Snakebitten, Baby

48Unless you had the good sense to turn in early last early night you know nothing so sums up what the 2016 season has become than last night’s events in San Francisco, when a shocking Met hit with men on base — from Justin Ruggiano of all people, off Madison Friggin Bumgarner of all people, a grand slam to center field, of all things — was given all back and more within minutes — by Jacob deGrom of all people, on a two-run homer by Bumgarner of all people, in a 10-7 loss showing the Mets are practically determined to go wrong even when everything is arranged to go right.

52So don’t get too excited to learn tonight’s contest is expected to include the return of injured soldiers Yoenis Cespedes and Asbrubal Cabrera, and maybe even Neil Walker, because it also accompanies news that scheduled starting pitcher Steven Matz won’t be there, because, naturally, he’s being shut down with shoulder trouble.

When Fred Wilpon idiotically pitied his half-assededly assembled 2011 squad by remarking, “We’re snakebitten, baby,” he was off by five years.

I’m not officially giving up yet — I need something to pretend to root for when I fly my family to St. Louis next week just to see these guys — but it’s clear this edition of the Mets is going to require not just something miraculous, but something it hasn’t satisfactorily demonstrated any ability to do all year: Play well.

66Is there good news? Well, Josh Edgin is getting sent back to the minor leagues where he belongs after that shitshow in Phoenix the other night — again, if you turned in early, he not only walked the whole lineup but evidently was too fat to bother hustling in to retrieve his own wild pitch for a potential play at the plate. In his place is Josh Smoker, who will need a new uni assignment after the 49 he wore in a phantom appearance a few weeks back was taken back by Jon Niese, who like Edgin but hopefully not like Smoker, appears to be a lefty of limited value any longer.

How about we give Smokey 66? That’ll teach ’em. Not Joshin’.

UPDATE: He’s in 59. Naturally.

 

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Ynoa the Drill

63Another AAA pitcher has appeared on the big-league roster, taking his spring training number with him. Last night it was Gabriel Ynoa, who not only threw a scoreless inning in his big-league debut but earning the win while doing so surpassed his only predecessor in the jersey, Chris Schwinden for most victories by a guy wearing No. 63.

Ynoa (63) follows the recent pattern of AAA callups simply retaining their spring numbers upon initial promotion — Eric Goeddel (62); Akeel Morris (64); Josh Smoker (49); Ty Kelly (55, now 56) and Seth Lugo (67). Along with a concurrent willingness to dress even non-pitchers in high jerseys (T.J. Rivera 54, Kelly Johnson 55), the Mets are likely running their highest average uni count ever, though I haven’t looked that up.

35To make room for Ynoa the Mets demoted Logan Verrett, who hung in there for awhile as the fifth starter — it seemed like every outing was a must-win for him — but he didn’t go and lose all by himself until his most recent starts. Jose Reyes also came back, costing Matt Reynolds his role as starting shortstop. Reynolds showed he get into one every once in a while, but those whiffs are a little much to hang in a pennant race with.

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Mackey Sacked

54Back from a short biz-trip to let you know I still don’t know what the Mets are doing with these uni issues, the latest being T.J. Rivera’s recall from Las Vegas and subsequent assignment of No. 54.

I was with everyone else in advocating the Mets issue the recently freed-up No. 2 to Rivera but hadn’t a particularly strong argument for it until my friend Edward at the Crane Pool alerted me to this Daily Snooze profile detailing how Rivera got to the Mets in the first place:

“I told Tommy, ‘I can’t believe nobody drafted T.J. You can’t go wrong with him,'” recalls [Mackey] Sasser, who was a Met from 1988-92 [and Rivera’s college coach at Wallace Community College in Alabama]. “He’s going to make someone a good player.”

2Sasser of course was a notoriously famous No. 2, maybe the jersey’s most memorable character behind manager Bobby Valentine and Marvelous Marv Throneberry, who we now know personally championed an undrafted free agent who reached the majors on the strength of his hitting. That the Mets somehow overlooked this intersection of opportunity (the Dilson Herrera trade) and appropriateness, while going completely off-script and making Rivera the first non-pitcher/non-coach ever to wear 54 isn’t a great signal they’re doing this whole uni-number-issuing thing correctly.

The Mets on the other hand aren’t doing much of anything right lately, culminating in this week’s deserved sweeping at the hands of the awful Arizona Diamondbacks and their fugly uniforms. Terry Collins yesterday made a show of demanding a fresh start from his guys, a move that could prove to be too late to save them or him.

imagesSpeaking of bad teams in fugly uniforms, my travels this week took me to the Twin Cities where I witnessed Target Field for the first time, encountering what for me was an odd site — the homestanding Twins in bright-red home jerseys. The stadium was quite nice, bonus points for locating it within moments of a train station, but the unis bothered me until I realized the none-too-subtle message I’m sure they were meant to deliver. Cheap chic indeed.

 

 

 

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Net Gains

19As you probably know by now the Mets have issued the newly arriving Jay Bruce No. 19 and have allowed Jon Niese to take back the No. 49 he wore in his last go-round with the club.

49Bruce, who is scheduled to start in right field and bat third, will become the 36th guy to wear 19 for the Mets and has an outside shot of overtaking Roger Cedeno as the jersey’s most prolific home run hitter by the end of the year. (Roger had 18 dingers over three seasons as a Met 19).

66Also Tuesday, the Mets placed shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (13) and outfielder Justin Ruggiano (1) on the disabled list, demoted bullpenner Seth Lugo (67) and recalled utilityman Ty Kelly (56) and reliever Josh Edgin (66). Edgin is making his first reappearance in a Mets jersey since September of 2014.

I don’t normally keep track of this stuff, but it is notable the club is adding a combined 190 in combined uni numbers while subtracting just 90 — a net gain of 100 that has to rank as one of the largest one-day swings in club history.

Here’s to more big swings from the new guys.

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#WatchWatch

32This year’s trade deadline, about as nutty as last year’s, has resulted in the acquisition of Reds slugger Jay Bruce and the shocking return of Jon Niese. Both guys will be hunting for new uniform numbers as their existing digits belong to their new teammates.

49Bruce, a slugger who can hopefully replace some lefthanded sock that vanished when Lucas Duda got hurt, wears the unusual No. 32, currently and could perhaps pry it from Steven Matz with a Rolex — in the baseball world, the currency of the uniform number. Niese was the Mets’ last occupant of No. 49 until Josh Smoker came and went last Tuesday. Technically 49 still belongs him him.

Niese by the way wore No. 18 in Pittsburgh, where he washed out as a starter and had recently been assigned to the bullpen.

As for the outbound freight, Dilson Hererra has been occupying No. 2 in Vegas and on the Mets’ 40-man roster, which was his number before and after the visit from Juan Uribe last summer, when Hererra wore the since-reassigned No. 16. Uribe, struggling in Cleveland, happened to have been DFAed to make room for all Cleveland’s new gets today and so could potentially slide back in No. 2. That’s the theme this year.

The guy we traded for Niese, gascan lefty Antonio Bastardo, wore No. 59, for the apparent minimum number of seconds he took between delivering pitches. I’m glad to see it and he go, particularly since the Pirates are picking up the commitment.

Fill me in if anything official comes in!

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Mets Hit Wall, Burst into Flames

1The Mets abruptly signed dressed and deployed Justin Ruggiano last night, and the veteran outfielder went out and played like a cliche of a No. 1: Ridiculous leaping catch attempt, overhustling a slow rolling single, foolishly getting thrown out attempting to steal third base with Bartolo Colon batting.

ruggianoWhat a find! And his crumpled body on the warning track a perfect Met-aphor for this wreck this season is quickly becoming now with Jose Reyes out, Juan Lagares out, Cespedes hurting, Duda still missing, Wright long gone, Walker and Cabrera morphing back into middling singles hitters and Conforto and Zimmo and D’Arnaud failing so far to evolve themselves.

And I’m not calling for Terry Collins to be fired or resign but would say the SHaMs struggles these past few weeks has resembled something out of Jerry Manuel’s playbook: A palpable lack of confidence in his guys runs up and down the lineup and in the bullpen, and I think, is contributing at some level to how poorly they are executing at the moments of truth. The fact his lineup doesn’t hit well to begin with is also a factor.

One of the brilliant minds at the Crane Pool crunched the numbers and heading into last night they looked like this:

If the 2016 Mets were to hit with RiSP just like the 2016 Mets hit otherwise [.238, last in the NL] their 148 hits w/RiSP would turn into 174.
Taking that figure and using their present production of 1.486 Runs per RiSP-AB (220 runs produced by those 148 hits) the new figure would result in an extra 39 runs scored over the course of the season to this point. That alone creates about four extra wins on average, turning the current 53-49 record into more like 57-45; the 7.5 games back into 3.5; and the current 84-win pace for the full season into 90

And that’s not even the worst of it, because not only do they hit less often with RiSP but they hit a larger pct of singles in those ABs than their usual (almost 70% instead of 63.1%) with far fewer 2Bs (16.2% instead of 19%) & HRs (12.8% instead of 16.4%). So if those extra hits were in the same proportion as what they produce normally then the runs scored increase would logically get even larger.

This morning we’re 2.5 games out of a Wild Card spot, 7.5 out of first place, 3 games over .500 and its the Trade Deadline. All day yesterday fans were entertaining fantasies of obtaining Jonathan Lucroy along the the rumored relief help we apparently need so bad. (Really? That’s the issue?). My inclination this morning is to see if we can’t dangle Neil Walker, Addison Reed, and dare I say Curtis Granderson with an eye on next season. And if they don’t believe in him enough to offer him to Milwaukee, Travis d’Arnaud too. What’s your take?

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Where There’s Smoke

49Long-suffering minor-league reliever Josh Smoker got the call yesterday as the “26th man” on the roster, as dictated by double-header rules but the lefty failed to make an appearance as the Mets split Tuesday’s twinbill with the hated Cardinals.

PiazzaPatchSmoker — a one-time top draft pick whose ascent was interrupted by injuries and a stint in independent ball — headed back to Laguardia following the game  but maintained his spring-training assignment of 49 in his non-appearance.

As you know by now the Mets will officially retire Mike Piazza’s No. 31 in a ceremony on Saturday, and reveal the digit in its new location in the left field corner. The club is also expected to wear ceremonial uni and hat patches for the event as pictured here. Mike looks a bit like a cartoon character here but to be fair his home runs often looked like something out of a fertile imagination themselves.

Finally the MBTN Hall of Fame has a new member.

An outrageous display of awesomeness.

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Here Come the SHaMs!

That’s the Second-Half Mets, who are going to need to be considerably better than their first-half counterparts if they want to turn this year into something.

I’m not saying they can’t do that, and I’m definitely not saying I’m not rooting for it, but based on what we saw in the first half, I have my doubts.

21I’d have felt better had the team managed to pierce the 10-games-over-.500 barrier but we only approached it several times before settling back into that 80-something win pace. Nobody seems to be acknowledging the biggest loss for the club was big Lucas Duda, who allowed guys like Neil Walker to bat 6th or 7th instead of 4th or 5th. Duda is a mysterious creature. Do we even know how he broke his back? Is his return even a possibility? I’m skeptical of a strong back half without him or someone as terrifying.

20I like Walker enough, but he’s not a middle-of-the-order guy and he hasn’t been much of a force since April. The Mets have Flores, Hererra, Reyes, Reynolds and Cecchini as potential middle infielders. The Mets have no doubt gotten the better of the Niese-Walker swap so far but you wonder, with the Pirates potentially losing an infielder (Kang) and the Mets a starting pitcher, whether they’d shake hands, swap apartments again and pretend it never happened. Niese has been awful, but throw in a prospect, Pittsburgh, and maybe you have a deal. While you’re at it, would you be interested in a reunion with Antonio Bastardo?

Michael Conforto plummeted even more dramatically than Walker but appears to be regaining his stroke in AAA. His return to form would be a considerable boost. Jose Reyes’ return seems to have interrupted Brandon Nimmo’s shot at becoming the leadoff hitter we were looking for anyway. Referring to my recent failed campaign to outfit Travis d’Arnaud in a new number an MBTN reader made a clever suggestion that I might support in helping Conforto to a better second half:

 

I’m all for it, Eric.

33They say it’ll all come down to pitching in the end and I agree. Matt Harvey’s loss, while disappointing, isn’t a setback for the club inasmuch as he wasn’t doing nearly enough to help them win when he was out there. Do they trade for a reliable 5th starter type (Niese again!) or trust things to Sean Gilmartin, and Seth Lugo and Logan Verrett? Maybe they aim a little higher and come away with a Jorge De La Rosa or Rich Hill. Maybe the injury to Snydergaard is worse than expected and they unload. I guess we have to wait and see.

Finally, my friend Conor captured this video from the National broadcast over the weekend! Go us!

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And I Approve of this Message

12Hey, have you checked out the new book yet? Here’s a Q&A I did recently about the site, the book, and other stuff with Diane Firstman at her site, Value Over Replacement Grit.

Also my friend Sam from Rising Apple had me on as a guest in his podcast this week. Our chat, with fellow Met historian geeks Mike and Rich, might still be going on but I had to feed the cats.

I’m trying to keep up hopes up over tonight’s game and the the entire season, but Juan Lagares just hit into a double play. Rats.

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Triple Threats

18So it’s a bit of a double tragedy out there tonight. Travis d’Arnaud surrendering his favorite uni number — one he earned while Jose Reyes was drawing gigantic checks from a franchise that traded d’Arnaud away — and the Mets bending over backwards to accommodate a disgraced star when there’s no guarantee he’s anything approaching the No. 7 he once was.

Travis for his part robotically blurted out unconvincing platitudes about Reyes and Peyton Manning, and here is is, wearing his third uni number in as many years. They couldn’t even do the right thing and use this unusual situation to re-introduce No. 8 to the uni-sphere.

d’Arnaud by my count is the 28th guy to wear three or more numbers for the Mets:

Player 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Jeff McKnight 15 5 7 17 18
Kevin Collins 10 19 16 1
Pedro Feliciano 55 39 25 55
Ed Lynch 59 35 34 36
Darrell Sutherland 47 43 45
Cleon Jones 34 12 21
John Stephenson 49 19 12
Jim Hickman 9 27 6
Mike Jorgensen 10 16 22
Hank Webb 42 30 29
Hubie Brooks 62 39 7
Clint Hurdle 33 13 7
Chuck Carr 7 1 27
Kevin Elster 2 21 15
Charlie O’Brien 33 5 22
Ron Darling 44 12 15
Jason Phillips 26 7 23
David Cone 44 17 16
Jae Seo 38 40 26
Roger Craig 38 36 13
Lee Mazzilli 12 16 13
Mike DiFelice 33 6 9
Marlon Anderson 18 23 9
Ramon Martinez 22 26 6
Robinson Cancel 4 40 29
Anderson Hernandez 1 4 11
Omar Quintanilla 6 3 0
Travis d’Arnaud 15 7 18
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