In the Mets first two games against the Washington Nationals, they have let them know this isn’t going to be a repeat of the 2017 season. The Mets are back, and they are once again a force to be reckoned with.
Really, this series has been a time warp back to August 2015. There is Yoenis Cespedes hitting a big home run. Jacob deGrom out-pitched Stephen Strasburg. Every time the Nationals seem to get ahead, it seems like their bullpen lets them down while Jeurys Familia and the Mets bullpen steps up.
We’ve seen the Mets catchers in Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki do a masterful job pitch framing. Their pitch framing has led to called third strikes directly leading to Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon getting ejected in consecutive games. Yes, the Rendon one was suspect, but when you’re so frustrated, you’re flipping the bat at home plate, you create an opportunity for an over-eager umpire to eject you.
Sure, you can say the Mets are not beating the Nationals at their best. Daniel Murphy is on the disabled list. Arguably their best player to start the season, Adam Eaton, went on the disabled list. They’re going to miss Max Scherzer in this three game set.
Name all the caveats you want, the Mets went to Washington, and so far, they have taken the first two games of this and the season series. As a result, the Mets are off to their best start since 2006. That season, the Mets were the best team in baseball, and they ran away with the division.
With Mickey Callaway at the helm, that and much more is possible. That much has been proven with the Mets taking the first two games from the Nationals.
In the Mets first game against the Nationals, the Mets let the Nationals and all of baseball know that at their best, this Mets team is as good as any in all of baseball. Now, that’s easy when you have Jacob deGrom on the mound, Michael Conforto returning to the lineup, and Yoenis Cespedes hitting homers. The next question and perhaps the real question is what happens when these factors weren’t present.
Brian Goodwin would draw a two out walk, and he’d quickly steal second base on the duo of Matz and Travis d’Arnaud. On a 3-2 with a chance to get out of the inning, Pedro Severino singled up the middle, and the speedy Goodwin dared challenge Lagares’ arm:
— New York Mets (@Mets) April 7, 2018
That’s the Gold Glove Lagares who re-emerged last year. Whether or not his new swing and approach are for rule almost seems inconsequential when he plays center this way.
Another note here is in this game, you got to see all that d’Arnaud is as a catcher. When his pitchers aren’t even bothering to hold on base runners, much like Matz didn’t in this game, he’s not going to have a real shot to throw out anyone trying to steal a base. The Nationals know that better than anyone, and they stole five bases in five attempts off of him.
However, he offsets that deficiency in other ways. As we see in the Lagares play, he’s exceptional in fielding a throw, blocking the plate, and getting the tag down. Really, he’s the best catcher in baseball on the front. He’s also a very good pitch framer. That came into play on a day when Mets pitchers would record 10 strikeouts while walking just three.
That pitch framing led not to not just a third inning strikeout of Anthony Rendon, it also led to his ejection on what was a horrible overreaction by Home Plate Umpire Marty Foster:
Anthony Rendon got ejected for this? pic.twitter.com/2moGgjPOWK
— Kenny Ducey (@KennyDucey) April 7, 2018
That ejection was the Mets gain because Rendon is a great player who kills the Mets.
Even with Matz pitching well, the Mets still could not get ahead of Gio Gonzalez. That’s not unusual because he came into this game 14-5 with a 2.93 ERA against the Mets in his career. That left the Mets with little margin for error. That margin of error went away on two plays centered around Todd Frazier.
The first play was in the fourth inning. Jay Bruce hit a two out double to right. The much maligned Glenn Sherlock could have sent Frazier to have him challenge Bryce Harper‘s arm. It would make sense with two outs and Matz due up next. Instead, Sherlock stopped Frazier, and Matz struck out.
This decision was magnified in the fifth when Frazier threw a ball away on a Michael Taylor grounder. After a Goodwin sacrifice bunt, Severino plated him with an RBI single giving the Nationals a 1-0 lead.
What made the game interesting and the start of this season interesting was how the Mets immediately responded. In the sixth, Frazier atoned for his error by hitting an opposite field one out double that nearly went out. He’d then score on a d’Arnaud RBI single (the other aspect of his being a complete catcher) tying the game at 1-1. The Mets would have a chance to get the lead, but Jose Reyes could not deliver in a pinch hitting situation.
On came Hansel Robles.
To start the 2018 season, he has been a bit of a revelation. He went from send down to Triple-A to start the year to getting a big sixth inning opportunity against Harper. Mets fans expected him to melt down and point to the sky. Well, in his defense, it was a a really good pitch:
Great freeze frame on SNY of this Bryce Harper home run. Took a fastball that may have been off the outside edge and slammed it 107.7 mph + 405 ft the other way. pic.twitter.com/X577w2SJ3T
— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) April 7, 2018
All this proved was Harper is a great player. What Robles proved from there was he could settle in, limit the damage, and give the Mets a chance. The Mets took that chance with some exceptional base running in the seventh.
Amed Rosario led off the inning with a single up the middle, and he’d fly around the bases on the ensuing Asdrubal Cabrera RBI double getting just ahead of the Severino tag. Not to be outdone, Cabrera would go from second to third on a Cespedes grounder to short. Knowing Ryan Zimmerman can’t throw, the Cabrera, who can’t really run, read the situation perfectly and took the extra base.
After the pinch hitting Conforto was intentionally walked, Cabrera scored on a Frazier RBI groundout. The Mets finally had the lead at 3-2, and it was time to see if this so far improved Mes bullpen could hold the lead.
Rhame proved up to the task by getting former Met Matt Reynolds to groundout. What was surprising was where Rhame succeeded, Jerry Blevins didn’t as he issued a one out walk to Harper. This set the stage for Jeurys Familia.
In what was his biggest moment since he faced Conor Gillaspie in the 2016 Wild Card Game, Familia was in a position to get a big save. With him needing to get five outs, he was going to be tested. That should say tested in theory. The Nationals were no match for him, and as a result, the Mets came away with a 3-2 victory.
It’s April and the season is barely a week old. However, this is a different Mets team. They’re getting the most out of every ounce of their ability. They’re playing smart baseball. They’re fighting. They’re special. They’re showing that to the Nationals, and they may soon show it to the rest of baseball.
Game Notes: Mets pitching has recorded 10 or more strikeouts in six of the seven games they have played. The one time they did not record 10 strikeouts was in their sole loss of the season.
It’s been a few years since Matt Harvey was Matt Harvey. However, there was hope we would see him again because now the Mets had Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland. That was not only the tandem who you wanted to help fix a pitcher, but they also believed in Harvey. Their belief was enough to convince the Mets not to consider trading him. That faith was something to help give the Mets fans faith in him and the team again in 2018.
For one night, we saw a glimpse of Harvey being a very good pitcher for the Mets yet again.
No, it was not quite vintage Harvey, but he was real good. Instead of pumping it up to the high 90s to near triple digits, he was living in the lower 90s. It didn’t matter because it was a good moving and well located fastball. Put another way, it was good enough to generate a number of swings and misses. Really, he had all of his pitches working for him including his change-up which looked like a real weapon for him.
However, in some sense this actually was vintage Harvey. Through his 86 pitches, he walked just one and struck out five. He limited the Phillies to just one hit and no runs. Like vintage Harvey, he got no run support.
For a while, it looked like it was going to be the Phillies who plated the first run. AJ Ramos was in immediate danger after a Cesar Hernandez bunt single and a Carlos Santana walk. Ramos bore down getting some luck on a hard hit liner hit by Aaron Altherr right at Todd Frazier, and he struck out Rhys Hoskins.
Callaway then went to Jerry Blevins in the sixth inning because that was the moment it called for his LOOGY to get the biggest out of the game. Blevins did just that by getting Odubel Herrera to pop out.
Having weathered the storm, the Mets offense began to go to work against Ben Lively. Before the sixth, Lively had actually matched Harvey zero for zero. However, in the bottom of the sixth, he would be done in by his control and his defense.
Lively put on Yoenis Cespedes by plunking him. Initially, it looked like Lively was going to stop a rally from building as he got Jay Bruce to hit what should have been a double play ball. The only problem for the Phillies is third baseman Scott Kingery stayed home at third. With no one there to field a throw, the only play was at first.
With the previous snow out, the Mets decided to skip Seth Lugo in the rotation. With him stretch out to start, and with him having no obvious chance to start over the upcoming week, he was in great position to pitch multiple innings. Lugo did just that by mowing down the Phillies. In his two innings of work, he struck out four of the six batters he faced. The two who did manage to make contact didn’t get it out of the infield.
That left Jeurys Familia his old familiar spot in the ninth inning looking to save a close Mets game. It wasn’t an easy one. A leadoff walk to Altherr quickly turned to first and third with one out. Kingery battled, but he eventually fouled out with Wilmer Flores making a nice play by the dugout. That led to a game ending ground out, and Familia saving the 2-0 win.
One of the things which really stood out in the game was the difference between the Mets and the Phillies choices for manager. Callaway seems in charge, and he has the Mets playing good baseball. More than that, his bullpen management tonight was phenomenal. Gabe Kapler has been a mess, the Phillies are failing to be in position to turn double plays, and the Phillies are now 1-3.
It certainly doesn’t hurt Callaway and the Mets when Harvey is pitching this well.
Game Notes: Jose Reyes got the start making him the last Mets position player to make a start this season. After drawing a walk in his first at-bat, he was thrown out in his stolen base attempt. Frazier had another good game going 2-4 with a run, double, and an RBI.
After how great Opening Day was for the Mets, you’d think the only change that would be made was starting Jacob deGrom. It would’ve been justified with the Cardinals starting another right-handed pitcher in Michael Wacha. That’s not what happened.
In Game 2 of the Mickey Callaway Era, we’re learning this is not a manager who is one for maintaining the status quo. Rather, this is not someone afraid to upset the Mets Home Run Apple card. He’s going to make an informed decision, and he is going to run with it even if it is unpopular.
And because of that, before first pitch today, he was quite unpopular.
Asdrubal Cabrera, the only Mets Opening Day starter to not get a hit was moved from cleanup to leadoff.
Callaway had a sound basis for his decisions. Wacha has reverse splits, and these players hit left-handed pitchers better. deGrom has a high fly ball rate, and Lagares is the best center fielder in baseball. And yet, despite all that, Callaway opened himself up for criticism.
Those critics were silenced immediately as Cabrera led off the bottom of the first with a double. He would eventually score on a Todd Frazier two RBI double.
— New York Mets (@Mets) March 31, 2018
On the day, Cabrera was 3-5 with a run, the aforementioned double, and an RBI. With that performance, he more than justified his manager’s decision.
Lagares and d’Arnaud would as well.
In the fourth, d’Arnaud would hit the first homer by a Mets player this year. Overall, he was 1-3 with a run, walk, homer, and an RBI.
Yoenis Cespedes would hit the second of the season with a fifth inning blast.
Lagares would also shut everyone up going 2-4 with a run.
Even with deGrom struggling to find it, he still allowed one run on four hits while allowing just one walk and striking out seven over 5.2 innings
The end result was the Mets dominating the Cardinals again. For the second time in as many days; the Mets chased the opposing starter, and they tacked on runs against the opposing bullpen.
For a second straight game, the Mets bullpen looked good.
Swarzak was the only issue on the day and not just because Matt Carpenter homered off of him to pull the Cardinals within 5-2. The real issue was Swarzak left the game with a strained oblique.
This led to Callaway, a former American League pitching coach, having to make a double switch. Yes, it may be overblown, but Willie Randolph did have an issue with it early in his career.
When Callaway made the switch, it was Jeurys Familia coming in for the four out save. It was a throwback to how he was used in 2015. Fortunately, Familia looks as great as he did then.
With that power sinker back in the high 90s, Familia is unhittable. He was unhittable striking out two and recording the save.
So again, Callaway pushed all the right buttons, and the Mets won another game. In the future, these decisions may not work out as well as it has in the first two games, overall, with Callaway making informed decisions like this, they will work out more times than not.
If that happens, Mets fans will give him the benefit of the doubt because the Mets will be winning games and heading to the postseason.
Game Notes: Callaway joins former Mets manager Joe Frazier to begin his managerial career by winning the first two games of a season. No Mets manager has won three straight games to begin their career.
Frazier’s first inning RBI double was the first of his career.
Entering the season, Yoenis Cespedes made the bold declaration the 2018 Mets were better than the 2015 Mets. Now, if you recall that 2015 team, it did feature players like Eric Campbell and John Mayberry. However, those players were not on the team at the same time as Cespedes. When Cespedes joined the Mets, he was on a much better roster, a roster which went all the way to the World Series.
With that consideration, it is certainly bold for Cespedes to make that declaration, but is he right? Let’s take a look:
Just looking at those names, you may be quick to think not much has changed in the catching situation. In reality, everything is different, and the main difference is these catchers stand on much different footing.
The 2015 season was d’Arnaud’s best as a player with him posting a 126 OPS+ and emerging as an elite pitch framer. Plawecki was overmatched at the plate, but he did handle the pitching staff exceptionally well. Since that time, both had gone on to disappoint in 2016 and much of 2017.
Things changed at the tail end of 2017. Plawecki finally looked like the player the Mets once thought he would become. d’Arnaud would finish the season with a strong September. As a result, they will look to begin the 2018 season in a unique time sharing agreement designed to keep both healthy and effective all year long.
VERDICT: 2018 – if both replicate their Septembers, this won’t even be close
2015: Lucas Duda
2018: Adrian Gonzalez
In 2015, Duda hit .244/.352/.486 with 27 homers and 73 RBI. He was as streaky as he ever was unable to carry the team when they needed his bat most, and he almost single-handedly beat the Nationals in a key late July series.
Gonzalez is coming off the worst year of his career, and he is still dealing with back issues which requires him to warm up two hours before the game starts.
VERDICT: 2015 – Gonzalez may not be around long enough to make a bad throw
We got a glimpse of what Murphy would became with him slugging .533 over the final two months of the season. Even with the increased power, no one could predict the home run barrage he’d unleash in the postseason.
For his part, Cabrera finds himself at second a year after protesting moving there or anywhere. He’s been a good hitter with the Mets, and he’s been terrific in the clutch. We’ll see if the injuries will permit him to be that again.
VERDICT: 2015 – Murphy’s postseason was an all-time great one
This was really the last hurrah for Wright in a Mets uniform. He was very good in the 30 games he played after coming off the DL hitting .277/.381/.437. He’d hit two emotional homers: (1) his first at-bat since coming off the DL; and (2) his first World Series at-bat at Citi Field.
Frazier has been a solid to somewhat underrated player. Over the last three years, he’s averaged 34 homers, 88 RBI, and a 110 OPS+. He’s been a good fielder averaging a 5 DRS over that stretch.
VERDICT: 2018 – Frazier is no Wright, but he’s healthy
Tejada was not supposed to be the starting shortstop in 2015. After wasting a few chances which led to Omar Quintanilla getting the bulk of the playing time over him, the Mets moved on to Flores. Eventually, Collins and the Mets went back to Tejada because: (1) he had steadier hands; and (2) he had a .362 OBP in the second half. Who knows how everything would have turned out had Chase Utley not broken his leg with a dirty slide/tackle.
Rosario is the future of the Mets. Yes, there are flaws in his game like his very low walk rate. However, this is a uniquely gifted player who is dedicated to being better. He’s electric, and he’s got the skill set to be a superstar for a very long time. For now, we will settle for him being a good defensive shortstop who brings real speed and upside to the table.
VERDICT: 2018 – Rosario’s ceiling is just way too high
Cespedes was just an otherworldly player when he joined the Mets. Despite his only being a Met for a few months, he finished in the Top 15 in MVP voting. Really, the MVP for the Mets that year was Granderson who was a leader in the clubhouse on the lineup. He had the most homers from a lead-off hitter, and he was a Gold Glove finalist. Conforto jumped from Double-A to post a 133 wRC+ and a much better than expected 9 DRS in left.
With respect to the 2018 outfield, we see Conforto is a much better play (when healthy), and Cespedes is nowhere near as good as he was when he joined the Mets. To be fair, there’s no way he could, but he’s still an All Star caliber player. This means the main difference between the squads is Bruce and Granderson.
VERDICT: 2015 – That Cespedes was just that much better.
From the moment Uribe and Johnson joined the Mets, they were game changers. They both brought a winning attitude and game winning hits. In addition to the two of them, Lagares was the defensive specialist, a role to which he is best suited, and Cuddyer was a platoon partner with either Conforto or Duda depending on whether Lagares started the game as well. Overall, it was a veteran bench who provided needed leadership.
The Mets current bench is similar to the 2015 bench with Reyes trying to emulate the Uribe role even if he’s not as productive a player. Flores is Flores, but a better hitter, and believe it or not, a worse fielder. Lagares rediscovered his range he lost in 2015. Nimmo should be in the everyday lineup and leading off, but early indications are he won’t.
VERDICT: 2015 – Uribe and Johnson were just that important
When you consider Vargas was basically brought in to replicate what Colon did in 2015, the question is whether you believe the Mets top four starters are better as a group now or then. Looking at it objectively, Syndergaard is the only one who has improved with no one knowing what Harvey and Matz can still provide.
VERDICT: 2015 – they were just healthier then
2015: Jeurys Familia, Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed, Hansel Robles, Jon Niese, Sean Gilmartin, Erik Goeddel
2018: Jeurys Familia, Anthony Swarzak, AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Paul Sewald
Familia was that good in 2015 that he was able to cover many of the warts in the 2015 bullpen. This resulted in Collins using him for multiple innings more than any other closer that year. Reed would begin his emergence as a great reliever, but a back injury would cost Clippard of his effectiveness. One surprise was Niese performing well as a lefty in the bullpen.
When you include Sewald’s Triple-A experience, this is a bullpen with three closers, six pitchers with closer’s stuff, and a very good LOOGY in Blevins. Even if Familia is not as good as he was in 2015, it won’t matter because there is enough depth here for the Mets to not need to rely upon him as much.
VERDICT: 2018 – they’re just deeper and with more upside
For all the warts and problems Mets fans discovered with Collins, he had his finest year as a manager in 2015. When the ship could have sunk multiple times, he pulled the team together and kept things afloat until the team got healthy and reinforcements arrived. Of course, he followed this up by helping cost the Mets the World Series with a series of baffling decisions which all blew up in the Mets faces.
Right now, Callaway looks like a genius. He’s innovative batting Cespedes second and Rosario ninth. He came down hard on Dominic Smith for being late. His players seem to love him, and the baseball world roundly believes the Mets made an excellent hire. However, the season isn’t even a week old. Even if everyone is a fan at the moment, let’s check back in a couple of months to see if he’s an innovative genius or if he’s a know-it-all who can’t leave good enough alone.
Verdict: 2018 – Collins did cost the Mets a World Series
If you break it down, the 2015 Mets were better at first, second, outfield, bench, and rotation. The 2018 version is better at catcher, third, short, bullpen, and manager. Looking at the breakdown, you can say it’s a 5-5 draw. However, in reality, it’s not. That 2015 team pitching rotation was just so dominant, and hypothetically, if these teams were going to step on the same field, the 2015 rotation would dominate the 2018 version.
That said, there is a lot of talent on this 2018 team, and from what we have seen so far, this is a roster tailor made to what we presume is Callaway’s talents as a manager. If Callaway is indeed as good as we hope it will be, we can see him and Dave Eiland taking this pitching staff as a whole to the next level. If that can happen, and with a little help, this Mets team could accomplish what the 2015 version didnt – win the World Series.
As I do from time to time, we need a “completely serious” analysis and projection of each and every Mets player who is expected to contribute during the 2018 season. While there are many prjoection systems which claim to be fool-proof, there are none that will be this accurate about the Mets:
Sandy Alderson – The other 29 GMs in baseball will be left in complete hysterics when Alderson is calling around for a right-handed reliever to help boost the team’s chances to making the postseason.
Mickey Callaway – The writers will overwhelmingly vote him as the National League Manager of the Year. The most cited reason for giving him the award will be the fact he didn’t insist on playing his worst players or forcing his players to play through crippling injuries.
Dave Eiland– Multiple Mets pitchers will hug him for actually fixing their mechanics and for listening to them when they say they’re hurting.
Tyler Bashlor – When someone notices how similar his name is to the ABC reality show hit The Bachelor, they’ll say how “The Bashlor” is handing out strikeouts like they’re roses. We should all hate that person.
Jerry Blevins– Until he eats a sandwich, the socks given away in his honor will hang around his ankles
Bryce Brentz– He’s going to be the guy who has one or two at-bats this season, and someone is going to invoke his name as a former Met to try to sound like he knows more about the Mets than you know anything.
Jay Bruce– After a four home run game, all Mets fans will want to talk about is when he is going to move to first base.
Asdrubal Cabrera – After a slump, Callaway will move Cabrera down in the lineup causing Cabrera to bring his kids to the clubhouse and have them ask why Callaway doesn’t want them to eat.
Jamie Callahan– His wearing #43 will serve as a constant reminder that not only was he part of the return for Addison Reed, but also how the Mets turned quality MLB players into six right-handed relief prospects. That will be the worst possible sequel to I Know What You Did Last Summer.
Yoenis Cespedes – After an MVP caliber first half, he will feel like he has earned just one game of golf as a reward during the All Star Break. He will immediately be vilified.
Michael Conforto – After a huge cut and a swing and miss, Conforto will wince for a moment thereby causing a passionate Mets fans behind home plate to have a heart attack. This will led to a call for the netting to be filled in and for fans to have to watch the game on a tape delay.
Travis d’Arnaud– During a remarkably healthy season, he will finally be forced to catch Syndergaard, who had spent most of the seaosn with Plawecki as his personal catcher. On the first pitch of the game, Syndergaard throws a 101 MPH fastball which immediately shatters d’Arnaud’s hand.
Jacob deGrom– After a slump, he’s going to look to grow his hair out. Once he realizes his hair cannot possibly reach it’s old length during the 2018, he’s going to grow a really long beard and change his entrance music to “Legs” by ZZ Top.
Phillip Evans– When he cashes in his check for his postseason share, Evans will fondly remember that April pinch hitting appearance.
Wilmer Flores – He will be in such hysterics during his struggles in his first game in the outfield his crying on the field in 2015 will look like a case of the sniffles.
Todd Frazier– It will take many Mets fans a long time to come to grips that Jersey Boy Todd Frazier does not use a Bruce Springsteen song as his walk-up music. That point will finally come when they realize Frank Sinatra is from Hoboken and not NYC.
Robert Gsellman – As he continues to wait in Las Vegas for his opportunity to get back to the Majors, he will eventually care what Sandy Alderson thinks of him.
Matt Harvey – He’s going to pull a reverse Ben Affleck by going from The Dark Knight moniker to Daredevil. He will earn that name by following Eiland’s instructions to throw inside with such reckless abandon to the point where people start to question if he’s gone blind.
Juan Lagares – After once again injuring his thumb on a diving attempt, the Mets will finally realize Lagares’ injures were the result of him literally using a gold glove to try to play center. While they found the answer and solution for the thumb injuries, they will still be perplexed on how to fix his hitting.
Seth Lugo– We won’t know if people keep referring to the hook with him because of his incredible curveball or because of how Callaway won’t let him face a lineup for a third time.
Brandon Nimmo– Despite putting up great numbers, the Mets will inform Nimmo they unfortunately have to send him down to Triple-A due to a temporary roster squeeze. When he’s still smiling through the ordeal, they will force him to seek psychological counseling.
Kevin Plawecki– On a day when the Mets are getting blown out, the frustrated Plawecki will use the last of his six mound visits to derisively tell his pitcher he can pitch better than this. The pitcher will remind him he has a better batting average than Plawecki.
Jose Reyes– One day, he will hit a triple and score on a mad dash to home plate. He will have that old Reyes smile, and it will electrify the crowd. It will also cause everyone to forget that he is one of the worst position players in all of baseball.
T.J. Rivera – After he comes off the disabled list, he’ll deliver in the clutch for the Mets and his teammates will honor him as the player of the game. The Mets will make sure he’s not standing in front of Plawecki’s locker when they take a photo to tweet out.
Hansel Robles– Many will credit him with the discovery of extra terrestrials by his discovery of a UFO in the Vegas night. Years later, Robles will sheepishly admit all he was doing was pointing up at another homer he allowed.
Amed Rosario– To the surprise of us all, Rosario will strike out looking when the pitcher throws him a pitch which he was surprised at and was not ready to swing at. Entire belief systems will be shattered.
Paul Sewald– After having spent a year with Terry Collins, he’s going to be the player most comfortable with having no defined role in the bullpen. However, it will be an adjustment for him not having to warm up multiple times per game.
Anthony Swarzak – The jokes about not knowing how to spell his name will get old by mid-April. The jokes will be rediscovered in August when more fans tune it to a Mets team that is a surprising contender. The jokes will continue to not be funny.
Noah Syndergaard– He will continue his “Twitter Feud” with Mr. Met. It will be discussed ad nausesum during nationally televised games. America will think it’s amusing only fueling the spat even further and giving no hope to Mets fans who have long since found this to be unfunny.
Jason Vargas – When Reyes introduces himself, Vargas will remind him they were teammates in 2007. Both recall that season and will agree it never happened.
Zack Wheeler– He will be converted to a reliever, and in a surprise to us all, he will lead the league in saves. In a surprise to him that league will be the Pacific Coast League.
David Wright– He will apologize and sheepishly admit the Mets crown was an embarrassingly bad idea. He will try to come up with a way to rectify it, but no one will listen to his ideas on the topic anymore.
In honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday, this Mets story has been adapted from “Ten Apples Up On Top!”
One apple pops on up!
Two apples pop on up!
I can do it, also.
Plawecki can hit three!
Three . . .
Three . . .
He can do three
but d’Arnaud can do more.
Kevin has three
but TdA has four.
Look! Watch! Now!
Amed can bop
watch four homers
put the Mets on top.
Amed can bop
he’s swinging free
with four long
homers you can’t see.
Look here, you four.
Watch here, you four.
Wilmer can get five
Who hits more?
Bruce is so good
He will not stop
Now seven apples pop on up!
pop on up!
No pitcher can stop.
Five, six, seven!
Home Run, Home Run, Home Run!
Seven, six, five
four, three, two, one!
Frazier is as good as Bruuuce.
Wow! He has also let seven loose.
And Yo!, Cespedes!.
Eight! Eight pop up!
Eight apples up!
No ball will drop.
Trotting to home plate.
A bat flip and slow trot
to home plate.
But Wright can do nine.
in a blink!
No other team can do this,
Yo hits! Bruce hits!
Wright hits one too.
It’s outta here!
For the orange and blue!
The Mets are so good,
Pitcher’s on the brink.
With nine, he’s gone
and he needs a drink.
Nine is very good.
But then . . .
Conforto will make it ten!
The Mets Home Run Apple
will not drop!
It’s not going to drop.
The Mets hit another
Get out. Get out. You!
It’s a curtain call!
Home Run! Home Run!
Another long ball
The Mets will not let
that apple fall!
Another on the way!
The Mets will not stop.
They will not let
the Home Run Apple drop.
The pitcher doesn’t feel good.
What can he do?
When apples start popping
for the orange and blue.
The Mets will hit them
once they see them.
Home run! We can not
stop watching them.
It has a chance!
No pitcher can stop
Mets apple fun.
That apple will not drop.
Here’s another one!
Another one! Another one!
Another one! Home runs all!
That Home Run apple will not fall.
They cannot get
that apple down.
Home runs! Home runs!
Flying out of town!
Apples pop on up!
What an incredible
No pitcher can
make Mets fun stop!
Our Home Run Apple
is never going to drop.
Another curtain call!
When Mets fans watch
those homers go over the wall.
Since cracking the Opening Day roster in 2014, Travis d’Arnaud has averaged 90 games per season behind the plate with last year being his high at 112 games. This is because d’Arnaud has not withstood to the day-to-day rigors of catching. Each and every year, he deals with a different injury to another part of his body, and as a result, the Mets have been left scrambling to figure out their Major League catching depth.
With the re-emergence of Kevin Plawecki as the Mets catcher of the future and the minor league signing of Jose Lobaton, the Mets are in a much better position from a catching standpoint than they have been in years past. While the Mets have better depth, the end game should be to keep d’Arnaud healthy for a full season.
And for that matter, with Plawecki finally showing the type of bat the Mets believed he had, the team needs to find a spot for him in the lineup.
To that end, a platoon between the catchers makes sense. Fortunately, both catchers seem inclined to go forward with the plan, and they both thrived under the situation last September with d’Arnaud hitting .297/.343/.656 in 20 games and Plawecki hitting .278/.400/.426 in 19 games.
So based upon their production in an admittedly small sample size, we know it could potentially work. What we don’t know is how it should work next season, especially when you consider both are right-handed hitters.
Perhaps, the Mets should approach this from a different perspective. Instead of focusing on what pitcher is on the mound for the opposing team, the Mets should focus on what pitcher is on the mound for their own team. That is, much like what we saw in 2016 with Noah Syndergaard and Rene Rivera, assign a catcher to a Mets starter based upon whom the pitcher works best.
When you look at the numbers, what is quite startling is just how much better the Mets starters numbers are with Plawecki behind the plate. There is a very important caveat to that. Plawecki did the bulk of the catching of these pitchers back in 2015 when they were all healthy and dealing. It was d’Arnaud who had to deal with each one of them having real injury issues which corresponded with diminished stuff and stats.
Basically, this will come down to comfort, and for starters, we know that likely means Plawecki will be catching Syndergaard because as we saw in 2016, he and d’Arnaud have had difficulty getting on the same page. As an aside, it was somewhat telling Syndergaard was caught by Plawecki and Tomas Nido in his two “starts” at the end of the season.
Coincidence or not, there may be something to Plawecki not catching Jacob deGrom at all last season. Given their track record together, which includes deGrom winning the 2014 Rookie of the Year Award and his amazing 2015 postseason, or their both having lower case ds in their last name, there is a rapport between deGrom and d’Arnaud which should continue.
Likely, you want to get each of the catchers 2-3 days in a row when they do play in order to afford them to maximizing rest and getting in rhythm. To that end, d’Arnaud should catch deGrom with the fourth and fifth starter, whoever they may be. This would set up this type of rotation:
- Jacob deGrom (d’Arnaud)
- Noah Syndergaard (Plawecki)
- Jason Vargas (Plawecki)
- Matt Harvey (d’Arnaud)
- Steven Matz (d’Arnaud)
Really, after deGrom and Syndergaard, you can order the pitchers anyway you want, and you can certainly resort them depending on which catcher and pitcher feel most comfortable as a tandem. In the end, what really matters is Mickey Callaway, Dave Eiland, and Glenn Sherlock communicate with the starters and catching tandem to find the best fit for each pitcher. If done properly, we may see the catchers last a full season, and more importantly, we could see the pitching staff as a whole revert to their 2015 level.
If you go to the Mets website, you will see their Promotion Schedule for the 2018 season. If you look, there are some popular promotions like the Noah SyndergaardThor Bobblehead, the Yoenis Cespedes Garden Gnomes, and the Free T-Shirt Fridays. Those are fun and all, but I think we can do better, especially when we see promotions like a Fanny Pack.
No, I’m not kidding, the Mets are giving away Fanny Packs this year.
When you are giving away Fanny Packs and you are recycling old giveaways, it is time for some fresh ideas. Here is a look at a promotional idea for each player on the Mets expected Opening Day Roster:
Jerry Blevins 7 Line Subway Set – a man this thin deserves to have a rail in his honor.
Jay Bruce Ruby Cleats – click them together, and poof! You’re right back at Citi Field
Asdrubal Cabrera Flip Flops– I want to be a Met; I don’t want to be a Met. I’ll only play shortstop; I’ll play second. I’ll play third, but I want to be at second. Definitely, second base, but . . . .
Yoenis Cespedes Yo-ga Mats – he has undertaken yoga to make this finally be his healthy season
Michael Conforto Muppet – The man is Scooter.
Travis d’Arnaud Potato Head – you get the chance to put him together after he falls apart again
Jacob deGrom Hat Hair – in some ways this seems like a recycled idea, but with his hair cut, it’s now just a hat that will get many more people than ever expected to the ballpark.
Wilmer Flores Hanky Night – at some point or another, we have all cried watching this team play
Todd FrazierJersey Night – no, not jersey as uniform, just a celebration of New Jersey with Taylor Ham concession stands and Springsteen playing in the park all night long because in case you didn’t know Frazier grew up in Toms River, New Jersey.
Robert Gsellman Lollipop – if you’re always sticking your tongue out, might as well use it
Matt Harvey Hockey Jersey – Between the Winter Classic being played at Citi Field, Harvey’s notoriety as a Rangers fan, and his pitching arm looking like he was slammed with a Tie Domi cross-check, this seems like a natural fit.
Juan Lagares Foam Thumbs-Up – after all of his thumb injuries, his thumb must have the structural integrity of a piece of foam at this point.
Seth Lugo Wiffleball – With the wiffleball, you too can throw a curveball as a crazy as Lugo’s.
Steven Matz Take Your Grandfather to the Park Day – the only time you’ll see a grandfather spending time with their grandson at a game happier is when he’s there watching his grandson play.
Rafael Montero Sneakers – something comfortable for everyone’s feet as we all walk the park
Brandon Nimmo Mets Toothbrush – if you are always smiling, your teeth better be clean and your breath be minty fresh
Kevin Plawecki Dil – Actually no, let’s not do any promotions featuring the contents of player’s lockers
AJ Ramos Odd Couple Bobblehead – As a Subway Series special, the Mets and Yankees will each have a Bobblehead Day featuring roommates Ramos and Giancarlo Stanton with Ramos obviously playing the part of Oscar Madison.
Jose Reyes Bunting – Fans can get their bunting and leave the park as soon as the Mets are assured of the lead.
Hansel Robles Rocket – You too can point in the sky after watching your Robles Rocket go soaring into the sky
Amed Rosario Daily Planner – No longer will you be surprised about what is coming down the pike, you will now be ready.
Anthony Swarzak Scrabble Tile – No other Mets player has as many high point Scrabble tiles in his name.
Noah Syndergaard Marvel Baby Met – if he’s going to keep up the gimmick of hitting on Mrs. Met, he should get to see what a Thor-Mrs. Met child would look like.
Jason Vargas Left Handed Kitchen Tools – For that left-handed innings eater in you.
David Wright Night – No gimmick or anything. There just needs to be a night to honor David Wright this season. He deserves that much from the team and from the fans.
The one thing that is interesting about Spring Training is you never know which prospect is going to make a name for themselves. Personally, the one that always comes to mind is Dillon Gee having good Spring Training causing then Mets manager Jerry Manuel to take notice. With that, Gee had an important champion in the Mets organization, and when the opportunity finally presented itself, Gee would get a call-up to the majors despite struggling in Triple-A with an injured shoulder. From there, Gee has put together a nice MLB career.
This Spring Training, there are a number of Mets pitchers who will now have the opportunity to impress new manager Mickey Callaway. Aside from the big names like Dominic Smith, here are five names to keep an eye on during this Spring Training:
RHP Tyler Bashlor
Bashlor was added to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft because he has great stuff highlighted by an upper 90’s fastball. He combines that pitch with a sharp curve which has led to the flamethrower putting up big strikeout numbers in the minors. His stuff was a big reason why he quickly went from closing in St. Lucie to closing for a Binghamton Rumble Ponies team who was fighting for a postseason berth.
If there’s any issue with Bashlor, it’s the walks. In his career, he’s walked 5.0 batters per nine, and he walked 5.4 batters per nine in 34 appearances for St. Lucie. Those are unsustainable numbers.
Still, he has immense talent which could one day lead to him closing for the Mets one day. Before we get to that point, he has an opportunity to work with Callaway, Dave Eiland, and Triple-A pitching coach Mickey Abbott to help him eliminate the walks. If he does, he’s going to contribute at the Major League level next year.
LHP P.J. Conlon
For the second straight Spring, Conlon finds himself as a non-roster invitee with a an outside chance to make the Opening Day bullpen as a left-handed reliever. Certainly, Conlon has earned the chance as he knows how to get batters out, especially left-handed batters.
Last year, he limited left-handed batters to a .252/.273/.358 batting line, and in 2016, he was even stingier limiting them to a .216/.267/.288 batting line. Conlon does this because he located well, and he has a great change-up.
However, with his topping out in the 80s, it appears the Mets have their doubts about Conlon’s viability as a Major League starter. In Spring, Conlon is both going to get the chance to prove his stuff will work in the Majors similar to what we have seen with Jamie Moyer and Bartolo Colon. More than that, he’s going to get a chance to show he belongs in the Majors right now to fill a now vacant second left-handed reliever spot in the bullpen.
RHP Corey Oswalt
Oswalt is coming off an outstanding year in Binghamton, and as a result, he was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year. Oswalt did this because he was able to locate all four pitches, and he has shown the ability to throw his fastball in the mid 90s. While all of the Double-A took notice of Oswalt, the Mets did as well adding the starter to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.
It is no secret the Mets have health issues with their starters. Over the past two seasons, almost every Mets starter currently on the 40 man roster has had injuries requiring DL stints lasting more than half a season, requiring surgery, or both. As of the moment, the Mets have not added another starter to the roster, which has created an opportunity to show he should be at the front of the line when the Mets inevitably need another starter.
Right now, the Mets have a trio of injury prone second baseman in Asdrubal Cabrera, Jose Reyes, and Wilmer Flores. If one or any of the three go down with injury, there will be an opportunity for Guillorme, who is arguably the best defensive middle infielder in the Mets organization.
At the moment, we know he’s a great fielder. The question mark on him is whether he can hit enough to play in the Majors. To that end, early indications are Guillorme has increased his launch angle. If true, and the transformation is a successful one, Guillorme’s career will transform to not if he can be the Mets second baseman of the future, but when he will be the Mets second baseman. Given the aforementioned injury histories, he may get his chance next year.
With Tomas Nido‘s BABIP normalizing, he had a disappointing year at the plate for Binghamton last year. While the Mets are understandably high on him due to his defensive skills, Nido’s struggles do present an opportunity for another catcher to distinguish himself.
Essentially, Mazeika is everything Nido isn’t. In his career, Mazeika has shown himself to be a good hitter, who is quite adept at getting on base. What is interesting with him is he has shown glimpses of power; however, it should be noted those flashes have mostly come when he is filling in at first base for extended stretches.
What remains at issue is his defensive abilities. It is an area where the 6’3″ catcher continues to make strides, but ultimately, the question is whether he is progressing quickly enough. With him being a non-roster invite to Spring Training, he is going to get the benefit of getting in work with Major League coaches like Glenn Sherlock, which could help him make the adjustments necessary to take the next step in his career.
Ultimately, if the Mets coaching staff sees what they like with him, he may soon find himself in the Major League mix at catcher. Having watched Travis d’Arnaud‘s injuries the past few years as well as Kevin Plawecki having mostly struggled in the Majors, his chance may come sooner than expected.
Overall, the Mets have a number of Minor Leaguers who are going to get a chance to go out there and show the Mets why they should be an important part of the future. In the end, it is up to them to emulate Dillon Gee and make the most of this opportunity. If they do, we may see them in Queens sooner than anticipated.
Editor’s Note: This was first published on MMN