Help Ed Kranepool

If you haven’t heard already, “original Met” and longtime fan favorite Ed Kranepool needs a kidney transplant, and is planning to auction off his 1969 World Series ring to help pay for his medical expenses. (Today’s MLB players have fantastic post-career medical benefits, but that’s not necessarily the case for those who retired prior to the 1990s; Ed’s last season was 1979.)

To help out, a good friend of mine started a GoFundMe campaign for Ed — all proceeds will go to Ed Kranepool’s medical expenses. If you’d like to donate, you can do so by going to the Ed Kranepool Needs Kidney GoFundMe page. Please pass along this link to fans of “Steady Eddie.”

Ed Kranepool of New York Mets in 1979

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The Mets: What Will “All In” Look Like?

On paper, the Mets are a very deep team. They have an excess number of starting pitchers, multiple relief options and a bench so strong that several guys that could start for other teams might begin this season in the minors. They are also a battle-tested bunch, with everyone on the roster having been either through a playoff push or having gone deep into the post season. Their principal owner is now an elderly man who wants to win now and their GM (who is no spring chicken himself) has recently declared that the team is “all in” for the 2017 season.

That juicy remark has stirred the long-time cynical Mets fan within me. How well have other front office pronouncements such as “Meaningful Games In September,” “Payroll Flexibility,” and “90-win Season” played out? Hint: none of them bore much fruit.

So, how might “all in” look like this year? I normally hate answering a question with more questions, but here goes:

How Much Rope?  

What happens if/when David Wright proves he isn’t an everyday player anymore? Do the Mets attempt to maximize their investment in David, trotting him out day after day, even if he OPSes below .700, or do they relegate him to the bench in favor of a more productive options? It doesn’t exactly fill one with confidence that David’s top replacement is the equally brittle Jose Reyes. If both veterans struggle, do the Mets finally give Wilmer Flores a full-time job or T.J. Rivera an extended look? A long shot, but maybe they gamble that Gavin Cecchini can handle the position? Third base is one spot the Mets have plenty of in-house options for, should Plan A prove to be unworkable.

Let’s take the opposite track with Jay Bruce, whom I  believe the Mets really, really, really want to trade. I also fully expect the Mets to stash Michael Conforto  in Las Vegas, as all this talk about getting him reps in outfield during the regular season is transparently disingenuous. So, what happens if Bruce gets off to a fast start? What if by July he is hitting the way Xavier Nady did for them back in 2006? Do they trade Bruce while his value is high and bring up Conforto? Or do they ride Bruce out to the bitter end and let him walk as a Free Agent after the season? While Conforto could make the decision easier by hitting well in Vegas, the Mets might not have the stomach to trade a productive Jay Bruce in the middle of a pennant chase.

Next to Bruce, the most maligned Met these days in Travis d’Arnaud. Once considered the crown jewel of the R.A. Dickey trade, Travis’ inability to stay healthy, coupled with his poor production when on the field last year and the whispers of some poor pitch calling, made him persona non grata among the Mets faithful. The Mets went so far as to hire Glen Sherlock this offseason to provide some additional coaching for Travis. If he struggles again this year with poor play and nagging injuries, we will finally get the answer to how much time former top prospect pedigree buys you.

 

The Future is Now (Or Is It?)

So let’s say that as expected, the Mets and Washington are locked in mortal combat for NL East supremacy. Will the Mets mortgage a part of their future to avoid the risk of another do-or-die tussle against an all-world pitcher like the one they ran into in last year’s elimination game? Here in late February, it’s easy to say yes. But let’s fast forward a bit to the trade deadline. Several second division teams are contacting Alderson offering names like Pollack, Abreu, McCutchen or Dozier. Each of them have their eyes not on one of the Mets current crop of pitchers (I think the word is out on their untouchable status), but on the up and comers in the farm system. And for the sake of the discussion, both the veterans being offered and the prospects discussed are all healthy and productive. How far would Alderson go? I don’t think Amed Rosario is going anywhere unless its to shake Mike Trout lose from the Angels. But would he sacrifice say Dom Smith or Des Lindsay along with Thomas Szapucki to bring in that last big piece? Dream for a moment: what if the Angels do make Trout available? Does Alderson jump in?

A little more likely scenario is that a known-quantity, late-inning relief arm goes on the block in late July. Like most teams, the Mets will almost definitely need help in the ‘pen down the stretch. How much do they give up to get this as-of-yet undefined figure? Stay tuned.

 

Innings Limits Be Damned? 

Now it gets really dicey: how far do the Mets let Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom go this year? In pursuit of a divisional crown, do they let all of them exceed career highs for innings pitched? Many have blamed the extra work they took on in 2015 as the reason for their injuries the following year. But does “all in” mean they go for it this year, with the knowledge that some of these guys could be back on the shelf in 2018? What about Robert Gsellman? His max number of innings pitched in any season major or minors is 143. If as expected he is the 5th starter this year, he will likely exceed that number. And after two years of inactivity, do the Mets dare push Zack Wheeler past 125 innings, provided he is healthy and effective?

 

Funny what kind of firestorm a simple remark can start! I think this can be a fascinating and fun year. Let’s Go Mets!

 

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The case for starting Juan Lagares

Jaun Lagares

Imagine you have a pretty good slugger on your team — not an MVP candidate, more like a borderline All-Star. Someone like Carlos Gonzalez or Justin Upton, or maybe Marcell Ozuna or Melky Cabrera, or maybe Carlos Beltran. A hitter with flaws, and risks — maybe they get injured too much, or are too slump-prone, or strike out a ton — but overall a good hitter, without a doubt. Now imagine that, in the field, they’re below average; might hurt you a bit out there. So, this player… do you play them? Do you put them in your lineup every day?

This isn’t a trick question. If you’re anything like the typical baseball fan, or player, or manager, or executive, the answer is “yes.”

Okay, second imaginary scenario: you have a hitter on your team who doesn’t make a lot of outs. He draws walks, gets hit by pitches, bunts for singles, and so on. You have other guys who do other things better, so this get-on-base guy doesn’t play every inning of every game, and that’s fine. So what should his role be? Do you only use him when you’re trailing late in games and the guy leading off the inning isn’t very good and you want to pinch-hit with a rally-starter? Or do you use your on-base machine, y’know, most of the time, figuring that every time he reaches base instead of making an out is a good thing?

Again, not a trick question. Again, it seems to me that the obvious, agreed-upon answer is “yes.” You use this player most of the time. Sub him out when the situation warrants; otherwise, let him play.

Doesn’t this make sense? If you have someone like Carlos Beltran on your team, you’d like to give him four at bats every day, right? And if he’s slow and wears down easily and can’t field anymore, you still try to get him as many at bats as you reasonably can, right?

Now imagine the exact same player, except he does it with his glove rather than his bat.

That’s Juan Lagares.

 best 2-year dWARworst 1-year dWAR
Juan Lagares6.90.4

In 2013-2014 combined, Baseball Reference credits Juan Lagares with 6.9 defensive WAR. Then in 2015 he was awful, with 0.4 dWAR. Then in 2016 he was only given a part-time role.

Those other players I mentioned above, the ones who do it with their bats? In the last few seasons (I looked back as far as 2012), they’ve had good years and bad years too. None of them were demoted to part-time roles.

 best 2-year oWARworst 1-year oWAR
Justin Upton6.82.0
Carlos Gonzalez6.7-0.1
Carlos Beltran6.30.3
Melky Cabrera5.20.4
Marcell Ozuna4.10.7

When a hitter demonstrates that type of ability but then has a bad year, most teams give him another chance. And sometimes another, and another. When a hitter shows he can be elite, he doesn’t wind up in a role where he’s only used if the situation is perfect.

Juan Lagares shouldn’t be a back-up. Juan Lagares shouldn’t be playing only when the Mets are leading and he can sub in for a player who won’t bat again, on the off chance that someone hits a difficult fly ball his way in the tiny portion of the game remaining.

Juan Lagares should be given the chance to recapture his form from 2013-2014, to see if he can save the Mets as many runs with his glove as some of those hundred million dollar men add with their bats. He should be pinch-hit for when the situation calls for it, and left in the lineup otherwise to work his magic on as many defensive plays as possible.

Juan Lagares should be the Mets’ 2017 starting center fielder.

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Would Wood Help?

This slow offseason has made the Baseball Network virtually unwatchable, but I was channel surfing the other day and stumbled on and then stuck with their Top Games of 2016 segment.

#9 on the list was a midsummer clash between the Cubs and Mariners that included an awkward-looking catch in leftfield by a Cubs reliever, whom manager Joe Maddon inserted there when the game seemed like a blowout loss. That “blowout loss” was later transformed into a Cubs win, which is  the real reason the game was featured on the show.

The less than nimble relief pitcher turned outfielder was one Travis Wood, who is currently (a) left handed and (b) an unsigned free agent. While statistically current/former Met Jerry Blevins is a better performer, I believe that Wood fits the profile of the kind of player that GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins like to target.

From the GM perspective, Wood can fill more than one role. He has 133 career starts, although none since the nine he started in 2015. His transformation to the bullpen began that year, as Maddon inserted him into 46 other games as a reliever. The results were mixed: his K/9 rate rose and his WHIP declined, but his BB/9 jumped by nearly a full walk per nine innings. In 2016 he appeared in a whopping 77 games (Terry’s kinda guy), his K/9 and WHIP ratios stayed the same, however so did his BB/9. He was a better “late and close” pitcher in 2016 than in less high-leverage situations, which is a good sign.

The Mets have claimed to have faith in the Joshes (Smoker and Edgin) to fill the lefty roles in the pen. They are penciling in another lefty, Steven Matz into their rotation. Edgin and Matz are definite injury concerns and Smoker, although showing flashes of brilliance at times down the stretch in 2016, is untested and had a earlier promising career derailed by injuries. Wood might be able to start the season in the pen, perhaps co-handling the 8th inning with someone like Hansel Robles until the expected suspension of Jeurys Familia ends. From there he could be available to “swing,” moving into the rotation if perhaps Matz can’t go, or sticking to the pen if the rotation stays healthy the whole year (yeah, right). He doesn’t really block Edgin or Smoker if either proves to be effective beyond a cameo role or two.

Former Met GM Steve Phillips once coined the phrase “payroll flexibility.” Alderson and Collins seem somewhat hooked on a lineup flexibility and the 2017 Mets appear to be  constructed around players that can handle multiple roles, especially off the bench. Travis Wood represents another example of that type of player, should the Mets be interested.

Plus, they could probably get him cheap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Case For Keeping Jay Bruce

So everyday and sometimes several times a day, I visit or refresh MLB Trade Rumors to see if the Mets have moved Jay Bruce. Apparently, I’m not alone. Take yer 30-homers elsewhere ya big palooka, we want our boy Conforto playin’ right.

But, will the past prove to be prologue?

In 1975, the Mets had a hot rookie outfielder named Mike Vail, who burst on to the scene, highlighted by a 23 game hit streak, which was the best ever for a rookie up to then. He finished the year with a slash line of 302/339/420. The fans and apparently the FO were ecstatic enough about this guy, to the point where they deemed folk hero  Rusty Staub and his team-record 105 RBI’s expendable and traded him to Detroit that offseason to clear an outfield spot  for Vail.

Then, in a foreshadowing of Bobby O’s hedge trimmers and Duaner Sanchez’ cab ride, Vail hurt himself playing basketball during the winter, and began the ’76 season on the DL. He just never got untracked after that. He went on to have a semi-productive, but essentially unremarkable big league career, playing for half a dozen other teams. Only his immediate family, close friends, former teammates and Met geeks like me remember him as a big leaguer. Staub also played another 10 years, outhitting Vail and staying productive, albeit in a limited role, into his 40s. He is fondly remembered both here and in Montreal for his swagger and his style, and he threw out the first pitch at one of the 2015 home WS games. While Vail and his replacements struggled in 1976 (the last good Mets year for the next eight), Staub hit 299/386/433 for The Tigers that year, with a 4.5 WAR.

So….fast forward to January of 2017. The Mets have another prized young ouftielder named Michael Conforto, who broke into baseball at age 22 (one year younger than Vail) in 2015, wowing everyone with his offensive prowess.   Like Vail, he suffered an injury that essentially ruined his sophomore year, although by all accounts Conforto’s was baseball-related. Also like Vail, Conforto faces an early career crossroads in his third season. No one can determine if he is the next Moises Alou or the next Domonic Brown.

There is no guarantee that Conforto bounces back. Absent those assurances, doesn’t it make sense that the Mets hold on to Bruce, at least through Spring Training? Bruce will turn 30 right around Opening Day (Staub was 31 when the Mets traded him).  Could Bruce put together a season reminiscent of Staub’s 1976 campaign? Of course he could. He’s done it before. Think about the impact those types of numbers could have on the Mets attack and on the NL East. A right-left-right-left batting order of  Yoenis Cespedes, Bruce, Neil Walker and Lucas Duda could approach 90 homers and wear out a lot of pitching staffs.

Maybe Conforto is really that good. I hope so. Maybe Mets GM Sandy Alderson can get a good return for Bruce in the next few weeks, something that will shore up the bullpen or add some speed to the lineup. But if all he can fetch in return are some low-A ball flamethrowers and partial salary relief, isn’t he better off holding on to Bruce and setting up a loser leaves town competition in right field this spring between Bruce and Conforto? I don’t fully buy the idea that the Mets haven’t added any relief help because they’re pinching pennies. As of today, there are a glut of relievers still out on the market, meaning a passel of teams are suddenly cash-strapped or the majority of them have determined that the harvest has yet to ripen and the time for handing out contracts for all but the most elite of relievers hasn’t occurred yet.

Why make a bad deal, be it signing a pitcher like Mike Dunn to a incredible contract or trading Bruce and his power for scrubs? Answers to this question can be posted below.

 

 

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The Mets: Contract Year Pushes Coming?

Happy New Year everyone. Here’s a little something to ponder as you take down the decorations and re-start that fitness program: the end of the holidays means we are halfway through baseball’s offseason. In a little over six weeks, the 18-wheelers will be rolling out of Queens towards Port St. Lucie, carrying both equipment and the hopes and dreams of many Mets fans. I think there is genuine reason for hope in 2017 and not all of it resting on the health of starting pitchers.

As it stands today, the 2017 Mets will enter the season with seven players including  Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce, Neil Walker, Lucas Duda, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jose Reyes and Addison Reed all in the final years of their current major league contracts. Now I understand that Bruce could be traded and that they have an option on Cabrera, but they are not committed to any of these players beyond 2017.  And, with the exception of Reed and possibly Reyes, they have highly-rated prospects either on the 25-man roster now or knocking on the door ready to take their places.

Depending on how you look at it, GM Sandy Alderson has either done a good job in positioning the Mets to jettison some more expensive contracts, replacing them with cheaper and just as productive players at the same time that his starting pitchers (and his closer) will begin to cost more money—OR he has set them up for an unsustainable run back to the World Series, as several of those aforementioned seven will have great seasons as they put on an extra “push” for a new contract.

Is that last statement just some type of urban legend that has grown up among baseball fans? Maybe there is a way to find out.

I am not a sabermatican nor do I play one on this blog. Plus to keep this readable, I focused on Wins Above Replacement or WAR, a stat that I must confess I don’t fully understand but does make sense to most otherwise serious baseball observers such as myself. And to keep this as current as possible, I picked those free agents that got a 3 year or longer deal after the 2014 season. My post, my rules!

So, true or false, do players tend to produce better results in their walk years? Let’s take a look at the Class of 2014:

Nick Markakis: Nick was a near replacement-level player for Baltimore in 2013 with a 0.1 WAR. He followed that up in 2014 with a 2.0 WAR and got himself a four-year deal with Atlanta, which was a surprise, as the Braves also began a rebuilding process the same offseason. Verdict: TRUE

Nelson Cruz: Yes that Nelson Cruz, a former Mets farmhand. He posted a 4.6 WAR, also for Baltimore in 2014, his best ever, converting that one-year pillow deal with the O’s into a nearly $60M deal with the Mariners. To his credit he has kept hitting, but 2014 has been his best season to date. Verdict: TRUE

Chase Headley: Never much of a fan of his, and not just because he is the first counterpoint to my argument. He WAR’d 1.4 with the Padres in only 77 games in 2014, which was way down for him from his previous campaigns. The fact that it was the Yankees who signed him only slightly mitigates my theory. Verdict: FALSE (with an asterisk because he was injured in ’14)

Jon Lester: OK this one doesn’t really count in that unless his arm fell off Lester was going to get his money anyway. He had a weird 2014, bouncing between Boston (2.7 WAR) and Oakland (1.9 WAR). While statistically 2014 was a down year for him, he still finished fourth in the AL Cy Young voting and had a champion in Chicago named Theo Epstein who immediately signed him to a four year deal for the eventual World Champions. Verdict: FALSE

Victor Martinez: This one could go the other way, but Victor missed all of 2012 with a torn ACL. He started off slow in 2013, but rebounded the second half of that season. He then tore up opposing pitching in 2014 to the tune of a career-best 5.4 WAR. This convinced Detroit to resign him to a long term deal. He hasn’t come close to that kind of production since. Let the buyer beware. Verdict: TRUE (even though his hot streak began in 2013) 

Pablo Sandoval: Speaking of caveat emptor, the Red Sox have really taken a bath on this guy. After a 3.4 WAR with the Giants in 2014, the Sox gave him a big deal and the lovable, rolly-poly “Panda” has done a Jason Bay on them. They should have looked at his 2012 and 2013 stats a bit more closely and not what he did during a contract year. Like Martinez, there isn’t much chance he will turn in around. Verdict: TRUE

Andrew Miller: Now we come to a pair of relief pitchers. After a somewhat lackluster career, Miller began to achieve his potential, just in time for a big contract. He posted an at the time career-best WAR of 0.9 in 2014, getting him a big contract from the Yanks. Miller’s best days were still ahead of him as this past offseason would prove. However for the sake of this argument the verdict is TRUE

David Robertson: Hey, aren’t the Mets interested in this guy? He followed up a good (2.9 WAR) 2013 with the Yanks with a poor-ish (1.2 WAR) 2014 in the Bronx. They let him go, pursuing Miller instead. The White Sox grabbed Robertson and now are by most accounts trying to trade him. Cleveland aside, that 2017 AL Central could be a dumpster fire. Verdict: FALSE (and I hate relief pitchers)

Ervin Santana: Speaking of dislike, this guy has never been one of my favorites. His appearance is somewhat off-putting and while he is generally a bad pitcher, it seems the Mets run into him at the wrong time when he is pitching well and he gives them fits. Remember his seven shut out innings against them last September in that must win game against the Twins? (That was the Granderson two homers in extras game BTW). He had a decent 2013 but could only get a pillow deal with Atlanta for one year in 2014. He was bad that year, but the penny-pinching Twins somehow gave him a three year deal anyway. Screw him. Verdict: FALSE

Melky Cabrera: Eww. And people actually wanted the Mets to sign this cheater. Remember when he was tearing it up in 2012 for the Giants and then the secret to his success was revealed? He got suspended for 50 games. That didn’t stop the Blue Jays from giving him a two year deal after the 2012 season. He was bad in Year One and (surprise) much, much better in Year Two. This fooled the White Sox into giving him a three-year deal that they no doubt regret now. Can we get the Mets moved to the AL Central? Verdict: TRUE

Max Scherzer: This one is False, but only because Scherzer “dropped” from a 6.7 WAR in 2013 to a 6.0 WAR in 2014. Max is a great pitcher. Unfortunately, he is also a Washington National.

So that’s 11 players and 6 Trues or 55%. Does this mean that the 2017 Mets can depend on better than career norm years from four of their seven pending free agents? Maybe its more likely that one or two of them will, but just how good will they be? Could Lucas Duda hit like Nelson Cruz did in 2014, slashing his way to a 271/334/525, 40-homer season? That would go a long way towards returning the Mets to the post season. Maybe Grandy pulls a Victor Martinez-like 30+homer, 974 OPS season out of his hat. Those types of performances can be franchise altering, for both the team that benefits from the performance and the team that pays for it in subsequent years.

The point is (I think) is that a big year from an unlikely source is not impossible, especially  considering the extra motivation these players have to turn this type of performance into unimaginable riches. But, would those riches come from the Mets? Our would they be content to sip champagne with them after a deep post season run and then let them go? It makes for interesting conversations during an otherwise dreary part of the year, so please, sound off below.

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It Was 20 Years Ago Today: Joe McIlvaine’s Best Deal Ever

December 20, 1996: The New York Mets trade RHP Robert Person to the Toronto Blue Jays for 1B John Olerud.

What I remember most about this announcement was that it was the first  trade news that I ever got via the Internet. it came over a clipping service that the company I worked for at the time subscribed to. I had added the phrase “New York Mets” to a search string weeks before, and was online when this story broke.  I also remember being very puzzled and upset about this move, but in hindsight, it turned out to be the best move in Joe McIlvaine’s otherwise mostly awful tenure as GM of the Mets.

I fully acknowledged that the 1996 Mets had a lot of holes, but I didn’t think first base was one of them. The team had hit rock bottom in 1993, but had rebounded somewhat in the strike shortened years of 1994 and 1995. Under McIlvaine, they had shed the contracts of Bobby Bonilla, Vince Coleman and Bret Saberhagen and had an inspiring crop of prospects ready, or so it seemed then,  to bring back the glory days to Shea. A strong finish in 1995 had many of us thinking the squad was about to take the next step in 1996.

The hard-throwing Person was one of a quartet of starting pitchers that had already propelled the Mets Double A team to the Eastern League championship. The now infamous other three quarters of that star-crossed rotation, Bill Pulshipher, Jason Isringhausen and Paul Wilson, were all touted as the Mets homegrown answer to the stellar Atlanta Braves rotation. Speaking of homegrown, the Mets also had the wonderfully-named Butch Huskey as their incumbent first baseman. Huskey had slashed a not-unimpressive 278/319/435 the year before. A genuinely decent and quiet young man, Butch seemed the perfect antidote to the toxicity of the now-departed veterans.

Much to the my dismay the Mets stumbled badly in 1996, throwing massive amounts of sand into the gears of this prospect-driven Mets renaissance that myself and many others had envisioned.

On the surface Olerud looked like another step backwards, a declining veteran with a big contract. Weren’t the Mets trying to get away from this type of player? He had a stellar 1993, winning the AL batting crown, but had steadily declined since then. He had one year left on his contract and the Blue Jays chipped in 80% of it. The deal had to be approved by the commissioner’s office because of the large amount of money changing hands. Remember, this was 1996; five million dollars certainly ain’t what it used to be!

This trade and Olerud’s tenure as a Met are frequently overlooked, which is a shame, because both were absolutely fabulous. Olerud slashed 294/400/489 in 1997 and drove in 102 runs. He signed a two year extension at the end of 1997, but instead of becoming complacent, he got better. He slashed 354/447/551 in 1998, that average breaking Cleon Jones’ 1969 Mets record for highest individual batting average in a single season. His fielding was impeccable, he was credited as the anchor man in the 1998-99 “Best Infield Ever” that  included Edgardo Alfonzo, Rey Ordonez and Robin Ventura. He played all 162 games of the 1999 season and while his numbers tailed off slightly, he was a mainstay both offensively and defensively, as the Mets returned to the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. They faced off against the Braves in the 1999 NLCS and his Game Four homer keyed a furious Mets comeback that unfortunately fell short  three games later in Turnerland.

Overall he slashed 315/425/501 in his three years here, the best stint of his career, even considering the big years he had in Toronto. Despite his success, he departed for his hometown of Seattle after the 1999 season. He enjoyed three more strong years in the Pacific Northwest before a farewell tour that included productive stops with the Yankees and Boston. In retrospect, the Mets should have pushed harder to keep him as they could have used his bat in the 2000 Subway Series and in their failed defense of the NL crown the next year.

It’s probably not too much of a stretch to think that had he stayed in New York, he might merit serious consideration for the Hall of Fame. As it stands, he is now largely ignored when the great hitters of the 1990’s are discussed.

Person went on to have a decent, if unremarkable career. He would go 46-37 for Toronto and the Phillies. For a long time he had more innings pitched, more wins and more strikeouts and any of his more highly-touted Binghamton Mets Generation K pitching rotation mates. Eventually and mainly by staging a comeback in 2011, Isringhausen caught up and passed him in those categories. Don’t get me wrong, Isringhausen definitely had the better career.

One more thing about this trade: it happened weeks after the Winter Meetings and wouldn’t be the last time that the Mets would strike a deal later on the winter. In fact, McIlvaine’s successor Steve Phillips added the pair of pitchers the Mets needed (Al Leiter in 1998 and Mike Hampton in 1999) to return to the post-season in deals made later in the winter (February and December 23rd) respectively than this one. Sometimes, patience can pay off, as it did for the Mets in all three of these post-Winter Meetings trades.

Something to ponder while we sit and wait for any trade or free agent signing news this time around. Happy Holidays, everyone.

 

 

 

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Mets bullpen needs a split

Putnam, Uehara, Holland

I’ve always been a fan of rare pitches. It’s made sense to me that a pitch batters see less often will be harder for them to recognize, and a pitch they get fewer swings against will be harder to barrel up. In today’s game, the cut fastball is the latest pitch to go from rarity to trend, and it’s recently gotten to the point where batters are crushing the mediocre ones.

Not so with our old friend the split-finger fastball. The big pitch of the 1980s is now thrown by very few MLB pitchers, and every time a guy from Japan comes over and features a good one, it seems to produce great results. Akinori Otsuka? Hideki Okajima? These guys weren’t studs in Japan, but their out-pitches sure translated to MLB. Was it because their splitters were particularly great? Or was it because MLB hitters didn’t have any to practice on? In 2006 Salomon Torres led MLB in appearances and was the Astros’ and Brewers’ kryptonite, throwing a fastball whose velocity was embarrassing for a late-inning short reliever. He didn’t throw it too much, though; his go-to pitch was his splitter.

The Mets aren’t primed to throw out huge dollars or give away huge talent for a sure-thing reliever. But bargain-hunting doesn’t seem appropriate for a team with a lot of “win now” to it either. So how about a mixed-bag guy with a great out pitch? How about betting on the splitter?

First up is Koji Uehara, a strike-thrower with the best K/BB rate in MLB history. He’s a free agent who’s willing to pitch in a variety of roles and shouldn’t break the bank. His fastball is deceptive and made more so by his sharp, diving splitter, which he throws a ton. The risks: he’s 41, can be homerun prone, and had his worst year as an MLB reliever last season.

Next up is Zach Putnam. Putnam throws his splitter almost exclusively in some outings. When it’s at its best, he doesn’t need anything else. Putnam pitches for the team which just traded away Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, so I have a feeling he’s not off-limits. I’d guess that the Mets should be able to part with a palatable amount of minor league upside for him. The risks: health. Putnam’s arm is extremely late in his delivery, and he’s already had shoulder and elbow problems in his short career.

Finally, we have former elite closer Greg Holland, more of a guy who happens to throw a splitter than a “splitter guy” like Putnam and Uehara. At his best, Holland’s fastball, slider and splitter were all elite. He’s coming off Tommy John surgery and looking to re-establish himself, so this is as cheap as he’s going to get. Unfortunately, the place where he’s looking to re-establish himself is in the 9th inning, where the Mets’ incumbent just saved 51 games.

I don’t know which of these options is the best bet, and which is the most doable for the Mets. But I do think they’d be well-served to pick the best option and go for it. I’d love to see the swings the NL East would get against the splitters thrown by these guys they’ve never (or at least rarely) faced before. Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy may not have ever seen anything like it!

Which of these three pitchers would you prefer? Got any better ideas for relief help? Let us know 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

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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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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

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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 ...