Thursday, October 8, 2015

Mets Chances in NLDS: "It's Not Impossible, Nothing is Impossible"

Three guys were sitting around discussing (and paraphrasing) the Mets chances of beating Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers in the NLDS.

Micheal: It's not impossible, nothing's impossible

Tom: I'd be like trying to kill the President, there's no way they can get to him

Michael: Tom, you know you surprise me. If anything in this life is certain, if sports has taught us anything, it's that you can beat anybody, Rocco

Rocco: Difficult, not impossible

In reality, the Mets are not facing Hyman Roth and the Rosato Brothers, but Kershaw and Zach Greinke can make their opponents an "offense" they can "defuse".

There's no denying the difficulty of beating a team with two of the best in the business, but as Micheal Corleone's bodyguard Rocco maintained, "difficult, not impossible" for the 2015 Mets.

As evidenced by the early games in the post season, home field has meant nothing.

I felt that opening on the road could serve the Mets better in this series. Now that comes with a disclaimer, if you will.

In a 3 of 5 series, the road team hopes to win at least one of the first two and then take their chances at home.

The caveat is, if you come home 1-1, that puts you in a position to win both of the next two at home (and you can still afford to lose one) and put the other team away without going back on the road for game five.

Opening on the road also puts a little more pressure on the home team, one that's already feeling a lot of heat entering the series because of their recent post season failures.

Again, it's not impossible for the road team to win game five, but first things first, win one of the first two but the Mets will be facing the most difficult "1-2 punch" in the sport.

Combine the fact that the team just did not hit down the stretch and has shown they can go into run scoring droughts, it makes the task sound even more daunting.

Realistically speaking, the Mets cannot expect their offense to suddenly wake up against those big guns, but it doesn't mean they can't be efficient.

Offensive efficiency will be a key vs Kershaw and Greinke because of their greatness.

What does that mean? Just this: fundamentals.

If they get an opportunity (and I know they got no-hit last Saturday) such as a runner on second with no out, it's imperative to move the runner to 3B,

Same goes for a runner on third and less than two out. That run has to score to have a chance to win a game like this.

Any failure in those situations will not just detract from the scoreboard, it would provide a "mental downer" and a lift for the opposition, something that an inexperienced playoff team may not be able to overcome.

The Mets will need to have an "outside the box" approach. They don't possess a lot of team speed, but that doesn't rule out using a good ol' fashioned "hit and run" play.

Kershaw's and Greinke's numbers are great against both left handed and right handed hitters but here are some underlying factors that may work in the Mets' favor.

Micheal Cuddyer (who will start against the lefty) is a career .338 hitter in the post season (25 hits in 74 AB) and is a career .290 vs. lefties (4 fo 16, .250 vs Kershaw)

Cuddyer's experience and leadership may not show up in the box score, but I have a feeling he'll make an important contribution.

David Wright has a career .365 mark against the Dodgers, .307 at Dodger Stadium. He has waited a long time for this return engagement and, thanks to his previous experience, will be better versed this time around.

Ruben Tejada has 5 hits in 14 career AB's (.357) against Kershaw because he has not been overaggressive in those at bats. It will be his job to "work the count" if possible and give the lineup some of the fundamentals as mentioned above because he can manipulate the bat.

From the left side, Daniel Murphy can go to the opposite field and that's one way to do anything against a guy who doesn't give much.

The only slight difference between the Dodgers starting pitchers and the Mets starting pitchers is experience.

The Mets starting staff is more than capable of dominating the Dodger hitters.Will they do it remains to be seen but the potential is there.

Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey in the first three will not be walk in the park for a lineup that, like the Mets, was in the middle of the pack in team offense rankings.

Limiting the damage from Adrian Gonzalez' bat will be key.

The young pitchers cannot allow LA's most dangerous hitter to come up with men on base. If the Mets stick to their regular season trend of few walks, they'll be in good shape.

Ol' friend Justin Turner has been the clean up hitter and he would love to stick it to his former team. The Mets will certainly harken back to his penchant for hitting the ball to right field and with the hard throwers they have, they'll need to adjust their defense accordingly.

Greinke is a very good hitter, but so is deGrom and Syndergaard is no slouch at the plate.

There's an interesting contrast of Cuban born players in Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig. Both are talented players and both lug along some baggage but Cespedes has been said to crave the "big stage" and he will certainly have his opportunity. Not to mention his impending free agency.

Puig is coming off a lengthy hamstring issue so his status bears watching as the series progresses.

The Mets have more depth in the bullpen but as we've seen in the past, some relievers can overachieve or underachieve in the post season. You never really know what you're going to get out of the pen.

Some of the intangible things to look for.

The Mets are keeping their fingers crossed that Murphy doesn't make one of his patented "bonehead" plays that could cost a game.

Don Mattingly's in-game managerial skills have come into question, but this is also Terry Collins' first go-round as a post season skipper.

It all adds up to what should be an exciting series but in making a pick I refer to the earlier portion of this post.

I think the Mets can grab one of the first two

Mets in four

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

At the End, the Yankees Were Exposed

The Yankees season literally rode on the flight of Colby Rasmus' second inning HR.

The ball hit an apex that was riding high and then it came down and landed at the edge of the RF bleachers.

The Yankee season hit an apex that was riding high, but then it plummeted down and landed in the Astros first-baseman Marwin Gonzalez' glove.

The Yankees were being exposed in the final weeks of the season, something that was developing throughout the second half, but it became more apparent with each passing inning last night. 

Let's try and break down what went wrong and "break down" is an appropriate term. They featured a roster that was filled with older veteran players and not much depth. That combination caused an offense (that was somehow second in the league in runs scored at one point) to fizzle down the stretch.

All season long, the Yankees rolled out an unbalanced lineup. 

They were too "left-handed" and relied way too much on the long ball. 

Having two left handed hitters at the top of the order turned into a disaster.

If Tony Gwynn and Rod Carew are your #1 and #2 hitters then you may have something there, but Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner. Yeah, it worked for a few months but it dried up real fast in the second half. Not to mention that they hardly ran and never really brought the factor of speed into play.

It's a big reason why the Yankees struggled against left hand pitching

Mgr. Joe Girardi's decision to start Gardner over Ellsbury back fired in a big way and an overwhelming number of those who called for the latter were not second guessers.

There was too much reliance on an older Alex Rodriguez. Yes, he had a solid comeback season when it was all said and done but his last two months and particularly September, you could see his bat had severely slowed down.

The Mark Teixeira injury hurt big time but without any production from the table setters, Tex's presence may not have mattered that much. If anything, the injury created an opportunity for Greg Bird to get some playoff experience and he had one of the Yankees three hits last night.

Enough of the offense, let's get to the bullpen.

Girardi got credit for his utilization of the 'pen in the first half of the season, but his M-O was to over use some of those arms and he paid for it.

Dellin Betances was not the same down the stretch. His fastball lacked life and the outstanding command that he displayed in the first five months disappeared. He didn't face as many base runners early on as he did in the final weeks, but the Astros knew they could steal on him and took full advantage.

The stolen base is not his fault but the walk to the first batter that he faced, Chris Carter, gave Houston a chance to go to their bench which was a little deeper than the Yankees. Betances was walking a lot more batters than ever down the stretch and you have to take into account all those multiple innings, when there were times Girardi could've stayed with a pitcher who was doing okay. Justin Wilson was throwing well but Girardi went to Betances with one out and no one on in the seventh and the right hander gave up a huge run.

Remember earlier this year when Girardi took out Wilson who had a 1-2 count on a left handed hitter who was batting .200 at the time and brought in Betances who walked that batter, and by the way, he got out of a jam of his own creation. In early September, he had a six run lead, two out and the bases loaded in the 7th inning at Fenway and he brought Betances in that game. Did he really need to use him there? He was lights out at that point of the season so why did he not trust someone else to get the final out of that inning.

The starters were inconsistent, and for the most part, unrealiable.

Nathan Eovaldi was 14-3 but was he really pitching to that record because his ERA was over four. Ya wanna go to the WHIP. His was 1.5 which meant he was putting on a runner and half every inning.

Masahiro Tanaka was very ordinary and a home run machine. Personally, and again this was not a second guess, I would've taken a chance and started Luis Severino last night. C.C. Sabathia was showing his age and mortality and Ivan Nova did not rebound well from Tommy John surgery.

It's going to take a few days to assess this Yankee season. Were they over or underachievers?

I felt all along that this was a flawed roster that was exceeding its expected output.

Let's not forget, this team blew a seven game lead in the division on August 28th and was fortunate to have a margin of error for the Wild Card game.

Sorry to say this but the product on the field this year was "stale" to say the least.

Attendance was down, TV rating were down and so was the overall interest. The game sold out last night but it didn't seem that way Monday night while the Mets sold their games out in no time.

The front office is going to have to come up with something a lot better to excite the fans next season.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Mets Are Not Sitting On The "Dock of the Bay" With Cuddyer

The Mets had quite the "off season day" yesterday.

Not only is Jacob deGrom named the National League Rookie of the Year (the first for the Mets in 30 years) but they sign a free agent that won't fall under the "here we go again" category.

You're gonna get your cynical Met fans who will never believe that the team ever makes a good signing, who will compare it to to every free agent bust from Jason Bay to Chris Young, but this one will be different for a number of reasons.

His numbers won't blow you away and you'll probably say that the Mets overpaid which brings us back to "here we go again", but this time, "here we go again" is finally, "here we go forward".

The Mets needed an outfield bat.

The Mets got an outfield bat that not only serves their short term purpose and enhances their offense with more than just numbers, but also leaves them one big move "short" of putting out a solid everyday lineup.

There are a lot of fans (like my longtime colleague Rich Mancuso who wrote this piece for New York Sports Examiner)

who will point to the fact that Cuddyer only played 49 games last season due to injuries.

For most of his 14-year career, Cuddyer has stayed on the field and I hear 'ya that he's 35 years old, but again, his impact will not be measured solely in numbers.

For a very long time, I've felt Cuddyer has been one of the most underrated players in baseball. He's a fundamentally sound player, and despite his high strikeout totals, he knows how to cut down his swing and get a run in from third with less than two out.

Cuddyer is a very dangerous hitter when he's ahead in the count and doesn't fail many times to take advantage of those situations.

Of course, the strikeouts rise when he's behind in the count, but he's a very good situational hitter, despite the "K's".

You slot Cuddyer into the five hole and he offers protection for Lucas Duda, especially against left handers who will have to throw a few more fastballs to avoid facing the righty,

Oh, did I forget to mention that he plays first-base and plays it pretty well (15 errors in 14 seasons) which offers some depth at that position.

What's notable here is that the front office bypassed the draft pick, signed a player who brings intangibles that have been lacking at CitiField in recent years, and completed a big step one of the off season blueprint.

"I think it's a big addition for us", David Wright told "In my opinion he's one of the most underrated players in the game. He's won a batting title and his #s speak for themselves but he's a terrific competitor and a great guy. It's a perfect fit for us and I'm really pumped."

Now comes step two and that's finding a shortstop.

There has been some talk that the Mets are showing interest in Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki but I wouldn't go there.

You talk about not being able to stay on the field and Tulo is the "poster boy". He's also coming off major hip surgery.

Tulowitzki will earn $20 million dollars a year through 2020 with a team option of $15 million for 2021 or a $4 million dollar buyout.

Step 2a is finding a leadoff batter.

Jose Reyes would solve both needs but the Blue Jays may not be willing, and who knows if the Mets would be willing to go there again.

Alexei Ramirez would be an interesting addition but could he be a steady presence at lead off?

If they keep Daniel Murphy at two, then 3-7 would look like, hopefully a healthy Wright, followed by Lucas Duda at clean up; Cuddyer at five, Curtis Granderson would hit sixth and Travis d'Arnaud at seven. That's a very nice balance of alternating left handed and right handed hitters, which can put pressure on even the deep bullpens around the league.

If the Mets acquire a shortstop who doesn't bat lead off, then maybe you have to give Juan Lagares an extended look in the top spot in the order.

The Mets need a shortstop who's at least a solid fielder (Ramirez) and pretty good hitter, and that could lengthen the lineup even more.

The front office is on the clock this off season and so far, they're on the way to meeting that deadline of February 2015.