2/23 Beer of the Game: Sierra Nevada’s Hazy Little Thing

Can I have another?Today is the Mets first Spring Training game. Nothing goes better with baseball than beer. Today’s beer of the game is Sierra Nevada’s Hazy Little Thing.

Hazy New England Style IPAs are all the rage these days. Drinkers have an insatiable appetite for them, much like our appetite for Mets baseball, starting today!

It pours a nice golden, or perhaps ORANGE, color. It’s definitely got some haze but it’s not as opaque as some other beers in the style.

It smells of fruit. Fresh and bright. Lots of light colored citrus aroma, like oranges and lemons.

These IPAs are fruit forward, and this one has lots of those juicy notes and citrusy flavors like orange and grapefruit, which is perfect for Florida. It’s got a nice pillowy mouthfeel, and goes down real easy. There’s just a hint of some malt sweetness which provides a base and some traditional IPA piney bitterness that balances it all out. No harsh edges anywhere.

I could drink this all game, though at 6.7% I probably shouldn’t. Much like the Mets, this one’s a crowd pleaser.

Will The Mets Pitchers Stay Healthy?

photo by CeetarMost of the Mets starters were injured last season, and have a history of injury. You know this. I know this. Sandy Alderson knows this. Sandy added Jason Vargas. He’s a pitcher that pitched well for half a season last year after he missed time due to injury in the years prior. Turns out most pitchers have an injury history, and trying to figure out which ones will be injured next year is a fool’s errand.

 

I would’ve gone after Yu Darvish. If you think you need another pitcher, get the best one.  That’s not to say Darvish is without flaws or concerns, or that he best represents the guy you still want on the roster in 2022, but he’s certainly more polished than Jason Vargas.

 

The Mets pitching depth is deep though. They’ve got 9 or 10 guys of various quality on the roster right now even if some of them, like Rafael Montero, aren’t filling us with a ton of confidence. The Mets season was derailed mainly by pitcher injuries last year, and 2018 again hinges on that health. Can these pitchers stay healthy? Are they more risky than someone who’s been more of a workhorse in recent memory?

 

Is there such thing as a healthy pitcher? There’s a common thought that all pitchers have some form of elbow damage, as the very act of pitching is damaging to a human arm. A healthy pitcher is just a pitcher that’s hasn’t yet gotten hurt enough to not be effective. This led me to ask myself, how many pitchers that stayed healthy in 2016 also stayed healthy in 2017?

 

Not very many. There were 73 pitchers that qualified for the ERA title in 2016. 33, or about 45%, of them also qualified in 2017. That’s not a great conversion rate, and it gets worse if you bump up the minimum from about 163IP to 180. 37%, 17 in 46, of those pitchers also pitched 180 in 2017. Of course this includes two pitcher deaths, which is typically outside the scope of arm injuries, but even if you drop those guys it’s still only 39%.

 

That’s just one year though. Let’s look at the three years prior to 2017 to try to rule out random fluke injuries that may skew the sample. Was the general health of a pitcher between 2014-2016 predictive of health in 2017? There were 123 qualifying pitchers for those three years, but only 50 of them qualified in 2017, so not particularly comforting.

 

The shocking conclusion here is that pitchers get hurt. A lot. There’s very little reliable way to predict which pitchers will make it through the entire season, or which will end up being ineffective due to nagging injuries that don’t land them on the DL but still keep them from being their best.

 

There are some guys that have been reliable, but you never really know if next year will be the year they’re not.  Max Scherzer has been reliable for years and years but last year he did experience some hamstring pain, and some neck pain. He still pitched 200 of the best innings of his life, but it’s not a stretch to imagine that those were the first cracks of an aging pitcher who’s led the league in innings pitched for a while.

 

The Mets pitchers were injured. They’re starting 2018 with no restrictions and are ready to pitch, and they have a lot of talent in those arms. It’s almost a given that they won’t stay that way for long, but the Mets have made coaching and medical changes aimed at keeping them healthy, and that very well may be the better gamble over acquiring other pitchers that have been healthier in recent history.

Frazier Signs and the Mets are now Contenders

The Mets signed these two guys this offseason

Todd Frazier rounds out the Mets offense and helps solidify them as legitimate contenders in both the NL East and the National League at large. This will be the fourth consecutive season that the Mets will be seriously considered among the top teams in baseball.

We’ll look back on that 11 day winning streak in early 2015 as the start of this stretch of Mets teams. Last year got derailed pretty early, but some better health and some better luck and now some better players will make the Mets in 2018 a team to pay attention to.

Todd Frazier isn’t a super star, but he’s posted good BB% rates the past two years and can hit for power. He’ll be a solid presence in the lineup and if his BABIP comes back up to career norms he could even have a great season. He also plays excellent defense, something that will make the Mets 2018 infield markedly different than 2017 where they basically punted defense.

It also creates a lineup that might have zero holes, giving opposing pitchers no respite. Rosario was a highly regarded prospect, so there’s hope that his first full season will be a good one. The same goes for Dominic Smith, who might still get more seasoning in AAA if Adrian Gonzalez has anything left to contribute. If he doesn’t, we’ll see Smith sooner than later. The rest of the guys should contribute in various degrees, and hopefully Conforto comes back early and Cespedes stays healthy for some really dangerous middle of the order production.

There are plenty of health questions, maybe even more health questions than most teams have, but the Mets have done a lot to try to mitigate injuries in their revamping of some of the training staff and Mickey Callaway. They’ve built in some depth, and hopefully all that pays off for a successful 2018. It’s going to be fun.

Neil Walker is the Best

The Mets need another starting infielder, and probably at second base. There have been various options discussed, and some of them are even intriguing, but the more I look at it the more it feels like Neil Walker is the best choice for the Mets.

Unless the Mets are going to pull off a Brian Dozier trade, something they might not have the right prospects/pieces for, Neil Walker is actually one of the better second basemen. His wRC+ of 114 was 8th best last year of second basemen with at least 400 PA, behind guys mostly unavailable. He moves up to 6th if you include 2016. His defense has been solid and he’s got an excellent walk rate which is something the Mets need to mix in to balance against players like Flores, Rosario, Lagares and d’Arnaud who have a poor BB%. This is also an argument for getting Brandon Nimmo plenty of playing time, but let’s save that for another time. He also doesn’t require the Mets to expend any prospect resources to acquire him.

 

Of course, health is one of the concerns. He’s 29th in plate appearances among second basemen over the last two years, and you’d like a little more than that. Though he was still 11th most valuable according to fWAR, so even if he’s going to get a DL trip or two, you’re still getting your money’s worth, especially if you have competent backups that can hold down the fort, like Wilmer Flores. All players are somewhat of an injury risk, and it’s hard to say Walker would be more prone to one in 2018 than any of the other options the Mets might pursue. It’s possibly that these are signs that Walker’s body is breaking down with age, but it’s also possible they’re outliers and he’ll play 140 or more in 2018. Since he’s been here, the Mets have a good idea about his physical shape and medical records.

 

Tim Dierkes at MLB Trade Rumors predicted two years, twenty million for Walker, which is only a smidge above what the Mets paid for him last year. The banter from Heyman, et al, is that he’s looking for a four year deal, but there might not actually be a market for that. Even at three years for 10-12 per Walker is probably a good sign for the Mets, somewhere he’s already played and been comfortable and successful.

 

There are a few teams looking for a second basemen, but not a ton, and no one seems to be beating down Walker’s door at the moment. He’s not a sexy pick for the Mets, as there seems to to be some reluctance to return parts of the same 2017 team that underperformed, but Walker was a part of the successful 2016 club as well, and he’s definitely one of the better players for a position the Mets have a clear need at.

Mets Path For Return Is In Front Of Them

The Mets are not “back” in the race. They’re not relevant again and the ship is not righted. They beat up on a bad team, but they also managed to drop a winnable game in the mix.

 

Still, those wins count. This is a three game winning streak, and the road to actually climbing back into things is in front of them. The Nationals come to town next week for four crucial games, in which the Mets almost have to win at least three of, but first they get three against the talented but slumping Chicago Cubs. The World Champions.

 

It’s a crucial test.  If they can win the same amount against the Cubs as the Nationals win against the Braves, and then take three of four head to head, they move to seven games back. That’s not great, and even 5-2 would still have them two games under .500, but it’s something. It’s prolonged progress chipping away at the Nationals’ division lead.

 

They’d still be up against the wall, but if they can prove that can and will play better than their chief rival, there’s reason to re-ignite some hope for this team after all.

New Beers, Baseball-Themed, at Citi Field for 2017

A newborn has and will keep me from Citi Field as much as I’d like, but I’m still extremely excited to notice that there are a few new beers available this year.

 

First off, two excellent baseball-themed beers from Mikkeller.

The cans are designed specifically for Citi Field with the Mikkeller characters Henry and Sally portrayed as ‘1980’s era baseball-cards.’

That’s neat. Henry Hops is a modern IPA, and Say Hey Sally is a Pilsner. I love that they’re baseball names too, that’s great, and I can’t wait to get out to Citi Field to try them, maybe take a can home. This is so far the closest we’ve gotten to a Mets player themed beer.

 

Judging by Untappd check-ins, there are a few others as well. AB-InBev has been spreading around their craft portfolio a little more, as I’ve started to see more of breweries like 10 Barrel in NY/NJ. I’ve seen check-ins for Elysian’s Space Dust, and Immortal at Citi Field over the first two games.

 

Also exciting to notice is Long Island City Beer Project’s Dutch Kills, a Kolsch. Southern Tier’s Nu Skool IPA, and Sierra Nevada’s Sidecare Orange Pale. Those all sound fun.

 

There are some old favorites back, and I’m sure there are a few that I haven’t seen checked-in yet. Hopefully I’ll get out there to check them out.

 

Alas, I haven’t seen a dark beer check-in yet.

 

Opening Day Brings Anticipation

This is a different Opening Day than we’re used to. Two seasons in the playoffs has the season kicking off with anticipation in a way not seen since 2001. There’s heavy expectations on this team, and while we’re all thrilled Mets baseball is back and the games count, it’s in a “Let’s get on with it” way, as we await the summer to see how the team looks, and what needs to be done to win the division. Opening Day is always one of the highlights of a Mets season, and maybe sometimes it’s one of the best, but this year it’s going to be little more than a footnote.

 

Even though it’s going to be silly for a while yet, scoreboard watching is going to begin real early. In 2015 the Mets shocked the Nationals who were falling apart. Last year they kept it close for a while and still managed to make the playoffs as well. This year is a full-on battle. Each team knows the other is serious, capable, and dangerous. We’re going to get rotations being lined up to face each other. DL stints and roster moves made with upcoming Nationals series in mind.

 

The Mets and Nationals square off for six games in the second half of April. In a way this is a practice Opening Day, because everything really gets started April 21st when the Nats arrive at Citi Field.

 

So enjoy your tailgates, settle into your seats. Flip on your tv or radio and listen to Gary, Keith, Ron, Howie and Josh. Let’s get this season started, because it’s going to a fun ride.

Ignore Spring Training Stat Lines, Please!

There is value to what happens on the baseball field in Spring Training, but most of that is not in the results of the games or the at-bats. We need to stop getting worked up about the preseason stats.

Health and mobility are big ones. How the defenders are handling the mechanics of turning double-plays, preparing for throws home on sac-flies, rounding the bases while running, or getting good jumps when stealing. How guys look trying out new positions, new swings. Is a player being more selective at the plate, swinging at better pitches, or laying off ones he struck out on last year?

These things are different for everyone, and often tie into perceived faults from the year before. If the team felt a defender was taking bad routes to fly balls in the outfield last year, they’re going to be paying special attention to that this spring. If a team felt a player needed to be more selective at the plate, they might be paying more attention to when he swings this Spring, regardless of what happens after he does. These things, more than how many hits he gets off pitchers that may or may not be throwing the way they’d be throwing in a competitive MLB game, are the things teams are looking at.

It’s easy to get excited because Michael Conforto has some hits against lefties, or that Travis d’Arnaud is driving the ball, but ultimately these things are not indicators for 2017 MLB success. The Mets destroyed the Marlins in a game on Thursday, but many of the pitchers they hit were 28 year old guys with little to no major league experience. This is poor competition even if they were at their peak point in the season.

Players hit nothing during March and suddenly start the season 11/25 with 3 HR. Players also drive the ball all over Florida and start the season in a slump. The actual MLB season is such a different animal than practice games in Spring Training when everyone’s working on different things with different goals that it’s a hopeless task to try to figure out what any of it means for the regular season. This is especially true early in March when even the best pitchers are pretty rusty and the percentage of minor leaguers participating is higher.

So let’s just calm down on the over-analyzing of these games. Let’s just let everyone get in their reps and stay healthy and we can reevaluate in April.

David Wright Is Now A Cyborg

David Wright is not throwing in public this Spring Training. Various different beat reporters are reporting that when he ‘throws’ it’s behind closed doors, and have begun to wonder why. Could the Mets be bamboozling us? Is he not really throwing? Can he not throw? Maybe he doesn’t even have a right arm. Maybe that’s not even really David Wright!

 

Isn’t it obvious? He’s had robotic parts grafted onto his arm to help with the throws from third. He’s testing out and perfecting the motion of it so it looks human, and allowing the skin to properly heal over the metal so it’s not obvious. They’ve floated various vague excuses about college games and not letting the media see rusty David Wright, but the truth is not so much rust as oil, as in making sure the robotic parts are working well and doing any software updates that need to happen on his new arm.

 

Additionally, the Mets don’t want MLB to get wind of it. Cyborgs in MLB are not something that’s been discussed yet, and the Mets don’t want their star third baseman tied up in legal debates about what is, and is not, human. Sources familiar with this sort of quandary say that the Mets hope to casually add cyborg rules into the next CBA, hoping to have Wright slide under the radar until then.

 

Dr. Robert Watkins is the one that performed the surgery on Wright’s neck. At least, that’s what we’re told. The building in which Watkins operates is also home to an ‘electronics store’, and a little investigation into that store leads to connections to the government and the defense department. It’s pretty clear that David Wright has new cutting edge technology built into his body by government scientists. Captain America has always been a government super soldier, and that moniker has never been more fitting for Wright.

 

I reached out to the company, but they’ve been unresponsive to inquiries on this, which is definitely fishy.

 

It will probably take him some time to fully calibrate the new tech, but don’t be surprised if Wright is a leading MVP candidate by the summer time. Years from now we’ll look back on this moment as groundbreaking in Human-Cyborg relations. It’s why Terry Collins’ new nickname is 3PO.