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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Callaway's Calculations

If you’ve been reading us for the last two years (in which case thank you, by the way), you know that I think Mickey Callaway is a bit dim.

That said, I have sympathy for him right now. A fair amount of it, in fact.

He’s got a closer who can’t be relied on, a setup guy who can’t be relied on, and another setup guy who can be relied on but whose arm is whatever the opposite of rubber is. (Glue?) That turns a sixth or seventh inning with a lead into a stressful scramble that hinges on a series of interlocking questions.

  1. Is Seth Lugo available?
  2. If he is, which inning or innings should he cover?
  3. If he covers those innings, what are the consequences of not having him the next day?

I mean, managing the back end of a bullpen is tricky even when you have pretty good options, and Mickey doesn’t have good options.

So yeah, sympathies.

Callaway, as you undoubtedly know, chose to remove Steven Matz after six innings and 79 pitches and after he’d retired the last 14 batters. It didn’t work out, to say the very least: Lugo started by walking Josh Donaldson and then gave up five hits and a fielder’s choice on a ball Michael Conforto trapped.

Lugo wasn’t hit particularly hard — the Braves jerked some tough pitches over the infield, broke bats and still had balls fall in, and were gifted an extra out when Pete Alonso left first and Lugo didn’t cover on a grounder to recidivist Met Ruben Tejada, returning to duty as Jeff McNeil‘s replacement. (I would have opted for Dilson Herrera, but that’s another post.)

But that doesn’t change the ugly fact that by the time the inning had ended, a flimsy yet inspiring 2-1 Mets lead had swollen and rotted into a 6-2 Braves lead. In the ninth, the Mets rose up biting and kicking and scratching and clawing, only to lose 6-4 with the bases loaded as old friend Jerry Blevins fanned Conforto. It was one of those rallies that you almost think you’d rather they’d skipped, since it just made the outcome more agonizing.

But back to the decision to go to Lugo. Mets Twitter, predictably, exploded. And after the game, Callaway faced questions from every direction. His first line of defense was standard Callaway: Lugo’s been terrific, he’d make the same decision 100 times out of 100, blah blah blah. His second line of defense was a bit more nuanced: He wanted a righty-righty matchup with Lugo against Donaldson, and Matz had run the bases in multiple innings, draining more gas from the tank than those 79 pitches indicated. Fair enough; in a spirit of generosity, I’ll also toss in something I don’t think he mentioned, namely that Matz’s 1-2-3 sixth inning was a bit deceptive, as all three outs were hit on a line.

So OK, I see how taking Matz out wasn’t quite the obvious mistake you probably thought it was while stewing in the eighth. But I still think it was the wrong decision, because of that unenviable question of where to use the Mets’ only reliable reliever.

Nothing worked out for Lugo. But even if everything had worked out, Lugo wasn’t going to go three innings. Which means in the ninth, the top of the Braves order (Acuna and Albies and Freeman, oh my!) was going to face … well, who, exactly?

Callaway wouldn’t say. But he doesn’t exactly specialize in thinking outside the box, so let’s assume it was going to be Edwin Diaz or Jeurys Familia. Doesn’t either of those matchups in the ninth strike you as a lot scarier than a possibly tired Matz facing the Braves’ fourth through sixth hitters in the seventh? Why not send Matz back out with the bullpen on notice? Maybe you get one more inning out of him. Maybe he has an easy seventh and you push him to 100 pitches for the eighth. Or, OK, maybe he gives up a leadoff homer to Donaldson and annoying bloggers write 800 pissy words about lefty-righty matchups.

Sticking with Matz struck me at the time as the wisest way to navigate dangerous terrain and simplify the puzzle of where to use Lugo. Instead, Callaway opted to safeguard the seventh at the expense of the ninth. And that’s the part I don’t understand.

It’s not all on Callaway that this is the nightly puzzle he has to solve — it would help a lot if Diaz and/or Familia could get outs the way we expected them to five months ago. But the plan Callaway chose didn’t make sense even before Lugo ran into a buzzsaw. If everything had worked out, Callaway still would have been picking one of two serially unreliable pitchers to face three of the most dangerous hitters in the National League. And it’s that decision that still has me shaking my head.

21 comments to Callaway’s Calculations

  • Greg Mitchell

    Good analysis except you left out possibly the key piece in the insanity–Lugo was simply not ready to come in the game. Just started throwing when they went ahead and then the 3rd ou–and bingo he is in the game. And he’s not, as you say, Mr. Quick and Easy Rubber Arm. Finally: the double switch meant losing your best hitter in 2-1 game in favor of guy hitting near zero on the season…

  • Dave R.

    If Calloway would, as he said, make that move 100 out of 100 times, then he should get fired 100 out of 100 times. The double switch in the 7th inning of a 2-1 game, reducing a lineup with only six decent hitters to five, just compounded the mistake. I would now consider the season a success if Calloway got fired. My bar is very low.

  • Dave

    Nodding off in the 6th inning thanks to early rising, advancing age and a rain delayed start, I didn’t see Callaway’s decisions in real time, but saw the debris still laying around from where, as you said Jason, Mets Twitter exploded. I tend to be patient with Callaway, but this was just godawful. The combination of a starting pitcher coasting on a low pitch count and a dreadful bullpen whose most reliable member can apparently only pitch when there’s a full moon on a Thursday…I keep Matz in there 101 times out of 100. And then on top of that, double switch out a guy hitting nearly .400 for the past month or so (or whatever he’s hitting over how much time, he’s been on fire) when perhaps the only thing worse than your bullpen is your bench? What, he had to get Aaron Altherr’s bat in the game? Being a longtime American League guy, does Callaway think he needs to just practice double swtiches more frequently so he maybe gets them right someday?

    I very rarely say this, but that loss was entirely on Callaway, and that his postgame comments weren’t “that’s on me, I blew it” don’t give me much hope.

  • open the gates

    He’s got one of the best pitching rotations on the planet. There’s no reason on God’s green earth that these guys shouldn’t be pitching into the seventh or eighth inning on a regular basis. And as was pointed out, it’s not like he’s got Orosco or McDowell (and I’d even take Sisk at this point) to cover the back three like a blanket. Trust your damn starters. And speaking of starters, Lugo’s lack of rubber content in his arm is not due to the phases of the moon. It’s because that’s what he is. A starter.

  • Steve D

    This sequel to 1973 is missing a key part…who is playing the role of Tug McGraw? Diaz would make the most sense, but lowest probability. Lugo cannot pitch all those consecutive days…so it would have to be Familia. Perhaps taking a chance on Greg Holland, which we let the Nationals do, would have been wise. Or even dare I say Matt Harvey, which the A’s did. You Gotta Conceive.

    Callaway’s move made PERFECT sense – if Matz had 95 pitches and/or it was the 8th inning. Maybe he is trying to make it all about his moves winning games…this one likely blew one.

  • LeClerc

    An unforced error on Mickey’s part. He didn’t trust Matz to get through the 7th. He didn’t trust anybody but Lugo to hold a one run lead. If Lugo was spot-on, M.C. didn’t anticipate who would hold the lead in the 8th or 9th. His powers of reasoning are flawed (that’s the FAFIF consensus view). Nobody said he knows what he’s doing.

  • Michael in CT

    No guarantee we win this game by sticking with Matz but it was managerial malpractice to remove him after six. Callaway thinks he’s a genius after the 15 W’s out of 16 but we all know he’s anything but. He’s probably cost us 15 games this season with his ill-advised moves. We need a solid performance from Stroman tonight.

  • CharlieH

    The only thing Mickey Callaway has in common with Miller Huggins or Casey Stengel is that they’re all brain dead at the present time and you could look it up.

  • David P.

    You’re, right, it is possible to make an argument for pulling Matz. It’s still a stretch but you can make the argument. However (and hat tip to Metsblog for pointing this out) there is absolutely no good reason for pulling JD Davis for the double switch. None. First, you’re only gaining 2 places in the order. Second, do you really think you’re going to hold that Brave lineup scoreless for 3 innings? Isn’t it possible that you’re going to need the hottest hitter on the team later? Sure, Guillorme (love that guy) did get a hit and drive in a run in the 9th. But here’s the kicker: if Conforto doesn’t strike out for the 7th time in 15 at bats, who’s going to play left? Amed Rosario, that’s who.

  • Billy Princeton

    Calloway simply has no baseball instincts (removing Matz) and no baseball smarts (double switching out the hottest hitter in the lineup in a one-run game in the 7th). Anyone with baseball instincts and baseball smarts first guessed this move when it happened (or in the case of a certain Princetonian screamed and cursed at the TV while jumping out of his chair and throwing his Mets cap against the wall before calming down to consider the only sane rationale was the Matz hurt himself running the bases – No he did not!). As usual, Calloway’s lame word salad excuses don’t add up and we should not provide Calloway cover with the specious excuse that the three quick outs Matz recorded in the sixth were “hard hit”. You know what?: Lots and lots of outs are hard hit. Getting outs matters, nothing else. What would you rather have the five softly hit singles Lugo gave up in the seventh or three more hard hit outs? I know what I’ll take every time because my baseball instincts tell me to.

  • LeClerc

    Come to think of it, Mickey’s comments echo those he made after the Wrigley Field fiasco where Lugo melted down, Mickey got snippy at his presser (“we have a very good plan”), He shouted (re: Healey) “get the MF out of here!” and was backed up by menacing Jason V.

    He’s not made for NYC.

    • Steve D

      True…unfortunately, it’s not like someone like a Joe Girardi is available.

      To add insult to injury, I see Hansel Robles is now an effective closer for the Angels.

  • Daniel Hall

    “If you’ve been reading us for the last two years (in which case thank you, by the way), you know that I think Mickey Callaway is a bit dim.” – I love how you start with a chuckler to release my jaws still firmly clenched around my desk four hours after I finished watching this one from the archives.

    I mentioned a few times before that I have been delighted with playing baseball manager games to the tune of about 9,000 games during this decade. I am pretty sure that I haven’t removed a pretty decent starting pitcher even once after six innings with a 2-1 lead and 79 pitches (not: a guy who somehow survived 11 runners stranded in six frames), especially with Mrs. O’Leary’s bullpen behind him. Because that would be stupid and other than Captain Mickey I try to do the smart thing. Yeah, the Barves hit liners in the sixth. But they weren’t splattering Matzie’s intestines all over the outfield walls. Worst thing, he gives up a game-tying homer, and in that case you should have somebody soft-tossing anyway.

    I rest my case assured that I have a higher career win percentage and more World Series rings than Captain Mickey, and that this will never change, whether Mickey lives to 120 or not…

  • mikeL

    i had been running fumes after lugo coughed up the lead…so callaway removed BOTH matz and JD tobeing in lugo??
    i really thought the new default, given the weakness of the ‘pen was starters : 7 innings, 8 if justified.

    so our intrepid skipper pulled a cruising matz and the guy who just gave the mets a lead…and the guy in which i (and likely the majority of metland) ate relying on to spark and carry the offense long enough for mcneil to heal??

    clearly coach has trouble seeing more than 1 or two moves ahead of the action, playing mediocre checkers on a 3D chessboard.

    in pressers he’s squinty and avoiding of eye contact, reminding me most of individuals who are clearly know you know they’re lying – but not good enough at it to sell it with false sincerity.

    shitty as manager AND con man.

  • Bob

    Been a Met Fan since 1963–
    Kinda beyond words for this complete half-wit, horses ass we have as manager.
    What a moron.

  • Since64

    We could have, but we didn’t….

  • Greg Mitchell

    Ha ha, reading most of the comments above, I have to laugh that less than a week ago someone here labeled ME as far, far too “negative”!

  • Joeybaguhdonuts

    I was going to let this pass but after last night and the big pile on today, it’s worth revisiting Callaway’s math skills. This was Sunday.

    “That was a big series,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said when it was over. “That’s a very solid team on the other side and we took two out of three from them, went 6-1 on the homestand. You can’t ask for a better homestand than that.”

    How about 7-0?

  • eric1973

    Mrs. O’Leary’s bullpen is the line of the year.

    This is the kind of s— Micky pulled that got us out of contention in the first place. Then he let the starters go at least 7 and we got back in it.

    Now he has reverted to form and look what’s happened!