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Mickey Callaway backs Wilson Ramos by citing catcher wins and losses

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On their own, a pitcher’s won-lost record and ERA are not particularly informative stats. Wins and losses have more to do with the pitcher’s offense and timing than the pitcher’s actual skill on the mound. For example, Yankees starter Domingo Germán is 17-4 this year not because he’s pitched at a Cy Young level but because the Yankees average close to six runs per game. Germán has a 4.21 ERA. Compared to Justin Verlander, who is 18-5 with a 2.52 ERA.

Though cited much less often, ERA exists for catchers as well. We cited it yesterday when we discussed the fact that Mets starter Noah Syndergaard doesn’t like throwing to Wilson Ramos. Syndergaard has a 5.09 ERA across 92 innings throwing to Ramos while he’s posted a 2.45 ERA in 66 innings with Tomás Nido. Catcher ERA is problematic for other reasons, chiefly a small sample size. 92 innings is about half of a full season for a healthy starter; 66 innings is about one-third of a full season. The stat is highly prone to variance, randomness.

What never gets cited is a catcher’s won-lost record. Enter Mets manager Mickey Callaway. Addressing yesterday’s news concerning Syndergaard and Ramos, Callaway said that while Syndergaard indeed has a better ERA with Nido, his won-lost record is better with Ramos, Newsday’s Tim Healey reports. Callaway, in fact, cited a catcher’s winning percentage back in May, Healey reported. When asked if a catcher’s winning percentage is something he values, Callaway said, “I mean, yeah, we want to win, right? You win a lot. That’s how I look at it, absolutely.”

It was pointed out to Callaway, Healey reports, that Jacob deGrom had a personal catcher in Devin Mesoraco last year. Asked why deGrom got a personal catcher last year but Syndergaard doesn’t this year, Callaway said that the Mets were out of the playoff race last year and deGrom was chasing the NL Cy Young Award. It makes sense in an upside-down sort of way, in which you don’t make your star pitcher comfortable in the midst of a playoff race and make your other star pitcher comfortable out of the playoff picture.

This is not Callaway’s only head-scratcher today. The Mets have been riding 3B/OF J.D. Davis pretty hard in his breakout season. He had never played in more than 42 games in a season before and is currently up to 124 in 2019. Per Healey, Callaway acknowledged the team needs to find a way to get him some rest and even went as far as to say that the Mets will have a “competitive advantage” by having him come off the bench as opposed to playing a full game. Which, whew. That is some torturous logic.

That’s not even the most bizarre thing Callaway has said this week. The Mets dropped Sunday’s series finale to the Phillies 10-7. In the seventh inning, the Mets had fallen behind 9-7 after Justin Wilson gave up a two-out two-run home run to Scott Kingery. Callaway brought in Tyler Bashlor, who proceeded to issue a walk and a double to put runners on second and third base with two outs for weak-hitting catcher Andrew Knapp. Callaway decided to intentionally walk Knapp to load the bases and bring up reliever Mike Morin. The Phillies, of course, pinch-hit for their reliever with Bryce Harper, who didn’t start due to a hand injury. Bashlor battled Harper in a nine-pitch at-bat that ultimately ended with a walk, forcing in the Phillies’ 10th run, pushing the lead to three runs.

Callaway defended his decision to walk Knapp after the game, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reported, saying that he wanted to force the Phillies to take Morin out of the game. Morin is a journeyman reliever with a 4.55 career ERA and a 5.14 ERA as a Phillie. He’s averaging fewer than five strikeouts per nine innings. That’s not a guy you want to force out of the game. You want to force out a caliber of reliever like Kirby Yates, Liam Hendriks, Will Harris, Adam Ottovino.

Callaway was on the hot seat near the end of July due to a slumping team that was supposed to be competitive. In June, Callaway cursed out Healey and tried to have him thrown out of the Mets’ clubhouse. Thanks to a soft part of the schedule, the Mets went on a run, going 21-5 between July 25 and August 22. That stretch earned Callaway some extra rope. Since then, though, the Mets have gone 6-10 against tougher competition. They’re still within striking distance of the second Wild Card in the NL, but if the club finishes September poorly, one wonders if Callaway will return to the hot seat, particularly given the, well, retrograde ways of thinking he seems happy to express publicly.

Whitewash: Rob Manfred says he doesn’t think sign stealing extends beyond the Astros

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Rob Manfred said today that he believes the sign-stealing scandal which has taken over the news in the past week does not extend beyond the Houston Astros. His exact words, via Jeff Passan of ESPN:

“Right now, we are focused on the information that we have with respect to the Astros. I’m not going to speculate on whether other people are going to be involved. We’ll deal with that if it happens, but I’m not going to speculate about that. I have no reason to believe it extends beyond the Astros at this point in time.”

This is simply incredible. As in literally not credible.

It’s not credible because, just last week, in the original story in The Athletic, it was reported that the Astros system was set up by two players, one of whom was “a hitter who was struggling at the plate and had benefited from sign stealing with a previous team, according to club sources . . . they were said to strongly believe that some opposing teams were already up to no good. They wanted to devise their own system in Houston. And they did.”

The very next day Passan reported that Major League Baseball would not limit its focus to the Astros. Rather, the league’s probe was also include members of the 2019 Astros and would extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentioned the 2018 Red Sox which, of course, were managed by Alex Cora one year after he left Houston, where he was A.J. Hinch’s bench coach.

Add into this the Red Sox’ pre-Cora sign-stealing with Apple Watches and widespread, informed speculation on the part of players and people around the game that many teams do this sort of thing, and one can’t reasonably suggest that only the Houston Astros are doing this.

Which, as I noted at the time, made perfect sense. These schemes cannot, logically, operate in isolation because players and coaches change teams constantly. In light of this, players have to know that their sign-stealing would be found out by other teams eventually. They continue to do it, however, because they know other teams do it too. As is the case with pitchers using pine tar or what have you, they don’t rat out the other team so they, themselves, will not be ratted out. It’s a mutually-assured destruction that only exists and only works if, in fact, other teams are also stealing signs.

So why is Major League Baseball content to only hang the Astros here? I can think of two reasons.

One is practical. They had the Astros fall in their lap via former Astro Mike Fiers — obviously not himself concerned with his current team being busted for whatever reason — going on the record with his accusation. That’s not likely to repeat itself across baseball and thus it’d be quite difficult for Major League Baseball to easily conduct a wide investigation. Who is going to talk? How can baseball make them talk? It’d be a pretty big undertaking.

But there’s also the optics. Major League Baseball has had a week to think about the report of the Astros sign-stealing and, I suspect, they’ve realized, like everyone else has realized, that this is a major scandal in the making. Do they really want to spend the entire offseason — and longer, I suspect, if they want a thorough investigation — digging up unflattering news about cheating in the sport? Do they really want to be in the bad news creation business? I doubt they do, so they decided to fence off the Astros, hit them hard with penalties, declare victory and move on.

Which is to say, it’s a whitewash.

It’s something the league has tried to do before. They did it with steroids and it didn’t work particularly well.

In 1998 Mark McGwire, that game’s biggest star at the time, was found to have the PED androstenedione in his locker. It was a big freakin’ deal. Except . . . nothing happened. Major League Baseball planned to “study” the drug but most of the fallout was visited upon the reporter who made it public. It was accompanied by some shameful conduct by both Major League Baseball and the baseball press corps who eagerly went after the messenger rather than cover the story properly.

Four years later Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco went public with their PED use and said drug use was widespread. MLB’s response was slow and, again, sought to isolated the known offenders, singling out Caminiti as a troubled figure — which he was — and Canseco as a kook — which he kind of is — but doing them and the story a disservice all the same.

The league eventually created a rather toothless testing and penalty regime. Congress and outside investigative reporters filled the void created by the league’s inaction, calling hearings and publishing damning stories about how wide PED use was in the game. Eventually Bud Selig commissioned the Mitchell Report. Some ten years after the McGwire incident baseball had at least the beginnings of a sane approach to PEDs and a more effective testing plan, but it was pulled to it kicking and screaming, mostly because doing anything about it was too hard and not very appetizing from a business and P.R. perspective.

And so here we are again. Baseball has a major scandal on its hands. After some initially promising words about how serious it planned to take it, the league seems content to cordon off the known crime scene and refuses to canvass the neighborhood. Sure, if someone gratuitously hands them evidence they’ll look into it, but it sure sounds like Rob Manfred plans to react rather than act here.

That should work. At least until the next time evidence of cheating comes up and they have to start this all over again.