Zack Wheeler

“Don’t Just Believe, Know” Can Become “Ya Gotta Believe!”

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:

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!”

Third Place Mets

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 said, the king balls continue to be a real issue for him. This time, Jean Segura, J.T. Realmuto, and Bryce Harper each hit solo shots off of him.

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.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Couldn’t Take Full Advantage Of Phillies Bullpen

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.

3. Corey Oswalt has been really good and looks well poised to take over the role Robert Gsellman once had. That’s good because it doesn’t look like Gsellman is coming back anytime soon.

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.

9. Just imagine if the Mets had Wheeler behind Jacob deGrom. They’d be absolutely impossible to beat in a postseason series. It would really be on the level of 2001 Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling.

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.

14. When Nimmo does return, Billy McKinney needs to stay on the roster. He’s earned his spot and has significantly outperformed Albert Almora.

15. Mark Vientos and Carlos Cortes are flat out raking in Double-A and need to be moved to Syracuse ASAP. They need to be ready to help this roster if needed come August and September.

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 . . . .

Neon Moment Of The Week: Clutch Conforto

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:

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!

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Clutch Conforto

The New York Mets responded to the loss and Jose Alvarado‘s disrespect by jumping out to a 4-0 lead. It all started with a Francisco Lindor HBP, and there were big RBI doubles by Michael Conforto and Pete Alonso.

The Mets had a chance to build from there, but James McCann grounded into a double play. That hurt because Zack Wheeler was pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies. You get what you can get in the first because he’s much stingy later in the game.

That was the case here. After that first inning, Wheeler shut down the Mets over the next six innings. That gave the Phillies a chance to get back into the game.

Now, Taijuan Walker pitched well but not quite well enough.

The Phillies jumped on him in the second. After a Nick Marton double, there were runners and second and third with no outs. The first run scored on an Andrew Knapp RBI groundout. Walker was close to getting out of the inning further unscathed, but Wheeler helped his own cause.

Walker went on cruise control after that allowing just a walk heading into the sixth. That’s when the Phillies started going through the third time through the lineup. It came to bite him and the Mets when Alec Bohm hit a game tying two run homer.

From there, two things happened. First, the Mets bullpen stepped up again and pitched well. Aaron Loup and Trevor May pitched a scoreless inning apiece to ensure the game was tied heading into the ninth.

In addition to the bullpen stepping up, the game went haywire. It wasn’t haywire in the way it went with Alvarado throwing at people and trash talking. Rather, it all hell broke loose.

In the seventh, Brandon Nimmo swung at a pitch, missed, and he came out of the game with an injury. He’d be replaced by Kevin Pillar. Pillar’s strikeout was attributable to Nimmo. Nimmo wasn’t the only Met to leave the game with a hand injury.

Loup was double switched into the game with Jonathan Villar taking over at third. There wasn’t an obvious play which caused it, but he left the game with a sprained hand.

In that inning, we’d see an absurdly bad umpire call. Matt Joyce hit a grounder towards Lindor, who went to tag Andrew McCutchen, and missed. It didn’t matter as the umpire ruled it was a double play.

McCutchen was ruled to have run outside the baseline. He didn’t, but it’s not reviewable because the replay system is completely broken.

Bryce Harper, who couldn’t play because he was hit in the face by a Genesis Cabrera pitch, was thrown out of the game.

In any event, Hector Neris entered the game for the Phillies in the ninth. On the second pitch he threw, Conforto hit a go-ahead homer:

With the Mets ahead 5-4, Edwin Diaz entered the game looking for his third save of the season. Now, this is a spot where Diaz had issues in the past. Not tonight. He mowed down the Phillies in order to preserve the win.

This was a big response to the loss and disrespect last night. It was a big win with Conforto getting a huge hit, his second homer of the season. Now, they need to make this stick by winning tomorrow.

Game Notes: Luis Guillorme landed on the IL, and Jose Peraza was called up in his place. Nimmo was diagnosed with a left index finger contusion.

David Peterson Out-Duels Zack Wheeler

This should have been a pitching mismatch with Zack Wheeler dueling against David Peterson. The disparity was widened due to Peterson’s struggles against the Phillies in his young career.

Instead, Peterson threw the best game of his young career.

Over six innings, Peterson would limit the Phillies to one run on two hits and no walks. He’d strike out an astonishing 10 batters. The only blemish was a Jean Segura homer in the fifth.

Peterson needed to be this good because Wheeler was fantastic as well. The key with good pitchers like him is to jump on them early before they get in a groove.

Brandon Nimmo, who seemingly can’t make an out anymore, led off the game with a single. Francisco Lindor and Dominic Smith followed with a pair of singles to put the Mets up 1-0 without recording an out.

The Mets chances of blowing it wide open early was stymied when Pete Alonso hit into a double play. The bright side was a run scored to make it 2-0.

It was 2-1 heading into the seventh when Luis Rojas tabbed Jeurys Familia. With Miguel Castro and Trevor May realistically unavailable, this was a good spot to see if Familia could grab big innings again.

Familia would walk J.T. Realmuto to start the inning, and Realmuto would go to second on a fielder’s choice. Segura followed with an infield single putting runners at the corners. On the play, Linder tried to pick Realmuto off third to no avail.

When Didi Gregorius was announced as a pinch hitter, Rojas went to Aaron Loup. Loup did his job getting the ground ball to induce the inning ending 6-6-3 double play.

Loup had his best game with the Mets. After getting the inning ending double play in the seventh, he retired the Phillies 1-2-3 in the eighth striking out two.

While the Mets bullpen was at work, Joe Girardi got a little greedy with Wheeler pushing him to start the seventh. After retiring Nimmo, Lindor and Smith got back-to-back hits setting up runners at the corners.

After 108 pitches, Girardi finally lifted Wheeler for Sam Coonrod. Coonrod got Alonso out, but Lindor would score on the sacrifice fly giving the Mets a 3-1 lead.

The top of the Mets lineup was fantastic tonight. The top three batters combined to go 8-for-14 with three runs, a walk, and an RBI.

The Mets added some more insurance runs in the eighth. Michael Conforto led off the inning by getting hit on the elbow . . . again. Astoundingly, Conforto’s elbow has been hit by four pitches, and he’s gotten three hits with his bat. James McCann made JoJo Romero pay by hitting his first homer as a Met:

Edwin Diaz came on in a non-save situation in the ninth, and he closed the door on the Mets 5-1 victory. Mets are now the only team in the NL East two games over .500, and they don’t seem like they’re looking back.

Game Notes: Nimmo leads the majors with a .583 OBP. There is rain in the forecast putting tomorrow’s game in jeopardy.

Fernando Tatis, Jr. Injury Reminiscent Of Michael Conforto

Back in 2017, Michael Conforto had emerged as a true star. In fact, he had made his first All-Star appearance, and at 24, the former first round pick was starting to push to become one of the best players in baseball.

That’s exactly when disaster struck. Robbie Ray threw a pitch, Conforto took a big cut, and then he went down:

https://youtube.com/watchv=mvw6Ge5BSgY

Conforto tore the posterior capsule in his shoulder requiring surgery. At the time, there was a real question whether he’d ever get back to being Conforto.

There were a lot of factors, including his being completely and unnecessarily rushed back, but it would take him about a year to get back.

Truth be told, it was longer than that. It probably wasn’t until nearly two years after did we see Conforto return to the form he was at before that swing.

That’s exactly the thoughts which ran through Mets fans minds when Fernando Tatis Jr. went down.

No injuries are quite the same. Even two of the same injury is not the same. Just look to how Zack Wheeler needed multiple years and surgeries to return from Tommy John whereas Noah Syndergaard seems primed to go once he’s eligible to come off the IL.

That said, it would seem Tatis is likely gone for the year. Fortunately for San Diego Padres fans, their front office doesn’t have Jeff Wilpon. That means doctors will make decisions on Tatis’ rehab and return.

It should also be noted this is the benefit of Tatis’ mega-extension. Both he and the team will be forced to take the long term view. There’s no rush to play him in his pre-arbitration or team control years because he’ll be a Padre for a decade.

That’s decidedly different for Conforto. He didn’t get the benefit of the organization taking a long term view of his career. Tatis will, and he will be better for it.

Jed Lowrie And Zack Wheeler Have Outhit Mets Roster And Other Alarming 2021 Stats

After being unable to make more than eight hitless pinch hitting attempts over two years, Jed Lowrie has out-hit the entire Mets team in 2021. For that matter, so has Zack Wheeler.

So much for the universal DH.

Wheeler also has more strikeouts than anyone on the Mets pitching staff including Jacob deGrom. For that matter, so has Matt Harvey. In fact, Harvey has struck out more batters than the entire Mets staff combined.

If you think that’s scary, consider Chris Flexen does as well. In fact, Flexen has more wins that the Mets do this year. Of course, that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise considering Brodie Van Wagenen was horrible as the GM.

Of course, we all know the reasons why Wheeler is out-hitting the Mets, and Flexen has been stats than anyone on the Mets is because the Mets haven’t been able to play their opening series.

Until that point, Noah Syndergaard, Seth Lugo, and Carlos Carrasco are atop all the Mets pitching categories despite their not being able to begin their season for at least a month. Of course, no one is pitching for the Mets now.

The stats are so skewed J.D. Davis is the Mets top fielder . . . and hitter. Right now, Davis can be considered the Mets player because he’s tied atop every statistic. That’s how you know things aren’t great.

Fortunately, the Mets hiatus will be over soon when they take the field in Philadelphia on Monday. When that happens, we should soon see deGrom correct a number of these bizarre discrepancies caused by the Nationals COVID infections.

Good Day For Former Mets Pitchers

Thanks to the Washington Nationals, we can’t watch New York Mets baseball just yet. What we could do was see former Mets pitchers in action.

Matt Harvey took the ball for the Baltimore Orioles, and he looked good. His slider was moving, and he touched 95 MPH. Unfortunately, he fell one-third of an inning short of the win.

Zack Wheeler took the ball for the Philadelphia Phillies, and he’d have more hits himself than he allowed. He was 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI.

On the mound, he struck out 10 over 7.0 innings with the only hit against him coming from Travis d’Arnaud.

We also saw the former bullpen arms do well. Darren O’Day pitched 0.2 scoreless and picked up a hold. Michael Fulmer picked up a hold for pitching a scoreless inning while hitting 95 MPH.

All-in-all, it was a pretty good day for former Mets pitchers. Hopefully, that momentum for Mets pitchers will confine when the Mets are finally able to start their season on Monday.

Mets Should Begin 2021 Season With Six Man Rotation

Typically speaking, you don’t like to see pitchers jump over 100.0 innings from one season to the next. The problem is with the 60 game season in 2020 nearly every pitcher in Major League Baseball is going to have to make that jump. How to combat this is going to be a concern for all 30 Major League teams, especially the New York Mets.

The Mets have Marcus Stroman, who didn’t pitch last year, and they have Noah Syndergaard returning from Tommy John at some point this season. Carlos Carrasco is still building up his endurance on the mound after battling leukemia. There is also the opportunity for David Peterson to crack the Opening Day rotation. Throw in protecting Jacob deGrom, the best pitcher in baseball, and you see how the Mets may want to find a way to limit everyone’s innings.

There’s more to it as well. None of these pitchers threw even 70.0 innings last year. We don’t know when, but it is reasonable to assume at some point the Mets starters may face fatigue and may hit a wall. As we typically see, there are going to be a few pitchers who battled ineffectiveness and hit the proverbial dead arm periods. That’s even with extremely well conditioned pitchers like deGrom and Stroman.

Really, the Mets need to figure out the best possible way to let their pitchers keep strong all season long, and hopefully, be in a position to be as strong as possible heading into October. In a different way, that was an issue the Mets had in 2015.

That season, the Mets opted to throw their five best pitchers to start the season. To a certain extent, Zack Wheeler‘s needing Tommy John forced the issue there. Beyond that, the Mets didn’t really plan for making the postseason. Their season as well as Matt Harvey‘s return from his own Tommy John surgery as well as Scott Boras forcing the issue with innings limits forced the Mets to confront the issue.

At times, we saw a six man rotation. That was something which was met with some resistance from the Mets young starting staff. To a certain extent, you could understand that as baseball players, especially starters, are creatures of habit. Considering that being the case, perhaps it would be better to start the season with a six man rotation to give the Mets starters a better opportunity to adapt.

Certainly, the Mets have the arms to pull that off. To start the year, they already have a strong top of the rotation with deGrom, Stroman, Carrasco, and Taijuan Walker. After that, they have a strong competition for the fifth starter spot with Peterson, Joey Lucchesi, and Jordan Yamamoto. There is also players like Jerad Eickhoff and Corey Oswalt who could force their way into the conversation.

In terms of Spring Training competitions, we should not that they’re terrible in nature. You’re judging a bunch of players against differing levels of competition. You may get to face a team full of Double-A to Four-A players and dominate while another player gets to face Major League caliber competition. That leads to skewed results.

One way to combat that is to take your best six pitchers up north. You can ease your four best pitchers into the 2021 season and then get a better look at the fifth starters against Major League competition. This means while you are saving your best pitchers for the end of the season, you are also getting a better look at your pitchers in what could be described as a protracted competition.

Keep in mind, you can easily skip this sixth starter in the rotation if need be and have them available in the bullpen. With early season rain outs and off days, you may not want to go right to the sixth starter. That also gives the team an added benefit to see how a Lucchesi or Yamamoto could look coming out of the pen for an inning or more.

Overall, there is a lot of benefit to having a six man rotation to start the season. Pulling it off properly requires a deft touch by Luis Rojas. If done properly, the Mets can secure a postseason spot, and they can have deGrom at full strength to have a similar run to what he had in 2015. In fact, imagine what he could do now! But before that, we just have to figure out a way for him and the rest of this rotation to navigate the 2021 season.