH.  He is as dominant a pitcher as there is in baseball right now.

Steven Matz was named the National League Rookie of the Month for the Month of May.  It was a well deserved honor after going 4-0 with a 1.83 ERA and a 0.757 WHIP.  In fact, if you take away his first nightmare of a start, a start he made after a long period of inactivity, Matz is 7-0 with a 1.51 ERA and a 0.932 WHIP.  Matz has been the pitcher everyone has imagined he would be and more since he burst onto the scene last year beating the Reds from the mound at the plate.

Overall, Syndergaard and Matz have taken the next step.  On almost any other rotation, they would be the unquestioned ace. That was the same thing that has been said for Harvey and deGrom.  On that front, there is some great news as well.  In Harvey’s last start, he went seven innings allowing only two hits, no runs, and one walk with striking out six.  In deGrom’s last start, he went seven innings allowing five hits, one run, and two walks while striking out 10.  More importantly, deGrom’s velocity is returning with him getting his fastball up to 96 MPH.

So yes, it appears like the 2016 Mets are continuing the franchise’s legacy of having great pitching.  With Syndergaard and Matz being ahead of schedule in their development coupled with Harvey and deGrom starting to return to last year’s form, the Mets rotation is stacked with four aces.  If you’re a baseball player or a poker player, you know four aces is next to impossible to beat no matter whatever else you have in your hand . . . even if that hand contains the deuce that the Mets offense was over the month of May.

Matz-terful Performance 

When Steven Matz first cracked into the majors with his grandfather jumping up and down, we expected him to do the Jerry Koosman each start. For the uninitiated, Koosman said his job as a pitcher was to shut them out and hit one out. Essentially, a pitcher should be a threat on the mound and at the plate. By the way, Koosman might’ve said that, but he was a terrible hitter. 

Tonight, Matz had one of those Koosman dictated games. Matz pitched 6.1 innings allowing nine hits, two earned, two walks, and eight strikeouts.   He got touched up was the third when noted Mets killer, Freddie Freeman, hit an RBI double. In the seventh, he ran out of gas, but Hansel Robles came in and got out of the jam. At the plate, Matz went 1-2. Terrible Braves team or not, Matz had a terrific night. 

At the plate, the Mets had some firsts. In the first inning, Lucas Duda hit the Mets first sacrifice fly of the year scoring Curtis Granderson, who led off the game with a single and moved to third on a Michael Conforto single. Speaking of Conforto, he would have his first career stolen base in the third inning. After Duda hit his sacrifice fly, Neil Walker walked for the first time this year. Don’t worry, he would add a homerun in the eighth. The second run scored in the first would later score on an error. Sarcastic Mets fans would tell you this is the first time all year the Mets manufactured a run. 

In any event, this game was what you would expect, or rather, what we should expect from Braves-Mets games this year. The Mets pitching and offense dominated. Every Mets starter, including Matz, reached base at least once. The Third Baseman Formerly Known as David Wright (RIP Prince) hit two doubles. He was 2-5 with one run, two RBI, and two strikeouts. Once again tales of his demise were greatly exaggerated. 

Somewhat surprisingly, Juan Lagares got the start in center for an ailing Yoenis Cespedes. It was surprising because Jhoulys Chacin, who is a right handed pitcher. Before Cespedes was signed, it was presumed there was going to be a centerfield platoon with Alejandro De Aza facing the eighties. 

Other than the Lagares -De Aza decision, nothing about tonight was surprising was the Mets domination. Once all was said and done, the Mets won 8-2. They need to dominate teams like this.  They need to sweep teams like this. The Mets are in the process of doing that. They’re getting back on track. 

Mets Have Momentum

The late, great, Hall of Fame Manager Earl Weaver used to say, “Momentum?  Momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher.”  With that said, the Mets should have momentum all throughout 2016. 

With a 2-4 start, it hasn’t always worked out that way, but tonight Mets fans get to see Noah Syndergaard take the mound. Last time we saw him, he was doing things like this:

He’s become unhittable. He makes you want to jump out of your chair and scream:

Fact is, whenever you have Thor on the mound, your team has momentum. They can go out there and beat the ’27 Yankees. They can go out there and beat the Big Red Machine just like Tom SeaverJerry Koosman, and Jon Matlack did. When any member of a power triumvirate of Mets pitchers takes the mound, you have to like your chances of winning. You’ve got momentum. 

Tonight, momentum, thy name is Thor. 

Thor Trying to Avoid Tommy John Surgery

Going into the 2016 season, there is one fear each and every Mets fan has. We dare not speak its name, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still present. That fear is that a pitcher will get seriously injured. 

Looking at this year’s list of pitchers who could befall the dreaded “Verducci Effect,” Noah Syndergaard headlines that list. If Syndergaard was to suffer a season ending injury requiring Tommy John surgery? it would greatly hinder the Mets chances of winning not only the World Series, but also making it to the postseason. It’s something that not just Mets fans fear, but as Anthony DiComo of MLB.com reports, Syndergaard fears it also:

I’ve thought about it quite a bit. But I trust myself to put my body in the right situations to be able to perform at a healthy level. 

The fear is justified. Syndergaard threw 65.2 innings more last year. He throws over 95 MPH more than anyone in the game. He’s working to add the fabled Warthen Slider to his already dominant repertoire. Name a risk factor for UCL years requiring Tommy John surgery. Syndergaard meets most if not all of them. 

One risk factor not readily discussed is the team he plays for. Look at the projected Mets rotation when healthy: Matt HarveyJacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler. Put aside Syndergaard for a moment. What do the other four have in common?  They are all hard throwing pitchers under the age of 30 who have already had Tommy John surgery. 

Go outside this group. Since Warthen took over as the Mets pitching coach, the following homegrown Mets have sustained arm injuries: Jon Niese (shoulder), Dillon Gee (shoulder), Jeremy Hefner (two Tommy John surgeries), Rafael Montero (shoulder), Bobby Parnell (Tommy John), Josh Edgin (Tommy John), Jack Leathersich (Tommy John). There are more, but you get the point. 

Now, is this an organizational problem since Warthen took over, or is it just bad luck?  Could this all have been avoided?  Back in the 60’s and 70’s the Mets developed pitchers like Tom SeaverJerry KoosmanNolan Ryan, and Jon Matlack. These pitchers threw more innings than the pitchers today, and yet, Matlack was the only one of this group that suffered an arm injury. 

In the 80’s, the Mets had Dwight GoodenRon DarlingSid Fernandez, Rick AguileraRandy Myers and David Cone. Of this group, only Doc and Cone had arm issues. It should be noted that Doc had many other issues as well, and Cone’s problem was an aneurysm later in his career. 

In the 90’s, Generation K was a bust, and the Mets haven’t developed the caliber of starting pitchers like they have in the past until now. However, this generation seems to befall injuries far more often than their predecessors. Is it organizational?  Is it bad luck?  Is it preparation?  For his part, Harvey wonders what if:

I think now, there are things I could have done better in high school or in college to maybe prevent it. But I don’t know. I’m not saying [Syndergaard] works that much harder than everybody else, because we all work hard. I think as time progresses, guys pay more attention to stretching the shoulder, strengthening the shoulder. If I could go back — I don’t know if this would’ve prevented me from having [surgery], but if I could go back and really do 20 extra minutes of stretching and arm care, you never know what could happen. 

That’s the thing. We really don’t know why one guy suffers elbow and shoulder injuries while others don’t. Is it preparation?  Is it good genes?  Is it just good luck?  Much time, energy, and money has been spent on this issue, and yet pitchers still get injured. Pitchers get injured despite teams doing everything in their power to try to prevent it. 

It will help Syndergaard being in a clubhouse with players who have had Tommy John surgery. They each will have advice for him on why they suffered the injury and what they could’ve done differently. More importantly, Syndergaard appears to be a hard worker who takes the health of his arm very seriously.  There is no doubt he is doing everything he can do to avoid the dreaded Tommy John surgery. 

Based on what we’ve seen, if anyone can avoid it, it’s him. 

Editor’s Note: this article was first published on metsmerizedonline.com

Baseball Never Passes You By

Terry Collins grew up watching baseball in an era when you had batting average, homeruns, and RBI to judge hitters. There was W-L record, ERA, and strikeouts to judge pitchers. Back then, utilizing the eye test was justifiable as there was no way to really quantify all you are seeing. 

It’s important to keep this in mind when analyzing Terry Collins’ opinions on advanced statistics:

It’s become a young man’s game, especially with all of the technology stuff you’ve got to be involved in. I’m not very good at it. I don’t enjoy it like other people do. I’m not going to sit here and look at all of these [expletive] numbers and try to predict this guy is going to be a great player. OPS this. OPS that. GPS. LCSs. DSDs. You know who has good numbers?  Good [expletive] players. 

This quote reminds me of when I talk baseball with my Dad. He’s actually two years older than Terry Collins. 

Whenever I talk to my Dad about baseball, I sometimes refer to advanced statistics. I will refer to WAR, FIP, UZR, etc. When I refer to them, he looks at me incredulously. He doesn’t know what they are. He doesn’t understand them. He asks me how to calculate them. I will give him a cursory explanation, but I can’t give him the exact formula. He can’t sit down and calculate it with his calculator. He’d rather talk about the statistics in which he’s more conversant. 

The strange thing is I became interested in part due to my Dad. Growing up, he always told me to take W-L record with a grain of salt. He told me OBP was more important than batting average. He told me this in the 80’s!  Back then merely suggesting that was heresy. 

Now, we’re well beyond OBP and ERA being the advanced statistics to analyze. In many ways, Terry Collins is right. The game of baseball has passed them by. These newfangled statistics really are for a younger generation. Yet, we can all still enjoy baseball in our own way. 

We don’t really need advanced statistics to tell us Matt Harvey is a really good pitcher. Yes, advanced statistics will support that conclusion. I love sitting there and watching games with my Dad. I remember in 2013 when he said that he expected Matt Harvey to throw a no-hitter every time he goes out to pitch. One night, we were there when it almost happened. 

I love hearing my Dad tell me about how impossibly great Tom Seaver was. I love hearing him tell me that despite that he wanted Jerry Koosman on the mound for a big game. 

So yes, how we analyze the game has changed since my Dad was a kid. Not to mention that teams are even trained differently from the days of old, with new technology and tools like the baseball swing trainer V2 and others available for anyone who aspires to be a solid player. It still doesn’t mean he doesn’t know a great player when he sees one. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the game of baseball. It  doesn’t mean I don’t love talking baseball with him. 

There will come a time when there are new statistics I won’t understand. I’ll be too old and set in my ways to learn the new ones. My son will roll his eyes at me when I refer to someone’s WAR or UZR. There’s going to be new statistics that will make all I think I know obsolete. That’s fine as long as we’re talking baseball (hopefully about his career). That’s all that matters. 

No matter what happens, no matter what new statistics arise, the game never passes you by. As long as there are fathers and sons talking baseball, the game will belong to each and every generation. It will be a shared experience. 

With that said, hopefully one day, my son will be able to explain to me what LCS and DSD is before I begin ignoring all thess newfangled statistics. 

Moving from Anger to Hope, Not Bargaining

We’ve all heard of the five stages of grief: (1) Denial; (2) Anger; (3) Bargaining; (4) Depression; and (5) Acceptance. Last night, after Daniel Murphy‘s error, I was in denial. I thought they would come back and win the game. Judging from my posts today, I’m at anger. Justifiable anger, but anger nevertheless. 

Guess what?  I’ve moved on from anger. I’ve processed everything. I looked at how it’s all happened. There are some things I’ve come to realize:

  1. This is a resilient baseball team that has answered every call when their backs were against the wall;
  2. The Mets have had a lead in every game; and
  3. The Mets still have the three best starting pitchers in this series. 

It gives me hope.  I’m not in the five stages of grief. There’s nothing to grieve. The Mets can still win this World Series starting with Matt Harvey tonight. 

Think about it. When has it ever been easy for the Mets?  Even in their easiest title run, 1969, they had to deal with Tom Seaver losing Game 1. The Mets got a brilliantly pitched game from Jerry Koosman in Game 2, but they had to deal with a blown 1-0 lead and were facing going down 2-0 to the heavily favored Orioles. The Mets pulled it out and the series.

In 1986, the Mets clearly had their best best ever. They won 108 games. Seriously, they do not get discussed enough as one of the best teams ever. Despite being a historically great team, they were on the verge of losing the World Series until an impossible rally. They trailed 3-0 in Game 7 until a sixth inning rally. 

Now, they are down 3-1 in the series. They can still win, but it won’t be easy. However, there is still hope, and where there is hope, there’s a chance. I have hope they can do it. I mean c’mon we’re a Mets fans. We have no choice.

Ya Gotta Believe!

Goal: Split in KC

Just like the NLDS, all the Mets have to do is split on the road. After the first two games, the Mets will have Noah Syndergaard for Game 3 in Citi Field. 

This is a tremendous advantage for the Mets. Thor is 7-2 with a 2.43 ERA, 0.821 WHIP, and a 9.2 K/9 at home. In the playoffs, he’s 1-1 with a one hold, a 2.77 ERA, 1.077 WHIP, and a 13.8 K/9. In his one postseason start at home, in three days rest, he pitched 5.2 innings allowing 3 hits, 1 earned, 1 walk, and 9 K. I don’t care if the Royals feel Yordano Ventura is their ace. Thor is better. 

Ventura in four starts this postseason is 0-1 this postseason with a 5.09 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP. How am I to believe he will shut down a Mets team that is raking this postseason. Then after this, you can call Game Four a coin flip between Steven Matz and old friend Chris Young. After this, the rotations flip, and the Mets continue their strong starting pitching advantage

Overall, the more I think about it, this is like 1969. The Mets weren’t supposed to be there. They were underdogs. They started the franchise, Tom Seaver, in Game One. He was the Cy Young Award winner. The Mets superstar and best chance of winning. The Mets lost Game One, and it seemed the sweep was on. 

  
The Mets had a strong young pitching staff that went beyond just Seaver. Jerry Koosman flipped the script with a dominant Game Two performance. The Mets then took care of the Orioles in five. 

The moral of the story is the Mets just need to split in Kansas City, and they are in great shape to win this World Series. I think they will win

LETS GO METS!