Robert Gsellman

Simulated Recap: Mets Lose Another 11 Inning Game

With there being no baseball, or really any professional sports being played right now, MLB The Show 20 continues simulating the 2020 season.

The second game of the season went much like the first. Like with Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer, Marcus Stroman and Stephen Strasburg each had a no decision. Robinson Cano also homered, and Jake Marisnick would be caught stealing.

The game would also go into extras. Like on Opening Day when Robert Gsellman pitched a second inning, Justin Wilson would do the same. Wilson would also take the loss after surrendering a run in the top of the 11th.

This time the rally started with a Howie Kendrick lead-off single. After a wild pitch and fielder’s choice, he’d be on third with two outs. Whereas the Mets couldn’t turn a double play to keep the run from scoring on Opening Day, Brandon Nimmo just couldn’t get to a Kurt Suzuki shallow bloop near the line.

Instead of a 3-2 loss, the Mets lost this one 3-2 with Sean Doolittle recording the save again. Doolittle taking care of business against the Mets might be the most unrealistic part of these simulations.

In the end, these simulations highlight just how close these two teams are on paper. From these simulations, we’ve apparently missed out on some exciting baseball games. On the bright side, these losses don’t count for anything.

Rob Manfred Capitalizing On Global Pandemic To Kill Minor League Baseball

Let’s call it what it is. Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball sought to kill the Major League draft not because of the COVID19 pandemic. No, he used it as a ruse to facilitate his plan to contract minor league baseball.

Remember, Baseball America first reported Manfred’s plans to contract 42 minor league teams in November. That plan included reducing the draft to 20 rounds, and it was going to be pushed back from June to August. There was also going to be a limit of 150-200 minor leaguers for each organization. Currently, there is no limit.

By and through these plans, short season ball is going to be effectively eliminated. In terms of the Mets, that means no more Kingsport Mets, and it means the Brooklyn Cyclones will have to pay a fee in the ballpark from $8 – $12 million dollars to move from the New York-Penn League to Double-A.

That also effectively puts the Binghamton Rumble Ponies in limbo. Actually, that’s not entirely true. The Rumble Ponies have already been pegged as one of the 42 teams subject to contraction. It is something they are fighting fiercely.

One of the key elements to having no short-season ball is to not accumulate a larger number of minor league players. With fewer minor leaguers, you do not have enough players for leagues like the Appalachian, Gulf Coast, New York-Penn, and other leagues. By moving the draft back to August, you no longer have the need to have a league for college and high school players to get some playing time in before the end of the year.

This is exactly what Major League Baseball is doing a year earlier, and they are using the COVID19 pandemic as an excuse. They’ll say they didn’t have an opportunity to scout players who are entering this year’s draft due to high school and collegiate years being shut down, but that’s a lie. Major League Baseball has been well aware of those players they were going to draft, and they have been scouting them for years.

What they missed is the opportunity to see them grow or regress. Keep in mind, they have no issue using their big money on those draft picks as the first five picks receive the largest bonuses. This was more about cost control by prorating bonuses paid to minor leaguers over a few years, by capping the bonuses given to now undrafted players, and by taking a step forward in eliminating a significant portion of the minor leagues.

To show you how short-sighted this plan is look at the New York Mets roster by where they were drafted:

Think about that for a second. Under this plan, the reigning two-time Cy Young award winner who has established himself as the best pitcher in baseball would not get drafted in 2020. Looking further, under Manfred’s master plan, Mike Piazza, one of two Mets in the Hall of Fame, would never have been drafted, and it is questionable if he ever would have received an opportunity due to the cap on minor league players.

Looking at this plan and agreement, there is one glaring omission. In addition to deferring payments to 2020 draftees, there was no provision in this agreement to pay minor league players their 2020 salary. On that note, both Rob Manfred and Tony Clark should be ashamed of themselves.

Really, this entire agreement is an embarassment for baseball. The sport needed better leadership than what they are providing, and worse yet, the commissioner is taking advantage of global pandemic to take away money and jobs from players and minor league employees.

Mets Lose Simulated Opening Day

The Mets didn’t have Opening Day. No one did, but everyone tried to do something to celebrate Opening Day. The Mets tried something interesting, and they simulated Opening Day using MLB The Show, and it was broadcast on Twitter and YouTube.

In the game, Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer pitched no decisions, and much like last year, Robinson Cano homered off of Scherzer.

Ultimately, the Mets would lose in extra innings. Robert Gsellman walked the lead-off batter, Adam Eaton, and then the Mets couldn’t turn a double play in two attempts.

The first, Jeff McNeil pulled Cano off the bag. The second, Eric Thames beat the throw giving him a go-ahead RBI ground out which would prove to be the winning run in the 3-2 game.

What does this all mean? Nothing really. It’s not indicative of how this game would’ve went, nor is it a harbinger of things to come in 2020 when the Mets are able to play.

Overall, it was something, which is far better than nothing. In the end, it helps pass the time, is mildly entertaining, and it would be made much better if they can get Gary, Keith, and Ron to announce the games.

Hopefully, they’ll continue to show these games in some fashion until we get actual baseball. More than that, the real hope is real, actual baseball can return soon.

Rick Porcello, Steven Matz, And Michael Wacha May All Be In Mets Rotation

During Spring Training, there was what seemed to be a contrived race for the fifth starter spot in the rotation between Steven Matz and Michael Wacha. That was even with the case of Matz being the better of the two, and really being a better pitcher than Rick Porcello over the past few seasons.

As we were headed towards the end of Spring Training, we really had no indication of who was in the lead for the spot, and we even heard the Mets were toying with the idea of mixing and matching Matz and Wacha as the fifth starter using them based upon the match-ups.

Of course now, it is a moot point as no one quite knows when or if we are going to play baseball again. When that happens, there is going to be an abbreviated return to Spring Training before we get back to games. Typically speaking, that would be fine as players, especially pitchers, were ramping up to begin the season.

However, teams have shut down their Spring Training facilities to their players and sent them home. Players live in different areas of the country, and places where they would typically go to work out have been shut down as well to help prevent the further spread of COVID19. In the end, this means we have no idea how in shape players will be.

That’s not an issue of laziness or them not being serious about their craft. Rather, it is a practical reality based upon the reality of the situation. It is difficult to ask people to be prepared for the season when they can’t work out at a facility or work with an instructor. To a certain extent, you know they are all doing something, but it may not be sufficient.

For pitchers, that is going to be especially dangerous. As has been noted, there is a fear the ramp up, cool down, and abbreviated re-ramp up can lead to pitcher injuries. This is going to demand teams be judicious in how they use pitchers and allow them to use the earlier part of the season as an extended Spring Training.

Fortunately, the Mets are actually well-built to do that with their having six starting pitchers.

With their having six starting pitchers, they can institute a plan similar to that they implemented at times during the 2015 season. There was push-back from some of the starters, namely Matt Harvey, but ultimately using pitchers like Jon Niese in the rotation and later Logan Verrett, it did help keeps arms fresh. That was a key to the Mets winning the 2015 pennant.

That’s exactly what the Mets need to do here. They need to use a six man rotation to help keep these pitchers fresh and to help them get through the season. They can do it strategically by taking into account the off days. At times, they can mix in Robert Gsellman here and there given his presence as the long man in the bullpen, and possibly, they can use a Stephen Gonsalves or Corey Oswalt for the occasional spot start or even as an “opener” for starts made by the other pitchers in the rotation.

In the end, this is still a Mets team built on pitching, and they need to keep their pitchers fresh and healthy to succeed in 2020. That is going to require them to utilize a six man rotation at times, so in the end, it means that Porcello, Matz, and Wacha will all win a spot in the rotation.

From there, the Mets can judge based upon who is pitching best in the regular season, and they can adapt to injuries in the even they unfortunately come.

 

Mets Can Be Patient With Dellin Betances

The New York Mets signed Dellin Betances to be a big piece of their bullpen. The question for Betances and the Mets is when exactly that is going to happen.

Betances dealt with shoulder issues entering the 2019 season, and he would never quite regain his full velocity. When he was able to finally pitch he would partially tear his achilles. That set forth a trip into free agency with a number of questions marks and suppressed value on the market.

With there being just weeks before Opening Day, Betances has yet to play in a Spring Training game. Moreover, Betances’ velocity is still down, which isn’t all that unusual for him at this point in the year.

With the velocity down and Betances not appearing in a Spring Training game, the conversation about his availability for Opening Day needs to begin. While he COULD theoretically be ready, the Mets need to discuss whether he SHOULD be there.

No matter what the decision, one thing should be clear – the Mets don’t need to push Betances because the Mets have viable short-term alternatives at their disposal.

At the outset, it should be noted the Mets do have a bit of a Spring Training battle for the last spot in the bullpen. With Brad Brach, Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Seth Lugo, and Justin Wilson guaranteed spots, there are three bullpen spots up for grabs. One of those is likely going to Michael Wacha, and when he is healthy, Betances takes the other leaving one.

It’s very likely that last spot goes to Robert Gsellman, but the Mets do have him spend the offseason preparing to be a starter. In the potential absence of Betances, he should be all but guaranteed a bullpen spot. That leaves some interesting options behind him.

Jacob Rhame is out of options, and as noted, he may be a sneaky candidate to make the Opening Day roster. Walker Lockett is in the same position as Rhame, but he does not have the same spin rates or velocity as Rhame, and he has also been more of a starter in his career.

Paul Sewald is continuously overlooked, but when he gets his chance, he does pitch well in spurts. He has shown versatility as a one inning reliever and as a late inning reliever. With the exception of one poor outing, he allowed one earned or less in 16 of his 17 relief appearances. His penultimate one last year yielded his first Major League win.

As enticing as Sewald may be, Daniel Zamora may be more so. With the new three batter minimum rule, left-handed relievers who can get right-handed batters out become all the more valuable. In his professional career, Zamora has reverse splits, and he has pitched well against them during Spring Training.

In terms of Zamora, with the three batter rule, you could argue he should be a leading candidate for the Opening Day bullpen even if Betances was ready.

Of course, Betances could be ready for Opening Day making this all academic. Still, the Mets need to prepare for that eventuality, and perhaps even if Betances might be ready, they could opt to give him some additional time. After all, Betances has thrown all of 0.2 innings over the past year.

If nothing else, you wonder how deep into the season he can go after not throwing many innings at all last year. No matter what the Mets do, they need to remember it is not about Opening Day. It is about October – how to get there and how to win when they get there. Fortunately, they have the depth options to get Betances there.

Mets Must Pitch J.D. Davis Early And Often

Major League Baseball has implemented new rules which not only restrict the use of left-handed relievers (i.e. LOOGYS), but they have also severely restricted the ability of position players to pitch in games. In fact, according to the new rules, a position player may not pitch unless it is extra innings or “his team is losing or winning by more than six runs when he enters as a pitcher.”

There is a caveat there where a position player can freely enter a game if they are designated as a two-way player. A two way player is someone who has 20 games started as a position player and has pitched 20 innings. As the rule implies, this is a status a player achieves during the course of the season.

Obviously, the 20 way player rule was implemented for a player like Shohei Ohtani who serves as both the Angels DH and a member of their pitching rotation. However, that does not mean other teams should not look to take advantage of this rule.

For the Mets, that means pitching J.D. Davis every opportunity they get.

When the Mets traded for Davis, one of the justifications for the deal was he could step in a reliever if needed. In fact, in his brief Major League career up until that point, Davis had made three relief appearances for the Houston Astros allowing an earned run over 2.2 innings. In those 2.2 innings, he struck out four and walked one.

That was his first pitching experience since college. While at Cal State Fullerton, Davis had 20 appearances. While pitching 43.1 innings, he had a 2.70 ERA, 1.177 WHIP, 2.3 BB/9, and an 8.1 K/9. In his draft report, Baseball America noted ” shows good arm strength off the mound, showing 91-93 mph heat and a decent breaking ball, but his fastball is straight and his arm action isn’t great.”

Put more succinctly, Davis isn’t a Major League quality reliever, but he is a capable pitcher who could help a team out of the bullpen in a real pinch. The thing is you never know when that pinch is going to come.

Far too often, we see times in the season where the Mets pitching staff is completely gassed. The pitchers weren’t giving the length needed. Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman have begun piling up the multiple inning outings. That puts more of an onus on the one inning relievers to push harder than they typically should. Following the Mets, this happens at least twice a year.

With those stretches, an already questionable Mets bullpen will cost the Mets some games they wouldn’t otherwise lose. The job for new manager Luis Rojas and new pitching coach Jeremy Hefner is to find ways to mitigate against that. While being more judicious in how you use your pitching is one element, another is knowing when you send out a position player to pitch.

Early in the season, whenever the Mets have a six run lead or deficit, they should put Davis into the game to accrue innings necessary to achieve that two way player designation. Later in the season, that will allow the Mets to use him in four or five run games when they feel they need to save their pitching staff to give them a break.

Remember, this is an extremely talented Mets bullpen, but it is one with some health issues. Lugo has the torn UCL. Gsellman partially tore his lat. Dellin Betances is coming off an Achillies, and he had shoulder issues prior to that. Justin Wilson pitched through elbow soreness. Edwin Diaz has bone spurs in his pitching elbow. Michael Wacha was shut down with shoulder problems multiple times in his career.

Point is, bullpens, even the best bullpens, need breaks whenever they can get them. That can come in the form of a Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard complete game, and it can come in the form of Davis coming into a game and eating an inning here or there when the opportunity presents itself.

In order to really accomplish that, the Mets should remember a 162 game season is a marathon, and they need to prepare in April and May for problems which may come into play in July and August. Those problems are usually bullpen exhaustion related. To best prepare for that, the Mets should begin implementing strategies to get Davis qualified as a two way player so he is available when they really need help down in the bullpen.

Mets Entering Spring Training Incomplete

Finally, after an eventful winter, even by Mets standards, pitchers and catchers report tomorrow. While the Mets may have an idea as to what their 26 man roster will be, that doesn’t mean this organization is truly ready for the 2020 season.

First and foremost, they need a third everyday outfielder. Perhaps, that could be Yoenis Cespedes, but no one really knows what, if anything, he can contribute.

The Mets may plan to play J.D. Davis out there, and he could possibly platoon with Dominic Smith. Neither situation is ideal with both ideally being first baseman.

Even with Dellin Betances and presumably Michael Wacha, you’d ideally want one more big arm in the bullpen, especially when you can’t be sure what you’re getting with Jeurys Familia or Edwin Diaz. That leaves the Mets hoping either they or likely Robert Gsellman can be that guy.

This speaks to overall depth issues. While there enough bodies, we don’t know if they’re the right or good enough ones. We see that with Tomas Nido and Rene Rivera battling for the backup catcher spot.

Part of that money, which, of course, goes back to the ownership issue. We’ve known for over a decade now the Mets needed new owners, but only now do they realize that themselves.

Of course, they won’t go quietly into the night trying to get to run the Mets for five years with someone else’s money. Maybe their best argument to any new owner is they did that effectively in 2006.

Overall, this is a Mets team which could win the World Series. However, it’s going to need some help to get there and a lot to break right. If they get there, no one should bet against Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard in the postseason.

That’s an odd thing to say considering this time last year we were promised no more ifs.

Why We Remain Mets Fans Despite The Wilpons

The Wilpons are the worst owners in professional sports, and based on their turning down over a billion in profit, they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. With them and their equally incompetent General Manager, there is a sense of despair and/or anger which comes with being a Mets fan. Still, even with the Wilpons being horrible and their not going anywhere, there are reasons to still root for this team:

Pete Alonso – Rookie Home Run King who got the entire team cleats to honor the first responders of 9/11

Dellin Betances – he waited for the opportunity and came back to sign with the Mets because he wanted to stay in New York

Brad Brach – like you and me, he was wearing a Mets jersey rooting for them to win the 2015 World Series (even if he was an Oriole)

Robinson Cano – a truly charitable person who is working to stop domestic violence

Michael Conforto – willing to play any position to help the team, and when he’s hitting there’s few better

Jacob deGrom – the best pitcher in baseball

Edwin Diaz – it takes a big man to admit he had problems with the city making it easy to root for him to be dominant again.

Jeurys Familia – he came back here because he loves being a Met

Luis Guillorme – when finally given a real chance, he proved he can do much more than catch an errant bat.

Robert Gsellman – despite injury did all he could do to come back to try to pitch the Mets into the postseason like he did in 2016

Jed Lowrie – did everything he could give last year and earned those eight PH attempts

Seth Lugo – the best reliever in baseball

Steven Matz – a true blue Mets fan like us all who works to thank and help first responders

Jeff McNeil – a true throwback player who adopts puppies

Tomas Nido – strong defensive catcher who underwent elective surgery to improve his game.

Brandon Nimmo – his joy in baseball and life is only surpassed by his ability to get on base

Rick Porcello – took less to fulfill his boyhood dream of pitching for the Mets

Wilson Ramos – his learning his wife was pregnant with their next child was one of the most heartwarming parts of the 2019 season

Rene Rivera – keeps coming back to work with this pitching staff

Amed Rosario – as hardworking and exciting a player as there is, and he’s about to breakout.

Paul Sewald – a 10th round draft pick who proves himself in his scattered and limited chances

Dominic Smith – got healthy and proved himself to be a good baseball player and terrific teammate

Marcus Stroman – wants baseball to be fun, and he’s a role model to everyone showing it takes heart to be a great player (HDMH)

Noah Syndergaard – he’s standing 60′ 6″ away, and he’s the last Mets pitcher to win a World Series game.

Justin Wilson – pitched through injury to be a very reliable bullpen arm

Ultimately, even with the cheaters on the roster, this remains a very likeable team, and it is guided by a manager in Luis Rojas who Mets fans should soon love. It is hard to stay away from players like this even with their playing for absolutely despicable ownership.

When you account for Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling, the Mets broadcasts are unparalleled in their greatness. If nothing else, it is worth watching them do what they do best. It is even better when the Mets have players on the field like they will in 2020.

Combine that with wanting to share baseball with your parents, siblings, and children, and you are going to watch a team you have loved all your life. Ultimately, this is an easy team to root for, which unfortunately, is why boycotts never work, and why the Wilpons will always win.

That’s fine. We can still enjoy life and Mets baseball despite them. We can also make every effort we can to get rid of them and to let them know how much we want them gone. Sooner or later, they will be gone, and we will still be here.

Lets Go Mets!

Jacob Rhame May Be Part Of Opening Day Roster

With Major League Baseball’s new rules, teams can only carry 13 pitchers, and seeing how the Mets have operated the past few seasons, the Mets will very likely carry 13 pitchers in 2020. With the five man rotation, this means the Mets will have an eight man bullpen.

Right now, barring injury, the Mets have Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Dellin Betances, Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson, and Brad Brach as absolute locks for the Opening Day bullpen. That is going to leave two bullpen spots open with one of them going to the pitcher who loses the bullpen battle. That pitcher is most likely going to be Michael Wacha.

That is where things begin to get a bit interesting.

On the surface, it would seem Robert Gsellman has an inside track for the last bullpen job. After all, he has been a reliever for each of the past two seasons. However, he has not performed well out of the bullpen with an 87 ERA+ and 4.03 FIP over that stretch. When you combine the Mets wanting him to spend the offseason working as a starter, you wonder if a pitcher who still has options remaining will begin the year in Triple-A as a starter.

On the topic of options, Jacob Rhame is out of options, and the Mets will have to expose him to waivers if they are going to keep him in the organization.

Rhame is coming off a season where he had ulnar transposition surgery. That is the same surgery Jacob deGrom underwent in 2016. In his first year after the surgery, deGrom was a good starting pitcher, and in the ensuing two years he emerged as the best pitcher in baseball.

Now, that is obviously not Rhame’s ceiling. However, we do see after undergoing that surgery a pitcher can reach their full potential. While many may debate what exactly that is for Rhame, the Mets clearly have some interest in finding out as they have kept him throughout this offseason despite fully knowing he is out of options.

With Rhame having a career 6.23 MLB ERA and a Triple-A 4.05 ERA, you have to wonder what exactly the Mets are seeing in him.

Looking at Baseball Savant, Rhame throws in the mid-90s, and back in 2018, before he needed the transposition surgery, he had above average movement on that fastball. While he did not get much vertical movement on his splitter, it had very good horizontal movement, which is part of the reason why it was a swing-and-miss pitch for him.

Ultimately, that is what the Mets see in Rhame – his potential. Since the day they obtained him from Curtis Granderson, they knew they were getting a big arm with relatively untapped potential. He still has the ability to generate strikeouts, and as we saw with Rhys Hoskins, he has a bit of a nasty streak where he won’t back down or take anything from the opponent.

Based on what we have seen this offseason, the Mets are going to allow Rhame to work with new pitching coach Jeremy Hefner to show his potential can yield results. Presumably, he is going to get an opportunity to show the Mets he is a better option in the bullpen than Gsellman, who may belong in the rotation, or Walker Lockett, who is also out of options.

In the end, the Mets have kept Rhame around for a reason. Perhaps, that reason is to have him be a part of the 2020 Opening Day roster. With pitchers and catchers reporting soon, he is going to get the opportunity to prove he belongs.

 

Mets Have Built Ultimate Boom Or Bust Bullpen

Just look at the names: Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Seth Lugo, and now Dellin Betances. That is a list of names which is the envy of each and every Major League team, and when you break it down, it has the makings of being an all-time great bullpen.

In 2018, Diaz was as dominant as we have seen any closer be. In 73 appearances, he recorded a Major League leading 57 saves with a 1.96 ERA, 0.791 WHIP, and a 15.2 K/9.

Familia is the best right-handed closer in Mets history. From 2015 – 2016, he was second in the Majors in saves while having the third most innings pitched and ninth best ERA.

Lugo has been as dominant a reliever as the Mets have ever had, and really he has emerged to be as dominant as any reliever in the game. To put it in perspective of just how dominant and overlooked he has been, over the past two years, he has a better FIP while throwing more innings than two time All-Star Josh Hader.

As great as this group is, you can argue none of them are anywhere near as good as Betances has been. From 2014-2018, he was quite possibly the best reliever in all of baseball. In fact, his 11.2 fWAR was second best. He was best in innings pitched, third in K/9, fourth in fWAR, and fifth in appearances.

When you can line-up this level of relievers in a row, you’re making every game a 5-6 inning game for a starting staff which includes Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Marcus Stroman. That is not only a recipe for success, it is a recipe for pure dominance.

However, it is important to note next year is 2020, and based on the last few years, only Lugo has been pitching at this high a level.

Last year, Diaz had a career worst year. After the offseason, he talked about how he struggled handling New York, and as reported by Laura Albanese of Newsday, the Mets finally admitted he had been dealing with some health issues.

Familia also had a career worst year. With his having an arterial clot removed in 2017 and his dealing with shoulder issues again last year, you wonder if he can ever get back to the pitcher he was in 2018 (3.13 ERA) let alone his dominant form of 2014 – 2016.

Finally, there is Betances. Before partially tearing his Achilles last year, Betances had been shut down at the beginning of the 2019 season due to a bone spur issue in his shoulder, inflammation in the joint, and a strain to his his right latissimus dorsi muscle. When he finally came back, he had lost velocity on his pitches.

That was also before partially tearing his Achillies. The good news on that front is it did not require surgery, and he is expected to be ready for Spring Training. The downside  is no one can quite be sure what type of pitcher he will be in 2020.

Long story, short, this all means Jeremy Hefner has his work cut out for him. He has been handed an incredibly gifted bullpen which needs a lot of help getting back to their respective levels of dominance. If he is able to get this group at or near their apex, this Mets bullpen will be the best in the game, and when you factor in the talent and potential of relievers like Justin Wilson and Robert Gsellman, you could have an all-time great bullpen.

On the other hand, it is difficult to coach away injuries and diminution in stuff. To that end, no one can be quite sure how this bullpen will perform. As such, this “boom or bust” bullpen will be one of the key reasons why the Mets succeed or fail in 2020.