Friday night’s game in Milwaukee had enough terribly frustrating moments to give every writer and talking head plenty of fodder until the start of this afternoon’s game. Whether it was the lack of walks against a starter who walks 3.7 batters-per-nine, Cabrera getting gunned down trying to stretch a single into a double in the 10th, or Jay Bruce moving like Treebeard trying to get under a seemingly catchable fly ball the following half inning, that game was a tough watch.
But perhaps the most questionable moment of the extra-innings loss was Mickey Callaway’s decision to pinch-hit for Noah Syndergaard in the Top of the 7th with Thor only at 78 pitches. Perhaps, going strictly by the book, this was the right move. I consider myself a very by-the-book guy, and I’ve grown to trust most of Mickey Callaway’s decisions, but this one felt a bit too micro-manage’y.
For one, the pinch hitter was Jose Reyes. Let’s all say it together now so we can get it out of the way: Jose Reyes is washed. The statistics provided to the Mets coaching staff may have suggested that Reyes had a better chance at getting on base and getting Jose Bautista into scoring position, but Syndergaard has absolutely looked more competent at the plate than Reyes has of late. They were both certainly overmatched against one of the best relievers in the game in Josh Hader, so why cut your ace’s outing short while bringing in an almost-automatic out?
Tim Britton of The Athletic broke down the decision on Twitter shortly afterward, stating that the pinch-hit would be fine, assuming there was a trustworthy bat on the bench.
The problem isn't PHing for Syndergaard; the problem is not having someone healthy in the system who represents an obvious upgrade over a guy with a 14 OPS+.— Tim Britton (@TimBritton) May 26, 2018
But there wasn’t. There was Jose Reyes, the defensive-minded Luis Guillorme, and back-up catcher Tomas Nido. The Mets are in a dire situation when it comes to depth thanks to the Cespedes and Frazier injuries, and there are very few answers currently in the farm-system while Reyes is taking up an infielder’s roster spot. Make all the Hanley Ramirez jokes you want, but I would have much rather had him in that spot than Reyes.
With this being the situation, why not use your best players for as long as you can? Let Hader perhaps mow you down for two innings like he was going to anyway, and then take your shots against a less-dominant pitcher in the ninth. It’s difficult to speculate on what would have happened, but bringing in Seth Lugo in the ninth and tenth innings could have led to better results on the night.
No, having your pitcher bat late in the game isn’t an ideal approach, and it’s not by the books, but pinch-hitting for Syndergaard on Friday showed an ill-advised dedication to a washed-up hitter, and it put the Mets at a disadvantage in their eventual loss. While the decision is defendable, it was ultimately the wrong call.