How has the Mets rotation fared without their top pitchers?

New York Mets, Jacob deGrom

With Max Scherzer signed and a presumably healthy Jacob Degrom set to return after missing the 2nd half of 2021, the Mets were poised to have one of the best rotations in Major League Baseball. With the addition of Chris Bassitt and a hopeful bounce-back season from Carlos Carrasco, fans of the orange and blue were sure this team could out-pitch just about any of their opponents.

But best-laid plans often go awry, as was the case for the Mets a quarter of the way through the season. Jacob DeGrom was diagnosed with a scapular injury after his 2nd spring training start and only recently began throwing from 60 feet. Max Scherzer was everything as advertised until he, too, went down with an oblique injury last week. Scherzer is slated to miss 6-8 weeks, and DeGrom may return around that time as well.

Despite the injury bug nipping the Mets’ two most valuable assets, the team is 29-15 with an 8-game lead in the National League East. Mets starters have an earned run average of 3.26 on the year, good for 2nd in the National League and 6th in baseball. They also have the 3rd lowest WHIP in the majors and the 4th most strikeouts.

Given the circumstances, to say things are going well would be an understatement. So how has the Mets rotation kept the team winning despite missing two of the top five pitchers in Major League Baseball?

Chris Bassitt Has Gone Deep:

The Mets traded former 2nd round pick, JT Ginn to the Athletics for Chris Bassitt immediately after the MLB Lockout was resolved. The Mets had already signed Max Scherzer pre-lockout, but after losing Marcus Stroman via free agency, the team was in need of another middle of the rotation arm. With Oakland’s firesale underway, the Mets picked off the 7-year veteran.

What the Mets have gotten was a crafty right-hander that has enjoyed success his entire career in the shadows of a small market baseball town. Bassitt is 4-2 with a 2.77 ERA, pitching into the 6th inning in all of his starts, including 7 complete innings vs the Atlanta Braves on May 2nd.

Bassitt has impressed with his array of looping breaking pitches and, in return, has limited hard contact from opponents. He ranks in the 96th percentile in average exit velocity and in the 77th percentile in hard-hit percentage. In fact, the last time Bassitt kept opposing batters’ exit velocity below 85 MPH came in 2018, when he had a career-best 3.02 ERA. With DeGrom, Scherzer, and Tylor Megill out, Bassitt has stepped up as the Mets most reliable starting pitcher.

That’s The Way the Cookie Crumbles:

Not much went right for Carlos Carrasco in 2021. Coming over as part of the trade that landed Francisco Lindor, the Mets were thought to be getting a reliable number 2 starter with postseason experience. Unfortunately, Carrasco was injured in the Spring and did not make his Mets debut until July 30th. In his 12 starts last year, Carrasco was victimized by opponents in the first inning. Cookie surrendered 18 earned runs in the opening frame last year, serving up 8 home runs in the process.

Through 8 starts this year, its been a complete 180 for Carrasco from his nightmarish 2021. Healthy from the start, Carrasco has pitched to a 3.50 ERA. Cookie has perhaps pitched even better than his ERA suggests. His FIP (Fielding independent pitching) is over half a run lower, sitting at 2.91. Taking away his lone clunker this year vs the Cardinals on April 27th, when he gave up 8 runs, Carrasco would have a 2.11 ERA on the year. His most impressive outing as a Met to date came in game 2 of a doubleheader vs the Atlanta Braves on May 3rd, when he threw 8 shutout innings vs the defending World Series Champions.

With a healthy and efficient Carrasco going deep into games, the Mets figure to have as strong a one through four in their rotation as anyone when deGrom and Scherzer do ultimately return.

The Replace-Mets:

When Jacob DeGrom went down, Tylor Megill was brought north with the big league club to join the rotation. But when Max Scherzer’s barking hammy delayed his start to the season, the rookie was tasked with an opening day start. Megill, who had a solid start to his career in 2021 before running out of gas down the stretch, has given fans a reason to believe he could be a front-line starter for years to come.

Megill threw 5 shutout innings on opening day vs the Nationals before throwing 5 1/3 scoreless innings vs the vaunted Phillies lineup his next time out. He pitched 6 innings vs the Giants without his best stuff and gave the Mets the opportunity to win in walk-off fashion before giving up just 2 runs vs the Diamondbacks in 6 2/3 innings in a rubber game the Mets would go on to win. His lone rough outing vs the Nationals saw Megill surrender 8 runs in just an inning and a third and ultimately land him on the injured list with bicep tendinitis. Removing that start when he clearly was not in any condition to pitch, Megill’s ERA would be 2.43 over 33 1/3 innings this year.

Meanwhile, Mets 2017 first-round pick David Peterson may be coming into his own as well. After a lost season in 2021 due to various injuries, Peterson began this season in AAA Syracuse. When Taijuan Walker left the Mets 4th game of the season after just 2 innings, Peterson was thrust into action, firing 4 scoreless innings, and hasn’t looked back since.

This year, Peterson has made 4 starts and pitched into the 5th inning in each of them. His ERA in those starts is 2.57 over 21 innings pitched. His most impressive outing came Monday evening in San Francisco, pitching 6 innings- his lone blemish, a 2-run home run to Brandon Crawford. After the Mets staked Peterson to a 5-2 lead the following half-inning, Peterson threw 4 scoreless innings. With the emergence of Peterson and Megill, the Mets may have two young building blocks in their rotation for years to come.

While DeGrom and Scherzer are still at minimum 2 months away from returning, the Mets rotation has been holding its own. Thanks to contributions from two recently acquired veterans and two up-and-coming young prospects, the Mets rotation 1-7 could still come to be one of the best in baseball by season’s end.

Yankees ride reserve catcher Jose Trevino to victory, snapping 3-game losing streak

jose trevino, yankees

Riding a three-game losing streak into Tuesday, the New York Yankees took on the Baltimore Orioles, looking to snap their bad form. After losing both games of a doubleheader on Sunday against the Chicago White Sox, Baltimore offered a great opportunity to get back in the win column.

However, injuries have begun to mount for the Bombers, with DJ LeMahieu taking a day off with left wrist discomfort and slugger Giancarlo Stanton leaving Tuesday’s game early with right calf tightness. Those two injuries are the least of Aaron Boone‘s concerns. He just lost Luis Gil and Chad Green to Tommy John surgery.

In addition, the Yankees also placed closer Aroldis Chapman on the 15-day injured list with Achilles tendinitis. The Yanks will have to find ways to supplement those losses, and luckily, reserve catcher Jose Trevino came to the rescue.

The Yankees needed an unfamiliar face to save the day:

Trevino went 3-for-4 on the day, including three RBIs and a solo homer in the 3rd inning. In the bottom of the 11th, Trevino smacked a single past Baltimore third baseman Ramon Urias. The hit drove in Isiah Kiner-Falefa, snapping the Yankees’ three-game losing streak and helping them reach 30 overall wins on the season.

Aside from Trevino, Gleyber Torres had a phenomenal performance, recording two home runs, two RBIs, and three runs in total. As for the pitching, Jordan Montgomery lasted 6.0 innings, giving up two runs and striking out five batters. Star relief pitcher Michael King gave up three earned runs in less than an inning. King has struggled in his last two outings.

The Yankees called upon Clay Holmes to pitch the 8th inning, which he did seamlessly, striking out two batters. Wandy Peralta and Clarke Schmidt combined for 3.0 innings, one hit, and one run scored. Luckily, the Yankees offense did just enough to sneak past a pesky Orioles team.

One Giants pass rusher who could take a big step forward in 2022

quincy roche, giants

The New York Giants have bolstered their pass-rush recently. Last year, they added edge rusher Azeez Ojulari in the second round of the draft. With the fifth overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, they took another promising pass-rusher in Oregon star Kayvon Thibodeaux. In the mix of these big moves was another low-key acquisition that has lost the spotlight. Quincy Roche, recently coined the Giants’ “Best Kept Secret” by Sports Illustrated, could take a big step forward in 2022.

Quincy Roche was drafted in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He unfortunately found himself on the waiver wire mid-season and the Giants jumped at the opportunity to acquire Roche’s talents. He went on to play in 14 games, starting 3 of them and making a decent impact as a rotational pass-rusher. Roche was once looked at as a projected third-round pick in the pre-draft process. Under-drafted and over-looked, Quincy Roche fought hard to prove his worth. Now, entering his second season with the New York Giants, Quincy Roche could be in line for an expanded role.

Quincy Roche could take a step forward for the Giants in 2022

Quincy Roche could end up being a sneaky productive pass rusher for the New York Giants this season. Of course, he will not be in possession of a starting role, as those positions will undoubtedly be earned by Thibodeaux and Ojulari. However, Roche could make an impact as a designated pass-rusher, an important secondary position in the NFL.

Quincy Roche posted 2.5 sacks and 38 combined tackles in 14 appearances last year. He played primarily in rotation but did make three starts last season in Lorenzo Carter’s absence. In the three-game stretch from Week 8 to Week 11 where Roche played a starting role, he logged 13 tackles, two for loss, three quarterback hits, and one sack.

Quincy Roche is not to be overlooked. Sure, the Giants might have more talented pass-rushers on the edge. But depth is crucial in the NFL and Quincy Roche is quality depth. Wink Martindale loves to blitz and apply pressure to the quarterback with additional pass-rushers, leaving an avenue for Quincy Roche to see the field and make an impact for the Giants.

Chicago Bears: Matt Eberflus reiterates basic fundamentals

matt eberflus, bears

Lake Forest, Ill.— Phase two of offseason team activities is well underway for the Chicago Bears at Halas Hall and as head coach Matt Eberflus continues to build his program, Tuesday was another productive day for the Bears. Despite a cloudy situation around star Roquan Smith, practices continued on Tuesday, with the emphasis being good, situational football.

“Today we had a good practice, a lot of situational football,” Eberflus said. “We did first, second, and third down situations from short to medium to long. We just got a chance to do a two-minute drill which was very good and a half two-minute drill, that was so nice. We did some in the game calls, situations that they’re the last play or the second to last play before the half or the end of the game to put you in a position to score or to stop that score.”

Between 2019-2021, under former head coach Matt Nagy, the Bears struggled to play good situational football, with 2021 being the tipping point as the defense seemingly lost its edge, despite an injury to star pass rusher Khalil Mack, who was traded to the Los Angeles Chargers this offseason for a pair of draft picks.

Eberflus’ words above indicate the Bears are getting back to the basics. When hired in January, Eberflus mentioned that year one was all about building the foundation, and the Bears appear to be doing just that as the team continues to prepare for the 2022 season. Beyond just playing good situational football, Eberflus hopes to have the Bears playing with a more disciplined approach during the upcoming season, a style that can hopefully lead to a few more wins.

The Bears have a long way to go before the championship window officially opens but expect to see a different Bears team in 2022 and one that sets a standard by playing hard and fast, not necessarily explosive and flashy.

Yankees star infielder scratched from lineup with wrist injury

yankees, dj lemahieu

The New York Yankees are staring adversity in the face on several fronts after a tumultuous week. Ranging from Josh Donaldson’s comments toward Chicago shortstop Tim Anderson to a myriad of injuries in the pitching sphere, manager Aaron Boone is trying to pick up the pieces.

The Yankees announced prior to Tuesday’s game against Baltimore that closer Aroldis Chapman was placed on the 15-day injured list. Chapman is dealing with Achilles tendinitis, which could keep him out for a few weeks as he recovers.

However, Chapman wasn’t the only player to receive injury news. Starting infielder DJ LeMahieu was scratched due to wrist discomfort.

LeMahieu has been extremely valuable to the Yankees infield plans, shifting him around to supplement fatigue. This season, he’s played 31.1 innings at first base, 103 innings at second base, and 159 innings at third base. LeMahieu has been fantastic as a utility man, but he’s also contributed offensively.

DJ is hitting .250 this year with three homers and 17 RBIs, hosting a 13.7% strikeout rate and 33% on base rate. His efficiency is down quite a bit compared to 2021, but he still has plenty of time to enjoy a few hot streaks in the batter’s box.

Nonetheless, the Bombers will have to rely on some of their reserve options to fill multiple voids, both in the pitching category and infield.

Luckily, the Yankees reinstated catcher Kyla Higashioka before the game, receiving a bit of reinforcement.

Yankees place closer on 15-day injured list in latest blow to pitching staff

aroldis chapman, yankees

The New York Yankees have lost three pitchers to injury in the past week, notably Luis Gil and Chad Green. Both Gill and Green will undergo Tommy John surgery, prematurely ending their season.

However, manager Aaron Boone also mentioned recently that closer Aroldis Chapman has been dealing with an Achilles injury. Clearly, the issue was a bit more serious than we expected, considering the team placed him on the 15-day injured list on Tuesday afternoon.

According to the Yankees PR:

  • Placed LHP Aroldis Chapman on 15-day injured list with left Achilles tendinitis.

Normally, it takes a few weeks for Achilles tendinitis to go away, meaning the Yankees could be without their top closer for quite some time.

Without him, the Yankees have a few options they can choose from to help supplement the loss. Clay Holmes stands out as the preferable closer while Chapman is recovering.

This season, Holmes hosts a 0.42 ERA over 21.2 innings pitched. He has 8.72 strikeouts per nine, 0.83 walk rate, and 1.58 FIP. Holmes is also generating a 27% strikeout rate, and batters are hitting .173 against him this season, much better than his 2020 numbers with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Holmes dominates against right-handed batters, throwing his lethal sinker 80.2% of the time. He also incorporates a slider at 18.7%. His sinker velocity has reached 96.3 mph, the highest in his career.

Chapman, on the other hand, has struggled considerably in the month of May. His Achilles injury could be the leading factor in his regression, posting a 9.53 ERA over 5.2 innings this month. He’s allowed 11 hits, two homers, and six earned runs in that time span.

On the season, Chapman has a 3.86 ERA with a career-low 9.64 strikeouts per nine. His ground-ball rate is down to 34.1%, and the opposing hitter’s exit velocity is at 88.7 mph, tied for the highest in his career.

The Yankees made a good decision shutting down Chapman so he can recover and make a positive impact during the second half of the 2022 season.

Jets News: Jason Pinnock starting with first team defense at safety

jason pinnock, jets

All offseason long, one main question on the New York Jets roster was the safety position. At least one new starter had to be acquired through either free agency or the draft. Early in free agency, Jets general manager Joe Douglas signed Jordan Whitehead. He will start at strong safety. No free safety was added with one of the seven draft picks the Jets made. It has left fans wondering who will take the job.

Shortly before the start of free agency, the Jets did re-sign veteran safeties Lamarcus Joyner and Will Parks. The other notable players a part of the safety group are now second and third-year players in Jason Pinnock, Ashtyn Davis, and Elijah Riley. All of these potential options made an unknown that much greater.

Earlier today at OTA’s, it was reported by Connor Hughes that Pinnock was the one working with the starters at safety.

Noteworthy information on Pinnock:

Pinnock is still only 22-years-old, he will turn 23 at the end of June. The Jets drafted Pinnock in the fifth round, 175th overall in the 2021 draft. Originally, he was drafted as a cornerback, where he played in college at Pittsburgh. On the outside at corner last year, Bryce Hall and Brandin Echols were the two starters. Javelin Guidry was the primary backup. As a result, Pinnock took most of his snaps as a rookie at safety.

The Jets were decimated by injuries at safety all of last season. Eventually, it led to an opportunity for Pinnock to start the last three games. He ended up showing some intriguing promise. Over his three starts, he forced two fumbles and had a pass defended. Throughout those three weeks, Pinnock earned an 80.7 PFF grade. This placed him fourth among all safeties over the three-week timespan.

Interestingly enough, when Pinnock was made available to the media last December, he stated he feels more comfortable at safety.

“That’s where I’m at in this scheme. That’s where I feel most comfortable and that’s where I’m most comfortable at, and I’ll continue to roll from there. And now with an offseason where I can be more intentional with my work, I’m looking forward to it.”

Clearly, the Jets look at Pinnock similarly themselves. Late last season, head coach Robert Saleh had this to say about Pinnock’s position switch:

“We just look at Pinnock – his size, length, speed, his athleticism – we’re like, man, he’d be a really cool free safety, Jimmie Ward-type in our system.”

To see Pinnock working with the starting team in this offseason workout period is not a total shock. If he can continue to build on his strong performances from the end of last season, it would take care of a position of concern and go a long way with the Jets’ revamped secondary.

The Jets may have a dynamic duo developing at the wide receiver position

elijah moore, jets

Over the last two NFL drafts, the New York Jets have had significant resources. General manager Joe Douglas invested a few of the Jets’ most premium draft picks into the wide receiver position.

Elijah Moore was surprisingly available in 2021, with the 34th overall pick, and the Jets capitalized. With the 10th selection in the 2022 draft, the Jets added a talented prospect in Garrett Wilson. Each of these two are set to play this upcoming season at 22-years-old. Both are key, core pieces to the long-term plan of the Jets. Let’s take a look at the potential duo that Moore and Wilson can become.

The talents of Elijah Moore and Garrett Wilson:

Both of these players bring exciting skill sets to the offense for Mike LaFleur and Zach Wilson. Moore has reliable hands, great route-running ability, and speed. Wilson complements Moore well. Wilson excels with his contested-catch ability, quickness after the catch, and deep-level route-running.

They each have 4.3 speed and provide big-play threat ability downfield. To go along with the strong arm Wilson has makes for a promising fit. Considering the young age of all three players, this year should only be the start of something special. Over time, expect continued growth and chemistry between Wilson and his top-two wide receivers.

Another element added with both Wilson and Moore is their positional flexibility. They each gained experience in college as slot receivers. Last season, they both got more opportunities on the outside. Wilson with Ohio State in his junior season. Moore in his rookie year with the Jets. The versatility the pair offers with the creative offensive-mind LaFleur has meshes perfectly. Moore and Wilson can be utilized in a multitude of ways. Whether it be pre-snap motioning, jet-sweeps, or in the screen game with their ability to get yards after the catch, LaFleur has the chance to get innovative.

Douglas deserves a tremendous amount of credit for adding these two players in the last two years. Moore and Wilson both bring Jet fans a ton of excitement when thinking about the team in 2022 and beyond. Expect this upcoming season to be just the beginning of something fun for the Jets offense with Moore and Wilson.

PFL announces playoff sites including two stops in the UK

MMA, PFL

This morning the PFL announced where their playoff sites will be for their 2022 season. One of their sites will be in New York City which is typical for the promotion. However, this morning they made headlines with announcing two stops in the United Kingdom. 

In a press release, the promotion announced that their August 13th and August 20th cards will be held in the UK. On the 13th, the PFL will be heading to Cardiff and they will make their final UK stop in London on the 20th.

This is a huge step for the PFL as they look to expand their growing audience. It will be a big deal for them to get in front of the passionate UK fans as they look to grow their international fan base. My guess is that they will try to bring some of their biggest stars to that card.

PFL Playoffs for UK Cards

In addition to announcing that they were heading to the UK, the PFL also announced which divisions will be featured on these cards. The August 13th card will feature the featherweights and heavyweights. On August 20th, the women’s lightweights and welterweights will be featured.

Of course the name that jumps out for the PFL featherweights is Brendan Loughnane. Currently, Loughnane is fifth in the standings, but he’s arguably the most popular fighter on the roster from the UK. No surprise that PFL is bringing the featherweights over.

The big card to me will be the card on the 20th. Arguably the biggest star in PFL, Kayla Harrison, will be looking to book her ticket to the finals again. She is searching for her third PFL championship after resigning with the promotion earlier this spring.

In addition, the welterweights will be in action and it looks like we will see a new champion this year. Ray Cooper III missed weight and lost a lopsided fight to start his season. He has an extremely steep uphill climb to try and get into the PFL playoffs. With that in mind, all eyes will be on former Bellator champion Rory MacDonald.

Will Bellator and Eagle FC make the Fedor – JDS fight happen?

Fedor Emelianenko

This past Friday night, Eagle FC hosted their 47th event. One of the key observers of the event was Bellator president Scott Coker. In the main event, former UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos (21-10) was taking on Yorgan De Castro (9-3).

Why was Bellator and Scott Coker watching closely? Well, they were tuning in to see how Junior Dos Santos looked. They wanted to see him look good and pick up a win to potentially set up a big time matchup against Fedor Emelianenko (40-6).

The Last Emperor is nearing retirement and Bellator has been trying to figure out who to book him against for his retirement fight. Eagle FC founder and fellow Russian MMA legend Khabib Nurmagomedov floated the idea of a co-promotional fight featuring Fedor and JDS.

The idea was well received by Scott Coker. JDS was looking great on Friday night against De Castro. His speed looked very good and he was doing an excellent job working his kicks in with his tremendous boxing. He looked like he was going to cruise to a decision win.

However, the third round saw everything go up in smoke. Dos Santos was stalking De Castro and threw a right straight. When he landed, he landed on the forearm of De Castro. Immediately, his shoulder popped out of place and the fight was called off. JDS lost by injury TKO.

Is the Eagle FC – Bellator fight dead?

After the event concluded, Khabib Nurmagomedov said that he still thinks JDS – Fedor is the fight to make. He believes that what happened shouldn’t deter Bellator from being interested in making the fight considering how the fight went down.

Dos Santos was looking better than he had in a very long time. Yes, I know the opponent was Yorgan De Castro, but I was impressed. Considering the Bellator roster, I think JDS might be the best fight for Fedor. Roy Nelson has tried to throw his name in there, but come on. Nobody is really clamoring for that fight.

JDS is arguably the biggest name Fedor can fight and with a legend like Fedor, his last fight needs to be big. I think Scott Coker and Bellator are still very interested in the fight. The only other fight that could be made is letting Fedor fight for the title against Ryan Bader which is what Fedor wants more than anything.

I think the next month or two are going to be interesting, but either way, we should know who Fedor is facing at the end of the year soon.