Archive for SHaMs

New World Order

Hey guys, I’m back from a lengthy vacation where among other things I was there to witness Amed Rosario’s doomed first game as a Met at Coors Field but missed a ton of other stuff so here’s the happy(?) recap of a busy few weeks.

Chris Flexen is wearing 64 and is in the starting rotation. Flexen was recalled in late July from Class AA where he’d been pitching quite well. Flexy is the fourth guy to wear 64 for the Mets. In keeping with current tradition he was simply reissued the same number he wore in Spring Training. I used to think that if guys proved themselves in this role they might get more dignified numbers down the road, but Seth Lugo says no.

Flexen the other day was opposed by Texas’ AJ Griffin, promoting a question I never thought would be asked:

I don’t know the answer offhand!

Lucas Duda, Addison Reed, Jay Bruce and Neil Walker have been traded away. I liked Duda quite a lot and would say that if his newly recalled replacement could accomplish all he has (let’s say, lead his number in all-time home runs) we’ll be fortunate. As for Reed and Bruce, easy come easy go.

On the other hand, daring Neil Walker to take a $17 million qualifying offer to remain a Met in 2017 ought to go down as one of Sandy Alderson’s bigger goofs as it was clear even last year Walker was no $17 million player, there were already plenty of potential second basemen in the organization, and I suspect that paycheck became a obstacle to having done more with the 2017 roster. As it is we’ve got to pay Milwaukee to take him. That said Walker was a pro, whose terrific start in 2016 was you know, something. Like Bruce’s 2017. It was announced just after I published that the Mets have recalled Las Vegas reliever Kevin McGowan to take Walker’s roster spot: He’ll wear No. 61.

In the midst of all this getting-rid-ofs, Alderson also did an clever thing in acquiring closer AJ Ramos of Florida. I have no idea whether Ramos is actually good but his acquisition helped the Mets move Reed without completely destroying themselves, gave themselves another affordable option for next year, and may have made Reed relatively more valuable by reducing the Proven Closer inventory. Ramos was a 44 in Florida but is wearing 40 as a Met. Braden Looper notched 57 saves wearing that number.

Who knows if any of the dudes we received in exchange for these surrendered pieces amount to anything but they seem to consist nearly entirely of hard-throwing bullpen wannabees. This reminds me of the 2003 selloff when Jeromy Burnitz, Armando Benitez, Roberto Alomar, Rey Sanchez, Graeme Lloyd and probably others I can no longer remember were sent packing, mostly for relief pitchers, none of whom ever really worked out.

And like 2003, we did so anticipating a brighter future on the strength of recent (and anticipated) callups. As mentioned Amed Rosario debuted in Denver, and this weekend first baseman Dominic Smith arrived, in 1 and 22, respectively, the numbers they had in Las Vegas. Whether these guys turn out to be the new Reyes-and-Wright remains to be seen but welcome aboard. Rosario is the 31st different player to don No. 1, which has basically been held under reserve for him for a few years even if Justin Ruggiano was seen wearing it last. Smith has two World Series MVPs as his precessors in 22; and the home-run king is Kevin McReynolds with 122.

Smith’s promotion coincided with coach Tom Goodwin’s switch to No. 88: He’s the first Met to have ever won that. Oh, and it resulted in the long-deserved designation of Fernando Salas who always seemed to be a dead-cat bounce and might not have been counted on so heavily had we not fattened up on Neil Walker salary.

Thanks again to the commenters here and on Twitter who kept the conversation going in my absence! LGM

 

 

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Surrender (but Don’t Give Yourself Away)

Chris Flexen, the Class AA starter called up to make tonight’s start in San Diego in place of the injured Zack Wheeler, will be the first Met to wear 64 since Akeel Morris in 2015, another minor leaguer who made a big jump to the big leagues.

Let’s hope this promotion turns out better for Flexen than it did for Morris, who was bombed for 5 earned runs in 2/3rds of an inning, sent back to Class A afterwards, and eventually got traded to Atlanta in one or another of the Kelly Johnson deals.

Flexen you might recall was also considered to have been one of the guys who was on the way out in the Jay Bruce deal last summer but was rejected by the Reds due to physical concerns so perhaps he fits right in as a Met.

At any rate, he’s the first minor leaguer called up this week but likely not the last as time ticks down for the Mets to rid themselves of anything of short-term value, namely closer Addison Reed and perhaps, Asdrubal Cabrera, Neil Walker, Rene Rivera, Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda, all of whom have come up in rumors. Of those names it will be bittersweet to part with the last few. I’ve always liked Big Duda, who I’m sure is ultimately destined to mash a million home runs as a DH for some AL West team, and Granderson is a terrific pro who’d probably be a nice emotional investment for a playoff-bound club.

But, they aren’t going anywhere with the 2017 Mets who have been betrayed by the health and consistency of their starting pitching, particularly Steven Matz who has probably been the most frustrating guy to root for, either throwing a gem, getting bombed or getting hurt — nothing in between for this guy. I also think it’s been proven their qualifying-offer gambit with Walker was a disaster: This was a useful guy, for sure, but hardly vital given the fact there were 5 other guys who can second base and aren’t spending a second straight year on the disabled list, and aren’t making $17 million. In the end that cash would have been better used for some more relief pitching. The lesson: Don’t go into a year with guys you’d prefer not to have.

I think it’s also likely that after months of waiting we’ll see AAA prospects Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith shortly, the latter particularly if Duda goes. Rosario we’ve established wears No. 1 and that appears to have been reserved for him. Smith is rocking No. 22 in Las Vegas and could take it over upon a recall if coach Tom Goodwin will part with it, with one of or the other of them inheriting Duda’s surrendered No. 21, Walker’s given-up 20 or even Cabrera’s 13.

 

 

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Amazin’!

Well, they did it.

21Exactly five weeks ago today (you could look it up!) I posited that in order for the Mets to get into the postseason they’d need to win 21 of their remaining 33 games. That seemed like a longshot if not the impossibility it would have appeared less than two weeks before that, but I’ll be dagnabbed if they didn’t win their 21st on Saturday and clinch the playoffs at the very same time.

You could look it up.

I’m not taking a personal victory lap here — my supposed experience and perspective on uni numbers was proven wrong this year over and over and over again this year — but rather, I’m surprised that of all the expectations of the season this was the one that came true. My general feeling on any season’s prospects is get to 10 games over .500 first, then I can consider the possibility of going all-in. The Mets of course knocked on that door early in the season and then again late, but didn’t reach that plateau to stay until late last week.

10That means we’re as hot as can be headed into Wednesday’s win-or-go-home showdown. And though anything can happen I’m taking some solace in the fact that we were there last season, and even if you argue that was a better club (more starting pitching depth, a better track record in having proven they belonged since April vs. since September) I’m recalling the 2000 club, which by almost any measure was inferior to their 1999 predecessors but who got considerably further in the postseason due in part to the psychic experience of having gotten there the first time. So I’m optimistic. I think Terry Collins deserves Manager of the Year after I slogged him only a few weeks ago.

Meantime I’m checking on Chris’ comment below that the 2016ers have likely surpassed the “record” of the highest-combined-uni starting lineup we’d found prior to this year, the 274 we threw up on April 4, 2012. I’m on it!

 

 

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Ten!

As I’ve said all year if and when they puncture that 10-games-over plateau, maybe the temperature rises.

Well. Here we are on September 18, and there they are, and I guess I’m all in.

10Here’s another weird thing. When in the same post I suggested a 21-12 finish over their last 33 games was what they would need I hadn’t realized that was also their precise record through their first 33 games. That day (May 11 after a 4-3 win in Los Angeles), the Mets reached nine games over .500 for the second time in the young season. They were also nine games up at 20-11 two days before.

The Mets this season in fact knocked on the Magical 10-games-over barrier eight times before finally breaking down the door last night: May 9 (20-11); the aforementioned May 11 (21-12); May 27 (28-19); July 7 (47-38); then a long break till four more tries — Sept. 9 (75-66); Sept. 11 (76-67); Sept. 13 (77-68) and Sept. 19 (78-69).

 

As for my 21-12 goal, they’re on their way at 12-6 though the first 18, and just 9 of the last 15.

Figuring out who pitches Game 4 of the division series requires a whole different set of complicated arithmetic, but I’m glad today has arrived. Onward!

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Forty Weight

2The Mets have reached reached Labor Day still very much in the playoff hunt even as the composition of the club continues to change, and seemingly, not always for the better. It’s a stretch to suggest it might be a good thing Harvey, deGrom and Matz are unavailable right now but Gsellman, Lugo and Montero appear to be up to the task, and, more importantly, the club’s finally hitting again, which is no small thing. I’ve stopped trying to figure this year out.

Adding to this odd group this week is a small army of returnees from the minors. Matt Reynolds made a spectacular reappearance on Labor Day; expected to arrive today are Montero, Brandon Nimmo, T.J. Rivera, Eric Campbell, John Edgin and Eric Goeddel — the last three guys just for the laughs I think, and all of them, I suspect, back into their previously assigned unis. I don’t even think I knew Rivera was back down again.

72And arriving for the first time, infielder Gavin Cecchini. As the team’s 2012 top draft pick, Cecchini has the pedigree to assume to vacant No. 2 but given the Mets’ practice this year we shouldn’t be surprised if he arrives wearing 72, which he had last during Spring Training.

 

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Send Me an Angel

59The Mets following Wednesday’s victory over the sinking Marlins said they have acquired veteran right-handed reliever Fernando Salas from the Angels in exchange for Class A pitcher Erik Manoah. Salas, a one-time closer with the Cardinals and currently serving that role part-time in Anaheim, is expected to add depth to the “7th-inning” level of the Met bullpen, where Hansel Robles and Jim Henderson have encountered recent struggles.

49Salas has worn No. 59 in both St. Louis and in Anaheim, although that figure currently belongs to Josh Smoker. It would seem an awful lot of work to accommodate him but it could be done if Smoker goes back to the 49 he was issued when he first arrived, or grabs one of the few remaining unassigned numbers (2, 46, 53, 58). More likely though we’ll see Salas in one of those.

00Here’s a suggestion though. What if they took advantage of SALAS’ palindromic qualities and gave him a number that looks the same frontward and backward? 00?

Salas’ arrival by the way ensures he can be post-season eligible, as can the four guys the Mets have already announced are getting recalls from Class AAA Vegas: Michael Conforto (30), Kevin Plawecki (26), Ty Kelly (56) and Gabriel Ynoa (63). With news that Neil Walker is also likely to be out for the rest of the year you wonder if or when Gavin Cecchini gets a call but perhaps this is T.J. Rivera’s time to shine.

Four games into the below mentioned “21-12” scenario, the Mets are 3-1 and sure enough are making the progress they have to towards the playoffs but my pennant fever at this point is still just an itchy rash. As I’ve said all year if and when they puncture that 10-games-over plateau, maybe the temperature rises.

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Let the Banners Be Unfurled

65Hey guys I’m back from a week off during which I was witness to Robert Gsellman’s heroic major league debut which also marked the first appearance of a No. 65 in team history.

50Gso far, gso gsood for Gsellman, but we’re going to need his contributions beginning today in the finale against Philly not to mention a few other guys suddenly thrown into the deep end — remember Rafael Montero? He made a brief appearance in May and is being recalled from Class AA to make Monday’s start opposite Jose Fernandez in Miami. Seth Lugo goes Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday’s starters are listed TBA and TBA, respectively. Yikes.

It’s all about the offense for the time being, but with Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker still battling lingering injuries and Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson both struggling, who knows how sustainable this latest run can be. The Mets have 33 games left beginning today (8 with Philly; 7 with Miami; 6 with Atlanta and Washington; and 3 each with Cincy and Minnesota). Could the SHaMs pull a Rush and go 21-12? That could do it.

36Thanks by the way to reader Jimmy who pointed out the database and latest edition of the MBTN book overlooked the phantom Met, Al Reyes, the ex-Tampa closer who appeared on the roster in September on 2008 but never appeared in a game before being released later that month. Reyes, as we noted then, was assigned 36 but somehow was unable to even get a turn as a reliever on that squad. I have tried very hard to get September of 2008 out of my mind — the frenzied destruction of Shea amid a second-straight choke that marked the true beginning of a rotten stretch of baseball and team stewardship that lasted for five long years.

Thanks Jimmy! We’ll reluctantly update the database.

Go Mets…

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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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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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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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