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Mets seem committed to being dumb with bullpen


Last night, the Mets were clinging to a one-run lead in the eighth inning. Jeruys Familia didn’t have it. He gave up a single and a walk to put two men on and then lucked into a double play. Then he walked two more guys to load the bases. With the heart of the Phillies order coming to the plate, the game was on the line. That it was the Phillies — who the Mets figure to be battling all season long in the NL East — means that this game mattered a whole heck of a lot. The Mets needed an out there. The leverage could not have been higher.

This past offseason the Mets swung a blockbuster trade for reliever Edwin Díaz. Díaz saved 57 games last year and, before last night, had allowed only one run in seven outings. He also had not pitched since last Thursday. Díaz is the Mets’ best reliever, he was more than fully rested and he was ready to go in the bullpen. So what did Mets manager Mickey Callaway do?

He put Robert Gsellman in the game. Gsellman issued a bases-loaded walk on four pitches which forced extras innings. The Mets ended up winning the game — and Díaz got the save — but a good outcome does mean that a bad decision was not made. The win notwithstanding, not using Díaz in the eighth was a bad decision.

After the game, Calloway met the press and from the sound of it he and the Mets seem content to make bad decisions in the future too:

“He’s not going to get four outs. He’s going to get three . . . When we get to the playoffs, he’ll be available for more than three outs.”

Díaz is young and has had bone spurs, so perhaps some caution with him is necessary, but who said he had to get four outs in that situation? Why not just bring him in for the one critical out? Or, maybe two if Callaway decided to pull the plug on Familia earlier in the inning? Callaway also added that he has faith in his other relievers. OK, fine. Even better then to use Díaz for one out there and one of his other relievers in the ninth inning, which would’ve started with a one-run lead and no one on base, thereby presenting way lower leverage, right?

This approach to using Díaz is sub-optimal pitcher usage. The “three outs only” thing — and the assumption that, if used in the eighth last night, he would’ve had to get four outs — is about catering to the save statistic.

Callaway says he’ll change all of that once the Mets are in the playoffs, but by mismanaging his bullpen like this, he’s going to end up harming the Mets’ chances of making the playoffs in the first place.

The Giants are winning but they’re still gonna sell

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The state of baseball in general, the state of the National League in particular and the state of the San Francisco Giants as a competitor are conspiring to create what seems like at least a mildly absurd situation.

The Giants, a veteran-laden team that, as recently as this past offseason but definitely within the past couple of years, were at least talking about being on a win-now footing, just swept a four-game series, have won five straight games and have won 12 of 14 to pull themselves to within two and a half games of a playoff spot.

Yet, that’s all for temporary show, because they’re about to sell off. At least according to Jeff Passan at ESPN. Giants president Farhan Zaidi tried to push back on that in a radio interview yesterday, denying that the club has foreclosed the possibility of a postseason push, but I’m not really buying that and I don’t think most people are.

On one level it makes sense to ignore the recent surge and forge on with a rebuild. Sure, the Giants are winning but they’re not exactly good. They’re two and a half out of the Wild Card, but there are many teams ahead of them. There’s a lot of reason to think that they’re playing in good fortune right now and that that, rather than finding some extra gear of sustainable better play, is what’s to credit. Hot streaks can happen at any time but the trade deadline only comes once a year. When you have the best starter available in Madison Bumgarner and the best reliever available in Will Smith, you gotta make those deals. That’s what I’d probably do if I ran the Giants and I think that that’s, wisely, what Zaidi will do.

Still, it’s an odd look, less for the Giants specifically than for baseball as a whole. We may in an era of cheap front offices who don’t like to contend if it means spending money, but it’s unfair to paint the Giants with that brush. They’ve spent money and acquired talent and have done whatever they can to extend their 2010-2014 mini-dynasty a few more years and in doing so they’ve made a lot of fans happy. That team has pretty much reached the end and, even in an earlier, more competitive era, they’d not be properly criticized for starting in on a rebuild. Heck, they’d be excused if they had done it a year or two earlier, frankly.

But, because so many teams have punted on improving themselves, these aging Giants are at least superficially competitive. As such, when they do sell off in the coming days, it’ll look to some like they’re waving a white flag or something when they’re not really doing that. I mean, the Rockies and the Pirates, among other teams, should be much better than they are but didn’t seem all that interested in improving, thereby helping the Giants look better, right? It’s less a knock on the Giants for rebuilding when they’re within striking distance of the playoffs than it is on the rest of the league for allowing a team like the Giants to be within striking distance of a playoff spot.

But that’s where we are right now. An insanely competitive Wild Card race from teams that, on the whole, are rather unconcerned with being competitive. What a time to be a baseball fan.