Zack Wheeler

Thor Trying to Avoid Tommy John Surgery

Going into the 2016 season, there is one fear each and every Mets fan has. We dare not speak its name, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still present. That fear is that a pitcher will get seriously injured. 

Looking at this year’s list of pitchers who could befall the dreaded “Verducci Effect,” Noah Syndergaard headlines that list. If Syndergaard was to suffer a season ending injury requiring Tommy John surgery? it would greatly hinder the Mets chances of winning not only the World Series, but also making it to the postseason. It’s something that not just Mets fans fear, but as Anthony DiComo of MLB.com reports, Syndergaard fears it also:

I’ve thought about it quite a bit. But I trust myself to put my body in the right situations to be able to perform at a healthy level. 

The fear is justified. Syndergaard threw 65.2 innings more last year. He throws over 95 MPH more than anyone in the game. He’s working to add the fabled Warthen Slider to his already dominant repertoire. Name a risk factor for UCL years requiring Tommy John surgery. Syndergaard meets most if not all of them. 

One risk factor not readily discussed is the team he plays for. Look at the projected Mets rotation when healthy: Matt HarveyJacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler. Put aside Syndergaard for a moment. What do the other four have in common?  They are all hard throwing pitchers under the age of 30 who have already had Tommy John surgery. 

Go outside this group. Since Warthen took over as the Mets pitching coach, the following homegrown Mets have sustained arm injuries: Jon Niese (shoulder), Dillon Gee (shoulder), Jeremy Hefner (two Tommy John surgeries), Rafael Montero (shoulder), Bobby Parnell (Tommy John), Josh Edgin (Tommy John), Jack Leathersich (Tommy John). There are more, but you get the point. 

Now, is this an organizational problem since Warthen took over, or is it just bad luck?  Could this all have been avoided?  Back in the 60’s and 70’s the Mets developed pitchers like Tom SeaverJerry KoosmanNolan Ryan, and Jon Matlack. These pitchers threw more innings than the pitchers today, and yet, Matlack was the only one of this group that suffered an arm injury. 

In the 80’s, the Mets had Dwight GoodenRon DarlingSid Fernandez, Rick AguileraRandy Myers and David Cone. Of this group, only Doc and Cone had arm issues. It should be noted that Doc had many other issues as well, and Cone’s problem was an aneurysm later in his career. 

In the 90’s, Generation K was a bust, and the Mets haven’t developed the caliber of starting pitchers like they have in the past until now. However, this generation seems to befall injuries far more often than their predecessors. Is it organizational?  Is it bad luck?  Is it preparation?  For his part, Harvey wonders what if:

I think now, there are things I could have done better in high school or in college to maybe prevent it. But I don’t know. I’m not saying [Syndergaard] works that much harder than everybody else, because we all work hard. I think as time progresses, guys pay more attention to stretching the shoulder, strengthening the shoulder. If I could go back — I don’t know if this would’ve prevented me from having [surgery], but if I could go back and really do 20 extra minutes of stretching and arm care, you never know what could happen. 

That’s the thing. We really don’t know why one guy suffers elbow and shoulder injuries while others don’t. Is it preparation?  Is it good genes?  Is it just good luck?  Much time, energy, and money has been spent on this issue, and yet pitchers still get injured. Pitchers get injured despite teams doing everything in their power to try to prevent it. 

It will help Syndergaard being in a clubhouse with players who have had Tommy John surgery. They each will have advice for him on why they suffered the injury and what they could’ve done differently. More importantly, Syndergaard appears to be a hard worker who takes the health of his arm very seriously.  There is no doubt he is doing everything he can do to avoid the dreaded Tommy John surgery. 

Based on what we’ve seen, if anyone can avoid it, it’s him. 

Editor’s Note: this article was first published on metsmerizedonline.com

Tejada’s Time With the Mets Should Be Short

I’m sure Jedd Gyorko could be the answer to many questions. However, I’m fairly positive he’s not the answer to the question, “Who should be your starting shortstop?”

With the injury to Jhonny Peralta, Gyorko is the Cardinals starting shortstop. Unless the Cardinals make a move, Gyorko will be the shortstop for the next two to three months. Now, Gyorko was never anything more than an average second baseman which a career -1.5 UZR over his three year career. That doesn’t bode well for his chances to be a good to adequate shortstop. Like most, I’m assuming if any team can make it work, it’s the Cardinals. 

With that said, it’s a good time for the Mets to call the Cardinals. From all the reports this Spring, it appears that the Mets might be looking to move on from Ruben Tejada. It’s probably the right move too. 

Last year, Tejada had an impressive finish to the season. Although never mentioned as such, he was part of the reason why the Mets rallied to win the NL East. His gruesome injury in the NLDS was a rallying cry for the Mets and Mets fans throughout the postseason. However, he’s on the last year of his deal, and he’s an expensive backup eating up a spot on the 40 man roster. 

The Mets right now have absurd depth at the shortstop position. Asdrubal Cabrera is penciled in as the starter the next two years. Wilmer Flores grew into the role and handled the position very well when pressed into shortstop duty again in the postseason. Former second round pick Matt Reynolds is competing for a utility role in the majors. On top of that, the Mets have two big shortstop prospects in Gavin Cecchini and Amed Rosario. Long story short, the Mets don’t need shortstop depth. 

What they do need is 40 man roster space. So far, Jim Henderson is having a nice Spring and may be on the inside track to locking down a spot on the Opening Day bullpen. The Mets are talking about letting Kevin Plawecki start the year in AAA. This means, as of right now, Johnny Monell would open the year as the backup catcher. There’s a problem with Henderson and Monell making the Opening Day roster. 

Neither player is on the 40 man roster, and the Mets have no spots open. Even if the Mets placed Zack Wheeler on the 60 day DL, the Mets would still need to drop someone else from the 40 man roster to add both Henderson and Monell. This could be accomplished by trading Tejada. 

It seemed like Tejada turned a corner last year. Unfortunately, with one dirty play he is back on the bench, and frankly, occupying a roster spot the Mets need. It may not seem fair. It may seem cruel, but it’s time for the Mets too move on from Tejada. They should do it now with the Cardinals having a need, and the Mets wanting to maximize the return they would receive for Tejada.  

Editor’s Note: this article also appeared on metsmerizedonline.com

What If Murphy Accepted the Qualifying Offer?

Before teams were able to sign free agents, the Mets extended the $15.8 million qualifying offer to Daniel Murphy. We know that if Murphy would’ve accepted the offer, it would’ve prevented the Mets failed pursuit of Ben Zobrist. The Neil WalkerJon Niese trade doesn’t happen. Murphy accepting the qualifying offer would’ve had greater implications. 

During the cost of the offseason, the Mets signed Asdrubal Cabrera ($8.25 million), Jerry Blevins ($4.0 million), Bartolo Colon ($7.25 million), Alejandro De Aza ($5.75 million), Antonio Bastardo ($5.375 million), and, of course, Yoenis Cespedes ($27 million). Between the group of them, they are all being paid a combined $57.625 million in 2016. So right off the bat, the Mets spent this offseason. Therefore, it would not be fair to say Murphy accepting the qualifying offer would’ve prevented the Mets from spending money this offseason. 

Yet, it would be fair to say Murphy accepting the qualifying offer would greatly impact how the Mets proceeded with their offseason plans. 

First off, the Mets would’ve have to had to address Niese is some fashion. If the Mets kept him, Niese would’ve been owed $9.0 million or $1.75 million more than what the Mets are paying Colon. It’s possible the Mets could’ve kept Niese using him as a fifth starter until Zack Wheeler returned. At that point, he would return to the bullpen where he had success in the postseason last year

If the Mets were intent on trading Niese, it would’ve been interesting to see what the Mets would’ve received in exchange. Naturally, they wouldn’t have pursued a second baseman. Other than Andrelton Simmons, there wasn’t a shortstop of note who was traded in the offseason.  It’s fair to say Niese would have been insufficient as a trade piece to fetch Simmons. Instead, it’s more likely the Mets would’ve pursued a bullpen arm. 

In the offseason, the Mets signed Bastardo and Blevins to a combined total of $9.375 million. Judging by how early the Mets signed Blevins, it’s possible the Mets would not have signed Bastardo. Bastardo’s money likely would’ve been allocated to the hypothetical bullpen arm. So, it’s possible the Mets bullpen would’ve looked different had the Mets retained Murphy. 

However, the biggest change might’ve been Cespedes. Even without Murphy accepting the qualifying offer, the Mets initial plan in the offseason was to sign De Aza to platoon with Juan Lagares. It’s possible with more money invested than they would’ve otherwise, it’s possible the Mets stop there and don’t add Cespedes. Where Cespedes goes after that would be anyone’s guess. 

It’s possible with the Nationals getting shut out on everyone else, they would’ve been in a position to offer a better deal to Cespedes. There may have been a greater sense of urgency too. Also, with the $15.8 million invested in Murphy, it’s likely the Mets wouldn’t have had the money to offer to Cespedes to prevent him from going to the Nationals. 

Overall, the only move the Mets made that should not have been impacted was Cabrera. Even with paying Murphy $15.8 million, the Mets still could’ve afforded to spend what they spent on Cabrera. As discussed heretofore, there’s no telling how else the Mets would’ve proceeded. We don’t know what else they would’ve or could’ve done. The one thing everyone can be fairly confident about is Cespedes likely would’ve signed with another team. 

While I still maintain that Murphy returning on a reasonable deal would’ve been better than the Walker-Niese trade, Murphy not accepting the qualifying offer was the best thing that happened to the Mets this offseason. 

“One Strike, Two Strikes, Three Strikes, You’re Out” adapted from Dr. Seuss¬†

In honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday, here is my adapted Mets Dr. Seuss story to read with your little Mets fan.

   

 
 
“One Strike, Two Strikes, Three Strikes, You’re Out”

One Strike. Two Strikes. Three Strikes. You’re out. 

Yes. Some are curves. And some are fast. Some are slow. Some are from Matz. 

Some are from Jake. With strikes batters take. Even if these are batters that rake. Why do batters who rake take pitches from Jake?  I do not know. Maybe the pitch did break. 

Some pitchers are thin. Colon is fat. The fat one can pounce off the mound with the agility of a cat. 

From here to there, from here to there, strikeouts are everywhere. 

Some strikes bring heat. The heat is neat and sends batters to their seat. 

Oh me!  Oh my!  Oh me!  Oh my!  What a lot of strikes go by. 

Some are two seamers. Some are four. Some are just mean and batters want no more. 

How do they do it?  I cannot say.  But I bet the pitchers trained very hard along the way. 

We see the pitches come. We see the pitches go. Some are fast. And some are slow. Some are high. And some are low. Not one of them is like another. Don’t ask us why. Go ask your mother. 

Say!  Look at the strikeouts?  One, two, three . . . .  How many strikeouts do I see?  One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. The pitcher has eleven. Eleven!  That’s nothing new. The next pitcher will do it too!

Swing!  Swing!  Swing!  You ever see such a thing?  Not one swing hit anything. But we know the pitchers have the ball on the string. The string makes the ball do anything. So . . . if you like to Swing! Swing! at anything just swing at the ball on a string and the strikeouts will sting. 

Who am I?  My name is Thor. When I strike someone out. I want more. It is so good. It is so right. The batters strike out all day and night. And when I strike them out, Oh Dear!  The batters have had it up to here!

We like the strikes. We like them in threes. Each strike sets up a hitter, you see. We like the strikes and this is why: the strikes makes outs and batters go bye-bye. 

Hello there, Zack. How do you do? Tell me, tell how do you plan your attack?  How did you do that?  Was the pitch new?  Please tell me Zack. I do not like this batter at all. A lot of strikes the umpire did call. A National, a Phillie, a Marlin, a Brave. Oh!  He’s out!  The strikeout was my fave!

Oh dear!  Oh dear!  The batter is in fear. How does the pitcher throw that sphere?  Why did the crowd just cheer?  It seems another strike out is near. Say look!  The ball did reappear. But he is out. So you can cheer. Again, cheer for the strikeouts my dear. 

The batter is old. The batter is cold. The pitcher has a pitch that is bold. The pitch is off. The batter will fold. The pitch is off. The batter did fold. The pitcher’s pitch was bold. The batter is cold. The batter is old. And now the story of the at bat has been told. 

The batter took a look. His confidence is shook. On the pitch, he did look.  On the pitch, he did look. It was a hook, and the confidence was shook. We saw him sit and give a look. He took a look at the hook and he shook. The hook did the deed for the pitch the batter just took. SO . . .  what good is a look at the hook he just took?

The batters were out, and they’ll lose some sleep. But not even counting sheep will help them sleep. By the light of the moon, by light of the star, they struck out all night on pitches near and far. They would never walk. Sitting in the dugout they are. 

I do not like this ump so well. All he does is yell, yell, yell. This game is turning into a route. When the Mets strike all the batters out. The batters are quiet as a mouse. All they can do now is rouse. 

At our house, we have stands. Those stands are full of fans. With two strikes, the fans give the pitcher a hand.  Hands from fans is very good. Have you heard a hand from fans?  You should. 

I like to play. How I like to play!  So, if I may, I play everyday. In May, I play everyday. I play everyday in May. 

It is fun to win if you win with a grin. I grin and win with pitchers who do everything.  I grin wide, and the batters heads hang low, their swings were so bad, and too slow. 

This batter I think will blink.  His strikeout will be written in ink. He really does stink. He hates to stink, and stink, and stink. The stink makes his face turn pink. The pink from the stink is after a pitcher’s wink. The batter hates the stink, the pink, and the wink. SO . . . if you really stink, the pitcher will give you a wink, after the strikeout is written in ink. 

Hop!  Hop!  Hop!  The batter went plop. Familia likes to hop from batter flop to batter flop. Familia hops from the mound and then . . . Hop!  Hop!  The ball goes from the catcher to third and around. Familia likes to hop all day and night from mound to ground and ground to mound. Why does he hop, hop, hop?  The rally did stop. 

Shush!  Shush!  Shush!  Shush!  Groan!  Groan!  Groan!  Groan!  Pitchers have fans making hitters shush and groan. All batters who shush and groan will have better luck when they return home. 

Who is this Met?  Say!  He doesn’t break a sweat. You may never yet met a Met, I bet, who will let a batter make him sweat. 

Did you ever make a batter see red?  Did you ever strike a batter out and send them to bed?  Did you ever have a batter shaking his head wondering how?  Well, Mets pitchers can do it. They know how. If you ever did, you should. These things are fun and fun is good. 

Hello!  Hello!  Are you there?  Hello?  You’re up to bat, hello! I said hello. Can you hear me Joe?  Oh no. I can not hear you at all. I did not hear your call at all. I was not paying attention; want to know why. I’m not willing to face a Mets pitcher. Good-bye!

From near to far, from here to there, the Mets are striking batters out everywhere. These young Mets are called aces. They strike out the batters each one faces. Their pitches are fast . . . so fast, they say, they strikeout batters everyday. 

Who am I? I’m the Dark Knight. I throw the ball with great might. My slider has bite and the spin is real tight.  When I pitch to strikeout a batter without much fight, I pitch the ball at the right height. Then I say, “You have no fight against a slider that will bite!”  And I give batters great fright as they strike out all night. So . . . if your plight is my might all night, you might swing with fright at the pitches from the Dark Knight. 

Our house is a place called Citi. During each game all we feel for batters is pity. Would opponents like to play against our pitchers in a game?  Come down!  There’s only one great pitching staff in town. 

Look at we did in the park in the dark. We only win at home. A visitor’s chances of winning are stark. We will win at our house. The win totals will grow and grow. All of baseball will take notice. Our pitching prowess will you will soon know. 

And now good night. It is time to sleep. Our pitchers will soon put you to sleep as the hole you’re in is too deep. Today is gone. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one. Every day, from here to there, Mets pitchers are striking out batters everywhere. 

Where Does Sean Gilmartin Belong? 

Heading into the 2015, the Mets selected Sean Gilmartin in the Rule 5 Draft. Even though he is left-handed, he never developed into the LOOGY some might’ve imagined him to be. He has reverse splits. 

Rather than handing him back to the Twins, the Mets allowed Gilmartin to carve himself a role in the bullpen. He became a very dependable long man in the bullpen. He had a good year pitching 57.1 innings in 50 games. He had a 2.67 ERA, 1.186 WHIP, 2.75 FIP, and a 139 ERA+. At least based upon his past performance, he’s earned the right to reprise his role as the long man in the pen. He’s earned the right to be on the Opening Day roster. 

Is that what is best for the Mets or Gilmartin going forward?  Now that the Mets have kept Gilmartin for a full year, they can send him to the minors this year. The Mets can now choose to decide between whether Gilmartin should be a reliever or a starter. 

Barring injury [knock on every piece of wood within a three mile radius of you right now], the Mets rotation is set. It’s loaded. There is no way Gilmartin will out pitch any of the top four starters. Until Zack Wheeler returns from Tommy John surgery, which should be around June, the Mets will go with Bartolo Colon as the fifth starter. Presumably, he will be the spot starter or injury replacement from that point forward. 

However, that doesn’t mean the Mets won’t need quality minor league starting pitching depth. It’s still possible Wheeler could have a set back in his rehab and/or struggle when he returns. Colon will turn 43 in May. Tom Verducci has already named Noah Syndergaard as a candidate to befall the [disproven] Verducci Effect. Always remember the old adage that you can never have enough pitching. 

Logan Verrett, who had briefly departed the Mets after being picked in the Rule 5 Draft, performed well in spot start duty last year. He also performed well in the bullpen. He’s in the same predicament as Gilmartin. They’re both good enough to pitch in a major league rotation, but they’re got good enough for this Mets rotation. They’re both performed well in the bullpen, yet the Mets bullpen is stronger possibly obviating the need for starters to pitch in the bullpen. 

So overall, Gilmartin and Verrett may very likely start the year in AAA Las Vegas as starting pitchers. The Mets may send them there to have them stretched out in case disaster strikes in the long or short term. If there’s a problem with the bullpen, they can also get called up to fill that role. Overall, it’s better to be stretched out than it is to need to be stretched out. 
So overall, while Gilmartin is one of the 12 best pitchers in the Mets, he may very well best help the Mets by starting the season in the minors. Starting being the operative term. 

USA Today Got It Wrong

There are legitimate reasons why you would say the Mets will not win the NL East. Fangraphs used its projection system to predict the Mets will finish behind the Nationals in the NL East. 

Agree or disagree, at least we know Fangraphs has a rationalization for its conclusions. On the other hand, USA Today proudly flaunts they have no such projection formula. They just use the “human element” necessary in such projections to proclaim not only that the Nationals will win the NL East, but also that the Mets will miss the playoffs altogether. 

Mets Aging Offense

One reason why USA Today sees the Mets falling behind the Nationals is an aging lineup with “six regulars on the wrong side of 30.”  For what it’s worth, here’s a look at the Mets 2016 Opening Day starters:

  1. Travis d’Arnaud (27)
  2. Lucas Duda (30)
  3. Neil Walker (30)
  4. David Wright (33)
  5. Asdrubal Cabrera (30)
  6. Michael Conforto (22)
  7. Yoenis Cespedes (30)
  8. Curtis Granderson (35)

If we adhere to the axiom that a player’s prime is between 27-32, another way of saying what USA Today said was six of the eight Mets regulars are in their prime. Another way of saying what USA Today said is six of the eight Mets regulars are 30 and younger. 

To put this in perspective, lets look at the Nationals 2016 projected lineup:

  1. Wilson Ramos (28)
  2. Ryan Zimmerman (31)
  3. Daniel Murphy (30)
  4. Anthony Rendon (25)
  5. Danny Espinosa (28)
  6. Jayson Werth (36)
  7. Ben Revere (27)
  8. Bryce Harper (23)

Three of the Nationals players are “on the wrong side of 30.”  The average age of the eight Nationals regulars is 28.5. The Mets is 29.6. According to USA Today, that extra year is an indication that the Mets are in decline and the Nationals are on the rise. 

Bartolo Colon: Fifth Starter

Personally, I am not the biggest Bartolo Colon fan. With that said, I can’t think of him making around 15 starts next year as a reason why the Mets will miss the playoffs. 

Last year, Colon had an ERA+ of 89, and an FIP of 3.84. This makes him a below average starter.  Keep in mind, he will only be in the rotation until July when Zack Wheeler has completed his rehab from Tommy John surgery. 

The Nationals counter-part?  Tanner Roark   Roark is thrust into the starting rotating from the bullpen as the Nationals lost their second best starting pitcher, Jordan Zimmermann, to free agency. Roark had an ERA+ of 92 and a 4.70 FIP.  In theory, Roark is keeping the spot warm for uber-prospect, Lucas Giolito. However, it should be noted Giolito has not yet pitched above AA. 

Considering which statistic you choose, you can argue Roark is either just as bad or worse than Colon. As such, Colon is not a reason to say the Mets will finish behind the Nationals. 

Thor’s Innings

One factor USA Today cited in saying the Mets should finish behind the Nationals is the scary prospect of Noah Syndergaard having to throw 50% more innings.

This is plain wrong. Last year, Syndergaard threw 150.0 innings in 24 major league starts. In the minors, he threw 29.2 innings in five starts. Does USA Today reay believe Syndergaard will throw 359.1 innings next year?  The last pitcher to throw over 300 innings was Steve Carlton, and that was 36 years ago. The last pitcher to throw over 350 innings was Wilbur Wood in 1973. 

No, Syndergaard threw 179.2 innings in 29 starts. If he averages roughly the same 6.1 innings per starts next year, and he makes 32 starts next year, he will only throw 19 more innings or 10% more innings. 

Instead of Syndergaard’s innings, USA Today should’ve focused on Nationals starter Joe Ross. Last year was Ross’ first year in the majors. He made 13 starts with three relief appearances throwing 76.2 innings. In the minors, Ross made 14 starts and threw 76.0 innings. Between the two stints, he made 27 starts while pitching 152.2 innings. Next year, he will see a much greater percentage work increase than Syndergaard will. 

Overall, if the increased workload is an issue for Syndergaard, it’ll be a bigger issue for Ross. 

Matz’s Durability

Another factor mentioned for the Mets apparent downfall is the fact that Steven Matz has never thrown more than 140 innings in a season. 

Well that is true. You know what else is true?  In his entire pro career, Matz has a 2.25 ERA, including a 2.27 ERA in six starts with the Mets last year. Keep in mind, this is the Mets fourth starter and a favorite in the Rookie of the Year race. 

Overall, USA Today is throwing cold water on the Mets rotation while ignoring the Nationals rotation issues. There are the aforementioned problems with Roark and Ross. Additionally, the Nationals saw Gio Gonzalez being to regress with a 1.423 WHIP last year. That’s an ugly number for a guy who has a reputation for struggling with command. Furthermore, he just hit that dreaded age 30 season. 

Also, while Max Scherzer had an outstanding year last year, it should be noted it wasn’t perfect. Scherzer went 10-7 with a 2.11 ERA in the first half of the year. In the second half, he went 4-5 with a 3.72 ERA. Also, at age 31, he’s “on the wrong side of 30.”  

Dusty Baker is a Magician

Last year, Matt Williams was worse than Jimmy Dugan was before he got into that fight with Dottie Henson as to whether or not Marla Hooch should bunt. Note, Jimmy Dugan was right.  It very rarely makes sense to have a position player lay down a sac bunt. 

Baker had earned the right to be a well regarded manager.  However, he’s not a miracle worker. 

He doesn’t make Anthony Rendon healthy for a full year as USA Today suggests. He also doesn’t make Steven Strasburg completely fulfill his potential making him a Cy Young winner.  He doesn’t make Zimmerman or Werth healthy and productive. Yes, he can get the most from this admittedly talented Nationals team, but no, his presence alone doesn’t help this team overcome all of its issues. The only thing I would hazard a guess at is he would probably prevent Jonathan Papelbon from choking anyone in the dugout. 

Picking Nits

Overall, USA Today has teams having a combine record of 2347-2430. Since baseball has no ties, any projection system should have teams as a whole with a .500 record. It’s an error. We all make them.  With that said, with the decidedly one-sided analysis of the NL East, I believe it shows the attention to detail provided. 

Conclusion 

I’m not the typical Mets fan. The Nationals do scare me. You can concoct many a scenario in which the Nationals win the division. I just don’t think the one-sided analysis USA Today did was one of them. 

Can’t Hit What You Can’t See

The general consensus as to why Hall of Famer Walter Johnson was so dominant was the saying, “You can’t hit what you can’t see.”  In analyzing MLB’s Statcast data, that saying could now be applied to the young New York Mets pitching staff. 

As the article notes, the Mets threw more pitches than any other team over 95 MPH. Nearly a thousand more. The main reason for this was the trio of Matt HarveyJacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard. Harvey’s two-seamer averaged 95.4, and his four seamer averaged 95.3. deGrom’s two seamer averaged 95.6, and his four seamer averaged 96.0. As all Mets fans know, Syndergaard led the pack. His two seamer averaged 98.3, and his four seamer averaged 98.4. Amongst starting pitchers Symdergaard threw the fastest. 

This trio of hard throwing righties kept the Mets afloat in 2015 while the offense spluttered. When the team then assembled a major league capable offense, these pitchers led the Mets to the World Series. In 2016, it’s only going to get better. 

Last year, the Mets had innings limits, skipped starts, and at times, six man rotations. Syndergaard wasn’t called up until May. In 2016, the Mets have said innings limits and the like will not be an issue. As such, all three of the Mets aces should be expected to make 32 starts and throw over 200 innings. This means more 95+ MPH fastballs. Again, batters will have trouble hitting the pitches they can’t see. 

If that wasn’t enough, it gets even better. Steven Matz should start the year in the rotation. According to Brooks Baseball, Matz’s fastball averaged 94.57 MPH. Prior to Matz’s lat injury, his fastball averaged 94.90 MPH. With a full season of a healthy Matz, the Mets will further increase the amount of fastballs throw over 95 MPH. 

In addition to a full season of Matz, the Mets can expect a half a season of Zack Wheeler. In Wheeler’s career, his four seamer averaged 95.87 MPH, and his sinker averaged 95.50 MPH. All told, upon Wheeler’s return, the Mets will feature a starting rotation that has five pitchers bringing the heat at over 95 MPH. That is just incredible. 

However, why does it matter?  Well, as FiveThirtyEight showed last year, it is just harder to hit a fastball that’s thrown 95 MPH and above. In total, batters swung and missed at pitches thrown this fast 22.8% of the time. That’s about 5-10% more frequent than pitches thrown slower. 

More importantly, as we saw in last year’s NLCS, the Cubs are more likely to swing and miss at these pitches than any other team in baseball. Heading into the 2016 season, it appears that yet again it will be the Cubs standing in the Mets way. The pitching staff the Mets have constructed is not only effective against the Cubs, but also every single team in baseball. 

The Mets 2016 pitching staff is the single best argument why any team in baseball will go to and win the World Series. The Mets young starters brought the heat last year. Next year will be more of the same. 

Good luck to the National League next year because you can’t hit what you can’t see. 

Editor’s Note: this article first appeared on metsmerizedonline.com

The Mets Must Extend Jeurys Familia

Last year, the Mets were carried by their pitching. It helped them sustain an anemic offense until the Mets got healthy and made trades. It helped carry them to the World Series. It’s the promise for the future. 

That future first comes into question around 2019. That is the year that Matt Harvey becomes a free agent. Zack Wheeler could become a free agent the same year or the subsequent year. Two years later Jacob deGrom becomes a free agent. After that, the Mets will have to address the free agent case of Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz. Naturally, this prompts the discussion of who the Mets should extend and when they should do it. 

When these discussions take place, I find everyone to be extremely short-sided. Yes, it’s important to make a decision on the Mets starters, especially on Harvey, deGrom, and Syndergaard. However, I find that these discussions ignore Jeurys Familia. Like Harvey, Familia will be a free agent in 2019. 

Familia was an exceedingly important part of the 2015 Mets. He was the stabilizing force at the back-end of a beleaguered bullpen.  During 2015, Familia had the fifth most appearances. Of players who were strictly relievers, he had the third most innings pitched. He lead the league in games finished. He tied the Mets single season record for saves. 

The advanced statistics also loved Familia’s 2015 season. He had an ERA+ of 200, which is astounding. It was the best amongst Mets pitchers. In fact, it’s a tick below Mariano Rivera‘s career 205 mark, which is the best in major league history. Familia’s FIP was 2.74, which, unsurprisingly, rates him as an excellent pitcher. Mariano’s career mark was 2.76. In essence, Familia’s 2015 was Riveraesque. 

Keep in mind, Collins initially deployed Familia like Rivera. When it came time to close out the NLDS, Familia pitched two shutout innings.  In the whole postseason, Familia had 12 appearances, and of those 12 appearances, he pitched more than one inning five times. He pitched 14.2 innings in those 12 appearances. Yes, he blew three saves in the World Series, but he only allowed one earned run the entire postseason. In reality, the blown saves were not on Familia but the Mets team as a whole. 

Its important to lock-up some starting pitchers. If Harvey, deGrom, or Syndergaard leave, the Mets have other starters to keep having a strong rotation. If Familia were to leave, the Mets do not appear to have another reliever to take Familia’s spot. This makes extending Familia absolutely imperative. 

So when it comes down to which Mets pitcher I would extend first, my answer is Jeurys Familia. 

Editor’s Note: this article also appeared on metsmerizedonline.com

Good Luck Jeremy Hefner

There are all sorts of pitching prospects. There are pitchers who were uber prospects like Matt Harvey. The question with these prospects is where they’ll slot in the rotation. Then there are prospects like Jeremy Hefner

The prospects like Hefner aren’t no doubters. You’re not a no doubter when you’re a 5th round draft pick who was twice placed on waivers before pitching one big league inning. Hefner referred to himself as “an average prospect.”  Average prospects need to make the best of not only their stuff, but also their chances. Somehow, it’s more satisfying when these guys make it.  You want the Hefners of the world to succeed because you want to believe in a player that really is doing everything he can do. It’s what you tell yourself you would do if you had enough talent to get that chance. 

Well, Hefner made the most of his chances. He showed the Mets enough in 2012 for him to be in the 2013 rotation (even though he might’ve been a placeholder for Zack Wheeler). As the calendar turned to June, he seemed to figure something out. He went on a stretch of eight straight starts allowing two earned or less. Now what happened next is up for debate. Initially, it was thought he regressed to the mean. The truth may just be he was injured. In August 2013, Hefner had Tommy John surgery

It’s a crushing blow to a player who just arrived on the scene. It was also crushing to him, but also to the Mets. They lost not only Hefner, but also Harvey to a torn UCL. The two rehabbed together. Seeing Hefner’s promise, the Mets kept him around rather than release him. Then something horrible happened. Hefner was not progressing in his rehab. He needed a second surgery. It definitively ended his Mets career. It put his baseball career into question. 

Anytime a player like Hefner suffers a setback like this it’s deflating. Part of what makes sports fun is the out of nowhere stories. Everyone knows Tom Brady’s and Mike Piazza‘s stories. They’re reminders that what you need to succeed in sports, and in life, is hard work and determination. Hefner had those qualities. His mind was willing, but his flesh seemed weak. 

Fortunately, that’s not the end of the story. Hefner again worked his tail off. We shouldn’t expect anything else. He started pitching in the Winter Leagues. He pitched well enough to sign a minor league deal with the Cardinals. Normally, I hate the Cardinals and their players. However, I’m making an exception here.  The world is a lot better when the Hefners of the world are given a chance to succeed. It’s even better when they do. 

I thought the Mets should’ve brought him back. I thought he could’ve filled a need as a spot starter or a bullpen arm. Instead, Hefner is a Cardinal, and I couldn’t be happier for him. I’ll be rooting for him. 

Good luck next year Jeremy Hefner. 

Neil Walker is a $0.30 Pair of Sneakers

I am reminded of being in the seventh grade. I grew a lot, especially my feet. It must’ve been beyond annoying and expensive for my parents. My mother always insisted on good footwear. My father on the other hand always looked for a deal. 

We went to Fayva Shoes (remember that place?).  There was some insane sale where if you purchased one shoe, you got the next one half off. The strange thing about this sale was if you got a third it was half-off the half-off price (for example, a $20 sneaker cost $5).  Basically, every sneaker after the first one followed this computation. 

Anyway, my father made me pick out a shoe that I liked (or hated least). He then literally purchased that sneaker in every half size up to a size 13.  His theory was he’d never have to buy me another sneaker again. Plus, he got me a sneaker that cost $0.30. Not an exaggeration. Side note to this story is his plan never would’ve worked as my feet are about a size 14

Guess how well this worked out?  C’mon, we were able to purchase a sneaker for $0.30. They were flimsy sneakers. I was playing football, juked, rolled my ankle, and broke my foot. We may have had a sneaker that cost $0.30, but now there was also medical bills. It was penny wise, pound foolish. 

The Neil Walker trade is the Mets $0.30 pair of sneakers. We can reasonably argue over whether Walker or Daniel Murphy is the better player. You want to tell me it’s Walker, fine. However, as a result of obtaining Walker for Niese, the Mets now have to look to acquire a fifth starter. By the way, you’re looking for a fifth starter who will agree to only pitch for half the year because at that point Zack Wheeler will return. Good luck with that. 

I know Murphy is a free agent, but Ben Zobrist‘s deal was for an average annual value of $14 million a year. Murphy will probably get $2 million less a year than Zobrist. Yes, it would probably be $2 million more than Walker will receive in arbitration. However, Murphy can serve as insurance for David Wright‘s back, whereas Walker can’t. 

Sure, the Mets did sign Asdrubal Cabrera. Whether you like the move or not, we should all be able to agree $12 million to Murphy and $9 million to Niese shouldn’t have precluded that signing especially since the Mets aren’t pursuing Jason Heyward or Yoenis Cespedes. Instead, the Mets need to convince a starting pitcher to start for only half a year and an everyday player to accept being in a centerfield platoon with Juan Lagares

This is ultimately why the Walker deal was a bad trade. The Mets weakened themselves in the rotation without a clear cut replacement in a market where pitchers are getting big deals. Ultimately, the Walker deal had to be about money as he and Niese are going to make similar money, give or take a million. 

My $0.30 sneakers?  Well, they would have to donated, i.e. we got rid of them. That’s what the Mets will do with Walker after this year. I just hope Walker will be a better fit before he’s gone.