Archive for the 'Zach Wheeler' Category

By The Numbers – Sad

Here’s the good news from last night’s game.  Zach Wheeler pitched very well again in his six innings of work allowing a solo homerun to Jake Lamb and 7 hits overall while striking out 6. The homer that occurred in the 6th inning tied the game at one.  That’s it, the good news is over.  Well actually there is some other good news.  Jerry Blevins threw only 7 pitches last night while Addison Reed, Fernando Salas, Paul Sewald and Rafael Montero got the night off.  Rest well boys.

Now for the bad news and there’s plenty of it.

Hansel Robles gave up two home runs and two doubles in his outing for a total of five runs. Josh Edgin gave up a homerun as well when he relieved Robles.  With the score at 7-1 in favor of the Diamondbacks, Wilmer Flores launched a meaningless 2 run dinger in the ninth to make the score a tad more respectable.  But the final result was the same, another Mets loss, their fifth in a row.  After reaching the .500 mark with two wins over San Francisco last week, Mets pitching has given up 42 runs, 40 earned runs, in five games, all losses.  That’s an ERA of 8.00 over the five game losing streak, 3.4 for the starters and 4.6 for the relief corps.  Everyone stepping on the hill is to blame.  Starters are not going deep and the relievers are lost but they are overworked.

More bad news – The red hot lineup went cold last night and in a hitter friendly ballpark to boot. And against a pitcher who looked hittable.  Even Michael Conforto struggled, going 0-5.

Want more bad news?  Asdrubal Cabrera was still activated but unavailable to play.  The Mets are always so delinquent when it comes to putting players on the DL and playing shorthanded.  Put him on the DL already and bring up Amed Rosario.  But of course they won’t claiming the highly touted prospect needs more time at triple A.

Here’s some more distressing news- the numbers…

The Mets are now 0-12 when scoring 3 runs or less this season.  They are now owners of a four game losing streak, a six game losing streak, and are in the midst of a five game losing streak.  But fear not, the Mets only have to face Zach Greinke tonight.

The Mets are now 0-4 against teams outside of the NL East.  When scoring first and winning, a category the Mets excelled at, they are now 10-8. With last night’s loss the Mets dropped under .500 on the road for the first time this year so now they are at least consistent.  Right now, this Mets team is a bad one.  They are 8 games behind Washington now.  The optimist would say at least they are in second place. The realist would say unless something changes drastically that won’t be for long.

So what are the Mets to do?  A trade is virtually impossible unless you would like to see the Mets surrender the sixth top prospect in baseball in Rosario.  This early on, the price for pitching would be very steep.  Mets pitchers right now need rest.  Tonight’s starter Tommy Milone may have to take one for the team even if he throws 130 pitches.  Look, what are the odds of the Mets beating Greinke anyway?  They might as well forfeit the game and get healthy.

I don’t know what else to say about this mess right now.

The Climb Back To .500

The Mets have won their last four out of six games on this road trip with one game left tonight in Atlanta weather permitting.  In doing so, the Mets have moved back to three games under .500 at 12-15.  So the quickest route to the .500 mark is three more wins in a row.  But that is not often easy especially how inconsistent the Mets have been, especially their pitching.

The good news is that the Mets are finally scoring runs and last night they scored 16 of them while not hitting one home run.  They have scored a minimum of five runs in every game of the trip so far.  With their highly touted pitching, it would be easy for someone just returning from a European vacation to assume the Mets had won all six games played on the trip so far.  But two games have been lost. In one, Mets pitching gave up 23 runs and in the other they gave up 9.  That has to be concerning. What’s also alarming is the Mets have given up more runs than any other team in the National League.  Mets pitchers have yielded 147 runs compared to the Dodgers league leading mark of just 105 given up.  What is happening?

One simple answer for the starting staff is health.  Matt Harvey is still getting his act together after missing more than half a season when he had surgery to remove a rib. Steven Matz has still not thrown a pitch this year because of a balking elbow.  Zach Wheeler is pitching again for the first time in two years and it’s been a slog for him so far.  Noah Syndergaard left Sunday’s game with a lat tear that could have the ace out for as long as three months.  That leaves Jacob deGrom, the guttiest pitcher on the staff.  He didn’t pitch bad last night but only lasted three innings throwing close to 100 pitches and giving up five runs.  So if you don’t think things are out of wack with Mets pitching, consider this… The Mets big winner so far is Hansel Robles with a 4-0 record.  Granted he benefited from circumstances working in his favor but it’s just kind of weird that he has 4 wins and the most wins from Mets starters is 2 shared by deGrom and Harvey.

Of course no one really knew how the Mets pitchers would do in 2017 considering their medical history.  Harvey, Matz, and deGrom all had surgery last season (or the end of last season).  Wheeler had setbacks after Tommy John surgery and their was concern for Syndergaard although nothing was needed surgically speaking.  This whole thing is beginning to make me wonder.  Is it really prudent to stack your rotation with such hard throwers when hard throwers seem to be so susceptible to injury?  This is one reason why a pitcher like Bartolo Colon is so important (regardless of his not so great start this season). A guy that can change speeds, command the strike zone, and not reach 97 on the speed gun can be a good thing. Where are the Greg Madduxs in the major leagues these days?  If I were a GM, I would demand that my scouts find guys in the college ranks that can pitch, not necessarily impress by throwing the ball through a wall.  This is why I believe Steven Matz can be so important to this pitching staff if he can ever stay healthy.  He’s a lefty and he has some stuff in his arsenal that the others don’t, especially a great curve ball when it’s working.

So here’s the problem as I see it in regard to the Mets getting back to .500.  They are scoring a lot of runs right now but that will stop at some point. No offense in baseball can consistently put up 7 to 9 runs a night.  If the Mets only score two or three runs, the Mets pitchers will need to step up and hold the lead. So far they have not been able to do so.  When the Mets score three runs or less, their record is 0-10.  That’s not good.  The short answer is it will be up to the pitching staff for the Mets to get to .500 and then move up from there.  Until the pitching woes get straightened out, I don’t care how many runs the Mets score, they’re not going anywhere.

 

Another Unfair Blame Game

So Bob Klapisch wrote an article yesterday berating the New York Mets because in his mind, its Sandy Alderson and the Wilpon’s fault that Zach Wheeler has a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL).  Never has lazy journalism become more evident than with an article like this. I’ve said it before and I will say it again—the only thing worse than the twenty-four hour news cycle is the twenty-four hour sports news cycle.

We live in a time when the Fourth Estate simply does not do its job. The purpose of the media, according to our founding fathers was to keep the government in check. The media is supposed to be a mechanism that informs the people of the doings of their government, to create transparency so that shady things cannot go unnoticed.  But today, our news media has become another form of entertainment, powered by the thirst for profit and shows little care on informing the people accurately. A perfect example is the false conspiracy of Hilary Clinton’s emails. While this became a major story last week, 47 republican senators committed an act of treason and that story received sidebar status. But this is a sports blog so I will leave the more serious politics to the more serious bloggers.

Klapisch takes the lazy and easy root basically saying the Mets hierarchy should have known more than the surgeons they pay. So I guess while Sandy and his staff studied pitchers to draft over the last six years, they should have been going to medical school to be better able to determine the fate of their pitchers’ elbows.

First, let’s take a look at the facts as we know them.  Last September, with Wheeler complaining of soreness, the Mets sent him for an MRI. The Mets doctors, trained to read such MRIs concluded that there was no structural damage in the elbow, Wheeler’s right UCL was intact, there was no tear.  In November, the Mets were still concerned enough that they had Wheeler receive a treatment of platelet-rich plasma. It’s a shot that promotes healing.  The treatment did not alleviate Wheeler’s pain by January so the Mets had him undergo yet another MRI. The second MRI within a five month period, like the first, revealed no tear.  The Mets doctors seeing no evidence of ligament damage advised that Wheeler could begin his throwing program. Fast forward to this week when a third MRI has shown a complete tear of the ligament.

Klapisch mentions some of these points so he does present some facts, the least a journalist can do. However, he then adds his own suppositions. He states “The test (second MRI) revealed no ligament tear – yet. But by now the Mets knew Wheeler’s arm was a ticking time bomb.” They did? How did they know that? Where did Klapisch get this information? Did Alderson tell this to Klapisch? A more reasonable statement could have been—I wonder if the Mets knew Wheeler’s elbow was a ticking time bomb? That’s a good question and one I would like to know also, not that it might have made any difference. The point is Klapisch could have presented this point more as a question as opposed to presenting it as fact when clearly it was not. Quite simply, we don’t know what the Mets hierarchy thought of the situation. For that matter what major league team airs publicly what it thinks of the health of their roster? Not one comes to mind.

Klapisch also wonders if Alderson did not trade Dillon Gee after all, knowing full well Wheeler’s elbow was such a problem. Perhaps that’s true. But isn’t that a good move by the GM? Suppose Sandy did trade Gee and this happened? Then he would be accused of incompetence because he traded away a starting pitcher when he knew he had another with a potential season ending injury. You can’t win (unless you are in the front office of the Yankees who Klapisch seems to always favor).

Here’s the conspiracy quote from Klapisch. “No one said a word this winter about Wheeler’s chronic pain. Was it because it was time to hustle season tickets?” Time for a congressional hearing I guess.

Unfortunately we live in a time when many pitchers are requiring Tommy John surgery. It is a baseball epidemic and the cause of these injuries is not fully understood. But if Klapisch is to blame the Mets for that fact that Matt Harvey, Bobby Parnell, Josh Edgin, and Jacob deGrom (he had his UCL replaced early on in the minors), have had Tommy John surgery and now Zach Wheeler needs it too, then he needs to blame all major league clubs. Because guess what, the Mets are not alone when it comes to losing pitchers for over a year to this injury.

Here’s a list of pitchers requiring the surgery just within the last year…

Kris Medlen, SP, Atlanta – 3/18/2014 (not a Met)
Brandon Beachy, SP, Atlanta – 3/21/2014 (not a Met)
Jarrod Parker, SP, Oakland – 3/24/2014 (not a Met)
Patrick Corbin, SP, Arizona – 3/24/2014 (not a Met)
Bruce Rondon, RP, Detroit – 3/29/2014, (not a Met)
Bobby Parnell, RP, N.Y. Mets – 4/8/2014
Jameson Taillon, SP, Pittsburgh – 4/9/2014 (not a met)
Matt Moore, SP, Tampa Bay – 4/22/2014 (not a Met)
Josh Johnson, SP, San Diego – 4/24/2014 (not a Met)
Ivan Nova, SP, N.Y. Yankees – 4/29/2014, (not a Met)
A.J. Griffin, SP, Oakland – 4/30/2014 (not a Met)
Jose Fernandez, SP, Miami – 5/16/2014, (not a Met)
Martin Perez, SP, Texas – 5/19/2014 (not a Met)
Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore – 6/17/2014 (not a Met)
Bronson Arroyo, SP, Arizona – 7/15/2014 (not a Met)
Tyler Skaggs, SP, L.A. Angels – 8/13/2014 (not a Met)
Jonny Venters, RP, Atlanta – 9/17/2014 (not a Met)
Yu Darvish, SP Texas – 3/2015 (not a Met)
Josh Edgin, RP N.Y. Mets—3/2015

This list does not include team’s minor league pitchers, many of which have also had the surgery.

When dealing with the Mets, the media led by Klapisch always need a villain. If it’s not Alderson, it was Omar Minaya and of course Fred and Jeff are always there to be a piñata.

While Klapisch makes some valid points, he adds speculation to fuel the anger of Mets fans because that’s what sells newspapers. Let’s face it, Mets fans are a frustrated bunch. They are starved for a winner and when something like this happens, the flood gates of frustration open up, often without too much logic I might add. But it’s understandable. Fans pay for tickets, watch on TV then go out and buy the watered down beer they sell in the TV ads. Fans have a right to be upset. I just wish the media would present logical articles laced with facts instead of spreading vitriol because they simply don’t like a club or people that work for the club or for the simple reason of riling up readers.

Here’s the way I look at Wheeler’s injury. He’s simply just another power pitcher requiring Tommy John surgery. The Mets used the tools at their disposal just like other team’s front offices and this time they were fooled. MRIs are not always conclusive. Also it is not out of the ordinary for most pitchers to complain of soreness. Many healthy pitchers say their arms hurt all the time. Some endure pain better than others.  If Alderson did suspect an injury was imminent then bully for him that he did not tip his hand. Regardless if Wheeler’s arm was falling off or not, Alderson still has to put a team together. Perhaps he didn’t trade Gee for reasons stated above. But what is Sandy to do, run to the media screaming the sky is falling letting every other team know the Mets might be desperate to trade Wheeler or get more for Gee?

Here’s another point not being made and one that gives me confidence in Alderson—strength in numbers. Because the Mets have drafted so well during Alderson’s tenure, they have the ability to absorb this injury more than many clubs. Why draft so many pitchers?—because you can never have enough pitching. It’s that simple, as indicated by the rash of elbow and to some degree shoulder injuries we have seen over the past couple of decades.

Does losing Wheeler hurt the Mets chances? Of course it does. But it also gives opportunities to others. Gee who many thought would be wearing another uniform by now gets a second shot of proving just what an effective pitcher he can be. He’s not going to blow the ball past the hitter the way Wheeler can but he has an arsenal of four pitches and he’s smart on the mound.

Perhaps we will see Noah Syndergaard or Steven Matz later in the season as well. The Mets have lots of arms and you never know who’s going to step up. As devastating as Wheeler’s injury is (and Josh Edgin’s, let’s not forget about him), I still think pitching remains the Mets strength. For me, the offense and defense is still a concern.

The bigger question for baseball is why all the Tommy John surgeries? One theory is that pitchers who make it to professional ball have thrown far more than their historical counterparts. Today, kids play in multiple organized leagues, fall ball, and have coaching programs in the off season, things unheard of when my generation was young. Pitchers have simply thrown way too many pitches by the time they make it to the Show. Or perhaps it’s the slider, the breaking ball of choice by many pitchers these days. This particular pitch puts much unnatural stress on the elbow and perhaps is wearing that UCL out much sooner. Maybe it’s due to the fact that pitchers simply throw harder more consistently than pitchers of years ago. There used to be a philosophy to throw hard when you had to, not all the time.

No one knows for sure but the good news is that after rehab, most pitchers return and are effective. However, the notion they are better than before the surgery has been disproved by the surgeons themselves. But it doesn’t mean these pitchers cannot be as effective again. Hopefully Wheeler will come back as good as new but we likely won’t know till some time next season.