Maybe Sandy’s Right About the Pitching — There Really Is No “Surplus”

SandyAlderson2BradPenner

You never know how to respond to any GM’s comments before the trade deadline. In the case of Sandy Alderson’s recent statements, they could range from a bargaining tactic, to managing the expectations of fans, to spin control, to pure BS, to all of the above. In any event, what you hear is rarely the full frontal, so to speak. This is what he said about the Mets surplus of starting pitching and the possibility of a trade, which he (supposedly) does not consider prudent:

“We have a number both here and at the minor-league level that we like. But it’s easy to run through that number in a hurry with injuries and poor performance. So I’m always hesitant to trade starting pitching. Now, I’m cognizant that an issue for us is offense and run production. So I’m not writing off that possibility. At the same time, what’s getting us to a higher level of performance, hopefully, and success is our pitching — both our starting pitching and the bullpen.”

We keep getting the same message: Sandy is hesitant to trade starting pitching. When you consider the way injuries can quickly decimate a rotation, it’s a valid argument. But I suspect the real issue here is that the Mets may not be so pitching-rich as we’ve been led to believe. I mean, sure, it’s everywhere you read; the “pitching-rich Mets organization” has become a standard (if unexamined) phrase in most every blog or article you come across. It has become, that is, an article of faith. But look at what happened this past season. Yes, Jake deGrom has come out of nowhere and impressed us all. Yet Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero have been stalled in Las Vegas during their meteoric climb to stardom. It may be some time before either of them dominates at the major league level, if ever.

In a terrific piece by one of my favorite Mets observers, Mack Ade (Mack’s Mets) confirmed some of my nagging suspicions. In the July 1st post, Mack provides a quick statistical update on the starting rotations of all seven of the Mets farm teams. Outside of a few names, it’s not a list that will blow you away with its quality, evidenced by the disappointing results many have achieved (if that’s the right word) thus far.

Mack begins with this comment:

The Mets have been known over the past three years to have dominant minor league rotational pitching. They’ve either led or ranked high at every level in the lowest team ERA and WHIP

The first thing I notice on this list is that this doesn’t seem to exist anymore.

Sure, there are exceptions, and the Savannah rotation in particular is doing just fine, but the upper three levels (Las Vegas, Binghamton, St. Lucie) are not punching out the kind of numbers we grew to be used to in the past.

At age 25, Greg Peavey had 10 nice starts at AA in 2014,  but has been lit up so far in AAA. (And he's been one of this season's bright spots.)

At age 25, Greg Peavey had 10 nice starts at AA in 2014, but has been lit up so far in AAA. (And he’s been one of this season’s bright spots.)

Again, take a look for yourself, and then bookmark Mack’s site and give it a regular read, since I can’t begin to paraphrase his nuanced point of view here. I don’t agree with everything Mack writes, but it always comes from an informed perspective.

My personal belief is that while pitching is still a relative strength in the organization, the starting pitching may not be all that it’s been cracked up to be.

Maybe that’s the true source of the caution we hear in Sandy Alderson’s voice, and maybe Sandy’s right. That, well, you know, though this is Year Four of the retooled minor league organization, there’s not really all that much frontline material in the system. Maybe you’d bet on Matz and Syndergaard, but on whom else would you count on as a sure thing?

The Mets just don’t have much pitching to spare.

I still think you trade somebody, because the team must be upgraded somehow. And because smart teams can always pick up veteran filler if push comes to shove. But I agree with Sandy: There’s risk involved.

It’s not a job for the meek.

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12 comments

  1. Michael Geus says:

    I’ve always felt that our pitching prospects are more of a relative strength than an amazing pipeline. Overall, I keep hearing people say that our farm system is strong, yet I never see any Mets on the national Top 100 lists (other than trade acquisitions.)

    Because we do not trade or promote prospects our team ranking for the minor league system (recently I saw 11) is deceiving. We have a lot of organizational depth in the system, which raises that ranking, but where are the future stars?

    Organizational depth guys just become the next Ruben, Kirk, or maybe Duda. If they make the majors at all. You need to develop difference makers to win. Where is our Springer, or Polanco? I don’t see one potential star position player anywhere near this team.

  2. Michael Geus says:

    The organizational pitching depth is rumored to take another hit today, with Jon Niese once again supposedly heading to the DL with shoulder issues.

  3. Eraff says:

    Flores, d’Arnaud, Nimmo, Herrera, Plawecki, Conforto, Smith, Rosario….that’s a pretty good “instant list” of guys with a very high upper end. Some of them are getting exposure now—-a good portion of the list is a year or so out.

    That’s a solid list of possible front liners/stars, with a good deal of depth in addition.

    The problem is NOT the “lack of Polanco and Springer”— nobody has “Mike Trout” consistently. The really big problem here is that the team is TOTALLY reliant on Minor League Propspects. When your young players NEED to be immediate big stars for you to succeed at all, that’s a problem.

  4. I caught the last 3-4 innings last night. Aside: I guess that’s today’s baseball, the MLB has become the NBA, you don’t possibly attempt to watch the whole thing anymore. Anyway, the big moment of the game came in the 7th, I think, though could have been the eighth. The Mets worked out one of their typical rallies — two walks, two pinch-hitters (Young, Campbell) reached first and second. Next up, Lagares, d’Arnaud, Tejada.

    Lagares has not hit well since coming back. He had a short rehab and I’m fairly positive he was called up one day after going 0-4 in Binghamton with 3 Ks. Even so, I was unhappy when I saw him square around to bunt. Here’s a pitcher who walks two guys in a row and we want to give him an out. The first pitch is inside, but Lagares bunts and fails to get it down. He needed to take that pitch (such a common mistake, btw). Then he takes a high strike (the ump’s zone screwed up the players, Murphy in particular). Now it’s 0-2 and Lagares hits into a DP.

    I hate the message TC sent to Lagares with that bunt, I hate the philosophy behind it, the strategy, the whole thing. Are we really bunting so we can pinch-hit for Tejada? One of the problems with the 6-man outfield — and Joe D. at Metsmerized has been on this one — is that every game for TC will be a “big decision day,” which is never a good thing. He’ll ride the hot hand. When Lagares hit into that DP, I thought, I wonder if he’ll play tomorrow.

    Collins has to go, he really doesn’t have it. And BTW, what about the fact that the Mets have given up the most walks in baseball? And they earn the most walks as hitters? Think of the fans! We see more non-events per pitch than any other MLB fan. Statistically, factually, Mets games are the dullest.

  5. Brian Joura says:

    Everyone’s been spoiled by Harvey and the fact that Wheeler has not been dominant and that Montero and Syndergaard haven’t been the second coming of Seaver is treated like a failure of some sort. I’m still very happy with the pitching depth and think there’s room for a trade.

    JDG has been a credible SP and next year we have the return of Harvey and Hefner. Let’s say we want to have 7 SP around to feel good about our depth. We can pick five out of: Colon, deGrom, Gee, Harvey, Hefner, Niese and Wheeler. And that still leaves us Gorski, Matz, Montero and Sydergaard in the high minors ready to contribute if needed.

    I refuse to believe that we need to keep all 11 of those guys for the 2015 season. Even if you think Gorski’s a stiff and that Hefner won’t be ready and you want to hedge your bets with Wheeler.– you could still trade one guy and have seven left for depth.

    And I agree with Eraff on the hitters.

    • I do think there are more hitters in the organization, you can almost figure out the names for the team in 2017. But experience tells us that things have a way of misfiring, guys get hurt, fail to flourish, sure things don’t cut it. I do think that the star player is important, or star players, and I’m hopeful the Mets can find that guy/s somehow. I also think that there’s definitely a way things break right for the Mets in the future.

      • Eraff says:

        I’m not projecting any of these guys…I’ve seen lot’s of the stats and very little of the players. They seem to have more position players with high ceilings versus the recent past..,..and it’s almost always the case that you love other hyped ballplayers even more than your own. As for “who’s OUR POLANCO?”— as amazing as he’s looked, we don’t even know if Polanco is POLANCO yet!!!

        Stardom isn’t so projectable because it realkly does take an amazing effort from any player who would great….and that reveals itself over time. The Cameron Maybins and Uptons out number the true Young Stars. When I consider my first thoughts when I saw Jason Heyward to the player he is now—he’s a nice player, and I don’t think he’s a finished player YET….well…I would have thought that he’d be “Mike Trout”.

        The Problem is that The Mets Have a One Legged Chair approach to building the squad….Prospects. They need to do more, or they’ll never win.

    • For 2015 what? Are you insinuating that 2015 matters at this point?

  6. Raff says:

    It all depends on how you define “depth… I think of DEPTH s having a solid 1 and 2 – or may a couple of proven 2’s, at the major league level, and 3 or 4 other guys who have proven the can pitch a full season reliably, along with 3 or 4 guys Banging At The Door. The 3 proven major league starting pitchers who are in the age range and under control through a time horizon in which the Mets might compete in some meaningful way are all guys with varying degrees of arm troubles> Niese, Gee, Harvey. From a practical standpoint, due to their uncertain physical status, I think it’s fair to roll-back our view of these guys to “prospects”. The two other “high-ceiling” guys, Syndegard and Montero are unproven, and Montero has an injury (which looks fairly routine). They can’t be fairly judged to be anything but prospects. We hope they’re going to regain form and demonstrate an ability to stay on the field. Degrom, Famila, Wheeler: Wheeler has had mixed success- I don’t think we really know what we have or understand how to define him yet, so he’s still a prospect, Degrom, Famiia: Prospects.

  7. Michael Geus says:

    Another issue is the “Vegas factor,” which distorts everything so much it’s impossible to know how anyone, pitcher or hitter, is performing.

    Great work there, Jeff!

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