Nov 15

Mets’ Pitching Plan Has Questions

On the surface, the plan the Mets are currently mulling about preventing their starters from going through the order a third time makes a lot of sense. All the numbers point to a starter losing effectiveness the longer he stays in the game. They all can’t be Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber or Jacob deGrom.

DE GROM: It all begins with him. (AP)

DE GROM: It all begins with him. (AP)

It is common practice during the postseason, but at that time a manager has more off days in which to rest relievers and can replace the fifth starter with a long reliever in which to plug in.

“We will not allow our guys to struggle the third time through the lineup if we can avoid it,’’ Mets manager Mikey Callaway said at the General Managers Meetings. “We want them to be the best versions of themselves and have success. There are so many factors that will come into play you just can’t simply say that you are going to leave guys in until a certain point or take them out in a certain point.’’

For that plan to work during the regular season a team needs a solid rotation, a flexible bridge to work the middle innings, and a strong back end of the bullpen.

Of the three, the Mets only have the last one.

It begins with a strong starting rotation, one which means all five starters have to consistently go at least five innings, but preferably six. The Mets have deGrom and lots of issues from two through five:

Noah Syndergaard is coming off a partially torn lat muscle and only got in a couple of innings in late summer. While he is optimistic, we simply don’t know what to expect from him. Sure, it would be nice to pencil in 30 starts and 200 innings, but …

Matt Harvey did not respond well to thoracic surgery. He was rushed back and sustained a stress injury. The best thing the Mets can hope for is a strong first half to draw trade interest at the deadline. There’s no more talk about winning 20 games, winning the Cy Young or being signed to a long-term contract.

Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler are both coming off surgery and nobody knows what to expect, let alone them averaging five innings over 30 starts.

Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Rafael Montero and Chris Flexen all made starts, but none have defined roles entering spring training. If the projected rotation performs, then any of them can be slotted in to work multiple innings several times a week, but we don’t know if they can do it in back-to-back games.

These four can also be inserted into the rotation if any of the projected five starters struggle, but if not they could work out of the pen. The questions in the middle of the game and possibility of the anticipated starters breaking down is why GM Sandy Alderson traded for relievers last July.

Granted Alderson added quantity and is open to reacquiring Joe Smith and signing Bryan Shaw. But, how much is he willing to spend? Mets’ history dictates he won’t do it; four relievers making $7 million or more is just not in their DNA.

For this plan to work the Mets need all three facets of their pitching staff to perform, but there are too many questions and issues working against them.

Oct 24

Callaway’s Things To Do List

Mickey Callaway was probably working on “Things To Do’’ list the moment he talked to Sandy Alderson on the phone asking his interest in managing the Mets. Odds are, he went over the list during the interview.

Here’s what I’m guessing is on that list:

Meet with Alderson: Callaway and Alderson will meet to discuss among other things: what went wrong in 2017 for the Mets; issues Alderson must be consulted on; the coaching staff; injuries; pitching issues; preliminary roster evaluation; and spring training.

Coaching staff: Everybody wants to know who Callaway will choose to be pitching coach. Much was made about collaboration at yesterday’s introductory press conference. Will Callaway have free reign? Not on all matters, but it’s doubtful Alderson will bully him on that choice. If Callaway has a name in mind, I’m guessing Alderson won’t stand in his way.

Callaway hopes to develop his coaching staff the same way Terry Francona did in Cleveland.

“[Francona] empowered me to do everything I could to make us the most successful staff we could be,’’ Callaway said. “I realized very quickly that I’m not just a pitching coach, I have to manage all these people and their personalities. I know there’s a process for that.’’

Odds are hitting coach Kevin Long won’t be back. He’ll interview to replace Dusty Baker in Washington, where he’ll undoubtedly get a hearty endorsement from Daniel Murphy.

Since this is Callaway’s first managerial assignment – and let’s hope it lasts for a decade or more – he’ll need a strong bench coach, one not to be afraid to voice his opinion and be a yes man.

Talk with the players: Callaway said at least a half-dozen times he plans to tell the players he cares about them. Presumably, that will include talking with Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes about their off-season workout programs that resulted in season-ending injuries.

Callaway and his pitching coach will undoubtedly spend a lot of time talking with the staff. He’ll ask pointed questions trying to ascertain the cause of the injuries. For Syndergaard that would mean his off-season weight training and for Matt Harvey that would mean being rushed back.

Evaluate the roster: He and Alderson will evaluate the current roster as to ascertain holes and needs. Considering the pitching injuries, that would likely include adding a starter and another reliever.

Among the first things they’ll have to determine is the likelihood of Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Cespedes and Michael Conforto will be ready for spring training.

Preliminary decisions could also be made on Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera.

Find another Miller: Unfortunately, they won’t get the real Andrew Miller, but Callaway will look at his relievers in the hope finding the Mets’ best facsimile. That might also include considering starters Harvey, Wheeler, Rafael Montero, Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman for that role.

Baseball has changed and that includes bullpen roles. Francona and Callaway were on the cutting edge with how they used Miller so you’ll have to presume he’ll bring that role to New York.

Defining an offensive philosophy: Alderson loves Sabermetrics, which emphasize home runs at the cost of strikeouts.

Cleveland’s offense incorporated power with situational hitting, a high on-base percentage and speed. I hope Callaway brings some of that to the Mets.

Living solely on power hasn’t gotten it done for the Mets.

 

Sep 21

There’s No Use Pushing Syndergaard

Sure, it would be good to see Noah Syndergaard pitch again this season for the Mets, even if it is an inning of relief. However, that one inning won’t answer any important questions. It might even raise a couple if Syndergaard were to reinjure himself.

Ideally, the Mets wanted Syndergaard to start several times and build up to perhaps a dozen to 15 innings. That might have given the Mets an idea where Syndergaard stood in his rehab, and if nothing else, alleviate his anxiety.

That’s not happening now, but it doesn’t matter because those 15 innings would have only given the Mets an idea about Syndergaard’s partially torn lat muscle, but not answered fully all his questions.

After throwing 39 pitches in a simulated game Monday, Syndergaard could be given clearance to pitch. It’s really important to Syndergaard to get out there before the season ends a week from Sunday.

“It’s a personal thing for me,” Syndergaard told reporters. “I am getting really anxious. I spent three or four months rehabbing, and if at this point they are going to shut me down, what really was the whole point of all that? I feel I worked really hard in the rehab process and I just really want to get out there and prove I can come back from that kind of injury healthy.”

What was the whole point? It’s hard to believe he really said that, but then again, he’s said a lot of crazy things lately. When Syndergaard hurt himself, by his own stubbornness in first by bulking up without consulting the Mets, and secondly, with his refusal to undergo an MRI. His injury and lost season are totally on him.

If Syndergaard doesn’t pitch again this season, he’ll go into the winter with questions, and subsequently, spring training. That makes three significant questions including Zack Wheeler (stress reaction in his arm) and Steven Matz (elbow surgery).

“There is a process to get a player ready to play the game,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “The only way we know what we are looking at all winter long is to see where we are at the end of the year, such as with two guys who can’t pitch right now, we don’t know where we are with them down the road.’’

The Mets are trying to learn what they can with Matt Harvey, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo and Rafael Montero.

That’s seven potential starters, each with a significant question. That’s what the Mets are all about these days, and pitching is supposed to be their strong suit. So, while it would be good to see Syndergaard pitch  again this year, it isn’t imperative.

Sep 20

Montero Falters Again

There was a stretch in August when Rafael Montero was one of the few Mets worth watching and it looked as if he was pitching for a 2018 rotation spot. However, September brought us back to the old Montero.

Montero struggled again in today’s 9-2 loss in Miami, and with it he’s been off in three of his last four starts.

Perhaps August earned Montero an opportunity to compete next spring, but if his final starts this season continue like his most recent, then he’ll have a short leash.

Montero isn’t challenging hitters on the inner half of the plate as he did in August, and more importantly he’s not limiting the damage and putting away innings.

Today he left after four innings, giving up five runs on seven hits boosting his ERA to 6.16 for this month.
The Montero we saw in August was worth watching. Today’s Montero, not so much.

Sep 17

Gsellman Has Positive Audition For 2018

Today, he was the good Robert Gsellman. The Mets will take every start what they got from Gsellman – one unearned run in seven innings – but unfortunately for both parties, he has only provided glimpses of today’s production every other start at best.

“Just trying to finish strong for these guys so we can have some good momentum heading into next spring,’’ Gsellman told reporters after the Mets’ 5-1 victory over the Braves. “Just trying to keep it rolling.’’

GSELLMAN: Makes 2018 statement. (AP)

GSELLMAN: Makes 2018 statement. (AP)

Gsellman, like Seth Lugo, came up at midseason in 2016 and joined an injury-ravaged rotation to pitch the Mets into the playoffs. However, because of the combination of injuries and poor performance, neither have pitched to expectations, or even to where they have defined roles heading into spring training.

Gsellman should get another two starts, and if he duplicates today’s production, he would have to be considered for a rotation spot. In addition to his line, Gsellman did two things that were positive. The first was going seven innings because length defines a starter.

The second, and this was the most important thing I took from the game, came in the seventh after a pair of Amed Rosario errors, when he pitched out of it with only one run against him. When a starter can limit damage him that late in the game when he’s getting tired, that’s about as positive as you can get.

“I thought I worked well out of it,” Gsellman said. “I tried to pick up Rosario. We all make mistakes.”

As of now, Jacob deGrom, who beat the Braves Saturday, is the only given in next season’s rotation. Noah Syndergaard’s rehab took another step backward and the Mets don’t know if he’ll get into a game this season. Matt Harvey has been hit hard in his rehab games. Harvey lost two of his three starts this month with a 12.19 ERA and 20 hits allowed.

Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler won’t pitch again until next spring. Rafael Montero took the loss, but pitched well Friday against the Braves.

So, in looking at next year, deGrom is the only answered question. Gsellman and Montero pitched well this weekend to make their cases for next season, but nothing definitive.