Happy new year everyone! I have decided to look at specific Mets players and their tendencies to see how and where they can improve their game. I’ve tried to target the players that will have the most influence on the season, and having used the last three years’ results, will try to specify specific areas.
Michael Conforto: Two areas that Conforto needs to improve are his defense and his 24% K%. While everyone notices the inflated BABIP, there is little note taken to the increase in the K% back up to 24.5%. In fact, Conforto‘s 2019 season had better offense peripherals than his 2020 season. The big difference of course was the inflated luck that the BABIP brought making his numbers look much better. Also, Conforto‘s defense improved in right field but he is still negative and there is room for improvement.
Jeff McNeil: McNeil has improved his walk BB% every year since coming to the majors from 5.6% to 9.6%, while coming close to evening his K% that last year was 11.5%. The goal this year is to increase the BB% and decrease the K% to make them even.
Brandon Nimmo: The annual battle to decrease the K% must be won, finally lowering the 25% K% to acceptable levels, and also find a defensive home that will allow an appreciation for his diverse and all-star level offense.
Pete Alonso: To stop chasing pitches away in order to lower the 26% K%, to work hard on defense and mobility, and to increase his starter worst 17.7% LD%.
Amed Rosario: To increase his worst on the team 4.6% BB%, to learn to utilize the speed better and steal some bases, and to get back to his second half 2019 numbers.
J D Davis: To continue working hard on his defense at 3B, to move past a poor September 2020 that left his offensive numbers weak, and to lower his team high 49% GB% in order to get better production from his team high combined medium and hard hit rates.
Dominic Smith: to continue maintaining his high .368 BABIP over these last three years by continuing to use all fields and to work on fielding throws in the dirt.
Andres Gimenez: Increase the 5.3% BB% to be more of a table setter and to hit more line drives in order to lower his 1.33 GB/FB in order to get the most out of his team leading medium hit rate.
Jacob deGrom: To increase his 6.2 average innings per start by targeting less strikeouts and more weak hitting in order to stay in the game longer and get more wins! As my buddy says, stop striking out all these guys, LOL!
Steven Matz: get rid of the changeup that has risen steadily in usage from 9.9% his rookie year to 26.4% last year and to call up Andy Pettitte and talk to him how he fixed his problem of base stealers so Matz can finally relax and focus on hitters.
Edwin Diaz: to go back to the 2% BB% of the Mariners, to stop the one year on and one year off career numbers, to get back to the .200s BABIP of his Mariner days, and to realize his best years were the two years where he had the most usage of his change up.
The December 2, 2020 deadline for teams to offer arbitration has come and gone and several interesting names were not offered arbitration and are now free agents. Although most are not popular names, some should have an interest to the Mets Front Office. Besides the big names that were released – Kyle Schwarber, Archie Bradley, Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall, David Dahl – there were many interesting names that will serve a purpose in the Mets organization. I say ‘the organization’ because other than Bradley, there really isn’t an open spot for most of these players in Flushing at first but they will be useful to have in Syracuse.
We will look through the new free agents and see which one would interest the Mets and what they bring to the table to make them interesting. Note, all must have at least one option remaining which is important to stashing and allowing them to work on things that need improvement without the pressure on immediate success in MLB. Any player that does not have an option will need to be reassigned if they do not make the team.
This is Bradley’s line since 2017:
234.2 INN, 28 Svs, 201 H, 259 K, 80 BB, 1.197 WHIP, 2.95 ERA 3.19 FIP
Why did the Reds cut this player? Weren’t other teams interested in him in a trade? Probably for the same reason Hand wasn’t picked up: the reliever market is expected to be loaded. In a Zoom meeting the G.M. of the Reds, Nick Krall, explained that the decision was to keep one or the other, Raisel Inglesias or Bradley, because they couldn’t keep both. The Reds made a decision to keep Inglesias, who has been a bit better than Bradley.
Inglesias since 2017:
238.0 INN, 100 Svs, 186 H, 292 K, 78 BB, 1.109 WHIP, 2.95 ERA, 3.42 FIP
Their stats are close, but Inglesias is a bit better in the Reds’ opinion.
To provide some context on Bradley’s numbers the last four years, I will show you Seth Lugo’s numbers for 2016-2019, his four successful years before last year’s mid-year switch to the rotation:
346.2 INN, 9 Svs, 300 H, 337 K, 90 BB, 1.125 WHIP, 3.27 ERA, 3.50 FIP
As a Mets fan, I want Bradley on my team. Bradley would become one of the top three or four relievers on the team and a definite asset to navigating the season and preserving leads.
The other non-tender names we will spotlight may not make a on next year’s roster unless injuries decimate the roster. However, seeing how teams like the Dodgers and Yankees seem to always find success no matter their injuries, it would be great to sign as many of these players as possible. Too, the Mets may be able to unlock something that can make one of these players the next Chris Taylor, Luke Voit, Gio Urshela or Max Munci; players that were given up on by other teams but found success on their present teams. These players had the talent, but it had not developed yet and smart organizations saw this. We will use FanGraphs scouting grades as well as a blend of their major and minor league stats to see what players we’d like to get and try our luck with. Remember, these aren’t perfect players, we just want something to work with.
Renfroe has two minor league options remaining. His success with the long ball and against lefty pitchers has given him something to build on, but… he strikes out too much. As we know, Alderson calls a strikeout “just another out” and was never averse to the windmills such as Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, Todd Frazier or Jay Bruce. All of these players were sought and brought to the Mets during Alderson’s previous tenure due to their power expectation and the strikeout was a mere consequence of this. However, when Chili Davis became the Mets hitting instructor his first message was that results will come only when we hit the ball. What a concept! So, back to Renfroe… Here are his scouting grades in FanGraphs:
Hit: 40/50; Game Power: 45/60; Raw Power: 70/70; Speed: 50/40; Field: 50/50; Throws: 60/60. That’s the good news, now the bad news: Career 28.0% K/9, 8.4% BB/9, .228 BA, 102 RC+, -15.4 Def WAR rating, even with one of the best arms in baseball. In 2019, he had 33 HR’s for the Rays in 494 plate appearances and only had 64 RBI. Love the power and the arm in right field, but needs to refine his batting plan. I mentioned that success against lefties: .258 BA and home run per 11.97 plate appearances as opposed to .216 against righties and 17.93 HR/PA. Unsurprisingly, his strikeout rate is also lower against lefties.
One of the Yankees best prospects two years ago, now their roster crunch has forced him off the team. His numbers for AAA: 60.1 INN, 44 H, 15 BB, 83 K, 0.978 WHIP, 2.24 ERA. I don’t know how you let these numbers go. His grades on FanGraphs:
Fastball: 60/60; Curveball: 55/55; Cutter: 60/60; Command: 50/55
Frank Cashen used to say that a pitcher needs to pitch at least 300 innings in the minors before he should be brought up. Holder has pitched only 254, but only having 60 AAA innings and 41 AA innings means this player may have been rushed. He has an option remaining, so I’d take a chance on him.
MLB Career: 3 years, 175 INN, 139 H, 198 K, 54 BB, 3.14 ERA, 1.103 WHIP, 3.13 FIP, two minor league options.
Why did the Cardinals non-tender him? He had TJ surgery last May. The Cardinals didn’t want to give him a MLB salary and not have him pitch most of this year. Fortunately, Jeff Wilpon isn’t around here anymore, so stashing a good player for a few bucks gets rewarded later. Type of player you sign and see how his arm responds, at 30 years old, a commitment from a MLB team would most likely be appreciated for a pitcher that is first year arbitration eligible and not going to break the bank after making the minimum every year.
A previous member of a group Kevin Cash described as “a whole damn stable of guys who throw 98,” Ryne Stanek was traded two years ago to the Marlins along with minor league outfielder Jesus Sanchez for Nick Anderson and Trevor Richards. You may have heard of Nick Anderson, the lights-out closer for the Rays. Now Stanek is a free agent and Sanchez hit .040 in his first go around on the Marlins. Nice job Derek Jeter. Stenek’s grades on FanGraphs:
Fastball: 60/60; Slider: 50/50; Changeup: 55/55; Command: 45/45
As Stanek has an option remaining, it would be good to have Mets coaches work with Stanek in the minors to see if he can building up his consistency without the pressures of MLB results.
I’d love to see Bradley and at least two of these four other players signed by the Mets. That would give a little juice to the system with a couple of high upside players in AAA and some depth.
Much digital ink has been used on the need to get George Springer onto the Mets because he’s “a real center fielder” and the one the Mets used this year isn’t. To this, we will examine how good does your center fielder have to be in order to win a championship and is signing Springer to major dollars the best scenario? First, we will examine the center fielder production for the last 10 World Series champions and their team’s dependence on their play. Then, we will examine the names in the news for the Mets, my mystery acquisition and how they compare to our incumbent.
First, a brief summary of each year’s World Series winning center fielder and their relevance to the team’s production. Pitching is always referenced because some teams expect to win because of their superior pitching. All WAR values come from FanGraphs.
|2011 Cardinals CF:||Jon Jay||2.3||7.7 Offense, -1.2 Defense|
|Top Performers:||Yadier Molina||5.9||9.1 Offense, 31.3 Defense|
|Lance Berkman||4.7||44.4 Offense, -17.5 Defense|
|Matt Holliday||4.4||29.9 Offense, -3.9 Defense|
|Albert Pujols||3.9||28.9 Offense, -11.6 Defense|
The top nine WAR players were all negative on Defense expect for Molina.
|fWAR||Offensive/ Defensive Grades|
|2012 Giants CF:||Angel Pagan||4.6||21.7 Offense, 2.7 Defense|
|Top Performers:||Buster Posey||10.1||41.9 Offense, 36.5 Defense|
|Melky Cabrera||4.5||33.4 Offense, -5.6 Defense|
|fWAR||Offensive/ Defensive Grades|
|2013 Red Sox CF:||Jacoby Ellsbury||4.6||19.1 Offense, 2.9 Defense|
|Top Performers:||Dustin Pedroia||4.9||11.1 Offense, 10.4 Defense|
|Shane Victorino||4.7||17.6 Offense, 8.6 Defense|
|David Ortiz||3.4||27.0 Offense, -15.0 Defense|
|Mike Napoli||3.4||17.5 Offense, -4.9 Defense|
Five pitchers with WAR of 2.3 or greater, led by Jon Lester at 3.3.
|2014 Giants CF:||Angel Pagan||1.8||7.6 Offense, -3.4 Defense|
|Top Performers:||Buster Posey||7.6||25.3 Offense, 25.7 Defense|
|Hunter Pence||4.0||23.4 Offense, -7.9 Defense|
|Pablo Sandoval||3.2||2.4 Offense, 7.9 Defense|
Bumgarner had a 3.6 WAR, three pitcher had 1.5 – 1.7; no one else close.
|fWAR||Offense/ Defense Grades|
|2015 Royals CF:||Lorenzo Cain||6.1||26.0 Offense, 11.8 Defense|
|Top Performers:||Mike Moustakas||3.8||10.9 Offense, 5.2 Defense|
|Eric Hosmer||3.5||21.7 Offense, -10.8 Defense|
By contrast: Curtis Granderson 5.3 WAR, Travis d’Arnaud 3.4 WAR in just 67 games, Lucas Duda 3.2 WAR, Yoenis Cespedes 2.6 WAR in just 57 games, Daniel Murphy 2.2 WAR, Michael Conforto 1.9 WAR in just 56 games.
|2016 Cubs CF:||Dexter Fowler||4.6||25.6 Offense, 1.9 Defense|
|Top Performers:||Kris Bryant||7.9||48.8 Offense, 6.6 Defense|
|Anthony Rizzo||4.9||34.6 Offense, -8.0 Defense|
|Ben Zobrist||4.0||20.5 Offense, -1.4 Defense.|
|2017 Astros CF:||George Springer||4.5||28.6 Offense, -4.6 Defense||(was -4.8 Defense in 2018)|
|Top Performers:||Jose Altuve||7.6||52.7 Offense, 0.8 Defense|
|Carlos Correa||5.1||32.4 Offense, 5.1 Defense|
|Marwin Gonzalez||4.0||28.3 Offense, -6.1 Defense|
|Alex Bregman||3.5||17.7 Offense, -4.4 Defense|
|Josh Reddick||3.4||21.3 Offense, -5.8 Defense|
|509 plate app.||Carlos Beltran||-1.1||-17.6 Offense, -11.3 Defense||Notice who benefitted?|
|2018 Red Sox CF:||Jackie Bradley Jr.||2.8||-0.5 Offense, 10.1 Defense|
|Top Performers:||Mookie Betts||10.4||69.2 Offense, 11.6 Defense|
|J. D. Martinez||5.9||50.4 Offense, -14.7 Defense|
|Xander Boegarts||4.9||21.1 Offense, 7.2 Defense|
|Andrew Benintendi||4.4||22.0 Offense, -1.5 Defense|
|2019 Nationals CF:||Victor Robles||2.5||-3.0 Offense, 8.5 Defense|
|Top Performers:||Anthony Rendon||7.0||46.5 Offense, 4.2 Defense|
|Juan Soto||4.8||35.8 Offense, -7.5 Defense|
|Trea Turner||3.5||19.1 Offense, -1.5 Defense|
|2020 Dodgers CF:||A. J. Pollock||2.7||17.8 Offense, -10.5 Defense|
|Top Performers:||Mookie Betts||8.1||50.2 Offense, 8.4 Defense|
|Corey Seager||5.1||36.5 Offense, -6.8 Defense|
|Chris Taylor||4.1||21.1 Offense, -1.1 Defense|
|Justin Turner||3.5||22.7 Offense, -3.5 Defense|
|Will Smith||3.5||25.9 Offense, -3.8 Defense|
|Austin Barnes||2.7||2.4 Offense, 11.3 Defense|
|*-All numbers multiplied by 2.7 to match up to other years.|
As we have seen for the last decade, a winning team has an offensive center fielder more often than a defensive center fielder. In fact, in only three times in the 10 years has the winning team had a good defensive center fielder even when he wasn’t one of the team’s top performers. So, as we know quality catchers are hard to find, so it seems are quality dual threat center fielders. Now that we’ve done our homework, time to see how the five players we are comparing stack up. We will compare Brandon Nimmo, George Springer, Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Kiermeier, and my mystery candidate.
We will go defense first by comparing the players’ UZR – that is FanGraphs’ version of Outs Above Average – and their arm strength specifically.
|Player||17 UZR||17 Arm||18 UZR||18 Arm||19 UZR||19 Arm||20 UZR||20 Arm|
On offense, rather than measuring the counting stats, which can be affected by the lineup around each player, I’d like to present some of the hitting trends of each player to try to get a sense of the individual results we may expect. We used the percentages from 2019 and 2020 to be as current as possible as bat speed can be affected much quicker than defense is affected. The “hard hit” and “medium hit” are usually pretty subjective, so it’s best to watch the trend and blend the two as a batted ball may go to one category or the other depending on home team scoring.
|Player||19 K%||19 BB%||19 Med||19 Hard||20 K%||20 BB%||20 Med||20 Hard|
This is a pretty tight match but Springer doesn’t seem to be the slam dunk the writers are making him out to be – and what’s with always putting him right field in the late innings of games? Obviously, his present employers must know something. Kiermaier seems a better overall player but the “easier get” may be the mystery player and he will be essentially free to trade for. That player is Jason Heyward. Heyward is an athletic marvel and a great defensive player who I believe still has a great arm. He has had a reputation for hurting the ball consistently and when his luck changes, he will be a beast. His BABIP has not been anywhere near what it was in Atlanta while in Chicago – for whatever reason – and that is something I would bet on when the other numbers average out. By asking the Cubs if they want to save $23 million by switching Cano for Heyward, we give them a first baseman for next year when Rizzo leaves, no payment to Heyward this year, and an overall savings of the previously mentioned $23 million, which will please the owner and take away their headache. Problem is Heyward just had a pretty good year with a .848 OPS, so we may need to sweeten the deal by throwing in a small piece or also taking Bryant off their hands too to make the tendering aspect of his contract easier to make.
Then, there is the incumbent who seemed to be better when he moved deeper in center field in August of this year to the naked eye, but has always had an uncomfortable look when he is standing in the middle of the ball field alone.
When Andrew Friedman took over the Dodgers in 2013, he was told to win immediately and win in the future. He was given a blank checkbook to build up all areas, so he built up the scouting, the analytics department, the coaching staffs and of course the roster. He traded for Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett, and everyone laughed at him for taking the contracts. Eight straight division titles later, any one still laughing? He used those guys as temporary bandaids, while building up his system for the long haul. That is our goal also.
First thing I tell Sandy Alderson is to hire Billy Owens to stock talent into the minor leagues. Second, call Tom House and see what it will take to get him on our coaching staff to build up our pitchers to their full potential. Then, I tell Alderson to call Ron Darling, Pedro Martinez, Phil Regan and Al Leiter and tell them we would like them to be guest coaches in the spring. Another thing the Dodgers do well is they bring their stars back to work with the present players and instill in them the Dodgers mystic.
Now the fast track rebuild. When evaluating the roster, we see the deepest position on the major league roster is first base with two very good players (Smith and Alonso) and two good players (Davis and Cano). There is no center fielder, no MLB catcher if we do not pick-up either Chirinos’ option or Ramos’ option, several second base candidates, two young shortstops of different strengths, a shortage of starting pitchers and a plethora of underperforming relievers. Our decision makers have decided to reward Davis’ hard work and give him more time to continue his improvement at third base as he started off very impressively but fell off defensively. Also, it was decided that due to Thomas Szapucki’s advanced age but relatively little professional pitching experience, he would be in the MLB bullpen to be brought along slower than a starter, but to not use up his years of control in the minors while getting his MLB experience and knowledge.
Free Agent signings:
James McCann: $7 per year for two years
George Springer: $19 per year for four years
Brad Hand: $9 per year for three years
Tommy Hunter: $2.5 per year for two years
Chris Owings: $2.5 per year for three years
Robbie Ray: $12.5 per year for three years
Michael Brantley: $15 per year for two years (if the DH is passed for 2021)
Trade Dominic Smith, Andres Gimenez, David Peterson, Jeurys Familia and $5.5 cash to Cleveland for Zach Plesac and Francisco Lindor. Smith and Plesac are very close, maybe an edge to Smith, but the rest of the deal is structured around what Los Angeles gave up for Mookie Betts last year while allowing for the consumption of Familia’s final year.
Trade Pete Alonso and Robert Gsellman to Tampa for Ryan Yarbrough and Brent Honeywell, Jr. Yarbrough is a lefty mid-rotation arm with four years of control and Honeywell is a former top prospect with five above average offerings that has been hurt for a couple of years, but has potential to be an ace. Problem: Honeywell has not pitched since 2017 because of TJ surgery and then breaking his pitching elbow in spring training of 2019 and so he is out of options and needs to be on the big league squad – if he’s healthy. Acquiring Honeywell makes it necessary to put Szapucki in the minors if Honeywell is healthy, but we couldn’t pass up on the arm.
Going into 2021 season:
Edwin Diaz $8.5*, Corey Oswalt $0.6, Dellin Betances $6, Tommy Hunter $2.5, Thomas Szapucki $0.6, Brad Brach $1.25, Jeurys Familia $5.5, Brad Hand $9, Chasen Shreve $2.5*, Seth Lugo $4.5*, Honeywell $0.6 = $41.05
Jacob deGrom $21.78 (AAV for Luxury Tax because he took a salary of only $9 the first year of his deal, his real salary is $36), Steven Matz $5.5*, Noah Syndergaard $10.5*, Ryan Yarbrough $0.7, Zach Plesac $0.6, Robbie Ray $12.5, Walker Lockett $0.6 = $52.18
Total Payroll: $209.18
SP: deGrom, Plesac, Ray, Yarbrough, Matz, Lockett, Syndergaard
RP: Diaz, Betances, Oswalt, Hand, Hunter, Lugo, Shreve, Brach, Honeywell, Szapucki
First Baseman: Cano
Second Baseman: McNeil
Third Base: Davis
Left Field: Nimmo
Center Field: Springer
Right Field: Conforto
Backups: Nido, Guillorme, Rosario, Owings
After close to four decades of controversial ownership that included dubious financial practices, many second-tier free agent signings, much interference with their Front Office’s work, and some foot-in-mouth comments, the Wilpon and Katz families are divesting themselves in the coming days of most of their Mets ownership.
Interestingly, news is coming out today of a speculation that Alex Rodriguez‘ final offer was leaked to Steve Cohen by one of the Mets’ bankers. Expectantly, Rodriguez feels betrayed and feels that the Wilpons and Katz preferred Cohen all the while. It is quite probable that Steve Cohen would have put up the most money, but why would the Wilpons not make Cohen reach a little deeper, outbidding Rodriguez/Lopez by a mere $50Million when $100Million was certainly possible? Although it was in he papers for weeks that Rodriguez “may” bid $2.3Billion, reports were quick to include there was room for more. So, did Cohen know the exact bid? Possibly. He is an owner of the Mets and may have called in a favor. Too, it seems that Saul Katz has been the person most influential in the selling process and he prefers Cohen. We need to remember that the Wilpons and Katzes plan to keep 5% of the team so they’d like their investment to be held by the person that can keep the team as strong as possible.
Rodriguez learned first hand a valuable lesson on how real business deals get done, via connections and back stage handshakes about further business dealings. Cohen wasn’t going to let a rookie beat him. Other reasons to prefer Cohen over the Rodriguez/Lopez team may be business but may also be emotional. Since Cohen was expected to top all offers, and he is a Mets fan, it is best to have someone who cares very deeply about the product running the show. After owning the team for 40 years, one would expect that the Mets mean a lot to the Wilpon and Katz families. After all, they are about to become fans and they like rooting for winners too! But, let’s not forget the Wilpons have had run-ins with Rodriguez in the past. There was the free agency debacle in the winter of 2000 where A-Rod’s agent Scott Boras – who never misses an opportunity to ridicule Mets practices – made a very famous comment about the Mets ownership not wanting to win when in fact the problem was the Mets declining to even counter-offer Boras’ demands of marketing, travel and clubhouse benefits for Rodriguez; Rodriguez was also a Yankee for many years and we know the Yankees make Fred Wilpon sicker than a high dollar player getting hurt; and it isn’t far-fetched to worry that Rodriguez will do to the Mets what Derek Jeter did to the Marlins, gutting the team in order to recoup some of the purchase funds that dried out the bank accounts in the short term. More reasons to pick Steve Cohen.
But, since the Wilpons and Katzes are a Capitalist’s capitalists, most importantly Steve Cohen will have the deep pockets to ultimately make a SNY sale very lucrative for the Wilpon and Katz families. The Wilpon and Katz families know that SNY will be important to Cohen and he has the money to make a very big offer for the TV station. The team of Rodriguez and Lopez would not be able to, and so by letting Cohen win and possibly sacrificing $50Million, the Wilpon/Katz families can benefit again down the road when a very rich owner wants SNY very badly, as Cohen continues to bring up in the newspapers. Hence, it just makes better business sense to make sure Cohen wins the bid and let a little go today to get a big bunch back later.
Lastly, there may be some bitterness concerning the failed sale in February, but the familiarity shared by the Wilpons for Cohen, and vice versa derived over years of common ownership, should get the Wilpons some perks when they visit Citi Field. It’s hard to expect those perks to be given by Rodriguez. So is Rodriguez right that he got shafted? He probably is. Does it matter? Unfortunately Alex, life isn’t fair and there were deeper reasons for preferring Steve Cohen. Take solace Alex that MLB is expecting to expand in the near future and teams like Cincinnati Reds and Miami Marlins are struggling to make money, so Rodriguez and Lopez will have other opportunities in the near future.
It isn’t a stretch to say that the Mets rotation needs a talent like Seth Lugo. After Zack Wheeler took his services to the team that wanted him more than the Mets, Noah Syndergaard needed corrective surgery on his pitching elbow, Marcus Stroman decided to stay safe at home this year, and Steven Matz has had to struggle to find his best self, the Mets rotation has been worrisome after Jacob DeGrom pitches. Yes, there are glimpses from all pitchers: Rick Porcello will give you four good innings and one explosion of offense by putting too many pitches in the hit zone; David Peterson has done well but the lack to familiarity will wear off as he will keep facing the same teams again and again; Michael Wacha has been knocked around by Atlanta and Miami to the tune of a 9.00 ERA and 2.00 WHIP after dominating a sleeping Boston team; and the combined four starts of Corey Oswalt, Walker Lockett and Robert Gsellman have produced a 7.07 ERA and 1.71 WHIP.
The problem is that if you put Lugo in the starting rotation, who closes? Edwin Diaz has had issues pitching the ninth inning, for whatever reason. Diaz’ pretty 2.45 ERA and 20.45 K/9 overall, are 4.26 ERA and 22.5 K/9 in the 9th inning this year. While all the indicators are that Diaz is due for some good fortune, his .556 BABIP in the 9th inning is actually better that his .571 BABIP in his five appearances in the 8th inning.
Other candidates are Jeurys Familia, Dellin Betances, Justin Wilson, Brad Brach, Jared Hughes and I will include Drew Smith.
– Familia has battled consistency with a 1.54 WHIP in 12 innings but a decent 8.8 K/9;
– Betances also has a bad WHIP at 1.56 in 9 innings and an alarming 7.0 K/9 for such a historically dominant pitcher;
– Wilson has a 7.27 ERA and a 1.85 WHIP in 8.2 innings;
– Brach has started pretty well with a 1.69 ERA and a 8.4 K/9 but owns a 1.50 WHIP;
– Hughes has also had a nice start with a 3.38 ERA, a manageable 1.22 WHIP but only a 6.8 K/9;
– Smith has a 3.00 ERA in 6 innings, a 0.833 WHIP, and a 9.0 K/9.
So, if we want to keep Lugo as a starting pitcher, we need to manage the end of games with these pitchers and that will probably create drama. On sheer numbers, Diaz is still the best choice. The better set-up guys appear to be the 7th inning guys, Smith, Hughes and Brach, while the 8th inning guys Wilson, Betances and Familia have been inconsistent. However, as the Mets approach the halfway mark of the season, how long can you keep waiting for pitchers to right themselves? Now, rumors have the Mets engaging the Tigers on Jose Jimenez, but if Brodie Van Wagenen keeps his word, such a trade is a stretch because it will require prized prospects and he has said that he is against dealing those prospects and hurting the team’s future. Also, he would be dealing for a postseason that may or may not happen.
Let’s work backwards for a minute because you need to identify your five best starters in order to get leads to begin with. If DeGrom is one and Lugo is two, who are the best other three and can the starters left out help the cause of finishing out wins or will they have the same issues as most of the relievers already had? Figuring that Van Wagenen will insist on Porcello to be in the rotation and Peterson deserves to be in it, who is #5? And, if Matz isn’t in the top five, can he be a closer or at least a setup man? Matz has great stuff but is a pitcher that has struggled with pressure and base runners, so putting him in high leverage situations of late games may not be a great idea. So, do you put Matz in the rotation and hope he can at least be helpful there and use Wacha and Gsellman in the pen? Gsellman was hurt early and has only pitched one inning in the pen this year with two strikeouts and no runs. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to put him into the 8th/9th inning mix. Too, Gsellman’s problems in his career have stemmed from the long ball which is ironic because when he broke into the majors, his reputation was that he had a heavy fastball that was hard to lift evidenced by a 0.2 HR/9 his rookie year. What happened to that? Since then, his rate has been 1.1 HR/9, which isn’t terrible but he needs to find that pitch and has indicated that more usage helps it. Let’s take him up on it.
It’s not an easy solution to a tangled problem. The Mets need some relievers to step up, they need to identify who can be trusted to be given leads to late in the game, and they need to possibly shorten their rotation of relievers for high leverage situations and let the others work through their problems in lower leverage situations. All of this is to keep Lugo in the rotation, because the Mets actually have a bigger problem finding options for successful starters than they have had looking for successful relievers.