Steven Matz

Arm Wrestling

About three weeks ago, I addressed the Mets innings limitations problem. Without completely regurgitating everything here, my conclusion was that without a spot starter, Jacob deGrom would be the only stud muffin able to make a postseason start. Even at that, he would only be available for one game. 

I thought with the latest go-round of stud muffin starts, it would be helpful to re-visit where we are on the innings limits:

Matt Harvey: I’ve noted his innings limits are between 180 – 190 innings. Right now, he’s at 148.0, or 42.0 innings before a hypothetical shutdown (don’t worry Collins said there’s no shutdown). By my rudimentary calculation, Harvey has nine starts left, at most. He’s averaging 6.2 innings per start meaning he will go over his limit by 18 innings (about three starts), not including the postseason. 
Jacob deGrom: I’ve noted his innings limits are between 208 – 214 innings. Right now, he’s at 146.2, or 71.1 innings before needing to be shutdown. With approximately nine starts left and his averaging 6.2 innings per start, he looks to finish the year with 206.2 innings. It looks like he will be below his limits, postseason aside. 

Noah Syndergaard: I’ve noted his innings limits are between 159.0 – 163.0 innings. Right now, he’s at 105.2, or 57.1 innings before needing to be shut down. With nine starts remaining and his averaging 6.2 innings per start, he looks to finish the year with 165.2 innings. He will be slightly above his innings limits right before the postseason.

So interestingly enough, if you’re only looking at the regular season, there isn’t an innings limitation problem with anyone but Harvey.  This is yet again a sign the Mets shouldn’t “Matz” with the rotation right now. 
While not addressing the pitching, Sandy Alderson did say, “[i]t’s about this year. Not next year.”  I hope he keeps this in mind and puts Steven Matz in the bullpen. Remember it’s all about this year. 

BACK to Having This Conversation

We all have those conversations that we just hate having. For some of us, it’s that conversation when it’s time to go on a diet. For others, it’s about the household budget. For all Mets fans, it’s about injuries.

They all start out seemingly innocuous and become something more. When it originally seems bad, we’re told it’s not and the player sits on the bench until they can hobble on the field for a PH appearance. 

Prior to this year, it was the awful way, the Mets responded to Matt Harvey‘s and Zack Wheeler‘s arm complaints. It continued this year with Dan Warthen playing doctor with Steven Matz

Also, this year we saw David Wright‘s hamstring injury become a spinal stenosis issue. Then the Mets refused to put Michael Cuddyer on the DL, severely limiting the team. Now, Lucas Duda has missed three straight games with an unknown back injury

Yes, I know it says stuff back in the link, but that’s a symptom; not a diagnosis. For example, a throbbing leg is a symptom. When x-rays show a fracture that’s a diagnosis. Duda has missed three straight games. It’s time to get some tests. 

Honestly, I can’t believe I’m saying this after David Wright. You’d think the Mets would be extra sensitive to back injuries. However, when looking at the facts, I’m naive. You’d think the Mets would’ve show extra precaution when a young starting pitcher has arm complaints after Harvey, yet they ignored Wheeler. 

I’m not calling for Duda to be put in the DL yet. You need to know what the problem is before making that decision. However, I will note that when they finally put Cuddyer on the DL, he got better, and it looks like he’s playing better

I’d rather see Duda get right than try to play through this and get more hurt. While we know rest may not be the best cure, he can do the exercises needed to get his back strong for the rest of the year. It’s not about RIGHT NOW; it’s about this season. You need healthy players for the stretch run. First base can be manned by Cuddyer and Daniel Murphy in the interim. 

Please let the Mets learn from their mistakes and take care of Duda. They’ll need him. 

Are the Mets All-In?

Rarely, if ever, do you see the Mets go all-in on a season. In fact, the only time I remember it happening was 1999 when Steve Phillips traded everyone to try to improve the team after just missing out on the playoffs in 1998. 

Watching that 1999 team was probably the most fun I had watching baseball. With that season came so many highlights including the Al Leiter two-hitter in the Wild Card play-in gamePratt’s All Folks, and the Grand Slam Single. The season ended cruelly with Kenny Rogers . . . . 

If you remember, that year the Mets gave away Jason Isringhausen for Billy Taylor.  As we know Taylor had no regular season impact and was left off the playoff roster.  It also saw Octavio Dotel get called up too soon and stay in the majors too long to the tune of a 5.38 ERA. He was warming in the bullpen when Kenny Rogers . . . .

This year, the Mets are seemingly all-in like they were in 1999. They gave up their two best prospects who have not appeared in the majors this year. In exchange the Mets received two and a half months of Tyler Clippard and Yoenis Cespedes, who is leaving as a free agent. Because of deplorable offense, Michael Conforto was rushed to the majors, and the Mets won’t send him back down

Look, I understand going all-in. It led to a run in 1999, and to a certain extent 2000. However, in order to go all-in, you don’t hedge your bets. 

For starters, that means ending the innings limits nonsense. First of all, the underlying theorem was proven incorrect. Second, the rotation is set up nicely the rest of the year if it’s left unadulterated. Third, Steven Matz must go to the bullpen upon his return from the DL. 

If the Mets make the playoffs, he will be in the bullpen anyway (if he makes the postseason roster). He can be like the 2006 Adam Wainwright or the 2008 David Price out there. This will help him and the Mets. If you put him in the rotation, you mess up the rotation and you endanger the opportunity that Matz can be effective in the postseason as a reliever. 

If the Mets are truly all-in as their trades and treatment of Conforto suggest, Matz will be a reliever. If the Mets put him in the rotation and try spot starts or a six man rotation in September, then they should’ve sent down Conforto. You can’t go half way in being all-in. 

Let’s hope no matter what they do, it works out to their benefit. Let’s also hope we’re talking potential postseason roster moves instead. 

Charting the Mets Rotation

Coming out of the All Star Break, the Mets wisely set their rotation to allow their stud muffins to face the Nationals twice. Initially, the move was a bust.  However, after the Yoenis Cespedes trade, the Met took off and swept the Nationals.  Now, it seems like the Mets want to go back to the six man rotation, or at a minimum have some spot starts.  If the Mets did not go to the six man rotation or have any spot starts, here’s how the rotation would shake out:

Jacob deGrom:

8/7 @ Rays
8/12 vs. Rockies
8/18 @ Orioles
8/24 @ Phillies
8/29 vs. Red Sox
9/4 @ Marlins
9/9 @ Nationals
9/14 vs. Marlins
9/20 vs. Yankees
9/25 @ Reds
10/1 @ Phillies

Noah Syndergaard:

8/8 @ Rays
8/13 vs. Rockies
8/19 @ Orioles
8/25 @ Phillies
8/30 vs. Red Sox
9/5 @ Marlins
9/10 @ Braves
9/15 vs. Marlins
9/21 vs. Braves
9/26 @ Reds
10/2 vs. Nationals

Bartolo Colon:

8/9 @ Rays
8/14 vs. Pirates
8/21 @ Rockies
8/26 @ Phillies
8/31 vs. Phillies
9/6 @ Marlins
9/11 @ Braves
9/16 vs. Marlins
9/22 vs. Braves
9/27 @ Reds
10/3 vs. Nationals

Jon Niese:

8/10 vs. Rockies
8/15 vs. Pirates
8/22 @ Rockies
8/27 @ Phillies
9/1 vs. Phillies
9/7 @ Nationals
9/12 @ Braves
9/18 vs. Yankees
9/23 vs. Braves
9/29 @ Phillies
10/4 vs. Nationals

Matt Harvey:

8/11 vs. Rockies
8/16 vs. Pirates
8/23 @ Rockies
8/28 vs. Red Sox
9/2 vs. Phillies
9/8 @ Nationals
9/13 @ Braves
9/19 vs. Yankees
9/24 @ Reds
9/30 @ Phillies

Now, we are all aware of the rumblings of the Mets using a spot starter or returning to the six man rotation.  What we also know is the Mets are going to rip past the innings limits anyway.  So in this somewhat academic analysis, just go back and take a look again at how the rotation will work out.  For starters, it’s great that Colon only pitches one game against a team over .500 until the last week of the season.  Additionally, if everything works out according to plan, you don’t have to finagle the rotation to start the postseason with Harvey, Matz, and Syndergrom.  Isn’t that your goal?  Now, if things get hectic towards the end, remember the Mets don’t have a huge lead right now, they can shift starts around in September so you can have the stud muffins going against the Nationals in the last series of the season.

Overall, if you are going to rip through the innings limits, why not do it properly and set the team up for success in September and October?  My belief is that if you don’t change the rotation as it stands right now, the Mets look to be in good shape for the rest of the season, and they will have their stud muffins front and center entering the postseason.  Let’s not overthink things and keep it the way it is.

 

 

Mets Have “40” Decisions to Make

As of today, the Mets 40 man roster is full with Erik Goeddel and David Wright on the 60 day DL. Since players on the 60 day DL do not count towards the 40 man roster, two players will have to be removed from the 40 man before Goeddel and Wright can be added.

The first decision could potentially come on August 11th, when Goeddel is first eligible to come off the DL. The Mets can send down Hansel Robles, who has options, but that only solves the 25 man roster issue. As of today, here are the people who are on the 40 man roster, who are also not on the 25 man roster:

  1. Dario Alvarez
  2. Vic Black
  3. Jack Leathersich
  4. Steven Matz
  5. Akeel Morris
  6. Logan Verrett
  7. Gabriel Ynoa
  8. Johnny Monell
  9. Anthony Recker
  10. Dilson Herrera
  11. Danny Muno
  12. Wilfredo Tovar
  13. Darrell Ceciliani
  14. Michael Cuddyer
  15. Kirk Nieuwenhuis

In deciding who to remove, there are a couple of important factors to take into account:

  1. This player will be exposed on waivers allowing any team to claim that player, and
  2. A player must be on the 40 man roster as of August 31st to be eligible for the postseason roster (there are loopholes however).

Immediately, you can rule out the pitchers. They’re young, under control, and will be snatched up by another team . . . even Vic Black. That leaves eight players for two spots.

Next, we can eliminate Michael Cuddyer and Kirk Nieuwenhuis from consideration. Cuddyer is set to come off the DL soon. Nieuwenhuis is a possibility, albeit remote right now for the postseason roster. We’re done to six players.

I would next eliminate Dilson Herrera, who is seen as the second baseman of the future. This is especially important with Daniel MurphyKelly Johnson, and Juan Uribe set to be free agents. We’re down to five players: Monell, Recker, Muno, Tovar, and Ceciliani.  Here’s where things get tricky. You can make cases for all of these players to stay or go.

I’ll start with the catchers, who have been awful this year . . . absolutely terrible. I’m expecting the Mets to move on from both of these players in the offseason. However, we need to remember Travis d’Arnaud has been injury prone. You don’t want to him to go down and have no playoff replacement. At a a minimum, one catcher must stay on the roster. Possibly both.

Up next are the young middle infielders. Admittedly, they have both been pretty bad in very limited major league experience. Accordingly, you can’t use that experience as the sole reason to outright that player. It should be noted neither player is a top prospect in the Mets organization. I think both are candidates, specifically Tovar, who is behind Matt ReynoldsGavin Cecchini, and Amed Rosario on the organization’s SS depth chart.

Finally, we have Ceciliani, who played decently with the Mets this year (even if he was a little exposed). It should be noted he was passed over in the last two Rule Five Drafts.  I don’t imagine his limited playing time changed the minds of the other 29 teams.  Furthermore, with Nieuwenhuis being on the bubble for the postseason roster, there’s no chance he would even see the field. In my opinion, this makes him the most vulnerable.

Now, I have no connections whatsoever, but I would believe Ceciliani and Monell are the two players who will be moved to make room for Goeddel and Wright. You could easily interchange that for Recker and Ceciliani or one of the middle infielders.  However, I think Ceciliani and Monell are the two least  regarded players on this list.

Further complicating matters is Rafael Montero, who is also on the 60 day DL. Terry Collins recently went to talk to Montero to encourage him to ramp up his rehab so he can help the team.  If Montero is coming back, the Mets are going to have to make yet another roster move.  I believe at this time, the middle infielders would definitively be in danger of being removed from the 40 man roster.  My guess would be Tovar, but then again, I could be wrong.

The only way to avoid removing anyone, and risking losing a player, is to make a trade with another team.  The problem there is if these players had value to other teams, they would have been moved already.  Specifically to Ceciliani, we’ve seen teams pass on him a number of times.  There is also the possibility that the player to be named later in the Eric O’Flaherty deal is one of the aforementioned 15 players making part of this post moot.  However, I think that is unlikely.

Overall, the Mets have a lot of important decisions to make with an eye towards who they want on the postseason roster.  It’s fun to be a Mets fan again.

Is Matz the Price for a Postseason Run

Rumor has it the Mets will have Steven Matz rejoin the rotation when he comes off the DL. During the Mets recent run, I began to think the Mets should use Matz out of the bullpen. I never really wrote anything about it because I wasn’t sure it was a good idea with any restrictions that may be placed on him. 

However, two things recently changed my mind:

  1. The Mets bullpen last night was horrible; and
  2. Jerry Blevins is done for the year

It’s no secret the Mets bullpen, outside of Tyler Clippard and Jeurys Familia, is weak. They had trouble holding an eight run lead last night. Last week, they blew a six run lead to the Padres. They need to sure things up. 

Now, the Mets are down an important piece of Blevins. Admittedly, he’s been gone for most of the year, and he couldn’t be relied upon to return this year. 

I’m also convinced after last night the Mets aren’t that serious about innings limits. How could you?  Not only have we learned that Mets starters have thrown more innings than any other team, but they also let Matt Harvey pitch two extra innings with a huge lead. If they are serious, Dillon Gee could make those starts. 

With all that said, I think the Mets should take a page from the 2008 Rays book and put Matz in the bullpen. In 2008, David Price made one start and four bullpen appearances. He saved Game 7 of the ALCS en route to a World Series appearance. Since that time, Price has been one of the best pitchers in baseball. Sure, he had the stuff, but I’m also sure the early postseason experience helped. 

Also, keep in mind if the Mets make the playoffs, that’s where Matz would go anyway. If that’s the case, why not give him some experience there now instead of throwing him in without any relief appearances in the playoffs.  Put it this way, in a big spot, do you want to see Steven Matz or Hansel Robles?  

So, if the Mets are truly interested in winning this year, Matz needs to go to the bullpen as soon as his DL stint is over. The Mets made win-now decisions with the Yoenis Cespedes trade and the Tyler Clippard trade.  They’re all-in. When you’re all in, you don’t hold back. 

Matz to the bullpen is the only solution. 

Mets Shouldn’t Matz with the Rotation

The Mets have a real problem with their rotation right now . . . and I don’t just mean Bartolo Colon.  No, I’m referring to the innings limit problem

I was naively hoping the Mets were going to ignore the limitations while being smart about how they use their pitchers. For example, if any of the stud muffins are having a rough start, they would pull them a little early. If there is a large run differential, the pitcher could sit down earlier. 

I was wrong. It appears the Mets still intend to manage the innings of the stud muffins by having spot starters during the rest of the season. In fact, Terry Collins stated the Mets will soon use a spot starter

However, the Mets still ultimately want to go with a six man rotation. The most likely candidate is Steven Matz, who was reported to have begun throwing yesterday.  If all goes according to plan, Matz will rejoin the rotation for the September stretch run. While we all enjoyed his first two starts, I’m not anxious for his return. 

It is too late in the season to mess around with the pitching rotation, which has carried the team thus far. Furthermore, the statistics are not kind to six man rotations. In fact, pitchers’ ERA increases with the extra day of rest. 

This begs the question: why would you mess with your biggest strength?  We all know it’s pitching that will carry the Mets into the playoffs. The new offense is performing well, but it’s pitching that will help the Mets win now, and we know pitching wins in October. 

I already know your answer: we want to protect the young arms. Mets fans have scars from Generation K.  Younger fans may remember Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. I think everyone knows the story of Stephen Strasburg sitting out the 2012 postseason

The end result?  The Nationals lost in the NLDS to the eventual World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals three games to two. Strasburg’s replacement in the rotation was the immortal Edwin Jackson.  Now Strasburg is injured again (not the elbow) and many question his mental makeup, fairly or unfairly.  Thankfully, Terry Collins has assured us we will not see a repeat of the Strasburg incident  as the stud muffins will pitch in the playoffs

However, I’m still troubled by the innings limits. The main reason is because it is based upon the disproven “Verducci Effect.”  I’m not willing to risk a whole season on faulty logic.  Furthermore, I think the six man rotation overtures are disingenuous. 

If the Mets were truly serious about the six man rotation, Dillon Gee would be in the rotation now. Over his last five starts, he’s 4-0 with a 3.03 ERA, a 1.26 WHIP, and two consecutive complete games. He’s doing this in an extreme hitter’s league. I know he was not good this year while he was being jerked around regarding his role with the team and the organization. However, I must ask, if the Mets are truly concerned with results, why is Colon in the rotation?

I’m not going to belabor the point, but he’s been awful this year. I’m not going to turn in the blinders because he had a good start against the worst offensive team in baseball, who is without Giancarlo Stanton. Overall, Colon has the fifth worst ERA in the NL. Even with a revived offense, is this the guy you want to run out there every fifth day?  If you tell me you want to replace Colon with Matz, I’d say it would be a great move. 

Furthermore, if you want to protect the arms, it’s simple. The Mets need to fire Dan Warthen.  First, in 2013, Harvey was permitted to make multiple starts with forearm tightness. Harvey had Tommy John surgery. Second, Zack Wheeler pitched with ligament damage last season. Zack Wheeler had Tommy John surgery. Finally, Warthen, himself, declared Steven Matz fit to pitch. Matz then went on the DL. 

If it’s not Warthen’s fault, fine. Who is it?  The Mets need to root out the cause for the ignored aches and pains of their prime young pitchers. These problems became major injuries. If the Mets are really concerned with their young pitchers, they should start looking there instead of instituting another version of the six man rotation. 

Rumor Has It No More Trade Talk

I’m done with analyzing potential trades and players.  I don’t think the Mets are making any more moves.  I don’t think Sandy Alderson had the money to spend.  He was bluffing at that press conference because that’s his job.  He cannot announce to the world the Mets don’t have the money to add a contract.  That’s foolhardy.  It reduces your leverage in trade discussions, and it could keep fans away from the ballpark.  Both are bad for business, and if anything, Sandy is a good businessman.

Therefore, I’m not going to address how well I think Gerardo Parra will fit on this team, especially given Juan Lagares’ questionable health and offense.  I’m not going to address how a Jose Reyes deal will benefit the Mets on the field and in attendance.  I won’t go into how Justin Upton has been lousy since April and will only drag the Mets offense further down.  I’ve already wasted my breath on Jay Bruce.  We all know Yoenis Cespedes and Carlos Gonzalez are not going to be moved by their teams.

Any other players the Mets get besides the aforementioned players are just background noise.  They are bench parts that don’t have the day to day impact the Mets need on the field.  If the Mets acquire someone, I’ll do a write up on the trade.  If the Mets get one of the above, I’ll concede how very wrong I was.

I’m not being pessimistic.  I’m being realistic.  I do think the team on the field can compete for the postseason and the World Series.  When Travis d’Arnaud returns, the team is that much better.  If David Wright returns, and is at least a shadow of himself, watch out.  If Steven Matz returns, we’re really cooking.

Instead of focusing on what could be, I’m going to focus on what is and enjoy that.  I don’t think people do that enough nowadays.  I’m going to sit down tonight and watch the Mets game with my son until he falls asleep.  I’m going to watch the team on the field, and I’m going to enjoy the game (hopefully).  I’m just not going to sit here anymore and fret over what could be.  I’m going to enjoy what is.

We’re Running out of Innings

In late June, the Mets called up Steven Matz, in part, because the team felt they needed to switch to a six man rotation. The theory was that if the Mets didn’t do this, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard would hit their innings limits in September. The Mets were being proactive to avoid a repeat of the Stephen Strasberg incident. 

After Matz was misdiagnosed by Dr. Warthen, he went in the DL with a torn lat. Matz had to completely shut down all baseball activity for three weeks. We do not yet know if: 1) he can come back this season; and 2) what his role would be. 

With Matz down, the Mets now face a ticking clock on the innings limits of their three “stud muffins.”  Due to Matz’s injury, the Mets have abandoned the six man rotation for the second time this year. 

There are different theories to limiting innings from the Verducci Effect (20-30 innings more than year before) to Tampa Bay’s 20% philosophy (20% more innings than prior year). These limitations would apply to deGrom and Thor. 

deGrom pitched 178.1 innings last year between AAA and the majors. Accordingly, his innings would be limited somewhere between 208.1 – 214.0 innings. Right now deGrom is at 127.1 innings (not including his one inning in the All Star Game), and he has averaged approximately 6.2 innings per start. deGrom has approximately 12 starts remaining. If he continues averaging 6.2 innings per start, he would pitch 80 more innings giving him a season total of 207.1, which is right at the lower end of the limitation spectrum. At best, he could have one postseason start for 6.2 innings to stay within his innings limits. 

Last year, Thor pitched 133.0 innings. So far this year, he had pitched 108.1 innings between AAA and the majors. He has averaged 6.0 innings in his major league starts. Using the aforementioned parameters, Thor’s innings limit would be between 159.3 – 163.0 innings. Like deGrom, he has approximately 12 starts left if he pitched every fifth day. At six innings per start, he would finish the year with 180.1 innings. Therefore, Thor really has nine starts left to stay within his innings limitations. This leaves him unable to pitch in the postseason. 

Harvey is a different case as he did not pitch last year due to Tommy John surgery. In 2012, the Nationals estimated that Strasburg should be limited between 160.0 – 180.0 innings. For their part, the Mets estimated they would hold Harvey to 190.0 innings. While I think Harvey is the ultimate competitor, he is represented by Scott Boras, who also represents Strasburg. Boras championed limiting Strasburg’s innings. 

Right now, Harvey is at 125.1 innings, leaving him with only 64.2 innings left in the season. Assuming he has 12 starts remaining, he can only pitch approximately 5.1 innings per start. He’s currently averaging 6.2 innings per start. Like Thor, he would also be unavailable for the playoffs. 

I can’t imagine the Mets intend to heavily rely on Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese in the postseason because of the aforementioned innings limits. If they get to October, they must ride their stud muffins. The Mets know this, and yet, they still made a win-now trade for Tyler Clippard. I believe this is a sign they are ready to disregard innings limits and make a real run for it. 

That’s fine because recent studies have shown innings limits do not prevent pitcher injuries. This is something Seaver knew intuitively. I’m sure he will be happy when the Mets do away with the innings limits this year. Mets fans should as well because it means the Mets are not relying on unsupported science and are playing meaningful games in September

Calling Up Conforto is a Bad Omen but I Love it Anyway

The Mets have finally put Michael Cuddyer on the DL and called-up Michael Conforto. It’s about time. Cuddyer has been injured for almost a month, and Conforto has done nothing but rake.

After last night’s debacle, the Mets front office probably felt like there was no other choice. I believe that Conforto will be the everyday star in the Mets lineup (albeit maybe not immediately) to match the five aces they will have in the rotation next year. I look forward to my son and I wearing Conforto jerseys in the next few years as the Mets make a push to win a World Series. Even with all that excitement I’m feeling right now, there is something pulling me back a bit.

I believe what is pulling me back is that this is a strong indication that the Mets can’t or won’t do anything on the trade market. In yesterday’s press conference, Sandy Alderson said the Mets have money to spend, but the media reports sing a different tune. Right now, the thing that sticks with me the most is that Sandy Alderson, the team’s GM, seemed to be against calling up Conforto. His quote at Thursday’s press conference was, “[o]ne of the considerations is that most young players who come up to the big leagues aren’t terribly successful in the short term . . . .” His words; not mine. Now, however, after almost getting no-hit and a fan mutiny seemingly coming to fruition, the Mets make a move they were reportedly against making. If the Mets didn’t want him to have the weight of being the savior, they chose an awful time to call him up. The Mets offer this move as an olive branch. However, I think this olive branch has a red herring on it.

Mets want us to run to the ballpark to see him. My Dad did that with me with Darryl Strawberry was called up. I did the same with my son when Steven Matz was called-up. However, I’m not so sure about running to the ballpark this time. The Mets have saved a lot of money this season with Wright’s unfortunate injury and Mejia’s suspension. They’re not putting that money back into this team that has a rotation that could win a World Series. How could I justify spending my money on a team that won’t spend the hard earned cash I give them?

Overall, I am ecstatic about Michael Conforto, and I cannot wait to see him put on his #30 tonight. I look forward to the first at-bat of what I hope is a long and prosperous Mets career. Welcome to the majors Michael Conforto.