Marcus Stroman

Simulated Recap: At Least We Didn’t See Nationals Banner Raising

This was a fine pitcher’s duel between Marcus Stroman and Stephen Strasburg with neither team able to break through against them until Pete Alonso homered in the sixth.

The next three homers would come from the Nationals. The first was a two run shot by Juan Soto against Stroman in the bottom of the sixth.

The Mets would load the bases in the eighth, but J.D. Davis struck out, and Robinson Cano flew out. Throw in a Nationals homer off Jeurys Familia in the bottom of the eighth, and the Nationals would win 4-1.

On the bright side, neither we nor the virtual Mets had to watch the Nationals raise their virtual banner.

Dominic Smith, Catcher?

Right now, players are finding ways to work out to stay in shape in the event baseball is played in 2020. For Marcus Stroman that means going out into the street and pitching to Dominic Smith.

What is interesting with Smith is this isn’t his first foray into catching. In fact, Smith told Michael Mayer of MMN he caught in high school. As seen above, he hasn’t completely given up on it as he was slated as the Mets emergency catcher in 2019. Overall, reviews of his limited work behind the plate are somewhat positive.

Looking at 2021 and beyond, Wilson Ramos is going to be a free agent, and Smith is a player who is blocked from playing his everyday position of first base by Pete Alonso. Seeing him catching Stroman, being an emergency catcher last year, and the positive reviews of his limited work back there, you do wonder if the Mets should try to move Smith behind the plate.

Before addressing the point in full, as noted by The Hardball Times, Jack Clements is the only left-handed catcher in Major League history to catch at least 1,000 Major League games. His last game was in 1900. To that end, you could consider him the only true left-handed catcher in Major League history, and he played in the Dead Ball Era.

There have really been a handful of left-handed catchers in Major League history (14 in total) with Benny Distefano being the last one to appear in a game. What is somewhat interesting about that is he played first base and the outfield from 1984-1988 before he was permitted to catch three games in 1989, which was a function of his preparing to be an emergency catcher. More interesting than that was the fact he didn’t catch in his professional career before those three games.

With his limited experience, Distefano noted the issues for a left-handed catcher were bunt plays towards third base as well as applying tags at the plate. (New York Times). The Hardball Times addressed this in their article, and they noted there is a slight issue with it, but they also noted a left-handed catcher would not have the same issues with a right-handed batter the right-handed catcher would.

The bigger issue is getting the tag down, which The Hardball Times confirms. On both issues, it was noted it is such a small part of the catcher’s duties it likely would not have a real impact on the game. That is all the more so when you consider the advantages a left-handed catcher would have including fielding plays right in front of the plate and catching breaking pitches from right-handed pitchers.

In total, at least in theory, there would be no real discernible difference between right and left handed catchers other than the fact seeing a left-handed catcher would look strange. In the end, it is not like a left-handed shortstop or third baseman where playing the position is an impossibility.

Seeing how it could happen, we revisit the question of whether the Mets should look to move Smith behind the plate.

Certainly, it helps he already has some experience in terms of high school, preparing to be an emergency catcher, and now catching Stroman. Being a first baseman, he is accustomed to the bunt plays towards third and making the left-handed throw to third base.

We know he has the agility to do it between his first base and left field experience. In terms of left field, we know he has the ability and willingness to learn a new position if it means helping out the team. Overall, he has shown himself to be a team first person, who may prove willing to do this. That may prove to be all the more the case if it meant a regular position for him.

In terms of the Mets, Ramos has a $10 million option for 2021 which may or may not be picked up. Tomas Nido is a defensive back-up with no remaining options. Ali Sanchez may be nothing more than a better defender and possible a worse hitter than Nido. The shot in the dark is Patrick Mazeika who is still just a part-time catcher in the minors.

Really, from an organizational standpoint, the Mets are exactly the team who should experiment with this. After all, Smith is an everyday caliber player, and he has the experience. More than that, he has nothing to do now but work out on his own and to meet up with Stroman to catch him.

The more he catches Stroman, the better prepared for the transition he will be. Speaking of Stroman, Jose Bautista working out with him led to his getting work outs to try to return to the Majors as a pitcher. At the end of the day, there isn’t much reason not to at least see if this could happen.

 

Simulated Recap: Mets Lose Another 11 Inning Game

With there being no baseball, or really any professional sports being played right now, MLB The Show 20 continues simulating the 2020 season.

The second game of the season went much like the first. Like with Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer, Marcus Stroman and Stephen Strasburg each had a no decision. Robinson Cano also homered, and Jake Marisnick would be caught stealing.

The game would also go into extras. Like on Opening Day when Robert Gsellman pitched a second inning, Justin Wilson would do the same. Wilson would also take the loss after surrendering a run in the top of the 11th.

This time the rally started with a Howie Kendrick lead-off single. After a wild pitch and fielder’s choice, he’d be on third with two outs. Whereas the Mets couldn’t turn a double play to keep the run from scoring on Opening Day, Brandon Nimmo just couldn’t get to a Kurt Suzuki shallow bloop near the line.

Instead of a 3-2 loss, the Mets lost this one 3-2 with Sean Doolittle recording the save again. Doolittle taking care of business against the Mets might be the most unrealistic part of these simulations.

In the end, these simulations highlight just how close these two teams are on paper. From these simulations, we’ve apparently missed out on some exciting baseball games. On the bright side, these losses don’t count for anything.

Noah Syndergaard Needing Tommy John Is The Worst Thing Happening Right Now

In true Mets fashion, it was discovered Mets ace Noah Syndergaard has a torn UCL, and he is going to need Tommy John surgery. With that, the Mets chances of winning the 2020 World Series, if the season is ever going to be played, just took a massive hit.

For all the discussion people want to have about Syndergaard not fulfilling his potential as an ace, Syndergaard remained a very good starting pitcher. In 2019, Syndergaard was 18th in FIP, and he had the second best hard-hit rate in the majors. Over the past two seasons, Syndergaard ranked eighth in FIP, and he had the best hard hit rate in the majors.

Overall, while some of his stats did not bear out that way, partially due to what has been an atrocious Mets defense, Syndergaard has pitched like one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. He’d be the ace on almost any other team. Part of the problem Syndergaard has with respect to how he is perceived is he is in the same rotation as Jacob deGrom, and every pitcher in baseball looks worse than they actually are next to him.

Looking at the Mets, their plan to compete for the division was rolling out a great top three of deGrom, Syndergaard, and Marcus Stroman. Now, they are going to have one of the better 1-2 punches in the majors, but not the best, and certainly, no longer the best 1-2-3 combination.

Worse yet, this thrusts Michael Wacha into that starting rotation. Wacha has been shut down multiple times in his career due to shoulder issues. That includes last year. Over the past two years, Wacha was simply not good. He had a 4.76 ERA with a 1.563 WHIP. In fact, he has had an ERA above 4.00 and a WHIP above 1.350 in three out of the last four years.

This isn’t like 2015 when the Mets had Steven Matz and Syndergaard waiting in the wings. No, the rotation really couldn’t withstand an injury to one of their top three starters like this. This serves as a crucial blow to their chances of competing.

Of course, things didn’t have to be this way. The Mets could’ve taken the money being given to Rick Porcello, owner of the worst ERA in the AL last year, Wacha, Jake Marisnick, and Dellin Betances, and they could’ve just given it to Zack Wheeler. That also would’ve given them a little money to spare.

With Wheeler, who is a discount at $118 million, especially with money deferred, the Mets still could’ve had a great 1-2 combination, and even with Syndergaard going down, their 1-2-3 punch would have likely remained the best in the majors. Mostly, it would’ve allowed the Mets to better sustain this injury.

Remember, the Mets aren’t just built on pitching. No, they are built on elite starting pitching. The best staff in the majors. That took a giant step back when the Mets let Wheeler walk, and now, it’s frankly no longer the case with Syndergaard done for 2020. In the end, Brodie Van Wagenen lost sight of this, and now he lost his team’s biggest strength.

Now, the Mets are without Syndergaard, and their chances took a MAJOR hit. Now, their hopes lie with Jeremy Hefner having a profound impact on the Mets rotation, which includes, but is not limited to having Porcello and Wacha turn the clock back 5+ years and having Matz reach his full potential.

The question next becomes what happens if the next pitcher goes down. Unless Corey Oswalt or Stephen Gonsalves are ready to contribute, this all could become a disaster rather quickly. The ultimate point here is the Mets chances of winning the World Series went from legitimately possible to having a real outside shot. That’s just how much losing Syndergaard hurts the team.

At least from a Mets fans perspective, this is the worst thing happening in the world right now. Of course, that really isn’t true. There are far more pressing concerns at the moment.

On that front, one of the things Mets fans were clinging onto was the prospect of the return of baseball at some point during 2020. When that happened, the Mets had that type of rotation which could have taken them their first World Series title since 1986. Now, there may not even be that to look forward to at at time when we are just sitting around waiting for things to improve.

On a day like today, when it is reported Syndergaard won’t pitch at all in 2020, it does not seem like things are going to be any better anytime soon.

SNY Should Be Re-Airing 2000 Season

Opening Day was supposed to be on March 26. We were supposed to see Jacob deGrom outpitch Max Scherzer and out a damper on the Nationals World Series celebration. Due to COVID-19, that’s not happening, at least not yet.

This left SNY without a game to broadcast, they really have no sports to air. Really, they don’t even seem to have a plan on what to do, which is understandable.

Seeing as no one can be quite sure when baseball will be able to return, and with this being the 20th anniversary of the 2000 pennant, SNY should begin airing the 2000 season in its totality.

Each game aired on the same day it was 20 years ago. On March 29, 2020, the Mets should re-air the Japan Series with Mike Hampton taking the ball in his first ever start as a New York Met. The following day, they can air Benny Agbayani‘s Sayonara Slam.

If you recall back to that 2000 season, those games were aired around 5:30 A.M. local time. Now, those games can be aired at a more fan friendly time. Just like we normally see, begin the SNY broadcast around 7:00 P.M., and they can play the games in their entirety.

After the game, in lieu of a more traditional post-game show, they can have a retrospective. Fortunately for the Mets, they already have Todd Zeile as a studio analyst. In addition to Zeile, the Mets also have former Mets players like Edgardo Alfonzo, John Franco, and Al Leiter as team ambassadors.

Perhaps, SNY can get them to give their input of those games and/or their analysis of where the Mets were at that point in the season. Maybe, the team could also get Bobby Valentine and Mike Piazza to do some things for the team, and there is always Gary Cohen and Howie Rose who could find a way to contribute. After all, they have an encyclopedic memory of the team and all of their great seasons.

The team could even have fun with it talking to David Wright about what it was like growing up as a Mets fan and later getting to be teammates with some of these players. They could have Steven Matz, Rick Porcello, and Marcus Stroman give their take of what it was like being a Mets fan in New York at this time, and they could even have some fun discussions about bringing back those black jerseys.

Perhaps, running the 2000 games during their appointed times on the schedule would give fans a reason to tune in and watch Mets baseball. After all, there aren’t any other sports that are currently being aired anywhere. This could give us all a sense of normalcy we are currently striving to find, and it could create a little fun for us all.

Right now, now one knows when baseball can return, and the elephant in the room is if it can return. No one can be quite sure of that. Until that time, SNY can deliver us baseball until we actually have real games to watch.

MLB Might See A Flurry Of Activity During Coronavirus Break Soon

Just like the rest of us, Major League Baseball is at home. Players, agents, and executives are at home staring at their cell phones and laptops just itching for things to do.

Sure, there are logistics which needs to take place. Baseball executives need to work out when the season can begin. They need to ensure facilities are being properly cleaned. Players need to be tested and quarantined. There is also other matters which may need to be addressed like the draft, World Baseball Classic, and other events.

Mostly, they are going to be sitting there and waiting. After all, the things which would normally preoccupy their time during the season won’t be there. Those day-to-day tasks are really going to be left for another day. That frees up time for baseball executives and agents to start getting idle hands, and they may be itching to do things.

If you are someone like Jerry DiPoto, who is a trade proposal a minute during the offseason, you are giving him a lot of time on his hands to attempt to make more deals. It also gives teams an opportunity to discuss extensions with their players.

To a certain extent, we are starting to see it in other sports. For the NFL, it is natural as their league year began, and they are beginning the process of getting under the salary cap and looking to build their 2020 rosters. In the NHL, the New York Rangers acted to sign defenseman K’Andre Miller.

For the Mets, Marcus Stroman and Rick Porcello will be free agents after the 2020 season. While it would be difficult to see extending Porcello right after giving him a one-year deal, the Mets may look to extend Stroman, especially after parting with Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson to obtain him.

After the 2020 season, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Michael Conforto will have one more season before becoming free agents after the 2021 season. Brandon Nimmo and Seth Lugo will be free agents the season after that. This is a significant group of players who are soon becoming free agents.

Perhaps, it would make sense to begin discussions with those players. Maybe it would make sense to talk to Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil to sign them to a deal buying out some of their arbitration years. After all, the Mets just bought some good will with Alonso with this pre-arbitration raise.

As noted, at this moment, there are some logistics Major League Baseball needs to handle with respect to the disruption and postponement of the 2020 season. Once that fog begins to clear, we’re going to be left with baseball executives with not much to do.

Sooner or later, they may get bored or antsy. As we saw with the famed story of how Joe DiMaggio was almost traded for Ted Williams, you get a bored General Manager knocking back a few scotches, and anything is possible. Very soon, every GM in baseball may find themselves in this position making everything very interesting.

Coronavirus Presents Opportunity For MLB To Grow The Game

With the fears over the outbreak of the coronavirus, Major League Baseball is starting to take preventative measures. Different teams have prevented their players from signing autographs for fans. When it comes to the spread of disease and the health of their players, you understand why teams are doing this.

For Spring Training, this is troublesome. This is a time where fans get more access to the players than at any point during the year. That is all the more the case with expanded netting around ballparks. With the reduced access to players, fans get less time to interact and to get autographs.

Some teams are sensitive to that, and as a result, they are having their players sign some items, and those items are going to be distributed to fans. This is something teams should think about doing year-round.

For young fans, batting practice presents an opportunity to get autographs. Unfortunately, not every player takes batting practice, and some of the better players have team obligations pre-game which stands in the way of their ability to sign and take pictures with fans before games.

As a result, some young fans aren’t going to get autographs or get to see the players they want to see. To a certain extent, that’s life. Kids are just going to have to suck it up and grow from it. However, that doesn’t mean teams shouldn’t now be thinking outside the box and using this idea to grow the game.

Take the Mets for an example.

Every Sunday, the New York Mets have Family Sundays. On Family Sundays, there are some fun activities outside the ballpark for young fans. After the game, those young fans have the opportunity to run the bases. Perhaps, the Mets could also give away some player signed items to young fans at games.

Maybe it is a box of pre-signed baseballs given to young fans as they enter the game. It could just be random giving kids a chance to grab a Pete Alonso or Paul Sewald. Perhaps, they could do themed days.

One week could be rotation week with a ball signed by Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz, and Rick Porcello. Another week could be the outfield with autographs from Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, and whoever else lands in the outfield. With the 20th anniversary of the 2000 pennant, there could be a ball signed by players from that team including Edgardo Alfonzo, Mike Hampton, Al Leiter, and Mike Piazza.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be balls either. It could be baseball cards, or it could be other items teams have in stock and are just trying to move. In fact, you usually see that at the end of the year with the team having a wheel for fans to spin to win a “prize” which was really nothing more than a promotion they never could give away.

In the end, Major League Baseball is adapting to the threat of the coronavirus, and they are trying to make the game experience safer for their players and fans. They could take what they learned from this, and they can carry the policy through the season. If done well, they could make the game experience more fun for kids and help grow the game.

Mets Need An Andres Gimenez Plan

Too much was made of Andres Gimenez‘s down year last year. He was a 20 year old shortstop playing in Double-A with a wrist injury. While it appeared he struggled, he was an above-average league hitter (105 wRC+) despite his being 4.1 years younger than the competition.

If there was any doubt the dip in his production based upon prior years was related to his wrist, he would have a strong stint in the Arizona Fall League hitting .371/.413/.586. So far, he has followed that up with a very strong Spring Training.

We should be wary of relying upon small sample sizes like we see in the Arizona Fall League and this Spring Training. We should also be wary of overreacting to a player not having the year you would expect when he plays through an injury. Instead, we need to focus on the player and his skill set.

What we saw in the Arizona Fall League and in Spring Training right now is a tinkered swing from Gimenez designed to help him generate more power. While we didn’t see the fruits of it when he had an injured wrist, we are seeing it now. The challenge for Gimenez is to continue this into the regular season with Triple-A Syracuse.

The challenge for the New York Mets is to figure out exactly what the future is for Gimenez because as things stand right now, he is completely blocked.

Amed Rosario is the everyday shortstop, and he is under team control through the 2023 season. Robinson Cano is the second baseman, and he will be paid $20 million by the Mets through the 2023 season. Jeff McNeil is the everyday third baseman, and he is under team control through the 2024 season. Really, there is no spot for Gimenez in the infield for an additional three years, and he is going to be ready to be called up to the majors well before that.

If Gimenez is the top 100 player he was before outlets arguably overreacted to his 2019 season, he is a talented player who can be part of a core of a World Series winning team. For him to be that, at least in Queens, the Mets have to have a spot for him. There needs to be a plan.

At the moment, there does not appear to be one. In that sense, the Mets are putting themselves in a situation not too different than the one they found themselves with Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith. With those players, they had two top 100 prospects who were at the same position and were going to be Major League ready at the same time.

They didn’t move one in a blockbuster trade to help the roster win a World Series. No, they moved a player in Jarred Kelenic, who they actually needed given the dearth of real outfield prospects in the Mets farm system. On that note, the Mets still do have a future (and current) hole in center, and they still have not prepared for how to best fill that hole.

Given Gimenez’s defensive skills, perhaps the Mets should move Rosario to center. On that note, Rosario has the speed and agility to thrive out there. However, it is difficult to make that change now when he is your starting shortstop. That leaves the Mets to look to move Gimenez out there this season. He certainly has the skill-set to play well out there.

Or maybe, the Mets best play is just to trade one of Rosario, McNeil, or Gimenez after the season to help them withstand the potential loss 2/5 of their rotation with Marcus Stroman and Rick Porcello being pending free agents.

Ultimately, there are many potential paths on how to handle Gimenez and the rest of the roster. Whatever the case, the Mets need to set a plan now because Gimenez is starting the year in Triple-A, and based upon what we are seeing, he is going to be ready to contribute at the Major League level sooner rather than later.

Mets Players Shine When Miked Up By ESPN

During the Mets Spring Training game against the St. Louis Cardinals, ESPN miked up Pete Alonso, Robinson Cano, J.D. Davis, Jeff McNeil, and Dominic Smith. If baseball was hoping to make players more accessible and let their personalities shine to grow the sport, they chose the right team and the right group of players.

That goes double when it comes to Alonso and Smith.

With Alonso, he was exactly what he’s been since day one. He was cheering on his teammates like Marcus Stroman when he recorded a strikeout, and he talked about his hitting philosophy and approach. It should come as little surprise that the player who coined #LFGM would drop not one, but two F-bombs:

What’s funny is while he was miked, we caught Brandon Nimmo saying the word “crap,” which is pretty funny considering the squeaky clean image he has as a player.

While Alonso being miked up was good enough, and you got fun insights from players like McNeil, the clear star of the broadcast was Smith. Of all the players, he was the one whose personality and sense of humor shined the most. We saw that when he make Astros’ sign stealing related jokes at his expense not once, but twice:

With Smith, you really got a sense of how funny and self depreciating a person he is. In addition to cracking jokes at his and his teammates expense, noting they call McNeil “Squirrel” all the more knowing he hates it, he also spoke about the impact the RBI program had upon him personally.

Smith was so engaging ESPN opted to bring him back on before the end of the telecast. Of course, part of that could’ve been attributed to his having ear piece troubles and his completely talking over Davis.

Overall, Smith was the most engaging and likable player to be mikes up. That’s really saying something considering Alonso was one of the other players. On that note, we’re going to be lucky to get more Alonso during the season as there will be a microphone at first base at Citi Field this year.

Now, there are some pitfalls to this. Certainly, it was a bit awkward when Matt Vasgersian asked Alonso and Cano about Andres Gimenez pushing Amed Rosario with Rosario standing right there.

That said, the ability to get to know these Mets players is worth it, especially Smith. Really, he’s everything MLB wanted from this experiment, and he can only grow in popularity from this, and he should because this experience highlighted what a great guy he is.

Overall, this was a great day for baseball and the New York Mets because we got a sense of the great personalities there are on this Mets team. These are easy guys to root for, and when they win, it’ll be all the better because we’re getting to know and love them for more than their baseball prowess.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you want to listen to it, it’s provided here.

Walker Lockett More Realistic Target Than Steven Matz For Yankees

It is not even Opening Day, and the New York Yankees pitching rotation is getting decimated. Luis Severino is done for the year after opting for Tommy John surgery. James Paxton had a microscoptic lumbar discectomy and is out until June. Throw in Domingo German being suspended for the first 63 games of the 2020 season.

Right there, the Yankees will enter the season missing 3/5 of their rotation. This has them relying on J.A. Happ more than they intended, and they are going to have to hope a couple of pitchers step up. That includes Jonathan Loaisiga, who struggled last year, and Jordan Montgomery, who is returning from Tommy John, and Luis Cessa, who has proved to be more reliable in the bullpen.

When you consider one of the more “reliable” arms in the Yankees rotation is Masahiro Tanaka, who has a torn UCL. Looking at that and everything going on, the Yankees need arms. To that end, there is no surprise the Yankees reportedly called the Mets to inquire on Steven Matz.

While it would make sense for the Yankees to attempt to obtain Matz from the Mets, it doesn’t make much sense for the Mets to trade Matz away.

Matz is the only left-handed option for the Mets rotation. He is under team control through the 2021 season, which is all the more important considering Marcus Stroman, Rick Porcello, and Michael Wacha are free agents after this season. More than that, Matz has potential for a real breakthrough season.

No, the Mets need Matz in the rotation in 2020 and 2021. Moreover, trading Matz runs counter to the Mets plan of building starting rotation depth over re-signing Zack Wheeler and keeping their aces together. Still, even with Matz being off the table, there is a realistic trade between the Mets and Yankees.

Walker Lockett is out of options, and realistically speaking, there is no path to him to make the Opening Day roster. This leaves the Mets in a position to lose Lockett, a player they acquired in the Kevin Plawecki trade last year, for nothing.

Instead of risking a Lockett falling to them in waivers, the Yankees could obtain Lockett now. If they did that, they get the added benefit of seeing how he works with their own coaching staff. Another added benefit to acquiring Lockett is he’s a groundball pitcher, which could be useful to a team with a good infield defense and a home run friendly ballpark.

Ideally, the Mets return could be a player similarly out-of-options. While ideal, it is not realistic as Kyle Higashioka, Michael Tauchman, and Gio Urshela will very likely make the Yankees Opening Day roster. Maybe the Yankees would be willing to part with a player like Tyler Wade or Thairo Estrada, each of whom have an option remaining, but really that doesn’t seem likely for a player the Yankees could wait out to obtain on waivers.

Really, the Mets potential return for Lockett is really limited, but it is better they seek out what they can get for him now instead of risking losing him for nothing. With the Yankees, they at least have an obvious fit. The question is whether these two teams can find a middle ground, or really, if the Yankees would have any interest whatsoever in Lockett.