Tomas Nido, who was catching either because Kevin Plawecki was hit with another pitch or because Noah Syndergaard likes having a personal catcher, cleared the bases with an RBI double to give the Mets a 3-0 second inning lead.
3⃣ drives in 3⃣.
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 8, 2018
Don't mess with the big dog. 💪 pic.twitter.com/Zt1SEFxUCy
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 9, 2018
Jeff McNeil was great going 3-for-5 with two runs, and a triple. Michael Conforto surpassed Asdrubal Cabrera for the team lead in RBI. Not too long ago, Conforto also surpassed Cabrera for the team lead in homers. Jay Bruce looked good again at the plate going 2-for-2 with two runs, an RBI, and two walks.
However, this is the Mets, so nothing can be this easy. Not even in a 10-5 win that they led 7-0 heading into the sixth and 9-2 after six.
Speaking of Reinheimer, you’d be hard pressed to explain why he’s here and Luis Guillorme isn’t.
That wasn’t the worst of it. No, that was Cesar Hernandez hitting a hard liner that went off Syndergaard’s ribs. It may have chased him from the game, but he was able to laugh about it later:
— Erin Fish (@Erinnicolefish) September 9, 2018
Syndergaard’s final line was 6.2 innings, 12 hits, four runs, four earned, five walks, and four strikeouts. The low strikeouts are alarming, but not as much as the walks or the career high in hits allowed.
Still, this was mostly a fun game with some terrific signs for the Mets going forward. Here’s hoping the Mets didn’t burn through all their offense for this series with Jacob deGrom going Sunday.
In a scathing article from David Lennon of Newsday set to take Mickey Callaway to task for the Mets recent poor play ultimately concluding that under Callaway’s 57 game tenure as a manager, the Mets are, “A lot of talk, accomplishing nothing.”
Really, it was full of quick barbs and cheap shots like this gem:
So after two more losses, one lousy run scored in the last 24 innings and a pair of Little League-quality blunders in Sunday’s sweep-completing 2-0 loss to the Cubs, we’re wondering what Mickey Callaway has planned next for the Mets.
A how-to seminar on the basics of baseball? A weeklong retreat to restore all of this depleted self-esteem? Maybe a clubhouse visit by Tony Robbins?
This is just emblematic of how Callaway, who is in a no-win situation is now fair game for mocking, ridicule, and blame. What is interesting is these downright insults really overlook what Callaway has accomplished in his brief tenure.
Jacob deGrom has gone to a level we had never seen him pitch. For a Mets organization who looked at Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo as enigmas, Callaway has helped turn them into terrific relievers. Speaking of enigmas, the Mets have recently seen Zach Wheeler and Steven Matz turn a corner. It that holds true this rotation will be every bit as formidable as we all hoped it would be.
Offensively, Brandon Nimmo has gone from fourth outfielder to a terrific lead0ff hitter who leads all National League outfielders in OBP and OPS. Amed Rosario has been making continued strides. After beginning his career hitting .245/.275/.371 with a 27.6% strikeout rate, since May 1st, Rosario is an improved .274/.291/.415 with a 16.4% strikeout rate. It may not seem like much, but it’s a stark improvement.
We have also seen the Mets go dumpster diving for players like Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Bautista, and Devin Mesoraco. Somehow, these players have been much improved with the Mets than their prior stops, and they have salvaged their MLB careers.
The obvious question from here is if all this is true than why are the Mets 27-30 and in fourth place after such a terrific start?
Much of that answer, i.e. the blame, is attributable to the Mets front office.
Despite time and again facing the same injury issues over and over again, the team AGAIN mishandled a Yoenis Cespedes leg injury, and they are having Jay Bruce and Asdrubal Cabrera play poorly through their own injuries. What’s hysterical about this is Sandy Alderson actually utter the words, “Honestly, sometimes I think we’re a little too cautious with how we approach injuries.”
He’s also made a number of blunders with the in-season managing of this roster.
Consider this. After short start, the Mets designated P.J. Conlon in a series of roster moves to help bring up three fresh arms including Scott Copeland. After Copeland pitched 1.1 scoreless in his only appearance, the Mets called up Jose Lobaton and his -0.6 WAR for the intended purpose of allowing Kevin Plawecki and his .198/.282/.288 split against left-handed pitchers at first base to face Mike Montgomery.
Meanwhile, a Mets organization loses Conlon as the Dodgers claimed him, and a Mets organization who has been wringing their hands to find a second left-handed pitcher in the bullpen, looked on as Buddy Baumann get lit up for four runs on three hits and two walks in the 14th inning of a game the Cubs had not scored a run in over three hours.
The front office’s decision making gets worse and worse the more you look at it.
For some reason, they insist on keeping Jose Reyes on the roster. This, coupled with the aforementioned Gonzalez and Bautista signings, is emblematic of an organization more willing to trust in done veterans reclaiming their past glory than giving a young player like Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, Peter Alonso, or even Gavin Cecchini (before his injury) a chance.
This was one of the reasons why the Mets signed Bruce to a three year deal this offseason. No, this was not insurance against Michael Conforto‘s shoulder. Three year $39 million deals are not that. Rather, this signing showed: (1) the Mets wanted a Cespedes-Conforto-Bruce outfield for the next three years; and (2) the team did not have any faith Nimmo could handle playing everyday at the MLB level on even a limited basis.
Now, the Mets what looks to be an injured $39 million albatross in right, who doesn’t even know to call off a back peddling second baseman with a runner on third.
That’s bad defense, which is something the Mets actively welcome with all of their personnel decisions. Really, the team has spent the past few seasons looking to plug non-center fielders in center while playing players out of position all across the infield.
Despite what the Lennon’s of the world will tell us, the poor defense and lack of basic fundamentals isn’t Callaway’s doing. No, it is the result of an organizational philosophy.
The Bruce signing has such short and long term implications. With his salary, will the Mets bench him instead of Nimmo or Gonzalez when Cespedes comes back healthy. Will the organization let his salaries in future years block Alonso or Dominic Smith at first base? Mostly, will his escalating salaries be another excuse why the team rolls the dice and gives a player like Jason Vargas $8 million instead of just going out and signing the player who really fills a need?
Sure, there are plenty of reasons to attack Callaway. His bullpen management has been suspect at times. Lately, he’s been managing more out of fear than attacking the game to try to get the win. Really, this is part of a learning curve for a first time manager in a new league.
It’s a learning curve that could have been helped by a long time veteran National League manager. Instead, Sandy Alderson thought it best to hire a Gary Disarcina to be the bench coach because who better to help a young first time manager in a new league than a player who has spent his entire playing, front office, and minor league managerial career in the American League?
Really, that’s just one of several examples of how Alderson has set up both Callaway and this entire Mets team to fail in 2018.
After his epic run at the end of the 2015 season, it is understandable how many view Yoenis Cespedes as the driving force of this Mets team. However, if you look at the past few seasons, the person who has really been at the forefront of the Mets peaks and valleys has been Asdrubal Cabrera.
Looking over the past few seasons, Cabrera never really did get the credit Cespedes received for his propelling the Mets to the postseason in 2016. Consider from August 19th until the end of the 2016 season, he hit .345/.406/.635 with 11 doubles, a triple, 10 homers, and 29 RBI. Really, looking at that decimated team who was looking for an everyday second baseman at they entered September, it was Cabrera who carried that team to the postseason.
As the 2018 season began, it was once again Cabrera who was the driving force of this Mets team.
In April, Cabrera hit .340/.393/.580 with nine doubles, five homers, and 17 RBI. For a Mets team who was in first place, Cabrera was in the all too early conversation for National League MVP.
That’s not a stretch either as Cabrera’s hot bat masked much of what was wrong with the Mets. The Mets were winning despite Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard being the only Mets starters who would give the team credible starts. Amed Rosario was struggling along with Cespedes, Jay Bruce, and countless other Mets. The teams two catchers, Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki went down with injuries, and they were replaced by an underwhelming duo of Jose Lobaton and Tomas Nido.
Through all of it, Cabrera got big hit after big hit after big hit, and the Mets were 17-9, and they led the Braves by 1.5 games in the National League East, and they lead the Nationals by 4.5 games.
Since that time, we have seen Cabrera get nicked up on more than one occasion, have seen his play fall off of a cliff, and we have seen the Mets go 10-21 while plummeting to fourth in the standings.
Since May 1st, Cabrera is hitting .252/.282/.445 with six doubles, a triple, five homers, and 17 RBI. These are more befitting a hitter towards the end of the lineup than the second place hitter Cabrera has been for this team.
Cabrera isn’t just struggling at the plate. He’s struggling mightily in the field as well. In fact, with a -11 DRS, Cabrera is the worst defensive second baseman in all of baseball. Expanding the worldview a bit more, Cabrera’s -11 DRS ranks worst among all Major League infielders.
Simply put, Cabrera is not hitting or fielding right now. In a season where the was the driving force who bailed the Mets out of a number of situations, he has become one of the many liabilities on this team.
No, the current state of the Mets cannot be pinned on Cabrera. There are far more issues than his recent play. However, when he struggles like this, with Cespedes on the disabled list, and Michael Conforto still trying to get back to form, you no longer have a bat in the lineup who can carry this Mets team and help mask some of those other issues.
Well, it took 58 games, but the Mets are finally under .500. Again, it was a combination of the same issues which cost the Mets this game.
For some reasons after Wheeler threw 97 pitches, Mickey Callaway stuck with him for the seventh.
The game quickly unraveled from there.
The Cubs took the lead later that inning on a Kris Bryant RBI single.
Now, the justification for no Robert Gsellman was he needed another day off. Honestly, you can never question managers over giving fatigued pitchers a day off. However, you can question why Sewald for a second inning after a seventh where he had nothing.
Well with one on and two out, Willson Contreras hit a ball, Reyes should have fielded. With him failing to make the play, two runners were on base for a Schwarber three run homer instead of the Mets getting out of the inning.
From there, Jeurys Familia allowed the Cubs to tack on an insurance run to give the Cubs a 7-4 lead. With the Mets failing to do much of anything in the ninth, that would be the final score.
And with that, the Mets are now under .500.
As the Mets opened the 2018 season, there was supposed to be a catching competition, or at least a time sharing between Kevin Plawecki and Travis d’Arnaud. This situation was created because both catchers had failed to do anything to truly claim the job as their own, but they had shown flashes which gave your confidence either or both could figure it out this year.
Then, in one week, both players would suffer injuries. With respect to d’Arnaud, it was a season ending injury requiring Tommy John surgery. For Plawecki, it was a broken hand resulting from getting hit by a Tayron Guerrero fastball.
From there, the Mets had to turn to the tandem of Tomas Nido and Jose Lobaton. Neither one of these players would Wally Pipp Plawecki as they and the Mets struggled. With their play behind the plate, and with Plawecki not healing as quick as the team hoped, it was time to do something drastic.
That drastic move came from Matt Harvey being designated for assignment. Now, Harvey was not designated for assignment as a means to get a catcher. However, when he was designated, and the Mets having a small window to get a deal done, the team did all they could do to land a catcher.
The end result was Reds backup catcher and former All Star Devin Mesoraco.
After the injuries and hitting .195/.291/.318 in 316 plate attempts between 2015 and the trade, Mesoraco and the remainder of his $13.1 million salary was more than expendable for the Reds. In many ways, getting a broken down player who could no replicate his prior success due to extensive injuries was the perfect return for Harvey.
In some ways,. Mesoraco has revitalized the Mets. He has worked well with the pitching staff, and he has hit again. In 15 games with the Mets, Mesoraco is hiting .261/.358/.630 with two doubles, five homers, and 10 RBI. During telecasts, we hear Keith Hernandez dropping Mike Piazza comparisons on him. Yes, it’s related to his back swing, but the way he has slugged in a Mets uniform, the comparisons are apt.
With Mesoraco’s emergence, things are murky again for Plawecki. While he has not hit for power so far his year, he was handling the staff quite well before his injury, and he was getting on base with a .455 OBP.
Certainly, both catchers have made a case for why they should be the primary or starting catcher with Mesoraco likely ahead. Yesterday, in both games of the doubleheader, both catchers made their claim for the spot.
In the first game, Mesoraco was 2-3 with two runs, a homer, and two RBI. His homer should have proven to be a go-ahead game winning homer in the top of the ninth.
In the second game, Plawecki was 3-4 with two runs, an RBI, and a walk. He also reached on an error meaning he reached safely in all five of his plate appearances.
There are many other factors at play including how comfortable the pitching staff is with each catcher and certainly Noah Syndergaard‘s seeming need to have a personal catcher. Through all the stats, there is one interesting consideration. In games Mesoraco starts, the Mets are 6-6 as opposed to being 7-1 in games Plawecki starts.
Right now, with the Mets trying to figure out the infield, bench, and back end of the starting rotation, the catching situation presents a welcome “problem” for Mickey Callaway and his staff. Fortunately, the Mets have two good options back there – two options who have raised their game with the prospect of competition.
Let the best catcher win.
In many ways, Devin Mesoraco proved to be the perfect return for Matt Harvey – former first round draft pick and All Star whose career has been completely altered by injuries, and he has now been surpassed by others. While we don’t know if Mesoraco wore out his welcome in Cincinnati, we do know that like Harvey, he needed a change of scenery to at least see if it could rejuvenate his career.
In that way, New York was the perfect place for Mesoraco.
Right off the bat, with Jose Lobaton and Tomas Nido, the one thing the Mets were able to provide was playing time. With playing time comes opportunity, and after that it is just a matter of whether you take advantage of it or not.
Another thing in Mesoraco’s favor was the lack of expectation. That’s not just because Mesoraco hit .195/.291/.318 in 316 plate attempts between 2015 and the trade. No, it is because Lobaton was hitting .152/.250/.239 before he was designated for assignment, and Nido is hitting .154/.214/.179. Simply put, even is Mesoraco was the bad version of himself, he’s an offensive upgrade for this Mets team.
He’s also an upgrade behind the plate. From a pitch framing perspective, he’s a better catcher than Lobaton, and he’s on par with Kevin Plawecki. Since a tough start to his career, with the nadir coming in 2014, he has made significant strides blocking balls in the dirt, and he is now quite capable to good in that perspective.
Perhaps it is a change of scenery, consistent playing time, playing for a better team, or the limitations of a small sample size, but Mesoraco certainly has looked like a much improved player since coming to the Mets. In eight games, he is hitting .200/.333/.600 with a double, three homers, and five RBI.
More than anything, his play behind and at the plate shows early indications of a player who is rejuvenated. This doesn’t mean Mesoraco will return to his All Star form. The injuries may limit him from ever being that again. However, we see for the first time since those injuries how good a catcher Mesoraco can still be if given the chance, and right now, the Mets are being rewarded for taking this chance.
There is a tangible effect too. In one of the most bizarre stats you’ll ever see, the Reds were 0-18 in games Mesoraco played this season. Since coming to the Mets, the team is 5-2 in games he has started. Part of that is how much his bat is a big upgrade over what the Mets had. Another part is how well he has handled the pitching staff.
As noted by Wayne Randazzo, the Mets pitchers are 5-2 with a 2.03 ERA in games Mesoraco has started. Keep in mind, those games include games started by Jason Vargas, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler as well as a bullpen game when Jacob deGrom couldn’t pitch past the first due to a high pitch count.
Overall, the Mets are seeing tangible results from the significant upgrade Mesoraco has provided. They are playing better baseball, and they are winning games.
Back on April 11th, which was the last day the Mets would have either Travis d’Arnaud or Kevin Plawecki, the Mets would beat the Miami Marlins to improve to a National League best 10-1. At that time, one of the driving forces for the Mets incredible start was their pitching.
In the ensuing 21 games with Jose Lobaton and Tomas Nido behind the plate, the Mets have gone 7-14. In that time, one of the main culprits has been how poorly the Mets pitching staff has performed. In fact, the Mets team ERA has ballooned from 2.47 to 4.21. The once dominant bullpen now has a 3.89 ERA.
There are many possible causes for this. Certainly, you could expect some regression to the mean after a fast start. Moreover, there is something to be said about how Mickey Callaway has used his bullpen. There are many reasons you can cite, but one which should not be overlooked is pitch framing, especially with the drop-off we have seen since the injuries. Here are the catchers’ respective RAAs:
Really, Lobaton is the worst of the group, and yet, somehow, in the absence of Plawecki and d’Arnaud, he is getting the bulk of the playing time. You could almost understand it if he was hitting, but Lobaton is hitting .163/.265/.256, and no, there’s not much upside with him as he is coming off a .170/.248/.277 year and is a .216/.294/.321 hitter.
Whatever it is too, Lobaton is just not working well with this Mets pitching staff. Remember, he was the catcher when the Mets bullpen completely collapsed against the Washington Nationals. During his time, we have seen the ERAs of almost every Mets pitcher rise.
For example, Steven Matz struggled mightily in his three starts with Lobaton. In those three starts, Matz averaged 4.0 innings per start, had a 6.39 ERA, and opposing batters hit .239/.333/.478 off of him. Short sample size for sure, and it may be a coincidence Matz had his best start since July of last year with Nido behind the plate.
It could also be the result of pitch framing. Certainly, the ability to get the extra strike and/or make sure a strike is called a strike is of vital importance. It is the difference between getting ahead in the count to set the batter up to make an out and making sure you get your pitches more over the plate so you don’t walk batters. The more you have to pitch over the plate, the worse a pitcher is going to fare.
Ultimately, with Lobaton behind the plate, nearly all of the Mets pitchers are struggling. There are many reasons why with his pitch framing chief among them. Until Plawecki is ready to return, at a minimum, Nido has to become the primary catcher. Ideally, Sandy Alderson is trying to make a move for a catcher even if if means grabbing Miguel Montero off the scrap heap.
No matter what, the only thing that is clear is Lobaton cannot be the starting catcher anymore.
After a horrid offensive homestand, Mets fans were left with the hope coming to hitter’s parks like The Great American Ballpark and Citizen’s Bank Park would help wake up this Mets offense. Well, on the second pitch of the game from Homer Bailey to Michael Conforto, it seems like our hope was well placed:
— New York Mets (@Mets) May 7, 2018
The combination of the Reds pitching and Citizen’s Bank Park really did wake up this Mets offense. Things were going so well offensively that not only did the Mets score in each of the first five innings, but Adrian Gonzalez would hit two home runs.
Jay Bruce would also homer to ensure that all the pure left-handed hitters would have a homer run on the day.
But it was more than Conforto and Gonzalez who woke up. Amed Rosario was 2-3 with an RBI and a sac fly. With the exception of Asdrubal Cabrera and Todd Frazier, the two who happened to be their most consistent hitters all year, each Met in the starting lineup had at least one hit.
Take out Jose Lobaton and all the starters had multi-hit games.
In the beginning, this seemed as if it was going to be more than enough run support for P.J. Conlon and the entire Mets pitching staff. The Irish born lefty making his MLB debut got off to a great start keeping the Reds scoreless through two and to just one run through three.
With two outs in the fourth, and the Reds gaining some momentum, with three doubles in the inning coming from Eugenio Suarez, Scooter Gennett, and Tucker Barnhart, Mickey Callaway went to Paul Sewald to nip the rally in the bud.
Sewald did just that, but he would run into trouble in the sixth yielding a home run to Suarez, and then leaving runners at the corners with one out. Robert Gsellman came on, and he allowed just a sacrifice fly to make it 7-5.
Like Sewald, Gsellman was in to pitch multiple innings, and he would even hit for himself striking out. When Gennett homered to make it 7-6, you were left questioning the decision.
You were also left questioning some of the Mets base running.
In the sixth, the first inning the Mets did not score, the Reds caught Rosario in a run down off third base on a Yoenis Cespedes ground ball. He was eventually tagged out, and the run did not score.
Fortuantely for the Mets, it did not matter as Jeurys Familia came on and recorded the save giving the Mets their first win in over a week.
Before the game, it was announced Matt Harvey refused an assignment to the minors, and in response the Mets designated him for assignment effectively ending his Mets career. This may have been a long time coming, and arguably, you could see Harvey being scapegoated for a Mets team that has struggled since it’s incredible 12-2 start.
Well, Harvey might be gone, but the Mets problems still remain.
Zack Wheeler, who allowed five first inning runs is still inconsistent. Michael Conforto is not hitting for any power, and really, he isn’t even getting on base anymore going 0-5with the golden sombrero. Jay Bruce, for that matter, isn’t hitting for any power either. Maybe there was an impact on Jose Lobaton, who was 1-4, and Amed Rosario, who was 2-4 with an RBI, but probably not.
No, we wouldn’t see Jose Reyes or Adrian Gonzalez bat, both of whom have been utterly terrible, and we did not see Jason Vargas, who by comparison made Harvey look like the 2013 version, and we’ll see what Steven Matz contributes tomorrow.
Overriding point is the Mets problems are still present even with Harvey gone because as bad as Harvey was pitching, he was probably fourth or fifth on lower on the tiers of what is actually wrong with this Mets team.
On the bright side, Bruce played first allowing Brandon Nimmo to hit leadoff going 1-4 with a walk. Of course, he drew a walk. He also scored on the Asdrubal Cabrera home run. That provided a jolt that lasted until Charlie Blackmon hit a homer in the top of the second.
By the time the Mets awoke, it was too late. Todd Frazier‘s eighth inning two run homer made it 8-4. A ninth inning rally with Rosario knocking in Wilmer Flores, who hit a pinch hit double, made it 8-5 This led to Wade Davis coming into the game to close it out . . . just like he did in Game 5 of the World Series.
He allowed a Cabrera RBI triple and subsequently a Frazier RBI single to pull the Mets to withing 8-7. It ended there as Conforto struck out to end the game. Again, somehow Harvey being released didn’t fix him.
Starting tomorrow, it seems like the Mets are going to have to focus on the things that are actually wrong with the team. Seeing how Reyes was re-signed in the offseason, no one should hold their breath.
Game Notes: With Harvey gone, Jerry Blevins and his 6.43 ERA is the worst ERA in the Mets bullpen.
Up until that point, the Mets catching situation was actually one of the bright spots to what was a great start to the season. The combination of Plawecki and Travis d’Arnaud combined to hit .229/.341/.343 with six runs, a double, a homer, and four RBI. While they were catching, the Mets pitching staff had a 2.47 ERA, 3.2 BB/9, and a 9.9 K/9.
Since d’Arnaud opted to have Tommy John surgery and Plawecki’s hand has taken longer to heal than expected, things have gone quite differently for this Mets team with the new catching tandem of Jose Lobaton and Tomas Nido.
Whereas the Plawecki/d’Arnaud tandem was at least passable offensively, Lobaton/Nido have not. Combined, Lobaton and Nido have hit .164/.269/.218 with a double, triple, and four RBI.
While we should be cautioned not to rely upon things like catcher ERA or results in small sample sizes, the Mets pitching staff has had a 5.30 ERA. Surprisingly, the walks have come slightly down to a 3.0 BB/9 while the strikeouts have remained at a 9.9 K/9.
More troubling, the Mets who got off to a 10-1 start have gone 7-9 with their new catching duo.
There are many reasons for the difference in records including a natural regression from a team that started the season 10-1. Really, no one believed the Mets were going to go 147-15 for the full season.
And the catching situation has nothing to do with Amed Rosario regressing, Michael Conforto not hitting for power, or Adrian Gonzalez not contributing anywhere near what the Mets expected. Still, these catchers are part of a black hole the Mets have in the bottom of their lineup.
The Mets have also had two bad bullpen meltdowns with Lobaton behind the plate. The first one was the Nationals six run 8th inning. It was a complete meltdown, and no one quite knew how to stop it from happening. Not Mickey Callaway. Not Dave Eiland. Not Lobaton.
The second one, much smaller in scale was the Mets blowing a 3-0 lead to the Braves. Lobaton was on for the two run eighth, and Nido was there for the two run ninth.
Maybe these meltdowns were coincidences. It’s possible Matt Harvey would have regressed the way he has anyway. We’ve seen enough of Steven Matz to know we don’t know what he’s going to provide. AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins always had difficulty with walks. The list goes on and on.
Whatever the case, the one thing that is apparent, even if this stretch is not completely the fault of either Lobaton or Nido, the Mets miss their catchers. Unfortunately, d’Arnaud is gone for the season, and he may never suit up for the Mets again. As for Plawecki, he’s still a few weeks away. Seeing how the Mets are performing in his absence, he cannot get back here soon enough.