Joey Lucchesi

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Finally Lose Opening Series

After the opening series against the Washington Nationals was canceled due to COVID19, the New York Mets finally played their first series of the season. They should’ve taken the series, but didn’t;

1. That was your typical Jacob deGrom start. He’s dominant. The Mets don’t score. The bullpen blows it.

2. Much was made of deGrom coming out after six. People overlook deGrom being part of and agreeing with the decision. He had a long layoff, and it’s going to be tricky getting everyone through the season.

3. James McCann was a mixed bag. He called a great game, and he was great framing it. However, he did let some balls get behind him, and he did a Wilson Ramos impersonation on Luis Guillorme‘s throw.

4. With J.D. Davis being down, Guillorme and Jonathan Villar may get a chance to prove they should play everyday. So far, they’re making a good case.

5. Pete Alonso looks like a man on a mission. He’s completely locked in at the plate, and his defense has never looked better. He could be on the verge of an MVP type season.

6. It was actually surprising to see his ball didn’t go out on Tuesday night. Last year and the year before those balls might’ve been 20 rows deep. Instead, that ball died at the wall. That may be a real sign the ball isn’t traveling like it did in prior years.

7. The Mets were down because the bullpen hasn’t been great so far.

8. Trevor May has struggled in both games, but it was good to see him come into the second game, fight it, and get out of the inning unscathed. That and his taking ownership of his poor performance is an indication he is going to be just fine in New York.

9. The Aaron Loup signing was curious, especially given the three batter rule. We saw just how that can help a team implode. After he plunked Bryce Harper, he was facing J.T. Realmuto. It should come as no surprise that inning got out of control.

10. There were some good signs out of Jeurys Familia and Miguel Castro. Overall, with Edwin Diaz not getting into a game, the Mets best reliever in the series was Joey Lucchesi, who is also their fifth starter.

11. There could be some questions as to how Luis Rojas managed these games, but it is first important to remember he is not the one who fills out the lineup card. Some of his decisions are also very defensible like leaving in Kevin Pillar in the fourth inning of a game where the Mets had deGrom on the mound and had a 2-0 lead.

12. The fact the Mets would not bat Brandon Nimmo atop the lineup is beyond crazy. Even with a left-handed pitcher on the mound, it’s crazy. In fact, Nimmo has been the Mets best hitter against left-handed pitchers the last two years. The second best? Dominic Smith.

13. Dominic Smith isn’t a platoon player, and he shouldn’t be treated as such. He showed that on his first at-bat of the season.

14. Jeff McNeil has hit the ball with real authority so far this season. It was probably a good idea to get him a mental break ahead of coming to New York.

15. On that note, we are likely going to see a number of players miss some unexpected games here and there as they get vaccinated and deal with the side effects. Well, everyone except Davis.

16. Marcus Stroman was great on the mound, and he not only looks like an All-Star with that new forkball, but he could be a very real contender for the Cy Young this season.

17. Francisco Lindor has been everything as advertised so far this season. His defense has been great. He is giving good at-bats. He was a real leader talking to David Peterson after a rough outing. The Mets are very lucky to have him around for the next decade.

18. The long layoff was probably a factor, but Peterson showed he probably needs more time in Triple-A, which is fine. It would’ve been better to put Jordan Yamamoto in the rotation to start the season. That goes double when the Mets could have skipped the fifth starter, which they are.

19. Michael Conforto struggled with runners on base during this series, so naturally people are going overboard in their reaction. Fact is, Conforto is still a .271/.393/.512 hitter with runners in scoring position in his career. He’s going to be fine, and the Mets should still be pushing to sign him to an extension to make him a Met for life.

20. The Mets were put at a disadvantage not playing the Nationals series, and the Atlanta Braves got to fact that decimated Nationals team. Mets showed some rust, but this is still a very good team. They’re now in the flow of things, and we should look for them to have a good first homestand of the season.d

Mets Failed David Peterson In Loss

If not for the need to call him up last season, David Peterson would arguably be the Mets top prospect heading into the season. To a certain extent, you’d expect the Mets to handle him like a top prospect.

After all, for the success he had, there were some real reasons for concern. His walks and FIP were too high. His slider was his only consistent weapon. He succeed was very BABIP dependent, and he didn’t go deep into games.

Still, partially the result of the injuries to Noah Syndergaard and Carlos Carrasco, Peterson was in the Opening Day rotation. With that should come with the responsibility of treating him like a prospect and protecting his arm and development.

The Mets failed him and their team miserably on the front today.

There are many studies out there on what causes pitcher injury. As detailed by Keith Woolner of Baseball Prospectus, fatigue is one of the biggest causes. Sameer Mehta of Science Direct surmised many pitcher injuries happen early in the season due to pitcher usage and their ramping it up too early.

In 2018, we would see Jacob deGrom lifted after a 45 pitch first inning. The rationale is 40 pitches is just too much of a workload and puts you at risk for injury.

In the first inning of the Mets loss to the Phillies, Peterson threw 38 pitches in an inning where he allowed four runs.

Despite that heavy workload, one which one day would’ve gotten deGrom pulled, Peterson went back out there. He went back out there.

He went back out there despite Joey Lucchesi warming up and the Mets not needing a fifth starter for at least another turn through the rotation.

Really, there was no reason for him to pitch. And yet, they put him back out there. Sure, the results improved, but what did it accomplish?

The Mets pushed him when there was zero reason to do it. The bullpen was mostly fresh, and they had another starter ready to go. It was a complete failure by the team.

The failing of Peterson also went to the offense. The team was 1-for-12 with RISP leaving 14 on base. Michael Conforto was the biggest culprit going 0-for-5 leaving NINE men on base.

Overall, this 8-2 loss was just one of those losses you just want to forget. Put it out of your mind, hope there are no long standing ramifications, and go home for the opener.

Game Notes: Jonathan Villar made the start for Jeff McNeil and was a homer short of the cycle. Dellin Betances made his season debut. He topped out at 93, which he hit just once, and his last fastball dipped under 90.

Mets-Nationals Opening Day Game Should’ve Been Played

Back on August 16, 2017, the New York Mets faced a rash of injuries. Instead of postponing the game, Travis d’Arnaud, a catcher, rotated with Asdrubal Cabrera between second and third all game long. The reason that happened is Major League Baseball does not cancel games when teams face injuries.

At times, this leads to tough and frankly bad decisions. A classic example was when the New York Mets took a risk by designating Darren O’Day so Nelson Figueroa could make a start. That led to O’Day getting claimed by the Texas Rangers. O’Day is still pitching now whereas Figueroa last pitched in the majors two years after this decision, and he had a full career arc as the Mets postgame analyst.

Point is, teams are forced to play through injuries. Baseball is unforgiving that way. However, when it comes to COVID teams are not forced to play. Sure, the Miami Marlins played with COVID last year, and Don Mattingly was rewarded for putting the entire season in jeopardy by naming him the National League Manager of the Year, but that is another story for another day.

On the eve of Opening Day, there was a Washington Nationals player who tested positive for COVID, and through contact tracing, an additional four Nationals players were put into quarantine. Since that first test, four other Nationals players have tested positive, and the Opening Day game between the Mets and and the Nationals has been postponed indefinitely.

Again, if there were five Mets players injured and unavailable on Opening Day, the Mets would have been forced to play the game. They would have been put in the position over whether they call up players or roll with the players they had available. Understandably, COVID is different than a torn hamstring, but not really in terms of player availability.

Because of COVID concerns, Major League Baseball has allowed teams to carry a taxi squad of five players with them on road trips. When not on road trips, those players are at the team’s alternate site. Put another way, Major League teams are supposed to have five players ready to be called up to play at a moment’s notice if there is a COVID issue. Coincidentally, that number coincides with the amount of players the Nationals had out.

Now, there are reports Max Scherzer, the Opening Day starter, was away from the team. So, we know he was available. Past him, we really don’t have any idea who could or could not play. On a related note, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said their entire team is in quarantine. Again, while there are reports both teams could play on Saturday, in reality, if the entire Nationals team is in quarantine, there is really no knowing when they will be able to play.

That puts the Mets at a significant disadvantage to start their season. The Mets were setting their rotation where they did not have to use a fifth starter early on in the season. That helped alleviate the loss of Carlos Carrasco, and it did give them a preview of Joey Lucchesi, who may be destined for the bullpen once Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard are ready to return. Again, this was the Mets plan, but now, they can’t execute their plan because the Nationals players got infected with COVID at a time when none of the other 29 teams had any issues.

The answer can’t be for the Mets and Nationals to cancel an entire series. This would have the Mets dormant for half a week before they have to travel to play a Phillies team who has already been playing. This is how you create injuries and problems. Again, if the Mets suffer injuries as a result of this, no one is postponing their games until that players is healthy.

Really, Major League Baseball has to have a better answer than to shut down a healthy team abiding by COVID protocols. The Nationals should be forced to call up their Triple-A team to play if that what is necessary. On that note, there is no Triple-A baseball until May. These are games on the schedule, and the weather is permitting them to play.

Instead, the Mets are going to have to scrap their plans for the rotation, be forced to play cold against teams already warmed up, and they are going to have to force games in later in the season when we are already concerned about pitchers being able to sustain the 2021 season after the 2020 shortened season.

This is ridiculous, and Major League Baseball has to have a better response than postponing games and kicking the rock down the road. Of course, they don’t, so they are going to put the Mets in a precarious position now and in the future. And we know if anyone gets injured as a result of this recklessness, the Mets will play that game even if it means someone playing out of position the way d’Arnaud once did.

Mets Will Win 2021 NL East Title

Maybe this is just the excitement which comes from Opening Day. Certainly, that is amplified by new ownership, the Francisco Lindor extension, and Jacob deGrom taking the mound. However, taking everything into account, this New York Mets team is the best one we have seen since 2015 and probably 2006.

Like most times the Mets are good, they are going to be led by pitching. Their starting staff is great, and when healthy, it is the best in baseball. Part of the reason why is deGrom is still the best pitcher in baseball. Behind him right now is Marcus Stroman. Stroman has made adjustments and added new pitches, and he looks set for a career year. That is really saying something considering he has been a gamer his entire career, and he was the World Baseball Classic MVP.

Noah Syndergaard and Carlos Carrasco may be the two most underrated pitchers in baseball. Looking at their FIP, they pitch at or near an ace level. In this rotation, they may be no better than third or fourth starters. It’s not just doing deGrom-Stroman-Syndergaard-Carrasco. This is one of the deepest rotations in all of baseball.

Behind that quartet is Taijuan Walker who was once a top 100 prospect, and he seems poised to take a big step forward after using analytics to help him improve. After Walker, the Mets have David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi, and Jordan Yamamoto, each of whom could be around a three in most rotations. For the Mets, they will eventually be on the outside looking in.

They are all going to be better pitchers because they have the tandem of James McCann and Tomas Nido behind the plate. Both of these players are strong catchers who are excellent pitch framers. Having catchers like that behind the plate make good pitchers even better. When your starting pitching is great and operating at a high level, you are going to win a lot of games.

This is paired with an incredible lineup. They Mets have an embarrassment of riches on that front. Consider Francisco Lindor, Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil have each been All-Star lead-off hitters, and they aren’t even the Mets best lead-off hitter. That’s Brandon Nimmo. With that group plus Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith, their 1-6 of their lineup can and probably should be hitting in the middle of the order.

Now, this Mets team isn’t perfect. Far from it. The first problem is their bullpen. The good news on that front is between Edwin Diaz and Trevor May, they have the last two innings covered well. The hope is at least one of Dellin Betances, Miguel Castro, or Jeurys Familia can figure it out to become that seventh inning reliever. That is at least until Seth Lugo is good to return. When that happens the Mets bullpen will be in great shape.

Another factor there is the Mets have some other interesting options. Sooner or later, Drew Smith will be healthy and ready to rejoin the bullpen. It should also be noted when the Mets have their full rotation, someone like Lucchesi can move down to the bullpen where his churve could be a weapon on par with Lugo’s curveball.

The other issue is the defense. Simply put, having J.D. Davis at third is unacceptable. He can’t remotely field the position. Having Dominic Smith behind him makes the left side defense one of the worst in baseball. To that, they may not be the worst in the division with the Atlanta Braves probably being worse with Austin Riley and Marcell Ozuna.

It’s very possible Brandon Nimmo can succeed with positioning in center. After all, he’s had positive OAAs in center most of his career, and he does have the speed for the position. Jeff McNeil seems more comfortable at second, and while Alonso has his defensive issues, he is quite adept and receiving throws around first.

While the lineup has serious defensive issues, the bench does not. Luis Guillorme is a Gold Glove caliber defender. Albert Almora and Kevin Pillar are also quite good. With the lead, we can and should see Luis Rojas run all three out with Smith moving to first base. When that happens, the Mets defensive alignment turns from questionable to really strong.

Therein lies the key. Aside from health, Rojas is going to be the biggest key to this Mets season. He is going to need a deft touch as to when to utilize his defensive replacements. He and Jeremy Hefner are also going to have to get their rotation healthy through the season, which is all the more challenging because of the shortened season last year. They are also going to have to find the right mix in the bullpen while making sure they don’t overuse their best relievers.

Right now, the Mets have the right mix to have a great season. They also have an owner willing to invest in the team, and they have Sandy Alderson in charge, who we know will not be shy making a key trade or two to improve this Mets roster.

Looking at the Braves, their pitching has durability issues, and their defensive issues may be worse than the Mets. The Phillies don’t have the starting pitching, and their bullpen was a disaster last year. The Marlins are young and not deep. The Nationals still don’t know what they are going at key positions on the field.

Taking everything into account, the Mets are the best team in the National League East. If Rojas is up to the task, and there is every reason to believe he will be, the Mets are well poised to return to the postseason again and let their pitching take them back to the World Series.

Jordan Yamamoto Should’ve Made Mets Opening Day Roster

With Opening Day about a week away, the New York Mets are whittling down their roster and getting closer to defining roles. With that, we’re going to see players win and lose Spring Training competitions.

In somewhat of a surprise move, Jordan Yamamoto will not be on the Opening Day roster either as the fifth starter or the bullpen. It’s especially surprising given multiple reports Yamamoto was in line to make the roster.

In terms of Spring Training performance, Yamamoto certainly earned the job. In his three appearances, he allowed just one earned over 8.1 innings. Notably, for a pitcher with control issues in his brief Major League career, he only walked one while striking out five.

All told, Yamamoto showed the Mets exactly what they wanted to see. Basically, he showed himself to be a much better pitcher.

For a pitcher who dipped into the 80s with his fastball last year, he’s been able to maintain a higher velocity. In fact, Luis Rojas remarked Yamamoto had good carry on his fastball.

That extra tick on his fastball is important because, as shown on Baseball Savant, Yamamoto has terrific spin and movement on all of his pitches. It makes him deceptive and an uncomfortable at-bat.

When he has that velocity his ceiling is that much higher. When he’s locating, he’s difficult to hit. In 2019, that led to some terrific starts. Between that and James McCann‘s work behind the plate, the Mets had a potential breakout candidate in their organization.

Instead, the Mets opted to put themselves in a position to burn Yamamoto’s last MLB option this year. That’s a strange decision to make at the outset of a season.

Sure, if Yamamoto struggled, you use the option. However, why use it up if you don’t need to do it? Moreover, why do it when Yamamoto looks to be one of the 13 best pitchers in Spring Training?

It’s a complicated answer.

In terms of the rotation, the Mets are sticking with the homegrown guy in David Peterson even if there are some red flags right now. They also seem to be leaning on Joey Lucchesi‘s experience as a starter.

Theoretically, Yamamoto could’ve been a long man in the bullpen, or he could’ve been an opener. In fact, he would’ve paired quite well with Peterson or Lucchesi. However, the Mets are going in another direction.

Instead of looking to keep the better and more promising pitcher, they’re looking to find a way to keep veteran’s who can opt to become free agents. Specifically, they’re looking to keep Tommy Hunter and Mike Montgomery.

Hunter could be a difference maker in the bullpen, but we haven’t seen it this Spring. Montgomery is the inverse with his having a great Spring, but he’s had a 4.03 ERA and 4.41 FIP since 2017. Also, right-handed batters have annihilated him over the past two years.

This also presumes they want to keep Jacob Barnes. The Barnes decision is an odd one with his having a poor Spring and his having a 6.75 ERA, 68 ERA+, and 4.71 FIP over the past few years.

There are a lot of moving pieces here, and it seems Yamamoto is very likely getting victimized by his having options available. That is being used against him as the Mets are looking to keep other players they’ll lose if they don’t put them on the Opening Day roster.

That’s a real shame because Yamamoto earned a spot. He’s got upside, and he could’ve provided real value in the rotation or bullpen. He should be there proving that on Opening Day. That said, with the amount of pitchers an MLB team uses over the course of a season, it’s very likely we see Yamamoto at some point in the majors in 2021.

When that happens, we can only hope he succeeds and proves the Mets made a mistake by not putting him on the Opening Day roster.

Corey Oswalt Should Make Opening Day Roster

If this was just based on performance, Corey Oswalt has been one of the New York Mets best pitchers this Spring Training, and as a result, he should be on the Opening Day roster. If nothing else, we have heard on a number of occasions Luis Rojas has been impressed with how Oswalt has looked.

One of the biggest developments for Oswalt has his finding that extra gear on his fastball. Now, this could be the result of his going shorter stints during the Spring. It could also be the result of the Mets making more advanced data available to their pitchers and coaching staff. Whatever the case, that velocity is there right now.

If the concern is he couldn’t maintain it as a starter, the Mets do have spots open in the bullpen due to injuries this Spring. In his first Spring appearance, he struck out five of the six St. Louis Cardinals batters he faced. Now, it should be noted that came against mostly minor league players for the Cardinals, but it did happen.

More importantly, as noted, the velocity happened, and according to reports, it is something that has carried forward into team workouts and B games. Long story short, Oswalt has seemingly made the jump that took him from a fifth starter ceiling to possibly something more as a Major League pitcher.

In years past, especially given the injury to Carlos Carrasco, that could have meant a shot at joining the Mets Opening Day rotation. However, with David Peterson‘s emergence last year coupled with the acquisitions of Joey Lucchesi and Jordan Yamamoto at the moment, there is no spot for Oswalt in the rotation in the short or long term.

That would mean the bullpen is the best destination for Oswalt. In many ways, it makes sense to send him there. He’s shown the increased velocity and effectiveness in the shorter spurts. Moreover, with Seth Lugo down, the Mets really need someone to fill that role. No, no one is saying Oswalt could be a Lugo in the bullpen, but rather, he can definitively be the type of reliever who can give the Mets multiple innings out of the bullpen.

Given the truncated 2020 season, that is of increased performance. It is also noteworthy with Taijuan Walker and some combination of Lucchesi, Peterson, and Yamamoto for the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation, the Mets are running three 5+ inning starters out there. That puts a stress on the bullpen to pick up the slack, especially when that happens three consecutive games.

Having Oswalt out there can alleviate some of that burden. Really, of all the pitchers currently in camp, it is just him and Robert Gsellman who can fill that type of a role. Given the rotation, the Mets probably need two or more pitchers who can reliably give you 2+ innings.

In some ways, just picking a role for Oswalt is what can best help him succeed as a pitcher. Remember, this is a pitcher who has bounced between starting and relieving for three years now. That has been coupled with abusive use and inexplicable fallow periods. If nothing else, this would put Oswalt in the best position to succeed.

If he succeeds, he can then help the Mets succeed in 2021. He has the increased velocity, and he has the ability to eat some innings for the bullpen. Looking at performance and need out there, Oswalt should be in the Opening Day bullpen.

 

Projecting Mets 2021 Opening Day Bullpen

The New York Mets bullpen has been through for a loop with the injury to Seth Lugo to start the season. Things have grown increasingly complicated by diminished velocity of Jeurys Familia and Dellin Betances. With all that said, the bullpen has talent, and there are many spots accounted for already.

Guaranteed – Miguel Castro, Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Aaron Loup, Trevor May

Obviously, Diaz is going to be the closer coming off of a strong 2020 season. May is going to figure into the equation as a late inning reliever, and Loup was brought on to be the LOOGY. That’s the easy part.

Castro is out of options, and it is very likely he would be picked up off waivers if the Mets tried to send him down. Fortunately, that does not seem to be an issue with Castro having a great Spring striking out four in 4.0 scoreless and hitless innings.

After him, with Familia seemingly getting his elite level stuff back, he is a lock to make the bullpen. If nothing else, he can pitch the middle innings while the Mets hope Jeremy Hefner gets him back to his dominant form.

Bubble – Dellin Betances, Robert Gsellman, Drew Smith, Daniel Zamora

The 13 pitcher roster rule has been suspended for the 2021 season, but that may be a good general construct. Considering a five man rotation with the aforementioned five guaranteed spots, that leaves three remaining spots.

Given his salary and history of building up his velocity in-season, it is likely Betances makes the Opening Day roster. That leaves two spots available in the bullpen. Given the performances this Spring, that is going to be a difficult decision.

Gsellman has been a mainstay in the bullpen over the last few seasons and based on seniority he gets the call. Notably with him, the Mets did have the option to stretch him out as a starter, but they opted not to do that this spring with Gsellman only throwing 4.0 innings over three appearances.

Smith was the one reliever from the 2017 trade deadline debacle who has proven he could pitch in the majors. So far, he looks good, and the Mets are going to have to go out of their way to try to keep a pitcher with three scoreless appearances with no walks and three strikeouts off of the roster.

Finally, there is Zamora who probably presents the Mets best option to carry two left-handed pitchers in the bullpen. He has been a little wild with two walks over 3.2 innings, but he has also struck out three batters. That is typical for Zamora over the last few years.

Fifth Starter Competition – Joey Lucchesi, David Peterson, Jordan Yamamoto

The injury to Carlos Carrasco certainly changed the complexity of the fifth starter battle. With his injury, that opened up two spots instead of one. Given the nature of the injury, the Mets could feel more comfortable putting Peterson in the Opening Day rotation as the fear of having to send him down at one point isn’t as strong.

If Peterson were to make the rotation, the Mets could put one or both of Lucchesi or Yamamoto in the bullpen. Both pitchers have been great this Spring, and they have both more than made the case they deserve to be on the Opening Day roster in some way, shape, or form.

Outside Looking In – Jerry Blevins, Tommy Hunter, Arodys Vizcaino

Blevins probably has a much better chance than this given his curveball looking great. However, he has only appeared in two games walking two and striking out three. While this arguably puts him ahead of Zamora, especially with his track record, adding Blevins would require the Mets to make a roster move.

With respect to Hunter and Vizcaino, they may well both prove to have an impact on the Mets in 2021. That said, neither quite seem ready to pitch Opening Day at the moment. That goes double for Vizcaino who has only made one apperance so far.

Wild Card – Mike Montgomery, Corey Oswalt

With Carrasco suffering an injury, the Mets are said to begin stretching out Montgomery. That would seemingly be an indication they are looking for him to begin the season in Syracuse instead of Flushing. Still, it is hard to overlook his ability to be another lefty in the bullpen and a pitcher who can give you multiple innings. That said, Lucceshi could offer that himself.

Oswalt has had a very good Spring Training with Luis Rojas being very impressed. His velocity is way up, and he has looked quite strong. In fact, we probably shouldn’t completely rule him out in the fifth stater competition. If it is about competition, Oswalt has a strong case to make the Opening Day roster. That said, the fact it’ll require a 40 man move serves as a significant impediment.

Opening Day Bullpen

Joining the aforementioned group of Castro, Diaz, Familia, Loup, and May will very likely include Betances giving the Mets two more spots to figure out. With Lucchesi and Yamamoto now poised to start the season in the rotation, it would seem the final two spots can go to pitchers who are strictly relievers and not converted starters.

At the moment, it looks like one of those two spots should go to Smith. It’s possible the last spot goes to Gsellman due to his ability to give the Mets an extra inning here or there, but it would seem his spot is about as tenuous as Betances’ is right now. Overall, there are two weeks to go and a lot can happen. It will be very interesting to see where things go from here.

Carlos Carrasco Injury Has Hidden Benefit

Make no mistake, Carlos Carrasco suffering a tear in his hamstring is terrible news for the New York Mets. He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball, and he’s arguably the second best pitcher on the team even when everyone is healthy.

That said, this injury does present an opportunity for the Mets, or better yet, their pitchers.

As detailed on The Apple, prior to Carrasco’s injury, the Mets currently have a very interesting fifth starter competition between Joey Lucchesi, David Peterson, and Jordan Yamamoto. So far, Lucchesi and Yamamoto have separated themselves from Peterson.

That’s to the Mets benefit because Peterson should probably begin the season in Syracuse. Part of the reason is his control and FIP, and the larger reason is with Noah Syndergaard returning, the fifth starter will be removed from the rotation. The Mets certainly won’t want to do that to Peterson.

Regardless of that, in the small sample size that is Spring Training, Peterson has just been out-pitched by Lucchesi and Yamamoto:

  • Lucchesi – 2 G, 5.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 K
  • Peterson – 2 G, 6.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, K
  • Yamamoto – 3 G, 8.1 IP, 7 H, 3 R, ER, BB, 5 K

Looking at the stats, Lucchesi has probably been the most dominant, but he’s walked three. Yamamoto has been strong, and he’s shown the most progress of this trio. In fact, he’s really been much more in the zone than he had been with the Miami Marlins.

Based upon your point of view, you could make a strong case for either pitcher. Other considerations to account for are Lucchesi being 27 and Yamamoto only having one option remaining.

In some ways, margins that razor thin can be dangerous. Part of the reason why is it’s just Spring Training, and these pitchers have only thrown the equivalent of one start.

As we know, aside from the greatness of Jacob deGrom, pitcher performances vary start to start. Making important decisions on that can lead to bad results. We’ve seen it happen with the Mets.

One classic example is the Tyler Yates/Aaron Heilman competition in 2004. Yates lasted seven starts, and Heilman never really would get the chance to start. The butterfly effect of that was the Mets losing Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.

Of course, there’s Glendon Rusch beating out Bill Pulsipher in 2000. Rusch was very good in the Mets rotation that year before pitching extraordinarily well in the postseason that year. Pulsipher flamed out, and he was moved for Lenny Harris, who was great off the bench for that team.

While people don’t typically look at it that way, that’s what’s at stake in fifth starter battles. Remember, the fifth spot in the rotation comes up less than five times the top spot in the rotation does.

Who the fifth starter is does matter. We’ve seen that, and having seen that, it would greatly benefit teams to have more time to make their assessments.

That’s what the Carrasco injury affords the Mets. It allows them to start the season with both Lucchesi and Yamamoto in the rotation.

They can see how they work with James McCann and Tomas Nido in games that matter. They can see them against Major League rosters and going through a lineup more than once. All of that gives them better information to make their assessments.

In the end, Carrasco’s injury created an opportunity for another pitcher to grab a rotation spot. We will now see who is truly up for the task.

Mets Second Starter Should Be Taijuan Walker, Joey Lucchesi, Or Jordan Yamamoto

When teams assemble their pitching rotations, they typically assemble them in order of the talent of their top starters. Taking the New York Mets as an example, Jacob deGrom will be the Opening Day starter. After him, with Carlos Carrasco possibly delayed to start the season and Noah Syndergaard on the 60 day IL, it is fairly clear right now Marcus Stroman would be the second starter.

If you are taking the long term view of the season, Stroman should not be the second starter. Yes, he is the second best starter available, and if this was Game 2 of a postseason series, you would definitively be handing him the ball. However, in the regular season, that does not make any sense.

Looking at deGrom, since he has been the best pitcher in baseball, he has averaged 6.1 innings per start. If you look at the two seasons prior to 2020, he averaged 6.2 innings. That means whenever he takes the ball, the bullpen is getting a break. That is important when you consider the bullpen gets increasingly taxed and taxed with each start. To that, here is the average innings per start over the last four seasons for the Mets projected 2021 rotation options:

Now, the Mets seemed to be blessed with pitchers who tend to go deeper into games than most teams. Still, when fully healthy, this will be a rotation with two 5+ inning starters at the back end of their rotation. That means a bullpen who gets increasingly used after deGrom starts will be asked to provide a lot more without much of a break.

That was something which truly presented an issue for the Mets during deGrom’s first Cy Young campaign. Yes, he received little to no run support far too often that season. However, he also would see the bullpen blow a number of late leads for him. Part of the result is that the bullpen had been taxed heading into his starts. Rather than having the bullpen in the best possible shape to secure a win from their ace, they were on fumes hoping for deGrom to give them a break.

That is partially how you take a season for the ages and turn it into a 11-10 record for deGrom. That is both a reflection of how wins and losses for a pitcher are overrated. However, it is also an indication that something is going wrong that a pitcher who is setting records can’t buy a win.

If we were to look at the current Mets rotation, the bullpen is going to be well rested when deGrom takes the mound. Typically speaking, they will need to get about 6-8 outs in a game. That will leave them well rested. That is exactly the right time to line up the bullpen for a Walker start.

Typically speaking, Walker provides 5+ innings in a start. After deGrom, the bullpen will be well poised to provide that. Of course, after that, the Mets will have run through some of their bullpen. That is when you combat that by going to Syndergaard or Carrasco (if healthy) or Stroman. The Mets can then go to their 5+ inning fifth starter whether that is Luccesi, Peterson, or Yamamoto. Finally, the Mets could then go to Stroman who can eat some more innings before handing the ball back to deGrom.

By restructuring the rotation in that fashion, the Mets are positioning their bullpen to get breaks here and there. You are getting them regular work, and you are avoiding some fallow periods where they are not getting work because the top pitchers are eating up innings. Overall, the general concept is to stagger the pitchers by the innings they will reasonably provide instead of just lining them up without any concept on the impact it will have on the bullpen and staff as a whole.

Hopefully, that means a better rested Edwin Diaz. It could mean less of a need to rely on Seth Lugo for multiple innings when he returns. It could mean not needing to have the Triple-A to MLB shuttle for pitchers like Drew Smith. Instead, pitchers are put in a position where they get regular rest and work. That should help them succeed, and it should help prevent them from blowing games for deGrom.

 

Way Too Soon To Worry About Carlos Carrasco

This is normally the time of the year we see the New York Mets experience some sort of injury which significantly impacts their ability to win the division. That is part of the reason why everyone was bracing themselves over the Carlos Carrasco news.

It appears Carrasco had a bit of a setback in his preparation for the season. He has been shut down for a few days due to a sore pitching elbow.

In days past, this was a call for despair. Jeff Wilpon would be playing doctor, and Mets fandom would be using gallows humor suggesting Ray Ramirez was fitting him for a walking boot. This year, at least with respect to Carrasco, we’re not at that point.

This is part of Carrasco’s preparation for the season. In fact, during Spring Training roughly a year ago, Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona said, “Every spring after his first outing, he gets mild elbow inflammation. I would call it more maintenance than anything.” (Mandy Bell, MLB.com).

If this is just what Carrasco deals with at this point in the Spring, then nothing is out of the normal. He deals with the soreness and gets back to pitching.

Last year, that led to excellent results. In 12 starts, he was 3-4 with a 2.91 ERA, 1.206 WHIP, 3.6 BB/9, and a 10.9 K/9. If that’s where this sore elbow is heading, the Mets are in phenomenal shape.

If not, and Carrasco is truly injured, well, the Mets are actually prepared for that. One of the losers of the fifth starter competition can slot in to take his space for a short period.

Certainly, the Mets would be in good shape having to start at least two of Joey Lucchesi, David Peterson, or Jordan Yamamoto. Keep in mind these pitchers are only stemming the tide for when Noah Syndergaard can return.

In any event, the Mets are well positioned to withstand a severe Carrasco injury. That’s even if this is a severe injury. Early indications are he’s not really hurt.