Noah Syndergaard

Thor May Be the Key to Everything

Even after all the trades, Mets fans knew/believed that the Mets would only go as far as their young pitching would take them. Mr he main focus was on the Matt HarveyJacob deGrom 1-2 punch. 

The problem is the rest of the NL has pretty good 1-2 punches in their own right, and that’s before you take Harvey’s innings limits into account. Let’s see who the NL playoff teams have: 

Dodgers

  1. Clayton Kershaw
  2. Zack Greinke

Cardinals

  1. Michael Wacha
  2. Carlos Martinez

Cubs

  1. Jake Arrieta
  2. Jon Lester

Pirates

  1. Gerrit Cole
  2. Francisco Liriano

With these matchups, you’d imagine the NL playoffs will be all about pitching. You can imagine the Mets being anywhere from up 2-0 to down 0-2. This is what makes Noah Syndergaard so important. He can give the Mets a lead in the series, put the other team on the brink, or get the Mets back in a series. 

Thor has answered every call thus far in a stellar rookie season. His games against the Nationals are much bigger than what he’ll experience this afternoon. Although, I suspect the crowd may have a little more juice. I’ll have faith in him no matter what happens today. 

October is going to become Hammer Time!

It’s My Island

This is a huge start for Steven Matz. As a local kid from Long Island, it’s his opportunity to stand up and proclaim, this is the Mets town. It’s time for a man named Steven to stand up and declare:

In all seriousness, Matz has something more important to stake his claim – a postseason roster spot. Right now the postseason rotation is still in flux. It seems the only one assured of a spot is Jacob deGrom

Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard both have innings limit issues. Jon Niese has been utterly ineffectiveBartolo Colon has beaten up on the NL East and sub-.500 teams. Logan Verrett is nothing more than a spot starter. There’s an opening for Matz, and frankly a left handed starter, with the Dodgers coming up in the NLDS.

The Dodgers feature a number of big left handed bats with Adrian GonzalezJoc PedersonAndre Ethier, and Chase Utley, who you know is chomping at the bit to beat the Mets again.  It would be great if the Mets could throw a lefty starter out there to neutralize those bats.  It’s all the more important without a lefty in the bullpen.  Niese has shown it shouldn’t be him. 

This will be the last Mets opponent over .500 until the last series of the season. The Yankees are in a dog fight in the AL East and Wild Card. They need the series a lot more than the Mets do. Most likely, he will face Jacoby EllsburyBrett Gardner, and Greg Bird. It’s a good primer.

Matz needs to step up. He needs to go out there tonight and pitch like the ace the Mets fans think he is. I want to see his grandfather celebrating all game long. If we see it, it means Matz is pitching well. It means he’s securing a postseason start. It means the Mets will have a better chance of winning the NLDS. 

It may lead further towards the Mets taking back New York. It may see mad, but it may become Steven’s Island. 

How Long is Logan’s Run?

Tonight, Logan Verrett is making his second start with the Mets. With everything that’s going on, I’ve lost track of whether this is supposed to be a Matt Harvey start, an implementation of a six man rotation, or both. 

What I do know is that Verrett needs to impress to make the postseason roster. By my calculation, there are only three possible spots left up for grabs on the playoff roster. I’m assuming the breakdown of those spots is as follows: lefty, middle relief, long man. 

Unlike someone like Jon Niese, Verrett has bullpen experience. Verrett has made nine appearances out of the Mets bullpen. In those appearances, he’s pitched 14.1 innings with a 2.51 ERA and a 0.977 WHIP. If you eliminate his terrible August 28th appearance against the Red Sox where he let up 3 hits (2 homeruns) in one inning of work. Eliminating that appearance drops his relief number to a 0.69 ERA and a 0.840 WHIP. Unfortunately for Verrett, it doesn’t work that way. 

In five of the nine appearances, he went at least 2.0 innings.  However, he has only appeared in back to back games just once. The time this happened was the aforementioned Red Sox appearance. I’d imagine that will be his only back to back appearance as he will probably be a starter the rest of the year. 

That’s unfortunate for him because I believe that limits his chances of making the postseason roster to the long man spot. Right now, I believe Sean Gilmartin is a front runner for that spot due to his good work as the long man this year and the fact that he’s left-handed. If I’m right that may give Erik Goeddel an inside track to the postseason roster. 

There’s also the chance the Mets carry both Verrett and Gilmartin as long men giving Terry Collins some real options in the postseason. That decision may rest on how Steven Matz finishes the year. If Matz makes a real case to be in the playoff rotation (which he has not done thus far), either Noah Syndergaard or Bartolo Colon may wind up in the bullpen. 

If it’s Thor, I see him as an ace reliever out there to throw 150 MPH for one inning. If it’s Colon, I believe he’s the long man.  I think Thor in the bullpen would help Verrett’s chances of making the roster while Colon I the bullpen would damage those chances.  As you can see there’s a lot of moving pieces without addressing the whole Harvey situation. I’m not addressing that situation yet due to the number of conflicting reports that are out there. 

The main variable as far as Verrett is concerned right now is how he pitches. If he doesn’t pitch well, he’s not making the roster no matter the scenario. If he pitches well, he puts a lot of pressure on the Mets. That’s a good situation for him and the team. I’d rather the Mets have to make difficult rather than easy choices for the bullpen. 

Tonight will be a very important first step in Verrett’s personal march to the postseason. 

Harder to Hit Than Spell Syndergaard

After skipping his last start, the Mets brought Noah Syndergaard to the mound. After shaking off some rust and allowing a first inning run, he was completely dominant.

His fastball was consistently between 98-100. He mixed in his breaking pitches keeping the Braves off balance all night. His final line was seven innings, two hits, eight strikeouts, and one earned. All of this was just on 94 pitches. He looked like an ace. He looked like someone that needs to be pitching in October

His fellow rookie, Michael Conforto, backed him up in the field. As Keith Law would say:

Conforto made some nice plays including this gem (even if the runner should’ve been called safe):

The Mets needs to be good in the field because the Braves were great in the field including turning four double plays. 

Unfortunately, Thor did not get the win even if Yoenis Cespedes hit another homerun in the eighth to get a 4-1 lead. Tyler Clippard imploded and allowed a game tying three run homer in the eighth. It’s hard to get on him with his great he’s been. The Mets would return the favor by giving him a cultured win. 

Travis d’Arnaud continued to be d’Man. He went 3-4 with an RBI, and he started the game winning rally with a ninth inning ground rule double. Eric Young, Jr. would pinch run and score on Kelly Johnson‘s RBI single. Johnson would score by beating Andrelton Simmons‘ throw him on Cespedes’ bases loaded fielder’s choice giving the Mets a 6-4 lead. 
Jeurys Familia would make it stand up with his 41st save of the year. He’s been dominant this year, and the Mets have been dominating lately. They now sit at 81 wins guaranteeing they will not have a losing season. 

I think I speak for everyone when I say that finishing above .500 is the least of the Mets goals right now. 

Who’s In, Who’s Out?

After last night’s big homerun, I wanted to write a post about Kirk Nieuwenhuis‘ chances of making the postseason roster. I then realized such conversation is premature without first discussing who is definitely going to be on the roster, and what the roster needs will be. 

Please note this list assumes all injured players will be healed and ready for the playoffs. And yes, I’m taking Matt Harvey at his word. So without further ado, here’s my best approximation:

Position Players

  1. Travis d’Arnaud
  2. Kevin Plawecki
  3. Lucas Duda
  4. Wilmer Flores
  5. Daniel Murphy
  6. Ruben Tejada
  7. Juan Uribe
  8. David Wright
  9. Kelly Johnson
  10. Yoenis Cespedes
  11. Michael Cuddyer
  12. Curtis Granderson
  13. Juan Lagares
  14. Michael Conforto

Pitchers

  1. Matt Harvey
  2. Jacob deGrom
  3. Bartolo Colon
  4. Noah Syndergaard
  5. Jeurys Familia
  6. Tyler Clippard
  7. Addison Reed
  8. Hansel Robles

While typically an MLB team carries 12 pitchers, that number is usually reduced to 11 relievers. That means there’s three spots open for pitchers like Sean GilmartinDario AlvarezCarlos Torres (if healthy), Erik GoeddelLogan VerrettJon Niese, and of course Steven Matz. Notice, I did not put Bobby Parnell and Eric O’Flaherty on the list. If all the position players make the list, there’s only room for 11 pitchers anyway. 

With an injury, like Cuddyer’s, the decision will come down between Nieuwenhuis, Eric Young, Jr., and yes, Eric Campbell

The Mets have tough decisions to make. They have about a month of tryouts. So far, Gilmartin, Alvarez, and Nieuwenhuis have made their cases. Other players have their opportunities as well. It’s nice having this conversation instead of talking about next year. 

The Mets Will Remain in First Place

Today’s game is the biggest game the Mets have played since they moved to Citi Field. It’s their biggest series in seven years. No matter what happens, they will leave Washington in first place. 

They’re carrying a four game lead into Washington. Even if the get swept, they will remain in first. If the Mets sweep, they will be seven up with 26 games remaining.  Like James Ingram, all I’m asking is that the Mets win “Just Once.”  That’ll give them a three game lead presumably forcing the Nationals to sweep the Mets in the last series of the season to have a shot of winning the division. 

The Mets set up their post-All Star Break rotation with Noah SyndergaardMatt Harvey, and Jacob deGrom facing the Nationals in their first two series against each other. After the Mets August 2nd win completing the sweep, the Mets have been in first place, and they do not look like they want to give it back.  The Nationals seem to have noticed. 

They have set up their rotation so the Mets face Max ScherzerJordan Zimmermann, and Steven Strasburg. While the Mets will lead-off with Jon Niese, they will follow with Harvey and deGrom. The last two games of this series is must see TV. Especially with Harvey and deGrom, I like the Mets chances. 

Since 2009, the Mets have had a losing record. We dreamed of the day that this young pitching would come together and lead the Mets to the playoffs and beyond. The Nationals are the only obstacle in their way. “I know we can break through it.”  

Niese’s Last Chance?

As I’ve said before, it seems like the Mets are having auditions for a spot on the postseason roster. Jon Niese has already been put on warning that his start against the Nationals will be the biggest start of his career

That’s not hyperbole. Right now, Niese is probably the Mets worst starting pitching option. While he’s been shrinking, his teammates have been stepping up. On Saturday, Bartolo Colon became the oldest Mets pitcher to have a complete game shut outNoah Syndergaard pitched a good game saving the bullpen and giving the Mets a chance to win. Steven Matz had a strong start until leaving the game with a blister. 

As the other starters are stepping up, Niese is shrinking from the moment. Hopefully, this has nothing to do with his shoulder. The Mets haven’t done him any favors by putting him up against Max Scherzer and a rejuvenated Nationals lineup. It’s the perfect time to step up. 

The Mets fans are on the fence right now (not me). They’re invoking 2007 and 2008. It’s like they need an exorcism to prove those demons are gone. Niese probably needs one as well. He made his first three career starts in 2008, all in September. He went 1-1 with a 7.07 ERA and a 2.000 WHIP in 14.0 innings. In his last five starts, he has a 7.06 ERA and a 1.535 WHIP. 

He’s almost as bad this year as we was in 2008. We’ve seen the meltdowns with him when something doesn’t go right. The pressure gets to him. It seems like the pressure of a pennant race also gets to him. He has time to prove me wrong. I want him to prove me wrong. 

The Mets won’t take him out of the rotation in the regular season, especially with the recent drama. However, if he keeps this up, he’s out of the rotation in October. It’ll be amazing to see the man born on the day the Mets last won the World Series not be on the postseason roster. 

If Niese wants to be there in October, it starts today. 

Where Does Matz Belong?

The Mets have recently made a few very important announcements regarding Steven Matz:

  1. Matz will spot start in place of Noah Syndergaard on Saturday;
  2. The Mets will shift to a six man rotation; and
  3. Matz will not be a bullpen option

In my opinion, the Mets are trying to accomplish two things: (1) they’re trying to reduce the innings of the stud muffins; and (2) they’re holding open auditions for the postseason rotation. I’m still not sure they’re not tempting fate

Now, let’s start with the presumption that Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey will be in the postseason rotation. This leaves two open slots in the rotation because we know the Mets will not allow anyone to start a game on three days rest. Let’s look at the candidates individually. 

Noah Syndergaard

By any measure, Thor is the Mets third best starter. He is 8-6 with a 3.31 ERA and 1.136 WHIP. He averages just over a strikeout per inning. His 3.38 FIP is the third best on the team, and it profiles him as an above average to great starting pitcher. So what’s the problem?

First, more so than any other pitcher, he has an innings limit problem. Second, he has dramatic home/road splits. He has had 10 home and 10 road starts. Here’s how he’s fared: 

  • Home: 7-1, 2.15 ERA, 0.831 WHIP
  • Road: 1-5, 4.91 ERA, 1.558 WHIP

So, he is really good at home, but he’s bad on the road. One way to cure this is to set up the postseason rotation so he only starts at home. It may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Another thing to look at is how he’s pitched on the road against the Mets possible play-off opponents:

  • 5/12 @ Cubs (first career start): L, 5.1 IP, 3 H, 4 BB, 6 K, 3 ER
  • 7/3 @ Dodgers: ND, 6.0 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 ER
  • 7/17 @ Cardinals: L, 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 6 K, 2 ER

Looking at these stats, I’m comfortable with him starting on the road at these places. He needs to be in the rotation. 

Jon Niese

Well, we saw the return of the bad Jon Niese yesterday. He’s had a rough year to the tune of 8-10 with a 4.17 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP. His FIP is a team worst 4.44 FIP, which profiles him as a bad starting pitcher this year. 

We may have once assumed he was a lock for the postseason rotation after his strong June and July. He had respective ERAs of 3.00 and 2.87. His respective WHIPs were 1.333 and 1.021. Then the wheels came off. In August, he had a 5.17 ERA and a 1.309 WHIP.  He continued the free fall last night. He cannot be an option for the postseason roster. 

Bartolo Colon

Where to begin with Bartolo Colon?  He’s 12-11 with a 4.42 ERA. He has a 3.82 FIP, which profiles as an average starting pitcher, which is more than Niese can say. However, if you excuse the pun, Colon has fattened up on some bad teams.

Against the NL East, Colon has gone 11-1 with a 3.01 ERA.  That means against non-NL East teams, his record is 1-10. Against possible playoff teams (Cardinals, Blue Jays, Cubs, Dodgers, and Pirates), he has gone 0-3 with a 4.85 ERA. These aren’t great stats, and this may open the door for Matz. 

Steven Matz

First off, let’s start with the premise that while his first two starts were fun, we can’t glean anything from them. He’s a top prospect, but he is not better than Harvey or deGrom. You’d be hard pressed to convince me he’s better than Thor. Second, let’s remember he’s still building up arm strength. In his last start, he only threw 77 pitches. Finally, he won’t be pitching against the best teams in baseball. 

If the Mets go with a six man rotation starting on Saturday, Matz will make the following starts:

  1. 9/5 at Marlins
  2. 9/11 at Braves
  3. 9/18 vs. Yankees
  4. 9/24 at Reds
  5. 10/1 at Phillies

As we see with Colon, you can pitch well against bad teams, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to pitch well against the good teams. No one should read anything into starts against four bad teams . . . even if they’re bad starts.  No one should. Unfortunately, if he’s great, someone might. That’s dangerous.

Bullpen Option 

You know what you could determine?  You can determine if Matz can pitch in the bullpen. You can put him in high leverage spots. If you’re truly concerned about his health, you can institute a modified version of the Joba Rules. However, I have a real problem believing the Mets sincerity on the issue when Dan Warthen is playing doctor when Matz had injury complaints. Also, this is a way of limiting his innings and how much he needs to pitch with an abdominal tear. 

The Cardinals are famous for this. Mets fans know with Adam Wainwright how well this works.  We saw the Rays use this effectively in 2008 with David Price when they won the AL Pennant. I think the careers of Wainwright and Price have turned out just fine. 

After Matz has his start on Saturday, the Mets should move him to the bullpen. If you care about his health, you will limit his innings. You don’t use a September stretch run to stretch him out. Players get hurt that way. If you don’t want him to get hurt, put him in the bullpen. Let him pitch multiple innings. Give him a few days off afterwards. See how he responds. 

If he responds well, you have a dangerous weapon in the bullpen come October. If you’re not sold, just remember what happened at the All Star Game. Imagine that in a playoff game . . . . 

Sometimes You Make a Mistake

While I think there’s room for innings limits, I don’t think it should be a doctrine. If you watch a game, you can tell the difference between easy pitches and tough pitches. Also, there’s an inherent flaw in counting innings with pitchers because the real issue is pitches thrown. 

Perhaps this is the reason the fabled “Verducci Effect” has been disproven. What has also been disproven recently is my belief that Noah Syndergaard does not have an innings limit problem. As Steve Gelbs pointed out to me, I only included his major league innings this year.  I could give you reasons for the mistake, but the fact is I was just wrong. When you’re wrong you acknowledge it, and you correct the error. 

The underlying math on what the innings limits are is correct. However, his innings pitched is incorrect. I missed 29.2 innings. That’s fairly significant. In the majors, Syndergaard is averaging just about six innings per start. Therefore, these minor league innings eat up about five Major League starts. 

The bigger issue is these innings put Syndergaard at 152.0 innings pitched for the year. As I’ve stated earlier, his innings limits are between 159.0 – 163.0 innings. If there’s a five man rotation, he has six starts remaining. At six innings per start, Syndergaard will finish with 188.0 innings. That’s well past his limits. If it’s a six man rotation, that will only shave off one start, which means he will finish with 182.0 innings. 

This is a really bad situation. He has been seven to 11 innings before he hits his limits. If the Mets were out of it, he would get one more start, and then he would be shut down. Instead, the Mets need to find a way to keep him going and effective into October and beyond. 

Normally, right here is where I would offer up solutions or discuss why I disagree with the solutions proposed. This isn’t the post for that. I made a mistake, and I need to rectify it by correcting the information I put out there. I apologize to the Mets for questioning them. I apologize to whoever read this and relied upon the information. I thank Steve Gelbs for pointing out my error. 

Overall, I want to be an example to my son. I could’ve let the error go by without anyone really caring or noticing. However, I noticed it. Frankly, I’m embarrassed by the error. I aim to be better than that. 

So in that vein, I’m not offering up excuses, I’ve hopefully corrected the error, and I’ve offered my apologies. I’ll try to be better in the future. That’s all I can do. That’s all anyone can do. 

Cuddyer is a Pro

Baseball is a funny game. Noah Syndergaard has been in the big leagues for 20 starts, but he showed the guile of a 20 year veteran. Michael Cuddyer is a 15 year veteran, who played like it was his fifteenth game. 

For starters, Thor needed to get some innings to help a stressed bullpen. He did that. Terry Collins let him go 111 pitches over 6.2 innings. Collins could’ve pinch hit for him in the sixth, but he didn’t. In fact, Collins pulled the oldest trick in the book by having a PH in the on deck circle to force the Red Sox to pitch to Anthony Recker. Most Mets fans questioned if that was a good move.  Regardless, Recker hit an RBI single to extend the lead to 4-2. 
Taking a 4-2 lead into the seventh, Thor had one on and two out with a chance to come out of the inning unscathed and hand the ball off to the bullpen. Jackie Bradley, Jr. Hit a pinch hit double (which looked like it might go out) to narrow the gap to 4-3. Thor was done. Collins brought in Hansel Robles

Much like today’s lineup, this wouldn’t have been my choice, especially with Robles pitching a lot lately. Then again, who in the bullpen hasn’t?  Now, the box score will say Mookie Betts hit a game tying triple. Your eyes tell you Cuddyer botched the play. Your eyes tell you the play should’ve been made easily had Cuddyer made a break of any kind on the ball within 2-3 seconds. 

It was a rookie mistake from a player who should know better. With the game on the line, Collins made the move he had to make, but clearly didn’t want to yet, and brought in Tyler Clippard. He would get the last out of the seventh and pitch a clean eighth. 

Cuddyer would get his redemption in the bottom of the inning.  With two outs in the inning, Daniel Murphy stole second (remember when that used to be a thing)  he was brought home on Cuddyer’s RBI single. It was redemption for him. its funny because other than the OF gaffe, he had a good game. He went 3-3 with a walk, two runs scored, and a huge RBI. He also broke up a double play:

In the ninth, there was a Red Sox rally started by some typical poor play from Ruben Tejada. He loafed it with a fast runner thereby sparking a rally. Seriously, I’m sick of him . . . again. It would be first and second with two outs. Jeurys Familia found a way with two big strikeouts. He’s showing himself to be an elite closer. It wasn’t easy for him, but he got the save securing the 5-4 win. Clippard got the win. 

Now, there are two moves Collins subjected himself to criticism, but I won’t do so myself. The first is the Robles move. I understood it. You’ve been pitching Clippard constantly. You don’t want to burn him out. While I question Robles there, I can’t kill him for it. 

The other move was the defensive substitution of Yoenis Cespedes in the eighth moving Cuddyer to 1B and Murphy to 2B. Second guessers may say Cespedes makes the play that Cuddyer didn’t. That’s not on Collins. First, you have to expect Cuddyer to make that play. Second, it’s not like we haven’t seen some Cespedes loafing. Finally, I respect wanting to give a veteran a full day off. 

If you want to question Collins, question him leading off Juan Lagares with Curtis Granderson batting second against a LHP. This poor OBP duo went 1-9 with five strikeouts. Also, question him starting Juan Uribe at 2B because he just had to get his .195/.278/.425 in the lineup. At least Uribe got the big two run double in the sixth to give the Mets a 3-2 lead. 
In other notes, David Ortiz juiced another HR. Also, Joe West had a strike zone that would make the late Eric Gregg shake his head. As a result, both teams were irritated. Kevin Long was really irritated. He got tossed defending an upset Granderson, who got rung up on a ball. 

The Mets avoided the sweep. It was a good win especially since the Nationals won. The Mets continue this 13 game stretch of last place teams in facing the Phillies next. Let’s hope this six game lead grows.