It’s not that the Mets won their first two games of the season, although that is unusual, it’s how they won them that has been impressive. They won them with offense, good starting pitching and even better bullpen work. Not a lot to complain about when you start 2-0 against a good team like the Cardinals.
Although the Mets won a World Series before they ever won an Opening Day game, since 1970 they are an incredible 32-17 on Day 1. Unfortunately, during that same stretch, they are 24-25 in Game 2. So we expected them to win Game 1 and would hold our breath for Game 2.
But this team feels different. Not only that, we are seeing things being done with the bullpen that are not formulaic and would make former manager Terry Collins’ head spin.
On Opening Day, the Mets scored nine runs without a home run on seven singles and nine walks. In a game that last year Collins would have used six pitchers, new manager Mickey Calloway previewed how he was going to handle the pitchers. After the Mets broke the game open in the bottom of the fifth to take an 8-3 lead, Calloway stayed with Noah Syndergaard in the top of the sixth. Syndergaard had thrown 75 pitches over the first five innings and on a cold afternoon and the first start of the season, there is no way Collins allows Syndergaard to start the sixth with a huge lead. But Syndergaard, although he gave up a home run, got out of the inning with just 10 pitches and his afternoon was complete – and a bullpen inning was saved.
Calloway then went to Robert Gsellman, who struck out the side. Anthony Swarzak then got a 1-2-3 eighth inning. Do you really believe that Collins wouldn’t have pulled one of them at some point for a righty-lefty switch, burning Blevins for just one batter?
On Saturday, Calloway did something Collins never would have even considered. He let both Gsellman and Swarzak finish one inning and start another. Not unheard of, but certainly not part of the Collins and Dan Warthen playbook. Why not stay with a guy who pitched out of a jam and keep that momentum going?
And then there is the lineup. After Brandon Nimmo was on base four out of five times on Opening Day, Juan Lagares started in Center for Game 2. Asdrubal Cabrera, who was the only position player without a hit on Opening Day, was moved from cleanup to lead off. Catcher Kevin Plawecki hit a home run on Opening Day, but Travis d’Arnaud started Game 2. Raise your hand if you think Terry Collins would have used the same starting lineup after a rousing win when both starting pitchers were right handed. You bet he would have.
Instead, Lagares gets two hits, Cabrera goes 3-5 and d’Arnaud hits a home run.
Hats off to Calloway and whatever he is doing. He has this team playing hard, running the bases, catching the ball and being aggressive on the mound. Maybe we are going to have a lot of fun this season?
REMEMBERING LE GRANDE ORANGE
NOTE: A few weeks ago, when we first learned he was sick, I published this regarding Rusty Staub. Due to his passing on Thursday, I thought I would run it again for those who may have missed it.
Any Mets fan from my generation knows that Rusty Staub was “Le Grande Orange”. He was a player that did not know the word “quit”, but is now fighting perhaps his last battle in a hospital down in Florida. Staub’s kidneys are failing due to a staph infection. Hopefully his condition will continue to improve.
Staub, now 73, played 23 season for five different teams, including two stints as a Met. In his first tour of duty, from 1972-1975, he helped the Mets recover from their post 1969 World Championship fog by becoming a dynamic, yet injury plagued player and leading them back to the World Series in 1973. Many younger Mets fans may remember Staub as one of the best pinch hitters in the game when he returned for his final tour from 1981-85.
Most of us will never forget his heroic performance in the 1973 playoffs. In the first three games of the National League Championship series against the powerhouse Cincinnati Reds, Staub had already hit three home runs and driven in five. In the 11th inning of Game 4, he tracked down a long fly ball from Dan Drieesen in Right Field at Shea, robbing him of an extra-base hit, making a spectacular catch and crashing into the wall, separating his right shoulder. He missed the Pennant clinching Game 5 and sat out Game One of the World Series against Oakland. Then, separated shoulder and all, he returned for Game 2, even though he couldn’t throw the ball overhand. Out in Right Field, Staub had to flip the ball underhanded to a teammate when he fielded it.
How do you hit with a separated shoulder, you might ask? Staub still managed to hit .423 against the A’s, driving in six runs and even somehow managing a home run in the World Series. In just 10 post season games – six of them with a separated shoulder – Staub managed four home runs, 11 RBI and batted .341.
It was one of the most heroic performances I have ever seen on a baseball field, where players have to sometimes sit out a few games for a hang-nail. Staub, who played three seasons in his first tour with the expansion Montreal Expos from 1972-75, would have made a great hockey player. Staub earned the nickname of “Le Grande Orange” for his hair color while with the Expos and was so popular, he was the first player to have a number retired by the franchise.
Later in his career, he returned to the Mets in 1981 and became a player-coach in 1982. He was strictly a pinch hitter, but in 1983, he did tie two Major League Records; eight consecutive pinch hits and 25 RBI as a pinch hitter. To cap off that amazing 1983 season, he hit a home run in his last AB and finished at exactly .300.
Some other Rusty Staub tidbits:
- He is the only player to amass 500 hits for four (4) different teams and finished his career with 2,716 hits
- He is the first Mets player to have 100 RBI in a season, finishing with 105 in 1975. Gary Carter ted it in 1986 and Darryl Strawberry broke it in 1990 (108).
- In his only injury free season (1974), he led the Mets in hits, RBI and AB’s
- He was traded from the Houston Colt 45’s to Montreal prior to the 1969 season for Don Clendenon and Jesus Alou. Clendenon threatened to retire from baseball rather than accept a trade to Houston because he didn’t get along with their new manager, Harry Walker, whom he considered a racist. Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn then ruled Clendenon could stay in Montreal and the Expos amended the deal. Clendenon was traded to the Mets in June of that season and became a hero in our World Series run that season.
- He played in the Major Leagues at just 19 years-old and is one of only two players to hit a home run before turning 20 and after turning 40.
- With Detroit in 1978, he became the first player in baseball history to play all 162 games as a designated history and drove in 121 runs.
- In his 23 years, he was on base 4,050 times – more than Rogers Hornsby or Tony Gwynn.
Of course, he became an even more beloved figure after his career with the “Rusty Staub Foundation”, founding the “New York Police and Fireman Widows’ and Children Benefit Fund”, raising more than $11 million prior to 9/11/2001 and more than $122 million after that.
NOTE: According to his brother, Staub experienced a heart condition while playing golf earlier in the week and died of a heart attack just after midnight on Opening Day of the baseball season. The Mets will be wearing a black circle patch with Rusty’s signature in orange on the sleeve of their home and away jersey. For the first two games of the season, they hung Staub’s #10 jersey in the dugout as a tribute.
THIS AND THAT…
So if Nimmo and Lagares are off to good starts, what do we do if Michael Conforto is ready to come back next week? … Not completely sold on this pitcher-batting-eighth thing, but it seems to be working. Hitting Cespedes #2 has also worked out. Statistics show that the #2 batter gets the most RBI opportunities in the lineup. Don’t believe that, just ask Derek Jeter … Todd Frazier plays a nice third base … After two games, Robert Gsellmen has more AB’s than Jose Reyes … Mets sporting a .512 On Base Percentage in first two games with 23 hits, 14 walks and a handful of HBP … The Bullpen has combined for 6.1 innings (between Gsellmen, Swarzak and Familia) for 3 hits, 1 R and 10 K … Adrian Gonzalez has been on base five times in 10 plate appearances … Best statistic of the first two games? No errors … Nice to see David Wright being announced to the crowd during the Opening Day ceremonies. He looked a little gaunt, but it was a touching moment between the fans of this franchise and Wright. He gave us everything he had when he could. If this is the last time we could cheer him as a player, so be it. Mike Piazza may have been one of the best players we have ever had, but Wright and Tom Seaver are the only two players that could be labeled “Franchise” players. They were ours from the beginning and we loved them from the beginning. My generation had Tom Terrific and my kids generation had David Wright. Good luck, David. We’re pulling for you…
Paul DiSclafani is a featured writer on “A View From The Bench”, which has been recognized by Major League baseball as one of the top 100 blog sites.
By Paul DiSclafani
First the Mets placed 2B-Neil Walker on the 10-Day DL with a partially torn left hamstring. No surprise there if you saw Walker pull up lame running down to first last night against the Cubs. Also, no chance he is back after 10 days.
When Matt Harvey left the game after throwing just 58 pitches, one of them landing over the Shea Bridge courtesy of Kyle Schwarber, you knew something was wrong, it was just a matter of what. Arm fatigue? Soreness? Hang-Nail?
Following the game, Harvey lamented that “My arm was just not working at all. I think the last time I threw an 87 mph fast ball was in high school.”
Sure enough, turns out after an MRI and a CAT SCAN, he has a stress injury to the scapula bone in his right shoulder. He is going to miss several weeks. Hope the Mets don’t have one of those Obama Exchange plans because these tests must be costing them a fortune.
The Mets said that both Harvey and Walker received a PRP injection. Walker can begin rehab immediately after receiving the injection, but Harvey cannot begin until he is pain free. Neither is expected back for several weeks.
At a press conference today, general manager Sandy Alderson also said that Noah Syndergaard will not even throw a baseball for at least the next four weeks, meaning it will take a number of weeks after that to begin building up any arm strength. Mets are not expecting to see Syndergaard back with the Big Club until late August.
And oh yeah, The Nationals are coming into town tonight for a four game weekend series.
By Paul DiSclafani
Mets are reporting that Ace Noah Syndergaard (1-1, 1.73 ERA) has been scratched from this afternoon’s start due to a sore bicep and a tired arm. Syndergaard will be examined by team doctors later today.
“He came in ready to pitch, and that just doesn’t make any sense to take a chance,’’ Collins said. “This guy’s a pretty big piece to the puzzle. We’ll just wait to have the doctors examine him and see where we are. Due to what’s happened the last couple of days with him after he’s cooled down — as you know, it’s quite obvious we cannot take a chance on him, hurting this guy, especially when you’re talking about anything that runs into the shoulder to where he changes his delivery and other things happen. Right now we’re going to back him up a couple days, and he would probably be available this weekend.”
Matt Harvey will take Syndergaard’s start against the Braves today and Jacob deGrom will start the weekend series in Washington on Friday with Zach Wheeler on Saturday. The Mets have not announced a starter for Sunday, hoping that Syndergaard will be available.
Syndergaard’s start on Tuesday was rained out and the Mets initially decided to start him on Wednesday and skip Robert Gsellman’s spot in the rotation. That would allow the beleaguered bullpen to have Gsellman available for the next few games. The Mets have lost nine of their last ten.
But it was Gsellman that started on Wednesday against the Braves, putting the Mets in a 5-0 hole before they even got up to bat. What happened? Apparently, the issue surfaced a couple of days ago, according to Collins.
“Two days ago, after he’d finished throwing, after he got done, he talked about some discomfort in his bicep, and [Wednesday] he went out, threw again, felt fine, and after we had our press conference yesterday, he was in the outfield shagging and during batting practice it flared up again,’’ Collins said. “They gave him some medication. He feels much better … but it’s not worth taking the chance — certainly with this young man the way he’s throwing the baseball — to pitch him.”
Apparently, Syndergaard couldn’t raise his arm above his shoulder on Wednesday after experiencing some discomfort earlier in the week.
Syndergaard insists he will be able to make his next scheduled start on Sunday, the final game of the Washington series. “In short, it’s a little thing right now, but I definitely don’t want it to turn into a big thing”.
When Steve Carlton, all those many years ago, struck out 19 Mets and lost a game, the natural first question would be – How? You would think that if you could get 19 of 27 outs without anyone putting the ball in play for those AB’s, that would be a formula for success, right?
Sprinkled in between those 19 K’s were nine hits and four walks, and the Mets cobbled together a 4-3 win. Did I mention that Ron Swoboda hit two, two-run home runs?
Last night, Jacob deGrom tied a career high 13 strikeouts in his seven innings of work against the Marlins, leaving the bullpen to protect a 4-2 Mets lead. DeGrom‘s only transgressions were the back-to-back solo home runs he allowed in the second inning to Justin Bour and Marcel Ozuma.
In three starts this year, deGrom has three no-decisions to go with a 1.89 ERA.
For the second consecutive night, the bullpen was not up to the task. Fernando Salas, who has now appeared in eight of the Mets first 11 games hadn’t allowed a run in his previous seven appearances, including pitching two innings in the Mets crazy 9-8, 16-inning win on Thursday. He allowed back-to-back home runs, turning an impressive performance by deGrom into just a footnote as the Marlins turned those four home runs into a 5-4 win. Christian Yelich hit a 2-run home run after Salas issued a 2-out walk to Miguel Rojas to tie the game and then Giancarlo Stanton hit a moonshot on a 3-2 pitch to give the Marlins the lead, 5-4.
Who do you want to blame, Salas? I bet you weren’t complaining when he got the first two outs of the inning. Should we blame manager Terry Collins for going to Salas again? Should we blame Collins for not letting deGrom come out for the eighth inning? How about the Mets hitters?
In the first inning, after taking a 1-0 lead on Neil Walker’s RBI double, the Mets had runners on second and third against Adam Conley, then Granderson jumped on the first pitch for a line drive out that ended the inning. The Mets didn’t get another hit until the seventh inning, when Walker reached on a bunt single.
The night before, a 3-2 loss in the ninth inning against reliever Josh Edgins, wasted another good effort by Noah Syndergaard. Why Edgin in the ninth inning of a tied game is a question for another night. It was the offensive effort that failed in this game too.
In the second inning, down a run 1-0, the Mets loaded the bases against Edison Volquez with two outs on consecutive walks to Jose Reyes, batting seventh and Noah Syndergaard, batting eighth. That brought up Rene Rivera, who got ahead 2-0 an inexplicitly swung at the next pitch, ending the inning with a fly out.
The next inning, still trailing 1-0, the Mets loaded the bases against Volquez again, this time with only one out on two walks and a hit. That brought up Michael Conforto who watched two of the first three pitches from Volquez bounce in the dirt, getting ahead in the count 3-0. When asked by Gary Cohen if he would give Conforto the hit sign, Keith Hernandez said, “Absolutely, Volquez is all over the place.”
Conforto then reached for an outside fastball and hit a fly ball to Center that tied the game 1-1. But effectively snuffed out a big inning as Wilmer Flores, after getting ahead 2-0, grounded weakly back to the pitcher.
Here’s my two cents:
It’s 11 games into the season, there are still 151 games to go. I understand that a win in April is just as important as a win in September. But pitching is way more fragile than hitting and a win in September to get you over .500 doesn’t mean anything in a Division like this unless you want to fight for a one-game Wild-Card playoff all year. Of course, when you miss the playoffs by two or three games, these are the games you look back on and lament.
This team has an offensive problem and a fielding problem. They are not built for manufacturing runs. There is no speed on the bases and no creativity. Only bombs and more bombs.
I would describe their outfield as “plodding” to say the least. And do we really need five outfielders? The Mets dressed just 11 bench players and one of them was a second catcher.
Because they must protect those surgically repaired arms, they need to bring them along slowly and therefore, the bullpen is going to get a lot or work. A lot of bullpen work means a lot of pitchers in the bullpen, meaning not a lot of bats left on the bench.
Maybe at this point, if we can’t get our starters into the seventh inning, we should be protecting our bullpen arms and not using everyone every night? Can’t we find someone who can finish an entire inning or two out of the bullpen? Maybe early April games shouldn’t be used for one batter match-ups?
Your offense is what it is at this point. There is no help on the horizon. Therefore, they need to better manage their bullpen or this is going to be a very long season.
THIS AND THAT
Do we need to worry about Syndergaard’s fingers? Blisters first, and now broken fingernails? … Quirky schedule has the Mets playing only the NL East the first 24 games, including the Washington Nationals six times. The Nats come to Citi Field this weekend. B then, the Mets (7-5) will have played 16 games against the three teams that are supposed to be the bottom feeders of the Division: The Phillies, Braves and Marlins. Except those teams have won five of their 12 games against the Mets so far … A quick look at the standings show the Mets at 7-5 and only three other teams with eight wins. The “worst” team in the league is the St. Louis Cardinals, who at 3-8 trail the Division leading Cincinnati Reds (8-4) by 4.5 games. How long is that going to last? … Mets starters deGrom (0-0), Syndergaard (1-0) and Matt Harvey (2-0) have made eight starts and had five no-decisions. They have allowed a combined 10 earned runs in 50 innings. That is going to get awful annoying as the season goes along…
Paul DiSclafani is a featured writer on “A View From The Bench”, which has been recognized by Major League baseball as one of the top 100 blog sites.
The Mets continued to be the most successful franchise in baseball’s storied history as they beat the Braves 6-0, improving their record to an astounding 36-20 after Game 1 of their 56 seasons. And would you believe they started 0-8 on Opening Day? I’ll do the math for you, that’s 36-12 since 1970. They have also won 21 of their last 24 Home Openers.
The Mets scored six times in the seventh inning on the Atlanta bullpen, specifically former Met Eric O’Flaherty.
In a season that is starting with a lot of hope, Noah Syndergaard took the mound for his first ever Opening Day start and promptly threw the first pitch of the season at 98 miles per hour, eventually striking out the leadoff batter, Ender Inciarte on three pitches. Welcome to 2017, Mets fans.
Syndergaard was outstanding, striking out seven in his six innings, including five with his slider, which averaged 94.3 mph. He scattered five hits and didn’t walk anyone, but left after 86 pitches with a blister which will cause the Mets to hold him back a day, making his next start Sunday.
“The blister popped during the last inning”, said manager Terry Collins, “He will dry it out in the next couple of days and be ready to go on Sunday.”
But while Syndergaard was putting up zeroes, so was Atlanta Ace Julio Teheran, keeping the Mets off the scoreboard, matching Syndergaard inning for inning. Teheran has only allowed three earned runs to the Mets in 48 innings against them.
In the seventh, with the game still scoreless, the difference between the teams became apparent. The Mets sent out Hansel Robles (W, 1-0), who needed only 13 pitches to get a 1-2-3 seventh. The Braves sent out Ian Krol (L, 0-1), who could only get one out.
Syndergaard’s personal catcher, Rene Rivera, singled to open the inning, then Krol got an out when Wilmer Flores (batting for Syndergaard) grounded into a fielder’s choice to bring up the top of the order. Flores then stole second and Krol walked Jose Reyes, his second walk of the game. Asdrubal Cabrera then laced his third single of the game into center field, allowing Flores a chance to score.
Inciarte’s throw was in time to nail Flores, but catcher Tyler Flowers took the throw behind the plate and had to reach to tag Flores, who was ruled out by umpire Jeff Kellog. Collins challenged the play and it was overruled as replay confirmed that Flores got his cleat on the plate before the tag. Last year, Flores fractured a finger when he tried to score head first at the plate., learning his lesson and coming in feet first. The Mets had the first run of the game, 1-0.
That was it for Krol, who was replaced by Chaz Roe, who promptly walked Yoenis Cespedes (0-4, 1W), loading the bases and got the quick hook, bringing former Met O’Flaherty to the mound. And just as he did as a Met, O’Flaherty couldn’t get the job done. Curtis Granderson greeted O’Flaherty with a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Reyes and giving the Mets a 2-0 lead.
After a wild-pitch moved Cabrera and Cespedes up a base, O’Flaherty walked Neil Walker to load the bases and followed that up with a five pitch walk to Jay Bruce (who walked three times) to force in a run, giving the Mets a 3-0 lead. Time for another pitcher? Not yet.
O’Flaherty got ahead of Lucas Duda 0-1, but Duda laced a bases clearing double over Inciarte’s head in center and the Mets had broken the game open, 6-0. It took the Braves 35 minutes to get three outs in the seventh inning.
Starting the season at 1-0 is something that the Mets seem to have a good handle on. Let’s see what happens in Game 2.
With an off-day tomorrow, former Met Bartolo Colon will make his first start for the Braves on Wednesday, facing Jacob deGrom. DeGrom was shut down in September, having surgery to reposition the ulnar nerve in his pitching elbow. He is 3-3 lifetime with a 1.90 ERA in eight career starts against Atlanta.
POSITIVES: Opening Day crowd was 44,384 … Braves had won six straight at Citi Field, sweeping the last two series in Queens … Mets fans gave Bartolo Colon a big ovation during the Opening Day ceremonies … Cabrera had three hits and scored a run … Bruce walked three times and scored a run … #5 starter Robert Gsellman struggled in the ninth inning, but got out of it as the Mets pulled off a strange double play to end the game … Met pitchers struck out 11 … Fernando Salas struck out two in his one inning of work in the eighth, giving the bullpen 3.0 innings, 0 runs, 2 hits and 4K … Braves had seven baserunners and didn’t steal a base
NEGATIVES: Collins said that after an evaluation, P-Seth Lugo will miss a couple of weeks … Guess the speed up rules didn’t apply, a game that was 0-0 after six innings still took 3:13 to finish 8 ½ innings …
During the spring of 2016, we were “all in” on the National League Champion Mets. Sure there were concerns about Matt Harvey’s innings following his workload after returning from Tommy John surgery. And of course, there were concerns for all of the pitchers who had been pushed way past any limit they had ever endured while the Mets were chasing a World Series title that eventually eluded them.
And concerns about David Wright? Not to worry, he was going to give us about 130 games.
Of course, you all know what happened. Injuries, injuries and more injuries. And oh yeah, Daniel Murphy ate the Mets alive.
So what did we learn, Mets fans?
We learned that we probably should have enjoyed ourselves more during that World Series run in 2015, but more importantly, we learned that we need to be a little more cautious in our pre-season hoopla. Not that we shouldn’t be excited about this team in 2017, just that maybe we should take a step back and look at exactly what we have.
We have a really good team here that is built on pitching and Yoenis Cespedes. We have four pitchers that missed time last year (some significantly) with injuries and another that hasn’t pitched in the majors since September of 2014. Our first baseman and second baseman had significant back injuries. Our new right fielder doesn’t seem to like to play in New York. Our rookie sensation in the outfield from 2015 suffered a severe sophomore slump and currently doesn’t have an open outfield position. We are in a Division that includes the Washington Nationals, who won 95 games last year and beat us about 100 times. Oh yeah, our closer that saved over 100 games in the last two seasons is suspended for the first 15 games.
Of course, don’t they usually say that “past performance is no indicator of future results”?
Yet many baseball pundits think that this team is not only going to win the National League East, but they are going back to the World Series.
And I tend to agree with them, but I’m cautiously optimistic.
If you have been reading all “previews”, the one word that permeates all of these articles is “if”. If the pitching holds out, if this guy stays healthy, etc. Isn’t that little “if” the same for all teams at this point? It seems to make sense that if you get good pitching and clutch hitting, you are going to win a number of games.
Like most of you, I am looking forward to this season. I think we have something to prove. I think the Mets think they have something to prove. I think the pitchers think they have something to prove.
If you want a position by position breakdown with predictions, the Daily News and Newsday have provided that for you already this week. I’m out of the prediction game (for now). But I like what I have seen down in Florida.
The pitching looks good. Cespedes looks primed for an MVP caliber year. David Wright is not a factor (which is sad), but that gives Jose Reyes a lot more playing time. Jay Bruce looks like he has accepted the fact that he is not going back to Cincinnati (or anywhere else). How many batting orders are going to have a number six (Bruce) and seven (Lucas Duda) that can go deep?
Take a quick look at the starters – Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Zach Wheeler and Robert Gsellman. We still have Steven Matz (hopefully) and Seth Lugo (hopefully) waiting in the wings. That’s seven guys who could be a 1, 2 or 3 pitcher on any roster right now. Are all of them going to perform at a CY Young level? Of course not, but they don’t have to. They just need to continue to give their team a chance to win every day.
Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker are still a good double play combo and Curtis Granderson might surprise some people in Center Field and hitting cleanup.
Does this team have a lot of question marks? What team doesn’t? They have too many left handed hitting outfielders. Who is going to come off their bench? Is Matt Harvey ready? How long before Syndergaard’s arm falls off? Is Wheeler a bomb waiting to explode? Why didn’t they address first base with someone other than Wilmer Flores? Are injuries a problem already? Lugo, Matz and Juan Lagares are starting on the DL.
Come on, now. Can we just get the season started? Did anyone notice that the Yankees won 24 games in Spring training, more than any other team in baseball. Did you also notice that Masahiro Tanaka, who allowed only one earned run in 23 and 2/3 innings only got 8 outs today and was charged with seven earned runs?
Let’s take this spring training thing with a grain of salt, shall we? Let’s take all the talk and hype down a notch and let the game begin.
Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. Let’s be ready to go on Monday and enjoy this baseball season, no matter what happens. This is a very good baseball team. This is not a 72 win team. This could be a 90 win team, This team could make the playoff for the third consecutive year – a first in franchise history.
I’m on board. I’m ready for Opening Day. I’m just cautiously optimistic…
Paul DiSclafani is a featured writer on “A View From The Bench”, which was ranked as one of the top 100 MLB Blogs
By Paul DiSclafani:
So why would anyone waste their time writing or reading articles that predict the winner of a game or a series?
Because it’s fun, that’s why.
The juices will be flowing on Wednesday night as two of the top pitchers in the National League will try and carry their teams on their huge shoulders in a winner-take-all game for the right to face the Chicago Cubs in the National League Divisional Series, which begins on Friday night at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.
And man, do they literally have huge shoulders. The 27 year-old Giants lefty, Madison Bumgarner, is 6-5 and weighs 250 pounds. He finished the season 15-9 with a 2.71 ERA and struck out 251. And if you aren’t already sick of hearing about his post season pedigree, you already know about these bullet points:
- His post season ERA on the road is 0.60, the lowest of any pitcher in baseball history with at least 25 innings pitched. That’s better than Bob Gibson (0.97), Mariano Rivera (1.02) and Sandy Kofax (1.04).
- The Giants have won all seven of his road starts in the playoffs
- He appeared in seven games in the 2014 playoffs, compiling two complete game shutouts in addition to pitching five scoreless innings in relief in Game 7 of the World Series.
On the other side of the field, Noah Syndergaard, in only his second year in the majors, is no slouch. He’s actually an inch taller than Bumgarner and has much cooler hair. The last time he was on the mound in the post season was against the Royals in Game 3 of the World Series and it was the only game the Mets won in the series. He famously knocked down Alcides Escobar with the first pitch of the game, sending a message that was heard loud and clear. Then he backed it up by saying that the whining Royals players know where they could find him; 60 feet, 6 inches way.
Syndergaard also had a great 2016 season. He finished at 14-9 with an ERA even better than Baumgarner at 2.60, striking out 218. But in his last seven starts, his ERA was 2.06 with 47 strikeouts in 44 2/3 innings. And he’s been pitching with bone spurs in his elbow that will require surgery.
And are we still going to continue that nonsense that the Giants are destiny’s children because they win the World Series on even years? Yes, they won in 2010, 2012 and 2014, but they didn’t win in 2008, did they? Haven’t you heard the financial disclaimer that “past performance is not a guarantee of future results”? The reason for picking the Giants simply because of this odd set of circumstance is just ludicrous.
The Mets finished the season 27-13 over their final 40 games, mostly with a AAA lineup and by having the worst batting average in the league with runners in scoring position (.225). Over those same 40 games, the Giants finished 19-21 and had to win eight of their last 12 games, including the last four in a row, to accumulate those 19 wins. I’ll do the math for you; they were 11-17 before their recent “hot” streak.
If you match up the Mets and Giants, position player by position player, you are not going to get too many check marks in the “advantage” column for the Mets.
But there are things that can’t be measured by the numbers alone. If all we did were look at the numbers, how would you explain how the Mets are in the position they are in right now? How does ANY team lose three of their five starters (#’s 2, 3 and 4 in the rotation, by the way), three of their four infielders, make a trade for the player leading the league in RBI, only to have him hit .152 and still pull together enough wins to get them into the post season?
So, I’m not going to waste your time with a “Five Keys to Victory” or “What the Mets/Giants Need To Do To Win”. You can get that from your local newspaper or from other web based sources.
I’m just going to tell you what I think.
I think this Mets team is sick and tired of being beat down by the media and sometimes, their own fans. They don’t need to have anyone tell them how “lucky” they are to be here because of all their injuries. They have never once used injuries as an excuse. All they did was lace ‘em up and give their best out there.
But every team gives you their best, don’t they? Unless, of course, you watch the Phillies (sorry, that was a cheap shot). But in general, giving your best doesn’t always win games, does it?
This Mets team found a way to win games when there was just no possible way on God’s green Earth they should have. Terry Collins said this team had a lot of heart and character. Every manager says that, but this team actually does.
Unfortunately, the best team doesn’t always win a single baseball game, which is the crap-shoot we call the Wild-Card. Single baseball games are won by pitching. Good pitching always prevails over good hitting, that’s why 3 out of 10 is considered a good for a hitter. If a pitcher only got 3 outs for every 10 batters they faced, they would soon be a shoe salesman.
Having this game at home, in front of a rabid Citi Field crowd, is an advantage for Syndergaard. I’ll go out on a limb and say that if Syndergaard gets out of the first inning 1-2-3, the Mets will win this game. How’s that for a completely ridiculous basis for a prediction?
Let’s put it this way, if the Mets can score against Baumgarner and keep a lead into the late innings, they will win because they have a better bullpen, hands down. But if the Mets can’t solve Baumgarner early, the veteran will throw 150 pitches and finish the game himself. Heck, they don’t even need to pinch hit for him, so the only reason to take him out is if he is not doing his job on the mound.
So back to that first inning for a minute, shall we? A 1-2-3 top of the inning will keep the crowd at a fevered pitch as Jose Reyes strolls to the batter’s box to lead off. What happens if he gets on base and steals second with Cabrera and Cespedes up next?
As the late, great Bob Murphy would say, “Fasten your seat belts…”
Paul DiSclafani is a featured author at “A View From the Bench”, an official affiliate of MLB.com. “A View from the Bench” is recognized in the Top 100 of MLB.com/blogs.