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.
Noah Syndergaard, if you’re still reading about the Mets at this point, is a hot topic of trade rumors these days. These seem to be real rumors too, and not the clickbait ones SNY was peddling in Spring Training. While turning pitchers into prospects if you can get excess value is usually a good bet given the fragile nature of pitchers, particularly hard throwing ones that haven’t had Tommy John surgery, I think the better play is to extend him, not trade him.
The Mets control Syndergaard for two more years after this one. He has a career 3.21 ERA and accumulated 17.1 fWAR so far. Speaking of WAR, it’s at 2.7 this season. That’s 21st in baseball. (Jacob deGrom is 7th and Zack Wheeler is 25th) The ERAs aren’t as sparkling as last year, but at least with Syndergaard, a lot of that can be chalked up to two things. The juiced ball, and defense.
Syndergaard’s HR rate has spiked, as has literally everyone’s with the way the ball is these days. He’s on record saying he’s struggled to get the same grip on it as he has in previous years. It’s something he knows to work on, and sometimes does seem to have better success, and it’s also something that might be corrected if there’s any correction to the ball in 2020. It’d be foolish to plan on that correcting, but Thor’s still providing a lot of value despite it, and a correction can only help pitchers. You’d also hate to pull a Daniel Murphy, and trade him only to have the ball change in his favor afterwards.
The other thing that’s hurt Syndergaard is LOB%, the percentage of baserunners he strands. This is a stat that’s mostly out of the pitcher’s control, though obviously higher strikeout pitchers will tend to strand more runners. Syndergaard is 31st of qualified pitchers with a 23.8 K%, which is above the starting pitcher league average 22.3. Thor has the 10th worst LOB% of qualified pitchers at 68.1%, and Zack Wheeler is 5th worse. League average is 72%. Defense can kill this, allowing a lower percentage of balls in play to become outs.
So Noah Syndergaard is a really good pitcher still, and could be even better. He’s under team control. This is only his age 26 season. That’s the kind of guy you want on your team. I don’t know what Thor would be looking for in a contract extension. He’s previously shown to be very cognizant of how underpaid MLB players are pre-free agency, so perhaps he’s not willing to give away any of that. Still, if you can pay him more for 2020 and 2021 to buy 2022 and possible more, it’d be hard to believe a trade package could be worth more than Syndergaard himself, barring a spring 2020 Tommy John surgery that cancels is 2020 and 2021 season, but that could just as easily happen to the pitcher the Mets would have to acquire to replace him.
The Mets should absolutely listen to offers on any player they have that can garner something big in return, and measure the odds of that making the team better both in 2020 and beyond, but it’s hard to see the Mets getting a return that has a high-probability of out-performing Noah Syndergaard himself. Keep him, extend him and enjoy him.
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.
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.
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.
Most 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.
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.
There’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?
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.
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.
Basically a prospect they brought up through their system.
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.
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.
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.
7/31/2015 with Marlins
2015 deadline deal and 2016 closer for the Rangers. 2017 is his first arbitration year.
Giants Derek Law
Major League debut in 2016, and he pitched well.
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
Jansen has been a solid Dodgers reliever for years. They just re-signed him to a long 5/$80 deal with an opt-out.
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.
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.
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.
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.
During Jonathon Niese’s first at bat the other night Josh Lewin casually mentioned that he had a three game hitting streak going back to last year. Pitcher hitting streaks are not something you pay much attention to, as even a three game streak during the season spans 10 or more days. Niese laced an RBI single to left field in the fourth to extend the streak to four and it made me wonder about pitcher hitting streaks.
Turns out four games ties for the active lead among pitchers with Colby Lewis. Lewis’ is perhaps most interesting because it began all the way back in 2011 with a double in June bring him to one out of eight on the season. He made only one start in an NL park in 2012, going two for four against the Astros. He missed all of 2013, but managed a hit in both his NL games in 2014 including the 4th one against the Bartolo Colon and the Mets on July 5th. The Rangers play in Arizona on April 21st and 22nd, but Lewis is scheduled to miss them. Kyle Kendrick just had a 4-game hitting streak end against Clayton Kershaw on Friday.
Niese’s streak began on September 20th last year against the Braves’ David Hale. Many Mets pitchers have had a four game hitting streak, most recently R.A. Dickey did it in 2011 and 2012. There are six guys with five hits, most notably Mike Hampton and Tom Seaver. Anytime your name is mentioned alongside Seaver’s you know you’re doing something right. The all-time Mets leader though, with a six game hitting streak from late 1974 to early 1975, was Jerry Koosman. Koosman hit .500 during his streak going nine for 18 with a double, triple, and four RBI. It ended against the Expos and Dave McNally when Koosman failed to get a hit in his first AB and after giving up six runs through five was replaced in his second AB by Jesus Alou. Niese will face the Braves tonight trying to make it five.
You might be wondering what the All-Time streak is. Niese is nowhere near Wilbur Cooper’s 16 game streak from 1924. Cooper hit .346/.376/.433 on the season that year while winning 20 games for the Pirates. More recently Carlos Zambrano had a 13 game hitting streak, but the play-index query I used ignored his pinch hitting appearances where he wasn’t a pitcher. Truthfully he only had a six game hitting streak. Johnny Sain had a 13 game streak in 1947 which is good for second place on this list.
When I said ‘pitcher hitting streak’ your mind may have first gone to Babe Ruth. Ruth did have an 11 game streak crossing from 1917 to 1918 as a pitcher, but there were a bunch of games in the middle as a pinch hitter and first baseman. Truthfully he hit in the final two games of 1917 as a pitcher, and then 10 of the first 11 games of 1918, with the one miss being a walk as a pinch hitter. That’s a 12 game streak, nine of which were as a pitcher. Ruth would later have a 26 game hitting streak with the Yankees, but not as a pitcher.
Can Niese get a 5th hit tonight against Trevor Cahill? If so the streak might start getting some real attention; five games is a lot for a pitcher. At that point only six active players would have had a longer one, with Wade Miley’s 2012 8-game streak being the top. Niese has never batted against Cahill, but I’m looking forward to the matchup.
Los Angeles – The Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA) announced the winners in its Cy Young category Wednesday, with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw winning the group’s National League award, and Felix Hernandez, of the Seattle Mariners, being selected in the American League.
Clayton Kershaw was a no-brainer, and his unanimous selection means everyone else agreed. After the playoffs I do feel a little silly having left Madison Bumgarner off the ballot entirely, but there was a lot of good pitching.
Hernandez’s selection was more contested. I voted for Corey Kluber, who did receive more first-place votes but less total points. It was really a toss-up either way, as both guys were definitely deserving. I ultimately erred on the side of Kluber’s higher WAR and strikeout total.