Make no mistake, Carlos Carrasco suffering a tear in his hamstring is terrible news for the New York Mets. He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball, and he’s arguably the second best pitcher on the team even when everyone is healthy.
That said, this injury does present an opportunity for the Mets, or better yet, their pitchers.
As detailed on The Apple, prior to Carrasco’s injury, the Mets currently have a very interesting fifth starter competition between Joey Lucchesi, David Peterson, and Jordan Yamamoto. So far, Lucchesi and Yamamoto have separated themselves from Peterson.
That’s to the Mets benefit because Peterson should probably begin the season in Syracuse. Part of the reason is his control and FIP, and the larger reason is with Noah Syndergaard returning, the fifth starter will be removed from the rotation. The Mets certainly won’t want to do that to Peterson.
Regardless of that, in the small sample size that is Spring Training, Peterson has just been out-pitched by Lucchesi and Yamamoto:
- Lucchesi – 2 G, 5.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 7 K
- Peterson – 2 G, 6.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, K
- Yamamoto – 3 G, 8.1 IP, 7 H, 3 R, ER, BB, 5 K
Looking at the stats, Lucchesi has probably been the most dominant, but he’s walked three. Yamamoto has been strong, and he’s shown the most progress of this trio. In fact, he’s really been much more in the zone than he had been with the Miami Marlins.
Based upon your point of view, you could make a strong case for either pitcher. Other considerations to account for are Lucchesi being 27 and Yamamoto only having one option remaining.
In some ways, margins that razor thin can be dangerous. Part of the reason why is it’s just Spring Training, and these pitchers have only thrown the equivalent of one start.
As we know, aside from the greatness of Jacob deGrom, pitcher performances vary start to start. Making important decisions on that can lead to bad results. We’ve seen it happen with the Mets.
One classic example is the Tyler Yates/Aaron Heilman competition in 2004. Yates lasted seven starts, and Heilman never really would get the chance to start. The butterfly effect of that was the Mets losing Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.
Of course, there’s Glendon Rusch beating out Bill Pulsipher in 2000. Rusch was very good in the Mets rotation that year before pitching extraordinarily well in the postseason that year. Pulsipher flamed out, and he was moved for Lenny Harris, who was great off the bench for that team.
While people don’t typically look at it that way, that’s what’s at stake in fifth starter battles. Remember, the fifth spot in the rotation comes up less than five times the top spot in the rotation does.
Who the fifth starter is does matter. We’ve seen that, and having seen that, it would greatly benefit teams to have more time to make their assessments.
That’s what the Carrasco injury affords the Mets. It allows them to start the season with both Lucchesi and Yamamoto in the rotation.
They can see how they work with James McCann and Tomas Nido in games that matter. They can see them against Major League rosters and going through a lineup more than once. All of that gives them better information to make their assessments.
In the end, Carrasco’s injury created an opportunity for another pitcher to grab a rotation spot. We will now see who is truly up for the task.
One of the fun things about Spring Training is the guy who plays so well, he forces his way onto the Opening Day roster.
In 1996, Butch Huskey hit nine homeruns in the Spring forcing the Mets to make him the Opening Day rightfielder even though he never previously played the position. In 2004, Tyler Yates had a 0.64 Spring Training ERA to get the fifth starter’s job. Yates beat out bigger Mets prospects like Aaron Heilman and Grant Roberts.
These players weren’t even darkhorse candidates to win the positions they ultimately attained on the Opening Day roster. Yet, they were able to win their jobs because they were that good in the Spring. More importantly, the Mets had a spot for these players. The Mets were held competitors for these positions, and these players performed so well that the Mets had no choice but to give them the job.
Looking over the 2016 Mets, there’s only one spot up for competition, and that’s in the bullpen. Right now with Jeurys Familia, Addison Reed, Antonio Bastardo, Jerry Blevins, and Hansel Robles, there are two spots up for grab. The names you’re apt to hear are Sean Gilmartin, Logan Verrett, and Erik Goeddel. Each pitched well out of the bullpen last year and deserve consideration.
Another name that deserves consideration is Jim Henderson.
If you don’t recognize the name, it’s understandable. He’s only pitched in 14 games in the majors the last two years due to a shoulder injury and subsequent surgery. Those 14 games were two years ago when he registered a 7.15 ERA. With all that said, Henderson should not be disregarded. He has a legitimate shot at making the Mets Opening Day roster.
Prior to the shoulder injury, Henderson was a very good reliever. Between 2012 and 2013, he made 97 appearances. He had a 2.98 ERA, 1.180 WHIP, 3.03 FIP, 133 ERA+, and 11.9 K/9. He only allowed 0.9 HR/9. In 2013, when the Brewers made him the closer, he recorded 28 saves.
He can help the Mets. Now that he has completed his rehab, he has a fastball that can touch 95 MPH. He knows how to strike guys out. For his career, he has just dominated righties. He has limited them to .183/.241/.284. At a minimum, he can be a specialist to get out tough right handed batters. Ideally, he can be the Chad Bradford to Blevins’ Pedro Feliciano. In order for that to happen, he just needs to get an opportunity.
Fortunately for him, Terry Collins seems like he is going to give Henderson a legitimate shot. As he told Anthony DiComo of MLB.com:
His history is very intriguing. I know he’s a couple of years out of sugery now, which we’re hoping makes a big difference. I saw him inMilwaukee, and he was very, very good. I’m just hoping we can catch lightening in a bottle.
It’s fair to say, Henderson has impressed Collins. It’s half the battle. All Henderson has to do now is go out there and perform this Spring Training. Like Huskey and Yates, he has to dominate in the Spring. He has to give the Mets no choice but to put him on the roster.
Editor’s Note: this article also appeared on metsmerizedonline.com
From what I gather from reading incorrect interpretations of the book, I take many people did not actually read Moneyball. If you haven’t, you should go and read it. If you have, now is the time to re-read it.
The reason to re-read it now is the script for the Mets postseason lies within those pages. I know Sandy Alderson was no longer the A’s GM at the time; it was Billy Beane. However, remember Beane’s top two lieutenants were J.P. Riccardi and Paul DePodesta. Until recently, they were Alderson’s top lieutenants. They were at least in place when the Mets were creating their offseason plans.
One of the many aspects of the book, which the movie seemed to get purposefully wrong, was how the A’s went about replacing Jason Giambi and one-year rental Johnny Damon. In essence, the A’s determined they flat out didn’t have enough money to replace these guys with other high priced players. Instead, the A’s were going to have to replace their production using a different line of thinking. I’m summing up here and being a little over simplistic, but here was the thought process:
- The team needed to identify what was undervalued on the free agent market (OBP);
- They needed the cumulation of their entire roster to replace Giambi and Damon since they couldn’t just sign two big name free agents to do it; and
- They needed to do it as cheaply as possible.
So what did they do? Well we know the Scott Hatteberg story with him being moved to first due to his traditionally high OBP (more on that later). In the movie and most other places, the story behind the David Justice acquisition is plain wrong. The A’s obtained him from the Mets, not the Yankees, in exchange for a LOOGY by the name of Mark Guthrie and a mistake waiting to happen by the name of Tyler Yates. It was the Mets, not the Yankees, who kicked in salary. It was only $1.2 million.
Now for the moves that haven’t received much fanfare. The A’s handed the secondbase job to a young Mark Ellis, who was capable of higher production than last year’s second baseman Frank Menechino. Menechino was moved to the bench to create a deeper roster. The A’s traded for Carlos Pena, who was a promising young player. Pena was supposed to be the first baseman with Hatteberg at DH and Justice in LF. That’s the way it was up until the trade deadline. They also traded for Billy Koch to sure up the closer’s role for the departed Jason Isringhausen.
By design, the A’s replaced Giambi and Damon not only with Pena and Justice, but by also improving their DH spot (Olmedo Saenz and Jeremy Giambi) and secondbase. In essence, the A’s added three new starters putting their old starters on the bench. The A’s left some payroll flexibility and had assets for the trade deadline.
The A’s used Pena in a three way trade to acquire Ted Lilly to sure up the rotation behind their three young big pitchers. They then used a prospect to acquire Ray Durham to DH with some needed cash. Hatteberg moved to be the full time first baseman. And yes, like in the movie, the A’s also added Ricardo Rincon to be the LOOGY to sure up the bullpen.
Did it work? If you look at the record, it absolutely did. They went from a 102 win team to a 103 win team. However, the reason wasn’t Hatteberg or Rincon. No, the part we forget is Barry Zito won the Cy Young, and Miguel Tejada win the MVP. They were powered by an insane 20 game winning streak. Lost in that streak was the A’s played only one team over .500 and played two teams that lost over 100 games that year.
The 2002 A’s got top notch performances from their top guys, and they made sure to beat the teams they were supposed to beat. Make no mistake. The 2002 A’s were worse. They scored 84 less runs and allowed nine more runs. However, at the end of the day, it didn’t matter. They won one more game.
The Mets are in a similar position as the A’s were. Make no mistake about it, the Mets have limited funds. With those funds, they needed to go out and replace the production of Daniel Murphy and a half a season of Yoenis Cespedes. Last year, Murphy hit .281/.322/.449 with 14 homers and 73 RBI. Cespedes hit .287/.337/.604 with 17 homers and 44 RBI in his time with the Mets.
We already know how the Mets replaced that production. They traded for Neil Walker, who hit .269/.328/.427 with 16 homers and 71 RBI. He’s a career .272/.338/.431 hitter. The Mets then decided to go with a platoon in center. There is in-house option Juan Lagares to hit against lefties. He hit .273/.333/.438 against lefties last year and .279/.325/.427 for his career. Platooning with him is Alejandro De Aza, who hit .278/.351/.448 against righties last year and .274/.338/.418 for his career. Now, this isn’t enough to replace the production of both of Murphy and Cespedes.
That’s where Asdrubal Cabrera comes in. Last year, Wilmer Flores played the bulk of time at shortstop hitting .263/.295/.408. Ruben Tejada played a lot there hitting .261/.338/.350. The Mets hoped by signing Cabrera they have significantly upgraded the position to cover the loss of Murphy and Cespedes. Cabrera hit .265/.315/.430 last year with the Rays. Speaking of replacing Cespedes’ second half production Cabrera hit .328/.372/.544 in the second half last year. Tangentially, the bench is theoretically better by having Flores and Tejada there.
Following the script they invented in Oakland, the Mets have already done what they believe they needed to do to replace the production they have lost. Right now, the Mets projected payroll is ~$106 million or about $4 million less than the 2015 payroll. Accordingly, the Mets are maintaining payroll flexibility like the A’s did so they can make trades at the deadline.
And, by the way, the Mets are powered by their three big young starters. How will it work out in 2016? We don’t know yet. However, if history is any lesson, the 2016 Mets will be worse than the 2015 version. If they want to have a better record, the 2016 Mets will need to take advantage of their games against bad teams like the Phillies and Braves. One of the young pitchers will have to step up even more. We’ll see which everyday player can step up to have the Tejada-like season.
With my Back to the Future post yesterday, I began to think about how some seemingly innocuous decisions had an impact on the Mets future. In 2004, the Mets organization put way too much stock in Spring Training performance and gave Tyler Yates a rotation spot and sent Aaron Heilman to AAA.
Yates was terrible as a starter. He allowed batters to hit .317/.405/.475 against him in seven starts. He had a 6.34 ERA and a 1.929 WHIP. I’m still stunned he went 1-4. He should’ve gone 0-7. Actually, he should never have started a game. The spot should’ve gone to Heilman.
Instead, Heilman spent most of the year in AAA. He made a few starts in 2004 and 2005, but he was mostly used as a reliever. Going into the 2006 season, Heilman found himself in another battle for the fifth starter spot. He lost the battle, but he became a quality set-up man.
Heilman started as the seventh inning guy. He took over the eighth inning after Duaner Sanchez‘s cab ride. For the year, he went 4-5 with a 3.62 ERA and a 1.161 WHIP. He allowed batters to hit .231/.298/.332. However, we remember none of this. We remember him as the guy who allowed the Yadier Molina homerun. We remember him as the guy who lost Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. Ironically, we don’t have the same memories of Rick Aguilera.
The reason is the Mets rallied in 1986 whereas the 2006 Mets didn’t. Maybe the Mets aren’t in that position if Heilman made the starting rotation in 2004 and stayed there. It’s possible Heilman would’ve gone the way of Masato Yoshii or Mark Clark. They were good pitchers that were with the Mets for a short time. However, unless you’re a diehard, you have no lasting memories of them.
We do have a lasting memory of Aaron Heilman. His path there was all started because the Mets thought Tyler Yates was a better starting pitcher in 2004.