Kevin Plawecki

Harvey Loss Was Insane

Albert Eistein once said, “the definition of insanity is seeing 2016 Matt Harvey pitch over and over again and expect to see him pitch well into the fifth inning.”  Well, it was something like that. 

Coming into tonight’s start Harvey had a 1.93 ERA in the first four innings. In the fifth, he had a 7.71 ERA. In the sixth, he had a 16.20 ERA. Each and every game, Mets fans think from innings 1-4 that Harvey’s back. Each and every game, Mets fans are trying to figure out what’s gone wrong again in the fifth and sixth innings. Tonight was more of the same. 

Harvey pitched 5.2 innings allowing 11 hits, five earned, no walks, and six strikeouts. Three of the earned runs were scored between the fifth and sixth innings. The other two were scored in the fourth with a little help from a Michael Conforto misplay in left. Somehow his allowing a single to drop in front of him and roll past him was scored s triple. 

Harvey’s undoing was the sixth . . . again. Harvey had stifled a rally the fifth only allowing a run. He allowed a one out double to D.J. LeMahieu. LeMahieu scored on a Tony Wolters single. Harvey had previously dominated Wolters. He struck him out twice. However, it’s hard to dominate someone when your fastball drops from the 95+ MPH range to the 90 MPH range. It also doesn’t help when the pitches are over the middle of the plate. By the way Harvey allowed these many hits and saw this much of a velocity drop?

Jerry Blevins relieved Harvey with two outs in the sixth, and he allowed an RBI double to Charlie Blackmon.  It closed out the final line for Harvey. Again, Mets fans are just left with questions as to what is happening with Harvey. 
Rockies starter Jon Gray dominated the Mets over seven innings to earn his first career win in his 14th career start. Kevin Plawecki was the only one really able to touch him up when he hit a two RBI double in the second. Those would be the only runs the Mets would score in Coors Field tonight. The Mets lost 5-2 in Coors Field. 

Where has the Mets offense gone?  The Mets offense was once again stymied. Put it this way, Plawecki’s two RBIs were the first from a Mets position player in 26 innings. It’s been 33 innings since a position player other than Plawecki has had an RBI. 

Mets offense has disappeared. Hopefully, they’ll find it tomorrow. They are playing in Coors Field. 

Game Notes: Once again David Wright struggled in the first game after a flight. He was 0-4 with three strikeouts.

Plawecki Is Finally Stepping Up

After a stretch where Kevin Plawecki hit .167/.348/.167, Terry Collins couldn’t bite his tongue anymore. Collins took the rare step of calling out one of his players publicly when he said, “I don’t mean to put a lot of pressure on him, but he’s got to start getting some hits. We all thought he was going to be a good offensive player. We need [him] to start getting hits.” (NY Post). 

It was a bold move from Collins. He was challenging a player who had yet to rise to the challenges given to him. 

Plawecki has risen to the challenge. In the first five games since Collins’ statement, Plawecki is hitting .333/.368/.667 with three doubles and a homer. He’s not just making contact. He’s hitting the ball with more authority. He’s finally showing why the Mets drafted him in the first round in 2012. He’s finally showing glimpses of the .290/.364/.432 hitter he was in the minor leagues. 

Now, to say it’s Collins’ words is a bit cliched. Plawecki has been working with Kevin Long, who is a terrific hitting coach. He’s been in the majors for nearly a year now. He’s had the sinus surgery. He’s in a much better lineup than he was last year. He’s getting regular playing time. Ultimately, it’s probably not just one thing, but a multitude of things. In any event, something seems to have clicked with Plawecki once Collins made his statement. 

It’s important because the Mets don’t know when Travis d’Arnaud will come back, or how he will play upon his return. The Mets need Plawecki to step up in d’Arnaud’s absence. It looks like Plawecki is finally doing it. 

Editor’s Note: this was first published on metsmerizedonline.com

It’s a Walkoff, It’s a Walkoff

Last time Jacob deGrom started a game in Dodger Stadium, it was Game 5 of the NLDS. That entire night deGrom was on the ropes. He didn’t have his best stuff. However, he fought through it seemingly with nothing but guile. 

Tonight was eerily reminiscent of that night. 

The Dodgers were hitting deGrom hard. The lefties were hitting him especially hard. The Coward and Corey Seager led off the game with opposite field doubles in the first. Utley scored on Seager’s double, and Seager scored on an Adrian Gonzalez sac fly. It was 2-0 after one. deGrom would be in and out of trouble most of the game, but the Dodgers wouldn’t score another run. 

Part of that was the Mets playing some real good defense behind deGrom.  In the second, David Wright dove and stopped a would be Yasiel Puig RBI single. Wright made a poor throw allowing Puig to reach first safely, but the run did not score.  In the fourth, Asdrubal Cabrera reached behind him on a ball that ricocheted off the glove of deGrom, made a nice stab, and barely threw out Utley. Eric Campbell made a nice stretch on the play. In the fifth, Cespedes did this:

Overall, deGrom would pitch seven innings allowing eight hits, two earned, and no walks with four strikeouts.  Unlike last time, he handed the ball off to the Mets bullpen instead of Noah Syndergaard.

Unfortunately, deGrom got a no decision because  Alex Wood didn’t repeat his NLDS performance. He would only allow four hits, two runs (one earned), and two walks with nine strikeouts. In the NLDS, he only went two innings allowing four hits, four earned, and this:

The Mets had no bat flips off Wood. Instead, the Mets would need some help from Utley to score. It was quite ironic how skittish Utley was around second base in the third inning. With Cespedes on first, Wilmer Flores hit a ball up the middle. Utley made the snag, but he flipped it to no one. No, it’s not Seager’s fault for failing to cover second. It’s Utley’s fault because he’s pure evil. The ensuing batter, Michael Conforto, hit the ball to Utley, who threw a potential double play ball into left field. Cespedes would score on the play. Flores would later score on a Kevin Plawecki RBI single. 

The game would eventually become a battle of the bullpens, and surprisingly, the Mets would lose despite having the much better bullpen. Hansel Robles gave up a two out walkoff homerun to Trayce Thompson.  The Mets lost 3-2.  It snapped the Mets three game winning streak. 

Game Notes: Terry Collins had Lagares in RF because he apparently hates good defensive OF alignments. Plawecki is heating up and finally taking advantage of his opportunity. Both Lagares and Cespedes slipped on first base on pickoff attempts. Lagares slipped off leading to an out. Cespedes twisted his ankle but stayed in the game. Cabrera was hit by a pitch for the fifth time this year. 

Hot Soup

Yesterday, the Mets featured an odd lineup against a right-handed pitcher. David Wright was getting a scheduled day off. Wright will get these days off even if it means the Mets have eight players on the field. It’s that necessary and important. Neil Walker needed the day off because of a bruised shin. As such, with the Mets looking to earn a four game split with the Padres, Eric Campbell started the game at third. 

It was a decision that would have a profound impact on the game. 

In the second was a big part of the two out rally. He knocked in Kevin Plawecki, who doubled, and he would later score on an Asdrubal Cabrera RBI single. Ironically, for a player that we talk about being a leader in hard hit ball percentage, his RBI single was a slow rolling grounder up the middle. As they saw, that ball had eyes. Overall, Campbell would go 2-3 with a run, an RBI, and a walk. He also ended the game with this web gem:

  
Campbell had a great game. He went from a .182/.357/.182 hitter to a .286/.444/.286 hitter. It was first RBI and only his third run scored. For that matter, it was only his second start of the year. 

Given Campbell’s past it’s too soon to say the Mets should give him more playing time even with Wilmer Flores‘ struggles. Still, Campbell has earned the playing time he has received, and he has shown the Mets he has a place on the roster. If Flores continues to struggle, we may see more and more of Campbell. If he plays like he did on Sunday, that won’t be a bad thing. 

Do the Mets Need a Catcher?

Is this situation from 2015 or 2016?  Travis d’Arnaud suffers an injury that is going to keep him on the DL for an extended period of time. The Mets then turn to Kevin Plawecki, who just doesn’t hit. 

It’s like Groundhog Day except no one is laughing. 

When d’Arnaud is on the field, he’s a terrific catcher. He’s good defensively, and he’s a good hitter. However, he has trouble staying on the field. Call it bad luck or him being injury prone, but the fact remains, he had trouble staying on the field. Now, he has a shoulder injury, and there’s no telling when he can return to the Mets. 

In his place is Plawecki, who is squandering his chance to become the Mets starting catcher again. Last year, he hit a woeful .219/.280/.296 in 73 games. There were reasons from that stemming from his being rushed to the majors and his dizziness. However, last year, he got major league experience and time to work with a terrific hitting coach in Kevin Long. He had offseason sinus surgery to alleviate his dizziness issues. Despite all of that, we’re seeing more of the same from Plawecki. 

Plawecki has hit .167/.348/.167 since d’Arnaud’s injury. Yes, it’s a very small 18 at bat sample size, but he hasn’t shown any improvement since last year. He still can’t hit the breaking ball. He’s still a pull hitter who doesn’t hit the ball hard. In short, Plawecki is still overmatched by major league pitching. 

If this continues, the Mets are going to have a hole at catcher they are going to have to address. 

Until such time, the Mets are going to have to continue to try to develop Plawecki at the major league level. Ironically, Terry Collins previously said the Mets can’t develop players at the major league level because the Mets are a win-now team. It was his justification for not wanting to play Michael Conforto against lefties. Now, the Mets have no choice. 

They have no choice because Rene Rivera can’t hit (despite his HR yesterday), and Johnny Monell is Johnny Monell. Furthermore, the trade market is yet to develop. The likely target would be Jonathan Lucroy, who is a good offensive and defensive catcher on the last year of his deal. However, with the Carlos Gomez debacle of yesteryear, it’s hard to imagine the Mets and Brewers pulling the trigger on a trade again this year. 

Whatever the answer may be the Mets are going to have to find it fast. Sooner or later, d’Arnaud is going to have to stay in the field, and Plawecki is going to have to hit major league pitching. They are the weak link in what is a win-now team. This team can win the World Series. Hopefully, the catchers won’t stand in the way of that.

Editor’s Note: this article was also published on metsmerizedonline.com

What Happened to Harvey?

So who broke Matt Harvey, and what in the world is Dan Warthen doing to fix it?  Seriously, Harvey has talked about struggling with his mechanics since the beginning of the year. Nothing has been fixed. 

Tonight, Harvey had diminished velocity. His location was off. The immoral Braves offense was making solid contact against him. The Braves came into tonight’s game averaging 3.2 runs per game, and they’ve only hit five homeruns all season. Sure enough, Harvey allowed eight hits, three earned, and two walks with four strikeouts over 5.2 innings. He allowed the immortal Mallex Smith to hit a homerun. 

Before the night started, Terry Collins did point out that Harvey was sick.  Side note, if he was sick and clearly didn’t have it, why did he go out for the sixth?  Anyway, if Harvey’s sick, he does deserve some benefit of the doubt. However, two things should be noted before giving him the benefit of the doubt: (1) the Harvey of old would’ve toyed with no-hitting this team; and (2) this start was not unlike most of Harvey’s other starts. Harvey came into the game with a 4.76 ERA, and he left the game with a 4.76 ERA. Once again, Harvey had a rough sixth. 

As bad a night as Harvey had, Kevin Plawecki had just as bad, if not an even worse night, than Harvey. The third run of the game scored on a Harvey wild pitch. In reality, Plawecki didn’t get down on a pitch in the dirt and let the ball go through the wickets. While stolen bases are also a function of the pitcher’s ability to hold on runners, Plawecki did allow three stolen bases. To be fair, two of them were on a double steal he can no chance. 

If that wasn’t bad, Plawecki was terrible at the plate as well. He was 0-2 at the plate. In the fifth, when Asdrubal Cabrera got the Mets first hit off of Matt Wisler, he hit into an inning ending double play. Overall, when the highlight of your day is getting hit by a pitch, you know you had a terrible day. 

Speaking of the Mets offense, there were a lot of hard hit balls. Unfortunately, most of them were hit right at someone. Still, the Mets were one-hit, and they struck out four times. Not a good night. 

Not a good night for Collins either. He left Harvey in too long. He also failed to make an important challenge. In the fateful sixth, A.J, Pierzynski challenged Yoenis Cespedes‘ arm. Pierzynski was ruled safe on a bang-bang play. There was no challenge. 

Pierzynski would then score on the aforementioned Harvey wild pitch.

Overall, tonight reminded me of that scene in Pleasantville when the basketball team finally lost a game. Everyone stood around saying, “Can’t win them all,” when someone noted that they really had won them all. I really thought the Mets could realistically go 19-0 against this Braves team. They won’t. 

Hopefully, the Mets put this ugly game behind them as they march to 18-1 starting tomorrow. 

Game Notes: Harvey may or may not have been using chewing tobacco. This would be a good test of the NYC smokeless tobacco ban. 

Mets April 2016 Report Card

The Mets finished an interesting month that saw them finish 15-7. Over the course of the month, they received contributions from everyone, well almost everyone. They finished in second place only a half game behind the Nationals. 

Below are the first month grades for each of the Mets players. Bear in mind, these grades are on a curve. If a bench player gets an A and a position player gets a B, it doesn’t mean the bench player is having a better year. Rather, it means the bench player is performing better in his role. 

Position Players

Travis d’Arnaud  (F). Overall, d’Arnaud struggled offensively and defensively. He’s on the DL now with a shoulder injury. It’s the worst possible start to the season he could’ve had. 

Kevin Plawecki (C-). Plawecki has only seen limited duty.  While he did get a big game winning hit in his second start of the year, he hasn’t done much from that point forward. Furthermore, he’s not making a case he’s fit to take over full time for d’Arnaud whenever he does come back. 

Rene Rivera (Inc). He played in only one game.

Lucas Duda (C-). While Duda did have one hit streak, he hasn’t done much in other games. He had a .294 OBP. He’s not seeing the results from his new leg kick. At least he did throw out a runner at home. 

Neil Walker (A+). He led the league with nine homers. He’s even hitting lefties. Walker has been far better than anyone could’ve expected. 

David Wright (B). Wright went from being a corpse to being the Wright of old to just old. He’s having problems on his throws. With all that said, he’s still getting on base at a decent .354 clip, and he remains the Mets best 3B option. 

Asdrubal Cabrera (A). Cabrera has been better than expected. He’s hit like he did in the second half last year. Even if his range is limited, he’s made every play he should’ve made at SS. 

Wilmer Flores (D). He was woeful at the plate hitting .107/.194/.214. This grade would’ve been lower except he’s only played in 12 games, and he’s shown himself to be a terrific defensive first baseman. 

Eric Campbell (F). He’s seen even less time than Flores, but he’s also done less on those opportunities. 

Michael Conforto (A). He’s consistently been the Mets best player. When Terry Collins moved him to the third spot in the lineup, both he and the team took off. Even more amazing is the fact he has the potential to do more. 

Yoenis Cespedes (B+). Cespedes had a rough start to the season, but he seems back to the form he was in last year. In the field, he still shows limited range for center while still having that cannon of an arm. 

Curtis Granderson (B-). Granderson experienced the same slow start he experienced last year but without the walks. He’s started to turn things around and return to his 2015 form. 

Juan Lagares (A). He’s hitting lefties and his incredible defense has returned. 

Alejandro De Aza (C) Aside from one incredible game in Cleveland, De Aza hasn’t hit much. However, when you play limited time that one game does carry a lot of weight. 

Pitchers 

Matt Harvey (D). This was the year he was supposed to completely fulfill his potential as the staff ace. So far, he’s 2-3 with a 4.76 ERA. There may be a million valid excuses for the slow start, but ultimately we’re judged by performance. On the bright side, he’s pitched much better his last two times out. 

Jacob deGrom (A). With decreased velocity and troubles at home, the results are still where they are supposed to be. 

Noah Syndergaard (A+). He’s throwing harder than anyone in the majors, and in a very short time frame, he’s become the staff ace. 

Steven Matz (B). His last three games were spectacular. However, his first start was horrendous, and it really jammed up the bullpen. 

Bartolo Colon (B+). He’s back doing Bartolo Colon things out there from great defensive plays to the helmet flying off his head when he swings. He’s poised to eat up innings again while feasting on lesser competition. 

Logan Verrett (A+). When deGrom couldn’t pitch, he stepped in and made two great starts. He’s also pitched well out of the bullpen.

Jeurys Familia (B-). He’s perfect in save chances, but he’s been shaky at times. He’s allowing more baserunners than usual.  In his last three outings, he does seem to be returning to form. 

Addison Reed (A-). Reed has recoded six holds and one save. His WHIP is 0.973 and his K/9 is 11.7. Would’ve been an A except for one blown save in Cleveland and one rough appearance on Saturday. 

Jim Henderson (A-). Henderson went from non-roster invitee to locking down the seventh inning. He’s been all the Mets could’ve asked for and more. His WHIP is a little high, and as we saw from Collins, he’s susceptible to overuse. 

Hansel Robles (A). Collins has asked him to pitch on seemingly every situation imaginable, and he’s succeeded. 

Jerry Blevins (A). He’s really a LOOGY, and he’s limited lefties to a .158/.158/.211 batting line. When he’s been asked to do more, he’s performed admirably. 

Antonio Bastardo (A). We’re a month into the season, and he still has no clear cut role. Based upon his usage, it appears Terry Collins views him as the worst reliever in the bullpen. Even with all of that, he has pitched very well. He sports a 2.61 ERA. 

Rafael Montero (F). He’s only appeared in two games, but he was dreadful in those two games. He sports a seemingly low 11.57 ERA. It was clear Collins didn’t trust him in the bullpen. Montero the went out and proved Collins right. 

Manager

Terry Collins (C-). His team struggled to start the year, but he got things on track. He’s managed Wright’s back, and he’s found ways to get his reserves into games to keep them fresh. With that said, his early lineups were ponderous, and things didn’t turn around until he fixed the lineup. Additionally, his use of Henderson was egregious. 

Bakers Dozen

All you need to know about tonight’s game is the Mets scored a franchise record 12 runs in the third inning. Here’s how it happened:

As Ron Darling would later say, “You got the feeling that the inning might not ever end.”  This inning was a far cry from the 2015 Mets June/July offense. The Mets sent 15 batters to the plate. The only Mets batter that didn’t reach base or score at least once was pitcher Steven Matz. With his grand slam and six RBI, Yoenis Cespedes broke Butch Huskey‘s team record of five RBI in one inning. Who knew?  

The inning was so impressive Jake Peavy‘s ERA went from 6.86 to 8.61. The Mets scored half their runs off Peavy and the other half off of sacrificial lamb Mike Broadway. His ERA went from 3.86 to 11.81.

Matz lasted six innings allowing seven hits, zero earned, three walks, and four strikeouts. It wasn’t a dominating performance. He only had one 1-2-3 inning. With that said, he more than got the job done.  The only run scored by the Giants was a leadoff homerun on the seventh inning by Angel Pagan off of Jerry Blevins. It was a good decision by Terry Collins to give Blevins a full inning of work in a blowout. Blevins has been the least used member of the bullpen. 

As if they were irritated by Pagan’s homer, the Mets rallied again in the seventh to score a run. The 13th run of the game was scored on a Juan Lagares RBI single. Logan Verrett pitched a scoreless eighth, and Antonio Bastardo pitched a scoreless ninth to close out the 13-1 victory. I’m assuming Verrett, the long man in the pen, didn’t pitch two innings because Terry Collins’ Magic 8 Ball told him to do it. 

This was the Mets first game this season against a National League team that was expected to be a contender for not only the postseason, but also the World Series. 

Game Notes: Kevin Plawecki threw out Brandon Belt in the second. He’s now 5-9 in throwing out would be basestealers. Since taking over for the injured Travis d’Arnaud, he’s gone 2-13.  David Wright, who for some reason wasn’t pulled, continued his throwing issues with a throwing error in the eighth. Eric Campbell entered the game to play LF in the eighth. Michael Fulmer made his debut for the Tigers against the Twins. He went five innings allowing two earned, one walk, and four strikeouts. 

Cespedes Revives the Mets

Sometimes it’s just looks like it’s not going to be your night. Yoenis Cespedes and Travis d’Arnaud were out with injuries. Reds starter Brandon Finnegan showed why he’s a highly rated prospect. Bartolo Colon didn’t have the mojo working:

No, after the Ivan DeJesus two run homer in the third to make the score 3-0, it looked like it wasn’t going to be the Mets night. Even when the Mets could get rallies going, this would happen:

No, the Reds were in control and about to snap their nine game losing streak against the Mets. Then the Reds got greedy. They tried to push Finnegan through the seventh inning. 

Juan Lagares had a one out single followed by a Kevin Plawecki walk. The Reds could’ve pulled Finnegan there. He just got out of a jam unscathed in the sixth. Instead, the Reds let him face Cespedes, who was pinch hitting for Logan Verrett. First pitch Cespedes saw:

Tie game. 

Finnegan was gone after six brilliant innings (and one tough inning). We then got a glimpse of why the Reds were loathe to go to their bullpen. 

Tony Cingrani entered the game. He was greeted by Curtis Granderson with a triple. Granderson would later score on a David Wright RBI single. It was a nightmare night for Wright at that point having gone 0-3 with two strikeouts at that point. It was emblematic of his recent struggles. In a brief moment, it was forgotten with that single making it 4-3. It was remembered again when he was picked off of first base (technically a caught stealing). 

This gave Verrett the win. He was terrific. He came on in the sixth inning, and he threw two shutout innings. He showed both his versatility and his value. He deserved this win. 

For the second straight night, Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia locked down the eighth and ninth. They preserved the Mets first come from behind win. It’ll be one of many. 

Game Notes: With the Cespedes injury, Michael Conforto hit cleanup against the lefty Finnegan. He went 2-4. Before the game, d’Arnaud was placed on the 15 day DL. Lucas Duda sat against the lefty but came on in the ninth for defense. 

Mets Depth Already Getting Tested

Last year, the Mets saw lengthy absences from David Wright and Travis d’ArnaudDaniel Murphy and Michael Cuddyer were nicked up most of the year. Other Mets players got bumps and bruises along the way. The Mets depth got tested early and often in 2015, and it was ugly. 

Dilson Herrera and Kevin Plawecki showed they weren’t ready to hit major league pitching. For his part, Plawecki had to stay in the lineup because Anthony Recker and Johnny Monell weren’t either. Eric Campbell and John Mayberry, Jr. showed why they weren’t everyday players, let alone middle of the order bats. There were other forgettable debuts from players like Darrell Ceciliani and Danny Muno. In 2015, the Mets bet against their farm system, and it nearly cost them the season. 

In the offseason, the Mets made sure to build a deeper roster. They moved Wilmer Flores to a utility role. Alejandro De Aza is here as a fifth outfielder. Juan Lagares is a part time player who will start against lefties and come on as a late defensive replacement. Herrera is back in AAA where he belongs for now. Campbell and Plawecki are on the 25 man roster, but they are asked to do much less. Hypothetically, it’s a much deeper team. 

Well, that hypothesis is now being put to the test. 

Yoenis Cespedes has been dealing with a thigh issue due to his jumping in the stands and an awkward slide. As for now, he’s not DL bound. Yesterday, d’Arnaud left the game early with pain in his throwing shoulder. While he may not have been the best at throwing out would be base stealers, his throws were uncharacteristically poor. He will be examined today before a DL decision is made. Whether it will be one day, one week, one month, or more, the Mets will miss Cespedes and d’Arnaud. 

No matter how much time if will be, this Mets team is better built to sustain these losses. Having a De Aza/Lagares platoon is a much better option than Ceciliani.  Plawecki has another year of development under his belt. Hopefully, this translates to him having a better year at the plate. 

The Mets better hope so. The Nationals look like a different team than they were a year ago. The Mets aren’t going to be able to coast for two – three months with subpar players. This is a new year. Fortunately, this is a new Mets team that’s built for just these types of situations.