The 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.
Long overdue Mike, you’ve been in my Hall of Fame for years. I look forward to a madhouse at Cooperstown this summer.
The Mets are making smart moves in building their 2016 team. That’s the thing; The Mets are run by smart people. (I’m not talking about the owners here, I don’t really spend much time thinking or worrying about the filthy rich people that profit from my hobbies.)
Sandy Alderson and company have a plan. From here it seems like they value the roster flexibility they had late last year with Kelly Johnson and Uribe and a bunch of outfielders. It is probably one of the reasons they coveted Ben Zobrist, and certainly speaks to getting both Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera. Now Dilson Herrera is the depth waiting in Triple-A getting better rather than the guy we’re just handing the job to and hoping he’s ready for it.
Perhaps you wanted the Mets to sign someone else, and that’s fine. Personally I would’ve taken the money they gave Cabrera and added it to the Zobrist offer, but that doesn’t mean this is the wrong move. The Mets are smart, and they know what they’re doing. Just because they didn’t do what you think is best, or don’t seem to be pursuing the player you’ve pegged as the best fit for them doesn’t mean what they’re doing is wrong, or cheap. Some of the moves won’t not work out, certainly. Budget definitely is a concern, though exactly how much we’ll never really know.
The Mets are making trades, their acquiring players and inquiring about others. They’re active and alert and trying to get this team back to the playoffs again. It might not be exactly as you would do, but you are not the GM. This team just went to the World Series, on merit, so it’s a pretty safe bet that Sandy Alderson and his staff have a good idea of what they’re doing.
I’m not sure I’m ready. I’m not sure it’s really fully sunk in that the Mets are one series away from perhaps a World Championship. Being a tiny child during the last one the idea of winning it all is this mythical beast suddenly very much real. Dragons are alive and well in
In roughly a week the Mets will either be planning a parade or adding a new mortal enemy to the list of teams that we don’t like. There will be players that will be revered as much as Keith Hernandez or perhaps vilified as much as Mike Scioscia and Yadier Molina. The stakes are high.
No matter what you believed about this team, a World Series appearance requires all sorts of things to break right. Just a few months ago we were pondering what it would take to fend off the Washington Nationals, not wondering how the Mets match up against an American League champion.
The World Series has a certain level of awe to it above that of the NLCS. There are only two teams left in all of baseball, just four to seven games left in the entire season. For the first time in 15 years no team will play baseball after the Mets have gone home. The final quest for a third championship begins now.
Ready or not, here we go.
THIS IS FUN!
Time sure does fly. It feels like just yesterday we were enjoying the magical 2006 season, but it was truly nine years ago. It was a fun season right up until the bitter end, but that end was so bitter that it took a while for me to make peace with it. With the Mets headed back to the playoffs it’s time to really delve into the last time the Mets were in the playoffs.
It was a good time for me personally; I’d recently started my first ‘real’ job, but was still living with my parents.I had time and money and ultimately ended up at five of the six Mets home playoff games, missing only the first one. At the very last regular season game the Mets gave out a promo called a Fandini, a cross SNY-WFAN item that was part bandana part..weird. I carried it with me for all the games despite not having any idea what to really do with it besides twist it around in my hands nervously during tense moments. When I arrived home after game 7 it ended up tossed in a corner with my rally towel and didn’t move for months. Now I think it’s a drawer labeled “DON’T TOUCH, VOODOO CURSE” with my 2007 and 2008 playoff tickets still in their DHL envelopes.
I was at the end with two friends and we walked out in silence. You may remember it was not that easy to stay together in the crush of jostling fans exiting Shea Stadium, so it won’t surprise you to know that we ended up separated. Somehow the way I went led me past a guy trying to sell me a Cardinals cap. Whether a bum or a Cardinals fan I have no idea. Thanks to the Citi Field construction, we’d parked in Flushing and had to take the subway in silence before taking the car ride home in silence.
I forgot about the Mets for a while and left my stuff where I dropped it. I didn’t hear the replay of Endy’s catch until it was a menu clip on MLB The Show 2007. I’d taken a few pictures but didn’t even look at them as I backed them up and erased the memory card. I really didn’t think back to that playoff series much over the years. It’s probably time to heal and move on. The Mets are going to the playoffs again, and the last time they went was certainly memorable so I want to exorcise any last demons so I can really enjoy this run.
The Mets disposed of the Dodgers so easily that it seemed like they were just going to let all the pitching injuries roll of their back. The most memorable thing from that series was two Dodgers getting thrown out at the plate in one inning in the first game. We were riding high and feeling undefeatable despite some troubling warning signs.
The Mets owned New York too. October 7th 2006 featured a rare event; two NY postseason games on the same day at different times. I was attending a Jeopardy screening at Radio City Music Hall in the afternoon, and the start was actually delayed 10 minutes because the Jeopardy crew was in the back watching the Yankees be eliminated by the Tigers. Alex Trebek came out to tell us the good news about the Yankees elimination, and that we’d have to stick to rooting the Mets. It was the Mets time.
That was a Saturday, and what followed was an extended burial of the Yankees on talk radio and the primitive excuses for social media back in the day. The Mets wouldn’t play again until Thursday thanks to weird scheduling, a sweep, and a rain out. What was actually ticketed as NLCS game 2 became NLCS game 1 on Thursday with game 1 tickets being pushed from Wednesday to Friday.
Game 1 became the Beltran game. The Mets offense that would mostly struggle through the series was held to just six hits by Jeff Weaver and cast, but was outpitched by Tom Glavine. Billy Wagner notched his third save. Not only did Beltran absolutely crush a home run in the 6th off the scoreboard to drive in the only two runs of the game, he had an outfield assist to double Albert Pujols off first in the 4th. This was the coldest I’ve ever been at a ballgame. We were up in the last row of the Upper Deck, with the frigid wind blowing on us the entire game. I didn’t watch a clip of that home run until just now, when writing this paragraph nine years later.
Game two was a slugfest, and one I can’t help but remember as the first round of the So Taguchi vs Billy Wagner war. Taguchi’s 9th inning home run broke the tie and was the deciding run in the game.
The Cardinals won two of the three games in St. Louis, one of which was Steve Trachsel throwing his last game for the Mets as a preview to Tom Glavine throwing his last game for the Mets.
Heading out to Shea for game six was the weirdest feeling. I knew logically that winning two games could be tough, that any little mistake or struggle and the Mets would be going home. We were up against it, and in a tough spot. Most seasons end in crushing disappointment and I knew this was no different. The Mets had had a good season, and if they got bounced in six it wouldn’t be the end of the world. They’d fought hard. It’d be a good learning experience.
I remember almost nothing from this game. I remember all the nervous energy and edge of elimination tension. This wasn’t my first game like this; Ventura’s Grand Slam Single had been a similar feel. The Mets tacked on enough runs to hold off yet another So Taguchi hit off Billy Wagner, and off we were to game seven. That was my main takeaway, “Okay, now we get to come back tomorrow for winner takes all. deep breath.”
Game seven. Where the demons live.. All the talk was about how Oliver Perez had the highest regular season ERA of any game seven starter ever. The Mets had been boxed into a corner with the injuries to Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez, but for the most part the fill-ins held their own. The Mets struck first, thanks to Beltran, Delgado, and Wright, but Oliver Perez gave it right back. Then no one scored until the 9th. It was a tense game, but not especially in the top of the 6th when Perez issues a one-out walk to Jim Edmonds. It was the first pitch to Rolen that was blasted in the air to left that made the entire park suddenly go, “Oh crap.”
Endy made the catch, as you know, and then doubled off Edmonds who was understandably halfway to third. That moment was Shea Stadium’s final exaltation. The unbelievable catch has everyone as fired up as they’d been since Mike Hampton’s clinching complete game over the same Cardinals back in 2000. It was hard not to get swept up in that joy, in that belief that hey, this Mets team really could do anything. It was hard to believe they could lose after a catch like that, after a moment like that.
That feeling lasted maybe a half inning. The Mets mounted a rally against Jeff Suppan in the bottom of the 6th, with none other than Endy Chavez coming up with two outs and the bases loaded. The moment was perfect, how could Endy not come through again, this time with the bat? Greatest catch of all-time, clutchest player in Mets history. There would’ve been no end to the superlatives.
He didn’t come through of course. No matter how many times I see highlights from that game, he never does. Baseball stories don’t always fall in with those seemingly perfectly scripted moments. The game would go differently if the Mets scratched a run across there. Instead of Aaron Heilman in the 9th, it’s Wagner for the save. Perhaps Wagner would blow it too, as he hadn’t been great all series, but we’ll never know.
The season ended, and it was a few days before I was right again. Eventually I looked forward to 2007 and thought of 2006 as a stepping stone. I started writing about the Mets more, and they bounced back by sweeping the Cardinals in the first series of the season, making them 6-4 against them over the last 10. The Mets were 34-18 after May ended, surely 2006 was just a stumble.
We suffered a lot as Mets fans during that time. Looking back with the cold clarity of nearly a decade reminds me to be thankful for what we have right now; a legitimate chance at a championship and also a very real possibility that this might be the best Mets team for a decade. I don’t expect either to be true, but knowing that either might be helps to give me the proper perspective on 2015. Enjoy what’s already happened, enjoy what’s going to happen, and don’t pretend it won’t suck if they don’t go all the way.
The Mets are now officially going to the playoffs, something very few people expected them to seriously do, especially as division champs. You may be telling yourself everything from here on out is gravy, that you’re just happy they made it.
You’d be wrong. It won’t be as big a failure if the Mets lose in the NLDS, but it’ll still be failure. It’ll still be gut-wrenching and horrible, and you still won’t be able to sleep for a week afterwards. You’re not going to just shrug your shoulders and say “It was a fun ride, happy with what they gave us.” Maybe in a few months, after rationally thinking about it, you’ll feel that way, but half the enjoyment of sports is the visceral in-the-moment emotional roller coaster. I still hear people bemoaning things that happened decades ago, and a first round exit won’t happen without creating a few ghosts for us to carry with us. 2006 stung, despite it being a fun ride and despite it seemingly like a stepping stone to long term success.
Fandom requires a certain amount of emotional buy-in, and this team is an exciting one to buy into. It’s not just that we’re invested though, they’re a quality team. These Mets are not squeaking into the playoffs in a way that makes us thankful just to make it; they’ve legitimately got the horses to make a run at the whole World Championship. The Mets have a team that CAN win this year, and if they fail to do so it will undoubtedly be crushing. Yes, the journey has been fun and crazy and magical.
Of course, it WILL probably all come crashing down. The Mets would have to get through three rounds against three quality teams and there are absolutely no guarantees in a short series. There’s no shame in losing early, but it’d still be pretty disappointing. The ride has been fun, and it’s that possibility of gut-wrenching defeat that makes the highs so high.
Let’s all enjoy the ride. Just don’t pretend you’ve got nothing to lose and it’s all house money. When October 9th rolls around, we’re all going to be on the edge of our seat fretting every pitch. A crushing defeat does not invalidate the stunning season despite being a disappointment in it’s own right. That great season just bought us a ticket to a higher-limit table is all.
There is no collapse, stop it. Baseball is surely an emotional sport to follow, but let’s be realistic here; the Mets are going to the playoffs. Their lead is insurmountable, and the Nationals just might lose 10 games on their own.
Of course, the Mets might win 10 on their own too. This team has a depth to it that they haven’t had in a long time. I hate to even broach this subject, because it feels as silly as pointing out that David Wright is a great hitter, or Yoenis Cespedes has been tearing the cover off the ball. They’re just things that happen. People seem legitimately worried though, which is pointless. Embrace a little logic and realize there’s really no way the Mets lose enough games to not clinch.
edit: After writing this, the Nationals went out and lost. Magic Number is down to 9. Really, nothing to worry about.
It was the first real series the Mets had played in years. Into September with the division on the line and a chance to nearly put it away but also a chance to let the Nats back in the door. Nervous excitement fluttered up from that inner sanctum that connects us all in our love for the Mets. That great feeling of a series really mattering, of having the division on the line. The same feeling you get putting in a large sum of money into a poker hand at a casino. You’re confident, you like your odds, but there’s a chance you walk away devastated.
The Mets did not walk away devastated. They sauntered off after sweeping the Nats and grasping the division firmly in front of them, and they will not release it. With a seven game lead and a well-rounded team, that exciting feeling won’t likely return until the playoffs. Oh sure we’ve got a Subway Series match up that means a lot more to them than to us, and an outside shot at beating out the Dodgers for that third potential NLDS game, but those things aren’t the same as the journey towards an eventual clinch.
It’s funny, the Mets have played so well in September that the remaining games are actually becoming less meaningful. We’re subject to endless discussions of rest, innings limits, skipped starts and tune-up appearances in order to have everyone raring to go for the playoffs. Still, this team makes every game exciting and it’s going to be a fun month.
A poor weekend has led to the Nationals gaining a little ground in the NL East race going into what might be the biggest series of the year. The Mets would do well to put their foot down and not let the Nationals chip away at the lead and gain confidence.
This series will define how the rest of the season goes. If the Nats win it could start to be become a real race, but if the Mets win it’ll continue to be a ‘tread water and get games off the schedule’ month for the Mets. A 5+ game lead with only three more head to head is pretty substantial.
The Mets have struggled a little lately, but they’re also due to settle in again; especially the pitching. The Nationals got fat on Atlanta Braves pitching, but that’s almost the polar opposite of what they’ll face in this series. Cool those bats off and find ways to hit the Nationals pitchers. Mostly the Mets offense has been able to do that; capitalize on opportunity by putting up a lot of runs at once, and then hammering away at bullpens if they get the shot there.
The Washington Nationals are not that good. Winning this series keeps them with a big enough cushion that would make it nearly impossible to lose.