Today’s game is the biggest game the Mets have played since they moved to Citi Field. It’s their biggest series in seven years. No matter what happens, they will leave Washington in first place.
They’re carrying a four game lead into Washington. Even if the get swept, they will remain in first. If the Mets sweep, they will be seven up with 26 games remaining. Like James Ingram, all I’m asking is that the Mets win “Just Once.” That’ll give them a three game lead presumably forcing the Nationals to sweep the Mets in the last series of the season to have a shot of winning the division.
The Mets set up their post-All Star Break rotation with Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, and Jacob deGrom facing the Nationals in their first two series against each other. After the Mets August 2nd win completing the sweep, the Mets have been in first place, and they do not look like they want to give it back. The Nationals seem to have noticed.
They have set up their rotation so the Mets face Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann, and Steven Strasburg. While the Mets will lead-off with Jon Niese, they will follow with Harvey and deGrom. The last two games of this series is must see TV. Especially with Harvey and deGrom, I like the Mets chances.
Since 2009, the Mets have had a losing record. We dreamed of the day that this young pitching would come together and lead the Mets to the playoffs and beyond. The Nationals are the only obstacle in their way. “I know we can break through it.”
As I’ve said before, it seems like the Mets are having auditions for a spot on the postseason roster. Jon Niese has already been put on warning that his start against the Nationals will be the biggest start of his career.
That’s not hyperbole. Right now, Niese is probably the Mets worst starting pitching option. While he’s been shrinking, his teammates have been stepping up. On Saturday, Bartolo Colon became the oldest Mets pitcher to have a complete game shut out. Noah Syndergaard pitched a good game saving the bullpen and giving the Mets a chance to win. Steven Matz had a strong start until leaving the game with a blister.
As the other starters are stepping up, Niese is shrinking from the moment. Hopefully, this has nothing to do with his shoulder. The Mets haven’t done him any favors by putting him up against Max Scherzer and a rejuvenated Nationals lineup. It’s the perfect time to step up.
The Mets fans are on the fence right now (not me). They’re invoking 2007 and 2008. It’s like they need an exorcism to prove those demons are gone. Niese probably needs one as well. He made his first three career starts in 2008, all in September. He went 1-1 with a 7.07 ERA and a 2.000 WHIP in 14.0 innings. In his last five starts, he has a 7.06 ERA and a 1.535 WHIP.
He’s almost as bad this year as we was in 2008. We’ve seen the meltdowns with him when something doesn’t go right. The pressure gets to him. It seems like the pressure of a pennant race also gets to him. He has time to prove me wrong. I want him to prove me wrong.
The Mets won’t take him out of the rotation in the regular season, especially with the recent drama. However, if he keeps this up, he’s out of the rotation in October. It’ll be amazing to see the man born on the day the Mets last won the World Series not be on the postseason roster.
If Niese wants to be there in October, it starts today.
The Mets have recently made a few very important announcements regarding Steven Matz:
- Matz will spot start in place of Noah Syndergaard on Saturday;
- The Mets will shift to a six man rotation; and
- Matz will not be a bullpen option.
In my opinion, the Mets are trying to accomplish two things: (1) they’re trying to reduce the innings of the stud muffins; and (2) they’re holding open auditions for the postseason rotation. I’m still not sure they’re not tempting fate.
Now, let’s start with the presumption that Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey will be in the postseason rotation. This leaves two open slots in the rotation because we know the Mets will not allow anyone to start a game on three days rest. Let’s look at the candidates individually.
By any measure, Thor is the Mets third best starter. He is 8-6 with a 3.31 ERA and 1.136 WHIP. He averages just over a strikeout per inning. His 3.38 FIP is the third best on the team, and it profiles him as an above average to great starting pitcher. So what’s the problem?
First, more so than any other pitcher, he has an innings limit problem. Second, he has dramatic home/road splits. He has had 10 home and 10 road starts. Here’s how he’s fared:
- Home: 7-1, 2.15 ERA, 0.831 WHIP
- Road: 1-5, 4.91 ERA, 1.558 WHIP
So, he is really good at home, but he’s bad on the road. One way to cure this is to set up the postseason rotation so he only starts at home. It may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Another thing to look at is how he’s pitched on the road against the Mets possible play-off opponents:
- 5/12 @ Cubs (first career start): L, 5.1 IP, 3 H, 4 BB, 6 K, 3 ER
- 7/3 @ Dodgers: ND, 6.0 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 ER
- 7/17 @ Cardinals: L, 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 6 K, 2 ER
Looking at these stats, I’m comfortable with him starting on the road at these places. He needs to be in the rotation.
Well, we saw the return of the bad Jon Niese yesterday. He’s had a rough year to the tune of 8-10 with a 4.17 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP. His FIP is a team worst 4.44 FIP, which profiles him as a bad starting pitcher this year.
We may have once assumed he was a lock for the postseason rotation after his strong June and July. He had respective ERAs of 3.00 and 2.87. His respective WHIPs were 1.333 and 1.021. Then the wheels came off. In August, he had a 5.17 ERA and a 1.309 WHIP. He continued the free fall last night. He cannot be an option for the postseason roster.
Where to begin with Bartolo Colon? He’s 12-11 with a 4.42 ERA. He has a 3.82 FIP, which profiles as an average starting pitcher, which is more than Niese can say. However, if you excuse the pun, Colon has fattened up on some bad teams.
Against the NL East, Colon has gone 11-1 with a 3.01 ERA. That means against non-NL East teams, his record is 1-10. Against possible playoff teams (Cardinals, Blue Jays, Cubs, Dodgers, and Pirates), he has gone 0-3 with a 4.85 ERA. These aren’t great stats, and this may open the door for Matz.
First off, let’s start with the premise that while his first two starts were fun, we can’t glean anything from them. He’s a top prospect, but he is not better than Harvey or deGrom. You’d be hard pressed to convince me he’s better than Thor. Second, let’s remember he’s still building up arm strength. In his last start, he only threw 77 pitches. Finally, he won’t be pitching against the best teams in baseball.
If the Mets go with a six man rotation starting on Saturday, Matz will make the following starts:
- 9/5 at Marlins
- 9/11 at Braves
- 9/18 vs. Yankees
- 9/24 at Reds
- 10/1 at Phillies
As we see with Colon, you can pitch well against bad teams, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to pitch well against the good teams. No one should read anything into starts against four bad teams . . . even if they’re bad starts. No one should. Unfortunately, if he’s great, someone might. That’s dangerous.
You know what you could determine? You can determine if Matz can pitch in the bullpen. You can put him in high leverage spots. If you’re truly concerned about his health, you can institute a modified version of the Joba Rules. However, I have a real problem believing the Mets sincerity on the issue when Dan Warthen is playing doctor when Matz had injury complaints. Also, this is a way of limiting his innings and how much he needs to pitch with an abdominal tear.
The Cardinals are famous for this. Mets fans know with Adam Wainwright how well this works. We saw the Rays use this effectively in 2008 with David Price when they won the AL Pennant. I think the careers of Wainwright and Price have turned out just fine.
After Matz has his start on Saturday, the Mets should move him to the bullpen. If you care about his health, you will limit his innings. You don’t use a September stretch run to stretch him out. Players get hurt that way. If you don’t want him to get hurt, put him in the bullpen. Let him pitch multiple innings. Give him a few days off afterwards. See how he responds.
If he responds well, you have a dangerous weapon in the bullpen come October. If you’re not sold, just remember what happened at the All Star Game. Imagine that in a playoff game . . . .
While I think there’s room for innings limits, I don’t think it should be a doctrine. If you watch a game, you can tell the difference between easy pitches and tough pitches. Also, there’s an inherent flaw in counting innings with pitchers because the real issue is pitches thrown.
Perhaps this is the reason the fabled “Verducci Effect” has been disproven. What has also been disproven recently is my belief that Noah Syndergaard does not have an innings limit problem. As Steve Gelbs pointed out to me, I only included his major league innings this year. I could give you reasons for the mistake, but the fact is I was just wrong. When you’re wrong you acknowledge it, and you correct the error.
The underlying math on what the innings limits are is correct. However, his innings pitched is incorrect. I missed 29.2 innings. That’s fairly significant. In the majors, Syndergaard is averaging just about six innings per start. Therefore, these minor league innings eat up about five Major League starts.
The bigger issue is these innings put Syndergaard at 152.0 innings pitched for the year. As I’ve stated earlier, his innings limits are between 159.0 – 163.0 innings. If there’s a five man rotation, he has six starts remaining. At six innings per start, Syndergaard will finish with 188.0 innings. That’s well past his limits. If it’s a six man rotation, that will only shave off one start, which means he will finish with 182.0 innings.
This is a really bad situation. He has been seven to 11 innings before he hits his limits. If the Mets were out of it, he would get one more start, and then he would be shut down. Instead, the Mets need to find a way to keep him going and effective into October and beyond.
Normally, right here is where I would offer up solutions or discuss why I disagree with the solutions proposed. This isn’t the post for that. I made a mistake, and I need to rectify it by correcting the information I put out there. I apologize to the Mets for questioning them. I apologize to whoever read this and relied upon the information. I thank Steve Gelbs for pointing out my error.
Overall, I want to be an example to my son. I could’ve let the error go by without anyone really caring or noticing. However, I noticed it. Frankly, I’m embarrassed by the error. I aim to be better than that.
So in that vein, I’m not offering up excuses, I’ve hopefully corrected the error, and I’ve offered my apologies. I’ll try to be better in the future. That’s all I can do. That’s all anyone can do.
Baseball is a funny game. Noah Syndergaard has been in the big leagues for 20 starts, but he showed the guile of a 20 year veteran. Michael Cuddyer is a 15 year veteran, who played like it was his fifteenth game.
For starters, Thor needed to get some innings to help a stressed bullpen. He did that. Terry Collins let him go 111 pitches over 6.2 innings. Collins could’ve pinch hit for him in the sixth, but he didn’t. In fact, Collins pulled the oldest trick in the book by having a PH in the on deck circle to force the Red Sox to pitch to Anthony Recker. Most Mets fans questioned if that was a good move. Regardless, Recker hit an RBI single to extend the lead to 4-2.
Taking a 4-2 lead into the seventh, Thor had one on and two out with a chance to come out of the inning unscathed and hand the ball off to the bullpen. Jackie Bradley, Jr. Hit a pinch hit double (which looked like it might go out) to narrow the gap to 4-3. Thor was done. Collins brought in Hansel Robles.
Much like today’s lineup, this wouldn’t have been my choice, especially with Robles pitching a lot lately. Then again, who in the bullpen hasn’t? Now, the box score will say Mookie Betts hit a game tying triple. Your eyes tell you Cuddyer botched the play. Your eyes tell you the play should’ve been made easily had Cuddyer made a break of any kind on the ball within 2-3 seconds.
It was a rookie mistake from a player who should know better. With the game on the line, Collins made the move he had to make, but clearly didn’t want to yet, and brought in Tyler Clippard. He would get the last out of the seventh and pitch a clean eighth.
Cuddyer would get his redemption in the bottom of the inning. With two outs in the inning, Daniel Murphy stole second (remember when that used to be a thing) he was brought home on Cuddyer’s RBI single. It was redemption for him. its funny because other than the OF gaffe, he had a good game. He went 3-3 with a walk, two runs scored, and a huge RBI. He also broke up a double play:
— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs) August 30, 2015
In the ninth, there was a Red Sox rally started by some typical poor play from Ruben Tejada. He loafed it with a fast runner thereby sparking a rally. Seriously, I’m sick of him . . . again. It would be first and second with two outs. Jeurys Familia found a way with two big strikeouts. He’s showing himself to be an elite closer. It wasn’t easy for him, but he got the save securing the 5-4 win. Clippard got the win.
Now, there are two moves Collins subjected himself to criticism, but I won’t do so myself. The first is the Robles move. I understood it. You’ve been pitching Clippard constantly. You don’t want to burn him out. While I question Robles there, I can’t kill him for it.
The other move was the defensive substitution of Yoenis Cespedes in the eighth moving Cuddyer to 1B and Murphy to 2B. Second guessers may say Cespedes makes the play that Cuddyer didn’t. That’s not on Collins. First, you have to expect Cuddyer to make that play. Second, it’s not like we haven’t seen some Cespedes loafing. Finally, I respect wanting to give a veteran a full day off.
If you want to question Collins, question him leading off Juan Lagares with Curtis Granderson batting second against a LHP. This poor OBP duo went 1-9 with five strikeouts. Also, question him starting Juan Uribe at 2B because he just had to get his .195/.278/.425 in the lineup. At least Uribe got the big two run double in the sixth to give the Mets a 3-2 lead.
In other notes, David Ortiz juiced another HR. Also, Joe West had a strike zone that would make the late Eric Gregg shake his head. As a result, both teams were irritated. Kevin Long was really irritated. He got tossed defending an upset Granderson, who got rung up on a ball.
The Mets avoided the sweep. It was a good win especially since the Nationals won. The Mets continue this 13 game stretch of last place teams in facing the Phillies next. Let’s hope this six game lead grows.
We all know the Mets have bullpen issues. They’re bad. Really, really bad. So bad, that Bartolo Colon had to make a relief appearance yesterday. I’ll give Collins credit for thinking outside the box to help fix a problem he created.
While the Addison Reed trade helps, he’s just one arm in an exhausted bullpen. The Mets need more help. The best help for a tired bullpen is for your starter to go deep in the game. Again, this is where the Mets inability to do math prevents them from permitting them to allow their starters from going deep into games.
On Friday, Matt Harvey could’ve and should’ve pitched another inning, especially with the extra rest. Yesterday, it was clear that Jacob deGrom was done after six. I had no problem with Collins pulling him. In fact, I wouldn’t have had a problem if Collins pulled him during the sixth inning.
Anyway, we don’t know when Addison Reed is arriving at Citi Field. We also don’t know if he’s ready to pitch. Furthermore, the Mets do not have an off day until Thursday. The only solution we’re left with is for Noah Syndergaard is to pitch a good game. I mean a real good game where he goes deep into the game.
Here’s where the Mets may be getting some luck on their side as Thor is great at home. He is 7-1 at home with a 1.82 ERA and an absurdly low 0.808 WHIP. More important for today’s game, he averages a little over seven innings per home start. If he keeps his pitch count under control today, he should be able to do that today. However, keep in mind Better pitchers like Harvey and deGrom topped 100 pitches through six innings against this same Red Sox team.
The Mets need a big start today from Thor. It’s a test for him in advance of a month that’s going to be a series of tests. He’s passed every test so far. I have confidence that if Collins allows him, he can pass this test today.
Well, it wasn’t always pretty, but he responded with seven innings of shutout ball. He was in trouble in the first. He was aided by a double play in the first inning, but he gets credit for inducing the ground ball. There was trouble again in the fourth, but he fought through that as well. After that, it was fairly smooth sailing. Maybe he was inspired by the pregame Backstreet Boys concert? Whatever it was, the Mets desperately needed it.
Unlike Thor yesterday, he was able to hold onto his three run lead. It started in the first inning with a misplayed ball off the bat of Curtis Granderson. The Mets cashed in with a Daniel Murphy RBI ground after Granderson moved to third on Yoenis Cespedes‘ infield single. Cespedes would score on Michael Cuddyer‘s RBI double. The first inning scoring would end with a Michael Conforto RBI single.
These early runs would prove important as young Phillies starter, Jerad Eickhoff, would settle down after that. The Mets would not score another run off of him. However, as he surpassed 40 pitches in the first, he was only able to go six innings.
The Mets were able to add three more runs off of a putrid Phillies bullpen. In the sixth, Juan Uribe singled home Conforto. In the eighth, Cuddyer hit a two run homerun making the score 8-0. It should be noted again that Cuddyer is healthy and contributing.
Then in the eighth, the Mets sowed off their own putrid bullpen options. I don’t care if it’s a 20 run lead, you don’t let Eric O’Flaherty pitch to righties. He did. He couldn’t get them or the lefties out. He left with two down, runners on first and second and one already across home plate. Carlos Torres came in and promptly allowed a two run double.
Here’s where I think Terry Collins is starting to get better. He said enough of this nonsense and brought in Tyler Clippard. Clippard allowed an RBI single to Frenchy, but he then struck out Darnell Sweeney to put an end to the nonsense leaving the score at 6-4.
In the ninth, the Mets then did something good teams do. They tacked on a run by taking advantage of a mistake. When Juan Lagares reached on an E-6, Granderson moved him to third with a hustle double. When the sweep tag was applied, the ball dislodged from the second baseman’s mitt. An alert Lagares scored easily from third.
Cespedes then knocked in Granderson with an RBI triple. Cespedes then scored on a Murphy sac fly. Just like that the score was 9-4 removing the save situation permitting Collins to save Jeurys Familia. In place of Familia would be Clippard, who got to bat in the ninth, to permit him to record the four out save.
It should’ve been a surprise to no one that David Wright didn’t play. He’s not quite ready to play everyday, so I have no problem easing him back (pun intended). I’m shocked Logan Verrett did not pitch. There were multiple spots to use him in the eighth. He could’ve been used in the ninth to give Clippard a blow. Him not being used tonight makes me nervous. Very nervous.
What I’m getting less and less nervous about is the division. With the Nationals loss, the Mets are now up 6.5 games with six head-to-head match ups remaining. The Nationals no longer have their own fate in their hands.
Everyone can talk about the home-road splits with Noah Syndergaard. However, if you think of yourself as a future ace, you don’t have games like Thor had tonight.
He was handed a 3-0 lead by another “Feat of Strength” by Yoenis Cespedes and Thor’s own RBI single. He gave it back and couldn’t make it past the fifth inning. This was important because the Mets have a really short bullpen. Normally, you’d ask your starter to get some extra innings with a short bullpen. The smarts couldn’t do that because of the phantom innings limit issue.
What we have instead was another day with a Mets reliever going multiple innings. Today, it was Hansel Robles‘ turn (more on him later). He pitched well only allowing one of the inherited runners from Eric O’Flaherty to score. I’m assuming the Mets will not have him and Sean Gilmartin available. Plus Logan Verrett will only be available for one inning. This is not the situation you want to be in with Bartolo Colon on the mound tomorrow, reagardless of his health.
Thor was bailed out in the top of the sixth when Travis d’Arnaud, who was inexplicably batting eighth, received an RBI from a bases loaded walk to tie the game. Michael Cuddyer then pinch hit for Thor and hit a two run single to put the Mets up 6-4. This is the latest example showing Cuddyer may still have something to contribute.
Tyler Clippard had a rough eighth inning. He left 1st and 2nd with two outs for Jeurys Familia, who came on for the four out save. He induced a groundballs to David Wright to get out of the jam unscathed. He then pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to secure the 6-5 win. Now with Familia going four outs for a save, we now have to question his availability for tomorrow.
Back to Robles. What he did was bush league. It was bush league not because he quick pitched. It was bush league because Cody Asche‘s head was down when he threw the ball. The Phillies dugout was rightfully upset. Normally, I’d argue that Jeff Francoeur should’ve been ejected, but he was protecting his teammate. The dugouts emptied, but neither team really crossed the lines.
My overall issue is with the home plate umpire. You either instruct the batter to get in the box or have your hands up the whole time to let Robles know he can’t throw a pitch. The umpire needs to be aware Robles likes to quick pitch, and he needs to umpire the game accordingly.
It should also be noted that Wright’s second game back wasn’t as successful as his first. He didn’t look as good at the plate. He swung at a lot of balls off the plate and out of the strike zone. Overall, he went 0-4 with a walk and two strikeouts. On the bright side, he was better in the field. Regardless, like last night, this was just one game, and I still have faith in him.
Ironically, despite the predicament Thor left the Mets in, he notched his first career road win. The Mets have problems to deal with tomorrow with an even shorter bullpen and no Wright tomorrow. At least they took care of business tonight and still lead the divisio by 5.5 games. Let’s enjoy tonight and worry about tomorrow.
In 18 starts, he’s 7-6 with a 3.17 ERA. He’s got an ERA+ of 119, which loosely translated makes him 19% better than the league. He has a 9.5 K/9, which is better than Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom. His FIP is 3.16, which equates to him being a great starting pitcher. On a team with a weak bullpen, he averages 6.1 innings per start. On top of all of this, he’s going to finish within his innings limits.
Now, please tell me why we should pull him from the rotation? Is it because we don’t want to be successful? Is it because we think Steven Matz MIGHT be better? Is it because we’d rather him make a few appearances pitching one inning a piece over six starts at six plus innings a piece? Fact is, there is no good reason.
We know the Mets have a weak bullpen. One way to mitigate that is to keep the weak arms in the bullpen. You do that with pitchers, like Syndergaard, who go deep into games. I like out-of-the-box thinking, but I also like ideas that make sense.
Syndergaard belongs in the starting rotation.
About three weeks ago, I addressed the Mets innings limitations problem. Without completely regurgitating everything here, my conclusion was that without a spot starter, Jacob deGrom would be the only stud muffin able to make a postseason start. Even at that, he would only be available for one game.
I thought with the latest go-round of stud muffin starts, it would be helpful to re-visit where we are on the innings limits:
Matt Harvey: I’ve noted his innings limits are between 180 – 190 innings. Right now, he’s at 148.0, or 42.0 innings before a hypothetical shutdown (don’t worry Collins said there’s no shutdown). By my rudimentary calculation, Harvey has nine starts left, at most. He’s averaging 6.2 innings per start meaning he will go over his limit by 18 innings (about three starts), not including the postseason.
Jacob deGrom: I’ve noted his innings limits are between 208 – 214 innings. Right now, he’s at 146.2, or 71.1 innings before needing to be shutdown. With approximately nine starts left and his averaging 6.2 innings per start, he looks to finish the year with 206.2 innings. It looks like he will be below his limits, postseason aside.
Noah Syndergaard: I’ve noted his innings limits are between 159.0 – 163.0 innings. Right now, he’s at 105.2, or 57.1 innings before needing to be shut down. With nine starts remaining and his averaging 6.2 innings per start, he looks to finish the year with 165.2 innings. He will be slightly above his innings limits right before the postseason.
So interestingly enough, if you’re only looking at the regular season, there isn’t an innings limitation problem with anyone but Harvey. This is yet again a sign the Mets shouldn’t “Matz” with the rotation right now.
While not addressing the pitching, Sandy Alderson did say, “[i]t’s about this year. Not next year.” I hope he keeps this in mind and puts Steven Matz in the bullpen. Remember it’s all about this year.