How I’d make the Mets’ biggest MLB playoff decisions

How I’d make the Mets’ biggest MLB playoff decisions
Jon Heyman

Mets decisionmakers, by the season they’re having, don’t necessarily need help judging, and they haven’t asked. But they have so many close calls on key playoff decisions, I figure it couldn’t hurt to chip in my two cents. (They may not think it’s even that valuable.)

Mets honchos batted 1.000 this winter, which is very tough to do, as manager Buck Showalter mentioned this week on The Post podcast “The Show.” They imported four core acquisitions, and hit on Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, Mark Canha and Eduardo Escobar. But let’s not forget Adam Ottavino, the Brooklyn product who was so little regarded in The Bronx that the Yankees basically gave him to the rival Red Sox, but has starred in Queens as the most reliable bridge to closing certainty Edwin Diaz.

And then there’s Showalter himself, who just might win his fourth Manager of the Year award.

It’s true the Mets’ front office seems to have made a mistake (or possibly two) at the trade deadline, but their oft-repeated supposition that most deadline deals aren’t going to help a team’s World Series chances looks to be dead on. The Mets treated their top five prospects as if they are all future stars, and the result is that they gave up little and helped themselves only incrementally. But for all the deadline headlines, the only team that acquired an obvious difference maker for prospects looks to be the Mariners, who are in a more desperate situation, having not made the playoffs in forever.

The Mets have some bigger decisions coming this postseason, and I am always here to help. There are at least four close calls, and I’ll take them one by one.

9/12/22 - Chicago Cubs vs. New York Mets at Citi Field - New York Mets manager Buck Showalter #11, walking off the field after making pitching change in the 4th inning.Buck Showalter has some big choices to make when it comes to the Mets’ postseason.Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

No. 1 starter: Jacob deGrom or Max Scherzer

Yes, deGrom is the most talented pitcher in the game, and maybe in years. But the choice here for Game 1 has to be Scherzer. The decision is especially important if the Mets win the NL East, get the bye and start with the five-game NL Division Series, since the Game 1 starter would be entrusted to come back on four days’ rest for Game 5.

The feeling here is Scherzer is the safer bet to be able to go strong on regular rest. His two stints with side issues may benefit him, as him arm seems refreshed for this time of year, certainly more so than last year. Meanwhile, the Mets have treated deGrom like he is a Fabergé egg, very valuable, yet just as fragile. If this call annoys deGrom to the point at which it hastens his exit, so be it. But I doubt it. He seems to be one of the bigger Scherzer fans going, too.

New York Mets starting pitcher Max Scherzer (21) pitches in the first inningMax Scherzer is the right call to start off the Mets’ playoff run.Robert Sabo

My call: Scherzer.

Mets predicted call: Scherzer.

Right-handed hitting DH: Darin Ruf or Mark Vientos

While Ruf has been a complete mystery since coming to Queens, they did trade J.D. Davis plus three left-handed pitching prospects for just this occasion. That would seem to play in Ruf’s favor. Plus, he has history. Before he came to Queens, he hit well against lefties.

Since coming to the Mets, however, he has been alarmingly bad. He has a .413 OPS and 20 OPS plus, which isn’t good for a pitcher. His -1.5 WAR suggests a replacement player would be better. Might I suggest J.D. Davis? Sorry, cheap shot, but he does have an .895 OPS since going to San Francisco in the deal for Ruf. The Mets also tossed four left-handers into that deal, including the formerly ballyhooed Thomas Szapucki, who was reported to have hit 98 mph recently. (And, by the way, the Mets could use a lefty, or two; more on that below.)

It would be quite an upset if they employed Vientos over Ruf, since Ruf is a veteran with a track record. While Vientos is ranked high in prospect rankings, the Mets don’t act like as if they believe the rankings, as they called up journeyman infielder Deven Marrrero before him. Really, their regard is such that it’s a mystery why they didn’t package him in a trade to bulk up their bullpen or add a veteran bat.

Having seen Ruf look nothing like the guy with an .891 lifetime OPS versus lefties, and almost seem lost at times, I’d go with Vientos. But that’s me.

My Call: Vientos.

Mets predicted call: Ruf.

No. 4 starter: Taijuan Walker or Carlos Carrasco

9/16/22 - Pittsburgh Pirates vs. New York Mets at Citi Field - Taijuan Walker #99 of the New York Mets pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates. 
Taijuan Walker is a back-end option most playoff teams would love to have.Michelle Farsi / New York Post

For all the previous anxiety about the Mets’ pitching depth, their back-end situation is probably the best of the 12 playoff teams. Either of these guys is capable of winning a playoff game. Walker’s upside is attractive, but Carrasco has more of a postseason track record and swing and miss type stuff (9.1 strikeouts per nine compared to 6.9).

My call: Walker.

Mets predicted call: Carrasco.

Key lefty reliever: Joely Rodriguez or David Peterson

Peterson has looked dominant at times as a starter, provided he throws strikes. Meanwhile, Rodriguez throws even fewer strikes than Peterson, or anyone else (4.9 walks per nine). While J-Rod is talented, it’s hard to see them trusting him come crunch time.

My call: Peterson.

Mets predicted call: Peterson.