While things have been going well recently, the Mets have had trouble identifying those relievers whom they can use and trust to eat up innings and take care of games where they have large leads. When that is an issue for your team, you wind up using and wasting good relievers in non-critical spots. You are also forced to use good relievers when it should not have been necessary.
On August 6, the Mets had a five run lead heading into the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins, the worst team in the National League. After eight dominant innings from Zack Wheeler, the Mets went to Robert Gsellman in the ninth. The following night, the Mets once again had a five run lead heading into the ninth. The team would use Jeurys Familia and Luis Avilan to close out the game.
On the roster at that time was Chris Mazza and Donnie Hart. The team did not use either reliever in that spot or really any spot. Truth be told if you can’t trust those relievers to close out games against the worst team in the National League, you don’t have any business being on the roster. It should come as no surprise neither pitcher is currently on the Mets roster.
When Mazza and Hart went down, Drew Gagnon was one of the relievers who replaced them on the roster. The Mets would bring Gagnon to pitch the eighth inning in the August 15 game against the Braves. At that time, the Mets had a 10-3 lead, and they just needed someone to pitch the final two innings to give the bullpen a rest. Instead, Gagnon would allow four homers, including a homer to Freddie Freeman in consecutive innings, thereby necessitating Edwin Diaz coming into the game to record the save in a 10-8 game.
This led to Paul Sewald being selected from Syracuse and re-joining the Mets bullpen. While this was largely met with eye rolls and consternation, Sewald is exactly what the Mets needed. In yesterday’s 9-2 victory over the Indians, the Mets would use Sewald out of the bullpen in the ninth. There would be no drama as he would allow a double while striking out three batters. In the grand scheme of things, these are the types of outings which are both necessary and overlooked.
Since his debut in 2017, Sewald has handled these situations well. In his career, in what is characterized as low leverage situations, he has held opposing batters to a .209/.262/.341 batting line. When there is a four run lead in either direction, Sewald has held opposing batters to a .223/.294/.365 batting line. This has permitted him to pitch multiple innings in these situations. In turn, this has allowed the Mets to save their better relievers for higher leverage situations.
This has an immense amount of value to a team, and these are the types of outings which helps a team get to the postseason. This is what Pat Mahomes provided the Mets in 1999 and 2000, Darren Oliver provided in 2006, and Sean Gilmartin provided in 2015. This is what Sewald can be over the remaining 37 games of the season. His doing that frees up Lugo, Diaz, Familia, and Justin Wilson for the higher leverage situations.
All told, Sewald can provide an immense amount of value to the Mets bullpen by eating up those innings and not having Mickey Callaway need to worry about needing to go deeper into the bullpen in these situations. As we have seen this year, this is not a role which is easily filled. Ultimately, Sewald can perform well in situations where others cannot, and as a result, he provides this bullpen and this Mets team with real value.
On Thursday, I had the honor and the privilege of being a guest on A Metsian Podcast. It was a lot of fun and cathartic, and I would hope you would all take a listen by clicking on the link provided.
I’m not sure if this is a reason to entice you to listen, but during the course of the podcast, I personally mentioned or discussed the following Mets players: Tom Seaver, Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Cliff Floyd, Nolan Ryan, Aaron Sele, Jason Vargas, Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, Roberto Alomar, Juan Samuel, Jim Fregosi, Bret Saberhagen, Vince Coleman, Noah Syndergaard, Chris Flexen, Paul Sewald, Sean Gilmartin, Darren Oliver, Pat Mahomes, Eric Hanhold, Steve Villines, Corey Oswalt, Jacob Rhame, Hansel Robles, Stephen Nogosek, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, Darryl Strawberry, and others. This list is off the top of my head.
Looking at that list, maybe that’s why they haven’t brought me back after my last appearance three years ago when I went on a Daniel Murphy rant.
Last night, Drew Gagnon absolutely bailed out the Mets. He took the ball in a bases loaded situation, and he got out of the jam. He then navigated through the 10th allowing Pete Alonso to deliver his first career walk-off RBI.
This was not the first time Gagnon impressed out of the bullpen. Back when Steven Matz couldn’t get an out against the Phillies, it was Gagnon who took it on the chin. Despite being on short rest, he pitched 5.1 innings. Yes, he would allow five earned, but three of those came after he was gassed and frankly pushed too far.
That’s been what we have seen from Gagnon in the Majors. In short spurts, he has been fine. When he has been pushed past two innings, he has not been nearly as effective. We saw that in his only start in the Majors, and we saw it in Philadelphia. But in those shorter stints, Gagnon has really showed something.
Last year, he made four relief appearances. In those relief appearances, he allowed one earned in 7.1 innings. His ERA this year may be 6.75, but he has pitched better than that. While it’s always a dangerous game to do this in evaluation, if you eliminate that one-third of an inning, his ERA would drop to a more impressive 2.70.
This is another way of saying Gagnon may prove to be something if he is used properly. As a long man or a short reliever, he could be effective. Since coming to the Mets organization, he throws strikes. He has struck out nearly a batter an inning. With the sinking action on his pitches, he has relatively low home run rates. Overall, while an opponent can beat him, Gagnon is typically not going to beat himself.
That hasn’t been the case for the Mets other options. We have seen Jacob Rhame, Tim Peterson, and Paul Sewald struggle at the Major League level. Tyler Bashlor and Eric Hanhold have yet to establish themselves. Considering the options at hand, the Mets would have to come up with a long list of excuses before sending him back down for one of these relievers.
After all, we have seen this happen in year’s past for the Mets. Pat Mahomes came up huge in 1999. The same happened with Sean Gilmartin in 2015. If given an opportunity, Gagnon may prove to be the 2019 version of that. It’s time the Mets found out if he has what it takes to be just that.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Entering Arrowhead before the clash with the Bengals, Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes II was wearing his father’s Mets jersey. What is interesting is that of the six stops in his father’s career, this is the jersey which Mahomes opted to wear:
.@PatrickMahomes5 walks into Arrowhead wearing his dad's jersey!
— NFL (@NFL) October 21, 2018
Perhaps, this is because Pat Mahomes best season in the majors was with the 1999 Mets. That year, Mahomes was a crucial long man in the bullpen for a Mets team that needed to win each and every last game. Thinking back on that season, if Mahomes had one hiccup, the Mets don’t force a one game playoff for the Wild Card.
As good as he was in the regular season, Mahomes was even better in the NLCS that year. In fact, if not for his pitching some of the most beloved moments in Mets history don’t happen. If he does not bail out Dennis Cook in the seventh inning and keep the Braves at bay in the beginning of the eighth inning in Game 5, we likely never see Robin Ventura‘s Grand Slam Single.
In Game 6, Mahomes bailed out Al Leiter after he allowed five earned without even recording an out. Mahomes pitching four scoreless innings from there allowed the Mets to tie the game on the eventual Mike Piazza opposite field home run off John Smoltz in the seventh. Sure, that game ended in heartbreak, but the thrill of seeing that comeback was made possible by Mahomes.
Much like each of us Mets fans, the younger Mahomes was likely glued to his seat. Unlike the rest of us, Mahomes got to know the team in 1999 and 2000:
More proof the Mets let Patrick Mahomes Jr. get away: pic.twitter.com/vmNskZ5lly
— Roger Boogiewoogier (@yayroger) October 21, 2018
Whatever the reason, of all the teams Mahomes’ father played for during his career, his son seems to feel a closer to connection with the Mets. As a Mets fan, I was rooting for him to succeed because of what his father meant to the Mets during the 1999 season. Seeing him wear the Mets jersey last night is going to make me root for him all the more.
Tonight is a jam packed sports night. For Mets fans, no matter how bad things are, you are turning into the game against the Braves if for no other reason than to see Noah Syndergaard pitch. For Rangers fans, it is the first game of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Ottawa Senators and their old friend Derick Brassard. However, as we all know the first round of the NFL Draft will get the largest share of publicity. The NFL gets the lion share no matter what it is doing.
The NFL Draft does present someone of an intriguing possibility for Mets fans. One of the top QB prospects in this draft is Texas Tech Patrick Mahomes. He has quite the pedigree with him being the godson of former Mets reliever LaTroy Hawkins. Oh, and Patrick Mahomes is the son of former Mets reliever Pat Mahomes.
Unlike his son, Mahomes wasn’t really on anyone’s radar heading into the 1999 season. Through six major league seasons, he was 21-28 with a 5.88 ERA and a 1.627 WHIP. After a poor 1997 season, where he was only able to pitch in 10 games for the Boston Red Sox, Mahomes found himself pitching for the Yokohama Bay Stars of the Japanese Leagues. In his eight starts and two relief appearances, he was far from impressive going 0-4 with a 5.98 ERA and a 1.510 WHIP. Still, Mahomes must have done something right in that stint as the Mets signed him to a minor league deal in the offseason.
With Josias Manzanillo struggling to start the year, there was an opening in the Mets bullpen in 1999. Mahomes was called up, and he took complete advantage of his opportunity. Mahomes became the long man in the Mets bullpen, and he thrived in that role. While the long man in the bullpen is an overlooked role on most teams, it was vitally important to that 1999 team.
Al Leiter and Kenny Rogers were the only pitchers who averaged more than six innings pitched, and Rogers didn’t come to the Mets until July. One of the team’s better starters, Bobby Jones, was injured leading to a revolving door of fifth starters. Top options in Jason Isringhausen and Octavio Dotel had the talent, but they couldn’t go deep into games. Overall, the team needed a good long man. Mahomes was that and more.
During the season, Mahomes would make just 39 appearances, but he would pitch 63.2 innings. It should be noted Mahomes was partially able to pitch those innings because unlike most relievers Bobby Valentine could trust him at the plate. During the 1999 season, Mahomes was 5-16 with three doubles and three RBI. However, we all know Valetine kept going to him because of the results Mahomes got on the mound.
In Mahomes’ 39 appearances, he had a 3.68 ERA and a 1.272 WHIP. As a result of his terrific pitching, he finished the season with a perfect 8-0 record. Considering it was the steroids era, those are truly impressive numbers. Considering where he was just a season ago, they are inspiring.
Mahomes would continue pitching well into the postseason where he had a 2.25 ERA and a 1.250 WHIP in eight innings over four appearances. Notably, Mahomes pitched four shutout innings in at epic Game 6 of the NLCS which permitted the Mets to get back into the game. What was once unfathomable when Leiter gave up five innings in the first inning, the Mets took the lead in the seventh inning. While the Mets did not win that game, they were in that position because Mahomes stepped up big in that spot. That was a theme for him during the 1999 season.
So to that extent, we know that big game ability is in the Mahomes gene pool. We also know the ability to play in New York in high pressure situations is as well. To that end, maybe, just maybe, Patrick Mahomes would be a fine fit with either the New York Giants, as Eli Manning’s successor in waiting, or the New York Jets as the latest franchise quarterback.
The talent is there. In a recent Peter King MMQB column, Mahomes was compared favorably to Brett Favre. With talent like that and his background, there should be no doubt Mahomes can thrive in not just the NFL, but also in New York. His name may not get called tonight, but it will likely get called on Friday.
Whatever the future holds for him, the best of luck to Mahomes. His father was one of the players that made one of the most enjoyable seasons in Mets history happen. Hopefully, wherever Mahomes lands, he can provide those fans the same joy his father provided Mets fans. With any luck, that will be with the Giants.
Recent reports indicate that President Elect Donald Trump is considering Bobby Valentine as the United States Ambassador to Japan. If Valentine is indeed selected as the Ambassador to Japan, it would be his second biggest accomplishment. Naturally, his biggest accomplishment was leading the 2000 Mets not only to the postseason, but to the National League Pennant.
As luck would have it, the New York Mets would begin the season in Japan. Valentine’s Opening Day outfield was Rickey Henderson–Darryl Hamilton–Derek Bell. Of that group, only Bell would play in a postseason game for the Mets, and he would be injured in Game One of the NLDS. Henderson would prove to be a malcontent that wanted a new contract, and ultimately, he would be released in May. Hamilton would lose his job in April after suffering a toe injury. This led to the Mets outfield being Benny Agbayani–Jay Payton-Bell for most of the season.
The one thing Agbayani could do was hit. In 2000, he hit .289/.391/.477 with 15 homers and 60 RBI in 119 games. However, he was a terrible fielder who did this in the field during a game that season:
For his part, Payton was one of the heralded players out of Georgia Tech that included Jason Varitek and Nomar Garciaparra. While Payton was once considered on par with them, if not better. As a prospect, Payton’s star would diminish a bit, but he would still become a major league player. In his 2000 rookie season, Payton relatively struggled at the plate hitting .291/.331/.447 with 17 homers and 62 RBI in 149 games.
There was more than that. Valentine also had to help make Todd Zeile an effective first baseman after he spent most of his career as a third baseman. Zeile was of course signed to replace John Olerud, who departed in free agency. While Zeile had a nice season hitting .268/.356/.467 with 22 homers and 79 RBI, his production fell far short of Olerud’s .298/.427/.463, 19 homer run, 96 RBI season. When you consider the drop off defensively from the Gold Glover Olerud to the quickly adapting Zeile, the team was noticeably worse at first base.
The team was also worse at shortstop. While Rey Ordonez never hit for much, he was a Gold Glover at shortstop. The Mets would miss that defense after he broke his left arm trying to get a tag down in May. This led to the Mets trying to get by with Melvin Mora at shortstop, who struggled at the plate and in the field. This led to the ill advised trade for Mike Bordick who would hit .260/.321/.365 in his 56 games as a Met.
In reality, this was all part of a Mets team that was considerably weaker than the 1999 version. Pat Mahomes was nowhere near as good as he was in 1999. In place of well established veterans like Orel Hershiser and Kenny Rogers in the rotation, the Mets had Glendon Rusch and the return of Bobby Jones. However, it should be noted the rotation was one area the Mets were better.
Whereas the 1999 Mets were an offensive juggernaut with a strong bullpen, the 2000 Mets were built on starting pitching. Al Leiter had an improved season making him 1A behind the ace the Mets acquired in the offseason, Mike Hampton. With Rusch and Jones outperforming their expectations, and quite possibly what their rotation counterparts did in 1999, the rotation was one area the Mets were improved.
The rotation along with two terrific players in Mike Piazza and Edgardo Alfonzo, Valentine was able to lead the Mets to the World Series. Valentine was able to do that despite a diminished offense, vastly diminished defense, an overall less talented roster, and some drama (which usually follows Valentine wherever he goes). It was a team that outperformed their Pythagorean win-loss record by six games. It was a team that outperformed expectations.
Making it to the 2000 World Series should be considered Valentine’s biggest accomplishment. That Mets team really had no business making it to the postseason let alone the World Series. It is why that should stand as Valentine’s biggest accomplishment even if he were to be named as President Trump’s choice to be the Ambassador to Japan.
As the trade deadline approaches, every team usually states that they need bullpen help, and those that are true contenders usually add an extra arm or two to the bullpen. For example, back in 1999, one of the biggest strengths for a Mets team fighting for the NL East and the Wild Card was their bullpen. Armando Benitez had taken over the closer role much earlier than anticipated. Turk Wendell and Dennis Cook were having excellent seasons. Pat Mahomes was a revelation as the long man in the bullpen. Ex-closer John Franco was expected to return form injury to help with the playoff push. Greg McMichael was having an off year, but he had previously been a valuable bullpen arm in a pennant race from his days with the Atlanta Braves. On top of that, the Mets had some young promising arms to go to down the stretch with Jason Isringhausen and Octavio Dotel (even if Bobby Valentine thought they were better suited and belonged in the rotation). Overall, the point being is the Mets did not need bullpen help.
Even with that being the case, a Mets team that was very active during the trade deadline made sure to acquire another arm for the bullpen by sending McMichael and Isringhausen for Billy Taylor. It turns out Billy Taylor was washed up, and he would not even be on the postseason roster thereby forcing the Mets to make do with the already good bullpen pieces they had. The Mets find themselves in a similar position than the 1999 Mets did.
The Mets bullpen is led to Jeurys Familia who is the best closer in the game. When needed, Familia can pitch two innings to get the big save that the Mets need. The primary eighth inning set-up man has been Addison Reed, who is only sporting a 2.26 ERA and a 0.912 WHIP. This duo has only lost one lead that has been given to them this year in 32 attempts. Behind them is Hansel Robles who has done everything the Mets have needed in the bullpen. He can come out and bail the Mets out of a bases loaded no out jam or pitch 3.2 terrific innings to save a Mets bullpen from a first inning injury to a starting pitcher. Jerry Blevins has been an extremely effective LOOGY allowing lefties to hit .210/.269/.310. By the way, he has been even better against righties limiting them to a .107/.188/.214 batting line.
Behind these pitchers are some very solid options. There is Jim Henderson, who was great before Terry Collins abused his arm. Henderson is currently in AAA on a rehab assignment. Seth Lugo has been absolutely terrific out of the bullpen in his two appearances. However, it is only two appearances, and there still remains a (remote) chance that he may wind up in the starting rotation with the Matt Harvey injury. There is Erik Goeddel, who even despite one poor performance this season, still has a career 2.75 ERA and a 1.054 WHIP. There is still Sean Gilmartin, who was an essential part of the Mets bullpen last year. He is a starter in AAA, but if the Mets are that desperate for major league relief help that they will swing a trade, they should pull up a known quantity to help the team where he is needed.
If the Mets will consider calling up players from the minors, there are some good options in AAA. Josh Edgin has a 2.45 ERA in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League. Paul Sewald has taken over as the closer, and he has recorded nine saves. There is always the alluring Josh Smoker, who is having a down year but still sports a mid-nineties fastball.
Finally, in addition to all of these players, there is still Antonio Bastardo, who is going nowhere. It is doubtful a rebuilding team will want to add him into the mix with his high salary and poor production. The Mets are stuck with him, and they are going to be stuck with him for the full season, regardless of whether they make another move to add a reliever or not. In essence, Bastardo is the reason why people mistakenly believe the Mets need bullpen help. With that in mind, the best thing the Mets can do is to find a way to get Bastardo back on track. That will help the Mets bullpen more than them adding another reliever.
Overall, the Mets bullpen is in fine shape with four outstanding relievers and plenty of good options behind them. The Mets do not need a reliever. They need to fix Bastardo since he’s going to be here whether or not the Mets make a trade. With that in mind, the Mets should leave the bullpen as is and turn their attention to the teams other needs at the trade deadline.