It looks like the Mets made the biggest addition at the trade deadline this year. Yoenis Cespedes? No. Travis d’Arnaud? Nonsense. The Mets got Matt Harvey back. I don’t think Mets fans believed he was real anymore.
Harvey is a 1950 film starring Jimmy Stewart. Jimmy Stewart’s character is a grown man whose best friend is a 6’3″ invisible rabbit. Everyone thinks he’s crazy that he had seen this rabbit. A comparison for people more my age is Snuffleupagus. Anyway, I was starting to feel like Jimmy Stewart.
For his part, Harvey thinks he finally put it all together in his last start. It showed tonight. He was perfect through 5.1 innings. He got out of a subsequent jam without letting up a run. In the seventh, there was some soft hits starting another rally. However, he got out of that jam when Juan Lagares reminded everyone he’s a terrific CF in chasing a ball down in the right center field gap. Overall, Lagares seemed to have an extra hop in his step tonight. It really showed in the field.
The eighth inning was not kind to Harvey. There was a phantom HBP call, which was upheld by replay. Two singles later, and the score was tied at one. A good defensive SS (which the Mets ha no interest in at the trade deadline) would’ve at least knocked it down.
Initially, Tyler Clippard came in and made Sandy Alderson look great by striking out Jayson Werth looking on a 3-2 count after a lengthy at bat (it wasn’t a strike). He then walked two batters in the ninth forcing Terry Collins to bring in Jeurys Familia, who got out of the inning.
After the Gomez drama, we finally had a Wilmer Flores sighting. With Collins’ platoon system, he started on 2B, made a nice defensive play, and knocked in the first run that looked like it was going to hold up. He had received three standing ovations from the fans. Sorry make that FOUR with his walk-off homerun in the twelfth. You have to love and respect this kid.
By the way, the platoon system was on acid today. With the lefty Gio Gonzalez starting, the Mets went with Wimer Flores at second, Juan Uribe at third, Juan Lagares in center, and Eric Campbell in left?!?!? Furthermore, Daniek Murphy was at first because, why not?
This was the biggest win of the year in the biggest series of the year. Because the Mets smartly set their rotation coming out of the All Star Break, they throw Jacob deGrom tomorrow and Noah Syndergaard on Sunday. Oh yeah, some guy named Yoenis Cespedes makes his debut for the Mets tomorrow. I heard he can hit the ball out in Citi Field.
Time to get excited Mets fans. We have meaningful games in August.
“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.
In late June, the Mets called up Steven Matz, in part, because the team felt they needed to switch to a six man rotation. The theory was that if the Mets didn’t do this, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard would hit their innings limits in September. The Mets were being proactive to avoid a repeat of the Stephen Strasberg incident.
After Matz was misdiagnosed by Dr. Warthen, he went in the DL with a torn lat. Matz had to completely shut down all baseball activity for three weeks. We do not yet know if: 1) he can come back this season; and 2) what his role would be.
With Matz down, the Mets now face a ticking clock on the innings limits of their three “stud muffins.” Due to Matz’s injury, the Mets have abandoned the six man rotation for the second time this year.
There are different theories to limiting innings from the Verducci Effect (20-30 innings more than year before) to Tampa Bay’s 20% philosophy (20% more innings than prior year). These limitations would apply to deGrom and Thor.
deGrom pitched 178.1 innings last year between AAA and the majors. Accordingly, his innings would be limited somewhere between 208.1 – 214.0 innings. Right now deGrom is at 127.1 innings (not including his one inning in the All Star Game), and he has averaged approximately 6.2 innings per start. deGrom has approximately 12 starts remaining. If he continues averaging 6.2 innings per start, he would pitch 80 more innings giving him a season total of 207.1, which is right at the lower end of the limitation spectrum. At best, he could have one postseason start for 6.2 innings to stay within his innings limits.
Last year, Thor pitched 133.0 innings. So far this year, he had pitched 108.1 innings between AAA and the majors. He has averaged 6.0 innings in his major league starts. Using the aforementioned parameters, Thor’s innings limit would be between 159.3 – 163.0 innings. Like deGrom, he has approximately 12 starts left if he pitched every fifth day. At six innings per start, he would finish the year with 180.1 innings. Therefore, Thor really has nine starts left to stay within his innings limitations. This leaves him unable to pitch in the postseason.
Harvey is a different case as he did not pitch last year due to Tommy John surgery. In 2012, the Nationals estimated that Strasburg should be limited between 160.0 – 180.0 innings. For their part, the Mets estimated they would hold Harvey to 190.0 innings. While I think Harvey is the ultimate competitor, he is represented by Scott Boras, who also represents Strasburg. Boras championed limiting Strasburg’s innings.
Right now, Harvey is at 125.1 innings, leaving him with only 64.2 innings left in the season. Assuming he has 12 starts remaining, he can only pitch approximately 5.1 innings per start. He’s currently averaging 6.2 innings per start. Like Thor, he would also be unavailable for the playoffs.
I can’t imagine the Mets intend to heavily rely on Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese in the postseason because of the aforementioned innings limits. If they get to October, they must ride their stud muffins. The Mets know this, and yet, they still made a win-now trade for Tyler Clippard. I believe this is a sign they are ready to disregard innings limits and make a real run for it.
That’s fine because recent studies have shown innings limits do not prevent pitcher injuries. This is something Seaver knew intuitively. I’m sure he will be happy when the Mets do away with the innings limits this year. Mets fans should as well because it means the Mets are not relying on unsupported science and are playing meaningful games in September.
I know where I was three years ago. I was sitting in front of the TV in my basement watching Matt Harvey make his major league debut against the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was important to watch that game because it was the first glimmer of hope Mets fans since the collapses closing out Shea.
It’s been a whirlwind since then. He started by striking out Gerardo Parra (yes, that Gerardo Parra) in a record setting 11 K, 5.1 inning shutout win. He would finish 3-5 with a 2.73 ERA in 10 starts. He showed us glimpses of his potential.
In 2013, he started out like gangbusters. From the outset, he was the NL Player of the Week and April’s Player of the Month. He was in ESPN’s “The Body” issue. He almost had a perfect game (my second SNY appearance):
Then things started to turn sour. The Mets let him pitch through forearm tightness (paging Dr. Warthen). After he was shut down, he fought seemingly everyone on getting the surgery (because the Mets should control anyone’s medical decisions). Now all of a sudden his Rangers fandom was a problem (because hanging around and learning from Lundqvist is a bad thing). He had the gaul to want to be around his teammates during his rehab. He had the audacity to seek to pitch one inning in 2014.
There were other missteps, some true and some overblown. Overblown: him paying respects to Derek Jeter. He wasn’t allowed to travel with the team. He goes and watches Derek Jeter’s home game (as inconspicuously as he could), and he gets blasted. By the way, we want our players to love and respect the game, and when Harvey does it, he’s vilified. The real ones were the social media gaffes.
Finally, 2015 mercifully arrived. He has been a very good starting pitcher, but not quite Matt Harvey yet. For his part, Harvey thinks he’s back. Let’s hope he is because I can’t stand the inane backlash from his travel arrangements to his being curteous after playing a round of golf. I can’t stand it.
You know what I see when I see Matt Harvey? I see a fierce competitor. I see a good teammate. I see someone who has handled fame and pressure well. He’s always at his locker answering questions, win or lose. I see a player whose nightlife activities include Ranger games. You don’t hear about all night drinking or drugs with him. After the 80’s, we should appreciate that.
On top of the lessons of the ’80’s Mets, we should remember the lessons of Generation K. The Mets were supposed to have three aces in Isringhausen, Pulsipher, and Wilson. That blew up rather quickly. We need to revere these pitchers while we have them (and while they are healthy).
For those of you who have read this blog before, my favorite player was Darryl Strawberry. My brother’s favorite player was Dwight Gooden. Trust me, that lead to some awkward conversations down the road with my Dad; conversations I frankly don’t want to ever have.
I hope my son grows to root for Harvey because: 1) he has so many positive traits to celebrate (competitiveness, accountability, he’s not a quitter); and 2) it means he will be effective with the Mets for a long time. I’m celebrating this day because it’s the anniversary of when the Mets started turning things around. I hope you are as well.
In his heart of hearts, Terry Collins is an old school manager. You reward players with playing time. If you don’t do your job, take a seat on the bench. This team, while imperfect, is perfect for Collins.
Now, players will have to earn playing time. Before, Collins was throwing just praying that whatever buttons he hit would produce a run. This is not to disparage Collins. While I sometimes question his in game moves (like using Familia in the ninth tonight instead of Logan Verrette or Alex Torres) nothing that has happened with the offense thus far is his fault.
However, the pressure is all on him now. This team has interchangeable parts with limitations. He really only has three good defensive players: Juan Lagares, Juan Uribe, and Lucas Duda. There are only four players with an OPS over .700: Duda, Granderson, Johnson, and Uribe (even if there are problems with OPS calculation). For most of the season, the problem was how to get blood from a stone. Now, it is don’t screw it up. Saturday night was a great start to say the least. The Mets only scored the most amount of runs they scored in Citi Field.
I’d argue the most important development was Duda’s two HR game. For most people, present company included, Duda’s problems were lack of lineup protection and the weight of carrying this team. If Saturday night is any measure, the pressure is off, and he’s back to being the middle of the order threat the Mets need.
A very close second was Comforto’s night. Remember the old adage: sometimes the best trades you make are the ones you don’t make? Well, if the Mets got Parra, Conforto is still in AA. Conforto looks ready this is confirmed by his 4-4 game with 4 runs scored and an RBI. On a night like tonight, I’ll give the Mets the benefit of the doubt that Conforto needed those minor league ABs.
The third important development was Kelly Johnson and Daniel Murphy getting the start and taking advantage of the opportunity. Both players homered and gave Collins no reason to take them out of the lineup. It was also a smart move for Collins to get Uribe in the game. It was also good to see Uribe get a hit.
The rest was gravy. Matt Harvey was Matt Harvey. Apparently now, he’s a real threat at the plate with three consecutive multiple RBI games. Nieuwenhuis seems to be hitting again. The Mets finally beat up on weak pitching. There seemed to be a different energy to this club and to the ballpark. There was a lot to like.
However, we need to reserve judgment until tomorrow when Zack Greinke takes the mound. If the Mets get some runs off of him tomorrow, they really do have something. The Mets have a chance tomorrow not only because they’re throwing deGrom, but also because they have eight legitimate bats (sorry nine tomorrow) in the lineup. Lets Go Mets!
The Mets offense has averaged 2.87 runs in the month of July. Murphy was horrid in the field. Lagares has either lost a step or is playing out of position. The Nationals came to play and the Mets didn’t. Doesn’t matter. If you’re Matt Harvey and you want to be the ace, games like Monday don’t happen.
I can point to all the things that went wrong leading to the 5 runs scored while he was pitching, but the fact his he set up two of the scoring rallies by allowing Espinosa to get on and walking Harper. Should Murphy had made the play or at least knocked it down? Probably. Should Mayberry have been charging the ball better than Cuddyer can right now? Definitely. Should Tejada have had a clue and thought about Harper at third? Yes. Does Lagares catch that Robinson double last year? I think so.
However, I also think it’s fair to say too much has been thrust on Harvey. Most pitchers falter the year coming back from Tommy John surgery only to round into form the next year. (for e.g. Adam Wainwright). Unfortunately, with the way this roster is constructed, Harvey cannot learn his way back. He has to be THE MATT HARVEY now.
I have faith he’ll dominate next week against the Nationals. My faith is based upon his will to compete and his ability. I only hope by then the Mets have something to play for, and the Mets are at least competent at the plate and in the field.
After watching the Mets-Cardinal series, it’s easy to be negative . . . I know I was. The Mets got blew a great Thor game, we saw the fork sticking out of Colon, and then watched them take 18 innings to score three runs. However, it’s the beginning of a new week, so let’s start that week off with some optimism.
Going into the All Star Break, the Mets were 2 games behind the Nationals (3 in the loss) with 12 games yet to play against them. After an awful weekend in St. Louis (and really is there any other kind there), the Mets are still in the same position. Now, the Mets come storming into Washington with Harvey, deGrom, and Thor. The Mets are ready to throw down (yes, the pun is intended).
This was Sandy’s rebuilding plan come to fruition. No matter how bad the offense is or how much it is struggling, good luck trying to score. Harvey has a 16 inning scoreless streak, deGrom has given up 12 runs in his past 10 starts (not including the All Star Game), and Thor’s last four starts have seen him allow 2 ER or less.
The Mets have been brutal on the road, but their three best pitchers are going out there. This is a pennant race. Through everything that has happened thus far this season, I’m still excited. Lets Go Mets!