Old baseball wisdom, which pre-dates the 162-game schedule, says that you are going to win 50 games no matter what you do and lose 50 games no matter what you do. It’s the other 50 games that determine what kind of season your team will have. Saturday night was one of the other 50 for the Mets and it ended in a loss.
Here’s how the local media framed the story:
Familiar Path for Mets Against Phillies (Times)
Bullpen fails again as Mets lose fifth straight (Newsday)
Mets bullpen flops in another loss to Phillies (Post)
Lack of offensive production an Amazin problem (Post)
Mets drop fifth straight as same problems continue with the offense and pen (News)
Terry Collins ready to make changes to the Mets bullpen (News)
The game was lost when Collins inserted himself into the action. In his insatiable desire to get Scott Rice into the game, Collins yanked one of his best pitchers to get one of his worst pitchers into the game. Don’t blame the bullpen when Collins mismanaged it as badly as he did Saturday.
Dillon Gee has a history against the Phillies and it’s not particularly good. They jumped him for two runs in the first inning and tacked on another run in the second. He then proceeded to go 4.1 IP where he did not allow a run and he gave up just one hit.
The Mets battled back to take a 4-3 lead but Collins removed Gee for the start of the seventh inning despite Gee having thrown only 81 pitches. Along with Jon Niese, Gee has been the team’s best pitcher. He entered this game with 16 scoreless innings and he had settled down after a tough start to be in another groove.
And Collins took him out to get Rice into the game.
The first four hitters for Philadelphia in the inning were three lefty batters and a switch-hitter who bats better from the left side. For Collins, this was a terrific excuse to bring his LOOGY into the game. While Rice had been pitching better recently, he entered the contest with a 5.63 ERA and a 1.500 WHIP. No active pitcher on the team was worse.
Rice proceeded to allow hits to three of the four batters he faced, including two to LHB, and only a boneheaded play by the usual exemplary Chase Utley kept the inning from being a complete disaster. From there the Phillies’ bullpen wiggled out of a tight spot, the Mets’ bullpen didn’t and another loss was born.
If the first four hitters who were due up for the Phillies in the seventh inning were righties, there is no way that Collins would have taken Gee out. He only did this to get an allegedly advantageous matchup for Rice. As long as Collins keeps managing with the sole idea of maximizing the role of the worst pitcher on his staff, these types of outcomes should be expected.
When one of your top two pitchers has found his groove – don’t take him out when he’s only thrown 81 pitches. When your bullpen is coming off a night where it threw 6.1 IP – don’t make it come in any earlier than it has to the following game.
And to make matters worse, Collins decided to use Kyle Farnsworth in the ninth inning rather than Gonzalez Germen, the only reliever not to see action Friday night. By saving a well-rested Germen for extra innings that never came, Collins opted to go with the 38 year old for a second consecutive game. This was the fifth time in 2014 that Farnsworth went in back-to-back games and he’s allowed 3 ER in 3.1 IP.
You want to make the bullpen better? Send Rice to the minors, call up their best option for the bullpen (read: not just the next guy who throws with his left hand), don’t pitch Farnsworth in back-to-back outings and fire Collins. If the Mets do those things, their bullpen will improve exponentially.
There’s zero chance the Mets will fire Collins in May. But it would be nice if the writers would start to identify the real problem. Stop giving the manager a free pass because he’s a nice guy. It’s not acceptable to pat Collins on the back when his matchup fascination works and blame the players when it doesn’t.
This loss is squarely on Collins.