April showers bring May flowers: Mets hope to learn from early woes
The New York Mets were barely able to escape a rough April. During the first week, manager Mickey Callaway displayed poor judgement which resulted in a fatigued bullpen.
As a result of burning through his bullpen the previous two games, on April 2, he had to use setup man Justin Wilson instead of Edwin Diaz late in the game.
Callaway had to overwork Wilson to relieve the struggling Jason Vargas. Vargas is nowhere close to the “average” pitcher.
So far in 2019, the average velocity of his fastball is the lowest of any starter. While it may seem miraculous that he is exceptionally well at keeping exit velocity under 90 mph consistently, 15 percent of balls hit off of him come off the barrel of the bat.
He also does not go deep into his starts. In April, Vargas started five games, and only was able to compile 20.1 innings of work. For reference, that puts Vargas in the bottom 10 percent of qualified starting pitchers.
The decision to bring up Pete Alonso, however, has paid off.
First baseman Alonso, at 6 feet 3 inches and weighing 245 pounds, has shown no signs of slowing down since starting last season in the Double-A league.
Alonso’s swing has long been praised by scouts, as he uses his exceptionally strong quads to generate power to help hit the ball harder and stabilize a sweeping path for the traveling bat through the strike zone.
Through 143 plate appearances, Alonso is in the top 73rd percentile for exit velocity, 79th percentile in hard hit rate and 83rd percentile in expected slugging percentage.
Alonso’s ability to time his swing has been outstanding.
Five of his 10 home runs have been toward the batter’s eye. 31.6 percent of balls hit in play by Alonso are hit off the barrel.
If Alonso can uphold this level of production, he will be a strong frontrunner in the race for
National League Rookie of the Year. The Mets are still dealing with injuries. Left fielder Yoenis Cespedes has yet to make his presence felt this season.
This is especially important because the Mets have an unprotected lineup when facing left-handed pitchers.
Switch hitter Jed Lowrie is also out due to injury.
When these two veterans find their way back into the lineup, the Mets can expect more consistent numbers when facing left-handed starters. This season, left-handers have held the Mets in check all season. But the Mets continue to excel against right-handed pitching to offset this slump. Expect a lineup that features switch hitter Lowrie, Cespedes, Conforto, Alonso and McNeil to be near the top of the league in on-base percentage.