What’s up with Carlos Carrasco?
Plus: Javy Báez‘s potential future in NYC
Well, if you spent the weekend enjoying the beautiful weather and completely ignoring the Mets, you didn’t miss much. The Amazins went 0-for-the-weekend in Milwaukee, officially eliminating themselves from playoff contention and guaranteeing another losing season, their 10th in the past 13 years.
We’ll explore Carlos Carrasco’s early inning struggles, and catch you up on some notable nuggets. But first let’s recap Sunday’s action.
⚾️ IN SHORT: Once again, Carlos Carrasco had a rough first inning, but yesterday he followed that up with a rougher second inning, putting the Mets in a 5-1 hole early. The Mets rallied for two runs in the fourth (on a Javier Báez double) and another in the sixth (on a Kevin Pillar single) to cut the lead to 5-4, but errors by Jonathan Villar and Francisco Lindor helped put the game out of reach for good. The Brewers clinched the NL Central, beating the Mets 8-4. [Box Score]
🔑 KEY MOMENT: In the bottom of the sixth, with one out and runners on second and third, Villar had a play at home for the second out but bobbled the ball and then threw wide of first base, opening the door to a three-run inning for the Brewers.
❶ THE FIRST INNING: While the season is basically over, manager Luis Rojas offered some thoughts on how Carlos Carrasco can conquer his first-inning difficulties.
PITCH SELECTION: “I think the fastball and the slider have been the pitches that have hurt him in the first inning,” Rojas said after yesterday’s game. “Not the changeup, the changeup has been a special pitch that’s helped him get through the lineup a few times. It’ll be interesting if he starts mixing more in the first inning. He’s just not going to shy away. I think the opposing team is going to expect that. One thing for sure is that he’s going to attack the zone.”
CHANGE IT UP: Looking at the numbers, Carrasco has relied on his 4-seam fastball nearly 40% of the time in the first inning, while opponents have absolutely crushed it to a 1.643 slugging percentage (boosted by four home runs). To Rojas’s point, his changeup has been much more effective, holding hitters to a .467 slugging percentage in the first, while inducing whiffs 15% of the time.
FREQUENCY: So would throwing his changeup more often crack the code of Carrasco’s first inning troubles? Not exactly. His usage in the first frame isn’t much different than it is during the rest of the game—he throws it 24% of the time in the first, and 24.9% of the time in every other inning.
ATTACK: It’s not so much how often he throws his offspeed stuff, but when. In the first inning, Carrasco likes to try to get ahead in the count, using his fastball. And opposing hitters have picked up on this; that’s why four first-pitch fastballs have turned into home runs. Carrasco has only thrown his changeup four times (7.7%) to start an at-bat in the first inning. He more than doubles that usage after the first, throwing first-pitch changeups 16.5% of the time in the second inning or later. This is what Rojas must have been talking about.
❷ BÁEZ MAKING HIS CASE: With another two-hit, two-RBI game, Javy Báez is heading into free agency on a much more positive note than just one short month ago. When he was traded to the Mets on July 30, Báez was hitting .250/.295 for the Cubs. After a slow start and an IL stint with the Mets, he finished August at .244/.290. Báez started to heat up as the team fell out of contention, and his red hot September has him at .265/.318 for the year with an .822 OPS.
❸ NIMMO MAY BE THE ANSWER IN CENTER: If we told you the Mets could get a CF who was about average defensively who can hit .300 with a career .395 OBP, you’d probably be pretty happy. Even after going 0-for-4 yesterday, Brandon Nimmo finished the weekend 4-for-11 and is hitting .301 on the year with an .839 OPS.
🧑🏫 SOUND SMART: Since 2018, Nimmo has the third highest OBP (.401) in Major League Baseball, behind only Mike Trout and Juan Soto.
⏭ NEXT UP: The Mets have a day off today before the Marlins come to New York for a double header on Tuesday. As of right now, the pitching matchups appear to be a showdown between everyone’s favorite TBD v. TBD in Game 1 and TBD v. TBD in Game 2.
📈 STANDINGS: The long-and-winding road toward elimination met its destiny on Saturday. FanGraphs projected the Mets to win 92 games before the season started, giving them an 82.2% chance of making the playoffs on March 31. By the middle of the summer, it was clear the projections would be wrong. At 73-82, the Amazins would need to win-out just to reach 80 wins.
🔨 THOR: Noah Syndergaard appears on the cusp of returning to a major-league mound for the first time since 2019. He could be activated as soon as tomorrow, after making his second rehab appearance for Triple-A Syracuse on Saturday, where he struck out two batters in one inning of work.
🤩 deGROM: It’s possible Jacob deGrom will also pitch before season’s end. He threw 25 pitches (all fastballs) in a side session last week. But manager Luis Rojas wasn’t certain whether his ace would face live batters this week.
🍎 ROSTER MOVES: Before Sunday’s game, the Mets placed J.D. Davis on the 10-Day IL with a left hand sprain, ostensibly ending his season. In a corresponding move, they activated right-hander Sean Reid-Foley, while designating outfielder Albert Almora Jr. for assignment.
WASTED OPPORTUNITIES: With his season likely over and the Mets out of playoff contention, Davis is most frustrated with losing “winnable” games earlier in the year: “Take, for example, the Pirates series,” Davis said, referring to the first series after the All-Star break when the Mets lost two of three. “Should we have swept the Pirates? Yes, absolutely. It’s those little games where we should have taken care of business.”
⚾️ PITCHING HELP: With minor league pitching coordinator/assistant pitching coach Ricky Meinhold leaving the organization and current pitching coach Jeremy Hefner’s contract up at the end of the season, the Mets are reportedly having conversations with Driveline founder and former Reds director of pitching Kyle Boddy; however, Andy Martino reports those talks are not expected to lead to his hiring.
📚 ON THIS DATE:
The Frankie and Javy Show
💰 Money talks. And so does Francisco Lindor to owner Steve Cohen. A report from Friday and an interview with Javy Báez tell us what we already could have guessed: Lindor is pushing for his friend to stay in New York long-term.
👂 OWNER’S EAR: MLB insider Robert Murray wrote on Friday, “Francisco Lindor has the ear of owner Steve Cohen and might have enough sway to get Cohen to keep Báez in New York long-term, no matter the cost.”
BÁEZ: “Obviously, Frankie wants me to stay,” Báez told NBC Sports Chicago on Friday. “He wants to make sure they make an offer if it’s possible, and see what happens in the offseason.”
SPECIAL BOND: “I think me and Lindor are closer than KB [Kris Bryant] and [Anthony] Rizzo,” Báez said. “It’s a really special thing here. … I would love to stay here and play with [Lindor].”
LEARNING TO LOVE NY: “I obviously don’t like the traffic. I don’t like the cold,” Báez said. “but if [the Mets] make the offer, and they make it happen, I would love to stay in New York.”
🍎 Director of player development Jeremy Barnes provided some insightful feedback on the state of the Mets’ farm system to SNY’s Jacob Resnick:
‘NEW’ METS: “It’s leaning on R&D and analytics,” Barnes said of what the ‘new’ New York Mets are about. “I think we’re making strides in adding more depth and creating good processes and systems. But it’s where we are right now.”
FOCUS: “He’s a young guy, and it’s very normal to — not on purpose — to lose focus for a play or two,” Barnes said of Ronny Mauricio, who made 20 errors in High-A this season. “It’s just a matter of overcoming the repetitiveness that is baseball and staying locked in every single night.”
ÁLVAREZ CATCHING: “He’s running advance meetings — doing it in English — and he’s learning hitters,” Barnes said of super-prospect Francisco Álvarez, who has already proven he can do plenty with his bat. “I’m not too concerned about the catching side of it because his personality and the attributes he has as a human being are elite.”
NEXT RISER: “The biggest name is [Adam] Oller probably,” Barnes said in naming an unheralded, development success story. “He’s been in Triple-A and doing fantastic things. Coming in his name wasn’t brought up to me like all the other names, but he’s made huge gains in his development.”
🔗 Why letting Michael Conforto walk in free agency should be first step to fix Mets' offense this offseason, by John Harper, SNY: “The need to make significant changes to the Mets’ offense is obvious. What’s not so obvious is the best way to do it, as this team is essentially locked in at some key positions while also strapped with some players coming off lousy seasons whose trade value will be diminished this winter. Whoever is hired as the head of baseball operations to make such decisions will need to be bold and/or creative, but if it were my call I’d start by letting Michael Conforto go as a free agent.”
🔗 Despite down year with Mets, Dominic Smith continues to bet on himself, by Deesha Thosar, NY Daily News: “His future with the Mets is muddy after parts of five major-league seasons that have led to a 1.2 fWAR. With Pete Alonso stationed at first base for years to come, Smith’s down year at the plate no longer warrants his playing time in left field, which is why he’s been the Mets top pinch-hitter off the bench to end the 2021 season. Smith, though, is taking his rough year in stride. He said this season has been a learning experience, and the 26-year-old ballplayer thinks it will help him become stronger and more resilient.”
And… we leave you with how Gary and Keith fill the time when Mets’ games no longer have playoff implications:
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