Wednesday, July 8, 2020

A Step Forward By Matz Would Be Huge

When I heard earlier today that Yoenis Céspedes was working out at first base I wondered if Manager Luis Rojas had lost his freaking mind. I was glad to learn later on that this wasn't the case. Apparently he did it on his own, just for fun. We keep hearing how well Céspedes has been doing, and that seems to be true. I'm getting a little giddy picturing a Mets lineup built around Céspedes, Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto. If Robinson Cano can bounce back to some approximation of what he was a couple of years ago, and Dom Smith and J.D. Davis produce close to what they did last season, this could be a really good hitting lineup. Pretty well balanced, also.

Then the big questions move to pitching. There was a nice piece on Steven Matz in the Post today, documenting how Matz was able to stay in decent shape while the game was shut down. He feels as if he'll be ready to pitch at full strength when the season begins. Obviously, the more the Mets can get out of their starters early, the better off they'll be down the road. In a sprint with few days off, not overtaxing the bullpen early on would seem crucial.

It's hard for me to believe that Matz is 29 years old. It really doesn't feel that he first came up 5 years ago. He missed so much time in 2016 and 2017, and was basically an inconsistent 5-inning pitcher the last two. I don't know how much opportunity he will have to prove himself in this 60-game season, but it's probably time for him to step up and be whatever he's going to be. Hopefully the answer to that will prove to be more than the erratic 5-and-gone lefty from last year.

Matz says he used the stretch between spring training and summer training to experiment with different speeds on his curveball and trying out different grips, and he believes that the experimenting has given him a better feel for pitching. Matz taking a big step forward in consistency would be a huge development for this Mets club.

It was heartening to see the following from Anthony DiComo at this afternoon:
Besides Céspedes, perhaps no Met has impressed early onlookers in Summer Camp as much as Steven Matz, whose rotation spot essentially became guaranteed when Noah Syndergaard underwent Tommy John surgery in March. Matz spent his quarantine working on various new curveball grips, with an eye toward making the pitch more of a weapon.
DiComo points out that Matz's curveball usage last season was the lowest of his career. It's encouraging that Matz is impressing with the deuce early on. I've always liked a lefty who could effectively change speeds with his curve, because it becomes more of a weapon to use against right-handed hitters, too. Since so many southpaws are afraid to throw the curve to righthanders, they're not used to seeing a lot of them. I'm not going to go overboard on how Matz looks so early on, but I do take some encouragement from it. He can be such an important part of the team this season - and beyond.

We know what we have with deGrom. Marcus Stroman, like Matz also 29 years old, looks like a pretty solid #2. Beyond those two, everyone is a question mark.

Rick Porcello has a habit of following bad seasons with good ones. We can hope that's the case since he was pretty bad in 2019. Realistically, if he can just be solid and eat some innings, that might be enough if the offense lives up to its promise. Michael Wacha might be the guy with the most potential behind the top 2. He was really good in 2015, but his career looks more like Matz's since then, with a similar mix of injuries and inconsistencies. Supposedly he's fully healthy this year and, if that's the case, the extra time off and short season might work in his favor.

There's no way to pretend that losing Noah Syndergaard wasn't a huge blow to this team, and there is no way to gloss over the huge questions the Mets will have to figure out after this season. There is also no real starting pitching depth to speak of beyond these five. It could get really ugly if anyone goes down. But there also really is a chance for a really good rotation if things go right. Even with the tough schedule, if the Mets hit and get good starting pitching you have to like their chances.


On Twitter today, Jon Heyman confirmed the recent buzz that billionaire Steve Cohen is not only back in the picture to buy the Mets, but in being seen as the favorite.
In what might well be one of the least shocking revelations of all time, the Wilpons are willing to forgive and forget as long as they get a better price for their club. I can't fault them for that. The reporting about the sale over the last few weeks was that the offers were considerably below the $2.6 billion Cohen was reportedly offering in February. I'd be surprised if he'd still be willing to pay that, especially without a stake in SNY, but he has enough of a personal fortune to outbid anyone else, if he chose to.

While round one of the bidding ending tomorrow, I don't suspect that the sale itself is imminent. We await all real news with baited breath, counting down the moments until we can finally bid a fond adieu to Fred and Jeff.


After a few days of bad news about MLB's COVID-19 testing there's some good news today. Marly Rivera is reporting for ESPN that all of the initial intake testing has been completed, with 66 positive results out of the 3,740 tests administered. That's a positive rate of only 1.78%. The second phase of testing, known as the "monitoring phase", has now started. This is where everyone is supposed to be tested every other day, with the results coming back in 24 - 48 hours.

MLB has reportedly "admitted" that testing delays have caused teams to cancel or delay workouts, which is mighty big of them considering that these cancellations have been well reported. Now we get to see if they can tighten things up now and get the testing itself out of the news. 48 hours seems like quite a large window as it is, given that a player could be positive for 2 full days before he is quarantined.

That's it for me today. Thanks, as always, for stopping by. Please stay safe, be well and take care. Let's Go Mets!

 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

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