It was great to see Matt Harvey back on the mound enjoying success Tuesday night. While he did not factor into the decision, his final line of 5 IP, 1 H, 1 BB and 5 Ks was something that everyone would sign up for given what we witnessed from him in 2017. The only complaint was a high pitch count, one that stood at 86 pitches after five innings. Combined with less than ideal conditions, it made the decision to pinch-hit for Harvey, who was up first in the bottom of the fifth, an easy one. In a perfect world, your starter gives you both quality innings and length. For the first start in April, five innings is tolerable. But certainly by the time May rolls around, the expectation is that Harvey will be able to give the team more from an innings standpoint.
The curious decision was to replace Harvey with AJ Ramos in the sixth inning. The speculation before the season was that the Mets would spread the Save chances around and Ramos would be next in line to finish out games. It’s hard to get a Save when you enter in the sixth. The other curious decision was to bypass Seth Lugo, who was originally slated to start the game but who got bumped due to Monday’s snow out. Lugo did come in to pitch the seventh inning and gave the team two strong frames. It certainly seemed like Lugo could have given more and it’s not hard to envision the Mets just needing to use two pitchers in this game.
So, why didn’t they? If Lugo had thrown four innings, he likely would have been unavailable for several days. But with Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom going the next two games – and an off day on Friday – it seemed like the stage was set perfectly to use Lugo for a lengthy appearance. A four-inning appearance would have kept Lugo stretched out, too. Perhaps the reason for limiting him to two innings was about greasing the skids for Lugo to slide into a relief role. Friday’s off day (along with one the following Thursday) would easily allow the Mets to go to a four-man rotation. They wouldn’t need a fifth starter until April 18 by which time Jason Vargas is likely ready to return to action.
One complaint heard after the game was the decision to bring in Jerry Blevins for a one-batter appearance. The hope was that under the new regime that the Mets would get away from the matchup masturbation that permeated the previous seven years. However, this was a good time in the game to bring in the specialist. Ramos wasn’t particularly sharp, the batter was 1-11 lifetime against Blevins and in a scoreless game, this was a high-leverage situation, with two runners on base. An average leverage situation is 1.0 and a high-leverage one is any at 2.0 or greater. It was at 2.56 when Blevins entered. Only 11 times in 75 appearances last year did Blevins enter in a higher leverage situation. Blevins got a pop up to end the inning.
FACEBOOK LIVE – Today’s game against the Phillies is not available on either local broadcast. Ordinarily, this would be unheard of but the reason is that before the season started, MLB signed an agreement where the social media platform Facebook was given exclusive U.S. rights to broadcast 25 day games. Today’s Mets-Phillies game is the first one of the year in this agreement. The MLB-Facebook partnership started last season, although the social media site did not have exclusivity in 2017. With 1.4 billion active daily users around the world, Facebook offers MLB the chance to reach new markets. However, the combination of day games and Facebook – the platform most used by middle aged and old people – seems to indicate that reaching kids is not necessarily the goal here. However, Facebook does skew heavy towards adult women, so perhaps that’s the goal here. Users of all ages and genders can watch the game at https://www.facebook.com/MLBLiveGames/
AFFABLE AND PLIABLE MANAGERS – On Monday, noted MLB writer Joe Sheehan posted this:
“We know what the model is: put an affable, pliable guy in the dugout who will keep the players happy, provide good quotes to the media, and implement the front office’s plan. The catch is where that has worked the best has been in places where the manager had prior experience. Think Pittsburgh with Clint Hurdle, the Astros with A.J. Hinch, the Red Sox with Terry Francona. All of those men had managed before. The ‘hire out of the blue’ model has produced Robin Ventura, Walt Weiss, Mike Matheny…failures to one degree or another.
“I’m not prepared to judge Aaron Boone off a preseason or four regular-season games, and I’m sure I’ll check back in on him in the next two months. What we know, though, is that this is still a roster constructed to Girardi’s strength. If Boone can’t manage a bullpen, the #Yankees will not only fail to threaten the Red Sox, but they could fall out of the playoff picture. More than Giancarlo Stanton, more than Aaron Judge, more than Luis Severino, Boone is the most important piece of the 2018 Yankees.”
From afar, new Mets manager Mickey Callaway certainly seems affable. Is he pliable, too? For many years the speculation was that Terry Collins was nothing more than an Alderson puppet. Then at the end of last year news broke on how that was far from the case. When Callaway was hired, no one has suggested that he’s there merely to do Alderson’s bidding. But should we reject that idea out of hand?
Not many organizations outside of sports would allow a middle manager to make such important decisions. The question is where do you draw the line? Do you want a skipper to do nothing but carry water for the front office? That seems less than ideal. But can you get a veteran “baseball man” in the dugout to have less control over the team than some suit?
Callaway and Boone are two of five rookie managers here in 2018. Alex Cora (Red Sox), Gabe Kapler (Phillies) and Dave Martinez (Nationals) are the other first-time managers. Three of the five are joining teams that made the playoffs the previous year. And the two others have fan bases that believe they if they don’t make the playoffs, they should at least clear the .500 mark. So, the honeymoon will be brief for each member of this quintet.
In the past, there was some cover for the GM who had an independent manager. If the team wasn’t living up to expectations, the GM could fire the manager and look to go in another direction. But if the manager is merely a puppet, what happens then? If some team – say the Nationals – replaced a veteran baseball guy with a pliable youngster, what’s the next step if the Nationals stumble? Washington hasn’t had a ton of postseason success but they’ve been pretty consistent about making the playoffs. What happens if that changes here in 2018?