Considering what happened the last two nights, the Mets really could have used a fast start to this game. Instead, they got Steven Matz threw a 3-2 changeup that Ryan Zimmerman hit for a three run home run to give the Nationals an early 3-0 lead.
After the Zimmerman homer, Matz would allow a Moises Sierra single before going on a tear where he retired the next 11 Nationals in a row. That stretch included a pick-off (scored a caught stealing), no walks, and five strikeouts. He was at 74 pitches, and he looked good to go for a few more innings.
Essentially, Matz settled into the game. However, where Matz settled in, his manager Mickey Callaway, did not.
With Tanner Roark starting to bark at the home plate umpire over some borderline calls, the Mets began to rally in the bottom of the fourth.
Asdrubal Cabrera led off the inning with a double, and Todd Frazier would follow with a one out walk. Once again, it was Adrian Gonzalez delivering a key and unexpected RBI single. The single scored Cabrera and allowed Frazier to go to third.
Jose Lobaton followed with what should have been an inning ending double play. The only problem for the Nationals is Zimmerman can’t throw anymore, and he pulled Trea Turner off the bag not only preventing the Nationals from getting the double play, but also them getting even just one out.
On the play Frazier scored pulling the Mets to within 3-2 with runners on first and second and just one out and Matz due up. Instead of using Matz in an obvious sacrifice bunt situation, Callaway pinch hit Brandon Nimmo.
Considering the events of the past two days, this reeked of a panic move. You could only hope it would work out. Initially, it looked like it would with Roark hitting Nimmo, who smiled and cheered all his way to first base. Still, the move blew up as Amed Rosario hit into the inning ending 6-4-3 double play.
Considering how the Mets left a small island nation on the bases yesterday, and the team going all-in on the fourth inning, there was legitimate concern the Mets blew their shot.
That’s where Paul Sewald came in, and he gave the Mets another incredible three inning relief appearance. If not for an extremely ill advised Jay Bruce dive, it’s likely all three innings would have been scoreless. Instead, his final line would be 3.0 innings, one run, one earned, one hit, no walks, and five strikeouts.
Sewald both saved a taxed bullpen, and he gave the Mets a chance to win. For once this series, the Mets took advantage of that chance.
With Ryan Madson working a third day in a row, the Mets offense would immediately go to work starting with back-to-back-to-back singles from Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, and Cabrera to load the bases. After an injured and struggled Bruce popped out, Frazier delivered with the game tying RBI single. On the single up the middle, Cespedes would get his hand in just ahead of the Severino tag.
The Mets weren’t done either. Gonzalez was intentionally walked to re-load the bases, Madson struck out Wilmer Flores leaving the game in the hands of Juan Lagares. Historically, Lagares has struggled against right-handed pitching, but this season he can do no wrong, and he did no wrong in this at-bat hitting a go-ahead two RBI double.
As the inning continued, and the Mets batted around, Sammy Solis would issue a bases loaded walk to Conforto giving the Mets a 7-4 lead. The capper would be Cespedes hitting a grand slam to give the Mets an 11-4 lead.
No, it wasn’t quite the Nationals coming from down 6-1, but it still felt good and nearly as important. Also, it might have demoralized a Nationals team who thought they were going to return the favor to the Mets for them sweeping them at home last week.
Thanks to the heroics of Sewald and a revitalized Mets offense, the Mets won 11-5, and they are well back on track as they go on the road to make a statement against the Braves.
Game Notes: Jose Reyes grounded out to the pitcher in a seventh inning. He’s now 0-18 on the season.
You know you have a good team when they bring it every day no matter what the circumstances. You know you have a great team when they always respond to adversity. They respond to a tough inning in the field with a good at-bat. When the opponent takes they lead, they come right back and tie the score.
Tonight was just the latest in seeing how this Mets team can be great.
Watch: Cabrera’s HOME RUN puts the Mets up 2-0!! pic.twitter.com/2c0L4R2KVu
— SportsNet New York (@SNYtv) April 11, 2018
Unfortunately, the fifth would prove to be an ugly inning for the Mets. It started with a Yadiel Rivera grounder to third, which probably should’ve been called foul and Mickey Callaway should’ve challenged but didn’t. We’d later see Todd Frazier deflect a ball he should’ve let go to Rosario, which led to the Marlins first run of the game.
The second run was scored on a Starlin Castro sacrifice fly. On the play, Conforto completely missed the cutoff man allowing Rojas to go to second. Justin Bour, who had a big night against the Mets, then homered to give the Marlins a 4-3 lead.
Where some teams would be shell-shocked, the Mets immediately responded with a Frazier double. He’d then get aggressive on the bases tagging up on a Cabrera fly ball to left field and beating Derek Dietrich‘s throw. After a Kevin Plawecki walk, this put him in position to score on the ensuing Juan Lagares sacrifice fly to tie the game at 4-4.
Surprisingly, given how Callaway has handled the pitching staff, deGrom came out to pitch a scoreless sixth. He’d get a no decision, and his final line was 6.0 innings, seven hits, four runs, four earned, one walk, and six strikeouts. Not a great start, but he did put his team in position to win the game. With better umpiring and some better defense, that line would have looked much better.
In the seventh, Jacob Rhame came into the game, and he just didn’t have it. The one none sacrifice out he got was a deep fly ball to center that probably would have gone for extra bases had it been someone other than Lagares out there. Rhame did have a chance to get out of the inning, but he made a mistake on the first pitch to Bour. Bour launched his second homer of the night giving the Marlins the lead against at 6-4.
Paul Sewald in just his second appearance of the year got the final out of the inning allowing the Mets a chance to comeback and tie the score.
Given how this Mets team has played so far this year, it should come as no surprise they did actually tie the score in the top of the eighth. Flores and Cabrera would both homer off Kyle Barraclough.
In the bottom of the inning, Hansel Robles and the Mets dodged a bullet as Bryan Holaday just missed a homer. Everyone but Robles, who probably wasn’t pointing up, thought that was out. Where many expected Robles to melt down, he bore down. He got out of the inning highlighted by punch out of Rojas to end the inning.
As a bad Marlins team will learn many times this year, you don’t give a good team like the Mets this many chances.
Brian Anderson threw a ball away allowing Rosario to reach safely instead of the Marlins recording the second out of the inning. Brad Ziegler followed the error by walking Conforto to put the game in Yoenis Cespedes‘ hands. Even with Cespedes being on a 1-20 cold streak, he still had the magic to deliver a two RBI double to give the Mets an 8-6 lead.
The two run lead was more than enough for the resurgent Jeurys Familia to close it out.
Ultimately, the Mets won this game because they are resilient. They won because Cabrera hit two huge homers. They won because they are embodying the spirit of Frazier who responds to every negative play with a positive one. They won because they’re a great team.
In fact, at the moment, you can argue they’re the greatest team in Mets history because they now have the best start to a season in Mets history with them standing with the best record in baseball at 9-1.
If you look at the Mets first eight games of the season, Mickey Callaway has already been tested twice. The first test came in the first five games of the season against the Cardinals and the Phillies.
In those five games, Callaway had to show everyone he wasn’t Gabe Kapler or Aaron Boone. Put another way, he had to show us and his team he knew what he was doing. He showed that mettle which has escaped both Kapler and Boone thus far in his putting his team in their best position to win a game. More than that, he capably sat Brandon Nimmo after a big game and played Juan Lagares by justifying it to the media and his team rather than simply pointing to numbers. Yes, Callaway used the numbers to inform his decision, but he handled his situation capably with no griping from the fans or team.
The next test came much earlier for Callaway than it comes for most managers. That test was whether he had the ability to manage in a big series.
We can argue whether an April series is ever truly a big series. What we cannot argue is Callaway managed it like it was one, and his team responded in kind sweeping the Nationals and announcing this was a team to beat in the National League East.
Part of managing this like a big series was riding his bullpen arms hard. Jeurys Familia pitched 1.2 innings for the save, and he has pitched six innings over his first five appearances. Robert Gsellman pitched two games in the series, and he has made two two inning appearances over a four day span.
Seth Lugo was given the heaviest workload. Two days after pitching two innings, he was used for an inning to close out an 8-2 game. Three days later, he’s pitching three innings and picking up the win in a 12 inning game.
When it is a big series, and when you have short starts from both Matt Harvey and Steven Matz, you can certainly understand why Callaway rode his top guns the way he did. The Mets had a chance to make a statement in that series, and they did.
Now, the Mets are not sneaking up on anyone. We know they’re good, and the rest of baseball knows it now too. The question is how does Callaway handle it.
Does he continue to ask his top relievers to keep going to the well, or do we start to see more innings from Paul Sewald (likely to be demoted when Zack Wheeler is activated), or Jacob Rhame, who made a statement of his own closing out Sunday’s win? Really, how does this Mets team respond to success?
Do they continue looking like a team having fun grinding the salt and pepper shakers? Are they going to be alright with splitting playing time or staying on the bench for stretches?
We don’t know the answer to those questions yet. However, we do see Callaway is the type of manager who can deftly handle these and all questions this team is going to face. Hopefully, we will see Callaway pass this third test with flying colors like he did with the first two tests.
In my life, there are two offbeat holiday traditions I look forward to each and every year if the calendar permits.
The first is St. Paddy’s Day. To me, there is nothing better than the NCAA Tournament starting on a Thursday St. Paddy’s Day.
That morning begins with me making a soda bread, and if all goes according to plan, and by now it does, I’m in front of the TV as the first tip-off begins with a slice of soda bread fresh from the oven. I then wash that down with a beautiful Guiness.
The other tradition is Easter Sunday baseball.
Find the Easter baskets. Go to mass. Enjoy a lovely brunch. Turn on the Mets game.
My first memory doing this was 1987. I knew it was that year because the Easter Bunny stuffed my Easter basket with those beautiful wood bordered Topps cards.
I remember my uncles gathering around the TV to watch the Mets face off against the Cardinals. I still remember my Nana’s consternation over it. That consternation would ensue for decades.
Thirty-one years later, my ritual was renewed with the Mets again losing to the Cardinals.
Those homers accounted for two of the three Cardinals homers of the day and for two of the three runs Matz allowed in his four innings pitched. Being optimistic, this was a stepping stone for Matz.
Sure, you could point to how he needed 89 pitches to get through four. He walked three and struck out just four. The Cardinals scores in three straight innings off of him. However, lost in that was just how bad CB Bucknor was behind the plate, and how much he squeezed Matz.
The converse was Weaver had the same strike zone, but he didn’t struggle the same way. To be fair, he dealt with a more platoon friendly lineup.
With everyone sputtering around him, there’s no surprise he was left stranded all three times.
Flores would go 0-4 with two strikeouts. He also failed to cash in in a key opportunity. In the first, the Mets didn’t get the early led with Flores striking out with runners on first and second with two out.
After that, DeJong hit a solo shot in the top of the second, and the Cardinals never looked back in their 5-1 win.
Big picture, the Mets have nothing to worry about here. It was just one loss in a series they not only played well, but they took two of three. If the Mets play this way, and they’re doing places this year.
And as an aside, it was fun to share one of my favorite traditions with my two boys.
Entering the season, Yoenis Cespedes made the bold declaration the 2018 Mets were better than the 2015 Mets. Now, if you recall that 2015 team, it did feature players like Eric Campbell and John Mayberry. However, those players were not on the team at the same time as Cespedes. When Cespedes joined the Mets, he was on a much better roster, a roster which went all the way to the World Series.
With that consideration, it is certainly bold for Cespedes to make that declaration, but is he right? Let’s take a look:
Just looking at those names, you may be quick to think not much has changed in the catching situation. In reality, everything is different, and the main difference is these catchers stand on much different footing.
The 2015 season was d’Arnaud’s best as a player with him posting a 126 OPS+ and emerging as an elite pitch framer. Plawecki was overmatched at the plate, but he did handle the pitching staff exceptionally well. Since that time, both had gone on to disappoint in 2016 and much of 2017.
Things changed at the tail end of 2017. Plawecki finally looked like the player the Mets once thought he would become. d’Arnaud would finish the season with a strong September. As a result, they will look to begin the 2018 season in a unique time sharing agreement designed to keep both healthy and effective all year long.
VERDICT: 2018 – if both replicate their Septembers, this won’t even be close
2015: Lucas Duda
2018: Adrian Gonzalez
In 2015, Duda hit .244/.352/.486 with 27 homers and 73 RBI. He was as streaky as he ever was unable to carry the team when they needed his bat most, and he almost single-handedly beat the Nationals in a key late July series.
Gonzalez is coming off the worst year of his career, and he is still dealing with back issues which requires him to warm up two hours before the game starts.
VERDICT: 2015 – Gonzalez may not be around long enough to make a bad throw
We got a glimpse of what Murphy would became with him slugging .533 over the final two months of the season. Even with the increased power, no one could predict the home run barrage he’d unleash in the postseason.
For his part, Cabrera finds himself at second a year after protesting moving there or anywhere. He’s been a good hitter with the Mets, and he’s been terrific in the clutch. We’ll see if the injuries will permit him to be that again.
VERDICT: 2015 – Murphy’s postseason was an all-time great one
This was really the last hurrah for Wright in a Mets uniform. He was very good in the 30 games he played after coming off the DL hitting .277/.381/.437. He’d hit two emotional homers: (1) his first at-bat since coming off the DL; and (2) his first World Series at-bat at Citi Field.
Frazier has been a solid to somewhat underrated player. Over the last three years, he’s averaged 34 homers, 88 RBI, and a 110 OPS+. He’s been a good fielder averaging a 5 DRS over that stretch.
VERDICT: 2018 – Frazier is no Wright, but he’s healthy
Tejada was not supposed to be the starting shortstop in 2015. After wasting a few chances which led to Omar Quintanilla getting the bulk of the playing time over him, the Mets moved on to Flores. Eventually, Collins and the Mets went back to Tejada because: (1) he had steadier hands; and (2) he had a .362 OBP in the second half. Who knows how everything would have turned out had Chase Utley not broken his leg with a dirty slide/tackle.
Rosario is the future of the Mets. Yes, there are flaws in his game like his very low walk rate. However, this is a uniquely gifted player who is dedicated to being better. He’s electric, and he’s got the skill set to be a superstar for a very long time. For now, we will settle for him being a good defensive shortstop who brings real speed and upside to the table.
VERDICT: 2018 – Rosario’s ceiling is just way too high
Cespedes was just an otherworldly player when he joined the Mets. Despite his only being a Met for a few months, he finished in the Top 15 in MVP voting. Really, the MVP for the Mets that year was Granderson who was a leader in the clubhouse on the lineup. He had the most homers from a lead-off hitter, and he was a Gold Glove finalist. Conforto jumped from Double-A to post a 133 wRC+ and a much better than expected 9 DRS in left.
With respect to the 2018 outfield, we see Conforto is a much better play (when healthy), and Cespedes is nowhere near as good as he was when he joined the Mets. To be fair, there’s no way he could, but he’s still an All Star caliber player. This means the main difference between the squads is Bruce and Granderson.
VERDICT: 2015 – That Cespedes was just that much better.
From the moment Uribe and Johnson joined the Mets, they were game changers. They both brought a winning attitude and game winning hits. In addition to the two of them, Lagares was the defensive specialist, a role to which he is best suited, and Cuddyer was a platoon partner with either Conforto or Duda depending on whether Lagares started the game as well. Overall, it was a veteran bench who provided needed leadership.
The Mets current bench is similar to the 2015 bench with Reyes trying to emulate the Uribe role even if he’s not as productive a player. Flores is Flores, but a better hitter, and believe it or not, a worse fielder. Lagares rediscovered his range he lost in 2015. Nimmo should be in the everyday lineup and leading off, but early indications are he won’t.
VERDICT: 2015 – Uribe and Johnson were just that important
When you consider Vargas was basically brought in to replicate what Colon did in 2015, the question is whether you believe the Mets top four starters are better as a group now or then. Looking at it objectively, Syndergaard is the only one who has improved with no one knowing what Harvey and Matz can still provide.
VERDICT: 2015 – they were just healthier then
2015: Jeurys Familia, Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed, Hansel Robles, Jon Niese, Sean Gilmartin, Erik Goeddel
2018: Jeurys Familia, Anthony Swarzak, AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Paul Sewald
Familia was that good in 2015 that he was able to cover many of the warts in the 2015 bullpen. This resulted in Collins using him for multiple innings more than any other closer that year. Reed would begin his emergence as a great reliever, but a back injury would cost Clippard of his effectiveness. One surprise was Niese performing well as a lefty in the bullpen.
When you include Sewald’s Triple-A experience, this is a bullpen with three closers, six pitchers with closer’s stuff, and a very good LOOGY in Blevins. Even if Familia is not as good as he was in 2015, it won’t matter because there is enough depth here for the Mets to not need to rely upon him as much.
VERDICT: 2018 – they’re just deeper and with more upside
For all the warts and problems Mets fans discovered with Collins, he had his finest year as a manager in 2015. When the ship could have sunk multiple times, he pulled the team together and kept things afloat until the team got healthy and reinforcements arrived. Of course, he followed this up by helping cost the Mets the World Series with a series of baffling decisions which all blew up in the Mets faces.
Right now, Callaway looks like a genius. He’s innovative batting Cespedes second and Rosario ninth. He came down hard on Dominic Smith for being late. His players seem to love him, and the baseball world roundly believes the Mets made an excellent hire. However, the season isn’t even a week old. Even if everyone is a fan at the moment, let’s check back in a couple of months to see if he’s an innovative genius or if he’s a know-it-all who can’t leave good enough alone.
Verdict: 2018 – Collins did cost the Mets a World Series
If you break it down, the 2015 Mets were better at first, second, outfield, bench, and rotation. The 2018 version is better at catcher, third, short, bullpen, and manager. Looking at the breakdown, you can say it’s a 5-5 draw. However, in reality, it’s not. That 2015 team pitching rotation was just so dominant, and hypothetically, if these teams were going to step on the same field, the 2015 rotation would dominate the 2018 version.
That said, there is a lot of talent on this 2018 team, and from what we have seen so far, this is a roster tailor made to what we presume is Callaway’s talents as a manager. If Callaway is indeed as good as we hope it will be, we can see him and Dave Eiland taking this pitching staff as a whole to the next level. If that can happen, and with a little help, this Mets team could accomplish what the 2015 version didnt – win the World Series.
As I do from time to time, we need a “completely serious” analysis and projection of each and every Mets player who is expected to contribute during the 2018 season. While there are many prjoection systems which claim to be fool-proof, there are none that will be this accurate about the Mets:
Sandy Alderson – The other 29 GMs in baseball will be left in complete hysterics when Alderson is calling around for a right-handed reliever to help boost the team’s chances to making the postseason.
Mickey Callaway – The writers will overwhelmingly vote him as the National League Manager of the Year. The most cited reason for giving him the award will be the fact he didn’t insist on playing his worst players or forcing his players to play through crippling injuries.
Dave Eiland– Multiple Mets pitchers will hug him for actually fixing their mechanics and for listening to them when they say they’re hurting.
Tyler Bashlor – When someone notices how similar his name is to the ABC reality show hit The Bachelor, they’ll say how “The Bashlor” is handing out strikeouts like they’re roses. We should all hate that person.
Jerry Blevins– Until he eats a sandwich, the socks given away in his honor will hang around his ankles
Bryce Brentz– He’s going to be the guy who has one or two at-bats this season, and someone is going to invoke his name as a former Met to try to sound like he knows more about the Mets than you know anything.
Jay Bruce– After a four home run game, all Mets fans will want to talk about is when he is going to move to first base.
Asdrubal Cabrera – After a slump, Callaway will move Cabrera down in the lineup causing Cabrera to bring his kids to the clubhouse and have them ask why Callaway doesn’t want them to eat.
Jamie Callahan– His wearing #43 will serve as a constant reminder that not only was he part of the return for Addison Reed, but also how the Mets turned quality MLB players into six right-handed relief prospects. That will be the worst possible sequel to I Know What You Did Last Summer.
Yoenis Cespedes – After an MVP caliber first half, he will feel like he has earned just one game of golf as a reward during the All Star Break. He will immediately be vilified.
Michael Conforto – After a huge cut and a swing and miss, Conforto will wince for a moment thereby causing a passionate Mets fans behind home plate to have a heart attack. This will led to a call for the netting to be filled in and for fans to have to watch the game on a tape delay.
Travis d’Arnaud– During a remarkably healthy season, he will finally be forced to catch Syndergaard, who had spent most of the seaosn with Plawecki as his personal catcher. On the first pitch of the game, Syndergaard throws a 101 MPH fastball which immediately shatters d’Arnaud’s hand.
Jacob deGrom– After a slump, he’s going to look to grow his hair out. Once he realizes his hair cannot possibly reach it’s old length during the 2018, he’s going to grow a really long beard and change his entrance music to “Legs” by ZZ Top.
Phillip Evans– When he cashes in his check for his postseason share, Evans will fondly remember that April pinch hitting appearance.
Wilmer Flores – He will be in such hysterics during his struggles in his first game in the outfield his crying on the field in 2015 will look like a case of the sniffles.
Todd Frazier– It will take many Mets fans a long time to come to grips that Jersey Boy Todd Frazier does not use a Bruce Springsteen song as his walk-up music. That point will finally come when they realize Frank Sinatra is from Hoboken and not NYC.
Robert Gsellman – As he continues to wait in Las Vegas for his opportunity to get back to the Majors, he will eventually care what Sandy Alderson thinks of him.
Matt Harvey – He’s going to pull a reverse Ben Affleck by going from The Dark Knight moniker to Daredevil. He will earn that name by following Eiland’s instructions to throw inside with such reckless abandon to the point where people start to question if he’s gone blind.
Juan Lagares – After once again injuring his thumb on a diving attempt, the Mets will finally realize Lagares’ injures were the result of him literally using a gold glove to try to play center. While they found the answer and solution for the thumb injuries, they will still be perplexed on how to fix his hitting.
Seth Lugo– We won’t know if people keep referring to the hook with him because of his incredible curveball or because of how Callaway won’t let him face a lineup for a third time.
Brandon Nimmo– Despite putting up great numbers, the Mets will inform Nimmo they unfortunately have to send him down to Triple-A due to a temporary roster squeeze. When he’s still smiling through the ordeal, they will force him to seek psychological counseling.
Kevin Plawecki– On a day when the Mets are getting blown out, the frustrated Plawecki will use the last of his six mound visits to derisively tell his pitcher he can pitch better than this. The pitcher will remind him he has a better batting average than Plawecki.
Jose Reyes– One day, he will hit a triple and score on a mad dash to home plate. He will have that old Reyes smile, and it will electrify the crowd. It will also cause everyone to forget that he is one of the worst position players in all of baseball.
T.J. Rivera – After he comes off the disabled list, he’ll deliver in the clutch for the Mets and his teammates will honor him as the player of the game. The Mets will make sure he’s not standing in front of Plawecki’s locker when they take a photo to tweet out.
Hansel Robles– Many will credit him with the discovery of extra terrestrials by his discovery of a UFO in the Vegas night. Years later, Robles will sheepishly admit all he was doing was pointing up at another homer he allowed.
Amed Rosario– To the surprise of us all, Rosario will strike out looking when the pitcher throws him a pitch which he was surprised at and was not ready to swing at. Entire belief systems will be shattered.
Paul Sewald– After having spent a year with Terry Collins, he’s going to be the player most comfortable with having no defined role in the bullpen. However, it will be an adjustment for him not having to warm up multiple times per game.
Anthony Swarzak – The jokes about not knowing how to spell his name will get old by mid-April. The jokes will be rediscovered in August when more fans tune it to a Mets team that is a surprising contender. The jokes will continue to not be funny.
Noah Syndergaard– He will continue his “Twitter Feud” with Mr. Met. It will be discussed ad nausesum during nationally televised games. America will think it’s amusing only fueling the spat even further and giving no hope to Mets fans who have long since found this to be unfunny.
Jason Vargas – When Reyes introduces himself, Vargas will remind him they were teammates in 2007. Both recall that season and will agree it never happened.
Zack Wheeler– He will be converted to a reliever, and in a surprise to us all, he will lead the league in saves. In a surprise to him that league will be the Pacific Coast League.
David Wright– He will apologize and sheepishly admit the Mets crown was an embarrassingly bad idea. He will try to come up with a way to rectify it, but no one will listen to his ideas on the topic anymore.
One of the biggest benefits of Mickey Callaway being the new Mets manager is the team and organization has a fresher way of looking at things. This is a welcome breath of fresh air from the Terry Collins Era when he was almost purposefully against the advanced metrics game, and he was loathe to play young players like Michael Conforto.
With Collins stubbornly played veterans like Jose Reyes, even when it was clear he wasn’t the guy who won a batting title in 2011 anymore, it was clear this change of direction was needed. However, it should always be questioned just how far a new manager should push the envelope.
Judging from Ken Davidoff’s New York Post piece, Callaway is really looking to push the envelope:
On paper, this absolutely makes sense. Typically speaking, a team’s closer is their best reliever. They have the best stuff, and more than that, they have the mental toughness required to face these difficult situations and come out on top.
And yes, as fans, we time and time again lament how the best available reliever wasn’t used in a particular situation. Usually, this is when a game goes into extra innings. Typically, a backwards thinking manager, like Collins, would go to their third or fourth best reliever, so they can save their closer for the save situation. The example brought up most often was Buck Showalter not bringing in Zach Britton in the 2016 Wild Card Game.
On the surface, it would seem the Mets are well equipped bullpen-wise for Callaway to implement this plan.
Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, and Paul Sewald have closing experience. While not a closer, Anthony Swarzak has been used in a variety of roles out of the bullpen. We did see Jerry Blevins record three saves over the past two seasons. Finally, while many Mets fans are skeptical, Hansel Robles has shown he can handle a number of different roles in the bullpen, and with his working with Pedro Martinez this offseason and Dave Eiland this season, we may see fewer meltdowns.
Now, the main difference between the Indians situation and what Callaway is proposing to do is the Indians stuck with Allen as the closer. Clearly, that was more in line with Terry Francona‘s thinking than Callaway’s. What remains to be seen is whether this was the perfect blending of two schools of thought or Francona not going far enough.
Perhaps the reason why Francona not allowing Callaway to fully implement his plan was because we have seen many closers struggle in non-closing roles. Now, many will point out this is typically in a situation where a closer is just getting work in with their team having a large lead. We have not really seen the situation where a team full of strong relievers with closing experience can come in at any moment and be thrown into a pressure filled situation.
To date, we have seen teams toy with the idea but never truly implement it. Perhaps, that’s because there’s the theory relievers thrive when they know their role. Perhaps, that’s because there is value in free agency and arbitration in save totals and relievers are not going to let their manager “steal” money from them. Perhaps, that’s because managers do not want to put themselves on the line by trying something new.
Whatever the case, the Mets have a manager who is willing to try something different. It’s a good theory, and he should pursue it. However, he should not steadfast if it is not working. And with that, we really have the first true measure of what Callaway can be as a manager.
If nothing else, Callaway will make the 2018 season an interesting one to follow.
It is a slow going offseason, but it seems even slower for the Mets. With so many teams with more money than the Mets still interested in many of the same free agents, it is hard to believe the Mets will make significant additions before the end of the offseason. If they don’t, here is what the 2018 Mets Opening Day roster will look like:
C – Travis d’Arnaud
1B – Dominic Smith
2B – Wilmer Flores
3B – Asdrubal Cabrera
SS – Amed Rosario
LF – Yoenis Cespedes
CF – Juan Lagares
RF – Michael Conforto
Bench – Kevin Plawecki, Brandon Nimmo, T.J. Rivera, Matt Reynolds, Phillip Evans
This should only highlight about how much work the Mets actually have to do this offseason.
Sure, we can buy the pitching staff as a whole as is because they have viable depth. In the rotation, Lugo could get transition back much like how he did in 2016. After that, they have Robert Gsellman, Chris Flexen, Corey Oswalt, and Mickey Jannis. And that is before the Mets go deeper with pitchers like P.J. Conlon. Suffice it to say, the Mets do have sufficient rotation depth.
However, that offense. You can’t sell anyone that is going to be alright. Mostly, that is because the Mets don’t believe themselves that it will be. And that is before you take into account the injury issues Conforto and Rivera are currently rehabbing from this offseason.
For example, the team has all but given up on Gavin Cecchini, who should be in a position to at least compete for a spot on the 25 man roster. He won’t. What’s scary is there is no real Major League ready talent behind him . . . at least no immediately as players like Luis Guillorme and David Thompson need at least some time in Triple-A. By the way, there’s no real outfield depth in this system.
Looking over this roster, you’d be hard pressed to believe the Mets will be better than the 70-92 team they were last season no matter how much they sell us Mickey Callaway as the solution to all that ails the Mets.
So, it really should not come as a surprise to no one the Mets have a lot of work to do, and it goes well beyond just adding one or two players. That applies just to the starting lineup. After that, they really need to build a Major League caliber bench.
Again, the good news is there are still many free agents available. However, it’s still hard to believe the Mets will be able to add the players they need to become a postseason contender.
If you’ve been paying attention, the Mets seem to be interested in everyone this offseason. If you take those players they’re interested in, you’d have an amazing roster:
1B Todd Frazier
2B Neil Walker
SS Amed Rosario
CF Lorenzo Cain
Wait, you don’t believe any of this is going to happen?
After the purported hand-wringing Sandy Alderson was doing over the free agent reliever market, the Mets finally pulled the trigger, and they signed Anthony Swarzak to a two year $14 million deal.
There is a lot to like about Swarzak. Last year, the 32 year old had his best ever season going 6-4 with a 2.33 ERA, 1.034 WHIP, 2.6 BB/9, and a 10.6 K/9. As noted by D.J. Short of Rotoworld, Swarzak had a higher swinging strike percentage than old friend Addison Reed. Part of that could be attributed to the fact he added about two MPH on his fastball.
He’s also been a platoon neutral pitcher his entire career with his best season being in 2017. While limiting right-handed batters to a .218/.259/.346 batting line, left-handed batters were worse against him hitting .198/.294/.281.
These stats are all the more incredible and important when you consider he predominantly worked in the 7th and 8th innings. The Mets needed another set-up man to work with AJ Ramos to hand the ball to Jeurys Familia in the 9th.
Overall, this is all important, and the signing helps the Mets. However it isn’t enough, especially because this is all but a shapshot of Swarzak’s career.
It was just in 2015 Swarzak had a 5.26 ERA and 1.516 WHIP in the Korean Leagues. In 2016, his first season back from Korea, he was 1-2 with a 5.52 ERA for the Yankees.
While he was obviously improved since then, it was mostly on the strength of some outliers. Prior to last season, he yielded a .304 BABIP. In 2017, that number was .272.
Prior to 2017, Swarzak left 69.8% of runners on base, which is right around league average. Last season, his LOB% was a career best 82.9%.
Maybe these numbers were all the result of improved stuff. Maybe it was him becoming more comfortable in the bullpen. It’s just as possible the increased velocity and some of the BABIP and LOB% will regress to league and career norms.
Overall, the Mets did acquire a quality reliever who should prove to better than internal options like Hansel Robles, Paul Sewald, and Josh Smoker. Moreover, Swarzak is getting the opportunity to work with Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland. If there’s a tandem you trust to help Swarzak make 2017 the new norm instead of an outlier, it’s them.
Still, with the stark contrast between the 2017 and career numbers, the Mets need to hedge their bets that Swarzak may very well regress. In the end, this means that while Swarzak may very well prove to be a nice addition, he’s far from being the final piece of the puzzle.