Baseball

The one thing you can count on is that the Mets will always try and destroy anything special about themselves. But this being the Mets, they can’t ever be consistently successful at anything, which every so often works to their benefit. Take their acquisition of Marcus Stroman. There is no one on this planet who believes that getting Stroman was part of some short-term or long-term plan. Most believe he was insurance to make up the gap when either Zack Wheeler or Noah Syndergaard were traded mere hours later.

But neither happened. And even with Wheeler likely to move along in the winter in free agency, the Mets are better than they were for 2020 with Jacob deGrom, Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Stroman. It certainly wasn’t the plan, but thanks to the Mets inability to always shoot themselves in the face, they’ve come out ahead.

And their handling of Syndergaard all season matches that kind of confusion and goofiness. From spring training on, Thor has heard trade rumors and whispers that the Mets didn’t want him anymore. Of course, deGrom heard the same thing during the winter, and then he ended up with a fat new contract extension. You never know which way the wind blows with the Mets.

It seems ridiculous that the Queens Club would ever consider moving Syndergaard along. After all, this is probably still the best pure stuff in the game, and in the team photo if it’s not. He’s also under team control for another two seasons after this one, so even if he gets a good settlement in arbitration the next two years he’s still probably coming in at value. He’s also only 26. Could you ever get more than 75 cents on the dollar for him? What were the Mets thinking?

Well, this is the Mets, so there’s never a guarantee they ever were. Certainly health played a role. Syndergaard missed most of 2017 with arm problems, and only made 25 starts last year. Considering how hard he throws everything, the idea that his arm would never be able to hold up isn’t a farcical notion. So naturally, because logic never applied to Queens, he’s taken the ball for every start this season. Maybe that takes its toll down the road, or maybe he’s finally matured into the burden he asks his arm and body to carry.

Syndergaard has clashed with the Mets brass in the past, as he definitely is a free thinker. But that would seem ultimately petty, at least it would for most any other organization in any sport. But again…METS.

Perhaps the Mets thought, or still think, that Syndergaard is just never going to live up to what they original hype, what the stuff suggests, and what he’s flashed in the past. Considering he’s got their repertoire, Thor has never vaulted himself into Cy contention with deGrom or Scherzer or Verlander or the like. His best season was ’17, but his strikeout rate has declined in each of the next two seasons. And his walks have increased.

However, it’s not like his stuff has got worse. His fastball averages 98 MPH, and while he’s lost velocity on both the slider and curve, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Syndergaard has gone away from his slider more this season, but has used his four-seam more rather than a sinker, even though he threw a sinker at 97 goddamn miles-per-hour. Still, you’d think you’d get more Ks from him considering how hard he throw.

But like we discussed with Giolito earlier today, or rather opposite of that, Thor doesn’t use the upper part of the zone with it nearly as much:

Which seems a shame, because there’s gold for him higher than he’s using his fastball:

But he just doesn’t use it as a put-away pitch:

He also doesn’t use his curve enough at all, especially with two strikes, because it gets half whiffs when anyone swings at it. Just overthinking things?

Still, you’d bet on something being unlocked with Syndergaard much more than him just being a pretty good #2 starter–which admittedly is all the Mets need him for when they have deGrom. But when you’ve got this guy for cheap for the next couple years, why let him go?

It’s the Mets, so what they really want is to be cheap. And while Thor isn’t expensive yet, the prospects he would have brought back are even cheaper. And now that Pete Alonso is up, the Mets don’t have much in the minors. But still, with this pitching staff next year, and Alonso, Conforto, and McNeil in the lineup, the Mets can’t be all that far away from competing. That is if they’d stop doing dumbass things like getting Robinson Cano‘s name and wasting what little money they deign to spend. Or trying to crowbar Jay Bruce into the lineup like last year. Or playing Todd Frazier ahead of J.D. Davis at third.

But it’s the Mets. You can always overdose on logic when studying them.

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Mets 35-39   Cubs 40-33

GAMETIMES: Thursday 7:05, Friday-Sunday 1:20

TV: Thursday WGN, Friday NBCSN, Saturday and Sunday ABC

ASLEEP ON THE 7 TRAIN: Mets Blog

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Walker Lockett vs. Tyler Chatwood

Jason Vargas vs. Yu Darvish

Zack Wheeler vs. Jose Quintana

Jacob deGrom vs. Cole Hamels

PROBABLE METS LINEUP

Jeff McNeil – LF

Pete Alonso – 1B

Robinson Cano – 2B

Michael Conforto – RF

Wilson Ramos – C

Todd Frazier – 3B

Amed Rosario – SS

Juan Lagares – CF

PROBABLE CUBS LINEUP

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Kris Bryant – 3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Willson Contreras – C

Jason Heyward – RF

David Bote – 2B

Albert Almora Jr. – CF

 

As the Cubs return to regularly schedules National League action, they’ll be greeted by the visit of the ship that always seems to be facing the wrong way, the New York Mets. What is it about teams in this shade of blue and orange? There’s a lot of similarities between the Mets and Edmonton Oilers, from the greatness in the 80s to the seemingly unable to get out of their own way methods of the past decade to wasting the prime of generational talents like deGrom and now possibly Pete Alonso. It was ever thus with the Mets.

Alonso is the story on the offensive side for the Metropolitans. He’s third in the NL in homers with 24, seventh in slugging, and has propped up a lineup that has had to drag along too many guys, including Robinson Cano who was supposed to be the dragger and not the dragee. Other Mets system products like Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil have done most of the rest of the heavy lifting. The offense took something of a hit when Brandon Nimmo‘s neck was filled with bugs and Yeonis Cespedes’s feet were the recipient of a witch’s curse (though Cespedes has never been that good), which forced Juan Legares into the lineup every day pretty much. Todd Frazier has been just about average, as has Wilson Ramos. It’s a line up that just screams, “fine.” There are some clear holes.

The rotation is about what you’d expect, though it’s had what are no its usual injury problems, as every member of it has missed a start or two and had to have some weird microscopes or resonance tests. It’s very Mets. deGrom, Thor, and Wheeler have also suffered from what is still a subpar Mets defense, as they’re carrying far lower FIPs than ERAs. The Cubs will only have to see two of them this weekend in Wheeler and deGrom, whose matchup with Hamels on Sunday is going to be the main event of this series. That’s not to discount Vargas who has been able to dance through the rain drops this year with some heavy fly ball ways and some righteous BABIP Kung Fu Treachery. Walker Lockett, which sounds like a name out of Deadwood, will make his Mets debut tonight instead of Thor. He’s a control/grounder type who made a brief cameo for the Padres last year.

The Mets pen has been the normal adventure is always seems to be. Prized winter acquisition Edwin Diaz has not turned out the lights as he had before, though mostly effective. Robert Gsellman is already about to die of exhaustion. Seth Lugo has been another stalwart, but after that the Mets have trotted out 17 other clowns to try and get outs and it’s been…well, let’s say abstract. Jeurys Familia, scumbag that he is, responded to losing his closer role by being awful and then hurt, and the Mets haven’t found any other solutions besides the first three mentioned.

And as always, the Mets are a circus off the field, between how they’ve ground their pitchers with obvious injuries to the bullpen to not getting a game out of Jared Lowrie with an injury they can’t seem to diagnose, to today where they’ve fired their pitching and bullpen coach. You can always count on them to be the Mets.

For the Cubs, they’ll fill in for Kyle Hendricks tonight by letting Tyler Chatwood start and then having their only pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay follow up. It’s a first look at an actual, breathing promise on the mound for the Cubs, who have yet to produce one since…arguably Hendricks? Before that it’s probably Andrew Cashner? Let’s not think about it.

As for the rest, they’ll hope Contreras’s big night is the sign of another binge, as the Cubs could use it. They will miss Thor and Matz, which is something of a boon, but they’ll not want to have to get past deGrom to win this series if at all possible, as he’s coming off his best start of the season. Then again, they made quick work of Lucas Giolito, so who fucking knows?

The Braves will be a stiff test after this. Best to treat the Mets like the Mets.