Jose Bautista adds clarity to the blow up the team decision

In the beginning of June, the Mets trotted out a lineup without either Yoenis Cespedes or Todd Frazier. Just as damningly, they were using a clearly-injured Jay Bruce and over-the-hill Adrian Gonzalez and Jason Vargas. And the bullpen, which had been so brilliant the first two weeks of the season, had turned back into a pumpkin. But recently, things have started to get better.

First, Frazier returned from the disabled list. Now, it took him awhile to find his swing but here in early July, he’s added a power bat to the lineup that was sorely missing. Through most of May, Gonzalez was doing his best James Loney impersonation. He reached base safely in 16 out of 19 games, yet had just a .684 OPS despite a .313 BABIP in this stretch. But he followed that up with a 3-28 stretch and was finally sent packing the second week of June.

Bruce was finally put on the DL after an 11-game stretch where he put up a .378 OPS. Vargas joined him there a couple of days later, after allowing 7 ER in 2.1 IP but not before making life miserable for the team an additional time. He hurt his calf during a conditioning drill prior to his next start. Yes, they were going to start him again despite an 8.60 ERA through nine starts. His last-minute scratch led to a bullpen game, which went about exactly as you would expect, as the relievers allowed 7 HR in 11 IP.

Wilmer Flores, who himself was on the DL at the beginning of June, got regular playing time once Gonzalez was cut and responded with an .848 OPS in 71 PA. And with Bruce not being forced into the lineup, there was room for Jose Bautista, who did well in a part-time role (.782 OPS in his first 69 PA) and then hit like a monster (1.073 OPS) in 12 consecutive complete game starts.

Starting on June 16, the Mets have scored 91 runs in 18 games, for a 5.1 rpg. Early Saturday, faithful reader Eraff made a comment about Bautista’s production, saying:

The Mets have still lost lots of games, even over the last 15-20 games… with Bautista as a Cespedes Substitute, you can almost say that you know how this team looks with Cespedes

With Bautista doing his Cespedes impersonation, Flores providing a good bat and Frazier delivering, too, the Mets offense has been everything you want it to be. Now, you can nitpick this in several different ways. It’s a small sample size. It includes games in Arizona and Colorado. Neither Bautista nor Flores is going to hit like this moving forward. And so on. But to Eraff’s point – if this is how the team would look with a healthy Cespedes, then offense isn’t really the problem. And that’s with Michael Conforto scuffling, Brandon Nimmo hitting a rough patch – 3-30 with a .404 OPS – and Amed Rosario drawing a few walks but not being much of a threat otherwise. So, while some guys are having hot stretches, others are floundering. Or basically what you would expect.

So, it’s the pitching letting the club down. Let’s look at the starters and we’ll use June 1 as our beginning mark, even if the offense wasn’t clicking at this point.

Jacob deGrom – 50 IP, 2.16 ERA, 0.960 WHIP
Steven Matz – 37.2 IP, 3.35 ERA, 1.168 WHIP
Vargas – 12.1 IP, 8.76 ERA, 1.784 WHIP
Zack Wheeler – 45 IP, 3.20 ERA, 1.111 WHIP

There’s been no solid fifth starter. Seth Lugo got some starts, Corey Oswalt has gotten one and there was the please-never-mention-again bullpen game. And with a double header coming up, it’s likely Chris Flexen and possibly someone else will join the ranks. But essentially the Mets have received good outings from three starters and garbage from two other slots. So, the starting has been decent, perhaps even good if you squint. And there’s an upgrade looming once Noah Syndergaard, allegedly set for a rehab assignment, rejoins the club.

Which brings us to the bullpen. Again, all numbers from the beginning of June:

Jeurys Familia – 10.2 IP, 5.91 ERA, 2.063 WHIP
Lugo (reliever only) – 7.2 IP, 1.17 ERA, 0.652 WHIP
Robert Gsellman – 14.1 IP, 6.91 ERA, 1.326 WHIP
Tim Peterson – 11.1 IP, 3.18 ERA, 0.794 WHIP
Jerry Blevins – 8.1 IP, 3.24 ERA, 1.200 WHIP
Anthony Swarzak – 12 IP, 6.75 ERA, 2.000 WHIP
Chris Beck – 7.1 IP, 4.91 ERA, 1.773 WHIP

There’s been other relievers used, but you get the point. The relievers have been awful. For the year, Mets relievers have a 4.83 ERA and a 1.415 WHIP, both figures near the bottom of the league, with WHIP placing 13th and ERA 14th in the NL. And that includes the tremendous start that the bullpen got off to, meaning the numbers are even worse that that here lately.

And it’s not like the Mets skimped on the pen. Four relievers – Familia, Blevins, Swarzak and AJ Ramos – are pulling down nearly $30 million combined. The Mets simply need to get more bang for the buck here. But that’s easier said than done. Relievers are fickle. For the most part, if they were better, they’d be starters (apologies to Lugo) and just because you were good in one 60-inning sample doesn’t mean you’re going to be good in the next one.

The Mets in the last three weeks have had great hitting, decent-to-good starting pitching and yet they’re 7-11. Some have argued that this is the reason that they should tear everything down and start anew. My take is that a lousy bullpen is blinding people to the talent on the team.

At varying points of the year, the starters have been bad and the hitters have been bad. My view is that in the long run both of these units are good, possibly better, if everyone is healthy. But the bullpen has been consistently bad since late April.

Sandy Alderson tried to address the bullpen last year at the trade deadline when he imported seven righty relievers. He spent money in the offseason, both retaining relievers and importing a free agent. And they essentially all failed.

Maybe one or two of the seven relievers he traded for will turn out. But perhaps what they need to do is try to create more Lugos. Instead of chasing last year’s success with free agent relievers, create your own reliever from guys who grew up in the minors as starters. Maybe that plan won’t work, either. But if it doesn’t, at least you haven’t wasted $30 million dollars.

The new front office, regardless of who ends up staffing it, will have to do a better job of constructing a bullpen. But if they can succeed in that task, there’s no reason to blow everything up and go on a path of 100-loss seasons and trying for top-three draft picks.

Editor’s Note – All stats through Friday’s games

13 comments for “Jose Bautista adds clarity to the blow up the team decision

  1. IDRAFT
    July 8, 2018 at 9:46 am

    There is no heavy lifting needed to analyze this team.

    They can’t field, which is not reflected in the pitching numbers above. They can’t hit, which is easily reflected in the only number that counts, runs scored, 28th out of thirty teams. And as noted above the starting pitching is above average (I’ll squint) and the bullpen is atrocious.

    If you sum that up you get the following and I’ll begin with the positive:

    Above Average Starting Pitching +

    Atrocious Bullpen Pitching +

    Putrid Offense +

    Horrendous Defense =

    An Unwatchable Team

    I was at yesterdays snoozefest. The game followed the usual script. The starting pitching is fine. The team does not hit at all. The bullpen is bad and the defense is worse. Or vice versa, who knows? We lose by shutout and basically do nothing.

    I’ve been to eight games and in four of them the team has not so much as scored. I’ve got all the clarity I need.

    Where’s the dynamite!

    • Chris F
      July 8, 2018 at 10:00 am

      Hire IDRAFT for President of Baseball Ops now. I mean before today’s game.

  2. July 8, 2018 at 10:02 am

    The media hollering to trade Syndergaard or deGrom reminds me of them demanding the Mets trade the core back in the late 2000’s and it was stupid then and its stupid now. They need to surround these guys with a better bullpen and better position players not move one of them, geez. The media is so dumb.

    • Pete in Iowa
      July 8, 2018 at 10:08 am

      Problem is, unless you think they will spend tons of money this off-season, the only way to “surround them with better players” is to trade those very players to get the players needed to surround them.
      Guys like Cabrera, Bautista, Familia, Flores, Frazier and others would only bring back a return marginally better than the relievers we got at last year’s sell off.
      To get anything of real value, guys like deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz and Wheeler would have to be moved.

    • Chris F
      July 8, 2018 at 10:37 am

      For all you “keep them together” people, please explain how you do your plan with actual dollars and positions that need attention, not just bellowing. The “capitalize on assets by selling” people see the following (among other things)

      1. The team is already highly leveraged financially next year already at 93M$. Add arb salaries, say for 20M$, and you are looking at more than 110M$ before doing anything.

      2. As clearly indicated by IDRAFT the team is atrocious in so many aspects that the amount of work to do is significant, not the grossly mistaken “bat and a pen arm”. The present team is old, slow, lacking dimension and ultimately lacking talent in a major way, especially in light of the teams in the NL East that are ahead in the standings, younger, and getting better.

      3. The value of the assets will never be larger than now for deGrom, Matz, and Wheeler. The chance to opportunize like this is very rare. Look if you choose to franchise deGrom, a thing Im not opposed to, then get it done —> n-o-w. Then I trade Syndergaard and all moveable pieces that yield solid returns. I confess waiting til the off season does make sense once the new GM is in place, unless controllable MLB level rising stars are in the mix.

      4. This team is losing horrifically *with* these guys. Im just curious, one more trip doubling down on this failed path that Alderson set us off on will get you what? Seriously? Its total insanity.

      5. There is tremendous FO shake up happening. Im not expecting a team to just magically be good under these conditions. The direction of the team is presently uncertain with no set leader.

      6. By the time the team is going to be good, deGrom and Wheeler will be FAs, maybe even Syndergaard. Are you prepared to let them walk for nothingin return for the hope at WC2 in the next 2 years, off multiple 90 loss seasons?

      7. Reality.

    • Chris F
      July 8, 2018 at 12:09 pm

      8. The starting pitching market is lean. If we wre to trade both deGrom and Syndergaard, they wold both be the top starters available. ny team really interested in moving ahead for a real WS run will be more inclined to overpay. And we could do that twice.

      Make it clear, no matter what happens with the off season if we dont cash in, the Mets will still finish fourth for the next 2 years, and heading to last as the Marlins improve while we continue to age and get increasingly un-athletic.

    • Chris F
      July 8, 2018 at 12:39 pm

      John Ricco: “Were looking to have the best team, not the best farm system.”

      It shows how absolutely corrupt the Alderson FO has been and is. The lack of a farm means what: mid tier 30 something losers. And thats such a good idea, lets do it more.

      I got news for you, the ugliness coming by not selling now or in the off season is going to be an extended level of brutal like what we are seeing right now.

      We need better talent. We need better drafting. We need to trade at max potential to get the best talent back. We need to get younger, more talented, more athletic. This team needs desperately to change. No one over 25 yo on this team we all love will *ever* see the post season the next time the Mets go. How did the Cubs, Astros, Royals, Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers get to where they are? Year…after year….

      I only feel differently if ownership steps up and turns this into a 200M$ club and gets Machado, Harper, and (fill in top FA) ________________ to say they are maximizing this staff.

  3. Pete in Iowa
    July 8, 2018 at 10:03 am

    Since returning from the DL, Frazier has been horrible!! While a really good defender — easily the best on the team in that category — his hitting has been atrocious.
    He’s a strike out, pop out and ground out nearly every time he comes to the plate. I like the guy, but he is having an absolutely horrible season at the plate.
    I just don’t see how he makes the lineup any better. Hopefully, he’ll turn things around, but right now, he’s been a liability and nearly an automatic out.
    This club is bad in so many ways and have been for the past two years. They have a golden opportunity to begin down the path to respectability by moving deGrom at the absolute peak of his value. The time to pull the trigger is now.

  4. Eraff
    July 8, 2018 at 10:57 am

    Bad teams do what is necessary to lose.

    The Bullpen is flat out miserable, and they chased and paid the guys who make it miserable— Blevins, Ramos…and Swarzak.

    As you move forward, can Ces “replace Ces”??? …because a lineup without Droobs and “Ces/Bats” needs talent.

    I can Hope that the front four starters will be healthy and real…..The Catching could solve itself with or without Mesoroco returning. 1st base can be cobbled.

    Do I get a mid line return of Conforto and Frazier? –is Frazier still here? How do I solve for 2nd base…and 3rd??? Bullpen??? Bench????

    Biggest Question and Need–Front Office Direction and Talent.

  5. Name
    July 8, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    If you spent money on an expensive reliever this offseason, you most likely got very little return for your investment.

    Jake McGee – 3 yr/27 mil – 5.40 ERA
    Bryan Shaw – 3 yr/27 mil – 7.47 ERA
    Tommy Hunter – 2 yr/18 mil -4.67 ERA
    Juan Nicasio – 2 yr / 17 mil – 6.09 ERA
    Addison Reed – 2 yr/ 16.75 mil – 4.28 ERA
    Pat Neshek – 2 yr/ 16.25 mil – injured all year
    Joe Smith – 2 yr / 15 mil – 4.98 ERA
    Anthony Swarzak – 2 yr /14 mil – 6.46 ERA
    Luke Gregerson – 2 yr / 11 mil – 8.48 ERA

    That’s 9 duds compared to just 3 not complete failures in Wade Davis, Brandon Morrow, and Steve Cishek for the 10 mil+ club.

    The 10 mil and under club is having a lot better success. Kintzler and Petit have been steady. Watson, Rondon, Hernandez, Hughes have been fantastic. Albers and Rodney have been solid. Really the only failures in the cheaper group have been the 2 lefties Duensing and Boone Logan.

    I’ve been saying it for years, but it just doesn’t make sense to pay big bucks for relievers (>5 mil/ year) when they are so volatile and unpredictable. It’s much better strategy to bring in a bunch of cheap guys, and if they don’t work out, it’s only a few mil wasted.

  6. Chris F
    July 8, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    Instead of cherry picking stats to make it look like the tea is different than the record says, why dont we look at the status of the offense alone for the Mets and put it in terms of just what would have to be done to somehow rescue the team from the 100 loss seasons that are coming with the current way of going about business.

    Rank in NL
    Runs, 15/15 more than 100 runs behind the league leading Cubs
    Hits, 15/15
    Doubles, 9/15
    Triples, 11/15
    HR, 11/15
    total bases, 15/15
    RBI, 13/15
    BA, 15/15
    OBP, 12/15
    SLG, 13/15
    OPS, 13/15

    Defense: horrid
    Athleticism: horrid

    So, ya know, Im just curious what makes anyone think this team is close to being a winner.

  7. TJ
    July 8, 2018 at 10:23 pm

    Chris,
    I am on the fence regarding the rebuild/dealing the starters. At the end of the day, I believe the do or don’t will/should be dictated by the market. If the Mets can obtain Torres/Andujar/Sheffield/Frazier from the Yanks, or Torres plus 2 of those others, they should pull the trigger. Frankly, a deal like that where they essentially add 3 young MLB starters immediately could give them a better shot at competing in 2019. But, especially with the 3 GMs and likely not the exec that will guide them through the next few years, it need to be a consensus windfall for the Mets, otherwise decisions need to wait.

    We all know this lineup and bullpen are dreadful, historically bad. There are really two (not easy) questions that need to be answered. The first is, how many pieces need to be added to make them a legit contender for the NL East in both 2019 and 2020? The second question is whether the Mets have the resources to add the pieces.

    While the offense and bullpen are historically bad, not every piece needs to be replaced. Several that are under-performing now can contribute in lesser roles. If they add two all-star caliber bats, the lineup could improve dramatically. As Name pointed out, the bullpen is the bigger worry and tougher problem to solve. Even throwing money at it seems to fail most times.

    Frankly, this would require a Machado, a Kimbrel, and a couple of savvy trades. The $92 million committed next year is most likely $77 million given the David Wright situation.

    Soooo, if the Wilpons believe the following – the core 4 starters can remain healthy and Wheeler and Matz can maintain improvement and Conforto and Rosario can live up to expectations and Bruce, Swarzak, and Vargas can perform in 2019 similar to 2017 and the Wilpons are willing to push the payroll to $180 million and they are able to retain a healthy Mesoraco on a Frazier-like contract and they can convince both Machado and Kimbrel to come to Flushing and they can find a high quality 8th inning solution, well, then Ricco is spot on with the plan for 2019 post season participation.

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