Mickey Callaway is entering the second year of a three year contract as manager of the New York Mets. The former pitching coach of the Cleveland Indians is one of only 49 career pitching coaches to become a manager; their overall success preceding him has not been great. It might be unfair to consider this after only a year with the team, but Callaway could manage himself onto the hot seat over the next few months. The Mets can pivot to their new bench coach, Jim Riggleman who has experience as manager of the Nationals, Cubs and Padres; although his .445 winning record does not inspire a lot of confidence. New York media and fans are starving for a successful team and will certainly be quick to make rash judgements if the season starts on a slow note. With that in mind, we have a few questions to ask Mickey Callaway ahead of the 2019 season.
Q1. What is the offensive gameplan?
With a plethora of infield versatility, an underlying component of Callaway’s roster construction will be balancing defensive positioning and offensive production. Callaway has stated that he will consider a lineup of four left-handed batters at the top, regardless of the opposing pitcher. We’ve also heard that new hitting coach, Chili Davis, is a proponent of a contact oriented approach at the plate as opposed to the recent uptick in lift inspired at bats. At times last year we saw Callaway bat the pitcher in the eighth spot of the lineup, utilizing Rosario as a ‘second leadoff.’ In 54 games last year batting out of the nine hole, Rosario posted an OPS greater than his relative average OPS. It will be interesting to see these strategies evolve from preaching to practice to execution.
Q2. Will the young guys play?
For years Met fans were troubled by Terry Collins and his tendency to play a veteran over a young budding star. Callaway can be given credit for being an influence in Jay Bruce spending time on the DL, as he convinced Bruce that rest was the best path forward last year. This year we hope to see if the likes of Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and even Walker Locket can contribute to the club down the stretch to the playoffs.
Q3. How will the bullpen be managed?
At the start of the 2018 season, Callaway showed a propensity of putting the best arm forward. Jeurys Familia was not an exclusive closer and pitched in high leverage situations or against the opponents best hitters. Whether or not Justin Wilson, who has better career splits against right-handed batters, is used as LOOGY remains to be seen. Last but not least, there is Kyle Dowdy who was selected in the Rule 5 draft and projects as a middle reliever. It will be interesting to see how Callaway integrates Dowdy into the bullpen along with the other big arms.
Q4. How will the talent be developed?
A few Mets will find themselves in new defensive positions this year, and it remains to be seen if they have been coached in the right capacity. Jeff McNeil is expected to see more time in the outfield where he’ll be expected to make smart throws to the infield. Todd Frazier will likely man first base at times, which he’s only done in 94 games of his career and has rated at -7 in Defensive Runs Saved. Alonso, who cannot shake the label of a defensive liability, will be under a microscope throughout the season. Callaway and his coaches will need to push the right buttons and hopefully show that the -102 DRS in 2018 can be improved upon.
Q5. Will he set his lineup card correctly?
This is a joke (sort of), but the serious point is that Callaway will need to show improvement in his ‘National League’ based knowledge. The addition of Riggleman should help in this regard, but I’d like to see how Callaway manages around the pitchers spot in the batting lineup. I give a lot of credit to managers for making critical in-game decisions of pinch hitters, lineup switches and defensive substitutions, but at the end of the day it’s their job to do so. With a year of experience under his belt, there are no longer any excuses for a lineup faux pas.