One day, you’re in first place, and you’re a potential NL Manager of the Year. The next, your team is eliminated from postseason contention with no hope of having a .500 record.
That’s the type of year it has been for Luis Rojas and the New York Mets. As is standard, when a team falls short, the manager faces scrutiny.
It comes with the territory. Obviously, Rojas hasn’t been perfect. Assuredly, he’s made bad decisions, and there are times you wonder what in the world he’s doing.
Go pinpoint your most maddening moment. Make it out to be more than it is. Throw a few more moments on there. Magnify that.
Guess what? That’s not the reason the 2021 Mets didn’t make the postseason. It’s far from it.
In fact, for a while, Rojas was one of the things ruse was right about the Mets. At least, that was the narrative. In the end, blaming or crediting Rojas was just that – narrative.
The truth of the matter is it all fell apart. It wasn’t all at once, but rather in pieces. Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker were the only two starters to last the year with Stroman the only one to have sustained success into the second half.
Offensively, the Mets went with Chili Davis only to utilize advanced data which runs counter-intuitive to what Davis does. We saw the offense have a big letdown.
Francisco Lindor had a slow start. Michael Conforto dealt with COVID and a career worst year. That’s the tip of the iceberg with everyone not named Brandon Nimmo and maybe Pete Alonso having poor to flat out bad years.
For his part, Rojas listened to the workload management rules. The front office specifically said it was the player’s fault they got hurt.
That brings us in a roundabout way to a big part of the issue. With last year being a COVID impacted year, depth was more important than ever. For some reason, the front office was cavalier with it.
Steven Matz was traded for two relievers who had little impact and another flipped for the poor performing Khalil Lee. They also made odds unforced errors like designating Johneshwy Fargas for assignment. For our mental health, we probably should’ve dwell too much on Jerad Eickhoff pitching in five games.
Fact of that matter is if Jacob deGrom was healthy, much of this season goes much differently. If the Mets hitters were just a reasonable facsimile of their career stats, the season is far different.
For that matter, if the front office looked at the roster problems and attacked them at the trade deadline, things go differently. At the end of the day, this was a first place team at the trade deadline, and the organization opted to fight another day.
In what way is all of this Rojas’ fault? The simple truth is it isn’t.
We can and should have the debate over whether Rojas is the right man for the job. Realistically speaking, he’s only had one year at the helm, and in that time, he’s shown good and bad.
The issue for any pure novice manager is whether he can grow. No one knows that yet. No one.
What we do know is the Mets shown they can win and fall apart with Rojas at the helm. Both instances were entirely tied to the strength of the roster. That brings us to the front office.
In the end, feel however you want about Rojas. It doesn’t matter because he’s not the reason the Mets disappointed this year. He may eventually be the fall guy but things aren’t magically improving because there’s another manager. The only way that happens is if the roster improves.
With Jacob deGrom down, and with Carlos Carrasco looking further away than initially hoped, the New York Mets have a real need for a starting pitcher. In fact, at the moment, their rotations is Megill, Walker, Stro, and Who Knows?
So, obviously, the Mets are going to need a starting pitcher, and they are going to need one sooner rather than later. Who they can get, and what the cost will be, is anyone’s best guess.
While we know this is a priority, this is not the only area the Mets need to address at the trade deadline. As a result, they should not and cannot get myopic in their endeavors to improve the team. This is a front office well capable of multitasking, and they are well aware of those needs.
Right now, those needs include pitching in general. While the rotation is getting all the focus, the bullpen needs help as well. Since June 1, the Mets bullpen has been one of the worst in baseball. In fact, they own a 5.21 FIP which is the second worst in baseball. Their 4.69 ERA may only be 13th worst, but that is the worst among any teams currently in a postseason position.
While the bullpen has been a strength early, it has been a liability of late. Part of that is fatigue and players hitting the IL. The other part of it has been Edwin Diaz regressing and starting to resemble the unreliable closer who lost his job in 2019. With that being the case, the Mets need to seriously take a look at adding at least an arm or maybe two.
The other big area of need is third base. Right now, Mets third basemen collectively own a -8 DRS, which is the third worst in the National League. Coincidentally, it is the only position where the Mets own a negative DRS defensively.
Part of the reason is the Mets aren’t playing Jeff McNeil there. Instead, they have asked Luis Guillorme, Jose Peraza, and Jonathan Villar to play out of position. That has yielded poor results. The other problem is J.D. Davis has long proven completely incapable of proving the position. The boiling point on Davis should have been when he literally just stood in foul territory in Pittsburgh when Walker unsuccessfully tried to knock a ball foul.
As we see, the Mets have three real areas of need with the rotation, bullpen, and third base. You can also make the case with Peraza suffering a broken finger, the Mets could afford to add a little more depth to the roster. Overall, if the Mets want to win the World Series, and they have the core to do it, they need to look at more than the rotation.
The New York Mets showed they had real fight in the series finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and they would show even more in Cincinnati:
1. With all the injuries to the pitching staff, Marcus Stroman had the biggest start of the year. Those eight innings were a godsend.
2. The reason the Mets are in first isn’t just because of performances like we saw from Stroman. It’s because of performances like we saw with Stephen Nogosek and Geoff Hartlieb. Even though they lost that game, it saved the pen.
3. Of course, Robert Stock, who is well past Plan Z, makes a spot start, and he leaves the game with an injury after an inning.
4. For over a month now, Dominic Smith has returned to form. He’s hitting for power, and he’s getting big hits.
5. James McCann has had his adjustment period, and he’s been better than the catcher they thought they were signing. Since May 29, he’s hitting .300/.361/.485.
7. Actually, that wasn’t Rojas, it was Dave Jauss filling in for the suspended Rojas. Jauss certainly seemed to enjoy his time at the helm, and fans seemed to love his infectious personality.
9. Luis Guillorme might’ve had one tough inning defensively, but he’s been great all season. It’s long past time messing around and just let him play everyday.
10. Michael Conforto had a huge Two home run game in the comeback extra inning win. At the time, it seemed like he was taking off, but then he stopped hitting again.
11. That’s not too dissimilar from J.D. Davis who is one for his last 10 with five strikeouts.
12. This is just a reminder that unless the Mets move Jeff McNeil to third, they really need a third baseman at the trade deadline.
13. McNeil’s bat has awoken with him hitting .316/.395/.421 over the past few weeks.
14. The loss of Jose Peraza is going to hurt more than you expected at the beginning of the year. He’s been playing great defense, and he has a bevy of clutch hits.
15. People love to love situational hitting and small ball, but then they go berserk when the Mets are mashing homers.
16. Jesse Winker is a no-good evil Mets killer. Actually, he’s not evil. He has fun with the fans and the game. Still, the Mets should never even contemplate pitching to him in a big spot again.
17. In a big spot late in the game, you don’t know it Kevin Pillar is going to get a base hit, but he’s certainly going to tattoo the ball.
18. Gary Cohen deriding skyline chili was like Bud Harrelson punching Pete Rose combined with Al Leiter‘s one hitter. Put another way, Gare landed a punch, and there was no way Cincinnati could come back from it.
20. The Mets certainly love playing in these band boxes in Cincinnati and Philadelphia because they continue to win games in these cities.
Robert Stock was recalled, and he lasted all of one inning before leaving the game with an injury. That meant the New York Mets bullpen effectively needed to pitch the entire game.
What did the Mets in this game more than anything with hitting with runners in scoring position. That problem reared it’s ugly head again with the Mets going 0-for-7 stranding nine runners.
— New York Mets (@Mets) July 21, 2021
On the downside, the Mets couldn’t take full advantage of their opportunities.
In the seventh, Jonathan Villar and Dominic Smith walked to start the inning. Villar would score from second on a Joey Votto missed catch error. However, the Mets couldn’t take full advantage as Jeff McNeil hit into an inning ending double play.
In the eighth. .Guillorme was stranded at second. Smith drew a leadoff walk in the ninth, but he wouldn’t advance.
In the end, it was a hard fought 4-3 loss. It shouldn’t have been this close, but the pitching held up. The only issue now is can it hold up again.
After all that, the 3-0 lead became a 7-3 deficit, and it looked like Pittsburgh all over again. In actuality, it was, but it was like the series finale.
Michael Conforto got the comeback started with a two run homer in the fourth.
— New York Mets (@Mets) July 20, 2021
— New York Mets (@Mets) July 20, 2021
It was a brand new game, and it would stay tied into the seventh. Miguel Castro departed with one on and two out. He didn’t get out of the inning as J.D. Davis had his typical difficulty getting the ball out of his glove thereby costing the Mets of any chance to get an inning ending double play.
At that point, Nido had a double and an RBI. James McCann had been scuffling amidst an 0-for-11 streak. Naturally, when Jauss tabbed McCann to pinch hit for Nido, he hit a go–ahead two run homer.
That shouldn’t been enough for a 9-8 win. The problem was for the first time in his career, Edwin Diaz would blow three straight saves.
Part of that was Diaz walking Kyle Farmer to start the inning. The other part was Jauss unnecessarily having Diaz pitch to Winker. Predictably, Winker hit the game tying single to tie the game at 9-9.
In extra innings, the took advantage of the dumb gimmick when McCann singled home the go-ahead run. Remarkably, the ball double tapped his bat on the singles. It was 10-9 heading into the bottom of the inning.
With all the bullpen usage, the Mets opted for Anthony Banda for the save. It didn’t go well. Two batters into the inning, there were runners on first and second with Tyler Naquin driving home the tying run.
After that, Jose Peraza made an impact against his former team starting the around the horn double play on Eugenio Suarez‘s grounder. He’d then get the put out on the ensuring Shogo Akiyama grounder to send the game to the 11th.
Brandon Nimmo led off the 11th putting runners at the corners. After a poor Alonso at-bat, McNeil delivered the go-ahead single giving the Mets an 11-10 lead.
For some reason, with Banda of all people up, the Mets put the contact play on. The end result was Nimmo getting nailed at home. Fortunately, the Mets weren’t done as Kevin Pillar and Conforto would go back-to-back.
— New York Mets (@Mets) July 20, 2021
That 15-10 lead was enough for even Banda. Although, he did test that allowing back-to-back one out singles pulling the Reds to within 15-11.
With that, May saved hid second in a row and third of the season. That’s a testament to the never give up mentality of this never give up clubhouse.
Game Notes: Mets are 177-0 all-time when scoring at least 12 runs. Johneshwy Fargas was designated for assignment. Travis Blankenhorn was optioned to Syracuse. Eickhoff and Stephen Nogosek were called up.
In the first of seven straight games against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the New York Mets got a good luck at popular trade target Adam Frazier. He certainly impressed going 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI.
It was the latest in what has been an All-Star season for Frazier. In 86 games, he’s hitting .328/.397/.464 with 26 doubles, four triples, four homers, and 29 RBI.
Frazier has a 2.6 WAR and a 138 wRC+. Among MLB second basemen, his WAR ranks fifth and his wRC+ ranks second. That’s extremely impressive, and his having another year of control makes him all the more enticing.
That said, the Mets shouldn’t look to add him at the trade deadline.
First, there’s the defense issue. Frazier would just be another second baseman who can’t play third to the mix. Maybe this will finally be the move which forces Jeff McNeil to third, which would be great, but it’s doubtful considering the Mets stubborn refusal to move McNeil off second.
If Frazier is slotted for second, it’s difficult to tell how he’d play. While he’s had elite numbers some years, he’s been terrible in others. This year, he’s a -2 DRS and -1 OAA.
On the defensive front, it’s possible the Mets believe their shifting and positioning could help Frazier play like an elite defender again. Seeing the Mets defensive turnaround this season, we shouldn’t doubt them.
With Frazier, the bigger issue is the bat. Yes, he’s having a great year. However, when you dig into the numbers, you see a player in line for a regression towards the 100 wRC+ player he was entering the season.
Frazier entered the year with a career .303 BABIP, and he’s at a .363 this season. Going to Baseball Savant, his barrels and exit velocities are very low. Actually, as luck would have it, they’re the worst of his career.
These are not the numbers of a player having career best power hitting numbers or for that matter, a career year.
Now, there are some good things with Frazier. His line drive rate is up, and his plate discipline has improved. He’s also a tough strikeout.
Taken all together, Frazier is an absolutely improved player at the plate, but he’s not as good as he is now. Frazier isn’t a good defender now, but he has been, and the right team can get more from him.
The obvious caveat is if the price is right, the Mets should look to add him. He’s a clear upgrade. That said, the cost will probably outweigh his value, and to some extent, Frazier is quite duplicative to what the Mets already have in Luis Guillorme, Jose Peraza, and Jonathan Villar.
It would seem the Mets attention is better focused elsewhere to address the real third base and bullpen vacancies. They also don’t want to be in a position to pay a premium price for a player due to regress both in the second half and next season.
For a moment, it appeared like the Mets were going to be in an unexpectedly tight game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Through five-and-a-half, the game was knotted at 2-2.
At that point, Taijuan Walker was done after allowing two runs over five. It wasn’t his best outing by any stretch, but he did keep the Mets in the game.
Finally, in the sixth, the Mets offense exploded against JT Brubaker and the Prates bullpen:
- Brandon Nimmo single
- Francisco Lindor walk
- Dominic Smith RBI single (3-2)
- Pete Alonso three run homer (6-2)
- Jeff McNeil single
- Michael Conforto walk
- Jonathan Villar strikeout
- James McCann walk
- Jose Peraza PH HBP (7-2)
- Nimmo RBI walk (8-2)
- Lindor grand slam (12-2)
With that 10 run rally, the game was blown open, and the Mets were well on their way to a 13-4 victory. Aaron Loup was the winning pitcher after pitching a scoreless sixth.
What’s incredible to think about is even with the Mets scoring 13 runs, Nimmo, McCann, and Villar were the only players with multi-hit games. In terms of Villar, both hits were homers:
— New York Mets (@Mets) July 10, 2021
Even with that nuisance, this was a good win for a team now assured of entering the All-Star Break in first place. They can further cement that spot during this seven game stretch against the Pirates.
Game Notes: Walker was officially named an All-Star after the game. Jacob deGrom is opting out of the game.
The NL Central leading Milwaukee Brewers came to Citi Field with their pitching lined up. It was the Mets who took two out of three:
1. While the consternation of the split doubleheader seven inning games is justified, the larger issue is the fact seven inning doubleheaders exist.
2. The extremely long rain delay at Citi Field was the first of the Steve Cohen era, but when you’re trying to get an extra Jacob deGrom start, you do it.
3. Recently, deGrom has gone from super-human to merely being just the best pitcher in baseball.
4. deGrom is correct. With his sitting out the All-Star Game, Taijuan Walker absolutely should take his place.
6. It should be noted they’ve all been so good lately (and for the last few years) we shouldn’t blow it out of proportions. That goes double when you see how they combined to win Monday’s game.
8. Speaking of that moment, Luis Rojas had an excellent series and was pushing all the right buttons. For example, one under the Radar move was pinch running Billy McKinney for Alonso in the late innings, which permitted him to get the faster runner and reset the defense.
9. One thing which is becoming increasingly obvious is Brandon Nimmo is the most important hitter on this team.
10. Jeff McNeil is turning a corner (i.e. getting some luck), and his game winning hit was a huge moment for him and the team.
11. That doubleheader really was a tale of the bases loaded. In the first game, McNeil delivered the walk-off hit. In the second, they literally struck out.
12. We don’t know if it’s the early usage, the lack of substances, or something else, but Miguel Castro looks done.
13. James McCann had a great AB in the first game of the doubleheader fighting for that walk to load the bases. It’s indicative of just how good he’s been lately, and how he’s outplaying J.T. Realmuto (h/t Brian Mangan).
14. Great job by Robert Stock to give the Mets a credible start in the second game of the doubleheader.
15. Giving him 89 is the continuation of a dumb practice of forcing Major Leaguers to try to prove they deserve a real number.
17. If the Mets won’t move McNeil to third, third base is their biggest hole and most important area to attack at the trade deadline. Josh Donaldson would make a lot of sense.
18. Of course Adam Fox is a Mets and Rangers fan. It’s because he’s awesome.
19. Win or lose, this Mets team has no quit. That makes them a very special group, and the Mets may not want to tinker too much with the clubhouse.
20. The Mets have seven straight against the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s time to make a big run.
This year’s edition of the Subway Series saw two struggling New York teams. After the series, the Mets weren’t the ones struggling anymore:
1. There shouldn’t be anymore doubt Brandon Nimmo is the Mets best offensive player, and he’s the real catalyst for the team.
2. If the point of replay is to get the calls right, there’s no point to replay when Nimmo is called out on a play he was clearly safe.
4. Imagine being someone who thought Cole deserved to be in the same breath as Jacob deGrom let alone thinking he was better.
5. Taijuan Walker absolutely should’ve been an All-Star, and he proved it again with his no-hitting the Yankees for 5+ innings. Hopefully, he will be an alternate for when deGrom won’t pitch in the game.
6. Was the Aaron Judge homer off Walker the first time one 99 broke up the no-hitter of another 99?
7. Again, there is no way the Mets should even contemplate DFAing Jose Peraza, especially after that bases loaded double to clear the bases. Use one of J.D. Davis‘ options and teach him how to play a position.
8. It’s funny that Tony Tarasco was on the field for the play where the Mets fan reached over the wall for the Peraza double. Tarasco was the Baltimore Orioles RF on the Jeffrey Meier/Derek Jeter play.
9. Pete Alonso‘s homer off Chapman was arguably the biggest hit of the year.
10. Alonso looks much more like the 2019 version hitting 275/.343/.517 with nine homers and 135 wRC+ over 134 PA since returning from the IL (h/t Tim Ryder).
11. Dominic Smith is red hot with a .875 OPS the past week and a .327/.365/.571 over the past two weeks. Like Alonso, he absolutely can keep this up.
12. That sure looked like the Jeff McNeil of old in this series.
14. Considering he’s being stretched out, you absolutely take those five innings from behind Corey Oswalt, who looked good besides the one mistake.
16. What is going on with Michael Conforto?
18. This Mets team is built for the postseason because of their pitching and their ability to fight back late in games.
19. It was odd to see the Mets not optimize their defensive alignment behind Marcus Stroman, especially with the DH in play.
20. This series coming up against the Milwaukee Brewers is a good temperature check to see how good the Mets are, and for that matter, just how good the Brewers are.
The New York Mets inability to score runs was starting to become problematic. That was until Brandon Nimmo was activated off the IL, and the Mets got to play in Yankee Stadium.
Nimmo would get a hit in his first AB, but he didn’t ignite the Mets offense until his one out single in the fifth. He’d score the first run of the game after ensuing singles from Francisco Lindor and Dominic Smith.
The rally continued with a Pete Alonso walk. James McCann drove home Lindor with an RBI single. The Alonso walk knocked New York Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery out of the game. After reliever Lucas Luetge allowed the McCann single, he threw a wild pitch permitting Smith to score the third run of the inning.
That was more than enough run support for Taijuan Walker, who was strong. He didn’t allow a hit until Aaron Judge homered off of him in the bottom of the sixth. His final line was 5.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K.
By the time those runs scored against Walker, the game was all but over because the Mets exploded for five runs in the top of the sixth.
Starting with a Jeff McNeil single, the Mets loaded the bases with no outs. Lindor walked to force home a run, and Smith followed with a two run double increasing the Mets lead to 6-0.
— New York Mets (@Mets) July 3, 2021
Michael King entered the game and nearly got the Yankees out the jam by striking out Alonso and McCann. However, he’d walk Michael Conforto to reload the bases. Kevin Pillar is them delivered a two out two run RBI single. Through six, it was 8-3 Mets.
There was so much to like about this game. Walker pitched well. Nimmo, Lindor, and Smith combined to go 8-for-15. McNeil and Jose Peraza each had two hit games. Jeurys Familia and Drew Smith were terrific out of the pen.
If you’re a pessimistic Mets fan looking for a downside, it was Miguel Castro.
There was two out and one on when Luis Rojas pulled Walker for Castro. Castro then loaded the bases on a HBP and walk before allowing a two run single to Gio Urshela. This forced Rojas’ hand as we brought in Familia to reliever Castro.
Despite that blip, the Mets completely and utterly dominated the Yankees. This once again looked like the Mets team we anticipated seeing throughout the 2021 season. It started with Nimmo atop the lineup and followed with the lineup clicking.
Game Notes: Smith played first and Alonso was the DH. Peraza played third. He had an error. Tomorrow is a split admission doubleheader.