Neil Walker. Alejandro De Aza

Highlighting Terry Collins’ Poor First Half

With homefield advantage on the line and the Mets in playoff position, Terry Collins managed the All Star Game like seemingly every other manager has previously managed the All Star Game.  He put more of a premium on getting all the players in the game than winning the game.  Well, everyone except his own players Jeurys Familia and Bartolo Colon.  Other than the Mets players apparently being upset at this, it is hard to criticize Collins for how he managed the All Star Game.  Still, there are many managerial decisions Collins has made in the first half of the season that invite scrutiny.

First and foremost, there is the way he handled Michael Conforto.  First, he didn’t let him get any time playing right field in Spring Training.  The end result of that was Collins putting Juan Lagares in right and Yoenis Cespedes in center on days that Curtis Granderson was given the day off.  There really is no excuse for putting Lagares, possibly the defensive center fielder in the game, anywhere but center.

The other mistake is not letting Conforto hit against lefties until Madison Bumgarner took the mound.  Collins was hampering his development by doing that.  At the end of the day, this is the Mets best position player prospect, and in many ways, he was the second best hitter on the team.  Collins was willing to sacrifice all that to get Lagares’ bat in the lineup instead of sitting an older Granderson who had the very platoon splits that worried Collins.  By the way, Granderson is also 35 years old and could use the occasional day or two off.  Conforto’s season began to fall apart, and he needed to be sent down to AAA.  By the way, Collins is making the same mistake with Brandon Nimmo.  However, it’s even worse with Nimmo as he’s doing it to get Alejandro De Aza‘s bat in the lineup.

While on the topic of developing players, Kevin Plawecki has faltered for yet another season under Collins’ tutelage.  Last year, there were a number of excuses why Plawecki didn’t succeed from his being rushed to the majors to his sinus issues.  This year, he had no such excuses, and he still didn’t produce.  While Plawecki deserves a large amount of the blame, Collins certainly deserves some of it, especially when his position with Conforto is that he is not here to help players develop as major leaguers when the Mets have a win-now team.

Another major issue this year was Collins’ handing of Jim Henderson.  Henderson was a feel good story that turned into a potential nightmare.  The day after Henderson threw a career high 34 pitches, which is puzzling in its own right, Collins used Henderson to pitch in the very next game.  He did it despite knowing that Henderson needed to be handled lightly due to his having two shoulder surgeries.  He did it even after watching what happened with Johan Santana.  Collins knew all of this, and yet he used Henderson in that spot as he said an April 13th game, the eighth game of the season, was deemed to be a must win game.  Henderson’s production fell off after that, and now he is on the disabled list.

There was also his handling of Noah Syndergaard.  Last year, the Mets wanted to initiate a six man rotation to alleviate some of the early innings Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom pitched early in the season.  The idea was to both keep them healthy and keep them fresh for the length of the season.  To be fair, Collins use of Syndergaard in any one particular start has not been egregious.  However, it was curious how he shoehorned Syndergaard into a relief appearance after Syndergaard was ejected throwing at Chase Utley.  The Mets had an opportunity to rest their ace until his next start.  Instead, Syndergaard got the adrenaline going and was ramped up in a relief appearance on his throw day.  By the way, in Syndergaard’s last start his fastball velocity dropped to 91 MPH, and he left the game with a dead arm.

Speaking of how he is handling pitching, it is amazing that Collins took part in talking Steven Matz out of opting for season ending surgery to address the bone spurs in his elbow that has clearly hampered his pitching.  Not only was Collins willing to risk Matz suffering a more severe injury, he’s also willing to put a limited pitcher on the mound every fifth day.  Keep in mind that since the bone spurs became an issue, Matz has been 0-3 with a 5.05 ERA and a 1.430 WHIP.  His slider usage has dropped from 13% to 3% of the time.  It’s always troubling when a manager doesn’t protect his players.  It’s even worse when he doesn’t protect the young injured ones.

There is also the curious drop in production this team has had since May 1st.  Here’s how some of the Mets best hitters have fared since that point:

April Since
Curtis Granderson .241/.347/.471 .238/.335/.453
Neil Walker .307/.337/.625 .232/.318/.345
Asdrubal Cabrera .300/.364/.400 .249/.305/.435
Michael Conforto .365/.442/.676 .148/.217/.303

Now, there are many factors to this including some of these players getting nicked up a bit.  There’s something to be sad for the natural ebbs and flows of a season as well.  There should be some note about the injuries to the players surrounding them.  However, with all that said, these players have had a significant drop off in production under Collins’ watch.  Whether it was helping them make adjustments and finding days for them to get the rest they needed, Collins didn’t do that as their manager.

There have been other issues dealing with Collins in-game management that could be highlighted as well.  To be fair and balanced, it should be pointed out that Eric Campbell, Ty Kelly, Matt Reynolds, and Rene Rivera have played far more games than the Mets ever wanted or expected them to play.  It’s hard to expect a manager to win under those circumstances.  It should also be noted that there were significant injuries to David Wright, Lucas Duda, and Matt Harvey which have further weakened the Mets.

Through all of that, Collins still has the Mets in a position to make the postseason.  If he makes better decisions, and the Mets begin playing better, they should be in the postseason, and with that pitching staff, they still have a legitimate chance to return to the World Series.

Murphy & Nieuwenhuis 

In the offseason, the Mets unceremoniously let two left-handed batters walk out the door: Daniel Murphy and Kirk Nieuwenhuis

The Mets just got their first taste of Murphy as an opponent, and it was a bitter. In the three game series, Murphy went 4-11 with an intentional walk, two runs, four RBI, and a homerun.  His replacement, Neil Walker, was 2-10 with no runs, no RBI, one walk, and four strikeouts. Walker was outplayed by Murphy. The only thing you can say the Mets got over on Murphy was knocking his batting average down from .400 to .397. 

It should come as no surprise that Murphy outplayed Walker this series as Murphy has outplayed Walker this whole year. Murphy is better in almost every statistical catergory than Walker. The main exception is homeruns where Walker’s nine is more than Murphy’s six. So far, the Mets are not benefitting from their change from Murphy to Walker. 

So far, they are also not benefitting from their change from Nieuwenhuis to Alejandro De Aza

De Aza has struggled so far as a Met. In 25 games, he’s hitting .167/.222/.484 with three runs, one double, one homer, and two RBI. Most of that damage came on April 15th against the Indians. In that game, he went 3-4 with a run, a double, a homerun, and an RBI. If you omit this game, De Aza is hitting .105/.171/.105 with no extra base hits, two runs, and one RBI. 

Conversely, Nieuwenhuis is having a good year in Milwaukee.  In 35 games, he’s hitting .267/.389/.413 with eight doubles, one homer, and 12 RBI. Believe it or not, he had similar good numbers with the Mets last year hitting .279/.364/.559 with seven doubles, four homeruns, and 11 RBI in 37 games. Three of those homeruns came on one glorious July day when the season was in the balance. 

Despite that, the Mets felt like they could get an upgrade over Nieuwenhuis. He was designated for assignment in December, and he was picked up off waivers by the Brewers. Ironically, he was on waivers so the Mets could make room for De Aza on the 40 man roster. The Mets are also paying De Aza roughly $5.2 million more than Nieuwenhuis is making. 

Overall, the Mets switch from Murphy and Nieuwenhuis to Walker and De Aza hasn’t panned out as well as they thought it would.  It is still early, and a lot can change over the next 100+ games. For right now, all we can hope for is that Nieuwenhuis doesn’t outplay De Aza the way Murphy just outplayed Walker.