Zack Wheeler

Bullpen Needed This Rest

One of the ongoing jokes during yesterday’s rain out was that despite the rain out, Terry Collins had Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas warming up in the bullpen in case the game started on time.  As with most jokes, this one did have a twinge of truth to it.

So far this season, the Mets bullpen has been going on an unsustainable rate.  Mike Marshall holds the single season record for appearances by a reliever with his making 106 appearances for the 1974 Dodgers.  The Mets record for appearances is Pedro Feliciano with 92 appearances in 2010.  This was the reason why Gary Cohen dubbed him Perpetual Pedro.  Interesting enough, Felicano’s record is tied for fourth all-time with Marshall, who had 92 appearances for the 1973 Expos.  Right now, the Mets bullpen is set to challenge these records at an alarming rate.

Blevins is on a pace to make 102 appearances this season.  Hansel Robles is on pace to make 94 appearances this season.  Addison Reed and Salas are on pace to make 85 appearances this season.  Josh Smoker is on pace to make 77 appearances this season. Obviously, this would be career highs for each of these pitchers.

If they are to keep up this pace, Blevins would be second all-time for single season appearances by a reliever, and Robles’ 94 appearances would tie the now standing second place position.  Looking over the record list, no one has made more than 74 appearances in a season over the last five years.  The bullpen’s usage is unprecedented in terms of how many appearances these relievers are making.  It is utterly amazing that the current pace of these relievers would put them at the top five appearances made by a reliever in single season over the past five seasons.

When you combine the appearances with the amount of times these pitchers warm up, they are going to be on fumes.  Certainly, we have seen some diminishing returns already from Salas.  The rest of the bullpen may not be too far behind him.  This bullpen needs a rest and the subsequent rain out helped.  However, they need more help.

They may receive some help now that Jeurys Familia has returned from his suspension.  Certainly, he is the reliever Collins’ trusts most, and he will likely be the one Collins over uses next.  More than Familia, the bullpen can use some length from their starting pitching.

Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, and Jacob deGrom are the only relievers averaging at least six innings per start.  Zack Wheeler and Robert Gsellman are averaging just over five innings per start.  This means every night the bullpen needs to pick up at least 3-4 innings.  With the Mets having already played four extra inning games to start the season, it has been much more than that.

The relative lack of length from the bullpen is understood.  Harvey and deGrom are coming back from season ending surgeries last season.  Wheeler has not pitched since 2014.  Gsellman has not thrown more than 159.2 innings in a season.  Really, you’re only workhorse right now is Syndergaard.

However, sooner or later something is going to have to give.  The starters are going to have to give more length, or Collins is going to have to trust some of the other guys in the bullpen more.  It’s understandable he hasn’t when Josh Edgin is a LOOGY with a 3.68 ERA, and his former long man, Rafael Montero, managed to get worse.  The long story short here is someone has to step up.  Otherwise, the bullpen may not last very long.

 

At Least The Mets Were Competitive 

When Daniel Murphy hit a grand slam in the first inning with no outs against Zack Wheeler, it seemed like the game was over. The Mets have shown nothing of late to suggest they could score four runs, let alone the five it would take to take the lead. With Max Scherzer pitching for the Nationals, the loss appeared to be a near certainty. 

At least the Mets made this one interesting. 

Michael Conforto, who is cementing his spot as this team’s lead-off hitter, hit Scherzer’s second pitch of the game for an opposite field home run:

He also made a nice play in the field:

The Mets would narrow the gap to 4-3 on a Neil Walker third inning two run home run. 

The game remains close because Wheeler was great after the first inning. After the first inning, Wheeler allowed just one hit and issued just two walks. He had a manageable pitch count, and he was able to pitch seven innings throwing just 101 pitches. 

Wheeler’s final line was seven innings, four hits, four runs, four earned, two walks, and six strikeouts. 

It’s hard to say a guy who gave up a first inning grand slam deserved a better fate, but Wheeler probably did. At a minimum, you could argue that one day the hitters need to bail out a starter. With this offense, that’s wishful thinking. 

Any hopes were dashed when Ryan Zimmerman absolutely crushed a two run homer off Josh Smoker in the eighth inning making it 6-3. That would be the final score. 

The first showdown with the Nationals led to a sweep. Regardless of the Mets health, that’s a bad sign for the 2017 season. 

Game Notes: Asdrubal Cabrera is injured, and he stumbles after each play he makes. He looks more injured than he did last year. Travis d’Arnaud couldn’t catch again, but he pinch hit yet again. Kevin Plawecki got his first start of the year. 

Hard Fought Loss Is Still A Loss

As if the Mets weren’t injured enough, the team had a new rash of injuries heading into tonight’s game. 

Wilmer Flores and Lucas Duda went on the disabled list. Travis d’Arnaud and Yoenis Cespedes didn’t, but they couldn’t start. At least d’Arnaud was available to pinch hit. To make matters worse, Asdrubal Cabrera is now dealing with a hamstring injury keeping him out of the lineup, and Jacob deGrom woke up on the wrong side of the bed. 

With deGrom waking up with a stiff neck, he missed tonight’s start, and he probably needs someone to start for him tomorrow. 

With so many people out of the lineup, the Mets needed someone to step up. The Mets had people stepping up all over the place tonight. 

First was Matt Harvey who was the surprise starter. Harvey gave his team a chance to win pitching seven innings. His final line was seven innings, four hits, three runs, three earned, two walks, and two strikeouts. 

Harvey pitched well, but he was tripped up by the long ball. In the first inning, he grooved one to Bryce Harper who launched it for a two run homer. It was a strange site to see when you consider Harper couldn’t get a hit off pre-TOS Harvey. The third run off Harvey came off a Jose Lobaton solo shot in the fifth. 

Despite the two homers and the makeshift lineup, Harvey had a no decision.  

He was first helped by a Michael Conforto first inning blast off Tanner Roark‘s first pitch of the game:

The second and third runs came courtesy of Curtis Granderson. In the fourth, Granderson had a two out RBI single scoring Jay Bruce. He then tied the score in the sixth:

It was a terrific night for Granderson. Coming into the night, he was hitting .143/.197/.214. Just like he’s done in his entire Mets career, Granderson stepped up when the Mets needed him most going 2-4 with a run, two RBI, one walk, and the home run. 

The Mets nearly took the lead in the seventh. Zack Wheeler hit for Harvey and hit a pinch hit double. The Mets would load the bases, and the Nationals would go to Oliver Perez, who got Bruce to line out to end the inning. 

In the ninth, there was some craziness. Rene Rivera earned a lead-off walk off Joe Blanton, and Terry Collins opted to pinch run Robert Gsellman. T.J. Rivera then bunted Gsellman to second. 

Cabrera then pinch hit for Addison Reed and drew a walk. Given his hamstring issues, Collins sent out Kevin Plawecki to pinch run for him. No, it didn’t make sense to do this and force the pitcher’s spot to come up earlier in the lineup, but nothing in this inning made much sense. 

In the long run, Blanton worked his way out of the inning. Another side effect of the inning, Collins’ mechanations led to the pitcher’s spot coming up three spots earlier in the lineup. He did that in a game where the Mets had a short bench. Just an inexcusable move. 

The Mets certainly could’ve benefitted from better managing as the pitcher’s spot did come up in the bottom of the 11th with the Mets down 4-3. 

The Mets were down 4-3 because Jeurys Familia is still rusty. Keep in mind, he only made two relief appearances in the minors before his suspension was over. 

After Josh Smoker allowed a lead-off double to Harper, Murphy was intentionally walked, and Familia entered the game. He threw a wild pitch allowing Harper to go to third. It didn’t matter much as he issued back-to-back walks to Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner to force in a run. Familia settled down after that, but it was too late. The Nationals took the lead. 

Shawn Kelley came on in the 11th and pitched a 1-2-3 inning to earn the save. With that, the Mets fought valiantly, but still lost. They’re now under .500, and who knows who will be healthy enough to play tomorrow. 

Game Notes: Daniel Murphy‘s 19 game hitting streak came to an end. He was 0-4, and he was intentionally walked in the 11th. Apparently, Reed wore the wrong hat during his appearance. 

Please Don’t Mess Around With These Injuries

One of the best things to come out of the past offseason was Major League Baseball shortening the stint on the disabled list from 15 days to 10 day.  Presumably, that change made it easier for teams to place their players on the disabled list to allow them to recover.  Someone should tell that to the Mets.

Last night, with the Lucas Duda injury and Wilmer Flores infection, Jay Bruce was forced to play first base for the first time since he played three games there in 2014.  That also put Juan Lagares in the position of being the team’s lone back-up outfielder and middle infielder.  Lagares was initially signed by the Mets as a shortstop, but he has not played the middle infield since he played six innings for the Single-A Savannah Sand Gnats as a 20 yeard old in 2009.  To put it in perspective how long ago that was, back in 2009, Citi Field just opened, and Daniel Murphy was considered a left fielder.

When Cespedes had to leave the game with a hamstring injury after running the bases in the fifth inning, the Mets were in trouble.  If the game were to go deep into extra innings, the Mets were likely going to have to consider which infield position other than first could Kevin Plawecki handle.  They might have followed through with the plan to put Zack Wheeler at first base like it was contemplated during the 16 inning game.  If things got bad enough, the team might have had to lean on Jacob deGrom‘s experience as a collegiate shortstop.

Simply put, this is unacceptable.  Year-in and year-out the Mets find themselves in this position, and they are more than willing to play with short benches with players not even available to pinch hit.  Worse yet, they ask players to do too much.

Last year, the Mets saw Asdrubal Cabrera deal with a knee injury all season.  From the middle of May until the end of July, he was hobbled and struggling.  Over that stretch, he hit .232/.285/.436.  The Mets finally put him on the disabled list so he could rest his knee.  He responded by becoming the 2015 Yoenis Cespedes and willing the Mets to the postseason hitting .345/.406/.635 over the final 41 games of the season.

Speaking of Cespedes, the Mets were also stubborn about putting him on the disabled list.  On July 8th, he suffered an injured quad.  He would not go on the disabled list, and he would not play in another game until July 17th.  When he did play, he was noticeably hobbled.  From July 17th to August 3rd, Cespedes hit just .205/.302/.318 in 14 games before the Mets finally put him on the disabled list.  When he came back, he hit .259/.335/.490 over the final 38 games of the season.

Then there was Michael Conforto.  We are not quite sure when he was injured, but we do know that he received a cortisone shot in June of last year.  Clearly something was bothering him as Conforto went from the best hitter on the team in April to a guy who hit just .174/.267/.330 for the rest of the year.  Instead of a disabled list stint, the Mets treated him to multiple demotions to Triple-A, where he absolutely raked, and being stuck to the bench for far too long stretches.  Perhaps if the Mets put him on the disabled list, his second season would have gone much differently, and the Bruce trade might not have been necessary.

You would think the Mets would have learned from that, but they clearly haven’t as they are already repeating the same mistakes.

While it is not ideal with six of the next nine games coming against the Nationals, the Mets can definitively get away with Bruce at first with an outfield of Conforto-Lagares-Curtis Granderson from left to right.  While it does not have the offensive punch you would like, that is a really good defensive outfield.  On the infield, the Mets could recall T.J. Rivera, who showed the Mets last year he has a place in the major leagues.  The Mets could even get bold by calling up Gavin Cecchini to play second and moving Neil Walker to third.  At a minimum, it would get a struggling Jose Reyes out of the lineup.  It could also allow the Mets to pick and choose their spots with Reyes to allow him to be an effective pinch hitter or pinch runner in late game situations.

The overriding point is the Mets have talent on the 40 man roster even if Duda and Cespedes went on the disabled list.  With the Mets throwing Noah Syndergaard, deGrom, and Matt Harvey, the Mets can still win a fair share of those games to keep the team afloat until Duda and Cespedes are ready to return to the lineup.  In fact, the team might be better off because you’d rather have two healthy sluggers mashing all season than two injured players trying to find a way to produce to their normal levels.

That is something that didn’t work last year, and we can’t expect it to work this year.  It’s about time the Mets learned how to properly utilize the disabled list and field a team of healthy players.

Reyes & Montero Were The Difference 

This game came down to Jose Reyes and Rafael Montero. What do you think happened?  Of course they lost and spoiled a nice effort from Zack Wheeler 

The only run scored off Wheeler was a first inning Odubel Herrera solo home run.  From there, Wheeler was far from perfect and battled himself and the Phillies. The second inning was his only 1-2-3 inning. 

In the third, Cesar Hernandez singled to lead-off the inning, and he stole second on a horrendous throw by Travis d’Arnaud. The throw was to Neil Walker who wasn’t even the middle infielder covering on the play. Wheeler then issued a walk to Herrera to put runners on first and second with one out. 

Wheeler got back-to-back groundouts from Maikel Franco and Michael Saunders to put an end to the Phillies biggest rally of the night off of him. 

Wheeler would depart after five innings and 99 pitches. His final line was five innings, four hits, one run, one earned, two walks, and seven strikeouts.

He’d leave on the long side due to a Mets first inning rally. 

Michael Conforto, leadoff man extraordinaire, would earn a leadoff walk off Phillies starter Zach EflinYoenis Cespedes then earned a one out walk of his own. Conforto would then score on a Jay Bruce RBI single. 
Cespedes went to third on the play, and he would score on a wild pitch during the Walker at-bat. It’s a good thing Cespedes scored there because the Mets offense would do nothing from there on out. 

For the rest of the game, the Mets only amassed three more hits and no one would reach third. This is troubling considering Eflin’s career ERA is 5.54 and the Phillies have a mediocre bullpen. 

In the sixth, Hansel Robles struggled issuing a one out walk to Tommy Joseph and hitting Cameron Rupp. At this point, I’m sure Rupp has had enough of Robles. Terry Collins did as well lifting him for Josh Smoker with two outs in the inning. 

Smoker struck out Brock Stassi to get out of the inning. He’d start the seventh getting the first two out before giving up a Herrera single.  Fernando Salas came on and got out of the inning. 

Unfortunately, Salas couldn’t get out of the eighth. After getting the first two out, he walked Rupp. He then induced a pop up to Freddy Galvis which Jose Reyes Luis Castilloed.

A hustling Rupp went to third and the slow jogging Galvis would only go to first. It would cost both teams. 

Jerry Blevins came on for Salas, and his steak of stranding 11 batters would end.  Andres Blanco ripped a double into left field. It would have scored two, but upon replay, it was determined to have hopped the wall for a ground rule double. With that, it was a 2-2 instead of a 3-2 game. 
The Reyes error cost the Mets a run, and Galvis’ lack of hustle cost the Phillies. Had Galvis ran, he might’ve been in second. If he was on second, he scores on a ground rule double. 

Blevins got out of the jam, and Addison Reed mowed down the Phillies in the ninth. 

In the ninth, Reyes drew a two out walk and took off initially on a pitch in the dirt. He stopped half way and was only safe because Hernandez pegged him in the back with a throw. It wound up not mattering as d’Arnaud grounded out to end the inning. 

With Reyes’ horrible game and Collins double switched Rafael Montero into the game with Wilmer Flores taking over at third and batting fifth (pitchers spot when Juan Lagares was double switched into the game in the seventh). 

For some reason, Collins has been loathed to use Sean Gilmartin no matter how much the bullpen could use some length or how much Montero struggles. It costs the Mets. 

Saunders led off the 10th with a single off Montero.  Even with him having to freeze on a rope hit in his direction, he went to third on the Joseph single. Then, for some reason, Collins didn’t bring the infield in. 

It didn’t really matter. Rupp hit a deep sacrifice fly which would be the only out Montero would record. Galvis would follow with a single putting runners on first and second. 

Aaron Altherr then hit a pinch hit RBI single to center. On the play, Lagares made a good throw home, but d’Arnaud couldn’t corral it. 

On a night where many Mets struggled, perhaps no one struggled more than d’Arnaud. He was 0-4 with the two miscues. What am I saying?  Reyes and Montero were worse. 

In any event, Collins was finally forced to go to Gilmartin. Gilmartin pitched reasonably well, but the two inherited runners scored when Asdrubal Cabrera didn’t have enough range to get a ball hit up the middle. While Cabrera is as sure handed as it gets, he really lacks range. 

With that, the Mets had a frustrating and downright embarrassing 6-2 loss dropping them to .500. It’s their fourth consecutive loss. 

Game Notes: Walker still doesn’t have an extra base hit as a left-handed batter this year. Conforto was 0-4 with the one walk, one run, and two strikeouts. Collins had his excuse not to play him tomorrow. 

Enough Excuses, Lock Up These Starters

Looking at this Mets team since 2015, one thing has been perfectly clear: this team is built on pitching, and it will only go as far as the pitching carries them. In 2015, when their starters were healthy and able to last the season, the Mets were able to win the National League Pennant. In 2016, with three of the arms going down, the Mets were still good enough to enter the postseason as the top Wild Card.

The Mets have been fortunate because the pitching has been cheap. It was not until recently that Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Jacob deGrom entered their arbitration years. Noah Syndergaard won’t be arbitration eligible until after this season. It is interesting because it is after this season that things begin to become murky. Harvey and Wheeler are scheduled to become free agents after the 2018 season with deGrom becoming a free agent the season after that.

With the Mets success rising and falling on their pitching, it begs the question why haven’t the Mets selected at least one or two pitchers and come to terms on a contract extension. The common refrain among Mets fans is the team should keep Syndergaard and deGrom and join them in a rotation that one day may also feature Robert Gsellman, Justin Dunn, and Thomas Szapucki. For now, even with the clock ticking, the Mets aren’t making a move.

While it may not make sense to most Mets fans, in a report by Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the New York Mets have advised why they have not entered into contract extension discussions with any of their young pitching:

1. Injuries

As GM John Ricco explained, “[GM] Sandy [Alderson] has not said let’s be aggressive in that area, and that [injuries] is the biggest reason.”

Fact of the matter is each one of these pitchers have an issue. Harvey, deGrom, Matz, and Wheeler have all had Tommy John surgery. Harvey, deGrom, and Matz all had season ending surgery last year. Even someone healthy like Syndergaard dealt with bone spurs last year. Point is, the Mets pitchers have not been exactly healthy, nor do they inspire confidence they will be healthy going forward. To that end, the Mets relative inactivity has been understandable.

2. Lack of Urgency

As noted in Sherman’s piece, the Mets do not have a pending free agent until the after the 2018 season, and Syndergaard isn’t a free agent until after the 2021 season. Honestly, this reason is a bit disingenuous. With Harvey’s pending free agency many expect this is Harvey’s last season in a Mets uniform as the team does not want to risk him walking in free agency and the team getting nothing in return for him.

3. Pitchers Aren’t Interested In Extensions

According to Ricco, who would know this better than fans, extension discussions are typically begun by the player and his agent. Again, with fans not being in the business, it is hard to challenge him on this. With that said, it is hard to believe the Mets would be willing to let all their pitchers go to free agency without so much as initiating contract disucssions with them. Frankly, it is harder to believe when you consider back in 2012, the Mets pounced on an opportunity to give Jon Niese a five year contract extension.

4. Personalities

As noted in Sherman’s piece, when you give a contract extension to one player, it is going to have ripple effects. As Ricco said, “You would have to manage personalities because if you do [an extension] with one, how does it impact the others?”

Now, this is a bit of an overstatement on Ricco’s part. Entering into contract extensions with the pitchers should be part of an overall plan. For example, when Omar Minaya was the General Manager, he was faced with Jose Reyes pending arbitration in 2006, he agreed with a four year pact with his shortstop. Minaya then quickly moved and locked up David Wright to a six year deal. While Alderson is dealing with more than just two players, Minaya’s actions certainly show if the team has a plan an executes it, there should be no issues.

5. Budget

It is something Mets fans don’t want to hear, but it is a reality. After this season, the Mets will have Reyes, Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, Addison Reed, and Fernando Salas as free agents. The team will have to decide on options for Jerry Blevins and Asdrubal Cabrera. In addition, all of the Mets marquee starting pitchers will be in arbitration thereby escalating their salaries. Furthermore, Jeurys Familia will also be owed a lot of money in arbitration if he has another stellar year. Long story short, the Mets will have to spend some money this offseason.

In order to do that, the Mets need to have the money. As Ricco explains, “Once you’ve locked in [on an extension], you do limit flexibility in some ways.”

Now, it is easy to say the Mets can plug in Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith next year, but at this point, it is not known if they will be ready to be 2018 Opening Day starters. Putting forth such a plan would be folly, especially for a team that can still compete for a World Series.

Overall, the Mets concerns over not extending their pitchers have some merit, especially when you consider the injury issues. Still, the longer the Mets wait, the more expensive each of these starting pitchers will become. As they become more expensive, the chances of locking up more than one of them significantly decreases. Sooner or later, the Mets are going to have to take a chance on a couple of these pitchers if they have designs of competing for World Series over the next decade. With Harvey being a free agent after next season, the sooner the Mets begin executing a plan, the better.

Fortunately Robles Pitched 

Hansel Robles had pitched in three straight games and four out of the last five. In his last appearance, he appeared gassed. As such, even with Robert Gsellman not getting out of the fifth and the game going deeper and deeper into extra innings, Terry Collins did all he could do to keep Robles out of the game. 

Rafael MonteroFernando SalasAddison Reed, and Josh Smoker all pitched more than an inning. For his part, Smoker threw a career high three innings. With the bench already empty, Jacob deGrom pinch hit for Smoker in the top of the 15th necessitating the pitching change. 
With Robles as the last man standing, he was the obvious choice. Despite him looking absolutely gassed, he managed to pitch two scoreless and pick up the win. It almost didn’t happen.

According to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, Collins’ Plan B was to pitch Rene Rivera if Robles told him he couldn’t go. There was just one tiny little problem – the Mets were out of bench players. 

This meant Collins was going to have to use a pitcher in the field. The natural choice was probably deGrom, who was a collegiate shortstop, but that wasn’t Collins’s choice. Instead, Collins decided that Zack Wheeler would’ve entered the game to play first base. 

It seemed like the Mets 16 inning win had everything, but apparently it did not. That’s a good thing because Rivera pitching was likely not going to go well. Wheeler at first might’ve gone even worse. 

Lucky for everyone involved, Robles not only took the ball, but he earned the win. He gave his team a chance to win. He gave his team a chance to keep catchers from pitching and pitchers from playing first base. 

Conforto Leads, Wheeler Deals, Mets Sweep

Given the fact that it was his second start since missing two plus years due to Tommy John surgery and the fact that the Mets were down to five starters with the Steven Matz and Seth Lugo injuries, Zack Wheeler‘s start had more importance attached to it than usual. 

After a 13 pitch scoreless first inning, things were looking good. He was hitting his spots, and he was hitting 97 on the gun. Then again that’s what happened in his first start. The real test was from the second inning on. 

Wheeler passed the test with flying colors. He maintained both his velocity and control. While he was getting the benefit of some excellent pitch framing from Travis d’Arnaud, Wheeler put the ball where d’Arnaud put his mitt. 

Wheeler put together a stretch of eleven straight retired. That ended in the sixth when he finally started to struggle with his location and velocity. 

There were runners on first and second with one out. Wheeler reached back and got a huge strikeout of Howie Kendrick, but Wheeler lost it all and walked Odubel Herrera. After 5.2 innings, Collins went to Hansel Robles

Third straight day of pitching or not, Robles made a horrendous pitch to what amounts to the Phillies only real power threat. The first pitch hung down the middle of the plate, and Maikel Franco launched it for a grand slam. 

The grand slam put somewhat of a damper on what was a terrific start for Wheeler. His final line was 5.2 innings, four hits, three runs, three earned, one walk, and four strikeouts. 

Arguably, it was the best Wheeler has ever looked in a Mets uniform. Certainly, it was his most important start. The effort earned him a well deserved and long awaited win. 

The Mets offense was humming once again even if Vince Velasquez was pitching pretty well. 

It all got started with surprise lead off hitter Michael Conforto getting the lead-off single and scoring on a Yoenis Cespedes RBI double. The score would become 2-0 when Conforto did this:

Like a true lead-off hitter and table setter, Conforto was in the middle of the next rally. 

The fifth inning started with d’Arnaud getting hit by a pitch, and like the smart player he is waiving off Ray Ramirez:

Wheeler tried to bunt him over, but the Phillies walked him instead. Velasquez then walked Conforto to load the bases. Asdrubal Cabrera, the same player who had an 0-32 streak with RISP last year, came to the plate. 

Cabrera delivered with a two RBI single making him 5-5 with RISP to begin the season. Conforto then scored on a Cespedes sacrifice fly to make it 5-0. As noted above, the Mets needed all of those runs. 

Fortunately, the rest of the Mets bullpen locked the game down. Jerry BlevinsFernando Salas, and Addison Reed combined to pitch 2.2 scoreless innings to preserve the 2.2 innings, the 5-4 win, and the series sweep. 

The Mets certainly got healthy in Philadelphia, and they have momentum as they take their rejuvenated talents to South Beach. 

Game Notes: Curtis Granderson was just given the day off. There were no injury issues. Jose Reyes batted seventh again. He went 0-4, and is now 1-10 from the seventh spot in the lineup. 

Good Luck Ty Kelly

After toiling away away in the minor leagues for seven years, and after three teams had decided to move on from him, Ty Kelly found himself as a member of the Las Vegas 51s last year.  At 27, it was becoming harder and harder to believe that Kelly was ever going to find that light at the end of the tunnel.

Still, he was undeterred.  He just went out there and did all he could do to give the Mets no other choice but to call him up to the majors.  He jumped right out of the gate hitting .386/.500/.477 in April.  He was even better in May hitting .394/.463/.592.  Kelly did this while also playing all eight defensive positions.  Finally, due to a number of injuries, and his hot hitting, on May 24th, Kelly got the call up to the majors.

Unfortunately, Kelly struggled.  Right off the bat, he was 0-4 with three strikeouts in his first ever game.  During that first call-up, Kelly played in nine games only hitting .182/.250/.318.  With that, call-up it seemed as if his first ever career home run might just be the lone highlight of his career:

His second call-up in June didn’t go much better with him going 0-5 in his five pinch hitting appearances.  With that Kelly found himself in a familiar position.  He was back in the minor leagues just waiting for his chance to get called back up to the major leauges.  In some sense, this time it had to be all the more frustrating because he finally got his chance, and he struggled.  He got his chance, and he was right back to square one.  Fortunately for Kelly, he got one more chance, and he took advantage of it.

In August, Kelly was a surprise call-up due to his struggles, and he was an even bigger surprise as the starting left fielder.  This time, Kelly took full advantage of the opportunity going 2-4 with two runs and a walk.  During this stint, he proved he could hit at the major league level.  He showed he can be a versatile player.  Mostly, Kelly established there was a spot for him in the major leagues.  This is no small feat for anyone, let alone anyone who waited over seven years for this chance.

In total, Kelly finished his first season in the major leagues hitting a very respectable .241/.352/.345 with a double, triple, home run, and seven RBI in 39 games.  He was used in a myriad of roles playing first, second, third, and all three outfield positions.  He was used as a pinch hitter and a pinch runner.  He proved himself to be a smart baseball player.  He earned himself a spot on the Mets Wild Card Game roster.  In fact, Kelly should pinch hit for Addison Reed in the eighth inning, and he would get the one out single.  His hit was only one of the four hits the Mets collected that day.

Kelly showed enough during his stint with the Mets to be named to the Team Israel roster in the World Baseball Classic.  He was the team’s third baseman, and the number two hitter in a lineup that shocked the World by making it into the second round.

His play last season was enough to get him named to the Mets Opening Day roster, but it was not enough for him to stick.  With both Zack Wheeler and Robert Gsellman both having short outings back-to-back, the Mets needed to clear space on the 40 man roster to bring up another pitcher.  It was a numbers game, and Kelly was the one the Mets gambled on keeping.  Ironically, the move was made so Paul Sewald could finally get his shot after waiting five years in the minor leagues.

It should come as no surprise that a team was interested in a player like Kelly.  The Blue Jays made room on their roster for a player squeezed out by the Mets.  Oddly enough, Kelly is now with a team that once passed over him.  Once again, Kelly gets to prove everyone wrong and show both the Blue Jays and all of Major League Baseball that he belongs in the majors.  Based upon last year, I wouldn’t bet against him.

And when he finally does get called back up to the majors, and we know he will, all Mets fans should wish him the best of luck.  I know I will.

Terry Collins Poor April 2017 Decisions

This year marks the seventh year Terry Collins has been the Mets manager. In those seven years, he has left a wake of horrible decisions and the careers of some players, namely Scott Rice and Jim Henderson.

Collins seems to be in rare form in what he had previously said was going to be his last before retirement. Already this year, he has made some poor and dangerous decisions.

Now, some like starting Jay Bruce over Michael Conforto is an organizational decision.  Some decisions are designed to give players a mental and physical day of rest, and they should not be over-analyzed.  However, many others, as you’ll see below, fall under the purview of Collins poor managing:

Opening Day – 4/3

Mets 6 – Braves 0

Collins sets out a lineup that makes little sense including batting his second worse OBP guy in Jose Reyes lead-off. He also made a strategical blunder hitting Bruce ahead of Lucas Duda. The issues there are more detailed here.

After Noah Syndergaard left the game with a blister, Collins turned to fifth starter Robert Gsellman for an inning in a 6-0 blowout instead of Rafael Montero, who could have benefited from a pressure free outing to build his confidence.

April 5th

Braves 3 – Mets 1

It’s not Collins’ fault the bullpen blew the lead, and he had to rip through his pen in an extra inning game. However, going to Montero over Josh Smoker was a poor decision. Smoker is just a one inning pitcher. He can’t be the last guy up. Also, he’s better than Montero, and as such, he shouldn’t pitched first.

Also, in extras, Collins turned to Ty Kelly over T.J. Rivera and Wilmer Flores with two outs and the winning run on second. In 2016, Kelly hit .179 off right-handed pitching to Flores’ .232 and Rivera’s .386. Another factor is with Conforto already having pinch hit, Kelly was the last OF on the bench.

April 6th

Mets 6 – Braves 2

No issues.

April 7th

Marlins 7 – Mets 2

You could argue Collins should’ve lifted Zack Wheeler before the fourth as he labored in ever inning except the first, but focusing too much on this may be picking nits at this point.  What was really peculiar was it was obvious the Mets were going to need someone to soak up innings with Wheeler’s short outing.  Last year, Smoker proved he is not a multiple inning reliever.  Despite that being the case, Collins turned to Smoker over Montero or Hansel Robles, who are two pitchers that can go deep in relief.  These are the types of decisions that exhaust bullpens.

April 8th

Marlins 8 – Mets 1

With Gsellman going five, Collins had to go deeper in the pen that he would’ve liked. He went too deep when he brought in Montero. The previous day Montero threw 35 pitches over 2.2 innings. On Wednesday, Montero threw 35 pitches over 1.2 innings. That’s 70 pitches over 4.2 innings without much rest. Montero struggled leading Collins to bring in Fernando Salas who has now appeared in four of the Mets five games himself.

April 9th

Mets 5 – Marlins 2

No issues.

April 10th

Mets 4 – Phillies 3

In the top of the seventh with the score tied at two, Collins put Conforto in the on deck circle, and the Phillies countered by having Joely Rodriguez warm-up.  By Collins tipping his hand a bit, he was forced to make the choice of Conforto against the left-handed pitcher or to go with one of his right-handed bench options to pinch hit for Jacob deGrom.

Now, there is a lot of small sample size bias, but Collins options where Conforto (.129/.191/.145 vs. LHP), Flores (.252/.286/.372 vs. RHP), and Rivera (.386/.397/.600 vs. RHP).  Again, there are small sample sizes, but based upon the information you would say your best bet is Rivera against Jerad Eickhoff.  Instead, Collins went with Flores, who flew out to end the inning and the rally.

One other small note.  Based upon the relative production of the Mets players, putting Bruce in the clean-up spot was a defensible and probably the smart move.  It’s more than just production, Bruce just looks better at the plate than anyone in the lineup right now.  However, according to Collins, Bruce was moved up in the lineup because he was hot.  Of course, Bruce wasn’t as he was in the midst of a 2-14 streak.

It’s a problem when the manager is making a move predicated on a faulty premise.  It does not matter if it was the right move or it worked out.  The problem is the reasoning behind it was flawed.

April 11th

Mets 14 – Phillies 4

No issues.

April 12th

Mets 5 – Phillies 4

To be fair, the following isn’t necessarily a critique of Collins.  It really is a critique of most baseball managers.  With the Mets up 5-0, and Zack Wheeler loading the bases, Collins summoned Hansel Robles to the mound.  While Gary and Ron Darling were harping on it being his third consecutive game, he had only pitched two innings and threw just 20 pitches in that stretch.  It’s really difficult to infer Robles was tired.

Rather, the issue is why don’t you use Fernando Salas in that spot?  He’s well rested, and he’s arguably your second best reliever right now.  This really was the biggest out of the game.  The Mets get the out here, and they go to the seventh up 5-0.  From there, you can go with some of your lesser arms to close out the game.

Instead, Collins went with his best reliever that wasn’t his 7th, 8th, or 9th inning guy.  This is what every manager does in this spot, so this is not unique to Collins.  Another point to be made here is Collins going to Robles is justifiable as Robles is a good relief pitcher, and he has bailed the Mets out of similar situations in the past.  Again, this is more of a critique of major league managers as a whole than just Collins.

April 13th

Mets 9 – Marlins 8 (16)

Well, this was a long game leaving Collins to make a lot of curious moves that helped lead to this being a 16 inning game that exhausted the Mets bullpen.

Despite the Mets facing a left-handed pitcher in Wei-Yin Chen, the Mets playing a large outfield, and the Mets rushing him back from the disabled list, Juan Lagares was not in the starting lineup.

After four innings, Collins lifted T.J. Rivera from the game for no reason at all.  There were no injury issues or defensive problems.  This move indirectly led to Rene Rivera playing first base in extra innings and Jacob deGrom having to make a pinch hitting appearance.

In the fifth, despite Gsellman not having anything, Collins pushed him, and the results were terrible.  Collins then turned to his worst reliever in Josh Edgin to help Gsellman get out of the jam.  The end result was the Marlins not only erasing a three run deficit, but also taking an 8-7 lead.

The Mets tied it and the game went 16 innings.  Over the course of those innings, the bullpen was absolutely exhausted which will have far reaching implications in the short and long term.

April 14th

Marlins 3 – Mets 2

To be fair, after a 16 inning game, the Mets did not have a lot of options available in the bullpen.  However, it is puzzling why Collins would go with Edgin, who has struggled most of the season, over a fully rested Sean Gilmartin who was brought up for the sole purpose of helping the bullpen.  Putting Edgin in for two innings essentially conceded the game.  That’s effectively what happened.

April 15th

Marlins 5 – Mets 4

After ONE decent game this season, Collins just rushed ahead and put Reyes back in the lead-off spot.  In response, Reyes was 0-3 with a walk.  It didn’t prevent the Mets from taking a lead, but again, it shows Collins’ poor though process.

In the eighth, the Mets had Jerry Blevins warming in bullpen when Christian Yelich walked to the plate.  Now, you can argue that Salas is the eighth inning reliever until Jeurys Familia returns, and this is his spot.  However, when you have Blevins warming up, you have him pitch to the left-handed batter in key situtations.  Instead, Salas allowed a game tying home run followed by a go-ahead home run to Giancarlo Stanton.

April 16th

Marlins 4 – Mets 2

No issues.

April 18th

Phillies 6  – Mets 2 (10)

For most of the game, it appeared as if Collins was managing a pretty good game.  The most egregious error was batting d’Arnaud behind Reyes, who can’t hit right now, and Walker, who can’t hit as a left-handed batter right now.  However, you can excuse that when you consider Collins has to manage a clubhouse and respect veterans.

I’d go so far as to argue Collins deftly managed the bullpen last night.  That was until the 10th inning.  With a fully rested Sean Gilmartin and a Montero who seemingly gets worse with each and every outing, you simply cannot go to Montero in that spot.  It is essentially waiving a white flag.  And you know what, that’s exactly what Collins did.

The Phillies quickly had runners on first and second because, well, Montero was pitching.  You’re in the 10th inning, and the Mets have no hit at all in the game, you absolutely have to bring your infield in.  For some reason, Collins didn’t.  It would up not mattering because Montero allowed a sacrifice to the deepest part of right field, but still, how do you not bring your infield in in that spot?  It’s an egregious error perhaps more egregious than the Reyes one that lead to the game going into extra innings.

April 19th

Mets 5 – Phillies 4

You could argue that Reyes hitting seventh in front of d’Arnaud is a pressing issue, or his presence in the lineup might be one as well.  However, you have to consider Collins has to manage personalities in that clubhouse, and he has to at least consider the impact batting Reyes eighth may have.  Right now, this is an area where Collins should get some latitude.

Another thing to note, keeping Gsellman in to bunt and pitch to the first batter in the eighth was a defensible move.  The bench was short with Duda and d’Arnaud coming out of the game due to injury.  Also, the bullpen has been overworked.  Even saving them from having to get one batter is a help right now.

Accordingly, there were no issues with last night’s game.

April 20th

Phillies 6 – Mets 4

People want to harp on Familia throwing 30 pitches in the ninth, but the bullpen has been exhausted, and the Mets really didn’t give him work in the minors.  There were no issues with this game.

April 21st

Nationals 4 – Mets 3 (11)

Collins was extremely limited because of the injuries, and yet, he still managed to work a way around that excuse.  In the ninth, Collins used Gsellman to pinch run for Rene Rivera.  With Lagares in the game already due to the Cespedes’ injury, Collins had to go to his pitchers for pinch running and pinch hitting opportunities, so this was certainly understandable.  What happened after wasn’t.

First and foremost, Collins asked T.J. Rivera to lay down a bunt.  Now, analytical people would say this was the wrong move because the sacrifice bunt in that situation actually decreases the chances of your scoring.  They’re right, but there’s more to that.  Behind Rivera is the pitcher’s spot meaning you are going to have to have one of your players too injured to start the game enter as a pinch hitter.  That player was Cabrera.

Cabrera worked out a walk.  Once his foot touched second, Kevin Plawecki was already coming into the game as a pinch runner.  Why Collins just didn’t put Plawecki, the more experienced base runner, in for Rivera is certainly questionable.  There’s another matter to consider.  Plawecki was the last player on the bench who could play the field.  This meant that if the Mets didn’t score here, the pitcher’s spot in the order was going to come up sooner.  This meant that d’Arnaud had to pinch hit in the bottom of the 11th.

It should be noted d’Arnaud was so injured he couldn’t start the game.  It should also be noted when the game was tied in the seventh, Collins had turned to Wheeler to pinch hit.  There’s not congruent thought that can come from all of this.

April 22nd

Nationals 3 – Mets 1

Collins playing Cabrera in this game was a poor decision.  Cabrera was so hobbled the night before he couldn’t run the bases.  In this game, you saw why.  He was clearly hobbled and had even more difficulty getting around than he usually does.  He was noticeably in pain, and he was playing on a slick field.  There was an incident in the fifth inning where he tried to leg out an infield single, and it looked like he was going to need help to get off the field.  Cabrera would come out to take his position just before the beginning of the next half inning.

April 23rd

Nationals 6 – Mets 3

Other than a clearly hobbled and limited Cabrera playing again, no issues.