After two games, it’s obvious that this Mets team is different. In Buck Showalter, they have a manager who is both a leader and a good field general.
In Yardbarker’s 2021 ranking of Major League Baseball managers, then Mets manager Luis Rojas was 28th. In their 2022 ranking, Buck Showalter is 14th, much better than Rojas’s, but to me a mistake. Unfortunately, neither article starts with the criteria its author used to evaluate the managers. Therefore, a better way to judge a manager is by the number of games his team’s won. Using that criteria, Showalter ranks 24th among all managers from 1876 to 2020 with 1,551 wins.
Among those who have benefitted from Showalter’s leadership are the team’s hitters, who are showing more plate discipline, a noticeable problem in previous seasons.
One batter, in particular, Mark Canha, has impressed me with skills he brought to the Mets. He’s not going to win any awards for hard-hitting, but he can get on base. This season in nine plate appearances, he has gotten on base seven times (four hits and three walks), giving him an OBP of .778 and a wOBA of .636. Sure, that is based on just two games, but it shows what Canha is capable of doing.
Here are some of his Baseball Savant stats: his BB% is great (91st percentile), as are his Chase Rate (87th percentile), and his Whiff% (84th percentile.)
One potential problem is that two players are not good base runners: Pete Alonso and Robinson Cano. In 2021, Pete Alonso’s BsR (FanGraphs) of -5.1 was the lowest on the Mets with Cano’s 2020 BsR of -1.5 slightly better than Alonso’s of -2.0. (The BsR stat estimates a player’s base running skill.) Whenever they get on base in a later inning in a close game, Showalter needs to seriously consider either replacing them with a pinch runner or, if they are approaching third base with the possibility of a close play at the plate, hold them at third. That wasn’t done last night with Cano, who was thrown out trying to score, plus it didn’t help that his slide didn’t take him near the plate.
On the pitching side, both Megill and Scherzer pitched well as have the Mets relievers. In seven innings of relief, the seven pitchers gave up five hits and only one earned run, that run and three of the hits given up by the same pitcher, Seth Lugo, in the first game. Lugo was also the only reliever to appear in both games.
On a separate note, MLB must address the hit-by-pitch problem before a player gets seriously injured. In each of their first two games, a Mets player was hit in the head by a pitch. That’s unacceptable. In the second game, Nationals pitcher Steve Cishek threw a high and inside pitch to Francisco Lindor, who was set to bunt, in the head. Showalter rushed toward the field, the others in the dugout following his lead.
In the second game, an announcer blamed it on the ball, claiming pitchers cannot get a good-enough grip on it. I’ve seen tortoises move faster than the speed at which baseball is moving toward solving this problem. But then, Major League Baseball did not show any urgency in ending the lockout until the threat of the loss of games became acute.
And with regard to the hit batters in the two Mets games, after the second game, in reply to
“In a situation like this, where you had three batters for them hit last night, then you have this tonight, is there any consideration to issue any warnings before tomorrow’s game?”
the umpires’ crew chief, Mark Carlson, responded with
“That’s something the Commissioner’s Office will let us know. But going forward, we’re always aware of the situations. Obviously, we’ve been working these games, and we’re always aware of it. But as far as … that’ll be a decision the Commissioner’s Office has to make,”
shifting responsibility to the Commissioner’s Office.
Hopefully, Commissioner Manfred handles the “grip” problem better than the lockout.
On a more positive note, in a Forbes magazine article, Christian Red wrote:
“[Ron] Darling, as well as former slugger Luis Gonzalez — who played under Showalter for two seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks — both think the Mets now have a field general who can take them deep into October, if not to the mountaintop.”
The Mets are now two games closer to that goal.