5/12-15 Subway Series Preview: New York Mets

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

It’s that time of year again, the Subway Series. The Yankees and Mets will meet four times this week, and, like last season, they will play a four-game home-and-home series. The battle for bragging rights opens tonight at Yankee Stadium and will wrap-up on Thursday at Citi Field. Two games at each building.

What Have They Done Lately?
Following a surprisingly strong start to the season, the Mets have lost eight of their last ten games. They did win yesterday (via walk-off), however. The Amazin’s are 17-19 with a -8 run differential overall this season, which has them tied for last in the top heavy NL East.

Offense
The Mets have a below league average offense at 3.94 runs per game with a team 83 wRC+. They also have a 23.0% strikeout rate as a team, the seventh highest in baseball, so they struggle to score runs and struggle to put the ball in play. Manager Terry Collins does not have any position players on the DL but 1B Lucas Duda (118 wRC+) has missed the last few games with a stomach problem.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

As usual, the Mets’ lineup is anchored by 3B David Wright (104 wRC+), who is off to a relatively slow start. Former Yankee OF Curtis Granderson (72 wRC+) got off to a brutally slow start but has been much better over the last two weeks or so (151 wRC+). Defensive wiz OF Juan Lagares (121 wRC+) has had an unexpectedly strong start to the season. He was always a glove first guy. 2B Daniel Murphy (133 wRC+) has been excellent and Duda has been more than solid since taking over as the full-time first baseman following the Ike Davis trade.

Other than those five, the Mets have OF Chris Young (97 wRC+), C Travis d’Arnaud (67 wRC+), OF Eric Young Jr. (79 wRC+), and SS Ruben Tejada (54 wRC+) playing everyday. IF Wilmer Flores and UTIL Eric Campbell were just called up to add some spark. Flores has played three games and Campbell made his MLB debut yesterday. C Anthony Recker (103 wRC+) and former Yankee OF Bobby Abreu (91 wRC+) round out the bench. Yes, Bobby Abreu is in the big leagues.

It’s worth noting Mets’ pitchers are 0-for-63 this year, the longest hitless streak by a pitching staff to start a season in baseball history. The chances of them picking up their first pitcher hit on Wednesday or Thursday is roughly 10,000%.

Pitching Matchups

Monday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. NYM) vs. RHP Bartolo Colon (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Remember when the Yankees dragged Colon out of winter ball and we all laughed? Three years later, he’s still going strong in the big leagues. Who would have guessed? The 40-year-old Colon has a 5.36 ERA (4.09 FIP) in seven starts and 43.2 innings this year, with his best strikeout (7.01 K/9 and 17.8 K%) and walk (1.03 BB/9 and 2.3 BB%) rates since his stint in pinstripes. Homers (1.44 HR/9 and 12.1 HR/FB%) and a lack of grounders (37.4%) have been his biggest problems. Colon still throws almost nothing but fastballs, upper-80s four-seamers and mid-80s two-seamers. His velocity isn’t what is was three years ago. On occasion he’ll throw low-80s sliders and changeups. There’s no mystery here. Colon comes right at guys with fastballs.

(Doug Pensinger/Getty)
(Doug Pensinger/Getty)

Tuesday: LHP Vidal Nuno (vs. NYM) vs. RHP Zack Wheeler (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Wheeler, 23, is the second of the Mets’ three big pitching prospects, sandwiched between Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard. He has a 4.35 ERA (3.13 FIP) in seven starts and 39.1 innings this season, and his only real problem has been walks (4.12 BB/9 and 10.6 BB%). Young pitchers, man. The two things they do better than anything is walk guys and get hurt. Wheeler has very good strikeout (8.92 K/9 and 22.9 K%), homerun (0.46 HR/9 and 6.3 HR/FB%), and ground ball (52.3%) rates, though he’s been getting clobbered by left-handers (.393 wOBA). Righties haven’t had as much luck (.277 wOBA). Two mid-90s fastballs (four and two-seamer) set up his upper-80s slider and upper-70s curveball. Wheeler throws only a handful of changeups per start. He’s got nasty stuff, but like most young pitchers at this point of their careers, Wheeler is still rough around the edges.

Wednesday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (No vs. NYM) vs. TBA
This start was supposed to go to RHP Jenrry Mejia, but after three straight rough outings, Collins told David Lennon they may skip his start and give him some time in the bullpen. They need to limit his workload anyway. If that does happen, either RHP Rafael Montero or RHP Jacob deGrom figures to get the call for the spot start. Both would be making their big league debuts. Montero, 23, has a 3.67 ERA (3.97 FIP) in 42.2 Triple-A innings this season and is by far the better prospect of the two. He was really impressive in Spring Training. Everything (delivery, ball out of his hand, etc.) looks easy. The 25-year-old deGrom has a 2.58 ERA (3.73 FIP) in 38.1 innings at Triple-A this season. He spent all of last year at Triple-A, so if the Mets make this decision based on seniority, deGrom would be the guy.

Thursday: TBA vs. RHP Dillon Gee (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Gee, 28, turned his season and to some extent his career around during the Subway Series last season, when he held the Yankees to one run in 7.1 innings while striking out 12. He went into that start with a 6.34 ERA and has pitched to a 2.72 ERA (3.85 FIP) in 202 innings since. Gee comes into this series with a 2.73 ERA (4.28 FIP) and just okay peripherals — 5.64 K/9 (15.6 K%), 2.56 BB/9 (7.1 BB%), 1.03 HR/9 (9.5 HR/FB%), 40.9% grounders, .302 wOBA against lefties, and .262 wOBA against righties — though he’s obviously doing something right. He’s one of those guys who defies the usual ERA/FIP relationship. Gee has the standard issue four-pitch mix: upper-80s fastball, mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, and mid-70s curveball. Far from flashy, but it’s damn effective, especially over the last year.

As for the Yankees, they seem likely to start Alfredo Aceves in the series finally now that CC Sabathia is on the 15-day DL with a knee issue. Chase Whitley, the other starter candidate, is pitching for Triple-A Scranton today according to Donnie Collins. It could be a short tune-up outing for Thursday or remove him from consideration all together. If that happens, maybe they’ll just stick with Matt Daley as the extra reliever.

Update: Whitley threw only one inning and seven pitches this afternoon, so it was just a tune-up appearance. He is very likely coming up to either make the spot start or replace Aceves as the long man. I assume it’s the latter.

(Christian Petersen/Getty)
(Christian Petersen/Getty)

Bullpen Status
It seems like the Mets have had one of the very worst bullpens in baseball this year thanks to some high-profile meltdowns, but they’re closer to middle of the pack with a 3.99 ERA (4.31 FIP). It could be worse, I guess. Believe it or not, former Yankee RHP Kyle Farnsworth (4.39 FIP) is closing with RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (3.52 FIP) getting most of the setup innings. That’s a real thing that is happening. RHP Carlos Torres (2.94 FIP) will also see some late-inning time.

LHP Scott Rice (3.97 FIP) is Collins’ only lefty right now. RHP Gonzalez Germen (4.21 FIP), RHP Jeurys Familia (3.77 FIP), and RHP Jose Valverde (5.36 FIP) fill out the rest of the bullpen, which could get a boost from Mejia this week. We’ll find out soon enough. Dice-K threw two innings and 34 pitches yesterday, so he might not be available tonight. Valverde, Familia, and Rice also pitched briefly on Sunday. Our Bullpen Workload page has the status of the Yankees’ relievers. Check out Amazin’ Avenue for the latest and great on the Mets.

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The Latest on Not A Yankee Robinson Cano

(Ezra Shaw/Getty)
(Ezra Shaw/Getty)

Robinson Cano has a been a Not A Yankee for a little less than three weeks now, but his market has yet to really take shape. He had not received any offers from other clubs as of November 10th. That isn’t all that surprising, however. Things have been relatively quite for other top free agents like Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo as well. The market for the big names usually starts to pick up during the Winter Meetings in early-December.

Until then, here is a roundup of the latest on Cano, courtesy of Ken Davidoff, George King, Andy Martino, Andrew Marchand, Andy McCullough, Wally Matthews, Tim Brown, and Joel Sherman.

  • Hal Steinbrenner confirmed the team will meet with Cano’s people sometime this week, but also indicated they will continue to talk to other players in case things drag on too long. “We haven’t really had any communication on any specifics yet, but it’s the beginning of the process,” said Hal.
  • Jay-Z and agents Brodie Van Wagenen and Juan Perez met with Mets owner Jeff Wilpon, GM Sandy Alderson, and assistant GM John Ricco at a Manhattan hotel yesterday. They supposedly made a “Scott Boras-like” presentation. Cano’s camp initiated the meeting and it sounds like they’re trying to drum up some leverage. The Mets aren’t handing out the type of contract it will take to sign Cano, especially under the risk-averse Alderson.
  • “[Jay-Z is] going to be intimately involved in all areas, and that has been true for the last six months” said Van Wagenen recently. “Jay is a very, very successful businessman, who has a keen understanding of value, a keen understanding of brands, and a keen understand of what this player, Robinson Cano, wants to accomplish in his career. He’s been at the table both in strategy sessions and in preparation. And he absolutely has, and will continue to be, involved in the actual negotiations with potential suitors.”
  • Cano’s camp has not yet budged off their ten-year, $305M request, but Randy Levine ain’t havin’ any of that. “We want Robbie back — we think Robbie is terrific — but we have no interest in doing any ten-year deals and no interest in paying $300M to any player. Until he gets a little more realistic, we have nothing to talk about,” said the team president.
  • The Dodgers still insist they will not get involved in the bidding for Cano. We first heard that a few weeks ago. Los Angeles seems like an obvious fit for Robbie given their huge wallet and second base vacancy, but they appear to be saving the majority of their cash for the inevitable Clayton Kershaw extension. Maybe they’ll circle back if they have some extra cash once that is taken care of.
  • Just in case you were wondering, the Marlins will not be in on Cano this winter. Shocking, I know. “We have to know our market and our payroll and our history, and our history is to build around young players and add pieces when it has become very clear that we are ready to win,” said GM Dan Jennings.

5/27-5/30 Subway Series Preview

Subway Series

With the Astros moving to the AL and interleague play taking place everyday, the Subway Series has a new twist these days. Instead of two three-game series a month apart, the Yankees and Mets will play four games this week — the first two in Flushing, the next two in the Bronx. It’s a pair of back-to-back home-and-home series. I love the setup.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Amazin’s pulled off a Yankees-esque come-from-behind win last night, ending their five-game losing streak. They’ve won just four of their last 16 games and sit in fourth place in the NL West with a 18-29 record and a -42 run differential. They bad.

Offense
Much like the Yankees, the Mets have a below-average offense. They average just 4.0 runs per game with a team 89 wRC+ while the Bombers are at 4.3 and 93, respectively. The difference between the two is basically the DH. As far as position player injuries go, the Mets are perfectly healthy.

The second best second baseman in New York. (Al Bello/Getty)
The second best second baseman in New York. (Al Bello/Getty)

The conversion about manager Terry Collins’ offense starts with 3B David Wright (143 wRC+), who has again been one of baseball’s elite all-around players. OF Lucas Duda (136 wRC+) and 2B Daniel Murphy (123 wRC+) have been strong supporting players while C John Buck (111 wRC+) has cooled off following his strong start. CF Rick Ankiel (109 wRC+) strikes out a ton (44.9%) but also hits the ball a long, long way (.297 ISO).

The Mets have gotten nothing from SS Ruben Tejada (59 wRC+) and 1B Ike Davis (39 wRC+), though the platoon duo of OF Mike Baxter (82 wRC+ vs. RHP) and OF Marlon Byrd (103 wRC+ vs. LHP) have been better than expected. UTIL Jordany Valdespin (86 wRC+) is the pinch-hitter extraordinaire, C Anthony Recker (58 wRC+) the backup backstop, IF Justin Turner (86 wRC+) the backup infielder, and OF Juan Lagares (30 wRC+) the defensive specialist. Wright, Duda, and Murphy are dangerous, but everyone else can be pitched to.

Starting Pitching Matchups

Monday @ CitiField: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP Jon Niese
Niese, 26, broke out last season and was rewarded with his first career Opening Day start this year. Rather than continue to improve, the left-hander has taken a step back in 2013 (4.80 ERA and 4.71 FIP). His strikeout (5.13 K/9 and 12.5 K%) and walk (4.47 BB/9 and 10.9 BB%) rates are both career worsts, though his ground ball rate (55.1%) is a career best. Niese is a true five-pitch pitcher, using upper-80s/low-90s two- and four-seamers as well as a mid-80s cutter to setup his mid-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball. The curve is his bread-and-butter. Niese throws all five pitches at least 10% of the time and four of the five pitches at least 16% of the time. The changeup is the exception. The Yankees faced Niese three times during interleague play these last two years, and he’s handled them well each time. Obviously he was much more effective overall back then.

The ace of New York. (Brian Garfinkel/Getty)
The ace of New York. (Brian Garfinkel/Getty)

Tuesday @ CitiField: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Matt Harvey
You’re not going to find a more exciting pitcher right now that the 24-year-old Harvey. The Connecticut native and former seventh overall pick owns a 1.93 ERA (2.45 FIP) in ten starts this year and a 2.30 ERA (2.84 FIP) in 20 big league starts overall. His strikeout (9.51 K/9 and 28.0 K%) and walk (2.19 BB/9 and 6.4 BB%) numbers are outstanding, and his ground ball rate (44.1%) is solid as well. Harvey throws three pitches regularly but lives off his mid-to-high-90s four-seam fastball. His wipeout upper-80s slider and fading mid-80s changeup are both swing-and-miss offerings. A low-80s curveball is his fourth pitch but is still a legit weapon. It’s nasty, nasty stuff. The Yankees have never faced Harvey before; he wasn’t called up until the second half last season.

Wednesday @ Yankee Stadium: RHP David Phelps vs. RHP Jeremy Hefner
When Johan Santana went down with his second torn shoulder capsule, the 27-year-old Hefner took his rotation spot. He’s been pretty bad this year, pitching to a 4.76 ERA (5.25 FIP) in nine starts and one long relief appearance. Hefner’s peripherals aren’t anything special — 6.53 K/9 (17.5 K%), 3.53 BB/9 (9.4 BB%), 1.59 HR/9 (15.5% HR/FB), and 44.2% grounders — which isn’t surprising. The right-hander is another true five-pitch guy, using his upper-80s/low-90s two- and four-seamers basically half the time combined. A mid-80s slider is his top secondary pitch, though he’ll also throw a low-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball. He’s thrown each pitch at least 10% of the time this year. Hefner threw a perfect inning of relief against the Yankees last season, the only time they’ve seen him.

Thursday @ Yankee Stadium: LHP Vidal Nuno vs. RHP Dillon Gee
Gee, 27, hasn’t just been the worst pitcher on the Mets staff this year, he’s been one of the worst pitchers in all of baseball. He owns a 6.34 ERA (4.93 FIP) in ten starts with not truly awful peripheral stats: 6.70 K/9 (15.9 K%), 3.08 BB/9 (7.3 BB%), 1.45 HR/9 (13.8% HR/FB), and 46.8% grounds. Still, when you allow 36 runs in 49.2 innings, you’ve stunk. Perhaps not coincidentally, Gee has lost about two miles an hour off his two- and four-seam fastballs this year, sitting in the upper-80s instead of the low-90s. A low-80s changeup is his go-to pitch, though he’ll also throw low-80s sliders and mid-70s curveballs. He’s a two-seamer/changeup guy, for the most apart. The Yankees have faced him once in each of the last two seasons and he’s put together solid outings both times. Not great, not terrible. Winnable.

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Bullpen Status
Mets GM Sandy Alderson is a bright baseball guy, but his bullpens since taking over three years ago have been just dreadful. The team’s relief unit owns a 4.77 ERA (4.36 FIP) this year, the third worst in MLB. Take away the quietly elite closer RHP Bobby Parnell (2.20 FIP) and it would be a lot worse.

The rest of the bullpen is a mess of has-beens and never-wases. There’s former Yankee RHP LaTroy Hawkins (3.69 FIP) and RHP Brandon Lyon (3.43 FIP) in the former category and RHP Greg Burke (2.05 FIP), oft-used LHP Scott Rice (3.40 FIP), seldom-used LHP Robert Carson (10.18 FIP), and RHP Collin McHugh (10.39 FIP in very limited time) in the latter. Hawkins and Parnell pitched yesterday, but everyone else should be fresh.

Although CC Sabathia got crushed yesterday, he did manage to spare the bullpen by soaking up seven innings. The key late-inning relievers have all had plenty of rest these last few days and are good to go this week. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for exact usage details. For the best Mets analysis, I recommend Amazin’ Avenue. One of the best team-specific blogs in all the land.

Winter Meetings Day Four Open Thread

(Scott Cunningham/Getty)

The Winter Meetings officially come to a close today, and the rumor mill should start to dry up around noon (probably sooner) after the clubs flee the Gaylord Opryland. The two biggest free agents (Zack Greinke & Josh Hamilton) are still on the board and the Yankees haven’t done a thing other than announce Alex Rodriguez‘s new hip injury. Somehow they’re actually going to leave this week with more questions than when it started.

The Rule 5 Draft starts at 10am ET and I’ll have a liveblog up for that, but otherwise this is your thread for various Yankees-related rumblings throughout the day. Here are Monday’s, Tuesday’s, and Wednesday’s rumors. All times are ET.

  • 3:49pm: The Yankees have not contacted the Padres about Chase Headley, which is a little surprising. Even though San Diego says he’s off-limits, you’d think they’d at least ask to hear it from the horse’s mouth. [Chad Jennings]
  • 12:06pm: The Yankees spoke to the Mets about R.A. Dickey this week, but apparently they didn’t have the right pieces to swing a trade. I can’t imagine the PR hit the Mets would have taken had they dealt the reigning Cy Young Award winner to the Bronx. [Andy Martino]
  • 10:53am: The Yankees did not inquire on Michael Young because they don’t believe he can handle third base full-time. Can’t say I disagree. [Joel Sherman]
  • 10:49am: Cashman met with reporters during the Rule 5 Draft and said he’s been engaged in trades more than free agents so far. [Chad Jennings]
  • 8:40am: Curtis Granderson is one of five players the Phillies are targeting for their center field opening. It’s unclear if (or how much) the two sides have talked and what Philadelphia could give up in return. [Danny Knobler]
  • 8:00am: Agents who have spoken to the Yankees get the impression that a clamp has been placed on the team’s spending. Brian Cashman is supposedly frustrated by his inability to act and is working with ownership to see what he can spend. This is ridiculous. [Joel Sherman]
  • Veteran infielder Alex Gonzalez is in the team’s mix of third base candidates. The 35-year-old has some pop, but he’s a sub-.300 OBP candidate. Gonzalez is coming off surgery to repair a torn ACL and was considered a strong defender at short, though he’s never played a big league game at another position (even DH). The Yankees need to see him work out following surgery before discussing a contract. [George King]
  • The Yankees are open to discussing Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova in trades. This isn’t that surprising, they’ve always been a team that will listen on pretty much every player. [Andrew Marchand]