Mets Roundtable #2

LESS THAN 3 WEEKS UNTIL OPENING DAY!

Who else is starting to get anxious waiting for that day?  Three weeks seems like an eternity without baseball.  But at least spring training games are starting to become more important and exciting.

If all Starting Pitchers are healthy who deserves the #5 spot in the rotation? 

Photo courtesy of SNYSamuel: Even though Steven Matz has had his fair share of struggles throughout Spring Training so far this season and had a brutal 2017 season before deciding to get season ending elbow surgery, I still think that he is deserving of a spot in the Opening Day rotation.

Matz, when he has been healthy, has shown flashes that he can be a great big league starting pitcher. In 28 starts combined between 2015 and 2016, Matz has a record of 13-8 with an ERA of 3.16. He has proven in the big leagues that he can be a solid, consistent pitcher.

While his competitors for that fifth spot in the rotation have not quite proven that yet. Zack Wheeler has been very inconsistent, he walks a lot of batters and has missed two full seasons due to Tommy John Surgery. Robert Gsellman had a very disappointing first full big league season last year as his ERA was well above 5.00. Seth Lugo has been dealing with a partially torn UCL in his right elbow since Spring Training last season. It had a clear negative effect on him last year as he had an ERA of 4.71.

So for right now, I think you have to give Steven Matz the upper hand to have a spot in the Mets Opening Day pitching rotation, despite two consecutive rough starts in Spring Training. Sure his tough start to Spring Training is a bit of a concern, but he has a few starts like this early in the regular season, he could very easily get that position in the starting rotation taken away from him.

John: This competition between Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Seth Lugo, and Robert Gsellman is interesting because of how different all of these pitchers are. The obvious frontrunners are Matz and Wheeler because it is believed that those two have the most upside. In my opinion Gsellman should have a fair shot at the rotation because he has the stuff and has been just a bit more durable the past few years.

It is unlikely Gsellman sneaks out a spot in the rotation over Matz or Wheeler no matter how well he performs, but Wheeler can get that fifth spot if he out pitches the southpaw. I think that Wheeler might be the better fit in the rotation for a few reasons.

First, he is actually more durable than Matz contrary to popular belief, yes he missed two consecutive seasons and was shut down last year but that was all because of the same injury that just didn’t heal right. Matz on the other hand finds new ways to get hurt every day so coming out of the bullpen might be best for his arm.

The second reason I think Wheeler should be in the rotation over Matz is because I think it will be more beneficial to the team. The person who doesn’t get the fifth spot out of these two is likely to end up in the bullpen as a long man that pitches 2-3 innings every few days. As of now the Mets only have one lefty in the pen, so Matz could be the second southpaw. Matz has better command of the strike zone than Wheeler, which is essential for relievers to have. If Matz continues to struggle and Wheeler pitches well this scenario might become a reality.

Jake: So we all know by now Steven Matz has not looked good this spring. But with that being said, the only other person I could see challenging Matz for the 5 spot in the rotation is Wheeler. And I would be more comfortable with Matz in the rotation opening day over Wheeler. Matz has been in the majors long enough and has proved that he can be a force on the mound.  

Wheeler is still somewhat unproven in the majors, even though it feels like he has been on the team forever. In his time in the majors, Wheeler has been pretty inconsistent. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Wheeler in the rotation at some point this year, because he will probably take over for someone once they get injured, which has a good chance of happening given our recent injury history.

Josh: Right now the pitcher that deserves the #5 spot in the rotation appears to be Seth Lugo. Matz has simply looked dreadful so far and seems very ordinary on the mound. Yes, its early March, but if this is how the rest of the Spring goes he won’t be able to get MLB hitters out come March 29th. As for Lugo, he seems to be mixing in his pitches well right now and hit 94 MPH a few times in his last outing, which with four pitches, might be all he needs in terms of velocity. The argument could be to go to Zack Wheeler too, but I have actually started to believe placing him in the bullpen might be more beneficial to him, where he would only have to go through the lineup once, and can air it out for a couple of innings. If Matz figures it out before the end of Spring Training, he has the most talent and they should go with him. However, if things remain the same the rest of Spring Training, they should give the spot to the most effective on of Lugo, Wheeler, and Gsellman. As of right now, that guy would be Seth Lugo.

Justin: While many would like to believe that it’s a four man race for the 5th starter spot, the competition will likely come down to either Steven Matz or Zack Wheeler to see who ultimately wins the job. Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, while they should be up for consideration, will likely be pushed aside for two players with conceivably more upside. Matz’s spring struggles have been well-documented to this point which puts his spot, which he essentially had sured up before March hit, in jeopardy. Wheeler probably projects more as a reliever long-term due to his injury history and inability to go deep into games. The Mets abundance of starting pitchers should serve as the perfect catalyst for that transition. The only way Gsellman or Lugo beat out Matz is if the latter’s struggles continue and the Mets opt to send him to the minors to work out some kinks. If that’s the case, then the player who performs the best between Gsellman and Lugo throughout the remainder of spring training will likely end up with the job.

Dominick: IF everyone is healthy, big IF with this team.  Then Steven Matz should be the fifth starter in the rotation.  Lugo, Wheeler, Gsellman, and Matz have all dealt with injury throughout their short MLB careers but Matz has the most potential.

Matz is one of the rare left handed starting pitchers that can throw heat.  His fastball is usually reaching the upper-90’s.  Meanwhile, his curveball has crazy movement and with a little more work can become a curveball comparable to Clayton Kershaw’s.

With Jason Vargas also entering the Mets rotation the two lefties will compliment each other nicely.  Vargas can barely reach 90mph with his fastball.  Pitching Vargas and Matz in the same series could potentioally throw hitters off because of the speed difference.

Matz will be in the starting rotation all season unless he takes a huge step backward. His arm (and his bat) are too good to keep locked up in the bullpen.

What are your thoughts on Mickey Callaway considering hitting Cespedes 2nd in the lineup?

Samuel:Even though batting your best player second in the everyday lineup has started to become a trend around the MLB throughout the past few years, I have still not jumped on that bandwagon. It does make sense that batting your best players higher in the batting order would give them some more at bats throughout a game, but at the same it could give those players less RBI opportunities.

Batting your best player second in the lineup could make some sense for an American League team as they have the designated hitter and have positions players batting ninth. However, in the National League that is a different story as the pitcher typical bats ninth, two spots ahead of the two hole in the lineup. Sure the Mets may have some solid hitting pitchers such as Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz, but I would much rather have at least two position players batting ahead of Cespedes in the everyday Mets lineup to provide him with some more men on base when he steps up to the plate each game.

Also, throughout the last two seasons, the Mets have had a very consistent number two hitter in the lineup with Asdrubal Cabrera who has done a good job at being a table setter and just simply getting on base. Cabrera has hit .280 in each of his last two seasons with the Mets with an OBP of .335 or higher.

It has seemed to work just fine when both of these guys were able to stay healthy, especially late in the 2016 season, so the Mets should stick with that plan and only consider a change if the Mets offense struggles at some point in the season.

John:The new trend in baseball is putting the most potent batter in your lineup second in the order but I just can’t get myself to believe that it makes the most sense. I still think the best overall hitter in the lineup should be batting third because that is where there is the most opportunities to drive runners in.

It seems as if Mickey Callaway does not agree with that traditional way of thinking as he is planning on batting Yoenis Cespedes second because “You want to hit all your best hitters at the top of the lineup. I’ve seen the numbers. The numbers make sense to me. The last couple of MVP’s, all the guys getting MVP votes are batting second.”

Makes sense doesn’t it? If the numbers lined up with what he said then yes, but they don’t. The last three years there have been six MVP’s, three from the AL and, three from the NL. It is an even split, three of those MVP’s batted third in the order the majority of the time and the other three mostly batted second.

At the end of the day Cespedes should bat third, Asdrubal Cabrera is a great number two hitter and if Cespedes were to bat second Cabby would have to bat leadoff or slide down to sixth. If Cespedes were to bat second and not third it could force a weaker hitter like Travis d’Arnaud or Juan Lagares to bat sixth, which is an important part of the lineup, rather than a power hitting Adrian Gonzalez or Todd Frazier.

Another reason why Cespedes should bat third is because that is where he will most likely bat when Michael Conforto returns. Conforto is a perfect fit for the two hole and that’s where Callaway should bat him as long as someone can consistently bat leadoff. It is better for the team if Cespedes bats third.

Jake: We are beginning to see more managers bat their best players 2nd in the lineup.  I’m not sold on the idea yet. I understand the premise behind doing it, but I still feel like the best hitters in a lineup, especially a hitter like Cespedes who has so much power, should be hitting in the heart of the lineup for RBI opportunities.

I have been wrong before, but if I was manager, I’d bat Cespedes 3rd or 4th in the lineup. But, if Mickey puts him at 2nd, and he excels, I am totally okay with being wrong. I feel like Cabrera is much more suited to bat second, and Cespedes can bat right behind him in 3rd. Cabrera has done a great job batting 2nd for the Mets the past few years.

It’s good to have guys that can get on base early and “set the the table” for the power hitters, which we have plenty of. If the hitters early in the lineup can set the table for people like Cespedes, Frazier, and Gonzales to drive them in, that is the best case scenario. I feel that Cespedes should be batting 3rd, but, I’d be okay if I was proven wrong.

Josh: I have started to like the idea of Yoenis Cespedes hitting second. Many in the sabermetric world believe that your best hitter should hit second and I don’t think it would hurt to at least try it out. Early in the season Jay Bruce will be hitting behind him, but once Conforto returns I would love to see the Mets move Bruce to first and let Brandon Nimmo stay in center field every day, that way Conforto could hit behind Cespedes and Bruce could move down to the fifth spot in the order. A Nimmo- Cespedes- Conforto- Frazier- Bruce top half of the lineup could be very good and give the Mets a nice left-right-left-right-left combination.

Justin: The new, hot fad in Major League Baseball seems to have managers hitting their supposed “best players” in the two hole rather than third in the lineup as traditional baseball logic seems to imply. The question remains: will this trend become the new norm or will it simply fall to the wayside like so many of baseball’s other proceeding trends?

While there indeed is some merit to the idea, the whole concept of hitting Cespedes, or really any so-called “premier” hitter, second in the lineup still seems a bit off to me. Put simply, I’m still a skeptic the the idea. With that said, it may be worth trying out, if only for a little, to see if there are any real tangible benefits to the idea of if it’s perhaps a bit overblown. It may work for some teams, but every team and player is different and if it’s not working for the Mets, I see little reason to continue with the movement just to be “trendy.”

Dominick: Yoenis Cespedes is the Mets best hitter.  The best hitter should be hitting 3rd in the lineup no matter what.  I know Major League managers have been placing the best hitters 2nd, but I cannot wrap my head around this concept especially for National League teams.  Even though the Mets have the best hitting pitchers in the MLB they won’t get on base as much as a position player.

So why give Cespedes the chance to only hit a 2-run HR and not a 3-run HR?

If he hits 2nd in the lineup the chances of 2 people being on base are lower than if he hit 3rd, even with the best hitting pitchers in all of baseball.  The Mets also have one of the rare #2 hitters left in baseball.  Asdrubal Cabrera is perfect hitting 2nd in the lineup and he has proven that throughout his time with the Mets.  He’s patient at the plate and doesn’t swing for the fences with every swing.  When Cabrera is healthy he can get on base in a lot of different ways.

Cespedes should hit 3rd in the lineup, at least to start the season.  If the Mets aren’t doing well with him hitting 3rd then a change wouldn’t be the worst thing.

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