For many of us, it’s frustrating how managers in the 21st Century have been essentially neutered by the front office. Sure, it makes sense that the front office has more say than it did, say, in the 1960s. But many of us feel that the pendulum has swung too far. Be that as it may, there are still no shortages of candidates eager to become a team’s manager. So, it must still be a desirable thing. Carlos Beltran worked in the front office for the Yankees last year and he willingly signed up to be in the dugout. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Whoever is calling the shots will have to figure out a way for the club to avoid the May/June swoons of the past two years. Anything can happen once and twice could be a coincidence. But if something happens three years in a row, you have to strongly suspect a trend is at play. Here’ how the club has done in those two months the past two seasons:
2018: 10-18 in May and 5-21 in June
2019: 11-15 in May and 10-18 in June
And it’s not like both of those clubs were bad in the opening month. The 2018 squad ended April with a 17-9 record and the 2019 version was 15-14. So, how can teams that when a combined .582 winning percentage in April produce just a .333 combined winning percentage the next two months? In 2018 it was probably a combination of things. Everything went right in April and the next two months were due for some regression. Of course, double digit players on the then-called DL didn’t help matters any. And then-manager Mickey Callaway’s bullpen usage caught up with him, too.
In juries played a part last year but nowhere near the degree they played in 2018. The schedule did them no favors and the bullpen pitched as if it had money wagered against the team. And the hitters had their worst month of the season in May, as they managed just a .721 OPS.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing there that screams – easy fix. We just can’t wave a magic wand and keep guys healthy or tell them not to go into a collective hitting slump. Can Beltran run a better bullpen, as that seems to be a common denominator to the poor performance in 2018 and 2019? As a first-time manager, we have no idea if that will be either a strength or weakness for Beltran. And it’s not like we can look to the pitching coach for clues, either. Jeremy Hefner may turn out to be a great hire. But no one can say one way or the other with him, either.
One thing that may “help” is that the deck seems to be stacked against the Mets running out to a great start, like they did in April of 2018. The opening month features seven games against the Braves and Brewers, six games against the Nationals and three against the Phillies. And just for fun, there’s a two-game set against the Astros thrown in there, too. Their first 22 games of the season are all against teams that finished above .500 last year.
The schedule eases up a bit in May, even if it starts out with three against the Braves and finishes with three against the Dodgers. But June looks even worse than April. At least the schedule the first month of the season includes six games against the Marlins. In June, the “easy” games are against the Giants and Padres but they’re the team’s first West Coast games, where the Mets never play particularly well.
My suggestions for Beltran would be to not be content with four or five inning outings from the starters in April, which only lead to pen fatigue which shows up in May and later. And to have Tomas Nido work with Noah Syndergaard. Unfortunately, that’s about it. Hopefully guys will be healthy and the team is able to carry over last year’s strong finish against teams that finished .500 or better.
The Mets will need to avoid a May letdown because June is shaping up to be brutal. There are seven games against the Nats and the team will also see the Astros, Cardinals, Cubs and Phillies that month. Plus 14 of the 26 games are on the road in June. It’s not a stretch for the faint-hearted. And with the club going a combined 15-39 the past two Junes, that’s a scary thought. Good luck Beltran, you’re going to need it.