Tag: Bartolo Colon

Matt Harvey

2015 Preview: New York Mets


Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The New York Mets.

The Big Question: Can the Mets end years of futility to contend for the NL Wild Card in 2015?

The Mets’ fortunes in 2015 will rest in the hands of one person: Matt Harvey. All eyes will be on the soon-to-be 26-year-old right-hander as he returns to the starting rotation after missing all of the 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery. Harvey set the baseball world on fire in 2013, finishing with a 2.27 ERA and a 191/31 K/BB ratio in 178 1/3 innings, earning him a fourth-place finish in NL Cy Young balloting. If he can return to his former elite level, the Mets will be in good shape to make some noise in the NL East, a few laps behind the Washington Nationals.

Despite a quiet offseason, the Mets are arguably a contender for the NL Wild Card this season and they’re the most competitive they’ve been since 2008, having averaged fewer than 76 wins over the last six seasons. Outfielder Michael Cuddyer was their biggest signing, as they inked the 2013 NL batting champ to a two-year, $21 million deal. Aside from a low-key signing of John Mayberry, Jr., the team the Mets had last year is largely the team they’ll bring into 2015.

The Mets unfortunately lost Zack Wheeler to Tommy John surgery, but their starting rotation is still quite solid. It includes veteran Bartolo Colon (their Opening Day starter), youngster Jacob DeGrom, Jon Niese, and Dillon Gee. DeGrom was superb in his rookie season in 2014, finishing with a 2.69 ERA and a 144/43 K/BB ratio in 140 1/3 innings, earning him NL Rookie of the Year honors. If he can reprise his performance, the Mets would have two ace-caliber pitchers at the top of their rotation.

As far as offense goes, they’ll be relying on some young players to take the next step up. Catching Travis d’Arnaud started off slow last season, but caught fire in June following a brief demotion to Triple-A. From June 24 through the end of the season, d’Arnaud posted an .805 OPS with 10 home runs and 32 RBI in 276 plate appearances. The 26-year-old has the potential to become a top-ten catcher this season.

23-year-old Wilmer Flores will be starting everyday over Ruben Tejada after a long winter of speculation. Tejada has failed to live up to expectations over parts of five seasons with the Mets, posting a .645 OPS over 1,778 plate appearances. Flores posted similarly weak offensive numbers last season and is a worse defender, but he’s a couple years younger and has a bit more power potential. The Mets had a great deal of interest in acquiring a shortstop from outside the organization during the winter – including Jimmy Rollins – but nothing ever materialized, so they’ll be expecting Flores to man the position over the course of the season.

The Mets will also be relying on Juan Lagares in center field. He is arguably the best defensive center fielder in baseball but he leaves a bit to be desired at the plate. Last season, though, he posted an above-average adjusted OPS of 102 (100 is average). In 452 plate appearances, Lagares showed gap power with 24 doubles and three triples along with only four home runs, and he stole 13 bases as well.

What else is going on?

  • Third baseman David Wright is hoping to bounce back from the worst season of his career. He batted .269/.324/.374 with eight home runs and 63 RBI in 586 plate appearances. He was hampered by shoulder problems throughout much of the second half. Wright is now 32 years old and the expectations aren’t nearly as high as they once were. But for the Mets to seriously contend, they need him to return to a .290-ish average with 20-plus homers in the middle of the lineup.
  • Lost in the Harvey hoopla is the fact that Bobby Parnell is returning from Tommy John surgery himself. The right-hander missed just about the entirety of the 2014 season after emerging as a reliable late-inning option for the Mets the year prior, saving 22 games with a 2.16 ERA and a 44/12 K/BB ratio in 50 innings. He threw 20 pitches in a minor league game on Saturday, which is the next step towards his eventual return. Parnell will likely be out until May. Unless Jenrry Mejia struggles in the closer’s role, Parnell should end up in a set-up role.
  • The Mets chose to give Bartolo Colon the honor of pitching on Opening Day in Washington against the Nationals and Jacob deGrom the honor of pitching the Mets’ home opener against the Phillies. It’s a bit surprising that they didn’t give Harvey either honor as he’s both the Mets’ best pitcher and their most popular player. Though an expected home sellout regardless of who’s pitching may have given the Mets’ brass reason to create an incentive (Harvey) to show up for the second home game of the season.
  • Manager Terry Collins said that he won’t platoon first baseman Lucas Duda against left-handed pitchers to begin the season. Duda is the Mets’ biggest power threat, as he blasted 30 homers with 92 RBI last season in 596 plate appearances. However, he did show a severe platoon split, with a .915 OPS against right-handers and .516 against lefties. That’s not too far away from his career averages of .847 and .610, respectively. Reserve 1B/OF John Mayberry, Jr. would make a nice platoon partner, as Mayberry has a career .857 OPS against lefties.
  • Second baseman Daniel Murphy, currently nursing a hamstring injury, is entering what could be his final year with the Mets as he is eligible for free agency after the season. The Mets are not expected to offer him a contract extension, which means that there’s a strong possibility they trade Murphy by the July 31 deadline. Murphy, who turns 30 on April 1, made his first All-Star team last season, finishing with a .289/.332/.403 slash line along with nine home runs, 57 RBI, and 13 stolen bases in 642 plate appearances.

Prediction: The Mets remain in contention for the NL Wild Card for most of the season, but eventually fall behind the Miami Marlins for a third-place finish in the NL East with an 80-82 record.

Why does it matter who the Mets’ Opening Day starter is?

Bartolo Colon
source: Getty Images
Bartolo Colon

I’ve seen it bubbling up on Twitter as it seemed increasingly likely for the past several days and now that it’s official it has bubbled up to the New York Post: varying levels of dismay that Bartolo Colon is going to the Mets’ Opening Day starter. The dismay coming by virtue of the fact that Colon is not one of the Mets’ promising young starters like Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard:

It’s just … curious. Every day for weeks, for months, for years, we have heard about the young guns, the young arms, the ones who are here, the ones who are on the way, the ones who will carry the Mets back to relevance and then to prominence and beyond, and …

And on the day that will begin this rich, fresh, fresh-faced time in Mets history, Opening Day of this brand-spanking-new era, they’re going to start the season with Bartolo Colon, who made his first Opening Day start during the CLINTON ADMINISTRATION. (Editor’s note: that’s 100 percent true.)

That isn’t just a buzzkill, let’s be honest.

It’s a buzz massacre.

Why this matters is beyond me. For one thing the Mets are starting on the road, so it’s not like the paying customers are being deprived of their glimpse of the future. deGrom is pitching the home opener, Harvey the second home game.

For another thing, the theory behind who should be honored with an Opening Day start is not exactly a matter of some sort of established orthodoxy. Some teams do it by seniority. Some teams give the start to last year’s best pitcher who is still with the team. Some managers have, in the past, decided to play matchups early on and pit their best against the other team’s second best and so on. Heck, the mid-80s Braves seemed to give it to Rick Mahler every year because someone there decided that he was Opening Day good luck.

Colon could be getting it on some age-before-beauty theory. He could be getting it because someone decided that, even though he was clearly not the Mets’ best starter last year, he led the team in wins and isn’t that nice? He could be getting it because Opening Day at any park is occasioned by pomp, circumstance and delay and if you’re going to cause one of your pitchers to be taken out of his normal pregame rhythms, why not let it be the old warhorse? He could be getting it because that “buzz” for Opening Day is going to come even if the reanimated corpse of Carl Willey is given the nod. Sustaining that buzz into Games 2-162 is a much harder trick. Better to use the young guns more then.

Or, maybe, it just doesn’t matter at all because it’s just one of 162 games and who the Opening Day starter was will be forgotten by the second or third trip through the rotation.

And of course by then no one will have a good excuse to get worked up about it all and if no one is worked up it’s much harder to make a column or a radio segment out of it.

2015 Preview: Oakland Athletics

Bob Melvin

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The Oakland Athletics.

The Big Question: Can the A’s reshuffled roster put them in the playoffs for the fourth straight year?

When I was assigned the A’s preview by that jerkwad who assigns the team previews around here, I gotta tell ya, I was a bit concerned. As a team that cruised for months and then collapsed, the A’s were already the sort of team that is the hardest to predict. Then they went and reshuffled the roster this past winter and who in the heck knows what to think? If I had any hair I’d be tearing it out by now.

But then I remembered: the A’s do this kind of crap all the time. Really, they do.

They have been to the playoffs three years in a row, but they’ve done it a bit differently each time. Last year we were asking whether they could survive without Jarrod Parker and Grant Balfour. Heading into 2012 they were the odds-on favorite to be the worst team in the AL West and all they did was win 94 games after shipping out Trevor Cahill, Andrew Bailey, Gio Gonzalez, Hideki Matsui, Josh Willingham and David DeJesus and bringing in Yoenis Cespedes, Bartolo Colon, Seth Smith, Jonny Gomes, Parker, Josh Reddick and Brad Peacock. Nothing is as constant as change in the Oakland A’s clubhouse. And, at least in recent years, the change hasn’t mattered because the same GM is running the show who has seemingly always run the show. And while no one would ever choose to deal with the particular constraints Billy Beane has to deal with, he has literally been written into a history as a guy who mixes and matches whatever is on hand and somehow always makes it work. Or usually makes it work. He certainly makes it work a lot better with Bob Melvin than he did before. The both of them are just good at putting seemingly disparate pieces together.

So you look at the 2015 A’s, who have lost Jeff Samardzija, Jon Lester, Jason Hammel, Derek Norris, Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, John Jaso and a ton of other guys and who have brought in Ike Davis Ben Zobrist, Jesse Hahn, Billy Butler, Brett Lawrie, Marcus Semien and a ton of other guys and you could totally, reasonably say “damn, this is a mess.” Or, you could realize that the A’s have shuffled the deck like this almost every offseason, that absolutely no one has had a great handle on what the A’s would do from year-to-year the past several seasons and that, lo and behold, they are usually in the playoffs come October and that, maybe, they’ll be just dandy.

I don’t know if they’ll suck or be dandy. I have to answer that Big Question above with “I have no idea.” But neither do most of you. In some ways this makes them among the most interesting teams in baseball this and every year. But what I won’t do, and what no one else should do, is to lazily say “the A’s blew the team up” this past winter and conclude that they’re rebuilding or that they’re toast or something. Because it’s not been the case in recent years, and you sort of have to trust what Beane and company are doing until it stops working, don’t you?

What else is going on?

  • As for the brass tacks of the various parts of this team, it’s fair to say that the rotation will be pretty good. Certainly at the top, as Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir return. Beyond that there are a lot of question marks, but a LOT of arms who could potentially answer them. Drew Pomeranz, Jesse Chavez and Jesse Hahn will likely be the first three up behind Gray and Kazmir, and all three were above-average starters last year. Waiting in the wings is Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin and Chris Bassitt. Or maybe Graveman makes it. He’s started four games this spring and has allowed only one earned run. And hell, Barry frickin’ Zito is still banging around. The point is that there is a good bit of quality and depth here, even if the younger dudes are unproven.
  • Lineups? Who needs a set lineup? The A’s haven’t had one in a long time. Sure, they’ve had regulars, but in the past couple of years I’d guess that Bob Melvin has ran out a good one hundred different lineup combinations each season. You do things like that when you have, like, three catchers who can hit. Or, like this year, you have Ben Zobrist who is the player most likely to pull a Bugs Bunny and play all nine positions in a single game. Coco Crisp starts in left, but he could see time in center if things don’t go right. Craig Gentry can likewise play anywhere. The infield is far more unsettled — almost a complete turnover from 2014 — but Zobrist gives them flexibility. Ike Davis and Brett Lawrie are most famous for their status as disappointments, but you don’t become a disappointment without first having promise. If either of these guys even play up to close to their level of potential, the offense could be a huge strength here.
  • Billy Butler is probably the most “famous” import on this year’s club. And his best years — particularly in the power department — seem to be behind him. But he’s actually an improvement over what the A’s trotted out at DH last season. They probably overpaid for him, but the A’s don’t overpay too often. When they do, it’s because they had a big need. And at DH they had a big need.
  • In the pen, Sean Doolittle will get a late start to the year, but he’s expected to be healthy soon and around for most of the season. Tyler Clippard cost Yunel Escobar and will make a lot of money for a setup guy this season, but see above about overpaying for a need. There is a lot of depth here too as many of those guys mentioned above in the rotation section could see time in the bullpen too. As could the aforementioned Barry frickin’ Zito. Flexibility is the key with this club. In every single aspect. One might even say that flexibility is . . . the new inefficiency?

Prediction: With great uncertainty comes great excitement. And fear. And with great flexibility comes potentially great comprises. This A’s team could break in any number of ways. They have the potential to suck or be great. And as recent history in the pre-season prediction business has shown us, teams who are hard to figure in March tend to be way better than the ones who have a set narrative.

But I’m still gonna hedge and say Third Place, American League West. And fully expect to be wrong in one direction or the other.

Mets tab Bartolo Colon as Opening Day starter

Bartolo Colon

ESPN’s Adam Rubin reports that Bartolo Colon is expected to start for the Mets on Opening Day, April 6 in Washington against the Nationals. Jacob DeGrom is expected to start the Mets’ home opener on April 13 against the Phillies.

Colon, who turns 42 in May, is in the final year of his two-year, $20 million deal with the Mets. He finished with a 4.09 ERA and a 151/30 K/BB ratio in 202 1/3 innings last season.

DeGrom, 26, broke out last season with a 2.69 ERA and a 144/43 K/BB ratio in 140 1/3 innings as a rookie.

Matt Harvey, returning from Tommy John surgery, is expected to make his 2015 season debut on April 9 against the Nationals. Despite the injury, it’s surprising the Mets aren’t giving him the start for either game.

Zack Wheeler on Bryce Harper: “We’re going to make it hard for him to get that ring”

Zack Wheeler AP

Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper recently offered his reaction upon learning that that the team added right-hander Max Scherzer to the fold. Naturally, he was positively giddy about the signing.

“To be able to have a guy like Scherzer come in? I just started laughing. I was like, ‘Where’s my ring?’ You know what I mean? It’s stupid. It’s absolutely stupid how good our staff is.

Harper isn’t wrong. You could make the case that the Nationals had the best rotation in the game even before signing Scherzer. He has every reason to feel confident about their chances. However, comments like that aren’t going to be very popular with other teams. Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler heard what Harper said and believes that they can make things interesting this season. Here’s what he told John Harper of the New York Daily News:

“I guarantee you we all saw what Bryce Harper said,’ ” Wheeler said with a smile. “He said, ‘give me my ring,’ ” Wheeler continued. “We’re going to make it hard for him to get that ring, I’ll guarantee you that.”

“I’ve thought about it,” he said. “It’s like, ‘they’ve got a good staff, but I wonder if we can go out there and sort of put them to shame. A bunch of young guys against the older guys; put ’em to shame, you know.

“Obviously they’re a good team, but that’s baseball. We’ve got a good pitching staff, so do they. We’ve got good athletes, so do they. Who cares? Let’s go.”

While it’s not on the level of the Nationals, the Mets project to have a very good rotation this season, as Wheeler will be joined by Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Jon Niese, and Bartolo Colon. Colon doesn’t quite fit the “young guys” line that Wheeler offered, but the Mets also have prospects like Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, and Steven Matz waiting in the wings. They have enough talent to compete for a Wild Card spot this season, but a lot would have to go right for them to make a run at first place. The Mets were just 4-15 against the Nationals last season, so this won’t be much of a rivalry until they can begin to turn that around.