Category Archives: Mets

The Benefits of Tanking: How deGrom and the Mets Should Learn from the Sixers, Angelina, and Octomom

As you likely know, Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom is in the midst of an epic season in which he has a .97 WHIP, 1.85 ERA, and 173 strikeouts in 22 starts (one of which he left after one inning, due to rain/injury).  This has put him in a tight race with the Nationals’ Max Scherzer for the National League Cy Young Award.  Of course, I should also mention that deGrom has all of 5 wins (5-7 record) this season.  Thus, he is on pace to earn a total of 7 or 8 wins.  Even if one looks at the Mets’ team record in deGrom’s starts (which leads into my view on how MLB should change its wins stat), one will see a sub-.500 record for deGrom and the Mets.

Image result for degrom
Via CBSSports.com

As a result of all this, what course of events over the next eight weeks would be most optimal for both deGrom’s Cy Young candidacy and his legacy?  I believe the best result for him would be to endure more of the same stuff that has happened for the first four-plus months of this season: more and more outings in which deGrom earns a loss while pitching 7 or 8 innings of 1-run ball.  While that would be bad for the Mets overall, it would be the best thing that could happen to deGrom.  Hear me out here…

Max Scherzer has 15 wins this season and is a safe bet to reach 20.  If deGrom maintains his own current pace toward 7 or 8 wins, Scherzer will destroy deGrom in the “Wins” department.  This occurrence would prop up the vitality of the “Poor poor Jacob deGrom” storyline.  Cy Young voters would likely ignore the “Wins” totals altogether.  The stat is already of waning importance to voters, and voters would use the 12-13-win gap between Scherzer and deGrom to a) provide the ultimate proof that the “Wins” stat is silly and b) stamp deGrom’s 2018 season as the ultimate “dominant season on a terrible team”.  As long as deGrom maintains his strong ERA edge and beats or comes close to Scherzer in strikeouts, Jake should earn the Cy Young Award with the help of the two aforementioned thoughts of voters.

What happens though if the Mets somehow bring deGrom 8 wins between now and the end of the season?  I know that a team regularly starting Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista, and Wilmer Flores is unlikely to win 8 games period the rest of the season, but let us play “What if?” anyway.  In this hypothetical situation, deGrom would end the season with 13 wins.  That sounds good at first thought, but deGrom would now have a win total that is closer to representative of his 2018 performance.  In actuality, he likely will have pitched well enough to have earned 20 wins with 26 of the 29 other offense/bullpen combinations in baseball.  That said, the deGrom pity party would nevertheless be much smaller if he has 13 wins, compared to if he has 7 or 8 wins.  The gap between 13 wins and Scherzer’s 20 wins is small enough to make the “Wins” mark a legitimate factor in the Cy Young voting.  At the same time, Scherzer will have earned 7 more than deGrom.  All of a sudden, many of deGrom’s pity votes will change to Scherzer votes as the “Wins” debate is ironically legitimized.

Image result for scherzer
Via BeyondtheBoxScore

Meanwhile, if deGrom ends this season with 7 or 8 wins, baseball fans and writers will remember his season forever.  Someday, when deGrom’s name appears on the Hall of Fame ballot, voters will be quick to add 12 wins to his career “Wins” total on the grounds of “He should have won 20 games in that legendary 2018 season”.  This would be true even though many modern-day starters have great seasons that result in only 13 to 16 wins, due to lack of bullpen/offensive support.  This is why, if deGrom actually makes it to 13 wins this year, future Hall of Fame voters will not “tack on any wins” when analyzing his career.  Therefore, deGrom would lose out on “7 wins” in the minds of many voters, who would likely be overly generous in pretending an 8-win season is a 20-win season.

Anyway, this way of thinking might seem crazy to you, but it demonstrates one of the basic principles of life in the 21st Century.  You are better off having extreme misery than minor inconvenience.  Extreme misery sells, while nobody cares about minor inconveniences.

For example, would you rather give birth to triplets or octuplets?  Well, first off, I give major props to the woman birthing either.  That said, it is a lot of money and work to raise triplets.  It should cost an exorbitant amount of money and work to raise octuplets, but you are also 90% likely to get your own TV show if you have octuplets.  That TV show will give you a whole lot of money which will allow you can make ends meet.  If you have 3 kids, nobody is giving you a TV show…or money.  You have to take care of those three kids on your own.  Therefore, it might indirectly become easier to raise octuplets than triplets.

Actually, this “extreme misery sells” concept is the whole premise of reality TV.  As another example, Angelina showed up on Jersey Shore: Family Reunion this season looking like a complete mess.  Not a big deal.  Not super-memorable.  However, she then had a “period-sh!t” on TV, and, all of a sudden, we were blessed with the most memorable moment of the season.  Being a garden-variety complete mess was a minor inconvenience for Angelina, but I would like to think that having the entire world remember her as being “period-sh!t girl” is extreme misery….except for the fact that she has stayed much more relevant, famous, and (therefore) rich because of it.  Extreme misery pays off.

Basically, this extreme misery is just “life tanking”.  For years, the 76ers knew that they were not good enough to compete for NBA Championships, so Philly was better off losing to earn better draft picks.  Now, the team is good and ready to compete for championships.  Was Angelina really that different from the Sixers?  Had Angelina been merely “normal-level trashy”, it would have been like having “only” triplets”, deGrom winning 13 games this year, or the Sixers churning out a few #8-seeds and non-lottery draft picks.  Instead, Angelina showed that she could “trust the process” by doing the “period sh!t”, something that 99% of women would not want to do in front of even one other human, much less the whole country.  The action was memorably disgusting but led her back to fame and money.  Angelina was not going to use success to earn fame or fortune, so she tanked her way to fame and fortune.

Therefore, if the Mets want to earn deGrom a Cy Young Award and augment his Hall of Fame credentials, they should put the worst-possible lineups on the field every time deGrom makes a start.  In other words, the Mets can continue doing EXACTLY what they have been doing for deGrom for four months, and deGrom will achieve his “extreme misery” and his Sixers/Angelina/Octomom payoff in the form of a Cy Young Award.  Keep trusting the process, Jake and the Mets.

Mickey Callaway is Going to Be One-and-Done

Like Michael Kay, I too do not like talking about whether or not people should be fired.  It is tough for someone to lose his/her livelihood, and I do not like to go there.  At the same time, I am OK discussing whether or not I think somebody WILL be fired. That brings us now to a discussion of the New York Mets’ manager.  At this time, I would be completely shocked if Mickey Callaway returns to manage the Mets in 2019.  I know that it seems harsh to fire a manager after only one year on the job, but there are three major reasons why I expect Callaway to be let go.

1)     He is not a good manager: Let us start with the most obvious reason.  The job of baseball manager has two main components – strategy and leadership.  It would appear that Callaway struggles with both.  In terms of strategy, there have been far too many times when Callaway has made indefensible decisions.  I am not talking about leaving a starting pitcher in for one batter too many or one batter too few; I am also not talking about using his closer when he should not or using a non-closer when he should use his closer.  We criticize all managers about these decisions any time said decisions do not work.

No, I am talking about the obvious mistakes.  For example, in June, the Mets faced the Pirates at Citi Field.  In the Top of the 9th with 2 outs; first base was open, and the Pirates’ closer Felipe Vazquez was on deck.  It should have been a no-brainer to intentionally walk the batter, so that Vazquez would have to hit.  The Pirates had a lead, and it was a given that they would leave Vazquez (who had entered in the 8th) in the game.  Most of the time, there are fair arguments on both sides in baseball, but there was no valid case to be made against the intentional walk here.  Unfortunately, Callaway chose not to walk the guy.  That was bad.

Throw in times when Callaway has botched double-switches and the time when the Mets batted out of order, and one can make a strong case that Callaway is bad with strategy.  (I will admit that the “batting out of order” thing is a bit of a Rorschach test.  Had a good manager like Joe Maddon or Bruce Bochy overseen this gaffe, we would have laughed but not blamed the manager.  However, because it happened to Callaway, we assume that it was Callaway’s fault.)

Image result for mets bat out of order

As for leadership, I think Callaway is in worse standing there than he is with strategy.  It is conceivable that Callaway can improve from a strategic standpoint.  After all, he was previously a pitching coach in the American League; thus, the bulk of National League strategy was irrelevant to him in years’ past.  Unfortunately, leadership is a more difficult ability to change – typically you are either a good leader, or you are not.

Let us be clear.  I very very rarely criticize a manager’s (coach’s) leadership in any sport.  I think it is laughable when fans say things like, “The manager/coach has clearly lost the clubhouse/locker room”….as if we have any idea what is going on in those rooms.  These critics are the people who see a physical error and blame the manager.  Seriously, when the Yankees were 5-5 in April, I heard a guy call WFAN and claim that Aaron Boone was a bad manager because someone on the Yankees (I think it was Gregorious, but I am not certain) had made an error.  If I ever get to the point where I blame individual physical errors on the manager, please euthanize me.

However, it is reasonable both to blame managers for players’ mental errors and to believe a players-turned-announcer’s analysis that a manager has “lost the team”.  This is where Callaway finds himself in deep trouble.  I have never heard the Mets’ TV announcers – Gary, Keith, and Ron – show the same amount of disdain for a manager that they do for Mickey Callaway.  The disdain is never directly stated, but it is obvious.  A textbook example came during Wednesday’s 5-3 Mets loss in D.C.  Jose Bautista swung and missed for Strike Three, and the ball bounced to the backstop.  Bautista did not run and was called out.  Gary Cohen voiced his displeasure for Bautista’s stationary response, and Darling responded by saying that he was not surprised.  Darling explained that the Mets have not run out dropped third strikes all year long.  During Cohen’s and Darling’s dialogue, the disdain was obvious by the tones of their voices.

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Similarly, a few weeks ago, Keith Hernandez appeared on Mike Francesa’s show.  Francesa asked Keith if he thought Callaway was a good manager, and, in standard Francesa form, the question was long-winded and insinuated Francesa’s thoughts that Callaway was overmatched (either leadership-wise or strategically).  Keith responded with only “I expect Mickey to be the Mets’ manager next year.”  It was the ultimate case of “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  A damning comment from Keith….and yes, one that runs contrary to the basic premise of this article.

Anyway, the Mets have made many mental errors this year, such as Wilmer Flores not throwing home in Wednesday’s eighth inning.  Unlike with physical errors, a mental mistake is at least partially the manager’s fault.  A manager should do his best to ensure that all players know what to do in all situations.  Of course, players can make mental errors even if the manager has adequately prepared them to do the right thing.  Unfortunately, there have been too many mental errors for this year’s Mets for one not to wonder if the manager is partially to blame.  There have also been too many times when the Mets do not hustle.  Again, for that, it is fair to look toward the manager.

Does this mean that Callaway has lost the clubhouse?  On my own, I cannot say that.  However, there have been enough allusions from Gary, Keith, Ron, and even Nelson Figueroa (SNY Studio) that Callaway has no control over the team.  3 of those 4 were Major Leaguers, and the other has been around Mets teams for 30 years.  When they say that Callaway has “lost the team”, I believe them.

2)     The Mets need a scapegoat for this awful season.  If a team has an unexpectedly terrible season, there usually needs to be a scapegoat.  As the old adage goes, you cannot fire the whole team, but you can fire the manager.  Note that I wrote “unexpectedly” in the first sentence of this part.  The Mets lost 92 games last year, which is terrible.  When a team has a terrible season, it is usually reasonable to expect the next season to be terrible as well.  Fairly or not, though, most people viewed the 2018 Mets differently.

While people were not readily predicting the 2018 Mets to be a playoff team, most people assumed that 2017 would prove to be an aberration because Yoenis Cespedes and the Mets’ starting-pitching staff minus Jacob deGrom spent most of 2017 on the disabled list.  Therefore, it seemed reasonable that the 2018 Mets would be at least a .500 team and would be in the running for the second Wild Card.  Unfortunately for Callaway, Cespedes will end up spending most of 2018 on the DL as well, and the stats since the start of 2015 show that the Mets are much much better with Cespedes than without him.  At the same time, deGrom, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler have essentially been healthy all year to this point.  Noah Syndergaard has been healthy for 2 of the 4 months.  Seth Lugo has been healthy as well, and he made a few starts early in the season before moving effectively to the bullpen.

In a way, Callaway has actually been hurt by the fact that the starting pitching has done well this year.  We all hoped that the Mets’ pitchers would be better and healthier this year than last year, and that has been the case.  Therefore, the fact that this pitching success has led the Mets to a 44-61 record ends up making it worse on Callaway than if the pitchers had all been terrible.  Had the pitchers been terrible and/or hurt, we would likely be blaming the pitchers (who were terrible and/or hurt last year, pre-Callaway).

Many modern “Moneyball” people say that a manager does not matter.  I am a moderate in this debate.  When a team is 44-61 as the Mets are, not even Gil Hodges nor Tony LaRussa would not have made the team a playoff team.  The Mets are terrible primarily because they have bad players – especially position players.  That said, I think that the difference between a good manager and a bad manager is somewhere between 6 and 10 wins over a full season.  While any manager can and should rely primarily on all available statistics to guide his decisions, a good manager is also able to take advantage of knowledge like: which reliever says he has “good stuff” today, which batter had great batting practice today, which normally-good player is in a funk today because of a fight with his girlfriend, which player is feeling sick today, etc.  A good manager rarely loses games because his players make mental errors or do not hustle.  A good manager’s tough decisions end up correct more often than not.

It would seem that none of the previous paragraph applies to Callaway.  Thus, given that we are 2/3 of the way through the season, maybe the Mets would have 6 more wins with a better manager.  That would mean a 50-55 record, which is actually a world of difference from 44-61.  It would give the Mets a chance to finish over .500.  More importantly, it would make the Mets feel that they are on the way back after the disastrous 70-92 2017 season.

I would love for the Mets to sign Manny Machado next year, but I know it is not happening.  The Wilpons can try to sign several players who will make the Mets much better in 2018, or they can bring in a new manager.  If the Wilpons do the latter, they can preach a change of culture, accountability, etc.  Which option is better?  I would absolutely prefer better players, because that can make more than 6 to 10 wins worth of difference.  However, which is cheaper?  Bringing in a new manager.  That is the biggest reason why I expect a new manager in 2018.

3)     The Mets wreck their managers by not letting them appear on WFAN or ESPN Radio.  This needs to be said.  Most Mets fans think of Mickey Callaway as a buffoon, partially because we never get to hear our trusted sports-radio hosts – Francesa, Kay, LaGreca, Evan Roberts, Boomer, etc. – interview the guy.  The Mets do not let their personnel speak on radio stations other than 710 WOR, and, in so doing, they set up their managers for failure.  If we were able to hear Callaway be interviewed on a weekly basis, we would hear his answers to some of our questions.  Oftentimes, we think people are misguided until we hear them provide their actual rationales.  Unfortunately, we do not get this air time with Callaway.  All we get is plenty of hosts deservedly ridiculing him for saying, “We are going to love our players…”.  This is why Callaway could truly benefit from first-hand WFAN/ESPN Radio time.

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OK, maybe Callaway would not give us much more in hypothetical WFAN/ESPN interviews than he gives us in his postgame press conferences, but there is a multiplier effect in play.  Radio hosts are nicer when discussing people who are guests on the show than when discussing people who are not.  It is human nature.  This does not mean that the radio hosts have not spoken ill of Joe Girardi nor Aaron Boone at times.  However, hosts will give those guys the benefit of the doubt, because they have working relationships that lead the hosts to assume the best from the managers.  When have you heard any sports-radio personality give Callaway the benefit of the doubt?  It never happens, because the hosts do not have relationships with the guy.  This hurts Callaway.  There is never any positivity about Mickey Callaway when it comes to sports radio, and that influences fans’ perceptions.  The Mets ensure that their managers receive primarily negative radio coverage.  Not only is this bad for Callaway, but it will also hurt his replacement as Mets manager in 2019.

I know that Keith expects Callaway to be back next year, but I think this post is way too long for that to be the case.

A Less Familiar View on Familia

On Saturday, the Mets traded closer Jeurys Familia to the Oakland Athletics.  As we Mets fans close the book on the Familia era, I would like to make the case that he was a much better postseason pitcher the average Mets fan thinks he was.

Most often, when analyzing how good a player/pitcher somebody is/was, it is valid to look at the player’s career cumulative statistics.  While stats never tell the full picture, a large enough sample size of statistics does not lie either.  That said, for Jeurys Familia, we clearly do not have a large enough sample size to judge his postseason career on his cumulative save totals.  Familia is 5 for 8 in postseason save chances.  Thus, he has three career blown saves in the postseason.  Additionally, those three blown saves came in the World Series; thus, four of his past five postseason appearances yielded three blown saves (all in the World Series) and a loss in the 2016 Wild Card game.

Image result for familia blown save world series
Photo via Amazin’ Avenue

However, the guy has all of 13 career playoff appearances.  With a number that small, it is more logical to examine his performance on a game-by-game basis than a cumulative basis.  At the same time, it is worth noting that his playoff ERA is 2.30, and his playoff WHIP is an incredible .638!  Those two numbers should give you pause when deriding the guy’s playoff career.  More importantly, let us examine his 13 playoff outings:

  • 2015 NLDS Game 1 at Los Angeles: Familia pitches 1.1 innings with and retires all four batters he faces. He enters a 3-1 game in the 8th with two outs and a runner on base.  At Dodger Stadium in this instance, many pitchers might struggle, but Familia does not.  Familia is unfazed by the pressure and dominates.
  • 2015 NLDS Game 3 vs. Los Angeles: Familia retires all 3 batters he faces in the 9th The inning begins with the Mets leading 13-4.  After Erik Goeddel allows the first four batters to reach base, Familia comes on to stop the bleeding and preserve a 13-7 win.  This is a low-pressure situation, but he is perfect nonetheless.
  • 2015 NLDS Game 4 vs. Los Angeles: Familia pitches a perfect Top of the 9th to keep the Dodgers’ lead at 3-1. The Mets lose the game, but Familia remains perfect for his postseason career.
  • 2015 NLDS Game 5 at Los Angeles: If you are a real Mets fan, you think after this game, “Oh my God, we might have our Mariano.” It is a winner-take-all game, and Familia pitches perfect 8th and 9th innings at Dodger Stadium with the Mets clinging to a 3-2 lead in the game.  If Armando Benitez, John Franco, Braden Looper, Billy Wagner, or Francisco Rodriguez is the Mets’ pitcher this night; I think the Mets lose the game.  Fortunately, Familia has ice water in his veins and finishes off one gem of a pitching performance for the Mets (6 gutty innings from Jacob deGrom and a solid relief inning from Noah Syndergaard).
  • 2015 NLCS Game 1 vs. Chicago: Ho-hum: Familia records his third postseason save of more than one inning (1.1). This time, he does allow a hit, but he nevertheless preserves a 4-2 win for the Mets and Matt Harvey, who pitched 7.2 innings.  (Side note: With all of the ridiculously short starting pitchers’ outings in the 2016 and 2017 postseasons, it is refreshing to remember that the Mets’ starters routinely pitched at least 6 innings and often more during the 2015 playoffs.)
  • 2015 NLCS Game 2 vs. Chicago: Ho-hum again: Familia records his first easy (in my opinion) save of the postseason. He allows 1 hit over 1 inning in preserving a 4-1 Mets win.  Even Trevor Hoffman probably could have converted this save.
  • 2015 NLCS Game 3 at Chicago: Another easy one: Familia pitches a perfect ninth to finish off a 5-2 Mets win.
  • 2015 NLCS Game 5 at Chicago: Familia earns the right to be on the mound as the Mets clinch their first pennant in 15 years. He pitches a scoreless 9th and walks one batter.  The Mets win 8-3.

 

Therefore, as we presently stand, Familia has put together 8 scoreless appearances with only 3 baserunners allowed.  He is 5-for-5 in save opportunities, with 3 of those saves being more than one inning long.  Anyway, back to the log.

  • 2015 World Series Game 1 at Kansas City: Familia enters in the 8th inning with the tying run on base. Familia records the last out of the inning but allows a game-tying solo homer to Alex Gordon in the 9th  Thus, Familia’s line is 1.1 innings, 1 ER, 1 baserunner (the homer), 1 blown save.  It is the first blemish on Familia’s postseason record.  The Mets lose the game in 14 innings.
  • 2015 World Series Game 3 vs. Kansas City: Familia pitches a perfect 9th to preserve a 9-3 Mets win and to give the Mets their first win of the World Series. In hindsight, people criticize manager Terry Collins for using Familia with a 6-run lead.  On one hand, Collins used Familia with a bigger lead in Game 3 of the NLDS, and Familia looked no worse for wear in Games 4 and 5 of that series.  On the other hand, this World Series appearance represents Familia’s 10th postseason appearance in three weeks.  Thus, fatigue is likely becoming a bigger factor.  How does Familia respond going forward?…
  • 2015 World Series Game 4 vs. Kansas City: Familia pitches 2/3 of an inning (8th inning), allowing an unearned run and two hits. This is where the raw stats do not tell the story.  Mets fans know the story.  Familia enters in the Top of the 8th with the Mets clinging to a 1-run lead.  There are runners on 1st and 2nd with 1 out.  Eric Hosmer hits a ground ball to second baseman Daniel Murphy.  At worst, this should be a 4-3 ground out that puts runners at second and third with 2 outs.  Instead, Murphy makes an error, allowing the tying run to score.  Somehow, this alone already counts as a blown save for Familia.  It is ridiculous that baseball scoring credits the run to the previous pitcher but the blown save to Familia, but I digress. There are now runners on 1st and 3rd with 1 out and a tie score.  Familia allows two hits, and the two runners ultimately score (second being an unearned run charged to Familia).  Mets lose 5-3.

 

Sure, Murphy’s error is not solely responsible for Familia’s two hits allowed.  That said, Familia enters the game and induces the groundball he needed.  Had there then instead been 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs and the Mets up by 1, things might go differently than with first and third, 1 out, and a tie game.

  • 2015 World Series Game 5 vs. Kansas City: It is silly that Familia was given a blown save in Game 4 for allowing the inherited runner to score on Murphy’s error. It is criminal that Familia is given a blown save in the upcoming scenario.  Mets fans know this one very, very well.  Familia relieves Matt Harvey with the tying run on second and nobody out in the Top of the 9th.  Familia induces consecutive groundouts.  The first moves Eric Hosmer from second to third.  The second groundout is 5-3, with David Wright throwing the ball over to Lucas Duda.  Of course, Hosmer ends up following Wright and scoring the tying run on the play.  Familia then induces a third-consecutive groundout.
Image result for familia blown save world series
Photo via Slate.com

Therefore, Jeurys Familia allows three consecutive groundouts and earns a blown save.  Baseball’s rules are ridiculous.  Anyway, as we exit the 2015 postseason, we should remember Familia as being a great postseason pitcher.  Yes, he technically blew three saves, but two were fully or partially because of errors…and one was because baseball’s “blown save” crediting is silly.  In truth; over 12 playoff appearances, Alex Gordon’s Game 1 (WS) homer and the two KC hits after Murphy’s error opened the door were the only negatives on the guy’s record.  Familia had a stellar postseason and was instrumental in the Mets making it to the World Series.

However, after Familia’s unlucky-13th postseason appearance, many Mets fans retroactively decide that Familia is a bad postseason pitcher.  Of course, in this last appearance, Familia enters a scoreless game in the 9th inning and allows two baserunners before allowing Conor Gillaspie’s game-winning homer.  This is easily Familia’s worst postseason moment.  Unfortunately, it is his last Mets postseason moment, but let us not forget that the guy was actually a fantastic postseason pitcher for most of his Mets career.

Three Silver Linings to Rooting for a Team as Terrible as the 2018 Mets

The New York Mets are a terrible, terrible baseball team.  After starting the 2018 season 11-1, the Mets have gone 20-44.  If you are wondering 20-44 equates to a .3125 winning percentage.  The Royals (.308) and Orioles (.299) are the only teams with worse winning percentages for this full season, but the Mets could easily drop below those two teams within the next day or two.  Are the Mets as bad as those two teams?  Absolutely.

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Photo via northjersey.com

If one has watched baseball for any considerable portion of his/her life, that person can tell pretty easily how good a team is.  I have watched the Mets regularly since 1990, so I can vouch for the fact that this team is as awful as its record indicates.  What are the main indicators that jump out at me in terms of the Mets being terrible?

1)     Jason Vargas got hurt before Sunday’s start, and the Mets decided that their minor leagues are so barren that they were better off starting reliever Jerry Blevins.  This required patching together 9 (actually 11) innings of bullpen innings from a bullpen with maybe 3 legitimate Major League relievers.

2)     Jason Vargas has been so bad that the afore-mentioned bullpen option worked out better than a typical Vargas start.  Speaking of which, please disregard this.

3)     Continuing with the “speaking of which…”, Jose Reyes has a batting average of .175 and an OPS of .507 yet remains on this team.

4)     Mickey Callaway has decided to bench prospect Amed Rosario for several games in a row so that Reyes can start.  Seriously.

5)     Since 2015, the Mets’ offense has dominated with Yoenis Cespedes in the lineup and been terrible with him out of the lineup.  Cespedes has played only 37 games this year.

6)     If the Yankees had kept Todd Frazier, he would be a bench player this year.  On the Mets, he hits in the #2, #3, and #4 spots.

7)     The first-place Atlanta Braves released both Adrian Gonzalez and Jose Bautista over the past year.  Both of these people have had stretches of regular starts for the Mets.

8)     Kevin Plawecki has hit cleanup.

9)     Mickey Callaway said on Sunday that the Mets need to “sync up” the performance between their position players, starting pitchers, and bullpen.  That is the baseball equivalent of Ben McAdoo’s “complementary football”.  That ended up well.

10)  Most importantly, Jacob deGrom has an ERA of 1.69, a WHIP of 1.01, 16 starts, and a whopping five wins.

Image result for jacob degrom
Photo via sbnation.com

What a disaster.  For the second-consecutive season, the Mets enter summer completely out of the playoff race.  Obviously, this is a major disappointment for a big-time Mets fan like myself.  Summer is much better for a baseball fan when that fan is excited to watch his/her team every night.  I am not excited to watch the train wreck in Flushing.  Summer is much better when a fan can start to build excitement for a pennant race, when the fan can start to scoreboard-watch the team’s primary standings opponents, and when the fan can dream of thrilling October baseball.  Summer is much better when the fan can enjoy the highs of important wins and agonize over important losses.  I know it is weird for me to speak well of agony, but one does need to experience joy in order for him/her to fall into agony.  Only a complete masochist agonizes every time a terrible team loses.  Yes, some self-loathing Mets fans fall into this category, but thankfully I do not.

With all that said, there are three silver linings to rooting for a terrible team.

1)     I can enjoy the wins, but I never feel the agony!  Sure, I do not become too elated when a 31-45 Mets team wins a game, but I do feel at least a modicum of joy.  On the flip side, I do not feel any negative emotion when the Mets lose.  I felt negative emotion in April and May when the Mets descended from 11-1 to oblivion, but I am now far too deep into the learned-helplessness phase.  I expect the Mets to lose every game.  Plus, as I mentioned last year, I know that I am not going to loyally watch a team this bad once NFL season begins.  I have no false aspirations of the Mets making their way toward a pennant race or (Good lord) playoff baseball.  Therefore, I have nothing to lose right now as a fan.  For example, I attended Sunday’s surprisingly exciting 8-7 Mets’ loss to the Dodgers (the Vargas/Blevins game).  I was legitimately thrilled when Kevin Plawecki hit a game-tying three-run homer in the 8th inning.  However, when Justin Turner hit a go-ahead Los Angeles homer in the 11th inning, I matter-of-factly felt like the game was over.  I knew it would shortly be time for us to go home, but I was not upset.  How could I be upset about a team losing its 23rd game in 29?  It would be like being upset that Roadrunner evaded Wile E. Coyote yet again.

2)     I have zero time commitment to the team.  Again, it is disappointing not to have the thrill of a good baseball team to watch this summer.  At the same time, this truth means that I do not feel bad when I have to miss a game.  In 2015 and 2016, I was upset whenever I could not watch a game.  This year could not be any different.  Again, I know that I will lose touch with the team in September.  Therefore, if I miss more games in July and August, who cares?  It is also worth noting that my wife and I will be taking two honeymoons this summer – one in July and one in August.  If the Mets were halfway decent, I would currently be going to great lengths to make sure I can watch as many Mets games as possible on those trips.  Fortunately though, I am perfectly content to avoid going to those great lengths for this terrible Mets edition.  Therefore, from the “You don’t want to be bad husband on your honeymoon” department, thank God the Mets are awful.

3)     It is humorous.  If the 2015 or 2016 Mets chose not to use any starting pitchers in a game, I would have been angry.  When the 2018 Mets did it, I laughed.  Honestly, when I read 9 of the 10 things listed above, I laugh.  Only deGrom’s tough luck does not make me laugh.  He is one of the best pitchers of his generation, but he is toiling on a terrible team.  Everything else though makes me laugh.  The Mets daily trot out a lineup that is worse than the Yankees’ AAA lineup.  When something is this big a disaster, the only healthy thing one can do is laugh about it.

 

Photo via NY Post

 

Anyway, I know that it has been a difficult two seasons for Mets fans.  I hope that all of you Mets fans out there can use these three silver linings to get through the 2018 Mets season as I have and will continue to do.

Mickey Callaway Cannot Fix a Flawed Team

During Spring Training, Mets manager Mickey Callaway earned great praise for the positive energy he had brought to Spring Training.  I also read of players complimenting the fact that all of the Spring Training drills had purposes, as if Terry Collins had always been orchestrating a bunch of useless drills in his Spring Training workouts.  That seemed like a bogus claim to me, but it was not the silliest thing that I heard this spring.  To the contrary, the silliest thing I heard was when Callaway mentioned that he wanted Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, and Zack Wheeler to pitch 4 innings per start.  At the time, Callaway also discussed having relievers be able to pitch multiple innings to make up for those short starts. While the idea of having relievers pitch multiple innings was and is a good one, the idea that a bullpen could collectively handle such a massive workload was and is not.  Nevertheless, in the spring; reporters, players, and some Mets fans thought that all of Callaway’s ideas were wonderful.  I was not one of these people; I thought Callaway’s idea to use starting pitchers for so few innings was a recipe for disaster.

In fact, when I heard all of the premature praise for Mickey Callaway, it reminded me of the scene in Step Brothers in which Seth Rogen’s character compliments Dale and Brennan for showing up for a physical-education job interview in tuxedos.   “It’s ironic.  I get it.”  Anyway, why did the Callaway situation remind me of this scene?  First off, most things in life remind me of Step Brothers.  Secondly, I knew that there was no way that the bullpen strategy could work over a 162-game season.  Thus, applauding the strategy in March was like Rogen applauding the tuxedos.  I figured that, when the strategy ultimately blows up, and Callaway’s over-the-top positivity for a bad team quickly runs stale; all of his one-time sycophants would say, “OK, now the 4-inning starts (aka the “tuxes”) seem kinda f$%#ed up”.  If this analogy has gone over your head, please go watch Step Brothers immediately.  Then it will all make sense, and the movie is one of the funniest movies of all time.  You are welcome.

Image result for step brothers tuxedo gif

Anyway, enough with the analogy.  I do give Mickey Callaway credit for the idea of pitching relievers for multiple innings.  I have been preaching this idea since 1998 when I first wrote to The Record, stating that, if Turk Wendell has pitched a good 8th inning, he should be allowed to pitch the 9th.  That part of Callaway’s logic makes perfect sense.  We know that Callaway rightfully includes warm-up pitches in his consideration for how much work a pitcher has received.  We know that he hates “dry humping”, and, by that logic, it is more efficient to have a pitcher throw 70 innings in 35 appearances than 70 innings in 70 appearances.  The latter means 35 more games in which the pitcher has to throw several warm-up pitches in the bullpen.  I agree with Callaway on all fronts here.  Furthermore, some days a pitcher “has it”.  Some days a pitcher does not.  Therefore, I have never liked taking out a pitcher who clearly “has it”.  If you go through 6 or 7 pitchers in a game, the law of averages says that at least one (and likely more) of those pitchers will not “have it” that day.  Therefore, you might as well stick with the guy who has been effective in that game.

That all said, the benefits of this strategy go out the window when you have three pitchers who rarely make it past four innings.  I should add that some of the unwarranted preseason praise for Callaway intimated that Callaway would be able to fix Matt Harvey.  That clearly proved not to be the case.  Meanwhile, I am not going to blame Jason Vargas’s horrific performances on Callaway, but the fact remains that we are stuck with three Mets pitchers who routinely exit after 4 or maybe 5 innings.  That was Callaway’s plan anyway, and it does not work.  You cannot sustain a bullpen under those circumstances.

It does not matter if you are using relievers for an inning apiece or multiple innings apiece; if you need five innings of relief three out of every five nights, you will destroy your bullpen.  If we assume that Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard give a combined 13 innings per rotation, the Mets need 20 bullpen innings per rotation, and that equates to roughly 650 bullpen innings per season.  Keep in mind that a dependable workhorse reliever is good for 80 innings per season.  The standard modern workhorse, in that case, would make 80 appearances and average one inning per appearance.  Fortunately, Callaway has allowed pitchers to make multiple-inning appearances.  However, if a pitcher like Seth Lugo or Robert Gsellman pitches 2 or 3 innings in a relief effort, he should not be pitching in the next two games or really the next three games.  THAT is how you maximize the effectiveness of a relief pitcher.  It is not only the longer outings but it is also the longer rest.  Ideally, a team should be able to use two relievers per game.  This would keep all relievers fresh, as they would regularly get two or three days off in a row.

The problem is that this idea would only work well in an era in which starting pitchers routinely pitch seven innings.  Such an era would require only 320 relief innings per season.  If a team has 4 good relievers, the team can satisfy the bulk of those 320 innings with only those four relievers.  Plus, if those relievers could make 2-inning appearances with some regularity, these relievers would receive enough rest to stay effective.

Image result for mets bullpen

On the other hand, the Mets need the afore-mentioned 650 bullpen innings.  Yikes!  Is the Mets’ bullpen terrible?  No.  It has four dependable relievers – Jeurys Familia, Lugo, Gsellman, and the injured Anthony Swarzak.  How many teams have more than four dependable relievers?  2?  3?  Many teams would be happy to have four dependable relievers.  However, when your team’s strategy is to have 650 bullpen innings (as I have projected for the Mets), and you have only four dependable relievers (who we will generously say are good for 80 innings apiece); you are stuck with the unenviable choice either a) coaxing 330 innings from the other relief pitchers, who are generally terrible, b) completely overworking the good relievers to the point where they are injured or no longer dependable, or c) both.  Actually, who am I kidding?  The only answer is “c”.  This is the sole logical result, given that teams do try to use the bad relievers; the bad relievers get bombed; and the teams must then use the good relievers.

Case in point: Seth Lugo on Memorial Day.  This guy has dominated all year, but he has been overused.  Callaway wanted Lugo to get a 2-inning save in the first game of a doubleheader, so that he could save Familia for the nightcap.  I do not think it is bad strategy, but it would have been much better strategy if Lugo had not pitched so many innings already.  Lugo has pitched 32.2 innings, and Gsellman has pitched 33.3.  Lugo’s 20 appearances are not bad for a 51-game stretch, but he, like Gsellman (25 appearances), is on pace to pitch more than 100 innings, an untenable total for a reliever.  (I would still love to swap Lugo and Wheeler; given that Lugo has been an effective starter and that Wheeler has an innings’ limit.)  Unfortunately, the Mets are burning out their best relief pitchers.

The funny thing is: this same exact issue happened for the Mets last year.  In fact, I wrote an article about how the Mets’ starting pitching was atrocious and responsible for the bad bullpen performance.  The Mets’ bullpen performed well at the beginning of last season too, but those relievers became overtaxed and lost effectiveness.

The truth is that there are only two ways for a team to be successful while having as many 4-5-inning starts as the Mets do:

  • The team must have at least 6 good relief pitchers.
  • The team must have fantastic position players.

 

It is great to have six good relief pitchers, because that would cover 480 of the 630 relief innings.  That is a workable ratio.  However, let’s be honest.  How many teams have 6 good relief pitchers?  The Yankees did last year, and so did the 2006 Mets (Billy Wagner, Duaner Sanchez, Aaron Heilman, Pedro Feliciano, Chad Bradford, Darren Oliver); but it is a huge rarity.  No, the only way to expect success with such undependable starting pitching is to have a dynamite offense, and the Mets do not have that.   The Mets have a bunch of old guys who would be on the benches of most other teams, some younger guys who are currently no better than #7 or #8 hitters, and one phenomenal hitter who can never stay healthy.  Mickey Callaway cannot fix any of these problems, but he cannot fix the pitching problems any better than Terry Collins could.  That is why the preseason praise for Callaway seems as f$#@ed up as the tuxes.  I do not think he is a bad manager, but he does not have the ability to fix the major problems with the Mets’ roster.

After a Thrilling Weekend of Football, Let’s Discuss the MLB Trade Deadline

We are coming off an epic weekend of playoff football.  While I hate when people try to put things in historical context immediately after the events happen, any non-Saints fans can agree that the end of the Saints/Vikings game was one of the greatest moments in NFL history.  However, many people have many great things to say about this past weekend of three fantastic football games.  I do not have anything novel to add.  Therefore, while everyone else zigs, I will zag and say something I have wanted to say for six months about the MLB Trade Deadline.

I am a purist when it comes to sports.  If you have read some of my other blog entries, you might have picked up on this.  At the same time, I am an Economics teacher who majored in Mathematical Economics in college.  Therefore, in previous blog entries, I have preached of purist ideas only if there is economic defense for them.  For example, I hate the NHL’s 3-on-3 overtime and shootouts, but I do not push for the NHL to eliminate these occurrences.  I know that enough people like these things.  Thus, the league would be making an economic mistake to get rid of them.  That is why I instead proposed the 3-2-1-0 point system as a sound way to improve the 3-on-3/shootout situation.  It satisfies both the NHL’s purists and the NHL’s profits.

That said, today I am going to deviate from my usual rule of advocating change only if it makes economic sense.  I am going to speak of a change that the purist in me would love but that the economist in me would hate.  Here it goes: I wish that MLB would move its trade deadline to its former date of June 15.

Because of economic reasons, this change will never happen, but I am going to discuss my purist desire for the change anyway.  It is my understanding that the spirit of a trade deadline is that leagues do not want teams who are out of playoff contention to unload all of their top players during the last week of the season.  It would not seem right to have the top teams in a league suddenly get an influx of great players during the last week.  However, bad teams would be inclined to make such deals, in that they could receive prospects and salary relief in exchange for players who would be of little-to-no value when that team becomes good again.

Image result for trade deadline deals 2017 mlb

Actually, I assume that this is the logic that led Major League Baseball to the June-15 trade deadline in days of yore.  Back then, the league was likely very concerned about teams unloading their top players for prospects as soon as the teams were to fall out of playoff contention.  Back then, MLB probably did not like the idea of subpar teams trotting out minor-league lineups in August and September after having traded so many top players.  Then again, in those days, there were fewer entertainment options in this world.  Therefore, fans were happier to keep watching their non-playoff teams until the end of September.  In fact, during that time, only 4 teams made the playoffs each season, so many fans never even had expectations of their teams qualifying for the postseason.  It is a psychological truth that lower expectations can often lead people to greater happiness than higher expectations.

Anyway, in 1986, MLB moved the trade deadline to July 31.  Actually, that is and was the waiver trade deadline.  Teams could and may continue to trade players who have passed through waivers until August 31.  (Technically, trades can happen after this point, but traded players are ineligible for playoff rosters.)

As a result, in modern baseball; by late August, bad teams have unloaded most of their good players.  Meanwhile, good teams have loaded up on players from bad teams.  I hate this.  I know that this will not change because of economic reasons, but I still hate this.  The New York Mets are a professional baseball team, but they traded Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, Addison Reed, Jay Bruce, and Neil Walker last July and August.  Based upon the trade deadline, those were all wise decisions by the Mets.  Most fans nowadays stop watching when a team becomes bad, so the Mets might as well have traded those expiring contracts for prospects.  That said, the purist in me believes that those five players should have stayed on the Mets until the end of the season.  The purist in me hates that top teams like the Cubs and Nationals were gifted September games against the Mets with a bunch of minor-leaguers playing.  The purist in me says that this is the whole reason why the trade deadline used to be June 15.

Image result for trade deadline deals 2017 mlb

Granted, full disclosure: the Mets greatly benefited in 2015 and 2016 from such trade-deadline moves.  During both seasons, the Mets beat up on teams like the Phillies and Reds – teams who were already bad but who became worse in August after trading top players.  I was happy to see the Mets win those games, and I was ecstatic for the Mets to ride 2015-deadline-acquisition Yoenis Cespedes to an NL-East title.  As a Mets fan, I loved all of that.  However, today, in the dead of winter two years later, I can sit back and concede that my inner purist wishes that baseball were not this way.

I wish that teams had to decide by June 15, when no more than 2 or 3 teams are “out of playoff contention”, what trades they were going to make.  This way, you would not have traditional “buyers” and “sellers”.  Instead, you would have teams making “baseball” trades – current talent for current talent.  Sure, you would have rare cases where atrocious teams would already be unloading good players on June 15.  However, it would take a really bad team and a general manager who is willing to admit defeat to his or her fan base in June for this to happen.  Meanwhile, the best result of this deadline change would be that bad teams would no longer suddenly get worse during the last two months – and the most important games for good teams – of the season.  This would make the last two months of the season more competitive across MLB.

At the same time, good teams would not be able to improve suddenly with a month left in the season.  It was a great story to see Justin Verlander help Houston win the World Series, but the purist in me has trouble with the star of a championship team arriving a month before the playoffs.  Likewise, good teams with bad bullpens in July never need to worry, because they can always poach good relievers off bad teams.  Look at Robertson, Kahnle, Doolittle, Madson, etc.  We saw the Yankees and Nationals have no trouble acquiring quality relievers last summer, a year after the Yankees traded Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman to the ultimate pennant-winning teams.  Look at the rosters of any playoff team, and you are likely to find a reliever or two poached from a bad team in July or August.  I do not like this.

Image result for trade deadline deals 2017 mlb

Again, this will never change.  The trade deadline will never move forward.  Why won’t it change?  This is how business is done now.  With 10 playoff teams, it is now easier than ever to improve from being a 90-loss team one season to being a playoff team the next, as I hope the Mets will do this season.  Gone are the days when teams needed to build great rosters over several years with the hope of someday reaching the 95-win plateau.  That was in the 4-playoff-team era, when only the elite teams played in October.  Now, fewer than 90 wins is often good enough for a playoff berth.  Now, if you are a bad team, you might as well unload your top players for prospects and salary relief.  In the offseason, you can sign free agents, and, if your team is good enough as of late July, you can add rentals for a championship run.  Moreover, with 10 playoff teams, “good enough as of late July” can often mean “a few games below .500”.

This is the logical way to run a baseball team nowadays.  Furthermore, the month of July is super-exciting because of all the trade possibilities.  While the purist in me dislikes the current deadlines, the Mets fan in me loves spending all summer on Metsblog looking at trade rumors.  MLB knows that I am not the only person like this.  People spend a lot of time watching baseball, MLB TV, and team websites monitoring potential trade activity.  Plus, in a league with 10 playoff teams and in a world with endless forms of entertainment, fans do not have time to watch teams with no playoff chances.  Therefore, the combination of having 10 playoff teams and July 31/August 31 trade deadlines is best for the overall interest in MLB and thus for MLB’s and teams’ bottom lines.  Therefore, the July 31/August 31 trade deadlines are here to stay.  However, the purist in me will never like this.

Four Inexpensive Moves to Make the 2018 Mets a Playoff Team

After a 70-92 2017 season, the Mets have left most of their fans expecting a rough 2018 campaign.  Since the end of last season, the Mets have more or less kept the team intact.  The three notable changes have been hiring Mickey Callaway as manager, signing reliever Anthony Swarzak, and signing Jay Bruce (whom the Mets traded away in August).  While I like the Swarzak and Bruce moves (and the jury is out on the Callaway move), let us not act like these moves make the Mets major playoff contenders.

Let us examine the hypothetical world in which the 2017 Mets had Anthony Swarzak and did not trade away Bruce in August.  At best, that Mets edition might have been 5 games better than the actual 2017 team.  This is a very generous “at best”, but I will go with it.  In that case, the 2017 Mets would have finished 75-87.  Keep in mind that the 2017 Mets had Jose Reyes for the full year and Neil Walker, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, and Addison Reed for most of the year.  All of those players are now either gone or currently free agents (whom the Mets could potentially sign).  While none of those players is going to set the world on fire by himself, those five players nevertheless represent a great deal of talent to lose.  The Mets would have likely been at least 4 games worse without them for the full 2017 season.  Meanwhile, the Mets would have likely been at least 5 games better last year with Noah Syndergaard healthy all season.  The sum of those alternate-reality scenarios would have put the Mets at 76-86 last season.

Image result for noah syndergaard hurt

That “76-86” mark is important, because that is the record that I feel the current Mets would have attained if they had played together for all of 2017.  Therefore, how are the Mets to improve by 14 games to gain a playoff berth in 2018?  One way would be for the Mets to go out and sign big-time free agents at catcher, second base/third base, and starting pitcher.  Wait, why are you laughing so profusely???  Oh yeah, that’s right.  The Wilpons have too much debt and never spend a lot of money.  Therefore, that “spending lots of money” option is off the table.  Forget about Yu Darvish.  Forget about Lance Lynn.  Forget about Mike Moustakas.

Anyway, since bringing in high-priced talent is off the table, the Mets must get creative.  I do feel they have a set of moves that can bring the club to 90 wins.  Within their budget, I feel their best option is to do the following four things:

  • Move Matt Harvey to the bullpen. This is my #1 way to improve the team.  The guy comes into every start wanting to blow people away.  I guess this is how he impresses his supermodel girlfriends, so I guess I do not blame him.  However, Harvey clearly has a closer’s mentality.  Starters have to manage their way through several innings.  They cannot max out on every pitch like Harvey tries to do.  Harvey often does well in the first and maybe second innings of games.  Then he completely falls apart.  He had a 4.86 ERA in 2016 and a 6.70 ERA last year.  That is where having a plethora of  5-or-6-run 3rd and 4th innings will land you.  The guy should be a closer.  This role will allow him to pitch one inning per appearance and max out each time.  He will end up throwing no more than 80 innings, which is good for a man with as many physical ailments as he has.  Plus, I know he really does not want to be a closer, but I really don’t care (Demi Lovato).   He is lucky he is still in the majors, and he can wave bye-bye to the massive contract that 2015 Matt Harvey thought he would earn in 2019.  Starting pitchers with ERAs approaching 7.00 are not given very good contracts if they get any contracts at all.  However, good closers are at least paid moderately well.  The Mets and he might as well try this option, as they have nothing to lose right now.  As for the supermodels; if he is with a supermodel now when his baseball career seems broken beyond repair, he will do just fine after he starts to excel as a closer.

Image result for matt harvey

  • Move Zack Wheeler to the bullpen. I have heard this nonsense about the Mets potentially using Harvey, Wheeler, and Steven Matz for no more than 4 innings per start.  That sounds like an absolute train wreck over a full season.  This plan will sound great when every reliever has already made 20 appearances by the end of April.  So great.   Anyway, sarcasm aside, the truth is that Wheeler is an unreliable commodity.  After missing two seasons due to Tommy John Surgery, he pitched in 2017 to a 5.21 ERA.  I do not care if he was once a hot prospect; he is currently a pitcher who has pitched poorly since returning from a two-year injury hiatus.  Is it possible that he someday becomes a great starting pitcher?  Of course.  However, I would rather see him pitch in the bullpen first, so that the team initially relies on him for fewer innings.  Give me a bullpen of Harvey, Wheeler, Jeurys Familia, A.J. Ramos, Swarzak, and Jerry Blevins.  That is actually a fantastic bullpen.  You can win a World Series with that pen….and other good players.

 

  • Sign R.A. Dickey. The key to the 2015 Mets’ pitching success was the reliability of Jonathon Niese and Bartolo Colon.  That season, neither veteran missed a start.  This was huge, as the Mets managed Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Jacob deGrom through injuries and innings limits.  In 2016, Colon continued that reliability.  However, last year, the Mets had no such starter.  I wrote a lengthy post in August about the large number of Mets pitching starts of more earned runs allowed than innings pitched.  That happens when you have to use the likes of Tommy Milone and Tyler Pill to make a whole bunch of starts.  If the Mets sign Dickey, a fan favorite, to a presumably relatively cheap contract, they will have that veteran starter.  He should be able to give the Mets a regular 6 innings pitched and 4 or fewer earned runs allowed.  Plus, Dickey would allow the Mets to have three somewhat sure things in the rotation – deGrom, Syndergaard, and Dickey.  Meanwhile, Steven Matz would be the fourth starter, and Seth Lugo would be the fifth starter.  Both of those are unknown quantities.  Matz can be the ace of the staff when healthy, but he is never healthy.  Lugo has pitched to too small a sample size for me to judge him accurately.  If one of those guys can stay healthy and effective, the Mets’ rotation should be just fine.  Rafael Montero would likely be the fifth starter if one of these two cannot get the job done.  Hopefully, it does not come to that.  Actually, the ideal scenario would be for the Mets to sign Jason Vargas as a fourth starter.  That would give the Mets six legitimate starters and two sure-thing veteran pitchers.  It would mean the Mets could avoid Montero as long either Lugo or Matz is healthy.  However, even Vargas is probably too expensive for the Mets.  However, I really really really wish they could sign him because that would make me feel excellent about the rotation.

 

  • Bring back Jose Reyes. While most of us Mets fans were ready to run Jose out of town last spring, he ended up having a good season.  He could play second base or third base in 2018 and could bat leadoff or further down in the order.  This would give the Mets plenty of roster flexibility.  Reyes, Asdrubal Cabrera, T.J. Rivera, and Wilmer Flores could play second base or third base.  Meanwhile, Jay Bruce, Wilmer Flores, and Michael Conforto could play some first base if Dominic Smith struggles.

 Image result for jose reyes 2017

In fact, I think that the Mets’ strongest offensive/defensive lineup (if they bring back Reyes) would actually be:

  • Reyes 2B
  • Rosario SS
  • Conforto RF
  • Cespedes LF
  • Bruce 1B
  • Cabrera 3B
  • Lagares CF
  • d’Arnaud C
  • Pitcher

 

At the same time, a bench with Smith, Brandon Nimmo, Flores, and Rivera is fine with this lineup.  Meanwhile, Yoenis Cespedes is clearly a front-runner.  With a good team, he is inspired to be a great player.  With a bad team, this is far from the case.

Image result for cespedes

In the end, I am not saying that the aforementioned moves would guarantee the Mets a playoff berth.  However, I do feel that the combination of a healthy and more motivated Cespedes, a healthy Conforto (he did miss the last six weeks of 2017 too), 30 MLB starts from R.A. Dickey (as opposed to a potential of 30 starts from fringe MLB pitchers), slightly healthier seasons by Matz and Lugo, an improved Amed Rosario, the return of Jose Reyes, and a revamped bullpen make it possible that the Mets earn those 14 extra wins needed to reach 90 and a likely playoff berth.