With the way Zack Wheeler has pitched in the second half of the season, you can certainly see him getting some Cy Young votes. With Jacob deGrom being a favorite for the award (or at least among the leaders), we should see two Mets in the Top 10 in Cy Young voting. If this were to happen, it would mark just the fourth time in Mets history this has happened. Can you name the pitchers who received votes the other times this happened? Good luck!
Tonight, the new NFL season officially begins with the Atlanta Falcons taking on the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. With that, for the first time since Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals claimed their first Stanley Cup, Major League Baseball no longer has the stage all to themselves.
That’s a big problem for the New York Mets.
On Sunday, the Mets are going to take on the Philadelphia Phillies at the same time the New York Giants will begin their season at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars. With respect to the Giants, they are a team featuring a new head coach, the second overall pick from the draft, and of course, future Hall of Famer Eli Manning.
On Monday, the Sam Darnold Era begins as the Jets travel to Detroit to play the Lions on Monday Night Football. At the same time, the Mets will be hosting the Miami Marlins on Bark at the Park Night.
Certainly, the early NFL season offers optimism for both Jets and Giants fans. It also features young and exciting players who fans hope will serve as the cornerstones of their respective franchises for the next decade.
By the same token, the Mets have decided it was not time to call-up Peter Alonso, and have instead opted to play Jay Bruce at first base. For that matter, the team is not playing Dominic Smith at either first base or left field. Apparently, the team believes fans want to see Austin Jackson play center field over Brandon Nimmo.
That’s the problem with the New York Mets right now. Short of a Jacob deGrom start and possibly a Zack Wheeler start, the Mets are not offering you a real reason to tune into their games. That was one thing during the summer when baseball was the only show in town. However, with the NFL season staring along with your favorite TV shows beginning to roll out their season premieres, the Mets are going to fade further and further away.
Really, short of David Wright making a miraculous comeback, a proposition which seems less and less likely by the day, the Mets are not offering their fans much of a reason to watch.
Clearly, this is something which has been lost on the Mets franchise. It’s not just that they are a bad team who is 13 games under .500. Now, they’re a team overshadowed by the world around them. For the moment, it is something that will affect just September viewership and attendance. However, until the Mets fix something with their team, it is something that is going to plauge their 2019 season and beyond.
Here’s how good Zack Wheeler has been pitching in the second half of the season. Last night, he allowed three runs on three hits while walking two and striking out nine. For him, that now qualifies as a poor start.
The Dodgers were able to score the three runs off of him because they hit two homers. It should come as no surprise one of those homers was by Cody Bellinger, who absolutely owns Wheeler. In fact, Bellinger is 4-for-8 against Wheeler with four homers and nine RBI.
The other homer was in the fourth inning. After Justin Turner hit a comebacker which hit Wheeler in the ribs, Max Muncy would hit a two run homer off of Wheeler. Given how Wheeler was still dealing with the shot to the ribs, you could put a bit of a mental asterisk next to that one, especially when you consider Wheeler would retire eight of the next nine batters he faced.
Even with those homers, the Dodgers could not pull ahead of the Mets.
In the fourth, the Mets finally broke through against Hyun-Jin Ryu. Amed Rosario singled and Jeff McNeil doubled to put runners at second and third with no outs. From that point forward, the Mets would BABIP the heck out of Ryu.
Mets hits tonight with a hit probability <50%:
Flores, 4th inning single: 9%
Nimmo, 5th inning single: 34%
Rosario, 5th inning single: 48%
McNeil, 7th inning single: 13%
— John Edwards (@John_Edwards_) September 6, 2018
Wilmer Flores would hit one back which hit Ryu that allowed him to reach safely and would allow Rosario to score. McNeil would challenge Joc Pederson‘s arm on a Michael Conforto flyball, and he would score because Yasmani Grandal could not hold onto the ball. In an odd official scorer position, Conforto was not given the RBI as it was ruled an error on Grandal.
Part of the key to that play was Flores going to third, which would allow him to score from third on the two out RBI single from Austin Jackson. That was important as Jackson was nailed at second trying to challenge Alex Verdugo‘s arm. Had Flores been at third, it’s very likely he does not score on the play.
Kevin Plawecki led off the fifth with a double, and he moved to third on a Brandon Nimmo bloop hit. After Wheeler struck out, Rosario singled home Plawecki. Later that inning, Flores brought home Nimmo on a ball Enrique Hernandez was not quite tall enough to get. With that, the Mets had a 5-2 lead, and they were in control of the game.
That became a stranglehold with Conforto delivering a seventh inning RBI single, and Ryan Madson throwing a wild pitch to allow McNeil to come home from third.
After 105 pitches, Wheeler was done after seven, and Mickey Callaway brought on Seth Lugo to close out the final two innings. He did just that allowing no hits and striking out a batter. With the win, the Mets have now won consecutive West Coast series, and the team is playing much better baseball of late. They are two games over .500 in the second half.
Game Notes: In his final at-bat ever against the Mets, Chase Utley lined out to Nimmo. So in the end, the dirtiest player alive lined out to the nicest and most genuine player in the majors.
Zack Wheeler was back in San Francisco to pitch against the team who made him the sixth overall pick of the 2009 draft. Like he has to most teams in baseball this year, especially in the second half of the season, Wheeler showed the Giants why he was drafted that high.
Even with him yielding two doubles over the first six innings, the Giants never truly threatened Wheeler. Really, it wasn’t until the third triple of the game that Wheeler faced any real danger.
Brandon Belt would lead off the seventh with a double, and he would move to third on a ground out to shortstop. It was a slow hit ball off the bat of Austin Slater, one which shortstop Jose Reyes made zero attempt to charge. Therefore, even with the ball being hit to Reyes’ right, Belt would be able to advance. This was important as Chris Shaw would hit a fly ball to center that easily scored Belt.
That run caused partially by a lackadaisical play by Reyes would be the dagger in this game despite Wheeler pitching seven innings allowing just the one run on four hits with no walks and nine strikeouts.
The reason why this was a dagger was that no Met other than Jeff McNeil could do anything against Giants starter Andrew Suarez. For his part, Suarez allowed no runs with just two hits, no walks, and five strikeouts.
Of course, it didn’t help that Reyes was starting for the red hot Amed Rosario because Rosario needed an emergency root canal. It also didn’t help Michael Conforto was sitting and Devin Mesoraco was in the lineup as Kevin Plawecki went on paternity leave.
In the top of the eighth, the Mets would get their chance with Brandon Nimmo, who was once again curiously hitting in the bottom of the lineup again, hit a one out double. Slater would have a difficult time fielding the ball in right, but Nimmo was unable to take advantage and get to third as he was already decelerating as he approached second. It wouldn’t matter much as Reyes popped out, and Conforto would ground out to end the inning.
If there was any hopes the Mets would get back into the game, it was all dashed in a horrific bottom of the eighth with the Mets needing four relievers to record three outs. Robert Gsellman did not record an out while allowing a homer and another hit. Daniel Zamora relieved him striking out Joe Panik and Alen Hanson.
Rather than go to the bullpen to face Evan Longoria, Mickey Callaway ordered him intentionally walked to allow Zamora to face Belt. Belt would crush a pitch off the right center field wall which would have been a homer in any other park. At AT&T, it was a triple.
All told, the Mets went from a 1-0 deficit to a 7-0 loss. It was an ugly loss in every way, shape, and form.
The Mets are so far under .500 that they can’t even get in the mix for what is a wide open National League Wild Card. They’re not even following the Nationals lead who traded off Daniel Murphy and Matt Adams at the same time the Mets are playing Jose Bautista and Austin Jackson everyday. Given the record and the poor direction of this organization, it becomes increasingly difficult to find reasons to watch.
With that in mind, here are reasons to watch the Mets other than you love the Mets or you hate yourself:
- Will Jacob deGrom finish the season strong enough to the point where he overcomes everything to become the Cy Young winner with the fewest wins from a starting pitcher?
- How will the Mets handle first base with Jay Bruce, Wilmer Flores, and Dominic Smith? Will the team actually call up Peter Alonso?
- Is Zack Wheeler for real, or is the guy we have known him to be during his Mets career ever going to show up again?
- Can Kevin Plawecki be an everyday catcher? With the Devin Mesoraco neck injury we should finally find out.
- Which one of the young relievers are for real? So far, the answer appears to be Drew Smith and Daniel Zamora, but maybe just maybe Tyler Bashlor can enter the mix as well.
- How much progress can Amed Rosario make on both sides of the ball?
- Will Michael Conforto continue this second half surge, or will he regress as his shoulder presumably tires?
- Is Jeff McNeil really the next Daniel Murphy?
More than any of this, we wait for baited breath to see if David Wright will actually take the field for the Mets again. If he does, that will be the greatest reason of all to watch the Mets again this year.
Seeing how the Nationals have performed recently, including how they performed yesterday against Jason Vargas, it’s difficult to get excited about any pitcher dominating them.
That said, Zack Wheeler has been great recently and today was another one of his terrific outings.
Wheeler pitched seven scoreless allowing six hits and three walks while striking out four.
This was the eighth time over his last 12 starts where he has gone at least seven innings. It is also the sixth straight start he’s allowed two runs or fewer.
For a while, it looked like Wheeler would walk away with the no decision as Tanner Roark was matching zeros with him over the first five innings.
Up until that point, the Mets just had three hits and no one reached third.
Finally, with one out in the sixth, Amed Rosario would hit a solo homer to give the Mets a 1-0 lead.
El Niño looking more like El Hombre right now. 💪 pic.twitter.com/BXeRgB2wlt
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 25, 2018
The Mets would tack on runs in the ensuing two innings.
In the seventh, Todd Frazier would continue his hot hitting with a homer of his own.
In the eighth, Rosario beat out a potential double play ball extending the inning. He would then score as both Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto would hit singles off Nationals left-handed reliever Matt Grace.
That 3-0 lead was more than enough for Wheeler and what has been a terrific Mets bullpen this month.
Just like that, it appears the Mets are trending in an upward trajectory while the Nationals are struggling to find themselves. Hopefully, that will last longer than just the final two months of this season.
Game Notes: This is the first time the Mets recorded consecutive shutouts since 2015. Conforto started the game in center for the first time since June 26th.
Dom Smith. Amed Rosario. The Mets. Truly unbelievable stuff.
**CUE THE MUSIC** pic.twitter.com/yclRui1w4k
— Kris Venezia (@KVenezia1) August 21, 2018
Now, looking at that play ad nauseum, that’s Smith’s ball.
Yes, a more experienced left fielder is more aware on the play, and he would make a stronger call for the call.
For his part, Rosario should know who is in left, and he should have made a stronger call for the ball instead of acting like a timid second grader unsure of whether he really knew the answer to the teacher’s question.
That’s important when you consider Smith actually called for the ball first:
“It’s part of the game. I heard he called it real quick even before I was under the ball.”
When'd you heard him: “When I was ready to call it. It was too late.”
Who's ball: “He has the ball in front of him so I’m running backward. He has more choice/better view."
— Matt Ehalt (@MattEhalt) August 21, 2018
While it’s easy to pin the blame on this, it’s important to note this wouldn’t have been an issue if the veterans who the Mets insist on playing actually delivered.
On the night, Jackson was 1-6, and he left five men on base.
Jose Reyes had the same situation in the 11th, and he softly lined out to Crawford.
On the night, Reyes was 0-5, and he loved left four runners on base.
Good thing he started over Jeff McNeil who singled in his only at-bat.
Really, the Mets offense did absolutely nothing after the Wilmer Flores RBI double. In fact, Flores was the only Met who was hitting with him going 3-6.
Jose Bautista, the other outfielder who has been playing over Smith, was 0-5 with three left on base.
Ultimately, the Mets played four 30+ year old impending free agents over younger players, and the four went 1-for-21 while stranding 13 runners on base.
In addition to Bautista and Jackson starting in the outfield, the Mets started Jack Reinheimer in left field, a player with only eight innings of outfield experience in the majors and 49.0 innings in the minors.
This became an issue in the seventh inning.
Heading into the seventh, Zack Wheeler had been absolutely brilliant pitching six scoreless innings. Those six scoreless innings included his Houdini act in the fifth inning.
After an Evan Longoria double, the Giants had runners on second and third with no outs. Wheeler responded by striking out Steven Duggar, Alen Hanson, and Derek Holland to get out of the jam. Wheeler was so close to repeating the trick in the seventh.
Wheeler issued a leadoff walk to Crawford, which would be the only walk Wheeler would allow on the day. Trouble was brewing immediately as Brandon Belt singled to set up runners at first and second with no outs. It would be runners at the corners with one out after Crawford moved to third when Longoria lined out to Bautista.
After Duggar struck out again, Wheeler got Hanson to pop up to left. With Rosario shifted over, and the inexperienced Reineheimer playing deeper than an experienced left fielder, the ball fell past the outstretched hands of Rosario. Reinheimer was nowhere to be seen.
After the game, Wheeler channeled his inner Jon Niese and griped about players playing out of position, which led to the ball falling. Wheeler was speaking about the shift, but considering how the Mets both the game and this season, he might as well have been talking about how the Mets play all of their players out of position.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Mets had a chance to get back the lead. McNeil and Michael Conforto, two left-handed batters sat against the immortal Derek Holland, came up in successive pinch hitting attempts against the Giants bullpen, specifically Tony Watson. They hit consecutive one out singles to set up runners at the corners with one out.
Rosario hit a 3-2 pitch for an inning ending double play.
To their credit, the booth did discuss how Crawford charged in a couple of steps to get the Rosario grounder, which led him to beat Rosario by less than a full step in turning the double play.
Overall, the Mets lost this game because of their refusal to play young players over the veterans. Maybe if Smith was playing in the majors instead of Jackson, when this play happens, he and Rosario have the communication issues hammered. Perhaps, if the Mets didn’t decided a done Adrian Gonzalez was a better option than him, Smith would have been a first base, and this never would have been an issue.
In the end, we will never know because the Mets would rather play 30+ year old players who no other team wanted at the trade deadline to try to win some meaningless games which could only hurt their draft position.
Game Notes: Wheeler’s seventh inning walk to Crawford was the first walk yielded by Mets pitching in 25 innings.
Believe it or not, two years ago, Todd Frazier was part of a Toms River team who won the Little League World Series. Of course, you believe it because we are reminded of it all the time. But it wasn’t just Frazier with Little League World Series exploits. Michael Conforto is the only player to homer in both the World Series and the Little League World Series.
Considering the Mets connection with to the Little League World Series, it made them the natural choice to participate in the Little League Classic.
What made the choice even better was how much the team embraced it. Frazier was out there signing autographs. Jacob deGrom was interviewing Little Leaguers. Noah Syndergaard was sharing pitching grips with members of the Spanish team. Really, to a man, the Mets were taking pictures with the young players. Syndergaard and deGrom would join Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler in watching the game from the stands with the Staten Island Little League team.
The Mets also embraced the challenge on the field, which included Jason Vargas having his best start in a Mets uniform.
Surprisingly, the Phillies could not get to Vargas until the sixth when Carlos Santana hit a two run home run off of him. After a Wilson Ramos double, Mickey Callaway brought in Seth Lugo, the Quarterrican, to get out of the jam. At that point, it was too little too late for the Phillies.
The Mets first rally was started by Frazier (who else?). His leadoff single against Nick Pivetta was the first of four straight singles. The Jose Bautista and Kevin Plawecki singles would plate two runs. After a Vargas sacrifice bunt, Amed Rosario would hit a two RBI single to give the Mets an early 4-0 lead.
The Mets lead would grow to 7-0 before the Phillies would even score a run off of Vargas. Jeff McNeil plated two runs with an RBI single in the fourth, and Rosario plated a run with another RBI single in the sixth.
Things were going so well for the Mets that Dominic Smith, who was called-up as the 26th man for the game, would hit an RBI pinch hit double in the eight. With Brandon Nimmo hurting, the Mets are now considering keeping Smith up to play left field, which would obviously be the right thing to do.
Game Notes: Asdrubal Cabrera went 1-for-17 against his former team in this series.
The Mets had a rare laugher tonight with the team thrashing Dylan Bundy (7 ER) and the Orioles bullpen to the tune of a 16-5 victory.
🎶 That ball can fly for miles and miles 🎶 pic.twitter.com/mfxfoKh3YY
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 16, 2018
Plawecki was not the only one with a big night. Brandon Nimmo finished a homer short of the cycle going 5-for-5 with three runs, two doubles, triple, hit by pitch, and three RBI.
Todd Frazier had his best day as a Met going 3-for-6 with two runs, a homer, and four RBI.
Austin Jackson was 2-for-4 with two runs, a triple, and two walks.
Overall, every Met in the lineup except Michael Conforto would get a hit me bore the ninth, and even then, Conforto had a walk and run scored. Conforto would correct that by smoking a ball Jonathan Villar couldn’t field.
In the ninth, Wilmer Flores hit a homer to cap off a 2-for-5 night.
In total, every Mets starter reached base at least two times, and everyone but Bautista scored at least one run.
This was more than enough support for Zack Wheeler who was terrific again limiting the Orioles to a run on five hits in five innings.
After that sixth inning outburst, Mickey Callaway did the right thing by pulling Wheeler and going to the bullpen.
Tim Peterson was the one lowlight of the day with him allowing four runs on five hits in his two innings.
Other than that, this was a good day for a Mets team who seemed to spend nine innings taking a season’s worth of frustration out on a very bad Orioles team.
Game Notes: Mets are now 19-19 over their last 38 games.
As reported by Mike Puma of the New York Post, Mets owner Fred Wilpon does not want to hire a younger and more analytics driven executive for two reasons. The first is he feels he will have a harder time connecting with that person. The second and perhaps all the more baffling is the “thought among team officials that perhaps the Mets became too analytics driven in recent seasons under Sandy Alderson’s watch . . . .”
Taking the thought at face value, we really need to question which analytics the Mets are using to inform their decisions.
For starters, look at Asdrubal Cabrera. Everyone knew he was no longer a shortstop, so that left the question over whether he should have been a second or third baseman heading into the 2018 season.
In 2017, Cabrera was a -6 DRS in 274.1 innings at second. That should have come as no surprise as he was a -10 DRS the last time he saw extensive action at second base (2014). Conversely, in his 350.1 innings at third last year, he had a 1 DRS.
Naturally, the Mets went with Cabrera at second this season where he has been an MLB worst -20 DRS. That makes him not just the worst second baseman in all of baseball, it makes him the worst defensive infielder in all of baseball.
Of course, the Mets got there by acquiescing a bit to Cabrera’s preference to play second over third. This was also the result of the team turning down a Paul Sewald for Jason Kipnis swap. That deal was nixed over money.
With respect to Sewald, he was strong when the season began. In April, he had a 1.91 ERA and a 0.805 WHIP. Since that point, Sewald has a 5.73 ERA, a 1.485 WHIP, and multiple demotions to Triple-A.
As for Kipnis, he has struggled this year hitting .226/.313/.363. It should be noted this was mostly due to a horrific April which saw him hit .178/.254/.243. Since that tough start to the season, Kipnis has gotten progressively better. Still, it is difficult to lose sleep over Kipnis even if the rejected trade put Cabrera at second and it led to the Mets signing Todd Frazier, who is hitting .217/.298/.368.
At the time the Mets signed Bruce, they needed a center fielder. The team already had Yoenis Cespedes in left, and once he returned from the disabled list, the team was going to have Michael Conforto in right. Until the time Conforto was ready, the team appeared set with Brandon Nimmo in the short-term.
In 69 games in 2017, Nimmo hit .260/.379/.418. In those games, Nimmo showed himself to be a real candidate for the leadoff spot on a roster without an obvious one, especially in Conforto’s absence. With him making the league minimum and his having shown he could handle three outfield positions, he seemed like an obvious choice for a short term solution and possible someone who could platoon with Juan Lagares in center.
Instead, the Mets went with Bruce for $39 million thereby forcing Conforto to center where he was ill suited. More than that, Bruce was coming off an outlier year in his free agent walk year. Before that 2017 rebound season, Bruce had not had a WAR of at least 1.0 since 2013, and he had just one season over a 100 wRC+ in that same stretch. In response to that one outlier season at the age of 30, the Mets gave Bruce a three year deal.
Still, that may not have been the worst contract handed out by the Mets this past offseason. That honor goes to Jason Vargas.
The Mets gave a 35 year old pitcher a two year $16 million deal to be the team’s fifth starter despite the fact the team had real starting pitching depth. At the time of the signing, the Mets had Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, Chris Flexen, and Corey Oswalt as starting pitching depth.
Instead of using five of them and stashing four of them in Triple-A, the Mets opted to go with Vargas as the fifth starter. Even better, they depleted their starting pitching depth by moving Gsellman and Lugo the to bullpen. Of course, this had the added benefit of saving them money thereby allowing them to sign Anthony Swarzak, a 32 year old reliever with just one good season under his belt.
The Mets were rewarded with the decision to sign Vargas by his going 2-8 with an 8.75 ERA and a 1.838 WHIP. He’s also spent three separate stints on the disabled list.
What’s funny about Vargasis he was signed over the objections of the Mets analytics department. From reports, Vargas was not the only one. Looking at that, you have to question just how anyone associated with the Mets could claim they have become too analytics driven. Really, when you ignore the advice of those hired to provide analytical advice and support, how could you point to them as the problem?
In the end, the problem is the same as it always has been. It’s the Wilpons.
They’re the ones looking for playing time for Jose Reyes at a time when everyone in baseball thinks his career is over. They’re the ones not reinvesting the proceeds from David Wright‘s insurance policy into the team. They’re the ones who have a payroll not commensurate with market size or World Series window. They’re the ones rejecting qualified people for a job because of an 81 year year old’s inability to connect with his employees.
Really, you’re not going to find an analytical basis to defend making a team older, less versatile, more injury prone, and worse defensively.
What you will find is meddlesome ownership who thinks they know better than everyone. That’s why they’re 17 games under .500 with declining attendance and ratings while saying the Yankees financial model is unsustainable at a time the Yankees are heading to the postseason again and the team has the highest valuation of any Major League team.