David Berg has been following the Mets since 1990, and counts himself as a "die hard fan" -- the agonies have been numerous and arduous, but he's still watching every game he can, determined to "earn" the satisfaction when the Mets eventually win it all. In his non-spare time, David is a designer of graphics, web sites, and games. See his work at Shrike Design
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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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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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Braves preempt market on innings-eaters

Dickey and Colon

In case you missed the news, the Atlanta Braves just made two player acquisition moves. News broke on Thursday that they had signed R.A. Dickey and on Friday that they had signed Bartolo Colon.

I think it’s a huge whiff on the Mets’ part to not bring back Colon. Was the team unprepared to negotiate? Was the $12.5M price tag way too steep? Were the Mets somehow not interested in Bart’s services?

Dickey would have been a fine back-up plan, another low-ceiling, high-floor innings-eater. But the Braves gobbled him up first.

I don’t think I need to be particularly pessimistic about the Mets’ young starters’ health to predict that we’ll be seeing a lot of innings from pitchers worse than Colon in 2017.

Plus, as a fan, it’s going to be hard for me to root against Dickey and Colon the 5 or so times the Mets face them this year.

Oh, and also, a division rival just got better.

As a Mets fan, I’m not happy with these developments, not one bit. What’s your reaction?

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Constructing the 2017 Mets

Wilson Ramos, Paul Goldschmidt

2017 finds the Mets roster in an awkward place, with enough strengths that contention is within reach but enough weaknesses that standing pat could prove fatal to the team’s chances. Alderson and co. have their work cut out for them.

Where to start?

Trades

The White Sox are finally rebuilding, and might move Chris Sale for the right package. I can’t think of any Mets options for Sale that don’t start with Amed Rosario, but how about aiming a little lower and going after Jose Quintana? Sell high on Seth Lugo as a potential replacement, and move Travis d’Arnaud while his slugging pedigree is still relatively recent. These two are supplemental pieces; the cornerstone of the trade would be Jay Bruce, giving the White Sox a much-needed OF/DH with power. The Mets could also offer the Sox some financial flexibility by taking James Shields and part of his salary. Shields may be done as a good starter, but with a move to the ‘pen and a little acclimation time in AAA, I’m sure he could become a lights-out reliever if he could regain the control he had for the first 9 years of his career.

Meanwhile, in Arizona, the Diamondbacks have crashed and changed management, leading me to wonder – is the time finally right to attempt a Paul Goldschmidt deal? The Mets can offer Lucas Duda to replace him, a fly ball hitter who should thrive in Arizona. The Mets can offer a high-ceiling pitcher or three. The Mets can offer a controllable young player who’s unlikely to become a huge asset, but would be a steal if he does. How about Steven Matz – Duda – Brandon NimmoZack Wheeler? This really depends on how much the D’backs like Matz. If they don’t, subbing in Quintana would be an option.

I’d also ask the D’backs to throw in Andrew Chafin, a groundball guy who developed strikeout ability last year but posted a 6.75 ERA due to what the advanced metrics see as awful luck.

These would be my key winter moves.

Then, in the spring, I’d make one more. With the games not mattering yet, and with a ton to prove, Matt Harvey will surely show up in the best shape of his life and be throwing 99 past hitters in spring training. That’s the time to trade him to an all-in contender like Boston for a young stud prospect like Andrew Benintendi or Rafael Devers. I don’t expect Harvey to thrive in New York going forward, whether for physical reasons or mental ones, and the Mets desperately need to deepen their ranks of potential impact players for the future.

Signings

The Mets need Yoenis Cespedes, and Cespedes seems to like the Mets, so I’d hope a deal could get done without any ridiculous behavior on either side, such as lowball offers from the Mets or 7-year demands from Team Yo.

That will leave the team with limited financial flexibility, and probably preclude major upgrades over the current roster at both primary positions of need, catcher and second base. My take is this: I liked having Neil Walker on the team, but his range was subpar and I doubt back problems bode well for a middle infielder’s future. At second base, the drop-off from Walker (the best-fitting free agent, as far as I’m aware) to what the Mets have now might not be that bad. The same is not true at catcher. I’d earmark the FA budget for Wilson Ramos and hope that no one gives him a crazy contract based just on 2016.

My 2017 Mets:

Lineup and Bench

1. 3B Jose Reyes
2. RF Curtis Granderson
3. 1B Paul Goldschmidt
4. LF Yoenis Cespedes
5. C Wilson Ramos
6. SS Asdrubal Cabrera
7. 2B T.J. Rivera / Wilmer Flores / Ty Kelly / Matt Reynolds
8. CF Juan Lagares

• Sign Rajai Davis to sub for Grandy against lefties and pinch-run.
• If Michael Conforto earns playing time, give him time in RF with Grandy moving to CF and Lagares sitting.
• If David Wright refuses to retire, then whenever Reyes, Cabrera, or the 2B needs a day off, plug Wright in at 3B and move Reyes around as needed. David can also pinch-hit against lefties.

Starting Pitching

1. Noah Syndergaard
2. Jacob deGrom
3. Jose Quintana
4. Bartolo Colon
5. Robert Gsellman

• Bring back R.A. Dickey to serve as swingman, long relief, and injury sub. The knuckleballer suffered from Rogers Centre for four years, and from having another knuckleballer in his division in 2016. If he can throw as many strikes as he did during his Mets time, he’ll thrive again in the N.L.

Bullpen

9. Jeurys Familia
8. Addison Reed
7. James Shields / Andrew Chafin / Rafael Montero

If Montero ever musters the courage to throw strikes, his fastball is sneaky and gets a lot of pop-ups. His change-up is deceptive, so when it’s moving, it’s a good second pitch. The slider is just enough to keep righties off the fastball.

Summing it Up

With Ramos providing improved offense and defense behind the plate (and not killing the Mets as an opponent), Goldschmidt anchoring the lineup and the infield, Quintana bringing an impeccable record of health and success, a few bullpen additions offering some 7th inning upside, and a new stud prospect or two bolstering the farm, I think the Mets would be in a great position for 2017 and beyond.

What do you think of these moves? Do you have some ideas of your own? Please let us know in the comments!

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So you wanted to root for an underdog…

Underdog Mets

Of course you did. You’re a Mets fan. You were aware of the other options, from the pinstriped team across town crowing about their 26 or 27 or 28 championships to the new hotness of the moment such as the 2008 Rays or the 2013 Blue Jays or the 2015 Padres. But each time you were reminded that there were more and better baseball teams beyond Queens, you said, “No thanks,” (or something less equanimous) and kept following the Mets. You have your reasons. I’m not going to try to list them all. But at this point, after the frustration and embarrassment and despair of 2007-2014, I feel pretty sure of one of them:

Because long odds make a victory that much sweeter.

This isn’t how 2016 was supposed to go, of course. 2016 was supposed to be Mets fans’ reward for keeping the faith from the Tom Glavine game in 2007 through the runs-free summer of 2015. In 2016, the Mets were supposed to be great, and only the possible also-greatness of the Nationals was supposed to keep the Mets from being *gasp* front runners.

MetsToday readers polled between April 7-11 predicted these win totals for the 2016 team: 101, 94, 93, 92, 92, 90, 90, 89, 88.

But these are the Mets. They don’t just make you earn your fan satisfaction decade by decade. They make you earn it year by year, month by month, sometimes day by day.

So of course Cy Young hopeful Matt Harvey fell apart mechanically and psychologically and had a rib removed. Of course Jacob deGrom frayed a nerve, and Steven Matz grew a new elbow bone, and clapping our hands three times and saying “Ya gotta believe!” didn’t heal David Wright‘s spine. Of course the Mets burned through plans A and B at most positions on the field.

A funny thing happened, though: plans C and D stepped up.

2016 WAR by position:

C

A) Travis d’Arnaud 0.0
B) Kevin Plawecki -0.1
C) Rene Rivera 0.4 (first game April 30)

1B

A) Lucas Duda 0.3
B) Eric Campbell -0.7
C) James Loney -0.3 (first game May 31)
D) Wilmer Flores 0.6

2B

A) Neil Walker 3.8
B) Kelly Johnson 0.3 (first game June 11)
C) Wilmer Flores -0.1
D) T.J. Rivera 0.7 (MLB debut August 10)

SS

A) Asdrubal Cabrera 2.7
B) Matt Reynolds 0.0 (MLB debut May 17)
C) Jose Reyes 0.1

3B

A) David Wright 0.5
B) Ty Kelly 0.1
C) Wilmer Flores 0.6
D) Jose Reyes 1.1 (first game July 5)

RF

A) Curtis Granderson 1.5
B) Brandon Nimmo -0.1 (MLB debut June 26)
C) Jay Bruce 0.3 (first game August 1)

CF

A) Yoenis Cespedes 1.7
B) Juan Lagares 0.5
C) Michael Conforto 0.2
D) Justin Ruggiano 0.2 (first game July 30)
E) Alejandro De Aza 0.1
F) Curtis Granderson 1.5

LF

A) Michael Conforto 0.6
B) Brandon Nimmo 0.0
C) Yoenis Cespedes 1.1
D) Ty Kelly 0.6 (MLB debut May 24)

A third-choice catcher, fourth-choice third baseman, fourth-choice first baseman, and sixth-choice center fielder? This is the stuff of “poor us” teams, not playoff teams.

With Neil Walker lost for the season, along with two of the Mets’ top 4 starting pitchers (Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz), it’s gotten even crazier during the stretch run, as second base plan D T.J. Rivera and rotation plans F and G Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman have taken on vital roles.

Mets fans, this isn’t what you hoped for, but doesn’t it feel right somehow? Doesn’t embracing an underdog feel like second nature at this point? Wouldn’t watching a team full of established stars dominate the competition feel strangely alien? Don’t you yearn more to see a gritty over-achiever overcome all odds?

This is your team.

Let’s go Mets.

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Recent history suggests this week is crucial for Mets

2010-2012 Mets

 

Do you remember the 2010 Mets?

Through 90 games, the offense offered a lot to like: Jose Reyes leading off, David Wright having regained his power stroke, hotshot rookie Ike Davis impressing at the plate and in the field, and Angel Pagan seemingly coming into his own at age 28. On the mound, Johan Santana was still more or less Johan Santana, a new splitter had suddenly made Mike Pelfrey great again, 23-year-old lefty Jon Niese was more than holding his own, and R.A. Dickey was a revelation. Francisco Rodriguez was closing out wins, Pedro Feliciano was retiring a lefty or two every single day, and Hisanori Takahashi was the best swing man in the league.

The team’s record: 48-42.

Over the next 10 games, they went 3-7, effectively ending their playoff hopes, and beginning a spiral down below .500.

Carlos Beltran came off the DL but couldn’t play defense, Pagan shifted over to RF, hurting the team defensively at two positions, and neither guy hit down the stretch. Santana tired, K-Rod punched his father-in-law, Reyes pulled an oblique, and it was a sad September in Queens.

Do you remember the 2011 Mets?

Through 90 games, they were clutching out, keeping postseason hopes alive despite an underwhelming roster. With Santana and Ike Davis injured and Wright playing poorly through pain, the Mets nevertheless managed to string their hits together, taking quality AB after quality AB in big spots. They scored runs despite mediocre batting stats, and many were praising Dave Hudgens as a genius. With Jose Reyes putting up an MVP-type year, Lucas Duda getting a full-time job after crushing AAA Buffalo with a 1.011 OPS, and three apparent breakouts in progress (Bobby Parnell, Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy), the Mets had hope that if their starting pitching could just perform to their abilities, they’d have a chance.

The team’s record: 46-44.

Over the next 10 games, they went 4-6, effectively ending their playoff hopes, and beginning a spiral down below .500.

A 4-6 stretch is hardly ever the end of the world, but 50-50 is too mediocre a record too late in the season to come back from. Especially when none of the starters turn it around, Wright doesn’t heal, Parnell regresses, Murphy gets hurt, and Duda can’t play RF.

Do you remember the 2012 Mets?

Through 90 games, Wright was raking, Scott Hairston was raking, Dickey was throwing one-hitters, Ike Davis was on his way back after finding himself in the minors, and a finally-healthy Murphy was still teasing us with .300 promise. The futures of Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Ruben Tejada still looked promising, and there was Matt Harvey to look forward to. Optimism abounded for how the second half would be better than the first.

The team’s record: 46-44.

Over the next 10 games, they went 2-8, effectively ending their playoff hopes, and beginning a spiral down below .500.

Wright couldn’t keep it up. Tejada and Murphy and Captain Kirk didn’t live up to the big expectations. Dickey willed himself to 20 wins, and Ike and Harvey put up numbers, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

Are you worried about the 2016 Mets?

Through 90 games, there have been ups and downs. There have been great performances and disappointments. There is a lot of hope for a playoff run, but much of it rests on things improving — hurt players getting healthy, slumping players turning it around, hyped players living up to the hype. I’m finding it uncomfortably familiar.

The team’s record: 48-42.

Over the next 10 games, what will they do (so far they’re 2-2)? The answer may well decide their season. This upcoming series against the Marlins is big.

What will give the 2016 Mets the best chance to finish strong? If history is any guide, juggling outfielders and betting on improved health is not it.

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Is this 2016 or 2012?

Dickey Syndergaard

Do you remember the 2012 Mets? If you’ve chosen to forget, that’s understandable. Outside of a certain knuckleballer, it was a dark time for the organization, just part of a years-long spiral deeper and deeper into laughingstock status. The 97-win run of 2006 was followed by two straight choke jobs, a plague of injuries, a regime change, and a wishy-washy rebuild through a pretender 2011. In 2012, a slightly improved roster got off to a very respectable start, spending their first 93 games over .500 and giving fans hope that if they could overcome an awful bullpen, they might make a wild card run. Most fans wanted the Mets to either acquire relief help and make a run, or commit fully to 2014 and beyond by cashing in on Scott Hairston, Bobby Parnell and others at the trade deadline. Mets GM Sandy Alderson did neither, and stood pat. Before long, Mets news was once again the news of disgust and dithering and Ponzi schemes and LOLs.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2016, and the word was that everything had changed in the Mets’ universe. After a wheel-spinning 2013 and a promising 2014, 2015 brought us Yoenis Cespedes, a healthy Matt Harvey, a rebounding Curtis Granderson, an improved Jacob deGrom and Jeurys Familia, an emerging Noah Syndergaard and Michael Conforto, and a run to the World Series. With Lucas Duda, Travis d’Arnaud, and Juan Lagares already on board, and with Steven Matz and Asdrubal Cabrera expected to provide further improvements, the 2016 Mets looked miles away from their 2012 counterparts.

Do they still look that way today?

Similar Records

Both the 2012 and 2016 teams started off 8-7.
Both teams then put together some win streaks to get to 31-23.
Both teams then played under .500, achieving records of 39-33 and 40-36.

The 2012 Mets then won 6 of 9 to get to 46-39 before utterly collapsing with a 28-49 finish to a 74-88 season.

Are the 2016 Mets at risk of a similar fate? Unfortunately, I see a disturbing number of parallels in the player roster.

Similar Performances

Let’s look back at who did what in the first half of 2012, who’s doing the same so far in 2016, and how it panned out in each case in 2012.

David Wright: The 2012 team’s best player put up an MVP-level first half.
2016 version: Yoenis Cespedes
In the end: Wright regressed to his career norms in the second half. After the season, the fan favorite signed a huge contract for his 30s, which would currently be crippling the team if not for insurance provisions.

R.A. Dickey: Took a jump from good to great, establishing himself as a Cy Young contender.
2016 version: Noah Syndergaard
In the end: Dickey didn’t quite keep it up in the second half, but was still excellent and took home the award (from a much easier field than the 2016 NL).

Johan Santana: Former dominator showed brief flashes of his former self.
2016 version: Matt Harvey
In the end: Fell apart amid much speculation (ankle? workload?). Turned up a serious injury in the second half.

Ike Davis: First-round slugger who scouts saw as a middle of the order bat. After a great rookie year, things went downhill. Was it the foot injury that derailed his career, or was it the Valley Fever, or was it a high-maintenance swing? After a brutal first half, was sent to the minors.
2016 version: Michael Conforto and his sprained wrist cartilage
In the end: Ike ran into some homeruns in the second half of 2012 but was otherwise done as a productive player.

Andres Torres: Great attitude and effort but not enough talent to warrant the everyday job he was handed. His previous great season wound up looking like a fluke.
2016 version: Curtis Granderson
In the end: Torres was consistent, playing the same mediocre baseball in both halves of 2012.

Jordany Valdespin: An enticing talent with good pop but OBP issues and no true position, Valdespin elicited both hope and caution. Evaluators spoke of his chance to be something more than a utility guy, but he was basically used as a utility guy.
2016 version: Wilmer Flores
In the end: Valdespin had a nice power spike in July, but never really made permanent gains. He’s since established himself as a classic AAAA player, getting chances when someone on an MLB roster gets hurt.

Jason Bay: Once counted on to be a middle of the order force, but couldn’t stay healthy. His high-maintenance swing made him ill-suited to playing in fits and starts.
2016 version: Travis d’Arnaud
In the end: Bay got healthier in the second half, but the injuries and missed time had taken their toll, and he was terrible.

Josh Thole: A bat-first catcher who showed great contact skills in the minors. Power and defense were question marks, but everyone expected him to spray line drives. His first half wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad enough to completely dispel all hope.
2016 version: Kevin Plawecki
In the end: His one contribution, batting average, eventually declined, leaving Thole as a minor leaguer (well, if not for R.A. Dickey).

Daniel Murphy: A capable hitter holding down a demanding defensive position, Murphy was cause for much debate. Was he a major asset, or were his deficiencies hurting the team as much as his bat was helping it?
2016 version: Asdrubal Cabrera and his limited range
In the end: Murphy spent 2012-2015 as basically the same guy throughout, averaging 1.7 WAR. Not the team’s biggest problem, but not a significant asset either.

Lucas Duda: Lucas Duda.
2016 version: Lucas Duda
In the end: Lucas Duda.

Scott Hairston: Veteran having a career year on the homerun front.
2016 version: Neil Walker
In the end: Kept it up! Nothing after 2012, though.

Chris Young: Crafty veteran confusing hitters with unusual fastballs.
2016 version: Bartolo Colon
In the end: Young eventually got hurt, which has been the norm for him. What Mets fans forget is that, before joining the Mets, Colon was ranked #1 on a list of pitchers most likely to suffer injury, based on his age and past injury history.

Dillon Gee: Second-year pitcher with great peripherals but a few too many blow-ups. Looked like a fixture before shoulder discomfort turned into an aneurysm.
2016 version: Steven Matz and his bone chips and elbow pain
In the end: Gee missed the entire second half after surgery for the aneurysm.

There are also some parallels between Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Juan Lagares (great athletes with holes at the plate and trouble staying healthy), Jon Niese and Jacob deGrom (third-year pitchers seeing declines in stuff and strikeouts), Justin Turner and Matt Reynolds (solid base of skills but not great at anything), and Ruben Tejada and Dilson Herrera‘s scouting reports (precocious young guys whose physique and athleticism limits their ceilings).

None of these situations are exactly equivalent — Flores doesn’t have an attitude problem like Valdespin, d’Arnaud isn’t in his 30s like Bay, Niese was never half the pitcher deGrom was in 2015 — but the overall picture I’m seeing looks eerily familiar.

Cause for concern?

Is this similarity between the 2012 and 2016 teams real, or an illusion? Are the Mets still in great shape heading forward, or have a few flops and injuries changed their whole future landscape? Even if we can’t predict the distant future, should we expect a better or worse second half from the current squad?

Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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Do the Mets need to try less situational hitting?

On Wednesday afternoon, Asdrubal Cabrera came to bat with Curtis Granderson on first. Batting second, with a dangerous power hitter behind him, Cabrera’s “job” could be interpreted as “try to work a walk or poke a single to bring Yoenis Cespedes up with two men on.” Some Baseball People would consider that the “professional” or “situational” approach. Fortunately for the Mets, Cabrera ignored that wisdom and took a big rip, hitting a two-run homer to turn a deficit into a lead.

Is that what the Mets need?

This team has been an utter abomination in clutch hitting situations. When the #2 homerun hitting team in the National League is also the #13 team in scoring (well behind #12), it’s obvious that something is wrong. A .207 team batting average with RISP (runners in scoring position) is pretty obvious too. What’s less obvious is how we got here. Are Mets hitters nervous? Playing tight? Lacking confidence? Pressing? Is it a spiral where a little bit of bad clutch hitting becomes contagious and spirals out of control?

I have a theory. When Gary, Keith and Ron talk about situational hitting, they talk about hitting to the opposite field, about putting the ball in play, about not swinging for the fences, about advancing runners, and on and on in that vein. Terry Collins and Kevin Long don’t have three hours of air time to fill every night, but they sometimes (occasionally to the media, who knows how often to the players) talk about situational hitting too, and I’m guessing they’re talking about the same things. In doing so, however, they might be getting in the way of what their roster does best. These are Alderson players. They draw a few walks and hit a bunch of homeruns. Attempting situational hitting, which they aren’t good at (see that .207 AVG), just interferes with their strengths.

Here are the Mets’ rates of hitting homeruns, drawing unintentional walks, and striking out, by situation:

SplitHR %UIBB %K %
No RISP4.4 %8.3 %26.0 %
0/1 Out RISP3.4 %5.6 %27.7 %
2 Outs, RISP1.8 %8.8 %32.1 %

So maybe the 2016 Mets would be better served following the model of other Alderson-style offenses: take your walks, swing for the fences, and don’t ever change that.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

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