Matt den Dekker

How and Why Dominic Smith Became a Left Fielder

Last night, Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario collided in the outfield leading to a ball dropping and the go-ahead run scoring. When a gaffe like this happens, many are sent looking to pin blame. As has often happens since he was first called up to the majors, Smith was an easy target.

Before looking to levy the blame on him, it is important to review just how Smith became a left fielder.

Back in 2011, the now defunct Sandy Alderson regime made Brandon Nimmo their first ever draft pick. Since that time, the Mets have drafted and signed just 27 outfield prospects.

The breakdown goes: 2011 (six), 2012 (none), 2013 (three), 2014 (five), 2015 (three), 2016 (three), 2017 (four), 2018 (three).

Putting aside Nimmo and Michael Conforto, the outfielders the Mets have drafted since 2011 have played a combined 35 games at the Major League level.

Last year, Travis Taijeron hit .173/.271/.269, and this year, Kevin Kaczmarski is 0-for-5 with a walk.

Currently, the Las Vegas roster only has one outfielder drafted from the aforementioned draft classes on their roster – Kaczmarski. Kaczmarski is currently battling for playing time with players like Zach Borenstein, Bryce Brentz, Matt den Dekker, and Patrick Kivlehan.

Binghamton had Tim Tebow playing everyday because there really wasn’t a Mets draftee pushing him out of the lineup.

Champ Stuart, the Mets 2013 sixth round pick, is repeating the level, and he is hitting .136/.280/.264. Patrick Biondi, the Mets 2013 ninth round pick, is also repeating the level, and he is hitting .222/.333/.247.

Overall, that’s just three part time outfield draft picks playing in the upper levels of their minor league system. Combine them with Nimmo and Conforto, and that makes just five outfield draft picks playing in Double-A or high from the past eight drafts.

Given how much the Mets drafts have not provided much in terms of outfield depth, the Mets were faced with calling up a Major League has been or never was or to give the shot to Smith. Given how Peter Alonso was nipping at Smith’s heels from Double-A, learning another position did make some sense.

Believe it or not, Smith in the outfield was not as absurd a proposition as it may sound. He entered the year leaner and faster. As noted by Baseball Savant, his sprint speed is better Jose Bautista and Jay Bruce, two players the Mets have felt eminently comfortable in the outfield. When he was drafted, Baseball America noted Smith had a strong arm and was a “fringy defender with below-average speed” in the outfield.

Still, the Mets were forced into that position because of how they handled Smith.

After he struggled last year, they were wise to bring in competition for him in Spring Training in the form of Adrian Gonzalez. Partially due to Smith’s injury in Spring Training, Gonzalez did win the job. However, he played poorly.

In 21 April games, Gonzalez hit .227/.312/.394. After going 3-for-4 with two solo homers in a game at Cincinnati, Gonzalez returned to form hitting just .267/.323/.350 over his next 20 games leading to his eventual release.

With the way Gonzalez was playing, there was a real chance to call-up Smith and give him a shot. The Mets passed, and they instead decided to stick with a guy who was not producing.

When the Mets finally released Gonzalez, they gave Smith three games to prove he could produce at the Major League level. In those three games, he went 4-for-12 with a double, homer, and an RBI. After that three game stretch, Wilmer Flores came off the disabled list, and he was given the first base job.

With Flores being bestowed the first base job, Smith’s great experiment in the outfield truly began. With Smith not playing well in the outfield, he found himself on the bench, and eventually, he would head back to Triple-A. When he was sent back to Triple-A, he was entrenched as the left fielder because Alonso had been called up and given the first base job.

In the end, you have a former first round draft pick and former Top 100 prospect playing out of position because the Mets have failed to give Smith a chance, the team has failed to develop outfield prospects at the upper levels of their minor league system, and the team is more willing to give failing veterans a chance over a younger player who could improve with Major League coaching and playing time.

Overall, that is how you get a promising prospect in the outfield, and that is how you have two young players colliding in the outfield and costing the Mets a game.

Mets Undefeated With McNeil

Well, it may not have been the prettiest of games, but the Mets came to play, and they beat the Pirates pretty handily.

Once again, it started with Michael Conforto and his hot hitting. After he would nearly hit one out against Pirates starter Nick Kingham, Wilmer Flores would actually hit one out.

The homer gave the Mets a 2-0 lead, and the team was off and running.

For three innings, it was back-and-forth with David Freese and Josh Harrison hitting two run homers off Steven Matz.

To Matz’s credit, he settled down, despite him apparently not feeling well, he gutted through six innings keeping the Pirates to the four runs. He would also strike out a career high nine batters.

Because the Mets bats exploded, he would get the win.

One of the big reasons why was Asdrubal Cabrera putting on a show in what is likely one of his final games in a Mets uniform. Overall, he was 3-5 with two runs, a double. homer, walk, and four RBI.

The first big inning for the Mets was the fourth, and it was aided by two big Pirates errors.

After a Cabrera two run homer, Conforto reached on a Harrison fielding error. Later that inning, with bases loaded and two outs in the inning, Freese threw it away allowing Devin Mesoraco to reach safely and Brandon Nimmo to score.

Jose Bautista would get thrown out at home with him trying to score from second. That would end the inning with the Mets leading 7-4.

The Mets bats awoke again in the seventh, and it began with a beautiful Jeff McNeil, who was starting his first game, base hit:

It was an uneven game for McNeil in his first ever start.  He was 1-2 with a run and two walks, and he did help turn two 5-4-3 double plays.  He also made an error and base running mistake in the game.  Fortunately, not only did they not cost the Mets the game, but his positives did outweigh his negatives in this game.  It should come as no surprise the team is 3-0 in games he has played.

After a Mesoraco single, Jose Reyes predictably failed to deliver the big hit by popping out to Freese.  Where Reyes failed, the player he is supposed to be mentoring (but isn’t) came up a delivered what could have been the final blow in the game.  Rosario’s RBI single gave the Mets an 8-4 lead.

With Pirates reliever Rich Rodriguez throwing a wild pitch, Mesoraco was able to get to third and Rosario to second.  This would not just allow Mesoraco to score on a Cabrera grounder to the right of the pitcher, but it would put Rosario to score on another wild pitch during Conforto’s at-bat.  At that point, it was 10-4 Mets, which is a rare place for this team to have been lately.

Things were going so well for this team, Matt den Dekker would even contribute hitting a sacrifice fly in the eighth.  In fact, Flores would hit one as well in the ninth giving the Mets a then 12-5 lead.

It is remarkable how the Mets had three sacrifice flies in this game.   Those are the sort of small ball runs this team had been leaving on the bases all season long.  While it has been a rough first year for Mickey Callaway, we are seeing this team improve fundamentally by getting bunts down and their starting to take advantage of these run scoring opportunities.

Surprisingly, Jerry Blevins and Paul Sewald would get the first cracks out of the bullpen.  Blevins might’ve helped his trade value with a scoreless inning.  Sewald struggled after two quick outs, but he did get out of his inning having allowed just one run scored.

It was the same story for Drew Smith.  He got two quick outs before getting into minor trouble, minor because the game was nowhere near jeopardy.  After he allowed one run, the Mets would win the game 12-6.

Surprisingly, this team is not only on a three game winning streak, but they are also over .500 in the Month of July.  Oh what could have been.

Game Notes: Corey Oswalt was sent down to Triple-A so Jason Vargas could be activated from the disabled list to start the Mets next game.

Mets Do Just Enough To Lose

Heading into this year’s Yankee Stadium portion of the Subway Series, the Mets had a decided advantage in starting pitching. Yesterday, that led to a win with Noah Syndergaard on the mound.

Through the first three and a half innings, it seemed like it would be the case again with Steven Matz out-pitching Sonny Gray.

Up until that point, the Mets had a 1-0 lead due to a Michael Conforto second inning homer. That lead completely evaporated in the bottom of the fourth.

It started innocuously enough with a Giancarlo Stanton leadoff single. Then with one out in the inning, Matt den Dekker would make a number of defensive miscues starting with the Didi Gregorious RBI “triple.”

Throughout that fourth, Matz would make his pitches, but his team, specifically den Dekker, wasn’t making a play behind him. All told, it was a four run inning for the Yankees.

In the sixth, Conforto would get things started with a one out walk, and Jose Bautista followed with a walk of his own. This led to Aaron Boone lifting Gray and bringing in David Robertson.

With two outs in the inning, Amed Rosario hit an RBI single that not only brought Conforto home, but it allowed Bautista to go to third. It mattered because Robertson threw away a pickoff attempt allowing Bautista to score. The rally would end there as den Dekker struck out.

The Mets would quickly see the 4-3 deficit grow and grow.

In the bottom of the inning, Miguel Andujar doubled, and Greg Bird singled him home.

It’s hard to say Matz pitched well considering he surrendered five runs, all earned, but he did. The defense was that poor.

In consecutive innings, Tim Peterson and Anthony Swarzak would surrender a run to give the Yankees a 7-3 lead.

In the ninth, it seemed like Aroldis Chapman was in to pitch his inning and let everyone get home before the rain came later tonight. The issue with Chapman was he couldn’t get an out.

After loading the bases, he walked Jose Reyes and then plunked Brandon Nimmo. Suddenly, the Mets were down 7-5 with bases loaded and no outs.

Now, it should be noted Asdrubal Cabrera should have been due up. The problem was he was ejected in the fifth after getting tossed arguing balls and strikes. When that happened, he joined hitting coach Pat Roessler who was tossed in the third for the same issue.

Cabrera was replaced in the lineup by Devin Mesoraco (as a DH). He’d face Chasen Shreve who came on for Chapman, get the most important at-bat of the game, and he’d hit into a rally killing 4-6-3 double play.

Ty Kelly would score on the play to make it 7-6. Wilmer Flores then tapped out to Shreve to end the game.

With that, the Mets did just enough to lose. Just enough.

Game Notes: Jeurys Familia was finally traded to the Athletics. Yoenis Cespedes was unavailable as he was too sore to play. As it turns out, he also needs surgery to remove calcifications in both heels. The recovery time is approximately 10 months.

3B Jeff McNeil Shows How Inept The Mets Organization Has Become

When Todd Frazier landed on the disabled list, one of the justifications proffered for the Mets not calling-up Jeff McNeil was the organization views McNeil as a second baseman, and at the moment, the team still had Asdrubal Cabrera.

In true Mets fashion, their narrative and their actions made this statement and position increasingly absurd. And that’s before you consider Cabrera having an MLB worst -16 DRS at second base.

First and foremost, the Mets actually had Mickey Callaway say Jose Reyes was playing well enough recently to man third until Frazier returns. It shouldn’t shock anyone that since Callaway uttered those words, Reyes is 1-for-17 at the plate.

1-for-17

While Reyes was hitting, sorry not hitting, Cabrera would hyper-extend his elbow requiring him to come out early from one game and not start the next.

Now, this wasn’t an opportunity to call-up McNeil. Not for a game. However, this was a chance to play Dominic Smith. After all, the former first round pick and once first baseman of the future has only started in 16 of the Mets past 28 games.

Instead, the Mets opted to start Wilmer Flores at first, Jose Bautista at third, and Matt den Dekker at third.

Think about that for a second, the Mets actually went out of their way to start the soon to be 31 year old den Dekker in center over giving the 23 year old Smith playing time. Naturally, the Mets are now looking to send down Smith while presumably keeping den Dekker up in the majors.

It gets better.

Because Amed Rosario was playing well, the team opted to have him sit against Max Scherzer. It should come as no surprise Reyes got the start at short in his stead.

With those lineup decisions, the Mets had a starting lineup with an average age of 29.6 years old. Take out Brandon Nimmo (25) and Michael Conforto (25) and that average age jumps to 31.2 years old.

The average age of the Mets bench last night was 26.0 years old, and that includes the 22 year old Rosario and the 23 year old Smith.

Remember, this is a Mets team who his now 17 games under .500.  Sure, you can understand the concept of playing Bautista to try to pump up his trade value.  However, it is unfathomable to sit both Smith and Rosario to get Reyes and den Dekker into the lineup.

If you think this is all a sick joke and a gross mismanagement of the team, we have yet to reach the best part.

Last night, McNeil, the guy the Mets solely viewed as a second baseman, played third base for Triple-A Las Vegas.  On Monday, McNeil was just a second baseman.  By Thursday, he was capable of playing third base.  It didn’t take the Mets a week before completely upending their own narrative.

This just highlights how completely lost this entire Mets organization is.

The player the Mets view only as a second baseman is playing third base.  The man who is supposed to be the first baseman of the future has played way out of position in left field over one-third of the time.  Their starting shortstop, a player upon much of the future hangs, is sat because he’s playing too well.

The Mets would have to significantly improve things in order for them to start looking completely inept and confused.  Really, this is as bad as it gets.  But hey, at least the Wilpons are doing well financially.

Mets Lose With Veterans Again

Even when the Mets were at their best, Max Scherzer dominates them. In fact, as the Mets were preparing for what would be a pennant run, Scherzer threw a no-hitter against them.

With the Mets lineup featuring Jose Reyes and Matt den Dekker, it was fair to assume the worst.

Shockingly, the Mets were actually game against Scherzer tonight.

A pair of misplays from Michael Taylor in the first led to an Asdrubal Cabrera double and then his scoring easily on a Jose Bautista RBI single.

That rally sputtered with Bautista getting nailed by Taylor inches:

In the fourth, Bautista hit a solo homer, and Kevin Plawecki homered in the seventh.

It wasn’t enough as the Mets were chasing all night.

One of the reasons why is Anthony Rendon owned Steven Matz. Rendon hit a pair of homers off Matz giving the Nationals a 3-2 lead.

Aside from the Rendon at-bats, Matz had a pretty good game. He limited the rest of that lineup to six hits in 6.1 innings.

Still, he would be tagged with the loss.

The big hit for the Nationals came after Matz left the game. With the Mets down 3-2 in the seventh, Mickey Callaway brought in Jerry Blevins to face Bryce Harper. Harper would launch a homer to give the Nationals a 5-2 lead:

Asdrubal Cabrera homered off Kelvin Herrera in the eighth to pull the Mets to within 5-4, but that was it.

After that homer, Bautista and Michael Conforto drew back-to-back walks putting the tying run in scoring position with one out.

Since it was the eighth and not the ninth, Wilmer Flores fouled out, and den Dekker followed with a strikeout.

In the ninth, Plawecki led off against Ryan Madson with a single. That went nowhere.

First, after Reyes failed to get down the bunt, he hit a fielder’s choice. Amed Rosario, who didn’t start because he was hitting too well (seriously) pinch hit and hit into a game ending double play.

The Nationals are back over .500 now and are in the thick of the postseason race. The Mets are 17 games under .500 and starting Reyes.

Game Notes: Jeff McNeil, a prospect the Mets previously said is only a second baseman, started tonight at third base. This is on the same night Bautista started at third for the Mets.

Mets Messed Up With Duda, Reyes, Gonzalez Decisions

To be fair, no one really expected the free agent market to go the way it has. Really, as free agency opened, the Mets with their limited budget was not expected to be able to bring in Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, and Anthony Swarzak. Based upon past years, the Mets really only would have had the budget to get just one of them. However, with the way it has played out, it does beg you to re-visit the Mets offseason.

Certainly, there should be no quibbling with the aforementioned additions. Bruce provides the Mets both with a left-handed power bat as well as first base insurance. Frazier joins Amed Rosario to give the Mets a defensive left side of the infield they have not had since at least a decade ago. Swarzak helps solidify a bullpen that needed all the quality arms it could get.

Where you can question the Mets was their minor moves. The team brought back Jose Reyes back on a one year $2 million deal, and because the Dodgers are playing his 2018 salary, the Mets were able to sign Adrian Gonzalez for the league minimum. In retrospect, was this really the best move the Mets could have made.

When the Mets signed Bruce, it gave the team only four healthy outfielders on the 40 man roster. Two of those outfielders, Yoenis Cespedes and Juan Lagares, are injury prone. Already, both players are having health issues, which certainly calls into question whether the Mets outfield can last a full season. It gets even worse when you consider Bruce is dealing with plantar fasciitis.

Because of those injuries, the Mets may be left with the rock and hard place decision of choosing between putting Wilmer Flores in the outfield or playing Matt den Dekker and his career .234/.316/.354 batting line in the outfield. The Mets are faced with this decision because as Josh Lewin put it during the Mets Spring Training opener, Reyes has shown not interest in playing the outfield this year.

It does seem odd the player many consider to be the quickest, if not the fastest, on the team is not even going to try to play the outfield. Considering he was signed as a utility player, it certainly begs the question why he isn’t playing the outfield at all.

There’s also the matter of Gonzalez. There’s no doubt when he’s on the top of his game, he’s much better than Duda or what the Mets envision Dominic Smith will be. However, at 37 and with back problems, is Gonzalez really that player anymore? His last full season was 2016 when he hit .285/.349/.435 with 18 homers and 90 RBI.  Considering how poorly he played last year, his needing two hours to work with trainers just to get onto the field, and his start to the Spring, it’s doubtful he even puts up those numbers.

Last year, Duda hit .246/.347/.532 with 17 homers and 37 RBI in 75 games with the Mets.  Overall, he would have the second 30 homer season of his career.  In three of his last four years, he’s hit 27 or more homers.  The one year he didn’t was an injury riddled 2016 season.

Certainly, you can say Duda was a better bet than Gonzalez.  Moreover, it’s fair to say giving him $3.5 million was a better decision than giving $2.5 million to Reyes and Gonzalez.  It also would’ve given the Mets wiggle room to add another player to the roster who was at least capable of playing the outfield.  Given their suspect depth there, you really need to question Sandy Alderson’s thought process on these respective decisions.

Trade Addison Reed To The Team With The Best Offer

In a report by Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, the Washington Nationals are interested in obtaining Addison Reed from the New York Mets at the trade deadline.  However, Cafardo also notes the Mets may not be inclined to trade Reed to the Nationals.

If true, this makes little sense.

Reed is a pending free agent.  If the Mets do not trade him at the trade dealine, the best they can recoup for him is a second round draft pick, and that is only if the Mets were inclined to extend him a qualifying offer.  When you consider the qualifying offer for last year was set at $16.7 million, it seems like the amount will be too high for the Mets taste.  As a result, the Mets will likely lose Reed as a free agent with nothing in return if they do not move him at the trade deadline.

If the Mets are indeed trading him because the team is selling, there should be one and only one guiding principle in making a trade – Make the best trade possible.  It should not matter if that team is the Yankees or the Nationals.

In fact, the Mets have already benefited from making a trade with the Nationals.  On the eve of the 2015 season, the Mets traded outfielder Matt den Dekker for LOOGY Jerry Blevins.  For his part, Blevins was lights out for the Mets that season before breaking his arm.  With a good relationship already established, the Mets and Blevins have agreed to two different one year deals since.  In Blevins time with the Mets, he is 9-2 with two saves, a 2.76 ERA, 1.187 WHIP, and a 11.4 K/9.

Where would the Mets have been if they refused to make an intra-division trade back then?

Speaking of the 2015 season, the Mets moved prospects John Gant and Robert Whalen for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson.  Uribe and KJ were both important members of the 2015 team.  Again in 2016, the Mets acquired KJ from the Braves.  Again, KJ was an extremely important part of a Mets team that made the postseason.

In 2015, the Mets made two trades with division rivals, and those two trades helped them win the pennant.  Now that they are selling, they should once again be willing to trade with teams in the division.  The only guiding principle in making a move is to judge whether the trade is the best return the Mets can get for a particular player.

Will seeing the Nationals win the World Series with Daniel Murphy, Reed, or anyone else the Nationals may acquire from the Mets?  Absolutely.  However, wouldn’t getting a top prospect like Victor Robles patrolling center field for a World Series winning Mets teams more than ease that pain?  Again, absolutely.

Now, can the Mets get Robles for Reed?  Probably not.  Then again, seeing the prospects got in exchange for Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman last year, it’s possible.  That being said, if the Nationals won’t give up a prospect of the caliber of Robles, someone may very well do so.  Again, the overriding point here is the Mets need to make the best trade possible . . . even if that trade is with the Nationals.

Bring Back Jerry Blevins

One of the resounding themes from the 2016 season has been how incredible it was the Mets made it back to the postseason despite Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz needing season ending surgeries. However, that didn’t mean the Mets didn’t have good pitching that led them back to the postseason. In addition to Noah Syndergaard and Bartolo Colon, the Mets had a terrific bullpen that helped them maintain leads when the Mets weren’t getting hits with runners in scoring position, and they helped buttress the young starting pitching that couldn’t go quite as deep into games. While it is imperative the Mets starters come back healthy next season, it is equally as imperative that the Mets bullpen return in tact next year.

This means the Mets need to re-sign Jerry Blevins.

Coming into the 2016 season, Blevins had a reputation of only being a LOOGY. It was with good reason. During his career, Blevins has limited left-handed batters to a .214/.266/.322 batting line whereas right-handed batters have been a more robust .243/.332/.387 against him. In 2016, that began to change.

In Blevins 73 appearances with the Mets, he was actually better against right-handed batters than he was against left-handed batters. Blevins would face right-handed batters 65 times, and he would limit them to a .182/.266/.345 batting line. Granted, it is a small sample size, but there were some things Blevins did to induce those results. First, he scrapped his cutter, which was not an effective pitch for him at all against right-handed pitching. In turn, he used his curveball and changeups at a higher rate, which led to a higher strikeout rate and fewer line drives.

What this meant was the despite your prototypical LOOGY, you could trust Blevins to pitch a right-handed batter between two left-handed batters. It took some of the hand wringing out of which batter should you deploy your weapon. It also allowed you to rest some bullpen arms because you knew you could trust your LOOGY to actually go out and throw an inning unlike other LOOGYs.

Despite Blevins’ remarkable turn-around against right-handed batters, he is still a LOOGY, and as a LOOGY it is his job to get the big left-handed batter out in a big moment in the game. For his career, Blevins has been terrific in those situations:

  • .228 batting average against with RISP
  • .226 batting average against in late and close games
  • .218 batting average against in high leverage situations
  • .220 batting average against in innings from the seventh inning on

* late and close and high leverage situations are as defined by Baseball Reference

We saw this in action when time and again, Blevins limited the damage in games. Overall, Blevins only allowed 14.5% of inherited runners to score this season, which was the best on the team (40 IP minimum). That number is all the more impressive when you consider he inherited more runners than anyone on the Mets staff. In fact, Blevins inherited the second most runners in all of baseball this past year. Out of the pitchers that inherited over 50 batters in 2016, Blevins had the third best rate in preventing runners to score. It should come as no surprise then that he stranded the second most batters in the major leagues. Fo

Overall, when you have a pitcher who gets lefties out, is improving better against right-handed batters, and is at his best in high leverage situations, that is a guy you need to keep in your bullpen.

There is an other important reason to keep Blevins. The Mets don’t have another option. At one point, Josh Edgin was considered to be the LOOGY of the future. Unfortunately, he needed Tommy John surgery before the 2015 season (which ironically was part of the reason the Mets traded Matt den Dekker to obtain him). Edgin was able to pitch this season, but he has not fully regained his velocity. As a result, he wasn’t effective getting lefties out in AAA or the majors this season.

The other notable option is Josh Smoker. However, Smoker is a lefty with reverse splits. Effectively speaking, Smoker is a guy you bring in for the big strikeout, but he is not the guy you bring in to get the big left-handed batter out.

With the Mets having little to no internal options, and with Blevins being an effective LOOGY in his career, the Mets should make it a priority to re-sign him in the offseason. Fortunately for the Mets, Blevins has said he would like to return.amp;utm_source=direct&utm_medium=linker-” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz needing season ending surgeries.  However, that didn’t mean the Mets didn’t have good pitching that led them back to the postseason.  In addition to Noah Syndergaard and Bartolo Colon, the Mets had a terrific bullpen that helped them maintain leads when the Mets weren’t getting hits with runners in scoring position, and they helped buttress the young starting pitching that couldn’t go quite as deep into games.  While it is imperative the Mets starters come back healthy next season, it is equally as imperative that the Mets bullpen return in tact next year.

This means the Mets need to re-sign Jerry Blevins.

Coming into the 2016 season, Blevins had a reputation of only being a LOOGY.  It was with good reason.  During his career, Blevins has limited left-handed batters to a .214/.266/.322 batting line whereas right-handed batters have been a more robust .243/.332/.387 against him.   In 2016, that began to change.

In Blevins 73 appearances with the Mets, he was actually better against right-handed batters than he was against left-handed batters.  Blevins would face right-handed batters 65 times, and he would limit them to a .182/.266/.345 batting line.  Granted, it is a small sample size, but there were some things Blevins did to induce those results.  First, he scrapped his cutter, which was not an effective pitch for him at all against right-handed pitching.  In turn, he used his curveball and changeups at a higher rate, which led to a higher strikeout rate and fewer line drives.

What this meant was the despite your prototypical LOOGY, you could trust Blevins to pitch a right-handed batter between two left-handed batters.  It took some of the hand wringing out of which batter should you deploy your weapon.  It also allowed you to rest some bullpen arms because you knew you could trust your LOOGY to actually go out and throw an inning unlike other LOOGYs.

Despite Blevins’ remarkable turn-around against right-handed batters, he is still a LOOGY, and as a LOOGY it is his job to get the big left-handed batter out in a big moment in the game.  For his career, Blevins has been terrific in those situations:

  • .228 batting average against with RISP
  • .226 batting average against in late and close games
  • .218 batting average against in high leverage situations
  • .220 batting average against in innings from the seventh inning on

* late and close and high leverage situations are as defined by Baseball Reference

We saw this in action when time and again, Blevins limited the damage in games.  Overall, Blevins only allowed 14.5% of inherited runners to score this season, which was the best on the team (40 IP minimum).  That number is all the more impressive when you consider he inherited more runners than anyone on the Mets staff.  In fact, Blevins inherited the second most runners in all of baseball this past year.  Out of the pitchers that inherited over 50 batters in 2016, Blevins had the third best rate in preventing runners to score.  It should come as no surprise then that he stranded the second most batters in the major leagues.

Overall, when you have a pitcher who gets lefties out, is improving better against right-handed batters, and is at his best in high leverage situations, that is a guy you need to keep in your bullpen.

There is an other important reason to keep Blevins.  The Mets don’t have another option.  At one point, Josh Edgin was considered to be the LOOGY of the future.  Unfortunately, he needed Tommy John surgery before the 2015 season (which ironically was part of the reason the Mets traded den Dekker to obtain him).  Edgin was able to pitch this season, but he has not fully regained his velocity.  As a result, he wasn’t effective getting lefties out in AAA or the majors this season.

The other notable option is Josh Smoker.  However, Smoker is a lefty with reverse splits.  Effectively speaking, Smoker is a guy you bring in for the big strikeout, but he is not the guy you bring in to get the big left-handed batter out.

With the Mets having little to no internal options, and with Blevins being an effective LOOGY in his career, the Mets should make it a priority to re-sign him in the offseason.  Fortunately for the Mets, Blevins has said he would like to return.  Even with that said, the Mets are not optimistic a reunion could happen.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online

Lagares Should Only Play CF

The Mets are in the midst of a stretch of 17 straight games without a day off. On Thursday, they’re flying out to the west coast for an eleven game road trip. Madison Bumgarner was on the mound. With all these factors present, it’s difficult to take umbridge with Terry Collins’s lineup on Sunday. There were many factors to consider. 

With that said, his outfield alignment was inexcusable. 

The Mets had Michael Conforto in left, Yoenis Cespedes in center, and Juan Lagares in right. Collins put the 2015 American League Gold Glove leftfielder in centerfield and the 2014 National League Gold Glove centerfielder in rightfield. With the exception of maybe Conforto, everyone was out of place. 

First off, it should be acknowledged Cespedes isn’t a good centerfielder. By his own admission, he prefers to play left. He averages a – 3.2 UZR in and a -4 DRS in center.  Coincidentally, those were his numbers playing center for the Mets last year. Long story short, Cespedes is a below average centerfielder. He’s only out there because the Mets value his bat over Lagares’ glove. 

Lagares’ glove?  It’s transcendent. When he won the Gold Glove in 2014, he had an 18.6 UZR and a 26 DRS. Those numbers are all the more incredible when you consider this was his second best defensive season. However, Cespedes’ problem is his bat. He’s a career .262/.298/.365 hitter. Against righties, he’s even worse hitting .253/.285/.339. It’s hard to justify keeping that bat in the lineup everyday. It’s why the Mets not only traded for Cespedes, but it’s also a factor why the Mets re-signed him. 

When Cespedes and Lagares have played in the outfield with Curtis Granderson, Cespedes has been in left while Lagares has been in center. That’s perfect. Each player is playing their best defensive position. Even better, you have three plus defenders in the outfield. This only works because Granderson is a rightfielder. Conforto is not. 

Neither Conforto or Cespedes have played rightfield in a major league game. In fact, despite his appearance in the 2015 Future’s Game, Conforto has only played in left. Therefore, Lagares was left as the only outfielder with any experience in right.  Coming into Sunday’s game, he has exactly 16 games and 89 innings of experience in right. Fourteen of those games were in 2013 when Collins actually believed Matt den Dekker was a better defensive centerfielder than Lagares. 

It doesn’t make sense for Lagares to play anywhere other than centerfield. It makes less sense that Collins considered the idea in Spring Training and is following through on it. When Collins put Cespedes in center last year and put Lagares in right, he explained Lagares was the only one who played there previously. While that excuse might’ve worked in 2015, it should not work this year. 

The Mets had an entire offseason andSpring  Training to prepare for this situation. Either Conforto or Cespedes could’ve received some rightfield reps to permit Collins to have some level of comfort in placing them in rightfield. It’s what the Mets did with Wilmer Flores in teaching him first base. Now, Flores has shown the Mets they can feel comfortable putting him at firstbase. It’s what the Mets needed to do with Comforto. 

No, instead the Mets decided to ignore the issue despite them being very aware that moments like this would arrive. The Mets actually believed that Lagares in right was a better idea than teaching the position to Conforto. Why the Mets foresaw this issue and decided it was in the team’s best interests to play their Gold Glovers out of position is beyond logic. 

Fortunately, this decision didn’t affect outcome of the game on Sunday. Hopefully, this will be the last time we see that happen.  The Mets shouldn’t weaken their team defense due to a 14 game sample size. 

Thank You Omar

Look, this is Sandy Alderson’s team. He decided to keep the players he kept and trade the players he traded. He pulled off the trades and signed the free agents. However, he was able to do a lot of what he did because he was left with good players after Omar Minaya was terminated. 

Here are the players in the 40 man roster who have a link to Omar Minaya (asterisked players are players obtained with players combined by Minaya and Alderson):

Jerry Blevins – obtained for 2010 draft pick Matt den Dekker

Eric Campbell – 2008 draft pick. 

Darrell Ceciliani – 2009 draft pick. 

Travis d’Arnaud – part of the R.A. Dickey trade. Dickey was a free agent signing. Josh Thole was a 2005 draft pick. Mike Nickeas was initially obtained by trade in 2006.

Jacob deGrom – 2010 draft pick. 

Lucas Duda – 2007 draft pick. 

Jeurys Familia – 2007 amateur free agent signing. 

Wilmer Flores – 2007 amateur free agent signing. 

Erik Goeddel – 2010 draft pick. 

Matt Harvey – 2010 draft pick  

Dilson Herrera* – part of Marlon Byrd/John Buck trade. Buck was part of the Dickey trade (see d’Arnaud). 

Juan Lagares – 2006 amateur free agent signing. 

Steven Matz – 2009 draft pick. 

Jenrry Mejia – 2007 amateur free agent signing. 

Akeel Morris -2010 draft pick. 

Daniel Murphy – 2006 draft pick. 

Bobby Parnell – 2005 draft pick. 

Addison Reed* – obtained in exchange for Matt Koch and Miller Diaz (signed by Mets in 2009).

Hansel Robles – 2008 amateur free agent.

Noah Syndergaard – part of Dickey trade (see d’Arnaud). 

Ruben Tejada – 2006 amateur free agent. 

Again, these players are in the roster because Alderson kept them. The decision of who to keep and trade is important. That is what makes them Alderson’s players and team. Additionally, while It was Alderson that hired Terry Collins, it was Minaya who brought him into the Mets organization. 

However, it is important to truly acknowledge Minaya’s role, especially when he has been unfairlyand wrongly   marginalized. 

You see I was on the same Jet Blue flight as Omar Minaya. The photo with this post was Minaya and me in the terminal before the flight. He was accessible to Mets fans who wanted to shake his hand and take a picture. No one, and I mean no one, had the “courage” to mock him on the flight.

Additionally, this should dispel the notion that Minaya left the Mets with a depleted farm system. On the contrary, he built a strong farm system that helped make up this team.  Minaya had his faults, and he probably deserved to be fired when he was. That doesn’t mean we should ignore his work. 

It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t extend our gratitude to him for what he left behind.