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.

Are The Mets Being Too Protective Of Their Starters?

Dan Warthen and the Mets have come out with a plan to have the starting rotation ease into the Spring and not really start gearing up until about March 5th. This is an injury prevention and workload reduction philosophy that’s geared towards keeping them healthy all season, but I’m concerned.

My main concern is that skimping on the prep work is never the right way to train. To be ready for physical activity the most important thing to do is physical activity. You practice. You stretch. You don’t amp up the activity to new levels until you’ve hit the target below it. In the ‘30s the coaches had Babe Ruth basically not use his legs at all during Spring Training in the hopes that they’d be stronger for the season, which is obviously ridiculous, and didn’t work. Spring Training these days is specifically this long in order for the pitchers to really stretch themselves out in time for the season.

This isn’t different than the Mets philosophy the last few season though. Warthen said that the goal is to have each of them at least get to 90 pitches once before the season and that’s roughly how it’s gone in the past.

This regiment only leads to those pitchers going into games in April still need to ramp up and stretch out their arms to the 100-110 pitches they’ll average during the season. It’s a long season and care needs to be taken, but I bet it’d be better to take that next step in the warm Florida sun rather than cold New York nights. April games count too, but often times managers are still feeling out the relievers they can trust this year, and purposely cutting off a couple dozen innings from your starters in favor of random relievers is not in anyone’s best interest.

There’s not a lot of convincing data that this method, or any method, is going to keep pitchers healthy and effective. I’d rather see them get stretched out a little faster, and taper more in the summer months or when they show signs of fatigue before the all hands on deck month of September. The Mets pitchers haven’t been healthier than anyone else over the years either. There’s a bit of catch-22 in all of this. The rotation doesn’t have anyone that has thrown 200 innings, but is that because the Mets are so afraid of them throwing too many innings and getting hurt or because they’ve been hurt and fatigued from throwing too many innings?

Maybe this will protect the pitchers’ arms, or maybe it’s needlessly protective. They might get hurt anyway, but hopefully this means the plan is for them to be healthy, able, and not up against any pitching restrictions when it comes to September and the playoffs. If we can avoid more Scott Boras innings limit drama, we’ll all be better off.

Where Did The Playoff Teams Get Their Best Relievers?

reedThere’s a lot of talk about what the Mets should or shouldn’t be doing this offseason. Relievers are a popular request. That makes sense as no team ever has enough relievers and with a possible suspension to Familia, the Mets could certainly benefit from another quality arm or two.

Still, it’s January and relievers are volatile. The top relievers from one year are sometimes complete unknowns the year before, and guys fall off cliffs fast. Relievers get so few innings that sometimes the stats can be misleading as the samples size is small. We’ve all seen the Mets give significant deals to relievers only to have them be sub-par, whereas random minor league deals turn out big dividends.

So, where did last year’s playoff teams get their best relievers, by fWAR? All these teams, which include the Mets, were in the position the Mets are in right now–trying to find the final pieces for a championship. So did they go out and sign high price relievers, promote from within, make trades, 3D print them or get them from Earth 2?

Mets
Addison Reed was their best reliever.
Acquired August 30th, 2015 for Miller Diaz (minors) and Matt Koch.

Do you remember Diaz or Koch? Have you heard about them since? Probably not. This was the stretch run pick up for 2015 that worked out, and the Mets kept him around.

Jeurys Familia was the second-best reliever, and he was drafted by the Mets as a starter and converted.

Cubs
Aroldis Chapman
Trade with Yankees on July 27th.

Their best reliever was literally only on the team two months.

Pedro Strop
Came over in the Arrieta deal from Cleveland in July 2013.

Strop was a nice reliever they’ve had for years who really flourished in Chicago.

Indians
Dan Otero
They got Otero last offseason, on December 18th, for cash from the Phillies. He was an under-control guy not yet in arbitration.

Otero pitched great for them but there is no way they were counting on that. They took a flyer on a guy and it worked.

Andrew Miller
2016 deadline trade with the Yankees.

Another guy that put up great numbers in two months.

Cody Allen
He was drafted by the Indians in 2011.

Allen was a little off in 2016, giving up a lot more home runs than usual, but was still reliable.

Red Sox
Craig Kimbrel
They grabbed Kimbrel last offseason, 11/31/2015, from the Padres.

Kimbrel had a sizable contract through 2017 with a 2018 option so this fits the ‘pay for a big name’ model, and the Red Sox gave up quite a few prospects for this as well. Kimbrel was still very good, but his ERA rose, as did his walk rate. His ground ball percentage dropped. Was it worth the expense? Hard to say.

Brad Ziegler
7/9/2016 trade with Arizona.
Over the full season, Ziegler was better than Kimbrel. The Red Sox used him and let him walk in free agency, where he went to Miami.

Blue Jays
Roberto Osuna
Signed as 16 year old in 2011.

Basically a prospect they brought up through their system.

Joe Biagini
Rule 5 pick from Giants last offseason.
Biagini was mostly an unexceptional AA guy the previous year but the Blue Jays must have saw something they could work with. They got good value from him despite a sub-par strikeout rate.

Joaquin Benoit
7/26/16 trade with Mariners.
Benoit was garbage with Seattle and the Blue Jays got him for Drew Storen, who was garbage with the Blue Jays. Storen pitched alright with the Mariners, but Benoit was amazing for the Jays before getting hurt just before the playoffs. He pitched 23.2 innings and allowed one run. One. Benoit has been a good reliever for a while, but he did turn 39 on the day of this trade so it’s easy to see where he might just have been done, instead he was key in getting the Blue Jays to the postseason. The Phillies signed him for a one year and nearly eight million after the season.

Orioles
Zach Britton
Drafted 2006

Britton had an absurdly good year, and should get into that Wild Card game any moment now.

Brad Brach
11/25/2013 trade with the Padres.

Brach is a pre-Free Agent. He was pretty good in previous years but really stepped up last year.

Rangers
Matt Bush
Signed to Minor league deal on 12/18/2015
Bush is a unique case as personal issues and jail time kept him away from the game after being drafted in 2004. The Rangers gave him a chance, and he started in the minors, succeeded, and was promoted.

Sam Dyson
7/31/2015 with Marlins
2015 deadline deal and 2016 closer for the Rangers. 2017 is his first arbitration year.

Giants
Derek Law
Drafted 2011
Major League debut in 2016, and he pitched well.

Hunter Strickland
Signed off waivers from Pirates in April 2013
Giants grabbed Strickland in 2013 after the Pirates gave up on the 24 year old in AA, sent him down a level, and managed to turn him into a useful pitcher.

Dodgers
Kenley Jansen
Drafted 2004
Jansen has been a solid Dodgers reliever for years. They just re-signed him to a long 5/$80 deal with an opt-out.

Joe Blanton
1/19/16 for 4mm off first year of relief.
Back end rotation guy turned reliever with the Royals and Pirates in 2015 got a $4 million dollar deal with the Dodgers and pitched pretty well as he now strikes out a lot more batters. He remains unsigned for 2017.

Adam Liberatore
11/20/2014 trade with Rays
Came over with Joel Peralta. Wasn’t great in 2015 but improved for 2016. Had surgery this offseason but he’s still pre-arb.

Nationals
Shawn Kelley
3 year deal signed on 12/11/2015
Kelley’s one of the few free agent signings on this list. He’s on a relatively inexpensive 3/$15 deal that has already paid off through a successful 2016 with the Nats. He had a career high K/9 rate as well as a career low BB/9, though hitting the zone that much seems to have led to a few more home runs.

Mark Melancon
7/30/16 trade with Pirates
Melancon pitched really well for the Nationals down the stretch and then left for the Giants and a 4/$62 deal.

How about previous Mets teams?

2014-2015 Jeurys Familia – Drafted
2014 Mejia – Drafted
2013 Parnell – Drafted
2013- Latroy Hawkins – 1/31/2013 minor league deal
2006 – Wagner – FA, Heilman – drafted, Bradford – FA.

Perusing this list leads to the conclusion that it’s hard to determine who your best reliever is going to be in an upcoming season. Many teams acquired a great reliever sometime between the end of the last season and the trade deadline, but it was rarely a heralded free agent.

It seem just as likely that you’ll find a quality reliever as a throw-in for a trade, as a flyer on the waiver wire, or simply in your own minor league system. It could be a minor league free agent that you had no real expectations of. Additionally, plenty of the major league free agent relievers signed did not end up pitching in the playoffs or even pitch that well. Antonio Bastardo, Joakim Soria, Tony Sipp, Tyler Clippard to name a few.

So there’s every chance that the Mets minor league signings of Ben Rowen and Cory Burns could pay dividends. We certainly shouldn’t dismiss them out of hand. Sandy Alderson has been pretty active over the playoff seasons with moving smaller pieces around and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few more relievers show up by the time the season really gets going. Or maybe the Mets starters all stay healthy and someone like Wheeler or Lugo gets some quality time in as a reliever.

The Case For Juan Lagares

lagThe Mets defense was bad in 2016. Really, it’s been bad for a while and for it to actually improve will take some doing. Fangraphs has the Mets 17th in fielding by Def, which is a fielding and positional adjustment stat. They were at -8.5. The Cubs were first, with 69.0. This isn’t meant to be a post about emulating what the World Series champion did last year, but it’s certainly a target area the Mets need to fix. The Cubs had 103 more Defensive Runs Saved than the Mets, and no matter what value you put on some of these stats, anyone can tell that the Cubs were good at preventing runs and the Mets weren’t.

 

The problem is figuring out where you can improve defense without sacrificing offense, something else the Mets struggled with at times. The easiest spot is first base; Just adding Lucas Duda back gives you much offense and boosts the defense too. Duda’s not a stud defensively but he presents a big target, makes the plays, and generally provides average defense all around. This is a big step up from what the Mets dealt with in 2016, and I don’t think it can be understated how much losing Duda hurt the team.

 

Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera were solid up the middle. If that’s the combo again the Mets infield should be alright. None of David Wright, Jose Reyes, or Wilmer Flores are particularly good , or good anymore, at third, but with the other three around the infield it shouldn’t be that a big deal. Certainly not a big enough deal to seek out another option.

 

It’s the outfield that’s going to present a problem, and it’s the key to the entire offseason. Jay Bruce is bad. Curtis Granderson is bad. Michael Conforto’s actually been alright in limited time but he’s not really a centerfielder and hasn’t hit enough, or consistently, to bank on playing all season. This appears to be a serious case for Juan Lagares to get a lot of playing time.

 

There are roster issues to take care of first though. The Mets could look to to add a real centerfielder, though they’re hard to come by, but they already need to clear an outfielder or two from the roster as it is. They could continue sacrificing defense by moving guys like Granderson, Cespedes and Conforto in and out of the center spot as the lineup allows, but that’s not ideal for a variety of reasons.

 

So can Juan Lagares hack it? The definitive answer is..maybe. We know he can defend, sometimes he defends too well and hurts himself diving. It’d be nice if he could avoid that without sacrificing range. With plus defensive numbers while playing centerfield, the bar for acceptable offense is a lot lower. Major League centerfielders put up a 96 wRC+ last year, with a .259/.324/.407 slash line. Since Lagares made his major league debut he ranks 68th of 128 qualifying center fielders in wRC+. This is behind guys the Mets previously parted ways with including Matt den Dekker and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. He jumps up to 22nd if you go by fWAR though, which really emphasizes how much of his value has been with the glove.

 

So can Juan Lagares be better than his norm with the bat, to justify his role as the Mets best option in center? Though it was in limited time, his rate numbers from 2016 are actually encouraging. He walked more, struck out less, and drove the ball more when he did make contact–all with a below average BABIP. Of course the league as a whole walked more and hit for more power, so it’s possible a lot of that is an illusion. The drop in strikeouts is a nice reason to hope it’s not, and that he can be not horrible at the plate which would make him immensely valuable as a Mets centerfielder. If the rest of the Mets lineup can stay healthy and hit like they are capable of, the team could probably afford to carry a slightly-subpar bat that’s adding value in run prevention they sorely need.

Transcript: Howie Rose’s Call Of Bartolo Colon’s Home Run

This is Howie Rose’s call of Bartolo Colon’s home run on Saturday.

The 1-1. Swing and a drive! to deep left field! it’s got a chance, Upton going back, it’s going to go, Home. Run. Bartolo Colon! Repeating: Home. Run. Bartolo Colon! The 7 Line Army in right field might tear this ballpark down. Colon carried his bat with him until he was about 10 feet from first base. He’s taking the slowest home run trot you’ve ever seen. He just got to Tim Teuffel the third base coach. He is approaching home plate. He touches home plate with his first major league home run. Aaand they are going to give him the silent treatment in the dugout. They have vacated. The Mets have left the building. Bartolo Colon is the loneliest man in San Diego as he reaches the Mets dugout after hitting a home run and there’s no one there to great him. And now here they come up the dugout steps. Wow.

How To Fix Your MLB At-Bat Audio Subscription

I purchased the MLB At Bat app, on my Verizon Galaxy S5,MLB Spring Training game list from Wednesday 3/2/16 on Wednesday and I listened to some baseball audio only to discover it was claiming I didn’t have a subscription on Thursday. Being a programmer, I took the normal steps to debug an app issue. I restarted my phone. I cleared the app’s cache. I uninstalled and reinstalled the app. Nothing. I tried in a web browser on a computer and when that didn’t work I realized it must be something with my account and purchase.

So what has to have happened is that my purchase worked fine, I listened to some of the Tigers on Wednesday, and then my auto-renewal from last year kicked in, which I’d purchased on the same date, afterwards and in some way that double attempt at connecting to the MLB.com account borked it all.

I actually talked it through on Twitter with @MLBFanSupport and they ended up telling me “talk to Google” which wasn’t particularly helpful.

The recept reviews of the app in the app store speak to a similar problem.

So here’s what I did.

1. I canceled my auto-renewal subscription.

2. I then clicked ‘report a problem’ on my Google Play order history for the app, claiming it was defective. in the text I explained that it wasn’t activating in the app and that cancelling it seemed to be the only way to fix it.

3. They refunded me pretty fast; I got an email saying my purchase had been refunded.

4. I then repurchased the subscription, via the app itself. I clicked the audio tag at the top of the scoreboard. I selected ‘season subscription’, logging into my mlb.com account and putting in my Google password for the purchase from the Play Store.

5. And then it worked.

 

6. I then went into my Play store purchase history and canceled the auto-renewal of the subscription, so I don’t deal with this again next year. I have to download a 2017 update to the app anyway, so I might as well manually click the subscribe button again then.