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.

 

 

 

 

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Brandon Nimmo Is Better Than Aaron Judge

Brandon Nimmo speaks at the Queens Baseball Convention

The Subway Series is here and once again the Mets approach it from a deficit that saps the fun.  The Mets are up against a losing streak and desperately need to get on a roll, and the opponent really doesn’t factor in that. You can’t really savor a rivalry if you’re too preoccupied with your own stuff.

 

That said, the best outfielder in New York will be playing for the home team this weekend, and Yankees fans will get a chance to watch him play. I’m talking about, of course, Brandon Nimmo.

 

Thanks to a stacked outfield with more veteran players, Nimmo has not had the playing time to technically qualify for the leaderboards, but his 167 PA is a reasonably large sample size on the season and his wRC+ of 162 would place him as the third best hitter in the NL behind Matt Kemp and Freddie Freeman.

 

I know it’ll be pointed out that Aaron Judge also has a wRC+ of 162, but Nimmo’s OBP is a little higher plus his BABIP is a little lower. Judge has a few more home runs but plays in Yankee Stadium and has 100 more plate appearances. Nimmo also has twice as many stolen bases and is a better base runner in general.

 

Hopefully you realize this post is somewhat tongue in cheek and simply good rivalry fodder, but I’ll end by saying that Aaron Judge is huge so Brandon Nimmo clearly provides more value per inch.

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Who Will Save The Mets?

It’s been rough hasn’t it? Luckily, the season is still pretty young. Let’s try to find Mets players to latch to as reasons the Mets will be better going forward.

 

Let’s start with Amed Rosario. Our top prospect guy who didn’t suddenly appear and set the league on fire as happened, so far, for teams like the Yankees and Braves. So far. It’s early, remember. A month of mashing does not mean a decade of success is eminent for anyone.

 

Amed Rosario still isn’t walking enough, but he has walked twice in the last few days. Once as a pinch-hitter, which is hopeful for a guy that seems to get over-aggressive even when he has four or five AB in a game. He’s also hitting the ball hard. The more of the beginning season you cut off, the better his numbers look. It’s been a slow climb, but he’s starting to contribute with more than just defense. His talent will continue to manifest as he learns and adjusts, and hopefully he gets a little more patient as well.

 

Michael Conforto is an easy one. He came back earlier than expected and had a good initial few games and then slumped a bit. While he slumped he was still getting on base via walks, which I always find to be a trait in the really good hitters. Carlos Beltran was this way a lot. He’s starting to drive the ball now and get comfortable, which will be make him a real threat going forward.

 

Brandon Nimmo has been great all year, at times being near the top in baseball in wRC+. He’s almost definitely not _that_ good, but enough time has passed that it seems obvious that he’s a very good baseball player and should be playing more. It feels like the media, and maybe the Mets too, have finally started to take note.

 

Devin Mesoraco is better than Matt Harvey, who’s still not missing bats and walking too many, so that’s an upgrade. He was always a guy with talent that maybe hadn’t realized it, and so far he’s thriving here with the Mets. He won’t continue at this pace, but Kevin Plawecki is back now too, and Plawecki has been pretty good this season and last, and has a good eye at the plate. At the very least this means they don’t have a hole at catcher in the lineup, and it helps keep the offense moving.

 

I’m always hesitant to bank on guys coming back from injuries soon to necessarily do so, but the Mets have a few guys starting rehab games which should mean they’re almost back. Getting Todd Frazier and Yoenis Cespedes back will help the offense a lot, and Anthony Swarzak will hopefully be a nice add to the bullpen.

 

The Mets have two of the best starting pitchers in the game, but they’ve managed to queue up some of the worse bullpen performances of the year behind them. Logic states that this is just a lot of bad luck, and as the season progresses it’ll even out, and Mickey Callaway will start to have more trust, and more arms, to use in better spots. An improving offense building bigger leads will help too. Callaway’s bullpen management should adjust as the innings mount and relievers show him who can and cannot be trusted. This should pay off down the road.

 

Wheeler’s actually been better than it seems, and has been one of the victims of some bad defense. He’s given up a few too many home runs, and walked a few too many guys. Some of that’s fly ball luck, some of it might just be something that we have to live with, but he strikes guys out and is due for some more of those bounces to find gloves instead of glance off them.

 

The Mets rotation problems have mainly been pitchers absolutely bombing, and it’s hard to see that continue for long. Technically, Jason Vargas is a lot better than he’s shown, even if he’s not particularly good. He’s pretty much what you’d call a veteran journeyman though, and if he can tweak whatever the problem is and give the Mets a stretch of decent starts, that’d go a long way. Stephen Matz has been wild, but even last year this wasn’t the case. If he settles down and starts executing better, he should at least be serviceable.

 

The Mets still have a lot of potential, even if it feels like they’re squandering some of their best chances right now with heartbreaking walk-off losses. Things will pick up soon, let’s just hope they pick up soon enough, and long enough, to catch and pass the Nationals again.

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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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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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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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