Tommy Milone

How Did Wheeler Become The Mets Ace?

Back when the Mets traded Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler, the Mets touted the trade as the team adding another potential ace that would one day serve as one of the cornerstones of a rotation that would bring the Mets their third World Series title.  Unfortunately, with Wheeler missing two years after his Tommy John surgery, it hasn’t happened that way.

In the time he was gone, he almost became expendable.  Matt Harvey was the ace in 2013, and he was well on his way in 2015 to re-claiming that spot.  Jacob deGrom went from 2014 Rookie of the Year to the Game 1 starter of the 2015 NLDS.  Noah Syndergaard brought a repertoire that included a 100 MPH fastball and a mid 90s slider.  Throw in the tantalizing talent of Steven Matz, and the Mets almost moved Wheeler in 2015 as part of the ill-fated Carlos Gomez deal.  With Gomez’s hips, Wheeler remained a Met, but after he missed all of 2016 as well, he was almost an afterthought.

Now, he has gone from damaged goods to the staff ace.  After shaking off some rust in the early part of the season, he really has been a dominant starting pitchers.  Since May, Wheeler has made six starts going 2-1 with a 2.48 ERA, 1.431 WHIP, and a 7.7 K/9 while averaging over six inning per start.  Last night, we watched Wheeler play the part of the stopper with him going seven strong and giving the Mets a chance to snap the Mets out of a funk that saw the team lose five out of its last six games.

Now, many would point to the fact Wheeler is now the staff ace because the rest of the rotation is either injured or has struggled.  Syndergaard is likely gone for the year with a torn lat.  Matz and Seth Lugo have yet to throw a pitch this season.  Harvey and deGrom have not been the same pitchers after last year’s season ending surgeries.  And frankly, anyone is better than Rafael Montero, Adam Wilk, and Tommy MiloneStill, even if everyone was pitching to their best abilities, Wheeler would stand out.

It’s easy to forget, but we did get a taste of this with Wheeler.  In 2014, Wheeler had a stretch from July until September 6th where he made 12 terrific starts.  In those starts, Wheeler was 7-1 with a 2.28 ERA, 1.213 WHIP, and an 8.9 K/9.  During that stretch, Wheeler looked like the ace the Mets thought they were getting when they traded away Beltran.  It was during that stretch where you believed the three starters who would carry the Mets to the World Series were Harvey, deGrom, and Wheeler.

It seems as if Wheeler is recapturing some of what he was back in that terrific 2014 stretch.  If he is, he is certainly becoming the ace the Mets believed he could be.  More than anything, he is the ace the Mets need right now.

Tyler Pill Isn’t The Answer To The Pitching Problems

With Tommy Milone posting a 10.50 ERA in his three starts with the Mets, the team has begun discussing releasing him and having someone else take his spot in the rotation until Steven Matz is ready to return from the Disabled List. Considering at various points this season Milone, Adam Wilk, and Rafael Montero were given starts, it’s fair to say there is a dearth of major league ready prospects in the Mets minor league system.

Well, the name that has been publicly bandied about is Tyler Pill. The reason Pill’s name has been mentioned is he’s had a great start to the 2017 season.

Between Binghamton and Las Vegas, Pill is 4-1 with a 1.60 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP while averaging over six innings per start. That includes Pill no allowing any runs in his two starts for the 51s. If you’re purely scouting the stat lines, Pill should be called up immediately.

There is a reason Pill hasn’t been immediately called to the majors. After all, this is the same pitcher who was 9-10 with a 4.02 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP in 22 starts for Binghamton last year. In five starts for Vegas, he was 1-1 with a 5.60 ERA and a 1.72 WHIP. After that season, he wasn’t even ranked on MMN‘s Top 100.

Nor should he have been. Pill is four pitch pitcher who touches the low 90s. As a result, he has to mostly rely on control to get batters out. With none of his pitches being outstanding, he does not generate a lot of swing and misses. Since his 2013 should surgery to repair a Bennett lesion in his pitching shoulder, Pill has not posted an ERA under 3.97. This naturally begs the question about what’s different about Pill this year.

In a word, luck.

Through his first seven starts, Pill is allowing just a .265 BABIP, including a .255 BABIP in Triple-A. Typically, pitchers don’t have BABIPs under .300, especially those that pitch to as much contact as Pill. In fact, in his minor league career, Pill has allowed a .317 BABIP.

And batters have been putting a lot more balls in play off Pill. So far this year, Pill has just a 4.2 K/9, which would stand as the lowest K/9 in his career. His 2.4 BB/9, while encouraging, only further serves to show there are more balls in play against Pill than there had been in prior years. This creates further concerns there will be a stark regression.

These numbers all factor into his 4.01 FIP for the 2017 season. That’s closer to the pitcher who wasn’t even considered one of the Mets Top 100 prospects than the one who has yet to allow a run for Vegas this year.

Overall, Pill has had terrific numbers to start the 2017 season. However, as you dig deeper, it does not appear Pill is any different than the pitcher who has struggled the past few seasons.  Still, the run he’s on has gotten him promoted to the majors.  Unfortunately, unless he makes some adjustments with Dan Warthen, he is not going to be successful at the major league level.

Quality Start Begets Brutal Loss

Due to the ineffectiveness and injury to Tommy Milone, the Mets put Robert Gsellman back in the rotation. 

Gsellman went out there and gave the Mets what is technically considered a quality start, which is three earned over six innings. Things might’ve gone better for him, but Yangervis Solarte got to him twice knocking in all three runs against Gsellman. 

After the top of the sixth, Gsellman had thrown just 84 pitches. There would be no seventh inning though because Gsellman was due to lead off the inning. That and the fact Gsellman hasn’t started in a while. 

Still, it should not have mattered. The Mets were up 5-3 against the team with arguable the worst offense in the National League. 

Well, the Mets look like the worst bullpen in the National League, and Terry Collins used all the quality arms last night. Well push came to shove, and Fernando Salas was the one who got hit. 

Salas loaded the bases with two outs following a pinch hit single by Chase d’Arnaud with back-to-back walks to Matt Szczur and Solarte. At that point, Collins decided to make the worst possible move he could’ve made. He went with Neil Ramirez and his 10.32 ERA to pitch to Wil Myers:

Thanks in part to a little luck and some Timo Perez-esque base running, the Padres only tied the score. Fortunately, Josh Edgin got the Mets out of the jam. 

Unfortunately, Collins went to Josh Smoker to pitch the eighth. For the second straight night he was greeted with a long home run. This one was hit by Hunter Renfroe

Renfroe would return the favor to the Mets in the bottom of the eighth. He flat out dropped a Juan Lagares fly ball. To his credit, Lagares hustled on the play and got to second base. The Mets would strand him there. 

That was about all that the Mets offense had done wrong on the night. Michael Conforto continued to rake going 2-3 with a run, RBI, and two walks. Wilmer Flores hit a bases clearing double in the third. He scored on a Curtis Granderson single. Overall, every Mets starter except Rene Rivera reached base at least once. 

The Mets offense would get one last chance against Brad Hand who came on to save the Padres 6-5 lead. 

Neil Walker got the rally started with a lead-off single. Lucas Duda had a tough at-bat drawing a well earned walk, his third of the game. He came off for Matt Reynolds. The bases were then loaded as Flores hit a seeing eye single just past the shortstop. 
Granderson and Rivera then struck out putting the game in Lagares’ hands. Renfroe wouldn’t drop this flyball leading to yet another brutal loss created by a bullpen meltdown. At least we know Collins won’t learn from this game either. 

Game Notes: Jay Bruce sat with a back injury. 

Travis d’Arnaud Is Better Than Rene Rivera

We saw it again.  When Travis d’Arnaud is healthy, he has the talent to be an All-Star.  However, yet again, he is injured, and his injury has once again created an opportunity for another player.  In the past, Kevin Plawecki wasted those opportunities.  This year, it is Rene Rivera, and he has taken full advantage of the opportunity.

Since d’Arnaud went back on the Disabled List, Rivera is hitting .357/.400/.452 with a double, homer, and 11 RBI.  Right now, Rivera is exactly what the Mets thought they would be getting from a healthy d’Arnaud.  Because of that Terry Collins has basically said d’Ranud is not getting his starting job back when he returns from the Disabled List.  Specifically, Collins said, “When Travis gets back, we’ll have to make some decisions, but obviously Rene Rivera has earned a spot, has earned a job catching, and we’re going to play him as much as possible.”  (Mike Puma, New York Post).

If Collins follows through with that plan, it is going to be problematic.  It is Collins confusing a hot streak at the plate from a veteran to a player transforming themselves.  There are two things that are true here: (1) It is hard to trust in d’Arnaud because of his injury history; and (2) Rivera is playing some of the best baseball in his career.  To say anything different is to read too much into everything.

In fact, this isn’t the first time we have seen this from Rivera.  In July 2016, Rivera hit .323/.400/.581 with two doubles, two homers, and seven RBI.  With that hot streak and another injury prone season from d’Arnaud, Rivera would be the starter the rest of the way.  In the ensuing 34 games, Rivera would hit .216/.278/.295 with one double, two homers, and nine RBI.

We shouldn’t be surprised by this.  Rivera is not a good hitter.  In his career, he is a .219/.269/.338 hitter who has just one season with double digit homers.  He has been slightly better in his one plus season with the Mets hitting .247/.304/.361 with eight homers and 40 RBI in 89 games played.  Even is you were to argue Rivera is a better hitter with the Mets, he is still not a good enough hitter to play everyday.

The obvious argument is Rivera should be starting because he is a strong defensive catcher that gets the most out of his staff.  Unfortunately, the data does not support this notion.

In April, with d’Arnaud catching 16 out of the 24 games, the Mets pitching staff had a 4.53 ERA and were walking 3.5 batters per nine innings and striking out 9.5 batters per nine innings.  In May, the Mets pitching has fallen apart.  In the month, the Mets pitchers have a 6.02 ERA while walking 4.4 batters per nine and striking out just 8.3 batters per nine.

Now, there are a number of reasons why this happened.  First of all, Noah Syndergaard has not thrown a pitch in the Month of May, and his replacement in the rotation was Tommy Milone.  We have also Adam Wilk make a disasterous spot start due to Matt Harvey being suspended.  That’s another thing.  Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Robert Gsellman have all regressed in May.

April May
       ERA     WHIP      BB/9        ERA     WHIP       BB/9
deGrom 2.84 1.17 3.20 4.50 1.50 4.50
Harvey 4.25 1.15 3.00 8.04 2.11 6.90
Gsellman 6.23 1.71 3.70 7.41 1.77 2.60

Now, there is always a real danger in trying to draw too many conclusions from a small sample size even if that is what Collins is doing in naming Rivera a starter right now.  However, there might be one big reason why these pitchers have struggled since d’Arnaud went on the Disabled List.  It could just be because d’Arnaud is a better pitch framer than Rivera.  In fact, between d’Arnaud, Plawecki, and Rivera, Rivera is the worst pitch framer on the roster.

Now, it might be difficult to accept d’Arnaud is better handling this Mets pitching staff than Rivera because that’s not the narrative.  The narrative is Rivera is the defensive specialist.  If you are looking for proof, look no further than his 36% caught stealing rate.  Actually, people rarely do look further than that.  While Rivera has his strong points as a catcher, he is not a great defensive catcher.  His pitch framing holds him back.  If he’s not getting that extra strike for his pitching staff on a per at-bat basis, it is hard to defend playing him everyday with his offensive ineptitude.

Overall, d’Arnaud is the better pitcher for this Mets pitching staff.  His pitch framing skills help turn balls into strikes.  This get his pitchers into advantageous counts.  This shortens at-bats.  It keeps runners off the bases.  Ultimately, pitchers can now go deeper into games.  Also, the pitchers can have leads when they leave the game with the help of d’Arnaud’s bat in the lineup.  Looking at d’Arnaud’s bat and his pitch framing, there should be no doubt he should play everyday.

Look Elsewhere For Sunday Fun

Originally, I was supposed to be watching this game with my brother, but with him being rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery on Friday, those plans were nixed.  By the way, Happy Birthday to him.  His gift was being discharged from the hospital.  It is a good thing he was going through the discharge process because I’m not sure even his painkillers would have been sufficient to dull the pain of watching that game.

Before you could blink, it was 5-0.  It would have been worse but Michael Conforto nailed Danny Espinosa at home plate.  Believe it or not, it got worse from there.  Mike Trout and Jefry Marte would hit back-to-back homers off Tommy Milone to make it 8-0.  At that point, Milone was done for the day.

To put is succinctly, Milone was absolutely terrible.  He threw 43 pitches with only 27 of them being strikes.  When he did throw a strike, it was hit hard.  Overall he pitched just 1.1 innings allowing eight runs (seven earned) on seven hits and two walks.  As bad as that was, Rafael Montero came into the game.

Bringing in Montero was the right move because it’s already 8-0, and you don’t want to rip through an already tired bullpen.  However, Montero is really just a white flag.  When he comes into the game, it really means “Game Over.”  It was a gorgeous day, and I have a three year old.  I decided to go out and have a fun day away from the team.  There was no sense watching anymore.


And really, it is getting to the point where you don’t want to watch the Mets on Sundays anymore.  Since winning their first Sunday game of the season, the Mets have lost five straight Sunday games.  Overall, they are getting out-scored 65-24 in Sunday games.  The losses have been a mixture of disheartening losses and blowouts. They have made you feel worse about series losses, and they have overshadowed series victories.  It makes me happy that the Mets no longer offer the Sunday Plan because I otherwise would have been at the game watching that mess again.

Sure, in turning the game off, I missed the Mets making a game of it with the Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce homers.  I also missed the continued struggles of Hansel RoblesInstead, I got to ride on a train and drink soda from an animal sippy cup.  I also got to see a sea lion up close.

 

With that, I at least had a fun Sunday, which is something I would not have had if I continued to watch that Mets game.

Trivia Friday – Mets Starters With A 5.00 ERA

Right now, the Mets pitching staff is performing well under expectations.  Matt Harvey has a 5.63 ERA.  Tommy Milone has a 5.91 ERA with the team.  Robert Gsellman has an astounding 7.07 ERA.  If all three of these pitchers pitch to an ERA over 5.00, that would more than double the amount of Mets starters who have had an ERA that high in their entire history.  Can you name the two starters who have done that?  Good luck!


Mike Pelfrey Pete Smith

Not Worth Staying Up To Watch

No matter how bad the Mets are, I am in front of the TV, or I have the radio on to see how the game is going.  Heck, even on the day I was married, I tipped the limo driver extra to give me score updates.  Jon Niese was starting that day, and Carlos Beltran wasn’t playing due to his pre-season knee surgery, so I had to tip a little extra.  I use that as the context for my going to sleep last night.

The Mets are not just playing bad baseball right now, they’re playing depressing baseball right now.  It was the same thing yesterday.

To start the game, the Mets had Zack Greinke on the ropes.  After Curtis Granderson earned a bases loaded walk, the Mets rally ended.  Sure, it is unreasonable to expect Tommy Milone to deliver an RBI in that spot.  And yes, it is hard to get on Michael Conforto for striking out in that spot considering how good he has been to start the season.  The Mets offense has also been humming of late, so again, you can’t get on the offense too much.  Still, it was demoralizing because with Milone on the mound, you knew the Mets needed more than just that one run.

And they did.  Gregor Blanco hit a two RBI single to give the Diamondbacks a 2-1 lead.  After Paul Goldschmidt was intentionally walked, Chris Owings hit an RBI single to make it 3-1.  At that point, you figured things can’t possibly get any worse.  It did.  Owings would break for second, and Rene Rivera would have nailed him if Owings didn’t get caught in a run-down.  While this is happening, Lucas Duda notices Goldschmidt break for home, and of course, he makes a terrible throw home allowing Goldschmidt to score.

As a Mets fan, you were disgusted.  Right now, the team is finding different ways to make watching them more painful.  Duda reminding you of the Eric Hosmer play took the cake.

I didn’t go to bed immediately.  The anger had to subside.  I got to see the Granderson homer.  No, I wasn’t fooled into thinking they would win the game.  I feel asleep not to long after that.  I didn’t even try to fight it.  I subsequently missed the Rivera two run homer, and the Paul Sewald appearance.

Overall, it doesn’t matter.  It’s hard to watch this team right now, and it is harder to watch them when games start at 9:30 at night.  Thankfully, today’s game starts at 3:40.  As a result, you will only lose sleep over them going over what transpired during the game as opposed to watching those things transpire.

Game Notes: Asdrubal Cabrera finally hit the disabled list, and the Mets added Neil Ramirez and his 8.71 ERA to help the bullpen.

Wilmer Throws This One Away

Imagine believing you need to use multiple relievers every inning. Imagine using the same relievers. relievers day after day after day. Sooner or later it catches up to you. That moment was today for the Mets. 

It spoiled what was a good day for Tommy Milone. Despite being released by the Brewers and his not having started a game since April 25th, he pitched well. 

Milone pitched five innings allowing six hits, two runs, two earned, and two walks with five strikeouts. He exited the game in the sixth after allowing back-to-back singles to Buster Posey and Christian Arroyo

Fernando Salas came on for Milone and allowed one of the inherited runners to score. That run scored when Justin Ruggiano followed a Nick Hundley single with a deep sacrifice fly. From there Salas slammed the door shut. 
Gorkys Hernandez grounded to the third baseman Wilmer Flores. Instead of trying for the around the horn double play, Flores went home. Kevin Plawecki made a terrific play picking up Flores’ short-hopped throw to tag out Arroyo, who just stopped running on the play. Salas followed this out by striking out Mike Morse to end the rally. 
With Salas ending the rally, Milone was in position to earn his first win in a Mets uniform – a win he didn’t get.  Milone was in that position because he helped his own cause. In the fourth, Milone hit an RBI single off Matt Cain to expand the Mets lead to 3-1. The single scored Curtis Granderson, who had a pretty good game himself. 

It started with an opposite field double in the first inning to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. He also reached on a Buster Posey error to get the aforementioned rally started. 

The other run was courtesy of Jay Bruce:

After losing one to the rainout, Bruce finally got his 10th home run back. The third inning homer also snapped a 1-1 tie. The game was tied because Posey hit yet another homer off the Mets. 

The Mets had a chance to put the game away in the sixth. With a perfect Juan Lagares bunt down the third base line, the bases were loaded against Giants reliever George Kontos with one out. Kontos then recorded back-to-back strikeouts of Asdrubal Cabrera (pinch hitting for Salas) and Jose Reyes to keep it at 3-2. 

The Mets similarly fizzled in the seventh. Bruce and Neil Walker hit back-to-back one out singles. Granderson popped up, and Flores lined out to kill that rally. 

The Mets bullpen tried to keep it at 3-2. Josh Edgin (one batter) and Hansel Robles combined to pitch a scoreless seventh. This continues Robles’ 14 inning scoreless streak. 

Addison Reed and Jerry Blevins pitched a scoreless eighth.  Blevins came on with two outs in the eighth because Brandon Belt was announced as a pinch hitter. Blevins probably came on because Terry Collins was probably having a panic attack thinking about the possibility Blevins may not pitch in a game. He also completely disregarded Reed’s numbers against left-handed batters. 

The Mets would rue the town blown opportunities to tack on runs as Jeurys Familia blew his first save of the season. 

Ironically, it wasn’t Conor Gillaspie who got to him. In fact, Familia dispatched with him easily. In fact, it was Flores who got to Familia. After Joe Panik walked, Flores threw off line to second. Instead of an inning ending double play, there were runners on first and second. Hunter Pence singled past a diving Flores to tie the game at 3-3. Posey then walked, and Arroyo hit a bases clearing double to make it 6-3.

At that point, Rafael Montero came into the game. Note, he didn’t make his way into a 6-1 game, but today, he relieved Familia. Because he has a sick sense of humor, Montero recorded two quick outs to get out of the inning. 

Flores redeemed himself a bit in the ninth. After the Mets put two on with two outs in the ninth, he came up. Flores hit one that deflected just off Ruggiano’s glove and the top of the wall. It made it 6-5, but it was too little too late. Kevin Plawecki grounded out to the catcher ending the game. 

 The winning streak is over, and the Mets fell to a game under .500. 

Game Notes: Michael Conforto sat with a hamstring issue. With Bruce in right and Juan Lagares in center, Granderson played left. With Conforto sitting, Reyes returned to the lead-off spot. 

Collins Bullpen Mismanagement 

The Mets were up 6-1 in the eighth inning against a San Francisco Giants offense that showed no life all game long.  This could be a function of the fact the Giants have scored the fewest amount of runs in the National League. In essence, with the Mets up by five runs, the game was over. 

Not according to Terry Collins. He managed the game like it was a one run game in the seventh game of the World Series. 

Hansel Robles pitched a scoreless seventh lowering his ERA to 1.47. With his being a reliever accustomed to pitching multiple innings, it was justifiable to send him out there to pitch the eighth. He opened the inning by hitting Justin Ruggiano
This led to Collins lifting him for Jerry Blevins. Even with the left-handed Joe Panik and Brandon Belt coming up, this was completely unnecessary. The Mets were up five runs. You don’t need to start playing matchups late in the game. This was a chance to rest Blevins who is on pace for 96 appearance. Furthermore, left-handed batters are 1-19 against Robles this year. 

This isn’t a one year fluke with Robles either. In his career, Robles has limited left-handed batters to a .164/.255/.304 batting line. That’s better than the .210/.262/.314 Blevins has allowed in his career. There’s no need to go to a lefty in that spot.

Once Blevins came in and did his job, there was no need to take him out. He needed just six pitches to get Panik and Belt out. He’s been much better against right-handed batters since joining the Mets. He very well could have pitched to Hunter Pence. Instead Collins went to Addison Reed

With Reed coming into the game, he’s now on pace to make 81 appearances. That would top his career high in appearances which he set last year. As if using Robles, Blevins, and Reed wasn’t enough, Jeurys Familia came in to close the ninth.

Collins did that despite Blevins, Reed, and Familia having pitched on Monday. He did this despite knowing  Tommy Milone was starting tomorrow. 

Milone was picked up off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers. Milone was available because he had a 6.43 ERA in six games this season. In his three starts, he’s averaging under five innings per start. Chances are the Mets are going to need to heavily rely on their bullpen in a day game after a night game. 

Certainly, it’s too soon to pitch Paul Sewald after 3.1 innings on Sunday. To that end, he shouldn’t be available tomorrow. Fernando Salas needed a day off after pitching in seven of the last nine days. 

This is all the more reason you let Robles finish that eighth inning. Then with a five run lead the Mets can pitch Rafael Montero in the ninth inning now that he’s once again out of the rotation.  

Doing this keeps the key bullpen arms fresh for when the team really needs them. Instead, Collins burned the arms with a five run lead against the worst offensive team in the National League. This is how bullpens get burned out. This is why key bullpen arms aren’t as effective later in the season when they’re needed the most. 

No One Showed Up Today

There are a million rumors why, but the one thing we do know is Matt Harvey did not make the start today. He was suspended for three games and sent away from Citi Field. Accordingly, someone else would have to make his start. 

That fell on Adam Wilk who was making his first major league start in five years. In 2012, he made five starts pitching to an 8.18 ERA. If you feared home he’d fare against Giancarlo Stanton you should:

Stanton hit the longest HR in Citi Field history at 468 feet. Stanton hit two of the three homers the Marlins would hit off Wilk. Stanton had more homers than the Mets had hits.

While Wilk was giving up six runs (five earned) off eight hits over 3.2 innings, Jose Urena and the rest of the Marlins bullpen allowed just one hit to Rene Rivera. Urena pitched six innings of one hit ball in his first start of the year. 

Overall, Harvey was not the only Met who wasn’t there today. Harvey and the entire Mets offense were nowhere to be seen. Overall, the only Met today who showed up was Paul Sewald

With Wilk not getting out of the fourth, and the Mets not getting much length from their starters, someone had to step up. Sewald did that in a big way. He pitched 3.1 innings allowing just one run on four hits while walking none and striking out six. It was an outstanding performance overshadowed by some pretty lousy ones. 

For the second straight week, the Mets got pounded on a Sunday leaving a sour taste in your mouth after what had been an impressive series win. 

Game Notes: Putting Harvey on the restricted list created the space in the 40 man roster to call up Wilk. The Mets claimed Tommy Milone off waivers. He was 1-0 with a 6.43 ERA and a 1.476 WHIP in six starts.