It’s All In The Schedule… Well Maybe

The Mets completed their games against the National League west on a high note winning the last two games in San Francisco. Saturday’s 9-5 blowout was highlighted by Yoenis Cespedes who returned from the disabled list on Friday evening. Cespedes hit two homers on Saturday and also helped out Noah Syndergaard with another homer, a two run jack accounting for the only Mets runs in the finale. That’s all Thor needed as he shut out the Giants over eight innings.

If the Mets do fail to make the post season, and all signs are showing that will be the case, then one of the places to look will be their play against the NL West. They went 13-21 against the NL West (.382), by far their worst division.

Actually the Mets went .500 (7-7) against the two best teams from the west. Against the Dodgers the Mets went 3-4 and against the Giants, they went 4-3. They also went 4-3 against San Diego. The Rockies and the Diamondbacks will be two teams the Mets look back at during the 2016 post mortem to reflect on how things might have turned out. The Mets were able to muster just one win against each of those two bottom division dwelling teams and that’s painful.

Looking ahead, the schedule favors the Mets. They have 38 games left. The Mets face under .500 teams twenty-two times with the remaining sixteen being against contenders. The breakdown against the also-rans is 6 against Atlanta, 10 against the Phillies, 3 against the Twins, and 3 against the Reds, Against the winning teams it’s the Marlins for 7, the Nats for 6, and starting tomorrow night, the Cardinals for 3.

However, the Cardinals’ schedule isn’t really that much different. They play 3 against Oakland, 7 against Milwaukee, 7 against Cincinnati, and 3 in Colorado. That’s 20 games against some pretty crappy teams. Colorado can be tough in their house though. Facing the good teams, if I may be presumptuous, they play the Mets for three tomorrow night, 6 against the Pirates, 6 against the Cubs and 4 against the Giants. That’s 19 games against contenders.

The Marlins schedule is tougher than the Cardinals or the Mets. They play the Mets 7 times, the red hot Royals 3 times, the Dodgers 3 times, the Nats 6 times and the Indians 3 times for a total of 22 games against the contenders. Against the losing teams the Marlins draw the Padres for 3, Phillies for 6, the Braves for 7 for a total of 16 games.

Then there are the Pirates. They have a difficult schedule even though a slight majority of games is against losers. They play the Astros 3 times beginning tonight at home. They play 7 against the Cubs, 6 against the Cards, and 3 against DC. On the easier side they play Milwaukee 10 times, Cincinnati 7 times and the Phillies 4 times.

So while the experts may say the Mets have an easy go of it, it’s not as if these other wild card contenders are playing the ’27 Yankees every night. And what does it really mean for the Mets to have an easy schedule when they’ve played so poorly against losing clubs.

I say through all that nonsense out the window. The Mets have simply got to win the majority of their games. They remain four and a half games out of the wild card. With 38 left to play and three teams to climb over, that’s a mighty hill to climb. But after the series in St. Louis, the Mets will remain in the Eastern Time zone the rest of the season. At least the travel won’t be too bad.

The Wheels Have Fallen Completely Off

A statistic that has been really telling for the Mets this season is their record when they have scored four or more runs. Currently it is 44-15, a .746 winning percentage. And when scoring less than four runs, their record is 16-46, a dreadful .258 percentage. These stats point out the Mets haven’t scored enough runs in a little more than half of their games. So why should we be so shocked that the Mets are now under .500 again at 60-61? Here’s why.

The Mets are not below .500 because of hitting. Now it’s because of pitching. The old adage is true. Good pitching will always stop good hitting. For most of the season it has been the Mets pitching that has continued to keep the Mets relevant. With all the injuries the Mets have suffered and the disappointing performances from some players, it has been the pitching that has kept them in a wild card spot or close to one for most of the season. But here’s why the Mets will now begin to drop like a stone. The pitching has fallen apart at a time when the bats have come alive. This is a prescription for disaster.

Consider what has happened so far in the first four games of this westward swing. The Mets have scored 25 runs, an average of 6.25 runs per game. Remember the stat when the Mets score four or more runs? So what’s the Mets record in these four games? Right, 1-3. And that’s because the Mets pitching staff has given up 38 runs in these same four games, and average of 9.5 runs per game—not good. Even in their one win, you had to hold your breath when they looked like they might blow a 7-1 lead finally holding on to win 7-5 against Arizona. Last evening when Justin Ruggiero grinded out a great at bat then took Bumgarner deep for a grand slam, you had to feel good with Jacob deGrom on the hill. But deGrom promptly gave up eight runs in two innings as the Mets blew it big time 10-7.

Can it get any worse?

Ah, yes it can. We also learned that Steven Matz has shoulder discomfort and will miss his start this evening. Seth Lugo will take his spot in the rotation. By now, late August, the rotation was supposed to be Matt Harvey, deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matz, and Zach Wheeler, a rotation for the ages. Geez, where have I heard that before Jason, Bill, and Paul? Harvey is gone for the year having had a rib removed to un-impinge nerves in his shoulder. Who knows if he ever comes back? Wheeler has had setback after setback and now another one that will keep him from throwing for two weeks. Matz and Syndergaard have bone spurs in their elbows and now Matz’s shoulder is barking. Moving forward the rotation is deGrom, Bartolo Colon (thank goodness for him), Syndergaard, Jonathan Niese II, and now Lugo. The wheels have fallen off folks; it’s time to start wondering about next season.

The only way the Mets are going to be able to get back into this race for the wild card is for the pitching to re-stabilize and for the offense to continue to hit. Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera will be reactivated tonight. And while that’s great, I think it would be better if the Mets could reactivate Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver. The reality is nothing has gone right this season. How’s it possibly going to turn around in the final 41 games? Bill Parcells said it best—you are what your record says you are. And the Mets are a less than .500 team since May 1st. The Mets had a good month of April (15-7) and that’s it. Their record since is 45-54 (.455).

I’ll keep watching because I always do. But for the Mets to get to the playoffs will require a run like we last saw in 1973. Can the Mets activate Rusty Staub?

It’s Not Getting Any Better

At the start of this stretch when the Mets were to play nine games against two of the worst teams in the NL West, we said… okay we’ll see what this team is really made of after these nine games, six against the Diamondbacks and three against the Padres. Well how’d that work out?

The Mets went 3-6, that’s how. At the start the Mets were nine games back from Washington for the division title but more importantly were just a game and a half out of the wild card. Today after a dreadful run, one that included Mets pitchers giving up 28 runs in Arizona, the Mets are four games back in the only realistic option they have to get to the post season, the second wild card.

Yes we can point to the injured but there is much more flawed stuff going on. And what’s going on is really going to thwart any attempt for the Mets to repeat as National League champions.

First, what is with Terry Collin’s man crush on Curtis Granderson? I know Michael Conforto has struggled but he is currently raking in Las Vegas (13-19 since being sent down with an AAA ba over .400). You can’t tell me the Mets would not be better off with Conforto in left and Grandy warming the pines. And when Cespedes comes back tomorrow night, put Conforto in center or at least let him share the duty with De Aza. Look I like Curtis, he’s a great leader and a downright really nice guy but he’s having a terrible season, especially anytime there are runners on base. This team should put its money on Conforto. Roll the dice. They’re certainly not going anywhere without him, that’s for sure.

Where’s Wilmer Flores? Is he still on the team? Look it’s nice to see T.J. Rivera get a shot but what does Flores have to do to demonstrate he belongs? Why does Granderson continue to get chance after chance but if Flores has one bad game he’s gone for days? I don’t get it.

So let’s take a look at some other numbers. Ready for these numbers? Against the Rockies and the Diamondbacks the Mets have a record of 2-11. If the Mets could have just won seven of those thirteen games against these two losing teams they would have a record of 67-53. That would have put them at the top of the wild card heap and just 3.5 games back of the Nats. All the games count and if the Mets can’t beat up the losing teams like they did last year, they’re not going to the post season–simple as that.

So now the Mets must dig down deep. They have to win and win big against a struggling Giants team and a surging Cardinals squad over the next seven games. There is every indication regardless of the injured returning or not that the Mets won’t just be fighting for a wild card spot by September 1st but very likely will be fighting to stay above .500.

The Baseball Gods and the New York Mets

Maybe it’s just the way it was meant to be, that the Mets will never be a perennial winner. The Mets were supposed to get back to the World Series this season after falling four games to one in last season’s fall classic. Like the Royals, their Series counterpart, the Mets were supposed to get back and win the whole thing this time. Alas the Mets sit in third place a game over .500 with realistically no shot at winning the division and a fading chance at making it as a wild card. But really, what did you expect?

It doesn’t matter the reasons. Sure the Mets have had a ton of injuries and it sure seems like every hard hit ball finds a glove. The pitching that was supposed to be so dominant hasn’t been. The hitting with runners in scoring position is the worst in baseball. But really I think there is far more going on here than meets the eye. Somewhere in the Cosmos the gods of baseball simply have decreed that the Mets will never be that team, that team like the other New York team. That team that wins constantly, that team that provides its fans with gratification year in and year out. Nope, it’s not in the cards for us, we Mets fans.

Just look at our history. From the beginning in 1962 we were loveable losers until the magical season of 1969, who could forget it unless you weren’t born yet. With a pitching staff of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry, and Nolan Ryan, how could that team not win the next two to three World Series that followed? Well they didn’t. After winning 100 games in ’69, the Mets immediately fell to mediocrity finishing in third place with an 83-79 record in 1970. The identical record followed in 1971 before the Mets got off to a fantastic start in 1972. But devastating injuries curtailed Mets hopes as they finished in third place yet again.

Then the Mets got somewhat lucky in that the entire eastern division floundered in 1973. It gave the Mets the opportunity to win an improbable division title on the last day of the season followed by an even more improbable win in the NLCS over the Big Red Machine of Cincinnati.  They fell a game short in the World Series but there were high hopes for the future. After all, the Mets still had a pitching staff featuring Seaver, Koosman, and Jon Matlack. How could there not be winning seasons to follow.

But of course there wasn’t as the Mets slid into their worst period in history. Mets management failed to embrace free agency, traded Tom Seaver, and neglected the fan base as attendance reached an all-time low. Shea Stadium became dilapidated and was known as Grant’s Tomb in honor of the nefarious M. Donald Grant, cheapskate chairman of the board. Meanwhile the Yankees stole New York’s baseball hearts by signing top free agents and winning two worlds series and participating in four over the next several years.

Under new management, the Mets rebounded in the 80s with seven consecutive contending seasons. But even with those powerhouse clubs, the Mets were still unable to reach the playoffs in back to back seasons. The critics agreed the roster the Mets fielded at that time should have won three World Series. Yet they won just one that required a miracle finish in game six. In fact the team of that era only made the post season one other time but failed to get out of the NLCS. However, the mid to late 1980s remain the Mets most successful period in Mets’ history.

After another draught, finally manager Bobby Valentine with the help of Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza got the Mets to the post season in back to back seasons as the wild card. That happened in 1999 and 2000, the latter culminating in a World Series loss to the mighty Yankees, still the kings of New York. What followed the success of ’00 was of course another several years of sub .500 play.

Under new general manager Omar Minaya, the Mets made another quick assent to the division title in 2006 but lost a heart breaking game seven in the NLCS to the Cardinals. Poised to repeat division titles in back to back seasons for the first time in 2007, the Mets suffer the worst collapse in baseball history with a seven game lead and just seventeen games to play. It took until last season to get back to the post season.

I have been patient with the regime of Sandy Alderson. I knew he was rebuilding the farm, stockpiling great pitching. That includes the pitchers here now as well as ones traded to get the offensive help the Mets so desperately needed to make their run. So after the Mets came so close to a world championship last season, with all that is in their history, how can we really be surprised that it looks like the team is headed into mediocrity yet once again?

Sure, there are lots of reasons as I indicated but never the less, here we are. While the Mets were supposed to have all the great prospects, it’s the Yankees who look more ready to contend with their call ups of Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin, and Aaron Judge. Plus they will get Greg Byrd back next season. The Mets offensive prospects remain suspects. Is Michael Conforto the player he was last season during the playoff run or is he another broken promise based on his performance this season?  Brandon Nimmo was Sandy’s first round pick back in 2012. He looks to be a nice player but not like Judge looks to be for the Yanks. Travis d’Arnaud was supposed to be the Mets answer behind the plate for years to come. It appears that opportunity looks more and more tarnished. And front office favorite Keven Plawecki (“he can flat out hit”) remains an enigma at Las Vegas. We heard that Dilson Herrera was a star in the making at second base. Well if that’s true he will be staring in Cincinnati now that he was traded for Jay Bruce who has been very disappointing so far.

For whatever the reasons are, bad decisions, bad luck, or simply the galactic plan of the baseball gods, the Mets franchise simply has not been able to sustain success. If history is a guide then we know that the Mets are going to be in the post season roughly once a decade. If that’s true then we received our most recent allotment of post season play last year. Boy I can’t wait for the 2020s.

 

A Most Frustrating Season

Riddle: Why did Kelly Johnson hit a two run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the game?
Answer: To torture Mets fans for another three innings only to lose the game anyway. I didn’t say it was a funny riddle.

It’s time to stop deceiving ourselves and realize the Mets are not a playoff team. They can make all the excuses they want as to why this team continues to flounder night after night. They can point to the injuries and yes, it’s true. There have been lots of injuries. But there are players here today that should be doing better than what they have been doing recently and for some reason they are not.

Travis d’Arnaud has been a huge disappointment on both sides of the dish. Curtis Granderson is anything but the consistent player he was last season. Wilmer Flores hints at being a very good player but in the spotlight last night he pops out when a base hit could have sent the crowd home happy. Michael Conforto suffering the classic sophomore slump strikes out in the 12th on a pitch that was drilling its way to China. Jay Bruce has had a couple of successes but has not contributed the way we had hoped, especially when he came up in a big spot last night. This was a game that could have given us hope that things might have turned around. Instead we sat through three additional excruciating and frustrating innings only to see what we knew in our heart would be inevitable.

Sandy Alderson did a good job of putting together a lineup that hits home runs. The problem is they can do little else. On the Mets, manufacturing a run is tantamount to splitting the atom. If it wasn’t for the fact that Johnson ran into one, the Mets would have been shut out by the team with the worst ERA in the league. That really says it all. We see good, if not great pitching being wasted day in and day out. Where would this club be if the lineup could score four or more runs a game the majority of the time?

The Mets are 42-11 when they score four or more runs. However, when scoring three or less, they are 15-45. The Mets have scored three or fewer in 60 games opposed to four or more in 53. Since the All-Star break the Mets are 10-15. They have not won two games in a row since July 6 and 7 against Miami and Washington respectively. Since the Mets swept four from the Cubs at Citi Field in early July their record has been 13-19. Who knew that the month of April would be the highlight of the season?

Yet all through this less than mediocre campaign, the Mets still find themselves just 2.5 games behind the second wild card. A good week and the Mets could be right back in it. However, it’s not going to happen because in the back of the Mets’ minds they know their good and they’ve done it before. As it was pointed out last evening in the post-game show, a lot of current Mets players were not on the team a year ago. Someone in the lineup is going to have to step up. Neil Walker can’t do it alone. It’s time for Conforto to remember where the strike zone is. It’s time for Granderson to put the ball in play. It’s time for d’Arnaud to figure out what it means to be the starting catcher (could his days be numbered as a Met?).

I really think the team is pressing. You can’t help but wonder if they thought they would automatically get to the post season just by throwing their gloves on the field. Perhaps in the long run, it will be a good and humbling experience for many of these core Mets who will be here for seasons to come to find themselves on the outside looking in come October. Then they can spend the winter getting focused.

These nine games, six against Arizona and three against San Diego were to define the rest of the season. So far after the first two, the Mets are not inspiring any of the faithful. Hopefully when Cespedes, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Jose Reyes come back, things will happen in September. Maybe even Zach Wheeler will pitch in. There still is time but each game lost is another reminder this just might not be the year.

To add insult to injury, the flawed Yankees have the exact same record as the Mets after a big comeback win in Boston. And unlike the Mets they have actually played fairly well since the end of April. The Yanks are just 4.5 games behind the second wild card. Wouldn’t it be ironic if the Yanks made the post season and the Mets didn’t? The Mets ownership of New York will have been short lived.

Expectations

After 111 games last season, the Mets record was not remarkably better than it is today. They were only 59-52, seven games over .500. Yes, better than 57-54, their record at the moment but here’s the big difference. The Washington Nationals were having a miserable season. The Mets had taken over first place by a game and a half after game number 111 and as you recall, they took off from there. This season the Mets are yet to take off. They seem to be taxiing endlessly on the tarmac awaiting clearance.

Of course there are many reasons why the Mets are struggling. There have been many injuries, the inability to hit with runners in scoring position, and bad luck too. Jay Bruce was thrown out at the plate to end the game on Saturday night in Detroit attempting to score the tying run. It took a perfect throw from Detroit right fielder J.D. Martinez and sure enough, it was—game over. Last season you know that throw would have been up the line or over the catcher’s head. From August 1, 2015 to the World Series, everything went right for the Mets. Not this season. If the Mets didn’t have bad luck in 2016, they wouldn’t have any.

Still, through all the things that have plagued the New York Mets in 2016, this morning they find themselves just 1.5 games behind the second wild card position. The Marlins and Cardinals are currently tied for the privilege of playing a one game playoff in either Los Angeles or San Francisco the way the NL West race is shaking out. I’d sign on the dotted line today for that to happen. Forget the Nationals. They’re gone and not looking back. The Nats are having a great season and they are poised to go deep into the playoffs. The Dodgers have been soaring and if they don’t win the division they will likely be the number 1 wild card. For the Mets—it’s a five team race for the chance to play one game after October 2nd.

Here are the current standings for what I’m calling “The Chance to Play in the Post Season League”

Standings             W            L              GB          GL
Miami                   59           53           –              50
St. Louis               59           53           –              50
Mets                     57           54           1.5          51
Pittsburgh           55           54           2.5          53
Colorado              55           57           4.0          50

These are the only teams that matter for the Mets. However, the Mets must win games against everybody, not just this group. Against these teams the Mets have ten games left, 10 against Miami and three against the Cardinals in St. Louis. The Mets are done with both the Pirates and the Rockies.

The Mets have a favorable schedule. Of the 51 games they have left, 31 of them are against teams below .500.  So far this season the Mets are 27-23 against teams under .500. Against teams over .500 the Mets are 30-31. That’s really not too bad. To be successful you hope to play .500 against the league’s elite and crush the bad teams. That’s what the Mets did last year. However this season, the Mets have let the bad teams prevent them from being in a better position. If the Mets play to this season’s percentages moving forward, they will end up with a record of around 84 wins. I don’t think that’s going to cut it. However, it would be consistent with the type of season the Mets have had. So in other words, the Mets are going to really have to step up their game over the final 51 contests. If not, it will be “wait till next year” time.

Here’s a breakdown of the Mets record against teams they will play, games remaining and where the rest of the season. Arizona (0-0, 6 left, 3 home, 3 away); San Diego (2-2, 3 left home); San Francisco (2-1, 4 left in SF); St. Louis (1-2, 3 left in St. Louis); Philadelphia (5-4, 10 left, 7 home, 3 away); Miami (7-5, 7 left, 4 home, 3 away); Washington (4-9, 6 left, 3 home, 3 away), Cincinnati (3-0, 3 left away), Atlanta (7-6, 3 home, 3 away), and Minnesota (3 home).

As stated the schedule is a favorable one but if the Mets think that, they will be in trouble. It’s going to be difficult for the Mets to do what they have not been able to do since April. That’s to string wins together, hit with runners in scoring position especially with two out and to pitch lights out. If the Mets can’t win most of the next nine games against Arizona and Sand Diego, we’ll know sooner than later what are expectations really should be.

Where In the World Is Alejandro De Aza?

Why is De Aza out of the lineup tonight? He’s been one of the Mets hottest hitters. He hit a home run to give the Mets a 2-0 lead last evening. He’s good defensively, a bonafide center fielder but yet De Aza is on the bench and Curtis Granderson is in center.

I don’t understand this. Don’t we want the best lineup on the field? Aren’t all these games so important now? This is not the time to audition players or play favorites or worry about hurt feelings. This is why many say, and I think I’m joining the band wagon, that to get to the next level for this team, they need a different manager.

Based on performance and with the addition of Jay Bruce, I felt that last night’s lineup was one of the best balanced the Mets have had in a long time. If Curtis goes three for four and drives in some runs, I’ll apologize but otherwise this is just another one of Terry’s moves that makes me scratch my head.