There were many reasons why the Mets lost this game. For his part, Noah Syndergaard would blame the travel schedule which had them playing a night game last night and a 1:00 P.M. start tonight, which does seem like it was avoidable.
If fact, it was with Major League Baseball giving the Mets the option to start at 4:00 with the Mets passing at the opportunity.
There was the fact the Mets were facing Stephen Strasburg, a very good pitcher having a very good day. It certainly didn’t help the Mets were 0-for-3 with RISP and left seven runners on base.
Syndergaard had some bad luck. We was squeezed in the second leading to two walks and actually a wild pitch and run bunted home. Certainly, it was an odd box score with the Nationals having a run and no hits for the first five innings.
It looked just as odd when the Nationals had two runs on one hit with Victor Robles leading off the sixth with a solo homer.
There were certainly a number of factors at play. Unfortunately, Mickey Callaway was also a factor with his decision making in the seventh inning being a key factor.
In the seventh, the Mets had Strasburg on the ropes after a pair of two out singles from Jeff McNeil and Amed Rosario. With Juan Lagares due up and the left-handed Matt Grace warming in the bullpen, Callaway had a key decision to make.
With Strasburg at 108 pitches, he might’ve been coming out of the game anyway. Perhaps, things would be different if the Mets stuck with Lagares or pinch hit Luis Guillorme.
It should be noted last year batters hit .271/.322/.436 in their third plate appearance against Strasburg.
It should also be noted in a very small sample size, Guillorme has been a good pinch hitter (3-11, 2B, RBI, 4 BB). Of course, that’s if the Nationals didn’t take Strasburg out of the game.
Callaway opted to go with Smith to force Grace into the game. Apparently, Callaway did this to get the matchup he wanted, which for some reason was J.D. Davis. The only acceptable explanations for this decision were: (1) Callaway has not watched one minute of Mets baseball this season; (2) Jim Riggleman was goading Jim into it so he could take over as manager at some point this year; or (3) Brodie Van Wagenen was holding his family hostage forcing Callaway to use Davis.
Given the options, Davis was probably the last option you wanted to see there. Even if the Mets were inclined to burn their best pinch hitter (which is bizarre in its own right), Davis was the absolute wrong choice as he’s done nothing to show he’s even as good as former whipping boy Eric Campbell (Campbell has a much higher OPS+).
If you take into account Lagares was out of the game, Keon Broxton is a .252/.357/.445 hitter off left-handed pitching, and the Mets needed someone to come play center with Lagares gone. Of course, sticking with Smith was also a viable option.
Instead, Callaway went with Davis who struck out looking.
That situation was created because Callaway opted to bring in Seth Lugo to pitch the ninth despite his being ill recently and has had diminished velocity lately. With his UCL issues, we can only hope this a combination of illness and fatigue from over-use.
Callaway’s treatment of Lugo is at Terry Collins levels. Remember, Collins was the pitcher who disregarded pitcher health and used them dangerously. It would have an impact and eventually lead the end of the careers of Tim Byrdak, Scott Rice, and Jim Henderson.
Right now, the Mets are winning and off to their second hot start with Callaway at the helm. However, it looks like Callaway is regressing, and if he continues to do so, we may see him continue to put the Mets in disadvantageous situations.
In what has already been a frustrating offseason for Mets fans, Sandy Alderson has already uttered a statement that may prove to go down in “Panic Citi” history. While speaking with reporters, Alderson suggested people “spend a little less time focusing on our payroll.”
If Alderson wants everyone to spend less time focusing on payroll, maybe it is time to focus on Alderson’s tenure as the Mets General Manager to see how it was the team has gotten to this position.
During Alderson’s entire tenure, there have only been eight players who have played over 140 games in a season – Asdrubal Cabrera (2016), Ike Davis (2012) Lucas Duda (2014), Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2016), Juan Lagares (2015), Daniel Murphy (2012 – 2014), Jose Reyes (2017), and David Wright (2012).
This is because of a long list of injuries that have occurred to their position players. This ranges from the ordinary (Yoenis Cespedes‘ hamstring issues) to the bizarre (Davis’ Valley Fever) to the tragic (Wright).
As poorly as things have gone for the position players, the pitching situation is even worse. Johan Santana, Tim Byrdak, and Scott Rice suffered injuries that effectively ended their careers. Same could be said for Bobby Parnell, Jeremy Hefner, and Jim Henderson. The list goes on and on..
That list includes a starting pitching staff upon which this franchise was supposedly built. Each of the treasured purported five aces have undergone surgeries that have cost them multiple months. Matt Harvey may never be the same, and the same can be said for Zack Wheeler.
The irony is Alderson implemented the famed “Prevention & Recovery” mantra, and arguably things have gotten worse under his control.
Evaluating Own Talent
Now, there are varying reasons why teams choose to extend some players while not extending others, or why they choose not to re-sign other players. Still, Alderson’s record is not exactly sterling on this front.
The main players discussed on this front are Murphy and Justin Turner. However, there are some other less discussed players that have slipped through the Mets fingers.
The Mets traded Collin McHugh for Eric Young only to watch McHugh thrive elsewhere. Chris Young was given a large one year deal, was released, and has been an effective player for the Yankees and Red Sox. They released Dario Alvarez to see the Braves claim him and trade him to the Rangers for a former first round draft pick. Finally, there was the Angel Pagan trade for a couple of players who amounted to nothing with the Mets.
The troubles evaluating their own players go beyond who they willingly let go. It goes to those players the Mets opted to extend – Lagares, Jon Niese, and Wright. None of these three ever amounted to the promise they had at the time the contracts were extended. There are differing reasons for this, but in the end, the Mets proved wrong in those decisions.
The glass half-full is that every first round draft pick made prior to 2015 has made the Majors. Additionally, two of those players have made All Star teams. The glass half-empty is the players the Mets have drafted have not lived up to their potential.
At a time the Mets need a starting center fielder, Brandon Nimmo isn’t even being considered. This is not surprising as many see him as a fourth outfielder.
Coincidentally, the Mets also need a second baseman, and they are not even considering Gavin Cecchini for so much as a utility role let alone an opportunity to compete for a job in Spring Training.
The team was not at all enamored with Dominic Smith‘s rookie campaign, and they have publicly talked about bringing in insurance for him not being on the Opening Day roster.
The Mets had no 2015 draft pick because the team lost it signing Michael Cuddyer. Effectively speaking, this decision cost the Mets two first rounders as the team’s lack of offense and health caused them to trade Michael Fulmer for Cespedes. We have all seen Fulmer win a Rookie of the Year Award and make an All Star team in Detroit while the Mets have been desperate for pitching.
Justin Dunn has done little to quell the concerns he is a reliever and not a starter while Anthony Kay, the compensation for the reigning NLCS MVP, has yet to throw a professional pitch because of his Tommy John surgery.
This leaves Conforto, who should be a burgeoning superstar, but sadly we wait with baited breath looking to see if he is going to be the same player he was before separating his shoulder on a swing.
Alderson’s ventures into free agency have not been all that fruitful. Of all the players who have signed multi-year deals, only Granderson has posted multiple seasons over a 2.0 WAR. In fact, Granderson is the only player who has posted a cumulative WAR of over 4.0.
For those that would bring up Colon or Cespedes, their exploits are not attributable to their multi-year deals. Colon accumulated 4.9 WAR with the Mets with 3.4 of that coming during his one year contract. Cespedes has accumulated 7.2 WAR with the Mets with just 2.1 WAR coming last year in an injury plagued first year of a large four year deal.
It should be noted Alderson may not have much success on this front because the team has not gone crazy in free agency signing just a few players a year to Major League deals.
Even in 2015 and 2016, two years the Mets made the postseason, the Mets had depth issues. This was why the team traded for Kelly Johnson in consecutive seasons. It’s also a reason why in those consecutive years the Mets had to add to the bullpen.
Those seasons have taken a toll on the Mets prospect front. They have sent away a number of assets and potential Major League contributors for a number of players who were attainable before the season began on reasonable deals. Instead, the Mets thought they would be set with players like Eric Campbell.
Much of what is attributed to Alderson being a good General Manager is predicated upon a stroke of genius in obtaining Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wuilmer Becerra in exchange for R.A. Dickey. Even with many fans wanting to give him plaudits for Cespedes, it should be noted the trade was made largely because of a series of missteps. It should also be noted the Mets lost a pretty good pitcher.
Now, if you are going to defend Alderson by saying his hands have been largely tied due to the Mets payroll, remember, Alderson himself doesn’t want thinks we should spend a little less time focusing on that.
Sadly, we have to do that because the Alderson regime has had difficulties in evaluating their own talent and drafting high end talent. If he had, the discussion would probably be the Mets fine tuning to make another postseason run instead of there being fan anger over how the payroll is restricting the Mets from building a World Series caliber roster.
Before the last game of the season, Terry Collins told us all what we were expecting. He will not be returning as Mets manager. While unnecessary, he was magnanimous in announcing he was stepping aside and taking himself out of consideration for the managerial position with his contract expiring. The Mets rewarded him with how he’s handled himself in his seven years as manager and over these trying three days with a front office position.
In essence, Collins’ tenure with the Mets ended much in the way it started. The Mets were bad and injured. It was a circus around the team, and he was the face in front of the media left holding the bag. What we saw in all of those moments was Collins was human, which is something we don’t always see in managers.
Part of being human is being emotional. We’ve seen Collins run the gamut of emotions in those postgame press conferences. And yes, we’ve seen him cry. Perhaps none more so than when he had that gut wrenching decision to keep Johan Santana in the game and let him chase immortality. In his most prescient moment as a manger, Collins knew he could’ve effectively ended a great players’ career, and yet, he couldn’t just sit there and rob his player of his glory. In the end, that would be the defining characteristic in Collins’ tenure as manager.
He let Jose Reyes bunt for a single and take himself out of a game to claim the Mets first ever batting title. He left Santana in for that no-hitter. He initially let David Wright try to set his own schedule for when he could play until Wright all but forced Collins to be the adult. Through and through, he would stick by and defer to his players, including but not limited to sending Matt Harvey to pitch the ninth.
Until the very end, Collins had an undying belief in his players, especially his veteran players. It would be the source of much consternation among fans. This was on more highlighted than his usage of Michael Conforto. What was truly bizarre about Collins’ handling of Conforto wasn’t his not playing one of his most talented players, it was Collins had a penchant for developing players when he was interested.
In fact, that 2015 Mets team was full of players Collins developed. You can give credit to Dan Warthen, but Collins deserves credit for helping that staff develop. Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Jeurys Familia all developed into dominating pitchers under Collins guidance.
But it wasn’t just the heralded pitchers. It may have taken some time, but Collins developed some other less heralded prospects into good Major League players. Collins helped make Jon Niese, Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, Juan Lagares, and Wilmer Flores into significant contributors to a pennant winner. It wasn’t just those players. Collins seemingly brought out the best in all of his players.
With the exception of Murphy, you’d be hard-pressed to find a player who performed better after leaving the Mets. Ruben Tejada, Eric Young, Ike Davis, Josh Thole, R.A. Dickey, and Marlon Byrd regressed after leaving the Mets. Really, you can pick you player, and the chances are those players were not the same after playing for a different manager.
Because of his managing, Mets fans saw things they never thought they’d see. A knuckleball pitcher won 20 games and a Cy Young. A Mets player won a batting title. There was actually a Mets no-hitter. Despite the Madoff scandal, the Mets got back to a World Series.
Through all of our collective hand wringing over his managing, we have all tended to lose sight of that. Collins got the best out of his players. It’s why we saw the rise of that team in a dream like 2015 season, and it’s why the Mets fought back so fiercely in 2016 to make consecutive postseasons.
And in those moments, Collins celebrated with his team . . . and the fans. More than anyone who has ever been a part of the Mets, Collins treated the fans with respect. He returned their affection. That was no more apparent than that improbable run in 2015:
— Matt Dunn (@MattDunnSNY) October 22, 2015
It was more than the celebrating. Collins was there to console grieving widows and take time out for sick children who just had heart transplants. At his core, Collins is a good and decent man. It may be that part of his personality which allowed him to get the most out of his players. It helps you overlook some of his shortcomings.
Certainly, Collins has left behind many reliever careers in his wake. Names like Tim Byrdak and Scott Rice are just footnotes in Mets history, and that is because Collins over used his relievers. This was just one aspect of his poor managing. There were many times where he left you scratching your head. It was his managing that helped cost the Mets the 2015 World Series.
However, as noted, the Mets would not have gotten there if not for Collins. To that end, we all owe him a bit of gratitude for that magical season. We owe him gratitude and respect for how he has treated the fans.
He did that more than anyone too because he ends his career as the longest tenured manager in Mets history. When he was hired no one expected him to last that long. Yet, it happened, and despite all of his faults, the Mets were better off for his tenure. In the end, I respected him as a man, and I appreciated what he did for this franchise.
I wish him the best of luck, and I’ll miss him. My hope is that whoever replaces him is able to capture the best of the man. Those are certainly huge shoes that are not easily filled. Mostly, I hope he’s at peace at what was a good run with the Mets, and I wish him the best of luck in his new role.
Despite teams pouring a tremendous amount of money into the topic, no one is still definitive on what causes pitcher injuries. Many will suggest it is fatigue, but even that is inconclusive. The Verducci Effect has been debunked time and again. Moreover, there was a 2003 Nate Silver and Matt Carroll Baseball Prospetus article which suggests the link between fatigue and arm injuries might be overstated. Still, there is evidence there is a link between fatigue and arm injuries. That is especially the case with pitchers over 25.
It is that link that made what Terry Collins did last night inexcusable.
Now, if you want to argue the inning snuck up Collins, you could make that argument. There were two outs in the second inning with Jon Lester coming up. Reasonably, a manager should expect his pitcher to get out of the inning. As we all know, Zack Wheeler didn’t. He grooved a pitch right down the middle to Lester, who hit a single to left. From there the doors fell off and the inning fell apart.
Wheeler was still only 18 pitches deep into the inning when he walked Albert Almora on four straight pitches. However, at this point, it was clear Wheeler was losing it, and to make matters worse, the Cubs lineup had turned over. From there Collins allowed Wheeler to throw 28 more pitches before lifting him for Josh Smoker. In total, Wheeler threw an inexcusable 46 pitches in the second inning.
This is the same Wheeler who missed two years after having Tommy John surgery. This is the same pitcher the Mets were rumored to want to limit to 125 innings this year. You need to be careful with Wheeler. Collins wasn’t. He would then compound his error with Wheeler by abusing Smoker.
Last year, Smoker’s high in pitches thrown in a game was 32. This year, he has already topped that six times. However, last night took the cake. Collins pushed Smoker to pitch four innings throwing 81 pitches. That’s a starter’s workload, not a reliever’s. There was a tangible effect.
Smoker is a pitcher that can get his fastball up to 97 MPH, which he did a couple of times last night. By the time Collins finally lifted Smoker in the sixth inning, he was throwing 89 MPH.
Collins went ahead and asked more from Smoker than he could possibly give. He did it despite the Mets bullpen only having thrown only 6.2 innings over the past four games. That was also despite the fact Jacob deGrom gave the bullpen a night off with his complete game. By the way, the only reason the Mets were able to obtain Smoker was because the Nationals former first round pick was released after two shoulder surgeries.
It’s not that Wheeler and Smoker need to be babied by their manager. Rather, they need their manager to not push them past the breaking point. This is no different than the protection Tim Byrdak, Scott Rice, Jim Henderson, and any number of pitchers Collins has left in his wake as manager.
In the modern game of baseball, the most important job a manager can do is managing his pitching staff. He needs to do all he can do to get them through a season both healthy and effective. Time and again, Collins has failed in that regard. Last night was the latest example. For his part, Collins has never had to face any ramifications for his actions. Unfortunately, his pitchers have. We should all cross our fingers Wheeler and Smoker will not be the next.
Once Saturday’s game is over, Terry Collins will become the Mets all-time leader in games managed. With this, he will be above Gil Hodges, who may have owned the record himself if not for his sudden and tragic passing. He will surpass Bobby Valentine, who was the first Mets manager to lead the team to consecutive postseasons. Finally, he passes Davey Johnson, who led the Mets to the greatest stretch in team history.
All of the aforementioned managers have had better records then Collins, who owns the Mets mark for most losses as a manger. It leads to the question, why is it Collins lasted longer in New York than either Valentine or Johnson? The answer is a complicated one for a man who has led the Mets over a complicated time period.
Collins took the helm for the Mets after the disastrous Jerry Manuel Era. After bad mouthing his boss, Willie Randolph, he talked his way into the managerial job, and he oversaw his own collapse. Despite that, the Mets decided to retain him as the new team manager as the Mets opened up a new ballpark. In his two full seasons as Mets manager, his teams were 149-173. This was despite having talented rosters with players like David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran.
The Manuel Era was done in by a number of issues. First, the team was not built well for the then cavernous Citi Field. Second, high priced veterans like Luis Castillo and Jason Bay were playing up the standards of being an average major league player, let alone their contracts. Third, the team deal with a number of injuries – some of which were exacerbated by Manuel’s decision making. Mostly, the mix of manager, ballpark, and roster were doomed from the beginning. It was time for new blood across the organization.
This was the stage upon which Collins entered as the Mets manager in 2011. The team was mostly a mix of veterans nearing either the end of their contracts or their careers and some interesting players who could be talented major league players. In the early part of Collin’s tenure, the Mets were teams that overachieved in the first half of the season, and then with trades, injuries, or players coming back to earth, the Mets would fall apart as the season progressed.
During the early part of Collins tenure as Mets manager, no one realistically believed the Mets were going to be contenders. As a result, judging him by wins and losses seemed counter-intuitive. Rather, you want to look at managers like this through the prism of their ability to get the most out of the talent on their roster. Specifically, you want to see them develop some young players.
Things almost came to a head in 2014. The Mets first real prized free agent acquisition of the Sandy Alderson Era, Curtis Granderson, was struggling. The other, Bartolo Colon, was the staff ace, which meant Zack Wheeler was not progressing like the organization would have liked. There were also struggles from Dilson Herrera, Travis d’Arnaud, and others. It was not how the Mets envisioned this season would go, and if not for the Wilpons intervening, it would have been a different manager that led the Mets to the 2015 pennant.
It’s unsure to pinpoint the exact reason Collins survived. The biggest skeptics will pinpoint Collins was due money, and the Wilpons, who were dealing with the Madoff scandal, were loathe to pay two different managers. It’s possible Collins was saved because the Mets were not exactly under-performing. There were also some positive signs for the team.
Lucas Duda not only won the first base job, but he hit 30 home runs. Daniel Murphy was a first time All-Star. Jenrry Mejia showed he was closer material. Wheeler had a strong finish to the season. Jeurys Familia looked like a closer in waiting. Juan Lagares won a Gold Glove. Jacob deGrom was a surprise Rookie of the Year. Matt Harvey had just been the All Star Game starter the previous season, and he was set to return in 2015. R.A. Dickey won a Cy Young Award that allowed the facilitation of the trade to bring over d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard. Overall, you could see young pieces who could be part of the Mets’ future. These were players who were cultivated under Collins. It should also be kept in mind Collins created a certain atmosphere in the clubhouse that partially led to Wright signing a contract extension in 2012. Overall, the pieces for a future contender were there, and they were all cultivated under Collins.
There’s another factor that is not often discussed with Collins is the fact he’s a good human being. Time and again with Collins we hear little things he does that mean so much to people. He has reached out to grieving Mets fans to offer his condolences. He’s stopped the team during Spring Training to assemble them to spend some time with sick children. He struck the right chord between honoring Jose Fernandez and trying to keep the Mets team competitive in that three game set. That’s a harder job to do than we all give him credit. Having a man like this around your team and leading young men is always a good thing.
And yet, there are plenty of instances where you look at Collins’ tenure and wonder how he’s lasted this long. His usage of Tim Byrdak, Scott Rice, Johan Santana, Jim Henderson, and others have had a negative impact upon their ability to stay healthy. Certainly, it can be argued these pitchers’ arms were ruined by Collins.
There has also been his over-reliance on his veteran players. Despite Collins mantra that you hit you play, it really has only every been applied to young players. It has twice taken a litany of injuries to get T.J. Rivera in the lineup. Collins never would put Michael Conforto back in the lineup last year no matter his raking in Triple-A and his wrist being healthy. Instead, he watched Jay Bruce continue to flail at the plate. This year, we see him keeping Reyes and Granderson in the lineup despite their both hitting under the Mendoza Line.
More to the point, Collins allows the question to be asked over who exactly is in charge. There are always reports Alderson dictates to him what should be done instead of Collins being allowed to manage the team as he wishes. Collins allowed Reyes to pull himself from the last game of the 2011 season to preserve his batting title. One of the lasting images of the 2015 World Series was Harvey telling him not to pull him from the game.
That World Series is certainly one that will haunt the Mets. Collins made a number of questionable moves throughout that series which did not put his team in the best possible position to win. Given how the Mets are struggling now, it does beg the question whether that was this core’s best opportunity to win a World Series. But it’s more than that. We have consistently seen Collins ignore reliever’s workloads and splits when making pitching changes. He will send Wilmer Flores up there to pinch hit against right-handed pitchers even with other players still on the bench. Overall, it is his in-game managing that leaves a lot to be desired.
Despite all of that, Collins is still here. He has survived a lot to get to this point. There was the Madoff scandal. There was a rebuild that took a year or two longer than initially advertised. He has consistently tried to hold a team together that has seen a number of injuries, brutal losses, and disheartening losing streaks. He oversaw the transition from the Mets being a last place team to a team that almost won a World Series.
The Terry Collins’ Era will forever be a complicated one in Mets history. To a certain extent, it does not matter that he is the manager who has managed the most games in Mets history. That is mostly the result of circumstance. Arguably, the circumstances have dictated Collins remain on for as long as he has. Say what you will about the man, but he has always been accountable, never left you questioning his loyalty to the players or fans, and he has had the pulse of his clubhouse. If nothing else, Collins is a leader of men, and as a man, you are hard pressed to find a better human being in baseball.
It does not matter if you believe someone else should have this record. It’s Collins’ now. He deserves everyone’s congratulations for it, and he deserves the respect of Mets fans for his tenure.
This year marks the seventh year Terry Collins has been the Mets manager. In those seven years, he has left a wake of horrible decisions and the careers of some players, namely Scott Rice and Jim Henderson.
Collins seems to be in rare form in what he had previously said was going to be his last before retirement. Already this year, he has made some poor and dangerous decisions.
Now, some like starting Jay Bruce over Michael Conforto is an organizational decision. Some decisions are designed to give players a mental and physical day of rest, and they should not be over-analyzed. However, many others, as you’ll see below, fall under the purview of Collins poor managing:
Opening Day – 4/3
Mets 6 – Braves 0
Collins sets out a lineup that makes little sense including batting his second worse OBP guy in Jose Reyes lead-off. He also made a strategical blunder hitting Bruce ahead of Lucas Duda. The issues there are more detailed here.
After Noah Syndergaard left the game with a blister, Collins turned to fifth starter Robert Gsellman for an inning in a 6-0 blowout instead of Rafael Montero, who could have benefited from a pressure free outing to build his confidence.
Braves 3 – Mets 1
It’s not Collins’ fault the bullpen blew the lead, and he had to rip through his pen in an extra inning game. However, going to Montero over Josh Smoker was a poor decision. Smoker is just a one inning pitcher. He can’t be the last guy up. Also, he’s better than Montero, and as such, he shouldn’t pitched first.
Also, in extras, Collins turned to Ty Kelly over T.J. Rivera and Wilmer Flores with two outs and the winning run on second. In 2016, Kelly hit .179 off right-handed pitching to Flores’ .232 and Rivera’s .386. Another factor is with Conforto already having pinch hit, Kelly was the last OF on the bench.
Mets 6 – Braves 2
Marlins 7 – Mets 2
You could argue Collins should’ve lifted Zack Wheeler before the fourth as he labored in ever inning except the first, but focusing too much on this may be picking nits at this point. What was really peculiar was it was obvious the Mets were going to need someone to soak up innings with Wheeler’s short outing. Last year, Smoker proved he is not a multiple inning reliever. Despite that being the case, Collins turned to Smoker over Montero or Hansel Robles, who are two pitchers that can go deep in relief. These are the types of decisions that exhaust bullpens.
Marlins 8 – Mets 1
With Gsellman going five, Collins had to go deeper in the pen that he would’ve liked. He went too deep when he brought in Montero. The previous day Montero threw 35 pitches over 2.2 innings. On Wednesday, Montero threw 35 pitches over 1.2 innings. That’s 70 pitches over 4.2 innings without much rest. Montero struggled leading Collins to bring in Fernando Salas who has now appeared in four of the Mets five games himself.
Mets 5 – Marlins 2
Mets 4 – Phillies 3
In the top of the seventh with the score tied at two, Collins put Conforto in the on deck circle, and the Phillies countered by having Joely Rodriguez warm-up. By Collins tipping his hand a bit, he was forced to make the choice of Conforto against the left-handed pitcher or to go with one of his right-handed bench options to pinch hit for Jacob deGrom.
Now, there is a lot of small sample size bias, but Collins options where Conforto (.129/.191/.145 vs. LHP), Flores (.252/.286/.372 vs. RHP), and Rivera (.386/.397/.600 vs. RHP). Again, there are small sample sizes, but based upon the information you would say your best bet is Rivera against Jerad Eickhoff. Instead, Collins went with Flores, who flew out to end the inning and the rally.
One other small note. Based upon the relative production of the Mets players, putting Bruce in the clean-up spot was a defensible and probably the smart move. It’s more than just production, Bruce just looks better at the plate than anyone in the lineup right now. However, according to Collins, Bruce was moved up in the lineup because he was hot. Of course, Bruce wasn’t as he was in the midst of a 2-14 streak.
It’s a problem when the manager is making a move predicated on a faulty premise. It does not matter if it was the right move or it worked out. The problem is the reasoning behind it was flawed.
Mets 14 – Phillies 4
Mets 5 – Phillies 4
To be fair, the following isn’t necessarily a critique of Collins. It really is a critique of most baseball managers. With the Mets up 5-0, and Zack Wheeler loading the bases, Collins summoned Hansel Robles to the mound. While Gary and Ron Darling were harping on it being his third consecutive game, he had only pitched two innings and threw just 20 pitches in that stretch. It’s really difficult to infer Robles was tired.
Rather, the issue is why don’t you use Fernando Salas in that spot? He’s well rested, and he’s arguably your second best reliever right now. This really was the biggest out of the game. The Mets get the out here, and they go to the seventh up 5-0. From there, you can go with some of your lesser arms to close out the game.
Instead, Collins went with his best reliever that wasn’t his 7th, 8th, or 9th inning guy. This is what every manager does in this spot, so this is not unique to Collins. Another point to be made here is Collins going to Robles is justifiable as Robles is a good relief pitcher, and he has bailed the Mets out of similar situations in the past. Again, this is more of a critique of major league managers as a whole than just Collins.
Mets 9 – Marlins 8 (16)
Well, this was a long game leaving Collins to make a lot of curious moves that helped lead to this being a 16 inning game that exhausted the Mets bullpen.
After four innings, Collins lifted T.J. Rivera from the game for no reason at all. There were no injury issues or defensive problems. This move indirectly led to Rene Rivera playing first base in extra innings and Jacob deGrom having to make a pinch hitting appearance.
In the fifth, despite Gsellman not having anything, Collins pushed him, and the results were terrible. Collins then turned to his worst reliever in Josh Edgin to help Gsellman get out of the jam. The end result was the Marlins not only erasing a three run deficit, but also taking an 8-7 lead.
The Mets tied it and the game went 16 innings. Over the course of those innings, the bullpen was absolutely exhausted which will have far reaching implications in the short and long term.
Marlins 3 – Mets 2
To be fair, after a 16 inning game, the Mets did not have a lot of options available in the bullpen. However, it is puzzling why Collins would go with Edgin, who has struggled most of the season, over a fully rested Sean Gilmartin who was brought up for the sole purpose of helping the bullpen. Putting Edgin in for two innings essentially conceded the game. That’s effectively what happened.
Marlins 5 – Mets 4
After ONE decent game this season, Collins just rushed ahead and put Reyes back in the lead-off spot. In response, Reyes was 0-3 with a walk. It didn’t prevent the Mets from taking a lead, but again, it shows Collins’ poor though process.
In the eighth, the Mets had Jerry Blevins warming in bullpen when Christian Yelich walked to the plate. Now, you can argue that Salas is the eighth inning reliever until Jeurys Familia returns, and this is his spot. However, when you have Blevins warming up, you have him pitch to the left-handed batter in key situtations. Instead, Salas allowed a game tying home run followed by a go-ahead home run to Giancarlo Stanton.
Marlins 4 – Mets 2
Phillies 6 – Mets 2 (10)
For most of the game, it appeared as if Collins was managing a pretty good game. The most egregious error was batting d’Arnaud behind Reyes, who can’t hit right now, and Walker, who can’t hit as a left-handed batter right now. However, you can excuse that when you consider Collins has to manage a clubhouse and respect veterans.
I’d go so far as to argue Collins deftly managed the bullpen last night. That was until the 10th inning. With a fully rested Sean Gilmartin and a Montero who seemingly gets worse with each and every outing, you simply cannot go to Montero in that spot. It is essentially waiving a white flag. And you know what, that’s exactly what Collins did.
The Phillies quickly had runners on first and second because, well, Montero was pitching. You’re in the 10th inning, and the Mets have no hit at all in the game, you absolutely have to bring your infield in. For some reason, Collins didn’t. It would up not mattering because Montero allowed a sacrifice to the deepest part of right field, but still, how do you not bring your infield in in that spot? It’s an egregious error perhaps more egregious than the Reyes one that lead to the game going into extra innings.
Mets 5 – Phillies 4
You could argue that Reyes hitting seventh in front of d’Arnaud is a pressing issue, or his presence in the lineup might be one as well. However, you have to consider Collins has to manage personalities in that clubhouse, and he has to at least consider the impact batting Reyes eighth may have. Right now, this is an area where Collins should get some latitude.
Another thing to note, keeping Gsellman in to bunt and pitch to the first batter in the eighth was a defensible move. The bench was short with Duda and d’Arnaud coming out of the game due to injury. Also, the bullpen has been overworked. Even saving them from having to get one batter is a help right now.
Accordingly, there were no issues with last night’s game.
Phillies 6 – Mets 4
People want to harp on Familia throwing 30 pitches in the ninth, but the bullpen has been exhausted, and the Mets really didn’t give him work in the minors. There were no issues with this game.
Nationals 4 – Mets 3 (11)
Collins was extremely limited because of the injuries, and yet, he still managed to work a way around that excuse. In the ninth, Collins used Gsellman to pinch run for Rene Rivera. With Lagares in the game already due to the Cespedes’ injury, Collins had to go to his pitchers for pinch running and pinch hitting opportunities, so this was certainly understandable. What happened after wasn’t.
First and foremost, Collins asked T.J. Rivera to lay down a bunt. Now, analytical people would say this was the wrong move because the sacrifice bunt in that situation actually decreases the chances of your scoring. They’re right, but there’s more to that. Behind Rivera is the pitcher’s spot meaning you are going to have to have one of your players too injured to start the game enter as a pinch hitter. That player was Cabrera.
Cabrera worked out a walk. Once his foot touched second, Kevin Plawecki was already coming into the game as a pinch runner. Why Collins just didn’t put Plawecki, the more experienced base runner, in for Rivera is certainly questionable. There’s another matter to consider. Plawecki was the last player on the bench who could play the field. This meant that if the Mets didn’t score here, the pitcher’s spot in the order was going to come up sooner. This meant that d’Arnaud had to pinch hit in the bottom of the 11th.
It should be noted d’Arnaud was so injured he couldn’t start the game. It should also be noted when the game was tied in the seventh, Collins had turned to Wheeler to pinch hit. There’s not congruent thought that can come from all of this.
Nationals 3 – Mets 1
Collins playing Cabrera in this game was a poor decision. Cabrera was so hobbled the night before he couldn’t run the bases. In this game, you saw why. He was clearly hobbled and had even more difficulty getting around than he usually does. He was noticeably in pain, and he was playing on a slick field. There was an incident in the fifth inning where he tried to leg out an infield single, and it looked like he was going to need help to get off the field. Cabrera would come out to take his position just before the beginning of the next half inning.
Nationals 6 – Mets 3
Other than a clearly hobbled and limited Cabrera playing again, no issues.
Braves 8 – Mets 2
There were two off days due to the rainout, but Collins having Salas warm up on multiple occasions was a poor decision. It is bad enough Salas is on pace for over 100 appearances. It is worse when he warms up multiple times a game. After having warmed up multiple times, Salas came in and pitched poorly again allowing two earned run in his inning of work.
Braves 7 – Mets 5
We’ve all seen the video by now. Cespedes was hobbled and wincing while taking batting practice. If he’s a bench player or the most important player on the team, you cannot put a compromised player in the lineup. You are only asking for whatever injury is there to be exacerbated. That’s exactly what happened. On Cespedes’ fourth inning double, he pulled up to second base lame. He had to be helped off the field. Instead of him sitting out a day game after a night game, now he is sure to miss a lot of time. Sandy Alderson deserves his fair share of blame for allowing the decision to happen. Collins may deserve more after his post game meltdown where he effectively stated he won’t second guess the decision to not put Cespedes on the disabled list.
In his opinion, if you put every injured player on the disabled list, you’ll run out of people to play. Of course, it doesn’t work that way. If you put injured people on the disabled list, you can call up healthy players to play. Instead, the Mets keep injured players on the team who can’t even pinch hit. Then, when they get in a game, they get injured more meaning they’re out for a longer period of time. It is really disconcerting that this needs to be explained.
The real gem from Collins was Cespedes did all he needed to do to get into the lineup. Really? He couldn’t even take batting practice without complication. What did he need to do? Put on the correct hat and jersey combination for that game?
By the way, since Cespedes’ injury, he’s played 13 innings. Lets see how many more he plays in the first half of the season after he was helped off the field.
With the Mets returning almost of the entire 2016 team that lost the Wild Card Game, the team is going to have to count on the players they have now improving in order for the team to advance further than the Wild Card Game. Fortunately for the Mets there are some players who appear poised to have a much better 2017 season:
After the 2015 season, d’Arnaud seemed poised to take the next step. After all, his 130 wRC+ trailed only Buster Posey among major league catchers with at last 200 AB. His pitch framing was simply outstanding. While he was never known for his arm, he was able to throw out 33% of base stealers, which was actually higher than league average. Entering his age 27 season, he seemed primed for an All Star selection or more.
Injuries once again got in the way for d’Arnaud as did his problems throwing out base stealers. He also regressed offensively hitting a paltry .247/.307/.323 in 75 games. After a season like that, the only place d’Arnaud could realistically go is up.
And that’s where he is trending this Spring Training. With his work with Kevin Long, he has abandoned the wrap in his batting stance, and we have seen him hit much better in the Spring. While his throwing is not exactly where you want it yet, but with Glenn Sherlock as his catching coach, we should see d’Arnaud improve again behind the plate.
And with d’Arnaud improving offensively and defensively, and with a little luck on the health side, we may finally see d’Arnaud play at an All Star level.
RF – Jay Bruce
In his 50 games with the Mets, Bruce hit .219/.294/.391 with eight homers and 19 RBI. While the trade for Bruce may not have been popular, and the Mets being unable to trade him this offseason being even less unpopular, let’s keep in mind Bruce has been a far better player than this in his career.
In his nine year career, Bruce is a .248/.318/.467 hitter who has averaged 27 homers and 82 RBI. In each season he has played 150 games, he has hit 30 homers and 97+ RBI. He has shown the ability to be patient at the plate having posted .353 and .341 OBP in his career. The overriding point here is that Bruce is capable of so much more, and fortunately, Bruce is with a team that can get it out of him.
Since Kevin Long became the Mets hitting coach, he has taken players like Daniel Murphy, Curtis Granderson, Yoenis Cespedes, Neil Walker, and Asdrubal Cabrera, and he has gotten them to hit for more power and get on base more frequently. As James Wagner of the New York Times reports, the Mets have begun that process by sharing advanced data with him and by helping him change his approach at the plate. So far, Bruce has been a willing student.
Considering Bruce is willing to listen and improve, and the Mets have the people in place who help hitters improve, there is every expectation that we should see a much better version of Jay Bruce than we saw last year.
SP Jacob deGrom
The 2016 season was a tough one for deGrom. He started the year with an injured oblique and a sick infant. He didn’t have his velocity even when he was presumably healthy, and then he had to have season ending to repair the ulnar nerve in his pitching elbow.
Whereas deGrom was throwing around 94 MPH in 2016, this Spring, he is back to the 96+ MPH he was in 2015. That was a pitcher who was 14-8 with a 2.54 ERA, 0.979 WHIP, and a 9.7 K/9. That was a pitcher who finished seventh in Cy Young voting. That was a pitcher who out-dueled Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Kyle Hendricks in the postseason. That pitcher was an ace. By all accounts, that pitcher is back.
SP Steven Matz
There were glimpses of the ace Matz could be during last season. In an eight start stretch from April 17th to May 31st, Matz was 7-0 with a 1.17 ERA, 0.913 WHIP, and an 8.7 K/9. From that point forward, Matz had difficulty pitching through what was described as a massive bone spur in his pitching elbow. Matz lost a tick on his fastball, and he had to reduce the amount of sliders he threw. He struggled, and he eventually had to have season ending surgery.
Looking at him this Spring, Matz is back to the form he was when he was at his best last year. Maybe, just maybe, he might be even better. After working with former Met Scott Rice this offseason, Matz has a slightly new leg kick which functions to keep both base runners and batters off balance. With the new delivery, Matz could possibly be better than what we saw from him over the past two seasons. With the bone spurs gone, and with him presumably no longer sleeping on couches, his injury problems are hopefully in the rear view mirror. Then again, with this latest bout with the elbow, who knows with him?
Overall, with him reportedly feeling good after throwing off flat ground, and I’m choosing to believe the MRI is precautionary. I’m going to choose to believe Matz will be good to go in 2017, and he will have a breakout 2017 season.
LF Yoenis Cespedes
Last season, Cespedes hit .280/.354/.530 with 31 homers and 86 RBI. Using OPS+ as a barometer, it was the third best season of his career. It is all the more amazing he had that type of a season when you consider Cespedes played out of position most of the year, and he dealt with a right quad injury most of the year.
In 2017, Cespedes should be playing in his natural left field position where he won the 2015 American League Gold Glove despite playing only 102 games there. He should also be more comfortable with a large guaranteed contract with a Mets team in which he loves. We have seen the effects of that with Cespedes showing up to camp in terrific shape, and he has been all about business this Spring. No car show. No waffles. Just baseball.
And by the way, he is absolutely killing this Spring. He’s sending moon shots all over the place including one over the batter’s eye at First Data Field. By the look he has in his eye this Spring, Cespedes looks like he may put together a better run than he did when he first joined the Mets in 2015. Seeing how he’s playing now, it is tough to rule that out.
Certainly, with improved seasons from the aforementioned five players, the Mets should have enough to overtake the Nationals once again and win the National League East. When you take into account bigger contributions from players like Lucas Duda and Juan Lagares or with young players like Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, or Gavin Cecchini being ready to contribute the minute the Mets call them up to the majors, this team should do better than the 87-75 record from last year. They should do better than the Wild Card. Maybe, just maybe, they can do better than the 2015 team.