Are you the type of baseball fan that would rather face opponents when they're at the top of their game or would you rather see your team play a foe that is down in the dumps? On one hand, a team that's playing well or poorly could be more likely to keep playing that way. On the other, it's more fun to beat a team that's feeling good about itself... but that also might be more difficult. All things considered, it probably doesn't make much of a difference, but if you want to see the Mets line up against a struggling team, you're in luck on this Memorial Day.
As we grill hot dogs, guzzle carbonated beverages, try not to get condiments on our pants, and remember those who made the United States amazing on Monday, the Mets will take on the Chicago White Sox, a squad that is reeling from a brutal three-game sweep by the World Series champion Royals. The South Siders had late leads in all three games of the rivalry series — including a six-run advantage in the ninth inning on Saturday — but all three leads were overcome by the Royals. If they had won all three games, the Sox would be on top of the American League Central with 30 wins and 21 losses, but instead Robin Ventura's team is behind both Kansas City and Cleveland at 27-24.
Before this weekend, the White Sox were off to a surprising start in a division that was supposed to be dominated by the defending champs as well as Detroit and Cleveland. A lot of that had to do with Chicago's starting rotation that is led by left-handed ace Chris Sale. The last thing the Mets want to see after being dominated by Clayton Kershaw once again is another lefty with a WHIP below 1.00, so it's a good thing that Ventura recently switched up his rotation and started Sale on Sunday afternoon instead of Monday.
Scoring won't be much easier for the Mets against their former farmhand Jose Quintana, who appears to be in the middle of his finest season. However, the appearance of so many southpaws recently has at least opened the door of opportunity for Juan Lagares.
The center fielder has been pushed out of regular playing time this season due to the terrific performance of Michael Conforto, but lately Lagares has begun to shine with four hits and two home runs during the Dodgers series. His contact rate is up this year, but it's still too small of a sample to prove that anything has changed since last year's disappointing campaign. Still, the upside of Lagares makes you wonder if the Mets would be better off with Conforto at first base and the Juanderful one in center field with Lucas Duda out for the long term.
Chicago has a center fielder that is also on a bit of a roll. Austin Jackson has three multiple-hit games in his last four and has seen time at the top of the order, but his .668 OPS is just one of many factors holding the White Sox offense back this year. Jose Abreu hit at least 30 home runs in his first two years outside of Cuba, but in 2016 he's hit so poorly (.247/.313/.397) that Ventura has moved him down to fifth in the batting order, below new cleanup man Melky Cabrera.
Cabrera is a nice player, but he's hardly the cornerstone of a good lineup. That's why the new star of the offense is Todd Frazier, who general manager Rick Hahn made a big deal for over the offseason. Frazier has raised some eyebrows by pacing the American League with 15 home runs while improving both his walk and strikeout rates. Unfortunately, he's hitting just .228/.322/.500 due to a .203 BABIP. If the New Jersey native is able to straighten out that part of his game, he'll do an even better job carrying a Chicago lineup that has no other players with an OPS above the .800 mark.
|Date||Time||Television||White Sox Probable Starter||Mets Probable Starter|
|May 30, 2016||1:10 PM||SNY, ESPN||Jose Quintana||Matt Harvey|
|May 31, 2016||7:10 PM||SNY||Mat Latos||Steven Matz|
|June 1, 2016||1:10 PM||SNY||Miguel Gonzalez||Jacob deGrom|
Important stats: 65.0 IP, 60 K, 12 BB, 1 HR, 2.22 ERA, 2.11 FIP, 1.02 WHIP
Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (92 mph), curveball (77 mph)
One of the least famous good pitchers in the game, Quintana seems to pitch just poorly enough each season to avoid being honored in the All-Star Game. Maybe one year he'll finally get a lifetime achievement vote or perhaps this is the season that he breaks the mold with outstanding numbers. Quintana's walk rate has dropped steadily over the past three seasons, and in 2016 he has been especially stingy with the long ball. Add in a small increase in strikeout rate and a slight decrease in BABIP against, and Quintana is looking like a very solid No. 2 rotation guy behind Sale.
Mets opponent: If you told a Mets fan at the start of the year that Harvey was a No. 2 rotation guy, he or she would probably take it as an insult, but Harvey has turned out much worse than that with more than four runs allowed in each of his last three outings. While it's admirable that the star right-hander refuses to skip a start or find a reason to go on the disabled list, the Mets are eventually going to have to step in if he keeps on serving up fat breaking pitches. At the same time, optimistic Mets fans can't help but get excited for each of Harvey's starts, as any one could be the one that helps him turn his season around.
Important stats: 51.0 IP, 26 K, 18 BB, 8 HR, 4.06 ERA, 5.25 FIP, 1.41 WHIP
Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (90 mph), slider (84 mph), splitter (80 mph)
Back in April when Latos had allowed just two total runs in his first four starts, the veteran right-hander looked like the steal of the offseason. So many teams had given up on Latos, and the White Sox scooped him up for almost nothing! It should have been a red flag that Latos wasn't striking out many batters, because he followed up those first four starts with four in which he gave up a total of 18 runs in 20.2 innings. With fewer than five strikeouts per nine innings this year, he's getting close to being the second White Sox starter to be designated for assignment in 2016.
Mets opponent: Steven Matz was spectacular once again in Washington last Wednesday, as he held the Nationals without a run for eight innings. Many Mets fans are probably waiting for the other shoe to drop on the lefty, but they should be just trying to enjoy the ride. This combination of control, ground ball rate, and power doesn't come along very often. Since blowing up in his season debut against Miami, Matz has picked up seven wins in a row for the Metsies.
Important stats: 28.0 IP, 24 K, 10 BB, 4 HR, 4.50 ERA, 4.54 FIP, 1.54 WHIP
Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (91 mph), splitter (84 mph), slider (86 mph)
When one looks at the performance of star players like Sale, Frazier, and Quintana, one might say to one's self, "Was it really such a surprise that the White Sox got off to a great start this year?" Then one looks at the back of the rotation and sees that John Danks was so bad that he was designated for assignment after four starts and replaced by Gonzalez, who was off to a great start with Triple-A Charlotte after four seasons of mediocre pitching for Baltimore. Now on his second big league franchise, Gonzalez is striking out more batters but still giving up plenty of home runs. Also, an increase in BABIP against him means the right-hander is not yet outperforming his FIP like he did in previous campaigns.
Mets opponent: Jacob deGrom walked three batters for the third straight start and seemed an inch away from giving up a crooked number against Los Angeles last Friday. At the same time, it's hard to argue with seven innings pitched and just one run allowed with seven strikeouts. deGrom's velocity also took a step in the right direction with that outing, so maybe Wednesday is the day that he gets the free passes under control.
Both the Mets and White Sox fans should be on edge during this series because both groups just saw their clubs blow ninth-inning leads despite the absence of a save situation and the presence of a pretty good closer. For New York, the lead was four runs on Friday night when Jeurys Familia gave up singles to three of the first four batters he faced. The red flag should have been when he walked Yasmani Grandal with the bases loaded, but Terry Collins left him in the game anyway to face Chase Utley, and the three-run double that the villain hit now feels like destiny. Why in the world would there not be a parachute plan when Familia was just trying to get some work in after an off day?
David Robertson was pitching after a much longer layover than Familia when he took the mound on Saturday afternoon, but there was still no excuse for his performance (or lack there of). After striking out the first batter he faced, Robertson allowed two hits and two walks to force in a run. Then, Ventura left him in the game to allow three more tallies before the Royals tied the game and eventually walked off against replacement reliever Tommy Kahnle.
Prediction: Mets win two of three.
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