I’m 18 and I like it

It’s crazy and just about as accomplished but Mets By The Numbers has now had a career as long as Ed Kranepool: Eighteen years.

The site went “live” for the first time on Feb. 22, 1999. It wasn’t a “blog” then as such a thing didn’t really exist, but a website with a “home page” that was updated as needed, with stuff deleted as time permitted, which I guess is one reason why the earliest front-page updates I can find for it date only to the failed Barry Larkin trade of 2000, although I uncovered an early cry for help archived from October of 1999.

Anyway, we’re as pleased to be 18 as the protagonist in the Alice Cooper song, or Darryl Strawberry in 1983, or maybe, Darryl Hamilton in 1999. Fun Fact: 100% of the Mets’ Darryls have worn No. 18. Darrells (Ceciliani, Sutherland) are another story entirely.

Real quickly, the most Metly 18s in club history:

1 Darryl Strawberry: I used to wonder what it was about Yankee fans who grew up the 1950s and 60s that made them so obsessive about Mickey Mantle and then I met Strawberry and became one of them. He can still be a Daaaryl sometimes but he meant a lot.

2 Joel Youngblood: Terrific athlete who never found a home on the field. Darryl’s predecessor.

3 Art Howe: Luckless and dull caretaker of a manager astonishingly described as having “lit up the room” in an interview to replace Bobby Valentine. Right, Fred.

4. Felix Mantilla: Arguably the best player on the 1962 Mets which sounds like a kind of feint praise.

5. Moises Alou: Incredible hitter when healthy, never healthy.

6. Marlon Anderson: The best of his three numbers was 18, wore it for his famous inside-the-park home run.

7. Benny Ayala: Home run in first at-bat, of course

8. Bret Saberhagen: He’d have more success wearing 17.

9. Takashi Kashiwada: First Japan-born Met. I associate him with a photo playing in the “ice cream man” white hat.

10. Jeff McKnight. Because, Jeff McKnight.

 

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Pitchers, Catchers + Numbers, 2017

Click to embiggen

Photos from the first day of Mets camp this morning (I borrowed this one from David Lennon, who even did the ghost of Marty Noble a favor and reported on locker assignments today) have circulated and illustrate a Spring Training roster light on shocking revelations.

In the good news department, new third base coach Glenn Sherlock has been issued a “third base coach” number — 53 — and reliever Josh Smoker has been reassigned 49 after a DNP stop there last season, then turns in 59 and 58. And its good to see 70 through 85 appropriately populated with young longshots and camp invites but would hope if Adam Wilk makes it to the big club this year they’ll give him something better than 85.

Yet, neither Robert Gsellman (65) nor Seth Lugo (67) or TJ Rivera (54) are showing dignified digits yet, despite prime real estate like 11, 16, 28, 29 and 35 being available. In the meantime, longshot NRIs Tom Gorzelanny and Ben Rowen snap up 40 and 46, respectively.

I suspect we’ll see a few changes before it all shakes out!

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Sixth Sense

Today a friend of MBTN pointed out the following tweet:

Could it be Robert Gsellman dumps his 65… for 6? Well, anything’s possible, and despite this being a training jersey worn in an offseason workout with kids in a minor league park, it was taken last week, and the combo of Name-On-Back and number make it look suggestive of something.

However, a little investigation on my own reveals this wasn’t the first time Gsellman appeared in a No. 6 training jersey, as weird as that may seem. He appears to be wearing the same outfit pictured in this mugshot (date unknown but he looks about 19 and a half), which some outlets trotted out upon Gsellman’s promotion to the Majors for the first time last summer, when he of course was issued 65. So I don’t think this particular change is actually a thing. He probably just had that one hanging around.

That said, I think there’s a good argument for Gsellman to change into some other number before we see him pitch next. Just goofing off here, but it would be interesting if the Mets could right the numerical wrongs of the past seasons an execute a multiplayer uni swap whereby Gsellman and Jacob deGrom switch to 35 and 36, respectively. That would give the club an unprecedented starting rotation in consecutive numbers (Matz 32, Harvey 33, Syndergaard 34, Gsellman 35 and deGrom 36). deGrom and Gsellman are interchangeable in this scenario but I kept deGrom in the even number. That move requires Sean Gilmartin to take on a new number, perhaps the vacant 46 or deGrom’s 48, as the relievers gather in 40s the same way their starting brethren do in the 30s. I’d move Seth Lugo and Gabriel Ynoa to this neighborhood as well, with 40 and 48 also available in this scenario. This also leaves Zack Wheeler alone at 45 but I’m imagining he’s bullpen bound for now.

No. 6 by the way still belongs to coach Pat Roessler, as far as I can tell.

 

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The Big Takeover

More than a month has passed since we remarked on the lack of activity in Metville and still, activity lacks.

They’ve signed three fringe guys to minor league contracts (pitchers Cory Burns, Ben Rowen and Adam Wilk); and invited a bunch of their own minor league guys to camp (Chase Bradford, Xorge Carrillo, P.J. Conlon, Phillip Evans, Luis Guillorme, Kevin McGowan, David Roseboom, Paul Sewald, Dominic Smith, Champ Stuart, Travis Taijeron, Corey Taylor and Logan Taylor). They join the previously announced 40-man additions (Flexen, Molina, Nido, Rosario, Becerra).

Meantime we still have Jay Bruce but continue losing guys from the 2016 fringes: Alejandro De Aza has signed with Oakland; James Loney with Texas; Eric Campbell with Japan; Logan Verrett was sold to Baltimore; Bartolo Colon to Atlanta; Jim Henderson to the Cubs.

Jerry Blevins, Jon Niese, Kelly Johnson, and Fernando Salas remain free agents.

If I counted right that means 21 guys plus new coach Glenn Sherlock are now looking for number assignments. The Mets still haven’t updated their roster so at the moment the following numbers are vacant:

1, 8, 11, 16, 17, 28, 29, 35, 40, 46, 51, 53, 61, 64 and everything higher than 68.

39, 49, 55 and 59 are also available but I’m considering them technically in limbo until the free agents find new homes.

We’ll keep you posted.

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When there’s nothing to speculate about, speculate

Around here, this time of year often inspires lots of speculation about inbound freight and what to outfit them in, but it was pointed out to me yesterday that other than the 40-man additions noted below, and the re-signing of three of our own free agents (Neil Walker, Rene Rivera, Yoenis Cespedes), there has been a grand total of zero new names on the sacred scrolls since September.

53Well, one new guy if you count incoming third-base/catching coach Glenn Sherlock, who will replace Tim Teufel in an act of mercy. Sherlock by the way wore No. 53 in a similar role with the Diamondbacks, so he feels more like a real coach and less of guy whose main qualification for the role was a job with the Mets in 1986.

Players? There’s been none. No journeyman catchers with spring training invites, no Rule 5 picks, no lefthanded relief pitchers, no veteran bats on make-good comeback contracts, and of course, no Winter-Meeting-Three-Team-Twelve-Player Blockbusters (WMTT12PBs), which on a chilly December morning like this would warm old the hot stove. In the meantime we’ve seen a few Mets go away: Bartolo Colon, Logan Verrett (we’ll never forget how few craps he gave taking No. 35 still warm from Dillon Gee), and Johnny Monell.

Obviously this will change if and when the Mets get around to addressing the Jay Bruce Question; for now I’m pleased that the team hasn’t given him away for nothing and I’m dubious in general that any relief pitcher ought to be fair value for a flawed but legitimate power bat like Bruce.

19And just maybe, they’re holding out on a secret WMTT12PB. Perhaps Bruce can find a home again — in Cincinnati. Trade him, Lucas Duda and Steven Matz for Joey Votto and a reliever? Votto’s the kind of Olerud/Hernandez type bat this club could really use, David Wright can’t be counted on being anymore, and guys like Conforto and Nimmo might not get the chance to be.

Otherwise, we’re a adequately situated and familiar club that will require a lot to go right again in 2017.

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Young Men With A Future

Well at least some worthy candidates are ascending to higher office around here.

The Mets on Friday added five young players to fill empty spots on their 40-man roster, protecting them from poachers at the forthcoming Rule 5 draft and technically, initiating the moment at which they are assigned a big-league uni number.

A quick glance at the Mets roster online indicates that last bit hasn’t happened yet so keep an eye out. In the meantime let’s welcome outfielder Wuilmer Becerra; catcher Tomas Nido; shortstop Amed Rosario; and pitchers Marcos Molina and Chris Flexen to the club.

1If you want to handicap these assignments, it’s a safe bet the Mets will issue Rosario No. 1, matching both his rank of their prospects list and his Binghamton jersey. Helps also that Justin Ruggiano was outrighted recently. The others are down far enough in the minors still to establish much of a numerical identity: Molina was spotted most recently wearing 45 in Arizona Fall League action. St. Lucie teammates Becerra, Nido and Flexen wore 32, 13 and 33, respectively, this past season.

29You can’t protect everyone so some say that pitching prospects Ricky Knapp and Paul Sewald, and outfielder Champ Stewart, are vulnerable to selection in the Rule 5 draft.

In part to make room for these guys the Mets have not only outrighted Ruggiano, but Eric Campbell and Jim Henderson. Campbell reportedly has a deal to play play for Hanshin in the Japan League next season. Sayonara, Soupy.

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Bye Bye Bart

40As you know by now, Bartolo Colon has signed a 2017 contract with the Braves, where he’ll join fellow new arrival R.A. Dickey as a veteran dynamic duo we may well encounter when the Mets open the 2017 season against Atlanta in April.

Colon can’t be blamed for seeking a regular starting gig as he pursues a few personal milestones: He needs 10 wins to catch Juan Marichal for the all-time lead among Dominican pitchers, and 12 to surpass Dennis Martinez and become the winningest Latin American pitcher of all-time. I speak for all Mets fans wishing him the best of luck most nights, anyway.

I had no idea what to expect of Colon when he arrived as a 40-year-old ostensibly to hold Matt Harvey’s place in the rotation in 2014, and would not have predicted he’d depart three years later having set the all-time mark for wins (44) and strikeouts (415) among guys who wore No. 40 (Pat Zachry was the prior king and still leads this club in losses). Colon was a surprising guy all around, obviously a better athlete than he looked to be and a fun presence who really helped the Mets especially this last year. We’ll miss him!

20That’s the first significant departure of what’s looking to be an interesting offseason for the Mets. At the moment I cannot picture a scenario that doesn’t involve a significant trade or two. Briefly I’m sort of rooting against a return engagement for Neil Walker but can’t see how he’ll turn down that $17 million waiting for him, and if he takes it that’ll put a strain on the budget to re-engage Cespedes, so I suppose if the Mets want Walker they can do so with a compromise kind of multiyear deal, and just maybe, prepare him for a kind of caddy deal where his switch-hittingness becomes valuable for the bench while ushering in Gavin Cecchini who keeps on hitting.

While pursuit of a new deal for Cespedes could be hair raising it could be argued that the club already has the next-best available outfielder of a relatively weak class in Jay Bruce, and so I’m rooting for Sandy and the guys to make hay of this and surprise us.

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Flying High

63Thanks to prompts by MBTN reader Chris, and through the power of
the Ultimate Mets Database, and ultimately, to the health woes of the Mets vaunted starting 5 pitchers, we were indeed able to confirm that the Mets set all kinds of new records for Highest Combined Uni Number Lineup this past month.

First, a bit of context: The “records” we previously discussed here were only as good as the research backing it up, which until now involved diving blindly into thousands of daily lineups by hand with an eye on target-rich environments (the early years for low lineups, Sean Estes starts for high). Because MBTN was and still is the only outlet in the world that bothered to look up such info those records, these treasure hunts were the record, as far as anyone knew.

We can confirm today that our previous high-water mark of 274 (May 30, 2004) has been obliterated by the 2016 Mets several times over. As
Chris mentioned, they hit 278 on Sept. 30, but the new clubhouse leader is a whopping 324, set on Sept. 18 vs. the Twins:

16 DeAza

54 Rivera

52 Cespedes

30 Conforto

55 Johnson

18 d’Arnaud

21 Duda

15 Reynolds

63 Ynoa

It was a big month for big numbers. They hit 287 on Sept. 28, 285 on Sept. 25, etc. etc.

We’ll dig into the lowest numbers in another post soon!

 

 

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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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