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

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 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.

The Beer I Saw At Citi Field in 2019

I went in through the center field gate, as I had been at Mikkeller, and headed out to center field. Big Apple Brews, the Anheuser-Busch/Inbev owned kiosk out in center field and behind home plate on the Promenade, has been going downhill for years.

Before we get to the good stuff, I actually went back and checked 2009, and perhaps saying it’s only gone downhill is overstating it a bit. Big Apple Brews was probably never good, just good as it compared to Shea Stadium. A giant island of coolers in the middle of the outfield is a pretty cool concept, and a nice addition to a stadium, but the actual beer inside appears to always have been a little lacking, even by 2009 standards, but hey, a dark beer!

Big Apple Brews in 2009

This is still just a broad listing of ABI, or ABI distributed, beers, complete with typos. Calling it Harbin Larger does seem prescient to 2019 where there are a lot of larger container beers. This picture was from April 16th, which was the third game of the opening series, not including the exhibition games against the Red Sox, so perhaps they got some editing later in the season.

Larger beers. That seems to be the theme here. Some token ABI craft, the Blue Point Mosaic IPA is not bad, and then a lot of 25oz offering. Obviously, beer geeks like myself are not the prime audience for this. For the rest of the population, being able to drink Blue Point Toasted Lager, or Kona Longboard, or Goose Island Urban Wheat is actually pretty nice.

Remember, just because you can order two 25oz Bud Light Lemon Teas at once, pound them, and come back, doesn’t mean you should.

Hang on a moment, Bud Light Lemon Tea? Do I even want to ask what that is? Moving on..I walked down to the Empire State Craft stand, in it’s usual spot. That’s the center field side of the left field corner. There’s also one just to the third base side of the Promenade plaza (or ‘Piazza’?) behind home plate.

These are the real options. These are the beers you’re going to gravitate to if you’re not just taking the best you can find within a bathroom break of your section. Baseball stadiums have really gotten on the New England Juicy IPA trend. I know Long Island City Beer Company’s Higher Burnin’ has been available in previous years, and it’s pretty good. This one’s fruity and nicely balanced. Interboro’s Premiere is an excellent beer, trending a little danker. Mikkeller’s Henry Hops is a happy baseball beer, and a real reliable IPA that you can get and drink all over the ballpark.

The new one to me was Five Boroughs Tiny Juicy IPA. I hadn’t heard much about them, but I was pleasantly surprised by this beer. It’s juicy, it’s got good mouthfeel, but also good flavor and enough bitterness to really round it out. It’s pretty much the definition of crushable at 4.2%. A great beer to just drink all day at the ballpark, provided you don’t mind paying nearly $12 for a small beer over and over again anyway.

There are some other tidbits around the park, there are actually a few taps if you search for them, but we’ll stop here. Get out to Citi Field and enjoy a beer or two. Overall there are some nice beers. There are some high-quality beers. There’s not a ton of variety though. Simple lagers, juicy IPAs, with maybe some slight variation here and there.

The Mets Fan Who Has Consumed No News Since The World Series

In Episode 1344 of Effectively Wild, Ben, Sam, and Meg answered a listener email that was presumably addressed to Ben and Jeff, because the listener, Dario, had not consumed any current baseball news since the end of the World Series.

He does not know about the change in hosts of that podcast. He doesn’t know about Brodie Van Wagenen, or Robinson Cano, or where Bryce Harper went. He has no idea about 3-batter minimums or that the Long Island Ducks are going to move the mound back.

Until tomorrow, when he breaks his fast with the first Mets game of the year, which he just so happens to be live streaming.

I find this fascinating. All these dribbles of excitement we’ve gotten over the offseason will be piled on him at once. Gary will introduce the pitching matchup, which will probably not come as a huge surprise to Dario. Scherzer and deGrom. The news that deGrom is the Cy Young award winner will come as joy, but it’s unlikely that’s a huge surprise to anyone that watched him last year. That he’s been extended to a nice contract on the other hand–That will certainly amplify that joy.

I’m most interested in how good Dario thinks this team is. He hasn’t been watching the projections go up and down all offseason, or scrutinizing every fringe move from the four teams in the NL East. He’ll just have his impressions of the roster and how the players that are currently playing look.

I plan to ask Dario a couple of questions after Opening Day to get his impressions, so stay tuned for that.

Forget Manny Machado, Sign Josh Donaldson

This headline is clickbait, there a ton of reasons to covet Manny Machado over virtually everyone else, but those are obvious, and less interesting to write about. Machado is awesome, he fits the Mets very well, and they should absolutely try to sign him. Alas, all 29 other teams are also aware of this guy, and the Mets could seriously pursue him and still not get him.

So what other infield help is there? Well, there’s Josh Donaldson.

The big risk with Donaldson is that he’ll be 33 and had a bad and injured season. You could read into that as the end of the line for him as a useful player, it wouldn’t be the most surprising thing. You definitely have to give him his physical, look at the underlying numbers, do your due diligence. If you find a red flag, balk, but if you don’t, he could be a huge addition.

Donaldson was a late bloomer, and floundered a bit his rookie year at age 26 in 2012, but after that he’s been among the best in baseball. Last season was hampered by injury, but he was traded to Cleveland and mashed much like he’s mashed in the past. It was a small 60 plate appearance sample, but all the peripheral stats seem to support him being much like himself.

He’s a great hitter, he’s got power, he walks a bunch, he makes a lot of solid contact. He’s not fast, but he’s not a base-clogger. He plays good defense. He’s not exclusively a pull-hitter, shifts don’t seem to hurt him too much. He’s a righty, which plays nicely with the Mets having a lot of lefties providing their power right now.

MLB Trade Rumors is predicting the Cardinals will sign him for $20 million, one year. That seems like a steal. Crowd-sourced predictions at Fangraphs have him signing for 3/58, which could still be a steal if Donaldson puts up even something less than his career line. If he’d simply stayed healthy and had an average year, he’d be getting mentioned with Manny Machado and Bryce Harper.

Steamer projections have him just a tick off his average, at 4.6 fWAR for 2019. Even if he continued to decline from there, getting 10 or so WAR from Donaldson over three years would be worth 60 million, easy.

Donaldson might want to try to have a healthy season and jump back into the fray, but Nolan Arenado will be a free agent next year and Donaldson would be a year older too. Perhaps Donaldson could be the right target while other teams are focused on Machado, and maybe Donaldson takes one option off the board for teams looking for shorter term 3B options, raising possible demand for a Todd Frazier trade.

Oh, and Donaldson’s twitter handle is BringerOfRain, which is cool.

 

Some Brodie Van Wagenen Quotes

I searched the internet so you didn’t have to, to find anything interesting about the new Mets GM, Brodie Van Wagenen.

 

Information has always been power in any industry and it is certainly true in baseball and contract negotiations,” says Van Wagenen. “The people that are capable of analyzing that data in a more sophisticated way are the people that have had the opportunity to succeed.

Seems fairly analytical to me?

Robbins and outfielder Brodie Van Wagenen, a self-described Los Angeles “Valley Boy” with meticulously gelled hair that earned him the nickname “Do Man,”

Do Man?  This was the team he was on with Astro’s manager AJ Hinch. The Tabloids could have a field day with this one.

Recently, we worked with a client who did not enter free agency after his best statistical season,” Van Wagenen says. “We used complex analysis to recreate the player’s statistical profile in order to more accurately demonstrate his future potential. This convinced two teams to enter the process that had not previously been engaged, resulting in more options for a client.

Another quote that certainly seems to suggest Van Wagenen is going to be open and eager to work with his analytics department and value Sabermetric thinkings.

 

I’m excited to see what Van Wagenen gets up to here. It should be an interesting offseason and I expect we’ll know a lot more about the new GM come Spring.

We’ll Miss You David

David Wright is returning at the end of this season for, probably, just one game, and maybe not even a full one. The spinal stenosis and related injuries have wrecked his back to the point that it’s a constant companion, and one that has made it so doing the one thing he loves more than anything, playing baseball, is agony.

 

That sucks. On so many levels. David has meant so much to the team, to the fans, to baseball in general. I’ll miss him quite a bit, now that he’s officially not coming back.  He’s been a part of the Mets routine for so long that it’s hard to wrap my head around the idea of him not being out there somewhere, swinging a bat and making great plays at third. He was a Met before I had even had my first real job, long ago.

 

It’s crazy to think about how the game has changed since then. The Mets no longer play at Shea Stadium. There’s Twitter, and Smartphone apps, and hell, smartphones. When Wright debuted, MLB TV was still very new, and Moneyball had just come out the previous year. Fangraphs did not exist. Amed Rosario was eight years old.

 

David Wright was a Hall of Fame caliber player,  and he was ours. I think about him hitting these last few years, with the juiced ball that seems to particularly favor the type of hard-contact, gap-hitting player that David Wright is was, and I lament that we didn’t get to see him putting up what surely would’ve been a few more MVP caliber seasons that would’ve cemented his Hall of Fame case.  We’ve spent David’s career watching him climb over and take every Mets record imaginable, and he’s been stuck so close to taking that Home Run title from Darryl Strawberry for so long that it’s been agony.

 

But mostly, I’m just sad for David Wright. By all accounts a great guy that loves playing this game and now he’ll struggle to even play some token innings at the end of a lost season. This isn’t how it was supposed to go.