Aug 25

How The Mets Should Play Out Their Schedule

The Mets just released their batting order for today’s game and it has Wilmer Flores playing first base and Jay Bruce in right field.

Why?

Although they have not been mathematically eliminated, we all know their season has been over for months. Right now, the Mets are operating in limbo with their three-headed general manager, which puts Mickey Callaway’s job for 2019 on shaky ground.

BRUCE: Needs to play first. (AP)

BRUCE: Needs to play first. (AP)

There has been no mention in the media as of yet whether the Mets have begun their general manager’s search other than compiling names. If any of the candidates are their assistant general managers, the Mets don’t have to wait until the season is over. If Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon’s choice is John Ricco, J.P. Ricciardi or Omar Minaya, he can make the announcement now.

I’m concerned the Mets are dragging their feet to where they will miss out on their first choice. That being said, the Mets can still plan for 2019, and that begins with telling Callaway whom he should be playing and why.

If the Mets are sold on Flores as their first baseman of the future, then so be it, but we know that’s not true. We also know they have soured on Dominic Smith, who we also know can’t play the outfield.

Here’s what the Mets should do:

1)  From now until the end of the season, first base has to be Bruce’s position. As it is configured now, the outfield doesn’t have a place for Bruce with Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo playing the corners and Austin Jackson and Juan Lagares in center.

The Mets have talked about playing Bruce at first base, so if they don’t trade him – again – before the August 31 deadline, they should make the move permanent, because next season I want Conforto and Nimmo playing the corners. Including today’s game against the Nationals, the Mets have 34 games remaining, which is roughly a full spring training’s worth, to find out what can Bruce do at first base.

Should the Mets deal Bruce, then Smith should get the majority of the reps at first base. There is no reason why Flores should play first over Bruce and Smith.

Assuming Flores comes back next season it should be coming off the bench and play a rotation of a game at third, one at second and one at first. That accomplishes two things: 1) it gives Flores enough playing time to keep him sharp in the field and at the plate, and 2) it enables next year’s manager to rest Todd Frazier, Amed Rosario and Bruce once a week.

2) Jeff McNeil should get the reps at second base. This would also be an appropriate time to see if he can fill in at third and shortstop in a pinch.

The Mets should go into the offseason with second base a minor concern. It should be McNeil’s job to lose going into the offsason.. He had two morre hits today.

3) If the Mets are serious about a six-man rotation, which I doubt they are, then go for it. There are enough games remaining to go through a six-man rotation five times. That would be Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, Jason Vargas and Seth Lugo.

Giving deGrom a chance to win a Cy Young Award is fine, but let’s face it, the most games he could possibly win are 13, which shouldn’t be enough to catch Max Scherzer, who is 16-6, and Aaron Nola, who is at 15-3.

It has been a lost season for Vargas, but he’s come off the disabled list and has pitched three strong games in a row.

I would like to see Lugo get some starts as to enhance his trade value. If anything, I would consider shutting down Matz for the final month. He’s been horrid lately and has a sore arm. Running Matz out there five more times can only hurt him. If he shows no progress in his next start tomorrow, then out he goes.

4) Figure Robert Gsellman as next year’s closer. With Jeurys Familia gone and AJ Ramos on the disabled list, this could give them a heads-up on their winter shopping.

If the Mets do these things, it won’t solve all their problems, but could settle one or two issues, or at least give their incoming general manager something to work with.

 

 

Apr 17

Mets Not In Tailspin … Yet

Two losses do not a tailspin make for the Mets, but red flags are waiving. And, if not checked, they have the possibility to derail a season. Let’s take a look at some ugly numbers:

  • The Nationals stole three more bases, and all three runners scored. The final was 5-2, so you do the math. Opposing runners have stolen 21 bases in 22 attempts this season. When the Mets are hitting, it can overshadow that weakness.
  • The Mets went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11 runners overall. They’ve been leaving a lot of runners on lately and that must change.
  • The strikeouts continue to mount. Mets hitters continue to strike out at an alarming rate. They fanned 12 times tonight. Overall, five Mets starters have more strikeouts than hits: Todd Frazier (17-15), Amed Rosario (16-12), Michael Conforto (12-8), Jay Bruce (13-11) and Yoenis Cespedes (27-13).
  • The starters’ pitch counts continue to be too high for the number of innings worked. Mickey Callaway liked how well Wheeler threw, but 99 pitches over six innings don’t cut it.

Callaway said during spring training that he didn’t care about the Mets’ record, just that they played well. There’s no reason to be concerned about two straight losses. There is a reason, however, to be concerned about how they have played the last two games, even if it wasn’t the Nationals.

Apr 16

Bullpen Collapses To Waste DeGrom Start

How the Mets respond from losing tonight will send a greater message to the Nationals than their 12-2 record going into the game, which includes a sweep in Washington the first week in April. The here-to-fore excellent Mets’ bullpen coughed up a five-run, eighth-inning lead – and in the process kicked away a brilliant outing from Jacob deGrom – in a potentially defining moment for both teams.

Will the Nationals build off their 8-6 victory and this climb their way back to the top of the NL East? Or, will the Mets revert to the form most expected of them heading into this season?

Or, can they brush this off and keep showing their early-season resiliency?

“It’s one inning — it wasn’t even a game,” manager Mickey Callaway said of the crazy eighth in which five Mets’ relievers faced 12 Washington hitters and gave up six runs. “We outplayed them for the rest of the game. We just have to realize it was one bad inning, we didn’t get the job done. We’ll learn from it and make sure it doesn’t throw us into some kind of tailspin because we’re a real good team and we’ve been showing that.”

That Callaway would even the acknowledge the possibility of one game exploding into a slide shows an understanding of recent Mets’ history.

DeGrom cruised into the eighth, but quickly gave up hits to two of the first three hitters he faced. Callaway went to Seth Lugo, who walked the only hitter he faced to load the bases. Enter Jerry Blevins to face Bryce Harper, who greeted him with a two-run single.

AJ Ramos came in and gave up a single and bases-loaded walk to former Met Matt Reynolds. Then say hello to Jeurys Familia, who gave up a two-run single and another bases-loaded walk. Callaway might expect one or two relievers to have problems, but not the entire bullpen.

“It’s a rare thing. It shouldn’t happen, but maybe guys shut down mentally,’’ Callaway said his relievers collectively mailed it in because they didn’t expect to pitch.

Ramos wanted no part of that thinking.

“We pride ourselves on being ready,’’ Ramos said. “We just didn’t get the job done. There are no excuses.’’

None at all.

 

Apr 07

Mets Wrap: Matz Keeps Club Streak Hot

Much, much better was Steven Matz today for the Mets. Hammered by St. Louis in his previous start, Matz was everything the Mets could have hoped for in today’s 3-2 victory at Washington.

MATZ: Marked improvement. (AP)

MATZ: Marked improvement. (AP)

Once again Matz threw too many pitches for the innings worked – 93 over five innings – but this time for the most part he avoided getting hit. He allowed three singles, walked two and struck out eight while giving up an unearned run.

“There was a lot more confidence,’’ manager Mickey Callaway said. “Total conviction on most of his pitches. You could see it in the way he released the ball. He did a great job of making an adjustment.’’

Matz said pitching coach Dave Eiland helped him finish off his pitches.

“It was just a minor adjustment, something I was doing in spring training as well early on, just not having that last bit of conviction with my pitch,’’ Matz said. “Mentally and physically as well, just finishing.’’

BORN TO RUN: Mets’ pitching has been terrific so far, but an old nemesis resurfaced today as the Nationals stole five bases. Even so, the Mets still managed to escape. That’s a problem that must be corrected because they won’t always be so lucky as they were today.

“We have to do a better job,’’ Callaway said. “We don’t want runners going at will against us.’’

Matz gave up for stolen bases but said he wasn’t worried, “because none of them scored,’’ which isn’t the right attitude to have.

ROSARIO MAKES SENSE LEADING OFF: They won’t do it now because you never want to mess with a streak, but if Amed Rosario stays hot, shouldn’t the Mets consider moving him to the leadoff spot? After all, he’s the fastest Met.

LAGARES STARS IN CENTER: Centerfielder Juan Lagares came up with the play of the game when he threw out Brian Goodwin at the plate in the second inning.

“That feels great, especially how the game was,” said Lagares. “I felt great in the moment.’’

Mar 08

Mets’ Top Five Questions As Opening Day Looms

Opening Day is three weeks from today and there’s more than a foot of snow outside my door. The Mets lost today and now are 5-9 this spring. Today the Nationals lit up Jeurys Familia for five runs.

Results and stats don’t matter in spring training. It’s about getting ready for the season and right now Mickey Callaway’s team isn’t ready. Far from it.

Callaway and GM Sandy Alderson have a boatload of questions that must be addressed before the Cardinals get to town.

The following are the top five:

  1. What is the rotation?

A: There are four givens – Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Jason Vargas – with Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo competing for the fifth spot.

  1. What is the make-up of the front end of the bullpen?

A: Familia, AJ Ramos, Anthony Swarzak and Jerry Blevins are the givens at the back end.  If Gsellman and Lugo don’t start, one of them could end up in the pen. So might Rafael Montero, who is out of options. Jamie Callahan, Paul Sewald, Jacob Rhame and Hansel Robles will compete for the final spot or two.

  1. Who is the leadoff hitter?

A: Brandon Nimmo is the best bet because of his on-base percentage. But, will the Mets commit to him in center field until Michael Conforto returns or will they go with a platoon of Nimmo and Juan Lagares until then? Amed Rosario has the speed, but a poor on-base percentage. It could end up being Asdrubal Cabrera, who has a passable on-base percentage and can add some pop.

  1. Is there a healthy first baseman?

A: Adrian Gonzalez has a bad back and Dominic Smith has a bum leg. Other than me, nobody ever mentions Wilmer Flores, who is destined never to get a fair shake with the Mets.

  1. How healthy is Yoenis Cespedes?

A: He played only 81 games last year with a quad injury and is having a slow spring. If the Mets are to be competitive, they need a big year from Cespedes.