Tyler Clippard

Who’s Better: 2015 or 2018 Mets?

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:

CATCHER

2015: Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki
2018: Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki

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: 2018if both replicate their Septembers, this won’t even be close

FIRST BASE

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

SECOND BASE

2015: Daniel Murphy
2018: Asdrubal Cabrera

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

THIRD BASE

2015: David Wright
2018: Todd Frazier

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

SHORTSTOP

2015: Ruben Tejada
2018: Amed Rosario

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

OUTFIELD

2015: Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson
2018: Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Jay Bruce

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.

BENCH

2015: Michael Cuddyer, Wilmer Flores, Kelly Johnson, Juan Lagares
2018: Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares, Brandon Nimmo, Jose Reyes

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

ROTATION

2015: Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Bartolo Colon
2018: Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, Jason Vargas

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

BULLPEN

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

MANAGER

2015: Terry Collins
2018: Mickey Callaway

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

VERDICT

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.

A Scary Mets Halloween Tale

It was a dark night with a faint glow surrounding the crowd.  Then, from out of a dark cave emerged an old man.  On first glance, this old man seemed like a cheery old fellow, but once you looked deep into his eyes, you would discover he would have the most sinister of intentions.

With one scribble across his spell book and one gesture with his hand, he would take the young hero and cast him into a pit never to return.  With next, he would summon a bespectacled robot with the most dastardly of intentions.  The robot would open up his right arm and he would spread pestilence across the field spreading despair amongst the masses. 

By the time our new hero arrived it was too late.  He and his friends would be unable to curb the tide set forth by the sinister old man and his evil robot.  It was as if a spell was cast preventing them from doing the simplest of activities.  Soon, the heroes would be too outnumbered, and they would fall to defeat.  Soon, the dim glow that surrounded everyone would go out as the dejected masses fled hoping one day to return to this place and claim victory . . . victory that would never come.

Of course, this is an attempt at portraying Game 4 of the 2015 World Series in an eerie way.  In some ways, this fails because what happened was far more horrifying.

After a game with some puzzling decisions, including going too far with Steven Matz, Terry Collins would finally make the decision that would really alter the fate of the entire World Series.

Entering the top of the eighth, the Royals were down just one run, and they had the top of their lineup due up.  Considering how frequently Collins used Jeurys Familia for six out saves during the regular season, and considering how up to that point, Familia had allowed just three hits and one run that entire postseason, this was the spot for him.  The Mets needed six outs from Familia to ensure they would tie the series up 2-2.  With the Mets having Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard lined up after that, and with the Royals having lost Game 7 at home the prior year, it seemed like the Mets were in a good position to claim the World Series.

Instead, Collins would go to Tyler Clippard.  Up until that point, Clippard had a 5.06 ERA and a 1.411 WHIP in six postseason appearances.  This was the same Clippard who dealt with a back issue late in the season and would have a 6.14 ERA and 1.295 WHIP in the month of September.  More than that, batters were hitting him hard to the tune of a .268/.323/.536 batting line.

This was decidedly not the pitcher you wanted in this spot.  However, this was the direction Collins went.  The reason was two fold.  The first was this was the formula since the Mets obtained Clippard prior to the trade deadline.  Worse than that was the stated reason.  Collins said he didn’t want to use Familia for six outs because he appeared the night before in Game 3.

Instead of Hansel Robles, Sean Gilmartin, or really anyone else, Collins tabbed his closer to close out a six run lead.  As we watched in horror in Game 4, the ripple effect of that decision was too much to bear.

With that decision, Collins altered the outcome of the World Series, and quite possibly cost the Mets a chance at winning the 2015 World Series.  After that we have seen injury after injury after injury.  Quite possibly, this makes Game 4 of the World Series the scariest of all Halloween tales.

If you don’t believe me, try this.  Instead of putting on the scariest Halloween movie you can think of tonight, try re-watching Game 4 of the World Series.

Citi Field Should Be Open For Halloween

There are probably some logistical issues I’m missing here, but it seems to me the Mets and 28 other teams are missing an opportunity by not having their ballparks open for children on Halloween.

As we have seen, there are different levels of opening up the ballpark.  For paid entry events like a concert or the NYC Bacon and Beer Classic, you are permitted entry within Citi Field.  For other events like the annual Coat Drive, a portion of Citi Field is open like the Team Store.  For others, we have seen either the Rotunda being open or just tables set up on the perimeter of the ballpark.  Whatever, the case, there is a space where fans could bring their children to Trick or Treat.

For the children, it would be a safer environment to do their Trick or Treating.  There’s far less of a concern about the various concerns that surround Halloween from cars driving down the road, tampered candy, and for some, bullies.  There are also children who are deprived of the joys of Trick or Treating just by a function of their not living in a safe neighborhood.

For all of these children, it would also present an opportunity to go to Citi Field, which is the home of their favorite baseball team.

How teams want to organize it would be entirely up to them.  You could have some current or former players.  You could skip the players and just have a mascot like Mr. Met.  There could be a best costume or best baseball costume event.  Really, the door is wide open.

It would also be a good fundraising opportunity.  This could be done as an early food drive for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  If you bring a can, you have the opportunity to go Trick or Treating at Citi Field.  It could also be an extension of baseball’s RBI Program.

As for what gets passed out, it doesn’t really matter so long as it is a fun event.  Children want candy on Halloween, but they would also be happy to receive stickers, tattoos, baseball cards, or really anything fun.  If teams do this right, there will be a number of sponsors at the ready willing to participate.  Likely, these sponors will hand out both candy and swag in the form of a trick or treat bag or other Halloween related items.

If done properly, there is no real downside to this, and it helps grow the game with young fans who will certainly look back and fondly remember their days Trick or Treating at Citi Field.  Certainly, Mets fans can use a Citi Field Halloween memory other than Terry Collins leaving in Steven Matz too long, his going to Tyler Clippard instead of Jeurys Familia to start the eighth, and Daniel Murphy booting an Eric Hosmer grounder.

Overall, unless there are some logistics with the city or with Major League Baseball, this is something the Mets and the other teams not hosting a World Series game should definitely look to do for their young fans.

If not Major League teams, at least minor league teams like the Brooklyn Cyclones.

Dave Roberts Made The Right Moves; Dodgers Lost; It Happens

One of the things that was discussed often by John Smoltz, and really people everywhere was how Dave Roberts chose to manage Game Two of the World Series.  The end result of those moves was Brandon McCarthy, who was added to the World Series roster in place of Curtis Granderson, made his first pitching appearance since October 1st.  The end result was McCarthy allowing a two run homer to George Springer that ultimately decided the game.

Roberts had to go with McCarthy because he was his last reliever available as he went to his bullpen early in this game.  Oh, and by the way, all hell broke loose after the seventh inning.

In back and forth games like this, there is seemingly nothing a manager can do to stem the tide.  Sure, it helps to have your best relievers available, but Roberts already used his.  He was probably right to do so.  To that end, here’s each move he made:

Top of the 5th, Dodgers Down 1-0

At this point in the game, Justin Verlander had a no-hitter going, and he looked every bit as hittable.  At the time, Rich Hill limited the Astros to an Alex Bregman RBI single, but he was far from dominant allowing three hits and three walks.  At this point, if you are going to win this game against Verlander, you’re really hoping someone runs into one to tie it and let your dominant bullpen win the day.  For that to happen, you have to keep it as close as possible.  As a result, going to Kenta Maeda was precisely the right move.

Top of the 6th, Game Tied 1-1

Joc Pederson did exactly what the Dodgers needed tying the game with a homer.  After Maeda did his part keeping the Astros off the board in the fifth, he allowed a lead-off single to Carlos Correa.  After a Guerriel pop-out, the Astros lineup was L-S-L, which called for a left-handed reliever.  Roberts brought in Tony Watson, who did his job by getting Brian McCann to hit into the inning ending double play.

Top of the 7th, Dodgers Leading 3-1

Out of nowhere, Chris Taylor earned a two out walk, and Corey Seager hit a good pitch to give the Dodgers an improbable 3-1 lead.  The team would have only two hits until extra innings, but they certainly made them count.  To try to hold the lead, Roberts, who had pinch hit for Watson in the sixth, went to Ross Stripling.

If you want to ding Roberts, this is the spot.  After Stripling allowed a lead-off walk to Marwin Gonzalez, Roberts pulled Stripling from the game.  Apparently, he was not willing to let the game get out of hand, so he instead brought in Brandon Morrow, who induced Josh Reddick to hit into a double play to prevent the inning from escalating.

Top of the 8th, Dodgers Leading 3-1

Roberts tried to get some extra outs out of Morrow, who only threw nine pitches in the seventh.  After a Bregman ground rule double just out of the reach of Puig, Roberts didn’t take chances.  He went to Kenley Jansen, who has been as dominant a postseason closer we have ever seen this side of Mariano Rivera.

Yes, the Astros would get one back here, and they would tie the game on an unlikely Gonzalez homer off Jansen, but as any Mets fan that saw Tyler Clippard set the stage for disaster in Game 4 of the World Series, it was the right move.

In the end, Roberts went full bore for this win with a day off today giving his pitchers an extra day of rest.  He had the pitcher you wanted on the mound to close out the game to take a commanding 2-0 series lead.  Just because Jansen failed doesn’t mean Roberts was wrong.  Rather, it means it didn’t work.  Those aren’t always the same thing.

If the Dodgers win, we’re talking about Roberts the genius.  Fact is, we still should be because he did a great job getting his team on the precipice of a 2-0 series lead.

Thank You Team USA

Well, it surprisingly took until the fourth World Baseball Classic for the Americans to finally win won.  It was well worth the wait, and it was great watching a group of likeable players win this thing.  For the most part, I developed a deeper appreciation for a lot of these players.

For starters, Adam Jones may now be my favorite non-Met.  He had some truly clutch hits, and his robbery of Manny Machado is a play that will live on forever.  More important than that, he was a player who had a lot of pride representing his country.

Marcus Stroman was absolutely dominant in the World Baseball Classic.  For a pitcher who has pitched in big games for most of his young career, Stroman took his game to a higher level last night carrying a no-hitter into the seventh.  It was great to see a fellow Long Islander there is one of the biggest moments in USA baseball history.

It was a delight to see Brandon Crawford play shortstop.  With him playing on the West Coast, and my being a Mets fan, I really only get to see him a handful of games a year.  You really appreciate how good he is watching him play on a prolonged basis.  I also wasn’t aware of just how much he’s improved as a hitter.

Ian Kinsler went out there, and even he had to show a little enthusiasm on the field.  He’s really about as good a second baseman as there is in baseball.

Tanner Roark, Drew Smyly, and Danny Duffy really stepped up and pitched better than really anyone could have reasonably expected them to pitch.

While they didn’t play as large a role as they did in 2015, it was nice seeing Tyler Clippard and Daniel Murphy win something.  They certainly deserved it . . . even if Murphy didn’t deserve being frozen out.

Certainly, Paul Goldschmidt showed he was a bigger man than anyone could have expected.  We did not hear one word from either him or Murphy about being benched in favor of lesser players.  Speaks a lot about their character and their dedication to winning.  Same goes for Jake McGee, who certainly could have been tabbed by his manager to get some of the bigger left-handed hitters out in the WBC.

In one game, Alex Bregman showed us why he’s going to be the next young star in this league.  That Astros infield is going to be terrific next year and for the next decade.

Nate Jones, Sam Dyson, and Mychal Givens are much better relievers than anyone might’ve known prior to the tournament.  They certainly showed that during the WBC.  For that matter, Luke Gregerson showed everyone he’s a closer in this game.

I certainly was able to appreciate the skill Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton bring to the table on a game-in and game-out basis.  They play the game hard, and they play it the right way.  It was easy rooting for them in the WBC.  Still, that won’t prevent me from rooting against them during the regular season.

Andrew McCutchen is really just a great player no matter what position you play him in the outfield.  The Pirates are going to be happy they held onto him.

No, still not going to say anything nice about Eric Hosmer.

I still can’t believe Pat Neshek got out of that jam against Japan.

We all know Andrew Miller was better than he was in the WBC, but it is a testament to him that he was still willing to go out there and give whatever he could give the team despite him not being ready to be Andrew Miller yet.  Same goes for David Robertson.

Buster Posey and Jonathan Lucroy showed everyone that despite the fawning over Yadier Molina, they are the two best catchers in the game.  USA was able to share time between them and not miss and beat.  Also, Lucroy had the best chest protector I’ve ever seen on a baseball field.

Nolan Arenado just went out there and played hard.  Again, you have to admire someone who goes out there and just fights through it.

I appreciate what Chris Archer and Mark Melancon did.  I wish their teams would’ve permitted them to participate more, but you have to admire anyone who is willing to go out there and contribute whatever they can.  Certainly, Archer’s impact was lasting because he went out there the first game and dominated.  He set the tone for this entire starting staff.

Finally, it was great seeing Willie Randolph out there coaching.  He is a great baseball person that has not gotten the second chance to manage he so rightfully earned.  He is class personified.  There is no greater example of this than his wearing Jackie Robinson‘s 42 with permission from Robinson’s family.    Throughout his entire career, he has deserved better from baseball, and I am hoping he finally gets that chance he so richly deserves.

Overall, it was great watching a group of Americans who were easy to root for.  Top to bottom these were classy players that played hard, and they were players who had pride in representing their countries.  I can thing of no finer collection of players to go out there and not only capture the title, but to also raise the interest in the WBC.

Well done.

Dreading the USA v. Puerto Rico WBC Matchup

In international competition, I am an American, and as such, I will always root for the USA to prevail.  In the Olympics, I root for the USA regardless of what Rangers are playing for the other country.  I love Henrik Lundqvist to death, but I would root for an American team full of Islanders, Devils, and Flyers if it was ever a USA-Sweden gold medal match.

The same goes for the WBC.

Surprisingly, the closest ties USA has to the Mets is Daniel Murphy and Tyler Clippard, both of whom were on the 2015 pennant winner.  Mostly, the USA roster is full of players you would rather not root for as a Mets fan.

There’s Eric Hosmer whose name cannot be mentioned in my house anymore.  I loved watching Michael Conforto take Danny Duffy deep in the World Series, but to be honest, Duffy got the last laugh.  Tanner Roark is a National, who also did all he could do to help blow the 5-0 lead against the Dominican Republic.  While I generally like both Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford, when seeing them play, you cannot help but be reminded of the heartbreaking loss in the Wild Card Game last year.  Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton have been a thorn in the Mets side on a Marlins team that seemingly exists just to be a Mets spoiler.

Overall, while I have found USA to be a likeable team, there are enough players there that harbor bad memories.

The Puerto Rican roster, on the other hand, is full of players I absolutely love.

Carlos Beltran may be the next Mets player inducted into the Hall of Fame.  T.J. Rivera grabbed a hold of the second base job last year after a number of injuries left the Mets searching for a capable player at the position as the team was fighting for a Wild Card.  Rene Rivera helped Noah Syndergaard improve as a pitcher last year.

Worse yet, Seth Lugo is going to start against the USA in what should prove to be an incredibly important game.  Lugo was an vitally important pitcher who helped get the Mets back to the postseason last year.  He may prove to once again be an extremely important pitcher for the Mets next year whether he is in the rotation, the bullpen, or both.  As a Mets fan, you do not want to see Lugo get bashed around by the USA in the WBC.  Rather, you want to see him continue to improve and be in the best possible position to help the Mets next year.

Not to be wishy-washy, but you hope that Lugo pitches well and the Americans still win.

And yes, despite all the Mets ties to Puerto Rico, including Angel Pagan, who was once a pretty good Met, I am still rooting for the USA tomorrow night.  Mostly, I am rooting for the USA because I am an American.

Also, ever since Aaron Heilman delivered that ill fated pitch, I can never bring myself to root for Yadier Molina.  At least in that respect, my Mets fandom and country pride are aligned.

Go USA!

Mets Don’t Need To Sign Left-Handed Reliever

In 2015, the Mets not only won the National League East, but they went all the way to the World Series.  During that wonderfully unexpected run, the team left a bevvy of left-handed relievers in their wake.  Time and again, the team tried to solve their presumed issues with not having a left-handed reliever to no avail.  Here is a look at all the left-handed relievers they went through that season:

  • Josh Edgin – needed Tommy John surgery before the season began
  • Jerry Blevins – appeared in seven games before suffering a broken arm
  • Alex Torres – pitched to a 1.515 WHIP and was released on August 4th
  • Sean Gilmartin – used as a long man in the bullpen due in part to his reverse splits
  • Jack Leathersich – shuttled back and forth between New York and Las Vegas before his season ended due to him needing Tommy John surgery
  • Dario Alvarez – appeared in six games before suffering a groin injury that cost him the rest of the season
  • Eric O’Flaherty – 13.50 ERA and left off the postseason roster

The lack of the left-handed pitcher did not prevent this team from making it to the postseason or to going to the World Series.  The main reason is that team’s right-handed relievers could pitch to left-handed batters.  In fact, the batting lines suggests the right-handed relievers performed just as well as a LOOGY would:

The moral of the story is that you do not need a left-handed pitcher to get out left-handed batters.  Rather, you need pitchers who are effective at pitching against left-handed batters to get them out.

There are some caveats.  First, the Mets did go with Jon Niese as the left-hander in the bullpen during the 2015 postseason, and he did get some big outs including a key strike out of Anthony Rizzo in the NLCS.  Second, Blevins was an extremely important part of the 2016 bullpen.  Without Blevins in the bullpen, it is quite possible the Mets do not get one of the two Wild Card spots.  This creates a problem as Blevins is now a free agent – a free agent that is about to cash in on a terrific year.

So far, we have seen arguably less talented left-handed relievers get big contracts.  Brett Cecil received a four year $30.5 million contract from the Cardinals.  Marc Rzepczynski received a two year $11 million contract from the Mariners.  Mike Dunn received a three year $19 million from the Colorado Rockies.   According to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, Blevins was already seeking a three year deal worth $5-$6 million per season.  Based upon the contracts already handed out, it is easy to assume Blevins will get the deal he is seeking.

However, it should be noted that deal is likely not coming from the Mets.  As already noted, Sandy Alderson does not want to give out multi-year deals to relievers.  Furthermore, it does not not appear the Mets are interested in investing $6 million a year on a left-handed reliever.  With that being the case, the Mets best chance might be to revert to the 2015 model thrust upon them.

From that team, Familia, Reed, and Robles still remain, and they are still effective as ever in getting left-handed batters out.  Here were their stats from the 2016 season:

  • Familia .239/.315/.313
  • Reed .210/.264/.269
  • Robles .179/.287/.299

There is also some promise with Edgin.  Despite him not fully regaining his velocity after his Tommy John surgery, he still showed the ability to get left-handed batters out in a very small sample size.  In 2016, he faced 20 left-handed batters, and he limited them to a .235/.300/.235 batting line.

Between, Familia, Reed, Robles, and Edgin, the 2017 Mets may already have sufficient bullpen depth to get left-handed batters out.  Moreover, with the Mets resportedly wanting to cut payroll from where it currently stands, the team may be forced to stick in-house and instead seek a seventh inning reliever.

That is certainly a justifiable route because the bullpen as constructed already has enough depth to get left-handed batters out.  As such, the team does not need to add a left-hander for the sake of adding a left-hander.

Mets Final Season Grades – Late Inning Relievers

Throughout the season, I attempted to grade the different Mets players performances for each month of the season. In determining the year end grades, the aggregate of the monthly grades given was considered, but it wasn’t conclusive.  For example, one player’s awful month could be more than offset by having an incredible month.  Also, those decisions were made in the heat of the moment.  There has been a cooling off period in giving these finals grades, and with that, there is time for reflection.  It should also be noted the Wild Card Game did have some impact on these grades as that game was part of the story of the 2016 Mets.  Overall, the final grades assessed considered the monthly grades, but also took into account that player(s) overall impact on the Mets season (good or bad).    For the seventh set of grades, here are the Mets spot starters:

Jeurys Familia B-

Familia would not repeat the dominance of his 2015 campaign, but still he would be among the best relievers in the game.  He would set a new Mets record for most saves in a season, beating the record he shared with Armando BenitezIn fact, he led the majors in saves and games finished.  He pitched more innings and made more appearances than any other closer.  Overall, he was 3-4 with 51 saves, a 2.55 ERA, and a 1.210 WHIP.  He was a deserving All-Star, and he cemented his place among the best closers in baseball.  Time and again, he answered the call . . . until he didn’t.

In the Wild Card Game, admittedly a game the Mets do not reach without him, Familia was not up to the task.  We can over-emphasize the three run homer hit by Conor Gillaspie, but that was just a part of an inning where Familia didn’t have his command, and he wasn’t fooling the Giants hitters.  It was a tragic end to what was a good season for Familia.

Addison Reed A+

One thing that was lost during the 2016 season was the eighth inning was supposed to be a question mark with Tyler Clippard departing in free agency.  We forget about this because Reed was just that great this season.  In 80 appearances, he was 4-2 with a 1.97 ERA and a 0.940 WHIP.  Overall, he probably was the best relief pitcher in the National League.  He combined with Familia to create the best 8-9 combination in the major leagues, and together, they walked a tight rope night-in and night-out.  With no margin for error, they made each game a seven inning game, and they were among the biggest reasons the Mets made the postseason.

Jim Henderson C

Henderson’s 2016 season is an example of why baseball is cruel.  After losing almost two full years due to shoulder injuries, he not only made the Mets out of Spring Training, but he was also handed the seventh inning job.  In April, Henderson excelled with his 95+ MPH fastball.  He was helping turn it into a six inning game with Reed and Familia behind him.  Then disaster struck.

After throwing a career high 34 pitches, Terry Collins would put him back in there a day game after a night game.  Collins’ excuse was it was a must-win game.  It was April 13th.  Henderson had nothing that day, and he would get lifted after loading the bases (Hansel Robles got out of the jam).  After that game, Henderson lost a bit off his fastball, and he would eventually need a long stay on the disabled list with a shoulder issue.  Even with the stay on the disabled list, he was never the same.  A promising year ended with him going 2-2 with a 4.11 ERA and a 1.371 WHIP.

Fernando Salas A

Salas came to the Mets at the waiver trade deadline, and he had a similar effect that Reed did for the 2015 Mets.  Essentially, Salas locked down the seventh inning, and he allowed the Mets to pull back a bit on the usage of Reed and Familia.  He responded well to the workload and the Mets pitch framing.  Overall, he would make 17 appearances going 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA and a 0.635 WHIP.  The Mets and Salas should be interested in a reunion this offseason.

Editor’s Note: the grades for April, May, June, July, August, and September/October can be found by clicking the links.

Jeurys Familia Is Still a Great Closer

One thing that is strange about narratives is that they don’t stay static.  Rather, narratives are dynamic and are often change wildly with a strong recency bias.

Last year, the narrative was the Mets blew Game 4 of the World Series because Terry Collins didn’t go to his closer to start the eighth inning.  Instead, Collins brought in Tyler Clippard, who proceed to walk consecutive batters after retiring the first batter he faced.  With runners on first and second with one out, Collins finally went to Jeurys Familia.  Familia induced a ground ball that went under Daniel Murphy‘s glove loading the bases.  Two singles later, the Mets 3-2 lead turned into a 5-3 deficit.

In Game 5, again Collins was blamed for the loss because he did not go to Familia.  After eight absolutely brilliant innings, Collins allowed Matt Harvey to talk himself into pitching the ninth inning.  After a leadoff walk and an RBI double, Collins brought in Familia to now protect a 2-1 with a runner in scoring position and no outs.  Familia induced the groundout he needed for the second out.  On the play, Eric Hosmer famously tried to score from second while Lucas Duda infamously threw the ball away.

With that, Familia technically blew saves in Games 4 and 5 of the World Series.  The main reason why Familia blew these saves is his manager brought him into difficult situations and his defense abandoned him.  Now, all of a sudden, the narrative has shifted to he’s a choke artist.

In the Wild Card Game, Familia took the loss.  It started with a Brandon Crawford opposite field double to left-center.  On the play, Yoenis Cespedes, perhaps due to his lingering quad injury, made no effort whatsoever to cut the ball off before it went all the way to the wall.  Familia then struck out Angel Pagan, who had been attempting to bunt Crawford to third.  Familia then had Joe Panik 2-2, but he couldn’t put him away.  With Panik walking, there were runners on first and second with one out.  Familia got a sinker up in the zone, and Conor Gillaspie hit a three run go-ahead homer.  From there, Familia got out of the inning, but it was too late.  After the third out, he was booed off the Citi Field mound.

That’s right.  Mets fans booed one of the best closers in the game off the mound.  Worse yet, the narrative became Familia can’t pitch the big one anymore.

That’s nonsense.  In the World Series, if Murphy fields a ground ball, or Duda makes an even average throw home, Familia saves both of those games.  For what it’s worth, Familia had only allowed one earned run in the 2015 postseason, and neither were in that game.

Furthermore, focusing on those games ignores the work he did to get the Mets to the World Series.  In Game 1 of the NLDS, Familia came on in the eighth inning to bail out Clippard.  Familia would have to go 1.1 innings to get the save.  In the Game 5 clincher, Familia pitched the final two innings not allowing a baserunner to send the Mets to the NLCS.  In Game 1 of the NLCS, he came on for Harvey, and he pitched the final 1.1 innings to earn the save.  Between the NLDS and NLCS, Familia was a perfect 5/5 in save opportunities with a 0.00 ERA and a 0.414 WHIP.  This run is conveniently ignore in discussing how clutch Familia is.

What is also ignored is the phenomenal work Familia has done since taking over and becoming the Mets closer.  Yes, his work has been phenomenal.

Over the past three seasons, Familia has thrown more innings than any other reliever in baseball.  Over the past two seasons, he leads all major league closers in appearances, innings pitched, games finished, saves, and multi-inning saves.  Between the 2015 and 2016 seasons, he has made 154 appearances pitching 155.2 innings recording 94 saves with a 2.20 ERA and a 1.105 WHIP.  The advanced stats also indicate he’s been great as he has had a 2.56 FIP and an 180 ERA+.  In the 2016 regular season, he only allowed one home run.

During the 2015 season, when the Mets were not getting any offense due to a mixture of injuries and poor performances, the Mets bullpen had no margin for error.  From the time David Wright got injured until the Mets acquired Cespedes at the trade deadline, Familia made 42 appearances pitching 45.2 innings.  In that time frame, he recorded 24 saves with a 1.97 ERA and a 0.985 WHIP.  Each and every one of those 24 games he saved was important as for much of the summer, the Mets season was on the brink of disaster.  If not for Familia, who had been unexpectedly thrust into the role due to the injuries and suspension of Jenrry Mejia, the Mets may not have lasted in the NL East race.

All Familia would do for an encore this season was record the most saves by a Mets closer in a single season.  His 51 saves would also stand as the single season record for a Dominican born pitcher.  For a Mets team that tied with the Giants in the standings for the Wild Card.  By the Mets winning the season series against the Giants, they had the right to host the Wild Card Game.  In the three games he pitched against the Giants, Familia recorded two saves without allowing an earned run.  Without Familia, the Mets play the Wild Card Game at AT&T Park.

The Mets also finished one game up on the St. Louis Cardinals, each and every single one of these saves were important.  If Familia falters just one or two times more, the Mets miss the postseason.

Overall, if Familia is not the best closer in baseball, he’s in the conversation.  He’s also more durable than the other closers, and as we have seen with his work throughout the 2015 and 2016 seasons, he is clutch.  His defense failing him, and his making one bad pitch to Gillaspie doesn’t change that.  It’s a given that he will be the Mets closer next season.  And he should be, because if the Mets have any designs on getting back to the postseason, they are going to need Familia to repeat his successes from the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

Then in the 2017 season he can go out there and remind everyone just how clutch he is.

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

Teixeira Gets the Last Laugh

After tonight’s loss, the only person angrier than Mets fans was fake tough guy Mark Teixeira

In an interview earlier in the year with Carton and Governor Chris Christie, he admitted he would never charge the mound, but he sure is good at pulling a hissy fit.  

He would then have a very late slide into Neil Walker because sliding late into a defenseless player is tougher than being a man and facing off against Steven Matz.

It’s hard to imagine Matz throwing at Teixeira even though Teixeira hit a three run homer off of him in his prior at bat to break a 3-3 tie. Matz hadn’t had pinpoint control since he’s been dealing with the bone spurs, the ball was at Teixeira’s feet, and it was an extra base runner with the Mets trailing. In this pennant race, the Mets need all the wins they can get, and they’re not sacrificing games to exact revenge on a .195 hitter. 

Regardless, the Mets should not have been in that position. They were tattooing Yankees starter Chad Green starting with Curtis Granderson delivering the keynote address:

  
It was his 18th leadoff home run with the Mets breaking his tie with Jose Reyes

Granderson has a terrific night going 1-3 with two runs, one RBI, three walks, and a home run. The rest of tur a Mets offense?  Not so much. 

Wilmer Flores was halfway to a Joe Torre (four GIDPs in one game) by the third inning. He killed a first inning bases loaded rally by grounding into an inning ending double play. In the third it was only runners on first and second when he grounded into his inning ending double play. 
In the second, it was Walker who killed a rally with a double play. Given the amount if base runners were left on base, you knew it was going to come back and haunt the Mets. The Mets should’ve score much more than three runs in the first three innings, but what else is new?  

The team was 2-12 with runners in scoring position including Michael Conforto striking out in a big spot in the seventh when he represented the tying run, and Granderson had scored a run on a James Loney ground out to make it 6-4. He was amongst the biggest culprits of the night as six different Mets would leave multiple men on base:

  1. Neil Walker (2)
  2. Yoenis Cespedes (5)
  3. Jay Bruce (3) 
  4. James Loney (2)
  5. Michael Conforto (5)
  6. Wilmer Flores (5)

Between that and Matz allowing six earned over six innings of course the Mets weren’t going to win this one. 

To make matters worse, Teixeira would get the last laugh.  He got into Hansel Robleshead with Robles thinking Teixeira was stealing signs. Robles lost his concentration and his cool leading to a Starlin Castro infield RBI single to Robles. No, Asdrubal Cabrera doesn’t make that play. 

After an uncharacteristically poor performance, Robles was pulled while Teixeira and the third base coach were laughing at him. After Josh Edgin walked in a run against Didi Gregoriousthe only batter he faced, there would be three runs charged to Robles making it 9-4. 

That’s where it would remain as Luis Severino came on and shut down the Mets allowing one earned on one hit and one walk with five strikeouts in 4.1 innings. Walker would homer off Tyler Clippard in the ninth to provide some window dressing in a 9-5 loss. 

With Daniel Murphy going off again for the Nationals, the Mets are a season high 8.5 games out of first place. 

Game Notes: Bruce is now 0-8 with one walk and three strikeouts to begin his Mets career. Despite Collins’ you hit you play philosophy, Alejandro De AzaTravis d’Arnaud, and Matt Reynolds would sit. Cespedes shot an 83 before the game, and he would go  1-5 with two strikeouts in the game.