Steven Matz Makes Grapefruit League Debut For Mets

steven matz

Matz displaying the changeup grip.

You’ve heard the name before, but 2013 was the first real look at the Mets’ LHP prospect Steven Matz due to him missing significant time recovering from arm injuries.

I recently named him as my Mets’ pitching prospect to watch in 2014, as he seems to be on a path to be named a top-five prospect very soon. When a scout finds a left-handed pitching prospect that bring an electric 95 mph fastball, it’s like a fisherman landing an 800 pound marlin. It’s easy to see why the Mets protected Matz from the Rule 5 Draft, and added him to the 40-man roster—every angler looking to hook an 800 pound marlin would have cast their line into the water.

Not many Mets fans have gotten a chance to see this young man pitch and see why everyone is so excited. Unless you live in the Savannah area, odds are you are limited to the one video that can be found on YouTube that shows Matz throwing about 15 pitches—some better than others. You may have also seen a Vine of him spinning things on his finger like a Harlem Globetrotter. However, if you hung around long enough in the Mets game yesterday, you would have gotten a chance to see Matz on the bump.

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Matz came in the fourth inning of yesterday’s matchup against the Cardinals, and gave Mets fans another glance of what the future holds. The first batter he faced was Yadier Molina—talk about pressure. He quickly got behind 3-0 in the count, as he couldn’t spot his fastball. But Matz battled back, and struck out Molina on six pitches.

Facing his second batter, he flashed two very good curveballs before giving up a base hit on a fastball.

Here is some further analysis of what we saw in Matz’s appearance yesterday.

Fastball

This is a plus offering for Matz. The command was a little shaky yesterday, but it’s very early in the year. With more innings, the command will come. He wasn’t afraid to come inside on the right-handed hitters, and was very aggressive with his fastball, which was very nice to see from a guy who brings a mid-90s heater.

Curve Ball

I have heard that Matz has scrapped the slider in favor of a more effective curve ball, and yesterday was the first chance I got to see it. His curve didn’t have the 12-to-6 break you normally see, it was more like 11-to-5, but it was extremely effective. However, he stuck to fastballs for the majority of the pitches he threw.

Changeup

Matz throws a very solid changeup that has plus-potential. It has excellent movement—tailing away from the right-handed hitters/in on lefties. He struck out a batter with a changeup to end the fourth inning yesterday and it looked nasty. With his velocity, he can pepper fastballs on the inside half, and changeups on the outside half to keep the hitters off-balance, and be very successful.

In all, Mets fans should definitely look for great things from Matz in 2014. It’s easy to see why he is creating a buzz and there is a ton of excitement building for the young fireballer again. He struck out over 28% of the batters he faced in 2013 and put up a FIP of 2.63, which is excellent. He will probably start the season in St. Lucie and be a nice replacement as the ace of the staff after Noah Syndergaard set St. Lucie ablaze in 2013.

Bold Prediction: After watching him pitch in yesterday’s game, he has the stuff to skip to Binghamton. If he doesn’t start there, he should join Binghamton right around the All-Star break. He could be in the mix for a 2015 call-up and possible bullpen option for late 2014 if he doesn’t exceed his innings limit.

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Derek Jeter: Under or Over Rated?

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The magical carpet ride known as Derek Jeter‘s career has spawned much debate in the past 18 years. The same questions seem to provide fodder for countless hours of sports radio debate. What if he played in a small market? What is he had been drafted by a bad team? What if the steroid era had not occurred coinciding with his career? Lets address those three topics.

Small Market

Let’s place Jeter in Pittsburgh for argument purposes. A market which had just lost its two biggest stars, Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla. Would Jeter have brought a winning mentality back to Pittsburgh and drawn other free agent stars despite a limited payroll to play there? Common sense says no. The economics of baseball at the time would have prevented Pittsburgh from surrounding Jeter with the talent necessary to make him the transcendent star he became, and lets face it, those lights in Pittsburgh don’t quite glimmer like they do in the Bronx. Jeter would have been a Michael Young-type player in this environment, still amassing 200 hit seasons, but blending in baseball’s landscape as one of those”nice” players every team could use. Not the megastar he became.

Large Market – Bad Team

This is the most compelling argument of the three. Lets place Jeter in Detroit. Would he have sped up the rebuilding process in the pre-Ivan Rodriguez era? I answer that with a resounding yes. If surrounded by stars that can be brought in and kept financially, Jeter would have displayed the same intangible qualities that make him stand out despite pedestrian power numbers. Slide him into the two-hole with power bats behind him and he will perform every duty a winning ballplayer can produce. Jeter was never a player who could carry you to the promised land, but he sure as heck provided the push across the proverbial goal line that every team covets.

Steroid Era

Contrary to popular opinion, if Jeter had not played in the steroid era, I do not believe he would have stood outside in as grand fashion. Jeter was the anti-Ruth of his era. A throwback to the grinders of the 60s and 70s where going first to third or hitting behind a runner was an art practiced by the majority of major league players. His ability to resurrect these lost qualities made the average fan appreciate him in a way that would have been lost in previous decades where that was the expected and norm across the league.

We will never truly have an answer to this question to this fervent debate. I have my doubts as to his true historical greatness but as someone who watched Jeter on a day in and day out basis throughout his 18 year career I will never doubt his passion for the game of baseball. The Yankees provided him with a unique platform to be legendary and despite statistics that may say otherwise that is how he will be remembered.

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News Flash: Mets Still Unimpressed With Ruben Tejada

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 9.23.54 AMThe Ruben Tejada saga won’t go away. The Mets have been linked to free-agent Stephen Drew, and now to Nick Franklin, evidentally because they are not convinced that Ruben Tejada is the everyday shortstop. We know this because if they were convinced Tejada was their man, we still wouldn’t be having these discussions.

Early news in camp seemed to be positive, but now it’s starting to look as if that may just have been a smoke screen, as the Mets and Drew’s agent seem to be in a standoff regarding his services. The latest story in the NY Post states

Even though Tejada attended an offseason strength/conditioning and nutrition camp in Michigan, Mets management has not been overwhelmed by the shortstop’s “new’’ body.

“He looks pretty much the same,’’ one source told The Post on Monday.

Frustrated with Tejada, the Mets still have a strong interest in signing free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew, two sources have told The Post. They also have shown interest in Seattle’s Nick Franklin.

Another anonymous source leaking a story…what a surprise. But it all makes sense.

Sandy Alderson may have been trying to leverage the positivity around Tejada early in camp, and Franklin’s trade availability in his game of cat and mouse with Scott Boras. Boras has said that Drew is willing to wait until June to sign. I find that hard to believe. Unfortunately, the fact that we are even discussing Franklin and Drew, and the Mets willingness to give Wilmer Flores burn at shortstop shows that the Mets have no intention of starting the season with Tejada as their starter. That puts Boras and Drew in the driver’s seat.

Now they just sit back and wait for the Mets to cave. They know that the Mets would be wise to get a deal done before any games are played this spring, because every poor performance by Tejada gives Boras and Drew more leverage. Now we are hearing that the Mets are willing to discuss a trade with the Mariners involving their shortstop/second baseman, Nick Franklin.

Let’s take a look at this scenario.

The Mets have stated that the trade talks could heat up later this spring. Later this spring—meaning we will try to sign Drew before giving away an established major leaguer or top prospect for a second year player that hasn’t accomplished more than Tejada at this point.

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 9.25.07 AMThe Mets can sign Drew and sacrifice a draft pick. For this, it will cost them a little extra (money wise) but they will get an established major leaguer to man the shortstop position. The draft pick is unknown, so they would not be losing much.

The Mets can also trade for Franklin. This will give them a potential 20/20 player that is under team control for the next six years—but it will probably cost them a Rafael Montero-like prospect. Many don’t think Franklin has the range to play shortstop at the major league level—the guy can steal 20 bases in a season but has poor range? When was the last time Jhonny Peralta stole 20 bases in a season? I’ll give you a hint: NEVER. Not even close.

Decisions, decisions.

Many baseball experts have Drew pegged as a future New York Met. Whether that happens is yet to be seen.

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Who Will Win More Games in 2014: Mets or Yankees?

Who Will Win More Games in 2014: Mets or Yankees?

Steve says

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 7.34.12 AMThis is one of those questions only a Met fan could pose. A healthy Matt Harvey and maybe we have a conversation but at this point these teams aren’t close. You can make a legitimate argument outside of third baser that the Yankees are better at each position on the diamond. I would love to know how the Mets felt when they heard Nelson Cruz signed for the same money as Chris Young. Maybe its the goal in Queens to collect every has been in baseball named Chris Young.

Mitch responds

Typical Yankee fan answer. I don’t think Harvey makes that much of a difference if he pitches every five days. You mentioned the Mets have an edge at third base, but I think they clearly have an advantage at second and I’m not convinced Derek Jeter can outperform whoever the Mets play at shortstop anymore…the dude is 40. The Mets have the edge with the bullpen, but the Yankees clearly have the stronger outfield.

I wasn’t blown away with the Chris Young signing but it’s a little early to call him a has been. I would rather take a shot on him for $7.25 million than what Nelson Cruz was originally thought to be drawing in free agency…plus he didn’t cost the Mets a draft pick.

I’m not saying the Mets will win more games than the Yankees, but I don’t know if the Yankees will win 20 more games like you made it seem.

Steve says

The draft pick is a fair argument but Chris Young is a platoon player/4th outfielder at best and the Mets drastically overpaid him based on what the market dictated.

To compare Ruben Tejada or possibly Stephen Drew to Jeter, even at 40, is not fair. If healthy Jeter is still a safe bet for 180 hits and 100 runs scored, two levels neither of the Mets possible options can expect to reach.

Also where has this fascination with Daniel Murphy come from with Met fans? Granted Brian Roberts has had more concussions than Eric Lindros, but if healthy they, are very comparable players.

Mitch responds

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 2.44.39 PMAnother typical Yankee fan response. Why isn’t it fair to compare Jeter to those guys at this point? Stop living in the past. Has Jeter earned the right to never be compared to anyone, ever again? The fact is he is coming off an injury and practically hasn’t played since 2012—you can’t tell me with a straight face that you are confident he is just going to bounce back at his age…and Roberts was a great second baseman, but hasn’t hit over .250 since 2010.

That Yankees infield is sketchy at this point—Mark Teixeira‘s wrist is a question mark, Roberts’ health is a question mark, Jeter is 40, and third base is a complete unknown.

If the Yankees can play to the back of their baseball cards (from 2010), they may have another World Series in the making. But having the distinction of being the oldest team in baseball, they will all have to stay on the field for that to happen—that is something I’m not sure they can accomplish.

If you are interested in debating with a cross-town rival fan, similar to what you see in this post, be sure to sign up by clicking the link at the top of the page (Start a Debate) or by clicking here.

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Yankees Lock Up Brett Gardner for Four Years, $52 Million

brett-gardner-540x478In a bit of a surprise move by the Yankees, they locked up their homegrown outfielder, Brett Gardner, to a four-year, $52 million contract earlier today.

This seemed to come out of nowhere, and the amount of the contract took me by surprise. Curtis Granderson left the Yankees for the cross-town rival Mets, for four-years, $60 million. I was surprised to see Gardner getting Granderson-type money, especially since Granderson has had a much more celebrated career up to this point.

Gardner is a solid player in a changing game. As the game moves away from the bulked up, power hitting culture that was driven by performance enhancing drugs over the past two decades, players like Gardner could be a look at the future. Gardner will hit more triples than homeruns and will play outstanding defense and create runs with his speed. He’s a bit of a throwback player.

In addition to being a throwback player, Gardner is also one of the few remaining homegrown players on the Yankees. At the moment, he may be one of three that are in the starting lineup on opening day, and may be the eldest after Derek Jeter retires at the end of this season.

Even still, was $52 million an over-pay by the Yankees in order to prevent Gardner from testing out free agency?

Probably not.

The Yankees had some outfield prospects that have not panned out up to this point with Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott and Tyler Austin. The Gardner signing sends a message that the Yankees don’t see them being ready to help the big league club for the forseeable future (at least not in a starting capacity). If any of those prospects had been close to ready, the Yankees may have been more likely to let Gardner test the market. The Yankees now avoid having to go shopping in the free agent market for an outfielder this winter—they now have their outfield of Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Gardner in place for the next three seasons.

Sounds like a win-win for the Yankees. As long as their outfielders can stay healthy, they are pretty much covered for the next three years.

 

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Ike Davis’ Batting Practice Video and More Drama For The Mets

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 10.03.33 AMYesterday, Ike Davis had a conversation with Mike Puma, of the NY Post, where he admitted to having an oblique injury for the majority of the 2013 season, which he kept secret from trainers and coaches.

Davis said, “I probably should have said something earlier, but what are you going to do? I wanted to play better, I didn’t want to come out. If I was hitting .380, I probably would have been like, Maybe I should let this cool down so I don’t miss [extensive] time, but when you’re hitting .200, you can’t take weeks off.”

The first thing that comes to mind regarding this story is what is with the Mets and oblique injuries? The second thing that comes to mind is the fact that when Davis was mired in his slump, the best thing for him to do would have been to take two weeks off so he could clear his head. He was obviously playing mind games with himself and one of the best things a player can do to fix a slump is to step away and stop over-thinking everything.

Today, the plot thickened. Davis apparently approached Puma this morning regarding his story making it sound like Davis was making up excuses. Davis wasn’t too happy.

Metsblog posted some audio earlier today of the encounter. In it, Davis tells Puma “We talked for 20 minutes, I said it’s a basically pointless story. You made it look like it was an excuse. That’s what we talked about before you wrote it, that you shouldn’t write this because it doesn’t matter. But, that was nowhere in the article.”

I doubt Davis’ oblique being tweaked had anything to do with his hitting woes in 2013. The hitting woes had more to do with his swing mechanics and how far he dropped his hands before swinging (above his head, down to waist level). While he still drops his hands, as was evident in the video posted by Adam Rubin of Davis taking batting practice yesterday, it’s not as dramatic. He now keeps his hands at about shoulder height in his stance, cutting down the distance he drops his hands. This should allow him to get to the ball quicker.

After he made this adjustment down in Triple-A last season, he was hitting much better. Take a look at the splits below:

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
1st Half 63 239 212 21 35 3 0 5 18 2 0 25 73 .165 .255 .250 .505 .222
2nd Half 40 138 105 16 30 11 0 4 15 2 0 32 28 .286 .449 .505 .954 .351

After the adjustment, you can see that Davis really became an offensive threat again. He increased his walks and batting average while reducing his strikeouts (and he really reduced his strikeouts). He had almost as many hits, homers and RBI as he did in the first half of the year but with over 100 fewer at-bats.

If Davis can stay focused, there is enough here to think he can get his career back on track. He shouldn’t be concerned with what Mike Puma, or anyone else, thinks about 2013. He has to put 2013 behind him for good, or he will never be able to move on with his career.

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What the Yankees Need to Have a Dream Season in 2014

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 2.44.39 PMJoel Sherman of the NY Post recently listed the 10 things the Yankees need for a dream season in 2014. Here is a list of the 10 items:

  1. Jeter starts 130 games at short and Mark Teixeira 140 at first. Because the alternatives are hardly appetizing. If Jeter can hit even .275 and be steady while limited on defense and Teixeira can provide 25 homers, it stabilizes an infield that feels so uncertain today.
  2. Masahiro Tanaka — like, say, Orlando Hernandez — quickly gives the impression he can handle the upgrade in competition in a new forum, providing a sense he is in control of his starts in a way, say, A.J. Burnett or Hideki Irabu never truly did.
  3. Michael Pineda makes 25 starts, pitches like a high-end No. 3 starter and leaves no doubt the Yankees won their Jesus Montero trade with the Mariners. Just as important, the Yankees leave the 2014 season believing they can build future rotations around Tanaka, Pineda, Ivan Nova and Manny Banuelos (who shows health and promise both at Triple-A and in major league cameos).
  4. David Robertson can not only handle the ninth inning, but someone such as Jose Ramirez or Preston Claiborne shows himself capable of replacing Robertson as the set-up man.
  5. Brian McCann not only turns the short right-field porch into his personal shooting gallery, but exhibits the kind of leadership skills that show he can take the baton from Jeter and be a stabilizing force in the clubhouse for years to come.
  6. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner avoid injury and use their speed to steal a few outs on defense and drive opposing pitchers to distraction on offense by combining for 90 steals.
  7. CC Sabathia, with distance from his elbow surgery and comfort at his lighter weight, morphs into Andy Pettitte — 200 innings of reliability on the field, steadiness in the clubhouse.
  8. Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano show they still have it in their late-30s, combining for 50 homers while sharing a corner-outfield slot and the DH.
  9. Eduardo Nunez, who blew a golden shortstop opportunity while Jeter healed last year, capitalizes on his last best chance as a Yankee by showing last September, when he had an .808 OPS and fielded superbly at third, was no fluke.
  10. Gary Sanchez emerges as a top-20 prospect going into the 2015 campaign and at least one from among Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams is top 40, giving some life to what has been a too-dormant Yankees system.

Sherman hits these 10 on the head. If the Yankees can stay healthy there is no doubt they can win at least 90 games this season. However, with an average age of 33.5 years, they may have their work cut out for them.

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About The Site

Welcome to New York Rivals. This site was the brain trust of two college buddies — one is a Yankees fan, and the other is a Mets fan. Both passionate fans of their favorite team, they were forced to live together as roommates where the baseball discussion revolving around the two teams was intense. They both share a healthy respect for the game of baseball and both teams (we don’t hate our cross-town rival, but we don’t love them either).

The site was developed to give fans a place to see the news about their team through the eyes of the cross-town fans. You will see the discussions and debates between Mets and Yankees fans on the hot topics surrounding the team, and also be given the chance to debate against your cross-town rivals.

You can sign up (using the link in the menu) to debate a topic against a cross-town rival fan. The debate will be posted on the site along with a poll so that the fans can vote to determine the winner. If that’s not your ball of wax, the comment thread is always there to jump into the discussion, and show the support for your favorite team.

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Noah Syndergaard Features the “Hook from Hell”

HOWARD SIMMONS NEW YORK DAILY NEWSIf you read some of the reports coming out of Port St. Lucie yesterday, you would think everyone just crawled out from under a rock. I can’t remember the last time a bullpen session caused so much buzz. Noah Syndergaard, the Mets’ No. 1 prospect, put on an incredible show yesterday.

What was everyone expecting?

You can rewind to about 25 different articles on Metsmerized Online covering his dominating performances in 2013. On April 1, 2013, I wrote a piece entitled Syndergaard Could Be Mets No. 1 Prospect By All-Star Break. Here is what I said about Syndergaard after seeing some bullpen video from 2013 spring training:

Syndergaard is a tall and imposing figure on the mound, and standing in at 6-feet 6-inches is an intimidating presence. I had the chance to watch a bullpen session on Syndergaard and love what I see. His mechanics are effortless and the ball explodes out of his hand (High-90s fastball). His changeup is great, and while there have been some knocks on his curveball in the past, it looks like it is developing nicely. This kid is the goods.

Sound familiar? The only difference is that his curveball is no longer getting knocks, it is being called the “hook from hell” by Mets’ manager Terry Collins.

Everyone was gathered around to get a glimpse of the pitching phenom yesterday. He did everything he could to back up his outstanding 2013—he was bringing the cheese, the knee-buckling curve, and showing to everyone that his stuff is for real.

Syndergaard’s first bullpen was an awesome display—even more impressive due to the fact that everyone was watching—coaches, media, owners, and other players. A pitcher can’t have more pressure for his first 40-pitch bullpen session of the season. But that’s what comes with the territory of being crowned the organizations’ top prospect.

While there was no hitter opposing him, Syndergaard rose to the occasion. His impressive bullpen session validated his outstanding on-field performance in 2013—and as Collins alluded, it’s what he does on the field that counts.

Photo by Howard Simmons, Daily News

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