Tyler Clippard

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. 

Who To Trade?

Last year, the Mets parted with number of pitching prospects in a drive to make it to the postseason for the first time since 2006.  Over the course of this past year, we have seen some of them actually pitching in the major leagues:

  • In 16 starts for the Detroit Tigers, Michael Fulmer is 9-2 with a 2.50 ERA and a 1.089 WHIP.  He is the leading candidate for the American League Rookie of the Year Award, and he should receive some Cy Young Award votes at the end of the season.
  • The Tigers traded Luis Cessa in the offseason to the New York Yankees.  Cessa has pitched briefly out of the bullpen for the Yankees this year.  In his six appearances, he has pitched 13.2 innings going 1-0 with a 3.95 ERA and a 1.244 WHIP.
  • The Atlanta Braves do not seem quite sure what to make of John Gant and his quirky delivery, but they seem to be convinced he’s a major league caliber pitcher.  Out of the bullpen, Gant has made seven appearances with no record, a 6.17 ERA, and a 1.714 WHIP.  As a starter, Gant has performed considerably better going 1-2 with a 3.38 ERA and a 1.179 WHIP.

As we know, the Mets got Yoenis Cespedes for Fulmer and Cessa.  Gant was part of a trade that netted the Mets Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson.  The Mets also made trades of varying success to obtain Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed, and Eric O’Flaherty.  Overall, the Mets gave up valuable pieces to obtain major league players that helped them win the National League Pennant.

As of right now, the Mets are in a similar situation to where they were last season.  They need to assess what they need (starter, reliever, and right handed bat off the bench) and what they are willing to trade to obtain those pieces.  Sooner or later, the right player is going to come along, and the Mets are going to have to decide whether to trade next year’s Fulmer for this year’s Cespedes.  The issue becomes who do you and who do you not trade.  Here is a look at the Mets top prospects teams are sure to be inquiring about.

Amed Rosario

Each and every team is going to inquire on Rosario, and the answer time and time again is going to be no.  It’s for good reason as well.  When the Mets signed him out of the Dominican Republic, his defense was seen as a given, but there were concerns about his bat.  Rosario has put many of those concerns to bed by hitting .321/.372/.464 with 19 doubles, 12 triples, three homers and 56 RBI between St. Lucie and Binghamton.  He was a Florida State Leauge All Star, on the Team World Roster for the Future’s Game, and he was named MLB.com‘s 18th best prospect.  Unless you are talking a Mike Trout trade, Rosario is off the table.

Dominic Smith

This is where things start to get a little interesting as Smith has really taken off since Rosario joined him in AA hitting .336/.398/.626 with five doubles, one triples, eight homers and 27 RBI.  Smith is starting to show the power that could take him from a very good prospect to an elite prospect with the ranks of Rosario.  Already, Smith is a plus defender at first base, and he has the ability to drive the ball gap-to-gap.  If you trade him, you could be trading away the next John Olerud or worse if his power game continues to develop.  If you keep him, you risk him becoming the next James Loney.  Yes, Loney has been a quality major league first baseman, but Loney should never be what stands between you and getting an All Star or difference maker at the trade deadline that could put the team over the top.

Dilson Herrera

It seems that since Herrera came to the Mets in the Marlon Byrd trade, he was touted as the Mets second baseman of the future.  He was someone who could handle the position well defensively while being a real force at the plate.  He showed that he has unique power for the position.  Due to injuries in 2014, the Mets brought him up from AA to play in the majors.  Last year, he was seen as an offensive spark when a number of players went down due to injury.  This year he hasn’t been a consideration at all.  He has struggled in AAA hitting .277/.331/.471 in the Pacific Coast League which is a hitter’s league.  Part of that might be teams figuring him out.  Part of that may be him dealing with a shoulder injury sapping him of some of his offensive ability and having him fall into bad habits at the plate.  He is less patient at the plate, and he is lunging for balls he wouldn’t last year.  If you move him, you are moving the guy that could be a multiple time All Star.  If you don’t, you just might be hanging onto a guy that may never figure it out.

Gavin Cecchini

Cecchini is in a tough position in the Mets organization.  He isn’t seen as good a prospect at short as Rosario, and he has had some trouble handling the position at Cashman Field, who has an infield that is not kind to infielders.  He’s a good hitter hitting .315/.392/.441 with 18 doubles, two triples, five homers, and 40 RBI, and he reminds you of a right-handed Daniel Murphy at the plate.  However, he is not considered as good of an offensive prospect as an Herrera.  Furthermore, his bat does not have the power profile that would play at third or the outfield.  By many accounts, Cecchini will play in the majors one day.  What you don’t know is what he will be.  Will he be the next Murphy at the plate with similar defensive versatility?  With that in mind, will he develop power as he gets older and fills out like Murphy did?  Will he turn into the next Matt Reynolds – a major league utility player?  Again, you don’t want to lose the next Murphy for a rental, but you also don’t want to miss out on someone because you wnated to keep another Reynolds or Joe McEwing type of player.

Kevin Plawecki

Most Mets fans would jump at the opportunity to trade him.  He hasn’t hit at all in the majors despite given extended looks on two different occassions.  However, Plawecki has been a good defensive catcher and pitch framer.  He was also once considered a prospect who could push Travis d’Arnaud for playing time.  Keep in mind that since his demotion, Plawecki is hitting .291/.347/.512 with four doubles, five homers, and 21 RBI in 27 games.  These numbers aren’t exciting, especially in the Pacific Coast League, but it shows he is starting to become more patient at the plate and more selective swinging at pitches.  Also keep in mind that catcher is a position that players tend to develop later in their careers than other positions.  Plawecki could still very well be the Mets catcher of the future, or he could be a solid backup.  He may not be the type of player who should hold up a deal, but he definitively is a player you want to protect if at all possible.

Ultimately, it seems like one of the aforementioned players are going to have to be traded if the Mets want to acquire an impact player like Jonathan Lucroy.  However, they need to be very careful about which one.

In an ideal world, Rosario and Smith are non-starters.  These are two players who are excelling in AA at a young age, and they appear primed to contribute to the Mets sooner than expected.  You do not ever want to give up a Rosario or a Smith.  These players should prove to be fixtures in the Mets lineup for ten plus years.  Still, you’re going to have to give up someone if you are going to want to add that last piece who could put the Mets over the top in 2016.

That piece appears to be between Herrera and Cecchini.  The Mets may very well have a preference between these two players, and coming into this season, it seemed like Herrera.  However, that does not mean they still feel the same way, nor does it mean that other teams think similarly.  Regardless of how the Mets feel, a team may force their hand to trade one or the other to hopefully trade for this year’s version of Yoenis Cespedes.  In the end, it seems like the Mets will be giving up a Herrera or a Cecchini like they did with Fulmer last year if they want to make a move.

The hope is that the player has the impact Cespedes did last year and that the Mets take the next step and win the 2016 World Series.

Editor’s Note: this was also published on Mets Minors