At the time of the deal to acquire Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, popular results among Mets fans was mixed. Maybe it tilted more towards those who thought it was a bad idea but certainly no worse than a 55-45 type of split. Then, after just about everything that possibly could go wrong from a Mets perspective happened during the 2019 season, popular opinion was heavily against the trade. It doesn’t feel like an exaggeration to say that on January 1, 2020 that 98% of fans would have voided the deal if given the chance.
So, it should be noted that both Cano and Diaz are performing quite well in this shortened season. Cano sits with a .958 OPS after 115 PA. And Diaz, after giving up runs in two of his first three appearances and losing his closer’s job, has battled back to post a 1.23 ERA in his last 14 games, with a 4.0 K/BB rate, thanks to 32 Ks in 14.2 IP. The walks are a concern but he’s only allowed 1 HR in that span, a far cry from last year’s gopher ball issues.
Meanwhile, Justin Dunn is 3-1 with the Mariners but has hardly been overwhelming with a 4.09 ERA, good for a 103 ERA+. Absolutely, the Mets could have used him in 2020 but he hasn’t been as good as either Cano or Diaz. And with no minor league season, we haven’t had any Jarred Kelenic exploits, either. Kelenic made the Mariners’ 60-man roster but he’s yet to make an appearance in the majors, despite Mallex Smith’s .348 OPS.
In 2019, the trade was a big win for the Mariners. In 2020, it’s shaping up to be a big win for the Mets. It’s the type of deal that the Mets were supposed to win in the immediate term. The hope was that the Mets would win the first 2-3 years while Kelenic was in the minors. And not just win from a production standpoint but win as in have Cano and Diaz lead them deep into the playoffs. That could happen in 2020, with the Mets now having a 53.8% chance of making the playoffs despite a current sub-.500 record. With a top-heavy pitching staff and a strong offense, they could win a playoff series or two.
It’s important to recognize how the deal is working for the Mets here in 2020. But let me state for the record that this was still a bad trade.
SPINNING THROUGH THE METS ROTATION – At the beginning of Spring Training, the Mets expected their 2020 rotation to feature Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Rick Porcello and a battle between Steven Matz and Michael Wacha for the fifth spot. Of course, neither Syndergaard nor Stroman threw a single pitch for the club. And Matz, Porcello and Wacha have been varying degrees of terrible. The injuries are bad luck and the rotten performance – well, it happens. But let’s recount how the Mets reacted to openings in their rotation.
Matz won the last spot and when Syndergaard went down, they moved Wacha to the rotation. Few were upset with the way this was handled. But when Stroman was lost, the Mets called up David Peterson. This was overwhelmingly approved, too, even if not to the same degree as the first move. But then the Mets used Robert Gsellman for their next SP opening and not many people approved that move at all. Then Walker Lockett got a shot, followed by Corey Oswalt. Those last three pitchers combined for 19.2 IP in six games as a starter. If that wasn’t bad enough, they allowed 16 ER. Finally, the Mets moved Seth Lugo to the rotation. In three starts, he has a 1.54 ERA in 11.2 IP. And just for kicks, the Mets gave a start to Ariel Jurado, too. That went as poorly as expected, as he allowed 5 ER in 4 IP.
It’s my opinion that the rotation was mishandled and not by a little. At the very least, Lugo should have gotten the third shot. That would have allowed Gsellman more chances to pitch in the majors, both to stretch out and to get acclimated to MLB action. Before making his first start, Gsellman had pitched a total of just 1 IP in the previous 365 days in the majors. How he was allowed to start doesn’t get the scrutiny and disdain that it deserves.
With the way the Mets handled things, Gsellman’s confidence is shot and they lost Lockett due to the necessity of a waiver move. Oh, and they also lost Jordan Humphreys, another depth rotation piece. One can argue that Lockett is no loss (disagree) and that Humphreys wasn’t likely to do anything, anyway (agree.) But one could also say that they lost time in the rotation that could have been better used with Lugo, lost a potential valuable bullpen piece in Gsellman and that perhaps a regular turn in the rotation for Lockett or Oswalt would have delivered better results. We can all agree that the way the Mets handled it didn’t work at all. And they had other options.
WINNING BIG IN BLOWOUTS – Conventional wisdom is that good teams know how to win the close ones. The reality is that winning one-run games is just as likely to be about luck, while good teams thrive in blowouts, defined as when the final score results in a 5-run or more advantage for the winning team. The Mets are 19-22 overall after Sunday’s big win, which upped their record to 8-3 in blowouts. It’s tough to rationalize the Mets’ overall record when their blowout record is so good. Here’s how all winning teams did in blowouts and one-run games in 2019:
Five of our 15 teams with winning records had losing marks in one-run games, while the Mets and Red Sox were both just one game above .500 in this split. By comparison, only one team had a losing record in blowouts and 10 of the 15 teams were 10 games or more above .500 in the blowout split. The 2020 Mets have their work cut out for them to finish above .500 for the season. But in a normal year we’d be pretty confident that a .727 mark in blowouts would mean they were a pretty good team.
A HIT WITH A SWING AND A MISS – In 2020, the MLB rate for a swing and a miss is 11.3, noted as SwStr%. This means that for every 1,000 pitches, MLB hitters will swing and not make contact 113 times. In Sunday’s game against the Phillies, deGrom threw 108 pitches and recorded 35 swings without contact. That’s a 32.4 SwStr% or nearly three times the average rate this season. It marked the first time since 2016 that a pitcher recorded that many empty swings in a game. Danny Duffy completed eight innings when he notched 35 while deGrom accomplished his in seven. Just another log on the fire for the greatness of deGrom.
A MISS WITH RISP – There are four teams in the National League with a team OPS over .800 and they are: San Diego (.822), Atlanta (.821), New York (.812) and Los Angeles (.808). The top three teams in the NL in runs scored are the Padres, Dodgers and Braves. The Mets fall to sixth in runs scored because of their dreadful results with runners in scoring position. The Dodgers are just about equal with the Mets in overall production. Yet they’ve scored 40 more runs than the Mets. And that can’t be explained by the Dodgers having played one more game. Rather, it’s because the Dodgers have a .911 OPS with RISP while the Mets have a .690 mark. With RISP, the Dodgers have produced 162 runs. The Mets have pushed across only 129.