Steven Matz

Where Does Matz Belong?

The Mets have recently made a few very important announcements regarding Steven Matz:

  1. Matz will spot start in place of Noah Syndergaard on Saturday;
  2. The Mets will shift to a six man rotation; and
  3. Matz will not be a bullpen option

In my opinion, the Mets are trying to accomplish two things: (1) they’re trying to reduce the innings of the stud muffins; and (2) they’re holding open auditions for the postseason rotation. I’m still not sure they’re not tempting fate

Now, let’s start with the presumption that Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey will be in the postseason rotation. This leaves two open slots in the rotation because we know the Mets will not allow anyone to start a game on three days rest. Let’s look at the candidates individually. 

Noah Syndergaard

By any measure, Thor is the Mets third best starter. He is 8-6 with a 3.31 ERA and 1.136 WHIP. He averages just over a strikeout per inning. His 3.38 FIP is the third best on the team, and it profiles him as an above average to great starting pitcher. So what’s the problem?

First, more so than any other pitcher, he has an innings limit problem. Second, he has dramatic home/road splits. He has had 10 home and 10 road starts. Here’s how he’s fared: 

  • Home: 7-1, 2.15 ERA, 0.831 WHIP
  • Road: 1-5, 4.91 ERA, 1.558 WHIP

So, he is really good at home, but he’s bad on the road. One way to cure this is to set up the postseason rotation so he only starts at home. It may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Another thing to look at is how he’s pitched on the road against the Mets possible play-off opponents:

  • 5/12 @ Cubs (first career start): L, 5.1 IP, 3 H, 4 BB, 6 K, 3 ER
  • 7/3 @ Dodgers: ND, 6.0 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 ER
  • 7/17 @ Cardinals: L, 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 6 K, 2 ER

Looking at these stats, I’m comfortable with him starting on the road at these places. He needs to be in the rotation. 

Jon Niese

Well, we saw the return of the bad Jon Niese yesterday. He’s had a rough year to the tune of 8-10 with a 4.17 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP. His FIP is a team worst 4.44 FIP, which profiles him as a bad starting pitcher this year. 

We may have once assumed he was a lock for the postseason rotation after his strong June and July. He had respective ERAs of 3.00 and 2.87. His respective WHIPs were 1.333 and 1.021. Then the wheels came off. In August, he had a 5.17 ERA and a 1.309 WHIP.  He continued the free fall last night. He cannot be an option for the postseason roster. 

Bartolo Colon

Where to begin with Bartolo Colon?  He’s 12-11 with a 4.42 ERA. He has a 3.82 FIP, which profiles as an average starting pitcher, which is more than Niese can say. However, if you excuse the pun, Colon has fattened up on some bad teams.

Against the NL East, Colon has gone 11-1 with a 3.01 ERA.  That means against non-NL East teams, his record is 1-10. Against possible playoff teams (Cardinals, Blue Jays, Cubs, Dodgers, and Pirates), he has gone 0-3 with a 4.85 ERA. These aren’t great stats, and this may open the door for Matz. 

Steven Matz

First off, let’s start with the premise that while his first two starts were fun, we can’t glean anything from them. He’s a top prospect, but he is not better than Harvey or deGrom. You’d be hard pressed to convince me he’s better than Thor. Second, let’s remember he’s still building up arm strength. In his last start, he only threw 77 pitches. Finally, he won’t be pitching against the best teams in baseball. 

If the Mets go with a six man rotation starting on Saturday, Matz will make the following starts:

  1. 9/5 at Marlins
  2. 9/11 at Braves
  3. 9/18 vs. Yankees
  4. 9/24 at Reds
  5. 10/1 at Phillies

As we see with Colon, you can pitch well against bad teams, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to pitch well against the good teams. No one should read anything into starts against four bad teams . . . even if they’re bad starts.  No one should. Unfortunately, if he’s great, someone might. That’s dangerous.

Bullpen Option 

You know what you could determine?  You can determine if Matz can pitch in the bullpen. You can put him in high leverage spots. If you’re truly concerned about his health, you can institute a modified version of the Joba Rules. However, I have a real problem believing the Mets sincerity on the issue when Dan Warthen is playing doctor when Matz had injury complaints. Also, this is a way of limiting his innings and how much he needs to pitch with an abdominal tear. 

The Cardinals are famous for this. Mets fans know with Adam Wainwright how well this works.  We saw the Rays use this effectively in 2008 with David Price when they won the AL Pennant. I think the careers of Wainwright and Price have turned out just fine. 

After Matz has his start on Saturday, the Mets should move him to the bullpen. If you care about his health, you will limit his innings. You don’t use a September stretch run to stretch him out. Players get hurt that way. If you don’t want him to get hurt, put him in the bullpen. Let him pitch multiple innings. Give him a few days off afterwards. See how he responds. 

If he responds well, you have a dangerous weapon in the bullpen come October. If you’re not sold, just remember what happened at the All Star Game. Imagine that in a playoff game . . . . 

Where’s Dario Alvarez?

The Mets have announced what I presume is their first group of September call-ups. These players include Eric CampbellKevin PlaweckiKirk Nieuwenhuis, and Eric Young, Jr.  It’s fitting these four are the ones being called up first because they have a legitimate shot at being on the postseason roster, especially Plawecki. 

When I looked at this list, I was surprised that Dario Alvarez‘s name wasn’t on the list. With Eric O’Flaherty struggling and the Mets refusal to put Steven Matz in the bullpen, there are no lefty options. As the August 31st waiver trade deadline has passed, another one cannot be acquired. The Mets need to figure this out. 

The Las Vegas 51s season ends on the 7th. They’re in last place, so there won’t be any playoffs for them. The Mets apparently don’t care about the 51s season, and nor should they. That’s why they gutted their roster. Why they left Alvarez behind is beyond me. He’s been terrific in AAA. He is 2-1 with a 2.61 ERA and a 0.871 WHIP.  

Alvarez belongs in the majors, especially with the LOOGY problem unresolved. I don’t know that Alvarez is ready to be a LOOGY. I don’t know if O’Flaherty can fix his issues in September to become the LOOGY the Mets need in the playoffs. What I do know is the Mets need to figure something out soon. They could be facing Adrian GonzalezJason HeywardMatt CarpenterPedro Alvarez, and/or Anthony Rizzo. It would be nice to have a lefty to get those guys out. 

It’s funny with all the Mets moves, this is the one area they haven’t been able to properly address. I’d hate to see them LEFT out of October glory for that reason. 

UPDATE: it was pointed out to me by Jack Ramsey that Alvarez is not available to be called up until tomorrow. This post will be more pertinent tomorrow. 

Is Logan Verrett Getting Another Start?

The strength of the Mets team this year has been their rotation. Even when they weren’t scoring runs, the rotation was able to keep it together for long enough to permit Sandy Alderson to make some moves to improve the offense. 

With the Mets actually having a major league offense, they now seem intent to tempt fate and continue to mess with the rotation.  They got away with it with Logan Verrett having a great game against the Rockies. Reading the tea leaves, Verrett may get another start. 

Verrett did not make an appearance in last night’s game even though they needed him. Instead, we saw Eric O’FlahertyCarlos Torres, and four outs from Tyler Clippard. Now, it appears Clippard will be unavailable tonight. If Verrett was truly available, he should’ve pitched in the eighth or ninth last night. This makes you question why he didn’t make an appearance. Was it because the Mets are giving him another start?

Another cause for suspicion is the Mets handling of the Steven Matz rehab. Initially, the Mets said they wanted to call him up on September 1st and move to a six man rotation. However, the Mets say Matz will need another rehab start before being called back up. That next start would be August 30th. This means he will first be ready to start Friday, September 4th in Miami. That leaves room for one Verrett start. 

In between that time, there’s another opportunity for Verrett to start. His next time up would be tonight. If Verrett comes out of the bullpen tonight, we’ll know he’s out of the rotation. If he doesn’t, barring a Jon Niese complete game, we can reasonably assume, he’s getting another start. 

The Mets may believe Verrett earned another start with his he pitched in Colorado. I think that’s faulty logic. While he pitched well, I think you only start him if you believe he’s one of your five or six best pitchers. I don’t think the Mets believe that. If that’s the case, put him in the bullpen so you don’t burn out your actual good arms like Clippard and Jeurys Familia before the playoffs. 

I think the bullpen is the greater need right now, and I don’t think there is a real innings limit problem. Get Verrett in the bullpen now. 

NOTE: while this is something I drafted after last night’s Mets game, it should be noted this is being published after Ryan Burdette’s excellent tweet. Since I saw this tweet, I felt the need to make this notation before publishing this post. 

This Feels Wright

In my family, there are a number of huge Mets fans. One of them is my Uncle Pat. The two things I always remembered him saying about the Mets were:

  1. How beautiful the Tom Seaver Number Retirement Ceremony was; and
  2. How classy it was that the Mets brought back Lee Mazzilli in 1986. 

I’m too young to remember the Lee Mazzilli heyday. However, I’m not too young that I don’t remember Ron Darling‘s playing days. The reason why I bring this up is because Mazzilli was traded to obtain Darling, who was a key part of the 1986 Mets. 

From what I hear, fans took trading Mazzilli hard. Not only was he a homegrown Met, but he was also a local kid. It’s part of the reason Mets fans have extra love for players like Ed Kranepool. It’s why we were even more excited when Steven Matz got called-up. 

Now, David Wright isn’t a local kid, but he did grow up a Mets fan. He is a homegrown Met. At times, he’s played like a superstar. In 2006. 2007, and 2008, we all thought he would bring us a World Series. It didn’t happen. The Mets then didn’t resign Jose Reyes and stopped spending money. Then the lean years came. 

This year was the first year in a while there was legitimate hope. The Mets had a healthy Matt HarveyJacob deGrom was coming off of a Rookie of the Year season. Offensively, as usual, it all seemed to hinge on Wright and his return from a shoulder injury. It lasted all of eight games before he went down. By necessity, Wright went into the rear view mirror. 

The Mets made their trades and the team took off. Wright wasn’t a part of the Mets Renaissance. We began to hear some nonsense about how Wright might upset the team chemistry. On Monday, Wright showed that notion was just noise. He’s still the leader. He’s still their best player. He’s still the fan favorite. 

That’s the thing. For a whole generation of Mets fans, he’s their Tom Seaver. He’s the guy with the Hall of Fame talent you hope can lead you to the World Series. He’s also their Lee Mazzilli. He’s the lifetime Mets fan who was the best player on a bad team. It wasn’t until he was gone that the team became a contender. 

However, unlike Mazzilli, Wright is back with something in the tank. Wright may not be able to play everyday right now, but he’s still their best option at 3B. I really hope the Mets make a long October run, and I hope Wright gets to be a large part of that like he was on Monday night. 

As we know when David was gone, it was fun because the team was winning, but it didn’t feel 100% “Wright” because he wasn’t there. He’s back, and it feels “Wright” again. Lets Go Mets!

The Mets Are Officially Tempting Fate

As the numbers suggest, the Mets have a good chance to win the division. However, that is predicated on the Mets maintaining the status quo. That officially goes out the door when the Mets skip Matt Harvey‘s start today. 

We all know with Harvey, and Harvey alone, there is an innings limits issue. As per my estimates, Harvey was going to throw approximately 208 innings. Skipping one start will bring him down to 201.1. It seems like this will be the only start the Mets skip because they intend on using a six man rotation when Steven Matz returns. It appears that Matz’s first start back with the Mets will be September 1st or soon thereafter. 

If that’s the case, here is when Harvey will pitch for the rest of the year (assuming a six man rotation from September 1st until the end of the year):

  1. 8/28 vs. Red Sox
  2. 9/4 at Marlins
  3. 9/10 at Braves
  4. 9/16 vs. Marlins
  5. 9/23 vs. Braves
  6. 9/30 vs. Phillies

If the Mets didn’t switch to a six man rotation, guess how many starts Harvey had left?  Seven. Therefore, Harvey will only pitch in one less game. He’s still going to go over his innings limit as he will finish around 195 innings. He’s pitching against much weaker opponents in the stretch drive than he would have in a five man rotation. Speaking of which, this is the stretch drive. The time to do this has passed. 

The other problem is that pitchers pitch worse in a six man rotation than in a five man rotation.  Furthermore, if the Mets make the playoffs, they’ll likely only go with four starters. This means you want to go from giving your pitchers a month of extra rest and changing their routines to quickly shifting back and getting them less rest than normal. 

I don’t have a study that supports this, but I would assume this type of treatment is also dangerous to a pitcher’s arm health. It would then appear the Mets are tempting fate with their pitchers’ health. I hope my assumption is wrong and this won’t be the case. 

For the life of me, I don’t know why the Mets are doing this now and not earlier in the year. I just hope this won’t give the Nationals an opportunity to win the division. 

It’s Just a Flesh Wound

The Mets have a terrific team doctor whom they trust. They allowed him to kill the very important Carlos Gomez deal that initially left them with egg all over their face

It’s because of this that I don’t believe the Mets consult with their team physician when a player has complaints. Matt Harvey was the most important part of the otlrganization in 2013. They let him pitch through forearm tightness, and he would subsequently need Tommy John surgery. 

Never ones to learn their lessons, the Mets permitted Zack Wheeler to pitch with ligament damage while Harvey was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. He needed Tommy John surgery. 

Now, after losing two major pitching prospects to injury two of the past three seasons, they repeated the same mistake with Steven Matz. After telling the team of pains in his side in his first major league start, Dan Warthen declared him fit to pitch after watching a bullpen session. Matz was shut down for three weeks and only recently began his rehab outing. 

It’s an epidemic. You need look no further than Friday’s gameBartolo Colon was not fit to pitch. His wrist was swelling up more and more. The Mets answer?  Ray Ramirez sat there rubbing some ice on it and then sent Colon back out there. I guess we should be happy it wasn’t leeches. 

You see that’s the problem. Injuries aren’t taken seriously. They’re not properly addressed. Players are not placed on the DL and their conditions get worse. 

This became evident again with Lucas Duda‘s back. The Mets saw with David Wright the severity of back injuries and how long they take to heal. Similar to Harvey/Wheeler, the Mets showed an inability to learn their lesson. 

Arguably, Duda is the Mets most important offensive player. You need to take care of him. Despite his back pain, they never bothered to send him for an MRI. That’s right they didn’t order a necessary test despite having gone through what they did with Wright. Only now are they conferring with Wright’s back specialist, Dr. Watkins. 

For some reason the information isn’t going from the player to the right people. Maybe it is, and I dint know it. Maybe the Mets are ignoring the advice. Maybe they don’t know to to properly gauge when a doctor needs to be consulted. Whatever the case may be, there is something wrong here.  

The Mets need to change something and fast. Not everything is a flesh wound. Sometimes an important player gets hurt and is out longer because of the team’s actions. It just happened again with Duda. 

Noah Nonsense is Flooding In

We all know the Mets are in bullpen trouble and they’re mismanaging the situation. You know the only way it could be worse?  Putting Noah Syndergaard in the bullpen.  

In 18 starts, he’s 7-6 with a 3.17 ERA. He’s got an ERA+ of 119, which loosely translated makes him 19% better than the league. He has a 9.5 K/9, which is better than Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom. His FIP is 3.16, which equates to him being a great starting pitcher. On a team with a weak bullpen, he averages 6.1 innings per start. On top of all of this, he’s going to finish within his innings limits

Now, please tell me why we should pull him from the rotation?  Is it because we don’t want to be successful?  Is it because we think Steven Matz MIGHT be better?  Is it because we’d rather him make a few appearances pitching one inning a piece over six starts at six plus innings a piece?  Fact is, there is no good reason. 

We know the Mets have a weak bullpen. One way to mitigate that is to keep the weak arms in the bullpen. You do that with pitchers, like Syndergaard, who go deep into games. I like out-of-the-box thinking, but I also like ideas that make sense. 

Syndergaard belongs in the starting rotation. 

Glimpse of the Cespedes Trade Debacle

We may soon find out how bad the Yoenis Cespedes trade was. With an injury to Daniel Norris, the Tigers are pondering calling-up Michael Fulmer

This is salt in the wound after watching Terry Collins throw away the last game in Baltimore. In part, that is because of the ineptitude of the Mets front office in handling the innings restrictions. If Fulmer is truly ready, he could have been used for a spot start over Logan Verrett. This way the Mets bullpen, in the middle of a pennant race, wouldn’t be understaffed for a full week. 

There’s also the possibility if Fulmer stayed with the Mets organization, he wouldn’t be called up to make a spot start. Correction, there is no way they would call him up. Considering they won’t consider Steven Matz in the bullpen, they wouldn’t consider Fulmer there either; especially with the intriguing possibility of Vic Black

Also, don’t misconstrue this as me saying I don’t want Cespedes. It was a sign to the Mets fans and players the team was all-in. The Mets took off since that time. However, this is a question of whether the Mets had to give up Fulmer. I still say they didn’t. Sandy Alderson balked and the departing GM didn’t.  This trade could very well haunt them. 

So in the history of John Smoltz and Jeff Bagwell, the Mets may get a glimpse of what could have been part of their future. 

Parnell Finds Out His Arm Hurts

After a number of bad outings, the Mets decided it was time to make a changeLogan Verrett is going to take Bobby Parnell‘s place in the bullpen. 

It was decided that Parnell would go on the DL with arm fatigue. This is a good move because Parnell had been effective earlier in the year, and he probably just needed some time off. It’s good the Mets didn’t DFA him because you don’t throw away a potential asset.

What this also signals to me is how the Mets have mismanaged the innings limits of their young pitchers. Look at how easy that was. Just throw a guy on the DL. No real excuse needed. If they did this at some other time, like when Matt Harvey had some rough outings, we wouldn’t be talking about reintroducing the six man rotation in September. 

Instead, we would be talking about what to do with Bartolo Colon. We would be talking about whether Steven Matz should go to the bullpen. No, we are instead talking about who’s going to be the seventh inning reliever. It’s too late in the season to leave this unanswered. 

It’s also the result of uninspired thinking. The Mets never truly pivoted from the failures of Vic Black and the suspensions of Jenrry Mejia

Hopefully, Verrett, a player the Mets were alright subjecting to the Rule 5 draft, will be the seventh inning answer. I would like the Mets to consider Matz. I wouldn’t rule out Parnell once he decides his arm no longer hurts. 

Mets Are Full of Bull

As we saw this past weekend, the main difference between the Pirates and the Mets is their bullpens. All three games went down to the bullpens, and the Mets lost all three games.   

Bobby Parnell had a rough weekend. It wasn’t his first implosion. It won’t be his last. His time for high leverage innings has passed for the time being. The Mets need some solutions because if they’re going to do things this year, they’ll need a better bullpen. At least we know Terry Collins is concerned

Unfortunately, I don’t think the front office is concerned.  For staters, they never made a move for Joba Chamberlain. Like Parnell, he hasn’t had a great year. However, what did the Mets have to lose by signing him and putting him in AAA and seeing if Frank Viola could get him straight. All it would’ve cost the Mets was the prorated Major League minimum. The Kansas City Royals, who have an amazing bullpen, had this foresight. 

Next, they have Logan Verrette in the AAA rotation in the hopes of possibly using him for a future spot start. Why?  I don’t know because there is no innings limit problem. Also, if he’s going to help this team, it’s in the bullpen. There is no chance he’s on the postseason roster as a starter. 

Also, there is the Steven Matz issue. Similar to Verrette, the Mets want him for spot starts, rather than in the bullpen. Like Verrette, Matz can only help the postseason roster in the bullpen. 

Furthermore, Rafael Montero isn’t a real option. He’s been on the DL with a shoulder injury. Initially, it wasn’t thought to be serious. That turned into a stay in the 60 day DL. Team doctors still have not found the source of the injury complaints. He can only throw three innings at a time. He’s far away. He’s not an option. 

This means that right now the Mets are putting all of their eggs in the Erik Goeddel basket. Goeddel has been pretty good thus far, but the Mets need more than just him . . . especially given his injury history. I’m sure there are other options in the minor leagues. Here’s the problem: are any of them the 2002 K-Rod?  The answer is no. 

If that reliever exists than why is the team’s bullpen constructed the way it is?  Hansel Robles is nice, but he’s not a reason to keep a stud reliever in the minor leagues. That’s why the Mets need to get Verrette and Matz on track as bullpen options.

Regardless of the route the Mets decide to pursue, I’m alright with them waiting until September 1st. Matz and Goeddel are in the middle of rehab stints. Parnell may be going through a rough stint, but with two off days this week, he will get some rest.  Maybe that rest will let him set himself straight. 

Parnell has great stuff. He’s coming off of Tommy John surgery. He may still be their best option. If the Mets don’t get serious about the bullpen, he will be. Personally, I’d rather see Matz and Verrette. Unfortunately, the Mets seem to disagree.