As reported by Mike Puma of the New York Post, Mets owner Fred Wilpon does not want to hire a younger and more analytics driven executive for two reasons. The first is he feels he will have a harder time connecting with that person. The second and perhaps all the more baffling is the “thought among team officials that perhaps the Mets became too analytics driven in recent seasons under Sandy Alderson’s watch . . . .”
Taking the thought at face value, we really need to question which analytics the Mets are using to inform their decisions.
For starters, look at Asdrubal Cabrera. Everyone knew he was no longer a shortstop, so that left the question over whether he should have been a second or third baseman heading into the 2018 season.
In 2017, Cabrera was a -6 DRS in 274.1 innings at second. That should have come as no surprise as he was a -10 DRS the last time he saw extensive action at second base (2014). Conversely, in his 350.1 innings at third last year, he had a 1 DRS.
Naturally, the Mets went with Cabrera at second this season where he has been an MLB worst -20 DRS. That makes him not just the worst second baseman in all of baseball, it makes him the worst defensive infielder in all of baseball.
Of course, the Mets got there by acquiescing a bit to Cabrera’s preference to play second over third. This was also the result of the team turning down a Paul Sewald for Jason Kipnis swap. That deal was nixed over money.
With respect to Sewald, he was strong when the season began. In April, he had a 1.91 ERA and a 0.805 WHIP. Since that point, Sewald has a 5.73 ERA, a 1.485 WHIP, and multiple demotions to Triple-A.
As for Kipnis, he has struggled this year hitting .226/.313/.363. It should be noted this was mostly due to a horrific April which saw him hit .178/.254/.243. Since that tough start to the season, Kipnis has gotten progressively better. Still, it is difficult to lose sleep over Kipnis even if the rejected trade put Cabrera at second and it led to the Mets signing Todd Frazier, who is hitting .217/.298/.368.
At the time the Mets signed Bruce, they needed a center fielder. The team already had Yoenis Cespedes in left, and once he returned from the disabled list, the team was going to have Michael Conforto in right. Until the time Conforto was ready, the team appeared set with Brandon Nimmo in the short-term.
In 69 games in 2017, Nimmo hit .260/.379/.418. In those games, Nimmo showed himself to be a real candidate for the leadoff spot on a roster without an obvious one, especially in Conforto’s absence. With him making the league minimum and his having shown he could handle three outfield positions, he seemed like an obvious choice for a short term solution and possible someone who could platoon with Juan Lagares in center.
Instead, the Mets went with Bruce for $39 million thereby forcing Conforto to center where he was ill suited. More than that, Bruce was coming off an outlier year in his free agent walk year. Before that 2017 rebound season, Bruce had not had a WAR of at least 1.0 since 2013, and he had just one season over a 100 wRC+ in that same stretch. In response to that one outlier season at the age of 30, the Mets gave Bruce a three year deal.
Still, that may not have been the worst contract handed out by the Mets this past offseason. That honor goes to Jason Vargas.
The Mets gave a 35 year old pitcher a two year $16 million deal to be the team’s fifth starter despite the fact the team had real starting pitching depth. At the time of the signing, the Mets had Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, Chris Flexen, and Corey Oswalt as starting pitching depth.
Instead of using five of them and stashing four of them in Triple-A, the Mets opted to go with Vargas as the fifth starter. Even better, they depleted their starting pitching depth by moving Gsellman and Lugo the to bullpen. Of course, this had the added benefit of saving them money thereby allowing them to sign Anthony Swarzak, a 32 year old reliever with just one good season under his belt.
The Mets were rewarded with the decision to sign Vargas by his going 2-8 with an 8.75 ERA and a 1.838 WHIP. He’s also spent three separate stints on the disabled list.
What’s funny about Vargasis he was signed over the objections of the Mets analytics department. From reports, Vargas was not the only one. Looking at that, you have to question just how anyone associated with the Mets could claim they have become too analytics driven. Really, when you ignore the advice of those hired to provide analytical advice and support, how could you point to them as the problem?
In the end, the problem is the same as it always has been. It’s the Wilpons.
They’re the ones looking for playing time for Jose Reyes at a time when everyone in baseball thinks his career is over. They’re the ones not reinvesting the proceeds from David Wright‘s insurance policy into the team. They’re the ones who have a payroll not commensurate with market size or World Series window. They’re the ones rejecting qualified people for a job because of an 81 year year old’s inability to connect with his employees.
Really, you’re not going to find an analytical basis to defend making a team older, less versatile, more injury prone, and worse defensively.
What you will find is meddlesome ownership who thinks they know better than everyone. That’s why they’re 17 games under .500 with declining attendance and ratings while saying the Yankees financial model is unsustainable at a time the Yankees are heading to the postseason again and the team has the highest valuation of any Major League team.
Give Jason Vargas credit. It only took him just 14 pitches to earn the loss in tonight’s game. That’s a new low for even him.
Sure, there were extenuating circumstances. Four batters into the game, and the Reds already up 1-0, there was an hour and 45 minute rain delay. This necessitated Vargas depart after just one-third of an inning, and it meant the Mets were going to use two pitchers before the Reds even used one.
Vargas left behind two baserunners, each of whom Paul Sewald allowed to score. At that point, the Reds had an impenetrable 3-0 lead.
One of the reasons it was impenetrable was because Reds starter, Sal Romano, who grew up rooting for the Mets, dominated his hometown team. In six innings pitched, he limited the Mets to one run on two hits with three walks and five strikeouts.
The Mets lone run off Romano came courtesy of a Jose Bautista two out RBI single which scored Brandon Nimmo, who had doubled earlier that inning. The Bautista single ended a long 0-fer drought for Bautista. After that single, he would begin a new one as the Mets offense wouldn’t get another hit until the ninth inning.
Overall, the Mets would use six pitchers to differing results.
Other than that, Tyler Bashlor and Drew Smith would combine to pitch four scoreless to both help save the bullpen and to also raise their stock with the organization. It was a good thing they did because when you lose 6-1 like this, many don’t notice the positives many do actually contribute.
Game Notes: Between pitching changes and pinch hitters, the Mets would have nine different players appear in the ninth spot in the order – Vargas, Sewald, Wahl, Luis Guillorme, Bashlor, Jose Reyes, Smith, Austin Jackson, Rhame.
In yesterday’s 5-4 loss in 10 innings to the Atlanta Braves, people had a field day criticizing manager Mickey Callaway for the perceived errors the first time manager made. Of course, all these criticisms first ignored how the Mets lost because the Braves at that much better, especially over this injury ravaged Mets team. Moreover, the perceived errors were not really errors in and of themselves:
Error No.1 – The Starting Lineup
Considering how when he had the appearance of autonomy, Callaway buried Jose Reyes on the bench, we can see he lost some of his control, especially after Reyes complained publicly through the press. Overall, Reyes is in the lineup because ownership wants him there (and fans won’t boo him like he deserves). As for Brandon Nimmo, he’s been scuffling lately, and he could probably use a day off.
Error No. 2 – Going Too Long with Oswalt
Entering the seventh inning yesterday, Corey Oswalt was dealing. At that point, he had allowed just one earned on five hits with no walks and four strikeouts. He was only at 75 pitches, and he had just made fairly quick work of the Braves in the sixth inning. It was the bottom of the lineup, and he was due up second.
Considering how well he was pitching, how well he has pitched, and this being a period to evaluate players, the mistake would have been pulling Oswalt. He should have started that inning. It’s just unfortunate he gave up the two run homer to Ender Inciarte to lose the lead.
Error No. 3 – Double Switching Nimmo into the Game
Looking at the Mets bench, the player you most wanted up in the bottom of the seventh was Nimmo. If you are going to burn a bench player, you might as well move the pitcher’s spot as far away as possible to at least give yourself the chance to let Paul Sewald pitch more than just the end of the seventh.
Ultimately, do we really care if it mean Austin Jackson and not Jose Bautista came out of that game? Sure, Jackson is hitting better, but it’s Bautista who you are showcasing in the hopes he snaps out of this funk and once again becomes a trade piece.
Error No. 4 – Not Waiting for the Pinch Hitter to be Announced
Before criticizing Callaway on this one, ask yourself one key question: Who would you rather face? Ryan Flaherty, a career .218/.288/.350 hitter or Adam Duvall, a former All Star with two 30 home run seasons under his belt? If you have a brain cell remaining, it’s Flaherty every single day of the week.
Well, Callaway checked to make sure Duvall wasn’t announced, and he went with Sewald over Jerry Blevins, who was warming, to enter the game. By doing that, Callaway helped pressure Brian Snitker to put up the far worse hitter.
Seriously, how is that a bad thing?
As for the narrative spewed on SNY, it’s false. Just completely false.
This is the National League. A manager is not going to burn two hitters in a tie game in the seventh inning. You don’t have that luxury. Knowing that, Callaway was proactive and got the matchup he wanted. Really, Mets fans should be happy he had the foresight to say he wanted to face Flaherty over Duvall.
And with Callaway, we know this is a strategy he likes to utilize. After all, this is not the first time he has done it, and with this happening two times, we can expect to see this happen again. That’s a good thing.
As an aside, let’s remember the thoughts each of the people criticizing Callaway have had:
- Gary Cohen – called Daniel Murphy a net negative
- Keith Hernandez – wanted the Mets to get Eric Hosmer, a .254/.322/.389 hitter with a 94 OPS+ and a 0.3 WAR this season.
- Jim Duquette – traded Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano
Maybe we should pump the brakes on taking what this group says as gospel and look for them more for entertainment.
Also, it should be noted, doing it that way allowed Callaway let Sewald face the pinch hitter an Ronald Acuna before going to Blevins for the left-handed Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman, and Nick Markakis.
Error No. 5 – Double Switching McNeil out of the Game
The Jeff McNeil decision is a little tricky. On the one hand, you want him to get as many reps as he possibly can in the field and at the plate. Yes, his turn in the lineup did come up in the ninth, but it was really unlikely to happen. To that extent, double switching him out to get some length from Seth Lugo did make sense on paper.
Of course, the real anger here was Reyes stayed in the lineup. That’s understandable, but remember this is a player being not just forced on the manager, but also into the lineup. Reyes’ strangehold is such the Mets are challenging plays where he is clearly out because Reyes demands it:
#Mets challenge call that Jose Reyes is out at 3B in the 2nd; call confirmed, runner is out.
— MLB Replay (@MLBReplays) August 5, 2018
During the game, Callaway showed he was a guy who was balancing both playing the guys he is told to play while trying to develop young players and winning games. It’s unfortunate Oswalt couldn’t get an out in the seventh, and it’s a shame Tyler Bashlor gave up the game winning homer in the 10th.
When it comes to Bashlor, there’s your areas of criticism. Callaway is still feeling his way through bullpen management, and even now, he’s still leaning on veteran arms like Lugo over ones like Bashlor.
As for the other decisions? Give him credit for being willing to buck trends and try to dictate match-ups he wants. Allow him to grow on the job and learn from his mistakes, but admit this wasn’t one of them. Overall, remember the level of interference he has.
Ultimately, remember this is a guy who gets his guys to play. In this three game set, the Mets went toe-to-toe with a much better Braves team, and they nearly took the series. Give credit where it is due.
More importantly, don’t distract from the real problem with the Mets – ownership is not spending and is putting an inferior product on the field.
Game Notes: Once again, Luis Guillorme did not get into the game. Part of the reason being is the Mets have said they do not see him as more than a pinch hitter or late inning replacement. Instead, Reyes played the whole game while Todd Frazier, who originally did not start because he was just coming off the disabled list, came on late shifting Reyes to second.
On the bright side, this was probably one of Jason Vargas‘ best starts of the season. The down side is his final line was 5.0 innings, six hits, four earned, three walks, and seven strikeouts.
With Mike Foltynewicz on the mound, it basically meant the Mets weren’t winning, and yes, that’s even with him having a 5.72 ERA in July.
It also didn’t hurt the Mets kept shooting themselves in the foot.
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 2, 2018
Speaking of Flores and Acuna, Vargas appeared to have Acuna picked off of first in the third inning. Flores made a poor throw to second giving Acuna the steal. Five batters later and Johan Camargo hit a bases loaded, bases clearing double.
While the Mets lost 4-2, there were some bright spots including another terrific Nimmo diving grab:
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 3, 2018
For the talk of his misplays, Flores was 2-for-3 with a walk. That walked matched a career high. He set his previous career high in 2016 in 45 fewer at-bats.
Guillorme has not struck out in 49 plate appearances, which is the longest current streak in the majors.
The bullpen combined to pitch four scoreless innings.
Mostly, the thing which stands out is Bobby Wahl pitching a scoreless inning while hitting 98 on the gun while showing off an impressive slider and curve.
In the end, the Mets lost, which was to be expected. That said, there were some positives, which is exactly what you want to see from the Mets right now.
Well, it may not have been the prettiest of games, but the Mets came to play, and they beat the Pirates pretty handily.
The homer gave the Mets a 2-0 lead, and the team was off and running.
To Matz’s credit, he settled down, despite him apparently not feeling well, he gutted through six innings keeping the Pirates to the four runs. He would also strike out a career high nine batters.
Because the Mets bats exploded, he would get the win.
One of the big reasons why was Asdrubal Cabrera putting on a show in what is likely one of his final games in a Mets uniform. Overall, he was 3-5 with two runs, a double. homer, walk, and four RBI.
The first big inning for the Mets was the fourth, and it was aided by two big Pirates errors.
After a Cabrera two run homer, Conforto reached on a Harrison fielding error. Later that inning, with bases loaded and two outs in the inning, Freese threw it away allowing Devin Mesoraco to reach safely and Brandon Nimmo to score.
Jose Bautista would get thrown out at home with him trying to score from second. That would end the inning with the Mets leading 7-4.
The Mets bats awoke again in the seventh, and it began with a beautiful Jeff McNeil, who was starting his first game, base hit:
Q: Can he bunt?
— Good Fundies is short for Good Fundamentals (@goodfundies) July 27, 2018
It was an uneven game for McNeil in his first ever start. He was 1-2 with a run and two walks, and he did help turn two 5-4-3 double plays. He also made an error and base running mistake in the game. Fortunately, not only did they not cost the Mets the game, but his positives did outweigh his negatives in this game. It should come as no surprise the team is 3-0 in games he has played.
After a Mesoraco single, Jose Reyes predictably failed to deliver the big hit by popping out to Freese. Where Reyes failed, the player he is supposed to be mentoring (but isn’t) came up a delivered what could have been the final blow in the game. Rosario’s RBI single gave the Mets an 8-4 lead.
With Pirates reliever Rich Rodriguez throwing a wild pitch, Mesoraco was able to get to third and Rosario to second. This would not just allow Mesoraco to score on a Cabrera grounder to the right of the pitcher, but it would put Rosario to score on another wild pitch during Conforto’s at-bat. At that point, it was 10-4 Mets, which is a rare place for this team to have been lately.
Things were going so well for this team, Matt den Dekker would even contribute hitting a sacrifice fly in the eighth. In fact, Flores would hit one as well in the ninth giving the Mets a then 12-5 lead.
It is remarkable how the Mets had three sacrifice flies in this game. Those are the sort of small ball runs this team had been leaving on the bases all season long. While it has been a rough first year for Mickey Callaway, we are seeing this team improve fundamentally by getting bunts down and their starting to take advantage of these run scoring opportunities.
Surprisingly, Jerry Blevins and Paul Sewald would get the first cracks out of the bullpen. Blevins might’ve helped his trade value with a scoreless inning. Sewald struggled after two quick outs, but he did get out of his inning having allowed just one run scored.
It was the same story for Drew Smith. He got two quick outs before getting into minor trouble, minor because the game was nowhere near jeopardy. After he allowed one run, the Mets would win the game 12-6.
Surprisingly, this team is not only on a three game winning streak, but they are also over .500 in the Month of July. Oh what could have been.
Want a perfect encapsulation of what the 2018 Mets are? Look no further than what happened in yesterday’s game.
Nathan Eovaldi was working on a perfect game entering the seventh inning. Brandon Nimmo stepped up to the plate, and he broke it up with a single. This was followed by Wilmer Flores striking out on three pitches, and Asdrubal Cabrera grounding into an inning ending double play.
At that point, the Mets were already down 7-0 because Chris Flexen pitched poorly, and his pitching was exacerbated by the defense behind him, which was just as poor if not worse. After three innings, he was relieved by Chris Beck, who was once again terrible.
Overall, this is just a bad baseball team, and they’re not even losing with a purpose as the team is starting Jose Reyes over Amed Rosario, and Dominic Smith plays once in a blue moon. To make matters worse, he is playing well out of position in left field.
Simply put, this is bad and unwatchable baseball.
Game Notes: Nimmo was not named an All Star despite leading all NL outfielders with a 148 wRC+. This leaves Jacob deGrom as the lone Mets representative.
Initially, we planned to run a roundtable on our thoughts about the job Mickey Callaway is doing, but with Sandy Alderson announcing his cancer has returned and due to personal issues, it turns out that roundtable needed to be delayed.
Being a glass half full kind of person, the Mets performance did little to change the opinions set forth on the job Callaway has been doing with the Mets:
Well, Gary Apple called him ‘Mickey Collins’ the other day. That should say enough. Someone on Twitter correctly noted that if Aaron Boone was the manager of the Mets and Mickey helmed the Yankees, those teams’ current records would be exactly the same. *That *should say enough, except the sentences that “say enough” kind of talk over one another, don’t they? So I’ll say that I don’t think we should say “enough” to Mick, while acknowledging he is over-matched, since this fact is obvious yet forgivable. It’s his first time doing this, and none of his coaching staff can say they’ve managed a major league club before without lying. He’s also dealing with a much more crowded kitchen, full of men who think they are cooks because they bought chef costumes, than he could have possibly imagined.
He might be overmatched for the city, not the job. When he said “New York is tough on players,” I think he may have been admitting he wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of media and fan pressure. Willie Randolph played here, and he couldn’t handle it either. I think he’s been forced to follow a script, which is why I think so many of his moves have backfired — much like Terry Collins — but I also thinkhe’s made a few of his own dopey decisions. He reminds me of former New York Giants defensive coordinator Rod Rust; whose read and react defense stifled his own team.
End of the day, if you’re going to struggle and you’re going to lose, lose young and lose playing aggressive. I can take losing, I watched the 1978 Mets. But this guy is boring me to death…
Callaway increasingly comes across as the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’s terrific before a season or a game, when nothing has yet gone wrong. In game and afterward, it’s a debacle.
There must be an immense disconnect between how he presented himself while getting the job and everything we’ve seen since the middle of April, as if he just never fully accounted for what managing in real time would be like.
I often listen and get the gist of what he’s saying as he attempts to explain away the latest loss (or losing streak) but am amazed at how he only makes it worse. It’s not the biggest part of his job, but it is an element. Eloquence isn’t everything, of course. We’d also take a tight-lipped winner.
Editor’s Note: Greg wrote a more extensive piece on his thoughts about Callaway on FAFIF. It’s well worth a read.
Initially, I did not believe Callaway was over-matched for the job in the sense he was unable to do the job well from a personal standpoint. However, I did believe him being over-matched in terms of the roster and talent at his disposal on a nightly basis. When your end game options is watching Jose Reyes pop or ground out in a pinch hitting attempt and picking who from Chris Beck, Jerry Blevins, Hansel Robles, Paul Sewald, etal you want to blow the lead, you’re going to look over-matched.
That said, Callaway made a decision yesterday which has given me pause. After Reyes completely dogged it on a grounder Saturday night, Callaway double switched Reyes into the game.
If Reyes was hurt, give him the extra day. If he wasn’t, he needs to be benched. In either event, Reyes can not play a day after completely dogging it.
However, he did play, which now makes all questions about Callaway’s ability to control the game and the clubhouse fair game.
Once again, I want to thank everyone for the well wishes and these excellent writers for contributing to the roundtable. Please make sure you take time to read their great sites, and there’s no excuse this week with a link being provided to FAFIF.
There’s shooting yourself in the foot, and then there is doing what the Mets did against the Rockies today.
Somehow, the Mets grounded into five . . . FIVE! . . . double plays.
Each one of them were brutal.
Bautista would be erased when Kevin Plawecki grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.
In the third, after Brandon Nimmo hit an RBI single to pull the Mets within 5-2, Frazier would hit into the inning ending 5-4-3 double play.
Speaking of Reyes, he can’t field and doesn’t know how to use sunglasses:
How is Reyes to know to put his sunglasses on? He's only been alive for 35 years. pic.twitter.com/5GbS3AvmIs
— Good Fundies is short for Good Fundamentals (@goodfundies) June 21, 2018
Finally in the eighth, after the Mets pulled themselves to within 6-3 on a Flores sacrifice fly, Devin Mesoraco hit into the inning ending 5-4-3 double play.
You combine all of these double plays with Steven Matz allowing five runs on eight hits and two walks in 5.2 innings, and you have all the makings of a 6-4 loss.
Much of the game was deja vu back to the previous game.
That really put the Mets behind the right ball despite their breaking out for three runs in the first.
Still, despite falling behind 6-4, the Mets would take the lead with a four run fifth.
Asdrubal Cabrera hit a two RBI single to give the Mets a 8-6 lead.
In the bottom of the fifth, right after the Mets retook the lead, the Rockies took it back with Ryan McMahon hitting a three run homer to give the Rockies a 9-8 lead.
At this point in time, it appeared like this was going to be a classic back-and-forth Coors Field game. It certainly felt that way in the sixth as the Mets loaded the bases with one out and Rockies reliever Harrison Musgrave having lost the strike zone.
In a surprise decision, Callaway tabbed Kevin Plawecki to pinch hit instead of Amed Rosario. Perhaps it was the reliever having lost the strike zone and Callaway wanting a hitter who has a better read of the strike zone.
In any event, the choice was Plawecki, who worked a full count, swung at a borderline pitch which was probably ball four, and he hit into the inning ending double play.
That was it from the Mets. After that, there were no more rallies. With the Rockies scoring a run off Anthony Swarzak in the bottom of the sixth, the final score would be 10-8.
Suddenly, a Mets team who appeared poised to make a little run is now just hoping to earn a split.
The hapless Mets offense had gone searching for a place to have an offensive breakout. Their tour took them to hitter’s parks like Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Arizona. All hitter’s parks, but form them to be hitter’s parks, you need to have hitters. The Mets haven’t, at least not until recently.
Finally, the Mets made it to the hitter’s paradise that is Coors Field. After two good performances to close out their series against the Diamondbacks, this Mets team was primed for an offensive explosion. That would begin with Brandon Nimmo leading off the game:
Over-the-fence home runs are becoming a little too easy and conventional for Brandon Nimmo. pic.twitter.com/52B07uHPWa
— New York Mets (@Mets) June 19, 2018
It was Nimmo who hit the go-ahead homer in Sunday’s big comeback against the Diamondbacks, and it was him homering again to lead-off the game.
With that Nimmo homer, Jacob deGrom was in a rare position. He had a lead with himself on the mound. If you had any concern about how deGrom would handle these uncharted waters in a ballpark like Coors Field, you shouldn’t. One again, deGrom was great.
Through eight innings, deGrom limited the Rockies to two runs (one earned) on five hits while walking one and striking out seven. This made deGrom the rare pitcher who came to Coors Field and actually lowered his ERA. It now stands at an MLB best 1.51.
Though it’s criminal it took this long, deGrom finally got his fifth win of the season. That happened because the Mets offense finally exploded.
One important thing to note about this game is the Mets organization has long shied away from having either Nimmo or Conforto face Major League left-handed pitching. In a game started by the left-handed Tyler Anderson, both Nimmo and Conforto had great games:
- Nimmo: 4-6, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI
- Conforto: 3-4, 2 R, 2B, BB, SB
At that point, the Mets lead 6-2, and the game was pretty much on hand. That said, with this being Coors Field, it didn’t hurt the Mets added on some insurance runs.
In a six run ninth inning, the Mets batted around, and the Mets would score runs on:
- Mesoraco bases loaded walk
- Bautista bases loaded walk
- Amed Rosario two run double
- Nimmo two RBI single
After that, it was 12-2. After a scoreless ninth from Paul Sewald, the Mets have finally have won three games in a row. That is in no small part due to their bats waking up scoring 22 runs over three games. To put that in perspective, the Mets offense only scored 21 runs over the 13 games prior to Saturday’s victory over the Diamondbacks.
Game Notes: Bautista replaced Jay Bruce from the starting lineup after he was once again scratched due to injury.