September means expanded rosters and the Mets have 33 guys to use as they play out the string. Which may make you wonder why we keep seeing the same lineup with guys on the wrong side of 30 again and again and again. Three of the top five players in PA in September were Jose Reyes, Nori Aoki and Asdrubal Cabrera and those guys are a combined 100 years old.
Without a doubt, those three guys have been productive down the stretch. In September Aoki had a .375 OBP, Reyes had a .530 SLG and Cabrera chimed in with a 1.038 OPS. With four offensive starters traded and another two disabled, clearly the Mets wanted to field a lineup that was at least somewhat representative of an MLB club. But wouldn’t it have been possible to play two of these guys each night and give some playing time to other guys?
Gavin Cecchini (8), Phillip Evans (5), Matt Reynolds (9) and Travis Taijeron (10) had just 45 percent of the starts that our three veterans did. And 22 percent of their starts came when Amed Rosario was out with stomach issues.
Sure, none of the quartet listed in the last paragraph are likely MLB starters. But if the organization thinks this little of them not to play them in meaningless games in September against other also-rans, then let’s give up the charade completely and cut them from the 40-man roster this winter. It will be four more spots to spend on righty middle relievers.
CHASING AN OPENING DAY RELIEF SPOT – Chase Bradford gave up 5 ER in his first 6 IP. But since his recall on August 2, he has a 2.93 ERA and a 1.121 WHIP over 27.2 IP. He’s not overpowering. Back in older days we would have referred to him as a sinker/slider guy. But he keeps the ball in the park, just 3 HR in 33.2 IP and has a 55.9 GB%. You wouldn’t want four guys like Bradford in the pen. But in this era where teams prefer guys who throw 95 and above, he offers a nice change of pace and the results here lately speak for themselves.
CATCHERS COME THROUGH – Many people are incredulous when Sandy Alderson says that he likes his catchers. These people hoped that the Mets would look to upgrade the position in the offseason. But the Mets have a .752 OPS from the four catchers they’ve used this season and the worst one of the group, Rene Rivera and his .684 OPS over 183 PA, won’t be back next year. NL catchers as a whole have a .735 OPS this season and the Mets have the seventh-best production in the league from their backstops.
Both of their primary backstops are finishing the season strong. Travis d’Arnaud has a .993 OPS – only a .267 BABIP – in his final 79 PA. Kevin Plawecki finally hit in his second stint in Triple-A this year and has carried that over into the majors. In his last 89 PA, he has a .307/.416/.480 line. The hits are falling in much more for Plawecki, as he has a 339 BABIP in this stretch. But his 12 BB and 13 Ks ratio is extremely encouraging and his throwing seems much improved, too. You’d have to put the odds of the Mets spending money on a catcher at about zero.
GSELLMAN FINISHES ON AN UP NOTE – In this season of disappointments, perhaps the most unexpected one came from Robert Gsellman. When nearly every other pitcher battled an injury of some sort or another, Gsellman was healthy. He just wasn’t good. But after returning from the minors in mid-August, Gsellman posted a 3.50 ERA over his final eight starts, a span covering 43.2 IP. He got his HR allowed in check, as he had a 0.8 HR/9 and an 8.5 HR/FB rate in this span, compared to 1.5 and 18.3 rates, respectively, in the beginning of the season. It probably won’t be enough to get him a rotation spot on Opening Day but at least he ends the year with a good taste in his mouth.
A TWIST ON THE OLD TALE – For many players, the question seems to be can his bat carry his glove. But for Juan Lagares, the question remains if his glove can carry his bat. In this age of high offensive output, Lagares has been even more disappointing with the bat than normal. In 272 PA, he has a .661 OPS. That’s 21 points fewer than what he did last season, which was nothing to write home about, either. His 75 OPS+ is the worst mark of his career.
When most hitters are trying to figure out how to elevate the ball, Lagares has just a 28.8 FB%. It looked like he was making strides in this department last year, as his FB% rose from 31 to 35.3 percent. But he’s taken a step backwards this season. He doesn’t walk, he doesn’t hit for power and his strikeout rate has gone up.
But his defense is terrific. Because of his glove – and a lesser degree his contract – the Mets would love to see him be a starter. But it’s next to impossible to commit to a guy with a balsa wood bat who also gets injured every season. It will be interesting to see if the Mets trade him this offseason. If they keep him and he’s not a starter, he’ll be one of the highest-paid outfield reserves in the game.