The Most Anonymous Comeback

satin-swinging-savannah-fred-devyatkinIn the ninth inning last night, with the Mets down 4-1, I tucked my phone in my pocket and headed to the grocery store to pick up some breakfast essentials (granola, Honey Nut Cheerios, bananas, and almond milk) and ice cream. I saw Josh Satin’s game winner just after scooping up bananas. That’s Satin pictured at right as a Savannah Sand Gnat in 2009.

The Mets put together a remarkable comeback by as anonymous a group of major leaguers as possible.

Eight Mets batted in the team’s 9th inning. As a group, these eight had a combined 4.9 fWAR in 2013 and 2.5 fWAR for their careers. Six of the eight Mets who batted in the frame had fewer than 385 career plate appearances. The only ones who had more than 400, and both have more than 1,111, are Lucas Duda and Omar Quintanilla, who both have negative career fWAR totals. Six of the eight had a career fWAR total at or below 0.5.

This group is not composed of really young players either. Six of the eight are 26 years old or older, as of September 18. Only Juan Centeno, making his first big league start at age 23 and Juan Lagares, who made his MLB debut earlier this year at age 24, are young enough to project significant performance improvements as they age.

Lets go to the annotated play-by-play for more. Italicized comments are mine, obviously.

1. Andrew Brown walks.
—- Andrew Brown is playing with his third MLB organization in three years. The 29-year-old’s total MLB line is .230/.290/.415 in 292 PA over 119 games. This 2013 season is the first time he has exceeded 130 MLB PA in a year. 

2. Lucas Duda strikes out swinging
— In a slow-motion battle for the 2014 first base job, Duda has hit .275/.378/.458 with six home runs, 20 walks and 30 strikeouts in the last 42 games since the Mets recalled him from triple-A on August 25th. Miscast as an outfielder for the last three seasons, Duda has a chance to be a productive, unspectacular MLB first baseman.
With Juan Lagares batting, wild pitch by Santiago Casilla, Andrew Brown to 2nd.

3. Juan Lagares walks (!)
— It was his 19th walk of 2013 to bring his MLB walk rate to exactly 5%. Fourteen players in MLB have walked between 4.5% and 5.5% of the time and had enough PA to qualify for the batting title, a group that does not include Lagares, who is short on playing time. Nine of the 16 have an wRC+ above 100, making them league average hitters or better. Both Daniel Murphy (102 wRC+) and Marlon Byrd (135 OPS+) fall into the bucket above 100. Lagares’ centerfield defense makes him playable now, but a few more walks would do wonders for his offensive and overall value. 

— Zach Lutz pinch hits for Ruben Tejada, who broke his leg on this catch.
— Terrible timing for Tejada, who had the last month of the season to impress Terry Collins/Sandy Alderson/JP Ricciardi and play his way back into the 2014 starting job. I argued on last week’s Mostly Mets Podcast that Tejada had a lot riding on the last month. He still does.    

— Sergio Romo replaces Santiago Casilla.
—- Something about the variability of year-to-year relief performance … and wait, what’s that? They’re both really still good. Yup. Sergio Romo has a 4.67 K/BB ratio a 124 ERA+ and a 23.7% strikeout rate. Casilla has a 1.57 K/BB rate, a 156 ERA+ and a 18.9% K rate while allowing only 34 hits in 45.2 innings. Yeah, it was an off-night for both. 

4. Zach Lutz doubles to left field. Andrew Brown scores. Juan Lagares to 3rd. 
— When Lutz is healthy, he hits. In 23 MLB PA, he’s hit a solid .263/.391/.368. Yeah, I just gave you a batting line over 23 PA.

 
5. Juan Centeno singles on a ground ball to shortstop Brandon Crawford. Juan Lagares scores. Zach Lutz to 3rd.
– Congratulations to Centeno, who collected his first MLB hit earlier in the game. Both hits were Centeno classics: a grounder on the right side and a flare that Brandon Crawford tracked down on the left side of the diamond. In the minors, that ball probably scoots in to left field, but not in the big leagues against the world’s best defenders at shortstop. Centeno’s ascent to the big leagues is remarkable in that he was a back-up nearly all the way through the minors. He has never played in 60% of his team’s games. Not once. His minor league slugging percentage is .335. But he just kept grinding through at-bats, making contact and playing solid defense behind the plate and worked his way to the big leagues. It’s a good story. He should make a few million bucks playing baseball in his life as he’s just a few more innings from a membership card in the Fraternal Order of Backup Catchers. 

6. Matt den Dekker walks. Anthony Recker to second. 
— Catcher Anthony Recker had pinch-run for catcher Juan Centeno. It was that kind of inning.
— den Dekker, who had struck out in exactly 33% of his MLB plate appearances (17 of 51) entering this one in the ninth fell down 0-2 in the count and then watched four straight pitches out of the zone. Sergio Romo has walked 12 batters in his 56.1 innings in 2013, a rate of 5%. Those four straight balls out of the zone which put den Dekker on base, and pushed the tying run to third, and the go-ahead run to second, in position to score on a single were awfully important to this inning.

7. Omar Quintanilla flies out to right fielder Hunter Pence.
— Quintanilla, a man who is the major leagues for his defense at short, and a player with a career wRC+ of 53 (!) was asked to pinch-hit for Vic Black. (For a month of John Buck and Marlon Byrd, Vic Black and Dilson Herrera looks better and better.)

8. Josh Satin singles on a line drive to left fielder Gregor Blanco. Zach Lutz scores. Anthony Recker scores. Matt den Dekker to 2nd.
— Of course. Win for the Mets. Fist pumps near the frozen foods! Weird looks from fellow Kroger shoppers for me.
Satin does not have prototypical power at first (.114 ISO), but he works counts, grinds through at bats and hits line drives and can play second or third. He’s also hit .329/.417/.493 in 73 MLB AB against left-handers. That might just be enough to earn himself part of a platoon job at first base in 2014 with the Duda/Ike Davis winner.

 

Is there a larger lesson here?  In the broadest possible terms, walks are good for an offense. A team that walks three times in an inning should score a few runs.

As far as the Mets future? There was one guy who participated in the 9th inning rally who looks to have a starting spot nailed down for Opening Day 2014: Juan Lagares. Satin and Duda are fighting to be part of a firstbase time share. Quintanilla is a replacement level SS, who would be a fine bench player, or AAA depth piece. Brown, Centeno, Recker, Lutz and den Dekker might be fighting for bench jobs.

And this group fashioned as enjoyable an inning as possible. It’s a weird game.