With Todd Frazier set to come off the Injured List, Amed Rosario feeling ill, and Justin Wilson needing to head to the Injured List with elbow soreness, the Mets set for a series of transactions to address the bench and the bullpen. In the end, Luis Guillorme was back with the team, and for some reason Jacob Rhame stayed in the bullpen while Paul Sewald was sent back to Syracuse.
Having seen both pitchers since 2017, you see two very flawed relievers. There is a reason why both have not been able to quite stick at the Major League level. To some, choosing one over the other is not that big of a deal because most fans don’t trust either reliever. That mindset is a bit short-sighted.
For starters, take a look at their career stats. In his career, Sewald has pitched 126.2 innings in 106 appearances. He has a 0-13 record with two saves, a 5.19 ERA, 1.342 WHIP, 3.3 BB/9, and a 9.1 K/9. From an advanced statistic perspective, Sewald has a 76 ERA+ and a 4.09 FIP.
For his part, Rhame has pitched 42.2 innings over 40 apperances. He is 2-3 with one save, a 1.594 WHIP, 3.6 BB/9, and a 7.4 WHIP. From an advanced statistic perspective, Rhame has a 59 ERA+ and a 5.83 FIP.
Certainly, when you look at the stats, Sewald has definitively had more success than Rhame. However to be fair, Sewald has had more chances despite Rhame arguably having much better stuff. Of course, while Rhame’s stuff may be better, it has not yet translated to Major League success.
Ideally, you want to carry the best pitchers on your staff as you possibly can, and so far in their respective careers, Sewald is the better pitcher. However, it is much more than that. There is also an element on how the pieces in the bullpen fit together.
An interesting note with Sewald is he has been fairly consistently used for multiple innings in his career. For example, in two of his three appearances this year, he pitched over one inning. Last year, 18 of his first 32 appearances were more than one inning. Overall, Sewald has pitched more than one inning 32 times in his career, which is 30 percent of his appearances.
With respect to Rhame, this is something he has done as well. In fact, he has done it in 12 of his 40 appearances, which is the same 30 percent rate. However, there is a difference in the amount of innings Rhame and Sewald have gone. For example, Sewald has been able to pitch more than two innings when needed. That’s a feat Rhame has not yet been asked to do.
Looking at the construct of the Mets bullpen, Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman can both go multiple innings. This creates an issue for the Mets when their starters can’t go deep into games because they’re now using these two relievers in low leverage situations making them unavailable or not as effective when they’re needed for the higher leverage spots.
Right there is the reason why the Mets should have kept Sewald on the roster. He is the guy Mickey Callaway needs to bring into the game when his starters falter and the Mets fall behind by a good margin. Sewald can come in and give multiple innings thereby saving the bullpen and letting them fight another day. At this stage in his career, Rhame doesn’t have that same capability.
In the end, that’s why seemingly small decisions like this have larger ramifications. In the end, you really have to wonder how much this was factored into the Mets decision making when they opted to carry the pitcher who not only gives them much less length, but also has not had nearly the same level of success of the Major League level.
In a nine year Major League career, Craig Kimbrel has saved 333 games, which is the 14th most all-time. His career 1.91 ERA and 211 ERA+ is the best all-time for a reliever. He is a seven time All-Star, and he has finished in the Top 10 in Cy Young voting in five of his nine seasons. How Kimbrel performs during this next contract will go a very long way in determining whether or not he goes to the Baseball Hall of Fame when he retires.
With the Hall of Fame on the line and with his being an elite closer for NINE SEASONS, you can understand why Kimbrel would insist on remaining a closer. While there are no public statements confirming this is Kimbrel’s hold-up, there have been a number of outlets who have drawn the inference.
According to recent reports, the Mets are not willing to have Kimbrel pitch the ningth. To put it as simply as it can be put, if the only hold-up with Kimbrel right now is he wants to close, the Mets as an organization are stupid for letting that be a hold-up.
No, this is not an indictment whatsoever on Edwin Diaz. So far this season, Diaz has been everything the Mets could have possibly asked him to be. He is a perfect 7-for-7 in save opportunities with a 16.4 K/9. His 11th inning save against the Phillies where he mowed down Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, and J.T. Realmuto on 11 pitches was awe inspiring.
Understandably, you want to have a pitcher like Diaz closing out games in the ninth. However, you also want a closer like Kimbrel closing out games in the ninth. What you don’t want is the current state of the Mets bullpen.
What is not great is the rest of the Mets bullpen. So far, Jeurys Familia has been a massive disappointment. We have also seen some unexpected struggles from Seth Lugo. In the long run, both pitchers should be fine, and with Justin Wilson and Robert Gsellman, the Mets do have the pieces for a good bullpen.
Still, there are major issues in the bullpen. Luis Avilan has been used as more of a mop up reliever than a LOOGY, and frankly, there is no way he is going to succeed in that role. Worse than that, the Mets have had a revolving door this year of Tim Peterson, Drew Gagnon, Paul Sewald, Jacob Rhame, and Corey Oswalt for the last spot in the bullpen.
Realistically speaking, the Mets cannot expect any of those pitchers to truly succeed at the Major League level. Exacerbating a very soft spot in the bullpen is the fact the Mets entered the season with just four MLB caliber starting pitchers in their rotation. As a result, at least every fifth day, the Mets are going to need to get some quality innings from their worst relievers. Put another way, the Mets can ill afford to have a weak spot in the bullpen when they have a glaring hole in the rotation.
That hole in the bullpen can be repaired with Kimbrel. Moreover, if you put Kimbrel in the ninth inning, him and Diaz pitching the final two innings makes every game a seven inning game for the Mets. The tandem would combine to make the best 8-9 combination in Major League history.
Really, there is no good explanation to not give Kimbrel the ninth. While you could argue the Mets did not give up Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn to have Diaz as a set-up man, the obvious counter-argument is the Mets did not give up those players to have relievers like Rhame derail games and ultimately the season. Additionally, with how great a pitcher he has been, no one should expect Diaz to falter in the eighth.
Overall, when you break it down, if the ninth inning is a breaking point for Kimbrel, just give it to him. He has the resume to justify such a demand, and really, he has the ability to not come to the Mets. Worse yet, he could go to Philadelphia to stick it to the Mets.
Of course, that would be the ultimate irony. The Mets gave up Kelenic to keep Diaz away from the Phillies, but they weren’t willing to have the best bullpen situation in Major League history to keep him away from Philadelphia.
Surprisingly, the only Cardinals run off Vargas was a Jose Martinez fourth inning solo shot.
With Vargas going just four and Wainwright going just three, this became a battle on the bullpens, and the Mets bullpen did what it needed to do. That doesn’t mean it was easy.
— New York Mets (@Mets) April 20, 2019
With the left-handed Dexter Fowler due up, Mickey Callaway went to Justin Wilson, who wasn’t sharp, nor was his defense. Fowler grounded it to third. Despite already playing the line, Davis had to dive for the ball. Despite not having a play, he made an awful throw to first which Alonso was lucky to keep nearby. While lucky, he couldn’t prevent Fowler from going to second or Molina from scoring to make it 5-4.
After a Kolten Wong walk, the Cardinals had runners on first and second with one out. Due to Brodie Van Wagenen’s Diaz Dictate, Callaway couldn’t go to his best reliever. With Callaway using Lugo in the fifth and sixth, he couldn’t go to his second best reliever.
The squirrel always gets the nut. pic.twitter.com/vI19i9bJNZ
— Roger Cormier (@yayroger) April 20, 2019
Even with the help, Diaz would white knuckle this one as the Cardinals rallied with two outs. Marcell Ozuna walked, and Martinez hit a single to set up runners at the corners. With Molina at the plate, Mets fans were justifiably nervous, but those concerns were assuaged as Molina lined out to Lagares to end the game.
With that, the Mets bullpen made a game closer than it needed. Van Wagenen hamstrung his manager, and Callaway didn’t properly align the relievers he was permitted to use prior to the ninth in the highest leverage situations. Despite all that, the Mets improbably won on a day Vargas started.
Last night, the game hung in the balance with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning. Even after Jeff McNeil had bailed out Jeurys Familia with a fine play to start a 5-4-3 double play, Familia walked the subsequent two batters to load the bases. With the heart of the Phillies lineup coming up, Mickey Callaway needed to get Familia out of the game.
This past offseason, the Mets made a blockbuster deal with the Mariners to acquire Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. In the deal, the Mets paid a hefty price including not just Justin Dunn, but also Jarred Kelenic. At the introductory press conference for the two new Mets stars, Jeff Wilpon admitted the Mets parted with Kelenic partially to make sure Diaz did not go to the Phillies.
This was the precise moment the Mets needed Diaz. They needed a pitcher whom they touted as the best reliever in baseball to do what the best reliever in baseball does. He needed to go out there and strike out Jean Segura and ensure the Mets took the lead into the ninth. That’s not what happened.
Instead, Callaway went to Robert Gsellman, who is arguably the team’s fifth best reliever. In terms of pinch hitting, this is equivalent to Callaway sending up Juan Lagares to face a tough right-handed reliever with bases loaded and two outs in the eighth just so he could save Dominic Smith for a pinch hitting opportunity in the ninth inning.
In terms of pinch hitting, you are not sending one of your worst options at the plate with the game on the line, but for some reason, Callaway opted to send one of his worst relievers out there with the game on the line.
After the game, Callaway would rightfully point out Gsellman has a job to do, and he needs to get out of that jam. However, this is a bit misleading. While it is Gsellman’s job to get out of that jam, it is also incumbent on the manager to put the right people in the right situations. Using the earlier example, if Lagares strikes out while Smith is on the bench people would be far less understanding.
Now, we did learn after the game the Mets do not want Diaz pitching more than three outs during the regular season. Putting aside whey the team would sacrifice two former first round picks for a one inning reliever, we still have to question the strategy.
Already, there have been two instances where Diaz came on to get just one out. So clearly, the Mets are not going to shy away from Diaz entering the game to get a huge out. What is bizarre is the Mets were not trusting their best reliever to go get that out.
If Gsellman allows a hit to Segura or Harper, it’s game over. Diaz never sees the game, and the Mets lose. Why is this a more acceptable result than having Diaz get one out? That was potentially the game right there, and the Mets didn’t have the guy they gave up so much to acquire go get that out.
If the Mets didn’t want Diaz going four outs, then have hit get that out. Callaway then had the option to give the ball to Gsellman or Justin Wilson for the ninth. Both relievers have closed games in their careers. We have also seen Callaway give the ball to Jacob Rhame for a save.
Overall, Callaway does not have to manage to the save statistic, he has to manage to the game situation. When he was managing to the statistic, the Mets almost blew a game against the Phillies. The Mets almost didn’t get a chance to use the pitcher they were so afraid the Phillies were going to get. Ultimately, that is completely unacceptable.
This was certainly a different Mets lineup. It was a mixture of overreacting to slow starts (Brandon Nimmo hitting eighth) and getting guys some rest (Dominic Smith over Pete Alonso) with the Mets in the midst of a playing 13 games over 14 days in four different cities.
Starting with a Nimmo homer in the top of the second, it quickly appeared Mickey Callaway made the right moves:
Love to see that smile. Love to see that result. 😀😀😀 pic.twitter.com/cdZ5nlN0gZ
— New York Mets (@Mets) April 13, 2019
In the fourth, the Mets effectively put this game away. After Keon Broxton had a leadoff walk, Nimmo was bunting for don’t reason. Fortunately, he reached. Soon, the doubles started coming.
Wheeler was getting his fastball up to triple digits on multiple occasions.
I’d say Zack Wheeler is a little amped up to pitch close to home. He hit 100 four times and topped out at 101 in the first inning.
Also threw a slider at 95.4 mph.
— Michael Mayer (@mikemayerMMO) April 12, 2019
Over six innings, Wheeler allowed two earned on six hits and three walks with eight strikeouts. So much for his slow start.
After Wheeler, Justin Wilson and Seth Lugo combined to shut down the Braves over the final three innings to make this as easy a win as you’ve seen the Mets have this season. It’s also a sign the Mets might be just that much better than these Braves.
Game Notes: Callaway indicated with the left-handed Sean Newcomb starting tomorrow, Cano would have his first day off with Luis Guillorme getting the start. Callaway also hinted there would be more changes.
Before the season, it was expected the National League East would be extraordinarily tight, and so far it has proven to be true. Entering this series, the Mets, Braves, and Phillies had a 7-4 record, and the Nationals were 6-5.
Entering the season, the Mets were looking for something to separate themselves from the pack. One of those things is the possibility Steven Matz and/or Amed Rosario could break out. Tonight, against the Braves, we got a glimpse as to what that might look like.
In Matz’s last start, he appeared to figure something out. Aside from a pair of very hard hit balls, Matz carried that success into tonight.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) April 11, 2019
That speaks to Lagares’ insane ability out there more than it does how catchable that ball was. Seriously, there are maybe three center fielders who could even be in position to make that play.
Those were but two of the four hits Matz allowed as he shut down the Braves. At one point, he would retire 13 in a row. Overall, he would pitch six innings allowing just those two runs while walking one and striking out eight.
He’d be in line for the win because Rosario was great tonight.
First, there was the no doubter three run homer off Kevin Gausman in the second inning:
— New York Mets (@Mets) April 11, 2019
Rosario came up in the sixth with runners on the corners and two outs, and the Braves went to the bullpen to bring in Wes Parsons. Rosario would hit an opposite field RBI single to increase the Mets lead to 4-2.
Rosario accounted for the first four Mets runs. The next two came courtesy of a monster Pete Alonso homer:
— New York Mets (@Mets) April 12, 2019
Cespedes 115.1 x2
Conforto 114.9 x2
— Jacob Resnick (@Jacob_Resnick) April 12, 2019
For a moment, that 6-2 lead didn’t look like it’d be enough. All season long, the Mets bullpen has been suspect, and Robert Gsellman has been one of those frustrating relievers.
He’d load the bases with one out, and against expectations, Gsellman would get out of the jam. First, he’d strike out Ozzie Albies, and then he’d get Josh Donaldson to ground out to get out of the jam.
Luis Avilan wasn’t as lucky. After retiring Freddie Freeman to start the eighth, Acuna hit a bomb to make it 6-3. The Braves pinch hitting Charlie Culberson, the Mets went to Jeurys Familia for the final two outs of the inning.
Edwin Diaz then came on and recorded his fifth save in as many chances for the Mets. Although, it should be mentioned it wasn’t easy with Freeman coming up as the tying run (he struck out). This is definitely a Mets thing.
With the win, the Mets are ahead of the Braves in the standings for at least a day, and on this day, the difference makers were Matz and Rosario.
After coming in red-hot after going 5-1 on the road to open the season, the Mets had their first series at home, and while they returned to Citi Field, their momentum did not. While it is waaaaaaay to soon to look at these things, the Mets are now 0.5 games back of the Phillies. Here are some observations from the Mets home opening series:
- Noah Syndergaard seems to be a spokesman of sorts for this team airing their grievances publicly. Look it anyone is going to be the bad guy, Syndergaard is well suited for it because: (1) the fans are going to love him regardless; and (2) he seems to have the do not care what you think personality to make it work.
- Not only did MLB mishandle this by having the Mets play a night game, but they also had a drug test after the game. Considering there were only 7,486 at that game, I cannot imagine attendance was the reason for the later start time.
- If the rumors were true, the Mets are absolutely idiots for starting that game at 1:00 P.M. instead of 4:00 P.M. Those three extra hours matter, especially when a player like Robinson Cano has completely forgotten how to transverse New York after signing with the Mariners after the 2013 season.
- The Nationals came into this series under .500 with an already beleaguered Dave Martinez, a more beleaguered bullpen, and arguably their best player, Trea Turner, on the disabled list. This was a very wounded team who was primed to be knocked down a peg or two and possibly sent into turmoil. It may still be just April, but the Mets missed a big opportunity here.
- The two home run game from J.D. Davis was great to see as was his reaching base safely five consecutive times. However, we are going to need to see a lot more of that before we believe he has finally figured things out.
- As we saw from Davis’ two home run game, April is the time for overreaction, and we are seeing that with Zack Wheeler‘s tough start. One thing to keep in mind here is Wheeler has always gotten better as the season progresses. For example, his career April ERA is 4.95, and his career August ERA is 2.30. Lets give this a month or two before we decided last year’s second half was a blip.
- It seems like Steven Matz figured something out in the bottom of the second against the Nationals. If so, watch out, he’s going to have a breakout season.
- The Mets have gone from Jason Vargas not needing any competition during Spring Training to only trusting him for five innings in a hitter’s park against the worst team in the National League to skipping his start. It’s not even the middle of April, and the Mets have completely bungled their fifth starter situation.
- Perhaps this is an overreaction, but Robert Gsellman has not proven to be that late inning relief ace the Mets imagined him to be. With the Vargas situation, perhaps the Mets should consider sending him down to Syracuse to lengthen him out to rejoin the rotation while making Vargas the long man in the bullpen.
- Even with Jeurys Familia‘s blow-up where he allowed his first homer at Citi Field since Conor Gillaspie, and he allowed two homers in an appearance for the first time in his career, he’s been fine.
- While there has been justifiable hand-wringing over just how poorly this bullpen has been performing, we are seeing Justin Wilson-Familia-Edwin Diaz turn into a formidable 7-8-9 combination.
- Thankfully, Seth Lugo was back to himself Sunday throwing 96 MPH and striking out the side. Overall, he’s very tempting to use, but Mickey Callaway has to be much more judicious in his usage of him.
- With the Mets being a starter short and one to two arms short in the bullpen, just a subtle reminder Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel are still free agents. And for a GM who traded away Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, Gerson Bautista, Ross Adolph, Luis Santana, Scott Manea, Bobby Wahl, Adam Hill, and Felix Valerio, we do not need to hear about giving up a draft pick.
- Michael Conforto looks like a real MVP candidate.
- Brandon Nimmo is going to be fine. Whether it was an injury or something else, he will get back to being Nimmo. We saw that with his double yesterday.
- For all of his prodigious power, and how he already looks like a veteran out there, the one thing which really stands out with Pete Alonso is how great a teammate he is. It is utterly stunning to believe a player with less than 10 games under his belt may already be the glue guy in the clubhouse. Speaking of Alonso, while everyone was celebrating the opposite field hitting, it was nice to see the Mets start hitting for power again.
- The Mets signed Wilson Ramos for his bat. We are seeing that with his lackluster pitch framing and how he couldn’t locate a ball which was right behind him allowing a runner to score from second.
- It was great to see Travis d’Arnaud return. He’s been an under-appreciated player because he has not been exactly what he was supposed to be, but he is good behind the plate. Sooner or later, his pitch framing is going to really help this team.
- On the one hand, all of Callaway’s double switching is maddening because it is partially the reason why this bullpen is so taxed. On the other hand, it is proving to be an adept way to get everyone into the game and having them getting enough reps to contribute when called upon. Ultimately, Callaway just needs to find a way to better handle this bullpen.
- I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The Mets sell out when they have these bobble head days. For the life of me, I do not understand how it makes sense to send kids home upset and to ruin their experience at the park by not having enough bobble heads for everyone. This a sponsored giveaway, and they are cheap to make. The mid market Brewers have figured this out, and they order enough so they can donate the extras after the game. Seems like it’s better to have everyone walking out with a Jacob deGrom and Todd Frazier bobble head this weekend than having sad little kids, which is never good for business.
After the Mets swept the Marlins, they’re now 5-1 and in first place as they come home for their home opener. Here’s the 20/20 observations from the last series:
- When Pedro Martinez compared Jacob deGrom to himself, you got the perfect comparison to just how dominant deGrom is right now. Although we can be sure the Dodger loving Wilpons think Sandy Koufax (either way you take it).
- With deGrom pitching great with Wilson Ramos on Opening Day and Tomas Nido yesterday, we’re seeing giving any credit to Devin Mesoraco was nonsense. Moreover, we’re seeing how better catchers help produce better results.
- In addition to their producing well on the field so far, it’s great to see Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith cheering for one another. Since late last year, and perhaps before that, they were adversaries as far as the future of first base was concerned. They rose above it to show they’re better people than they are players.
- While we believe Juan Lagares‘ extension was a mistake, there’s no doubt he impacts the game when he’s on the field. In the series, we saw him hit a game tying homer, and with his hustle, he reached base even on outs. He’s already at a 1 DRS, and he’s flashing his arm again. He’s potentially a difference maker.
- When the Mets traded Ross Adolph, Scott Manea, and Luis Santana, they paid a hefty price for J.D. Davis. It’s becoming increasingly clear, he’s not going to hit well or play good defense. As a result, each game the Mets force him into the lineup only serves to make a bad situation worse.
- On Davis, do yourself a favor and don’t look at the Astros 1B/DH situation.
- While it was nice to see Luis Guillorme finally get into a game, he needs to see more action, especially with Davis playing his way to a demotion.
- It’s very cool to see Yoenis Cespedes‘ brother Yoelkis regarded as one of the top Cuban prospects available. Here’s hoping the Mets can find a way to add him to the organization.
- The schadenfreude seeing the Yankees follow a Mets-like offseason with a series of Metsian injuries (CC Sabathia, Luis Severino, Dellin Betances, Didi Gregorius, Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Andujar, Troy Tulowitzki, Jacoby Ellsbury) is off the charts.
- With respect to Brandon Nimmo, it was shocking to see him not get a day after getting hit on the hand. Even if he was alright, with him scuffling, it made sense to give him the extra day.
- Mickey Callaway‘s handling of the bullpen in the series was both bad and dangerous. He pushed a Luis Avilan, a LOOGY with a history of shoulder injuries, to try to pitch two innings. He also pushed Seth Lugo to try almost 40 pitches despite his being ill. That’s how you make two laughers nail biters.
- That said, Robert Gsellman needs to be better. It was his performance which led to Callaway needing to turn to Edwin Diaz for the save.
- Even with the struggles from the rest of the pen, the Mets are more than alright with Diaz, Jeurys Familia, and Justin Wilson ready to go 7-8-9 to close out a win.
- If the Mets can’t trust Jason Vargas to go more than five innings against the worst team in baseball when the bullpen is short, why is he in the rotation, especially when Dallas Keuchel is still a free agent.
- With the Mets not trusting Vargas, we need to keep a close eye on Anthony Kay who impressed in Spring Training and will be the Opening Day starter for Binghamton today.
- It was hard to tell on TV, but with a large contingent of Mets fans at Marlins Park, is booing Peter O’Brien still going to be a thing.
- Umpire Ron Kulpa’s behavior was unnecessarily confrontational and unbefitting to the impartiality and temperance we should expect from an umpire. A.J. Hinch was right to confront him, and now it’s time for MLB to confront and potentially begin to suspend umpires who behave this way.
- With respect to Ron Darling‘s book, former teammates Dwight Gooden, Kevin Mitchell, and Darryl Strawberry defending Lenny Dykstra doesn’t mean Darling is lying. There’s a lot of room between those players not hearing something and it actually happening even if Oil Can Boyd said he didn’t hear anything.
- More troubling than the Darling/Dykstra controversy is Darling saying Bob Murphy would pass out drunk in the clubhouse and saying Gary Carter tried to stuff the All-Star ballots. Dykstra is a man who is all too eager to defend himself. Dead men like Murphy and Carter can’t.
- It’s going to be sad to not hear David Wright‘s name announced with the team on Opening Day. It’s not too similar from 2006 when we didn’t hear Mike Piazza‘s name. Hopefully, this will be like 2006 in more ways than one.
After last night’s game, Mickey Callaway indicated the team was looking to get only five innings out of Jason Vargas. This was the plan even with Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia being unavailable and with Seth Lugo feeling sick. With the Marlins hitting rockets off Vargas, Callaway held hard and fast to the plan removing Vargas after just 74 pitches.
While the win was nice, Vargas’ performance and the plan for him is troubling. After all, if the Mets cannot trust Vargas to go more than five innings against the Marlins, what are they going to do when he faces the other teams in the division? Do the Mets see him even reaching the fifth against lineups featuring Ronald Acuna, Jr. and Freddie Freeman, Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins, or Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto?
The answer is probably no, and the question is how the Mets plan to adapt.
The obvious choice is to remove Vargas from the rotation. The issue there is their Triple-A starters did not fare well in the Majors last year. While you may believe in Corey Oswalt‘s increased Spring velocity or Chris Flexen‘s new physique, it would be wise to give them time in Syracuse first to see if their offseason progress translates to results.
Last year, the Rays were the first to utilize an opener. In tabbing Sergio Romo as his opener, Rays manager Kevin Cash said, “The way that their lineup stacks generally speaking is very heavy right-handed at the top It allows us in theory to let Sergio to come in there and play the matchup game in the first . . . .” (Marc Topkin, Tampa Bay Times).
In essence, the goal of the opener is to get a traditional reliever to start the game and face a platoon advantage in the first. After the reliever gets through the top of the order, the starter can come in and “start” his game against the bottom of the lineup thereby permitting him to not only get an easier start to the game, but arguably, to get deeper into the game.
In the case of Vargas, you saw the Marlins stack right-handed batters against him. After all, it makes sense with right-handed hitters hitting Vargas well. Since the beginning of the 2017 season, right-handed batters are hitting .262/.324/.464 off of him, which translates to a 4.74 FIP.
As a result, the Mets need an opener who can counteract a team loading up their right-handed batters against Vargas. Given his history as a starter, it would make sense for the Mets to make Robert Gsellman as the opener on the games Vargas starts.
From what we see so far this season, Gsellman is not part of the late inning mix. That is reserved for Diaz, Familia, Lugo, and Justin Wilson. Rather, Gsellman is going to be used like he has been so far in this series. When the starter goes five (or less), he is going to be the first guy out of the pen to eat some innings before handing it to the late inning relievers.
If the team is going to use Gsellman for an inning or two whenever Vargas starts, why not make it at the beginning of a game? Why not put pressure on the opposing manager to opt for either having right-handed batters face Gsellman so they’re in place to face Vargas later, or to start their left-handed batters and have a wave of substitutions to face Vargas?
The point is by starting the game with Gsellman, Callaway would be creating a situation that is beneficial for Vargas to enter the game. If you are only getting five innings from him, why not make it against a team’s worse hitters? Why not use Gsellman against a right-handed lineup without fear of seeing a pinch-hitter? If nothing else, it can’t hurt.
Brandon Nimmo got it started with a leadoff single, and he would end the inning with a groundout. It was exactly that type of start with the Mets scoring five runs in the first highlighted by RBI singles by Wilson Ramos and Dominic Smith and an RBI double by Amed Rosario.
In the first, Vargas would make that lead look tenuous. Starting with old friend Curtis Granderson‘s double, the Marlins were hitting the ball very hard off Vargas. Really, as Tim Ryder pointed out, the Marlins were hitting rockets off him.
It was a miracle Vargas only allowed two runs on eight hits through five innings.
The Mets would have spurts here and there, but it would not be until the seventh that the Mets scored another run, and it would cost them.
The Mets loaded the bases against Nationals reliever Wei-Yin Chen. One of those hits was an opposite field single. His two opposite field singles on the day were reminiscent of Tony Gwynn and the 5.5 hole.
Entering the game, Nimmo was struggling mightily going 1-for-13. Today, he looked much more like Nimmo going 1-for-3 with a run, walk, and HBP. The HBP forced home a run, and it would be costly as it forced him from the game. While preliminary x-rays were negative, the hand tends to be fickle.
After two quick outs in the seventh, JT Riddle singled. Lugo then hit Jorge Alfaro before allowing RBI singles to Lewis Brinson and Peter O’Brien (who was apparently taking the night off from kicking puppies).
Now, Lugo had been double switched into the game with Jeff McNeil again being the player lifted from the game. This was an indication Mickey Callaway was looking for two innings from him. Still, seeing Lugo’s seventh, bringing him in would be completely tone deaf.
Apparently, Callaway is time deaf.
Wilson came up huge getting Riddle to hit an RBI groundout before striking out Alfaro to escape the jam.
Then, for some reason, even though he’s not a real multi-inning reliever, Callaway kept Wilson in to get the save.
Fortunately, two of those hard hit balls were liners right at Rosario. The latter of which Rosario turned into an inning ending double play after O’Brien fell trying to get back to second.
The Mets needed all the help and luck they could get, and they got it. As a result, they overcame poor starting pitching, a struggling Lugo, and an asleep at the wheel Callaway in the 6-5 win.
Game Notes: Smith got his first start and went 2-for-5 with a run and an RBI. Pete Alonso got the night off and struck out with the bases loaded in the seventh off Chen. Despite going 0-for-4, Juan Lagares was on base three times tonight (fielder’s choice, wild pitch on strikeout, walk).