Sid Fernandez

Should The Mets Retire Davey Johnson’s Number?

While it is not an official policy, the Mets organization will only retire the numbers of players who enter the Hall of Fame wearing a Mets cap.  That is why the only Mets players who have their numbers retired are Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza.  If the Baseball Hall of Fame honored Gary Carter‘s choice, he would have gone into the Hall of Fame with a Mets cap, and as a result, his number would have been retired as well.

That would have pleased many Mets fans who want to see his number be retired.  More than Carter, Mets fans seem to want to see Keith Hernandez‘s and David Wright‘s numbers retired.  With respect to those two, chances are neither enter the Hall of Fame, and just like Carter, chances are Hernandez is inducted into the Hall of Fame wearing a Cardinals cap.

Much of the Carter and Hernandez push is related to both players being key veterans on the 1986 World Series team.  Oddly enough, the same case has not been made for Davey Johnson.

Back in 1984, Frank Cashen tabbed Johnson to be the Mets manager.  He was entasked with leading a Mets team to not just win a World Series, but really to just win games.  The Mets had not been over .500 since 1976, which was Seaver’s last full season with the Mets.  Seaver was back in 1983 only for the Mets to lose him again.

The winning happened immediately.  Behind Rookie of the Year Dwight Gooden, and a young core which included Darryl Strawberry, Wally Backman, Ron Darling, and Sid Fernandez, the 1984 Mets finished second place in the National League East with a 90-72 record.  This began a string of eight straight seasons where the Mets would finish second or better in the division.  Johnson would oversee six of those seasons.

The 1985 Mets won 98 games, which was then the second most wins the Mets had ever accumulated.  They were that close to winning the division.  Entering 1986, Johnson would declare the Mets were the team to beat, and his team would back him up.  Their 108 wins is the third most ever by a National League team.

When you include the postseason, the 1986 have won more games than any other National League team over the past century.

Yes, this does speak to how great the 1986 Mets were, but it also speaks to Johnson’s managerial abilities.  He was ahead of his time using data and statistics to inform his decisions.  Yes, those 1980s Mets teams were talented, but it was Johnson who got everything out of those talented teams by optimizing his team’s lineups.

This is why Johnson would become the first ever National League manager to have 90+ wins in each of his first five seasons.

He’s also the only Mets manager with two 100 win seasons.  He joins Gil Hodges as only one of two Mets managers to win a World Series, and he was the first Mets manager to go to two different postseasons.

Johnson is the Mets all-time leader in wins and winning percentage.  He is second only to Terry Collins in games managed.  He is second to Bobby Valentine in postseason wins, which is partially a function of Major League Baseball adding an additional postseason round when they added the Wild Card in 1994.

Despite all of these records and his impact on the franchise, Hodges and Casey Stengel remain the only two managers who have had their numbers retired by the Mets.  Given how the standards to retire manager numbers (to the extent there is any) is far lower than for players, it is odd how nearly 30 years after Johnson managed his last game, he has not had his number retired.

His number not being retired may become more of an issue going forward as once again he is a candidate on the Today’s Game ballot for the Hall of Fame.  With his having a better winning percentage than Hall of Famers like Bobby Cox (a manager who also has just one World Series to his credit), and his being only one of two managers in MLB history to lead four separate franchises to to the postseason, there is a real case to be made for Johnson’s induction.

If inducted, he is likely going to enter the Hall of Fame as a member of the Mets.  If so, any and all excuses to not retire his number have gone by the wayside.  Of course, that is unless you are not of the belief Johnson has not done enough to merit having his number retired anyway.

Given how his number has not been retired, it is certainly still up for debate whether it should or should not be retired by the Mets organization.  Going forward, when debates happen,,when taking into account standards already set forth coupled with the impact on the organization, Davey Johnson should probably be first in line when it comes to having his number retired.

Al Leiter Should Be a Mets Hall of Famer

In 2000, the New York Mets made the postseason in consecutive years for the first time in their history.  It was a two year run that produced some of the most memorable moments in Mets history.

In the Mets first ever NLDS game, Edgardo Alfonzo hit two home runs, including a grand slam.  The Mets would win that NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks with a 10th inning walk-off home run from Todd Pratt in a moment dubbed Pratt’s All Folks.  The NLCS featured Robin Ventura‘s Grand Slam Single, and Mike Piazza‘s opposite field home run against John Smoltz which capped the Mets rallying from an early 5-0 and 7-3 deficits in what was a heart wrenching game.

In the 2000 NLDS, John Franco froze Barry Bonds to get a 10th inning strikeout to rescue the Mets from an Armando Benitez blown save.  In Game 3, Benny Agbayani would hit a walk-off 13th inning home run giving the Mets a 2-1 lead in the series setting the stage for Bobby Jones‘ brilliant one-hitter to cap the series.  In the NLCS, Timo Perez became a folk hero as the Mets swept the hated Cardinals to return to the World Series for the first time since 1986.

None of this . . . not one single moment would have been possible without Al Leiter.

Starting on September 21st, the Mets lost seven games in a row and eight of nine.  The losing streak saw the Mets four game lead in the Wild Card turn into a two game deficit.  It appeared that for the second season in a row, the Mets were going to blow a fairly sizeable lead in the Wild Card race and miss the postseason all together.  Fortunately, the Mets would win out and force a one game playoff against the Cincinnati Reds for the Wild Card and the right to face the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 1999 NLDS.

After Rickey Henderson and Alfonzo hit back-to-back home runs to open the game, Leiter would do the rest.  Leiter was simply brilliant in a complete game two-hit seven strikeout shutout.  This start came off the heels of Leiter’s last start of the season where he out-dueled Greg Maddux to snap the the Mets eight game losing streak and put the team back in position to make a run at the Wild Card.

Typically, that was the type of pitcher Leiter was in a Mets uniform.  He rose to the occasion in some when the Mets needed him.  He was the guy who helped pitch the Mets into the 1999 postseason.  He was the guy who helped turn around the 2000 NLDS by shutting down the San Francisco Giants over eight plus innings.  He was the pitcher who gave everything he had in Game 5 of the 2000 World Series.  Much like the Mets in that two year time frame, he was terrific, but time and again, he came up just short.  In seven postseason starts for the Mets, he was 0-2 with a 3.57 ERA and a 1.080 WHIP.  Taking out the 1999 NLCS Game 6 start against the Braves he made on three days rest and couldn’t record an out, his Mets postseason ERA and WHIP respectively drops to 2.58 and 1.015.

Leiter’s greatness as a Met extend far beyond the superlatives of his moments in big games and how well he pitched in the postseason.  He was also very good in the regular season.

Leiter first came to the Mets in a February 1998 trade that featured the Mets sending prized prospect A.J. Burnett to a Florida Marlins team that was dismantling their World Series winning club.  The trade was a sign the Mets were interested in moving on from a team that was rebuilding to a team that was ready to start competing.  Adding a pitcher like Leiter, while a risk, certainly paid dividends.

In 1998, Leiter would arguably post the best year of his career going 17-6 with a 2.47 ERA and a 1.150 WHIP.  That season Leiter was unquestionably the ace for a Mets team that surprised everyone by competing for a Wild Card spot deep into the season.  For much of Leiter’s seven year career he served as either the Mets ace, 1A, or number two starter.

In his entire Mets career, Leiter was 95-67 with a 3.42 ERA, 1,360.0 innings pitched, 1,106 strikeouts, and a 1.300 WHIP.  In that seven year span, Leiter posted a very good 124 ERA+ and a 28.0 WAR.  He would make an All Star team and he would have one Top 10 Cy Young Award finish.  With strong numbers like these, it should be no surprise Leiter’s name is scattered across the Mets record books:

  • Wins (95) – sixth
  • Games Started (213) – sixth
  • Innings Pitched (1,360.0) – seventh
  • Strikeouts (1,106) – seventh
  • WAR (28.0) – 11th

In terms of all-time Mets pitchers, Leiter’s WAR ranks him as the sixth best pitcher in Mets history behind Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, Jerry Koosman, Sid Fernandez, and Jon Matlack.  In terms of left-handed starters, Leiter ranks third in wins, seventh in ERA, third in starts, fourth in innings pitched, and third in strikeouts.

In terms of advanced statistics, Leiter’s 1998 season was the seventh best by a Mets pitcher by ERA+.  In fact, his Mets career ERA+ ranks him as the eighth best pitcher in Mets history.  Among pitchers that have thrown more than a thousand innings, his ERA+ is second all-time to just Seaver.  Adjusted pitching runs ranks him as the third best pitcher in Mets history just behind Seaver and Gooden, and adjusted pitching wins ranks him fourth.  In terms of WPA, he ranks fourth all time, third among starters, and second among left-handed pitchers.

Simply put, Leiter had a terrific career in a Mets uniform.  His 1998 season was one of the best by a Mets starter.  By most measures, he’s a top 10 or top 5 pitcher in Mets history.  He has came up big in big moments time and time again.  He was also part of a group of Mets players that welcomed Piazza after the trade with the Marlins and made him feel welcome enough for Piazza to re-sign with the Mets.

More than any of the aforementioned stats, there is another factor.  There is no way you can adequately tell the history of the Mets franchise without discussing Leiter.  Leiter was an important member of two Mets teams that made the postseason.  He is a major part of one of the best eras in Mets baseball, and he’s a part of one of the most beloved teams in Mets history.  Moreover, he is a part of a core group of Mets that have been long overlooked for the Mets Hall of Fame.  Despite 1997 – 2001 being one of the better stretches in Mets history,  Piazza and Franco remain the only Mets from those teams to be represented in the Mets Hall of Fame.  They were not the only contributors to this run.

This era of Mets baseball has been long overlooked by this team.  It is time some of those important Mets get inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.  Leiter is one of the Mets that deserve induction.

What Could Be the Difference in Tonight’s Game 7

With the Cubs beating the Indians 9-3 last night, we are going to get a Game 7.  As we have seen over the course of history, sometimes you get a great Game 7 like the last one in 2014 when Madison Bumgarner came out of the pen to shut down the Royals again.  You can get a very good one like 1986 when the Red Sox knocked Ron Darling out early only for Sid Fernandez to stabilize the game and give the Mets a chance to overcome an early 3-0 deficit.  Then you get the 2002 and 2011 World Series where teams coming off deflating losses didn’t really play close games.

Tonight, there is a lot of unknowns.  Will there be a Gene Larkin or a Jose Mesa tonight?  Do we see one fo the unhittable relievers suffer the same fate as Mariano Rivera did in 2001?  Worse yet, will there be a Fred Snodgrass moment that will leave people talking about a player’s decision for centuries?  Right about now there are about three things we know:

  1. One fanbase is going to be left in even more excruciating pain than they already are;
  2. The other fanbase will experience joy like none other; and
  3. This game will have to be off the charts to even match Jack MorrisJohn Smoltz in 1991.

There are a number of factors at play in deciding who is the hero and who is the goat (pun intended) in tonight’s game.  Here are some of my thoughts on the game:

Defense Matters

Arguably, the difference in last night’s game was right field defense.  In the first, the indecision between Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall led to two additional runs in the first inning for the Cubs.  For his part, Chisenall has had a terrible World Series in right field.  On the other side, Jason Heyward had a great game defensively in right field capping it off by nailing Roberto Perez at second to snuff out any chance at in improbable rally in the ninth.  With that said, Rajai Davis absolutely has to start tonight’s game for the Indians.

David Ross Should Start

We have already seen the impact of pitch framing in one game of the World Series so far.  You know Perez is going to get every call for Corey Kluber tonight.  You don’t know that about Willson Contreras.  Yes, Contreras has been decent in that area, but he is not on par with David Ross.  If you want Kyle Hendricks to get the calls Kluber is going to get, you need Ross out there.

You also need Ross out there for another reason.  As Joe Maddon has already indicated, Jon Lester may come out of the bullpen to pitch tonight.  If that is the case, the Cubs will need Ross to catch him to help neutralize the running game.  The last thing you want is to have a runner steal second off the Lester-Contreras pairing late in the game.  You also don’t want to remove your better bat in Contreras late in the game should you need offense.  With that being the case, Ross should start.

Chapman’s Game 6 May Haunt the Cubs

Because Maddon screwed up, he didn’t have a reliever available to pitch the bottom of the ninth.  As such, Chapman threw an additional five pitches he didn’t need to throw.  No, five pitches will not make or break Chapman.  Still, keep in mind, Chapman had to come off the bench and warm up and throw five unnecessary pitches.  He wasn’t close with most of them either.   Between Games 5 and 6, Chapman has now thrown 62 pitches over the course of three days.  That’s a huge workload for him.  No one knows how that will affect him in Game 7.

Kluber Just Needs to Go Four Innings

Kluber is once again going on short rest.  While it worked out well in Game 4, we do not know if he can pitch as well in Game 7 especially with him going against a Cubs team with a lot more confidence at the plate.  Fortunately for him and the Indians, he does not need to go deep into the game.  With the Indians effectively getting blown out last night, Terry Francona did not need to go to Joe Shaw, Andrew Miller, or Cody Allen.  Accordingly, each reliever should be good for at least two innings a piece meaning Kluber just needs to get through the fourth, preferably with a lead.  And who knows?  With the way Francona has used Miller, Kluber may only need to go three.

Both Managers Need a Quick Hook

As we know with Kluber going on short rest, and with the way Francona has managed this postseason, the Indians will not be afraid to lift him early in the game even if Kluber isn’t struggling.

Maddon needs to adopt a similar approach as he has the past few games.  While he doesn’t have the talented bullpen Francona has, he has both Lester and John Lackey available in the pen.  Both have proven themselves as good postseason pitchers, and for his part, Lackey was the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series.  Should Hendricks face early trouble, like he did in Game 3, Maddon should get him because it is not likely the Indians will run themselves out of an inning again.  By the way, I’m sure Jake Arrieta will also make himself available to pitch if need be.

We Don’t Know Who the Hero Is Going to Be

Seeing how hot he is lately, you would be inclined to guess Jason Kipnis would be the guy to carry the Indians tonight should they win it, but remember it was Perez who was the hero in Game 1 with him hitting two home runs.  For the Cubs, it was Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo who got going last night, but for all you know Javier Baez could return to his NLCS form and get the big hits tonight.

Remember, it was Craig Counsell who played a major factor in two ninth inning rallies to help their teams overcome a one run deficit in a Game 7.  It was Larkin who got the winning hit in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.  Heck, it was Bill Mazeroski of all people who hit the walk off home run to end the 1960 World Series.  Seeing who gets the big hit tonight is part of the fun.

Overall, this has been a good World Series.  Tonight’s game could make it a great World Series.

 

That’s How You Finish Out the Regular Season at Home

Growing up, my family did not always go to Opening Day.  It was sometimes difficult for my Dad to get off of work, and even if he could, we had my mother insisting that my brother and I could not miss a day of school just to go to a Mets game.  What eventually happened is that my father, brother, and I usually found ourselves going to the last game of the season, which usually falls on a Sunday.

When you go to Opening Day, there is always hope.  Even when your team stinks, you can find some reason for hope. I remember thinking back in 1993 that the 1992 Mets season was just a fluke.  Bobby Bonilla was certainly going to be better.  Howard Johnson was back in the infield where he belonged.  This could be the year Todd Hundley and Jeff Kent break out.  The team still had Dwight Gooden, Sid Fernandez, and Bret Saberhagen with John Franco in the bullpen.  It turns out the 1993 team was even worse than the 1992 team.

The last game of the season always has an interesting feel to it.  When we went to the final game of the season, it was more of a farewell to an awful season.  Being ever the optimist, we still had hope for a bright future with Pete Schourek throwing eight brillant innings to cap off a Mets six game winning streak.  It seemed like 1994 was going to be a big year in baseball.  It was, but that’s a whole other story.

There was the devastating 2007 finale.  Heading into that game, most Mets fans believed that despite the epic collapse, the Mets were going to take care of the Marlins.  They just snapped a five game losing streak behind a brilliant John Maine performance and the offense coming alive to score 13 runs.  Even better, the Phillies seemed to be feeling the pressure a bit with them getting shut down by Matt Chico and a terrible Marlins team.  The sense was if the Mets won this game, the Phillies would feel the pressure and lose their game.  Even if the Phillies won their game, the Mets would beat the Phillies and return to the postseason like everyone expected.

After Tom Glavine laid an egg, which included out and out throwing a ball into left field trying to get Cody Ross, who was going to third on the original throw to home.  At 5-0, the Mets were still in the game.  David Wright was having a torrid September.  Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran were big game players.  I don’t think Moises Alou made an out that entire month.  With that in mind, I turned to my father, and I said to him, “If the Mets allow one more run, the game is over . . . .”  As the words left my mouth, Jorge Soler allowed a two run double to Dan Uggla.  Sure, they would play eight and a half more innings, but the collapse was over right then and there.

That 2007 finale hung over the 2008 finale.  Mets fans were probably a bit more optimistic than they had a right to be.  The day before Johan Santana took the ball with three days rest, and he pitched a complete game three hitter.  The Mets had Oliver Perez going in the finale.  Back then, this was considered a good thing.  The offense was clicking again.  However, that bullpen was just so awful.  The Mets were relying on Luis Ayala to close out games, and believe it or not, his 5.05 ERA and 1.389 WHIP was considered a steadying presence to an injury ravaged bullpen.  Beltran would hit a huge home run to tie the game, but the joy wouldn’t last.  Jerry Manuel, just an awful manager, turned to Scott Schoeneweis to gave up the winning home run to Wes Helms (Mets killer no matter what uniform he wore), and then aforementioned Ayala gave up another one that inning to Uggla to seal the deal at 4-2.

Fittingly, the last out was made by Ryan Church.  He was the same Mets player the Mets flew back and forth to the West Coast despite him having a concussion.  Remember the days when the Mets didn’t handle injuries well?  Nevermind.  In any event, I was one of the few that stayed to watch Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza close out Shea Stadium.  Many disagree, but I thought it helped.

Last year, was just a celebration.  The Mets had already clinched the NL East, and they were off to their first postseason since 2006.  The only thing left was the Mets winning one more game to get to 90 wins.  The 90 wins was window dressing, but the shift from 89 to 90 is just so satisfying.  It means more than 86 to 87 wins or 88 to 89 wins.  That 90 win mark is an important threshold for the psyche of teams and fans.

This year was something different altogether.  In terms of pure baseball, the Mets entered the day tied with the Giants for the first Wild Card with the Cardinals just a half a game behind (tied in the loss column).  The night before the Mets had seen Sean Gilmartin and Rafael Montero combine to put the team in a 10-0 hole that the Las Vegas 51s just couldn’t quite pull them out from under.  Still, that rally had created some buzz as did Robert Gsellman starting the game.  However, there was the shock of the Jose Fernandez news that muted some of the pregame buzz.

After the moment of silence, there was a game to be played, and it was just pure Mets dominance.

Gsellman would pitch seven shutout innings allowing just three hits and two walks with eight strikeouts.  More amazing than that was the fact that he actually got a bunt single.  For a player that can only bunt due to an injury to his non-pitching shoulder, the Phillies sure acted surprised by the play.  Overall, it was a great day by Gsellman who was helped out by the Mets offense and a little defense along the way:

 

It was that type of day for the Mets.  After Saturday’s pinch hit home run there was a Jay Bruce sighting again on Sunday.  On the day, he was 2-4 with two runs and a double.  It was easily the best game he had as a Met.  His second inning double would start the rally that ended with James Loney hitting an RBI groundout.  Then, as  Cousin Brucey would say, “the hits just keep on comin’!”  No, that was not just an allusion to the Phillies pitchers who hit three batters in the game.  It refers to the Mets offense.

Curtis Granderson hit a fourth inning solo shot to make it 2-0.  It was his 30th of the year making it the first time  the Mets have had a pair of 30 home run outfielders since, really who even knows?  In the fifth, T.J. Rivera plated a run with an RBI single.  Later in the fifth, Jose Reyes would the first of his two RBI bases loaded walks.  Overall, the big blow would come in the seventh off the bat of Asdrubal Cabrera:

The grand slam put the capper on not just the game, but a pretty remarkable season at home where the Mets were 44-37 on the season.  The Mets also hit 193 homers at home, which was the most ever hit at Citi Field, and more than any the Mets ever hit at Shea Stadium in any one season:

In the eighth, the Mets just poured it on with some of the 51s getting into the game.  Gavin Cecchini was hit by a pitch, Brandon Nimmo and Ty Kelly walked, and Eric Campbell got another RBI pinch hit.  Throw in a Michael Conforto two RBI double, and the Mets would win 17-0.  Exiting Citi Field, you got the sense this was not the last time you would see this team at home.  As it stands now, the Mets back to being a game up on the Giants, and the Cardinals fell to 1.5 games back.

There haven’t been many final games to the season like this one, and I’m not sure there ever will be.  Overall, it was a great way to close out the regular season at Citi Field.  However, for right now, it is not good-bye like it was in 1993, and it certainly isn’t good riddance like it was in 2007.  Rather, this game had more of a feeling of, “See you again soon.”

  
  

 

The Piazza/Seaver Celebration Parallels

On August 11, 1992, the Mets had a day to honor Tom Seaver for being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Considering he was the best pitcher in Mets history, you would think the honor of starting that game would go to Dwight Gooden, who was the only Mets pitcher who would break any of Seaver’s records.  David Cone was another terrific choice given how great a pitcher he was for the Mets.  Bret Saberhagen would have been fitting as he was a two time Cy Young winner and a former World Series MVP.  Even Sid Fernandez could have fit the bill as it was his Game Seven performance that helped prevent Seaver from winning one last ring in 1986.

Instead, it was Eric Hillman, who was making his first ever major league start on a dark and rainy night that drove away most of the fans who should have been there to celebrate with Seaver.  To be fair, that game would’ve been called almost any other night had it not been Seaver’s night.   Between the weather, and who was going to be honored, it was a difficult situation for a young pitcher. Hillman was up to the challenge pitching eight scoreless innings to help defeat the first place Pittsburgh Pirates.

With Monday’s rainout, the Mets will be in a similar position for Mike Piazzas number retirement ceremony.

It was supposed to be Noah Syndergaard.  Who better to celebrate the career of the Mets rock star catcher than to have the Mets rock star starting pitcher?  Who better to honor the power Piazza showed at the plate than the power pitcher who can routinely throw over 100 MPH?  The long haired starting pitcher dominating the opponents should have started the game honoring the long haired dominant hitter.  It was all too perfect to be true.  With the rain, it’s not going to happen.

Instead, the Mets are most likely going to get a spot starter making his first ever major league start similar to what happened with Eric Hillman on Tom Seaver’s night.  It just seems to go that way on a night when the Mets honor their Hall of Famers.

The start could to to Seth Lugo, who has pitched extremely well out of the bullpen in his four appearances this year.  Gabriel Ynoa could be summoned from the minor leagues to make his first ever start as could his Las Vegas 51s teammate Robert Gsellman.  Whoever it turns out to be, they have some large shoes to fill.  No, not Syndergaard’s, the 6’10” Hillman’s.  Whoever the Mets give the chance to make his first ever career start needs to go out there and put up a dominant performance like Hillman’s to allow the fans to celebrate deep into the night.

Mets Most Popular Pitcher

Back in the 1980s, there was no doubt that Dwight Gooden was the most popular starting pitcher on the team.  There was just a different buzz when he was on the mound as opposed to when Ron Darling, Bob Ojeda, or Sid Fernandez took the mound.  The reason was that Gooden had unparalleled and electric stuff.  As a result, it seemed Gooden was always pitching before a sellout crowd at Shea.  It didn’t matter if it was a 10:00 A.M. game on a Monday against the Flushing Little League team, Shea Stadium would be sold out to see him pitch.  Without a doubt, Gooden was a fan favorite.

As we saw with Gooden, attendance is a good measure to determine who the Mets fans favorite pitcher is.  It is a measure which shows who the fans will pay to go see pitch.  So far this season, the Mets have played 46 home games drawing 1,582,503 fans, which averages out to 34,402 fans per game.  On average, Mets fans have paid to see Jacob deGrom over any other Mets pitcher this season:

Average Differential
deGrom 38,107 3,704
Syndergaard 35,582 1,180
Harvey 34,925 523
Colon 33,685 -717
Matz 30,240 -4,162

To be fair, there are a number of factors that drives attendance other than the night’s starting pitcher.  For example, fans are more apt to attend games over the weekend and on holidays (Memorial Day and the Fourth of July).  For the purposes of this analysis, weekend games are classified as Friday through Sunday games.  Over the course of the first 46 home games, the Mets have played 23 weekday games and 23 weekend and holiday games. In the Mets 23 home weekend and holiday games, the Mets have averaged 38,060 fans per game as opposed to 30,745 fans during the Mets 23 weekday games.  Looking at weekend games, deGrom is still the pitcher that Mets fans are more likely to pay to see pitch:

Average Differential
deGrom 41,248 3,188
Syndergaard 38,529 469
Harvey 36,536 -1,524
Colon 36,297 -1,763
Matz 35,979 -2,081

With weekday games, the ones that take a little more effort to attend, we begin to see a shift away from deGrom.  In fact, fans have come out to see Matt Harvey more than any other pitcher on weekday games:

Average Differential
Harvey 32,777 2,032
Syndergaard 32,635 1,890
Colon 31,944 1,199
deGrom 31,825 1,080
Matz 26,414 -4,332

There are other factors to keep into consideration as well.  For example, one driving force behind attendance has been the Mets games against some of the better teams in baseball.  In the Mets 30 home games against teams with a record over .500, the Mets average attendance is 35,415 per game.  As we have already seen in some of the above analyses, more fans come out to see deGrom pitch against the better teams in baseball than any other Mets starter:

Average Differential
deGrom 36,266 852
Harvey 36,086 671
Syndergaard 35,675 260
Colon 35,564 149
Matz 33,707 -1,708

If teams that are over .500 are going to be of interest, it should come as no surprise that the Mets home games agains their 2015 postseason opponents have also driven attendance.  In the Mets nine home games against their postseason rivals, the Mets average attendance has been 39,432.  It should be noted that Harvey has not pitched against any of those opponents, nor will he with his season ending surgery.  Furthermore, Steven Matz only made one start against such an opponent.  With those factors in place, the starting pitcher the Mets fans paid most to see in the rematch games was Bartolo Colon:

Average Differential
Colon 41,187 1,755
Matz 40,122 690
deGrom 38,828 -604
Syndergaard 37,850 -1,582

Astoundingly, the Mets attendance against their NL East opponents has been poor.  While the Mets have averaged 34,042 fans per game through the first 46 games of the season, they are only drawing an average of 33,044 fans for NL East opponents.  Much of that is attributable to how bad the Braves and Phillies are.  The Marlins aren’t exactly driving fans to the park either despite the Mets being in a Wild Card race with them.  With that in mind, the fans want to see deGrom pitch against NL East opponents more than any other pitcher:

Average Differential
deGrom 37,289 4,244
Harvey 34,931 1,887
Syndergaard 33,551 507
Matz 30,698 -2,346
Colon 30,653 -2,391

Looking at the attendance figures, the Mets have had 16 such games, and they are only drawing 32,504 fans per game.  With respect to the other subset of games, this is the group the fans want to see the least.  Generally speaking, there needs to be an incentive for the fans to go to the ballpark.  Looking at the attendance figures more in depth, deGrom taking the mound seems to be an incentive for the fans to go out and see the Mets play a bad baseball team:

Average Differential
deGrom 41,788 9,284
Syndergaard 35,212 2,708
Harvey 34,055 1,551
Colon 29,301 -3,203
Matz 25,039 -7,465

Weighing each of these factors, the attendance figures suggest that Jacob deGrom is the Mets fans favorite starting pitcher with Noah Syndergaard not too far behind. These numbers shouldn’t be that surprising as deGrom and Syndergaard have been the Mets two best pitchers all year, and will likely be the starters for Game One and Game Two of this year’s NLDS.

 

 

The Mets Have Four Aces

Lost in all the offensive struggles is the fact that this Mets team is built upon pitching.  As a franchise, the Mets always have and always will be built upon pitching.  It started with Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Jon Matlack in the late 60’s.  It was continued in the 80’s with Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, and David Cone.  The mantle was supposed to be picked up this year by the Mets young rotation.

However, the rotation has had some struggles.  Matt Harvey struggled mightily going 2-4 in May with a 5.91 ERA.  To a lesser extent, Jacob deGrom struggled in May going 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA.  The concern with deGrom was not so much the results but the seemingly precipitous drop in velocity.  These were to the two aces the Mets road all last year and into the postseason.  These were supposed to be the two aces this year leading the team while the younger starters developed.  Instead, the reverse has been true.

Noah Syndergaard has taken the next step this year.  He is 5-2 with a 1.84 ERA and a 0.958 WHIP.  He is throwing fastballs up and over 100 MPH, and more impressively, he is throwing sliders around 95 MPH.  He is as dominant a pitcher as there is in baseball right now.

Steven Matz was named the National League Rookie of the Month for the Month of May.  It was a well deserved honor after going 4-0 with a 1.83 ERA and a 0.757 WHIP.  In fact, if you take away his first nightmare of a start, a start he made after a long period of inactivity, Matz is 7-0 with a 1.51 ERA and a 0.932 WHIP.  Matz has been the pitcher everyone has imagined he would be and more since he burst onto the scene last year beating the Reds from the mound at the plate.

Overall, Syndergaard and Matz have taken the next step.  On almost any other rotation, they would be the unquestioned ace. That was the same thing that has been said for Harvey and deGrom.  On that front, there is some great news as well.  In Harvey’s last start, he went seven innings allowing only two hits, no runs, and one walk with striking out six.  In deGrom’s last start, he went seven innings allowing five hits, one run, and two walks while striking out 10.  More importantly, deGrom’s velocity is returning with him getting his fastball up to 96 MPH.

So yes, it appears like the 2016 Mets are continuing the franchise’s legacy of having great pitching.  With Syndergaard and Matz being ahead of schedule in their development coupled with Harvey and deGrom starting to return to last year’s form, the Mets rotation is stacked with four aces.  If you’re a baseball player or a poker player, you know four aces is next to impossible to beat no matter whatever else you have in your hand . . . even if that hand contains the deuce that the Mets offense was over the month of May.

Reminder: The Mets Signed Colon . . . TWICE!

In Mike Vaccaro’s New York Post column, he had a quote from an unnamed member of the New York Mets organization who said about Matt Harvey:

He’s 27 years old. He’s a professional athlete, who makes his living – and wants to make $200 million – by being an athlete. Does he look like an elite professional athlete to you?

That’s right. The Mets wouldn’t possibly want to sign a player that has any body issues:

The Mets have signed Bartolo Colon to two contracts which pay him $27.25 million over three years. The Mets have made Colon their highest paid pitcher three years running. They re-signed him despite Colon being a well below league average pitcher (according to ERA+) for two years. 

That doesn’t mean overweight pitchers can’t be effective. No Mets fan would ever besmirch the good name of Sid Fernandez by making that statement. But that’s the point, a pitcher can be both overweight and effective. The Mets certainly think so. 

In reality, this is nothing more than a jab at Matt Harvey, who is struggling. It is similar to what they did in the offseason with Yoenis Cespedes when it appeared he wasn’t returning. It was a little more than a decade when they did the same to Scott Kazmir when trying to justify a horrendous trade. 

Overall, the issue should be how the Mets can help Harvey return to form instead of mocking him. Instead, the Mets decided it’s best to mock their pitcher publicly. They need to stop. 

Thor Trying to Avoid Tommy John Surgery

Going into the 2016 season, there is one fear each and every Mets fan has. We dare not speak its name, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still present. That fear is that a pitcher will get seriously injured. 

Looking at this year’s list of pitchers who could befall the dreaded “Verducci Effect,” Noah Syndergaard headlines that list. If Syndergaard was to suffer a season ending injury requiring Tommy John surgery? it would greatly hinder the Mets chances of winning not only the World Series, but also making it to the postseason. It’s something that not just Mets fans fear, but as Anthony DiComo of MLB.com reports, Syndergaard fears it also:

I’ve thought about it quite a bit. But I trust myself to put my body in the right situations to be able to perform at a healthy level. 

The fear is justified. Syndergaard threw 65.2 innings more last year. He throws over 95 MPH more than anyone in the game. He’s working to add the fabled Warthen Slider to his already dominant repertoire. Name a risk factor for UCL years requiring Tommy John surgery. Syndergaard meets most if not all of them. 

One risk factor not readily discussed is the team he plays for. Look at the projected Mets rotation when healthy: Matt HarveyJacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler. Put aside Syndergaard for a moment. What do the other four have in common?  They are all hard throwing pitchers under the age of 30 who have already had Tommy John surgery. 

Go outside this group. Since Warthen took over as the Mets pitching coach, the following homegrown Mets have sustained arm injuries: Jon Niese (shoulder), Dillon Gee (shoulder), Jeremy Hefner (two Tommy John surgeries), Rafael Montero (shoulder), Bobby Parnell (Tommy John), Josh Edgin (Tommy John), Jack Leathersich (Tommy John). There are more, but you get the point. 

Now, is this an organizational problem since Warthen took over, or is it just bad luck?  Could this all have been avoided?  Back in the 60’s and 70’s the Mets developed pitchers like Tom SeaverJerry KoosmanNolan Ryan, and Jon Matlack. These pitchers threw more innings than the pitchers today, and yet, Matlack was the only one of this group that suffered an arm injury. 

In the 80’s, the Mets had Dwight GoodenRon DarlingSid Fernandez, Rick AguileraRandy Myers and David Cone. Of this group, only Doc and Cone had arm issues. It should be noted that Doc had many other issues as well, and Cone’s problem was an aneurysm later in his career. 

In the 90’s, Generation K was a bust, and the Mets haven’t developed the caliber of starting pitchers like they have in the past until now. However, this generation seems to befall injuries far more often than their predecessors. Is it organizational?  Is it bad luck?  Is it preparation?  For his part, Harvey wonders what if:

I think now, there are things I could have done better in high school or in college to maybe prevent it. But I don’t know. I’m not saying [Syndergaard] works that much harder than everybody else, because we all work hard. I think as time progresses, guys pay more attention to stretching the shoulder, strengthening the shoulder. If I could go back — I don’t know if this would’ve prevented me from having [surgery], but if I could go back and really do 20 extra minutes of stretching and arm care, you never know what could happen. 

That’s the thing. We really don’t know why one guy suffers elbow and shoulder injuries while others don’t. Is it preparation?  Is it good genes?  Is it just good luck?  Much time, energy, and money has been spent on this issue, and yet pitchers still get injured. Pitchers get injured despite teams doing everything in their power to try to prevent it. 

It will help Syndergaard being in a clubhouse with players who have had Tommy John surgery. They each will have advice for him on why they suffered the injury and what they could’ve done differently. More importantly, Syndergaard appears to be a hard worker who takes the health of his arm very seriously.  There is no doubt he is doing everything he can do to avoid the dreaded Tommy John surgery. 

Based on what we’ve seen, if anyone can avoid it, it’s him. 

Editor’s Note: this article was first published on metsmerizedonline.com

Be Ready for Anything

You never know what is going to happen before or during a postseason series. How a team responds to it may determine if a team wins or loses a series. 

I was reminded of that with another playoff series against the Dodgers. Both times the Mets played the Dodgers, one of their starting pitchers was injured. 

In 1988, Bobby Ojeda suffered a potentially career ending injury on the same day the Mets clinched at least a tie atop the NL East. It threw the Mets postseason rotation off kilter. Dwight Gooden started Games 1 and 4 (on three day’s rest). He wouldn’t make another start in the series. 

I still don’t know what Davey Johnson was thinking. The Mets had a 2-1 series lead. They already won a game in which Orel Hershiser started. Johnson unnecessarily went to Gooden on three days rest, and then he left him in too long. Even more baffling is the fact that Johnson went to Sid Fernandez in Game 5 with the series tied 2-2. 

Honestly, I don’t think Johnson doesn’t make a ponderous decision like this if Ojeda was able to pitch. Ojeda was 2-0 in the 1986 postseason. He stabilized things in Game 3, and he gave the Mets a chance in Game 6. Johnson doesn’t skip his start in 1988, and the Mets probably don’t blow that series. 

Eighteen years later, the Mets again found themselves facing the Dodgers in the playoffs. Again, a key starting pitcher went down. Two days before the NLDS, El Duque, the scheduled Game 1 starter, went down with a torn calf muscle. Keep in mind, he was the second choice after Pedro Martinez suffered a rotator cuff injury

Willie Randolph gave the ball to John Maine. Maine lasted 4.1 innings before hitting trouble. Randolph quickly turned to his incredible bullpen who brought it home. The Mets responded better to the problem in 2006, and they won the series. 

It’s possible the Mets have already been presented with their Ojeda-El Duque dilemma with Steven Matz. Matz slept on a sofa, and he injured his back. The Mets now have a critical decision to make, especially with Matz having a successful simulated game. If he responds well, he may be on the roster. If not, it will be Sean Gilmartin

Whomever the Mets choose, history shows it’s not who you pick that’s important. It’s how you respond to the crisis that’s important. Fortunately, this is one of Terry Collins’ strengths. Hopefully, there won’t be any more surprises. 

Lets Go Mets!