When I first started this blog, much of the focus at that time was on why everyone thought Michael Conforto should be called up to the majors. Back then, it was assumed the Mets were not going to add offense thereby making him the only source of offense available. We’re not in this world right now.
After the trade deadline moves, the Mets now have a major league roster of major league hitters. So far, Terry Collins has shown he intends to play the following everyday: Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, Ruben Tejada. Curtis Granderson, and Yoenis Cespedes. Prior to the Cespedes trade, he seemed to have a Kirk Nieuwenhuis/Juan Lagares platoon, but he seems to have done away with that.
Once the Cespedes trade was completed, Granderson and Cespedes have played CF. In turn, Lagares and Nieuwenhuis have been on the bench. Kelly Johnson has played a corner outfield position in those games. These are the games Nieuwenhuis would’ve started as the Nationals were throwing righties. We now know Nieuwenhuis is injured.
However, what we don’t know is if Collins has eschewed the CF platoon for more offense. If so, I’m not sure that was the right move with the return of Duda’s bat, Granderson continuing his good year, and Cespedes’ bat. They are no longer as desperate for offense as they used to be. Now, they need to sure up their outfield defense, especially when their pitchers give up a lot of flyballs. To his credit, Collins is using Lagares as a late inning defensive replacement.
With Nieuwenhuis going on the DL, his spot on the roster has gone to Conforto, who must play everyday. If he’s not playing everyday, he needs to be in Las Vegas. This means the Mets OF for two weeks, minimum, must have Conforto in left, Cespedes in center, and Granderson in right (barring Michael Cuddyer coming off the DL). At the very least, Conforto is a step up from Johnson defensively. However, it is nowhere enough of an upgrade to justify sitting Lagares’ glove.
The natural question is who should the Mets have called up, if not Conforto. That’s the problem. For all the moves, there are still some holes in this organization, especially from a depth perspective. Begrudgingly, I would’ve called up Darrell Ceciliani. You don’t need him to play everyday, and he can play all three OF positions.
I would further endorse this decision as it seemed the Mets were fine with Johnson playing the corner outfield positions during the biggest series of the year. Let Ceciliani be the 25th man while the major leaguers play everyday. Let Conforto play everyday in the minors and come up in September for the stretch drive (like they should do with Kevin Plawecki).
So while I initially endorsed calling up Conforto, I am now against it. My opinion has nothing to do with his 0-12 streak. He looks like he can play. I was very impressed with him. I’m just saying the dynamic of this team has changed and so has the need for him. I only wish the Mets would change their mindset.
In case you didn’t know, Lucas Duda made sure you knew tonight was Fireworks Night. I told you Duda is awesome.
His first homerun broke up the no-hitter. The second homerun let deGrom off the hook. deGrom deserved to be let off the hook too. He didn’t have his best stuff, and he was fighting it all night. However, he gave the team six solid innings, allowed only two runs, and gave the team a chance to win. Duda took advantage of that chance.
As if the two homers weren’t enough, Duda also doubled in Curtis Granderson in the eighth. In this inning, we saw the impact of Yoenis Cespedes’ presence in the lineup. After Granderson’s double and Daniel Murphy grounded out to the pitcher, Cespedes was intentionally walked. Before tonight there was no one in the Mets’ lineup who would’ve merited that. Instead of now feeling pressure to be the entire offense, Duda was able to relax and deliver . . . and boy did he deliver.
After Hansel Robles shut the door in the right and Duda single-handedly carried the offense to a 3-2 lead, Jeurys Familia slammed the door shut in the ninth. This looked like the Familia of the first half.
My only qualm tonight was the lineup. It looked like Terry Collins was still drunk from celebrating last night’s win and the Cespedes acquisition. I know we all love the Wilmer Flores’ story, but this is a pennant race, and you need to field your best team (even if he almost hit a HR). That team has an outfield alignment of Cespedes in left, Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Juan Lagares in center, and Granderson in right. The only time you want Kelly Johnson in RF right now is when he’s signing autographs before the game.
Luckily, this didn’t hurt the Mets. Also, it was good to see Collins put in Lagares late for defense. It was better to see Duda’s offense and Familia’ dominance again. It’s even better to be a game out with Noah Syndergaard tomorrow. Lets Go Mets!
“Look at me, I can be Centerfield.” That is about as fun as the baseball songs get. Another one of my favorites is “Talkin’ Baseball” with it’s famous refrain of “Willie, Mickey, the Duke.” As you can see, Centerfield is an important position with much history in New York City. You always hear about those good old days of Willie, Mickey, and the Duke playing CF in New York City at the same time. That doesn’t seem fair or possible. The Yankees have had an absurd tradition with their centerfielders with Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. The Mets tradition hasn’t been as good, but then again whose has? However, we’ve had some fun names and good players come through and man centerfield in Flushing.
In 1969, the Mets had Tommie Agee, who for at least the 1969 World Series, was the best defensive CF to ever play the game:
Unfortunately, the Mets did try Willie Mays out in CF in the last two years of his career. From what I’ve been told, it did not end well. Then there was fan favorite Lee Mazzilli, who played for some truly awful Mets teams. However, he was the star, if not the MVP, of of the 1979 All Star Game (back when the ASG meant something). Lee Mazzilli then gave way to Ron Darling. They would both win a World Series together with the Mets in 1986.
Speaking of 1986, the Mets had two other fan favorites who played CF: Mookie Wilson and Lenny Dykstra. Both contributed to the 1986 World Series victory immensely between Dykstra’s leadoff homerun against Oil Can Boyd, and well, we know about Wilson:
After that, we saw a bit of a dry spell with highlights like Lance Johnson, the late Darryl Hamilton, Jay Payton, and Mike Cameron. Then, we were blessed with Carlos Beltran. Say what you will about the Wainwright strikeout, in my opinion, he’s even money on making it into the Hall of Fame, and there’s a significant chance he goes in as a New York Met. Although with the way he was treated here by the fans, and mostly by the Wilpons, he’s probably going in as a Royal.
Now after Juan Lagares’ 2014 Gold Glove season and reasonable contract extension, we’re back to who should play CF. This is important because Lagares has a triple slash line of .254/.280/.333. Even if he was what he was defensively last year, this is unacceptable. Honestly, I think a lot of it has to do with his injured elbow. Regardless, CF is now a problem.
It should be noted his splits against LHP are .279/.338/.412. That is much better especially when you consider his defense. Add to the fact that Kirk Nieuwenhuis has hit .333/.400/.444 over the past two weeks (mostly against RHP), there is a real platoon here. Niewenhuis is a very capable CF, but he’s not in Lagares’ league defensively . . . then again who is?
With the Yoenis Cespedes acquisition, there have been some overtures that Curtis Granderson move to CF, a position he hasn’t played since 2012. This is dangerous because the Mets starting pitchers get more outs in the air than on the ground this year. Here are their respective ground ball percentages:
Matt Harvey 44.4%
Jacob deGrom 43.2%
Noah Syndergaard 45.9%
Jon Niese 54.6%
Bartolo Colon 39.9%
According, with the exception of maybe Niese, the Mets need their best defensive outfield out there are all times. This means Lagares must play as much as possible. Granderson and his good OF defense should stay in a corner OF spot where it will remain good defense. While Lagares isn’t hitting and Nieuwenhuis is, the platoon should remain in place.
While we all agree the Mets need to ride their pitching to the postseason, we should also agree that they need to put their best defense out there to help the pitching. Remember helping a pitcher is more than just scoring runs . . . it’s also about preventing runs with good defense. The only effect the Cespedes acquisition should have on the outfield configuration is to demote Michael Conforto to AAA and put Cespedes in LF, where he has played all year. I think that outfield alignment is the best there is that is ready to go out there and play.
There was a lot of stories and distractions today around the Mets. First, there were fans clamoring for the return of Jose Reyes. Then the Mets made it clear they had no interest in Reyes. Next, David Wright resumed baseball activities. Finally, Jenrry Mejia embarrassed Major League Baseball, the Mets, and himself with his second PED suspension THIS YEAR!
Noah Syndergaard took the mound Tuesday night and made himself the story. He was perfect through six innings, and he finished with an incredible line of 8.0 innings pitched, 9 strikeouts, 3 hits, and no walks.
After Thor allowed the first single to potential trade target Will Venable, he allowed an infield single to Yangervis Solarte. On the Solarte single, Ruben Tejada tried to do too much. Rather than smother the ball, he tried a glove flip to Daniel Murphy to try to get the force out. Instead of a Web Gem, Tejada nearly put the ball into right field. Venable advanced to third on the play. It was 2-0 with runners on first and third with no outs.
Thor then threw down the gauntlet (sorry comic book fans if this is mixing metaphors). He got Matt Kemp to pop out and induced Justin Upton, another trade target, to hit into a 6-4-3 double play. Despite having only thrown 107 pitches, Thor was lifted after eight innings (perhaps due to the innings limit dilemma). Tyler Clippard made his Mets debut and worked his way around a leadoff double.
After this inning, I finally put my son to bed. Growing up, there was a rule in my household: bed time was suspended until a Mets’ pitcher allowed their first hit. The longest bed time reprieve I remember was David Cone losing a no-hitter on a dribbler down the third base line that refused to go foul. I knew my son wouldn’t remember seeing Thir pitch a perfect game, but I would remember watching it with him. That would’ve made it all the more special maybe next time.
When setting today’s lineup, Terry generally followed the platoon system. With the righty Shields on the mound, Collins went with Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Daniel Murphy. However, after his walk-off hit on Sunday, Juan Uribe was in the lineup. It should be noted that coming into the game Uribe had gone 2/5 with one walk and a triple against Shields.
My belief is that this is the Mets’ best defensive infield alignment. Incredibly, Murphy was the defensive star of the game making two nice defensive plays whe the no-hitter was still viable.
Kudos is also due to Lucas Duda, who hit a mammoth two run homerun in the first inning. It appears the pressure is off and the power is back. His other outs were hard hit balls. Curtis Granderson put the game away with a two run homerun in the eighth.
However, the story of the game and th day was Thor, who pitched like an ace. It seems the stud muffins are pushing each other to be better. It’s incredible, and it’s the type of thing that drives a team towards the postseason.
Even after the trades and last night’s increased run production, pitching is the main focus of the team. Front and center has been Jacob deGrom. Last year the question was if he had been up long enough to win Rookie of the Year (he was). This year it is whether the voters will vote for him for Cy Young over the other pitchers who have previously won the Cy Young award.
On Sunday, he arguably made his strongest statement to date that he should be the Cy Young Award winner in the National League. He went 7.2 scoreless with eight strikeouts to lower his ERA to 2.05. He beat Zack Greinke, whose had a ridiculous 45.2 scoreless inning streak was ended by the Mets of all teams.
deGrom left to a standing ovation in the eighth and handed the ball to Jeurys Familia for the four out save. It was exactly how you would draw it up . . . only Familia (who should not have pitched last night) blew the save. Luckily, he would be bailed out by Jenrry Mejia, who navigated the 10th inning, Curtis Granderson, who hit a leadoff double in the 10th, and Juan Uribe, who rocketed a game winning RBI double scoring Granderson. For how good Familia has been this year, it was good the team bailed him out.
On offense, you can’t complain when you end a lengthy scoring streak to a pitcher the caliber of Greinke. Both runs off Greinke may have been a gift with a Joc Pederson error setting up the first run and Greinke hitting Conforto with the bases loaded for the second run, but the Mets took advantage of the opportunities.
Plus, when it really counted, Granderson and Uribe came through in the 10th. It was nice to see the Mets come through despite Ruben Tejada’s awful bunt failing to move up Granderson. You have to give it to Sandy, his two acquisitions came through in their first two games.
As I suspected, Collins used a platoon with his left-handed bats to start the game: Johnson, Murphy, and Nieuwenhuis. Uribe came in late for defense and made a nice play in the ninth that Murphy would not have made. Collins may still yet eschew this platoon system, but he kept his promise that players who produce will play. Those three produced yesterday, and they played today.
The Mets now move on to a softer part of the schedule. Even if the Mets don’t make another move, they now seem ready to compete in this pennant race. Lets Go Mets.
As I wrote in my last post, the Mets have a lot of versatility. After thinking about it, I noticed something:
2B: Kelly Johnson (L) & Wilmer Flores (R)
3B: Daniel Murphy (L) & Juan Uribe (R)
CF: Kirk Nieuwenhuis (L) & Juan Lagares (R)
This is the making of the perfect platoon situation. Last night the lefties played against the right handed Zach Lee. The aforementioned lefties were in the lineup. Once the game was out of control, the better defensive players were the Juans who came out onto the field (can’t wait to use that pun again).
I believe Collins will look to ride the hot hand more than he’ll look to platoon players. However, when the Mets have faced lefties this year, he has loaded the lineup with right handed batters. I think the platoon system is the prudent way to go that unless/until the Mets get reinforcements (trades, players returning from injury).
Remember, the only two times the Mets won the Workd Series, they effectively used a platoon system.
Michael Conforto has raked everywhere he has played, whether it was Oregon State University or the minor leagues. He’s such an advanced prospect that Keith Law predicted before the season Conforto would be ready to be called up by August 2015. When Keith Law has had a chance to back off a bit, he hasn’t; in fact, he has stated with the current state of the Mets, Conforto is their best option (yes, I linked to him answering my question on Twitter – it’s my blog). While he acknowledged its a big jump, he did seem to believe Conforto could handle it. Before dismissing this opinion, remember Keith Law is highly qualified to speak about baseball.
I bring this up because the Mets believe Michael Conforto lacks minor league experience. Right now, Conforto has played in 130 games and has had 574 plate appearances. Specifically, he has played in 42 games with 182 plate appearance at Binghamton. In Binghamton, the 22 year old Conforto has a triple slash line of .325/.407/.531. No matter how you slice or dice it, these are great numbers. These are Herculean when you keep in mind that he would be replacing the combined .169/.236/.344 of Nieuwenhuis and Mayberry. Drastic times call for drastic actions. Without a trade on the horizon, calling up Conforto would be the drastic move the Mets need to make.
It reminds me of 2003 when the Florida Marlins won the World Series. Much like the Mets, the Marlins were mostly talented but not expected to really compete. However, they fired their manager and replaced him with Jack McKeon. While Trader Jack was the Marlins manager, one of the moves the Marlins made was to call up Miguel Cabrera. The reason he was called-up? The Marlins felt they “a little spark on the offensive side.” At the time of his call-up, the 19 year old Miguel Cabrera had played in 69 AA games with a triple slash line of .365/.429/.609. When he was called up, he was the clean-up hitter on the team.
Looking at the above-information, there are a few things you can conclude: (1) the Mets LF situation is dire; (2) Cabrera is better than Conforto; (3) the 2003 Marlins were better than the 2015 Mets; (4) you can call a young player up in a pressure filled situation; and (5) that young player can succeed. Now, Keith Law never said Conforto was Miguel Cabrera, nor am I. Seriously, who is? Cabrera is an offensive machine. He was so good he hit a HR off of Roger Clemens in the World Series. The way the Mets offense is playing right now, the Mets won’t even get a chance to make the postseason.
I’m not asking him to be a “savior.” I just want someone competent. At this point in the season, this shouldn’t even be an issued. Furthermore, the Mets have no one but themselves to blame. They built a roster with no depth. They failed to make a move earlier, even when we all knew it had to be made. Now, they have two choices: (1) roll the dice with Conforto or (2) average 2.83 runs per game and miss the playoffs.
Keith Hernandez’s baseball career was one struggle after the next. First, it was his early hitting problems leading to a demotion. Then it was his clashes with Whitey Herzog leading to his trade to the Mets. Then it was the Pittsburgh drug trials where he was called to testify. However, despite all of this hardship, Keith Hernandez was the 1979 MVP, has won 11 Gold Gloves, and was part of two World Series Championship teams.
Now, I’m sure Keith Hernandez was devastated when he struggled in the majors and needed to be sent down. Keith does credit Ken Boyer with finally giving him the confidence he needed to succeed in the majors. However, Keith was a special major league talent. Overall, you could argue these early career struggles helped Keith deal with adversity. This was a good thing because he would face real adversity later in his career and he overcame it. So much so, in the eyes of many, Keith was a Hall of Fame caliber player.
I bring this up because one of the reasons the Mets state they do not want to put too much pressure on him and believe it would be devastating if he fails. As Keith Hernandez shows, if you’re a special player, you will have a successful career; no matter how much you struggle on your way there. In fact, you could argue the struggles help make you a better player (just look at Sandy Koufax’s early career). I’m not saying Conforto isn’t the answer. He may very well come up and struggle. With the Mets being where they are, they really can’t afford any more players to struggle offensively. You know what else they can’t afford? More of the same.
If Cuddyer can play, I’ll back off. Despite his struggles, Cuddyer is a major league caliber player, who is less than a season removed from being an effective major league hitter. However, if Cuddyer cannot be more than a PH/DH or he needs to be put on the DL, the Mets should call up Conforto. What’s the worst that could happen? What if he had a triple slash line of .169/.236/.344? Well guess what? That is the combined 2015 triple slash line of Kirk Nieuwenhuis and John Mayberry, Jr.. These are the players that will most likely platoon left field until Cuddyer is healthy or the Mets make a trade.
Therefore, if you are not willing or able to make a trade to improve left field, and Cuddyer isn’t responding to treatment, the Mets have little other choice than to call-up Conforto.
Personally, I do not believe the Mets are going to move. I know I’m in the minority, but I’m starting to think that may not be a bad move. With that said, IF they were to make a move my vote would be Carlos Gomez.
My main interest in Gomez is he plays CF. We know of Cuddyer’s knee (and lack of production), but getting less play is Lagares’ offense and elbow. If Lagares goes down that means Kirk Nieuwenhuis from here on out. I know no one believes he’s going to repeat that three HR performance. Keep in mind SD came into the season with a CF problem, and Upton was never called upon to play center.
Also, Gomez makes less. This year he is earning $8 million compared to Upton’s $14.7 million. Obtaining Gomez would allow some payroll flexibility to go after another area of need like the bench or a LOOGY.
Finally, Gomez and Upton are having similar years. Upton has an OPS+ of 113 to Gomez’s 110. However, Gomez is more versatile in the lineup. He can comfortably hit leadoff or in the middle of the order. He helps the Mets in all the ways they need help.
I’m not sure why the Mets focus on Zobrist and his versatility when it’s Carlos Gomez’ versatility that they really need.