When Will We Ever Learn? Wishful Thinking and Wilpon Finances Lead to Mets Stall

Well it had to happen sometime. Those blue and orange shades I’ve had on since August of 2015 have come off. Unless you’ve been totally immersed in the Rangers-Habs series or trying to figure out if the Jets will use or trade the number six pick, you’ve probably taken yours off as well; especially after the massive train wreck that occurred this past weekend at Citi Field. The Mets have stalled and no one it seems, knows how to re-start their motor.

Call it panic, but you’ve heard it here first: The Mets will miss the playoffs. I don’t believe them to be anything better than a third place team this year. Based on what I’ve seen so far, both Washington and Miami have better teams than the Mets. And as far as the Mets surpassing the Yankees in popularity in New York City? Bawhahahahahahahahaha.

When the season started, many people, including myself, figured the Mets to be a playoff team, and gave them a better than even chance to win the division. The Mets themselves believed it. Check out the comments coming from both the front office and the clubhouse before and during spring training. Less than 20 games into the season, a new reality has dawned.

When will we ever learn?

The Mets have two very good players: Yoenis Cespedes and Noah Syndergaard. It speaks volumes about the Mets player development system that both guys came from outside the organization. Syndergaard is the undisputable ace of the Mets pitching staff. More on that in a moment. Cespedes is the Mets best hitter. Now, name the second-best hitter on the team. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

That title goes to Asdrubal Cabrera. It’s not Jay Bruce. Don’t let two stellar games from Bruce fool you. Career-wise, Cabrera is the better hitter. I’d actually put Curtis Granderson ahead of Bruce. We can argue this point all day, the issue is that after Cespedes, the Mets offensive prowess falls off a cliff. Cabrera is good, but c’mon, I highly doubt he strikes much fear in the hearts of the opposition when he strides to the plate. They had the perfect compliment to Cespedes in their lineup, you just saw him this weekend. They knew how good he was becoming and they let him walk away anyway , all but telling us they had his successor in the system. Instead they traded this heir apparent to Cincinnati to get Bruce. The second action is unrelated to the first action, but letting Daniel Murphy walk away cost the Mets the NL East crown last year and is one of the biggest reasons they will miss the playoffs this year. And why? Because they thought they could get the same type of production for less money. They didn’t. Wishful thinking seems to have replaced solid planning.

They wished that David Wright would somehow heal and become a reasonable facsimile of his former self. Wrong. They wished that Jose Reyes at 33 still has something left and that his dismal stops in Toronto and Colorado were mirages. Wrong. They wished that Travis d’Arnaud, Lucas Duda, and Wilmer Flores would all somehow avoid the injury jinxes that have sidetracked their careers. Wrong. They wished Juan Lagares would finally learn to hit right handed pitching. Wrong (and he can’t hit lefties much either). About the only thing that has gone right, outside of Bruce’s hot start, is Michael Conforto. But in true Met fashion, they have been shoe-horning Conforto in the wrong spot in the lineup, both the batting order and on the field. A few oh-fers and watch what happens to the kid’s confidence. In fairness, almost everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong. But, you can’t tell me that any of this is totally unexpected, and should agree that to basically ignore the facts exposed by sabermetrics and medical reports is a very risky proposition. But don’t worry, they all said, even if all that falls apart, the Mets still have that great starting pitching.

When will we ever learn?

No doubt that Syndergaard is the larger-than-life, as-good-as-advertised ace of the rotation. Jacob deGrom is well-suited as the understudy. I like Jake, but I think his ceiling is #2 starter, the modern day comparison to the Miracle Mets Jerry Koosman or Jon Matlack (yes I know both were lefties) behind Tom Seaver; or if you prefer the late 80’s, he’s this era’s Ron Darling to Doc Gooden. Unfortunately, I have witnessed many, many, many outings by Koos, Matlack and Darling where they pitched just well enough, as the saying goes, to lose. That description fits deGrom’s last two outings pretty well, don’t you think? But what about the other three or four “aces” they were supposed to have?

A pair of major surgeries have all but extinguished Matt Harvey’s brilliance. He seems quiet and humbled, both on the mound and in front of cameras. Not saying all of this is a bad thing, but right now Matt is the #3 pitcher on just about any good staff, including this one. The wish (there’s that word again) is just that he stays healthy. So far, so good; but it is a long season. Steven Matz hasn’t stayed healthy, and reading between the lines of the comments made by the GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins, I think the organization is entirely disillusioned with Matz, just as they were with erstwhile ace and first major Alderson acquisition Zack Wheeler. The later is still on the comeback trail and the jury is most definitely out on him. He had a golden opportunity last night to re-establish his star and one swing from Murphy ended that. The starting pitching isn’t that all that deep and the bullpen is in disarray, partially due to Jeurys Familia’s suspension, partly due to Collins’ poor handling of the others, and partly due to the wishful thought that they might not be relied upon so much. They should have held on to Bartolo Colon.

That last thought brings us to the real problem: ownership. Yes the Mets payroll has risen, most of it organically via annual pay raises, but they did shell out big bucks for Cespedes, Bruce and Neil Walker. But to paraphrase and old saying: you can lift a person out of the poorhouse, but you can’t lift the poorhouse out of the person. While the Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs and Nationals do whatever it takes to win, whether it’s giving out big contracts to veterans or overpaying in prospects for needed pieces, the Mets still look for the way to save a buck. Re-think the roster with both Colon and Murphy still on it. How about the batting order with Adam Eaton at the top? It’s a compelling argument to hold on to young players. It looked great for example, when the Mets five starters combined were making less money than Mike Pelfrey. It looks far less smart when the team still lacks a true leadoff hitter (and any speed at all) lacks a true #3 hitter, lacks a true #5 hitter, and has no one reliable coming off the bench. The problem comes back the credibility issue–both with the front office and with ownership.

It now begins to clearly appear that the real reason for this youth movement is to depress payroll. The Mets have been lucky that Harvey, Syndergaard, deGrom, et. al, have some star power. Up to now, this brilliance has eclipsed the flaws in the team’s makeup. Baseball has a very cruel way of exposing every hidden weakness. This April has been all about the Mets getting exposed. There is a definite spending threshold for these guys and by all indications, it  falls below what it’s going to take to bring home the championship. All of this winter’s moves where made with an eye on future payrolls. That might be great from an accounting standpoint, but from a winning while the window is open standpoint, it really stinks.

Fortunately it is still April. There is plenty of baseball left. Cespedes is capable of putting the offense on his back. Conforto could settle into a niche. The walking wounded can heal. Maybe the Mets decide that the time is right for uber-prospects Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith to be promoted (both have played more minor league games and have had more at-bats than Conforto did at the time of his promotion). Maybe GMs of other teams decide to run up the white flag and Alderson is able to import some help. Maybe…

When will we ever learn?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Third Rotation

The Mets’ hopes for 2017 rest in large part on their starting pitching staff. Is this quintet a major strength which can carry the team? Or do various health and effectiveness concerns place them somewhere short of that status? Let’s take a look at the third rotation through the Mets’ (hopefully) fab five and note what we’ve seen.

 IPHRERBBKHRP 
Syndergaard662104087
deGrom7422113297
Harvey672125092
Wheeler541127199
Gsellman763317099

What I saw

Noah Syndergaard

Much like his in first two starts, Syndergaard’s velocity and fastball command were good but not at their best. He didn’t look dominant, but the Marlins didn’t hit him hard either. He threw more two-seamers than usual, with great movement but poor location (the pitch to the glove side consistently ran back over the middle). Three great signs: a 100 mph fastball up and in to put away Christian Yelich; a slow motion clip of his motion in which his arm is not nearly as late as it used to be; and the fact that the Marlins only attempted one stolen base. Hopefully the torn fingernails that forced Noah from the game were a one-time concern.

Jacob deGrom

I didn’t see the familiar deGrom motion. He was staying taller through his delivery, possibly getting less extension, and producing less obvious run on his fastball. After a few yanked pitches to the glove side, a few bad breaking balls, and an atypical reliance on two-seamers, I was pessimistic about Jacob’s outing. Then he got angry and established an absolutely dominant groove, striking out 13, many of those on fastballs.

It looked like deGrom was headed for his first win until Collins left in a gassed Fernando Salas to face Yelich as the tying run and Yelich hit one into the upper deck.

Matt Harvey

Harvey had great life on his fastball, and mostly commanded it well at 94-95 mph. His slider had good tilt and depth. He mixed in a few good curves, but not many, and his change-up wasn’t a major factor (he got some up early and may have decided to stay away from it). Matt arguably faced more adversity in this start than his previous ones, and it was nice to see him come through this test without the sort of collapse that became routine in 2016. His command did look a bit worse with men on, but it wasn’t anything catastrophic.

Zack Wheeler

I didn’t see this one live, but all the plays I saw with Zack on the mound in the condensed game video clip seemed to come on 3-2 pitches. Wheeler’s pitch count reached 86 through 4 innings. Unwelcome shades of 2014.

Robert Gsellman

Gsellman repeatedly froze lefties with the Bartolo Colon come-back two-seamer to the inside corner. He also snapped off some sharp curveballs. Robert didn’t throw quite enough strikes with his secondary pitches to keep hitters off the fastball – his slider in particular was mostly in the dirt – but he was still effective, and looked strong through 7 innings and 98 pitches.

What did you see?

Please share your observations in the comments!

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Second Rotation

The Mets’ hopes for 2017 rest in large part on their starting pitching staff, which has the potential to blow the competition away… if they stay healthy. Let’s take a look at the second rotation through the Mets’ (hopefully) fab five and note what we’ve seen.

 IPHRERBBKHRP 
Syndergaard7521090103W
deGrom662223096
Harvey5.252216192W
Wheeler5.243314085W
Gsellman4.258835197

What I saw

Noah Syndergaard

Syndergaard finally brought back his curveball, and his full mix of pitches was too much for the Marlins to handle. Noah had trouble getting his fastball down, but his gas often works better upstairs anyway. A dominant outing, with the final line marred only by one bad pitch to Dee Gordon.

Jacob deGrom

Jacob’s fastball was flat, and even when he located it at 95, hitters were able to foul it back. The only other times I’ve seen the pitch lack its signature late life were when deGrom was injured (with the last 3 starts of 2016 being the prime example).

His secondary stuff was up in the first inning, but he got it down after that (though not the fastball) and pitched five good innings on primarily curveballs and change-ups. As Ron Darling said, even deGrom’s bad starts are pretty good.

Matt Harvey

Harvey didn’t show any consistent ability to locate his fastball, but the pitch was 94+ with great life, and his arm swing looked more free and easy to me. His secondary stuff featured the sharpest downward break I’ve ever seen from Matt, though it was often in the dirt.

Zack Wheeler

Wheeler took a huge step forward. Just like his first start, he threw plenty of strikes, but this time he mixed in effective breaking balls. Despite occasionally yanking or spiking a pitch, Zack’s location was solid overall, with lots of sinkers at the knees generating easy ground balls. Not his most dominant performance, but arguably the best I’ve ever seen him pitch… for the first 5 innings. In the 6th he had nothing, and Collins left him out there to load the bases anyway. (Which Hansel Robles promptly un-loaded via a grand slam meatball to Maikel Franco, turning Wheeler’s line from 0 earned runs to 3.) In non-contact sports, injury generally occurs when pushing past the point of fatigue, and Wheeler threw a dozen or so offerings after losing all ability to finish his pitches.

Ron Darling made the excellent point that managing to the pitch count has this downside: not only do managers pull a guy who’s cruising because the pitch count gets too high, they’ll also leave in a guy who’s gassed because the pitch count looks low.

Note: The Phillies fouled off a few short-breaking, high-velocity sliders, leading me to wonder: Are all five Met righties throwing the Warthen slider now? And if so, are opponents going to get used to it?

Robert Gsellman

Fastball command continued to be a problem for Gsellman. To his arm side, it was occasionally unhittable and otherwise okay, but to his glove side it was flat and up. Unfortunately, d’Arnaud kept calling for that pitch, even after Gsellman had carved up some Marlins hitters with his curveball. The curve was great all night until Robert tried to throw it on a 3-2 count with the bases loaded and it didn’t break.

His line looks horrible, but he retired the Marlins in order in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th innings. The first 4 runs he allowed were the result of an error that was bizarrely scored a hit, and one bad pitch to Marcell Ozuna for a two-out grand slam. Then in the 5th he was left in after running out of gas, much like Wheeler.

What did you see?

Please share your observations in the comments!

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Our “Streaky” GM

Enjoying this hot streak? Living so close the Philadelphia, I sure am. Some silver-haired manager, I think it was either Tommy Lasorda or Whitey Herzog, once made a remark to the effect that you are never as good as you look when you are winning; nor are you as bad as you look when you are losing. The Met lineup, from top to bottom (and on the bench), is full of streaky hitters. After what seems like an interminable period of waving at outside breaking balls or popping weakly to corner infielders in foul ground, they will get white-hot, not only hitting homers in bunches, but also grounders that squirt through shifts or bloopers that fall in front of outfielders playing deep.

The most famous of these hot streaks was by one Daniel Thomas Murphy in the 2015 NLDS and NLCS. Unfortunately, he cooled off in the World Series (thanks Sports Illustrated), but all of his former teammates/current Mets are also guilty as charged. These up and down streaks have served the Mets well, at the end of the season many of the players end up with better than respectable power numbers and as the team’s PR shrills remind us on a daily basis, this Mets squad has made the postseason for consecutive years for only the second time in team history.

But, wanna know what Met has been on the biggest hot streak lately? Try GM Sandy Alderson. For years it seemed, he whiffed on his acquisitions, as you can read about that here. Then something happened. He made a few minor deals with Atlanta and Oakland in July of 2015. Those trades may have been the equivalent of taking extra BP. It was as if he flipped the switch and became the hottest GM on the planet. He had the incredible good luck of the Carlos Gomez deal falling through, which paved the way for his signature (to date) trade for Yoenis Cespedes. Yes was a costly trade, but Cespedes has emerged as this era’s Keith Hernandez or Mike Piazza. Like those two icons, the day Cespedes stepped onto the field wearing a Mets uniform, the team was elevated to true contender status.

Since then? Well, Alderson stole Addison Reed from the Diamondbacks (anybody remember that he claimed Mark Rzepczynski from the Padres a few hours before the Reed trade, only to have the Friars pull him back?) He let Murphy walk, which in retrospect was a bad move, but few of us minded at the time. He lost out on Ben Zobrist, but made a pair of good moves, getting Neil Walker for Jon Niese and signing Asdrubal Cabrerra to a very-team friendly deal. He correctly gauged the market for Cespedes not once, but twice. Antonio Bastardo was a mistake, but he was able to cut bait on him rather quickly. Nobody, including me, liked the Jay Bruce deal, but give Alderson credit: he stuck to his guns all winter in trade discussions. I’ll bet either Baltimore or the Giants would be very glad to re-open negotiations on that deal now. He has also been patient with Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas and as a result, along with Reed, the Mets have a solid late inning bullpen that is costing them less per year than what the Yankees are paying Aroldis Chapman.

Alderson hasn’t been perfect (see Murphy), but he has been right and probably more than a bit lucky a lot more in the past 18 months than he was in the previous 55 months as Mets GM. Not only that, but he stuck to his principles, not trading then under-the-radar prospects like Jacob deGrom or Robert Gsellman for veteran filler when the team was really tanking.

He’s hot right now. But even the great Frank Cashen, the architect of the last Mets World Championship went cold again. Cashen’s hot streak went from June of 1983 when he traded for Hernandez until December of 1986 when he traded Kevin Mitchell away. That marked the beginning of an ill-fated dismantling of a potential dynasty. For the record, Cashen’s hot streak lasted just about 40 months.

Here’s to another twenty-two good months from the current Mets GM.

 

 

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First Rotation

The Mets’ hopes for 2017 rest in large part on their starting pitching staff. On paper, the Nationals and Marlins have better hitting and defense, but the Mets’ rotation has the potential to blow the competition away… if they stay healthy.

A team’s group of starting pitchers is often referred to in baseball as “the rotation” for how it cycles from #1 through #5 (usually) then back to #1 again. Let’s take a look at the first rotation through the Mets’ pitching staff and note what we’ve seen. Is everyone looking healthy and effective?

 IPHRERBBKHRP 
Syndergaard650007086
deGrom620016096
Harvey6.232204277W
Wheeler465514180L
Gsellman563327191L

What I saw

Noah Syndergaard

Not his best location, but not bad either. Better downward movement on his change-up than I’ve ever seen. Usual great velocity, but that waned in the later innings along with slider command. Removed because of a blood blister on his middle finger, which probably accounts for some issues. I’ve always thought Noah was more effective when he pitched up and/or inside more than occasionally, and used his curve regularly as a change of speed. He did neither, which was fine against the Braves, but we’ll see against better opponents.

Jacob deGrom

Great fastball through three innings – not up to Jacob’s peak, but better than early 2016. After emphasizing his change-up during spring training, he didn’t throw it in this game; perhaps the cold was to blame. He showed great command of his slider, painting backdoor to lefties, something I’ve never seen from deGrom. This was the first time I’ve seen him throw the Warthen slider, with higher velocity and shorter break than in the past.

Jacob took a mighty swing at a high fastball in the 3rd inning and grimaced, and after that his velocity dropped from 94-96 to 92. Hopefully these two things are not related, and the reduced speed can be attributed to “first start, cold night”.

Matt Harvey

I saw the same Matt Harvey I saw early in games in 2016. Lots of strikes with different pitches, keeping hitters slightly off balance, but rarely hitting the glove or fully commanding anything. His fastball was mostly 94-95 with a little movement, and his secondary stuff was often elevated. The real test would have come with baserunners on, but the Braves never managed that – all of their batted balls went right to the defense, or over the wall.

I didn’t notice any signs of anything amiss, physically, but I also didn’t see the delivery I saw in 2013 and parts of 2015, when his arm seemed to come through more freely to get the ball down and to his glove side.

Zack Wheeler

Wheeler looked as good as I’ve ever seen him in the first inning, dotting the knees with a running fastball at 96. For the rest of the game, his fastball was all over the place, and his breaking balls were mostly hangers. His command of his secondary stuff was so poor that I’m wondering how much he’s actually pitched in the last two years and whether he ought to be progressing through the minors as he rediscovers his stuff. At least he didn’t fall back into the nibbling pattern that was his undoing in many starts in 2014.

His motion might be slightly improved, but is more or less as scary as ever. I am reminded a bit of Rich Harden.

Robert Gsellman

Gsellman’s best weapon wasn’t there – his two-seam fastball was running flat instead of sinking, and the Marlins destroyed the pitch. Fortunately, Gsellman kept the Mets in the game with some well-timed change-ups and well-placed curveballs. He also did an admirable job of keeping his composure through adversity, a great sign in his 8th big league start.

What did you see?

Please share your observations in the comments!

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Are the Mets better off than they were entering 2016?

This is the fourth annual article on this topic.
The 2014 edition is here.
The 2015 edition is here.
The 2016 edition is here.

The story so far…

After providing fans with an exquisite array of heartbreak, disappointment, frustration and disgust from 2007-2013, the Mets finally reversed course in 2014. Despite a 79-83 record, the 2014 season saw a big jump forward thanks to Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom and 6th-runner-ups Travis d’Arnaud and Jeurys Familia. Add in the emergence of Juan Lagares and Lucas Duda, and the progress of several top prospects, and the future finally looked bright. In 2015, that future arrived in late July, when acquisitions to bolster a weak supporting cast allowed the team’s exceptional starting pitching to carry the Mets all the way to game five of the World Series. Entering 2016, the New York baseball headlines eagerly questioned whether the Nationals had a realistic shot at the Mets, and whether the Mets had a realistic shot at “Best Rotation Ever.”

So what actually happened in 2016?

Well, the short answer is that the team finished 8 games behind the Nationals but won 87 games and made it to the Wild Card game, where a bad outing from Jeurys Familia was all Madison Bumgarner needed to send the Mets home for the winter.

The long answer is much more complicated. Very little went exactly as planned. There were a lot of disappointments, but also a lot of pleasant surprises. The pitching staff did excel, but that was less about Matt Harvey and more about minor leaguers stepping up and a career year for the team’s 8th inning guy. The Mets’ corner infield bats got hurt, but the middle infielders suddenly morphed into sluggers. Prospects backslid, and aging veterans turned it on late. Given their position in mid-August, playing past Game 162 was a triumph, and the 2016 team deserves as much credit for clutch play and intangibles as any Mets squad in recent memory.

Takeaways?

I’m not sure where all that leaves us going forward. Should Mets fans be optimistic based on two consecutive playoff appearances? Or should we be pessimistic based on the team’s worsening injury history, the projections which all favor the Nationals, and the fact that 2016’s path to success doesn’t exactly look repeatable? Should 2016 be viewed as this team’s toughest trial, or as the kind of grind they’ll need to endure every year if they hope to play in upcoming Octobers?

Let’s examine how the Mets’ roster has progressed since this time last year. I’ll focus on future takeaways, but also give some nods to 2016’s developments in the never-ending soap opera that is Mets fandom.

Stock Up, Stock Down

Catcher

Travis d’Arnaudstock: down
From 2013-2015, d’Arnaud juggled health, offense, and defense. He never put all three together at once, but seemed to be trending upward overall. That came to a halt in 2016, when he combined injury with poor play on both sides of the ball. The missed time and the ugly throwing would have been much easier to tolerate if he’d repeated his .485 slugging percentage from 2015; unfortunately, he cratered at .323 instead. Age 28 isn’t necessarily all that late in a catcher’s development, so d’Arnaud retains some of his ceiling, but he’s shown that his floor is way too low for a contending team’s comfort.

Kevin Plaweckistock: down

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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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