Terry Collins

Mickey Callaway’s Eighth Inning

Look, it was bound to happen.  The revamped and praised bullpen was finally going to have a meltdown.  Mickey Callaway was going to have a game leaving fans scratching their heads a bit leading up to him getting criticized.  The fact it came against the Nationals was tough.  The fact it was a blown 6-1 lead was tougher.  The combination of the two left a really sour taste in your mouth despite the Mets 12-3 start.

In that eighth inning, the Mets would use five pitchers who allowed six runs on five hits, three walks, and a hit batter.  Two of those walks were bases loaded walks.  With the exception of Jacob deGrom, each and every pitcher who appeared that inning has some explaining to do.

Naturally, when you have a complete bullpen meltdown like that, much like we saw cause the 2008 Mets collapse, there are going to be some questions about how Callaway handled the inning.  Let’s take a look.

Questionable Decision No. 1 – Lifting deGrom

At the time Callaway lifted deGrom, the Mets had a 6-1 lead in the top of the eighth.  A Michael Taylor strikeout was book-ended by a pair of singles by Moises Sierra and Trea Turner.  At that point, deGrom had thrown 103 pitches, and he was about to go to the Nationals lineup a fourth time.

Before moving on, some key stats should be considered.  In his career, batters hit .277/.300/.447 when facing deGrom for a fourth time.  However, that stat should be mitigated by the batter Howie Kendrick.

For his career, Kendrick is hitting .087 with no walks or extra base hits against deGrom.  Last night, Kendrick was 0-3 with three strikeouts against deGrom.

Considering Bryce Harper is hitting behind him, and you have Jerry Blevins warming in the pen to face him, there’s no way you second guess Callaway for leaving deGrom in the game.

By removing deGrom, Callaway opened himself up to second guessing.  That second guessing grew louder when Seth Lugo, who had been excellent this year, walked Kendrick on four straight pitches.

Question Decision No. 2 – Using Lugo for One Batter

As noted above, with Harper on deck and Blevins warming, whoever you brought into the game to face Kendrick was only going to be in for one batter, so why Lugo?

There is a time to experiment with your bullpen guys to give them a different taste of different moments, but a game against the Nationals just isn’t that moment.  Not when there was something brewing that caused you to go out there and bring in a reliever to nip a potential rally in the bud.

Since you are bringing Blevins into the game to face Harper anyway, you could have used him to pitch to Kendrick.  After all, Kendrick is just 1-8 off Blevins.  Even if Kendrick hits an unlikely homer, you are still up 6-4 at that point, and you have Blevins to face Harper.

Instead, Lugo was put in an unfamiliar situation, and he struggled.  That doesn’t excuse Lugo’s performance in the least.  He should have gone out there and recorded the out, or at least forced Kendrick to put the ball in play.  Really, this at-bat was a seminal moment as this is where the rally really began to build momentum and begin to spiral out of control.

Questionable Decision No. 3 – Using Ramos

Iseemed odd Callaway would go to AJ Ramos over getting Jeurys Familia into the game at that spot.  Heading into this season, Callaway spoke about getting his best relievers into the biggest spots of the game regardless of whether there was a save situation or not.  That’s not what happened.

Instead of using Familia to nip the rally in the bud and let Ramos start a clean ninth, Callaway took a page out of Terry Collins book and saved his closer.  He also used Ramos, who has allowed 24.5% of inherited runners to score in his career.  Now, to be fair, Callaway may have wanted to shy away from Familia who has had a fairly high workload this season. Still, you have to wonder why Ramos there.

Out of anyone in the Mets bullpen, Ramos has the highest walk rate with a scary 4.9 BB/9 for his career.  That included his walking six batters in the 6.1 innings he had pitched entering last night’s game.  Bringing Ramos into this game into a powder keg of a situation could potentially light a fuse and blow the game.

It started out well with Ramos over powering Ryan Zimmerman to get the second out, and the Nationals sent up Matt Reynolds to the plate.  Right here was why the Mets should have never lost this game.  It’s also why using a walk prone Ramos is dangerous.

Reynolds, who is a career .224/.294/.393 hitter with an 8.1% walk rate, walked on four straight pitches to make it 6-4.

Questionable Decision No. 4 – Double Switching Flores into the Game

When Callaway brought Familia into the game, he obviously had the intention of using him for the four out save.  With the pitcher’s spot due up second in the bottom of the inning, Callaway understandably double switched him into the game.

What is interesting is Juan Lagares had made the last out of the bottom of the seventh.  By the book, you swap him out.  Being smarter than that, Callaway didn’t do that instead opting to keep his best fielder in the game in a crucial spot.  Instead, he went back and pulled Adrian Gonzalez.

Now, Gonzalez isn’t the four Gold Glove Gonzalez anymore.  In 92.1 innings this season, he has a -1 DRS and 0.1 UZR.  It’s a small sample size, but it is in line with what he’s been the past few seasons.  His dimished skill and range were prevalent when Harper had hit an RBI single earlier that inning between him and Asdrubal Cabrera.  That was more on Cabrera’s range, but it did speak to the limited range on the right side of the Mets infield.

Now, Flores arguably has more range than Gonzalez with a 0.2 UZR at first this year and a 2.3 UZR over the past three seasons.  However, he’s not yet good enough to consider using him for defense late in games at any position.  In fact, he also has a -1 DRS at first this year but in just 45.2 innings.  Flores’ poor defense and relative inexperience MIGHT have been at play when Wilmer Difo hit a single by him.  Whether Gonzalez gets to that or not, we’ll never know.

Another important point here is with Flores being double switched into the game, you do not get to deploy him against a left-handed pitcher.  Instead, you have to use him against a right-handed one.  Flores has improved against right-handed pitching, but not to the point where he’s your first option over Yoenis Cespedes or Jay Bruce.

As an aside, what would have been so wrong if Familia batted?  If he immediately gets out of the inning, you have a two run lead.  Let him go up there and take his strikeout, and you have your optimal defense for the eighth and ninth innings.  Instead, you weakened your infield defense with a power sinker pitcher, and you didn’t try to get a platoon advantage with Flores coming off the bench.

Questionable Decision No. 5 – No Gsellman At All

Arguably, Robert Gsellman has either been the Mets best or second best reliever this season.  In a pressure filled spot, you would think you would’ve found a spot for him, especially at a time when you were looking to get a ground ball double play to get out of the inning.  Instead, Callaway decided to go with Ramos and an obviously fatigued Familia.

Synopsis

When you have a complete meltdown like the Mets had, there is little a manager can do but pray.  Really, Callaway is getting second guessed because the Mets lost a game where they had a five run lead with one out in the eighth inning.  You should never lose those games.

Lugo can’t walk Kendrick on four pitches.  Blevins has to get Harper out in that situation.  Ramos can’t walk and hit batters.  Familia needs to dig just a little deeper and not hit a batter or walk in the go-ahead run.

Also, someone needed to make a play.  Two balls where hit between the first and second baseman.  Cabrera couldn’t make a play on either.  Certainly, you could argue an infielder with even average range gets to the Harper single.  Cabrera would then exacerbate his inability to make a play in the field by getting bizarrely aggressive on the base paths getting thrown out at third with one out in the ninth inning.  That was inexcusable.

Really, this game was your typical Callaway game.  When it comes to his bullpen, he’s going to be a little more aggressive than most in what is typically his attempt to put his players in the best position to succeed.  In his first 15 games, it seems he’d rather put players in a position to succeed than leave them out there and let them  make a play.

Until last night, that made Callaway look like a genius.  Last night?  Well, it made him look like a meddling over-manager.  Ultimately, that’s the way it goes with not just managing, but managing in New York.

Whatever the case, after that brutal loss, we are really going to find out something about both Callaway and this Mets team.  Do they get off the mat and show the Nationals they’re the better team?  Do they come out shell-shocked and lose this game?

Right now, we don’t know, but we are soon going to find out just how special both this team and this manager is and can be.

 

 

 

Callaway’s Opening Act a Walk in the Park

While being a Mets fan may come with some trials and tribulations, the one day Mets fans are typically happy is Opening Day.  Heading into today’s game, the Mets were 36-20 all time on Opening Day, which is the best Opening Day winning percentage in Major League history.  As a result, the Mets are usually 1-0, and their manager looks like a genius.

Today, new Mets Manager Mickey Callaway looked like a genius.

When you looked at the Opening Day lineup, you knew immediately this was no longer Terry Collins‘ Mets.  The lineup not only had the Mets best hitter, Yoenis Cespedes, batting second, it also had Noah Syndergaard batting eighth and Amed Rosario batting ninth.  If you were skeptical of the decision, the Mets quickly put you at ease.

Kevin Plawecki reached on a one out walk, and he remained there after Syndergaard struck out.  With two outs and the lead-off hitter behind him, Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez challenged Rosario with fastballs.  Rosario shot a single up the middle putting runners one first and second with two outs.

Brandon Nimmo did what Brandon Nimmo does, and he drew a walk.  Cespedes came up with the bases loaded, and he delivered with a two out RBI single, which at the time gave the Mets a 3-2 lead.  And with that, Callaway looked like a genius.

Frankly, it’s easy to look like a genius when everyone plays as well as the Mets did today.

Nimmo set the tone getting hit by the first pitch of the game and eventually scoring on a Jose Martinez throwing error on what could have been an Asdrubal Cabrera double play grounder.  Instead of an inning ending double play, the Mets scored a first inning run without getting a base hit.  That’s what happens when you draw nine walks in the game.

Speaking of Nimmo, he was brilliant today.   He went 2-3 with two runs, a walk, and the aforementioned hit by pitch.  With Michael Conforto reportedly being much closer to being ready to start his season, Nimmo is going to need more games like this to stay in the starting lineup.

So will Adrian Gonzalez.  The veteran was coming off a horrific injury plagued 2017 season where the Dodgers not only didn’t miss him as they won the pennant, it seemed they didn’t even want him around.  Nor did the Braves for that matter, as after a trade, they are paying him almost $22 million to play for an NL East rival.

Between that, his terrible Spring Training, and his soft line out to short in his first at-bat, helooked done.  He wouldn’t make another out on the game going 2-3 with a run, double, two walks, and an RBI.

In situations like this, you want your players to make the decision about who should sit and who should play to be extraordinarily difficult.  Based on Nimmo’s and Gonzalez’s play, Callaway’s decision will just be that.

Overall, the Mets offense and unconventional lineup was humming.  The team scored nine runs on 12 hits highlighted by a five run fifth where they not only chased Martinez, but also former Mets prospect Matthew Bowman.

Every Mets starter, save Syndergaard, reached base at least once safely.  Cespedes and Rosario were the only ones who did not draw a walk.  However, when Rosario is attacking first pitch fastballs to the tune of a 2-4 day with two runs and two RBI, you don’t mind his over-aggressiveness at the plate.

About the only negative on the day was seeing Yadier Molina homer.  That just brought back too many raw emotions from 2006.  Some of that sting was taken away with Molina suffering the indignity of Jay Bruce stealing a base off of him.

With Syndergaard, you had some real reason for excitement.  He became just the second Mets pitcher to strike out 10 on Opening Day.  He needed just 85 pitches to get through six innings.  Yes, he would give up the two homers, but overall, he seemed poised and ready to have a dominating 2018 season.

Speaking of dominating, the Mets bullpen came out and completely shut the door on the Cardinals.  Robert Gsellman, Anthony Swarzak, and Jeurys Familia combined to pitch three scoreless and hitless innings.  Gsellman was the most impressive striking out the side in the seventh.  This bullpen performance will make you forget about the Cardinals getting Greg Holland over the Mets for one day.

And for this one day, Gonzalez is rejuvenated, the bullpen is lights out, Callaway is a genuis, and the Mets are the best team in baseball.  Sure, it seems that way almost every Opening Day as a Mets fan, but at least for tonight, let’s just believe this will carry on well into October.

Game Notes: A number 10 was placed on the back of the mound to honor the recently deceased Rusty Staub.  Syndergaard joined Pedro Martinez as the only Mets starter to have a double digit strikeout game on Opening Day.  This was the first time a Mets starter made back-to-back Opening Day starts since Johan Santana did it from 2008 – 2010.

2018 Mets Player by Player Projections

As I do from time to time, we need a “completely serious” analysis and projection of each and every Mets player who is expected to contribute during the 2018 season.  While there are many prjoection systems which claim to be fool-proof, there are none that will be this accurate about the Mets:

Sandy Alderson – The other 29 GMs in baseball will be left in complete hysterics when Alderson is calling around for a right-handed reliever to help boost the team’s chances to making the postseason.

Mickey Callaway – The writers will overwhelmingly vote him as the National League Manager of the Year.  The most cited reason for giving him the award will be the fact he didn’t insist on playing his worst players or forcing his players to play through crippling injuries.

Dave Eiland– Multiple Mets pitchers will hug him for actually fixing their mechanics and for listening to them when they say they’re hurting.

Tyler Bashlor – When someone notices how similar his name is to the ABC reality show hit The Bachelor, they’ll say how “The Bashlor” is handing out strikeouts like they’re roses. We should all hate that person.

Jerry Blevins– Until he eats a sandwich, the socks given away in his honor will hang around his ankles

Bryce Brentz– He’s going to be the guy who has one or two at-bats this season, and someone is going to invoke his name as a former Met to try to sound like he knows more about the Mets than you know anything.

Jay Bruce– After a four home run game, all Mets fans will want to talk about is when he is going to move to first base.

Asdrubal Cabrera – After a slump, Callaway will move Cabrera down in the lineup causing Cabrera to bring his kids to the clubhouse and have them ask why Callaway doesn’t want them to eat.

Jamie Callahan– His wearing #43 will serve as a constant reminder that not only was he part of the return for Addison Reed, but also how the Mets turned quality MLB players into six right-handed relief prospects. That will be the worst possible sequel to I Know What You Did Last Summer.

Yoenis Cespedes – After an MVP caliber first half, he will feel like he has earned just one game of golf as a reward during the All Star Break.  He will immediately be vilified.

Michael Conforto – After a huge cut and a swing and miss, Conforto will wince for a moment thereby causing a passionate Mets fans behind home plate to have a heart attack.  This will led to a call for the netting to be filled in and for fans to have to watch the game on a tape delay.

Travis d’Arnaud– During a remarkably healthy season, he will finally be forced to catch Syndergaard, who had spent most of the seaosn with Plawecki as his personal catcher.  On the first pitch of the game, Syndergaard throws a 101 MPH fastball which immediately shatters d’Arnaud’s hand.

Jacob deGrom– After a slump, he’s going to look to grow his hair out.  Once he realizes his hair cannot possibly reach it’s old length during the 2018, he’s going to grow a really long beard and change his entrance music to “Legs” by ZZ Top.

Phillip Evans– When he cashes in his check for his postseason share, Evans will fondly remember that April pinch hitting appearance.

Jeurys Familia – After he gives up a seventh inning homer to Conor Gillaspie costing the Mets a game, fans will scream for him to pitch in the ninth inning again.

Wilmer Flores – He will be in such hysterics during his struggles in his first game in the outfield his crying on the field in 2015 will look like a case of the sniffles.

Todd Frazier– It will take many Mets fans a long time to come to grips that Jersey Boy Todd Frazier does not use a Bruce Springsteen song as his walk-up music.  That point will finally come when they realize Frank Sinatra is from Hoboken and not NYC.

Adrian Gonzalez – He will become James Loney2.0.  He will hit well enough for the Mets to stick with him, and the front office will continue to stick with him long after he has since been useful.

Robert Gsellman – As he continues to wait in Las Vegas for his opportunity to get back to the Majors, he will eventually care what Sandy Alderson thinks of him.

Matt HarveyHe’s going to pull a reverse Ben Affleck by going from The Dark Knight moniker to Daredevil.  He will earn that name by following Eiland’s instructions to throw inside with such reckless abandon to the point where people start to question if he’s gone blind.

Juan Lagares – After once again injuring his thumb on a diving attempt, the Mets will finally realize Lagares’ injures were the result of him literally using a gold glove to try to play center.  While they found the answer and solution for the thumb injuries, they will still be perplexed on how to fix his hitting.

Seth Lugo– We won’t know if people keep referring to the hook with him because of his incredible curveball or because of how Callaway won’t let him face a lineup for a third time.

Steven Matz– In addition to the sandwich he has named after him at the Se-port Deli, he will have one named after him at the cafeteria at the Hospital for Special Surgery.

Brandon Nimmo– Despite putting up great numbers, the Mets will inform Nimmo they unfortunately have to send him down to Triple-A due to a temporary roster squeeze.  When he’s still smiling through the ordeal, they will force him to seek psychological counseling.

Kevin Plawecki– On a day when the Mets are getting blown out, the frustrated Plawecki will use the last of his six mound visits to derisively tell his pitcher he can pitch better than this. The pitcher will remind him he has a better batting average than Plawecki.

AJ Ramos – After striking out Giancarlo Stanton in a Subway Series game, he’s going to go home and find his friend has moved out of their shared apartment.  Odd Couple style hilarity ensues.

Jose Reyes– One day, he will hit a triple and score on a mad dash to home plate.  He will have that old Reyes smile, and it will electrify the crowd.  It will also cause everyone to forget that he is one of the worst position players in all of baseball.

T.J. Rivera – After he comes off the disabled list, he’ll deliver in the clutch for the Mets and his teammates will honor him as the player of the game.  The Mets will make sure he’s not standing in front of Plawecki’s locker when they take a photo to tweet out.

Hansel Robles– Many will credit him with the discovery of extra terrestrials by his discovery of a UFO in the Vegas night.  Years later, Robles will sheepishly admit all he was doing was pointing up at another homer he allowed.

Amed Rosario– To the surprise of us all, Rosario will strike out looking when the pitcher throws him a pitch which he was surprised at and was not ready to swing at. Entire belief systems will be shattered.

Jacob Rhame– Like Jason Phillips, he will soon realize fans may first like you for the googles and smile in your photo, but really, they’re only going to love you if you produce.

Paul Sewald– After having spent a year with Terry Collins, he’s going to be the player most comfortable with having no defined role in the bullpen.  However, it will be an adjustment for him not having to warm up multiple times per game.

Dominic Smith – When he gets called up to the Majors as part of September call-ups, he will be late on a pitch causing his manager to believe he learned nothing from Spring Training.

Anthony Swarzak – The jokes about not knowing how to spell his name will get old by mid-April.  The jokes will be rediscovered in August when more fans tune it to a Mets team that is a surprising contender.  The jokes will continue to not be funny.

Noah Syndergaard– He will continue his “Twitter Feud” with Mr. Met.  It will be discussed ad nausesum during nationally televised games.  America will think it’s amusing only fueling the spat even further and giving no hope to Mets fans who have long since found this to be unfunny.

Jason Vargas – When Reyes introduces himself, Vargas will remind him they were teammates in 2007.  Both recall that season and will agree it never happened.

Zack Wheeler– He will be converted to a reliever, and in a surprise to us all, he will lead the league in saves. In a surprise to him that league will be the Pacific Coast League.

David Wright– He will apologize and sheepishly admit the Mets crown was an embarrassingly bad idea.  He will try to come up with a way to rectify it, but no one will listen to his ideas on the topic anymore.

Mets Blogger Roundtable: Who We Are Watching This Spring

After the positive feedback we received after our first Mets Blogger Roundtable, the Mets Bloggers have decided to come back for at least a second week.  This week, we tackle the question “Which Mets player are we most excited about watching this Spring Training?”

Michael Baron (MLB.com)

Dominic Smith is the first player that comes to my mind, although there are several interesting stories to watch this spring. Here’s a guy who has spent a number of years now battling weight issues, and therefore reputation issues, and it’s no secret the organization has concerns with him. And, obviously, signing Adrian González clearly indicates that as well. I am looking for him to step up and look like the player and prospect everyone expects him to be, similar to howMichael Conforto performed last spring. If Dom does that, he’ll make for a tough decision a month from now, which is always a good internal conversation for Mets brass to have.

Roger Cormier (Good Fundies & Fangraphs)

Do we all remember when Bret Booneabruptly retired a few days into Mets spring training camp in 2006? He admitted Jose Reyes “just kind of stared” at him “with that smile on his face” and realized the joy of playing baseball in himself was long gone. Well, I’m hoping Adrian Gonzalez looks at Dominic Smith, smiling and loving life with his old and new svelte physique, and realizes his future as a full-time top sub sandwich enterprise ambassador should be his present. Smith did not earn the full-time first baseman gig last season, but he’s already earned it before the first ST game. He wasn’t even in this good of shape last spring, so I’m looking forward to seeing the Dom Smith everybody warned with a smile was about to enter our lives last summer.

Michael Ganci (Daily Stache)

The player I am most excited to watch at Spring Training might surprise a few people. It’s Brandon Nimmo. I am by no means trying to say he’s an all-star, but I think he is often overlook for the value he brings to a team. First of all, his defense in center field (while not as good as Juan Lagares) is good. For me, I am more impressed with his approach at the plate. He’s one of the more disciplined hitters on the team, especially when it comes to his knowledge of the strike zone. Sure, his .260 batting average last year is not too impressive, but his on-base percentage was more than 100 points higher at .379. Despite not looking like he’s going to have a starting spot out of the gate, Nimmo is going to be an important piece on this team coming off of the bench. And knowing how hard he works, if there’s an injury, he’ll be ready to go in a pinch. It’s hard not to root for the kid.

Mark Healey (Gotham Baseball)

Player I am most excited about? Great question. I know if the Mets had been smart enough to sign Joe Smith, he’d have been my answer. I guess I have to let that one go, though. Steven Matz is the other. There are certain guys I love to watch pitch, and Matz is the latest version of that.

I have been a vocal critic of how Terry Collins and Dan Warthen handled the pitching staff for the last several years, and think the staff’s effectiveness in 2015 was despite their best efforts. I think how Matz was handled has been an organizational failure, but with Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland, they finally have people who truly understand how to get him to the next level. A healthy consistent Matz would be a huge assist to this rotation, so that’s what I am most excited to see.

Agree with Michael on Smith. I’m not sure excited is the word, but I am really interested to see how Matt Harvey starts off this spring. Reports are he can feel the ball again and, in my opinion, this will probably be his last season with the Mets. If he dominates, Mets won’t pay him. If he stinks, bye bye.

The Mets player I’m most interested in seeing this spring is Yoenis Cespedes. The slugger is coming off a season that saw injuries limit him to only 81 games. He’s trained differently this offseason including doing yoga to make sure he is more agile and not simply bulked up like in 2017. It will be interesting to see if his offseason training can help him regain his decencies prowess that helped him win a gold glove in 2015. Also have to see if he can make it through all spring without a muscle injury which seemed to be a weekly occurrence for him last season.

When healthy, Cespedes has been everything the Mets hoped for when they traded for him and signed him to a four-year deal. The Mets are not going to be contenders in 2018 if Cespedes plays only 81 games and spring will be a good time to see if anything has changed for Yo.

I’d actually like to see what Wilmer Flores and Gavin Cecchini do this spring. For Flores, I’d like to see if he takes to the outfield. I kinda hope he doesn’t, only because I’d rather he be placed at one position instead of some utility player who is bad at five positions. As for Cecchini, the Mets are going to need a second baseman next year. This is his last shot to prove he deserves a longer look. Because hey … Daniel Murphy is a free agent next year!

I’m looking forward to seeing uniformly healthy Mets in Spring Training and Mickey Callaway overwhelmed by a plethora of great options as he fills out his roster.

To me, the question comes down to, who has the most potential to be a complete game-changer for the season, with a good spring? So for that reason, while both of those guys will be important, I’m going with Amed Rosario. Obviously, people are excited about Amed – he was one of the top prospects in baseball before he came up – but I don’t think people have really let themselves imagine what kind of difference he could make if he lives up to the hype. Imagine if our starting shortstop suddenly hits .285/.350/.450, or around there, or even better, with great speed and defense, and solid power. I’d say that instantly makes our lineup significantly more dangerous than we expect right now. And even more than that, if Amed is for real, it’s a sign; it’s a message to every Mets fan that whatever happens, we’ve got a present and a future to look forward to. We’ve all seen the effect that one player can have on a season, no matter how badly the season goes: we all got excited every fifth day in 2013, even while we were losing 88 games, because of Matt Harvey. So, if Amed starts the season, and hits for power, plays great defense, steals bases, makes contact, gets on base…he could very quickly become a defining part of the Mets’ season. Unfortunately, if he falls apart and gets demoted, that will probably be a defining moment too, for a season that probably won’t end nearly as well. But being an optimist, a Mets fan, and an Amed believer, I think he’s got everything he needs, and I’m hoping he shows it this Spring.

Mets Daddy

While I didn’t initially feel this way, my opinion changed when I saw the Mets had put T.J. Rivera on the 60 day Disabled List to make room for Jason Vargas on the 40 man roster.  As a result, I am really interested to follow what is happening with David Wright this Spring Training.

With the signing of Todd Frazier and Wright’s comments to the press, it seems like everyone is getting closer to admitting the truth – Wright’s days as a baseball player are all but done.  However, I also get the sense Wright sees just one more chapter for himself.  That chapter may just be one random inning in September with expanded rosters, or maybe, just maybe Wright thinks he can help this team as a bench player.  If any of that is true, we are eventually going to see Wright doing something in terms of baseball activities.

Until that point, it is important to note Callaway does see value in Wright, and he seems to want him around the team.  As a Mets fan, I want him to forever be around this team.  I just hope Wright is able to do something this Spring that will allow him to actually appear on the field – even if it is just for one more game.

Again, I want to thank the various writers for coming onto the site to participate in this roundtable. Please return the favor by visiting their sites (link is in the parenthesis next to their name).  I hope you will enjoy their work as much as I have.

Can’t Bear To See Smoker And Bradford Go

Each and every offseason, I have seen the Mets part with players who are easy to root for.  In my life, I have seen the Mets part ways with Gary Carter, Darryl Strawberry, Mike Piazza, Edgardo Alfonzo, Daniel Murphy, and many more.  Having seen my some of my all-time favorite players depart has never made it easy to see the team depart with some of the players I have come to respect and root for during their time in a Mets uniform – no matter how long it lasted.

Recently, the Mets parted with two relievers, each of whom played less than two full seasons in a Mets uniform.  Presumably, the moves were necessary as the Mets needed to make room on the 40 man roster for the newly re-signed Jay Bruce and Jose Reyes.  Still, seeing those two relievers, you question if the Mets made the right decision.

The first reliever the Mets designated for assignment was Chasen Bradford.

In retrospect, it is interesting the Mets were even in a position to DFA Bradford.  For a number of years, he had been Rule 5 eligible with the rest of MLB not giving him much of a look.  The Mets didnt’ either, and if not for the series of injuries that beset the Mets this past season, it’s possible Bradford would have departed the team as a minor league free agent without getting so much as a chance.

Well, Bradford got his chance, and he proved he’s a MLB caliber pitcher.  In 28 appearances, he was 2-0 with a 3.78 ERA and a 1.277 WHIP.  After a somewhat tough July, he went on a 12 appearance stretch where he allowed just one run in 16.2 innings.

In fact, from August until the end of the season, he had a 2.93 ERA in 27.2 innings over 23 appearances.  During that stretch, he had amassed 20 scoreless appearances, and he had nine appearances over an inning in length.  In sum, Bradford showed he could go out there and get Major League batters out no matter the situation.

There other reliever designated for assignment was Josh Smoker.

Smoker’s story is one of perseverance.  After being the Nationals 2007 first round draft pick, he would suffer a torn rotator cuff and labrum.  This would cause the Nationals to release him thereby putting his professional baseball career in jeopardy.

A healthy Smoker proved himself in the Frontier League leading to his getting signed by the Mets.  Two years later, Smoker found himself part of a bullpen that helped pitch the Mets to the postseason.  Given his talent and perseverance, it was not surprise Smoker would be a part of the 2017 Opening Day bullpen.

What was a surprise was how Terry Collins used him.  Really, his manager showed a willful disregard for a pitcher with a history of shoulder issues.  It was almost as if Collins learned nothing from his handling of Johan Santana and Jim Henderson.  Eventually, Smoker had another shoulder injury.  Thankfully, it was not as serious as it would not require seasons ending surgery.

Once again, Smoker would have to re-prove himself, and re-prove himself he did.  In the second half, Smoker was 0- 0 with a 2.63 ERA and a 10.5 K/9 in 22 appearances.  Perhaps of more importance, Smoker found himself a capable pitcher against left-handed batters making him an even greater weapon in the bullpen.

However, like Bradford, Smoker will be a weapon in someone else’s bullpen.

After being designated for assignment, Bradford signed a minor league deal with the Mariners.  To risk not losing him on waivers, Smoker was traded to the Pirates for minor league left-handed reliever Daniel Zamora.  With that, the Mets have ridded themselves of two relievers who not only provided themselves capable of getting out Major League batters, but also two relievers who showed perseverance in getting themselves to this point.  That’s no small thing to lose.

As we learned during Player’s Weekend, Bradford’s nickname is Black Bear, and Smoker’s nickname is Brown Bear.  While it may seem a bit much, considering their nicknames, it’s fair to say it’s difficult to bear knowing neither pitcher will be a part of the Mets next season.

Fortunately for both of them, they are now with new organizations who likely value them all the more.  They deserve that, and all Mets fans should wish them the best of luck.

Mets Should Be Wary With New Closer Approach

One of the biggest benefits of Mickey Callaway being the new Mets manager is the team and organization has a fresher way of looking at things.  This is a welcome breath of fresh air from the Terry Collins Era when he was almost purposefully against the advanced metrics game, and he was loathe to play young players like Michael Conforto.

With Collins stubbornly played veterans like Jose Reyes, even when it was clear he wasn’t the guy who won a batting title in 2011 anymore, it was clear this change of direction was needed.  However, it should always be questioned just how far a new manager should push the envelope.

Judging from Ken Davidoff’s New York Post piece, Callaway is really looking to push the envelope:

We wouldn’t name Wilmer Flores as our Wednesday infielder and then start him even if we’re playing against Corey Kluber.  So why name a closer and put him in a situation where he doesn’t fit?

On paper, this absolutely makes sense.  Typically speaking, a team’s closer is their best reliever.  They have the best stuff, and more than that, they have the mental toughness required to face these difficult situations and come out on top.

And yes, as fans, we time and time again lament how the best available reliever wasn’t used in a particular situation.  Usually, this is when a game goes into extra innings.  Typically, a backwards thinking manager, like Collins, would go to their third or fourth best reliever, so they can save their closer for the save situation.  The example brought up most often was Buck Showalter not bringing in Zach Britton in the 2016 Wild Card Game.

On the surface, it would seem the Mets are well equipped bullpen-wise for Callaway to implement this plan.

Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, and Paul Sewald have closing experience.  While not a closer, Anthony Swarzak has been used in a variety of roles out of the bullpen.  We did see Jerry Blevins record three saves over the past two seasons.  Finally, while many Mets fans are skeptical, Hansel Robles has shown he can handle a number of different roles in the bullpen, and with his working with Pedro Martinez this offseason and Dave Eiland this season, we may see fewer meltdowns.

That’s not too dissimilar with what Callaway had in his Indians bullpen with Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, and Bryan Shaw. As we know, this really allowed the Indians to unleash Miller as a weapon.

Now, the main difference between the Indians situation and what Callaway is proposing to do is the Indians stuck with Allen as the closer.  Clearly, that was more in line with Terry Francona‘s thinking than Callaway’s.  What remains to be seen is whether this was the perfect blending of two schools of thought or Francona not going far enough.

Perhaps the reason why Francona not allowing Callaway to fully implement his plan was because we have seen many closers struggle in non-closing roles.  Now, many will point out this is typically in a situation where a closer is just getting work in with their team having a large lead. We have not really seen the situation where a team full of strong relievers with closing experience can come in at any moment and be thrown into a pressure filled situation.

To date, we have seen teams toy with the idea but never truly implement it.  Perhaps, that’s because there’s the theory relievers thrive when they know their role.  Perhaps, that’s because there is value in free agency and arbitration in save totals and relievers are not going to let their manager “steal” money from them.  Perhaps, that’s because managers do not want to put themselves on the line by trying something new.

Whatever the case, the Mets have a manager who is willing to try something different.  It’s a good theory, and he should pursue it.  However, he should not steadfast if it is not working.  And with that, we really have the first true measure of what Callaway can be as a manager.

If nothing else, Callaway will make the 2018 season an interesting one to follow.

Bad Sports Year Ending

For me, I’m a Mets, Giants, Rangers, and Knicks fans.  As you can tell, 2017 was not the best of years for me.

Mets

The season unofficially ended when Noah Syndergaard refused to get an MRI.  Along with Thor, we saw Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler go on extended disabled list stints.  It came to a point where Rafael Montero was a feasible rotation option.  By the way, that speaks more about the rotation than Montero.

On the offensive side, we saw Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, and Curtis Granderson go for pennies on the dollar.  Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker missed a ton of time, which meant Walker joined the aforementioned players and Addison Reed in fetching a group of minor league right-handed relievers that didn’t bowl anyone over.

Worst of all, Michael Conforto suffered a season ending and possibly career altering shoulder injury.  He suffered that injury on a swing and a miss.  If that isn’t the perfect euphemism for the Mets season, I don’t know what is.

But don’t worry.  The Mets are cutting payroll, so we wont have to face the Mets failing to meet expectations again.

Giants

The year started with the wide receiving core not showing up after they all made sure to attend a boat party.  The end result was the Giants missing a big opportunity to make a deep postseason run.

Expectations were high after that with the Giants being labeled Super Bowl contenders.  As it turns out, you can’t be that without an offensive line and an over-matched head coach.  The season slowly became a 2-13 embarasment that saw McAdoo sit Eli so he could find out if Geno Smith was his starter for next season, and the Giants to fire McAdoo for mishandling that and everything else.

To make matters worse, Eli Apple has gone from being a guy who was supposed to take the next leap to being benched to being called a cancer to announcing to reporters he had to go to the bathroom.  Much like the Apple, the Giants season went from promising and quickly down the drain.

Rangers

The Rangers were lucky and got to face the Atlantic side of the draw for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  The Rangers beat the Canadiens, and then they blew a golden opportunity against the Ottawa Senators.

Due to salary cup constraints, the Rangers then traded away Stepan and Raanta for what was perceived to be an underwhelming return.  The team overdrafted Anderson, and they got lucky with Chytil.  They were also able to nab a promising young defenseman in Antony DeAngelo.

Well, Vingeault has once again done his best Terry Collins impersonation by benching the younger players, not letting them play, and giving the veterans enough rope to hang the entire Rangers season.  The Rangers are currently in playoff contention, but they would likely be in better position if their head coach showed a modicum of interest in developing younger players.

Knicks

Well, last season was a disaster leading to the team trading Melo for much less than they ever thought he could fetch in a trade.  Still, the return has been palatable because Enes Kanter is a leader who gives the Knicks toughness.  This would all be better except for the fact that KP still has issues staying on the floor, the Hardaway signing ate up a ton of cap space, and a favorable early schedule will likely lead to the Knicks falling apart in January.

So yeah, hopefully, 2018 will go much better because how could it not with Mickey Callaway and a new Giants head coach in place.  Hopefully, the Rangers will as well.  There’s also the hope Seton Hall rebounds from a March exit last year on an egregious intentional fall call.  Hopefully, their making a deep run will be the start of a great 2018.

If the Mets continue to refuse to spend, maybe it will be the sole highlight of the year.
Mi

Mets Should Consider Moving d’Arnaud To The Infield

On August 16, 2017, we got to see Travis d’Arnaud bounce back-and-forth between second and third base. Twenty-three times in total.

The reason for the switching was because Terry Collins wanted to have Asdrubal Cabrera play on the pull side of the Yankee batters. d’Arnaud was in the field in the first place because (surprise, surprise), the Mets were playing short. With Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores unable to play the infield, d’Arnaud had to play there.  On the evening, d’Arnaud would have just one ball hit in his direction.  d’Arnaud would cleanly field that ninth inning pop up off the bat of Todd Frazier forever giving him the highest fielding percentage for a Mets second baseman.

Fast forward a few months, and the Mets are in the same exact situation they were just months ago. The team needs to fill in spots at second and third, and really, Cabrera is the only player they have capable on handling those positions everyday.

But it’s more than that.  The Mets are currently not satisfied with Dominic Smith at first base, and they want competition for him.  At a minimum, they’d like a platoon partner for him there as Smith has historically struggled with left-handed pitching.

Historically, this is where you would point to Flores being a solution for second, third, and/or first.  However, Flores has also shown himself not in position to be that player.  He cannot handle third base defensively.  The Mets won’t let him handle second.  And the overriding problem is he’s still a platoon bat even with him making strides against right-handed pitching.

Looking back at that August night, it may be worth toying with the idea of bringing d’Arnaud out from behind the plate to learn either second or third base – preferably third.

First and foremost, the roster composition would allow such a move.  At the end of last season, Kevin Plawecki showed he may finally be ready to push for a starting catching job in the majors.  Also, the Mets signed Jose Lobaton to a minor league deal.  In his career, Lobaton has showed himself to be a more than capable backup catcher.

That tandem not only allows the Mets to handle the inevitable d’Arnaud injury, but it also allows the team to move d’Arnaud.

Presumably, third base would allow d’Arnaud to stay healthy.  As we have long seen, d’Arnaud has been an injury prone player.  By moving him to another position, you may be able to keep his bat in the lineup.

His bat is where things get a bit dicey.  If d’Arnaud is the player he was in 2016 or 2017, you don’t want that bat in the lineup.  It may be possible at catcher, but it’s not at third.

However, in 2015, he was a 126 OPS+ and 130 wRC+ hitter.  That will play at any position.  Keep in mind, when he was drafted, and when he was twice moved for Cy Young Award winners (Roy Halladay and R.A. Dickey) this is what he was expected to be as a hitter.

Getting d’Arnaud’s bat into the lineup everyday and giving Plawecki a shot to be the everyday catcher may go a long way towards helping the 2018 Mets get the most out of the talent on their roster.

Now, this understandably seems ridiculous, and you know what?  It is.  It is absolutely ridiculous we need to even contemplate d’Arnaud switching positions because of the failures of this team.

Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart both chose to become Angels.  Rumors persist the Indians are not looking to move Jason Kipnis, at least not to the Mets.  Josh Harrison was linked to the Yankees, not the Mets, in trade rumors.  The team has a limited budget, so we can probably forget Frazier, Mike Moustakas, or even a Howie Kendrick.

The Mets don’t have the money, and they don’t have the prospects to get things done.  With that in mind, you might as well contemplate moving d’Arnaud to the infield because . . . well . . . the Mets don’t really have any better options.

Please No More Jose Reyes

Look, back in 2016, there were plenty of reasons to not want the Mets to reunite with Jose Reyes.  Most of those dealt with his off the field issues.

No matter what you thought of the signing then, on a personal level or otherwise, Reyes did perform on the field in 2016.  On a pure player analysis decision, the Mets were right about bringing Reyes back in 2017, especially when Reyes was slated to return to the Mets for the Major League minimum.

Now, the Mets are in a position to decide whether they want Reyes to be a part of the 2018 plans.  There have been rumors the Mets are still interested in bringing Reyes back, and depending on what happens this offseason, they are inclined to bring him back as the team’s second baseman.

On a pure analysis of his 2017 season, the Mets should not be interested in bringing back Reyes as an everyday player.  In fact, there’s legitimate reason to believe the team shouldn’t even bring him back as a utility player.

There is no doubt Reyes had the worst season of his career last year.  It is difficult to expect him to turn things around when he is going to turn 35 next season.

Even if you are likely to buy into some short sample split from last season, it needs to be noted Reyes has been gradually declining since he left the Mets.  In his two last full seasons, 2015 and 2017, Reyes has had a wRC+ and OPS+ below 100.  He hasn’t been particularly good in the field either with his not having posted a positive DRS season at any position since 2007.  That was a decade ago.

Last season, Reyes had a negative DRS at four different positions.  Specifically, at second base, the position the Mets are considering playing him next season, Reyes had a -5 DRS in just 207.0 innings there.  For those who complained about Daniel Murphy‘s defense at second base, Reyes had a statistically worse DRS per innings played than Murphy did last year.  By the way, last year was Murphy’s worst year defensively.

Taking everything into account, it should be no surprise that Reyes had a -0.6 WAR.  It was the first time in his entire career he had a negative WAR.

Realistically speaking, even if you believe Reyes can’t be as bad as he was last year, can you really argue he’s going to be a good baseball player?  Based upon the decline, and the team not surrounding him with strong players on the field or in the lineup, it’s even more difficult to make a case for Reyes.

In the end, you’re left with emotional reasons for keeping Reyes.  This includes his place in Mets history, and his relationship with Amed Rosario.  To that end, it should be noted that relationship did not produce on-the-field results for the über prospect.

Overall, it’s time to admit Reyes can no longer be counted on to be an everyday player.  There is a real question about his viability as a bench player for a team with at least purported designs on being competitive next year.  At most, Reyes deserves a minor league deal, with an invitation to Spring Training and real competition to make the team.

In reality, much like with the Mets switching from Terry Collins to Mickey Callaway, it’s time to allow someone younger and better to have their chance to prove themselves.

Mets Souring On Dominic Smith Begs For A Review of Sandy Alderson’s First Round DraftPicks

One of the purported reasons why Sandy Alderson was hired to replace Omar Minaya as the Mets General Manager was due to the state of the Mets farm system.  Now, there was some truth to that given how Minaya continuously left the team without high draft picks due to his propensity to attack the free agent market.

That went double when you consider he used his top picks to select players like Eddie Kunz, Nathan Vineyard, Reese Havens, and Bradley HoltEven if those selections were justified at the time, it didn’t help Minaya’s case when they combined to appear in just four Major League games.

With that, Alderson was tasked with rebuilding a deeper than originally believed Mets farm system. In fact, that 2015 pennant winning team was largely built on talent Minaya acquired including Jacob deGrom, Lucas DudaJeurys FamiliaWilmer Flores, Matt HarveyJuan Lagares, Daniel Murphy, and Hansel Robles.

Alderson deftly built upon that core to make the Mets contenders, and now the organization is at the point where it needs Alderson’s farm system to produce Major League ready players to revitalize this team.  Considering how the Mets fell apart last season and how the team seems disenchanted with many of their own first round draft picks, it is time to review Alderson’s first round draft history with the Mets:

2011 – OF Brandon Nimmo (13th Overall)

2017 MiLB Stats: .227/.364/.368, 12 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 17 RBI
2017 MLB Stats: .260/.379/.418, 11 2B, 3B, 5 HR, 21 RBI

Realistically speaking, this should have been the time for Nimmo to emerge as the team’s everyday center fielder.  There was a p0int where this was expected to happen.  However, knee injuries have limited him just enough to where many question his ability to handle center field defensively. It may have also impacted the power hitting ability that never materialized.

Now, Nimmo has shown he belongs on the Major League level in some capacity.  However, if he can’t defensively handle center field, he’s likely a fourth outfielder as his bat does not profile for a corner outfield position.

2011 – RHP Michael Fulmer (44th Overall)

2017 Stats: 10-12, 3.83 ERA, 1.154 WHIP, 6.2 K/9

When drafting a pitcher in the first round, you are hoping to have a front line starting pitcher.  With Fulmer winning Rookie of the Year in 2016 and being named as an All Star in 2017, he certainly appears to be the part even if he missed the final month of the season due to his having ulnar nerve transposition surgery.  Unfortunately, the Mets are not reaping the benefits of his ascension because he was moved to the Tigers as the centerpiece of the Yoenis Cespedes trade.

2012 – SS Gavin Cecchini (12th Overall)

2017 MiLB Stats: .267/.329/.380, 27 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 39 RBI, 5 SB, 4 CS
2017 MLB Stats: .208/.256/.273, 2 2B, HR, 7 RBI, CS

Between Cecchini’s defensive struggles and the ascension of Amed Rosario, Cecchini moved to second base this past season.  Whether it was the rigors of learning a new position, bad luck, or an unsustainable .357 BABIP in 2016, Cecchini regressed offensively to the point where the team did not even consider him for the second base vacancy in 2017, and his name isn’t being mentioned as a potential solution in 2018.

2012 – C Kevin Plawecki (35th Overall)

2017 MiLB Stats: .328/.375/.514, 17 2B, 3B, 9 HR, 45 RBI
2017 MLB Stats: .260/.364/.400, 5 2B, 3 HR, 13 RBI, SB

In what was an otherwise dismal year for the Mets, the biggest bright spot was the rejuvenation of Plawecki’s career.  After finally spending an extended stint in Triple-A, he began to put things together offensively.  Couple that with his historically good pitch framing skills, and Plawecki has earned a spot on the Opening Day roster.  Should he continue to progress, and if Travis d’Arnaud repeats his 2016 – 2017 performance, Plawecki could find himself as the Mets everyday catcher next season.

2013 – 1B Dominic Smith (11th Overall)

2017 MiLB Stats: .330/.386/.519, 34 2B, 2 3B, 16 HR, 76 RBI, SB, CS
2017 MLB Stats: .198/.267/.395, 6 2B, 9 HR, 26 RBI

After years of people questioning if he would ever hit for power, Smith had begun to display the power many believed he always had in Triple-A.  However, despite the gains he made in that department in Triple-A, the Mets have been quite outspoken on how they’ve soured on one of their top prospects.

Whether it is the weight issues or how much he struggled during his call-up, the Mets are not only talking about him not being on the Opening Day roster, but potentially also signing a player like Carlos Santana to a multi-year deal.  If that does happen, this means the Mets will have fully moved on from a top prospect without giving him so much as half a season in the majors.

2014 – OF Michael Conforto (10th Overall)

2017 Stats: .279/.384/.555, 20 2B, 3B, 27 HR, 68 RBI, 2 SB

After Terry Collins made him a strict platoon player for two seasons, injuries allowed Conforto to play everyday, and he showed us all just how great he could be.  He made his first All Star team, and he is quite possibly the best player on the roster.  Unfortunately, instead of looking forward to him taking the next step towards superstardom, we are awaiting with baited breath to see how his shoulder heals after he separated it on a swing and miss.

2015 – No Pick

It needs to be mentioned here the Mets sacrificed their 2015 first round draft pick in order to sign Michael Cuddyer.  This was partially the result of the Rockies making him a qualifying offer after how vocal the Mets were about pursuing him in the offseason.  In exchange for that first round pick, the Mets got one season of Cuddyer where he hit .259/.309/.391.  Cuddyer’s injuries and poor production were also a precursor to the Mets having to trade Fulmer away to obtain Cespedes.

2016 – RHP Justin Dunn (19th Overall)

2017 MiLB Stats: 5-6, 5.00 ERA, 1.563 WHIP, 7.1 K/9

When Dunn was drafted by the Mets, there were questions about his ability to stick in the rotation.  Dunn did little to quiet those concerns by struggling in his first ever full season as a starting pitcher.  In 16 starts he had a 5.74 ERA as opposed to a 1.59 ERA in his four relief outings.

Ultimately, the talent is there.  The question is whether he can put it together before the Mets get impatient waiting for him to get there.

2016 – LHP Anthony Kay (31st Overall)

The Mets selected Kay with the pick obtained from Murphy signing a deal with the Nationals.  After Kay was used heavily in college, he needed Tommy John surgery, and he signed an underslot deal.  He will look to throw his first pitch as a professional in 2018.

2017 – LHP David Peterson (20th Overall)

2017 Stats: 0-0. 2.45 ERA, 1.364 WHIP, 14.7 K/9

To some, the Mets were lucky Peterson was there for the taking at 20.  Certainly, you can make that argument with the outstanding Junior season he had with Oregon.  Due to his throwing over 100 innings in college, the Mets limited him to just 3.2 innings for Brooklyn before shutting him down.  Next year will be a big year as the Mets look to see if he’s the mid rotation starter some believe, or the top of the rotation type pitcher the Mets were hoping to get.

Synposis

Time and again it needs to be stressed the draft is an inexact science and that luck plays a role in determining how well a prospect develops.

If you want to have a glass half-full perspective, everyone drafted prior to 2015 will make the majors.  Of those six players, two are All Stars.  Depending on what happens this offseason for the Mets, there can be anywhere from one to four everyday players out of the five position players he drafted.

On the glass half-empty front, it does not seem any of his draft picks will reach their full potential.  For players like Dunn, Kay, and Peterson, it is way too early to make that determination.  However, for the rest, that becomes increasingly more of a possibility.  In the cases of Nimmo and Conforto, the fact injuries played a role certainly are a black mark on an Alderson regime that has had issues keeping players healthy.

Worse than the injuries is how the Mets seem to be willing to move on from high draft picks like Cecchini and Smith without so much as a half of season of play to prove themselves.

Overall, there is still time for all of these prospects to develop into the players the Mets hoped they would be when they were drafted.  For those that are pessimistic about that happening, look no further than Plawecki.  If nothing else, he showed you shouldn’t give up on a talented player without giving them a real chance to develop.