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.