Mickey Callaway

20/20 Hindsight: First Place Mets Sweep Marlins

After the Mets swept the Marlins, they’re now 5-1 and in first place as they come home for their home opener. Here’s the 20/20 observations from the last series:

  1. When Pedro Martinez compared Jacob deGrom to himself, you got the perfect comparison to just how dominant deGrom is right now. Although we can be sure the Dodger loving Wilpons think Sandy Koufax (either way you take it).
  2. With deGrom pitching great with Wilson Ramos on Opening Day and Tomas Nido yesterday, we’re seeing giving any credit to Devin Mesoraco was nonsense. Moreover, we’re seeing how better catchers help produce better results.
  1. In addition to their producing well on the field so far, it’s great to see Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith cheering for one another. Since late last year, and perhaps before that, they were adversaries as far as the future of first base was concerned. They rose above it to show they’re better people than they are players.
  2. While we believe Juan Lagares‘ extension was a mistake, there’s no doubt he impacts the game when he’s on the field. In the series, we saw him hit a game tying homer, and with his hustle, he reached base even on outs. He’s already at a 1 DRS, and he’s flashing his arm again. He’s potentially a difference maker.
  3. When the Mets traded Ross Adolph, Scott Manea, and Luis Santana, they paid a hefty price for J.D. Davis. It’s becoming increasingly clear, he’s not going to hit well or play good defense. As a result, each game the Mets force him into the lineup only serves to make a bad situation worse.
  4. On Davis, do yourself a favor and don’t look at the Astros 1B/DH situation.
  5. While it was nice to see Luis Guillorme finally get into a game, he needs to see more action, especially with Davis playing his way to a demotion.
  6. It’s very cool to see Yoenis Cespedes‘ brother Yoelkis regarded as one of the top Cuban prospects available. Here’s hoping the Mets can find a way to add him to the organization.
  7. The schadenfreude seeing the Yankees follow a Mets-like offseason with a series of Metsian injuries (CC Sabathia, Luis Severino, Dellin Betances, Didi Gregorius, Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Andujar, Troy Tulowitzki, Jacoby Ellsbury) is off the charts.
  8. With respect to Brandon Nimmo, it was shocking to see him not get a day after getting hit on the hand. Even if he was alright, with him scuffling, it made sense to give him the extra day.
  9. Mickey Callaway‘s handling of the bullpen in the series was both bad and dangerous. He pushed a Luis Avilan, a LOOGY with a history of shoulder injuries, to try to pitch two innings. He also pushed Seth Lugo to try almost 40 pitches despite his being ill. That’s how you make two laughers nail biters.
  10. That said, Robert Gsellman needs to be better. It was his performance which led to Callaway needing to turn to Edwin Diaz for the save.
  11. Even with the struggles from the rest of the pen, the Mets are more than alright with Diaz, Jeurys Familia, and Justin Wilson ready to go 7-8-9 to close out a win.
  12. If the Mets can’t trust Jason Vargas to go more than five innings against the worst team in baseball when the bullpen is short, why is he in the rotation, especially when Dallas Keuchel is still a free agent.
  13. With the Mets not trusting Vargas, we need to keep a close eye on Anthony Kay who impressed in Spring Training and will be the Opening Day starter for Binghamton today.
  14. It was hard to tell on TV, but with a large contingent of Mets fans at Marlins Park, is booing Peter O’Brien still going to be a thing.
  15. Umpire Ron Kulpa’s behavior was unnecessarily confrontational and unbefitting to the impartiality and temperance we should expect from an umpire. A.J. Hinch was right to confront him, and now it’s time for MLB to confront and potentially begin to suspend umpires who behave this way.
  16. With respect to Ron Darling‘s book, former teammates Dwight Gooden, Kevin Mitchell, and Darryl Strawberry defending Lenny Dykstra doesn’t mean Darling is lying. There’s a lot of room between those players not hearing something and it actually happening even if Oil Can Boyd said he didn’t hear anything.
  17. More troubling than the Darling/Dykstra controversy is Darling saying Bob Murphy would pass out drunk in the clubhouse and saying Gary Carter tried to stuff the All-Star ballots. Dykstra is a man who is all too eager to defend himself. Dead men like Murphy and Carter can’t.
  18. It’s going to be sad to not hear David Wright‘s name announced with the team on Opening Day. It’s not too similar from 2006 when we didn’t hear Mike Piazza‘s name. Hopefully, this will be like 2006 in more ways than one.

Jacob deGrom As Masterful As Pedro

There are many ways to describe how great Jacob deGrom has been since the start of the 2018 season. There are not enough superlatives, and there is almost no such thing as hyperbole. And yet, we are all running out of ways to describe him.

With his slider ramping up to 95 MPH, he set a career high with 14 strikeouts. That made him the first Mets pitcher to start a season with back-to-back 10+ strikeout games.

With his 14 strikeout performance allowing no runs and just two hits, he became the fifth Mets pitcher to accomplish the feat. That list of pitchers includes Hall of Famers Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan.

With his home run off Marlins starter Trevor Richards, he’s knocked in more runs than he’s allowed all year.

His final line was 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, BB, 14 K. That’s his 31st consecutive start allowing three earned or fewer extending his own MLB record. With this quality start, he tied Bob Gibson‘s MLB record of 26 consecutive quality starts.

When you break it all down, it’s hard to quantify or explain just how great deGrom has been. Perhaps the best way to put it is what Pedro Martinez said tonight about deGrom, “He reminds me a lot of myself.”

Remember this is the same Pedro who had one of the greatest seasons and stretches in MLB history with his 1999 and 2000 seasons.

In many ways, this comparison could be the best way to describe just how great deGrom is right now. With Pedro being Pedro, he added deGrom is a taller and better looking version.

Look, we can discuss some other time about how Pete Alonso, Robinson Cano, Michael Conforto, Amed Rosario, and Dominic Smith helped contribute five of the six runs the Mets scored.

There will also be time to discuss how Mickey Callaway pushed Luis Avilan too far which helped put the eventual 6-4 win into jeopardy and require Edwin Diaz to come in and get the save.

That’s all for some other time. Tonight was about how great deGrom is.

Game Notes: deGrom joined a list which included Seaver, Gibson, Steve Carlton, and Madison Bumgarner of pitchers who have homered in a game where they struck out at least 14.

Gsellman Needs To Open Vargas Starts

After last night’s game, Mickey Callaway indicated the team was looking to get only five innings out of Jason Vargas. This was the plan even with Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia being unavailable and with Seth Lugo feeling sick. With the Marlins hitting rockets off Vargas, Callaway held hard and fast to the plan removing Vargas after just 74 pitches.

While the win was nice, Vargas’ performance and the plan for him is troubling. After all, if the Mets cannot trust Vargas to go more than five innings against the Marlins, what are they going to do when he faces the other teams in the division? Do the Mets see him even reaching the fifth against lineups featuring Ronald Acuna, Jr. and Freddie Freeman, Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins, or Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto?

The answer is probably no, and the question is how the Mets plan to adapt.

The obvious choice is to remove Vargas from the rotation. The issue there is their Triple-A starters did not fare well in the Majors last year. While you may believe in Corey Oswalt‘s increased Spring velocity or Chris Flexen‘s new physique, it would be wise to give them time in Syracuse first to see if their offseason progress translates to results.

Since dipping into Triple-A isn’t the answer yet, nor is rushing David Peterson or Anthony Kay, the Mets most likely and perhaps most successful option would be to utilize an opener.

Last year, the Rays were the first to utilize an opener. In tabbing Sergio Romo as his opener, Rays manager Kevin Cash said, “The way that their lineup stacks generally speaking is very heavy right-handed at the top It allows us in theory to let Sergio to come in there and play the matchup game in the first . . . .” (Marc Topkin, Tampa Bay Times).

In essence, the goal of the opener is to get a traditional reliever to start the game and face a platoon advantage in the first. After the reliever gets through the top of the order, the starter can come in and “start” his game against the bottom of the lineup thereby permitting him to not only get an easier start to the game, but arguably, to get deeper into the game.

In the case of Vargas, you saw the Marlins stack right-handed batters against him. After all, it makes sense with right-handed hitters hitting Vargas well. Since the beginning of the 2017 season, right-handed batters are hitting .262/.324/.464 off of him, which translates to a 4.74 FIP.

As a result, the Mets need an opener who can counteract a team loading up their right-handed batters against Vargas. Given his history as a starter, it would make sense for the Mets to make Robert Gsellman as the opener on the games Vargas starts.

From what we see so far this season, Gsellman is not part of the late inning mix. That is reserved for Diaz, Familia, Lugo, and Justin Wilson. Rather, Gsellman is going to be used like he has been so far in this series. When the starter goes five (or less), he is going to be the first guy out of the pen to eat some innings before handing it to the late inning relievers.

If the team is going to use Gsellman for an inning or two whenever Vargas starts, why not make it at the beginning of a game? Why not put pressure on the opposing manager to opt for either having right-handed batters face Gsellman so they’re in place to face Vargas later, or to start their left-handed batters and have a wave of substitutions to face Vargas?

The point is by starting the game with Gsellman, Callaway would be creating a situation that is beneficial for Vargas to enter the game. If you are only getting five innings from him, why not make it against a team’s worse hitters? Why not use Gsellman against a right-handed lineup without fear of seeing a pinch-hitter? If nothing else, it can’t hurt.

Mets Overcome Vargas, Callaway

With Jason Vargas getting the start for the Mets, the team needed to get some runs on the board. The Mets did just that with a big first against Jose Urena.

Brandon Nimmo got it started with a leadoff single, and he would end the inning with a groundout. It was exactly that type of start with the Mets scoring five runs in the first highlighted by RBI singles by Wilson Ramos and Dominic Smith and an RBI double by Amed Rosario.

In the first, Vargas would make that lead look tenuous. Starting with old friend Curtis Granderson‘s double, the Marlins were hitting the ball very hard off Vargas. Really, as Tim Ryder pointed out, the Marlins were hitting rockets off him.

It was a miracle Vargas only allowed two runs on eight hits through five innings.

The Mets would have spurts here and there, but it would not be until the seventh that the Mets scored another run, and it would cost them.

The Mets loaded the bases against Nationals reliever Wei-Yin Chen. One of those hits was an opposite field single. His two opposite field singles on the day were reminiscent of Tony Gwynn and the 5.5 hole.

Entering the game, Nimmo was struggling mightily going 1-for-13. Today, he looked much more like Nimmo going 1-for-3 with a run, walk, and HBP. The HBP forced home a run, and it would be costly as it forced him from the game. While preliminary x-rays were negative, the hand tends to be fickle.

As bad as that was, Seth Lugo struggled mightily again.

After two quick outs in the seventh, JT Riddle singled. Lugo then hit Jorge Alfaro before allowing RBI singles to Lewis Brinson and Peter O’Brien (who was apparently taking the night off from kicking puppies).

Now, Lugo had been double switched into the game with Jeff McNeil again being the player lifted from the game. This was an indication Mickey Callaway was looking for two innings from him. Still, seeing Lugo’s seventh, bringing him in would be completely tone deaf.

Apparently, Callaway is time deaf.

In the eighth, Lugo struggled again throwing 37 pitches to get just four outs. He loaded the bases with one out. Finally, Callaway woke up and brought in Justin Wilson.

Wilson came up huge getting Riddle to hit an RBI groundout before striking out Alfaro to escape the jam.

Then, for some reason, even though he’s not a real multi-inning reliever, Callaway kept Wilson in to get the save.

Now, Edwin Diaz had a long ninth and was probably unavailable. It seems odd Jeurys Familia didn’t even warm up even with Wilson getting hit hard.

Fortunately, two of those hard hit balls were liners right at Rosario. The latter of which Rosario turned into an inning ending double play after O’Brien fell trying to get back to second.

The Mets needed all the help and luck they could get, and they got it. As a result, they overcame poor starting pitching, a struggling Lugo, and an asleep at the wheel Callaway in the 6-5 win.

Game Notes: Smith got his first start and went 2-for-5 with a run and an RBI. Pete Alonso got the night off and struck out with the bases loaded in the seventh off Chen. Despite going 0-for-4, Juan Lagares was on base three times tonight (fielder’s choice, wild pitch on strikeout, walk).

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Take Opening Series

For this season, there is going to be a new feature after every series wraps up called “20/20 Hindsight.” Essentially, the concept is to look back at a series, and make 20 quick observations about the state of the Mets. This can include both things which directly affect the Mets and those which circumstantially affect the Mets. Without further ado, here is the initial 20/20:

  1. With Jacob deGrom opening the season with six shutout innings, he’s continued his streak of consecutive starts with three earned or fewer and is one off Bob Gibson‘s Major League record for consecutive quality starts. Sooner or later, the conversation with deGrom is going to focus on his being an all-time great pitcher.
  2. Seeing deGrom, Max Scherzer, and Aaron Nola pitch great on Opening Day, this is already shaping up to be a fun and exciting race for not just the National League East but also the National League Cy Young.
  3. Pete Alonso has so far been everything the Mets touted him to be. After going 0-for-3 against Scherzer, he was 6-for-9 with a run, two walks, three doubles, and three RBI.
  4. Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler do not pitch well at Nationals Park. Syndergaard is still winless there, and Wheeler has a 4.24 ERA and a 1.441 WHIP at the park.
  5. The Nationals bullpen is once again terrible highlighted by Trevor Rosenthal and his INF ERA after failing to get an out in two appearances.
  6. While we focus on the NL East aces, we already see the division being loaded with MVP candidates including Robinson Cano, Michael Conforto, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, and Trea Turner. With respect to Turner, he single-handedly beat the Mets on Sunday.
  7. It wasn’t a popular decision, but Mickey Callaway made the right decision sitting Jeff McNeil on Sunday. In addition to McNeil having durability issues in his professional career, he only hit .255/.331/.390 off left-handed pitchers in the minors last year. Don’t let Patrick Corbin foul him up when he is going good.
  8. McNeil has been off to a hot start picking up where he left off in 2018. If he keeps this up, he’s going to cost at least one of Todd Frazier or Jed Lowrie a job (whenever they can return to the lineup).
  9. The Mets quickly showed they are not going to be neutralized by left-handed pitching whether that is in the form of a Corbin or a LOOGY like Tony Sipp. So far, Cano and Conforto have combined to hit 6-f0r-16 against left-handed pitching.
  10. It was shocking to see Stephen Strasburg look like a shell of his former self. A guy who lived at 98+ MPH is now in the 93 MPH range. That follows a trend of diminished velocity from him last season. Nationals need him to be great to win, and he didn’t look like he’s up to the task.
  11. J.D. Davis made some flashy plays at third which overshadowed his lack or range at the position, and his error on a routine play on Saturday, set-up the bullpen machinations which partially attributed to Sunday’s loss.
  12. Callaway had some bad luck on the reliever front. He got trapped looking to ride Seth Lugo to easily close out a seven run lead in the ninth, and he looked bad not having someone ready in time. On Sunday, he tried to do the right thing by double switching Tim Peterson into the game, but the rally took him out and left Callaway looking to get two innings out of Justin Wilson.
  13. While he was trapped in those two games, Callaway’s use of his bullpen remains to be an issue dating back to last season. Given his experience as a pitching coach, his troubles handling a bullpen is particularly odd.
  14. Callaway also has to let go of the manager fear of not removing a starting catcher from the game. On Saturday, Wilson Ramos was on third in a tie game in the eighth inning. With speedy runners on the bench, he should have been substituted out of the game for a runner.
  15. It’s odd Luis Guillorme has not seen any game action yet, especially when the Mets have opted for late inning defense in their games.
  16. It’s still very early for Brandon Nimmo, but his striking out in half of his plate attempts is problematic. On the bright side, he got off the snide with a single against the left-handed Corbin.
  17. Keon Broxton showed he has to play against left-handed pitching. In his lone start, he was 2-2 with a walk off Corbin with a stolen base. For his career, he hits .242/.357/.445 off lefties.
  18. Phillies sweeping the Braves was certainly eye opening, but we should take into account Jake Arrieta walked six against a fairly aggressive Braves lineup, and Nick Pivetta couldn’t even get out of the fifth.
  19. Dominic Smith has gotten off to a good start in his own right going 1-for-3 with a run, walk, and two RBI on top of being a defensive substitution. His start makes you wonder if he should start seeing some outfield time to occasionally fit him into the lineup.
  20. The Mets being the best Opening Day team in Major League history is perfect for a team who continuously builds up Mets fans hope only to quickly dash them. Hopefully, this is more like 2006 than it is just about every other year in Mets history.

Trea Turner Almost Single-Handedly Beat The Mets

Hearkening back to the maddening pitcher Zack Wheeler was before his breakout, he needed 95 pitches to get through five innings. In those five innings, he allowed four earned on six hits. On the surface, this was reason to get concerned not just about Wheeler, but his and the Mets prospects for the 2019 season.

However, when you go deeper than the surface, there wasn’t much of a reason to overthink things. For starters, Wheeler’s stuff looked as good as it ever has. Also, for a pitcher who has long had control issues at at times has had difficulty putting batters away, he walked just one and struck out seven. When you break it down, this was just one of those starts pitchers have from time to time.

One of the issues was Trea Turner hits Wheeler well. Turner has hit .375/.444/.625 off of Wheeler including yesterday’s three run homer. Really, when you go up-and-down that Nationals lineup, they have all faired well against Wheeler:

Combine that with Wheeler pitching to a 4.24 ERA and 1.441 WHIP at Nationals Park, and you realize this was more of a bad matchup for Wheeler than anything else. Still, despite the tough matchup, Wheeler was largely effective against anyone not named Trea Turner.

In addition to Turner’s three run homer, he would steal a base in the fifth, and he would score on a Rendon two out RBI single. Turner was a one man wrecking crew in this game, and he would beat not just Wheeler, but the entire Mets team.

What was interesting about the Mets was how they got back into this game.

Through five innings, the Mets only plated one run off of Patrick Corbin due to a Pete Alonso double in the third. In the top of the sixth, the Mets would get a rally started with runners at the corners and no outs after a J.D. Davis double and a Michael Conforto single. The promising rally ended there when Davis scored on an Amed Rosario double play.

The Mets seemed like they were going to be getting back into this game, especially with how poor the Nationals bullpen already looks. However, Robert Gsellman was not good himself giving the one run the Mets got right back with him allowing a pair of doubles to Yan Gomes and Victor Robles in the bottom of the sixth.

This is where things got a bit dicey for Mickey Callaway.

In Saturday’s game, Davis misplaced a routine grounder, and the end result was instead of the Mets getting out of the inning, Callaway had to bring in Seth Lugo to bail Jeurys Familia out of a jam. Lugo would then have to get bailed out himself. The end result of this was Lugo and Familia basically being unavailable yesterday.

With yesterday’s game close, Callaway opted to chase the game. This meant utilizing Luis Avilian to get Juan Soto instead of allowing Gsellman to pitch an entire second inning. In Callaway’s defense, Gsellman created that situation too by allowing a hit to Rendon.

In that seventh inning, Callaway used Gsellman, Avilan, and Tim Peterson. It became an issue because the Mets went to work against the Nationals bullpen in the eighth.

With the heart of the lineup up, Dave Martinez went to Tony Sipp. Sipp bracketed retiring the right-handed hitting Davis by allowing singles to the left-handed hitting Robinson Cano and Conforto. Martinez brought in Trevor Rosenthal to pitch to Rosario, who, this time, delivered an RBI single.

With the Mets now down by just two, the Nationals went to Sean Doolittle, and Callaway emptied his bench. With the combination of durability history, the left-handed starter, and just trying to get guys into a game to start the year, Jeff McNeil and Wilson Ramos did not get the start. They would be two in a wave of four consecutive players who started the game on the bench getting key at-bats in the inning.

While McNeil struck out, Ramos and Juan Lagares would deliver RBI singles to tie the game at 5-5. Unfortunately, Dominic Smith could not get that big hit the Mets needed to take the lead.

With Callaway having to pinch hit for Peterson to try to take the lead, he would have to go to Justin Wilson for more than an inning. Wilson would mow down the first four Nationals he would face before Turner hit the walk-off home run.

By no means was this a perfect game for the Mets. The Nationals continued to run on them with five stolen bases in the series. Wheeler didn’t look like the ace he was in the second half. Corbin looked like last year was no fluke, and the Mets bullpen was as creeky as the Nationals bullpen looked in the series. Moreover, Callaway did not look like a manager who was taking a step forward this year.

Despite the issues you may want to glean from the loss, the fact of the matter is the Mets fought to get back into this game. It was a tough loss, but it was one where the Mets showed character. It’s one where the team showed they have fight in them, and they are ready to take it to the Nationals and the rest of the National League East. While you hate a loss like this, you should really like how this team handled the situation.

Game Notes: With Avilan and Peterson pitching in the game and Tomas Nido starting at catcher, Luis Guillorme is now the only Mets player on the Opening Day roster who has yet to play in a game. Brandon Nimmo broke his hitless streak to begin the season with a hit off Corbin.

Opening Day Just Like Van Wagenen Drew It Up

Four years ago, the Nationals and Mets kicked off the 2015 season with two former Cy Young Award winners. Like today, it was Max Scherzer for the Nationals. For the Mets, it was Jacob deGrom in place of Bartolo Colon. While that 2015 opener was a low scoring game, today was a true pitcher’s battle.

Over 7.2 innings, Scherzer looked like the pitcher who has dominated the National League over the past three years. In each of those seasons, Scherzer led the league in the strikeouts including striking out 300 batters last year. Against, the Mets he would strike out 11 batters. Looking at him pitch, his stuff was completely unfair:

He was all the more dangerous with him getting some really favorable calls, two of which came against Michael Conforto. With him allowing just two hits and three walks, it was clear he did not make many mistakes. But on the one he did make, Robinson Cano would send it opposite field for a homer in his first at-bat as a Met:

That would not be the only impact Cano would have on this game. In addition to the home run, Cano would make a heads up and savvy veteran play in the field in the third when the Mets 1-0 lead was teetering:

With the ball not being hit quite hard enough and with Jeff McNeil having to hesitate a slight second to keep the runner from breaking right away, Cano was smart in catching Victor Robles making a rookie mistake breaking to home on the play. Robles’ mistake took the 1st and 3rd one out situation and turned it into an inning ending double play.

Basically, deGrom took it from there. If there was any question deGrom was going to repeat his 2018 Cy Young season or if the extension drama affected his preparation for the season, they were quickly dispensed. In six shutout innings, deGrom just walked one and would strike out 10 batters. He ramped up his game when he needed.

For example, in the sixth, Trea Turner led off the inning with a single, and he would quickly steal second (his second steal of the game). With Turner’s speed, Wilson Ramos never really had a chance against him. That was evident when Turner stole third after an Anthony Rendon ground out. With a runner on third and one out, deGrom would just embarrass Juan Soto:

After a Ryan Zimmerman fly out, the threat was over, and Mickey Callaway would tab Seth Lugo for the seventh. Like deGrom, he picked up where he left off in 2018 by striking out the side.

What was curious about that top of the seventh was Nationals Manager Dave Martinez would leave in Scherzer to strike out to end the inning. This meant Scherzer would go one inning too far.

Dominic Smith would get the rally started with a one out walk against Scherzer. Scherzer was lifted after striking out Brandon Nimmo for the third time, and Pete Alonso would get his first career hit with a single off Nationals reliever Justin Miller.

Martinez would go to they lefty Matt Grace to face Cano. Cano proved he still is a platoon neutral bat sending an RBI single to left scoring Smith to give the Mets a 2-0 lead.

Callaway would then go through some mechanations to set up the final two innings.

After his first career hit, Alonso was lifted for Keon Broxton. Broxton then stayed in the game for defense replacing Conforto in right. With Alonso out of the game, Smith would stay in the game at first for defense. After that, it was Jeurys Familia getting through a scoreless eighth in his new role as Mets set-up man.

Edwin Diaz would make his Mets debut in the ninth with a two run lead to protect. He’d get the Nationals in order to preserve the 2-0 lead and register his first save as a Met. Interestingly, the first two outs were fly balls to right with Broxton fighting through the tough sun to record the out.

All in all, the Mets have once again won on Opening Day continuing their MLB best winning percentage on Opening Day. They’re now 38-20 (.655) on Opening Day. That’s not the only impressive record from today.

With his performance today, deGrom had his 25th straight quality start putting him one behind Bob Gibson for the all-time record. At the same time, deGrom extended his own MLB record with his 30th straight start allowing three earned or fewer.

Today, Brodie Van Wagenen looked like a genius. Cano delivered the only two RBI in the game. Alonso delivered a hit in a rally giving the Mets an insurance run. Diaz had the save. And of course, the pitcher he long advocated to extend pitched like an ace. Really, this is as good a start to the Van Wagenen Era as he could have hoped.

Game Notes: For the first time in Mets history six players were taking part in their first ever Opening Day (Alonso, Smith, McNeil, Luis Guillorme, Tomas Nido, Tim Peterson). Conforto and Lagares were the only two Mets not to reach base safely at least once in the game.

2019 Mets Postseason Doppelgangers

There have been a few times in the Mets history where they have surprised or even shocked the World in making their run to the postseason. The biggest example is 1969, which occurred 50 years ago. The Mets would make their Miracle run in 1973, and they would emerge in 1999, 2006, and 2015.

When you look at those rosters, there are players who are comparable to the players on this year’s Mets roster. Here’s a look at how it breaks down:

Catcher

Travis d’Arnaud (Todd Pratt) – d’Arnaud may very well be pressed into action more than anticipated, and as we saw in the 2015 postseason, he can deliver some big hits when needed.

Tomas Nido (Jerry Grote) – A defensive oriented catcher who helps takes his pitchers over the top and more than makes up for whatever offensive issues he may have.

Wilson Ramos (Paul Lo Duca) – Ramos may not have been the catcher the Mets may have originally expected to bring in during the offseason, but like Lo Duca, he could be the perfect fit for this team and surprisingly be a very important piece to this club.

Infield

Pete Alonso (Michael Conforto) – Alonso is the young prospect who is getting thrown into the fire and expected to be a key bat in a lineup who are trying to overcome the Nationals.

Robinson Cano (Rickey Henderson) – Cano was brought in to be the Hall of Fame caliber player who could take this team over the top.

J.D. Davis (Matt Franco) – Players who will predominantly be pinch hitters who are going to be counted upon to provide those key unexpected game winning hits.

Todd Frazier (Ed Charles) – Both were better before joining the Mets, but they proved to be glue guys in the clubhouse making the team better for their presence alone.

Luis Guillorme (Anderson Hernandez) – Tremendously gifted middle infielders whose gloves helped earn them a spot on the Opening Day roster.

Jed Lowrie (Jose Valentin) – Switch hitters who were brought to serve as a bench piece for the Mets who could be pressed into duty more than anticipated, which could be of great value to the team.

Jeff McNeil (Cleon Jones) – Homegrown Mets ready who show their previous year breakouts were not flukes, but rather an indication they are key members of a winning team.

Amed Rosario (Jose Reyes) – Reyes figured it out in 2006, and he became a dynamic and exciting player. This can be that year for Rosario.

Dominic Smith (Ed Kranepool) – Both probably rushed and mishandled as prospects, but they both still had a lot of hits in their bats making them valuable pieces for their club.

Outfield

Keon Broxton (Xavier Nady) – The imported outfielder who has not yet lived up to expectations has an opportunity to prove himself on a talented roster.

Yoenis Cespedes (Donn Clendenon) – The Mets are relying on a big bat to come after the All-Star Break and get this team a World Series, who better than the guy who delivered that in 1969?

Michael Conforto (David Wright) – The time is now for the homegrown player to put it all together and have an MVP caliber season to put this team over the top.

Juan Lagares (Endy Chavez) – Chavez was the defensive oriented player who was pressed into more action than anticipated, and his play on the field was a big reason the 2006 Mets came withing a game of the World Series.

Brandon Nimmo (Edgardo Alfonzo) – Homegrown Met oft overlooked who may actually prove to put up the best season of all the players on the roster.

Starters

Jacob deGrom (Tom Seaver) – deGrom is the staff ace coming off a historically great season, who needs to stay at a high level for the team to make the postseason.

Noah Syndergaard (Noah Syndergaard) – The Mets need Thor to be Thor.

Zack Wheeler (Jacob deGrom) – It was deGrom’s building off of a surprising 2014 season which helped take the Mets over the top in 2015. It’s exactly what everyone is expecting from Wheeler in 2019.

Steven Matz (Al Leiter) – Hometown left-handed pitchers who have a chance to help be a big part of the reason why the Mets make a run to the postseason.

Jason Vargas (Bartolo Colon) – Vargas is the veteran below-league average starter who needs to stick in the rotation while just eating up innings.

Corey Oswalt (Logan Verrett) – The Mets need a low round drafted prospect to put together a string of great starts to help put this team over the top. With his increased velocity, this could be Oswalt.

Chris Flexen (Octavio Dotel) – Spot starters who have the repertoire to potentially do much more damage in the bullpen.

Hector Santiago (Darren Oliver) – Pitchers who once had success starting who could be valuable long men in the bullpen.

Bullpen

Edwin Diaz (Billy Wagner) – Wagner was the sure-fire reliever at the end of the bullpen who helped make games an eight inning affair.

Jeurys Familia (John Franco) – One time great Mets closer is now serving as the set-up man for a young brash fireballer brought in during the offseason.

Seth Lugo (Nolan Ryan) – Just pure dominating stuff out of the bullpen from a guy who would probably be a starting pitcher for any other Major League team.

Robert Gsellman (Pat Mahomes) – The key piece of the 1999 bullpen who permitted the Mets bullpen to be as great as it could possibly be.

Justin Wilson (Dennis Cook) – Pitchers who are more than LOOGYs who raise their game in the biggest stages.

Luis Avilan (Pedro Feliciano) – Feliciano was the LOOGY out of the bullpen who was a weapon the Mets could utilize to neutralize the opponent’s top left-handed batters.

Tim Peterson (Greg McMichael) – Strike throwers who don’t have dominating stuff.

Jacob Rhame (Heath Bell) – The guys whose stuff have not quite yet translated to performance leading them to bounce between Triple-A and the Majors.

Paul Sewald (Carlos Torres) – Jack of all trades reliever who does yeoman’s work eating up innings.

Daniel Zamora (Royce Ring) – Promising young LOOGYS who should dominate in their limited opportunities.

And finally, there is Mickey Callaway, who we are hoping will be able to accomplish what Willie Randolph accomplished by proving himself a good manager in his second year and by leading the Mets to being the best team in the National League.

 

Brodie Van Wagenen’s Bad Saturday

Yesterday was a very good day for Luis Guillorme. After an offseason where he put in a lot of work, he had a very good Spring Training. If yesterday is any indication, he’s overcome long odds and took advantage of Jed Lowrie‘s and Todd Frazier‘s injuries to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster.

It was a very good day for him indeed. By the same token, it was not a good day for Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen.

First and foremost, the Mets assigned Devin Mesoraco to minor league camp. In response, he told the Mets if he was not released he was going to retire. He also said he expected to make the Opening Day roster.

Expectation is a funny word. It could be Mesoraco thought he was better than Travis d’Arnaud and Tomas Nido, and as such, he expected to make the team. It could also be his expectations were if d’Arnaud were to start the year on the IL, he would make the team. Neither are the case here.

It’s also possible overtures were made by Van Wagenen that Mesoraco was going to make the team, and those overtures might have induced Mesoraco to sign with the Mets over seeking another opportunity or waiting it out a little longer to see if a catcher (like Salvador Perez) suffered an injury.

You do wonder if it was the latter as Adeiny Hechavarria did not make the roster. With respect to Hechavarria, he was taken to dinner by Van Wagenen and Mickey Callaway, who sold him on their vision for him with this club. Aside from the fact it’s odd to wine-and-dine a 29 year old replacement level player, it would seem strange Hechavarria was enticed to sign with the Mets over another team because he thinks Syracuse is a great city.

Between the Mesoraco and Hechavarria situations, the more likely scenario is they were asked to sign minor league deals with the expectation the Mets would make a 40 man move at the end of Spring Training to add them to the Opening Day roster.

It’s the most likely but not the only possible explanation. However, the problem with the others is it would require a more plausible explanation why Mesoraco seems so upset and why Hechavarria would want to play in Syracuse.

And no, we should not cite Spring Training stats. They’re meaningless, especially for veteran players. The Mets know the level of production these players would provide over the course of a 162 game season. A poor Spring doesn’t change that.

As bad as that is the Mets brought back a lot of old friends from years past. The team signed Ruben Tejada and Travis Taijeron, each of whom was a dubious signing. Really, neither serve as MLB depth, and in reality, their presence only serves to take at-bats away from younger players like Gavin Cecchini, i.e. players who could still have a chance to improve and make an impact on the Major League level.

As bad (or even overblown) as all this is, there’s Jacob deGrom.

Like all of us, he sees the extensions the other players are getting, specifically Chris Sale and Justin Verlander. Now, deGrom isn’t as optimistic his former agent can get him the deal he told him he was worth.

This could mean at a time when all of baseball is pushing to extend their stars, the Mets are shut out, or in the best case scenario, only lock up deGrom.

This means time was wasted which could have been allocated towards extending Michael Conforto, Seth Lugo, Brandon Nimmo, and/or Noah Syndergaard.

All told, what was a great day for Guillorme was a very bad day for Van Wagenen and the Mets.

Mets Path To Winning The National League East

During Spring Training and especially, over the past week, there have been pieces posted on this site detailing exactly how the Mets could beat the odds and actually go out and win the division. While Brodie Van Wagenen has preached on eliminating ifs, the fact of the matter is they exist, and the Mets are going to have to hope it all goes their way.

With respect to the division favorite Washington Nationals, the hope is they are no different than the team Dave Martinez led last year. This means Max Scherzer can be dominant while Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner perform like MVP candidates. However, if Patrick Corbin reverts, Stephen Strasburg is hurt again, and the veterans which they are relying upon (Brian Dozier, Yan Gomes, Ryan Zimmerman) don’t turn back the clock, a terrific year from Victor Robles may not be enough for them.

The Philadelphia Phillies arguably improved their team the most with the additions of Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen, J.T. Realmuto, David Robertson, and Jean Segura. That’s all well and good, but this is a dangerous mix for a team which fell apart partially due to their Fortnight obsession and the face Gabe Kapler has shown himself to be a poor leader. Absent Aaron Nola repeating last year and Jake Arrieta going back to his 2015 form, it’s possible this team could fall apart.

While the Nationals and Phillies are widely regarded as the best teams in the division, it was the Atlanta Braves who actually won the division last year. What is remarkable about the Braves was despite the team having as much money coming off the books as they did, their only real upgrade was signing Josh Donaldson. However, when you consider Johan Camargo was actually better than him last year, it was likely a downgrade. Beyond Donaldson, the team is essentially all glove up the middle (Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte) with an incredibly average pitching staff. If the middle of their team doesn’t figure it out offensively, they’re going to need Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna to be even better in 2019 in order to carry the team forward.

As for the New York Mets, the key seems to be their bullpen. In recent years, there has been a correlation between strong bullpens and records. With the Mets having Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson, and Seth Lugo, they have the makings of what could be the best bullpen in baseball. When you add Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Zack Wheeler, this may be the best pitching staff in all of baseball.

This means the Mets will need Michael Conforto, Robinson Cano, and possibly Brandon Nimmo be the MVP candidates they can be while Amed Rosario figures it out. Beyond that, the Mets have what it takes. It is just up to Mickey Callaway to get the most he can from the team while Brodie Van Wagenen makes the key trade when needed.

If all that happens, and it very well could, the Mets win the division and go on to win the World Series. If not, the Mets may find themselves fighting for the second Wild Card. It should be fun to see what happens.