Travis d’Arnaud

20/20 Hindsight: Did The Mets Even Show Up In Miami?

The New York Mets were swept/embarassed by the Miami Marlins, a team who is rivaling the 1962 Mets in futility. There doesn’t need to be anything else said, but here it is anyway:

1. Managers get fired for the way the Mets played this weekend, but if we are being honest, this has nothing to do with Mickey Callaway. This is all on the team Brodie Van Wagenen built.

2. Van Wagenen fled Miami before the series was over and was not present to answer one question about the team he built or their play. That’s absolute cowardice.

3. Joel Sherman of the NY Post wrote an article finally directing the blame towards Van Wagenen. We also saw Mike Puma of the NY Post say attention will eventually need to turn to to Van Wagenen, but first, the media wants Callaway gone first. Where were these articles in March when Van Wagenen was mortgaging the future to build what projections had as a fourth place team?

4. We all knew Robinson Cano didn’t hustle. With his PED suspension, we knew there was a chance he would be a chance he regressed,especially with him turning 36 years old. Van Wagenen was the only person who dismissed this.

5. Too often, we make the mistake of confusing players struggling with them not caring. The Mets players are probably embarrassed and still trying hard. They’re just not good right now for a multitude of reasons.

6. Then again, it’s hard to make that claim with Cano when he just blatantly did not run. There’s not hustling, and then there’s what he did. While we thought he had his defenses, it turned out they were lies, at least the scoreboard one.

7. Justin Dunn and Jarred Kelenic were tow of the biggest risers on MLB Pipeline‘s updated Top 100. Also, Edwin Diaz hasn’t had a save opportunity in well over a week. It’s almost like trading two top 100 prospects and taking on a $100 million commitment for a closer is a terrible idea. Who knew?

8. It’s telling how respected Callaway is in the clubhouse with Noah Syndergaard and Todd Frazier being so vocal in their support of Callaway. What would be better than those words is playing well.

9. To be fair to Frazier, he has been the Mets player during this five game losing streak. On the converse, it speaks volumes about this team that Frazier has been their best player during this losing streak.

10. The Mets trotted out a lineup on Sunday where the bottom four hitters were Adeiny HechavarriaJuan LagaresTomas NidoNoah Syndergaard. We’re really killing the manager for a lineup that noncompetitive lineup not scoring? That’s four straight 8/9 hitters!

11. The Mets have completely bought into Chili Davis, a man fired by the Red Sox and Cubs because of this philosophy. This is what happens when you make terrible hiring decisions.

12. Syndergaard deserves credit for how he pitched on Sunday. There is no reason whatsoever why he lost that game. In addition to that, the bullpen deserves a lot of credit for continuing to pitch well through all of this. This group is one of the few who deserves credit for actually showing up and performing anywhere close to expectations.

13. With is injury history and how abdominal injuries tend to linger, it’s great to see Jeff McNeil was able to play. Hopefully, we should not see any drop off from his level of play. The Mets can’t afford it.

14. Carlos Gomez was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, and he airmailed a ball on Friday. That throw not only let the one run score easily, but it also put the batter into scoring position. Seeing Gomez play so far, he’s actually worse than what Keon Broxton was forever hammering home the point things can always be worse with the Mets.

15. So far, the Mets have held Broxton, a fifth outfielder, and Travis d’Arnaud, a back-up catcher, accountable for the team’s poor play. That’s obvious scapegoating, and it had no effect because things don’t change when you get rid of a fifth outfielder and back-up catcher to try to send a message to the everyday players you, as an organization, outright refuse to make accountable.

16. If Mike Francesa is going to genuflect when he has Jeff Wilpon in studio, he can’t suddenly rail on the Mets. Well, he can if he wants; it’s his show. Just know that when he does that, he exposes himself to be a fraud, and it helps Michael Kay catch up.

17. The Mets were completely dominated by the Miami Marlins. The Marlins.

18. Through all of this, don’t be confused. There are plenty of reasons to fire Callaway. Just don’t for a second believe firing him is the thing that is doing to turn this team around. It’s not.

19. When the Mets play tonight, Boo, don’t boo, who cares? If you’re in the park spending money, the Wilpons don’t care. They got what they want out of you. That’s not to say it’s the fans fault. The point is the Wilpons don’t care about contending. They only care about creating the appearance of it to generate revenues.

20. Through all of it, we can say a lot of things, but the most succinct thing to say here is the Mets suck.

Good Luck d’Arnaud

With Travis d’Arnaud struggling in his limited chances since returning from Tommy John surgery, he was designated for assignment. Instead of seeking to outright him to Syracuse, the Mets opted to release d’Arnaud. Now, d’Arnaud is reunited with Bob Geren in Los Angeles. It’s easy to forget now, but with Geren being the Mets catching coach, he got the very best out of d’Arnaud.

Back in 2012, the Mets would trade reigning Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays for a package which included d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard. At that point, d’Arnaud was the best known prospect, and he was certainly a coveted one having previously been traded the Phillies to the Blue Jays so the team could obtain Roy Halladay.

The book on d’Arnaud was he was going to be a good hitting catcher. Being a good hitter or even a catcher was something which was next to impossible to ascertain when d’Arnaud was first called up to the majors in 2013. He didn’t hit at all, and he struggled mightily behind the plate. After that year, d’Arnaud would put his work in and become a much better player.

While the bat never quite materialized the way we anticipated, he did became very good behind the plate. We saw d’Arnaud become one of the best pitch framers in the game. It was one of the reasons why he was in the top 10 in Rookie of the Year voting in 2014, and it was one of the reasons why the Mets would take off in 2015.

Like he would most of his career, d’Arnaud would have injury issues in 2015, but he would be an impactful player when he was on the field. His elite pitch framing helped a staff featuring Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and  Syndergaard not only win the division, but also go all the way to the World Series. It gets overlooked, but d’Arnaud didn’t contribute with his strong play behind the plate, he also contributed as a hitter.

In the 2015 postseaon, d’Arnaud would hit three homers. That included one in Game 1 of the NLCS which would actually hit the Home Run Apple, which led the Mets to put a temporary band-aid on it prior to Game 2.

Of course, the homers overlook his key moments in the NLDS. In a pivotal Game 3, it was d’Arnaud who hit the RBI single which tied the game in the second, and it was d’Arnaud who hit the three run homer in the third which helped the Mets begin to pull away. We also forget with the heroics of deGrom, Jeurys Familia, and Daniel Murphy in Game 5, it was d’Arnaud who had the sacrifice fly which had tied the game setting the stage for the Mets to eventually take the lead and head to the NLCS.

After the 2015 season, d’Arnaud would deal with injuries including the torn UCL which practically cost him the entire 2018 season. Still, when he played, he was a terrific pitch framer, who was an asset to his pitching staff. He would still have the occasional highlight like his 16th inning homer against the Marlins.

One thing which really stuck out with d’Arnaud was how he was a team first player. In his tenure with the Mets, he wore three different numbers partially because he changed from number 7 to accomodate Jose Reyes when he returned to the organization. There was also the August 16, 2017 game which will live in infamy.

With both Wilmer Flores and Reyes unable to play due to injuries, and with Gavin Cecchini and Matt Reynolds unable to arrive from Las Vegas in time for the game, it meant someone was going to have to play out of position. That player would be d’Arnaud, who donned David Wright‘s mitt while switching back and forth between second and third with Asdrubal Cabrera. The lineup card was a mess with it reading d’Arnaud played “3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B.”

In the game, d’Arnaud would hit a game tying sacrifice fly in the sixth. Despite all of Terry Collins‘ machinations, the ball would finally find d’Arnaud when Todd Frazier popped it up to him in the ninth. With d’Arnaud securing it, he now stands as the Mets all-time leader in fielding percentage among Mets second baseman.

When it comes to d’Arnaud, aside from that magical 2015 season, he was never quite the player everyone hoped he would be. He battled injuries during his Mets tenure, and he was never the hitter everyone expected even if he was above average at the position. Mostly, he was very good behind the plate having been one of the best pitch framers in the game.

His Mets tenure ended with a whimper. While fans villified him for what he wasn’t instead of celebrating him for what he was, d’Arnaud opted for the high road thanking the fans and the organization for everything and expressing his gratitude to all.

While things ended poorly here, he is now playing for his hometown team. It is a team who has his former catching coach, who get everything out of d’Arnaud’s talent. He’s at the place where former Met Justin Turner‘s career took off. He’s playing for a very good team, a smart organization, and he will be put in a good position to succeed.

In his tenure, d’Arnaud was a good Met, and the 2015 run doesn’t happen without him. Despite everything, he never complained, and he was willing to do everything asked of him. Every Mets fan should wish him the best of luck. I know I will.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Split Series With Reds

The New York Mets finished a 10 game home-stand going 5-5. Part of the reason was because while their pitching started to pick up, their offense has cratered. Still, as they depart for a very difficult road trip which will take them to Milwaukee and San Diego, they are a team over .500:

  1. Noah Syndergaard did what you are supposed to do against bad offenses. You are supposed to completely dominant them, and he did with a magnificent performance striking out 10 in a complete game shut out.
  2. Syndergaard became just the third Mets starter (Pete FalconeJohan Santana) to homer in a complete game shut out. He is the only Mets pitcher to provide the only run of support in a shutout.
  3. We can debate whether the right retaliation is to throw at a batter or not. However, there is nothing better than seeing Syndergaard strike out Jesse Winker three times in a game and having Winker lose his cool to the point where he is thrown out of the game.
  4. With the fans waiving to Winker and their booing Pete O’Brien, it’s clear the Mets fans are desperately searching for and need a real villian now that Chase Utley has retired.
  5. This was certainly the series for Mets pitchers to get healthy. Jacob deGrom looked like Jacob deGrom again, and even Jason Vargas would finally pitch more than five innings in a start.
  6. While a pitcher’s success isn’t really tied to any one catcher, it may behoove the Mets to let deGrom get into some sort of a rhythm with Tomas Nido. So far this year, deGrom has had six starts, and he has had the same catcher catch him in back-to-back starts just once this year.
  7. Mickey Callaway is oft criticized for his decision making, but he was unfairly in this series. He had little choice but to trust Jeurys Familia for six outs, and he went with Edwin Diaz over Seth Lugo in the ninth because Diaz is supposedly the best reliever in baseball. When you put guys in position, and they fail, sometimes it is on the players and not the manager.
  8. For a moment, it really looked like Familia was back, and then all of a sudden he falls apart and heads to the Injured List.
  9. You can read too much into it, or not, but it is surprising in his career opposing batters hit .333/.403/.608 off Diaz in tie games. It’s too soon to overreact to it, but it is noteworthy.
  10. Speaking of too soon to overreact, Pete Alonso is struggling. Alonso has homered once in his last 39 at-bats, and he has had one homer against a RHP over his last 11 games. While he snapped an 0-11 with a 3-5 game, he is been 3-18 since.
  11. Speaking of cooling off, Dominic Smith is now 0 for his last 7, and 2 for his last 12.
  12. While we’re on the topic of Smith and Alonso, it is great to see Smith lifted for Alonso and his cheering on and applauding Alonso as he walked. It’s a shame they play the same position because these are two likeable guys who are good ballplayers.
  13. Amed Rosario is heating up at just the right time. He just had a five game hitting streak and is in the middle of a seven game errorless streak. This comes right as Jed Lowrie is playing shortstop in rehab games.
  14. It is going to be interesting to see what the Mets do when Lowrie returns. We’ve seen Brodie Van Wagenen have selective memory when it comes to his best 25 man mantra, and as noted Keon Broxton has been really bad. It will be interesting to see if he’s saved because Van Wagenen obtained him or if he befalls the Travis d’Arnaud treatment.
  15. Wilson Ramos has been bad. He has no power, which is partially the result of his having MLB and career worst ground ball rates. He has also been a poor pitch framer and has yielded the most passed balls in the majors.
  16. Drew Gagnon is showing the Mets something out of the bullpen. He saved them when Steven Matz couldn’t get an out, and his 1.1 scoreless allowed the Mets to walk it off. He has earned his shot in the bullpen.
  17. With Daniel Zamora coming into a game to face Joey Votto, and the Mets calling up Ryan O’Rourke, it’s getting fairly clear Luis Avilan‘s time as a Met is going to end fairly soon.
  18. It’s fair to say Avilan hasn’t been used properly, but when your manager has no faith in you, and you haven’t pitched in seven games, you really have no place in the bullpen.
  19. Every time there is a blow up with a Mets starter or with the bullpen, we hear how the Mets are keeping tabs on Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel. It’s nothing more than a ruse, and I wish reporters would stop giving it the time of day.
  20. This upcoming road trip to Milwaukee and San Diego is tough travel, and it is the kind of road trip which has the potential to make or break a season.

Van Wagenen’s Handling Of d’Aranud, Vargas Is Wrong

There is no escaping the fact Jason Vargas is not a Major League caliber staring pitcher anymore. Since the 2017 All Star Break, he has a 6.14 ERA, and opposing batters are hitting .286/.356/.511. This year, he is 1-1 with a 7.20 ERA, 1.933 WHIP, and a 5.4 BB/9 while averaging 3.1 innings per start.

The only time Vargas was able to go five innings was against the Marlins in pitcher friendly Marlins Park. It should be noted as a team the Marlins have a 69 wRC+ making them one of the worst offenses in all of baseball. Even with a start against the Marlins, opposing batters are hitting .313/.405/.563 off of Vargas.

Vargas is hurting the Mets chances of winning the games he starts, and he is hurting the team’s chances of winning subsequent games because his starts are taxing the bullpen. Fortunately for the Mets, there was a rare April solution.

Gio Gonzalez, who has pitched well in his career at Citi Field, was available. At this point in his career, Gonzalez is not much more than a five inning pitcher. However, when he is used properly, we have seen he can still be a solid piece of a starting rotation. Gonzalez being available was nothing short of a godsend.

However, the Mets didn’t see it as such. For some reason, the Mets remain resolute keeping Vargas in the rotation. It should be noted here Vargas’ former agent is current Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen. It is certainly fair to ask why that matters. We see why it matters with the Mets handling of Travis d’Arnaud.

On Saturday, d’Arnaud had just about the worst game we have ever seen from a Mets catcher. That game put him in the Mackey Sasser/Choo-Choo Coleman category. It was that painful to watch. Even when he did something right like finally getting a hit, he blew it by getting thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double.

In 10 games, d’Arnaud was hitting just .087/.160/.087. Through it all, d’Arnaud’s main calling card has been his pitch framing. Not this year. So far, he has a -0.2 FRAA. When d’Arnaud can’t frame, and he can’t hit, you could understand the Mets wanting to designate him for assignment even if he was needlessly rushed back from injury, and he wasn’t given nearly sufficient time to establish himself.

Overall, the Mets decision to promote Tomas Nido and designate d’Arnaud was a sound decision. The Mets have gone into the season preaching they were going to carry their 25 best players, and they were going to do what it takes to win now.

It’s just odd to see how this philosophy applies to a backup catcher and not a fifth starter. It’s odd how this applies to a player who plays just once a week as opposed to a pitcher who is supposed to pitch every fifth day. It’s odd when you consider Vargas’ starts have much more of a negative and lasting impact on the pitching staff than d’Arnaud has.

When you look at everything, you realize d’Arnaud was a scapegoat for a team which has fallen to .500. More than that, you see a General Manager imposing different standards as to what is acceptable for his former clients than for players who have had different representation.

In the end, you can more than justify designating d’Arnaud for assignment. However, there is no way you can possibly justify how Vargas is getting preferential treatment.

Winter Is Here

You’d think on Game of Thrones night, the Mets wouldn’t throw a Lannister who was killed by a dragon. But that was fiction, and this is the Mets.

Instead of a dragon getting Noah Syndergaard, it was a mixture of defense, bad luck, and eventually, just poor pitching.

In the first, Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil tried to get cute and pick Lorenzo Cain off second after a Mike Moustakas groundout. Instead of an out, Alonso threw the ball into the now vacated left field to allow Cain to score easily.

In the third, he’s load the bases and allow Eric Thames to hit a two RBI single before inducing an inning ending double play.

The Mets got one back in the bottom of the inning. After getting on base via a HBP, McNeil would eventually find himself on third. With the shift on with Michael Conforto at the plate, McNeil was well down the line potentially causing a distraction. Not only would Brandon Woodruff lose Conforto walking him, but Yasmani Grandal whiffed (ruled a wild pitch) on ball four allowing McNeil to score.

Syndergaard gave it right back and then some allowing homers to both Ben Gamel (who has 13 homers in a four year career) and Christian Yelich (first on the road this year).

With this poor five inning outing behind him, Syndergaard now has three consecutive poor five inning starts, and his ERA is now 6.35.

The Mets did come close to getting Syndergaard off the hook. In the seventh inning, the first five Mets would reach base with Travis d’Arnaud making the lone out trying to stretch a single into a double.

With respect to d’Arnaud this was definitely the low point of the season for him. In addition to getting thrown out, he struggled behind the plate. He had a passed ball, and he allowed three wild pitches. He would nail Cain trying to steal a base, but on a Grandal attempt, d’Arnaud tried to be Benito Santiago. Instead, he dropped to his knees and threw the ball into center.

Against Alex Wilson, Amed Rosario hit alead-off homer. After d’Arnaud was nailed at second, Dominic Smith pinch hit for the pitcher’s spot, and he drew a walk.

Then Craig Counsell did something a little curious. With three of the next four batters being left-handed, he went to his LOOGY Alex Claudio. After a McNeil infield single, Alonso made Counsell pay for his decision.

That three run homer pulled the Mets to within one.

The problem for the Mets is Jeurys Familia would give half of the runs back.

After walking Gamel to start the inning, he allowed hits to Cain and Yelich to make it 7-5 Brewers. Cain would then put on a base running display.

With Moustakas at the plate, Familia would throw a pitch off target and in the dirt. d’Arnaud would knock it down, but Cain got a good read and easily took third. In the same at-bat, Moustakas hit a ball back to Familia, who booted it. Cain read the play and scored leaving the only play to first.

The Mets didn’t let the inning get them down. Instead, they went to work against Jeremy Jeffress. The first three Mets reached, and the Mets pulled within 8-6 when Rosario singled home J.D. Davis. With Todd Frazier being announced as the pinch hitter for Ramos, Counsell went to Josh Hader to get the six out save.

Hader made quick work of Frazier, Wilson Ramos (pinch hitting for Familia)), and McNeil striking them all out. Because Counsell does not have the same inane rules for Hader as Mickey Callaway has for Edwin Diaz, Hader stayed on in the ninth.

Hader would strike out five of the six Mets he faced needing just 20 pitches to do it. His save would push the Mets to .500. Who knows where the Mets will be after Gio Gonzalez takes the mound for the Brewers tomorrow.

Game Notes: McNeil hit leadoff, and Brandon Nimmo hit sixth. Drew Gagnon was called up and Corey Oswalt was sent down to provide the bullpen with some depth.

20/20 Hindsight: Did Cardinals Expose Mets?

After losing two out of three to the Cardinals, the Mets have lost six of their last eight games, and they are now just one game over .500. In the series and this bad stretch as a whole, we are starting to see some troubling patterns emerge:

  1. This Mets team was supposedly all-in, and Brodie Van Wagenen had a “Come get us!” bravado. Somehow, this led to Jason Vargas and Chris Flexen starting in back-to-back games. The season isn’t even a month old, and the Mets complete lack of pitching depth is already getting exposed.
  2. There is no good explanation why the Mets would have Jacob deGrom skip a precautionary MRI when he landed on the disabled list due to an elbow injury.
  3. Moreover, in a game against a team the Mets may very well be competing for a Wild Card spot this season, the Mets threw Flexen, Luis Avilan, Jacob Rhame, and Paul Sewald.
  4. If Avilan is not going to be used as a LOOGY but instead as a mop up reliever, you have to question why he is even on this roster.
  5. At some point you do have to question if this is really a bad team. Through 21 games, the team has a -19 run differential. The only team with a worse run differential in the National League is the Marlins.
  6. Again, the defense the Mets put behind their pitching is embarrassing. Their -22 DRS is the worst in the National League, and the combination of Amed Rosario and J.D. Davis form the worst left side of the infield in the majors by a pretty healthy margin.
  7. With respect to Rosario, at some point we have to question if this is who he is. He’s not making real progress in any parts of his game, and it’s getting to the point where he is hurting the Mets (again) on both sides of the ball.
  8. It is possible Rosario could use a day off. However, the short sighted Mets decided Luis Guillorme again did not merit a fair opportunity and instead chose to carry a string of Four-A relievers. So in addition to no pitching depth, the Mets have no shortstop depth.
  9. On Davis, there is no way you want him in the outfield. He’s slower than Freddie Freeman, Hanley Ramirez, and Jay Bruce among others.
  10. Davis’ inability to play third and the fact he can’t hit the fastball (.167), you cannot continue to play him once Todd Frazier is up. Sure, he had one or two nice games, but you cannot let small sample size successes blur the picture, especially when his defense is killing the Mets out there.
  11. If you look at Noah Syndergaard‘s advanced numbers, he’s the same pitcher he has always been. The biggest issue for him has been the defense. When the ball is in play, it’s a hit as evidenced by his .346 BABIP against (he’s at .311 for his career) and his 50.6% strand rate (career 73.7%).
  12. Really, Syndergaard has been unlucky because the fielding behind him is putrid. Hence, he has a 2.92 FIP.
  13. On the subject of Syndergaard, narratives are just tiresome. For example, when Syndergaard is bad in Philadelphia, not one word is said about Wilson Ramos‘ catching, but when it’s Travis d’Arnaud, we hear trumped up charges saying he’s not a good catcher or game caller. In the end, it’s confirmation bias.
  14. With respect to d’Arnaud, it’s clear he wasn’t yet ready to return. Certainly, you have to question why they rushed him back when the team was winning, and Tomas Nido was doing a quality job in the games he played.
  15. Robert Gsellman has been terrific of late. Not only did he bail the Mets out of that eighth inning jam, but he also pitched three innings to save the bullpen yesterday. If the Mets aren’t going to do the right thing and sign Gio Gonzalez or Dallas Keuchel, it may be time to start stretching him out to replace Vargas in the rotation.
  16. Good for Pete Alonso to respond to his first slump by mashing the ball against the Cardinals. Also, you have to love him talking his way into the lineup a day after having to leave the game with his getting hit by a pitch on the hand.
  17. The umpires handling of Robinson Cano getting hit on the hand was embarrassing for baseball and the umpires. There was no way he swung, and when you make a call that egregious, you cannot throw out Mickey Callaway.
  18. We are seeing Jeff McNeil in his first real slump as a Major Leaguer. In the series, he was 1-f0r-11. It will be interesting to see if the Cardinals discovered something other teams could emulate, or if St. Louis is just a terrible place where good things go to die.
  19. With all the troubles the Mets are having right now, Keon Broxton is getting saved from the spotlight, which is good for him because he has been terrible.
  20. If the only impediment to signing Craig Kimbrel is he wants to close, the Mets are even dumber than you could have imagined for wanting to have Rhame on the roster just so they could have Edwin Diaz close.

Arrieta Was Just Better Than Wheeler

The Mets-Phillies season series began with Noah Syndergaard and Aaron Nola, which is about as good as a pitching match-up as you could possibly get. When you have a match-up like that, you are naturally going to overlook the match-up of Zack Wheeler and Jake Arrieta. While overlooked, this pitching match-up did not disappoint like Syndergaard and Nola.

For his part, Wheeler was good, but not quite great. With the umpire squeezing him a bit, he got into trouble in the second loading the bases with one out. He did well to limit the damage to just a sacrifice fly by Maikel Franco. It should be noted on the sacrifice fly, Keon Broxton made just a horrible throw to the plate almost lobbing it on the run instead of doing a full crow hop. This is noteworthy because with his momentum heading towards the plate, he had a real shot at J.T. Realmuto.

In fifth and sixth, it wasn’t a rally, but rather the long ball. In those innings, Wheeler allowed solo shots to Scott Kingery, who just killed the Mets in this series, and Cesar Hernandez.

Overall, with the Mets bullpen a bit depleted, partially due to Steven Matz giving the team no outs yesterday, Wheeler pushed himself, and he pitched seven innings allowing just the three runs while walking three and striking out five. This was the type of effort the Mets needed to win the marathon, but it was not good enough to win the game.

The reason is Arrieta was great. He overpowered the Mets lineup and induced a number of weak grounders. Really, Arrieta was not in any trouble until the seventh, and the trouble started with a Michael Conforto lead-off homer.

Conforto’s homer woke up the Mets offense a bit. J.D. Davis hit a single, but the effort was for naught as Travis d’Arnaud hit into an inning ending double play. Arrieta would benefit from the double play again in the eighth as a Jeff McNeil double play erased Dominic Smith from the basepaths.

In the ninth, the Phillies would not let Arrieta try to get out of more trouble. Part of the reason for that is Pete Alonso hit a single off of him. As the ninth unfolded, you started to believe the Phillies made a mistake.

The left-handed Adam Morgan got Conforto to fly out (which was deep enough to advance Alonso), but he then plunked Robinson Cano. Hector Neris come on, and he struck out Davis before allowing Amed Rosario to hit an infield RBI single. Neris then hit Wilson Ramos, who was pinch hitting for d’Arnaud.

In an impressive at-bat, Broxton laid off some tough pitches to work the count full, but in the end he would strike out as he couldn’t hit a 94 MPH fastball over the middle of the plate. With that, the Mets lost the series against the Phillies, and they have now lost four of their last five games, all of them divisional road games. As if things weren’t tough enough, they now travel to St. Louis to have Jason Vargas start in place of a sick Jacob deGrom.

This is how 10-8 looks worse than it actually is.

Game Notes: McNeil was 2-for-4, and his multi-hit game streak now stands at six.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Waste Another Opportunity

The Mets went to Atlanta in first place, and they leave a half-game back. At one point, it didn’t seem like it was going to be the case, but that is how it proved to shake out. There were a number of reasons why:

  1. The Mets had the Braves on their heels, and they were in a position for a statement making four game sweep. Instead, they walk away with a split. The biggest reason why is they started Jason Vargas.
  2. The Mets need to give Corey Oswalt an opportunity to succeed. They had him rush to be ready to relieve on three days rests, and they instead had him on extended rest. They then decide to have him rush his warm-ups to enter a game with runners on base. How did they think his outing on Saturday was going to go.
  3. The Mets have to make a decision once and for all with the fifth starter spot. Enough of these half measures. It’s either Vargas or an open try out. You can’t keep pushing Vargas back and putting more pressure on the rest of the rotation. It’s still April, and the Mets are running their rotation like it’s late September and there’s a postseason spot on the line.
  4. Dave Eiland said it well when he said no one can succeed with how the Mets are handling Vargas. If the team doesn’t trust him, name Oswalt or Chris Flexen the fifth starter or sign Dallas Keuchel. If they do trust him, keep him in the rotation on regular rest. Overall, don’t make things worse than they already are.
  5. If the Padres get Keuchel on top of signing Manny Machado and having Fernando Tatis Jr. being the season in the majors, the Padres will be everything Brodie Van Wagenen has purported the Mets to be.
  6. The Mets sold us they needed Pete Alonso on the Opening Day roster to win the division. In that time, they won eight games. With their starting Vargas, they gave one of those wins back, and Vargas (or the fifth starters spot) has at least 28 starts to go.
  7. Just as we all expected, Steven Matz has been the best pitcher in the Mets rotation. If he continues to be so, he’s going to help overcome a lot of the problems created by the fifth starter spot.
  8. Zack Wheeler and Brandon Nimmo showed in Atlanta we should not overreact to slow starts from people who have historically performed. That is something to remember as Robinson Cano is hitting .183 with a -0.3 WAR.
  9. Michael Conforto is playing like an MVP candidate. Mets should be looking to lock him up, and don’t play the Scott Boras card. The Nationals locked up Stephen Strasburg. It may be an uphill climb, but it is possible if you have the will.
  10. With Jacob deGrom struggling with Wilson Ramos behind the plate, we can probably put to rest the insane notion deGrom’s last start was attributable to Travis d’Arnaud.
  11. The biggest warning sign with deGrom is batters hitting the long ball against him again. It may be just a slight adjustment, but he needs to find a way to keep the ball in the ballpark again. On the other hand, deGrom is striking out batters more than he ever has (14.7 K/9).
  12. Ramos really needs to step up his game. He’s been quite poor behind the plate with very poor pitch framing and balls getting by him. While he’s hitting, he’s bound to regress as he’s hitting for no power, and he’s hitting the ball on the ground.
  13. While J.D. Davis hit that homer, his defense is hurting the team. Yesterday, his inability to make a play on an Ender Inciarte infield single helped drive up deGrom’s pitch count, and it led to deGrom not being able to have the pitcher lead off the top of the third. These little things always look large.
  14. Mets defense is the worst in the National League, and Davis leads the way with a -5 DRS. This is why when Todd Frazier is ready, the team should give consideration to keeping Luis Guillorme up. Another reason why is Amed Rosario (-3 DRS) has not played a particularly good shortstop.
  15. If Frazier was smart, he would not come up one second before he was ready. He can ill afford another injury plagued year, and with the team’s depth, if he doesn’t get off to a hot start, he may never get off the bench.
  16. It’s odd how quiet things are surrounding Jed Lowrie.
  17. Sometimes we over focus on what guys are instead of understanding their roles. Paul Sewald is well suited for mop up duty and for eating up innings. The 1.1 innings he gave yesterday helped save the pen a bit.
  18. The Mets offense is humming, but there are some warning signs. Alonso is striking out 30.6% of the time. Jeff McNeil has a .439 BABIP. Ramos has a 64.1% ground ball rate. Who knows what to make of Rosario yet?
  19. The Mets have missed an opportunity in the past two division series losing a series to the Nationals at home and missing a chance to win or sweep a four game set against the Braves.
  20. With Tiger Woods winning The Masters, the Game of Thrones premiere, and the extensive Hank Aaron interview during the game, the Mets were a complete afterthought yesterday, which is a shame because that was a first place Mets team playing a bitter rival.

Mets Get What They Deserve In Starting Vargas

For all the talk about every game counts, Jason Vargas entered the season as the unchallenged fifth starter. Somehow, he’s failed to clear the subterranean bar set for him this season with tonight being his worst performance.

Vargas lasted just one-third of an inning allowing four earned on two hits and three walks. Now, you may want to say two of those runs were scored after he left the game, but that would be wrong considering he needed 36 pitches to get just one out.

This put the game in Corey Oswalt‘s hands to salvage.

While Oswalt did get out of the inning, the Braves got to him as well scoring four runs off him in the second. To be fair to Oswalt, just like all of last year, the Mets once again put him in a position to fail.

Oswalt was called up earlier in the week to be prepared to make a relief appearance on just three days rest. Then, after the team didn’t pitch him, they had him trying to stay sharp on what was now extended rest. Finally, they asked a starter to hurry up and loosen up to enter a game with runners in scoring position. This is not how you handle or develop pitchers.

Partially because of the Mets being stubborn and plain stupid in trusting Vargas as the fifth starter and partially due to their mishandling of Oswalt, they’d lost what was a winnable game.

Like Vargas, Braves starter Sean Newcomb was bad. After escaping the first inning due to a questionable base running decision by Pete Alonso, he was bad and would not escape the second.

Travis d’Arnaud got the rally started with his first hit since coming off the IL. He and Keon Broxton would score on a Juan Lagares RBI double. Oswalt would help himself and tie the score with a sacrifice fly.

After the aforementioned bad top of the third for Oswalt, the Mets were chasing the Braves all night. The key difference between the Mets and Braves was while the Mets messed around with Oswalt, the Braves had Touki Touissaint. Touissaint was very good for the Braves stabilizing the game and saving their bullpen.

This meant even though Chad Sabodka was shaky in the final two innings, the Braves still had plenty of cushion in what would become an 11-7 Braves.

As if this were not enough, Ron Darling announced he needs to take a leave of absence to have surgery to remove a mass in his chest. More than anything that happened on the field, this was the absolute worst development of the day. Thoughts and prayers go to Darling for a speedy recovery.

Game Notes: Oswalt became the first Mets pitcher since John Maine in 2007 to have a sacrifice fly and a sacrifice bunt. Mickey Callaway was ejected in the first for arguing balls and strikes.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Split Up The Twins

The Mets finished their first homestand of the season going 2-3, and now they are embark on a brutal road trip taking them through Atlanta, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. Here are some observations before the Mets set off for that trip:

  1. Jacob deGrom just didn’t have it. It was bound to happen, but it was still startling to see.
  2. Anyone who even suggests deGrom’s struggles were related to Travis d’Arnaud behind the plate simply doesn’t know anything about baseball. It wasn’t d’Arnaud who caused the chilly weather, nor was it the weather which caused deGrom to miss his pitches by a foot.
  3. Baseball is funny sometimes. After thorough research shows Citi Field suppresses exit velocities, the ball was flying out of Citi Field. Of course, when you have power hitters like Pete Alonso and Michael Conforto that will happen anyway.
  4. In one series, Mitch Garver went from a nameless guy to the second coming of Mike Piazza.
  5. Jason Vargas was terrible, and it is simply inexcusable he was not so much as challenged for the fifth starter spot.
  6. The Mets have gotten away with calling up Alonso saying every game matters while carrying Vargas as the fifth starter and having Tim Peterson in the bullpen. Why do fans just let the Mets get away with pushing narratives like this?
  7. The booing of Brandon Nimmo and d’Arnaud was embarrassing. Mets fans should be better than that.
  8. And just like that, in his last three games, Nimmo is 4-for-10, with two doubles, a homer, three RBI, a walk, and a HBP.
  9. What the Mets did to Corey Oswalt is inexcusable. He effectively lost a year getting jerked around by the team, and the first chance this new regime gets, they call him up on three days rest to sit in the bullpen.
  10. Oswalt should be making Vargas’ start this Saturday, and if he doesn’t the Mets cannot pitch Oswalt until then because they may need him to piggyback that start.
  11. These two games were miserable creating difficult pitching situations. It led to deGrom’s struggles, and it likely led to Jeurys Familia‘s, but that’s now two bad outings from him. Too soon to overreact, but not too soon to take notice.
  12. After J.D. Davis‘ two home run game, he’s back to being Davis. He his 42.9% of his balls on the ground, and he has hit 45.8% on the ground this year. His inability to make a play at third led to Familia getting in trouble, and he almost botched a double play only to be saved by Luis Guillorme making an amazing turn.
  13. With Todd Frazier getting a rehab start at SS, it would seem Guillorme will be the odd man out, which is a shame because he’s doing everything he could do to stay. It’s at the point where he’s having to wear batting gloves because he has blisters from all his extra batting practice. He’s also been really good in the field.
  14. When you have players fighting this hard to stay in the majors, you will get the best results not just from them, but also from the players they are pushing. We are seeing some of that with this team.
  15. Robinson Cano has a knack for the moment with two big home runs already and a walk yesterday. That said, his overall body of work has not been good. He may be a slow starter, but he has never been this slow. It’s something worth monitoring with his age, PED suspension, and the Mets history on this front (Roberto Alomar).
  16. Mets are going to regret waking up the Nationals. They went from a team in trouble to a team who took consecutive road series from the red hot Mets and Phillies.
  17. There may be some holes and warning signs with Alonso here and there, including his having difficulty on two grounders this series, but pointing them out would be being a killjoy. So far, Alonso has been great, and the only things people should point out is how great he has been.
  18. We should not care what his final stat line said. Noah Syndergaard was dominant yesterday, and when you consider how everyone else pitched, he looked all the more so. Really, if not for some poor defense, he gets through the eighth unscathed.
  19. Good for Jay Bruce hitting seven homers so far this season and helping the Mariners to a 12-2 start. He gave the Mets everything he had, and it was not his fault it was a poor fit.
  20. In waht was promised to be a tight NL East, we have the Mets, Braves, and Phillies tied atop the division with a 7-4 record with the Nationals right behind them at 6-5.