If you were around in 1969, maybe you don't much like the Mets for beating the Orioles in the World Series that year. I did not witness that defeat, so they aren't very high on my list of teams to dislike. In fact, I don't think about them very much at all, so with the O's set to face them this week, I enlisted the help of a fellow SB Nation writer, Steve Schreiber of Amazin' Avenue to give some thoughts on their team this year.
You can find my own answers to his questions on AA here, if you are interested.
1. This series is only two games, but that's long enough that the Orioles will catch Jacob deGrom on Wednesday. That being the case, I need to get this important business out of the way first: How does he get his hair to be so glorious? As a much lesser question, what kind of pitcher is he?
Steve: I'm not really sure what Jacob deGrom does to get his hair looking so fantastic and I'd love to know. Some of that's got to be just genes, right? He must have a god or goddess in his familial line. Either that or he knows exactly which shampoo and conditioner to use. I bet he even repeats after lathering and rinsing. I imagine scouts must have some insight into what great hair means for pitching prowess.
On the mound, deGrom uses a fastball that sits in the 93-95 range and can touch a bit higher. At his best, he's got fantastic command of the pitch, spotting it at the corners and on the bottom of the strike zone. He was known for that ability in the minors but what really caused his breakout last season was the development of his secondary pitches, namely his slider. The fastball command has faltered a little in his two most recent starts (both of which he's struggled in) but if he's locating with the fastball, he's really tough to hit. One final note: he's also a great athlete - he fields his position very well and can even hit a little bit. You may have heard (or if not, probably will hear) that he was a shortstop at Stetson University and only took up pitching in his final year there. That plus a Tommy John surgery a few months after the Mets drafted him is what set his timetable back so far.
2. As I look over the Mets as a team, one thing that stands out is an offense that doesn't currently rate very highly compared to others in the league, with a 12th in the NL .657 OPS being one glaring thing. Do you have any hope that this will improve?
Steve: I think it will a bit but it seems like it's going to take the return of David Wright and/or Travis d'Arnaud to really kickstart it. The offense got off to a much better start, to be fair, and they were successful up until the end of their 11 game winning streak. Right now they just have too many developing or questionable hitters at the bottom of the lineup combining with some slow starts from veterans Daniel Murphy and Michael Cuddyer, who they're certainly expecting to get a lot more from. They'll likely need some of the young hitters like Wilmer Flores, Kevin Plawecki, and Dilson Herrera to show a little something to really get going.
3. I follow a few Mets fans and writers on Twitter, enough to get the sense that the continuing presence of Wilmer Flores as the shortstop is a problem. Is that a sentiment you share? If so, what do you think the Mets need to do about their shortstop problem?
Steve: Clearly you don't follow my Twitter feed (@_mistermet) because let's just say I've been staunchly opposed to this whole "experiment" for months. There are still a few dissenters holding out hope but to most Mets observers, he's been a disaster and one that was wholly expected by those who didn't have their heads in the clouds. Flores' bat has always received praise but no scout has ever thought he'd be a shortstop and the Mets themselves agreed with that decision, moving him to 3rd base in the minor leagues before shifting him back to SS out of necessity last season. Some scouts think he's so bad defensively that he should only play 1st base, not even 2nd or 3rd. I don't know if I go that far but you can probably tell, it's really an awful situation.
Sandy Alderson tends to not publicly tip his hand but he said last week that Flores has a relatively long leash at SS, for whatever that's worth. Once they wake up and realize that it's a lost cause, Matt Reynolds is hitting well at Triple-A Las Vegas and would appear to be the best in-house option to take over. He's not a defensive wizard himself but he's lightyears better than Flores and could at least stabilize the position while providing a useful bat. Lesser options include Ruben Tejada, who has 9 lives given how many shots he's gotten at the job, Wilfredo Tovar who's an all-glove, no bat type, and further down the chain former first rounder Gavin Cecchini, who's hitting at Double-A but is probably not an option until late 2015 or early 2016 at earliest. Those are the options other than making a trade (which is what I've advocated - I'm firmly entrenched on the Tulowitzki bandwagon).
4. Juan Lagares racked up some garish numbers with defensive metrics the last two seasons, but as I look at them so far this year it's not as impressive: a 28 DRS last year, currently sitting at -2 for 2015. Have you noticed any difference in his play out there this year compared to last year?
Steve: Not particularly, no. That's kind of the thing with defensive metrics in small samples, I guess. He's looked perfectly fine out in center to most of us despite what the metrics have said so far. If you haven't seen him play, he's really worth the price of admission. He doesn't have Billy Hamilton speed or anything like that but he takes a great first step on every ball out there and has excellent closing speed to the ball. That combined with a very strong, accurate arm makes him the total package defensively. Take it for what you will but Keith Hernandez routinely says he might be the best defensive center fielder he's ever seen, which is pretty impressive considering he watched Carlos Beltran patrol center field for the Mets while he was in his prime (not to mention Mookie Wilson and Lenny Dykstra while he played for the Mets).
5. Another guy who really stands out for an outsider perusing the Mets stat lines is closer Jeurys Familia. It's early of course, but 16 strikeouts in 13.1 innings is ridiculous, and a WHIP of 0.525 is just as eye-popping. What's been his secret to success so far? Do you think he can keep up something close to that pace across the rest of the season?
Steve: Familia was always a guy with a special fastball coming up through the minors but had major control issues as a starter that held him back. He took a huge step forward last season, learning to control the ball just enough and he was really excellent as the setup man but this year he's turned things up to a whole new level so far. The fastball has always been plain filthy, a 95-97 MPH power sinker that produces a ton of groundballs when he's on (57.4% GB rate in 2014, 61.5% so far in 2015). He dominated righties last year to the tune of a silly .131/.216/.161 line but had trouble with the lefties.
The big step forward this year has been with his slider, which has gone from a promising yet inconsistent pitch to borderline unfair so far. Will he go all season without blowing a game? Probably not. But man, this looks pretty real so far based on the way he's throwing. He's just been unhittable for a few weeks now. My only concern is with his workload, as he's been used heavily both last year and early on this season, but the guy is also built like a tank at 6'3", 240 lbs. He's been really fun to watch so far.
Thanks to Steve for doing this. I certainly learned something and I hope you did too.
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