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.
If you look at the Mets bullpen, the theme appears to be “If.” If this bullpen is healthy, and if this bullpen performs to its full potential, it is going to be one of the best in the game.
The flip side of that is if it isn’t, we’re going to see more of the same.
That’s the way it is with bullpens. You just try to acquire as many quality guys as you can, and you hope it works. Perhaps with Jeremy Hefner, this is more primed to work.
One thing we do know is starting pitching can help a bullpen. The deeper starters can go, the less you need to go to the well. This keeps your relievers healthier and fresher which hopefully leads to better productivity.
That brings us back to what the Mets have opted to do with their pitching this offseason.
In signing Betances, Wacha, and Rick Porcello, the Mets have spent $23.5 million guaranteed. That number rises to $30.5 million if Wacha hits all of his incentives.
That $23.5 million figure is important because that’s just a hair off of what the Phillies are paying Zack Wheeler per year.
Essentially, the Mets believed Porcello plus a reclamation project in Wacha and Betances. With Betances, remember prior to the Achillies, he had dealt with a shoulder impingement and lat issue all through the 2019 season.
Even when Betances did return, he admitted to his stuff and velocity not being there. That was before he partially tore his Achilles.
Yes, Betances is an arm well worth the gamble. Not only has he shown the ability to flat out dominate, but he’s also shown the ability to do it in New York. That’s important.
Still, you really have to wonder about the wisdom of rolling the dice on three relievers when you’re already rolling the dice on two relievers who were supposed to be your top two relievers. Add to that the significant downgrade from Porcello, who you’re also rolling the dice on, from Wheeler, and you’re left wondering if this was the best allocation of resources.
That does double when you consider Wheeler stays in the division making the Phillies significantly better.
Ultimately, the 2020 bullpen and pitching staff as a whole may be better. Then again, the bullpen could be more of the same with the pitching staff as a whole far worse.
Of course, the Mets bullpen could’ve remained the same and been far better as a result of Diaz adapting better to New York, and the elimination of the super ball helping him, Familia, and the rest of the bullpen.
That’s the gamble the Mets took. They decided on adding a group of lesser pitchers being better than the known quantity in Wheeler.
It’s not a smart bet, but it’s still possible the Mets bet pays off. No matter what, the Mets better be right here.
With today being Thanksgiving, it is time to go around the Mets roster and say things we are thankful for:
Pete Alonso – he’s been better than even the highest and most absurd expectations anyone could have of him both in terms of his on the field play as well as the type of teammate and person he is
Carlos Beltran – for coming home
Robinson Cano – showed some late positive exit velocities showing there is some hope for a 2020 rebound
Yoenis Cespedes – for everyone questioning the drive of a man severely injured and needing career saving surgery, he is out there in the cold taking batting practice
Michael Conforto – re-established himself as one of the best young corner outfielders in the game, and with his talent, he’s on the verge of an MVP caliber season
J.D. Davis – quickly became a fan favorite and like few others seemed to really enjoy being a New York Met.
Jacob deGrom – best pitcher in baseball and starting to etch his likeness on the Mets Mt. Rushmore
Edwin Diaz – he survived the season, made no excuses, and he is doing what he needs to do to be the pitcher he was in 2018.
Jeurys Familia – he stopped using “Danza Kudro” meaning we no longer go to very bad places when that music begins blaring
Luis Guillorme – proved if given a chance he is a Major League caliber player giving the Mets some real needed middle infield depth
Chris Flexen – his move to the bullpen gives the Mets an interesting upside option in the bullpen
Robert Gsellman – he is one of those throwback type reliever who is always willing to take the ball no matter what
Sam Haggerty – it’s not often a player comes out of nowhere to provide real value to an organization the way Haggerty did with this speed
Jed Lowrie – to his credit, he did everything he could just to get those pinch hitting appearances late in the season
Seth Lugo – the best reliever in baseball who now gives Beltran a reliever who can break knees with his curve
Steven Matz – took that step forward and put to bed the unfair and wrong mentally weak narrative
Jeff McNeil – the man just does it all. He hits, plays everywhere, and he saves puppies.
Tomas Nido – became the defensive minded back-up catcher many believed him to be, and he played a part getting Mets pitchers head in the right place during different parts of the year.
Corey Oswalt – he put behind some injuries and gross mishandling by the organization to show he is a viable depth starting option for the organization
Wilson Ramos – drove in a number of big runs last year, and he has promised to be better behind the plate in 2020.
Amed Rosario – just a tireless worker who seems to be on the cusp of fulfilling the immense potential we all saw he had in the minors
Paul Sewald – he keeps proving himself to be better than the narrative, and he finally got his first Major League win to put an exclamation point on what is one of the better stories of the Mets farm system
Dominic Smith – that walk-off homer was a beautiful exclamation point on a season where he proved everyone who ever doubted him to be very wrong
Marcus Stroman – few have fully embraced being a Met like he has and fewer have been ready to thrive on the New York stage
Noah Syndergaard – not just a great pitcher, but also a guy who wants to be a New York Met.
Justin Wilson – was terrific in 2019, and with the LOOGY rules, he becomes an even more valuable bullpen piece in 2020
In terms of the talent still here, there is a lot to be thankful for. Hopefully, we will see the return of Zack Wheeler giving us all the more to be thankful for in 2020 and beyond.
The Mets did good by hiring Carlos Beltran as the 22nd manager in team history. In Beltran, they have someone who is a very good communicator who has the ability to unite a clubhouse while also teaching players things to help them significantly improve. Given his skill set, he can be a superstar manager like he was a superstar player.
However, Beltran in and of himself is not going to be enough to take this Mets team over the top.
With Zack Wheeler being a free agent, the team is going to need a fifth starter. At the moment, internal options like Walker Lockett and Corey Oswalt are not ready to step up to fill that void. The team has mentioned Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo as options, but that only serves to further damage what is already a weak bullpen.
In 2019, Lugo and Justin Wilson were the only dependable relievers in that bullpen. When you look at it, even assuming a bounce-back from Edwin Diaz, this team still needs at least two big arms in the bullpen this offseason. They will need more if Gsellman or Lugo move to the rotation making that decision to rob Peter to pay Paul.
The Mets also need a center fielder, third baseman, backup catcher, and just plain old depth. With Juan Lagares having his option declined, they need a defensive replacement. The team cannot rely upon Jed Lowrie to contribute anything. Tomas Nido was a good defensive catcher, but with his complete inability to hit, you wonder how much you can rely upon him to be on the roster for a full season.
All told, this is a Mets roster which needs a lot of work. Given the dearth of prospects at the Double-A and Triple-A level last year, the team is going to have to acquire those players this offseason instead of looking from within. With all the prospects the Mets traded away over the last year, it is going to be difficult to trade their way back to contention.
That leaves the Mets with spending, and with the Mets being owned by the Wilpons, that is a dicey proposition.
Now, there are some who will say the Mets did spend last year. According to Spotrac, the Mets 2019 payroll was $160.5 million which ranked 10th in the majors.
Lost in that was how David Wright‘s $15 million is included in that amount. Wright had a portion of that salary covered by insurance, and the Mets renegotiated future payments with Wright. The figure also included Yoenis Cespedes‘ $29 million salary which was covered by insurance. Between Wright’s full salary and 70% of Cespedes’ salary being covered, the Mets payroll was reduced by $35.5 million.
That reduces the Mets REAL 2019 payroll to $125 million, which would’ve ranked 18th in the majors. That number is all the worse when you consider Adeiny Hechavarria and Carlos Gomez were cut before roster bonuses were due, and Jason Vargas was traded so the team could clear payroll space after obtaining Marcus Stroman.
As of today, the Mets payroll is $168.8 million. Now, that figure includes Wright’s $12 million, Cespedes’ $29.5 million, and the $5.1 projected arbitration figure due Joe Panik. On that front, as noted earlier, Wright’s contract was been renegotiated, and it is very likely Panik is non-tendered. With respect to Cespedes, there will be no insurance protection this year.
When you dig a little more, that $168.8 includes Jacob deGrom‘s $27.5 million salary. On that front, the $27.5 million figure is for competitive balance tax purposes only. In reality, deGrom is only making $13 million meaning $12.5 million of his salary is deferred.
This means the Mets ACTUAL payroll obligations are $139.2million. That is before the Mets go forward looking to add players this offseason. Still, people will point to the competitive balance tax as a reason why the Mets can’t spend. Let’s take a look at it for a second.
Putting reason aside, assuming the Mets sign Wheeler to a deal with a $30 million average annual value raising the payroll obligations to $188.8. That puts the Mets $19.2 million short of the $208 competitive balance tax figure.
Taking a more realistic approach, assume the Mets don’t go and sign Anthony Rendon. For a minute, just assume the Mets sign a Mike Moustakas ($10 million AAV), Drew Pomeranz ($8 million AAV), and a backup catcher like Jonathan Lucroy ($2 million AAV). Assume the rest of the roster is filled out for a cost of around $5 million, which is probably the very low end.
Assuming Panik is non-tendered, that puts competitive balance payroll at $213.8 million. That would incur the “tax penalty.” The amount of the penalty? It would only be $1.2 million. That’s it.
When looking at the $1.2 million remember the Mets already have $12 million off the books with Wright and $12.5 million deferred with deGrom. As a result, the $1.2 million is more than covered. When you look at it, the Mets can really blow past that $208 million this year.
In fact, the Mets should considering they have Cespedes’$29 million coming off the books completely, and the same can be said for Wright’s $12 million. Essentially, the Mets have $41 million coming off the books.
Whether the Mets will be proactive remains to be seen. If history is any measure, they won’t. Just remember, when they don’t, we should not let them invoke the competitive balance tax as a reason because it is not in any way a real impediment.
The only impediment to the Mets spending are the Mets themselves, and that is not in any way acceptable.
On July 31, the New York Mets obtained Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes would become an instant star with the Mets hitting .287/.337/.604 with 14 doubles, four triples, 17 homers, and 44 RBI in just 57 games. After the Mets would win the pennant, fans clamored for his return.
Cespedes would return, and he’d be as impressive in 2016 helping the Mets grab the top Wild Card spot. He’d opt out of that contract, and he would sign a four year deal that has not gone nearly as well. Over the first two years of the deal, he’d hit an impressive .282/.343/.525, but he’d only play 119 games out of a possible 324 games.
With Cespedes having season ending heel surgery in 2018 and his falling into a hole on his ranch, he would not play at all in 2019 meaning he’s only played 119 games out of a possible 486 games over the first three years of his deal. Who knows if he will be able to play at all in 2020?
The key piece going to the Detroit Tigers was Michael Fulmer. Like Cespedes, Fulmer had two strong years after the trade before succumbing to injury. In 2016, Fulmer was the Rookie of the Year, and in 2017, Fulmer was an All-Star.
In 2018, Fulmer had a down year as he dealt with various injuries. After season ending knee surgery that year, he would be diagnosed with a torn UCL before Spring Training this year. He underwent Tommy John surgery in March, and he would miss the entire season, and like Cespedes, we cannot be sure when he can play in 2020.
That leaves the final piece of the trade – Luis Cessa.
Cessa was traded by the Tigers to the New York Yankees along with Chad Green for Justin Wilson. Green has emerged as a key piece to the Yankees bullpen, and Cessa finally carved out a real role in the Yankees bullpen for himself this year.
Cessa would make his first postseason appearance in Game 3 of the ALCS pitching two scoreless innings against the Houston Astros. That makes Cessa the lone part of that famed Cespedes trade who is not only in the postseason this year, but who actually played a game during the 2019 season.
In the end, the Mets thought they were getting a player who would lead them to their first World Series Championship since 1986. The Detroit Tigers thought they were getting a staff ace who would lead them to their first title since 1984. The Yankees were getting an arm with upside, and that arm who could contribute something in the future.
It’s just funny how that one overlooked pitcher is the one player from a noteworthy deal who is in this postseason. We’ll see how things play out from here.
The New York Mets have begun assembling their list of managerial candidates, and they are beginning to set up interviews with different candidates. Judging from what we heard when he broadcasted Mets games this year, Joe Girardi really wants this job. Given his being a very good manager, the Mets should be doing all they could do to hire him.
But . . .
Even with Girardi being the best candidate available there are some red flags with him. He was fired from the Marlins for an inability to get along with ownership, and there probably aren’t any more meddlesome owners in sports than the Wilpons. While he has managed in New York, and he has worked in the media, he was never great handling the New York press. No, he wasn’t bad, but he does have a tendency to be a bit cantankerous, which does not play well in the press.
In terms of the fanbase, Mets fans who have loudly criticized Mickey Callaway for not having a feel for the game are going to go berserk with Girardi and his binders. There is also the issue of how things ended poorly with the Yankees in terms of communication with the players.
Taking all that into account, Girardi is still an excellent manager who would make the Mets better. Yet, there is one massive reason why the Mets should not hire him.
In Girardi’s last year managing the Yankees, he was making $4 million a year. Even if he accepts some form of a discount, the Mets are still going to owe Callaway $850,000 in 2020. Being that this is the Mets, that money can be damaging.
Adeiny Hechavarria was cut one day prior to his being owed a $1 million roster bonus. Carlos Gomez was cut as he was about to reach bonus levels. That’s at least $1.25 million the Mets could not afford to spend in-season. Connecting the dots further, it appeared the Mets needed to trade Jason Vargas to fit Marcus Stroman into the budget.
The Mets operate with a shoestring budget. Assuming the combined cost of Girardi and Callaway is $4 million, that is going to cost the Mets at least one player, maybe more.
That salary level is just $1 million less than what Justin Wilson will earn in 2020. That means Girardi will cost the Mets a late inning reliever they so desperately need. That puts more of an onus on Seth Lugo and puts the Mets in a position where they will have to completely rely on an Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia rebound.
In addition to the bullpen, the Mets need to add a fifth starter to replace Zack Wheeler. That extra couple of million to Girardi could make the difference between a trusted arm and them having to turn to Walker Lockett or Corey Oswalt.
The Mets could use some bench help too. The money to Girardi likely means the Mets are stuck with Tomas Nido and his bat as the backup catcher. That means there Mets are likely stuck looking at a series of minor league deals to league minimums for an everyday center fielder or defensive replacement. That’s if they can afford that.
Overall, a few million may not seem as much to normal teams, but to the Mets that is crippling to their ability to add players to the roster. In the end, the Mets really need to ask themselves if Girardi alone is enough to overcome a fifth starter, one or more arms in the bullpen, and/or bench depth.
While Girardi is good, he’s not that good. No one is. As a result, the Mets should probably be looking to hire another (read cheaper) manager.
There were plenty of reasons to fire Mickey Callaway if you wanted. In fact, his incident with Tim Healey in and of itself was grounds for firing. To the extent it was Callaway and not the front office making some of those curious moves, you certainly have further justification.
However, what you really can’t do is pin the Mets failures to make the postseason at Callaway’s lap, which is what firing him does. That was all the more the case when Brodie Van Wagenen was trying to spin the 2019 season as a positive, including but not limited to noting Edwin Diaz had 26 saves.
Before proceeding, some background is necessary here.
By and large, the Mets were seen as a third or fourth place team in the division with around 85 wins. For example, ZiPS predicted the Mets would finish the year 87-75 in a three way tie for second place in the division. Looking at the 2019 season, the Mets Pythagorean was 86-76, and it just so happened, that was the Mets final record as they finished in third place in the division.
To that extend, the Mets neither over nor underachieved. Rather, you could argue they performed as expected. Of course, lost in that was all that happened during the season.
Pete Alonso had a season greater than anyone could’ve imagined. Jeff McNeil was an All-Star. Amed Rosario figured things out in the second half. The Mets got more production from J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith than they could’ve reasonably expected.
Looking at that alone, you would say the Mets should’ve finished much better than they did. After all, when you are getting that level of production from your young players, the Mets should have been in the Braves position. They would fall far short of that.
There were many reasons for that. Brandon Nimmo would miss over three months of the season. Jed Lowrie would record no hits in only nine pinch hitting attempts. Robinson Cano had an injury plagued year, and when he did play he was not up to his typical standards. Aside from Seth Lugo, the bullpen was mainly a mess. Noah Syndergaard would struggle with the new ball and the new catcher.
The Syndergaard point brings up another interesting point. All the moves Van Wagenen made this offseason proved to be a downgrade from what was already on the team.
Ramos’ 1.4 fWAR was lower than Travis d’Arnaud‘s 1.6. Another interesting note is d’Arnaud would have a 107 OPS+ with the Rays, which is the same Ramos would have with the Mets the whole year. The Mets would cut d’Arnaud after one horrible game leaving the Mets with Tomas Nido as the backup for the full season. He’d have a -0.5 fWAR, which is lower than both d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki (0.2).
Cano’s 0.3 WAR was lower than McNeil’s 5.0. Worse yet, it was only 0.1 higher than Justin Dunn‘s 0.2 in four games with the Mariners this year. In fact, Dunn’s 0.2 WAR was much higher than Diaz’s -0.6. Things get worse when you consider Anthony Swarzak had a 0.0 WAR.
Long story short, the Mets would have been better off in 2019 if this trade was never made. What makes this all the more scary is this was supposed to be the year the Mets benefited most. Things are going to get much worse as Jarred Kelenic continues his way to the majors.
Now, people will want to say not all of Van Wagenen’s moves were bad with Davis being held up as the ideal. On that note, Davis was terrible in the field. Among players with at least 550 innings in left, his -11 DRS was the worst in the National League. Among third baseman with at least 200 innings, his -9 DRS was the third worst in all of baseball.
All told, Davis had a 1.0 WAR on the season. That’s just 0.2 higher than Wilmer Flores despite his having played 51 more games. All told, the Mets would have been better off keeping Flores over trading for Davis and signing Lowrie. It would have been a much better allocation of resources than what Van Wagenen actually did.
Beyond all of that, the Mets had players like Aaron Altherr, Keon Broxton, and Carlos Gomez serve as outfield depth. They’d cycle through relievers like Tim Peterson, Stephen Nogosek, Hector Santiago, Brooks Pounders, and the like all season rather than adding that one other arm the bullpen needed. That would make Jeurys Familia‘s season long struggles and Justin Wilson‘s needing to be limited all the worse.
In the end, you can see all the good mitigated against all the bad. In fact, you could argue given all that happened, the Mets probably could’ve been worse than their third place finish. This is all to say the Mets probably did about as well as could have been expected.
That brings us back to Callaway.
Given the Mets did not underachieve, you have a difficult basis to fire him. If you want to argue a better manager could have gotten more from this team, you certainly have a point. If that is the case, the Mets have to now go out and get that guy. That means you hire Joe Girardi or maybe Buck Showalter or Dusty Baker.
But make no mistake here. By firing Callaway, the Mets are essentially pinpointing him as the reason why this team missed the postseason. In the end, if the Mets are going to sell everyone Callaway was the problem, the next manager is going to have to take the Mets to the postseason. That is the bar which has now been set.
If the Mets don’t make the postseason, then we’ll know what we have known since Spring Training. The Mets weren’t good enough not because of their manager. No, they weren’t good enough because the Wilpons didn’t invest enough money into this team, and the General Manager they hired failed to assemble the roster good enough to back up the “Come get us!” hype.
The Mets are eliminated from the postseason. The Braves have homefield in their NLDS series against the Cardinals locked up. That doesn’t mean there was nothing to play for tonight. We saw there was when Pete Alonso hit his 52nd homer of the year.
The ❄️🐻’s historic season just keeps on getting better. pic.twitter.com/KyG1dnuP88
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 27, 2019
It was a good start for Marcus Stroman who had a very good close to the season to give you hope for 2020. It was his 10th win of the year and his fourth with the Mets.
What left you puzzled was Seth Lugo pitching two innings to close out the game. He’s been great all year, and there’s no need to push him, even slightly, for the sake of a save. After all, they shut down Justin Wilson, and Lugo is a better and much more important reliever.
But today was about Alonso, and the rest of the season will be about him as well. While he’s tied Judge, his job may not be truly complete until he surpasses Judge to hold the record all by himself.
Game Notes: Jeurys Familia pitches a scoreless eighth to pick up his first hold this month.
Michael Conforto would put it off for a day, but now, the Mets are officially eliminated from postseason contention. With the Mets falling short in the fashion they have, there are a number of what ifs which occurred during the course of the season.
One of those what ifs is what if the Mets didn’t blow this game or lose that game. While there were several of those games in the first half, that was all the more the case in the second half when the team was playing well and making a charge. With the Mets being five games out, here are five games in the second half which the Mets certainly wish they had back:
Reds 3 – Mets 2
Saturday, September 21
The Mets absolutely had to have this game. For the Mets to actually grab a Wild Card spot, they were going to have to win out or come very close to it. With a big pitching mismatch between Zack Wheeler and Anthony DeSclafani, this seemed like a game the Mets should win easily.
The Reds would score two first inning runs due to a Todd Frazier error and misplay. It would be hard to put this loss on Frazier as he would collect two of the Mets three hits on the day, and he would score one of their only two runs scored.
Ultimately, the team squandered two huge opportunities. They only scored one run after having runners at second and third with no outs in the third. They’d only score one run with the bases loaded and one out with the top of the lineup coming up in the top of the fifth.
The loss was made all the worse with Justin Wilson getting into trouble, and Seth Lugo allowing one of his inherited runners to score. As bad as that was, it would be Christian Colon who delivered the RBI single, off a Lugo curveball to boot, to put an effective end to the Mets season.
Marlins 8 – Mets 4
Friday, July 12
The Mets were 10 games under .500 heading into the All Star Break. Despite the team being that many games under .500, they had a favorable schedule in the second half, and with their being only seven games back of the second Wild Card, they did have an opportunity. The key for them was getting off to a fast start out of the break.
Instead of putting their best foot forward, they started Jason Vargas. Vargas would blow a third inning 2-0 lead allowing homers to Curtis Granderson and Garrett Cooper in the third. Vargas would last into the sixth where he would implode again. Overall, he’d allow six earned over his five plus innings.
After the bullpen couldn’t keep it closer, the Mets ninth inning rally would fall short in an 8-4 loss. Sadly, this would not be the only time the Mets were beaten by Caleb Smith and the Marlins in the second half.
Giants 3 – Mets 2 (16)
Thursday, July 18
Back when the Mets were pairing Noah Syndergaard with Tomas Nido to get the best out of Syndergaard, they’d get a great performance from Syndergaard with him allowing just one earned over seven innings. Much like the 2016 Wild Card Game, the Giants had Madison Bumgarner match him pitch for pitch, and we’d see Bumgarner last nine innings.
After nine, it was tied at 1-1, and the Mets would get an opportunity they didn’t have in that Wild Card Game. They’d get to face the Giants bullpen.
In the 10th, that appeared serendipitous as they loaded the bases with just one out against Will Smith only to see Conforto and Jeff McNeil strike out. The Mets would also squander opportunities in the 13th and 15th as their bullpen put forth their best effort of the season.
Then finally, the Mets broke through as Pete Alonso would break out of his slump hitting a huge go-ahead homer in the 16h inning giving the Mets a 2-1 lead. That’s when seemingly innocuous decisions made previously would present their ramifications.
In Minnesota, the Mets had used Chris Mazza to pitch the final two innings of a blowout 14-4 victory over the Twins. What was curious about that decision was the Mets had Jacob Rhame available for that game, and they knew he had a suspension looming from an April incident. Before the game against the Giants, Rhame agreed to a suspension making him unavailable for this game.
With Mazza being the last guy in the bullpen, the Mets would look on as a tired pitcher could not record one out as the Giants would score two in the bottom of the inning to win 3-2. This loss was made all the worse because there was a clear hangover with the Mets being unable to score a run over 10 innings leading them to waste yet another Jacob deGrom start.
Braves 2 – Mets 1 (14)
Friday, August 21
The Mets were flying high entering this series having won 16 out of their last 18 games. As a result, they were seven games over .500 for the first time since April 24, 2018. At the time, the Mets were only 1.5 games out of a Wild Card spot putting them in the thick of the postseason race. With a strong series against the Braves here, the Mets had an opportunity to put the division in play.
Instead, the Mets would get swept by the Braves leading to the team losing six straight games. Even though the Mets would make another run at it, they ultimately could not overcome this stretch, and it would being with an absolutely brutal loss.
Mike Foltynewicz, a pitcher with a 6.09 ERA entering this game, would allow just two hits over seven innings. Ultimately, the only batter to get to him was deGrom, who would hit a sixth inning homer to tie the score at 1-1. As bad as the Mets bullpen had been all year, you could argue the Braves bullpen was worse. That combined with the Mets having last licks, you could argue the Mets were in position to pull out this game.
The Mets had a huge opportunity in the 10th against former teammate Anthony Swarzak. The team would put together a two out rally and load the bases, but Amed Rosario would strike out to end the inning.
The Mets blew an 11th inning chance as well. After Joe Panik was hit by a pitch by Sean Newcomb, he’d move to third after two wild pitches during Alonso’s at-bat. Alonso and Conforto would strike out, and the Braves intentionally walked J.D. Davis to force Brad Brach out of the game and to face the Mets last pinch hitter on the bench – Aaron Altherr. He’d ground out to end the inning.
What would make that even more maddening was the Mets passed on the opportunity to claim Billy Hamilton, who would have been a real upgrade to this team, off waivers. As luck would have it, Hamilton would face Jeurys Familia, and he would drive home the go-ahead run.
What made that all the more maddening was it was an Adeiny Hechavarria ground rule double which put the go-ahead run into scoring position. In essence, the player the Mets cut rather than pay him a roster bonus, and the player the Mets would not claim so they didn’t have to pay him more than the league minimum Altherr, would prove to be two players who helped cost the Mets the game.
As we know, that was a winnable game the Mets needed to have. While it did not push the Mets out of contention, it would prove to be the first in a series of losses which took the Mets from the thick of the race to the periphery.
Nationals 11 – Mets 10
Tuesday, September 4
After a potentially season ending sweep against the Cubs, the Mets got off the mat taking two of three from the Phillies, and they took the first game in the series against the Nationals to pull within 4.0 games of a Wild Card spot. They were up 10-4 and about to pull within seven games of the Nationals for the top Wild Card spot.
The Mets had a 99.7 percent chance of winning that game, and they were 806-0 in franchise history when they led by six after nine innings.
That’s when we saw an epic bullpen meltdown; one we have never before seen the Mets have in their history. Paul Sewald, Luis Avilan, and Edwin Diaz combined to record just one out as the Nationals scored seven ninth inning runs. While many in hindsight would question removing Seth Lugo or question not using Justin Wilson against two batters with great numbers against left-handed pitching, the truth of the matter neither of those things were the problem.
The problem was this Mets bullpen was so unreliable that they cannot even be trusted to hold a six run lead. Therein lied the problem with this game, and it was a big problem throughout the season. It was a contributing factor in this and other losses the Mets suffered both in the first and second half. Huge soul crushing losses. That makes this bullpen just one of the biggest reasons why the Mets are not going to be in the postseason this year.
Now that the Mets postseason hopes are officially over, there will come a time to write post mortems to assess all that went wrong and how the Mets could improve in the future.
Before doing that, we should first acknowledge these Mets players fought tooth and nail giving all they could give to help make an improbable run. What we would discover is this is a tough and very likeable group who deserves our gratitude.
Pete Alonso – for having perhaps the greatest rookie season in MLB history while being just a good person.
Aaron Altherr – his RBI double and scoring later in the game proved to be the winning run in a game against the Pirates as the team looked to turn their season around.
Luis Avilan – limited LHB to a .104/.189/.188 batting line making him an exceptional LOOGY, perhaps the last true LOOGY with the incoming MLB rule changes.
Brad Brach – came to the Mets like he always wanted, and he helped stabilize a bullpen which desperately needed his help.
Keon Broxton – had a go-ahead RBI against the Nationals in April helping the Mets get off to another great start.
Robinson Cano – returned from what should’ve been a season ending injury to do all he could to help get this team into the postseason.
Michael Conforto – reminded us how great he is when he is healthy. Yes, great.
Travis d’Arnaud – came back too soon, never complained, and he left the Mets with pride and dignity after a good Mets career.
J.D. Davis – had a season better than anyone could’ve imagined with a number of big hits. More than that, he became a fan favorite as he was a player who clearly loved being a part of this team.
Rajai Davis – the lifelong Mets fan came home, and he would deliver two absolutely huge pinch hits to keep the Mets afloat at times they needed them.
Jacob deGrom – we are experiencing greatness everytime he takes the mound, and at some point we will need to begin having Hall of Fame conversations about him.
Edwin Diaz – there was a real dignity with him when he faced the media everytime he struggled. He made no excuses, and he put the work in to try to get back to where he was in Seattle. From what we’ve seen, he will get back there next year.
Jeurys Familia – you have to say something about someone who loved being a Mets player, and he came back to be a part of another winning team. Hopefully, that will be next year.
Chris Flexen – reinvented himself as a reliever who showed potential with the ability to strike out batters.
Wilmer Font – showed the Mets real value as a reliever before he was inexplicably designated for assignment.
Todd Frazier – provided this team with real leadership and defense, and he had a number of hot stretches which helped the Mets get back into it.
Drew Gagnon – for a month stretch from late April to late May he was an extremely reliable reliever.
Carlos Gomez – came back to the Mets and started the fun “Ye! Ye! Ye!” rallying cry.
Robert Gsellman – before he began to breakdown due to overuse, he was putting together a really good season out of the bullpen.
Luis Guillorme – when he finally got his chance, he proved himself showing this team he needs to be a part of the future. His pinch hit homer was one of the biggest hits of the season.
Sam Haggerty – like Eric Young in 2015, he was a weapon as a pinch runner.
Donnie Hart – albeit in just one appearance, he’s one of the few pitchers in Mets history who has never allowed a run.
Adeiny Hechavarria – showed surprising power and helped keep the Mets going in May.
Juan Lagares – at the end, he reminded us of how great a fielder he can be, and he had one last hurrah with his first two home rungame.
Walker Lockett – his start in San Francisco was the lone win in what was otherwise a lost series.
Jed Lowrie – despite suffering significant injuries, he pushed onward to make himself a viable pinch hitting option.
Seth Lugo – he has been absolutely great, and he has kept an otherwise struggling bullpen afloat.
Steven Matz – for the second straight year, Matz made 30 starts, and he made huge strides forward with a big second half and being dominant at home.
Chris Mazza – a 29 year old rookie is a feel good story, and he had quite the debut against a very good Braves lineup.
Jeff McNeil – proved last year was no fluke, and his versatility allowed the team to get the most out of the roster.
Tomas Nido – was a terrific defensive catcher and framer who helped get the most out of the starters and help them get their minds straight.
Brandon Nimmo – came back from a bulging disc in his neck to pick up where he left off last year. His enthusiasm and love of baseball is always a breath of fresh air.
Stephen Nogosek – put together a great year in the minors to get to the majors.
Corey Oswalt – strong year in Triple-A giving the Mets real rotation depth going forward.
Joe Panik – came back home to New York to help keep the team afloat at the time the Mets were in desperate need for a second baseman, and he performed quite well.
Tim Peterson – earned his way onto the Opening Day roster,and he’d pitch fairly well in his limited opportunities.
Brooks Pounders – six of his seven outings were really good.
Wilson Ramos – turned what was going to be an awful year around with a great August, and his ability to frame the high pitch proved to be a real help to deGrom.
Jacob Rhame – before landing on the IL to end the year, he was showing glimpses of being the type of arm who could be a useful part of the bullpen going forward.
Rene Rivera – brought back warm memories from the 2016 season with him combining with Syndergaard to dominate the Nationals.
Amed Rosario – he made a fools out of people who didn’t believe in his work ethic and talent by showing he is going to be an impact player on both sides of the ball in the future.
Hector Santiago – picked up a big win in extra innings against the Tigers.
Paul Sewald – despite being an afterthought, he once again proved he was a Major League caliber reliever, and he would finally get that first win which proved to be so elusive for him.
Dominic Smith – despite his being maligned and dropped down the depth chart, he would get healthy, and he would show everyone just how good a player he is, and he showed himself to be a great teammate more interested in how he could help the team than his role.
Marcus Stroman – the man was born to pitch on the biggest stage, and he would show it to us. A full year of him is going to be a thrill.
Jason Vargas – he really helped the Mets Wild Card hopes by bombing with the Phillies.
Zack Wheeler – he desperately wanted to be a part of a Mets postseason push, and he not only got that chance, but he would be great down the stretch.
Justin Wilson – he put the elbow problems aside, and he had just a terrific year out of the bullpen.
Daniel Zamora – 13 of his 16 appearances were scoreless, and with his splits, he showed the Mets he could be a modern LOOGY with the changing bullpen rules.
Overall, while you may hate what Brodie Van Wagenen has done as the General Manager, and you can hate the Wilpons for not being invested in this team, you simply have to love each and every one of these players for all they gave this team. We should appreciate them for fighting to the finish and giving us hope for next year.