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 15

How Can You Not Be Happy For Bruce?

I channel surfed during Mets-Cubs last night to Indians-Royals. I love that history is being made in Cleveland, my hometown, and was especially happy to see Jay Bruce drove in the game-winner. After what he went through last season, and how he rebounded this year, how can you not cheer for a guy like that?

BRUCE: Happy for him. (AP)

                        BRUCE: Happy for him. (AP)

Meanwhile, the Mets remain rudderless, with no viable veteran presence.

Unless the money is so overwhelming, why would Bruce want to come back to the Mets? Seriously, if I’m Bruce, I know I already have enough money to live comfortably for the rest of my life. If the Indians make a viable offer, I’d stay in Cleveland rather than come back to the toxic atmosphere permeating around the Mets.

We can assume manager Terry Collins won’t be coming back, and with him will likely go the coaching staff. What will be constant is probably GM Sandy Alderson and his penny-pinching ways.

We can assume Michael Conforto won’t be ready for Opening Day, and possibly the same applies to Yoenis Cespedes. Alderson is already on record saying don’t expect an increase in salary, so Bruce would probably get a low-ball offer, and if he’s crazy enough to take it, he won’t be getting much help.

Why would he put himself through that again?

Alderson says he expects the Mets to compete next season, predicated of course, on their young pitching. But, Jacob deGrom is the ace, but with only 14 wins. Matt Harveys rehab is three starts – one good; two bad – and after losing to the Cubs Wednesday he said there’s been nothing positive. It sounds like he defeated mentally.

As far as Noah Syndergaard is concerned, I’m happy he’s dating a supermodel, but his rehab has stalled. He’s playing catch now, but nobody can say for sure when he’ll get in a game. So, like Harvey, Syndergaard is a question. So are Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz. Seth Lugo, hammered last night and Robert Gsellman, torched in the series opener, regressed to where they’ll go into spring training with no defined roles.

Catcher, the entire infield save shortstop, and at least one outfield position are up for grabs next season. So, I ask you, unless Alderson blows him away with an offer – and we know that won’t happen – why would Bruce even think of coming back here?

 

Jul 08

Just As Well Colon Goes To Twins

Initially, I advocated the Mets re-sign Bartolo Colon, but it is just as well he hooked on with Minnesota on a minor league deal on Friday. Colon was released by Atlanta, July 4, and the Mets expressed immediate interest.

COLON: Signs with Twins. (FOX Sports)

COLON: Signs with Twins. (FOX Sports)

“We made a strong effort to re-sign Bartolo,’’ Mets GM Sandy Alderson said in a statement. “But he decided to go elsewhere.’’

If the Mets were in a serious pennant race, then sure, go for it. Colon might give the Mets a few good starts and eat up some innings. But, on second thought, they aren’t and have several arms they still must learn about in Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo and Rafael Montero.

Assuming they stay healthy, they could get up to ten starts in the second half. That should provide the Mets enough of a litmus test for them to make some decisions about the future. Gsellman and Lugo pitched roughly half a season for the Mets in 2016 and their performances this year have been spotty at best. And, Montero has a lot to prove.

And, considering Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey are coming off injuries, to have established depth would be essential assuming the Mets believe they can contend next year.

Every personnel decision Alderson makes has to be with next year in mind and Colon would be nothing more than a stop-gap because the Mets wouldn’t sign him for 2018.

 

 

Jul 06

What Should Mets Do At Deadline?

Let’s assume the Mets have already decided they will be sellers at the trade deadline. And, let’s carry that assumption a step further and say GM Sandy Alderson will be aggressive.

What then, are the Mets’ options and how should Alderson play this?

GSELLMAN: Don't trade him. (AP)

GSELLMAN: Don’t trade him. (AP)

IDENTIFY TOP ASSETS: The Mets have four players that should draw considerable interest: Addison Reed, Jerry Blevins, Lucas Duda, Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson.

Reed: Relievers always draw interest this time of year, and if the Mets are on the fence as to bringing back Reed in 2018, Alderson should get a lot of calls on him. The big gamble is that if they trade Reed and Jeurys Familia doesn’t return from his injury the Mets could be closer shopping.

Blevins: A lefty reliever who can also close is also very valuable. The concern here that Terry Collins might have burned out Blevins, thereby reducing his value.

Duda: This guy has remarkable, but also streaky power. For a team needing left power, or a first baseman, or a pinch-hitter, Duda fills those needs. The Mets are high on Dominic Smith, so bringing back Duda might be a stretch.

Bruce: He’s having an All-Star caliber season, so how can a team needing a power hitting outfielder not be interested? The risk in dealing Bruce is that if Yoenis Cespedes comes up lame again next year the Mets will be shopping for a bat again.

Granderson: If the asking price for Bruce is deemed too high, Granderson could be a good Plan B. However, Granderson has been hot over the past month which could draw more interest than otherwise expected.

GIVE TIME TO THE DESERVING: Michael Conforto, who is an All-Star by the way, T.J. Rivera and Wilmer Flores always seem to get the wrong end of the stick. They need to play and play every day. We know Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera won’t be with the Mets next season, so do we really need to see more of them?

DON’T GIVE UP YOUNG PITCHING: Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo haven’t pitched to expectations, but unless the Mets are blown away they should hold on to both. With all the pitching injuries the Mets have experienced this season – all but Jacob deGrom have been on the disabled list – they’d be wise to keep their depth.