After a fifth straight game of offensive ineptitude in the team’s 2-1 win on Wednesday, Terry Collins shook up the lineup by batting Michael Conforto 3rd. The lineup against right-handers now figures to look like this:
Granderson, Wright, Conforto, Cespedes, Duda, Walker, Cabrera, d’Arnaud
There’s a lot to like about this new lineup – the top 6 can probably be rearranged in any number of ways, and a 7/8 of Cabrera and d’Arnaud is likely the envy of many National League teams. It also gets Conforto more plate appearances, and possibly more to hit in front of Cespedes. It will certainly be interesting to see how Collins shuffles the lineup against lefties – one presumes Lagares and Flores will start regularly against lefties, but who they will play for remains to be seen. My suggestion is as follows:
Lagares, Granderson, Wright, Cespedes, d’Arnaud, Walker/Duda, Flores, Cabrera
Lagares, Wright, Cespedes, d’Arnaud, Walker/Duda, Flores, Cabrera, Conforto
Alejandro De Aza had a fantastic game last night, falling just a triple shy of the cycle (Cespedes did the same). He got thrown out trying to score from first on a Granderson single, but he capped it off his night with a diving catch in left. He may have played himself into today’s game. I imagine Collins may wish to give Granderson a day off, allowing De Aza the opportunity to start in right and Lagares in center.
Finally, much attention has been paid to Terry Collins’ decision making of late, especially using Jim Henderson in Wednesday’s 2-1 victory after he had thrown a career high 34 pitches the night before. Using Familia for a third straight game to get a 5-out save was also widely criticized.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Collins’ explanations of his decisions, but he often does make the right decision. Jim Henderson was obviously a bad call, but had Addison Reed come in and blown the game, we’d all be asking why Familia wasn’t in for the extended save. An interesting quote from last night suggested that Collins started De Aza because he has good numbers in Cleveland’s ballpark. Terrible reason to start a player, but right player to start nonetheless. It’ll be interesting to see how Collins’ decision-making and explanations progress going forward this season.
Game 1 of the National League Division Series between the Mets and Dodgers is in only 9 days, on Friday, October 9th at a time and place to be determined. Here are my predictions for the roster in round one:
The starting 8:
No surprises here. Barring injury, these 8 are all locks for the roster (though Flores and Cuddyer will certainly get some starts).
No surprises here as well. The only uncertainty is Eric Young Jr., who will almost certainly be left off the roster if Juan Uribe is healthy and ready to play.
Maybe Bartolo Colon will be the fourth starter, but I think it’ll be Matz. Assuming his side injury is nothing major, this should be what we see.
Here’s where there’s the most uncertainty. Familia, Clippard, Reed, and Robles are all locks. Colon and Niese are very likely, and the final spot will likely go to Erik Goeddel or Sean Gilmartin. My money’s on Goeddel, since he can be a situational right-hander in the earlier innings. Gilmartin is not a lefty specialist (nor is Niese, for that matter), but Niese has a much longer track record with the Mets. Plus, with Niese and Colon in the bullpen, they won’t need another long-relief type.
A couple of things could throw a wrench into the plan. Don’t be shocked to see Carlos Torres in the postseason bullpen if he can prove his health over the next few days. Similarly, don’t count out Dario Alvarez or Eric O’Flaherty. Alvarez has rejoined the team, but he may be as much of a long shot as Jerry Blevins. With O’Flaherty, the team’s desire to have a situational lefty in the bullpen may trump his terrible performance so far. I certainly wouldn’t include him, since I think Goeddel, Gilmartin, and Torres are all far superior options.
The Mets have not shied away from platoons this season, a move I see as a smart one. Others, like perpetual cliché machine Harold Reynolds, believe a team’s struggles can stem from failure to use a regular lineup. For example, when commenting last night on the Dodgers’ use of platoons, especially in their outfield, Reynolds commented that he believed it would be their undoing in the NLDS against the Mets.
Platoons have served the Mets well for the season, but with Juan Uribe hurt and Juan Lagares struggling, it is very possible the only extra right-handed bat that enters the lineup against lefties is Michael Cuddyer (in place of Michael Conforto). Since 3/4 of the Dodgers pitchers the Mets will face will likely be left-handed (Clayton Kershaw, Brett Anderson, Alex Wood), it is very likely we see a lot more of Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda, and Daniel Murphy against lefties. However, if Juan Uribe is healthy and ready to go, don’t be shocked to see him at 2nd base in place of Murphy or Duda (with Murphy sliding to 1st base).
- The Mets lost because they pulled Matt Harvey after only 5 innings.
- Matt Harvey is a phony for saying he wished he could’ve pitched further – it is his decision to make, after all.
- If the Mets collapse and miss the postseason, it will be because of Harvey’s innings restriction.
Now let me debunk those statements in order:
- No, the Mets lost because they played terrible defense, their bullpen threw terrible innings, and their offense was shut down by CC Sabathia. A 1-0 win versus a top offensive team such as the Yankees is not a realistic expectation.
- Perhaps, but I have no doubt he actually wants to pitch more. Yes it is his decision, but he is conflicted: he wants to save for his contract AND win now. That being said, Harvey certainly has not handled this situation well. For someone who wanted to come back in a meaningless season after major surgery and someone who balked at the 6-man rotation, this is certainly a letdown. He can’t have it both ways – either he wants to be the man for this team or he wants to conserve for the future. He is certainly entitled to conserve for the future, but that puts him completely at odds with the fight he has shown previously. This statement is the most true of the three, but nothing in that statement will stop the Mets from making the postseason. If they somehow miss out, it will be due to much more heartbreaking reasons.
- This is absurd. They didn’t even lose yesterday’s game for that reason (see #1). If the Mets miss out this season, it will be due to bullpen issues, offensive issues, or issues across the starting rotation. Harvey only has partial control over 2 more games this season. Unless the Mets go 0-10 and the Nationals 10-0 over their next 10 games, the Mets will remain in control of their own destiny through the final series with Washington. If the series matters, do you really think Harvey won’t be on the mound and set loose?
But here’s where the narrative is wrong: If Harvey was taken out after 5 innings last night and a combination of Robles, Reed, Clippard, and Familia held the Yankees down for a 1-0 victory, what would the story be? Sure, there would be mentions about Harvey’s removal, but nothing like the vitriol we’ve seen today from the tabloids and Twitter. Rather, the story would be how the Mets took 2 out of 3 from their rivals, they lowered their magic number to 7, Harvey was brilliant in his limited outing, and the plan is working!
After such a loss, the easy thing to point to is Harvey. After all, he was cruising through 5 and made some questionable comments after the start. That being said, Robles, Reed, Clippard, and Familia have all been fantastic, and it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to think they could wind up winning the game 1-0. It is also not unreasonable to think that the combination of those four relievers would have pitched better than Harvey, considering Harvey’s numbers the 3rd time through a batting order. But remember: they lost that game due to offensive futility, defensive embarrassments, and a bad day by Robles and a few non-elite relivers. We are hearing very little today on Daniel Murphy’s errant throw or David Wright’s missed catch, or on the team’s wasted opportunity in the first inning.
No, the Dark Knight’s selfishness is stealing the headlines again, even when they should be positive. Harvey limited the Yankees to just an infield hit and a walk over 5 shutout innings, yet that’s not what people will remember. It’s unfortunate that this Harvey saga will be on repeat until the Mets clinch. Conversely, if the Mets don’t make it, the decision to limit his innings will be one of the most infamous in team history, unfairly so. For a team with a 6 game lead with 13 to play (and a team which had a lead as large as 9.5 games), 5 innings of Harvey vs. 7 innings of Harvey won’t make the difference between making the playoffs and missing them. Rather, if the Mets find a way to miss the playoffs, a lot more will have gone wrong.
Of the many things that struck me this weekend in the series against the Yankees, it was how many Mets fans felt the necessity to boo Carlos Beltran. Granted, he was a thorn in the side of the Mets during this series, but why would anyone at that stadium boo him? He has been resurgent for the Yankees lately and he was the greatest center fielder in Mets history, the greatest free agent signing in Mets history, and probably the next best outfielder to Darryl Strawberry.
Over his 6 1/2 seasons with the Mets, Beltran hit 149 home runs, the 2nd most for an outfielder in Mets history (to Strawberry). His 29.4 fWAR ranks first out of Mets center fielders by a long shot – Mookie Wilson is second at 17.4. His 29.4 fWAR also ranks fourth out of all batters in Mets history, behind only David Wright, Darryl Strawberry, and Jose Reyes (Edgardo Alfonzo and Mike Piazza are close behind; Piazza was not nearly the defender or baserunner Beltran was). Beltran is 6th on the Mets’ all-time home runs list, 11th on the steals list, 8th in runs scored, 6th in runs batted in, 8th in OBP, 5th in SLG, and 6th in wRC+ (minimum 600 PA). Through Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system, Beltran scores at 56.3 (average HOF center fielder is 57.2). This gives Beltran a decent shot at making the Hall of Fame, and if inducted, it is certainly possible he will enter as a Met, the team he played longest with.
So why do fans feel the need to boo a man who may be their third inducted hall of famer (after Piazza is inducted)? The answer obviously lies with one pitch, the curveball from Adam Wainwright that Carlos Beltran took in game 7 of the 2006 NLCS for a called strike 3, leaving the bases loaded and the tying run at 2nd base. Mets fans have never been able to forgive Beltran for that one moment (despite his .413 wOBA in the 2006 playoffs, with 3 home runs in 45 plate appearances). Hence, a perrennial all-star and possible Hall of Famer is remembered for just that one moment.
This makes me angry because it defies reason. After all, David Wright had a .295 wOBA and Jose Reyes a .289 wOBA in the playoffs that season, but never in a million years would you hear a Mets fan boo them. Mets fans are notoriously nervous and harsh fans (Mets fans are a joke to the MLB community at large, who see the 6 game lead with 13 to go and wonder why we’re remotely worried). Mets fans are quicker to turn on their own than most fanbases, but they are also some of the most passionate fans in baseball. It hurts to see fanss boo Beltran, especially when only Alex Rodriguez heard it worse. Even colossal bust Chris Young got a better reception than Beltran. This is why Mets fans are a joke across baseball.
Calm down, folks. I shouldn’t be surprised though. After all, this is the fanbase that booed Ruben Tejada and trainer Ray Ramirez at opening day this season. Mets fans don’t forget, but they often don’t remember too well either. Ramirez is remembered for the horrendous 2009 injury season, while Tejada is remembered for a terrible 2012 campaign and for not being Jose Reyes. Both have been much better since – the Mets’ injuries and Tejada’s play, but it’s too late for some fans. Fortunately, Tejada’s 2015 play has mostly silenced his harshest critics, but he will always have an unfair stain on his Mets record. The damage has been done. Both Tejada’s and Ramirez’s treatments are ridiculously unfair, just as Beltran’s treatment was this weekend.
It would be nice to hear the Mets fans cheer their own players, especially one of the best in their entire history. Beltran deserves much better. Perhaps fans will realize when he decines to wear a Mets hat on his Hall of Fame cap.
The Mets played their last game of the season against the Miami Marlins last night, and count me as absolutely thrilled. Any Mets fan going back 8 years or more remembers that it was the (at the time) Florida Marlins who dealt the final decisive blow to those doomed Mets teams. Fresh in my mind is the sight of Miguel Olivo charging Jose Reyes at 3rd base, the sight of a dejected Tom Glavine leaving the mound, an infield dribbler for Paul Hoover against a dominant John Maine, and Johan Santana‘s potential season-saving 3-hit shutout. Not to mention the gut-wrenching home run by Met killer Wes Helms against Scott Schoeneweis. Playing the Marlins 19 times a season hasn’t failed to bring back those dramatic highs and lows.
Clearest in my memory is the 2007 season, because that was the real killer. 2008 was a race all the way, and the Mets couldn’t keep up with the competative Phillies and resurgent Brewers, led by C.C. Sabathia. But 2007 was the one – the Mets were supposed to repeat their 2006 success. I remember John Maine, one of my favorite players on that team, had a dominant, potential season-saving performance (despite the fact that it was a 13-0 rout). With two outs in the 8th inning, 3rd catcher Paul Hoover hit an infield squibbler to break up Maine’s no-hit bid. I truly thought it would be destiny – Maine would throw the first no-hitter in franchise history and they would keep pace with and pass the Phillies, whether the next day or during a one-game playoff. They were tied with the Phillies for the division lead and the Rockies for one game out in the wild card. To top it off, Tom Glavine was on the mound the next day. Not everything could break against them… could it?
After all, in 07-08, they got some stellar performances from certain players, even if they did dance around the injury bug a bit. 2007 and 2008 were arguably David Wright‘s best seasons in the majors; Wright had a 151 wRC+ in 2007 and a 143 wRC+ in 2008. One could argue that Wright, who led the National League with 8.4 fWAR, deserved the MVP award in 2007 over Jimmy Rollins (7th in the league at 6.5, 2nd on his own team to Chase Utley‘s 7.7). Jose Reyes stole 78 bases in 2008, and Carlos Beltran added a 33 home run season (122 wRC+). 07 also saw solid if unspectacular seasons for Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green (even if their lack of defensive ability dragged them down). In 2008, they had a fantastic season from newly acquired Johan Santana, whose 2.53 ERA led baseball and whose 7.1 rWAR was second only to eventual Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. These teams were very, very good with an exciting young core, even if they did give too many starts to Orlando Hernandez and Jorge Sosa and too many plate appearances to Damion Easley and Luis Castillo.
I understand Mets Twitter’s reaction to a 7.5 game lead, with a 9.5 game lead only two days ago. That being said, let’s look at it in perspective: Leaving the Nationals series, we had a 7.0 game lead with 23 to play. From then on, we have gone 5-2, compared to Washington’s 4-2, to gain half a game. There are only 16 games left to play. Sure we face the Yankees next, but we also face the Braves, the Phillies, the Reds, and the Nationals (let’s hope it doesn’t come down to that last series).
Put simply, this team is different. We have much better pitching than both the 07 and 08 teams, with a better bullpen than the 08 team for sure (which, lest we forget, was using Brian Stokes and Luis Ayala to close out games). The offense, park and era adjusted, is roughly the same as the 07-08 teams (100 wRC+ for 07 and 08 teams, 99 wRC+ for 2015). Plus, the 2015 Mets have been remarkably better during the second half, since the first half was spent without David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes, Travis d’Arnaud (for the most part) and a month of Daniel Murphy (wRC+ for the 2015 Mets since the All Star break is 118). Simply put, this team is better constructed and has many fewer holes.
But the thing that’s really giving me confidence? We don’t have to play these pesky Marlins again. It may not seem it, but the 2015 team is 11-8 against them, even if the last two series have been tough. Believe it or not, the 2007 team was 11-7 against the Marlins while the 2008 team was 10-8 against them. Miami (Florida, at the time) just seems to wait for the proper moment to strike, and this season, they won’t have their chance. 4 out of their last 6 against New York is far from a fatal blow, with the Mets still holding on to the 7.5 game lead.
After the Mets’ 4 game sweep of Atlanta, they had a 9.5 game lead with 19 to play and their playoff odds, per Baseball Prospectus, went to 99.9%. With a 7 game lead and 17 to play in 2007, the odds were at 99.8%. To collapse now, the Mets would have to surpass their own ineptitude. And before anyone says that’s entirely possible, may I remind you that the record of 120 losses from 1962 still holds strong.
Let the Marlins spoil the Nationals for once as they open a 4-game series this weekend, and let’s take this series from the Yankees. We’ve gotten this far, there’s nothing to suggest we can’t finish strong.