Rays sign former Mets pitcher Michael Wacha to one-year contract

New York Mets, Michael Wacha

Michael Wacha, who pitched last season with the New York Mets on a one-year deal, will be using a different uniform in 2021. The Tampa Bay Rays, known for their use of analytics and technology to optimize pitching performance, are taking a similar flier on the talented right-hander.

Wacha, 29, agreed to sign a one-year contract worth $3 million to pitch with the 2020 runner-ups, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. His time with the Mets included a 6.62 ERA and a 5.25 FIP in 34 innings, but the Rays believe there is potential for more in his right arm.

In fact, despite his inflated ERA with the Mets, he posted some of the best strikeout and walk rates of his career. Wacha’s 9.79 strikeouts per nine frames was the highest of his eight-year career in MLB, and the 1.85 BB/9 was the lowest.

He had a weird statistical season with the Mets

Some of the best analysts of the game say that one of the most appropriate ways to try to determine future performance (it’s obviously impossible to know for sure) is by judging a pitcher’s strikeout-to-walk ratio, and Wacha certainly evolved on that front.

The other issue for the Rays is that during his time with the Mets, Wacha served up a whopping nine home runs in his 34 frames, or 2.38 per each nine innings. That obviously won’t last over a larger sample size, but it is a worrisome development that he needs to fix in order to be effective and win a rotation spot.

With a little better luck in the home run and BABIP department (he had a .366 mark with the Mets, by far the highest of his career) Wacha’s season could have been better. He was injured at one point, too, missing a couple of starts with shoulder inflammation. But overall, he seems like a solid investment by the Rays at that price.

New York Mets Player Evaluations: Pitcher Michael Wacha

New York Mets, Michael Wacha

Michael Wacha joined the New York Mets for the 2020 season and was another of Brodie Van Wagenen’s failed starting rotation pieces. Injuries and the inability to limit the long ball hampered the terrible season for Wacha.

Wacha was slotted as a bullpen piece when spring training started but moved into the rotation once the season started. His first start of the season was the only good one he would put together. Wacha allowed one run over five innings against the Boston Red Sox. The Mets sent him to the IL with shoulder inflammation after allowing nine runs in his next two starts.

Return From the Injured List

Nothing changed when Wacha returned three weeks later. Wacha had a 6.75 ERA over his final 20 innings, and batters walloped him for a .636 slugging percentage. The one good outing for Wacha came in a relief appearance where he held the Philadelphia Phillies to one run in four innings.

One of the interesting things about Wacha’s season was his reverse splits. Right-handed hitters batted .346 while lefties hit .275. Most of that was due to his inability to put away right-handers. The changeup was the putaway pitch for lefties, but the cutter did not work as well to finish at-bats. Opposing hitters batted just .228 against the changeup, and it had an outstanding 40.8% whiff rate.

While the changeup was a reliable pitch, the cutter and 4-seam fastball were useless. Batters hit .314 against the cutter and .400 against Wacha’s fastball. This was the same trend from 2019, which caused his home run rate and ERA to elevate. Opposing hitters also had an 8.2% barrel, and solid contact rate, which was also the highest of his career.

Overall, it was brutal to watch any start Wacha made in 2020. He finished the season with a career worse 6.62 ERA, 2.4 HR/9, and had a career-best 9.8 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9. Wacha’s sabermetrics cut him some slack as he had a 3.99 SIERA, and his xFIP- is 98. He will not be a Met in 2021, but he does pose promise as a reliever if he wants the opportunity.

2020 Grades On 20-80 Scale (2021 Projection)

4-Seam Fastball: 20 (35): Not much to say about a pitch that turns hitters into Tony Gwynn.

Changeup: 60 (60): Thrown 29.2% of the time and the only pitch he could rely on. It still has the same movement it had back in 2013.

Cutter: 35 (35): Not a fan of this pitch if it is his only use against righties. Moving it to a slider is a better option to remain a starting pitcher.

Curveball: 30 (40): Only threw seven all season, but a pitch I would recommend him using more against right-handers if Wacha wants to keep the cutter.

Command: 45 (45): Wacha’s command throwing strikes was great, but it was due to the immense about of pitches he threw in the middle.

Overall: 25 (35): Wacha’s worst season in the big leagues but still has the tools to resurrect his career.


New York Mets: 8-5 Loss Allows Tampa Bay Rays to Clinch the AL East

New York Mets, Michael Wacha

The New York Mets had no choice but to win every remaining game to give themselves a shot at the postseason, but the Tampa Bay Rays had a division to win. They fired off four home runs, two from Randy Arozarena in their 8-5 win, clinching the American League Eastern division for the first time since 2010.

Michael Wacha was making his final start of the season and likely his last in a Met uniform. He started strong by striking out the side in the first inning. This episode is one we have seen from Wacha before as the first inning does not translate to the rest of his start.

While his pitch count was low, he could not avoid the home run. He allowed a solo homer to Joey Wendle and Arozarena’s first home run of the game. Arozarena’s home run gave the Rays the lead in the sixth, and they never looked back from there. Wacha made it through six innings, allowing four runs on six hits, only needing 66 pitches.

Glasnow Glows

Tyler Glasnow came into his final start of the season, ranking fifth in strikeouts for the American League. He showed off his strikeouts stuff against the Mets offense with eight over six innings and holding the Mets to two runs. Glasnow made hitters look foolish with his fastball/curve combination. When the Mets struck against him, they did so with home runs from Andres Gimenez and Dominic Smith.

The Mets had some life when down six in the ninth. They tallied three runs, two coming from a Todd Frazier home run. It was no enough for the Mets to climb back, and the Rays clinched the division at Citi Field.

The Mets head to the road as they finish off their season with a four-game road trip against the Washington Nationals. Two lefties matchup as David Peterson faces Patrick Corbin in the first game from Nationals Park. The first pitch is at 6:05 p.m. ET.

New York Mets: deGrom Exits Early, Gimenez Gets Big Hit in 5-4 Win

New York Mets, Andres Gimenez

Wednesday night’s matchup between the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies featured a matchup of two longtime teammates. Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler faced each other for the first time, but Wheeler lasted a lot longer than back-to-back Cy Young winner did. For the Mets, if they wanted any hope at a postseason birth, they needed a victory.

From the beginning, it set up like another disappointing Mets loss. They went down 4-0 early, deGrom only lasted two innings, and their offense struggled against Wheeler. The Mets overcame all of that to pick up a huge 5-4 victory to move within 1.5 games of the Phillies. 

From the second pitch of the game, it was evident deGrom was dealing with some issue. deGrom sent glares towards the dugout, trying to let them know something was not right. After giving up three runs in the second, he did not make it back out for the third. deGrom left the game with right hamstring spasms and was visibly frustrated in the dugout.

Wacha to the Rescue

Michael Wacha gave the Mets everything they could have asked for when called into long relief duty. He gave the Mets four innings and held the Phillies to one run and kept the Mets in the game. Wacha worked around some trouble, allowing five hits, but his performance cannot go overlooked.

The comeback started with a simple Robinson Cano ground out, making it a 4-1 game. J.D. Davis made it a 4-3 game with a two-run opposite-field off Wheeler. As the game move into the late innings, Davis left his mark on this game.

With Michael Conforto on first base, his double tied the game in the eighth inning. The ball hung in the air forever, and it just made it over the glove of the leaping Adam Haseley. Conforto also had no clue on the number of outs, which made the play at the plate closer than it should have been.

Clutch Bullpen

In the bottom half of the eighth, Miguel Castro stranded runners on first and second with back to back strikeouts to move the game to the ninth inning. The Phillies made a couple of mistakes in the ninth inning to benefit the Mets. With a runner on first, Hector Neris balked to move the runner to second base.

They decided to intentionally walk Jeff McNeil to set up Andres Gimenez in his biggest spot with the Mets. The rookie came through to line a single to center field, giving the Mets a 5-4 lead. Edwin Diaz worked around a base hit to strike out three batters and pick up his biggest save of the season.

The Mets send Seth Lugo to the mound for the rubber game of this three-game series. Aaron Nola opposes him at Citizens Bank Park for the 7:05 p.m. ET start.


New York Mets: Wacha, Gsellman Struggles Continue in 11-2 Blowout Loss

New York Mets, Michael Wacha

The New York Mets learned something they should have known prior to the season starting…they cannot win when Michael Wacha takes the mound. It was another dreadful start for Wacha as the Baltimore Orioles jumped all over him and then Robert Gsellman in the 11-2 blowout.

Wacha had nothing from the start of the game. Despite retiring the Orioles 1-2-3 in the first inning, he did not look sharp. In the second inning, the barrage of runs started to come in, and Wacha allowed runs in the final three innings he pitched. He struggled to allow five runs (four earned) on seven hits in four innings pitched. The struggles now put his future in the Mets rotation in question.

Gsellman followed Wacha and continued the trend he set. Over 3.2 innings, he allowed six hits, six runs while walking two batters. With Erasmo Ramirez throwing five innings on Monday, Gsellman was the only long relief choice the Mets had. Whether intentional or not, it was the Mets throwing an early white flag. Gsellman also left his outing after an apparent back injury.

Means Channels All-Star Form

John Means showcased why he earned an All-Star selection in 2019 with a six-inning effort and holding the Mets to one run. The Mets only recorded three hits off Means, and his fastball/changeup combination neutralized their bats. Jake Marisnick provided the only run off Means with a solo home run in the second inning. Jeff McNeil added a garbage time home run in the ninth inning.

The starting pitching for the Mets has kept them back more than anything else. Outside of Jacob deGrom and Seth Lugo, the Mets need to outscore their starters to have a chance to win.

Rick Porcello tries to give the Mets length and slow down the hot Orioles offense as he faces Jorge Lopez in the final game of the series. The first pitch is at 7:10 p.m. ET from Citi Field.

New York Mets Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles (9/8-9/9)

New York Mets, Amed Rosario

The New York Mets welcome in the Baltimore Orioles for a short two-game series at Citi Field. They split their two-game series last week, but both teams currently sit on the outside looking in of the playoff race.

Probable Pitching Matchups

Tuesday, (9/8) @ 7:10 p.m. ET: John Means (0-3, 8.10 ERA) vs. Michael Wacha (1-2, 7.20 ERA)

Wednesday, (9/9) @ 7:10 p.m. ET: TBD vs. Rick Porcello (1-4, 5.54 ERA)

Michael Wacha looks to put together a good start after a season full of poor ones. He has failed to complete the sixth inning in any of his outings this season. Wacha could relax a little more in this start with the offense rolling and facing John Means, who allowed four runs in five innings against the Mets.

Lefty on Lefty

The Mets went with their right-handed heavy lineup against Means but left their three hottest left-handed hitters in the lineup. Michael Conforto is hitting .348 on the season and hitting a career-high .310 against southpaws. Jeff McNeil looks like the All-Star hitter he was last year, hitting home runs in back to back games and .381 over his previous 11 games.

Andres Gimenez is the third left in the lineup, and he joins Amed Rosario up the middle. Gimenez earned the opportunity to start against a lefty with his efforts in the series against the Phillies. Even if he struggles in game one, his gold glove caliber defense is tough to remove from the field. Since Rosario does not have the glove Gimenez has, Rosario gets to stay at shortstop while the versatile Gimenez goes to second base.

Matchups/Stats to Lookout For

Jeff McNeil on the First Pitch in 2020: 9-for-26 (.346), 5 Doubles, Home Run

Pete Alonso Batting Fifth in 2020: 5-for-13 (.385), 2 Doubles, Home Run, Walk, 4 Strikeouts

Jose Iglesias During Away Games in 2020: 22-for-50 (.440), 7 Doubles, Walk, 9 Strikeouts


New York Mets: Conforto Leads Offense to a Much Needed 9-4 Win

The sad news of Tom Seaver’s death puts a damper on the New York Mets victory. Despite the tragic news, the Mets clawed their way through the game and used an excellent offensive output to defeat the Baltimore Orioles 9-4.

Michael Conforto had a big day at the plate. He recorded four hits, including a double and home run, and drove in five of the nine Mets runs. Pete Alonso also hit a majestic home run into the second deck at Camden Yards at a scorching 113 miles per hour. Jake Marisnick and Jeff McNeil also recorded RBIs for the Mets.

Peterson Saves Bullpen

It was another poor start for Michael Wacha, who allowed only two runs in three innings but had little command throughout. Manager Luis Rojas showed the urgency he lacked on Tuesday and immediately turned to David Peterson, who was assigned to the bullpen on Wednesday.

Peterson stabilized the game and kept the Orioles from scoring against him. He pitched four innings, allowing two hits and two walks while only striking out one batter. With his ERA dropping to 3.03, it makes it very surprising that the Mets still opted to move their second-best starter to the bullpen. 

Miguel Castro made his Mets debut throwing a scoreless eighth against his former team. Todd Frazier did not have the same success as Castro in his Mets return. He went hitless in five at-bats, leaving four runners on base.

On Thursday, the Mets play a makeup game with the New York Yankees at Citi Field. J.A. Happ faces Robert Gsellman at 4:10 p.m. from Citi Field as the Mets try to even up the season series with their crosstown rival.

New York Mets: Sixth Inning Power Surge Provides a 6-4 Win in Game 1

Better late than never was the motto for the New York Mets in game one of their doubleheader against the New York Yankees. Jordan Montgomery kept the Mets offense quiet through the first five innings. The Mets completely changed their approach in the sixth inning to knock Montgomery out of the game and light up Chad Green.

The only run the Mets picked up through the first five innings came on an error and wild pitch to score Dominic Smith. Two quick singles from J.D. Davis and Michael Conforto in the sixth led to Montgomery’s exit. Chad Green came into to pitch to Pete Alonso and had the at-bat that changed the game.

After getting ahead with two fastballs up in the zone, Alonso worked the count back to a 3-2 count. During that time, he fouled one of those high fastballs directly behind home plate, and it showed he finally had its timing. The high heat was the pitch he drove over the center field fence, tying the game at four and lifting a huge weight off his shoulder.

Dom Adds On

It seemed like the Mets offense was done after the following two batters recorded outs. On an 0-2 pitch, Smith smoked a home run into the Yankees bullpen, giving the Mets a one-run lead. Jake Marisnick went back-to-back with him, making it a 6-4 game in his first since coming off the Injured List.

Michael Wacha also returned from the IL and made his first start in three weeks. He struggled to keep the ball out of the middle, and the Yankees got to him for four runs in three innings. Wacha did record seven strikeouts, but the only pitch he had consistent success with was his change-up.

Walker Lockett (2) and Dellin Betances (1) combined for three shutout innings, working in and out of trouble. Lockett’s outing stabilized the game and got out of a bases-loaded jam against Gary Sanchez, which could have pushed the game out of reach early.

Edwin Diaz recorded the save, showing no ailments from his leg cramps. He struck out the side in the ninth, picking up his second save of the season. With Seth Lugo back in the rotation, Diaz eased concerns manager Luis Rojas could have with the electric closer.

David Peterson also returns from the IL in game two of the doubleheader. The Yankees have not announced who they will go with as of 6:45 p.m. Also, the Mets are the home team in the nightcap.

New York Mets Series Preview: New York Yankees (8/28-8/30)

New York Mets, Michael Wacha

After the New York Mets postponed their game on Thursday, they open up a packed weekend series in the Bronx with their crosstown rival, New York Yankees. They will attempt to fit five games over three days, which includes doubleheaders on the first and last days of the series. All players will wear 42 as their number in honor of Jackie Robinson Day, usually celebrated on April 15.

Probable Pitching Matchups:

Friday, (8/28) @ 4:05 p.m. ET: Michael Wacha (1-2, 6.43 ERA) vs. Jordan Montgomery (2-1, 4.66 ERA)

Friday, (8/28) @ Following Game 1: TBD vs. TBD (Mets are the Home Team)

Saturday, (8/29) @ 1:05 p.m. ET: TBD vs. J.A. Happ (1-1, 6.39 ERA)

Sunday, (8/30) @ 1:05 p.m. ET: TBD vs. TBD

Sunday, (8/30) @ Following Game 1: TBD vs. TBD (Mets are the Home Team)

The current Yankees offense is the equivalent of the Mets’ starting rotation, both completely in shambles and barely giving each team a chance to win. The game one lineup for the Yankees features five hitters batting under .200 and a player making his major league debut. For the Mets, after Michael Wacha, they have no clue who to pitch after that.

Get Back to .500

A series against the ailing Yankees is what they need before they face stiffer competition. The Yankees are not a bad team, but they do not have the talent they assembled when the season began. For Wacha, this is a good lineup for him to face in his first start off the injured list. It does not strike the same fear a lineup consisting of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gleyber Torres.

It is tough not to speak of sports without mentioning the boycotts and protests that have taken place. After Thursday’s postponement, it seems the Mets heads are a lot clearer and are mentally in a better position than they were yesterday. Assumingly, there will likely be plenty of Black Lives Matter discussions, but nothing points to another postponement this weekend.

If the Mets take four out of five from the Yankees, they can get to .500 with 26 games left in the season. They will get an off day before playing the Baltimore Orioles, which can put them in a good streak towards the end of the season.

Matchups to Lookout For

Aroldis Chapman vs. Wilson Ramos: 0-for-10 (.000), 5 Strikeouts

Robinson Cano Career at New Yankee Stadium: .311/.368/.535, 81 Home Runs, 100 Doubles, 486 Hits

Michael Wacha Career in Day Games: 24-12, 3.55 ERA, 1.30 WHIP

Pete Alonso When Batting 4th in 2020: .154/.267/.385, Home Run, 2 Walks, 3 Strikeouts

New York Mets’ starting pitching depth takes yet another hit

New York Mets, Michael Wacha

The New York Mets‘ starting pitching depth took yet another crucial hit when it was announced that right-hander Michael Wacha was put in the 10-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation.

Wacha was able to pitch on Friday against the Marlins, but reported the issue to the Mets’ medical staff shortly after. In that start, the former Cardinal allowed four runs over five innings, striking out nine batters but ultimately taking the loss.

“I’m trying to stay as optimistic as possible,” Wacha said to MLB.com. “After talking to the doctors, it seemed that it’s a pretty minor injury and nothing really long term. It’s definitely all a positive mindset on my end, and staying as optimistic as I can about getting back there in a timely way.”

In three games started this year and 14.0 innings covered, Wacha is 1-2 with a 6.43, but a much more decent 4.47 FIP. He has 18 strikeouts (11.57 per nine frames) and a 1.64 WHIP. He has been a bit homer-prone.

The Mets are still waiting on Stroman

The New York Mets are still without Marcus Stroman, who is on his way back from a left calf tear but is not quite ready yet. Let’s also remember that righty Noah Syndergaard is also on the shelf, but he won’t return this year, as he had elbow surgery back in late March.

Wacha has a long history of shoulder issues dating back to his Cardinals days, so this development is certainly worrisome for the Mets. However, he doesn’t expect to miss much more than a turn or two in the rotation if all goes well.

The development is certainly not ideal for the surging Mets. They only have Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Rick Porcello and David Peterson healthy, and the latter already replaced Stroman a couple of weeks ago.

As for possible candidates to replace Wacha in the rotation for however long he is out injured, the Mets have Walker Lockett, Corey Oswalt, Franklyn Kilome, Erasmo Ramírez and Ariel Jurado.