Game Chatter: Jacob deGrom vs Jose Fernandez (7/23/16)

Reggie Jackson Joins RailRiders Ownership Group

The RailRiders were rained out in Norfolk Sunday. They travel to Durham next.

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RiverDogs Fall Flat, Drop Series Finale to West Virginia, 4-2

Gosuke Katoh  (Charleston RiverDogs)

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Ben Gamel Leads RailRiders’ Thrilling Comeback

Ben Gamel with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders  (Cheryl Pursell)

All-Star Outfielder Drives in Winning Run in … [visit site to read more]

Plenty of Baserunners, Not Enough Runs in 5-2 Loss

Trenton Thunder Pitcher  Dan Camarena Photo by Martin Griff)

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The 2016 Mets and the buy or sell decision

Blend logoWith their win Friday night, the Mets move to 51-44, which is five games behind the Nationals in the NL East and a half game behind in the race for the last Wild Card slot. Yet somehow we’ve heard fans mention that this isn’t shaping up to be the Mets’ year and that they should be sellers at the trade deadline. The logic there being that if the team can trade some pieces now for help in the next two years, that it will be more likely to result in playoff spot(s) than if they stood still or were buyers for this season.

It’s reminiscent of the 1997 White Sox and the “White Flag” deals the club made. That team was led by future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, who wound up winning the batting title that year. It had a strong supporting cast on offense and solid pitching. But at the end of July, GM Ron Schueler decided that they were not going to make the playoffs and he traded four players, including three pitchers, for prospects. The club was only three games out when the deals were made and the reaction in Chicago and around MLB was, “Why?”

Relievers Keith Foulke and Bob Howry, acquired in the White Flag deals, played roles on the 2000 White Sox, who won 95 games and made the playoffs. But the ’97, ’98 and ’99 Sox all finished under .500, as Chicago wasted three years of Thomas’ prime. And the 2000 club lost the Division Series and the club did not return to the playoffs until 2005, when neither Foulke nor Howry were still on the club.

Did the White Sox make the right call? There’s no guarantee that they would have made the playoffs in 1997 if they had kept their roster intact or if they supplemented it. But the prospects they received in return for a shot at the current season led to just one playoff appearance in eight years. It just goes to show the fragile nature of clubs in playoff contention.

We get spoiled with teams like the Cardinals and Dodgers, clubs where a two-year span without making the playoffs is considered a drought. The goal is to become like those teams yet the vast majority of clubs fall short.

The 2016 Mets are two games ahead of where the Mets were after 95 games played last year. That’s both good and bad. It’s always good to be ahead of the pace of a team that won 90 games. However, recall that the 2015 Mets went 30-11 from August 1 through September 14. If this year’s team wants to finish where the 2015 club did, you’d figure they would need to be in better shape now because they’re unlikely to match a .732 winning percentage over 41 games.

The 2015 club went on that torrid pace in no small part because of deals to bring in Yoenis Cespedes, as well as two key relievers and two solid bench players. Yet the third week of July, not many people were overjoyed with the prospects of the 2015 club. Let’s pull some quotes from the Gut Reactions in this time frame:

July 20
“We didn’t even have hope.”
“I have zero faith in Nero.”
“It feels pretty hopeless.”
“All over the field, this team is incapable.”

July 22
“Look this team is not that good.”

July 23
“An utter disgrace.”
“What I see is abject failure.”
“Clearly the offense is completely impotent.”
“Consultation with my Magic 8 Ball this morning yielded the word ‘Sell.’”

Fortunately, the team didn’t sell. Instead it picked up some pieces, got guys back from the DL and ended up in the World Series. Certainly, one can argue that lightning won’t strike twice. It’s also been suggested that if the club makes Amed Rosario untouchable that there’s nothing left with which to buy. That seems like an extremely pessimistic view, especially given that we’ve already traded a minor league guy with a 5.7 BB/9 for a guy who’s been a productive member of our bench in Kelly Johnson.

The Mets have two more games left against the Marlins and three against the Cardinals in their next five. That concludes a stretch where 23 of the 26 games they played were against teams above .500 for the year. The Mets have gone 11-10 so far in this span, one that easily could have buried them given their well-documented issues.

In August and September, the Mets have a very favorable closing schedule. They have a tough 10-game road trip, with stops in Arizona, San Francisco (four games) and St. Louis. They have home and away series against the Nationals. But they have 10 home games against the bottom three teams in the NL West, three games against both the Reds and Twins, 10 games against the Phillies, six against the Braves and six more against a Marlins team that they’ve beaten six of the last eight times they’ve played.

And if it comes down to a last-minute run, the Mets play 13 of their final 16 games against teams below .500 and the three that are against a winning club are against the Marlins. No doubt some of you are thinking that the Mets don’t play well against poor clubs. That may or may not be true. But if push came to shove, would you rather play the Nationals or the Phillies with the season on the line?

Assuming they don’t go 0-5 in the conclusion to this tough stretch, the Mets are in a decent position to make the playoffs. The bottom line is that it’s hard for me to recommend being sellers when a playoff berth is within reach. It’s unlikely they’ll be able to add a piece as dynamic as Cespedes this time around. The good news is that they really don’t have to. A righty OF bat would be nice and we shouldn’t turn up our nose at a solid relief option.

To me, the big question isn’t buy or sell. Instead, the main decision Sandy Alderson should be wrestling with is if he wants to trade for a starting pitcher, which would allow him to move either Bartolo Colon or Logan Verrett to the pen. In his last three starts against teams above .500, Colon has allowed 14 ER in 16 IP.

Should Alderson be willing to part with Dominic Smith, a 21 year old former first round pick in Double-A, who in his last 40 games is slashing .331/.401/.559? He should be able to headline a deal for a Jose Quintana type. Quintana falls under the radar, due to his more celebrated teammate Chris Sale and his so-so W-L marks. But the 27 year old has a 3.13 ERA and a 1.132 WHIP pitching in the DL league and would be a strong acquisition.

The White Sox, who were leading the division as late as May 27, have fallen on hard times and are now under .500 and in fourth place in the AL West, 7.5 games outside of the final Wild Card spot. That’s a team that should be sellers, not the Mets.

Gut Reaction: Mets 5, Marlins 3 (7/22/16)

The Mets won for the 11th time in 12 games after a scheduled day off with a 5-3 win over the Marlins Friday night in Miami. The Mets moved within a half game of the Marlins and five games of the Nationals, who lost to the Padres.

  • Jose Reyes returned to Miami and had a strong game against his old mates. He led off the first with a double, stole third (although he would have been out if the catcher didn’t drop the ball) and scored on a SF by Yoenis Cespedes. Reyes also had an RBI single in the fourth and scored another run on a Cespedes SF in the 7th.
  • James Loney did not start but came on as a defensive replacement and delivered an upper deck 2-run homer in the 9th inning that proved to be key insurance runs, as Jeurys Familia allowed a run in the ninth.
  • The setup men did another fine job. Hansel Robles delivered 1.2 scoreless innings and Addison Reed overpowered the Marlins in the eighth inning. The Mets scored three runs off the Marlins’ bullpen while the Fish only scored once against the Mets’ pen in 3.2 innings of work.
  • The Mets have won six of their last eight games against the Marlins.

Game Chatter: Logan Verrett vs Adam Conley (7/22/16)

The unexpected power from James Loney and Jose Reyes

In baseball’s traditional setup, non-catcher division, you had your speed guys up the middle and your power guys at the corners. The Mets have essentially punted speed but they certainly expected to get power from Lucas Duda and David Wright at the infield corners. And more or less they did. But now both of those players are on the DL and the Mets went dumpster diving for their replacements.

Generally, guys you can pick up for a song midseason are not very good. If they were good, someone would have gobbled them up before June. Sure, maybe you get someone with a well-timed BABIP streak and you get someone who contributes with singles. But the idea that you can get power midseason for free is almost laughable.

James LoneyYet, that’s exactly what the Mets have done. They certainly didn’t intend for it to work out this way but they’ve got to be thrilled with the results. In over 5,000 PA in the majors prior to this year, James Loney had a .126 lifetime ISO. Last year he posted a .077 ISO. After 170 PA this year, he carries a .147 mark. In over 7,000 PA in the majors previously, Jose Reyes had a .141 ISO and last year he posted a .104 mark in the category. This year he has a remarkable .298 ISO.

When he first came up, Loney showed some extra base promise. But he never really delivered on it, generally falling 50 to 75 points shy of the .206 ISO he posted in his first extended playing time in 2007. What he’s done so far is a surprise because of his track record in the majors. If you just looked at him, you wouldn’t be shocked to hear he was a 20-HR guy. Yet his MLB high was the 15 he hit in 375 PA back in ’07.

No one would ever expect power from Reyes. Sure, you’d expect him to hit some doubles and triples because of his speed. But his swing never really cried out home run hitter. Yet here he is with 3 HR in his first 47 ABs this year. And it’s not just homers, as seven of Reyes’ 10 hits have gone for extra bases.

The Mets got both guys figuring they would help their all-or-nothing offense. They hoped Reyes would be a catalyst at the top of the lineup and they hoped Loney would deliver timely hits to help their woeful RISP performance. Meanwhile, Reyes has been pretty much a bust as a leadoff guy, with just a .269 OBP and has scored just four runs in 12 games without the aid of a homer. And Loney has hit singles about as well as expected but they haven’t been clutch and he holds a negative WPA.

However, to this point, they’ve been offensive assets because of their power.

The big question for the Mets going forward is if these two guys can keep it up. In his last 13 games, Loney has delivered just one extra base hit, a double on July 15. And after contributing five XBH in his first six games, Reyes has produced two in his last six games. That would be a good rate if he was getting on base at a regular clip. But he’s batting just .174 and has a .231 OBP in that admittedly tiny sample.

Reyes has batted exclusively at leadoff while Loney has hit anywhere from third to seventh in the order. In his last 21 games, he’s batted fourth or fifth 20 times. We want Reyes to be the dynamic leadoff guy we remember from his first stint with the club but that guy no longer exists. In reality, he should be batting eighth or ninth and given instructions to take as many pitches and draw as many walks as possible.

Loney should be batting just above Reyes. It may not be ideal to have someone as slow as Loney potentially keeping Reyes from legging out a triple by already being on first base. But a Loney single followed by a Reyes walk could give the pitchers a chance to sacrifice and put two guys in scoring position. You know, assuming those guys could bunt.

Timmy Robinson’s Two HR Night Powers Staten Island to Victory

Staten Island Yankees outfielder Timmy Robinson watches as the ball he hits goes over the fence for a homerun in the first inning of the game against the Tri-City Valley Cats on July 21, 2016. (Robert M. Pimpsner/RMP Sports Media, Inc.)

STATEN ISLAND, NY – During the month of July, the … [visit site to read more]