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Mets Game 1 Recap: It’s Good To Be Back In The Balkans April 4, 2017

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Robert Gsellman, closer, apparently

Although the absence of Jeurys Familia loomed large for the Mets, the bullpen didn’t end up being as much of a concern as many of us expected for the first several innings of the Mets’ first game of the season. Although Hansel Robles pitched a perfect inning to relieve Noah Syndergaard in a 0-0 game, by the time Fernando Salas came in the game was well in hand. Fifth starter Robert Gsellman closed the game, presumably on his throw day, to avoid using an additional reliever to finish off a game that was already over.

This was a three-part story: first, the Mets’ productive batters; second, the Braves’ depressing bullpen; and third, bullpen pitchers stepping up.

Asdrubal Cabrera hit in 3 of 5 plate appearances and stole a base, totaling a .191 increase in the Mets’ win probability. That was more than double the next best Mets hitter, the surprisingly patient Jay Bruce, who added .073 win probability going 0-1 with three walks. Bruce currently has a .750 OBP and a .000 batting average, but he’s never been much of a walker: his OBP-BA split was .059 last year and has hovered between .06 and .07 for most of his career.

As soon as Julio Teheran handed the reins to lefty Ian Krol in the seventh inning, things started to unravel. Catcher Rene Rivera singled, followed by pinch hitter Wilmer Flores getting on via fielder’s choice and swiping second, Jose Reyes walking, and Cabrera driving Flores home. In a weird matchup decision, righty Chaz Roe came in and walked Yoenis Cespedes, only to be immediately lifted for lefty Eric O’Flaherty to face Curtis Granderson. A sac fly later, Reyes was home. The aptly-named Neil Walker took first on balls after Cespedes stole second. Bruce walked to force Cabrera in, Lucas Duda doubled the bases clear, and Travis d’Arnaud walked. Jose Ramirez came in to pick up the pieces, and despite a passed ball by Tyler Flowers, he coaxed a groundout from Flores to end the six-run, four-walk inning.

O’Flaherty had a difficult 2016, and despite being a left specialist, he was nothing special against either group of batters: he allowed lefties a .288/.329/.439 slash line, and his numbers against right-handers were even worse.

Hansel Robles and Fernando Salas both acquitted themselves admirably, Salas with two strikeouts and Robles with two groundouts and a K. Those two groundouts are key for Robles, who struggles with the longball. He allowed 7 homers in 77 2/3 innings with around a .44 ground/fly ratio on a close-to-average .308 BAbip. In a small park like Citi Field, that low ground/fly is a dangerous number, so it was great to see him keeping the ball down.

The Mets are idle today and line up against Bartolo Colon on Wednesday. Expect a similar bullpen, with Robles in high-leverage situations to keep closer Addison Reed fresh, and probably expect to see Reed either way.


Free at last! (Mets Game 16 Preview) April 23, 2016

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Matt Harvey finally notched his first win of the year, going 5 innings with 7 hits, 2 runs (both earned), 1 walk (to Nick Markakis), and 5 strikeouts. That walk came in the fifth inning, when Harvey has traditionally labored; fortunately, a dead-on throw from Yoenis Cespedes to Travis d’Arnaud kept A.J. Pierzynski from bringing Markakis home to end the fifth and get Harvey through the minimum.

Freddie Freeman. Photo: Bruce Tuten via Wikimedia Commons

Freddie Freeman. Photo: Bruce Tuten via Wikimedia Commons

Cespedes extended his streak of extra-base hits to 7; over those 7 games, he’s hitting .345/.406/.931 with a .400 batting average on balls in play. In the first 8 games of the season, he hit .233/.324/.333 with a .333 BAbip. The Mets were 3-5 during those first 8 games and 5-2 during Cespedes’ streak. Yo left the game after an extended rain delay due to aggravating his leg injury sliding into second for last night’s double; Juan Lagares may make the start in center tonight. Ces has never faced Braves pitcher Jhoulys Chacin, but Lagares is 2-6 lifetime against him with a double.

Curtis Granderson hit two home runs including one grand slam, along with a single, for 9 total bases and 5 RBIs. One of those RBIs came when Harvey made it to first on a throwing error by the pitcher, trying to force Asdrubal Cabrera out at third. On this road trip, Granderson is hitting .353/.476/.941 on a close-to-league-average .300 BAbip. Granderson is 1-2 with a walk against Chacin. Neil Walker is .333/.333/.556 against Chacin in 9 plate appearances.

Freddie Freeman extended his lifetime hitless streak against Matt Harvey to 9 plate appearances with a pop foul, a flyout, and a swinging K. Freeman hasn’t hit well this year (.167/.318/.241, compared to last year’s .276/.370/.471), but he’s been fairly good against current Mets: he has an OPS above 1 against 5 Mets pitchers, including starter Steven Matz(1-3, walk), relievers Addison Reed (1-2) and Jerry Blevins (3-7), and closer Jeurys Familia (5-11, walk, 2 home runs). Freeman hit .246/.317/.509 in his first 15 games last year, so his OBP isn’t too big a surprise – it’s really the last of extra-base hits that’s causing the Braves trouble.

Steven Matz is largely unproven against the Braves. His only previous start against Atlanta was in September of last year, allowing 6 hits and 2 walks for 1 run. Current Braves have hit him reasonably well, so it will be good to see whether Matz continues what he started last time out or whether he looks more like his first start against Miami.

Daniel Castro 3 3 2 0 0 1 1 0 0 .667 .667 1.667 2.333
Freddie Freeman 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 .500 .667 .500 1.167
Adonis Garcia 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667
Nick Markakis 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667
Matt Wisler 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Total 14 13 5 0 0 1 1 1 1 .385 .429 .615 1.044
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/23/2016.

AJ Pierzynski is a double-edged sword (Game 152 Preview) September 23, 2015

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Williams Perez starts tonight against Bartolo Colon in a game that, for the Mets, isn’t must-win. Still, it’s a game the Mets want to win to push their magic number (currently Wally Backman) down in order to clinch before the Nationals come to town.

ASIDE: The Mets’ magic number is 6. Winning tonight pushes it down to 5, meaning that the Mets could clinch just in time by going 3-1 against the Reds and 2-1 against the Phillies, even if the Orioles lose both remaining games to the Nationals. We can’t count on Washington losing to the Phillies, the Reds, or the Braves, so it’s imperative that the Mets force that number into 1967 Sandy Alomar territory.

With rookie catcher Christian Bethancourt out with a thumb injury, A.J. Pierzynski will catch Perez tonight. Pierzynski has been hard on Bartolo Colon this year – 5 singles in 12 plate appearances – compared to his career numbers against Colon (.271/.317/.4o7). Shortstop Andrelton Simmons has also brutalized Bart this year, 7-10 with a triple and two doubles for a .700/.727/1.100 slash line (and a career .550/.571/.750 line).

Pierzynski, though, hasn’t been Perez’s best batterymate. Perez has a season ERA of 5.16, but 5.26 in 66 innings with Pierzynski. With A.J. behind the plate, Perez allowed 3 runs to the Mets in a 6-inning no-decision on the way to a September 12 loss.

Despite Arodys Vizcaino‘s performance last night, the Mets can continue to beat up on the bullpen. Their best bet tonight is to wear Perez out as quickly as possible and get Fredi Gonzalez to go to his pen early.

Mets Game 150 Quick Preview September 21, 2015

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Jonathon Niese has started three games against Atlanta this year, and in two of the three, he’s allowed unearned runs. His ERA in three games against Atlanta this year is 2.03, but his runs per 9 is 3.57. With last night’s defensive struggles in mind, and Niese’s difficulties, Terry Collins needs to be especially mindful of having a strong defense behind Jonathon tonight.

Gary Carter and Quackerjack

Gary Carter and Quackerjack

Meanwhile, Shelby Miller is on a skid – the Braves have lost both of his starts against the Mets this year, and Miller has put up a 4.38 ERA in his two starts against New York. Miller has an 8.36 ERA in three September starts, all losses, with a horrific .408 batting average on balls in play. Besides the defense, though, he’s putting up a .414 OBP-against and a 1.71 K/BB control ratio (2.00 if you remove a single intentional walk). Those numbers are a bit inflated because Miller faced a blistering Mets squad on September 10 and the Blue Jays on the 16th; though he may have a bad time, this is not a pitcher who the Mets should look past, particularly with Yoenis Cespedes still recovering from the slump he broke out of last year.

With the magic number stuck at Gary Carter‘s 8, this is a crucial series for the Mets. The Braves have been vile this year, and even if the Nationals go 2-1 against the Orioles, the Mets can push the magic number down to 5 by the end of this series with just 2 wins against the Braves. That means splitting a series with the Reds puts it at 3, even if the Nationals sweep the Phillies, giving the Mets a chance to either put it away by sweeping the Phillies themselves (clinching by October 1) or, if they win 2, coming into the season-ending series against Washington needing only to avoid a sweep. Again, that’s assuming the Nationals don’t help us out at all, taking 2 against the Orioles, sweeping the Phillies, winning their single game against the Reds, and sweeping the Braves.

Mets Game 143 Recap – 2-out RBIs a-go-go! September 14, 2015

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After yesterday afternoon’s roller coaster, the Mets are at magic number 11. That’s after a – frankly – ridiculous outing where the Mets were actually at a prior 0% win probability. Peter Moylan‘s strikeout of Kevin Plawecki in the ninth inning, 3 runs up, actually moved the win probability to 100% for the Braves, meaning (roughly) that from that state there was no expectation that the Mets would win the game. Never one to listen to statistics, Juan Lagares doubled, Curtis Granderson walked, and Daniel Murphy promptly tied the game with a home run. That’s three two-out RBIs. Later on, Kirk Nieuwenhuis scored from 3rd when Plawecki reached on an error with two outs. Lagares walked, and then Granderson walked to force in Ruben Tejada, and Murphy walked to force Plawecki home. Though Kevin didn’t get an RBI for his play Granderson and Murphy each notched a 2-out RBI.

For the Braves’ part, Andrelton Simmons and Adonis Garcia each notched an RBI with two outs as well.

There’s an underlying mythology that Mets fans hold – the Mets are killer in the clutch. They play better with 2 outs than any other team. For the most part, that’s actually true – the Mets lead the league in 2-out RBIs in 2015 with 266. What’s more, they’re fourth-best in the league on defense, with only 174 2-out RBIs allowed this year. They’re in the upper half for go-aheads with 2 outs, as well, with 47 (behind the Yankees’ 58 and nine other teams).

One side note: the Mets have 13 walks with the bases loaded – that is, run-scoring walks. Granderson leads the team with 5. Of those 13, 12 – Twelve! – came with two outs. Other teams have 194 walks with the bases loaded, and 102 of them came with two outs. After Granderson’s five, seven players (Jose Bautista, Yonder Alonso, Michael Brantley, Marcel Ozuna, Francisco Lindor, Josh Donaldson, and Logan Forsythe) are tied with 3. All three of Donaldson and Lindor’s RBI walks came with two outs; take note, there are two Blue Jays in that list. The Blue Jays have five walks with the bases loaded and two outs.

That’s right. The Blue Jays, combined, have as many of those as Curtis Granderson, and Granderson’s have all come since August 8. The Mets’ team OBP had hovered between .290 and .311 for the first few months of the season, but ballooned to .337 in August and .378 in twelve September games. The Mets have been setting the table and when you play the game right, these oportunities present themselves.

Clippard’s Vulture Win and the Braves’ Double Plays September 13, 2015

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During last night’s 6-4 win over the Braves, Mets setup man Tyler Clippard allowed three runs in the eighth, when Adonis Garcia hit a game-tying home run. Tyler finished the inning gamely, and then (through no fault of Clippard’s) the Mets scored two runs – Kelly Johnson batted Eric Young, Jr., home off of closer Arodys Vizcaino, and Yoenis Cespedes batted Johnson home off of reliever Peter Moylan.

Clippard’s sixth blown save of the year was a special kind of decision called a vulture win, which exists when a pitcher blows a save but gets the win anyway. It was Tyler’s first this year. Jeurys Familia relieved him immediately in the ninth for the save. Of the 492 blown saves thus far in 2015, 185 were in games the pitcher’s team won. Vulture wins are a very tiny proportion of those blown saves. Brad Boxberger has two; so do David Robertson, Greg Holland, J.J. Hoover, John Axford, Justin Wilson, and Luke Gregerson. No one has three this year.

In addition, the Braves (led by Andrelton Simmons) turned four inning-ending double plays with a runner on third. Of the 2228 inning-ending double plays this year, 429 came with third base occupied. Atlanta, including last night’s 4, has turned 27, or over 6% of them – almost double what would be expected. The Cubs have turned the fewest, with 6. 7, including all four of last night’s, were turned behind Braves starter Williams Perez.

Behind all of this, Noah Syndergaard shined, facing 223 batters in 7 innings of one-run baseball. Despite his hopeless inability to bunt (which set up a double play with Wilmer Flores on third), he managed to pitch to a 76 game score and hold the game in check so that even Clippard’s buzzarding didn’t cause any major issues.

Mets Game 141 – Expect big things! September 11, 2015

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Atlanta scored 2 runs last night, significantly below their season average of 3.59. Even their average is half a run below the National League’s 4.12 run-per-game mark. That’s a fantastic situation for Mets starter Steven Matz, who will no doubt feel under some pressure to maintain his 1.89 ERA; Matz is facing an Atlanta lineup that has produced 30 runs over their last 10 games, including 7 and 8 against the Phillies, who may technically be their own AAA team at this point.

Matz is coming off a finger blister that the Mets say probably wont affect his pitching. Nonetheless, Bartolo Colon, Dario Alvarez, and Addison Reed combined to keep the bullpen fairly fresh tomorrow. That means that if Matz falters early, Sean Gilmartin is available for long relief; Tyler Clippard and Jeurys Familia are both rested in the case of a tight game. Though Bobby Parnell has had a rough season, I fully expect Terry Collins to use him in case of a big deficit. Hansel Robles is unavailable; no date has been set for his return.

Arodys Vizcaino hasn’t pitched since the 7th. He hasn’t allowed a run on long rest this season and has tended to pitch better on longer rest. Starter Matt Wisler had a stellar throw-day relief appearance on the 6th, though he’s been inconsistent this year. Rested starters David Wright, Daniel Murphy, and Travis d’Arnaud may take advantage of Wisler’s up and down year. However, note that Wisler threw 8 innings of 1-run ball against the Mets on June 19; it was a 1-0 game but for a double allowed by Gilmartin in the 8th. It’s tough to say which Wisler you’ll get, but we’re fortunate to have a tight bullpen in case our rookie starter is just good and not great.

Preview for Mets Game 140, September 10 September 10, 2015

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Coming into tonight’s game against the Mets, the Braves are on a Meh streak: they took two from a terrible Phillies team over the past few nights, with scores of 7-2, 0-5, 8-1. Closer Arodys Vizcaino hasn’t pitched since the first game of that series; over those three games, the Braves bullpen threw 6 innings and gave up 3 runs, but all of those were in the 0-5 loss. The bullpen has thrown 422 1/3 innings this year and has a 4.67 ERA, but expect to see Vizcaino regardless as it’s been a few days since he worked.

Starter Shelby Miller has been hot and cold; he’s coming off a 4 1/3, 6-earned-run outing on September 5th, and he’s allowed 3 or more earned runs in three of his last four. However, when he’s good, he’s good: he has 2 complete games this year, both shutouts. Miller will probably be given a lot of rope tonight, which is fantastic for Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy; Murphy is 3 for 7 lifetime against Miller with a double, and Duda is 3 for 8 with a double and a home run. David Wright is 3 for 6 against Miller, with Juan Uribe 1 for 7; Uribe’s OPS in Turner Field is an anemic .638, so expect to see Juan as a pinch hitter if you see him at all.

The Closer Monkey has Tyler Clippard on the vulture save watch because Jeurys Familia has pitched in the last three games, but Clippard has pitched in three of the last four and allowed runs in two of them; Clippard may come in for emergency firefighting, but with Clippard and Familia both fairly gassed (6 2/3 innings combined since September 6), I think it’s more likely we’ll see Hansel Robles handed the eighth and Addison Reed take the ninth. Again, that’s if we see them at all; Bartolo Colon hasn’t pitched back-to-back complete games since 2003, but the way the Mets have been hitting, Bart may get us seven or eight good innings and a strong lead. In that case we’d be more likely to see Bobby Parnell given an opportunity to win the fans back.

Quickie: Balk-Offs June 1, 2010

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Last night, Esmerling Vasquez took the loss in relief for Arizona against the Dodgers. In the bottom of the 9th inning with the score tied, Vasquez balked with a runner on third, bringing in the winning run.

Balks are fun. The rule is designed to keep the pitcher from “deceiving the baserunner,” but also serves to encourage good fundamentals in young pitchers at the lower levels of play. For example, it’s a balk to even accidentally drop the ball.

Walk-off balks (balk-offs) are fairly rare. It’s not surprising that Vasquez, a sophomore in MLB, was fooled by Casey Blake, because balks can result from inexperience, and it’s fairly rare to have an inexperienced pitcher throwing the bottom of the 9th inning in a tied game. I ran a search on Baseball-Reference.com for losing pitchers with at least one balk who finished the game for the visiting team, which are necessary conditions (but not sufficient) to find a balk-off. After wading through the game logs, I found that the most recent balk-off was almost two years ago, when Colorado visited Atlanta in September of 2008. Taylor Buchholz balked in Kelly Johnson to take the loss.

Buchholz was in his third (and so far final) major-league season and is best known for having allegedly failed a trade physical when Houston tried to trade him to the White Sox. He’s still with Colorado and currently on the 60-day DL for Tommy John surgery.

Quickie: The World Series NL DH October 23, 2008

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Things are fairly busy – it’s midterm time, and in my spare time I’ve been crunching numbers on the Canadian federal election. I’ve also been following Theron over at Recondite Baseball, who did a very interesting post about pitchers responsible for a high percentage of their team’s wins. I’d like to take a look at something that I consider to be the opposite: the poor guy who ends up playing DH for the National League team.