The 2018 Mets: What Would Steve Phillips Do?

And for the record, it’s “what” and not “who.”

Well, so much for sustainable success. The Mets followed up their one-game wildcard appearance season that followed up their pennant-winning season with a 90+ loss season. What exactly went wrong has been well-documented elsewhere.  You can read any number of poorly-written posts on some other insipid website for that. What we’re interested in here at Mets Today is just how the team plans to return to contention. (It’s amazing how a single 90-game losing season can make “meaningful games in September” attractive again).

Based on his lackluster returns from the Great Trade Off of 2017, current Mets GM Sandy Alderson probably isn’t the man to steer the Mets back into contention. Sandy is old and sick, and the organization has grown soft.  They’re still blinking from their exposure to the bright lights of the 2015 World Series, and are imagining that they can see a fully-healed pitching staff, and a sudden quantum leap from a passel of mediocre Mets farm hands drafted and developed during the Alderson era.

Instead the Mets need an unsentimental, not worried about your opinion, pushy, get-er-done GM type. Since Donald Trump already has a job, instead the Mets should look under enough rocks until they find and convince Steve Phillips to return, letting  him apply his turn of the millennia philosophy to building the 2018 Mets. For all this talk about back-to-back playoff appearances, Phillips’ teams actually won playoff games in their return engagement, something this current era’s Mets squad couldn’t.

Imagine a tanned, rested and ready Steve Phillips back in the GM saddle in Queens. So, WWSPD–What Would Steve Phillips Do?

  1. He would say the following: “prospects will get you fired.” Before Phillips assumed the GM mantle in 1997, former 1986 Mets co-architect Joe McIlvaine held that post. Joe inherited a real mess–the team had lost over 100 games just the season before he took over. Slowly and methodically, Joe Mac re-stocked the Mets farm system with some intriguing prospects via the draft and the superstar-for-top-prospects trades that were the de rigueur front office moves for baseball back in the 1990’s. His efforts where given about a New York Minute to bear fruit, and when this didn’t happen, McIlvaine was shown the door. Enter Phillips, who traded/released nearly everyone of them, the main exception being future all-star Edgardo Alfonzo and the oft-injured Jay Payton. The rehabilitated 2018 Steve Phillips will make everyone of the Alderson-era Met farm system grads available, with the exception being future all-star Amed Rosario and currently-injured Michael Conforto. This means Dom Smith, Brandon Nimmo, Tomas Nido, Paul Sewald, Rafael Montero, Chasen Bradford, Gavin Ceechini  and a host of others that grew up in the Mets system could find themselves unceremoniously traded away.  Considering that the Mets played around .400 ball during the quarter of the season that these guys got a lot of playing time, this isn’t exactly shocking. Apparently unimpressed by the hype, Phillips also jettisoned all of the disappointing Generation K starters at rock-bottom discounts. This time around, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler shouldn’t signing any long-time leases on Manhattan studio apartments.
  2. He would diss an injured loyalist. Todd Hundley was just about the only bright spot for the Mets in the mid 90’s, belting 71 homers in 1996-97 and earning a pair of All-Star nods. Then he hurt his elbow and was himself elbowed aside for the big Phillips acquisition (more on that later). He was also the previous regime’s guy. Phillips let Hundley embarrass himself in left field for a while and then sent him off to LA as part of a another big trade. This time around, his target is clearly David Wright. Phillips is going to want DW off the team for good, as injuries and age have caught up to David. But to successfully do this, he has to lay the groundwork…
  3. He would make a blockbuster deal for a big bat with an expiring contract. Phillips made five great trades as Mets GM, three of them with Florida. The last one landed future Hall of Famer Mike Piazza. That trade did a lot of things, including making Hundley expendable. This time around, Phillips is going to trade Wilmer Flores, Matz, Rob Gsellman and Drew Smith to Toronto for Josh Donaldson and T.J. House. Donaldson is the big “get” here. He’s a third baseman, which makes Wright expendable. In what was a down year for him, he still slugged 30-plus homers. Also, if he bombs, he can walk after the ’18 season. Piazza could have walked as well, but Phillips got him signed to a big extension. With Donaldson on board, Phillips will convince the Wilpons to buy out David Wright’s remaining years,  relieving David of the agony of yet another failed comeback. Thanks for everything David, now hit the road.
  4. He would bring back a former Met.  Phillips brought back Bobby Bonilla and Jeromy Burnitz. He undid his trades for Greg McMichael and Bill Pulsipher.  Now he’s bringing Lucas Duda back into the fold. Despite a low batting average, Lucas bashed a respectable 750 OPS with Tampa, slugging 13 homers. His lower batting average will scare off potential suitors, making Lucas a relatively cheap acquisition. This isn’t 1999 after all.
  5. He would trade for a starting pitcher.  Phillips acquired Al Leiter, Mike Hampton and Hideo Nomo. He signed a past his prime but still effective Orel Hershisher. He made a very canny trade for Glendon Rusch. This time, dangling Dom Smith and Wheeler as the main bait, he’s going to deal with a division rival and land Julio Teheran. He will probably need to substitute or include other pieces such as TJ Rivera or Nimmo and perhaps one of the few remaining top farm pieces like Corey Oswalt. Teheran would fit nicely in the Met rotation as the #3 starter. For good measure, Phillips will also pluck John Lackey off the free agent pile, giving the 39-year old (on Opening Day) starter a chance to hold down one of the back spots in the rotation.
  6. He would promote an obscure minor leaguer. Until he stopped to admire Todd Ziele’s non-home run in Game One of the Subway Series. Timo Perez was a nice catalyst for the 2000 Mets down the stretch and into the playoffs. The year before, he was a Hiroshima Carp, and not a very impressive one at that. The 2018 Steve Phillips will only need to reach as far as Binghamton, where he is going to pluck Luis Guillorme out of obscurity and into the starting second base job. To paraphrase Mike Francessa: “who is Luis Guillorme?” Well, MLB Prospect Watch  claims Guillmorme has the fastest hands of anybody in the Mets system. The site gushes about him and about the prospect of Guillorme and Rosario forming a spectacular up-the-middle infield combo. His bat is barely serviceable right now, but he his glove can carry him until the hitting catches up.

 

So when the smoke clears, Super Steve will have added Donaldson and Duda to the Cespedes-Conforto tandem, giving the Mets a pair of lefties and a pair of righties in the middle of the lineup. He has strengthened the up the middle defense, as the Guillorme-Rosario keystone, backed by Juan Lagares in center gives the Mets a nearly airtight defense. Terhan  and Lackey  join Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard in the Met rotation. By getting Wright on the Bobby Bonilla installment plan and non-tendering Matt Harvey and Asdrubal Cabrera, he can keep the Met payroll under $150 million, while fielding a winning team that will get the turnstiles (and the advertising dollars) clicking again. Just like the good old days.

Author’s Note: Being a Mets fan requires a sense of humor. If you’ve made it this far into this post, then you probably have one. I don’t expect the Mets to add Donaldson, Teheran or Lackey, or promote a Double-A infielder. At least not in 2018. I think I share the common concern that a few cosmetic changes are coming for ’18, which will result in another lost season. THEN, the drastic changes will occur. Thanks for reading, keep the faith and have a great winter. See you next season, Let’s Go Mets!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Game 125 Recap: A Glimmer of Hope?

Last night, the Mets showed signs that maybe, just maybe, the road back to contention isn’t going to be that long. Big hits by prized youngsters Michael Conforto, Amed Rosario and Dom Smith, a great defensive play by Juan Lagares, four grind-’em-out  ABs by Brandon Nimmo and pair of Mets rookies actually y’know pitching–as opposed to just throwing hard.  Their surprise bullpen acquisition notched another save . Meanwhile in Brooklyn, their erstwhile closer gave another indication that he is all healed up. All in all, a nice tidy 4-2 over the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team desperately in need of wins. More on them shortly.

Yes, I know what the team’s collective record and individual WARs are. But let’s dream for a moment: this new shortstop is pretty good. He took a couple of hard shots off his glove but stayed focused and made the easy plays. He also brings an energy to the team. It’s a lot to put on such a young man, I know, but he can be a real difference-maker. I was wrong about Conforto. He is making adjustments and has settled in. If nothing else, he will be Sandy Alderson’s lasting legacy to this team. With Yoenis Cespedes in left and Conforto in right, the Mets have a 60-70 homerun threat in their outfield. This, in my opinion, should allow them to carry Lagares in center. A team built around pitching needs a strong up-the-middle defense. Lagares and Rosario supply 1/2 of that need. Two things about Lagares: they will need to compensate for his bat elsewhere and he should be fined and benched the next time he dives for a ball. With Nimmo around, the Mets have their 4th outfielder. Nimmo is a real throwback type of player, he reminds me (in a good way) of Hunter Pence.

I hate to root against the guy, but I kinda hope David Wright’s latest comeback convinces him that it is time to hang ’em up. The Mets will not be able to carry a David Wright at 75% capacity. There is a perfect addition available this winter that currently toils in Kansas City. He’s under 30, has plenty of postseason experience and is definitely going to test the market. Some of the teams that may be normally eyeing him might be keeping their powder dry (and their wallets full) to take a run at Manny Machado the winter after next. The Mets may have an opportunity to add the perfect compliment to the Conforto-Cespedes tandem.   It also allows them to pick the best glove from their glut of middle infielders for second base.

Wow, a solid up the middle defense and power at the corners, are these the Mets we’d be talking about?

As far as the rotation and the bullpen go, by his absence alone Bartolo Colon has proven his value. The Mets need to get an innings-eating veteran to slide into the third slot of the rotation. They should have enough pieces to acquire one. How about a trade for Jeff Samardzija or Jordan Zimmerman? I’d hold my breath and pencil in Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom at the top of the rotation, and put this new pitcher in the three-spot. I believe that injuries and inconsistent play have damaged the trade value of Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Rafael Montero, Robert Gsellman, and Seth Lugo, so while one or more may go elsewhere for this older pitcher, the rest, along with Flexen, get to complete for the final two spots in Spring Training. It would be messy, but very entertaining. A few of these guys could end up in the bullpen.

It was a long climb back from the collapses of 2007 and 2008.  Most of us waited, somewhat impatiently for the resurgence, which came suddenly and just as suddenly has seemed to disappear. There should be no more waiting, no more talk of rebuilding. Look at the Diamondbacks, who in one year have risen from a disarrayed, dysfunctional organization into a team that if the season ended today, would be in the postseason tournament. Last night showed that the Mets do have some pieces in place to make a similar move. While 45+ years of living and (mostly) dying with this team have made me cynical, I still have moments like last night, where the past may not be prolog and the Mets can be winners again. Here’s to hope.

 

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Addison Reed and the Mets’ Bumgarner Trade

You’ll see what I did there in a minute.

So, another trade deadline has come and gone, leaving most Mets fans very disappointed again. The mantra this year was sell, sell, sell and fleece, fleece, fleece desperate would-be contenders of the cream of their farm system. Kinda like what happened to Jim Duquette and the Mets back in 2004.

Instead, and for the first time ever in Met history, the team both bought and sold at the deadline. In chronological order, they traded Lucas Duda to Tampa, acquired A.J. Ramos from Miami and shipped Addison Reed to Boston. Unfortunately for GM Sandy Alderson, no one wanted Curtis Granderson, Asdrubal Cabrera or Neil Walker, so they remain Mets. This is a big part of the angst around here these days. The “haul” from this trio of deals, especially when compared to what happened cross-town, is the other contributing factor.

Of all the Mets on the block, I was least confident that Alderson could move Duda. Instead, he went first, for a now twice-traded Double-A relief prospect. The Ramos acquisition came totally out of the blue. I was actually impressed, as Sandy has been caricatured (and not unfairly) as a somewhat somnolent plodder, unable to multi-task. Instead, he proved his mettle to be able to both buy and sell, although Ramos is certainly a mixed bag. Ramos is also signed for next year, so there is that.

But his acquisition paved the way for the departure of Reed. Reed to Boston for three relief prospects was touted as a restock of the Mets depleted farm system, the addition of three “intriguing arms” that “could help soon” for what is essentially an expiring asset. Where oh where, I wondered, have I heard this one before? Then it hit me:

December 7, 1988: Mets trade INF Wally Backman to the Minnesota Twins for minor league pitchers Jeff Bumgarner , Steve Gasser and Toby Nivens. And that’s how the Mets got Bumgarner.

 

Backman’s time with the Mets had clearly come to an end, as the team was planning on inserting Gregg Jefferies into his spot at second base. This was the next in an ongoing series of missteps by Met management, dismantling the World Championship team without any significant return. One of the three (and I think it was Bumgarner, but my memory has faded) did actually show some promise for a while, but in typical Met fashion, he hurt his arm and his career stalled.  Gasser never made it, depriving early 1990’s Met fans of seeing a Gasser-Sasser battery.

 

Look, none of us have any way of knowing if Gerson Bautista, Jamie Callahan or Stephen Nogosek are the next Nasty Boys or the next Bumgarner, Gasser and Nivens. With Callahan likely to be called up in September, the Mets will at the very least reap something more for Reed than their previous generation counterparts got for Wally Backman.

 

Gotta start somewhere.

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Bright spots and hope as the Mets approach the trade deadline

Amed Rosario and Jacob deGrom

I’m not here to offer hope for the 2017 playoffs. Making up ten games in the standings and jumping over five teams is, technically, a thing that can happen, but I think it’s a foolish thing to aim for.

Instead, I’m looking to see what positives the rest of 2017 may hold for Mets fans as we look forward to contention in 2018, and look to be entertained in the meantime.

Bright Spots

Jacob deGrom

Take out deGrom’s two terrible starts in late spring (when I assume he was hiding an injury or illness, which has always been the case with him in past such stretches) and he’s 11-1, with a 2.45 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, both good for 3rd in the NL. Don’t miss a chance to watch a homegrown ace in his prime. Unlike in his first three years, the Mets’ bats are even supporting him this time around!

Lucas Duda

If we had to name the Alderson era after a player, it would be the Lucas Duda era. The man has played more games as a Met than any other player post-2010. Over that span, he leads the team in walks, homeruns, and RBI. He’s had plenty of struggles, particularly in left field and against lefty pitching, but he’s never complained or made excuses or stopped hustling. The man can also hit the ball an absolute mile when he gets a hold of one. If he is about to be traded, or about to depart as a free agent, Mets fans should take a moment to appreciate him before he’s gone.

Curtis Granderson

Every team’s fan base enjoys having some good people to root for, not just good players. Although we get only the most skewed view of what players are really like, it seems pretty clear that Granderson’s a great guy and great teammate. He would be well within his rights to complain about being forced to the bench in the middle of a red hot streak, but he’s put the team first and refused to create a media distraction, just as always. If he’s entering his last days as a Met, we should root for him that much harder.

Jose Reyes

Jose has already treated us to 17 joyous trips down memory lane with his 11 steals and 6 triples. Even if he shouldn’t be a full-time player going forward, I’m sure there’s more to come. It’s fun to think back to the 2005-2008 teams, and Jose’s enthusiasm can still be infectious.

Hope for the future

Michael Conforto

Michael looks like he has a strong shot to be the best position player to come up through the Mets system since David Wright. At age 24 and with less than 800 MLB ABs under his belt, he’s probably got some improvements left.

Noah Syndergaard

Thor finished eighth in the Cy Young vote in 2016, and there are many reasons to believe he can return to that level in 2018. Maybe we’ll get a taste in September.

Amed Rosario

One of the top five prospects in baseball, Rosario will surely debut in Queens at some point in 2017. Even if his plate discipline is miles away, his defense should be a breath of fresh air.

Dominic Smith

Dom has made steady progress while being young for his level at every stop in the minors. He may not be a difference-maker yet, but he should hold his own at the minimum salary, and we’ll get to watch and see how good he can become.

The starting pitcher lottery

We can’t rely on any one guy besides Thor and deGrom. But we do have a lot of tantalizing options! Odds say that one of these guys will finally turn into a major asset, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens in the second half of 2017. Will Wheeler make an adjustment that allows him to harness his elite stuff? Will Matz find a way to stay healthy and consistent? Will Seth Lugo emerge as a dependable back-end guy who can make batters look bad with his curve? Will Robert Gsellman regain the control he had in 2016? Is there any Matt Harvey left in Matt Harvey? Most of these answers will probably be “no”, but I’m guessing there’s a pleasant surprise buried in there somewhere as well.

The trade deadline prospect lottery

Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, Addison Reed, Jerry Blevins, Asdrubal Cabrera, Lucas Duda, Wilmer Flores, and Neil Walker ought to bring back something interesting, right? The way prospect news circulates these days, we shouldn’t have to wait until 2018 before some scouts and pundits are calling one move a bust and another a steal. Who will be the Mets’ best acquisition? A minor league starter who becomes a lights-out reliever? A struggling slugger who just needed new eyes on his swing? A catcher making the transition to third base, or vice versa? Stay tuned!

Anything else?

Am I missing anything? Is there more to like about our (or at least Keith Hernandez‘s) Lovable Metsies?

Or am I trying too hard, and this really is a difficult team to watch?

Sound off in the comments!

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Michael Conforto’s Next All Star Game Or Part Two Of The Case For Keeping Jay Bruce

Michael Conforto’s next All Star Game appearance will be for the Frontier League. There, I’ve said it. The crown jewel of the Alderson regime’s drafting history, the hitter of a pair of World Series homers, a part of the Legend of 2015, is looking more and more like a bust, the next John Milner, or if you prefer a somewhat more contemporary reference, the pre-steroid version of Jeromy Burnitz.

Hopefully the Mets understand this as well, because if they don’t, they are probably just days away from giving away the player they could only hope Conforto might someday become: one Jay Allen Bruce. In case you’ve forgotten I made a similar argument here.

Bruce is having a tremendous year with a slash line of 267|335|541 to go along with his 24 home runs. All this after a disastrous start to his Met career after last year’s trade deadline, a start that brought comparisons to he and the infamous Jason Bay. Bruce has proven his resilience, enduring a long winter of trade rumors, that fortunately for the Mets, bore no acceptable offers. To his credit he kept his mouth shut for the entire ordeal and has let his bat do the talking since Spring Training. He did speak up recently, countering Met manager Terry Collins’s somewhat incendiary remarks about the Mets not showing any fight, by making a somewhat understated, yet clearly understood rebuttal.

Like the rest of the Mets faithful, I held my breath last Saturday night when Yoenis Cespedes right knee created a tsunami like divot in the Citi Field outfield. The Mets’ claim that the injury is minor, and that Cespedes is due to return to the lineup tonight has about as much credibility as Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf’s press conferences back in the day. With Cespedes looking at yet another injury-riddled season, Bruce is the only reliable source of power left in the lineup. The key word here being reliable.

Which brings us to Conforto. Once again, he has failed to adjust and after a hot start to his season, he has slashed 206|383|317 since June 1. He took the Golden Sombero on Saturday against some decent left handed Colorado relief pitching and then took another collar in Sunday’s debacle. Just a reminder, he hit 220|310|414 for all of 2016. This is the guy the Mets should build their offense around?

No sir. The Mets need to extend Bruce,and get Cespedes to find another personal trainer in the hopes that he can stay on the field more often. Together, Cespedes and Bruce can form a dangerous right-left middle of the order for the Mets, who need to go with faster players who can pick the ball elsewhere. This will equate to a power outage of sorts, making the home run threat  from the outfield corners an even more needed resource.

And for Conforto? He needs to be packaged with one of the Mets disappointing “young guns” this winter (that’s you Steven Matz) for a fast centerfielder and/or a defensive-minded second baseman.

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Trade Target: Derek Fisher

No one inside the Mets organization will publically admit, but they have to sense what many of us have already concluded: 2017 just isn’t the Mets year. At this point, they need a GPS to find .500, let alone any of the five National League playoff spots. Readers of this blog fully understand the woes of this current team, but essentially the older Met players haven’t aged well and the injured Met players haven’t fully recovered. If they pitch well, their bats go silent, and if they score runs, their pitching staff can’t hold the lead. This is more than a 10-game cold streak, they have played nearly one-third of the season. Yes, they put together some great runs the last two seasons to make the playoffs; but in both years they started off well, tailed off in the middle and then heated up down the stretch. Now, they will have to make a concerted run at winning baseball for over 100 games. Do you see them going 65-35 or so the rest of the way? Me neither, and it’s very disappointing.

The good news is that this probably isn’t 1978, nor 1993, nor 2003 nor 2011 again. Those rock-bottom seasons (notice how they get progressively closer together) featured a roster devoid of talent, some onerous contracts and a feeble farm system. Outside architects had to be brought in to tear the entire structure down and rebuild at a very basic level, a tortuous process that took years—and didn’t always bear fruit.

Maybe wishful thinking here, but I don’t see this as the case with this current incarnation. Other than David Wright’s insurance-covered deal, they are fine in the contract department.  In Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Yoenis Cespedes and probably Michael Conforto and Wilmer Flores, they have a decent cadre of core players. If the scouting reports are indeed true, they will be adding another solid piece whenever Amed Rosario is finally summoned from Vegas. Looking ahead to 2018, they should have two outfield and two infield spots covered, as well as a pair of top-of-the-rotation arms. The task between now and next year’s Spring Training is to supplement that core with some better players than the ones they have now. Which brings us to Mr. Fisher.

Unlike the Mets, the Houston Astros are having a phenomenal year. As of today’s writing (June 7) they are an incredible 42-16. Even if they “slow down” to a .600 pace they are on track for a triple-win digit year. Yet, they have weaknesses. Their bullpen needs another arm. Nori Aoki is slashing 258/307/315 for them in left and their DH is a 40 year-old Carlos Beltran. But if ever a team looked poised to win it all, this is it. Pardon the expression but they should be “all in.” The Mets have players to deal and would match up well with the Astros. They could offer Houston either Lucas Duda or Addison Reed for Fisher.  I wouldn’t be averse to packaging both of them together to get Fisher in return. Since Houston is looking for more production in their outfield, perhaps they would consider taking Jay Bruce in place of one or either piece. Maybe even Jerry Blevins, although that’s cutting a bit into next year’s team for the Mets, and I am not ready to punt 2018 just yet.

Currently Fisher is slashing 338/403/604 in the PCL. Yes, it’s the Pacific Coast League, but consider the fact that the highly-regarded Rosario is slashing 340/383/494 in the same league. Both players currently have 11 stolen bases. Imagine those two dynamos at the top of the Mets order.

Fisher has power from the left side, and has and has the ability to steal bases. There are concerns about his defense, which may relegate him to a corner outfield position (making Conforto a full time CF). But IMO this type of trade is a perfectly acceptable risk to take. Fisher probably isn’t ready to contribute to the Astros this year. Duda, Bruce, Reed, etc. could.  None of the Mets expiring contracts are likely to return next year. This type of return beats a draft pick or whatever the going rate is these days for losing a player to Free Agency.

They’ll still need plenty of shoring up elsewhere, especially the bullpen, but Fisher could be a useful piece to what is hopefully a quick turnaround from mediocrity.

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Fifth Rotation

The Mets’ hopes coming into 2017 rested in large part on their starting pitching staff. Various health and effectiveness concerns provided cause for concern, but the quintet of Syndergaard, deGrom, Harvey, Matz, and either Wheeler or Gsellman certainly looked like a major strength back in March. Even when Matz and 7th guy Seth Lugo both got hurt, the five arms the Mets started the season with showed great promise. Would they be enough to push a team with weaknesses elsewhere on the roster into the playoff picture?

Through five turns in the rotation, the answer appears to be a tentative “no”.

Let’s look at what we’ve seen and try our best to guess what it all means.

First, the fifth turn itself:

 IPHRERBBKHRP 
Harvey4.156651186L
deGrom76331122112W
Wheeler4.252144096
Syndergaard1.155522034L
Gsellman565510177W

What I saw

Matt Harvey

Pitching on three hours’ notice thanks to Syndergaard’s late scratch, Harvey was not sharp, which he blamed on weight lifting the day before.

Jacob deGrom

DeGrom showed pretty consistent location and velocity with his fastball, and did just enough with his secondary stuff.

Zack Wheeler

96 pitches didn’t get him through 5 innings. Bad defense didn’t help.

Noah Syndergaard

That big dude throwing 100 mph is a very poor doctor. No one tears a lat when everything is fine.

Robert Gsellman

Gsellman’s sinker was finally sinking, and he limited the free passes. Unfortunately he didn’t do much with his secondary stuff.

What I’ve seen overall, through five turns

Noah Syndergaard

Thor hadn’t always looked his sharpest this year… and that produced 30 strikeouts, no walks, and a 1.73 ERA. Cy Young contender? Check!

Then the big guy was unable to discipline himself and sacrifice some short-term frustration for long-term safety, and the Mets’ outrageously flawed medical process allowed him to roll the dice. He lost. Since the team is calling his lat injury a tear rather than a pull or a strain, I expect that it’s quite bad. That probably means that if we see Noah before September, he’ll be unwisely risking his health yet again. Tears to major muscles take time to heal, and this is one you can’t pitch with until it’s pretty much 100%. So, going forward, the Mets rotation will be without its ace. That might be enough to puncture those March/April dreams right there.

Jacob deGrom

Jacob has been dominant at times this season, but has yet to show his trademark precision and intelligence for more than a few innings at a time. His insistence on Wednesday on throwing a slider he couldn’t command was baffling. Once again, Rene Rivera called mostly fastballs, and almost no change-ups or curves.

DeGrom’s velocity has been stellar, but his movement and location have varied greatly from start to start, and sometimes from inning to inning. Will he eventually put it all together and settle into an ace-like groove as in 2015, or will he remain good but erratic?

Overall, that’s not a bad pitcher to have fronting your rotation, but it’s also not a leg up on the Mets’ competition.

Also worth noting: deGrom talked to the media about mechanics and location and this and that when he pitched poorly late in 2016, never mentioning that his ulnar nerve was on fire. So, believe none of what you hear regarding any struggles he may have. Maybe he isn’t throwing his change-up because he can’t feel his fingers, or maybe he isn’t throwing his curve because of elbow soreness, or maybe he has blisters; we have no idea.

Matt Harvey

Entering the season, I thought Harvey might be done. After spring training, I thought Harvey might be done. Then I was pleasantly surprised by his first few starts. Then his last few starts have been straight out of 2016. His numbers with men on base are terrible; just like in 2016, he cruises until there’s trouble (.655 OPS w/ bases empty), and then the wheels come off (.896 OPS w/ men on). He’s also completely stopped striking people out, and is averaging nearly two homers per 9 innings. Yeah, he’s thrown a few nasty pitches, but he threw a few nasty pitches last year too.

Maybe Harvey’s just a work in progress coming off major surgery which will eventually have cured everything that was wrong with him before the surgery. Or maybe he’s one of MLB history’s many young flame-thrower flame-outs, having lost both his stuff and his confidence. There’s too much variability here to call, but the middle-case scenario is certainly short of “elite member of elite rotation”.

Zack Wheeler

Wheeler drove me crazy in 2014 by nibbling and throwing too few strikes. Now in 2017, I think he’s nibbling less, but his command is even worse, so the results are similar. Every once in a while he’ll follow a late-sinking fastball at 97 with a diving curveball and remind us of his former elite prospect status. But that’s just every once in a while.

I haven’t spotted any health flags, so his performance may improve as he continues to shake off some rust, and anyone who had high hopes for his season probably doesn’t see much reason to be discouraged.

Personally, I had very modest hopes for his season, and don’t see much reason to be encouraged.

Robert Gsellman

He’s young and has shown both serious strikeout ability and serious groundball ability. I like his future. I’m happy to see him developing against MLB hitters. Is he an asset on a team bent on winning in 2017, though? Not yet, it appears. Consistency generally takes time, and Gsellman doesn’t seem to be an exception.

Summing up

The story of the next five months is obviously unwritten, but the Mets’ starting rotation doesn’t currently appear to be a major competitive strength. As such, I think the original premise of this “Rotation” series is dead, so I’ll be stopping the every-turn analysis, at least for now.

What have you seen?

Please share your observations in the comments!

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Baseball Instruction from OnBaseball
Mets Pitching Injuries NOT Due to 2015 Hangover

Mets Pitching Injuries NOT Due to 2015 Hangover

17

The latest in a series of arm injuries suffered by Mets starting pitchers has struck Jacob deGrom, who will miss his next start due to forearm tightness and elbow inflammation. ...

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Matz Shoulder and Elbow Issues Directly Related

Matz Shoulder and Elbow Issues Directly Related

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Steven Matz has been pitching nearly the entire season with an elbow issue -- going back to the forearm tightness he experienced way back in early May. The forearm tightness ...

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What’s NOT Wrong with Matt Harvey and How To Fix What Is

What’s NOT Wrong with Matt Harvey and How To Fix What Is

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Tonight Matt Harvey faces Stephen Strasburg. Normally that would be an exciting sentence for Mets fans, Nationals fans -- heck, baseball fans in general. Instead, it's a ...

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How Zack Wheeler Could Have Avoided Tommy John Surgery

How Zack Wheeler Could Have Avoided Tommy John Surgery

The good news: Zack Wheeler underwent "successful" Tommy John surgery to repair a torn UCL tendon and a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow. "He is expected to make a full ...

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Why There Are So Many Pitching Injuries This Time Of Year

Why There Are So Many Pitching Injuries This Time Of Year

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More pitching injuries occur from spring training through the first month of the season -- do you know why? There is at least one reason, and despite what you may remember of Tim ...

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Mets Gifts

This Looks Like it Could Be a MetsToday Hat

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This hat is called Nike New York Mets Royal Blue Heritage 86 Cooperstown Vintage Relaxed Mesh Back Adjustable Hat I kind of like the logo, don't you? Not sure I'm ready to go back to the mesh back and adjustable snap-back style that I wore exclusively from age 6 to 18. Retro is cool, I guess, but, isn't it lame ...

My Nephew Says This Mets Hat is the Bomb

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I need a new baseball cap; my old Mets hats were worn out and gross and have been donated to charity. So I'm in the market for one. My nephew says the above Mets cap is "the bomb." It's called the New York Mets Nike Royal L91 Alpha Swoosh Relaxed Flex Hat. If you like it, click on the hat and it will take you to ...