MIke Piazza

Francisco Lindor Traditionally Slow Starter

The New York Mets are 11 games into the season, and they are not quite getting the offensive performances they expected from key players. One of those players is Francisco Lindor. So far this year, he is hitting just .189/.340/.216 (62 OPS+).

Now, when it comes to Lindor, he is a new face to the Mets. Since we have not been following his career, we do not know what a typically Lindor season is. Every player is different, and they typically thrive over different parts of the season.

When looking at Lindor’s career, he is more of a second half than a first half player. His batting average, OBP, and SLG are all better in the second half. In fact, he has a career 113 wRC+ in the first half as opposed to a 122 wRC+ in the second half.

Part of the reason for that is Lindor has typically struggled in the months of March/April and June. In March/April, he has a .792 OPS (108 wRC+), and in June, he has a .762 OPS (97 wRC+). In no other month of the season does Lindor have an OPS under .828 or a wRC+ below 113.

Looking deeper into Lindor’s career, his performance in April is really no indicator on how he will perform that season. For example, his best offensive season was 2018. In that season, Lindor had a .740 OPS and a 100 wRC+. Contrast that with the previous season, 2017, Lindor had a 1.018 OPS and 156 wRC+ at the plate in the first month of the season. Putting aside the COVID shortened 2020 season, that 2017 season was his second worst at the plate.

Now, if you are prone to panic, yes, Lindor’s start to the 2021 season has so far resembled his start to the 2020 season. So far this year, he has a .557 OPS and a 69 wRC+. That is actually a step back from his first month of the season last year (July) where he had a .690 OPS and 77 wRC+.

Of course, not every season is equal. Last year, Lindor and all of baseball had to deal with a shutdown and abbreviated Summer Camp. This year, Lindor seemed primed to have a great start of the season, and then the Mets didn’t play in over a week because the Washington Nationals were infected with COVID. After that, the Mets have had a series of rain and even snow postponed games. That makes it difficult for any player to get going.

There is also the fact Lindor is adapting to a new team and a new city. He’s no longer the big fish in a small pond. He’s now a shark in the ocean. Everyone has an eye on him and his every move. We’ve seen superstars like Mike Piazza and Carlos Beltran struggle with that in the past only to eventually take their game to an even higher level than it had ever been.

Right now, the next step for Lindor is to take a look at his May, and more importantly, his second half. Lindor usually thrives in May, but he also regresses in June. If he follows his typical career norms, we may see some “What is wrong with Lindor” analyses coming heading into the All-Star Break. There is bound to be some hand wringing that the trade and contract were a mistake.

When and if that comes, they should largely be ignored as panic. The true test for Lindor is going to be how he comes out of the All-Star Break. That is the point of the year where Lindor typically recharges and takes off. No matter what happens between now and then, we can expect Lindor to finish the season strong.

In that end, that is what we want. Let Lindor continue playing great defense and acclimate himself to New York. Sooner or later he is going to be completely comfortable, and he’s going to play a stretch of games which allow him to get in a rhythm. Before all is said and done, Lindor is going to be great, and hopefully, he is going to lead the Mets towards having a special season.

Jose Alvarado Needs To Be Suspended

In the first game of the doubleheader between the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies, Michael Conforto came to bat against Jose Alvarado with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. In that at-bat, Alvarado showed no intention of getting Conforto out.

The first pitch was at Conforto’s head. If Conforto does not get out of the way, there is another Mike Piazza/Roger Clemens situation. That said, pitches do get away from pitchers, even 100 MPH fastballs. However, the benefit of the doubt should have been gone when Alvarado threw the second pitch.

Alvarado’s second pitch was again a 100 MPH fastball up and in on Conforto. This time, Conforto was unable to get out of the way. He would be hit on the wrist. The end result was Conforto taking his base. He would get another at-bat in the game drawing a four pitch walk. However, Conforto would get an x-ray after the game and miss the second game of the doubleheader.

Make no mistake, going inside to a batter is acceptable. It is also entirely possible pitchers make a mistake and lose control. Not every pitch up and in is done with a purpose. Not every purpose pitch is meant to come up near a batters head. However, what Alvardo did was different.

No matter how much Alvarado seemed to dismiss it, he very clearly meant to hit Conforto with a 100 MPH fastball. You don’t go up and inside like that twice and not mean it.

For the sake of argument, let’s say Alvardo didn’t mean to do it. After all, J.T. Realmuto wasn’t set up for the inside fastball (which is not exactly definitive proof). Alvarado STILL thew near Conforto’s head with 100 MPH fastballs twice. That is not acceptable under any circumstances.

Whether or not there is intent is almost a red herring here. What we do know is Alvarado threw two 100 MPH fastballs near Conforto’s head. They were back-to-back pitches. Major League Baseball cannot accept that happening. The end result was Conforto getting hurt enough to miss a game. It could have been far, far worse.

In situations like this, it is incumbent on Major League Baseball to deliver a message. It needs to say multiple 100 MPH fastballs thrown up and in like that is unacceptable. If it was intended, or the pitcher simply can’t handle throwing those fastballs, he has no place on the mound in a Major League game.

In the end, that is why he needs to be suspended for his actions. Regardless of his intentions, what he did was dangerous. He can’t be allowed to do it again.

Francisco Lindor Era Finally Begins

If not for the Washington Nationals, we would have seen the start of the Francisco Lindor Era with the New York Mets. Instead, that era starts in Philadelphia nearly a half week into the season.

If Mets history is any gauge, the era will start off with a win as the Mets have won on Opening Day at a higher percentage than any team in Major League history. The chances of that increase exponentially with Jacob deGrom on the mound.

Of course, this isn’t really Opening Day, but that is also besides the point. The real point is Lindor is a Met now, and he will Be for the following decade.

In that decade, there is a clear path for Lindor to easily surpass Jose Reyes to become the best shortstop in Mets history. In fact, in what New York Yankees fans may consider sacrilege, he could go on and become the best shortstop in New York baseball history.

Anything is on the table with Lindor. Since his career began, he’s been the best shortstop in baseball, and really he’s been the third best player in the game. Looking at it that way, it certainly fits that Mike Trout and Mookie Betts are the only higher paid players.

Lindor is having a Hall of Fame career, and much like Mike Piazza and Gary Carter, he’s going to get the opportunity to cement that legacy in Flushing. If so, he will join Piazza and Tom Seaver as players who have entered the Hall of Fame as Mets and had their numbers retired by the team.

With Lindor and Steve Cohen’s willingness to invest not just in players, but also the front office and technology, this promises to be one of the greatest stretches in Mets history. In fact, it could surpass what we saw in the 1980s.

Whatever happens from here on out, it’s most likely going to be defined by Lindor. He’s a genuine superstar playing in the best city in the world. Chances are this is going to be a mixture of magic and amazin.

Steve Cohen Added Hall Of Famer Francisco Lindor To His Collection

One of the unspoken parts of the Francisco Lindor extension discussions was Steve Cohen and the New York Mets had the opportunity to add another Hall of Famer to the franchise. With the 10 year/$341 million contract, the Mets did just that.

This is what the Mets were able to do with Mike Piazza. Depending on how future votes go, the same can be said for Keith Hernandez and Carlos Beltran.

Point is, it doesn’t matter where your career began. What matters is where you spent the bulk of your career and had the greatest impact. With a 10 year deal, Lindor will be in line to wear a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.

Make no mistake, Lindor will be a Hall of Famer.

Consider for a moment, the average Hall of Fame shortstop has a 43.1 WAR7 and a 55.3 JAWS. So far, through five-and-a-half seasons, Lindor is at a 27.9. If he continues his 5.3 WAR/year production over his first five years, he’ll hit a 37.4.

That’s right behind the 43.1 mark. However, it should be noted Lindor is entering his prime. He’s entering his prime after already establishing himself as a 30 home run, 100 RBI shortstop.

That’s Alex Rodriguez and Cal Ripken Jr. territory. In fact, with each passing year, he continues to put himself on Ripken’s level.

Now, Lindor is with a New York franchise where his profile will be even higher. He’s also at a place more invested in analytics and getting the right data to players to help them perform at their peak. In some ways, Lindor finds himself in the position Gary Carter once did.

New York will be the place Lindor shows just how much of a leader he is. He’ll show his enthusiasm and love for the game on a bigger stage. God willing, this will be the place he leads the Mets to the World Series.

When all this happens, there will be no doubt Lindor should have his number retired, and he will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He will wear a Mets cap on his plaque.

All that will be made possible because Steve Cohen stepped up to give Lindor the extra million more than Fernando Tatis Jr. received. It was possible because Cohen understands value. It was made possible because Cohen purchased the Mets.

Opening Day starts a new era in Mets history. It’s no longer just the start of the Steve Cohen Era. It’s now the start of the Francisco Lindor Hall of Fame Era in Mets history.

Mets Black Jerseys Are Back

There has been a real push from players like Marcus Stroman and Pete Alonso for the New York Mets to bring back the black jerseys. For a limited time basis, it will happen in 2021.

This seems to be the right time to do this as the current Mets team does have strong 1999 vibes to it. After all, they did bring Mike Piazza back to the fold (at least in a more meaningful fashion), and they’re looking to take down the Atlanta Braves.

It’s also important to remember when Steve Cohen bought the franchise he said the Mets were going to honor the team’s history. That’s more than just Old Timer’s Day. It is also the black jerseys.

It’s the jersey the Mets wore for so many big moments in team history. Robin Ventura wore it when he hit the Grand Slam Single. Mike Hampton wore it when he pitched the Mets to their last pennant at Shea Stadium.

It was the jersey Piazza wore for most of his Mets highlights. That includes the homer against the Braves capping the improbable comeback and his passing Johnny Bench for most homers by a catcher.

It’s also the jersey the 2006 Mets wore when they clinched the NL East. David Wright would wear it again when he hit the first Mets homer at Citi Field.

There are a number of highlights and important moments with the Mets wearing those jerseys. In fact, the Mets wore them for the best stretches in team history after their last World Series.

The black jerseys always have a place in Mets history, and they should be around for a limited basis (as should the racing stripes). It’s a good thing they’re back, and we should be all eager to see the next great Mets moment that comes in these uniforms.

Brandon Nimmo Looks And Sounds Serious About Winning

When you think of Brandon Nimmo, you think of a player who is always smiling, hustling, and just seems to have an “aww shucks” mentality. That’s not to say he doesn’t come to beat you.

Nimmo is one of the toughest outs there is in the game, and he makes the pitcher work like few others. He’s also had a penchant for the big hit or key defensive play. That said, he just doesn’t have that “look” of a steely resolve of a player who just comes to beat you.

That was actually a hallmark of that 1999 Mets team. Whatever it is, we saw that with Edgardo Alfonzo, Rickey Henderson, Al Leiter, John Olerud, Mike Piazza, Rick Reed, Robin Ventura, and really, the entire team. It was just a mentality and attitude they had.

Looking at the current Mets team, Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, and Noah Syndergaard seems to be the only Mets players who truly have that mentality. Judging from his interview during Spring Training, Nimmo may be finding it as well.

This shows this Mets team knows it’s good. It’s really good. They know they have a target on their backs, and like that 1999 team, they’re coming after the Atlanta Braves and all of baseball.

Before a pitch is thrown, this Mets team is already developing a swagger and a quiet confidence. They’re coming prepared, and they’re not letting anyone get in their way.

Seeing Nimmo there is yet another reason to believe in this team. During the course of the season, we’ll find 162 more.

Mike Piazza Is Our Living Legend

While COVID protocols are supposed to put a stop to the ceremonial presentation of the lineup cards to the umpire, everyone seemed to make an exception for Mike Piazza. During Spring Training, he went out to home plate to deliver the lineup card while everyone else remained in the dugout and clubhouses.

While most former players stayed home, Piazza was at Spring Training. He was seen talking in the dugout. He spoke with the media about being a Mets great and about his being in the position Francisco Lindor now finds himself. With all of this, we see Piazza embracing his role as the Mets living legend, and in turn, the Mets franchise embracing him.

Truth is, this has been a process we have seen take place since 2015, perhaps sooner. It was Piazza who threw out the first pitch before Game 3 of the 2015 World Series. That was a spot which should have gone to Tom Seaver, but as we later learned, Seaver was not in good enough health to make that appearance. As such, it was Piazza who threw out that pitch.

If you think about it, the passing of that torch from Seaver to Piazza ceremoniously happened when Citi Field opened. As we know, the last pitch ever thrown at Shea Stadium was Seaver throwing a pitch to Piazza, and the two legends exited the stadium side-by-side. They would recreate the moment by entering Citi Field together with Seaver again throwing a pitch to Piazza.

In that moment, Piazza became the Mets living legend. That status was further crystalized with Piazza’s first pitch, Hall of Fame induction, and number retirement. We also saw the Mets rename the road by their Spring Training complex after Piazza much in the same way the Mets finally did for Seaver at Citi Field.

The good news with Piazza is the Mets have had an easier time embracing him than they did with Seaver. Of course, that refers to the organization led by the Wilpons and not the fans. There has been no apparent uneasiness between them, and we have seen Piazza as a regular face at the important Mets events. We will see that once again on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

All told, we are blessed Mike Piazza came to the Mets in that 1998 trade and that he signed that deal. That led him to a path towards not only further building his Hall of Fame resume, but it also led him to being the real face of the Mets franchise. He is the person who mentors the young players at Spring Training, helps the next generation of Mets superstars, and he is the man who throws out the first pitch before the first game of the World Series.

Put another way, Mike Piazza is the Mets living legend.

Keith Hernandez Hall of Fame Case

With Mike Piazza hinting more numbers are going to be retired, there were renewed calls for Keith Hernandez‘s 17 to be retired. Previously, the Mets had only retired the numbers of players who wore a Mets cap on their Hall of Fame plaque meaning the Mets first captain did not have his number retired.

One of the biggest issues with that is Hernandez should have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by now.

To put things in perspective, according to Baseball Reference, the average Hall of Fame first baseman has a 66.9 WAR, 42.7 WAR7, and a 54.8 JAWS. For his part, Hernandez is just a hair behind those marks with a 60.3/41.3/50.8. However, that is part of the story.

Currently, there are 24 first basemen in the Hall of Fame. Of those 24, only 10 of those players were above the 66.9 WAR mark. There were 11 above the WAR7 mark, and there were nine above the JAWS mark. The main reason for this is because Lou Gehrig, Cap Anson, and Jimmie Foxx skewed those numbers upwards. Notably, Gehrig’s and Anson’s careers were over before World War II, and Foxx has already played 16 years out of a 20 year career before the war began.

When you look at it, Hernandez has a higher WAR mark than eight of the first baseman inducted in the Hall of Fame, and he is 0.1 WAR behind Harmon Killebrew. Hernandez has a higher WAR7 mark than nine of the first baseman in the Hall of Fame including his being 1.2 ahead of Eddie Murray. His JAWS is better than 10 of the first baseman in the Hall of Fame including his being 0.4 behind Hank Greenberg.

When you look at the numbers of first baseman inducted into the Hall of Fame whose careers occurred post World War II and post Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, Hernandez is right in the mix of that group. In many ways, the two things that hurt Hernandez was he did it a different way than most of those first baseman.

Hernandez was not a slugger at the position in a traditional sense. Rather, he was more of a gap hitter who hit for average. Still, he was a good hitter with a 131 wRC+. That mark is good enough to tie him with Orlando Cepeda and put him ahead of Murray and Jim Bottomley.

Looking at traditional numbers, Hernandez had 426 doubles putting him ahead of players like George Sisler and Willie McCovey. His OBP is higher than Sisler and McCovey as well as Killebrew. The only ding against Hernandez is the power numbers you see with homers, RBI, and SLG where he would trail most Hall of Fame first baseman.

That said, all of those first baseman are a clear step behind Hernandez defensively. In fact, Hernandez was the best defensive first baseman to ever play the game.

This isn’t just the eye test, although when you look at plays like that, it helps. Hernandez is the all-time leader in Total Zone with a 121 mark. That puts him significantly ahead of Roger Connor, who has the second best mark at first base.

Keep in mind, when looking at defensive stats, Total Zone is the best one to look at when analyzing players across generations. On that note, here is the TZ leaders for each position across baseball history:

With the exception of Bonds, who is not in the Hall of Fame purely due to steroids, the best defensive player at each position is in the Hall of Fame. Well, that’s everyone except Hernandez.

It’s not just the stats. There is also Gold Gloves. Again, we see Hernandez and Bonds as the only players to have the most Gold Gloves at their position not be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame:

Really, when we look at baseball history, we have seen a number of players inducted into the Hall of Fame due to their ability to play defense at a virtuoso level. Smith is the classic example. It was the argument for inducting Bill Mazeroski. Yet, for some reason, that argument has not been advanced to push Keith Hernandez into the Hall of Fame.

Remember, Hernandez wasn’t just a glove at first base. As noted above, he contributed offensively. He won the 1979 batting title. He led the league in runs twice. In his career, he also led the league at one point in doubles, walks, intentional walks, and OBP. In his career, he won two Silver Sluggers. Hernandez was also an 11 time Gold Glover, five time All-Star, and the 1979 NL MVP. Hernandez also won two World Series titles in his career.

Another important point was Hernandez was seen as a leader in his playing days, and he was the first captain in Mets history. When you look at Hernandez, he had a Hall of Fame caliber career in every single sense of the word. As you see with his broadcasts on SNY, this was a player who loved baseball and understood it better than just about everyone.

All told, Hernandez is one of the best defensive players in baseball history, and he is one of the best first basemen to ever step foot on the field. He did it different than most others at this position, but all told, he did it better than almost everyone. Next time he is eligible for the Hall of Fame, he should be inducted.

 

Mets Shouldn’t Be Retiring Any More Player Numbers

Mike Piazza perhaps let the cat out of the bag when he intimated the New York Mets may start retiring more numbers. Of course, this shouldn’t come as a shock when the organization announced Jerry Koosman‘s 36 was going to be retired.

Looking at the Mets franchise history, this is quite the Steinbrenner type of move.

After the simply bizarre act of retiring Casey Stengel‘s number, the Mets put the highest of standards for retiring player numbers. In fact, prior to the Koosman announcement, it was an honor solely reserved for Hall of Famers.

It’s a standard which frankly makes sense. Number retirement should be an honor presented to the true legends of your franchise. By definition, that’s what the Hall of Famers are.

If we sort through team history, if not for a completely and arbitrary application of an theretofore unenforced rule Gary Carter would be in the Hall of Fame as a Met. That would’ve led to the retirement of his 8.

It’s also quite possible we may one day see Keith Hernandez and Carlos Beltran inducted. With that should come their numbers being retired. At least with respect to Hernandez, that would be an extremely popular decision.

Past that duo, the only player who you can conceive of hitting that level is Jacob deGrom. That’s something that needs consideration.

When a number is retired, the franchise is putting a player at the level of Tom Seaver, Piazza, and quite possibly deGrom. Looking at the team history, they don’t have players at that level. They really don’t.

That includes David Wright who is an extremely popular choice amongst the fans. If not for injuries, he very well might’ve. By the same token, if not for addiction, Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry not only would’ve been at that level, but quite possibly, would’ve been a step above Wright.

Fact is Wright is a Mets great, but he’s not a baseball great. Yes, he deserves honoring by the Mets, but a number retirement is just too high of an honor. That should be reserved for the true legends to wear a Mets uniform.

Keep in mind, as discussed on the Simply Amazin Podcast, much of the case for Wright can dwindle over time. For example, if Michael Conforto re-signs, he should take over a good chunk of Wright’s records.

After that, we could see someone else surpass both players. Part of the reason is the records on the books isn’t particularly impressive for a franchise. Keep in mind, that’s not saying Wright’s career numbers aren’t impressive. They are. However, as a franchise leader, it’s not.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. The issue just is where you start drawing lines.

For example, for all the push for Wright, John Franco remains the franchise all-time saves leader, has the most saves of any left-handed pitcher in MLB history, and he was a captain. Despite that, there seems little to no push to retire his number even with his being a Met longer just as long as Wright.

Really, when you look at both, yes, they should be honored, but in reality, it should be short of number retirement. In reality, that’s why there’s a Mets Hall of Fame.

The answer should be to make the Mets Hall of Fame into a destination at Citi Field. Really showcase the Mets greats honoring them the way they should be honored. That’s far more fitting than trying to elevate players like Wright to the levels of Seaver.

In the end, there’s nothing wrong with not having many numbers retired. In many ways, that makes that honor all the more meaningful. It’s better to keep it that way while also finding an appropriate way to honor the Mets greats who aren’t in the Hall of Fame.

Taijuan Walker Setting Stage To Be Mets Fan Favorite

New York Mets fans really love their players. That goes double for those players who implicitly get it on some level. Those players become fan favorites.

It’s not necessarily limited to the David Wrights and Mike Piazzas of the world. We’ve seen it with Wilmer Flores with his crying on the field and walk-off hits. Curtis Granderson was as good and decent a man who ever donned a Mets uniform.

The key with most of these fan favorites is they let the fans know they’re loved and appreciated. On some level, the player just gets in. With respect to that, we’re seeing some of that already with Taijuan Walker.

Already, we have seen Walker give a nod to the late, great Tom Seaver, a pitcher who will forever be in Mets fans hearts, by apparently celebrating his new contract with GTS wine:

Walker has also already engaged the fans. In his career, Walker has worn both 00 and 99. Apparently, he’s heavily considering both, and on that front, he’s invited Mets fans feedback:

What’s important is none of this appears phony. It’s does genuinely seem to be who he is. After all, he recently posted videos of him dunking and his attempting to dunk.

All told, Walker is already doing all the right things to show fans he gets it. He doesn’t just want to wear a Mets uniform. He wants to be a part of the fabric of the organization. Fans will notice and love him for it.

Don’t be surprised if Mets fans suddenly adore Walker. That will go double if he builds off a strong 2020 season to be a key cog in a rotation which carries the Mets to the World Series.