No, this is not a pre-scheduled article which was not edited. Remember, that today is still Opening Day, and just because we are not going to see Jacob deGrom square off against Max Scherzer for the second straight year doesn’t mean there is absolutely no baseball.
If you have a glove, bat, and a baseball. There is baseball.
Go outside and have a catch with your kids or someone else in your household. If it is just you, find a wall and throw a tennis ball against the wall. If nothing else, it is good exercise.
Put on your favorite Mets shirt. For example, I’m going to wear my Michael Conforto raglan t-shirt while my kids wear their Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil shirts. We’re going to go out there with our mitts, tees, and wiffle ball stuff, and we are going to play baseball (again).
Remember, today is Opening Day, and on Opening Day, there is baseball.
It may not be happening at Citi Field or at any other Major League park. You may be banned from playing baseball with people outside of your household. Still, there is baseball. It is in your yard, or if you can’t go outside, it is on your video game platform. If nothing else, it is on your TV.
On ESPN2, you can see Alonso and Todd Frazier win the Home Run Derby all over again. On mets.com, you can relive the Murphy Game. You can see deGrom use guts and guile to outlast Zack Greinke followed by Noah Syndergaard and Jeurys Familia just mowing down Dodgers hitters. You can see Daniel Murphy having the game of his life (up until that point) propelling the Mets into the NLCS.
You can also go check out anyone of the Mets games available on MLB.tv or YouTube. There are various Mets games throughout history available on YouTube, or you can just decided to go with clips like Gary Carter hitting a walk-off homer in his first ever game as a New York Met:
Today is a beautiful, cooler Spring day. It is the type of Spring day you want when you go out to the park to go see the Mets play on Opening Day. Just because the Mets can’t take the field today doesn’t mean there’s no baseball.
You can play baseball inside, outside, and/or go watch it. Really, find a way to celebrate baseball because it remains a huge part of our lives. In the end COVID19, may delay the season, and it may take away games. However, it cannot rob us of our love for the sport and the New York Mets.
Today, is March 26, 2020. Baseball is played today. We join as one in our love for the game. This is the day we are supposed to have hope. While some things are definitively different, there is nothing that can change all of that. This is the day we have baseball.
Let’s Go Mets!
Due to COVID19, ESPN is planning to replace their Opening Day programming by re-airing the Home Run Derby from the past five seasons. With them being run in reverse, Mets fans get to see Pete Alonso winning the 2019 Home Run Derby in the 6:00 P.M rebroadcast, and they get the end the day watching Todd Frazier, then of the Cincinnati Reds, winning the 2015 Home Run Derby.
While this the Home Run Derby we all know and love (at least some of us), watching players like Yoenis Cespedes launch homers into the Citi Field stands under a bracket format is not in congruence with the original concept. In fact, the original Home Run Derby was quite different.
Under the original format, sluggers would face off against each other in a nine inning game. The game was very much akin to a baseball game with nine innings and three outs per inning. Under the construct of the game, anything not hit for a homer was an out, and if a batter did not swing at a strike, it was an out.
Re-watching those games/episodes, you’ll notice they were played at an empty Wrigley Field. No, not the Wrigley Field in Chicago, but the old one in Los Angeles. The venue was selected for a myriad of reasons including it being supposedly neutral to right and left-handed hitters.
In this series, we saw some of the greatest sluggers of all-time face off against once another. Perhaps, it should come as little surprise Hank Aaron had the best record in the show’s history. The only other two hitters with a winning record were Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, two Hall of Famers who are also members of the 500 home run club.
Conceptually, pulling off this version of the Home Run Derby could be accomplished with the outbreak of COVID19. As we know a pitcher stands 60’6″ away from the batter. The two batters can stay in their own dugouts, and they only come out after the other batter has cleared the playing surface.
In lieu of a catcher or umpire, we can just let balls go to the backstop, and we can let technology determine if it was a strike or ball. If nothing else, it would be a good test of the technology MLB wants to eventually introduce to the Major Leagues.
With the announcer up in the broadcast booth, there would be social distancing of much more than six feet between everyone. At least in theory, this makes the set-up of a Home Run Derby possible, at least conceptually. In reality, that may not be realistic, at least not yet.
Frankly, there is too much inter-personal contact necessary to set up the event. Someone is going to have to set up cameras, microphones, and handle the baseballs. There are many more things which would need to be done to allow this to happen, which, given the current state, would make this event impractical.
That’s at least right now. Hopefully, there will be a point where we will be able to have expanded testing efforts, which could permit individuals and players who have tested negative to have this event in an empty ballpark. Potentially, baseball could do this during the time period between people getting cleared on a widescale basis and everyone being able to return to work/baseball.
At this moment, it’s just an idea, but it may be a worthwhile idea to pursue. After all, the Home Run Derby is one of the more popular events of not just the All-Star festivities, but the entire season. If possible, it would give us a live sporting event until games can return.
It was officially one year ago today reports surfaced of Jed Lowrie‘s knee injury. When it first occurred, we assumed this was probably nothing more than one of those early aches some players feel during Spring Training. As is usually the case, the Mets really had no idea of the severity of the injury, how to properly manage or diagnose it, or how to get the player back on the field.
Jed Lowrie is sore behind his left knee, Mickey Callaway said.
The Mets are being cautious, focusing on making sure he’s ready for opening day.
They’re not sure how serious it is.
— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) February 20, 2019
By and large, this injury kept Lowrie from playing in the field, and it limited him to just eight pinch hitting appearances in 2019. In those appearances, he had no hits, drew one walk, and struck out four times.
Fast forward to this year, and Lowrie is wearing a leg brace to help him participate in Spring Training. At the moment, no one knows if Lowrie will be able to effectively play with the brace, if he can only play with a brace, or for that matter when or if he will be able to ever play.
What makes this signing all the more troubling is Lowrie’s agent was Brodie Van Wagenen. If there was any GM in baseball who was well aware of the health issues of Lowrie, it would be his agent. Looking back, instead of the enthusiasm for the signing, perhaps there should have been more inquiry why a player coming off an All-Star season and had an 8.8 WAR over the previous two seasons could do not better than signing with the Mets to split time with Robinson Cano, Todd Frazier, and Amed Rosario.
The Mets have completely and utterly wasted $20 million on a player who cannot play due to knee injuries. What makes this ironic is the Mets purportedly non-tendered Wilmer Flores partially due to knee injuries which never really existed.
While it was initially reported Flores had arthritis, subsequent reports indicated that was a misdiagnosis. In fact, Flores had tendonitis. Instead of paying him less than $5 million, or working out a team friendly extension he might’ve been inclined to sign, Flores would go to Arizona.
While he had his usual health issues, Flores had a productive season with the Diamondbacks. While continuing to improve against right-handed pitching, he had a 120 wRC+, which was the best of his career. He mostly held his own at second with a -2 DRS and a 1 OAA. That’s right, according to OAA, Flores was a positive defender. Overall, he was worth a 0.8 WAR in 89 games.
Lost in that was Flores’ clutch gene. The same player who is the Mets all-time leader in game winning RBI came up huge down the stretch for the Diamondbacks. From August to the end of the season, he hit .368/.410/.623. His 166 wRC+ over this stretch ranked as the fifth best in the majors.
While this was not enough for Flores’ option to be picked up by the Diamondbacks, he was signed by the San Francisco Giants to a two year $6.25 million deal. In total, that’s $10 million over three years for Flores. Put another way, that’s what Lowrie made in 2019 alone for his eight pinch hitting attempts.
Going forward, the Mets attempts to get another team to take on Lowrie’s contract so they could make another move failed. Meanwhile, Flores is 28 years old and in the prime of his career. Seeing the continued improvements he has made against right-handed pitching and OAA rating his defense much better, Flores could out-play his contract.
In the end, the Mets had a player in Flores who was popular, had a right-handed bat which complimented their heavy left-handed hitting lineup, was comfortable and effective on the bench, and could backup at all four infield positions. Rather than keep him around, Van Wagenen opted to sign his former client who cannot play to a $20 million deal.
Just when you thought the New York Knicks were maybe starting to get it, they go out and hire Leon Rose to be their new team president. While there are some who believe this could be a boon for the Knicks much in the same vein Bob Myers with the Warriors or Rob Pelinka with the Lakers, we remember everyone thought it was a good idea to get Rose in the past.
That was the trade with the Chicago Bulls for Derrick Rose. That ended with Rose disappearing and having one of, if not the, worst season of his career.
Looking forward, we see with the Mets hiring a CAA agent is not exactly the best route to success. In fact, aside from not selling the team to Steve Cohen, hiring Brodie Van Wagenen to become the Mets GM has been one of the worst decisions the Wilpons have made over the past two years.
In very short order, Van Wagenen ruined the Mets prospect depth and payroll flexibility. Part of that was his fulfilling Robinson Cano‘s request to come back to New York, and his signing Jed Lowrie, who was physically unable to play last year. Notably, both players were his former clients.
Van Wagenen has also fired Carlos Beltran for being part of the Astros sign stealing scandal despite trading for two former Astros, J.D. Davis and Jake Marisnick, who had also taken part in that scandal. While Van Wagenen denied any knowledge of the scandal, he notably traded for Marisnick after the news broke.
He has portrayed Hector Santiago as a bit of a savior while also allowing Zack Wheeler to go to a division rival (partially due to budgetary restraints). He also proved to not be true to his word forcing Devin Mesoraco into retirement, cutting Adeiny Hechavarria before he accrued a bonus, and never calling up Dilson Herrera.
As bad as the Wilpons are and continue to be, Van Wagenen has made everything worse.
While Rose may be different than Van Wagenen, the Wilpons are not discernibly different from James Dolan in terms of running a professional sports franchise. Ultimately, while it may not be fair to look at Rose like the next Van Wagenen, you do have to fairly question whether Dolan is more Wilpon or whether he is more like the Warriors or Lakers.
Seeing how Rose’s representation of Carmelo Anthony helped foster the relationship with Dolan much like how Van Wagenen’s representation of Yoenis Cespedes and Todd Frazier fostered the relationship with the Wilpons, you shudder as a Knicks and Mets fan.
Hopefully, Rose is different than Van Wagenen, and he proves to actually know what he is doing. After all, you can cross your fingers Dolan has some clue with how he operates the Rangers. You don’t have the same faith with the Wilpons with their inability to even earn a profit of over a billion.
In the end, the Rose hire may be very different than the Van Wagenen one. No one should have that faith just yet.
There’s many ways to describe Todd Frazier‘s Mets career, but the one word which keeps coming to mind is snakebitten.
Back in April 2018, everything seemed perfect. In that month, he hit .256/.395/.444, and the Mets were winning. He was the ringleader with the Salt and Pepper routine and t-shirts.
After that, the same player who had never been on the DL in his entire career would hit it for the first time in his career, and he’d land on the DL on three separate occasions in his Mets career. Sadly, this is no new story with the Mets.
Worse yet, the Mets would miss him when he played.
When Frazier was on the field, the Mets were a very good team. When Frazier was in the starting lineup, the Mets were 10 games over .500, and when he wasn’t, the team was 13 games under .500. This was no accident.
As we recently discovered with infield OAA, Amed Rosario was a different defender next to a very good defensive third baseman like Frazier. As the breakdowns show, Frazier’s range towards the hole helped offset Rosario’s weakness in that area. When the two were there together, the infield defense was much better than we saw with the other combinations the Mets had.
It was more than that with Frazier. In addition to his defense, he did come up in the clutch. For example, in high leverage situations last year, he hit .294/.357/.520 with some BIG homers:
In a nutshell, this was what the Mets had hoped for when they signed Frazier. They wanted a good defender with pop in his bat who was a leader. When Frazier played, he was just that, and he had an impact on the Mets.
In terms of numbers, he was worth a 4.1 WAR over his two years with the Mets. In terms of a value of $8 million per WAR, Frazier was worth almost double his $17 million. Still, to a certain extent, it seemed like everyone wanted more.
When Frazier signed, there was hope for a World Series. There was hope for some stability in the infield. Really, there was hope for just more.
And yet, there were plenty of good and fun times. There was his “looking at his watch” when he homered off Rich Hill. There was the feud with Adam Eaton culminating in his telling him to pay his mortgage. There was also his own “hidden ball” trick:
With the homers, the tomfoolery, the feuds, and finally, the wild turkeys, there was never a dull moment with Frazier. He’s one of those guys who was always interesting and fun, and that’s before you consider the constant “Did you know?” jokes about his being from Toms River, winning the Little League World Series, and his standing next to Derek Jeter.
On the Toms River note, Frazier deserves our respect. He was a local guy who entered free agency after the 2017 season with the specific intent of staying home. He wanted to be home to spend more time with his family. Anyone who prioritizes spending time at home with his family is a role model. His having his priorities in line like that was likely one of the reasons why he was a leader, and at times, a popular player.
Overall, things didn’t work out for Frazier like he or the fans had hoped. Still, he was a fun player to watch for two years, and the Mets were better when he was playing. It was a short run, but it was one with a lot of memories.
Now, he’s playing in Texas where he will look to have a similar impact on a young roster like he did with the Mets. He will very likely have that impact, and hopefully, success will follow him.
Due to injuries last year, Jed Lowrie was limited to just eight pinch hitting appearances. In those eight pinch hitting appearances, he would strike out half the time and draw just one walk. Obviously, this was a far cry from the player the Mets thought they were getting when they signed him to a two year $20 million deal.
When the Mets did sign Lowrie last year, it looked like a coup. It was a very reasonable deal for the 2018 All-Star. As a leader for the surprise Oakland Athletics, he would hit .267/.353/.448 with 37 doubles, one triple, 23 homers, and 99 RBI.
His 123 wRC+ and 4.8 WAR was the fourth best among Major League second basemen. As a switch hitter who has experience playing three of the four infield positions, he was a versatile, experienced, and mostly good baseball player. His presence was supposed to allow the Mets to rest Robinson Cano and allow the Mets to use Todd Frazier more as a platoon type player and defensive replacement.
Of course, that would never happen.
It started with what was diagnosed as a capsule strain in his left knee during Spring Training. When it was first diagnosed, it was anticipated he would be ready for Opening Day, but the timeline for his return would be pushed back time and again.
There would also be a rehab stint which led to him being shut down before he resumed a late August one. During that second rehab assignment, he was not able to play more than seven innings in the field, and he did not play more than two consecutive days in the field. As we know, he would not play in the field during his very short stint on the active Major League roster.
Jed Lowrie log since promotion to Syracuse
8/28 – 2B (5 innings)
8/29 – 2B (5 innings)
8/30 – off
8/31 – 2B (7 innings)
9/1 – DH
9/2 – 2B (5 innings)
9/3 – DH
9/4 – off https://t.co/Rn5pUQNMo3
— Mets Daddy (@MetsDaddy2013) September 4, 2019
Now, you could chalk this up to one lost year, and if that was the case, you could expect Lowrie to be able to contribute in 2020. After all, if healthy, you have a switch-hitter who can play anywhere in the infield even though ideally he would be limited to second and third at this point in his career. The problem with that line of thinking is the Mets don’t have the best track record dealing with injuries, and worse yet, they don’t know what is actually wrong with Lowrie.
Brodie Van Wagenen on Jed Lowrie: "We've continued to try to diagnose what Jed's issues were that kept them out this season. We'll continue to do that with the plan for him being 100 percent ready to go for spring training."
— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) November 12, 2019
Being well aware of the situation, the Mets are reportedly looking for ways to unload Lowrie. The problem with those efforts is Lowrie will be 36 next year, expensive, and mostly, questionable about his ability to play. Ultimately, this is the biggest reason why Lowrie is still a Met.
It’s gotten to the point with the franchise where we have seen multiple reports indicating the Mets are so desperate to unload Lowrie, they are willing to attach a real asset to entice another team to do that. The name which is mostly connected with Lowrie is Dominic Smith.
It is important to note Smith was the second youngest position player on the Mets last year. In 89 games, he had a 0.7 WAR and a 133 wRC+. For all the talk about his being “blocked,” he was a late inning defensive replacement at first, was able to play capably as a stop gap left fielder, and was a good pinch hitter.
With respect to that last point, Smith hit .286/.459/.571 in 37 pinch hitting attempts. As a reserve, he hit .318/.434/.568. He had a number of big hits in games he came off the bench including his walk-off homer to end the 2019 season. Even if you want to argue he is blocked or would be better served as a starter elsewhere, he has shown himself to be a very effective bench player for the Mets.
More than that, as it stands now, he is the only left-handed bat on the Mets bench. In an era where there are no more LOOGYs, his value in that role is of increased importance. The Mets can ill afford to just part with that for the sake of just getting rid of Lowrie’s salary.
Ideally, the Mets would just eat some or all of the contract to trade him while getting some lottery chip in exchange from a team like the Oakland Athletics or Texas Rangers. Unfortunately, the Mets don’t operate that way. They would rather part with a good player for short term savings.
At the end of the day, if Lowrie can play, you play him and see what happens. However, if he can’t play, the Mets just gave give away players like Smith who are under team control until 2025. That makes zero to little sense, and if that is the direction the Mets are going, they should just designate Lowrie for assignment because the team would be better off in 2020 and in each of the ensuing years.
While Brodie Van Wagenen was touting Dellin Betances‘ ability to “blow the cover off their ceiling,” the fact of the matter is the Mets offseason has been tremendously underwhelming thus far. Really, when you break it down, it’s difficult to ascertain how this team can make up 11 games on the Atlanta Braves.
With Zack Wheeler departing for the Philadelphia Phillies, that’s 4.1 WAR going to a division rival. While they haven’t yet signed with another team, it is expected Todd Frazier (2.2 WAR) and Juan Lagares (-0.7) will sign with other teams.
Combined, that’s a 5.6 WAR.
As a result, the Mets have yet to replace the production they’ve lost. What makes this problematic is their offseason appears fairly set.
Yoenis Cespedes and Jed Lowrie are taking up two roster spots, and with their salaries, the Mets are not going to just cut bait. Instead, the Mets are going to hope Cespedes can do what Troy Tulowitzki couldn’t do – return from double heel surgery.
When they finally discover what was wrong with Lowrie that limited him to eight pinch hitting attempts last year, we can then have a conversation about what, if anything, he can contribute.
Remember, this a Mets team which finished 11 games behind the Braves. They also finished behind the World Series Champion Washington Nationals too. The Mets needed to gain ground, not lose it.
Keep in mind, they’re not just losing grounds to the teams ahead of them, they are also losing it to the Philadelphia Phillies. That 4.1 WAR the Mets lost in Wheeler went to the Phillies. Joining him there is Didi Gregorius, who had a 0.6 WAR in limited duty. When you add a healthy Andrew McCutchen, they have not only offset the 1.7 WAR they lost with Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco, but they have improved upon it.
Now, this is where someone may want to point out how the Braves and Nationals are both searching for a new third baseman, and that the third basemen they had last year were their best players. That is true. The Braves losing Josh Donaldson (6.1), and the Nationals losing Anthony Rendon (6.3) were significant losses.
With respect to Donaldson, it should be noted both teams are still in on him and trying to do all they can to sign him. If either team signs him, that narrative is no longer in place as it comes to that team.
Going beyond that, both the Braves and Nationals have made moves to bolster their teams in the event they cannot land Donaldson.
The Nationals have been aggressive this offseason re-signing mid-season acquisitions Asdrubal Cabrera and Daniel Hudson. They have also added Starlin Castro (0.8), Eric Thames (1.6), and Will Harris (2.1). Combine that with the anticipation Carter Kieboom may be ready next year, and the Nationals have at least braced themselves for losing Rendon and missing out on Donaldson.
The Braves have also left third base open while addressing other areas. On the bullpen front, they have brought in Will Smith (2.2) while bringing back Chris Martin and Darren O’Day. They have also added Travis d’Arnaud behind the plate. They also potentially upgraded their rotation signing Cole Hamels to replace Dallas Keuchel.
When talking about the Braves, they also have a wealth of young talent in Ronald Acuna Jr., Austin Riley, Mike Soroka, and others to close the gap on the potential loss of Donaldson. The same can be said with the Nationals with Juan Soto and Victor Robles.
As for the Mets, they could also seek to get some help internally with Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, and Amed Rosario taking the next step. However, the issue with that is whether it is enough to overcome not just the diminution in the talent the team had last year, but also whether it is enough to overcome the significant gap which already existed between them and the rest of the teams in the division.
While it is certainly possible the Mets can win the division in 2020, it is also fair to say they certainly have not done nearly enough this offseason to do that. Really, when you boil it down, the Mets are relying more on luck than anything else. Considering what is ahead and behind them in the division, that is not the best plan, and when you boil it down, they really needed more than just Marisnick.
When players sign with teams, they are very rarely honest about why they signed with a team. Mike Hampton said it was the Colorado school system. Manny Machado spoke about San Diego and its weather being the right fit for him and his family. Carlos Beltran talked about how his interest was sparked when the Mets got Pedro Martinez and how he liked the team’s plans going forward.
Seeing these platitudes, it is refreshing to see someone like Zack Greinke be completely honest. When he signed with the Dodgers, he said, “I could play for the worst team if they paid the most. … If the last-place team offers $200 million and the first-place team offers $10, I’m going to go for the $200-million no matter what team it was.” (CBS Sports).
The Dodgers offered the most money entering the 2013 season, and that’s why he found himself in Los Angeles. Three years later, it was the Diamondbacks offering the most money, and that’s why he found himself in Arizona. Interestingly enough, that is not how Madison Bumgarner found himself a member of the Diamondbacks organization.
To the surprise of many, Bumgarner only signed a five year $85 million deal with the Diamondbacks. That seemed to be far less than what other teams were willing to offer, and in fact, it was. As Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic reports, Bumgarner might have left bigger offers on the table to go to Arizona.
Ultimately, Bumgarner signed with the Diamondbacks because he wanted to be in Arizona. Apparently, he has horses and land in Arizona, and he wanted to make that home. It was a personal and family decision over a purely financial one.
It was the same thing which happened with Zack Wheeler.
Wheeler reportedly signed with the Philadelphia Phillies despite the Chicago White Sox offering more money. Wheeler wanted to stay near his wife’s family in New Jersey, and the Phillies offered that opportunity with five year $118 million contract. Unfortunately, the Mets wouldn’t take advantage and sign Wheeler despite the team being given the last chance to sign him.
In the vast majority of cases, player will take the most money offered to them. They are free to do so, and really, it is well within their rights. More than that, they should be applauded for it. They earned this money by their performance in the field, and they deserve to get every penny coming their way.
Still, in some instances, players want more than just the most money offered. A few years ago, the Mets were able to sign Todd Frazier partially because he wanted to be closer to his home in Toms River, New Jersey.
In those instances, the things players say in their press conferences were really the motivating factors for their decisions to sign. Of course, they need to have the opportunity presented. Apparently, Bumgarner and Wheeler got those opportunities, and they are where they want to be. Ultimately, both should be commended for making the best decision for both them and their families.
The Mets are in a spot where they need to find a fifth starter to replace Zack Wheeler in the rotation. Finding such a starter is complicated because the team is attempting to at least give the allusion they are trying to contend in 2020, but so far, they have very limited resources this offseason. In some ways, that makes Rick Porcello a prime candidate, which according to reports, he is.
Porcello, 30, is just a few years removed from winning the 2016 American League Cy Young. With his Cy Young, being a local kid from Morristown, New Jersey, and his having won a World Series, he is someone who could be sold to the fan base. The fact he has proven to be a durable starter who will make 30 starts a year and pitch over 170.0 innings is of real value. In essence, he could be viewed upon as a Bartolo Colon who keeps himself in shape, doesn’t cheat, and is not a deadbeat dad.
Make no mistake, Porcello does have real value as a fifth starter for any team. There is also some potential for some upside with him. After all, his ERA was worse than his FIP, and the Red Sox having just a putrid defense last year with a -40 team DRS. To that end, the Red Sox were particularly bad on the infield.
Among the biggest culprits were SS Xander Bogaerts (-21 DRS) and 3B Rafael Devers (-6 DRS). Ultimately, the Red Sox team -11 DRS at second was the second worst in the majors. Their -12 team DRS at third and -20 team DRS at short were the third worst in the majors. When you are a pitcher like Porcello who is a sinkerball pitcher, albeit one who is generating more fly balls in two of the last three years, that is not a recipe for success.
That is exacerbated by the batters only going the opposite way against Porcello 22.3% of the time. Ultimately, if Porcello is going to be successful, he needs a strong infield defense behind him. Moreover, with Baseball Savant noting how Porcello likes to pound the bottom of the strike zone, he needs a catcher who is adept at framing the low strike. Breaking it all down, Porcello and the Mets are a very poor match.
In terms of the infield defense, the Mets actually had a worse team defense than the Red Sox with a -93 DRS. That was the worst in the National League, and the second worst in the Majors. Remarkably, that was even worse than the -77 DRS the team had in 2018. What makes those numbers all the more daunting is the Mets appear set to lose Todd Frazier, their best defensive infielder, to free agency.
Like the Red Sox, the Mets were bad defensively across the infield. The Mets -5 DRS at first and -7 DRS at second were sixth worst in the majors. Their -5 DRS at third was the seventh worst in the majors. Finally, their -18 DRS at short was the fourth worst in the majors. As noted by Mark Simon of The Athletic, this is all exacerbated by the Mets being one of the worst defensively aligned infields in the majors. Part of that is an organizational philosophy which tries to minimize the extent to which the infield is shifted.
Now, there were some positives to the infield defense with Amed Rosario playing at a 0 DRS in the second half last year. Of course, behind that is the fact he has consecutive -16 DRS seasons at short. Also, while Frazier is leaving in free agency, Jeff McNeil has proven to be very good at third base in this brief Major League career. If it is him who takes over at third, and not J.D. Davis, the Mets might be able to put Porcello in a position to succeed.
The caveat there is Rosario’s second half improvement is real, and McNeil’s successes are not a short sample size illusion. If we believe in that, and there is reason to believe, that could help Porcello who has a high pull rate against him. However, that is mitigated by Robinson Cano and his poor play (-6 DRS) at second last year. It is very difficult to imagine Cano will be better at second in his age 37 season.
Even if the Mets find a way to configure the infield successfully, Wilson Ramos presents a significant problem.
As noted by MMO‘s Mathew Brownstein, the Red Sox were the fourth best framing team in the majors last year. With respect to Porcello, he had “the 13th-most pitches in the shadow zone (edges of strike zone) called for strikes in 2019.” With respect to Ramos, as noted by MMN‘s Roberto Correa, Ramos was in the bottom 15 in the Majors in framing. Particularly, Ramos struggled in the so-called shadow zone and the low pitch.
In terms of the Mets 2019 pitching staff, we would see this have a significant impact on both Noah Syndergaard and Edwin Diaz with Diaz being the far more vocal of the two. Really, across the board, Mets pitchers performed worse with Ramos behind the plate as the pitching staff adjusted from historically strong framers like Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki. If Porcello is a Met in 2020, we will likely see him have similar struggles.
Ultimately, Porcello may well prove to be a quality fifth starter or better for some team in 2020. He may very well prove to be a surprise for teams who have good defensive infields as well as a catcher who can get him the low strike. Unfortunately, that team is not the New York Mets. As a result, Porcello should look elsewhere for that bounce-back season, and the Mets need to find another pitcher to fill that fifth spot in their rotation.
The Atlanta Braves should get credit for acting swiftly and signing closer Will Smith before he accepted the qualifying offer from the San Francisco Giants. Even with the team winning the National League East by a healthy margin, they really needed to upgrade their bullpen, and Smith was the best reliever available.
They thought they did just that by obtaining Shane Greene at the trade deadline, but with he proved to not be the solution. Still, through it all, believe it or not, the Braves bullpen was not as bad as people believed it to be.
In 2019, the Braves 4.21 bullpen ERA was the 11th best in baseball. Their 22 blown saves were tied for the ninth fewest in the majors. Looking at those numbers, you can see they weren’t a good bullpen. That is further exemplified by their 4.49 FIP (ranked 15th), and their 1.388 WHIP, which was 11th worst.
Having Smith in the bullpen is going to make that bullpen better. However, it should be noted that even with the struggles that bullpen had, they didn’t hold back a 96 win team. If anything, obtaining Smith should help the Braves tread water from their having some of the fewest blown saves in the game. With Smith, they’ll probably be better, but probably not much better.
The real issue for the Braves going forward isn’t going to be about holding onto leads. No, their real issue is getting them.
The Braves had a major hole to address at third base with Josh Donaldson being a free agent. Last year, he hit .259/.379/.521 with 33 doubles, 37 homers, and 94 RBI. Even on a team with Ronald Acuna Jr. and Freddie Freeman, his 6.1 WAR led the team. His 15 DRS made him the best defensive third baseman in the National League.
Signing Smith is not going to do anything to offset potentially losing Donaldson on the free agent market. Depending on what happens in the rest of the division, the Braves may not be able to get away with just signing a Mike Moustakas or Todd Frazier. No, they need a real difference maker.
On that note, the team also needs to upgrade its catching position, especially with them losing Brian McCann to retirement. On that front, Yasmani Grandal is just about the only catcher who could offset the loss of Donaldson, but whether the Braves have an appetite to go in that direction remains to be seen.
Ultimately, the Braves can be either a significantly improved team from their 96 win team. They can also be significantly worse. All we know is Smith is not moving the needle in either direction at the moment. To that end, no Mets fan should be up in arms over the Braves getting him, especially with some very good relievers remaining on the free agent market.
No, the time for Mets fans to react is when there are other very significant players sign, including but not limited to, Zack Wheeler signing.