The Matt Harvey Days Were Fun Weren’t They?

Matt Harvey deserves a tribute video, and an ovation from Mets fans, surely. He literally gave a rib trying to pitch for the Mets, and was a fireballing star for a few years there. Top of the world so to speak. That’s fun.

We’re perhaps making too much of his return here. It’s fun that we’ll get to see him again, but this isn’t aging veteran returning in the sunset of his career, nor is it talented free agent the Mets let get away and is now returning to threaten them. It’s a pitcher that had a few great and powerful years with the Mets, both on and off the field. He pitched our All Star Game, Our last World Series game, and he did so well. Maybe It’s me that’s not making enough of this.

It’s unfair to say Harvey burned bright and faded away, it wasn’t that he flew too close to the sun, or whatever metaphor you want to use. Like so many other pitchers, he was really really good, got hurt because pitching is dangerous, and hasn’t been able to recapture what made him great in the first place.

For Harvey, that’s fastball velocity. Baseball’s a game of inches after all. It’s hard to be the best of the best of the best, and while there are some pitchers that manage to adjust to fading velocity with command, or movement, that’s a different skill. Not all pitchers have them all to the same elite level. It appears Matt Harvey does not quite have it, and without the extra velocity, he’s just too hittable.

Matt Harvey started the All Star Game at Citi Field, which will forever be harkened back to every time or any time we host again. The Mets couldn’t keep 2015 going a few more games, but Harvey’s great performance in that game 5 will forever be remembered, and talked about whenever we make the World Series next.

The Harvey days were fun, and while his return this afternoon is not particularly meaningful, It gives us this time to reflect back and remember those good times. For an inning or two, before Lindor homers for the second time in the bottom of the 2nd and chases him from the game.

Jacob deGrom Better Throw A No-Hitter Soon

Front entrance of Inatome steakhouse, with a spiral japanese garden design in the sand

Jacob, you’re on notice. I NEED a no-hitter this season. You’re welcome to outsource this if you like, but it’d be cool if it was you, another notch in your belt for that Hall Of Fame quest.

We all remember Johan Santana’s no-hitter, obviously. Almost nine years ago. As of this writing, there have been 32 more. The New York Mets 0 since then is already below average. No Nohan post is complete without the writer’s personal story, so I’ll share mine. We were out to dinner at a hibachi place, Inatome in Valley Stream, for my mother in-law’s birthday. As one does, I was peaking at the game via the MLB At Bat app on my phone, just checking in mostly. 

I don’t think I even noticed the no-hitter until the 6th. Needless to say I was less and less invested in dinner. We left at the bottom of the 8th, and I listened in the car to Howie Rose. I remember intersections, waiting for specific lights, because I really wanted to focus and for some reason the anxiety I felt at each intersection as I deflected some of my attention to and from the road solidified these memories. I dropped everyone else off and sat in the car and listened to the last two outs, and then a bit of the aftermath, and then went inside and watched SNY. 

It’s been almost nine years. It’s time. That was a great night, but there was fun and lore around the Mets not having a no-hitter too, and now that we’ve got one, I need more. Radio producer Chris Majkowski’s “Not Tonight Boss” after every opposing first hit of the night was fun. There was a lot of talk about hitting the 8000 game mark without one, and the daily counting became a ritual. No-hitters are mostly flukey, given the nature of batted balls and how it’s easy for them to just find grass even if they weren’t particularly well hit. There was no shame in not having one, it was just one of those weird statistical quirks that makes baseball fun. Jacob deGrom’s 15 strikeout game had two hits, one a soft hit that just found a hole, and a second that Brandon Nimmo probably should’ve fielded. It was a more dominating game than Santana’s no-hitter. Game of inches as they say. 

The Padres Joe Musgrove pitched a no-hitter this year, meaning now EVERY team has at least one. It’s time for the often pitching-rich Mets to start to rack these up. It doesn’t have to be deGrom, I’d happily accept one from any Mets pitcher or even a combined no-hitter! Those are fun too! It’s 2021, the Mets rotation is stacked, and they need to start delivering.

Actual cake we had that night

The New Mets On Tap Podcast

holding a NEIPA session ale in a Mets plastic cup at citi field up to the scoreboard with the field in the background

I know, I know, everyone has a Mets podcast. This one has at least 86% more beer than the average one though. We try to keep it to like 30 minutes of chat about the Mets, baseball, beer, and wherever that takes us.

It’s called Mets On Tap on all podcast platforms (including, retroactively, ones you ask me to add it to).

Please subscribe and rate (5 David Wright Stars!) and review the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, my mother’s refrigerator, and really just anywhere you can.

You can email us questions, comments, and beer recs at podcast@barleyprose.com

Many Questions Remain About A Safe Opening Day

New York has allowed ballparks to operate at 20% as of Opening Day, so the Mets have released information towards filling that capacity. Of course, they’ve sold roughly 100% of Opening Day tickets already, so now they get to attempt to redistribute those tickets to other games of the next two seasons, and re-sell, probably to season ticket holders, Opening Day and other games through early May (for now). 

The protocol for attending are, not surprisingly, sparse. They’re selling ‘pods’ of tickets, and requiring a negative COVID test or vaccination. That’s a start, but I still have a lot of questions.

  1. The guidelines mention showing proof of a negative test. How recent? And what questions are being asked to gauge potential exposure between that negative test and the day of game?
  1. Will ALL bathrooms be open, to spread out the #1 place fans bunch up? 
  1. How far apart are these pods really? Shouting “Let’s Go Mets” expels particles much farther than six feet, especially because the ground is sloped down in the direction fans shout. If I let out a “yeah!” after a strikeout, in between bites, I could easily send droplets many many rows away. 
  1. Will there be guidelines and exit procedures that properly educate and space apart pods so they don’t all try to get out the same way? The same question going in. Will gate assignments be enforced to limit bottlenecks? Where is proof of vaccination or test happening? Are we bottling up entry with even more paperwork? 
  1. If I come down with symptoms the day AFTER the game, are their tracing protocols in place for me to report that? 
  1. Less important, but still valid, if I come down with symptoms the day before, are you going to give me a hard time about straight-refunding my money? 
  1. What percentage of Citi Field staff is vaccinated? Are you requiring or assisting these employees with getting vaccinated, particularly the ones that will be doing admission or handling food? 

It _should_ be possible to have 8000 or so fans in a wide open outdoor area, with good mask usage and hopefully a large percentage of vaccinated fans. Whether it will be or not remains to be seen, and cases in NY are still holding steady and not really decreasing much, only a few weeks before Opening Day. Hopefully they’ll be extra cautious, everyone will behave and get vaccinated, and we can all find ourselves happily at a baseball game this season. 

Worried About The New Citi Field Brewery

an image of a beer at the old Mikkeller NYC brewery with the decorative pipe of flowing beer to a graphic of a drinker is changed into a question mark

A refresher since most of us haven’t been to Citi Field since 2019 at the most recent–Mikkeller NYC closed, and was replaced by Ebbs Brewery, owned and operated by mostly all the same people. It’s the same, but it’s not. They’re not serving all the interesting variety that Mikkeller did. There has been no word on the tasting room, or Citi Field distribution, things that are sneaking up on us fast. I don’t know if it’s wise to have fans at Citi Field as early as April, but the Mets are certainly selling tickets for it.

So what are we going to get? I think it’s interesting to point out how unresponsive Ebbs has been since the changeover. Maybe the one person that didn’t stick around was the media person. It’s possible that this group decided to branch out and open a second brewery, and always planned on being separate, or even abandoning, the Citi Field/Mikkeller job. If that’s the case, it’s entirely possible that Ebbs is NOT associated with the Mets in any way, and that the lease expired with Mikkeller and now sits vacant. 

I was hoping for Mets themed beers. That’s always my hope. I loved Say Hey Sally and Henry Hops as baseball beers. I loved that Mikkeller brewed a ‘United We Cheers’ beer for the The7Line. What do we have in 2021? Will Ebbs be there? Even sticking to their naming scheme and getting like a #41 IPA and a #31 Stout and a #5 Saison would’ve been at least a nod to the location. Ebbs brewery has submitted zero label requests since this news came out, their last label approval was for Stout No. 1 in August. There’s a chance label approval is just delayed due to Covid, but you’d expect something from a new brewery in that time. 

Ebbs website is not rich with information, but it does claim that they were originally brewed at Citi Field and are now brewed in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. That is evidence on the second idea, that they’re NOT associated with Citi Field any longer, or else why not continue brewing there? Did Bruce Wilpon kill the Mikkeller NYC deal himself, as a way to branch off to do Ebbs? This seems absurd, given that the Wilpon family owns the rights to develop the vacant lots across from Citi Field, which will theoretically be both boosted and a boost to a brewery nearby. 

Given what I’m seeing from Ebbs, this could ultimately be a boon. I loved the Mikkeller spot, and the selection, but what Ebbs is offering us is a pale comparison. This opens up a spot for someone else more interesting to come in, presumably already setup for a brewery? Or did they cannibalize it and move it to Brooklyn? From a beer standpoint, It’s certainly a difficult time to establish a presence, but I can’t imagine dropping a huge name brand, moving from an up and running location to a new one, and no longer having any physical, or ownership, connection to Citi Field is going to help things. Never mind that they’re only brewing nondescript beers. I get the idea between brewing stylistically pure beers is something that has some intrinsic value but I’m not sure how cutting all these ties and then brewing specifically non instagrammable beers is something that’s going to work. 

Mikkeller NYC was at least reasonably active on social media, but they often wouldn’t give details about their in-season schedule until almost the last minute, so it may be that we won’t know until some fan that doesn’t even remember it closed wanders around the building on Opening Day, and finds the answer. It’s also possible that there are no fans Opening Day, due to the pandemic, or that a limited 10% crowd doesn’t prompt whoever owns that space to open up. 

I’ve reached out to Ebbs but their email doesn’t work and so far they’ve been non-responsive on social media, so we remain in the dark. 

Meet The New Citi Field Brewery, Same As The Old Citi Field Brewery

Mikkeller NYC closed, in part because of the pandemic and no fans at Citi Field. That was sad, it was a great place to get great beer attached to Citi Field, and they had some baseball themed beers. It was neat! All, perhaps, is not lost. Hat tip to Metspolice for ‘scooping’ me on this.

The brewery is dead, long live the brewery. It didn’t take long for someone to announce they were moving into that space. Fountain Beverages owned EBBS Brewery, just opened up in Brooklyn, will be brewing in that location. Who are they? Let’s see, they’re owned by Bruce Wilpon and..wait, yes. That Bruce Wilpon, of you know, the Wilpons. The one that owned part of Mikkeller NYC. He’s taking a lot, if not all, of the people that worked on Mikkeller with him to EBBS. If you peep their LinkedIn pages, most of them have already been working there! KGRLogic on Twitter noted the obvious inference to Ebbets Field that I missed, which makes me roll my eyes but maybe it’s the perfect name for a ‘Brooklyn’ brewery that is actually in Queens?

There is no brewer listed there yet. Richard Saunders, who was listed as the Head Brewer at Mikkeller from Dec 2017 through October of 2020 is in the role of Director of Strategy & Product Innovation for both Fountain and EBBS. He’s been there five months now, which is roughly when they launched. I suspect this is a very similar position, and I imagine the brewers are the same. In fact, I’d wager a ton that all of EBBS beers were brewed in Mikkeller NYC. 

I have no idea what these means for baseball-themed beers, presence INSIDE Citi Field, or the selection of beers that will change at the location. I don’t know if this was actually a “woe is us, pandemic is hard on business” story, or if it’s a small part of a branding change around the Wilpons specifically. Worth remembering who has the rights (Wilpon) to develop the area around Citi Field, from which this brewery will be directly adjacent too, and likely immensely profitable as a result of.  I’m not sure Mikkel Borg Bjergsø was even ever officially part of the ownership group of the NYC location, and I’m wondering if this was some sort of licensing agreement expiration. Mikkel also has a twin brother named Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø who owns Evil Twin, and there’s some narrative around a feud between them and both wanting to open NYC locations. Evil Twin is opening a second taproom in Dumbo next year.

So, the beers. Well, Fountain has a line of hard seltzer and CBD water. It’s hard not to imagine that stuff flooding Citi Field. EBBS beers are..plain. They’re described as beers you want to drink, and

They are what they are.

With names to match.

Only a style and recipe number.

Sure, I guess. They’re plain white cans with black lettering. Throwback to 70s/80s era generic brands. Things like IPA #7. Some of the beers on their site do have small pictures on them, which seem to be simple and reminiscent of Mikkeller’s style. Are these re-branded Mikkeller beers? One, a Watermelon Gose, is also a beer that Mikkeller makes, though I’m not sure they did in NY. They’re hardly the only one, it’s a common pairing.

They’ve only got basic styles now, IPA, Stout, Gose, Lager, etc. I don’t know if that’s intentional, or just a start. Mikkeller certainly did plenty of weird experimental stuff, like this 4% session IPA called ‘It Was Professor Plum’ with blueberries, plum, and hibiscus. It feels weird to go from getting creative, to just nailing basics, but let’s see how it goes now that the whole space is officially theirs.

I’m sure there’s more drama to come here. I don’t know Fountain’s lease situation, the ownership of the building is changing hands as we know. Is Steve Cohen going to keep Aramark? Is he going to change the agreements in place? Does he like beer? Will he do construction so there’s an entrance/exit to the brewery from inside the stadium? Will he commission Mets beers and actually let them all into the park? I’m not hopeful on most of those, but it’ll be interesting to see. The limited social media that exists from them has a small undertone of sarcasm and levity to it that I think is promising at least.

Now, wear your masks, get your shots, and let’s kick this pandemic to the curb so we can actually GO to the brewery and the park.

The 2020 Season, A Bad Experiment

No. It’s bad.

I gave it it’s best shot. I was pro-season going in, but now that it’s almost over it just didn’t do it for me. It wasn’t..normal?

That’s been a trend for me with the pandemic. Everything and everyone is trying their hardest to approximate normal. How can we dine? How can we shop? How can we cram the same educational milestones into a school year remotely? How do we have a baseball season?

It’s not normal though, and a little foresight would’ve gone a long way into envisioning a different type of season, not just a shorter one. Rob Manfred  though, seems to hate baseball, and it shows. So instead of anything approaching creative, we get shoe-horned in last minute changes like a runner on second in extra innings, or 7 inning games, extra teams in the playoffs and no breaks in the playoff rounds.

First mistake was ignoring the pandemic. MLB dragged its feet on playing at all, purposely waiting until they could mandate 60 games. Maybe that could’ve worked if they started earlier and factored in time for potential quarantines. Instead anytime anyone had to miss games, even if it was only a few days, they were faced with a 10 game in 7 day scenario, or long stretches with no off days.  

So teams would go from a bunch of days off in a row, to suddenly playing non-stop. I haven’t run specific numbers, but it’s hard not to imagine players timing being off, players routines being off. These are players that, accurate or not, would complain about all sorts of minor disruptions from not getting enough work in, to having to pitch the 7th instead of the 9th, as reasons why they were less effective. 

The injuries too. They go from cold to hot, with no build up. ‘Summer camp’ was abbreviated. Players rushed, and got hurt. The games mean more, so they’re pressing more. It’s like every complaint about the WBC without any guidelines or protocols in place. Never mind rehab starts. Need to miss a start or two because of a tight hamstring or a hangnail or anything else? Right back into live games without any minor league time. Hope you’re sharp!

Of course, there are no fans. We knew that, but for all the jokes about it being normal for the Marlins, or whoever, it’s wrong. It feels wrong. I can’t quite take the whole thing seriously because the images from the park are so foreign. The playoffs are going to feel weird, muted, without all the pomp and circumstance that goes with a fanatical group of people in the stands getting excited. 

Now that this season is just about over, even though it feels like it barely started, and I just never really found the passion to dive into the season and really commit. Part of that is just that with so much going on, sports feels so secondary anyway. I have so much on my mind, so much I’m worried about, caring about, dealing with, that sports? I just can’t get myself there. 

All in all, this season has mostly been an abomination. I was really rooting for it, but they just couldn’t pull it off, but that’s a discussion for another day. At least they mostly kept everyone safe, so far. 

The Incredible Hitting Mets Pitchers

I’ve pretty much come around on DH for all over the years. I’d prefer pitcher’s bat but it just seems that no one really takes it seriously, so let’s get a batter that’s actually trying. It seems like a farce most of the time. Plus David Wright may have been able to extend his career if it was DH only a few years ago, and the juiced ball would’ve been kind to Wright’s hitting profile.

So it came as somewhat of a shock to see just how well the Mets are doing as pitchers at-bat this season. I don’t know if this is a quirk of the Mets pitchers just being really super athletic and good, or if there is some extra batting practice going on, but they’re really doing quite well. 

Mets pitchers as a group have 1.7 fWAR, which is way more than the second place Dodgers at 0.5 fWAR. That’s a not-insignificant contribution from the Mets pitchers at the plate. They are the only NL club with a positive wRC+, at 32, which means they are 32% of an average MLB hitter, which is probably way better than you think a typical pitcher is. Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler are at 0.6 fWAR each, or more than every other team’s entire rotation. 

The Diamondbacks have five home runs, though only a 0.1 fWAR overall, from their pitchers, the Brewers have two, and the Mets have six. This means that only one other team has more pitcher home runs than Noah Syndergaard or deGrom. 

Thor in particular is swinging for the fences. He’s got three singles, 1 double, and 2 home runs. The average distance of his contact is 225ft, which is 50 ft further than Jon Lester, who’s second, minimum 10 results. Lester and the Cubs do edge the Mets slightly in average exit velocity, 78.6 mph to 77.8.

There have been 23 plays by pitchers classified by Statcast as Barrels, or ideal contact, and the Mets have six of them. Syndergaard has three, Zack Greinke actually has five himself for the lead, and Madison Bumgartner is the other pitcher with more than one, with two. Greinke with three home runs is the only non-Mets pitcher with more than one. 

Mets pitchers can swing some wood! Who knew!

Special shoutout to Stephen Matz, the fourth guy who’s contributing value here. Stephen Matz also is the fastest pitcher in baseball, as far as Statcast can be trusted in measuring something that’s fairly small sample. 28.9 ft/s puts him in the top 8% of the league, or 53rd. That’s also 5th for 28 year olds. Statcast doesn’t really put the pitcher’s on the leaderboards, but of the Mets position players, only Amed Rosario at 29.2 ft/s is faster. 

Something to keep in mind if the Mets are looking for late-game pinch runners for the playoff run or postseason.

Time For The Mets To Extend Noah Syndergaard

Noah Syndergaard, if you’re still reading about the Mets at this point, is a hot topic of trade rumors these days. These seem to be real rumors too, and not the clickbait ones SNY was peddling in Spring Training. While turning pitchers into prospects if you can get excess value is usually a good bet given the fragile nature of pitchers, particularly hard throwing ones that haven’t had Tommy John surgery, I think the better play is to extend him, not trade him.

The Mets control Syndergaard for two more years after this one. He has a career 3.21 ERA and accumulated 17.1 fWAR so far. Speaking of WAR, it’s at 2.7 this season. That’s 21st in baseball. (Jacob deGrom is 7th and Zack Wheeler is 25th) The ERAs aren’t as sparkling as last year, but at least with Syndergaard, a lot of that can be chalked up to two things. The juiced ball, and defense.

Syndergaard’s HR rate has spiked, as has literally everyone’s with the way the ball is these days. He’s on record saying he’s struggled to get the same grip on it as he has in previous years. It’s something he knows to work on, and sometimes does seem to have better success, and it’s also something that might be corrected if there’s any correction to the ball in 2020. It’d be foolish to plan on that correcting, but Thor’s still providing a lot of value despite it, and a correction can only help pitchers. You’d also hate to pull a Daniel Murphy, and trade him only to have the ball change in his favor afterwards.

The other thing that’s hurt Syndergaard is LOB%, the percentage of baserunners he strands. This is a stat that’s mostly out of the pitcher’s control, though obviously higher strikeout pitchers will tend to strand more runners. Syndergaard is 31st of qualified pitchers with a 23.8 K%, which is above the starting pitcher league average 22.3. Thor has the 10th worst LOB% of qualified pitchers at 68.1%, and Zack Wheeler is 5th worse. League average is 72%. Defense can kill this, allowing a lower percentage of balls in play to become outs.

So Noah Syndergaard is a really good pitcher still, and could be even better. He’s under team control. This is only his age 26 season. That’s the kind of guy you want on your team. I don’t know what Thor would be looking for in a contract extension. He’s previously shown to be very cognizant of how underpaid MLB players are pre-free agency, so perhaps he’s not willing to give away any of that. Still, if you can pay him more for 2020 and 2021 to buy 2022 and possible more, it’d be hard to believe a trade package could be worth more than Syndergaard himself, barring a spring 2020 Tommy John surgery that cancels is 2020 and 2021 season, but that could just as easily happen to the pitcher the Mets would have to acquire to replace him.

The Mets should absolutely listen to offers on any player they have that can garner something big in return, and measure the odds of that making the team better both in 2020 and beyond, but it’s hard to see the Mets getting a return that has a high-probability of out-performing Noah Syndergaard himself. Keep him, extend him and enjoy him.