Tyler Clippard

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.


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


Mets Potential Bullpen Targets

Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia have combined to hold the lead in 33 of 34 chances in which they have been given a lead in the eighth inning or later.  Jerry Blevins, the purported LOOGY, has actually held right-handed batters to a lower batting average while pitching to a 2.08 ERA.  Hansel Robles has been a veritable Swiss Army knife in the bullpen.  One day, he’s pitching 3.2 innings to help preserve the bullpen after a starter gets knocked out a game early.  The next, he’s coming into the game to get the Mets out of a no out bases loaded situation unscathed.  With these arms, the Mets have a dominating bullpen.

However, behind these arms is a question mark.  Jim Henderson has started to pitch well in his rehab assignment.  However, he has been a different pitcher since his ill advised April 13th appearance.  Seth Lugo has pitched six scoreless innings over three appearances.  However, each of these appearances were in low pressure situations, and Terry Collins does not appear to trust him enough to try him in a pressure situation.  Erik Goeddel entered the season with a 2.48 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, and a 9.0 K/9, but he has struggled this year pitching to a 4.50 ERA, 1.143 WHIP, and an 8.4 K/9.  There remains intriguing options in the minors like Josh Edgin, Josh Smoker, and Paul Sewald.  Between this group, the Mets could piece together a fine bullpen.  However, as the Mets are in heat for playoff spot, they do not want to take any chances.

The Mets are even more committed to finding that one bullpen piece considering how the team now has some question marks in the rotation with Matt Harvey‘s season ending surgery, Steven Matz‘s bone spurs, and Noah Syndergaard‘s dead arm.  According to Marc Carig, the Mets lost out on Kevin Jepsen and believe the pricetag for Brewers closer Jeremy Jeffress will be too high.  Further hampering the Mets pursuit are the trades the team has made over the past year and a half.  Still, they are looking to preferably add a reliever who can lock down the seventh inning thereby taking some stress off their starting pitchers.  With that in mind, here are some options the Mets could pursue:

Jeremy Jeffress – As noted the pricetag should be high as Jeffress has the Brewers closer has recorded 23 saves with a 2.35 ERA and a 3.39 WHIP.  He is also under team control until 2020.

John Axford – Axford has some ugly numbers this year with a 5.21 ERA and a 1.579 WHIP for the last place Oakland Athletics.  However, it should be noted that his velocity is still there and he still has the same bite on his curveball.  A new voice and a pennant race could rejuvenate him.  It should also be noted in the postseason, Axford has a 1.42 ERA, 1.026 WHIP, and a 12.8 K/9.

Brad Hand – Like many relievers, Hand has seemingly figured things out in San Diego after having mostly struggled in his first five years with the Marlins.  He has a 2.94 ERA and a 1.269 WHIP this year as opposed to the 4.71 ERA and 1.424 WHIP he had with the Marlins.  Part of the reason for his success is his increased use of his slider which is a pitch that has generated a high percentage of swings and misses.  Hand does profile as the type of pitcher Dan Warthen has had success with during his tenure with the Mets.

Ryan Buchter – The 29 year old career minor leaguer and Sewell, New Jersey native has taken full advantage of his first read shot in the majors with a 2.41 ERA, a 1.098 WHIP, and a 12.5 K/9 in 44 appearances.  Like what Antonio Bastardo was supposed to be, he is a cross-over lefty.  Like his teammate Hand, he relies upon his fastball and slider to get outs.  However, unlike Hand, he throws it with greater velocity with a 94 MPH fastball and an 87 MPH slider.  Again, he is the type of pitcher that typically fairs well under Dan Warthen’s tutelage.

Chris Withrow – In his first season post-Tommy John, Withrow has a 3.38 ERA and a 1.313 WHIP in 33 appearances for the woeful Atlanta Braves.  He is a Mets kind of pitcher as he is a power pitcher out the bullpen that has a mid nineties fastball and a high eighties slider.  He may not come cheap as he is under team control until 2020, and the Braves consider him their future closer.

Tyler Clippard – The main thing that will prevent Clippard from becoming a Met is his contract.  He is in the first year of a two year $12.25 million contract that will pay him $6.15 million next year.  Further diminishing the chances of a reunion is the fact that Clippard is having a career worst season with a 3.53 ERA and a 1.234 WHIP.  Like with Axford, the much cheaper option, the Mets would be hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.  Like with Jose Reyes, the Mets would be hoping he is energized by putting on a Mets uniform again.

Adding one or more of these players should improve the Mets bullpen.  Regardless of whether or not the team adds one of these pitchers, or somebody else all together, they need Familia, Reed, Blevins, and Robles to continue pitching well out of the pen.  They also need Bastardo to figure things out sooner rather than later as it is his struggles that are precipitating this bullpen search. 

Checking-in on the Players the Mets Traded

Over the past year, the Mets have made a number of trades to not only help them go to the World Series last year, but also to help them become World Series contenders again this year.  With Neil Walker returning to Pittsburgh to not one but two standing ovations, and the draft scheduled for later today  it seems like today is a good day to take a cursory view of how the players the Mets traded away are faring.

Kelly Johnson & Juan Uribe for Robert Whalen & John Gant

Robert Whalen – Whalen has made 11 starts for the Atlanta Braves AA affiliate going 4-4 with a 2.88 ERA and a 1.247 WHIP.  At the time of the trade, Whalen was seen as a back of the rotation starter, and his performance this year should not change those impressions.

John Gant – Despite never having pitched above AAA before this season, Gant got a cup of coffee early on with the Braves showing off his very unorthodox delivery.  He predictably struggled pitching to a 6.17 ERA and a 1.714 WHIP in seven appearances.  Gant was sent back down to AAA where he has pitched better.  In eight appearances, he has a 3.14 ERA and a 1.233 WHIP.  He appears on track for another promotion before the year is over, especially with the way the Braves want to sell everything.

Tyler Clippard for Casey Meisner

Casey Meisner – The 20 year old Meisner pitched well for Oakland’s Advance A affiliate pitching going 3-1 with a 2.78 ERA and a 1.052 WHIP in seven starts.  This year, for the first time in his brief career, Meisner is struggling going 0-9 with a 4.55 ERA and a 1.645 WHIP in 11 starts.  At 21, Meisner is still young for his league, and he is still walking too many batters.  If Meiser can make the ncecessary adjustments, he can get back on track to being the mid to top of the rotation starter he was projected to be.

Yoenis Cespedes for Michael Fulmer & Luis Cessa

Michael Fulmer – Fulmer only received three AAA starts before the Tigers felt compelled to bring him up to help fix a beleaguered rotation that included former Met Mike Pelfrey.  Fulmer has shown himself to be every bit the ace people anticipated he might be one day.  He has gone 6-1 with a 2.83 ERA and a 1.175 WHIP.  In his last four starts, he is 4-0 with a 0.32 ERA and a 0.635 WHIP.

Luis Cessa – Cessa was actually traded to the Yankees in the offseason, and he made his major league debut with them.  In his three appearances, he had a 2.57 ERA and a 0.857 WHIP.  In the minors, he has been in the rotation with less success.  In his five starts (with one relief appearance), he is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.214 WHIP.  Ultimately, Cessa has the stuff to be either a back end of the rotation pitcher or a middle reliever.  His brief cup of coffee with the Yankees has shown he does have the ability to pitch in the majors.

Eric O’Flaherty for Dawrin Frias

Dawrin Frias – After the conclusion of the 2015 season, Frias become a minor league free agent.  To date, no one has signed him.

Addison Reed for Miller Diaz & Matt Koch

Miller Diaz – Diaz is struggling mightily for the Arizona Diamondback’s high A affiliate going 0-1 with a 7.76 ERA and 2.414 WHIP in 15 games (inlcuding three starts).  Diaz was seen as nothing more than a major league reliever, at best, and these statistics make that proposition a stretch.

Matt Koch – Koch is having another strong year in AA.  In his five starts, he is 0-2 with a 2.66 ERA and a 1.310 WHIP.  While Koch was seen as a bullpen piece, if he keeps improving the way he has, he may have a shot to stick with the back end of someone’s rotation.

Neil Walker for Jon Niese

Jon Niese – Niese’s early season struggles have seemed to go by the wayside.  While he started the year 3-1 with a 5.94 ERA and a 1.680 WHIP, he has settled down and pitched much better of late.  We just saw him pitch seven innings in beating the Mets. In his last six starts, he is 3-1 with a 2.15 ERA and a 1.141 WHIP.

For the most part, the players the Mets traded are playing well. It shows the Mets gave up valuable pieces for the quality players they received. The hope is the Mets have enough trade assets this year to swing a deal or two like they did last year.

Thank You Tyler Clippard

Last season, the Mets trading for Tyler Clippard was the first sign that the Mets were all-in on the 2015 season. The Mets gave up a very promising prospect in Casey Meisner for three months of a middle reliever. 

When Clippard came to the Mets, he immediately locked down the eighth inning. When the division was still in doubt, from July 28th to September 16th, he pitched 26.1 innings in 26 appearances with a 2.73 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP. He limited batter to a .182/.257/.364 batting line. He combined with Jeurys Familia to make Mets games seven inning games. Combined with the Mets starting pitching, you have a 20-8 August and the Mets putting away the Nationals and the NL East. 

With that, Clippard completed his goal of “chasing down [his] old teammates there in Washington.”  He wanted bragging rights over his old teammates, and he got them. 

Unfortunately, Clippard suffered a back injury. His production fell off significantly. He wasn’t the shut down reliever he was when he first joined the Mets. That Clippard was missed in the World Series. He was the loser in Game Four, which was probably the turning point in that series. After that the Mets apparently felt he didn’t deserve the two-year deal they gave Antonio Bastardo

Personally, I thought with the offseason, Clippard would’ve had time to heal and become that eighth inning option again. I’m still surprised the Mets thought he was worth a potential ace, saw him perform well, and now think he’s not worth a two year deal. Well now, the Mets loss is the Diamondbacks gain. Now, Clippard is an ex-Met after him doing everything he could do to help the team win the NL East. He leaves with those bragging rights.

The Mets now have bragging rights over everyone in the National League. With that, we all owe him a small debt of gratitude.  When he comes out of that bullpen door come this August, he deserves to be cheered.  He deserves that much.

Thank you Tyler Clippard. 

Cespedes Coming Through the Rain Again

Am I the only one that finds it incredibly fitting that Yoenis Cespedes is being introduced during a rainy day?  Remember, it might’ve been a rainy day that brought him here in the first place. 

Roughly half a year ago, there was some hope in the Mets season. The team had just acquired Tyler ClippardKelly Johnson, and Juan UribeMichael Conforto was up with the team and producing well ahead of schedule. Travis d’Arnaud was soon to return. While Mets fans had seen some bad baseball for far too long, things were seemingly getting much better. Then disaster struck. 

There was the inexplicable drama surrounding the failed Carlos Gomez trade. Wilmer Flores was left standing on the field crying. Then we discover the trade didn’t happen. The Mets say Gomez failed a physical. The Brewers said the Mets wanted money in the deal. With all that hovering, the Mets took the field for a rainy day game. They had a 7-1 lead going into the seventh, and a 7-5 lead heading into the ninth. The Padres had two outs and Jeurys Familia had an 0-2 count on Derek Norris

The heavens opened causing the umps to call a rain delay for a game that could’ve ended with one more pitch. The delay nearly lasted an hour. When they game resumed Familia allowed a single to Norris, another single to Matt Kemp, and then a three run homer to one-time trade target Justin Upton. After another rain delay of around two and a half hours, the game resumed seeing the Mets go down meekly 1-2-3 in the ninth. Whatever good feelings and momentum in the season was there, it was seemingly washed away. The fans were angry. 

The rains eventually cleared. There would be a new day both literally and metaphorically when the Mets pulled the trigger on the trade for Yoenis Cespedes. Sure the Mets win the NL East without him, but man, the 2015 season had a different feel to it when he came on board. It was a fun run, and now he’s back. We’re ready for another ride

But first, he’s going to be re-introduced to the fans on a rainy day. Seeing how it was a rainy day that brought him here, I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Welcome back Cespedes.