Travis d’Arnaud

And To Think That I Saw It At Citi Field

* adapted from “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” by Dr. Seuss

When I leave home to go to Citi Field,
Dad always says to me,
“John, keep your eyelids up
And see what you can see.”

But when I tell him where I’ve sat
And what happened each at-bat,
He looks at me and sternly says,
“You did not see all of that.

Stop telling such an outlandish story.
Juan Lagares cannot cover that much territory.”

Now, what can I say
About what I saw today?

All the long way to the game
And all the way back,
I’ve looked and I’ve looked
From the outfield to the bat rack,
But all that I’ve noticed,
Except the green infield,
Was d’arnaud and Matz
At Citi Field

That’s nothing to tell of,
That won’t do, I know . . .
Just the starting pitcher Steven Matz
Hurling pitches to Travis d’Arnaud.

That can’t be my story.  That’s only a start.
I’ll say that a GAZELLE was pitching instead of a Bart!
Add that is a story that no one can beat,
When I say that I saw it at Citi Field.

Yes, the Gazelle is fine,
He gives batters a migraine,
There’s another marvelous pitcher
Who’s stuff is much more insane.
The story could be so much more
If the pitcher I saw were Thor.
An orange and blue capped pitcher’s fastballs are profound,
Rumbling like thunder from the mound!

No, it won’t do at all . . .
There’s another with the ball.

Zack Wheeler is better;
He’s come back round,
And he’s ready to for a start
On the Citi Field mound

Hold on a minute!
There’s something wrong!
The bullpen is the place for this dealer
It’s off to the bullpen for Zack Wheeler,

It’d be much better, it might,
If the start went to the Dark Knight.

Hmmm . . . A Dark Knight . . .
Say – anyone could think of that,
Dick or Kevin or Dan or Pat
Say, even Terry could think of that.

But it isn’t too late to make one little change.
This story is about Yoenis Cespedes!  No longer on the driving range!

He’s got plenty of power and size,
You can see the opposing pitcher with fear in his eyes.
A then, the sound system emits a loud tone,
Cespedes the Lion King!  Perched high on a throne!

Say!  That makes a batter that no one can heel,
When I say that I saw it at Citi Field.

But now I don’t know . . .
It still doesn’t seem right.

A Cespedes swinging a bat that’s so light
Would hit balls around in the air like a kite.

But he’d look simply extreme
With a great New York Mets team!

A team that’s that good should have someone to see it,
Wins coming so fast, the Nationals finding it hard to keep near it.
Nationals always the trailer!  They’ll be out of their mind
Not even Daniel Murphy can get them out from behind.

But now is if fair?  Is it fair what I’ve done?
Before they take the field, they’ve already won.
That’s really too heavy a load for one beast;
I’ll give him some helpers.  He needs two, at least.

Michael Conforto to do the trick,
To guide them after the intentional walk schtick –
It takes a lineup to do the trick.
They’ll never lose now.  They’ll race at top speed
With Curtis Granderson, himself, in the lead.

The Manager is there
And he thinks it is grand,
And he raises his hat
As they rise from their seats in the stands.

The Manager is there
Sandy Alderson too,
All waving big banners
The stands are becoming a zoo.

And that is a team whose championship is sealed
When I say that I saw it at Citi Field!

With a roar of its motor an airplane appears
The pitcher steps off the mound and everyone jeers.

And that makes a story that’s really not bad!
But it still could be better.  Suppose that I add . . . . . . . . .

. . . A David Wright
Who can stay upright . . .

A big Duda
Swinging sticks . . .

A Jacob deGrom
And his garden gnome . . .

No time for more,
Cespedes’ coming home.

He swung ’round third base
And dashed towards the plate,
The Mets ran up the steps
And I felt simply GREAT!

FOR I HAD A STORY THAT NO ONE COULD YIELD!
AND TO THINK THAT I SAW IT AT CITI FIELD!

But Dad said quite calmly,
“Take the parking pass off the windshield
And tell me the sights
That you saw at Citi Field”

There was so much to tell, I JUST COULDN’T BEGIN!
Dad looked at me sharply stroking the beard at his chin.
He frowned at me sternly from there from the front seat,
“Was there nothing to look at . . . no great feat?
Did nothing excite you or make you jump out of your seat?”

“Nothing,” I said, now becoming more even-keeled,
“But a Matz pitching to d’Aranud at Citi Field.”

The End.

Last year’s story “One Strike, Two Strikes, Three Strikes, You’re Out!” can be found here

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

 

Mets Themed Valentine’s Day

With today being Valentine’s Day, it is only right we get into the spirit of things by being as clever as Bobby Valentine was the time he used eye black to make a fake mustache.  Without further ado, here are some “clever” Mets themed Valentine’s Day lines you may see on one of those cards you used to pass out to your classmates in grammar school:

Jerry Blevins – Jerry?  Hello!  Be my Valentine

Josh Edgin – I’m Edgin my way closer to you.

Jeurys Familia – I want to become Familia with your sexy self.

Matt Harvey – If you thought 50 Shades of Grey was seductive, wait until you see the Dark Knight I have in store for you.

Seth Lugo – Lugo you want to get with this.

Rafael Montero – You might as well be my Valentine because we both know there’s not getting rid of me not matter how awful I am.

Addison Reed – You and Me Addison up to a great Valentine’s Day

Hansel Robles – You’re so hot right now

Fernando Salas – If I had to the same again, I would, my Valentine, Fernando

Josh Smoker – You’re so hot, I can see the Smoker from miles away

Noah Syndergaard – Can you handle this god’s thunder?

Yoenis Cespedes – There’s a lot of Potencia between you and I Valentine

Travis d’Arnaud – d’Arnaud it pains me to be apart from you

Lucas Duda – Duda right thing and be my Valentine

Wilmer Flores – I’ll cry if you put me in the Friends zone

Amed Rosario – Don’t Be Surprised Be Ready

Neil Walker – I would Walker 5,000 miles to be your Valentine

David Wright – It’s only Wright we would be Valentines

Jay Bruce – Let me be the Valentine you regret for years to come.

Michael Conforto – It’s a Conforto to know whether in NY or Vegas we’re Valentines

Curtis Granderson – It’s Grandy being your Valentine

Juan Lagares – You’re the only Juan for me

Brandon Nimmo – Nimmo I’m smiling because of you.

Ron Darling – Be my Darling this Valentine’s Day

Keith Hernandez – I mustache you to be my Valentine’s Day OR How about a Valentine’s Day mustache ride?

Happy Valentine’s Day

The Five Aces Still May Not Pitch in the Same Rotation

Well, it has finally happened.  With Pitchers and Catchers reporting, the Mets dream rotation all has major league experience, and they are all healthy at the same time.  For a fan base that never got to see Jason Isringhausen, Paul Wilson, and Bill Pulsipher all pitch together in the same rotation, this is no small event.

In fact, this is a momentous occasion where some demons can be slain, and yet, there is some debate over whether we will see each and every single one of these pitchers pitch in the same rotation:

Matt Harvey is coming off surgery to alleviate the symptoms of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS).  This surgery does not have the same history as Tommy John, so while there is always reason to believe in Harvey due to his drive and determination, there is some doubt as to how TOS will affect him in the future.

Jacob deGrom is coming off surgery to re-position his ulnar nerve.  As far as pitcher elbow surgeries, this is as easy as it gets.  And yet, whenever a pitcher gets elbow surgery, especially when that pitcher has once had Tommy John surgery, it gives you pause.

Steven Matz has pitched in the majors for parts of two seasons, and he was injury prone in both of those seasons.  Last season, it was a surgery to remove what was categorized as a massive bone spur.  Now that it is gone, he should be free and clear to resume being the pitcher we think he can be.  Still, he is one more injury away from us questioning if he, like Travis d’Arnaud, will ever be healthy.

Zack Wheeler has not taken the mound in over two seasons due to his Tommy John and his difficulties and setbacks during the rehabilitation process.  Fortunately, he seems ready to go, but he is at this point, we have no idea.

Noah Syndergaard has largely come through two seasons unscathed, and he has emerged as the staff ace.  And yet, with his being a pitcher, moreover his being a Mets pitcher, you hold your breath.  While you get excited about him adding muscle and his talk about wanting to throw harder, it should also give you some nervousness.

And yet despite all of these concerns and red flags, this is a great day.  The dream that was set in motion with the Carlos Beltran and R.A. Dickey trades is close to coming to fruition.  And with these five pitchers going to the mound, it is going to be extremely difficult for the opposition to out-pitch this quintet.  It is going to be even harder to beat the Mets when they take the mound.

At some point during the season, we will see all five of these pitchers in the rotation, and if we don’t that might be good news.  The reason?  Well, it could be because either Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo won a job in the rotation, and they pitched well enough the Mets are loathe to move them out of the rotation.

If the Mets truly have seven pitchers capable of being in THIS starting rotation, the Mets should be primed for a great 2017 season.

Tom Gorzelanny Was A Perfect Minor League Signing

If you look at the initial reactions to the Tom Gorzelanny signing, it was met with some anger and derision from Mets fans. It has led to a meme where Mets fans have begun to compare him to sloth from the Goonies:

Obviously, this anger comes from Mets fans wanting the team to do more to sign free agent relievers to fill the obvious holes in the Mets bullpen. Namely, Mets fans wanted the team to go out and sign Jerry Blevins, who for some strange reason remains on the free agent market. Because the Mets signed Gorzelanny and not Blevins, Mets fans have understandably overreacted. They shouldn’t.

Because this is a minor league deal, the Mets are not obligated to carry Gorzelanny on the Opening Day roster like they were Antonio Bastardo last season. Essentially, if Gorzelanny does not show the Mets he is not capable of being a part of their bullpen, they can leave him in the minor leagues as depth.

Now, if Gorzelanny does show he can be a solid contributor out of the bullpen, the Mets only owe him $1 million with incentives that could increase his salary to $2.8 million. Essentially, this is a low risk, potentially high reward signing.

And there is reason to believe Gorzelanny can be a solid contributor in 2017. For his career, he has limited left-handed batters to a .229/.302/.356 batting line. For the sake of comparison, Blevins allowed left-handed batters to hit .255/.313/.324 off of him last year. Now, Blevins has historically been better than that against left-handed batters. However, the Mets are looking to replace Blevins’ 2016 production, and judging from Gorzelanny’s career splits, he is more than capable of that.

Another reason to believe in Gorzelanny is his repertoire. He primarily relies upon a low 90s sinker and a low 80s slider. While he also can throw a change-up and a curveball, while he has gotten older he has more and more relied on his sinker and slider. As we have seen with pitchers like Addison Reed and Fernando Salas, Dan Warthen has been successful working with them to get better results with those pitches as they have had in prior stops. It also doesn’t hurt that Travis d’Arnaud and Rene Rivera are excellent pitch framers that will be able to help Gorzelanny get into pitcher’s counts and get him that borderline called third strike.

Also, consider some of the success he has had against some of the left-handed batters he is sure to see during the 2017 season:

At the end of the day, Gorzelanny may very well be considered a solid minor league free agent signing in the same ilk as Darren Oliver or Tim Byrdak.

On the other hand, it might not work out. But if it doesn’t, so what? It’s a classic example of nothing ventured, nothing gained. The million Gorzelanny is potentially earning should not stand in the way of the Mets re-signing Blevins and/or signing another free agent reliever.

And in fact, it didn’t. Not too long after the Mets signed Gorzelanny, the Mets then re-signed both Fernando Salas and Blevins. 

Still, Gorzelanny wasn’t the guy Mets fans wanted, but he could become the guy the Mets fans want on the mound against a left-handed batter this October.

Jay Bruce Should Listen To Kevin Long

In the three seasons before Yoenis Cespedes became a New York Met, he was a .263/.316/.464 hitter who averaged 24 homers and 87 RBI.  Since becoming a New York Met, Cespedes has been a .282/.348/.554 hitter with 162 game averages of 41 homers and 111 RBI.

In Curtis Granderson‘s first year with the Mets, he was a .227/.326/.388 hitter with 20 homers and 66 RBI.  Over the past two seasons, Granderson has been a .248/.350/.460 hitter who has averaged 28 homers and 64 RBI.

In the three years before the Mets acquired Neil Walker from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Walker was a .264/.336/.438 hitter who averaged 18 homers and 67 RBI.  In his Pirates career as a right-handed batter, Walker was a career .260 hitter with just six home runs over the course of seven seasons.  Last year, Walker was a .282/.347/.476 hitter with 23 homers and 55 RBI in just 113 games.  From the right side of the plate, he was a .330/.391/.610 hitter with eight homers.

In the three years before Asdrubal Cabrera signed a free agent deal with the Mets, he was a .249/.307/.405 hitter who averaged 14 homers and 61 RBI.  Last year, Cabrera was a .280/.336/.474 hitter with 23 homers and 62 RBI.  It should also be noted he was one of if not the best hitter over the last two months of the season.

With this quartet of players, we see a definite trend of what happens when the Mets hitters being working with hitting coach Kevin Long.  Whatever it is he specifically does, he has the ability to help batters not only hit for more power, but also improve their OBP.  While Long’s detractors will point out there are players that haven’t performed well under his tutelage like Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Conforto last year, there are players like the aforementioned players and Daniel Murphy who have improved.  The point is overall hitters tend to improve in terms of OBP and slugging under Long.

With Long’s seeming ability to help players in these two key areas, Jay Bruce would be wise to work closely with his new hitting coach this season.

Over the course of his career, Bruce has been a .248/.318/.467 hitter who has averaged a 27 homers and 82 RBI a season with most of his damage being done at The Great American Ballpark where he is a .254/.328/.500 hitter. Basically, Bruce has basically been a slugger that not only does not know how to draw a walk, but he is also a product of his former home ballpark.  At least that was the perception.  That perception was not helped when Bruce hit .219/.294/.391 in 50 games with the Mets last season.

This is a large reason why he did not garner much interest on the trade market.  It may very well be a reason why he will have difficulty getting a large free agent deal next offseason.

It’s odd when you think about it because Bruce has the potential to be a 30 HR/100 RBI hitter.  He is your prototypical slugger who has been a three time All Star, two time Silver Slugger, and has a top 10 MVP finish in his career.  There is real talent there.  He just needs help to become a more well-rounded hitter.  As we have seen with most of the Mets roster, Long has helped the Mets hitters on that front.

If Bruce does improve his OBP and he hits for more power, the Mets are going to have the left-handed power threat they thought they were getting when they acquired him in exchange for Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell.  He is also going to help garner the interest for his services that we just not present this offseason.  Overall, the working relationship between Bruce and Long can be a mutually beneficial relationship.

It’s a relationship both Bruce’s and the 2017 Mets’ future hinges upon.

Trivia Friday – First Player Called Up to the Majors

With the Mets entering the 2017 season with an infield of Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, David Wright, and Asdrubal Cabrera along with Travis d’Arnaud behind the plate, it is safe to assume the Mets are going to be one of the first teams that will need to call up a player from the minors.  Can you name the first player the Mets have called-up from the minors since the start of the 2010 season?  Good luck!


Ruben Tejada Jason Isringhausen Ryota Igarashi Kirk Nieuwenhuis Aaron Laffey Wilmer Flores Kyle Farnsworth Eric Campbell Rafael Montero

Is There Still Hope for Kevin Plawecki?

When the Mets and Rene Rivera avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $1.75 million salary, it was an indication Rivera was going to return to the Mets as the backup catcher.  This also means the former supplemental round draft pick Kevin Plawecki is likely going to start the 2017 season as the starting catcher for the Las Vegas 51s.

Based upon the 2015 and 2016 seasons this is where Plawecki belongs as he has proven he is not yet ready to be a major league catcher.  In 121 major league games, he has hit .211/.287/.285 with four homers and 32 RBI.  Last year in AAA, he hit .300/.348/.484 with eight homers and 40 RBI in 55 games.  These were not outstanding numbers, especially for the Pacific Coast Leauge, but they represented a marked improvement over what Plawecki has shown in the majors.

At this point, the question is Plawecki destined to be a major league player, or is he a AAAA player like Eric Campbell, who just signed a deal to play third and hit cleanup for the Hashin Tigers.  The fact is with Plawecki turning 26 this February, it is still too early to determine.  However, we have seen some good things from him to believe that he still can be a major league catcher.

While it was once believed Plawecki’s true value was as an offensive catcher, he has established himself as a good major league receiver.  In his two years with the Mets, Plawecki has rated as a good pitch framer.  Additionally, while the advanced stats for catchers are flawed, Plawecki has posted an 8 DRS in his brief major league career showing he is above average defensively behind the plate.  This is impressive when you consider he has only thrown out 25% of base stealers as a major leaguer.

For the sake of comparison, Rivera has a reputation as a very good defensive catcher, and he has a career DRS of 12.  On a per inning basis, Plawecki has established himself to be the better defender.  However, it should be noted that Rivera has had more success throwing out base runners with his career mark of 36%.  What has held Rivera back in his career has been his bat.  In parts of eight major league seasons, Rivera is a .213/.264/.332 hitter who averages three homers and 15 RBI a season.

Looking at the data, it could be argued that right now Plawecki is actually a superior player to Rivera right now.  However, it should be pointed out Rivera is a 33 year old journeyman catcher.  When the Mets drafted Plawecki in the 2012 supplemental round, they were certainly hoping for more than just a journeyman catcher.

Ultimately, it will be Plawecki’s bat that decides whether he will be a journeyman, a career backup, or a bona fide major league starting catcher.  Before he was called-up to the majors, many believed Plawecki would hit.  For example, before his first call-up in 2015, The Sporting News stated:

Plawecki is a solid, reasonably polished hitter who should be an adequate contributor on offense. Overall, Plawecki has solid plate recognition, a consistent swing path and good raw power. He opts for contact over power in game settings, which will help his average but can result in weak contact on pitches he should be trying to drive.

Others felt that Plawecki had the potential to be an offensive force in the majors with, “One talent evaluator who has seen Plawecki likes as a solid everyday catcher in the majors, with enough power to hit 15-20 home runs a year.”  (Mike Vorkunov, nj.com).

However, that is not the Plawecki we have seen in the major leagues.  As a major leaguer, Plawecki has shown a tenency not just to pull the ball, but also to hit an exceedingly high rate of ground balls.  Moreover, he infrequently makes hard contact.  In today’s day and age of shifting, this has led to a number of easy ground outs to the left hand side of the infield.  As a result, we see Plawecki with a low batting average and a minuscule slugging percentage.

However, the talent is still there.  It is also important to remember really has not gotten sufficient time in AAA to develop.  In fact, he only played in 57 games at the level before he was rushed to the majors due to a Travis d’Arnaud injury in 2015.  As we saw in 2016, when he got an extended stretch of 55 games in AAA, while working with hitting coach Jack Voigt, he began getting on base more consistently and driving the ball more often just as he had done earlier in his minor league career.  At a minimum, this extended stay in AAA showed Plawecki still has promise.

Only time will tell whether Plawecki will be able to hit at the major league level.  However, in his career, we have seen he has the ability to hit.  More importantly, we have seen he has the ability to be a good catcher behind the plate.  Ultimately, Plawecki has a future in the major leagues due to his strong work behind the plate.  Accordingly, despite his early career struggles, Plawecki still has value.  Therefore, it is way too soon to give up on Plawecki.

With that said, he is going to have to show the Mets something sooner rather than later before the team justifiably moves on from him.  The Mets have d’Arnaud at the major league level, and Tomas Nido is not too far behind him.  This means that sooner or later Plawecki is going to have to do something in AAA or the majors to show the Mets he deserves one more chance to show he can be more than a journeyman.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Minors.

New Year’s Resolutions

We are headed for another season of Mets baseball where we hope that once again these Mets can make it all the way back to the World Series.  Since 2015, we have seen a definite pattern emerge with the Mets, and I think as Mets fans, we should all try better this year to not react, some would say overreact, when one of the following things we know will happen, happens:

  • The Mets are not going to sign another big name free agent this offseason.  It’s not going to happen, and it just may happen that Jose Bautista winds up in the division and on a fairly discounted deal;
  • Jerry Blevins will sign an extremely reasonable two year deal . . . with another team;
  • Instead of fortifying the bench, the Mets are going to go with this year’s version of Eric Campbell -> Ty Kelly;
  • Terry Collins is going to use and abuse Addison Reed to the point where his arm may actually fall off.  This will go double if Jeurys Familia gets suspended;
  • Hansel Robles is going to go through a stretch in one week where he pitches five innings, 1/3 of an inning, two innings, and three innings, and everyone is going to wonder why his production has fallen off;
  • The infield of Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, David Wright, and Asdrubal Cabrera will be ridden hard despite their injury histories and capable backups like Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes on the bench;
  • Just pick a random player on the roster – he’s going to be on the DL for over two months with a back injury;
  • There will be a game with Reyes in center and Juan Lagares in right;
  • Travis d’Arnaud is going to get injured, and Kevin Plawecki is not going to be able to replace his bat in the lineup;
  • Matt Harvey will complain about the six man rotation that will be implemented at some point during the season;
  • Robert Gsellman will make an appearance throwing well over 100 pitches in five innings or less;
  • Rene Rivera will hit under the Mendoza Line;
  • T.J. Rivera will be raking in AAA and not get called up despite the Mets needing some offense;
  • Michael Conforto will not face one left-handed pitcher all season;
  • Yoenis Cespedes will not dive for a ball, run out a pop up, or run hard to first on a dropped strike three;
  • Curtis Granderson will have a better OBP than Reyes, but Collins will continue to lead off Reyes and his sub .330 OBP;
  • Collins will not know if Brandon Nimmo is faster than Flores and it will cost them a game;
  • No matter where he winds up this offseason, and no matter how poor his year is going, Chase Utley will hit two home runs in a game he faces the Mets;
  • Sandy Alderson will mortgage a part of the Mets future because he didn’t make a move in the offseason that he should have made;
  • Paul Sewald will pitch well in AAA, but the Mets won’t call him up because they would rather rip Sean Gilmartin or Gabriel Ynoa from the Vegas rotation to make a relief appearance on 2-3 days of rest;
  • Both Josh Smoker and Robles will be fully warmed up, and Collins will go to Smoker to pitch to the lefty;
  • For reasons the Mets themselves can’t quite explain, Rafael Montero will spend the full season on the 40 man roster;
  • d’Arnaud will come off the disabled list, play well for a stretch, and the Mets will lose him and Steven Matz in the same game;
  • Matz will have appendicitis, but the Mets will talk him out of the surgery because they need him to start against the Reds;
  • Dilson Herrera will tear it up every time he plays the Mets;
  • Wherever he lands, Jay Bruce is going to hit 30 homers and 100 RBI;
  • Collins will show up in the dugout without wearing pants, and the Mets still won’t fire him;
  • Noah Syndergaard will get ejected from a game for throwing inside.  A player who takes a bat to one of the Mets infielders in retaliation won’t;
  • Fans will clamor for Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith to get called up all season long;
  • Seth Lugo will bounce between the bullpen and rotation so much, MLB is actually going to test him to see if his arm is actually made out of rubber;
  • Bartolo Colon will pitch so poorly against the Mets, fans will wonder why they wanted a bum like him back;
  • R.A. Dickey will not only beat the Mets, but he will throw the team into a week  long offensive funk causing some fans to decry the trade;
  • One or more pitchers will get hurt, and fans that even question if the Warthen Slider could be an issue will be mocked mercilessly;
  • Some way some how Jon Niese will pitch for this team;
  • Rather than build Tom Seaver a statue, the Mets will issue #41 to Niese upon his return to the team;
  • Daniel Murphy will have another terrific year for the Nationals, and some Mets fans will still defend the decision to let him go;
  • Ricky Knapp will make a solid spot start for the Mets causing fans to think he is the second coming;
  • Mets will trade a good prospect for Kelly Johnson; and
  • Despite all of this the Mets will make it to the postseason

Honestly, I give it until April 9th when Collins declares the last game in a three game set against the Marlins is a must-win game.

Re-Sign Fernando Salas

With Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia in the fold, the Mets have their eighth and ninth innings guys set up for next year. In 2016, that tandem was the best in baseball. However, it was also the most taxed. The duo pitched more innings than any other reliever combination in the major leagues. The main reason is that the Mets played many close games that necessitated Terry Collins going to the whip with them time and time again. It was needed in the regular season, but as we saw in September and the Wild Card Game, they were beginning to show some signs of fatigue. With that, obtaining a seventh inning reliever, preferably one with closing experience, should be a high priority this offseason.

With that in mind, the Mets should re-sign Fernando Salas.

Salas had a Reed-like impact on the 2016 Mets. In 17 appearances, Salas was 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA, a 0.635 WHIP, and a 9.9 K/9. With that, Salas completely took over the seventh inning, and he allowed both Reed and Familia some rest down the stretch. Understandably, between his usage and his statistics prior to joining the Mets, you could expect him to regress. That’s almost assuredly true of his 0.635 WHIP. However, his regression would not be as troublesome as one would have you believe because, like Reed, Salas has benefited tremendously from the Mets exceptional pitch framing.

Keep in mind, there was not change to Salas’ stuff or his pitching patters when he became a Met. It is similar to Reed who became a completely different pitcher when he became a Met. Before joining the Mets, Reed had a 4.20 ERA and a 1.275 WHIP. In Reed’s season plus with the Mets, he has a 1.84 ERA and a 0.957 WHIP. When Reed became a Met, he didn’t develop a new pitch or pitching patters. Rather, it was the Mets catchers getting the extra strike for him.

It is something Reed emphasized when he said of Travis d’Arnaud, “There’s been a couple of times just this season that I’ve went back and looked at video just because I wanted to see how low the ball was, and how good of a strike (d’Arnaud) made it look. He’s the best I’ve ever thrown to at doing that. Just the way he frames the ball, it’s unbelievable. He makes balls that are four or five inches below the zone look like they’re almost right down the middle by just the way he flicks his wrist. I couldn’t even tell you how he does it.” (ESPN.com)

Given the pitch framing having a similar impact on Salas, you could expect Salas to have a similarly terrific 2017 season.  With that, Collins can be more judicious in how he uses both Reed and Familia.  This would permit all three pitchers to be fresh come the stretch run to the 2017 postseason; and hopefully, dominant all the way up until the World Series.

Another important point is that pitching in New York is a completely different animal. Some guys can do it and others can’t. The best and most recent example of this was Antonio Bastardo. Prior to joining the Mets, Bastardo had a 3.58 ERA and a 1.198 WHIP. He spent 2015 with the Pirates, and he was 4-1 with a 2.98 ERA and a 1.134 WHIP. Those numbers were why the Mets gave him a fairly lucrative deal for a seventh inning reliever.

Sure enough, Bastardo was terrible with the Mets. Bastardo made 41 appearances with the Mets with a 4.74 ERA and a 1.420 WHIP. Things got so bad, the Mets actually welcomed back Jon Niese and the Mets actually giving the Pirates some money in the deal. Naturally, Bastardo pitched better with the Pirates with him having a 4.13 ERA and a 1.250 WHIP in 28 games for them.

Simply put, Bastardo is the risk you take when you sign free agent middle relievers who have never pitched in New York. At the time of the signing, no one knew if Bastardo could pitch in New York. Conversely, we found out that Salas absolutely could pitch in New York, and that he could pitch with a postseason berth on the line in New York.  With that in mind, the Mets should make every effort to bring back Salas to pitch in the bullpen next year . . . regardless of what happens with Familia.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online

Cutting Payroll Is Unacceptable

Every Mets fan was elated the Mets signed Yoenis Cespedes to a four year $110 million contract.  With that contract on the heels of Neil Walker accepting the $17.2 million qualifying offer, it appeared as if the Mets were finally out from under the Madoff disaster, and they were ready to spend like the big market team they were.  Turns out we were wrong . . . very wrong.

As the Winter Meetings come to a close, Sandy Alderson met with reporters, and he informed them that the Mets are not only done spending, they actually need to shed payroll before Opening Day.

That’s right.  Alderson expects the Mets to be below $150 million before Opening Day.  According to Spotrac, a payroll under $150 million would put the Mets in bottom half of payroll in the major leauges.  Worse yet, reducing the payroll would actually mean the Mets 2017 payroll will be lower than the Mets year-end 2016 payroll.  The payroll will be lower despite the Mets coming off back-to-back postseason appearances, the Mets having twice increased ticket prices, and attendance having gone up each year since 2013.  With increased revenues, there is no reason for the Mets to reduce payroll.

Now, payroll isn’t everything.  As we saw in 2015, it is possible to compete without having one of the top payrolls in the majors.  Ultimately, it is not payroll that wins, it’s talent.  Looking over the Mets major league roster, the team still does not have everything it needs to win in 2017.

First and foremost, the bullpen is in disarray.  The Mets are likely to lose Jerry Blevins to free agency, and it is likely the team will lose Fernando Salas.  Right there, the Mets need to obtain another LOOGY unless you believe Josh Edgin will suddenly find his lost velocity or Josh Smoker‘s entire career of reverse splits will suddenly reverse itself.  Morevover, the Mets will need a seventh inning reliever, which is something the team has seemingly always needed in the Sandy Alderson Era.  Further compounding the issue is the prospect of a lengthy Jeurys Familia suspension.  With all those factors in mind, this team is 2-3 arms short in the bullpen.

Speaking of arms, it is questionable the Mets have enough starting pitching.  Yes, the team does seem to have seven starters, but most of them carry question marks and/or innings restrictions.  Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz are all coming off season ending surgeries.  To ask them to make 30 innings and throw over 200 innings may be unrealistic.  Both Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo helped pitch the Mets to the postseason last year, but they will likely be on innings restrictions in 2017 meaning if they are in the Opening Day rotation, they will likely need to be shut down by September.  Finally, no one can reasonably expect anything from Zack Wheeler after he hasn’t pitched in over two years.  With that in mind, the Mets could use a veteran starter who could eat up innings as the fifth starter, and also could serve as the long man in the bullpen once the Mets are ready to hand the reigns to a Gsellman, Lugo, or Wheeler.

The bench could probably use some help as well.  Rene Rivera is a nice backup catcher, but he’s better suited on a team that has a catcher who is not as injury prone as Travis d’Arnaud.  Arguably, the team could also use another bat for the bench, especially when you consider the battle for the final spot on the bench will be between Ty Kelly and T.J. Rivera.  Given Kelly’s switch hitting ability, and Terry Collins apparently fondness for him, it is likely Kelly will win that competition.

Overall, these are a lot of holes to fill.  Arguably, being able to trade Bruce will fill one of them, but will it?  If the Mets are indeed looking to slash payroll, how could the team take back salary in the deal?  Even assuming the Mets can bring back salary in the deal, doesn’t that mean the team will be prevented from adding another player or two in free agency?

Ultimately, that’s the problem.  The team’s needs are not likely going to be filled internally unless you believe Wheeler will be a dominant reliever, Sean Gilmartin will return to his 2015 form, Gabriel Ynoa will take a huge stride forward in his development, and Kelly starts improving at 28 years of age.  It is nice to hope this will all work out, but as history tells us, it is rare that everything breaks right for a team in one year.  No, the gaps will have to be filled by acquiring players, which will cost money.

Unfortunately, the Mets once again seem out of money.  It’s getting old, and sooner or later, it is going to cost the Mets a chance at the postseason as it nearly did last year.  When the team is raising ticket prices and the fans are still coming to the ballpark, that isn’t alright.  It’s about time the Mets start spending to at least address their needs in the offseason.