Adrian Gonzalez: Secretly Good

via Baseball SavantThe Mets signed Adrian Gonzalez, a former great player, hoping that his 2017 was the aberration and not the start of a steep decline. They liked the idea of a veteran player providing time for Dominic Smith to step up and take the job, as well as have a solid bench piece if they did give the job to Smith. Gonzalez is the type of guy a good team has on their bench to provide depth and options.

 

Gonzalez had a good night in Cincinnati in a hitter’s ballpark against one of the worst pitching staffs ever, but overall the results haven’t quite been there, though there is a lot of good signs when you look at the numbers, specifically in Statcast.

 

His exit velocity is the highest it’s been in the Statcast era (since 2015), and he has his best barrel%, basically a measure of good contact and angle for home runs, too. He’s actually had more barrels this year than all of last year.  His expected slugging and expected wOBA are also way above what they actually are, and his hard hit percentage is way up.

 

He’s also posting a higher walk rate than he has since 2010. He’s making good contact, less weak contact, pulling the ball in the air more, and hasn’t popped up yet, according to Statcast.  I’m not sure how accurate that last one is, as I seem to remember one, but no matter how you slice it Gonzalez is making good contact in ways that generally lead to extra base hits. He’s just gotten very unlucky so far.

 

So expect a lot more from Gonzalez, as he’s actually been better than the numbers suggest, and after last night even those are looking better. Definitely don’t play Jay Bruce at first over him, though getting Wilmer Flores in there against lefties occasionally wouldn’t be a bad idea. The Mets might have to make a tough decision with Dominic Smith being ready to come back up later this season, but until then Gonzalez has been doing a good job.

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I’m Not Dead, Think I’ll Go For A Walk

Losing Jacob deGrom for an unspecified amount of time is bad no matter how you cut it.  Losing one singular player, even perhaps the best player, is not catastrophic in baseball.  It’s way too soon to close the casket on this season, or act like we’re going to close the casket, especially when we don’t even know deGrom’s timetable.  Let’s give it a few days at least? The Mets had two of the best pitchers in baseball, but the good news here is that they still have one. Noah Syndergaard is still awesome.

 

It is still a huge blow though, the Mets depth in pitchers was, and is, pretty large, but none of them have stood out. It’ll need to be more than Thor, maybe some decent Wheeler and Vargas starts, and then hope. Between Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, Steven Matz, and even Matt Harvey and some of the AAA depth, there’s some potential for quality innings and competitive starts, the Mets just need to find it.

 

The real issue right now is the bats, and getting more offense from some of these guys. Especially with another quality pitcher down, you’d like to score even more runs to account for it, and I suspect the Mets will hit more than they have lately, though the lineup isn’t without it’s own concerns, particularly at catcher.

 

So losing deGrom is a concern, but it’s way too early to panic and there is still a lot of decisions to be made, games to be played, and wins to be had. If you still believe the Nationals are the best team in the division, the Mets still have a nice lead. The Braves and Phillies might be playing well for a month, but there’s no reason to think these teams are this good, even if they were underestimated in the offseason.  It’s time to hold serve, and get back to some winning baseball.  We’ll know more about the holes we need to patch, or repair, in a few weeks.

 

 

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Forgiving Asdrubal Cabrera

Getting thrown out at third was a dumb mistake by Asdrubal Cabrera tonight, especially with Michael Conforto at the plate, but after cooling down a little I have to forgive him.

 

The Mets have been really aggressive on the basepaths this season. They’re going first to third and second to home every chance they get. They’re always moving, always making the defense make plays, keeping them on their toes. It’s been working, and I’d hate to see one mistake blunt what’s been working. Perhaps two mistakes if you want to count the play at the plate earlier, but I don’t, I liked that send.

 

Coming into today Asdrubal Cabera was 9th in Fangraphs  BsR, baserunning runs above average.  Todd Frazier, Yoenis Cespedes, and Amed Rosario are also in the top 36 of 190.  Cabrera knows it was a bone-headed move. Mickey Callaway knows it, the entire team knows it.

 

You take the tough loss, and you move on. The Mets are fallible, unfortunately. but unsurprisingly. Luckily, they still have a solid lead and 15 more games against the Nationals. Keep winning series, winning baseball, just winning in general. Things will be fine.

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Citi Field Beer Review

I did not have time to scour the entire stadium yesterday, as I spent most of the pregame time at Mikkeller NYC and then had a game to watch, so there’s a chance I missed something, but I don’t think so. Finding good beer shouldn’t be something hidden.

 

First off, prices. Beers are up to $11.25 for a 12oz and $14 for a 25oz. That’s a lot. They were $7.50 when Citi Field first opened 10 years ago.

 

At Big Apple Brews the selection has been paired down over the years. It’s always been an Anheuser Busch-Inbev curated list, but now there’s less of the variety.  Mostly the light lager stuff you see everywhere: Presidente, Leffe Blond, Stella, Franzikaner, Shock Top, etc. Followed by a bunch of AB-InBev’s choice of beers from their high end line of acquired craft breweries. These are the beers they’re trying to push nationally, with a touch of local because Blue Point is under that umbrella. Their Mosaic Session Ale is a good ballpark beer.

AB-InBev "craft"

So where’s the real craft? In previous years there was a stand behind home plate on the promenade, with a few drafts and a cooler. Now it’s a Goya stand. There were a few things scattered around the park, but the two main places I found were the “Empire State Craft” stands. The one that’s existed in the left field corner on the field level remains, and there’s a new one just to the third base side of the promenade behind home plate.

This isn’t what I’d call a great selection or variety, but it’s roughly what’s been there the last few years. I had LIC’s Higher Burning and Mikkeller’s Henry Hops, and I enjoyed both. Hopefully as Mikkeller gets up and running they can sneak a few more cans into the stadium as the season goes on. I also wasn’t given the option of a cup for my beer, as I had in the past.

 

The Mikkeller NYC brewery just outside the Right Field gate, outside the stadium, was the real winner. I’ll have a more detailed review of that place coming up.

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Opening Day Beer of the Game

Today’s beer of the game is the new Henry Hustle from the new Mikkeller NYC right here at Citi Field.

This place is great. Full review to come. The beer is excellent as well.

Piney dank bitterness and some citrus aroma.

It’s quite bitter with traditional IPA flavors, as American Pale Ale’s often are. Prickly and drying mouthfeel, but lots of fruit grapefruit, mango, and pine. Been a little while since I’ve had one with this character.

It’s very good, but intense for at a ballgame. I’d drink this at home to entertain me between innings.

Check this place out, it’s great.

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Anticipating the Bedlam of Opening Day at Citi Field

Opening Day is finally just about here. It’s always a fun time out at the ballpark, but this year especially there is so much to see and do.

 

Besides the usual catching up with friends and tailgates, there’s the new Mikkeller NYC brewery to check out. 60 taps and a cool space just outside the gates? That’s a must see.

 

Once inside I need to allow myself enough time to to a loop of the stadium, check out what’s new, what’s changed, what looks different, and any unreported new food items.  With a sold out crowd that’s more in the hangout mode than a game-watching mode, that’s harder to do efficiently than usual.  I’m particularly interested to see if there are any new Mikkeller options INSIDE the stadium, or any other new beers in general.

 

Then it’s just taking in the atmosphere, enjoying being back at a baseball game, and having a good time. Watching the Mets crush the Cardinals and get this season off to a roaring start will just be a bonus. I’m predicting a Todd Frazier home run.

 

Let’s Go Mets!

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Seth Lugo Not a Huge Surprise

Seth Lugo making the Mets Opening Day roster is not actually a surprise. Just take a look at these first two Google search results.

Mickey Callaway came in with a reputation for curveballs, Seth Lugo has a good curveball. Dan Warthen was reportedly not a huge fan of curveballs. A change in regime is can rewire the assumptions we make about how the Mets will handle a given situation, and this is a good one. They may not admit it, but managers and coaches have favorite players too–guys they believe in more than others. Given what we know, it’s not surprising that Lugo’s curveball makes the roster.

This isn’t to say that the team is down on Zack Wheeler either. Lugo’s repertoire already more closely resembled with Eiland and Callaway want to do. Zack Wheeler may simply need some more reps in adjusting to the new schema, and we could certainly be seeing him sooner rather than later, given how brittle pitchers can be.

The most important thing here is that the Mets have (almost) made it to Opening Day with more than five options for the rotation, and have some talented depth that gives them the flexibility to replace ineffectiveness, not just injury. It’s a good way to go into the season.

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What We Know About The Brewery At Citi Field

Mikkeller NYC will open at Citi Field on Sunday. As someone craving, demanding and savoring good beer at Citi Field since its inception, you know I’m absolutely thrilled about this. 60 rotating taps at a brewery/tap room just outside the stadium, typically open before and after games? What’s not to love?

Although there is no indication they’ll be open early before Opening Day, we do have a few details, in part from an Eater post, about what’s going on. There’s a menu, which is interesting but I’ll be trying the new stuff inside the stadium first anyway. I want a draft list, and Eater only lists four beers of 60. Henry Hops and Say Hey Sally, which were inside the stadium last year, Beer Geek Parlor Coffee Stout which is their Beer Geek line using locally roasted coffee, and Fruit Face w/ Cranberry, Rhubarb and Orange, which is a Berliner Weiss, a sour wheat ale.

Amazin’ Avenue writer and editor Chris McShane has some more info in this tweet. Looking at that tap list picture it looks like the Parlor Oatmeal Coffee Stout is the only other NYC brewed beer at this time. Lots of stuff from the San Diego brewery and Mikkeller’s portfolio in general, and also a nice compliment of other breweries such as Transmitter, Industrial Arts, Night Shift and Thin Man. Highly regarded breweries. There are sours, dark beers, salty beers, big beers and little beers on this list, which is lots of fun, even if they’re not actually _in_ the ballpark. There’s also 4oz pours, which might be a responsible way to ease into a day of drinking in the sun.

I don’t know if they’ll be an expanded selection inside or not, we’ll have to wait until Opening Day for that, but there’s a new great spot to head before and after a game now, and enjoy delicious beer. That’s where you’ll find me for sure.

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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.

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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.

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