backman walking on field

The engine is revving on the Wally Backman bandwagon

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Wally Backman is probably as good a candidate as any to be the Mets next manager. He’s the Triple-A manager. He’s popular among fans, especially ones who remember the 1980s. I was skeptical of his candidacy a couple of years ago because he really hadn’t had a lot of experience yet, but he’s worked his way up through the organization. I don’t know if he’s the best choice to succeed Terry Collins, but he’s obviously going to be a candidate.

Bob Klapisch, however, believes his candidacy has already begun. What kicked it off? The demotion of Ike Davis:

Now Davis is Wally Backman’s problem, although it’s worth asking the question that could lead to a more intriguing dialogue: What happens if Backman and his old-school, man’s-man approach actually fixes Davis? Then what?

Such a reclamation project would be more of a reflection of Backman’s interpersonal skills than Davis’ ability to hit for a respectable average. At least we know Davis has talent – we’ve seen it in the past, albeit not consistently since the second half of last season. But Backman is the wild card here, especially because he’s been languishing in the Mets’ farm system for four summers hoping to prove to someone, anyone, that he’s long since outrun his darker demons.

There are a lot of assumptions in here. The first being that Davis remembering how to hit would be a function of Backman’s magic or Davis simply being among less-talented pitchers in a hitting-friendly environment. Davis has shown, you know, that he can hit major league pitching, so if he hits PCL pitching in that launching pad in Las Vegas, I dont think it’s necessarily a function of Wally Backman being The Ike Davis Whisperer.

The other assumption is that the Mets, as an organization, don’t know what they have in Wally Backman. Like I said before, he’s been with the organization for several seasons now and has moved up. To think that they don’t really have a handle on his “darker demons” by now seems a bit off to me. Actually, it seems a bit more in keeping with the Wally Backman debates the media enjoyed a couple of years ago with the people who were interested in personalities and good stories pulling for Backman.

Which is to say that this seems like narrative-building to me, not actual analysis. The Mets have a lot of people in the organization whose job it is to assess their talent and assess their management. And those people are doing both with Davis and Backman already. It just doesn’t seem reasonable to think that whatever happens with Ike Davis in the next couple of weeks in the desert is going to make or break Wally Backman’s managerial career.

But I doubt that will stop the folks who have long been on the Backman bandwagon. They’re looking for magic and stories in what will be a far more boring organizational decision made by a deliberate general manager in Sandy Alderson. And I doubt they’ll stop looking between now and the end of Terry Collins’ contract come this October.

Julio Urias is on his way back to the majors

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 27:  Julio Urias #78 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the New York Mets during their game at Citi Field on May 27, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images
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Dodgers 19-year-old rookie Julio Urias is coming back to the majors and Alex Wood is headed to the 15-day disabled list with left elbow soreness, Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times reports. Urias will likely start Saturday against the Braves, which will mark his debut in front of the home crowd.

Urias made his major league debut on Friday against the Mets at Citi Field, but lasted only 2 2/3 innings. He yielded three runs on five hits and four walks with three strikeouts.

Urias came into the season rated as the Dodgers’ #1 prospect and the #2 overall prospect in baseball. Prior to his promotion, he had compiled a 1.10 ERA with 44 strikeouts and eight walks over 41 innings with Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Mookie Betts enjoys a three-homer game against the Orioles

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 31: Mookie Betts #50 of the Boston Red Sox follows his three run homer against the Baltimore Orioles in the second inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 31, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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The Red Sox seem to have hit the jackpot on all of their young players so far this year. Jackie Bradley, Jr. just had a 29-game hitting streak snapped. Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 24 games on Tuesday night. And Mookie Betts has been quite productive batting leadoff for the Red Sox this year, entering Tuesday with an even .800 OPS.

Betts, 23, hit 18 home runs in his first full season last year. With a three-homer night against the Orioles on Tuesday, he’s already up to 12 in 2016 with four months of season left. The first was of the solo variety, a line drive to center field off of Kevin Gausman in the first inning. Betts followed up in the third with a liner to left field for a three-run dinger off of Gausman. He made it three in the seventh, drilling a Dylan Bundy offering to right field.

Here’s video of homer number two:

Betts finished 3-for-5 as the Red Sox won 6-2 at Camden Yards.

The stats show the Pirates as an outlier in throwing “headhunter” pitches

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 5: Reliever Arquimedes Caminero #37 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the seventh inning at Busch Stadium on September 5, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
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Last week at ESPN Sweetspot’s Inside the Zona, Ryan Morrison looked into the data and found that the Pirates stand out among the rest when it comes to throwing “headhunter” pitches. Those are defined as fastballs 3.2 feet or higher and 1.2 feet towards the batter from the center of the plate.

The research was prompted because Diamondbacks second baseman Jean Segura was hit in the helmet by Pirates reliever Arquimedes Caminero last Tuesday in the seventh inning. The next inning, Caminero hit shortstop Nick Ahmed in the jaw with a pitch and was instantly ejected.

Morrison illustrated the data in a nice chart, which you should check out. The Pirates have thrown 93 of those pitches, which is way more than any other team. The next closest team is the Reds at 68 pitches. The major league average is approximately 48 pitches.

The Pirates have had an organizational philosophy of pitching inside since at least 2013, as MLB.com’s Tom Singer quoted manager Clint Hurdle as saying, “We’re not trying to hurt people, just staying in with conviction.”

Morrison goes on to suggest that the Diamondbacks should have forfeited last Wednesday and Thursday’s games against the Pirates in protest, out of concern for their players’ safety. As it happened, the D-Backs lost both games anyway, suffering a series sweep. The two clubs don’t meet again this season.

D-Backs manager Chip Hale said after last Tuesday’s game that Caminero “shouldn’t be at this level”. Caminero responded to those comments today, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. “I’m actually glad you asked me about that,” Caminero said. “The only thing I’ve got to say about (Hale) is that he is a perfect manager. And he was a perfect player, too. That’s it. I know what I did wasn’t good, but it happens in baseball. I wasn’t trying to hit anyone.”

I realize I’m late on pointing out Morrison’s terrific article and the whole debacle between the two teams, but I felt it was worth highlighting.

Jose Bautista: “I’d be stupid to leave” Toronto

TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 29: Jose Bautista #19 of the Toronto Blue Jayshits a two-run home run in the fifth inning during MLB game action against the Boston Red Sox on May 29, 2016 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
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Also included in a recent report on Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista by Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated — along with his belief that Rougned Odor was the only bad guy in the May 15 debacle — was the slugger’s desire to remain a Blue Jay. Per Verducci, Bautista said, “I love the city. I’d be stupid to leave” Toronto.

Bautista, 35, is in the final year of a five-year, $65 million extension signed in February 2011. Back in November, the Jays exercised their 2016 club option for $14 million. Bautista isn’t willing to discuss contract details during the season, so the two sides will have to wait until at least October to come to an agreement.

Entering Tuesday’s game against the Yankees, Bautista is hitting .237/.371/.489 with 11 home runs, 37 RBI, and 40 walks, the latter of which leads the American League.