Free agency is difficult. Teams need to look not just at track records but also trajectory. Perhaps, the perfect embodiment of this is Kevin Gausman.
Before signing with the San Francisco Giants, Gausman made 154 starts with 37 relief appearances. He was 47-63 with a 4.30 ERA, 1.344 WHIP, and an 8.3 K/9.
Really, he was a below average pitcher. That was reflected in his 99 ERA+ and 4.13 FIP. It’s also reflected in his being designated for assignment by the Atlanta Braves in 2019.
To their credit, the Giants saw something in Gausman. To some extent, it was seeing his FIP and BABIP indicated he pitched better than his stats. It was also getting him to alter his pitch usage and sequencing. Gausman threw fewer fastballs and more splitters.
In the COVID shortened 2020, Gausman posted a 118 ERA+ and a 3.09 FIP. Up until that point of his career, it was his best FIP and second best ERA+ (minimum 60 innings). Much of that was driven by his strikeout rates skyrocketing from his 8.3 K/9 career mark to 11.9.
The problem was that was a shortened season. No one knew if he could do it for a full season. With that, the qualifying offer made sense for both sides.
Gausman responded with a phenomenal Cy Young caliber season. He was a real ace for a Giants team which won 107 games. In 33 starts, he was 14-6 with a 2.81 ERA, 1.042 WHIP, and a 10.6 K/9.
By nearly every measure, this was a career year for the 30 year old hurler. It was his career best in wins, ERA, starts, innings, strikeouts, ERA+, FIP, WHIP, H/9, HR/9, and WAR.
That’s not to say there weren’t some red flags. Gausman’s .275 BABIP and 78.4 LOB% suggests regression. Gausman was also a far better pitcher in the first half.
In the first half, Gausman had a 1.73 ERA while averaging 6.1 innings per start. In the second half, he had a 4.42 ERA while averaging 5.0 innings per start.
Now, considering no one pitched all that much in 2020, there was some drop off expected for all pitchers. After all, there was bound to be fatigue with everyone. That was most likely the cause with Gausman even though he is typically a second half pitcher.
So, here’s the issue. Gausman is turning 31, and he’s had exactly one half of a season pitching like an ace. Essentially, hex was Brodie Van Wagenen miscast Zack Wheeler to be.
Notably, Wheeler was much more than that. Gausman hasn’t been.
There’s other issues as well. The Giants are ahead of most teams on the analytical front. They also had Buster Posey behind the plate. Really, no MLB team can match that. That may go double for a team like the New York Mets.
Essentially, if you’re a team in on Gausman, you are boasting you can help him repeat some of his luck while matching the Giants front office and analytics department. You believe you can make that first half last a full season.
Look, it’s certainly possible. However, that depends on the team. The possibility turns into impossibility depending on the ultimate destination.
Overall, any team interested in Gausman needs to tread extremely carefully. This is the ultimate boom or bust singing. With pitchers like Max Scherzer and Marcus Stroman still available, it’s difficult to ascertain why a team would take this risk.
Going back to 2015, Noah Syndergaard arguably had the best career ahead of him out of any of the Mets proverbial five aces. He had just unparalleled stuff, and he had the swagger to back it up. More than that, he was a big game pitcher.
We saw Syndergaard come out of the bullpen in Game 5 of the NLDS to shut down the Los Angeles Dodgers for an inning. He followed that with a win in Game two of the NLCS, and he would be the only Mets pitcher to win a game in the World Series. You could see greatness in Syndergaard in those moments, and greatness would ensue.
In 2016, Syndergaard would fulfill every bit of his promise. He was a true ace, and he emerged as an All-Star and top 10 in Cy Young voting. To date, he is probably the only pitcher to go toe-to-toe with Madison Bumgarner in the postseason. In that game, Syndergaard actually outpitched Bumgarner over his seven innings, but unfortunately, there were two more innings in that game.
After that, we excepted Syndergaard to do what Jacob deGrom essentially did. The problem was Syndergaard faced injuries and the Mets medical staff as run by Jeff Wilpon. There was the torn lat, and then two years later, he required Tommy John surgery. That Tommy John rehab was interred with by a minor injury and COVID19.
This wasn’t new to the Mets. This is akin to what happened to Zack Wheeler. They saw it happen. It took Wheeler two years to get back on the mound. Then, it took him another half of a season just to get up to speed again. After that Wheeler was terrific, and then, he was out the door to Philadelphia as the Mets showed little to no interest in re-signing him.
The final indignity with Wheeler was Brodie Van Wagenen taking shots at him. Wheeler responded by being one of the best pitchers in baseball. In fact, he is a finalist for the 2021 Cy Young. While some sycophants may want to tell you otherwise, this was apparent at the time Wheeler hit free agency.
This is the same exact situation the Mets found themselves with Syndergaard. Actually not quite because they were going to get the opportunity to keep Syndergaard BEFORE he rebounded post Tommy John. Moreover, Syndergaard loved New York, and he wanted to stay. You couldn’t have scripted a perfect situation for the Mets.
They had the opportunity to learn from the Wheeler mistake. They were going to be able to keep an ace at a discount. They were going to be able to prove the organization was not in complete disarray as it looked with the president of baseball operations and GM search. Put another way, they could show the world this wasn’t just a more financially solvent version of the Wilpon run Mets.
Instead, Syndergaard is bolting for the Los Angeles Angels for a one year $21 million deal. No, Syndergaard didn’t get a multi-year deal. He ONLY received $2.6 million more from the Angels. The Mets lost Syndergaard over $2.6 million. This is so inexplicably and embarrassingly Wilponian.
While the Angels were talking with Syndergaard, the Mets were botching their GM search and choosing the worst possible candidate in Billy Eppler. Like he did with Jose Reyes and Daniel Murphy, Alderson decided it wasn’t worth keeping a homegrown Mets player and build around him and let him flourish because he could get a compensatory second round pick.
This all makes you question how soon before Michael Conforto and Marcus Stroman are gone and replaced with lesser players? After all, that’s been Alderson’s MO with the Mets. Steve Cohen was supposed to change that, but as we’ve seen so far, it’s the same old with Alderson.
Really, everything sucks right now with the Mets, and you have no idea where it goes from here.
There’s a lot to unpack here. That goes double when you consider Stroman made the absolute best plays we saw a pitcher make all season. That’s not hyperbole. Stroman was a Wizard.
Make no mistake. There’s no better fielding pitcher. None. The problem is this isn’t a career award. It’s for 2021 only.
Because of that, Stroman was deservedly, albeit shockingly, not named as Gold Glove finalist. While you can make a case for him, when you look at the data, Stroman ranked just 14th among qualifiers in DRS.
In terms of DRS, Max Fried and Zack Wheeler were the top two qualifiers. That makes them deserving finalists for the Gold Glove. While Zach Davies did not qualify, he had a 6 DRS, which tied him with Fried and put him one up on Wheeler.
Given his strong DRS ranking, you can understand why he was a finalist. That is, until, you realize Walker was better. In fact, Walker with his 7 DRS was the best fielding pitcher in the National League.
The problem might’ve been Walker didn’t have enough innings in time. According to Tim Ryder of The Apple, Walker only had 138.2 innings through the first 142 games of the season. He needed 142.0 leaving him 3.1 innings short.
Being diplomatic, this is stupid. There are 162 games in a season, and for an inexplicable reason, they cut off 20 games to make an arbitrary end point. It robbed Walker of an award rightfully his.
Consider that Davies, who qualified by the arbitrary point threw 11 fewer innings than Walker. There’s also the matter of chances.
In 2021, Walker had 51 chances. That’s 16 more than Davies. That’s three more than Wheeler. It’s five more than Fried.
That’s right. Walker made more plays, and he was a better fielder. He had the best DRS while making more plays in the field. Not giving him this award makes the award a sham.
In reality, that’s what this is. It’s a sham. The best fielding pitcher in 2021 wasn’t even eligible for the award because of an arbitrary cut off date before the season ended. As a result, Walker was cheated out of an award rightfully his.
There needs to be a way to fix this. You can’t have a pitcher with the most plays and best DRS not winning the Gold Glove. There’s no justifying it, and Taijuan Walker is owed an apology.
There was always a lot of baseless narratives surrounding the New York Mets not hiring Chaim Bloom. We’ve heard that he was going to seek a rebuild instead of trying to win a World Series. We also saw assertions he was definitely going to trade Jacob deGrom.
Of course, no one knew this as fact. Yet, because those were the purposeful leaks in support of Brodie Van Wagenen, the myths have persisted. The other evidence presented was how Bloom traded Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers. That persisted despite trading Betts being a condition precedent for any incoming general manager.
So, Bloom did what he was told to do. The end result of that was a dreadful 2020 season wherein the Red Sox finished the season in dead last in the AL East. Of course, there were mitigating circumstances. First and foremost, it was a pandemic shortened season. Mostly, Chris Sale missed the season due to Tommy John, and Eduardo Rodriguez suffered COVID induced myocarditis. You’re not winning with 2/5 of your rotation missing like that, especially in a 60 game season.
What happened from there was Bloom went to work. He brought in players like Enrique Hernandez and Hunter Renfroe. In his first full season at the helm, Bloom built a 92 win Red Sox team. That team beat the New York Yankees in the Wild Card Game, and they just defeated the defending pennant winners, the 100 win Tampa Bay Rays, to advance to the ALCS.
Meanwhile, the Mets hired Brodie Van Wagenen, who needlessly ravaged the Mets farm system. He did it for the glory of missing the postseason twice. He did it because he had no idea what he was doing. Now, the Mets have to live with the outright dumb and amateur decisions. That includes Zack Wheeler pitching with the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Mets being saddled with Robinson Cano‘s contract, after he had his second PED suspension, while Jarred Kelenic had a big September for the Seattle Mariners. Of course, Cano’s contract is back on the books and Kelenic had a breakout just as Michael Conforto hits free agency.
Knowing what we know of Bloom, we really don’t know if he trades deGrom. After all, while he traded Betts, he didn’t look to move other Red Sox superstars, like J.D. Martinez, in the name of rebuilding or saving money. What we do know is Bloom did acquire a very good player in Alex Verdugo, who has been a key contributor to a Red Sox team now in the ALCS.
We also know from his history, he wouldn’t have traded Kelenic. The reason is he is not stupid. In fact, he’s brilliant. It’s how he built the core of that Rays team who won 100 games and is coming off a pennant, and it is how he built a Red Sox team which beat his old team in the ALDS. So sure, continue on with the false narratives about how Bloom would’ve traded deGrom while the Mets are trying to figure out how to fix what’s broken, and the Red Sox are winning.
In the second game of the doubleheader, Noah Syndergaard took the mound pitching just one scoreless inning. While it was Syndergaard, it wasn’t exactly as we knew him.
His fastball topped out at 96 MPH, not 100. He was only allowed to throw fastballs and change-ups. He only pitched one inning.
And yet, he still struck out two of the three batters he faced. He showed good command throwing nine of his 10 pitches for strikes. In all, even a shadow of Syndergaard was extraordinarily effective.
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 29, 2021
The start, stunt or not, was just part of the process back from Tommy John surgery. While you’d hope he’d be further along, he’s not. That doesn’t make him an outlier. In fact, it’s just the way Tommy John rehab seems to go with Mets pitchers.
Zack Wheeler immediately comes to mind. He missed two seasons due to his surgery. He was ineffective the first half of his first season back. Since then, he’s been pitching at an ace level, and he’s in the mix for the Cy Young this season.
If Wheeler had his way, he’d be doing it with the Mets. He didn’t get that chance because Jeff Wilpon and Brodie Van Wagenen are idiots who have no sense of loyalty. Fortunately, they’re gone and are not in a position to handle Syndergaard and his desire to return:
Noah Syndergaard said the thought of pitching for the last time as a Met at Citi Field entered his mind tonight
"I'm fairly confident that we'll reach an agreement and I'll be pitching here next year…New York has a special place in my heart and always will be" pic.twitter.com/qcNRSqgYHO
— SNY (@SNYtv) September 29, 2021
The lesson here is Wheeler. We also saw this season with Marcus Stroman the benefit of bringing back a very good pitcher on the qualifying offer despite a year of inactivity.
When you have the wallet, and Steve Cohen has the biggest one in baseball, you keep talent. You keep talent who wants to be here. You keep Noah Syndergaard.
When Syndergaard is healthy, he’s an ace. He’s a big game pitcher. This is a pitcher built for New York. He’s a pitcher who can get you to the World Series.
In all honesty, there’s zero arguments to not offer him the qualifying offer, which he would presumably accept. Seriously, there are none. Worst case scenario is he can be an effective pitcher in whatever the role.
The upside is he’s the ace he is. You don’t turn that down for what would be a one year deal. That’s Wilpon level stupidity. We’re past that.
The Mets must keep Syndergaard.
With 14 games remaining in the season, the New York Mets are seven games back in the loss column of the Atlanta Braves for the division, and they are six in the loss column back of the St. Louis Cardinals for the final Wild Card spot. Long story short, the postseason is a near impossibility, and yet, a path actually remains.
The Cardinals, despite being red hot, have a difficult end of the season. They play seven more against the Milwaukee Brewers, and they have a pivotal series against the San Diego Padres this weekend. Now, the Cardinals are aided by having seven games against the Chicago Cubs to offset some of that.
The Cincinnati Reds have the easiest path and seem well poised to grab the second Wild Card. Putting aside three against the Los Angles Dodgers, they play the Pittsburgh Pirates six times and the Washington Nationals three times. Yes, they do have three against the Chicago White Sox, but the White Sox have already rapped up the division and are really getting ready for the postseason.
Going back to the Padres, it is hard to see how they’re not done. After the Cardinals, they play the San Francisco Giants six times and the Los Angeles Dodgers three. Now, this is where things get a bit interesting for the Mets. The Padres do host the Braves for a west coast series.
The Braves do not have an easy end of the season schedule. They’re heading out for a late in the season west coast trip. First is the Giants, and then after a respite against the Arizona Diamondbacks, they have a four game set in San Diego. They then end the season at Citi Field. The Mets mission is to somehow get to that last weekend at least three back in the loss column.
It’s not an easy road. The first thing which really needs to happen is a pair of sweeps. The Giants need to sweep the Braves, and the Mets need to do the same to the Philadelphia Phillies. For the Mets, that’s much easier said than done with the Phillies having Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, and Kyle Gibson lined up. There’s also the matter of Bryce Harper, who is playing at an MVP level.
After a pair of sweeps, the Mets would be four back in the loss column with 11 to play. In that stretch, they’d have to finally take care of the Miami Marlins in a pivotal September series. They’d have to bury a reeling Boston Red Sox team in Fenway Park, and they’d have to hold their own against the Milwaukee Brewers.
In many ways, the Mets season will hinge upon their play against the Marlins and Brewers. It may also hinge on their ability to get something, anything from Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom at the end of the year. Looking at this, you may be very well inclined to say the Mets really have no shot.
The honest answer is there isn’t much of one, but in some bizarre way, there is still a realistic (albeit arduous) path to the postseason. All we can hope for at this point is the Mets are up for this challenge. The Mets team we saw play the Yankees were, but the one who played the Cardinals weren’t. We’ll find out which team we’re getting when Taijuan Walker squares off against Wheeler.
Back in 1973, Tug McGraw got himself in a little bit of hot water with New York Mets Chairman of the Board when he responded to the pep talk with the “Ya Gotta Believe!” chant. It irked Grant, who was a renown miser, but here’s the key thing with McGraw – he backed it up.
At that point, McGraw was having a career worst year. From July 11 until the end of the season, McGraw made 28 appearances pitching an astounding 69.1 innings.
Over that stretch, McGraw was 5-2 with 14 saves, a 2.21 ERA, and a 1.067 WHIP. He would pitch 3.0 innings on the final game of the season earning the save as the Mets won the division by a game.
McGraw went forth and backed it up with a terrific postseason. In fact, it was probably one of the finest postseason performances from a Mets reliever. Overall, he was 1-0 with two saves and a 1.98 ERA.
While his earlier jeering battle cry fell flat and irked the Mets front office, his backing it up made it a well known and beloved Mets battle cry.
This is a similar situation Pete Alonso now finds himself.
The Philadelphia Phillies just swept the Mets knocking them from first place to third. It’s part of a maddening 1-9 stretch which has seen the Mets fall to just one game over .500 as this team looks like they’re going to completely fall apart.
Making this all the worse was the most recent loss was a complete hit two hit shut out at the hands of former Met (who wanted to remain a Met) Zack Wheeler. Fans have not been this dejected all season.
The very last thing Mets fans wanted was some Pollyanna pep talk from the fan favorite telling everyone everyone is fine. Well, that’s what they got from Alonso:
Pete Alonso's message to Mets fans: pic.twitter.com/ZE3ktUex2i
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) August 8, 2021
This feel exceedingly flat. That goes double with Alonso going 0-for-11 in the series with five strikeouts. One of those strikeouts came in the ninth when he represented the go-ahead run.
Really, Alonso has been terrible of late. Over his last 16 games, he’s hit .140/.269/.316. His not hitting has coincided with the Mets collapse.
Todd Zeile was irked by the comments. He wanted to see more accountability and a more honest assessment of the situation. This echoed Mets fan sentiment. Being honest, it was a very mild account of how fans felt.
There’s a problem with the sentiment from Zeile and others. They were expecting Alonso to be someone he’s not. What we got from Alonso was who he is.
Alonso is where he is due to the belief he has in himself. He’s the player he is because his focus isn’t just on process, but more to the point, not getting too low. He’s the living embodiment of McGraw’s mantra.
Now, it’s really up to Alonso to back it up just like McGraw did. If he takes off and the Mets do win this division, fans will have a much different reaction to the comment.
If the Mets win the division, “Don’t Just Believe, Know” will become a fitting sequel to “Ya Gotta Believe!”
Well, on the bright side Taijuan Walker pitched reasonably well for the New York Mets. The pitcher who has really struggled in the second half had his first quality start since June 25.
That was more than enough for the Philadelphia Phillies as Zack Wheeler completely and utterly dominated the Mets in a two hit complete game shut out.
If not for Brandon Nimmo, who was 2-for-4 with a double, the Mets get no-hit. Frankly, the Mets probably deserved to be no-hit. Besides Nimmo, there was just one walk, and the Mets combined to strike out 11 times.
To add insult to injury, trade deadline acquisition Javier Báez left the game with an injury. The Mets are saying he’s day-to-day, but at this point, they’re saying it is relatively meaningless.
With the Atlanta Braves also winning today, the Mets dropped to third. For a team 1-9 over their last 10 games, there’s no telling just how much worse it’ll get.
For once, it was nice watching another team struggle through a bad bullpen, but you still would’ve hoped the New York Mets made more of their opportunity against that dreadful Philadelphia Phillies bullpen:
1. Deepest condolences go out to Marcus Stroman who lost his grandmother.
2. The fact Stroman pitched through the pain of losing a loved one is another in a long series of how no one should ever question his heart or dedication. Again, this is the type of player and person the Mets want to keep around past this season.
4. That spark Michael Conforto provided the Mets offense sure seemed short lived.
5. On that note, the Mets offense is aware they don’t have to wait for the ninth for a rally, right?
6. It’s really difficult to pinpoint what’s wrong with Jeff McNeil other than bad luck. His batted ball numbers are extremely similar to previous seasons. With that being the case, they just need to stick with him.
7. The Mets really need to switch McNeil with Luis Guillorme defensively. Aside from struggles in a COVID impacted season, McNeil is a good third baseman. Guillorme is other worldly at second and not so great at third. It’s time to fix this.
8. Zack Wheeler dominating the Mets is just another example of just how impossibly bad Brodie Van Wagenen was as a GM.
10. deGrom is so amazing two earned over six innings is considered a bad start. When your worst is better than 99% of the league’s best, you know deGrom’s season is beyond hyperbole.
11. The Mets have a bit of a Pete Alonso problem. He’s just nowhere near his 2019 form, and he just seems to be getting further away. More troubling is the struggles hitting at home.
12. That’s not exclusive to Alonso. The Mets also have a Dominic Smith problem, and basically [INSERT PLAYER] problem. McNeil was noted above, and Conforto’s power had seemingly disappeared.
13. Brandon Nimmo appears nearing his return, and the Mets offense seems to need him. That’s problematic considering there are more than enough bats already in this lineup.
16. David Peterson had a strong start. He needs to start stringing them together.
17. Francisco Lindor had a huge game winning hit, and he increasingly looks like the player he was in Cleveland.
18. There’s been focus on Guillorme’s batting average, but he’s got a terrific .403 OBP. Considering he’s an eighth place hitter, you can’t ask for more than that. That goes double when he just finds a way on base in the late innings.
19. It’s funny. The Mets have gone 6-6 in a 12 game stretch against the NL East, and their 4.5 game lead is now 4.0 games. The only real change now is the order of the trans behind them.
20. At some point, the Mets need to go on a run. To that, Noah Syndergaard does say the Mets are a second half team . . . .
This was the toughest week so far for the New York Mets this season. Their woes with RISP reached new levels of despair, and the Philadelphia Phillies felt awfully comfortable trying to push them around.
After Jose Alvarado threw two at Michael Conforto and Dominic Smith gave him a mouthful the last series these two teams squared off, Alvardo struck out Smith in a big situation. Alvarado disrespected Smith, and the benches emptied.
They lost that game, but the Mets were fired up. We saw that when they grabbed a 4-0 first inning lead against Zack Wheeler. The problem is it ended there, and the Phillies got back into the game.
While this was not a “must win” game, the Mets needed to make a statement. They needed to show they do have the mental toughness to win these games. They needed to show the Phillies they will not be pushed around or disrespected.
In the ninth, Conforto came up against Hector Neris. This is the same Conforto who was booed during this season, and his ability to hit in the clutch has always been questioned. He would silence everyone with one big swing:
— Athlete Logos (@athletelogos) May 2, 2021
That was a game the Mets needed to have. In some ways, with the way the season has played out, they probably needed the hit all the more. Getting that hit and getting that win makes this the Neon Moment of the Week!
* * * * * *
I am very appreciative Athlete Logos has agreed to participate in this feature. If you like his work as much as I do, please visit his website to enjoy his work, buy some of his merchandise, or to contract him to do some personal work for yourself (like I have).