Who would’ve thought one of the biggest problems for the Mets going into the season wouldn’t be the bench or bullpen, but rather the Triple-A affiliate located over 2,200 miles west in Las Vegas, Nevada?
The Las Vegas 51’s, the Mets Triple-A affiliate since 2013, took that role from the much closer Buffalo Bisons.
Not only did the Mets have the luxury of being in the same state as their affiliate, any player they needed could be delivered by plane in an hour.
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Having the 51’s play over 2,000 miles away is just one of the many headaches the Mets have to deal with on a day-to-day basis.
The only other MLB franchise that is further than New York and Las Vegas is the Oakland Athletics (2,291 miles compared to 2,233).
When these players are transferred to the Major League club, especially if they’re in New York, they have to worry about a full day of travel and jet lag as well.
Whether the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate was in Buffalo or Norfolk, they could have a rotation of players arriving to them at a short notice, sans the six-hour plane ride covering over 2,000 miles.
Another issue is that the 51’s play in the Pacific Coast League (PCL), where we usually see inflated numbers from offensive players. Much like Denver, where the Colorado Rockies play, ERA’s and averages are higher because of the altitude.
Because of the altitude, some players can be evaluated differently. If they can’t hack it at the Triple-A level, how can they do it in the majors? This is just one of the many issues the Mets could have when evaluating and scouting their own or other players.
One of the major players everyone always goes to is Collin McHugh of the Houston Astros. Pitching to a 3.42 ERA for the Bisons in 2012, he was kicked around to say the least with the Mets in 2012 and 2013. After pitching to a 7.59 and 10.29 ERA respectively, he was dealt to the Colorado Rockies for Eric Young, Jr.
The worst possible place McHugh could’ve tried to continue his career was Colorado, because of the altitude. He again pitched to a 9.95 ERA, making his combined earned run average 10.04 for the 2013 season.
I brought up the Bisons because in 2013 for Las Vegas, McHugh’s batting average against rose over 60 points (.216 compared to .277). His batting average against in Colorado was a whopping .384 through 19.0 innings pitched. Even more is after Colorado gave up on him, he found a new home in Houston, where he is one of their top pitchers.
Turning it around in 2014, a season after pitching to an ERA over 10, McHugh posted a 2.73 ERA. He gave up only seven more home runs in 2014 than he gave up in total through 2013, in 128.2 more innings pitched.
While his ERA has gone up the last two seasons, he is a more than a serviceable pitcher in this league. But because of altitude and not being able to figure it out in New York and Colorado, he was essentially traded straight up for a reserve outfielder and claimed off waivers for nothing.
While the Mets have a lot of talent on their team, injuries and other things happen. You need to depend on players to step up when their name gets called. We’ve seen in the past, especially last season, that certain guys you may not have even heard of will get time to make a name for themselves.
I think it would make the process much easier — when possible — if they moved back to a more local city in the International League. It would give the major league club a better lane to call up guys and get them within hours, rather than days on end.