Kevin Plawecki

Mets Energy Level Better, Still Lose

Late in the season, both Robert Gsellman and Yoenis Cespedes gave you reasons to question their commitment. 

Like he has most of his career, Cespedes has failed to hustle this year. While deemed acceptable when things are going well, this becomes an issue for everyone. 

When he comes to Gsellman, he basically said as much. Well, that’s a bit of a stretch. When he was told Sandy Alderson said he needed to pitch better, Gsellman replied he didn’t care. 

On the field tonight against a very good Diamondbacks team, they were both very good. 

Gsellman was reminiscent of the pitcher we saw last year. He mostly kept the ball out of the air preventing him from being victimized by the long ball. With a much better defense behind him, which somehow included Wilmer Flores making some nice plays at third, Gsellman went deep into the game. 

In the odd chance the ball was in the air, the outfield got to those balls. This included Cespedes making not one but two hustle plays in the outfield. 

With the defense playing well behind him, and his sinker working, Gsellman arguably had his best start of the year. His final line was 6.1 innings, five hits, one run, one earned, one walk, and three strikeouts. 

Even with that terrific outing, he still didn’t get the win because the Mets offense continued to squander their scoring opportunities against Taijuan Walker

The Mets could bring home Brandon Nimmo after he lead-off the top of the first with a double. 

Wilmer Flores and Dominic Smith lead off the second with consecutive singles. Amed Rosario  struck out. After Kevin Plawecki intentionally walked to load the bases, Gsellman struck out, and Nimmo lined out. 

Flores came up in the third with runners at first and second with one out, and he grounded into the 6-4-3 inning ending double play. 

Plawecki’s two out double in the fourth didn’t amount to anything with Gsellman hitting it back to the pitcher. 

Plawecki came up in the sixth with runners on the corners and two outs. It would be runners on second and third after Rosario stole second. David Hernandez came on for Rubby De La Rosa, and he got Plawecki to tap it back to him to end the inning. 

Finally, the Mets broke through in the sixth. 

Travis d’Arnaud, who came on for Plawecki in a double switch in the top half of the inning, hit a lead-off double. Nimmo then sacrificed him to third. 
Asdrubal Cabrera and Michael Conforto then earned walks to load the bases putting the game in Cespedes’ hands. As noted above, he played this game with a different energy than he has been playing with for most of the season. 
Cespedes battled back from 0-2 against Archie Bradley to rip an RBI single past a diving Jake Lamb to tie the game. 

It only tied the game because David Peralta nailed Cabrera at the plate. It’s a tough play to pin blame on anyone. With it being so close, it was a good send by Glenn Sherlock. Likely, Cabrera would’ve been safe if his leg was on the ground instead of in the air. You can’t blame Cabrera because that was just tough luck. 

In any event, after a Flores foul out, this was now a battle of the bullpens. 

Jerry BlevinsPaul Sewald, and AJ Ramos did their jobs combining to pitch 2.2 scoreless innings helping send the game into extra innings. 

The Mets went to Erik Goeddel in a rare second straight day of work to pitch the 10th. In a rare appearance on consecutive days. We saw the reason why he rarely does this. 

Goeddel issued a lead-off walk to Gregor Blanco before allowing a game winning two run homer to A.J. Pollock:

https://twitter.com/citifieldhr/status/899824587944452096

The homer snapped a Meys bullpen 17.2 streak of not allowing an earned run. 

Mets still has a chance in the bottom of the 10th with the heart of the lineup due up against Diamondbacks closer Fernando Rodney

Conforto got the inning off on the right foot hitting an opposite field lead-off home run to pull the Meys within 3-2. That’s as close as the Mets got as Rodney set down Cespedes, Flores, and Smith to end the game. 

The main thing that really stood out today was the Mets played with a different energy. At this point in the season, it’s all we can reasonably expect. Well that and better situational hitting. 

When that happen, we will see a much better brand of baseball much like we saw tonight. 

GAME NOTES: Steven Matz is done for the year as he will undergo surgery to re-position his ulnar nerve. It is the same surgery Jacob deGrom underwent last year. 

Montero Wins – Yes, Seriously, He Did

In his major league career, Rafael Montero had a staggering 2-13 record. You’d be hard-pressed to say that record was the result of his team failing to pick him up. To be fair, he’s usually been so poor, he never really gave his teammates a chance. That wasn’t the case tonight. 

Montero was great for five innings allowing the Marlins to just four hits and two walks. He then ran into some issues in the sixth beginning with the opposing pitcher, Vance Worley, getting a lead-off single. 

The Marlins then got a trade-off they take every day of the week with a Dee Gordon, who hit a fly ball Brandon Nimmo couldn’t get, but he was still able to get Worley at second. 

After a Giancarlo Stanton walk and a Christian Yelich strikeout, Montero was on the cusp of getting out of the inning unscathed. 

He seemed like he did when Marcel Ozuna hit a ball to left. Mets fans thought Yoenis Cespedes could get it. Keith Hernandez gave him a pass. In any event, it was 1-0, and the way Worley was going, it seemed like that was all the Marlins needed. 

That changed when Matt Reynolds pinch hit for Montero and earned a lead-off walk. That walk ignited the Mets offense. 

After the walk, Nimmo singled to set up runners at the corners with no outs. Asdrubal Cabrera then tied the game with a deep fly ball to right. 

Don Mattingly tried to stem the tide by bringing in Drew Steckenrider. It didn’t work. 
Runners were at the corners again after a Cespedes single and a Steckenrider wild pitch. In a tough at-bat, Michael Conforto hit a hard grounder that ate up Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas giving the Mets a 2-1 lead. 

That became a 5-1 lead when Wilmer Flores hit a three run homer. 

If you thought the three run homer by Flores off a right was a surprise, the ensuing two run homer by Kevin Plawecki was a downright shock. 

That Plawecki homer put the cap on a seven run inning where the Mets batted around. It also put Montero in line to win just his third game of his career. With him getting two wins this year, this is his first major league season with more than just one win. 

After that, we got to see why Dominic Smith is so well regarded by the Mets. 

In the eighth, he made a diving stop to rob Yelich of a potential extra base hit . . .

. . . and he followed that with his first homer at Citi Field. 

He absolutely clobbered that ball hitting it beyond what were the original fences. 

Between Hansel Robles and Chasen Bradford, the Mets locked down the 8-1 win. 

By the way, for all of the Mets refusal to have even a decent defense, the team turned five double plays. The defense did its part, and as you see, when you’re this good defensively, even Montero looks very good. 

Game Notes: Rene Rivera was claimed off waivers by the Cubs. With him a Cub, and Curtis Granderson a Dodger, the Mets were able to call up Plawecki and activate Tommy Milone from the DL.  

Montero Wins – Yes, Seriously, He Did

In his major league career, Rafael Montero had a staggering 2-13 record. You’d be hard-pressed to say that record was the result of his team failing to pick him up. To be fair, he’s usually been so poor, he never really gave his teammates a chance. That wasn’t the case tonight. 

Montero was great for five innings allowing the Marlins to just four hits and two walks. He then ran into some issues in the sixth beginning with the opposing pitcher, Vance Worley, getting a lead-off single. 

The Marlins then got a trade-off they take every day of the week with a Dee Gordon, who hit a fly ball Brandon Nimmo couldn’t get, but he was still able to get Worley at second. 

After a Giancarlo Stanton walk and a Christian Yelich strikeout, Montero was on the cusp of getting out of the inning unscathed. 

He seemed like he did when Marcel Ozuna hit a ball to left. Mets fans thought Yoenis Cespedes could get it. Keith Hernandez gave him a pass. In any event, it was 1-0, and the way Worley was going, it seemed like that was all the Marlins needed. 

That changed when Matt Reynolds pinch hit for Montero and earned a lead-off walk. That walk ignited the Mets offense. 

After the walk, Nimmo singled to set up runners at the corners with no outs. Asdrubal Cabrera then tied the game with a deep fly ball to right. 

Don Mattingly tried to stem the tide by bringing in Drew Steckenrider. It didn’t work. 
Runners were at the corners again after a Cespedes single and a Steckenrider wild pitch. In a tough at-bat, Michael Conforto hit a hard grounder that ate up Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas giving the Mets a 2-1 lead. 

That became a 5-1 lead when Wilmer Flores hit a three run homer. 

If you thought the three run homer by Flores off a right was a surprise, the ensuing two run homer by Kevin Plawecki was a downright shock. 

That Plawecki homer put the cap on a seven run inning where the Mets batted around. It also put Montero in line to win just his third game of his career. With him getting two wins this year, this is his first major league season with more than just one win. 

After that, we got to see why Dominic Smith is so well regarded by the Mets. 

In the eighth, he made a diving stop to rob Yelich of a potential extra base hit . . .

. . . and he followed that with his first homer at Citi Field. 

He absolutely clobbered that ball hitting it beyond what were the original fences. 

Between Hansel Robles and Chasen Bradford, the Mets locked down the 7-1 win. 

By the way, for all of the Mets refusal to have even a decent defense, the team turned five double plays. The defense did its part, and as you see, when you’re this good defensively, even Montero looks very good. 

Game Notes: Rene Rivera was claimed off waivers by the Cubs. With him a Cub, and Curtis Granderson a Dodger, the Mets were able to call up Plawecki and activate Tommy Milone from the DL.  

Kevin Plawecki May Be Figuring It Out

One lesson we may be learning during the 2017 season with Rafael Montero is you should give talented prospects every possible chance to succeed because when they figure it out, you are going to have useful, cheap, and talented players on your major league roster.  That is a key component in helping construct teams that go to and win World Series.

Like Montero, another player Mets fans have grown somewhat accustomed to hearing about is catcher Kevin Plawecki.  Like Montero, Plawecki seems like he is figuring things out this season.

Since being rushed to the majors in 2015, Plawecki has done little more than struggle in a New York Mets uniform.  Over the past three seasons, Plawecki has hit .206/.282/.278 in 131 major league games.  This year was a low for him with him just hitting .125/.214/.167 in 10 games for the Mets.

After Plawecki was sent down to Triple-A after his poor stint in the majors, he has been a much better player.  In 37 games, Plawecki has hit .350/.440/.552 with 11 doubles, six homers, and 24 RBI.  If you had never donned a Mets uniform, it is likely Mets fans would be clamoring for the 26 year old 2012 first round pick to get called up to the majors.

There are many reasons why Plawecki is thriving now.  First and foremost, he is getting that extended look at Triple-A he always needed.  Remember, when he was first called-up to the majors, he had only played nine career games in Triple-A.  Last year, he spent most of the year as a backup, and then he played just about half a season in Triple-A.  It is possible he is settled in Triple-A now, getting the coaching he needs, and it is starting to click for him.

It should also be remembered the catching position is one of the most challenging positions to master.  Young catchers have to put in more time at their position than most other prospects.  Typically, we will see at least one aspect of a young catcher’s game lag behind.  For some, it’s the bat.  For others, it’s the defense.  In Plawecki’s case, it has been the bat.

Now, it shouldn’t be ruled out this is some statistical fluke or just the product of a hot streak.  Plawecki’s numbers since getting demoted are fueled by a .383 BABIP.  There should also be concerns over his poor 5.8% walk rate.  However, Plawecki does have a good 14.2% strikeout rate, and he is hitting the ball much better.  His groundball rate has plummeted leading to him hitting more line drives.  He is also become a batter who uses the whole field instead of focusing on just pulling the ball.

In totality, it means there is a lot to like what is going on with Plawecki.  When you combine that with his good skills behind the plate, especially his pitch framing, you have a player who once again looks like he is a major league caliber catcher.  Whether that is as a starter or a back-up is yet to be determined.

This is important because he is out of options after this year, and with the Mets going nowhere it doesn’t serve them much to keep him in Vegas.  If they need to put him on the Major League roster or lose him for nothing, they need to get him on the roster sooner rather than later to see if he really is an improved player.  Considering how far he has come this season and Rene Rivera being a free agent, he could very well be Travis d’Arnaud‘s backup entering the 2018 season.

Alderson’s First Rounders Better Than You Think

The narrative is out there that Sandy Alderson hasn’t been drafting well, at least not in the first round. Over the past few years, it was pointed out the Mets passed on Jose Fernandez to draft Brandon Nimmo. The following year the Mets passed on Corey Seager instead drafting Gavin Cecchini. Given the generational talents Fernandez and Seager turned out to be, and the fact Nimmo and Cecchini are still in Triple-A, the narratives just write themselves. The issue is whether the narratives are accurate.

Let’s start with the obvious. The MLB Draft is a draft unlike any other. Most fans are accustomed to the NFL and NBA Drafts where you have seen the players perform in college against other players who are in the same draft. In baseball, you are drafting high school and college players who are pitching against or using metal bats. In some ways, it is a completely different game. This is just one example of the many challenges that faces a team when they draft.

Despite that, fans seemingly are playing the woulda-shoulda game when it comes to the draft. There is at least the first round of the Major League Draft is more of a given and the rest of the draft is more of a crapshoot. For a moment, let’s assume that’s correct. There are a number of factors we can use to determine draft success, but for the sake of the argument, lets use WAR. Specifically, let’s use WAR accumulated for all first round picks from 2011 – 2015. The parameters were set as 2011 was Alderson’s first draft with the Mets and no draft pick from 2016 has made the majors. Here is the leaderboard:

Rank Team WAR Avg. Draft Position*
1 Astros 30.7 3.5
2 Cubs 22.7 6
3 Athletics 17.2 19.6
4 Marlins 15.4 8.6
5 Cardinals 15.0 23
6 Nationals 14.3 15.8
7 Indians 14.1 13.2
8 Mets 13.3 11.5
9 Rockies 11.8 8.8
10 Red Sox 11.4 20
*NOTE: average draft position does not include Compensation or Competitive Balance Picks

Looking over the list, the Mets first round draft picks have accumulated the eight most WAR in the majors over the past six years. Looking over their average draft position, there have only been four Major League teams that have outperformed them. When you delve a little deeper, the Mets first rounds look better than anticipated.

Even with Kevin Plawecki being unable to stick at the major league level, the Mets have had five of their six first round draft picks reach the majors. In fact, the Mets are the only team who have seen all of their first round picks in either AAA or the majors. Once there is a trade, either of Lucas Duda or Dominic Smith, the Mets will have all six of their first round picks make the majors, which is a great accomplishment.

That’s another important consideration. Smith, Nimmo, and Cecchini have not had the opportunity to succeed or fail in the majors. With respect to Nimmo and Cecchini, both have shown they’re not over-matched as the major league level. Nimmo has been a phenomenal pinch hitter hitting .438/.550/.438 in 20 pinch hitting appearances. Before being sent back down, Cecchini had a four game hitting streak that included a home run off of Clayton Kershaw.

Keep in mind, this doesn’t even include Michael Conforto who took the next step in his development this year, and he has shown himself to be an All Star caliber player.

The overriding point is these are talented players who have a major league future. Let’s let them continue to develop and reach their full potential. Once we see them on the field, we can judge them at that point. We can also fully judge Sandy’s drafts at that point.

Lucas Duda Is Better Than You Believe

With the Mets announcement of selling, we have officially begun the silly season of people proposing ridiculous trade rumors.  However, that isn’t limited to fans like you and I.  That goes to people who are actually paid to write about baseball, and those that are paid to talk about it on the air.  The first doozy came from Mark Feinstand of MLB.com who wrote the Mets should trade Lucas Duda to the New York Yankees for Austin RomineShockingly, instead of being met with derision, Evan Roberts was right on board with this one.

How can anyone be on board with that trade?

Since becoming the Mets everyday first baseman, Duda is a .247/.347/.484 hitter who has averaged 28 homers and 83 RBI in the seasons he was able to play a full season.  This year, Duda is hitting .251/.362/.553 with 13 homers and 29 RBI in 53 games.  That’s a 40 HR and 89 RBI pace.

Since 2014, Duda is eighth among first baseman with a 129 wRC+.  Considering Edwin Encarnacion has been a DH more than 1B over that time, Duda is really seventh.  If you focus on his two full seasons of 2014 and 2015, Duda has a 134 wRC+, which would rank him seventh.  Again, if you view Encarnacion as a DH, Duda is sixth.  And with Duda’s stats this year, it looks like he’s back to that 2014-2015 form.

Sure, Duda can be prone to bouts of streakiness (like any other player), and he had one bad throw in the 2015 World Series.  That doesn’t detract from the fact Duda’s in the upper echelon of Major League first baseman.

His return should be much more than a career backup catcher like Romine.  Think about it. Romine’s career numbers are .219/.268/.342, but he is better this year hitting .268/.305/.423.  Sorry, those are Rene Rivera‘s numbers.  Romine is a career .224/.258/.325 hitter who is hitting .231/.262/.314 this year.

How can anyone believe Duda is worth a player worse than Rene Rivera?  The same Rivera who the Mets signed prior to the 2016 season because he was released by the Tampa Bay Rays after Spring Training.  And by the way for all the hand wringing over Travis d’Arnaud‘s arm, d’Arnaud has thrown out to 22% of base stealers in his career to Romine’s 21%.  At this point, you could even argue you would rather have Kevin Plawecki over Romine.

And yet, people believe Duda isn’t good enough to fetch more than a backup catcher . . . a bad one at that.  They say that despite the Yankees, Astros, Angels, Twins, Royals, and possibly other teams being in the market for a 1B/DH.

There is going to be a point where Duda is no longer the Mets first baseman.  He is going to go to another place where the fans are going to appreciate him for getting on base even when he’s cold at the plate.  They’re going to be in awe of a 30 home run caliber bat.  He’s going to play a good first base.

All the while, Mets fans will be bending over backwards to say no one could have expected this.  It’s just another case of Justin Turner and Daniel Murphy.  In reality, they’ll be wrong.  Duda was this good when he was in New York, but you just failed to appreciate him.

Typical Bizarre Mets Game

Mets games have just become the theater of the absurd.  Noah Syndergaard refuses an MRI and then leaves his next start with a torn lat.  Matt Harvey doesn’t show up to every game.  Kevin Plawecki apparently is kinkier than we think.  Mr. Met is walking through Citi Field flipping off the fans.  Today?  Well, for the Mets, it was more of the same.

In the fourth, the Brewers got a rally going on a couple of base hits including a Jonathan Villar single that deflected off Zack Wheeler.  After a Nick Franklin RBI single, the Brewers had a 2-0 lead and runners on first and second.  Brewers pitcher Chase Anderson squared to bunt and popped it up in front of home plate.  Travis d’Arnaud went to let it drop in the hopes of starting a double play.  Instead, he hesitated after picking the ball up, and he couldn’t get an out.  In a normal baseball game, this would be a fairly event filled inning.  Not the Mets.

Eric Sogard would pop up in fair ground in what should have been the second out in the inning.  Instead the ball boy ran directly into Wilmer Flores‘ arm causing him to drop the ball:

Same old Mets.  Fortunately, Wheeler settled down, and he was able to induce Sogard to hit into the inning ending double play.  It was one of three double plays the Brewers would hit into on the day.  The double plays would allow Wheeler to go deep into the game.  He would throw 102 pitches over 6.1 innings allowing 1o hits, two runs, two earned, and one walk with six strikeouts.  He departed the game down 2-0 with a runner left on second base.

Jerry Blevins got the job done getting Sogard to ground out by striking Eric Thames out.

Unfortunately, it didn’t matter as the Mets offense did nothing against the Brewers starter for the second straight game.  Lucas Duda (2-3) and d’Arnaud (1-2) were the entirety of the Mets offense on the day.  To be shut down yesterday by Junior Guerra is one thing.  Getting shut down today by Anderson is another.

While the Mets offense was inept, the pitching was doing its job.  That includes the bullpen.  After Blevins bailed out Wheeler, he got into some trouble of his own in the eighth leaving runners on first and second with no outs.  Fernando Salas came on and he got the Mets out of the jam striking out three batters.

In the eighth, the Brewers went to Jacob Barnes.  On the first pitch he threw, Flores launched a home run to deep left field to cut the score to 2-1.  Unfortunately, it was not the start of a comeback, but rather a single flare that went unheeded by the rest of the Mets offense leading to a 2-1 loss.  Case in point, Reyes and Jay Bruce took back-to-back strikeouts looking to start the ninth against Brewers closer Corey Knebel.

This was an extremely winnable game, and the Mets let it slip through their fingers.  For a team fighting just to get back to .500, they can’t keep doing this.  It’s losses like this that have put them in this position, and it is losses like this that will sink their season.

Game Notes: Asdrubal Cabrera got the day off, and Jose Reyes moved from third to shortstop for the day game.

Montero Was Not The Reason The Mets Lost

Due to the rain, the Mets played it safe and started Rafael Montero over Jacob deGrom. While it is smart to protect the best pitcher in your team so you can win games down the road, putting Montero into any game severely hampers your chances of winning that game

That was evident when Montero needed 45 pitches to get through the inning. Of note, the Mets wanted to limit him to 75 pitches due to his throwing 3.1 innings on Sunday. Montero needed 45 pitches because he was usual terrible self. 

In the first, he allowed three walks including one with the bases loaded. He allowed three singles with two of those being infield singles. Despite the mayhem, the Mets were only down 2-0 after the first. Believe it or not, that would be all the runs the Padres needed despite them starting Dimelson Lamet, who was making his first career start. 

The only run the Mets would score would be on a second inning Lucas Duda home run. After that, the Mets would squander opportunity after opportunity. 

After the Duda homer, the Mets stranded Curtis Granderson on second after his two out double. 

In the third, Matt Reynolds, who earned a lead-off walk pinch hitting for Montero. The Padres would execute a perfect relay and get the tag down just before Reynolds touched home as he tried to score from first on a Jose Reyes double. The Mets then stranded Reyes on second. 

Hunter Renfroe handed the Mets a gift in the fifth. He couldn’t get to a Travis d’Arnaud shallow pop up, and then his throw pulled Chase d’Arnaud off the bag. Then for some reason, Terry Collins opted to go with the butcher boy with Paul Sewald instead of a straight sacrifice bunt attempt. Sewald struck out. Michael Conforto, who had a golden sombrero, struck out as well.  Reyes popped out to end the rally. 

Jay Bruce and Neil Walker led off the sixth with back-to-back singles off Padres left-handed reliever Jose Torres. Duda then grounded into the 3-6-3 double play. The Mets were still alive in the inning putting runners at the corners after a Wilmer Flores walked against Kevin Quackenbush. With Granderson coming up to the plate, the Padres brought in Ryan Buchter, and Collins countered with T.J. Rivera. Rivera flew out to end the inning. 
There were runners and first and second and two out in the seventh, but Bruce was unable to cash in grounding out to short. 

The shame of this is this was an extremely winnable game. Even as bad as Montero was, the Mets were still in position to win. Montero’s final line was three innings, five hits, three runs, three earned, three walks, and four strikeouts. 

The score remained at 3-1 because Sewald was brilliant. Sewald was stretched to three innings and 41 pitches due in part to Montero’s ineffectiveness. Sewald once again answered the call pitching three scoreless allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out four. It should be noted Collins deemed him unavailable yesterday. 

Josh Edgin was nearly as good as Sewald pitching two shut out innings himself. Overall, while the bullpen has struggled, they did their job tonight. 

Finally, in the eighth, the Meys offense broke through. Walker hit a lead-off double off Padres reliever Brandon Maurer, and he would score on a Duda seeing eye RBI single. Still, that rally would fizzle as Asdrubal Cabrera would ground into an inning ending double play. 

The Padres added a run off the struggling Addison Reed in the ninth making it 4-2. That run would loom large. 

Juan Lagares walked off Padres closer Brad Hand tostart the ninth inning rally, and he would go to third on a Conforto single. Reyes hit a high chopper which was enough to score Lagares and prevent the double play. Still, it was the second out of the inning. Bruce then fouled out to end the game. 

The foul out put a capper on a frustrating night at the plate going 1-10 with RISP. It does not matter who the Mets did and did not start in this three game series. The Padres are terrible. The Mets should have swept them or at least taken two of three. Instead, they blew a five run lead last night and couldn’t hit with RISP tonight. 

The entire Mets organization needs to do some soul searching after this series. 

Game Notes: Cabrera was activated from the Disabled List but did not start. Kevin Plawecki was sent down to make room for him on the roster. 

Travis d’Arnaud Is Better Than Rene Rivera

We saw it again.  When Travis d’Arnaud is healthy, he has the talent to be an All-Star.  However, yet again, he is injured, and his injury has once again created an opportunity for another player.  In the past, Kevin Plawecki wasted those opportunities.  This year, it is Rene Rivera, and he has taken full advantage of the opportunity.

Since d’Arnaud went back on the Disabled List, Rivera is hitting .357/.400/.452 with a double, homer, and 11 RBI.  Right now, Rivera is exactly what the Mets thought they would be getting from a healthy d’Arnaud.  Because of that Terry Collins has basically said d’Ranud is not getting his starting job back when he returns from the Disabled List.  Specifically, Collins said, “When Travis gets back, we’ll have to make some decisions, but obviously Rene Rivera has earned a spot, has earned a job catching, and we’re going to play him as much as possible.”  (Mike Puma, New York Post).

If Collins follows through with that plan, it is going to be problematic.  It is Collins confusing a hot streak at the plate from a veteran to a player transforming themselves.  There are two things that are true here: (1) It is hard to trust in d’Arnaud because of his injury history; and (2) Rivera is playing some of the best baseball in his career.  To say anything different is to read too much into everything.

In fact, this isn’t the first time we have seen this from Rivera.  In July 2016, Rivera hit .323/.400/.581 with two doubles, two homers, and seven RBI.  With that hot streak and another injury prone season from d’Arnaud, Rivera would be the starter the rest of the way.  In the ensuing 34 games, Rivera would hit .216/.278/.295 with one double, two homers, and nine RBI.

We shouldn’t be surprised by this.  Rivera is not a good hitter.  In his career, he is a .219/.269/.338 hitter who has just one season with double digit homers.  He has been slightly better in his one plus season with the Mets hitting .247/.304/.361 with eight homers and 40 RBI in 89 games played.  Even is you were to argue Rivera is a better hitter with the Mets, he is still not a good enough hitter to play everyday.

The obvious argument is Rivera should be starting because he is a strong defensive catcher that gets the most out of his staff.  Unfortunately, the data does not support this notion.

In April, with d’Arnaud catching 16 out of the 24 games, the Mets pitching staff had a 4.53 ERA and were walking 3.5 batters per nine innings and striking out 9.5 batters per nine innings.  In May, the Mets pitching has fallen apart.  In the month, the Mets pitchers have a 6.02 ERA while walking 4.4 batters per nine and striking out just 8.3 batters per nine.

Now, there are a number of reasons why this happened.  First of all, Noah Syndergaard has not thrown a pitch in the Month of May, and his replacement in the rotation was Tommy Milone.  We have also Adam Wilk make a disasterous spot start due to Matt Harvey being suspended.  That’s another thing.  Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Robert Gsellman have all regressed in May.

April May
       ERA     WHIP      BB/9        ERA     WHIP       BB/9
deGrom 2.84 1.17 3.20 4.50 1.50 4.50
Harvey 4.25 1.15 3.00 8.04 2.11 6.90
Gsellman 6.23 1.71 3.70 7.41 1.77 2.60

Now, there is always a real danger in trying to draw too many conclusions from a small sample size even if that is what Collins is doing in naming Rivera a starter right now.  However, there might be one big reason why these pitchers have struggled since d’Arnaud went on the Disabled List.  It could just be because d’Arnaud is a better pitch framer than Rivera.  In fact, between d’Arnaud, Plawecki, and Rivera, Rivera is the worst pitch framer on the roster.

Now, it might be difficult to accept d’Arnaud is better handling this Mets pitching staff than Rivera because that’s not the narrative.  The narrative is Rivera is the defensive specialist.  If you are looking for proof, look no further than his 36% caught stealing rate.  Actually, people rarely do look further than that.  While Rivera has his strong points as a catcher, he is not a great defensive catcher.  His pitch framing holds him back.  If he’s not getting that extra strike for his pitching staff on a per at-bat basis, it is hard to defend playing him everyday with his offensive ineptitude.

Overall, d’Arnaud is the better pitcher for this Mets pitching staff.  His pitch framing skills help turn balls into strikes.  This get his pitchers into advantageous counts.  This shortens at-bats.  It keeps runners off the bases.  Ultimately, pitchers can now go deeper into games.  Also, the pitchers can have leads when they leave the game with the help of d’Arnaud’s bat in the lineup.  Looking at d’Arnaud’s bat and his pitch framing, there should be no doubt he should play everyday.

Loss Was All Too Similar 

Just like yesterday, Terry Collins asked too much from his starter, which is unfortunate because he’s really not asking that much right now. Yesterday, it was asking Matt Harvey to pitch six innings. Today, it was asking Robert Gsellman to pitch five innings. 

Gsellman was struggling out there each and every inning. It all unraveled in the fifth. What was once a 4-2 lead became a 10-4 deficit. Gsellman got best around that inning allowing the first four Brewers to reach base. He’d depart the game not recording an out in the fifth, leaving the bases loaded, and the Mets still up 4-3. 

That lasted a blink of an eye when Hansel Robles allowed a bases clearing double to the first batter he faced. With that, Gsellman’s final line in the loss was four innings, nine hits, six runs, five earned, three walks, and three strikeouts. 

Robles also imploded. Despite his being double switched into the game, he only lasted one inning. That was because he allowed four runs on four hits and a walk. With that, his sparking 1.42 ERA is a pedestrian 3.15. 

Robles blowing up was eerily reminiscent of the Mets bullpen getting beat up yesterday. In fact, the game was really a poor facsimile of yesterday’s loss. 

This time it was Michael Conforto getting picked off second base instead of Jay BruceNeil Walker had another big game at the plate homering once again. Paul Sewald came on the eat some innings, and he allowed a run. Rafael Montero once again looked good out of the bullpen. 

Then there were the things that were different. Jose Reyes played center field in the sixth inning before finishing the game at shortstop. T.J. Rivera played left field from the seventh inning on. Kevin Plawecki had a good day at the plate going 2-4 with a double and two RBI. There was some normalcy with Plawecki with the Brewers going two for three on stolen base attempts. 

The main similarity to was the Mets losing. This game was by the score of 11-4. After a good stretch, the Mets have lost a game and a series. They’re now three games under .500, and they’re back at the drawing board. 

Game Notes: Asdrubal Cabrera, who has struggled defensively, committed two errors on one play bringing his error total up to five on the season. He had just seven last year.