If you ask 10 people about the pandemic in general, and MLB trying to have a 60-game season in the middle of a pandemic in particular, you might get 10 different answers. One thing that seems clear, at least to me, is that people who haven’t been affected directly are the ones most vociferous about pushing onwards. It’s human nature – nothing matters until it happens to me or someone in my circle.

Some might say that it’s only a matter of time, that eventually your luck runs out and the disaster happens to you. For the Mets, that happened while playing in the known Covid hot spot of Miami. By all indications, the Mets were doing everything “right,” in that they were following all of the rules and not skipping out to participate in risky behaviors. If this is true, perhaps the negative tests will continue and their time on the sidelines will be relatively brief.

We all want answers. Who was the player and coach who tested positive? Did one or both of them break protocols? How many people did they come into close contact with? These, and others, are all legitimate questions and perhaps one day we will get the answers. But for right now, it’s impossible for me to get those answers. Because of that, my mind wanders to questions that can be answered. And one of those is this: How did teams that did miss multiple days (three or more) fare when they returned to action? Here’s a list of teams and how they did once they returned to the field:

Team Last game Resume Play Return record
Marlins Jul 26 Aug 4 5-0
Cardinals July 29 Aug 15 3-1
Reds Aug 14 Aug 19 2-3
Phillies Jul 26 Aug 3 3-2
Nationals Jul 30 Aug 4 1-4
Blue Jays Jul 30 Aug 4 2-4
Tigers Aug 2 Aug 7 4-0
Cubs Aug 6 Aug 11 3-0
Pirates Aug 9 Aug 13 1-4

The overall record is 24-18 but it’s not a slam dunk that the layoff is actually good for teams. Five teams started off good after resuming plays and four teams didn’t. And maybe that’s the takeaway – missing a few games doesn’t necessarily mean anything. For the Mets, it gives their relievers some time off and they’ll be able to reset their rotation however they’d like. Here’s hoping this isn’t the latest thing that screws Seth Lugo from being a starter.

OH, THOSE LEFTY RELIEVERS – If you’ve read this site for long, you no doubt recall me railing against the team’s LOOGY fetish, the idea that lefty relievers were the key to a good bullpen. There’s no shortage of ways to point out how poorly the Mets’ lefties performed, despite having every favorable matchup possible. Perhaps my favorite one is in 2015, when the Mets tried oh so hard to make Eric O’Flaherty into their LOOGY, how he failed miserably and how the Mets made the World Series that year without a situational lefty.

Flash forward to 2020, with the rule in place stating that a reliever has to finish an inning or face a minimum of three batters. The league in general – even if not the Mets – was trending in this way even without the rule. Teams were learning that the LOOGY gambit was a bad use of resources at least as often as it was a good one. But this rule was a necessity for the Mets. The new rule forced the Mets to look at pitchers who could get batters out, rather than focus on guys who simply threw with their left hand.

So, instead of Robert Carson and his 25 ER in 33 IP or Scott Rice and his 5.93 ERA and 1.976 WHIP – while facing a majority of LHB!!! – the Mets have Justin Wilson and Chasen Shreve. Those two have combined for a 3.60 ERA while facing 51 RHB and 29 LHB. Somewhere Josh Edgin sheds a tear, wishing the Mets had used him this way before he got hurt.

THE ABUNDANCE OF SHORTSTOPS – Longtime Mets fans can no doubt recall multiple times that it seems the team didn’t have one good shortstop, much less three guys capable of playing the position like they have now. Amed Rosario is the incumbent and while he’s struggling mightily now, few doubt his potential. Andres Gimenez was long considered one of the club’s top prospects and has skipped Triple-A to show he belongs at this level, impacting the game with his speed and defense. And there’s also Luis Guillorme, who entered this year with a good defensive reputation and a giant question if he could hit enough to be worthwhile.

The BABIP gods aren’t smiling on Guillorme – they’re tripping over themselves to give him the biggest gifts possible. Guillorme sits with a .542 BABIP. Last year he had a perfectly normal .304 BABIP and ended the year with an 87 wRC+. This year, he’s cut down on his strikeouts and increased his walks. If we normalized his BABIP, his wRC+ would probably creep into the 90s. Maybe you want more from your starter but that’s a very good total for your backup. Let’s look at NL East teams last year and their middle infield backups and see what they produced offensively. We’ll look at those infielders who got between 100 and 300 PA:

Mets – Adeiny Hechavarria, 151 PA, 62 wRC+, Joe Panik, 103 PA, 99 wRC+
Nationals – Asdrubal Cabrera, 146 PA, 145 wRC+, Wilmer Difo, 144 PA, 60 wR+
Braves – Johan Camargo, 248 PA, 67 wRC+, Charlie Culberson, 144 PA, 85 wRC+
Phillies – Sean Rodriguez, 139 PA, 94 wRC+, Brad Miller, 130 PA, 137 wRC+
Marlins – Jon Berti, 287 PA, 104 wRC+, Martin Prado, 260 PA, 49 wRC+, Isan Diaz 201 PA, 53 wRC+

Some of these guys aren’t really traditional backup infielders, like the Braves’ duo, Miller and Berti, but they saw time in the infield. Some like Panik and Cabrera were mid-season acquisitions that played better than their clubs had any right to expect. Then there are guys like Hechavarria, Difo and Diaz and that’s what a good field, backup middle infielder looks like. Guillorme seems better than that, perhaps a good deal better. And maybe his presence as a good backup makes trading Rosario or Gimenez in the offseason a possibility for the Mets.

PORCELLO AND THE GROUND BALLS – From 2015 onwards, we’ve seen a steady decrease leaguewide in the GB/FB ratio of MLB pitchers. In 2015, the ratio was 1.34 and it was 1.20 last year. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise, as more and more hitters embrace the launch angle philosophy. While not as steady as the leaguewide results, Rick Porcello has seen his GB/FB ratio go from 1.40 in 2015 to 0.92 in 2019. We know all about how the Red Sox tried to get Porcello to pitch up in the zone more last year. So, again, not a surprise where the numbers sit.

But looking at Porcello’s individual game logs for 2020, we see he has two awful starts, two good starts and one in the middle. In the two awful starts, Baseball-Reference has him with 9 GB and 15 FB. In his two good starts, B-R has him with 20 GB and 19 FB. And the start in the middle has 8 GB and 13 FB. On the surface it seems like he should be looking for more grounders but his two bad starts both came against the Braves and his two good starts both came against the Nationals. Maybe it’s just matchups.

The Pitch Info Pitch Types at FanGraphs show Porcello throwing more sinkers and sliders this year for the Mets than last year with the Red Sox. He’s thrown fewer fastballs and curves. On a per 100 pitch basis, neither the sinker nor slider have been better than the pitches they’ve replaced from last year. Maybe there aren’t enough pitches thrown by Porcello in 2020 to make meaningful comparisons yet. But it seems obvious if he’s going to throw those pitches more, he’s going to have to get better results with them.

8 comments on “Covid hits the Mets, Luis Guillorme’s production and future role, Rick Porcello and grounders

  • Metsense

    Guillorme has been a pleasant offensive surprise. Defensively he can man 2B or SS. Going forward he would make an ideal backup, inexpensive and controlled until 2026. Rosario would be a good trade bait; a young, experienced, controllable player that still might improve. Rosario would get more back than Gimenez. Gimenez initially would be a step down offensively but he is a better defensive player and base stealer that should improve in the future to a 102 OPS+ or better ( which is Rosario’s career high watermark).
    Porcello needs to improve in order get any consideration of a 2021 rotation spot and another $10 million contract.
    I hope everyone is healthy and staying safe in these trying times.

    • Brian Joura

      I’m not sure if Rosario has greater trade value. I can certainly see some teams preferring him, thinking he has more power potential. But he also has 1,497 PA in the majors and a 91 OPS+. I can see teams preferring Gimenez’ youth, superior defense and ability to utilize his speed.

      It’s interesting how similar their debut seasons are so far. Rosario was in his age-21 season when he made his MLB debut and he put up a 76 OPS+. This is Gimenez’ age-21 season and he has a 77 OPS+

  • david hager

    A couple players get covid and everything stops.
    what is the taxi squad for. play those players and keep going. I’ve never seen a bunch of namby pamby’s in my life. The players today get a hangnail and they sit out. Play ball and quit being sissy’s.

    • Mike W

      I think they probably need a couple of negative tests from the rest of the players, otherwise it could turn into the Marlins.

    • Bob P

      They’ve stopped playing as a precaution against others catching COVID. I could go on but the fact that you are comparing COVID to a hangnail speaks for itself and doesn’t really warrant any further reply.

  • TexasGusCC

    It would be a mistake to just give up on Rosario at age 26. There too much there and check out previous young Mets castoffs: TDA is the latest example, but there’s Turner, Flores is killing it in San Francisco and had a nice year last year in the desert when healthy, Murphy was just coming into his own when he was exiled, Pagan, and going back to Jeff Kent… you get the point. How many times do we hear of the Cardinals making this mistake? Never. In fact, they held onto a talented Kolton Wong that struggled much more than Rosario and if Wong was a Met, fans would have said the most vile things about those choosing to keep him. The Rays and Red Sox also don’t make these mistakes, and that’s why they are usually competing. This game is about talent, and you should collect talent, not look to banish it. For example, why can’t Rosario be held onto over Billy Hamilton and let him tryout CF? What about a Jeff McNeil type role where he plays everywhere? Lastly, if he can ever learn to use weight training properly, Rosario may just be an offensive second baseman that is an all-star every year. The tools are there. Rosario is the type of player that if he clicks, can win games for you in many ways. How many of those players are out there and how many do the Mets have?

    Besides, what does anyone think the Mets would get for him, and isn’t it better to hang onto him and keep waiting for a breakout than to just get a marginal player because his trade value is so low?

  • JimO

    I think we all need to acknowledge that Chasen Shreve is doing well. He is well-above the recent group of nondescript relievers we’ve seen in the summer months during recent seasons.

  • TJ

    Gus,
    I certainly agree with your premise, and there is a lot of history to support it. That being said, it appears that the Mets have accumulated a nice group of position players, excluding C and to some degree CF. At the same time, the SP depth has declined. So, they will likely need to make some choices. Rosario in CF is tempting, but evidently they tried to some degree in practice, and he did not show the same aptitude as Lagares when he was switched. Under those circumstances, I doubt at this stage of his career they would give him the reps in the minors needed to be competent. In the end, they’ll have to give to get, and they need to make the right choices. As of now, Brodie’s trades have been concerning from the Met fan POV.

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