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Love the Mets

Updated: 2018-02-21T12:00:02-05:00


Robert Gsellman provides much-needed depth to the Mets pitching staff



Given the injury question marks with the starting rotation, having Gsellman on call is an asset for the 2018 Mets.

Robert Gsellman burst onto the scene in 2016 when injuries to the Mets pitching staff during the height of the wild card race thrust the righty into a prominent role. In the 44 23 innings Gsellman pitched down the stretch, he was very impressive, with a 167 ERA+ over that span. Prior to the 2016 season, Gsellman was not a standout prospect and struggled to strike batters out in Double-A, but an uptick in velocity on his fastball and the addition of the Warthen slider transformed him into an effective pitcher at the major league level.

However, Gsellman took a rather large step back in 2017. He had an up-and-down first half before pulling his hamstring in late June trying to beat out a grounder to first base. While his overall numbers from last season look pretty ugly on almost all fronts, he did improve after returning from the disabled list, posting an ERA of 3.50 in 8 starts in the second half.

His struggles last season combined with the signing of Jason Vargas probably add up to Gsellman starting off the season in Triple-A, if things break right for the Mets out of camp. However, for a team that has as many pitchers with robust injury histories on its staff as the Mets do, having a pitcher that has seen big league success like Gsellman waiting in the wings is extremely valuable. Both Steamer and PECOTA foresee Gsellman getting over 80 innings of work with the Mets this season, with 4.56 and 4.78 ERAs, respectively.

Time will tell whether Gsellman’s difficulties will persist or if last season’s effort can simply be chalked up to a sophomore slump and an injury setback.

Hansel Robles hopes his ERA points downward in 2018



Despite his dreadful 2017, Robles still has the ability to be a very good relief pitcher.

When Hansel Robles was called up to the majors in early 2015, the hard-throwing right hander didn’t come with too many expectations attatched to him. He had a live arm and good fastball, but his upside was always capped by a lack of a true secondary pitch and wild command. But Robles turned out to be a key player in that year’s Mets bullpen, with a 28.1% strikeout rate and a 3.67 ERA with a 3.79 xFIP in 54, and he largely duplicated that success in 2016 with a 25.7% strikeout rate, a 3.48 ERA and a 4.21 xFIP in 77.2 innings.

But the issues Robles had in the minors persisted in the majors, and prevented him from taking that next step into a true late-inning reliever; he wasn’t always the most reliable pitcher for Terry Collins to turn to. Robles was prone to blowups and frustrating outings due to his lack of control and a true secondary pitch, resulting in below-average chase rates and forcing him to put hitters away with just his fastball. This led to a tendency to allow homers and a lack of reliability with inherited runners. He allowed 1.33 HR/9 with a LOB% of just 65.3% in 2015, and despite improving both those numbers in 2016, his BB/9 jumped to 4.17 that year.

And those flaws, which only seemed to rear their ugly heads separately at different times in his first two years, seemed to finally come together all at once and produce an ugly 2017. Robles walked 4.61 batters per nine innings while striking out a career-low 24.3% of hitters, and allowed a career-high 10 homers in 54.2 innings. Overall, he posted an unsightly 4.92 ERA and 4.91 xFIP. He simply wasn’t fooling anyone last year, as his chase and swinging strike rates were far lower than they had been in 2015 and 2016, at 22.4% and 8.9%, respectively.

But there are still reasons to be optimistic about Robles for 2018. Lefties only have a .265 wOBA against him in his career, and still only had a .308 wOBA against him in 2017. And while his strikeout numbers did drop last year, they were still above average, which is a good sign. In addition, he still averaged 95.3 MPH on his fastball, which still induced a good amount of whiffs, according to Brooks Baseball. So what made him effective is still there. And if he can just limit his walks to at least 2015 levels while also improve his slider and changeup, there’s no reason he can’t be a quality MLB reliever once again.

This offseason, Robles worked with Pedro Martinez to improve his delivery, perhaps in an attempt to improve his control. He pitched in Dominican Winter League this offseason, though the results weren’t great.

The 27-year-old reliever enters spring training without a guaranteed spot in the Mets’ bullpen, though there is still a good chance that he makes the Opening Day roster. Given Robles’ past success and his still-present upside, along with the fact that he still as one more option year left and two more years of team control, there is no reason for the Mets not to give him another shot in 2018. There are a wide range of outcomes for Robles’ 2018, but his ceiling is too high to give up on so soon.

Mets Morning News for February 21, 2018


Your Wednesday morning dose of New York Mets Mets and MLB news, notes, and links. Meet the Mets Michael Conforto is happy with how his shoulder rehab is progressing, but the Mets are going to remain cautious. Pitcher Jacob deGrom left Mets camp on Tuesday morning as he and his wife are set to have the couple’s second child. He is expected to rejoin the team on Saturday. Kristie Ackert of the Daily News is reporting that the Mets plan to use Zack Wheeler out of the bullpen with the signing of Jason Vargas. Mickey Callaway is excited to see the Mets rotation in game action. Callaway is also set to prove that he is more than just a pitching coach. Around the National League East In a little bit of a back and forth between Nationals star Bryce Harper and Marlins manager Don Mattingly, Mattingly says Harper should mind his own business. Daniel Murphy is unsure if he will be ready for Opening Day after undergoing offseason knee surgery. The Phillies and free agent pitcher Jake Arrieta have reportedly had dialogue. Christian Yelich opened up about his time with the Marlins and said the death of pitcher Jose Fernandez was a turning point for the franchise. Around Major League Baseball The Rays continued to ship away their top players as they dealt outfielder Steven Souza Jr. to the Diamondbacks as part of a three team deal. Also included in the deal was Arizona infielder Brandon Drury who was traded to the New York Yankees. All 30 MLB teams are set to honor the victims of the Parkland shooting with special caps on Friday. Commissioner Rob Manfred said on Tuesday that MLB’s investigation into Shoei Ohtani’s leaked medial records is ongoing. The Twins finalized a deal with veteran pitcher Anibal Sanchez. The Padres believe that Eric Hosmer is a championship piece. Ted Berg at ForTheWin goes over how to deal with someone who thinks baseball is boring. The Ringer did a fantastic piece on Sherri Nichols, one of the most influential people in baseball’s sabermetrics movement. Yesterday at Amazin’ Avenue Thomas Henderson previewed Michael Conforto’s 2018 season. Allison McCague wrote about the pace of play issue. This Date in Mets History Tom Seaver became the highest paid pitcher in Major League history, signing a one-year contract worth $172,000. Joy Foy, who passed away in 1989 would have been 75 today. The late third baseman played one season for the Mets in 1970. [...]

Michael Conforto looks to come back healthy for Mets in 2018



Conforto was one of the best players on the Mets in 2017, but a scary injury cut his season short and delayed his 2018 start.

The 2017 season was undoubtedly bittersweet for Michael Conforto. On one hand, he bounced back from a frustrating 2016 season that saw him battle a wrist injury en route to a .220/.310/.414, 96 wRC+, 1.3 fWAR season in just 348 plate appearances to a .279/.384/.555, 148 wRC+, 4.4 fWAR season in 440 plate appearances.

Not only was Conforto one of the best hitters on the Mets, he was one of the best hitters in all of baseball. His 146 wRC+ was tied for 10th in the league with Nelson Cruz and Kris Bryant — he was simply an elite hitter in 2017,and was one of the few bright spots during a devastating Mets season.

But he suffered a major injury which is going to have an impact on his 2018 season. On a swing late in the season, he suffered a scary shoulder injury, tearing the posterior capsule in his left shoulder. While he has been in camp and throwing a baseball, he has not been cleared to swing a bat yet, which complicates things moving forward.

Sandy Alderson has publicly stated that he does not expect Conforto to be back prior to May 1, but he has not given Conforto a timetable outside of that.

His 2018 season, as of now, is very much up in the air. It is hard to determine when he will be back, and if he will have to shake off any rust upon returning. As of now, Jay Bruce, Juan Lagares, Brandon Nimmo, Yoenis Cespedes will handle the majority of the innings in the outfield until Conforto is back. While it is frustrating that Conforto will be out to start the season, it is more important that one of the best young players in the entire organization gets back to 100% before he returns.

If Major League Baseball thinks pace of play is a problem, it should focus on real solutions



The proposed changes for 2018 will not have an appreciable impact on the length of games.

The biggest story of the offseason has been the storm that continues to brew between Major League Baseball and the players’ union, manifesting itself in a whole training camp’s worth of free agents that have yet to be signed. The discontent between the two sides has spilled into a matter that has flown under the radar somewhat this offseason: pace of play negotiations.

Rob Manfred believes baseball has a pace of play problem and cites the ever-lengthening average time of a game, up about 20 minutes from 15 years ago. Last month, it seemed like MLB was going to unilaterally implement a 20-second pitch clock after the players’ union rejected Rob Manfred’s original pace of play proposal.

However, we have now learned what pace of play changes will be implemented in 2018; they include limiting non-pitching change mound visits and set times for inning breaks and pitching changes. While reducing mound visits may seem like a good idea on the surface (Who wants to waste 30 seconds of their evening just to watch Jose Reyes reassure Matt Harvey he’s doing a good job, smack him on the bum, and walk away?), there are two big issues here. Firstly, it doesn’t seem like there will be real consequences for violating this rule. And secondly, it doesn’t actually address the problem.

Grant Brisbee wrote an excellent article comparing two very similar baseball games, one from 1984 and one from 2014 in order to truly pinpoint where extra game time was coming from. Seriously, quit reading this right now and go read that if you haven’t—the 1984 game is a Mets game!

From his fun experiment, he concluded:

Based on one unscientific deep dive into a pair of similar games, though, the biggest problem with the pace of play is, well, the pace of play. Pitchers don’t get rid of the ball like they used to. Hitters aren’t expecting them to get rid of the ball like they used to. It adds a couple minutes to every half-inning, which adds close to a half-hour.

The obvious fix for this would seemingly be the aforementioned pitch clock, which baseball is still interested in implementing, but not right now.

Wilmer Flores will play an important role off the Mets’ bench in 2018



After another season cut short by injury, Flores will be the Mets’ main option off the bench.

With the starting infield for the Mets basically figured out, Wilmer Flores finds himself on the outside looking in as the 2018 season draws near. This is a role that Flores should be used to by now, as he has come off the bench most of his five years in the majors. When the Mets need someone to make starts or a substitution in the infield, Flores will be there for them, like he’s been there before. And you know what to expect from him year to year: he’ll provide decent power, below-average defense around the infield, and a poor on-base percentage.

Last season was no different as the 26-year-old produced a 106 wRC+ but still managed to end up with -.2 bWAR on the season, thanks in part to his -12 DRS combined during his time between first base, second base, and third base. During the 2017 season, Flores hit .271/.307/.488 with 18 home runs in 362 plate appearances. The on-base percentage might not be something to write home about, but the .488 slugging percentage is very impressive. Flores’s best work came against lefties, as he hit .291/.306/.553 with 7 home runs in 110 plate appearances against them. The season was sandwiched between disappointment as it started with a trip to the disabled list for a knee infection that required hospitalization and ended with a foul-tip that broke his nose.

It is also worth noting that this season will be Flores’s fifth as far as service time is concerned, meaning he is only under team control for the 2018 and 2019 seasons before potentially becoming a free agent. This year Flores will earn $3,400,000 in what is his second year of arbitration.

Coming into 2018, there’s no reason to believe that Flores will stray from his career norms on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Two projection systems, Steamer and PECOTA, envision very different seasons for him. Steamer projects Flores to hit .271/.316/.474 with 17 homers and 1.0 WAR in 367 plate appearances. PECOTA, on the other hand, projects that Flores will hit .262/.299/.439 with 7 homers and .2 WARP in only 175 plate appearances. Steamer sees Flores continuing on the same path that he has for most of his career, while PECOTA is paints a more dreary picture with him missing a lot of playing time and preforming well below his results these past two seasons.