The Blue Jays Made the Wrong Decision with Aaron Sanchez

Photo Credit: USA Today Sports

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez is one of the best young pitchers in baseball. In his first full season in the league, Sanchez sits at 11-1 and atop the American League in ERA (2.71). At just 24 years old, Sanchez could be one of the best pitchers in the game for many years to come. But, like many other things in baseball, there’s one catch:

Aaron Sanchez has never pitched this many innings in a season in his professional career.

His previous career high in innings pitched was 2014, a season that saw Sanchez toss 133.1 innings between AA New Hampshire, AAA Buffalo, and Toronto. This season, he’s already up to 139.1 innings, all of which came in starts. Sanchez had previously been shuffled back and forth between the starting rotation and this helped him limit his innings in the past couple of seasons. 2016, however, is his first full season as a starting pitcher, and even though he has performed extraordinarily well, many observers assumed that Sanchez would, at some point, either: 1) move to the bullpen or 2) be shut down by the organization completely. While Sanchez does not have a set “innings limit”, the Blue Jays and manager John Gibbons frequently discussed moving him to the bullpen at some point later in the season.

But that’s not the decision the Blue Jays decided to make. Instead of shutting down Sanchez completely or moving him to the bullpen to conserve his innings, the team announced Thursday that Sanchez would remain in the starting rotation through the rest of the season. While the Jays will go with a six-man rotation and closely monitor Sanchez for signs of fatigue, the decision marks a clear change of course for a franchise that seemed to want to protect Sanchez’s young arm even if the team had a chance to go to the playoffs. So, here comes the big question: is this the right decision for Sanchez and the Blue Jays?

First, to explain Toronto’s logic in making this decision, we need to examine the infamous “Strasburg Shutdown” of 2012. In that situation, Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg, who was fresh off Tommy John Surgery that forced him to miss the 2011 season, was approaching his team-imposed limit of 160 innings. Sure enough, Strasburg reached 159.1 innings with his start on September 5th of that season. After that start, the team informed Strasburg that he would not pitch again for the rest of the year, even as the team closed in on the franchise’s first playoff berth since 1981; the team was known as the Montreal Expos back then.

The Nationals took the NL East crown, and after winning 98 games, the team was widely considered a World Series favorite even without Strasburg’s services. However, Washington would get all it could handle against the St. Louis Cardinals in a series that went the distance. In Game 5, St. Louis rallied from a 6-0 deficit to win 9-7 and advance to the NLCS. Because Strasburg was not available for that series, the Nats were forced to start Edwin Jackson in a pivotal Game 3. Jackson struggled, allowing four runs in five innings; the Cardinals would win that game and take a 2-1 series lead. While nothing would have been assured if Strasburg had started the game, it is natural and fair to wonder if the Nationals would have won the series if Strasburg was available. He wasn’t, and the Nationals possibly blew their chance at a World Series because of their high-wire act centered around protecting their young star.

That’s the mistake the Blue Jays are trying to avoid. The problem is that overworking Sanchez is probably a mistake, as well. Just ask the New York Mets.

The Mets had the incredible, almost too-good-to-be-true luck of having four superstar pitchers (Steven Matz, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey) in the same rotation at the same time a year ago. The team was in a very similar position as the Nationals were in 2012, closing in on a playoff berth while trying to protect its star pitcher(s). Near the end of last season, the Mets were primarily concerned with protecting Harvey, who, just like Strasburg, was coming off Tommy John Surgery the year before.

Instead of going the way of the Nationals, the Mets decided to keep Harvey and the other young guns in a six-man rotation for the month of September. Harvey agreed to continue pitching, even after a protracted fight with the front office waged through the media. Unlike the Nationals, the Mets reached the World Series, eventually losing to the Kansas City Royals in five games. The wear and tear of the postseason took its toll on the Mets’ pitchers, though; Harvey, Syndergaard, and deGrom all threw well over 200 innings for the season (Syndergaard started the year in AAA). Matz avoided this distinction because of a lat injury he suffered in early July that cost him two months of the season.

The effects of being stretched out unexpectedly last season have made their presence felt on the Mets’ starters this season. Matz and Syndergaard have both pitched the second half of the season with bone spurs in their elbows while Harvey is out for the year after undergoing surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, an injury that has claimed the likes of Chris Carpenter, Chris Young, and Jaime Garcia. The Mets probably knew that the right decision would have been to limit the innings of their star pitchers, but with the team performing so well and the opportunity to win a championship firmly in their grasp, it was hard for the Mets to pull that trigger. But the team has a history of knowing what the right decision is and yet still making the wrong one; anyone remember Game 5 of the World Series?

This is the same position the Blue Jays find themselves in, but they only have one young pitcher to manage instead of four. The organization obviously thinks that going to a six-man rotation will help Sanchez and the rest of the rotation stay fresh for a potential playoff run. But as we saw with the Mets last season and now into this one, a six-man rotation is not a be-all, end-all cure for a young pitcher.

That’s why this decision is a mistake; while the Jays sit in a tie for first place in the AL East, the future of the franchise is much more important than just this season. It would be much better for the Jays to have a healthy and effective Aaron Sanchez for the next ten years instead of burning him out this year and having him never be the same again. It’s a difficult decision to make because the minds of many in the organization are clouded by the opportunity to win a championship this year. The decision becomes even more muddled when you consider that Sanchez is not coming off Tommy John Surgery or any other major operation (he’s never had Tommy John). But would the Blue Jays be willing to go down that road if wear and tear catch up to Sanchez at the end of this season?

There are a multitude of reasons why this could be considered both the right and the wrong decision. The one I keep coming back to is the fact that it’s just more important to have Sanchez healthy for the rest of his career rather than to burn him out going for a championship this year. Remember Stephen Strasburg? He’s one of the best pitchers in the league this year, sporting a 15-1 record and a 2.63 ERA. The Nationals are right back where they were four years ago, but this time there will be no limitations on Strasburg’s usage. The Nationals can go for a championship this season without the cloud of innings limits or the threat of major injury hanging over their heads.

That’s what could have awaited the Blue Jays if they made the smart decision with Sanchez. Unfortunately, it looks like they went in a very different direction, for better or worse.

Winners and Losers, MLB Trade Deadline Edition

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The MLB trade deadline has come and gone, and there was plenty of intrigue and even more dealing to go along with it. Of course, with every trade deadline, there are winners, losers and teams that stayed quiet. These are the stories of the winners and losers of baseball’s trade deadline. There will be three of each type of team, and there will be explanations as to why they are in their respective categories.

So let’s get this started: here are the MLB trade deadline’s winners and losers.

Loser: Houston Astros

If you’re trying to find positives for the Astros at the trade deadline, consider this: they didn’t do anything. On the other hand, if you want to try to find a negative for the Astros this year, it would be that….. they didn’t do anything.

While that’s not necessarily a bad thing considering the results of last year’s trades, the Astros’ inaction runs counter to what the Texas Rangers, the team Houston is trying to catch to win the AL West, did on Monday. Texas acquired outfielder/designated hitter (but really designated hitter) Carlos Beltran from the Yankees and catcher Jonathan Lucroy from the Milwaukee Brewers; more on them later. The Astros did absolutely nothing, unless you consider trading away Scott Feldman and Josh Fields to be earth-shattering, landscape-changing moves in the AL West.

Those moves are most certainly not that, and the Astros did not acquire any pieces that will help them reach the playoffs this year. If you consider GM Jeff Luhnow’s nonintervention a positive thing, you probably don’t agree with Houston’s placement on this list. But I, like many others, see it as a negative, so the Astros are definitely a loser here.

Winner: New York Mets

Okay, Jay Bruce is certainly not Yoenis Céspedes. Céspedes, the Mets’ prime deadline acquisition last season, hit 17 home runs for the team in just 57 games. He’s back this year, but has been hobbled with various injuries for most of the season. Hence, the result of Céspedes’ health mixed with the collective failure of the rest of the Mets’ lineup is a team that is currently batting .205 with runners in scoring position on the season. Yes, .205. That’s historically godawful.

The acquisition of Bruce, though, may alleviate some of those struggles. Bruce is hitting .360 with runners in scoring position on the season; the problem is that he has been inconsistent in past years with runners on base. It’s hard to predict how Bruce will do in the Mets’ lineup, but this much is true: he leads the league in RBI and is having the best season of his career.

The trade for Bruce is far from a perfect acquisition for the Mets. The team now has four corner outfielders, no healthy center fielders, and is still dealing with injuries up and down the roster. However, Bruce will provide an immediate lift for the offense, even if he isn’t going to come close to Céspedes’ production from the second half of last season.

The Mets will gladly take Bruce’s offense and worry about positional fit later.

Loser: Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates easily had the most confusing trade deadline of any team in baseball. First, GM Neal Huntington decided to ship Mark Melancon to the Nationals in exchange for left-hander Felipe Rivero and prospect Taylor Hearn. Then, Huntington flipped struggling starter Francisco Liriano and two prospects for Toronto’s best AAA pitcher, Drew Hutchison. So basically, the Pirates traded a known commodity in Liriano and two promising commodities (prospects Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez) for an unknown commodity in Hutchison. This would come as a surprise to you if you didn’t know that Huntington was the same person who traded starting second baseman Neil Walker to the Mets before last season for fifth-starter and perennially mediocre lefty Jon Niese.

But wait, there’s more! The Pirates then traded a player to be named later to the Yankees for Ivan Nova. Okay, that’s cool, but why would the Pirates need another starting pitcher when they already had enough to begin with? That’s because the team traded Niese back to the Mets in exchange for Antonio Bastardo in the ultimate junk-in-exchangefor-total-garbage deadline trade.

So yeah, things went really strangely for the Pirates at the deadline. They’re throwing in the towel on this season (we think) but it’s kind of hard to tell what they’re doing when almost all of their moves contradicted each other within the course of just 48 hours. But other than that, everything’s just fine.

Winner: Texas Rangers

This one is almost a no-brainer. Texas made its team appreciably better on Monday by way of two separate trades for Carlos Beltran and Jonathan Lucroy. These moves plug obvious holes in the lineup that were previously filled by Robinson Chirinos and Prince Fielder; Fielder is out for the season after finding out last week that he would need a second neck surgery. So the Rangers were able to fill those holes in the lineup, but that’s not all they did on Monday.

In one of the sneakier, more underrated moves of deadline day, the Rangers were also able to acquire relief pitcher Jeremy Jeffress from the Brewers in the Lucroy deal. Jeffress has saved 27 games for Milwaukee this year and has quietly been one of the best closers in the game as of late. The Rangers had an obvious need for a closer after Shawn Tolleson’s season-long implosion and subsequent demotion to AAA. Jeffress fills that void, and his acquisition is huge for a team that has been looking for a closer since practically the beginning of the season.

The Rangers were one of the big winners at the trade deadline, making moves to improve their weaknesses while keeping the rest of the big-league roster intact. While Texas gave up several good prospects (Dillon Tate, Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz) to accrue these assets, they’re going for it all right now.

And if you had the best record in the American League, why wouldn’t you push all of your chips to the center of the table?

Loser: Miami Marlins

For as bad as the trade deadlines of Pittsburgh and Houston were, the Marlins’ one has to take the cake. And it’s not even close.

Last week, GM Michael Hill, the replacement for the since-departed Dan Jennings (who happens to be the same person as former manager Dan Jennings), traded pitcher Jarred Cosart, minor-league pitchers Tayron Guerrero, Luis Castillo (not that Luis Castillo), and injured reliever Carter Capps to the Padres. In return for this hefty price tag, the Padres sent pitchers Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea to Miami. While neither pitcher is having a great season, both would theoretically help a Marlins staff that has struggled somewhat behind ace José Fernandez.

The problem is that only one of those pitchers was fully healthy.

Rea made his first start for the Marlins on Saturday, going 3 1/3 scoreless innings before leaving the game with arm soreness. Rea’s first Miami start would also be his last; after the team placed him on the 15-day DL, it traded him back to San Diego in exchange for Luis Castillo, the prospect who has originally traded for Rea and Cashner. The Marlins have reasoning for doing this, according to Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal:

While it’s fair for Miami to be upset with the Padres for giving them damaged goods, couldn’t they have done a little more research before acquiring Rea? Also, the Fish made a trade with San Diego earlier in the summer to acquire Fernando Rodney. In that trade, Miami sent pitcher Chris Paddack, a 20-year-old prospect, to San Diego. Paddack recently found out that he needs Tommy John Surgery; the Padres aren’t crying foul about this. They were aware of the risk in trading players and understood that acquiring a player from another organization wouldn’t be a guaranteed success.

This is a lesson that the Marlins can learn from. But knowing their organizational history, it’s highly unlikely that they will.

Winner: New York Yankees

The Yankees finally did the right thing this year and distanced themselves from mediocrity to build a bright future for years to come. I suggested they do this about 2 1/2 weeks ago, and to the approval of fans and baseball observers, the great rebuild has finally come to fruition. In conceding failure for this season, the Yankees are building a potential future dynasty for years to come, as ESPN’s Andrew Marchand writes:

In acquiring not one, not two, not three … but 12 prospects by trading Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova, Cashman has transformed a Yankees farm system that was once an eyesore into one envied in the game.

Cashman’s plan is somewhat akin to Riley’s plan with the Heat six years ago, when he shaved off salary-cap space to add James and Chris Bosh to form his super team, which reached the NBA Finals four straight years and won two titles. The Yankees have now created a prospect pool which allows them to not only offer gobs of money to free agents, but also gives them the possibility of more glory.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, the Yankees could go in several different directions here. They could use their prospects to clear cap space and sign free agents (as Marchand suggests), they could use the prospects as trade chips for present or future stars, or they could keep their prospects and hope most if not all of them pan out. They really could go anywhere from here, and GM Brian Cashman and owner Hal Steinbrenner should be applauded for building a bright future for the Yankees’ organization.

Watching the Yankees sell is something many of us never thought we would see. But now that they have, it’s easy to see that they made the right decision for the future and betterment of their franchise.

Can Daniel Murphy Sustain His First Half Heroics?

Daniel Murphy
Photo Credit: Alex Brandon/Associated Press

When Daniel Murphy signed with the Nationals in the offseason, many wondered if the $37.5 million dollar contract would be a wise investment.  Needless to say, Murphy has proved his worth (and then some) through just 90 games with the team.

On Sunday, Murphy capped off his incredible first half with another home run against his former team, the New York Mets.  In 13 games against the Mets this season, Murphy has hit seven home runs and driven in 21 runs.  Not too bad for a guy who hit six home runs in a full season just four years ago; the 2012 season saw Murphy play 156 games.  Murphy has eclipsed his home run total from that year in just 13 games against his former team.

But, as always, there’s a slight issue here.  With the inclusion of Sunday’s blast, Murphy enters the All-Star break with 17 home runs. For a player who has never hit more than 14 dingers in a season, the inevitable questions arise: can he keep it up?  When is the big slump coming?  While Murphy has been the best second baseman in baseball through the first half of the season, will he be able to lay stake to that claim in the second half?

The short, obvious answer is that he will not be able to sustain his absurd first half performance.  Only 432 players in MLB history have hit .349 over the course of a full season.  While you may say that 432 is a pretty large number, these statistics go back to the 1870s.  This is a very long history, and to think that only 432 players have achieved that feat in the past 140 years says something about how hard it is to undertake.

We also know that Murphy’s performance isn’t sustainable because of luck.  So far in 2016, he has cultivated a .356 BABIP (batting average on balls in play).  Why is this important?  Well, Murphy’s career BABIP is just .318 and that figure was just .278 a season ago.  A general rule of thumb is that if a player’s BABIP is abnormally high or low for a significant stretch of a season, it is due to regress or ascend to the mean later in the season or even the year after.  Murphy’s case is no different; his BABIP has fluctuated from .345 to .329 to .315 to .322 to .278 to .356 over the past six seasons.  If history is any indication, Murph won’t be nearly as fortunate after the All-Star break.  Like anything else, though, time will ultimately tell if this is true.

What else can we glean from some of Murphy’s advanced stats?  Let’s take a look at his strikeout and walk rates.  Murphy has never been easy to strike out, and this year to date has been no different.  Striking out just 10.6% of the time, Murphy ranks as the seventh-toughest strikeout in all of baseball.  When you also consider the fact that he only walks in 5% of his ABs, you get the picture: he puts the ball in play a lot.  That should bode well for his second-half prospects; we saw the value of making contact in last year’s playoffs and World Series.  Those saw the Royals constantly put the ball in play and pressure opposing defenders into making grave mistakes.

Forcing the defense to make plays to stop you is a very valuable weapon to have as a hitter.  Murphy has done that historically; if he wants to continue his superhuman run of form, his best hope is to fall back to his roots and put the ball in play.

Another reason behind Murphy’s success has been his ability to make adjustments at the plate, as ESPN’s Mark Simon writes:

Murphy moved closer to the plate this season, and that has allowed him to take more impactful swings against outer-half pitches. He’s hitting .375 with a .596 slugging percentage against them. Those are jumps of 100 points and 166 points from his 2015 numbers (.275 and .430). From 2009 to 2014, Murphy never even slugged .400 against those pitches.

Murphy has also taken an approach of trying to pull the ball in the air. Sixty five percent of his at-bats this season have ended in fly balls, line drives or pop ups, easily the highest rate of his career.

Murphy’s hitting adaptation has come later in his career but hey, better late than never.  The changes that he made in his swing are a direct result of last year’s work with Mets hitting coach Kevin Long; Long convinced him to stand closer to the plate and attack pitches in all areas of the strike zone.  Murphy credits Long with his improvement last season and particularly his playoff power spike.

About those playoffs: Murphy clubbed seven home runs in a span of nine games last October.  The question that many had after his sudden power surge was whether it was a coincidence or a trend.  As we’ve seen so far this season, it appears to be more of a trend than an anomalous blip.  So far in 2016, his Isolated Power has climbed to .250.  (Isolated Power is calculated by subtracting a hitter’s batting average from his slugging percentage.)  His previous career high ISO figure was .168 last season; it will be interesting to see if it fluctuates at all after the All-Star break.  For context, Murphy ranks second among eligible second basemen in this category (the Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter is first).  However, he is ahead of other power hitters such as Robinson Canó, Jonathan Schoop, and Brian Dozier at the position.

Daniel Murphy is a very good hitter, one of the best in the game.  That being said, I don’t believe there is any way he can emulate his first-half performance for the rest of the season.  While it has been enjoyable to watch him hit almost everything he has seen from opposing pitchers this season, it would be unfair to him to expect a performance like this again.

Many great players fall off in the second half and are unable to replicate their first half performance from mid-July on; based on what we’ve seen in his career, Daniel Murphy should fall into that category in 2016.

The Mets Have Had a Disastrous 24 Hours


Last night, the New York Mets played a home game against the San Diego Padres.  They came into the night one game back of the division-leading Washington Nationals, and a win coupled with a Washington loss would put the Amazins in a tie for first place (the Nationals won).  However, the game would become so much more, as the result of a Mets trade attempt and its consequences.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post first reported the story, and later gave us the full details of the deal, pending medicals:

Wheeler is a highly touted pitcher who has only tossed the equivalent of a season and a half at the big league level.  You may remember that he was acquired by the Mets in 2011 in a trade that sent Carlos Beltran to the San Francisco Giants.  Flores is in his ninth year in the Mets organization and his third year in the bigs.  This season, he’s started at both shortstop and second base and hit .249 with ten home runs in the process  He was also the starting shortstop in last night’s game.  Both would have been heading to Milwaukee in the trade. Would have.

News of the trade broke around 9:00 Eastern Time last night.  The Met-Padre game was going long, with starter Bartolo Colon getting shelled for six runs and ten hits in just 2.1 innings.  As best I remember, the news must have broke in the fifth or sixth inning. (True story: I was at the game.  It has nothing to do with this post, but it was a truly bizarre event to attend.)  But back to the story.

For whatever reason, Flores was not pulled from the game when the trade became news.  Common practice in a situation like this is to pull the player(s) involved.  This is done to ensure that said player(s) do(es) not get injured, which would lead to a flunked physical and a called-off deal.  In any event, Flores was left in the game and became visibly emotional in the field.  Still, I feel the need to defend Flores here: the Mets have been the only organization he has ever known (he was drafted by them as a 16-year-old) and he’s been with them, and stayed loyal to them, through the ups and downs that being a player in the post-2006 Met organization brings.

However, he would get an at bat in the bottom of the 7th.  Word of the deal had filtered through the ballpark by that point, and the thinned out gathering at Citi Field gave him an elongated standing ovation as he stepped to the dish.

At that point, it appeared as though Flores would be finally removed from the game.  This would not be the case, however, as Wilmer would be sent back out to the field for the final two innings.  He would have had the chance to bat in the bottom of the ninth, but then, and only then, was he taken out of the game.  So far, you can guess that this story has been very weird.  Warning: it’s about to get weirder.

First, we’ll go to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal for an explanation as to why Flores was not pulled earlier:

This would at least partially explain Flores’ staying in the game.  But although he had not been traded, he somehow found out he was about to be.  And in my view, even though he was still officially a New York Met through the entirety of the game, he should have been removed.  There are two reasons for my having this train of thought. The first is that he was risking obvious injury by staying in the contest.  Even though he hadn’t been traded yet, he could’ve sustained an injury in the game, which would have destroyed any hope for the trade.  The other reason is that he could not have served the Mets any good in the emotional state he was in.  While he wasn’t wrong for being emotional, he wasn’t helpful to the Mets, either.

Now the story is about to take another wild turn.  After the game, word got around among reporters that the deal may be off.  Sure enough, General Manager Sandy Alderson spoke with the assembled media after the game and said this:

The general thought at this point was that the calling off of the trade had to do with Wheeler.  He had Tommy John surgery on March 25 and is expected to be out until next July-August, at the earliest. Common sense told those who follow (and cover) the game that Wheeler had an issue with his physical, or that he did not perform well in his medical reports.  This had to be the reason for the trade not happening, right?  Wrong.

An explanation of the failure to complete the trade came from Rosenthal, just after midnight this morning:

So, to recap: the Mets trade for a power bat in the middle of the lineup, give up their shortstop and one of their prized young pitchers, leave said shortstop in the game, and after all that?  The deal falls through.  Yikes.

Now, I don’t think the deal would have been overly beneficial to the Mets in the short or long term, but that was the article I would have written today if the trade was completed.

Here’s another opinion of mine: the reporters did almost nothing wrong.  They reported what was essentially a done deal, and in a business where being the first to report something is critical, they wanted to be prompt with their information, too.  However, the only mistake of theirs was not stressing that the deal still needed the blessing of medicals to be completed.  Other than this, though, the only thing these reporters did was their job.

Rosenthal agrees with me:

Not all reports included a reference to “pending medicals.” Even the ones that did left the impression that the deal was fait accompli. Many followers interpreted the deal as done, if only because such deals almost always get done.

Well, this deal did not get done, and the enduring image of the night was of Flores in tears at shortstop, thinking he had been traded.

The Mets looked heartless for allowing Flores to remain in the game; players involved in pending deals generally are removed to ensure that they avoid injury.

The media, too, looked heartless, at least in the view of some on Twitter; we reported a trade before it technically was completed, and created a mess.

But that was last night, and this was today.

With an early 12:10 start, the team looked to the consistent Jon Niese to right the ship.  And it looked like he had, as they were leading 7-1 after six innings.  However, reliever Bobby Parnell loaded the bases in the 7th, retiring but one batter.  Hansel Robles was brought in to stop the bleeding, but what he did instead was allow a grand slam to Derek Norris.  The score was 7-5, and it would stay that way until the 9th.

Closer Jeurys Familia entered the game to finish the deal and end the disastrous string of events that had befallen the Mets over, at that point, the past 18 hours.  He got the first two outs of the inning, but in the ultimate twist of fate, a downpour came with no balls and one strike on Norris.  When the game resumed, Familia was questionably left in, and allowed hits to Norris and Melvin Upton Jr.  And then the dagger came; a three-run home run surrendered to Melvin’s brother Justin.  The damage was done.

After a second delay pushed the conclusion of the game back to 6:25, the Mets went down 1-2-3 in the final frame.  The nightmare continued, leaving the team looking for answers.

This is easily one of the worst 24 hour periods the franchise has ever endured.  It’s no Midnight Massacre, but it’s still really bad.  The issue?  The schedule is not getting easier.  The team has a crucial three-game set this weekend against the Nationals, who they are now three games behind in the divisional race, thanks to the results of the last two days.

Reports have linked the Mets to potential outfielders like the Tigers’ Yoenis Cespedes and the Reds’ Jay Bruce.  However, neither of these can play center field, which is a need for the team at the moment. Even if they do acquire an outfielder, it will require the capitulation of significant assets, most likely prospects.  These are assets that the Mets simply may not be willing to give up, especially after swinging and missing on the Gomez trade.

The #LOLMETS jokes are back.  The organization, and in particular, manager Terry Collins, is under fire for their handling of the entire situation.  “Meet the Mets” has sounded more like “Meet the Mess” over the past 24 hours.

The team may get Cespedes, Bruce, or other major league talent, but they are going to miss out on Gomez; he’s been traded to the Astros. And no deal can hide away the cold hard truth about the Mets.

The last 24 hours have been brutal for them.

(c) 2015

Yes, the Mets are For Real

The New York Mets are baseball’s hottest team in the early season, accumulating a 13-3 record and winning their last 11 games.  They went 10-0 on their last homestand, which was a first in the history of the franchise.  The 11 game winning streak is also tied for the longest streak in their history, and the 1986 World Series Champion team also won 11 in a row.  Sure, the Mets have been baseball best team in the first two and a half weeks, but are they legitimate contenders?  They are.

Over their first 16 games, the pitching staff of Bartolo Colon, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harver, Jonathon Niese, and Dillon Gee have combined for a 2.81 ERA, good for second in the major leagues.  Those same starters have combined for 12 quality starts, tied with the Padres for the most in the league.  Newly minted closer Jeurys Familia has done a fine job in replacing overthrown Jenrry Mejia, leading the majors with eight saves; this adds up to a ratio of saving a game every two days.  Sure, he won’t get 81 saves this year, but he’s still off to a great start.  The pitching staff also walks the second-least batters in the game with just 31 total walks.  They’ve walked less than two batters per game. The bullpen has been paced by Familia, lefty Jerry Blevins, who suffered a forearm injury and will be out for at least the next six weeks, other lefties Alex Torres and Sean Gilmartin, Buddy Carlyle, and workhorse Carlos Torres.

While the lineup is generally regarded as being a weakness for the team, it has performed capably in the early going of this season.  It ranks seventh in the league in on-base percentage, ninth in the league in runs, and 12th in the league in batting average.  At leadoff, Curtis Granderson, even though he is only hitting .200, has been on-base one way or another 37.5% of the time.  David Wright had been hitting second until last week; he tweaked his hamstring on a slide into second base and is out for at least three weeks.  Lucas Duda has hit .359 in the three hole and leads the team in slugging percentage.  New acquisition Michael Cuddyer has performed well as the cleanup hitter, with an on-base percentage of .355.  Daniel Murphy has struggled out of the gate, but if he gets going, it adds another dimension to the lineup.  Defensive stud Juan Lagares is hitting .270, but is more noted for his defense.  Wilmer Flores has led the team in home runs with three, and has performed decently at shortstop.  And Travis d’Arnaud was the starting catcher until being hit on the hand with a pitch.  Now, he is likely to be out for around six weeks.  He has been replaced by prospect Kevin Plawecki, who has played in two game behind the dish.

With its core of players built around pitching, defense, and just enough offense, this team can compete for a division crown and potentially even more.  The team is tied for eighth in the league in fielding percentage at .986.  With a gold glove defensive center fielder, the team should definitely be able to stay near the top of the league in fielding. With these critical components, it is looking more and more like the Mets are for real and could contend for the playoffs and beyond.

No more LOLMets.

MLB Season Preview

NL East

Team W L
Washington Nationals 96 66
Miami Marlins 86 76
New York Mets 84 78
Atlanta Braves 78 84
Philadelphia Phillies 64 98


Discussion: The Nats win this division easily due to the ridiculous starting rotation and their above-average line-up.  The Marlins take a leap forward as Jose Fernandez returns from his Tommy John surgery to put forth a solid second-half of the season.  The Mets improve over last year with the solid addition of Michael Cuddyer and improvements to the bullpen as well.  The Braves stay around the same as they finished last year because their key gains match their key losses.  They are very similar to how they were last year.  And the Phillies are just going to be really, really bad and that’s that.  Their rotation, lineup, and bullpen are all terrible.  They will be the worst team in baseball.

NL Central

Team W L
Pittsburgh Pirates 89 73
St. Louis Cardinals 87 75
Chicago Cubs 81 81
Milwaukee Brewers 81 81
Cincinnati Reds 69 93


Discussion: The Pirates bring back many of the same players from last year, but the addition of Francisco Cervelli behind the plate will help its pitching staff take the next step.  Pedro Alvarez rebounds from a poor season in 2014, leading the Bucs to their first division title since 1992.  The Cardinals will be there; they always are.  They haven’t gotten much better, however, and the division around them has.  They will fall slightly.  The Cubs had a very solid offseason, and look for prospects Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant (when he comes up) to have good campaigns.  The Brewers stay where they were last season, and Jonathan Lucroy has an MVP-caliber season.  Finally, the Reds have a poor season, suffering as the division pushes forward around them.

NL West

Team W L
San Diego Padres 88 74
Los Angeles Dodgers 84 78
San Francisco Giants 81 81
Colorado Rockies 72 90
Arizona Diamondbacks 69 93


Discussion:  The Padres take a leap forward this season, as the additions of Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, James Shields and others catapult the Pods to the division pennant.  The Dodgers take a step back with the losses of Hanley Ramirez and Dan Haren.  The Giants, in an odd-numbered year, take a step back as they lose Pablo Sandoval and, for the beginning of the season, Hunter Pence.  The Rockies and Diamondbacks, two rebuilding teams, round out the division basement, each losing at least 90 games.

AL East

Team W L
Baltimore Orioles 85 77
New York Yankees 82 80
Toronto Blue Jays 81 81
Boston Red Sox 80 82
Tampa Bay Rays 69 93


Discussion: This division only features one sure-fire basement team (the Rays).  The Red Sox improve off of last year, but weaknesses at pitcher and catcher will serve to hold them back.  The Blue Jays, besides the addition of Russell Martin, are not as strong as last year with the losses of Juan Francisco and Melky Cabrera.  The Yankees; who knows?  They could be anywhere from 60 to 90 wins, but on paper, they are an around .500 team.  And the Orioles, this year’s weakest division winner, will have just enough to win the division, along with the comeback of Manny Machado.

AL Central

Team W L
Cleveland Indians 89 73
Detroit Tigers 87 75
Kansas City Royals 83 79
Chicago White Sox 81 81
Minnesota Twins 69 93


Discussion: The Twins carry the bottom of this division, as they are still awaiting the development of Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, who are starting the season at class AA.  The White Sox improve off of last year’s showing with additions of Melky Cabrera, David Robertson and Jeff Samardzija help improve the team, but they are still weak at second base, right field and in the bullpen.  The Royals lose pieces from last year’s team, namely DH Billy Butler and ace James Shields; they take a small step back.  Finally, the Indians take a leap of faith to the top of the division, needing all-around solid seasons from Michael Brantley and Michael Bourn to do so.  The Tigers finish second, and have to be concerned over the plight of Justin Verlander.

AL West

Team W L
Seattle Mariners 95 67
Oakland A’s 86 76
Los Angeles Angels 84 78
Houston Astros 83 79
Texas Rangers 67 95


Discussion: The Mariners lead this division, as the addition of Nelson Cruz helps alleviate the pressure of Robinson Cano to produce.  Also, Felix Hernandez wins his second Cy Young leading one of baseball’s best pitching staffs.  The A’s are a mystery, but they will most likely be good enough for second in this division.  The Angels are also a mystery, but I have them behind the A’s because it remains to be seen if Josh Hamilton can figure himself out and if Albert Pujols can have another good season.  The Astros will be a surprise; they take a leap forward this year with the additions of Jed Lowrie and Evan Gattis.  Finally, the Rangers will easily finish last in the division after the season-ending injury to Yu Darvish.






Wild Card Game: Cardinals over Marlins





Wild Card Game: Tigers over A’s


(2)Pirates vs (3)Padres: Pirates in 5

(1)Nationals vs (4)Cardinals: Nationals in 4

(1)Nationals) vs (2)Pirates: Pirates in 7

Explanation: The Nationals easily dispose of the Cardinals in the first round, and the Pirates and Padres play a tightly contested series that goes the distance.  In a  7-game series, the pitching of the Pirates catches up to that of the Nats.  Also, their outfield (Marte, Polanco, and McCutchen) will be this year’s version of the Royals’ outfield last year.  The Pirates win the NL.


(1)Mariners vs (4)Tigers: Mariners in 4

(2)Indians vs (3)Orioles: Orioles in 5

(1)Mariners vs (3)Orioles: Mariners in 6

Explanation: The Mariners’ pitching coupled with enough offense gets them past the experienced Tigers.  The experience of the Orioles, along with the return of Manny Machado, leads them past the Indians.  Then, the Mariners defeat the Orioles in a solid championship series.  They take the pennant.

World Series: (2)Pirates vs (1)Mariners: This series will be tight.  However, the Mariners’ pitching, especially in a three or four-man rotation, allows few runs.  Also, Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano have sold series, and the talent on each side in too much for the Bucs.  Mariners win in 6.

Most importantly, this season will be fun.  Your guess is as good as mine as to who wins.