We are headed for another season of Mets baseball where we hope that once again these Mets can make it all the way back to the World Series. Since 2015, we have seen a definite pattern emerge with the Mets, and I think as Mets fans, we should all try better this year to not react, some would say overreact, when one of the following things we know will happen, happens:
- The Mets are not going to sign another big name free agent this offseason. It’s not going to happen, and it just may happen that Jose Bautista winds up in the division and on a fairly discounted deal;
- Jerry Blevins will sign an extremely reasonable two year deal . . . with another team;
- Instead of fortifying the bench, the Mets are going to go with this year’s version of Eric Campbell -> Ty Kelly;
- Terry Collins is going to use and abuse Addison Reed to the point where his arm may actually fall off. This will go double if Jeurys Familia gets suspended;
- Hansel Robles is going to go through a stretch in one week where he pitches five innings, 1/3 of an inning, two innings, and three innings, and everyone is going to wonder why his production has fallen off;
- The infield of Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, David Wright, and Asdrubal Cabrera will be ridden hard despite their injury histories and capable backups like Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes on the bench;
- Just pick a random player on the roster – he’s going to be on the DL for over two months with a back injury;
- There will be a game with Reyes in center and Juan Lagares in right;
- Travis d’Arnaud is going to get injured, and Kevin Plawecki is not going to be able to replace his bat in the lineup;
- Matt Harvey will complain about the six man rotation that will be implemented at some point during the season;
- Robert Gsellman will make an appearance throwing well over 100 pitches in five innings or less;
- Rene Rivera will hit under the Mendoza Line;
- T.J. Rivera will be raking in AAA and not get called up despite the Mets needing some offense;
- Michael Conforto will not face one left-handed pitcher all season;
- Yoenis Cespedes will not dive for a ball, run out a pop up, or run hard to first on a dropped strike three;
- Curtis Granderson will have a better OBP than Reyes, but Collins will continue to lead off Reyes and his sub .330 OBP;
- Collins will not know if Brandon Nimmo is faster than Flores and it will cost them a game;
- No matter where he winds up this offseason, and no matter how poor his year is going, Chase Utley will hit two home runs in a game he faces the Mets;
- Sandy Alderson will mortgage a part of the Mets future because he didn’t make a move in the offseason that he should have made;
- Paul Sewald will pitch well in AAA, but the Mets won’t call him up because they would rather rip Sean Gilmartin or Gabriel Ynoa from the Vegas rotation to make a relief appearance on 2-3 days of rest;
- Both Josh Smoker and Robles will be fully warmed up, and Collins will go to Smoker to pitch to the lefty;
- For reasons the Mets themselves can’t quite explain, Rafael Montero will spend the full season on the 40 man roster;
- d’Arnaud will come off the disabled list, play well for a stretch, and the Mets will lose him and Steven Matz in the same game;
- Matz will have appendicitis, but the Mets will talk him out of the surgery because they need him to start against the Reds;
- Dilson Herrera will tear it up every time he plays the Mets;
- Wherever he lands, Jay Bruce is going to hit 30 homers and 100 RBI;
- Collins will show up in the dugout without wearing pants, and the Mets still won’t fire him;
- Noah Syndergaard will get ejected from a game for throwing inside. A player who takes a bat to one of the Mets infielders in retaliation won’t;
- Fans will clamor for Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith to get called up all season long;
- Seth Lugo will bounce between the bullpen and rotation so much, MLB is actually going to test him to see if his arm is actually made out of rubber;
- Bartolo Colon will pitch so poorly against the Mets, fans will wonder why they wanted a bum like him back;
- R.A. Dickey will not only beat the Mets, but he will throw the team into a week long offensive funk causing some fans to decry the trade;
- One or more pitchers will get hurt, and fans that even question if the Warthen Slider could be an issue will be mocked mercilessly;
- Some way some how Jon Niese will pitch for this team;
- Rather than build Tom Seaver a statue, the Mets will issue #41 to Niese upon his return to the team;
- Daniel Murphy will have another terrific year for the Nationals, and some Mets fans will still defend the decision to let him go;
- Ricky Knapp will make a solid spot start for the Mets causing fans to think he is the second coming;
- Mets will trade a good prospect for Kelly Johnson; and
- Despite all of this the Mets will make it to the postseason
Honestly, I give it until April 9th when Collins declares the last game in a three game set against the Marlins is a must-win game.
Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz are coming off season ending surgeries, and the Mets most likely don’t want them making over 30 starts and/or going over 200 innings. The Mets need someone to fill-in for those starts and eat up some innings.
Additionally, the team needs a fifth starter. If the season was going to begin today, the fifth starter would be determined by a competition between Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman. Both pitchers showed enough to prove they deserve the job out of Spring Training. However, both pitchers are likely going to be on innings limits, which would prevent them from pitching the entire 2017 season unless the team skips a couple of their starts. That reverts back to the issue created by Harvey, deGrom, and Matz that the Mets need another arm to eat up some innings.
Naturally, the hope is that Zack Wheeler could be the fifth starter at some point during the season. However, after missing two straight seasons due to Tommy John surgery, the Mets would be hard pressed to rely upon him to provide anything during the 2017 season. It is a large reason why the Mets have at least discussed the possibility of putting Wheeler in the bullpen to start the season.
Pitchers like Sean Gilmartin and Gabriel Ynoa did not show the Mets enough in 2016 to prove they can be relied upon to make more than one or two spot starts. With that, it is likely the Mets are going to need to look outside the organization for a pitcher who is willing to start the year as a fifth starter, but is willing to transition to the bullpen as the year progresses. Ultimately, the Mets are looking for someone to reprise the role that Bartolo Colon was slated to serve during the 2016 season. With that in mind, here are some available free agent pitchers who could serve in that role:
2016 Stats: 4-5, 4.26 ERA, 13 G, 10 GS, 50.2 IP, 1.243 WHIP, 9.6 K/9
While Welington Castillo got most of the publicity, De La Rosa was another surprise non-tender by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The reason De La Rosa was non-tendered was because there remains a real possibility he needs a second Tommy John surgery. At the moment, he has been trying to use stem cell treatment as a means to circumvent the surgery. For what it is worth, Bartolo Colon used the stem cell therapy back in 2010, and he was able to revive his major league career.
When he is healthy, De La Rosa has a live arm with him throwing a mid to high 90s fastball with a curve and slider who has shown some flashes of dominance. De La Rosa does have issues walking batters in his career, but it should be noted he was pitching to the aforementioned Castillo who is a terrible pitch framer.
Assuming the stem cell therapy will work, and further assuming De La Rosa is ready by Opening Day, the 27 year old needs a team who will help him harness his stuff and a catching staff that will help him get those borderline pitches. With that in mind, there are few places that are better fits for De La Rosa than the Mets. At a minimum, the Mets can offer the young pitcher at least a chance to pitch in the rotation while also assuring him a spot in the bullpen where he could become a lights out reliever.
2016 Stats: 7-4, 3.97 ERA, 40 G, 5 GS, 77.0 IP, 1.377 WHIP, 6.5 K/9
While Feldman has spent the majority of his career as a league average starting pitcher, the Astros moved Feldman into the bullpen in the 2016 season, and Feldman pitched well for the team in that role. What is interesting about Feldman’s success was he didn’t throw any differently out of the bullpen than he did as a starter. The main reason is that in his career as a starter, batters tend to hit Feldman much harder the third time through the lineup.
Overall, Feldman’s numbers would have been much better had he not struggled in his 14 appearances for the Blue Jays. In those 14 appearances, he pitched to an 8.40 ERA and a 1.933 WHIP. It might have just been a slump or a poor mix with the Blue Jays because Feldman has not wilted under pressure in his career. In nine postseason relief appearances, Feldman is 1-0 with a 3.29 ERA, 1.024 WHIP, and a 7.2 K/9.
Given Feldman’s ability to pitch as a league average starter, and his being even more effective out of the bullpen, Feldman could very well be the exact pitcher the Mets need in 2017.
2016 Stats: 5-7, 5.89 ERA, 21 G, 13 GS, 84.0 IP, 1.583 WHIP, 6.5 K/9
For nearly 14 years, there have been 11 franchises that have taken on the mantle of being the franchise that is going to be able to figure out Jackson and help him unlock his potential. With a career losing record and a 4.65 ERA, none have been successful, and now the 32 year old is a free agent.
There is no doubt Jackson has talent. He is a five pitch pitcher that predominantly relies upon a low to mid 90s fastball and a slider. Through his tenure as the Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen has been successful in helping pitchers like Jackson. Like many of the other pitchers on this list, Jackson should be aided by the Mets pitch framing. The combination of Warthen and the pitch framing has been shown to help a number of pitchers who have come to the Mets the past few seasons.
Over the last two seasons, Jackson has also begun pitching out of the bullpen. In 2015, he showed some promise in the role making 47 appearances while going 4-3 with a 3.07 ERA and a 1.168 WHIP. He would limit batters to a .218/.291/.332 batting line. Unfortunately, he regressed as a reliever in 2016 after he had failed again as a starter. Overall, as is the story with most of Jackson’s career, there is promise here, and a union with the Mets could be mutually beneficial.
2016 Stats: 1-3, 7.77 ERA, 6 G, 6 GS, 2.055 WHIP, 6.7 K/9
Medlen has gone from a promising young pitcher with the Atlanta Braves to a pitcher whose career is a crossroads with him being limited during the 2016 season with shoulder issues. While these shoulder issues did not require surgery, they limited Medlen in 2016, and it had an impact on his performance. Another issue with Medlen is his having two Tommy John surgeries.
With that said, when Medlen is right, he is a good pitcher. His last year with the Braves, before he needed a second Tommy John surgery, he was 15-12 with a 3.11 ERA, 1.223 WHIP, and a 7.2 K/9. In 2015, his first year back from his second Tommy John surgery, Medlen was 6-2 with a 4.01 ERA, 1.269 WHIP, and a 6.2 K/9 between eight starts and seven relief appearances. In the 2015 postseason, he made two appearances pitching six innings with a 3.00 ERA, 0.667 WHIP, and a 12.0 K/9.
If the medicals check out, Medlen can be a very effective pitcher for someone. Considering the need to get a pitcher comfortable in the rotation and the bullpen, the Mets might be a good fit.
2016 Stats: 8-7, 5.50 ERA, 29 G, 20 GS, 121.0 IP, 1.587 WHIP, 6.5 K/9
Admittedly, no Mets fan wants to see Niese in a Mets uniform again, especially after a disastrous 2016 season for Niese. However, it should be noted that Niese was dealing with a knee issue that required season ending surgery. It should also be noted Niese has been a league average pitcher under Warthen’s tutledge.
In his six seasons as a starter for the Mets, Niese was 59-59 with a 3.86 ERA, 1.351 WHIP, and a 7.0 K/9. We also saw him come out of the bullpen and get some big outs in the 2015 postseason. Looking at the pitchers who are likely going to get incentivized one year deals or minor league deals with invitations to Spring Training, you can do a lot worse than Niese.
There is certainly any number of places the Mets could go this offseason. There are pitchers like Matt Harrison who are injury risks, but who can also be dominant pitchers when healthy. There are also reclamation projects like Jered Weaver and Tim Lincecum. Overall, there are many different ways to go. At this point, the Mets just need to identify their guy, be patient, and let the market develop. Once it does, the Mets could obtain a pitcher who could very well be a difference maker during the 2017 season.
Every Mets fan was elated the Mets signed Yoenis Cespedes to a four year $110 million contract. With that contract on the heels of Neil Walker accepting the $17.2 million qualifying offer, it appeared as if the Mets were finally out from under the Madoff disaster, and they were ready to spend like the big market team they were. Turns out we were wrong . . . very wrong.
As the Winter Meetings come to a close, Sandy Alderson met with reporters, and he informed them that the Mets are not only done spending, they actually need to shed payroll before Opening Day.
That’s right. Alderson expects the Mets to be below $150 million before Opening Day. According to Spotrac, a payroll under $150 million would put the Mets in bottom half of payroll in the major leauges. Worse yet, reducing the payroll would actually mean the Mets 2017 payroll will be lower than the Mets year-end 2016 payroll. The payroll will be lower despite the Mets coming off back-to-back postseason appearances, the Mets having twice increased ticket prices, and attendance having gone up each year since 2013. With increased revenues, there is no reason for the Mets to reduce payroll.
Now, payroll isn’t everything. As we saw in 2015, it is possible to compete without having one of the top payrolls in the majors. Ultimately, it is not payroll that wins, it’s talent. Looking over the Mets major league roster, the team still does not have everything it needs to win in 2017.
First and foremost, the bullpen is in disarray. The Mets are likely to lose Jerry Blevins to free agency, and it is likely the team will lose Fernando Salas. Right there, the Mets need to obtain another LOOGY unless you believe Josh Edgin will suddenly find his lost velocity or Josh Smoker‘s entire career of reverse splits will suddenly reverse itself. Morevover, the Mets will need a seventh inning reliever, which is something the team has seemingly always needed in the Sandy Alderson Era. Further compounding the issue is the prospect of a lengthy Jeurys Familia suspension. With all those factors in mind, this team is 2-3 arms short in the bullpen.
Speaking of arms, it is questionable the Mets have enough starting pitching. Yes, the team does seem to have seven starters, but most of them carry question marks and/or innings restrictions. Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz are all coming off season ending surgeries. To ask them to make 30 innings and throw over 200 innings may be unrealistic. Both Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo helped pitch the Mets to the postseason last year, but they will likely be on innings restrictions in 2017 meaning if they are in the Opening Day rotation, they will likely need to be shut down by September. Finally, no one can reasonably expect anything from Zack Wheeler after he hasn’t pitched in over two years. With that in mind, the Mets could use a veteran starter who could eat up innings as the fifth starter, and also could serve as the long man in the bullpen once the Mets are ready to hand the reigns to a Gsellman, Lugo, or Wheeler.
The bench could probably use some help as well. Rene Rivera is a nice backup catcher, but he’s better suited on a team that has a catcher who is not as injury prone as Travis d’Arnaud. Arguably, the team could also use another bat for the bench, especially when you consider the battle for the final spot on the bench will be between Ty Kelly and T.J. Rivera. Given Kelly’s switch hitting ability, and Terry Collins‘ apparently fondness for him, it is likely Kelly will win that competition.
Overall, these are a lot of holes to fill. Arguably, being able to trade Bruce will fill one of them, but will it? If the Mets are indeed looking to slash payroll, how could the team take back salary in the deal? Even assuming the Mets can bring back salary in the deal, doesn’t that mean the team will be prevented from adding another player or two in free agency?
Ultimately, that’s the problem. The team’s needs are not likely going to be filled internally unless you believe Wheeler will be a dominant reliever, Sean Gilmartin will return to his 2015 form, Gabriel Ynoa will take a huge stride forward in his development, and Kelly starts improving at 28 years of age. It is nice to hope this will all work out, but as history tells us, it is rare that everything breaks right for a team in one year. No, the gaps will have to be filled by acquiring players, which will cost money.
Unfortunately, the Mets once again seem out of money. It’s getting old, and sooner or later, it is going to cost the Mets a chance at the postseason as it nearly did last year. When the team is raising ticket prices and the fans are still coming to the ballpark, that isn’t alright. It’s about time the Mets start spending to at least address their needs in the offseason.
Throughout the season, I attempted to grade the different Mets players performances for each month of the season. In determining the year end grades, the aggregate of the monthly grades given was considered, but it wasn’t conclusive. For example, one player’s awful month could be more than offset by having an incredible month. Also, those decisions were made in the heat of the moment. There has been a cooling off period in giving these finals grades, and with that, there is time for reflection. It should also be noted the Wild Card Game did have some impact on these grades as that game was part of the story of the 2016 Mets. Overall, the final grades assessed considered the monthly grades, but also took into account that player(s) overall impact on the Mets season (good or bad). For the seventh set of grades, here are the Mets spot starters:
In 2015 with the Mets rotation nearing innings limits on the eve of the postseason, notably Matt Harvey, Verrett rose to the challenge, and he showed himself to be not just a capable bullpen arm, but also someone who can be a reliable spot starter. Unfortunately, as good as Verrett was in 2015, he was that poor in 2016.
Initially, Verrett did well in the rotation after making two April spot starts for Jacob deGrom. In those starts, he pitched six innings and allowed no runs. However, it was when he was called upon to fill-in for an injured Harvey that Verrett really struggled, and he fell apart in August. Overall, Verrett made 12 starts going 1-6 with a 6.45 ERA and a 1.617 ERA. There’s no sugar coating how poor those numbers are. So why wasn’t his grade lower?
Well, Verrett was useful out of the bullpen. In his 23 relief appearances, he was 2-2 with a 2.84 ERA and a 1.453 WHIP. His WHIP was quite poor, but overall, he was effective out of the pen, and for the most part, he went multiple innings. There’s value in that, and it should be recognized.
Ultimately, what we learned with Verrett is he may not be as capable bouncing back and forth between the rotation and bullpen as we once thought. It might just be that his stuff will not permit him to go more than two times through a lineup. Ideally, Verrett is no more than a long man in the pen or a AAA starter called-up to make a start. He’s not both.
What was the most surprising part of Montero’s season? Was it his demotion to AA or was it his getting called-up to the majors two times last season? The answer actually is it was Montero getting important September starts for a team trying to claim one of the two Wild Card spots.
It was the same old Montero. In the minors, he pounded the strike zone, and he gave the Mets some hope they could salvage him. In the majors, he was flat out terrible. In his three starts and nine relief appearances, Montero was 0-1 with an 8.05 ERA and a 2.053 WHIP, and he may not have been that good. It is still incredible that he hasn’t been taken off the 40 man roster yet.
Speaking of terrible, the Mets admitted their mistake in signing Antonio Bastardo to a two year deal, and they traded him to the Pirates to bring back Niese. The Mets were desperate for pitching at the time, and there was some hope Niese would improve working with pitching coach Dan Warthen again. The Mets hopes were quickly dashed.
Niese made two starts and four relief appearances for the Mets. In those games, he was 0-1 with an 11.45 ERA and a 2.000 WHIP. He was even worse than he was with the Pirates, and remember, he was amidst the worst year of his career with the Pirates. In his last start, and most likely last appearance ever wearing a Mets uniform, Niese lasted a third of an inning before removing himself from the game with a knee injury. Not too long thereafter, Niese had season ending knee surgery. It will be interesting to see what the market will be for him this offseason.
Lugo went from a struggling pitcher in AAA who was removed from the rotation to being one of the Mets best starting pitchers down the stretch.
During the season, we saw Lugo had the single best pitch out of anyone in the minor leagues when he embarassed Anthony Rizzo with his curveball. As it turns out, if you measure curveballs by revolution, Lugo has one of the best curveballs in the sport. We also saw that when Lugo needed a little extra on his fastball to get out of a jam, he could ramp it up all the way to 96 MPH. In that way, Lugo was a bit of a throwback. Lugo relied mostly on his B fastball and secondary pitches, but when he was in trouble, or he needed to put a batter away, he took his stuff to the next gear. It could be one of the reasons he was so successful limiting the damage with runners in scoring position.
Overall, Lugo made eight starts and nine relief appearances for the Mets. As a starter, he was 5-1 with a 2.68 ERA and a 1.149 WHIP. As a reliever, he was 0-1 with a 2.65 ERA and a 0.941 WHIP. For the season, Lugo was 5-2 with a 2.67 ERA and a 1.094 WHIP. Not a bad season for a pitcher that got booted from the AAA rotation.
In the aforementioned game Niese left due to injury, it was Gsellman who relieved him. In that game, Gsellman began to make a name for himself. Gsellman would get better and better from start to start culminating in his seven inning, no run, eight strikeout game against the Phillies in the Mets last home regular season game.
During the season, Gsellman featured a power sinker and some still developing, but still effective secondary pitches. That power sinker helped Gsellman go 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA and a 1.276 WHIP in what was effectively nine starts. Gsellman was better than even the Mets could have hoped he would be. With the departure of Bartolo Colon in free agency coupled with the questions surrounding the rotation, mainly Zack Wheeler, Gsellman may very well be competing with Lugo for a spot in the Opening Day rotation.
Gabriel Ynoa C-
The main thing we learned about Ynoa during the 2016 season was the 23 year old just wasn’t ready to pitch in the major leauges. However, due to a rash of injuries, the Mets brought him up sooner than he should have been, and they immediately put him in a relief role he was ill suited.
Ynoa would make 10 appearances for the Mets. That included three starts in games he frankly should not have been starting. Ynoa was called upon to start games despite not having made a start in nearly a month due to injuries and Montero being Montero. Overall, Ynoa was 1-0 with a 6.38 ERA and a 1.800 WHIP. It is too soon to judge what type of career he will have, and the hope is that Ynoa will be better for the experience.
With the addition of John Olerud and the emergence of Rick Reed, the 1997 Mets made a tremendous leap forward going 88-74 to be a factor in the Wild Card race. However, they would eventually lose out to a Florida Marlins team that was literally built to win the World Series that one season.
After that season, the Marlins disbanded because, as we were first learning out, that’s what the Marlins do when they win. The Mets were one of the main beneficiaries of the the offseason sell-off with them obtaining Al Leiter and Dennis Cook. Then the real boon came when the Marlins had swung a deal with the Dodgers to obtain Mike Piazza to unload a bunch of big contracts. With the Mets struggling, due in large part to Todd Hundley‘s elbow injury, the Mets moved quickly and added Piazza. With a week left in the season, the Mets won to go to 88-68. All the Mets needed to do in the final week of the season was to win one more game to at least force a playoff with the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs for the Wild Card. They didn’t. Once again, finishing the year 88-74 was not good enough for the Wild Card.
Entering the final game of the 2016 season, with the Mets having already clinched the Wild Card, the Mets needed just one more win to finish the year at 88-74.
There was a version of me 20 years younger that wanted to see the Mets get that win to erase some of the bad feelings that an 88-74 record created. It was going to be a difficult task because the Mets objective wasn’t to win this game. The sole objective was to just get through it with everybody healthy so as not to compromise the team for the winner-take-all Wild Card Game this Wednesday at Citi Field.
For starters, it was Gabriel Ynoa who took the mound instead of Noah Syndergaard. Terry Collins would also give an at-bat a piece to Curtis Granderson, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Yoenis Cespedes. Jay Bruce would get two. T.J. Rivera, Jose Reyes, Rene Rivera, and Travis d’Arnaud would not play. This was a full-on keep people fresh and don’t get anyone injured operation.
Ynoa would acquit himself well even if he couldn’t go five. He would only throw 52 pitches in 4.2 innings allowing five hits, one run, one earned, and one walk with two strikeouts. Collins would lift him for Jerry Blevins, who is probably the one Mets reliever who could’ve used some work, to get out of the fifth. At that point, the Phillies were only up 1-0 on a third inning Maikel Franco RBI single.
The Mets would eventually go ahead in this game making the 88-74 season a reality. In the sixth, Matt Reynolds doubled, and he would score on an Alejandro De Aza RBI singles. In the seventh, Kelly Johnson hit a leadoff single, and he would score on a Kevin Plawecki two out RBI double.
The lead would not last long as the Phillies went to work against Erik Goeddel in the bottom of the seventh. After an Andres Blanco single, an Aaron Altherr walk, and a Lucas Duda throwing error, the Phillies loaded the bases with no outs. Cesar Hernandez brought home the first two runs on an RBI single, and then Jimmy Paredes knocked in the third run of the inning with a sacrifice fly. That Paerdes sacrifice fly was an extra base hit if anyone other than Juan Lagares was manning center field. Lagares once again reminded everyone that he is the best fielding center fielder in baseball, and that if he can at least manage one at-bat per game, he needs to be on the postseason roster.
The Phillies then added a run in the eighth off Jim Henderson to make the game 5-2. That would be the final score of a game where both teams reached their primary objective. The Phillies were able to provide a fitting send-off for Ryan Howard removing him from the game in the eighth so he could leave to a standing ovation. The Mets just got through the game without suffering any injuries, and also got much needed reps for Duda and Lagares.
The Mets weren’t able to get that final win to erase the angst of the past when 88 wins just wasn’t good enough for the postseason. Ironically, 87 was good enough this year. With those 87 wins, the Mets put the capper on a mostly frustrating season. However, in the end, they were able to go to make consecutive postseason appearances for only the second time in their history. When viewed through that prism, this was a successful and enjoyable season.
Tonight marks Seth Lugo‘s last start in what has been an already incredible season for him. More than any other pitcher in the Mets organization, it was unlikely that Lugo would find himself in this position.
After 14 starts and a 6.93 ERA for AAA Las Vegas, the Mets organization decided Lugo should not be a starting pitcher. It was certainly understandable. The Mets major league team was flush with young starting pitching with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz. Zack Wheeler was supposed to join them soon as he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. If the Mets needed a spot starter, there was Logan Verrett, who did the job quite admirably last year, and Sean Gilmartin, who pitched well in the majors last season. When you also consider the Mets had well regarded pitching prospects in Gabriel Ynoa and Robert Gsellman, it was seemingly time to move Lugo to the bullpen. At 26 years old, it was probably his best chance to make it to the majors.
Lo and behold, that’s exactly how he would make it to the bigs. In his first major league appearance, he unleashed what was then the best curveball ever thrown in the Statcast Era. The pitch fooled Anthony Rizzo, a player who finished in the top four in MVP voting last year, is a three time All Star, and is hitting .305/.395/.579 with 23 homers and 72 RBI off right-handed pitching. Right then and there Lugo not only showed that his curveball may be the best pitch in the entire Mets system, but that he belongs in the major leagues.
Lugo would continue to show he was a major leauger in his next nine appearances. In those appearances, he pitched 17.0 innings with a 2.65 ERA and a 0.941 WHIP. In those appearances, he limited batters to a .185/.273/.222 batting line.
Then disaster struck – not to Lugo, but to the Mets starting rotation. With Lugo pitching well out of the bullpen, he soon found himself in the one place no one thought he was ever going to be. The starting rotation. In his first start, Lugo was much better than anyone ever imagined pitching 6.2 innings against the Giants. He was able to be economical with his pitches thereby allowing him to go deep into the game despite it being his first start in two months.
From there, Lugo has shown he belongs in the rotation. In Lugo’s seven starts, he is 4-1 with a 2.59 ERA and a 1.104 WHIP. When there are runners in scoring position, Lugo has shown the ability to bear down (some would call it luck) adding a few extra MPH to his fastball and relying a little more heavily on a curveball that generates both swings and misses as well as groundballs. As a result, batters are only hitting .163/.259/.233 off of him in those situations.
That’s where Lugo finds himself on his last start of the regular season. He’s taking the mound against the Marlins in the hopes of dropping the Mets magic number to clinch one of the Wild Card spots from four to three or two. He’s also making his case that he should pitch the Wild Card Game in the event Syndergaard has to pitch in the regular season finale on Sunday. He’s also making the case he should be the third starter over Gsellman this postseason.
He’s also making the case that he belongs in the long term plans of the New York Mets. He’s already done a terrific job of doing that so far. Another strong start here and a good postseason, it’ll be a guarantee.
The reason why Bartolo Colon has been effective all season has been his ability to locate and put movement on his high 80s fastball. When he is unable to do that, he becomes a batting practice pitcher. Last night, Colon was a batting practice pitcher. It all come unraveling in a four run second inning.
Consider for a second, the first out of the inning was a sacrifice bunt by the opposing pitcher Adam Conley. Up until that point, the Marlins first four batters of the inning had hit the ball hard, and there were already two runs scored. Dee Gordon the followed his first inning home run with a two RBI single making it 5-0. With the way the Mets offense has been hitting lately, and with the Marlins bullpen most likely needing to do a bulk of the heavy lifting on the night, this game was not out of reach.
What was interesting was Colon was due up second in the top of the third. Last week, Terry Collins was very aggressive pulling his pitchers in a search for more offense to win games. Granted, there is a massive difference between pulling Colon early than Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, or Gabriel Ynoa, but the game was already on the verge of getting out of hand at 5-0. Furthermore, with Gsellman going deep into Sunday’s game along with the Mets not needing Ynoa or Rafael Montero to start another game this year, the Mets could’ve rolled the dice in pulling Colon. Instead, Collins stuck with the veteran in the hopes that he would get himself right and go deep in the game.
In the bottom of the third, it was clear that wasn’t going to happen. Right off the bat, Christian Yelich hit the ball hard, and it deflected off of Colon. After the play, Collins and Ray Ramirez would go out to the mound with Colon ignoring Ramirez. Giancarlo Stanton followed with a hard line drive out to center. At this point in time, it was clear Colon didn’t have it, and yet he would go another batter. Justin Bour then hit a hard line drive to right that Jay Bruce misplayed into a two run triple to make it 7-0. Right then and there, the game was effectively over. It was right then and there that Collins lifted Colon for Ynoa.
If you want to defend Colon pitching to start the third, you can make the case. You can make an even better case given the emotions of the night and the way Colon was being hit around, he should not have been in the game. The issue becomes why not let Colon finish the inning? It’s one thing to go to your bullpen for six plus innings to stay in a close game. It’s a whole other matter to go that deep into the pen for a game you’ve already lost. Why not let Colon figure it out? At that point, what is the difference between 7-0 and 10-0? You might as well try to steal a couple of innings out of him to save the bullpen a bit – even with the expanded rosters.
As it turned out, the Mets bullpen wouldn’t get burned. They got good work out of a group of relievers who are most likely not going to be on the postseason roster with Ynoa, Montero, Erik Goeddel, Josh Edgin, and Jim Henderson. Still, you have to question what Collins would have done if one of those guys were hit hard. Would he have made one of them wear it, or would he have chased the unlikely comeback? We’ll never be sure. What we are sure of is Collins inability to play it one way might’ve cost the Mets what might’ve been a winnable game.
An emotional Dee Gordon, wearing a Jose Fernandez jersey just like the rest of his teammates, hit a leadoff home run off Bartolo Colon. As a fan of the game, you tip your cap, and you appreciate the moment.
Starting with that home run, you got a sense the emotional Marlins team needed this game a little more, and they were meant to win it.
Still, it was hard to watch as a Mets fan as the Mets have not yet clinched a Wild Card spot. It was hard to watch Colon throwing batting practice fastballs while seemingly getting squeezed by John Hirschbeck. I was hard to watch Ray Ramirez have to come visit him on the mound. That one was especially hard to watch. Thankfully, Colon brushed him off.
All of Colon’s 2.1 innings were tough to watch. You had to question what Terry Collins was thinking leaving him out there to get knocked around to the tune of eight hits and seven runs. As Colon was fooling no one, he recorded no strikeouts. On the bright side, Gabriel Ynoa stabilized things for 1.2 innings before passing it off to Rafael Montero, who actually threw a scoreless inning.
The Mets offense was a no show as well. They were shut down by Adam Conley, who pitched an emotional three innings before handing it off to the Marlins bullpen. Collectively, they down the Mets in the same way Fernandez, who was scheduled to pitch tonight, would have.
The Mets had their chances. In the fifth, the Mets scored two runs on an Asdrubal Cabrera two RBI double. Who else would come through?
In the eighth, Duda did come through with a two out RBI single. Alejandro De Aza would then strike out looking to end the rally.
Ultimately, the Mets would lose 7-3 It was a hard night for all, including Yoenis Cespedes and the Mets:
Even with the Mets fighting for the Wild Card, on this night, the Marlins just had a little more to play for:
There is a fine line between being aggressive and going for it and just flat out panicking. The way Terry Collins managed last night was clearly the former.
In his two innings of work Gabriel Ynoa was getting hit by the Phillies. He allowed five hits, two runs, two earned, and one walk with only one strikeout. There were no extra base hits or any balls hit particularly hard. Still, Ynoa wasn’t fooling anyone. With him having already thrown 43 pitches, it was hard to imagine him going deep in the game.
However, no reasonable person could expect what happened next.
Travis d’Arnaud hit a two out RBI double to pull the Mets within 2-1. Then, rather than let Ynoa make his obligatory out to end the inning, Collins pinch hit Ty Kelly for Ynoa. In the second inning, Collins chased the run and pulled his starter from the game. If it’s Game Seven of the World Series where there’s no tomorrow, and you have your full compliment of arms, sure; why not? However, the Mets do have a game tomorrow.
By the way, in that game, the Mets are starting Sean Gilmartin because Noah Syndergaard has strep throat. Gilmartin’s last start was over a month ago. This means, at best, you can expect him to go five innings. More likely, you’re going to get less than that. With that in mind, you need as many guys as you can pitch tomorrow.
The Mets also needed to rest their bullpen as they have been taxed lately. Here is the breakdown in how much they’ve been used this week:
- Sunday 4.1 innings
- Monday 5.1 innings
- Tuesday 3.2 innings
- Wednesday 2.1 innings
- Thursday 6.0 innings
With that usage, Collins was asking his bullpen to find him seven innings the day before he was likely going to have to go deep into the bullpen again. Also, Sunday’s starter is Robert Gsellman who is averaging 5.2 innings per start meaning the Mets will most likely need to go deep into their bullpen again.
However, that’s addressing the future; a future that Collins ignored. Let’s focus on yesterday’s game.
Heading into the game, Collins already announced Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia were unavailable. Gilmartin is unavailable as he’s pitching tomorrow. All of the Mets arms have been used multiple times all week meaning the fresh arm in the bullpen was Logan Verrett. Verrett was where Collins went.
This season Verrett has a 5.22 ERA. Batters are hitting .284/.364/.530 off of him. While Ynoa hasn’t been great in his limited major league sample size, but there was no reason to believe Verrett would actually be a better option. If the Mets truly believed that Verrett was the better option, he would have been named the starter when it was announced Steven Matz was being shut down for the season.
Verrett would go out there and pitch two pretty ugly innings of his own. He allowed a leadoff homer to Maikel Franco in the third. He would then load the bases in the fourth, and he would narrowly escape the jam.
With Verrett pitching poorly, Collins would have to desperately find guys to go multiple innings to try to avoid going to Reed and Familia.
Despite his history of arm problems, Collins would try to push Goeddel another inning. When he got into a jam, Collins brought in Josh Edgin for a batter. After Edgin allowed a single, Collins did what he usually does in these situations. Collins brought in Hansel Robles not just to get out if the jam, but also to pitch the final 2.2 innings to get the win.
Robles did his job as did most of the Mets bullpen last night. However, Collins didn’t. He put the Mets in a position to empty their bullpen of their worst relievers instead of allowing Ynoa to go deeper in the game.
Now, the Mets bullpen is taxed, and it she’s not PpeR things will get better for them anytime soon.
It wasn’t too long ago that Terry Collins said he had no confidence in any of his right field options other than Jay Bruce. As Bruce struggled, the statement looked more and more ridiculous. Tonight, it looked downright absurd as most of Collins’ decisions of late are looking.
Collins made this decision despite the bullpen throwing six innings yesterday. He did it with Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia unavailable. He did it with Sean Gilmartin having to pitch tomorrow with Noah Syndergaard unable to go tomorrow because he has strep throat. Collins surveyed the landscape and determined the only way the Mets win the game is it Kelly pinch hits there to knock in Travis d’Arnaud, who just hit an RBI double, to tie it up. That was worth going to his bullpen for seven innings.
Collins, who was managing to win it, then went to Logan Verrett. Verrett went two innings, and the Mets were lucky he allowed just one run.
That set the stage for a big fifth inning.
The Mets quickly loaded the bases against Jeremy Hellickson, who was seemingly down 3-1 in the count to every Mets batter that inning.
The first run would come off a Curtis Granderson RBI single. Kelly Johnson followed with an RBI single of his own. When Phillies right fielder Roman Quinn misplayed the Johnson single, Yoenis Cespedes came to score from second as well. Then with a base open, the Phillies opted to pitch to Michael Conforto:
— MLB (@MLB) September 24, 2016
The three run homer capped a six run inning and gave the Mets a 7-3 lead. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be a laugher or an easy game.
Heading into the fifth, Collins removed d’Arnaud and replaced him with Rene Rivera as part of a double switch to try to get two innings from Josh Smoker. As usual, Smoker pitched well in his first inning. However, in his second inning of work, Darin Ruf would hit a two run home run off of him. This was the third time this year Collins tried to go a second inning with Smoker. All three times Smoker allowed a home run in his second inning of work.
Just like that it was 7-5. In the top of the seventh, the lead appeared in jeopardy. The Pbillies rallied off Josh Edgin putting runners at the corners with one out. When the right-hand hitting Tommy Joseph was announced as the pinch hitter for Peter Bourjos, Collins countered with Hansel Robles.
Joseph would pull a grounder right down the third base line. With Jose Reyes guarding the line, it turned into a 5-5-3 inning ending double play.
The Mets then blew it open in the bottom of thr seventh.
Cespedes got things started with a lead off double, and Granderson followed with a walk. Collins then pinch hit Juan Lagares for Johnson to bunt. Lagares got down the bunt, and Cameron Rupp pounced on it. Rupp went to third to try to get the force, but he made a slightly offline throw that Maikel Franco could’ve made a play on, but didn’t.
On the error, Cespedes scored, and the other two runners moved up a base. With the Phillies having the lefty, Patrick Schuster, on the mound, Collins pinch hit Eric Campbell for Conforto because Collins obviously had no confidence in Conforto’s ability to hit a lefty. Campbell would make Collins look good hitting a pinch hit RBI single. T.J. Rivera then pinch hit for Lucas Duda, and he hit a sac fly scoring Lagares to make it 10-5 Mets.
The bigger lead allowed the Mets to do a couple of things. First, it allowed Collins to bring in Matt Reynolds for Asdrubal Cabrera, who had earlier fouled a ball hard off his good knee. It also allowed the Mets to keep Robles in the game.
Robles pitched 2.2 innings earning his first ever major league save. He did get some help with a vintage Lagares catch. It was fitting when you consider everyone contributed to this win.
Game Notes: With Collins going deep into his bullpen, both Smoker and Robles got at bats.