Pedro Martinez

Robles DFA Latest Incompetent Mets Front Office Decision

Back in 2015, Hansel Robles was a revelation for a Mets bullpen needing an additional arm.

He made some further strides in 2016. After that, he was much worse. What made it so frustrating was his stretches of just absolute dominance.

As we all know, he’d follow that with a complete and utter inability to get an out. Inevitably, he’d be there pointing to the sky again and again and again.

It was the finger point that was the most frustrating. In his mind, that 500 foot blast was a pop up to second.

Part of the frustration really was how despite his talent, he just couldn’t get the results. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t trying.

In the offseason, he worked with Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. Maybe his work with Pedro crossed him up with his old work with Dan Warthen and his current work with Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland.

Maybe it was too many cooks in the kitchen. Maybe it was him ignoring all four and doing his own thing. Who knows with him?

As always with Robles, no one quite knew the answer.

Robles being designated for assignment makes the second time this season the famed pitching gurus failed to get through to a pitcher. The other time was Matt Harvey.

At the moment, the Mets decision to designate Harvey for assignment does not seem to have come back to haunt them even with Harvey showing flashes. It also helps Devin Mesoraco has been much better than the Mets could have ever imagined.

That doesn’t mean it was the right decision to designate Harvey for assignment. It wasn’t.

For proof of that, look no further than Jason Vargas, who is 2-6 with an 8.60 ERA and a 1.832 WHIP while averaging just over four innings per start. Really, when he takes the mound, the only people he’s fooling is the Mets front office and coaching staff.

This same coaching staff and front office are once again fooling themselves by replacing one of their guys with another AL Central pitcher.

Heading into this season, Chris Beck had a career 6.38 ERA, 1.760 WHIP, and a 5.2 BB/9. To that end, this year is his career year with him posting a 4.18 ERA, 1.479 WHIP, and a 4.2 BB/9.

Despite these being career bests, they’re poor numbers, which is why a very bad White Sox team released him. For some reason, despite trusting their internal talent, the Mets picked him up, and he’s been worse.

And yet, it’s Robles, a guy who has actually performed well in his career and had some glimpses this year, who would be designated for assignment.

It should also be noted Marcos Molina still keeps his spot on the 40 man roster despite his losing his velocity and pitching very poorly this year. In fact, his last start for Binghamton lasted just 3.1 innings. In that start, he allowed 13 runs (10 earned) on 11 hits.

How do you look at either Molina or Beck and decide Robles is the real problem?

Sure, you can be frustrated with Robles and believe he has done more than enough to be designated for assignment. What he hasn’t been is worse than Beck or Molina.

We shouldn’t be surprised by this at all as this front office constantly makes just plain decisions like this all the time. After all, Jose Reyes and Rafael Montero continue to be members of this organization while a score of more talented players have left this organization in their stead.

Gonzalez Rejuvenated in San Diego

One of the most interesting phenomena in sports is how when an aging player returns to his old stomping grounds, sometimes he is just able to turn back the clock.  As Mets fans, we saw this in 2006 when Mike Piazza had a two home run game against Pedro Martinez.  Yesterday, we saw Adrian Gonzalez have one of those days.

It’s been bad for Gonzalez of late, really bad.  He’s been mired in a 1-17 stretch with no extra base hits.  Going back a little further, over his last 10 games, he’s hitting .121/.205/.212.

Things have been so bad Wilmer Flores got the previous two starts at first base.  Yes, the Padres were starting left-handed pitchers both days, but Gonzalez has killed Clayton Richard.  However, when you’re hitting like he’s been hitting, you’re not going to get into the lineup.  You’re also going to hear about the Mets planning to move Jay Bruce to first base.  This meant if Gonzalez was going to do anything to stop it all from happening, he was going to have to do it now.

That seventh inning three run homer was needed because it helped put what was a close game away.  Instead of a tight 4-2 game with Mickey Callaway having to use his best relievers, it was a 7-2 laugher allowing Callaway to get work for guys like Matt Harvey.

It was all part of a great day for Gonzalez.  Overall, he was 3-6 with a run, double, homer, and five RBI.  He would have had an even better day had Franchy Cordero not robbed him of another double earlier in the game.

With Gonzalez front and center, this was really a day when a lot of beleaguered Mets got healthy.  Jose Reyes contributed going 2-5 with three runs, a homer, RBI, walk, and a stolen base.  Tomas Nido was 2-5 with a run, RBI, and a walk.  And Harvey would pitch a scoreless ninth, even if he did allow a hard hit double to Eric Hosmer.  Really, that’s the last time I want to ever put Harvey’s name, double, and a 2015 Royal in the same sentence.

Going with the rejuvenation theme, Zack Wheeler was good, which was needed from a Mets rotation still trying to figure out who can be an effective third starter in this rotation.

He battled most of the afternoon, and he did not get a 1-2-3 inning until the fifth, his last inning of work.  That said, what impressed you most about this start was how Wheeler found that extra something at times when he’s usually lost it.  Wheeler ended a rally in the first by striking out Freddy Galvis.  He helped curb a third inning rally limiting the damage to two runs by striking out Carlos Asuaje.  After Manuel Margot‘s two out single, stolen base, and advancing to third on a throwing error, Wheeler struck out Hosmer.

Overall, Wheeler had nine strikeouts, but what was really remarkable was how he got them at key moments when he needed a strikeout.  That hasn’t always been his M.O., and it’s a real positive step going forward for him.

Even with his start and with Gonzalez turning back the clock was how the Mets offense put five spots on the board in consecutive innings.  It was a full on onslaught by a Mets offense which saw every starting position player register two hits.  Even Brandon Nimmo, who came on for Yoenis Cespedes, would register two hits.  In addition to Gonzalez, Reyes and Todd Frazier would homer.  The sum total of this barrage was a 14-2 Mets win marking the first ever time the Mets have scored double digits at Petco Park.

Of course with this being the Mets, not everything could be a positive.  Cespedes, who has been torrid of late, had to come out of the game after executing a double steal with Bruce.  In what was his second stolen base of the inning, Cespedes jammed his thumb.  The good news is the x-rays were negative.  The bad news is Cespedes believes he can’t play over the next three days, and that’s with the Braves coming to town.

Still, things could have been a lot worse with Cespedes, and with the Mets going to Petco, a place where they had only previously won one series, things could have gone a lot worse there.  All in all, this was a good series where the Mets got back on track.

Game Notes: Paul Sewald recorded his first hold of the season.  He initially came on to relieve Wheeler when it was a two run game.  He now has a 1.98 ERA on the season.

Callaway’s Opening Act a Walk in the Park

While being a Mets fan may come with some trials and tribulations, the one day Mets fans are typically happy is Opening Day.  Heading into today’s game, the Mets were 36-20 all time on Opening Day, which is the best Opening Day winning percentage in Major League history.  As a result, the Mets are usually 1-0, and their manager looks like a genius.

Today, new Mets Manager Mickey Callaway looked like a genius.

When you looked at the Opening Day lineup, you knew immediately this was no longer Terry Collins‘ Mets.  The lineup not only had the Mets best hitter, Yoenis Cespedes, batting second, it also had Noah Syndergaard batting eighth and Amed Rosario batting ninth.  If you were skeptical of the decision, the Mets quickly put you at ease.

Kevin Plawecki reached on a one out walk, and he remained there after Syndergaard struck out.  With two outs and the lead-off hitter behind him, Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez challenged Rosario with fastballs.  Rosario shot a single up the middle putting runners one first and second with two outs.

Brandon Nimmo did what Brandon Nimmo does, and he drew a walk.  Cespedes came up with the bases loaded, and he delivered with a two out RBI single, which at the time gave the Mets a 3-2 lead.  And with that, Callaway looked like a genius.

Frankly, it’s easy to look like a genius when everyone plays as well as the Mets did today.

Nimmo set the tone getting hit by the first pitch of the game and eventually scoring on a Jose Martinez throwing error on what could have been an Asdrubal Cabrera double play grounder.  Instead of an inning ending double play, the Mets scored a first inning run without getting a base hit.  That’s what happens when you draw nine walks in the game.

Speaking of Nimmo, he was brilliant today.   He went 2-3 with two runs, a walk, and the aforementioned hit by pitch.  With Michael Conforto reportedly being much closer to being ready to start his season, Nimmo is going to need more games like this to stay in the starting lineup.

So will Adrian Gonzalez.  The veteran was coming off a horrific injury plagued 2017 season where the Dodgers not only didn’t miss him as they won the pennant, it seemed they didn’t even want him around.  Nor did the Braves for that matter, as after a trade, they are paying him almost $22 million to play for an NL East rival.

Between that, his terrible Spring Training, and his soft line out to short in his first at-bat, helooked done.  He wouldn’t make another out on the game going 2-3 with a run, double, two walks, and an RBI.

In situations like this, you want your players to make the decision about who should sit and who should play to be extraordinarily difficult.  Based on Nimmo’s and Gonzalez’s play, Callaway’s decision will just be that.

Overall, the Mets offense and unconventional lineup was humming.  The team scored nine runs on 12 hits highlighted by a five run fifth where they not only chased Martinez, but also former Mets prospect Matthew Bowman.

Every Mets starter, save Syndergaard, reached base at least once safely.  Cespedes and Rosario were the only ones who did not draw a walk.  However, when Rosario is attacking first pitch fastballs to the tune of a 2-4 day with two runs and two RBI, you don’t mind his over-aggressiveness at the plate.

About the only negative on the day was seeing Yadier Molina homer.  That just brought back too many raw emotions from 2006.  Some of that sting was taken away with Molina suffering the indignity of Jay Bruce stealing a base off of him.

With Syndergaard, you had some real reason for excitement.  He became just the second Mets pitcher to strike out 10 on Opening Day.  He needed just 85 pitches to get through six innings.  Yes, he would give up the two homers, but overall, he seemed poised and ready to have a dominating 2018 season.

Speaking of dominating, the Mets bullpen came out and completely shut the door on the Cardinals.  Robert Gsellman, Anthony Swarzak, and Jeurys Familia combined to pitch three scoreless and hitless innings.  Gsellman was the most impressive striking out the side in the seventh.  This bullpen performance will make you forget about the Cardinals getting Greg Holland over the Mets for one day.

And for this one day, Gonzalez is rejuvenated, the bullpen is lights out, Callaway is a genuis, and the Mets are the best team in baseball.  Sure, it seems that way almost every Opening Day as a Mets fan, but at least for tonight, let’s just believe this will carry on well into October.

Game Notes: A number 10 was placed on the back of the mound to honor the recently deceased Rusty Staub.  Syndergaard joined Pedro Martinez as the only Mets starter to have a double digit strikeout game on Opening Day.  This was the first time a Mets starter made back-to-back Opening Day starts since Johan Santana did it from 2008 – 2010.

Mets Should Be Wary With New Closer Approach

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:

We wouldn’t name Wilmer Flores as our Wednesday infielder and then start him even if we’re playing against Corey Kluber.  So why name a closer and put him in a situation where he doesn’t fit?

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.

That’s not too dissimilar with what Callaway had in his Indians bullpen with Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, and Bryan Shaw. As we know, this really allowed the Indians to unleash Miller as a weapon.

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.

Omar Minaya Returning Is Great News

In what was a surprising and completely unexpected move, the New York Mets announced that Omar Minaya is returning as a Special Assistant to Sandy Alderson.  In Omar’s new role, he will have a varying role including but not limited to scouting and player development.  While this offseason has been a complete disappointment thus far, this decision is a great move for the Mets:

1.  Omar Left The Mets In Better Shape Than Advertised

One of the issues for Omar when he departed for the Mets was the purported poor state of the Mets minor league system.  There were many reasons for the caricature as he didn’t have many first round picks as the General Manager, and when he did have one, he struck by drafting players like Eddie Kunz.

However, that does not mean the talent wasn’t there.  As we well know, Omar built the core that helped win the 2015 pennant.  It was Omar’s regime that brought in Jacob deGrom, Lucas Duda, Jeurys Familia, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Daniel Murphy.

Omar also had originally brought R.A. Dickey to the Mets on a minor league deal.  That led to Dickey winning a Cy Young Award, and Sandy Alderson flipping him in a deal that netted the Mets Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard.  If Sandy and Omar can work in harmony, the Mets may very well turn things around sooner than we believed.

2.  Omar Has Been Able To Get The Wilpons To Spend

When Omar first took the reigns as the Mets General Manager, he went out, and he spent.  He immediately brought in Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez.  He had to wait a year, but he was eventually able to get Carlos Delgado.  He was also shrewd by getting Jose Reyes and David Wright to sign extensions that proved to be team friendly deals.

Yes, this is true this was all prior to the Madoff Scandal.  However, consider that a month after Madoff was arrested and the Mets standing a real chance of facing financial ruin, Omar was somehow able to get the Mets to agree to sign Jason Bay to a four year $66 million deal.  It’s true that this ultimately proved to be a bad deal, but the overriding point was Omar got the Mets to spend like none other.  If you are able to combine Omar’s influence with Sandy’s prudence, you again get a terrific combination.

3.  Mets Need A Fresh Look At Their Minor League System

The drafted and minor league free agent talent acquired by the Mets since Sandy Alderson became the General Manager has been largely disappointing.  So far, their efforts on the International front has really only produced Amed Rosario.  Rosario is a great prospect, but he’s it.

Also, while the Mets have drafted All Stars in Michael Conforto and Michael Fulmer, they have also do not view high draft picks like Brandon Nimmo and Gavin Cecchini as starters at the Major League level.  Moreoever, the team has been harsh in their criticism of Dominic Smith.  It also doesn’t help the team drafted Anthony Kay in the first round, and he has yet to throw a professional pitch due to injury.

In reality, the talent level isn’t where the Mets want it, and it is a large reason why the Mets farm system is largely maligned.  When the farm system is where it is right now, it is time to bring in someone to give a fresh look and help build the system back up.  There are few better at it than Omar Minaya.

Overall, the Mets brought in a well respected voice in baseball and a voice well respected by the Wilpons.  He is being brought in to do what he does best – evaluate and scout talent.  Previously, Alderson was able to take the talent Omar acquired, and the Mets won a pennant.  With Omar and Sandy working together, the sky is the limit right now.

Directly Or Indirectly Jeff Wilpon Is To Blame For Steven Matz

Back in 2005, Pedro Martinez was having a Cy Young caliber season that was about to be cut short due to a toe injury.  From Rick Peterson to Willie Randolph to the training staff, they all agreed with the Mets out of the race, Pedro should shut it down for the rest of the year.  However, there was one person that didn’t agree – Jeff Wilpon.

As Pedro would later tell in his the eponymous book “Pedro,” Jeff Wilpon approached him telling him to pitch to help the Mets sell-out a September 22nd game against Dontrelle Willis and the Marlins.  Pedro protested leading to an argument where Pedro even offered to give back the rest of his contract.  Ultimately, he pitched because, as Wilpon told him, “While I’m the boss here, you’re going to have to do what I say.”  (Tyler Kepner, New York Times).

While we can never be sure of the root cause of the injury, this moment resonates as Pedro would suffer a torn rotator cuff making him unavailable for the 2006 postseason.  That was one of many what-ifs that happened that year.

Fast forward a decade.

Last year, Steven Matz had what was described as a massive bone spur the team knew needed to be removed surgically.  Rather than have the surgery right away, Matz was pumped full of cortisone shots, told to scrap the slider, and pitched until he could no longer pitch.  The odd thing is Matz initially didn’t want to go this route.

As Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reported, “[Matz] was seriously considering surgery, and maybe even leaning that way, before a meeting with the Mets brass.”  Sound familiar?

During Spring Training this year, Matz had arm issues, which he self-described as a strained flexor tendon.  The team disagreed with an unnamed Mets official with knowledge of Matz’s medical care telling Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record, “Our [doctors] found nothing wrong.”

The answer was once again to pitch through the pain and to abandon the slider.  Matz continued to pitch despite his elbow reportedly swelling to the size of a grapefruit.

One thing that is quite notable is a passage from Marc Carig’s Newsday column on the topic, “Matz insisted on powering through, perhaps in defiance of a reputation he’s gained for often being injured. And the Mets proceeded as if he were dealing with inflammation.”  More damning was this statement, “One source described a belief by some in the organization that Matz was simply learning to get over the ‘mental hurdle’ of pitching through pain.”

Certainly, this wasn’t the first time we’ve heard people discuss Matz needing to learn the difference between pitching through pain and pitching hurt.  Ron Darling has made the point a number of times during games.  His manager Terry Collins previously said Matz needed to learn how to pitch through his issues.  (Anthony Rieber, Newsday).

Seeing these comments, we should not be surprised the Mets were completely blind-sided by Matz’s recent ulnar nerve injury and need for surgery.  It is even less surprising considering the team and team doctors dealt with the same issue with Jacob deGrom.

Seeing this happen time and again, we all look to point the finger at someone.  Over the past decade, we have see a change at General Manager, manager, and pitching coach.  The Mets have been affiliated with the Hospital for Special Surgery, which is one of the top hospitals in the country.  Many will point to Ray Ramirez, but he is actually well-regarded in his field.  No, the issue is the Mets organizational culture.

In 2005, they forced Pedro to pitch.  In 2010, they were livid Carlos Beltran had knee surgery, which turned out to be a necessary and possibly career saving procedure.  Now, they have both pressured Matz to pitch and are surprised by his suffering as a result.  Really, the only thing that isn’t surprising is the Mets culture not changing over the past decade.  How can it with Jeff Wilpon still calling the shots?

How The Mets Handle Injuries

Ray Ramirez and Barwin Method jokes aside, do we really know who to blame for all of these Mets injuries?  Thi has seemingly been an issue since Pedro Martinez was with the Mets when in three straight seasons the Mets suffered a rash of injuries to their starting rotation.  It should be noted, Pedro put some blame on Jeff Wilpon’s shoulder for making him pitch hurt, but that doesn’t address how Pedro go hurt in the first place.

We saw it again last year with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz needing season ending surgery.  It is happening again this year with Harvey and Matz both landing on the Disabled List.  We also have seen Seth Lugo, Jeurys Familia, Tommy Milone, and Josh Smoker land on the Disabled List.

It goes further than that.  The position players keep getting injured too.  This year, Travis d’Arnaud, Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, David Wright, Asdrubal Cabrera (twice), Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Lagares (twice), and Brandon Nimmo have all landed on the Disabled List.  If you’ll notice, you will have seen many of those names pop up on the Disabled List last year.

There’s a simple reason for that.  Here’s example of how the Mets handle the situtaion:

Maybe if the Mets continue handling training and treatment of injuries the same way, maybe they’ll have a breakthrough. Just like the Futurama clip, it’s not going to happen.

Harvey Making The Pedro Martinez Transformation

Power pitchers always present a conundrum. When they’re young and at their best, they dominate. However, they won’t always have that fastball. The question then becomes what next? Can the pitcher effectively adapt with a diminished fastball to be a quality starter? Can they still be dominant?

As Mets fans, we saw it first-hand with Pedro Martinez. In Boston, Pedro threw in the high 90s, and he put together legendarily great seasons. Towards the end of his Boston run and his time with the Mets, Pedro was in the low 90s forcing him to focus even more on location and movement.

In 2005, Pedro did that better than anyone going 15-8 with a 2.82 ERA, 0.949 WHIP, and an 8.6 K/9. He was an All Star. He was dominant. He could’ve done more if not for foot and shoulder injuries.

Judging from Matt Harvey‘s start last night, we may be watching Harvey try to emulate what Pedro did so well in 2005.

When Harvey burst on the scene in 2013, he was throwing in the high 90s and would hit 100 MPH. After his Tommy John surgery, Harvey again was living in the high 90s even if he wasn’t quite getting it to 100 MPH anymore. After Harvey’s surgery to remove a rib to alleviate the effects of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS), his velocity hasn’t quite returned yet. During Spring Training, what velocity he did have wasn’t consistently there.

As a result, Harvey had to adapt. Adapt he did.

Last night, instead of trying to blow his four seamer past batters, Harvey relied almost exclusively on his two seamer. Instead of being in the high 90s, Harvey was hovering around 94 MPH. Instead of trying to rack up the strikeouts, he was relying on movement, location, and pitching to contact.

We saw an economical Harvey who only needing 77 pitches to get through 6.2 innings. Other than two mistakes Matt Kemp turned into long home runs, Harvey mostly yielded week contact. Impressively, Harvey seemed to get stronger as the game went on recording two of his four strikeouts in the seventh. While it wasn’t the typical Harvey start we were used to seeing, it was the same Harvey. He had the swagger on the mound, and he dominated the opposition.

And with that, we have a glimpse of the transformation Harvey is undertaking in the event his velocity never fully returns. With him, we see a pitcher who is knows how to pitch. We see a pitcher able to reinvent himself. We see a pitcher able to dominate in more ways than one.

This is extremely important. The Mets have decisions over the next few years on who to keep and who should go. Essentially, you’re gauging who is going to be Pedro and who is going to be Tim Lincecum. The ones that go the Pedro route are the ones who are worthy of contract extensions. They are going to be the pitchers who will continue to pitch at a high level, and they will help the Mets compete for the World Series year in and year out. While there may have been some doubt Harvey was that type of pitcher, last night, he started to put those concerns to bed.

When Harvey was first called up to the majors, we knew he was special. Seeing him last night, he showed just how special he could be. He could be one of the greats that has the ability to get outs no matter what he has. If that is the case, even though he is represented by Scott Boras, he might just be the first pitcher you want to sign to a contract extension.

However, before we get to that point, let’s just enjoy Harvey for what he is. He’s already gone a long way in calming our concerns about him and the rotation. We can once again dream of the Mets winning a World Series this year with a rotation headlined by him, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard.

Mets Final Season Grades – Opening Day Rotation

Throughout the season, I attempted to grade the different Mets players performances for each month of the season. In determining the year end grades, the aggregate of the monthly grades given was considered, but it wasn’t conclusive.  For example, one player’s awful month could be more than offset by having an incredible month.  Also, those decisions were made in the heat of the moment.  There has been a cooling off period in giving these finals grades, and with that, there is time for reflection.  It should also be noted the Wild Card Game did have some impact on these grades as that game was part of the story of the 2016 Mets.  Overall, the final grades assessed considered the monthly grades, but also took into account that player(s) overall impact on the Mets season (good or bad).    For the sixth set of grades, here are the Mets Opening Day Rotation:

Matt Harvey D

By now, it is readily apparent Harvey never should have pitched in 2016.  First, there was the blood clots in his bladder that led to him having an abbreviated Spring Training.  Then, it was his complaining about his mechanics.  He just wasn’t himself on the mound, and the Mets began to have discussions about sending him down.  Harvey calmed those concerns a bit by carrying a no-hitter into the fifth against the White Sox.

Even with that start, there was something not quite right with Harvey.  As it turns out, he needed season ending surgery to remove a rib to address his thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS).  The TOS was the main culprit for Harvey going 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA and a 1.468 WHIP.  With Harvey having the surgery, we can expect hi to get back to his dominant form instead of the struggling pitcher we saw in 2016.

Jacob deGrom B

Like Harvey, deGrom had some issues of his own.  He had an abbreviate Spring Training due to his newborn son’s health issues.  He had an oblique injury that robbed him of some velocity and movement.  Finally, he had to have season ending surgery himself to address a nerve irritation that was preventing him from pitching.

Ultimately, deGrom adapted to the reduced velocity and movement by locating, and he dominated in day games like he always has.  However, deGrom was not up for the big game like we saw from him.  That was prevalent in an August match-up against Madison Bumgarner that saw both pitchers fail to live up to the pitcher’s duel billing.  In reality, the nerve issue was too much for him towards the end of the season.

Still, it was a good season for deGrom.  It just wasn’t the one we expected from him after he emerged as the Mets ace in 2015.  Overall, deGrom made 24 starts going 7-8 with a 3.04 ERA and a 1.203 WHIP.  He should be much better next season.

Noah Syndergaard A

During the second game of the season, Syndergaard showed off a 95 MPH slider.  With that he announced to the world, he was taking the next step forward in a season where he would emerge as the Mets ace.  He would also emerge as a Cy Young candidate.  Syndergaard might have won the Cy Young award too had it not been for the bone spurs he had to learn to pitch with during the middle of the season.

Dealing with the bone spurs was not the only challenges Syndergaard overcame.  He also had to address how he held runners on base.  Gradually throughout the season, and with some help with Rene Rivera behind the plate, he addressed that issue to the point where teams were no longer running at will against him.  He also had to adapt to being able to carry an injury plagued pitching staff.  One of the main things lost in the season was at the end of the year, Syndergaard was really all the Mets had left in the rotation.  He handled the pressure of not just being an ace, but also being the Mets best chance of winning games.  That was most prevalent when he threw seven shutout innings in a winner-take-all Wild Card Game.

For the season, Syndergaard was 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA and a 1.149 WHIP.  He was the league leader in FIP and home runs allowed per nine innings.  Lost in those numbers was a two home run game in Los Angeles and his getting thrown out of a game for throwing at Chase Utley.  It was an eventful year that saw Syndergaard take the next step.  It will be fascinating to see him improve even more next year.

Steven Matz C

Matz’s season was reminiscent of a scene in the the movie Major League.  Announcer Harry Doyle stated as Willie MaysBar Hayes stepped up to the plate that many say you can tell a lot about how a season is going to go based upon the team’s first at-bat of the season.  Well, if you judged by Matz’s first start of the season, you knew it was going to be a rough year for him.

In his first start, Matz couldn’t get out of the second inning after allowing seven runs to the Marlins.  To his credit, Matz would move past that start, and he would start putting together a season worthy of Rookie of the Year consideration.  In fact, by the end of May, Matz would lower his ERA from the gaudy 37.80 it was during his first start all the way down to 2.28.  It was around this time that Matz began dealing with bone spurs in his elbow that changed the way he pitched.

He couldn’t utilize his slider or breaking pitches as often as it caused him pain.  Accordingly, he was less effective on the mound, and he would pitch to a 4.21 ERA until August.  At that point, Matz just couldn’t do it physically anymore.  He needed season ending surgery to remove what was described as a massive bone spur.  The surgery put an end to what was an uneven season from him.

Overall, Matz made 22 starts going 9-8 with a 3.40 ERA and a 1.209 WHIP.  During the season, he did much to confirm people’s preconceived notions about him.  If you saw him as a possible future ace to join an elite rotation, you saw definitive glimpses of that.  If you saw him as an injury prone pitcher that will never put it together, you saw that as well.  Right now, it is difficult to glean exactly what Matz is and what he will be as a major leaguer.  The 2017 should go a long way on that front.

Bartolo Colon B+

Colon was supposed to be removed from the rotation by the All Star Break.  Instead, he was the only pitcher who didn’t need to skip a start this season.  With the Mets rotation getting decimated by injuries throughout the season, they needed a pitcher like Colon to go out there and not only eat innings, but also to be a reliable pitcher when he took the mound.  Colon responded by having his best year as a Met.

The innings was only part of the Colon story.  In April, he tied Pedro Martinez on the all-time wins list meaning he has won the second most games by a Dominican born pitcher.  Colon would then pass Pedro in May.  Also in May, Colon would actually hit a home run off of James Shields.  These are but a few of the highlights that also included Colon being the best defensive pitcher this season.  It was your typical Colon roller coaster ride that fans seemed to love with the exception being that he actually pitched well this season.

Overall, Colon made 33 starts and one relief appearance going 15-8 with a 3.43 ERA and a 1.210 WHIP.  He led the majors with the fewest walks per nine innings.  It was the type of season that will help fans remember him fondly when he is pitching for the Braves next season.

Zack Wheeler Incomplete

At the Carlos Gomez trade fell through, Wheeler famously called Sandy Alderson and asked him not to trade him.  The rehabbing pitcher wanted to be a part of a Mets team that was poised to win again in 2016.  It didn’t happen as he did not throw one pitch for the Mets in 2016.

Wheeler’s rehab was plagued with setbacks.  First, he needed surgery to remove an undissolved stitch.  He then experienced elbow discomfort which turned out to be an irritated nerve requiring a cortisone shot.  In August, he was finally able to start facing batters again, and he again experienced elbow discomfort which turned out to be a strained flexor tendon.  With that his season was over before it ever began.

At this point, no one quite knows what to make of Wheeler.  He hasn’t pitched in two seasons, has had two surgeries, and has had a number of elbow issues.  While all indications are that he will be ready to start the 2017, we are at the point that we will believe it when we see it.

Editor’s Note: the grades for April, May, June, July, August, and September/October can be found by clicking the links.

A Look Back at the Mets 2006 Draft

Ten years ago, Omar Minaya had his second draft as the manager of the New York Mets.  With the team having signed Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran in the offseason, they would not have a first round draft pick.  In total, the Mets would draft 49 players, and they would be able to sign 35 of them.  Of the 49 players drafted, six of the players would play in the major leagues.  Here is  review of those players that were drafted and played in the major leagues:

Kevin Mulvey, LHP (2nd Round, 62nd Overall)

Mulvey was a fairly well-regarded fastball-changeup pitcher out of Villanova, who shot through the Mets minor league system.  In his first full professional season, he started in AA, and he finished the year with one start in New Orleans, which was then the Mets AAA affiliate.

In the offseason, Mulvey was a significant piece in the trade that brought Johan Santana to the Mets.  Notably, he was the only player drafted by Minaya to be included in the deal.

Mulvey would not last long with the Twins.  He spent a year and half with the team, and he made a very brief major league appearance with them in 2009.  He would become the player to be named later in a trade in which the Twins acquired Jon Rauch to help them not only win the AL Central, but also to help them in the postseason.

Mulvey would not pitch well for the Diamondbacks.  In 2009 and 2010, he would only make four starts and four relief appearances.  He would go 0-3 with a 6.92 ERA and a 1.615 WHIP.  In 2011, the Diamondbacks would designate him for assignment to remove him from the 40 man roster.  A year later, he would be outright released.

Mulvey caught back on with the Mets in 2012, and he was assigned to AA Binghamton.  After 13 relief appearances that saw him go 0-1 with a 5.59 ERA and a 1.707 WHIP, Mulvey retired from the game of baseball, and he returned to Villanova to be an assistant coach.  On July 14, 2016, he was named the head coach of the Villanova Wildcats.

In total, Mulvey only started four games and made six relief appearances over three major league seasons.  He finished with an 0-3 record, a 7.90 ERA, and a 1.756 WHIP.

Joe Smith, RHP (3rd Round, 94th Overall)

After losing Chad Bradford to free agency, the Mets decided the side winding Smith was ready to take over Bradford’s role in the bullpen.

Smith would pitch two seasons with the Mets making 136 appearances.  In those games, he would go 9-5 with a 3.51 ERA and a 1.402 WHIP.  While he could never match what Bradford did for the 2006 Mets, Smith was still a reliable bullpen arm so long as he was called to pitch to right-handed batters.

With the Mets bullpen falling to pieces during the 2008 season, the Mets sought a dominant reliever who could pitch in the eighth inning and who could be a reliable closing option in the event the Mets closer once again succumbed to injury.  With that in mind, Smith was included as a part of a three-team deal that netted the Mets J.J. Putz.  Ironically, it was Smith who would have the best career out of all the relievers in the deal.

During Smith’s five year tenure with the Indians, he got better and better each season as he got better and better pitching to left-handed batters.  He went from being a reliever who got just righties out to an eighth inning set-up guy.  Because of that, he got a big three year $15.75 million contract from the Angels when he hit free agency for the first time.

While Smith regressed a bit during his time with the Angels, he was still a very effective reliever.  Because he is still a very useful reliever, the Chicago Cubs obtained him after the non-waiver trade deadline.  Despite pitching well with a 2.51 ERA in 16 appearances for the Cubs, he was left off the postseason roster.  Smith is due to be a free agent after the season.

So far in Smith’s 10 year career, he has averaged 64 appearances and 57 innings per season.  He is 41-28 with 29 saves, a 2.93 ERA, and a 1.199 WHIP.

John Holdzkom, RHP (4th Round, 124th Overall)

Holdzkom was a high school pitcher with a big arm whose fastball could reach triple digits.  Initially, he posted big strike out numbers in the minors before needing season ending Tommy John surgery in 2008.  The surgery caused him to miss the entire 2009 season, and when he returned, he was never the same pitcher.

After six games in the rookie leagues in 2010, the Mets released him.  Holdzkom would take a year off from baseball before signing a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds.  He would struggle for two years in the Reds farm system before being released in June 2012.

From there, Holdzkom went to the Independent Leagues in the hopes of rekindling his hopes of becoming a major league pitcher.  With his fastball returning, he was dominant with high strikeout numbers once again, and he caught the attention of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who offered him a minor league deal.  In 2014, Holdzkom would actually appear in nine games for the Pirates pitching very well.  In those games, he was 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA and a 0.667 WHIP.

Holdzkom would lose his fastball again, and he would never again be able to crack the Pirates major league roster.  On the eve of Opening Day, he was released by the Pirates, and he was eventually signed to a minor league contract by the Chicago White Sox.  While never appearing on an injury report anywhere, Holdzkom only made one appearance in 2016 for the White Sox rookie league affiliate in July.  In two-third of an inning, he allowed four runs on three hits and two walks.

As for this moment, it is unknown what lies in the future of this 28 year old pitcher who is still looking to reclaim his fastball.

Daniel Murphy 3B (13th Round, 394th Overall)

Murphy is the best known player from the Mets 2006 draft.  He got his start with the Mets in left field for a 2008 Mets team desperate for offense.  Murphy hit well enough that he was named the Opening Day left fielder in 2009.  That year it was apparent he was not an outfielder, and he began his transition to second base.

While there were some rough spots along the way, everything finally clicked for Murphy last postseason with him hitting home runs in six consecutive postseason games.  These home runs were all the more notable when you consider Murphy hit them off Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and Kyle Hendricks.  His key steal and home run in Game 5 helped propel the Mets to the NLCS, and in the NLCS he was the obvious choice for MVP.

He signed with the Nationals, and he went out and proved his postseason run was no fluke.  Murphy hit .347/.390/.595 with 47 doubles, 25 homers, and 104 RBI.  All these numbers were career bests.  He led the National League in doubles, slugging, and OPS.

In his Mets career, Murphy hit .288/.331/.424 while averaging 33 doubles, nine homers, and 57 RBI per season.  Among Mets second baseman, Murphy is the all-time leader in games, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, RBI, and batting average.  He is also ranked third overall for the most doubles by a player in a Mets uniform, and he is ranked eighth in batting average.

Tobi Stoner, RHP (16th Round, 484th Overall)

The German born Stoner was used as a starting pitching in the Mets minor league system.  However, in his brief time with the major league club, he was used exclusively out of the bullpen.  Between 2009 and 2010, Stoner made five appearances going 0-1 with a 3.97 ERA and a 1.412 WHIP.

After his big league call-ups, Stoner actually regressed.  That could be in part due to bone spurs in his elbow he had to have removed prior to the 2011 season.  Even with the removed bone spurs, Stoner could never get back to being the pitcher he was or who the Mets thought he could be, and he was released on the eve of the 2012 season.  Stoner would pitch the 2012 season in the Independent Leagues.  In 12 starts, he would have an 8.11 ERA, and his professional career was over after that season.

Josh Stinson, RHP (37th Round, 1,114th Overall)

Stinson was a high school pitcher with a mid 90’s fastball.  As he did not truly develop his secondary pitches, he became a bullpen arm.  With a his live arm, he got called-up in 2011, at the age of 23, and pitched in 14 games with the Mets recording a 6.92 ERA and a 1.615 WHIP.

The Mets relased him before the 2012 season, and he was claimed by the Brewers.  He pitched mostly in the minors for the Brewers.  Stinson did get a brief call-up where he actually pitched well.  Despite his success in a small sample size, he was released before the 2013 season, and he was eventually picked up by the Orioles.  He made 19 appearances with the Orioles, pitching to a 4.50 ERA, before he was granted free agency. Stinson signed a minor league deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and he would not make it to the majors in the 2014 season.  The Pirates released him at the end of the year.

In the 2015 season, Stinson pitched for the Kia Tigers of the Korean Leauges.  In 30 starts and two relief appearances, Stinson was 11-10 with a 4.96 ERA and a 1.521 WHIP.  No one signed him to a professional contract to pitch in 2016.  According to Stinson’s Twitter account, the 28 year old still considers himself a free agent pitcher.

Vic Black, RHP (41st Round, 1,234th Overall)

The Mets drafted Black out of high school, but he would not sign a deal with the Mets.  Rather, he attended Dallas Baptist University, and he re-entered the draft in 2009 where the Pittsburgh Pirates would draft him in the first round (49th overall).  The Mets would acquire Black in 2013 as part of the trade that sent John Buck and Marlon Byrd to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Black and Dilson Herrera.

In 2014, Black seemed to have a breakout season for the Mets.  He began to harness his high 90s fastball, and as a result, he was becoming a reliable bullpen arm.  Unfortunately, Black would land on the disabled list with a herniated disc in his neck.  When he tried to pitch through it, he eventually developed a shoulder strain.  He was first shut down, and then designated for assignment in the offseason.

While Black elected free agency, he hoped that he could re-sign with the Mets.  Neither the Mets nor any other major league team were interested in his services.  Black has not pitched in professional baseball in two years.  At the moment, it is unknown if he will be able to ever pitch again.

Johnny Monell, C (49th Round, 1,463rd Overall)

Like Black, Monell did not sign a contract with the Mets instead choosing to re-enter the draft at a later date.  He would be drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 30th round in the following draft.

From there, Monell has bounced around from organization to organization.  Finally, in 2014, he returned to the same Mets organization that had drafted him eight years prior.  Due to injuries to Travis d’Arnaud and the ineffectiveness of both Kevin Plawecki and Anthony Recker, Monell would be called-up to the Mets in 2015, and he would play in 27 games hitting .167/.231/.208 with two doubles and four RBI.  Monell would be sent back down to AAA where he would remain for the 2015 season.

The Mets would remove him from the 40 man roster after the 2015 season, and Monell would agree to return to the Mets.  Monell spent the entire 2016 season playing for the Las Vegas 51s.  He hit .276/.336/.470 with 22 doubles, one triple, 19 homers, and 75 RBI.  With Plawecki being sent down in favor of Rene Rivera, Monell became the backup catcher.  In order to get him into the lineup more, Monell saw some additional time at first base.  Monell finished the year tied for the team lead in homers and third in RBI.

At this point, it is not known if the Mets intend to bring back the 30 year old catcher to play for the 51s again in the 2017 season.