MMO Mailbag: Mickey Callaway Honeymoon Is Over

Since the beginning of the season, the questions in the mailbag have asked about some of the Mets moves, but with the team rolling, there has mostly been a positive tone.  That is to be expected when the Mets had the best record in the National League and won their first five series of the year.  However, after their eighth-inning meltdown on Monday, we have seen fans questioning the team and the manager a little more than they previously have:

@michaeld021 says . . .

That inning is on Callaway!!! DeGrom should have stayed in to face Kendrick and then put in Blevins to Harper. It saves a reliever and Kendrick is terrible against deGrom.

John S. replies . . .

If you keep replaying and replaying the eighth inning against the Nationals over and over again, this does seem to be the seminal moment of the inning.

Going back, Jacob deGrom was at 103 pitches, and the Nationals had runners on first and second with one out.  Howie Kendrick was due up, and Bryce Harper was on deck.

At that point, Kendrick was 0-3 with three strikeouts against deGrom.  In his career, Kendrick is 2-26 (.077) against deGrom.  Given his position as the staff ace, his complete dominance of Kendrick in his career and that night, it would be justifiable to leave deGrom in to face just one more batter.

Obviously, Mickey Callaway disagreed saying, “I thought it was fairly obvious three pitches into the Turner at-bat Jacob deGrom was spent. It was OK, we got to get him out.”

Look, if a pitcher is spent, he’s spent, and as we have learned, we don’t want to see anyone pushing this Mets starting pitching staff past their breaking points.  When that happens, the pitchers go down, and then the season is effectively over.

To me, the real question was why Seth Lugo in that spot?

According to Brooks Baseball, Kendrick is a .279 hitter against the curveball, which is Lugo’s best pitch.  While a very limited sample size, Kendrick came into that game 1-2 against Lugo with a walk.  Put another way, this was a bad matchup for Lugo, and you were only exacerbating it by asking Lugo to do something he has never done in his career – come into a game to get just one batter.

No matter how you argue everything that happened in that fateful inning, Lugo in that spot was a mistake.

Callaway could have gone to Robert Gsellman and his sinker to try to get the inning-ending double play, although Kendrick also has great numbers against him as he does against both AJ Ramos and Hansel Robles.

While Kendrick hits the Mets right-handed relievers quite well, he has struggled against Jerry Blevins going 1-8 with two strikeouts against him.  Considering they were bringing Blevins into the game anyway to face Harper, it would seem Blevins for two batters was the right move instead of asking Lugo to do something he’s not yet comfortable doing against a hitter who hits him well.

That one domino set off a nightmare of an inning.  We could say this was Callaway over-managing or managing scared, but really, this is what he has done all season.  It worked for the first 14 games, but it didn’t work in this one inning.

Even disagreeing with the move, it should not let the Mets bullpen off the hook.  To a man, they were all bad allowing deGrom’s two inherited runners to score along with four of their own that inning.  In total, they walked three batters including two bases-loaded walks, hit a batter, and allowed three hits.

Lugo was the only one of those relievers not asked to do his job or put in a position to succeed.  We can blame Callaway for that, but really, this was the bullpen meltdown.  Of course, part of that could be the result of a manager using them to the point where the Mets have already had to dip into the minors twice to get a fresh arm.

@MeekPhil_ asks . . .

Why is Reyes Hitting?

John S. replies . . .

Like with the deGrom question, let’s revisit the game situation.

With the Mets trailing 3-2, the Mets had Gio Gonzalez on the ropes with runners at the corners and one out.  At the time, Callaway had Jose Reyes (4-15, 2B, 2 HR, BB, 3 K), Michael Conforto (0-2, BB, K), Adrian Gonzalez (2-19, 4 K), and Brandon Nimmo (0-3, K) available to pinch hit against Gonzalez.

It should also be noted At that point, Gonzalez was at 97 pitches, and the Nationals had Sammy S0lis and Shawn Kelley warming in the bullpen.  When Reyes was announced as the pinch hitter, Solis came into the game.

To put things in perspective, here is how the available Mets pinch hitters had fared against Solis:

Reyes BB
Conforto 1-1
Gonzalez 0-1
Nimmo 0-2

Even with Reyes scuffling the way he has been, you look at the other Mets batters history against Gonzalez, and you can understand why Callaway would be inclined to hit Reyes in that spot.  However, Gonzalez was lifted from the game, and as we have seen, no one had a sufficient enough sample size to pass judgments about who should and who should not face Solis.

Up until this at-bat, Reyes was 0-16 on the season.  Since 2015, Reyes has hit .185/.240/.272 with a 7.2% walk rate and a 16.8% strikeout rate in the month of April.

That was the Mets chance right there to tie the game.  You simply cannot allow Reyes, with his stats this season and his early season stats for the past four years, to get a big at-bat.  It’s a mistake, and it’s a big one.

What makes the mistake so strange was just a week ago, faced with a similar situation, Callaway bucked convention, and allowed the left-handed Gonzalez to pinch-hit against the left-handed Chris O’Grady.  The end result of that was a two-RBI single which gave the Mets a 2-1 lead in the eighth inning, and it propelled the team to a 4-1 victory.

Between the first two games of this series against the Nationals, Callaway has given us plenty to second guess.  To me, the Reyes decision was an unforced error, and it was the most egregious decision he has made in his short managerial career.

* * * * * * * *

Hopefully, you enjoyed this mailbag as much as I enjoyed answering your questions. Keep the questions and comments coming and make sure to send them to AskMMO@metsmerizedonline.com

 

 

About John Sheridan 531 Articles
John was raised to be a Mets fan by birth, and now he is raising a Mets fan of his own. He also uses Sabermetrics to either confirm the proverbial eye test or to see if we're seeing things with Mets colored glasses. He looks forward to bringing this perspective to MMO. His work, including the tales of raising his son a Mets fan, can also be seen at MetsDaddy.com.