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Date: Saturday, 19 Apr 2014 02:21

Braves 6 Mets 0

Mets nearly no-hit by someone from the scrap heap.

Mets Game Notes

Aaron Harang — where do I know that name / seen that man before? He looks SO familiar … was he a beer guy at Citi Field last year? Harang threw 7 no-hit innings before being removed from the ballgame. He didn’t look awesome, and didn’t necessarily dominate — it was kind of like Johan Santana‘s no-hitter, in that he somehow managed to not allow a hit, and no one can explain exactly why.

The pitch of the night from Aaron Harang came to Curtis Granderson with two outs in the sixth, runners on first and second, 2-2 count: a 91-MPH fastball right at the knees, on the inner half of the plate, that froze Granderson for strike three. Kudos, also, to catcher Evan Gattis for catching that pitch when it was a strike and “sticking it,” rather than catching it late and trying to frame it back into the strike zone.

If Homer Simpson were a real person, or inspired by a real person, would that person be Aaron Harang?

Tough luck for Jonathon Niese, whose sparkling six-inning, one-run effort was all for naught. Niese struggled in the early innings, but gritted through it and came away with what turned out to be a very strong performance. I’m still concerned about his mechanics and the health of his arm, but there’s no questioning his competitiveness.

The only hit of the night for the Mets was a 55-bouncer by David Wright.

Perhaps the most interesting detail of this near no-no: the Mets struck out “only” 8 times. I say “only” because they’ve been averaging around 10 Ks a game up to this point, and one would think that they’d have missed more pitches in a one-hit shutout. Baseball is a funny game, isn’t it?

Freddie Freeman‘s two-run homer in the top of the eighth looked kind of like a guy scooping ice cream, digging a ditch, pitching a golf ball out of a sand trap, or maybe like a lacrosse player — Freeman caught the ball around the knees, and lifted it over the fence. I shudder to think where that ball would’ve landed had he taken a full swing, with a full follow-through. The parking lot?

Just when it appeared that Dan Uggla should be shot and sent to the glue factory, he crushes a Gonzalez Germen pitch to the left-field wall. Though, I can’t imagine that the Braves can have much more patience with Uggla’s inability to hit — he certainly is not in the lineup because of his glove.

Keith Hernandez made a great point on that Uggla blast — where the heck was Chris Johnson to direct Justin Upton on what to do as he approached home plate? What, exactly, do on-deck hitters do these days? Are they too busy texting or tweeting to provide guidance? Taking selfies? From the replay, we saw that Johnson was taking extra practice swings while the play was developing. Really? The moment the bat makes contact, the on-deck hitter should become a participant in the play. Kids, do you understand? Scoring a run is THE most important thing a team can do, and I emphasize the word TEAM — if there is anything at all that anyone on the team can do to help that run score, you drop everything and do it.

It just occurred to me that I would like to see Jose Valverde finish a losing ballgame — for no other reason than to see his reaction after getting the third out.

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Braves do it again at 7:10 PM on Saturday night. Bartolo Colon rolls himself up the hill against Ervin Santana.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Friday, 18 Apr 2014 23:53

Somewhat fittingly, the Mets pass Ike Davis over to Pittsburgh.

Minutes before tonight’s first pitch, it was announced that the Mets traded Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for AAA reliever Zack Thornton and a player to be named later.

It sounds like this deal was at least in part about making roster room for Chris Young, and further, that because timing was an issue, there’s a good chance that the PTBNL will be more significant than Thornton. How significant is anyone’s guess, but it seems that the Mets and Pirates will continue the discussion — but announcing the deal now allowed the Mets to keep Andrew Brown and Kirk Nieuwenhuis on the roster for the moment while negotiations with Pittsburgh go on.

To be honest, I’m ambivalent about the deal. What’s good about it, is that it establishes Lucas Duda as the starting first baseman — the job is now his to lose.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "News Notes Rumors"
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Date: Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 04:26

Mets 5 Diamondbacks 2

Look at that — not only do the Mets sweep the Snakes in Arizona, but they also rise above .500 for the first time in 2014. 90 wins, here they come!

Mets Game Notes

No kidding — if most of the teams the Mets play are as bad as the D’backs are right now, the Mets will cruise to 90 victories. Talk about catching a team at the right time. Though, might Arizona be this bad for the entire year? It wouldn’t seem so, on paper, but you never know.

Dillon Gee figured out a way to get past the sixth inning — pitch efficiently. No worries about opponents’ batting average against him after 90 pitches, if he gets through seven frames tossing only 72 pitches. As I’ve mentioned previously during this series, was that efficiency due more to Gee’s effectiveness, or Arizona’s ineptness? Maybe a combination.

Did you think Gee should’ve gone out for the eighth inning? I think he could’ve wrapped up one more frame and still stayed under the 90-pitch ledge of no return.

Several times in this series, former first baseman Keith Hernandez criticized catcher Miguel Montero‘s footwork, saying that Montero lacks mobility. First off, I’m not sure how Keith is an expert on the catching position, since he never spent a day behind the dish. Second, Montero was stopping just about everything. Third, Montero does something VERY GOOD that most catchers don’t — he goes after the ball with his hands, and allows the rest of his body to follow behind them. Unbeknownst to 90% of MLB catchers and catching coaches, that’s the body’s most natural and efficient way to block balls in the dirt. Wherever a human being places his or her hands, the body will naturally follow — and further, your body’s internal balancing system (i.e., the inner ears) forces the body to center itself behind the hands. So when reacting to balls in the dirt, it makes sense to move the hands first, and let the body follow. Most catchers, though, start moving the feet — hence, the misconception that catchers need “good footwork” when blocking balls. Truth is, moving the feet first will almost always be a slower and less natural way of blocking pitches. (By the way, when I talk about a catcher’s footwork, I’m referring to his throwing the ball to second base.)

If I were Gerardo Parra going for two on the popup in the sixth, I might’ve considered plowing Dillon Gee instead of sliding into second. It would’ve been completely within the rules, and would’ve been safer (for Parra) than getting toppled by Gee. And had Parra taken that route, Gee likely would’ve been seriously injured. Gee made a great play there, but he put himself at considerable risk. Am I saying he shouldn’t have done it? No, just pointing out that he’s lucky that most MLB players are gentlemen.

It was nice of Jose Valverde to give the Arizona crowd some hope and entertainment at the end of the game — much to the chagrin of Mets fans. He’s a kind and giving soul, that Valverde — a fitting gesture, considering that this is Easter week.

Next Mets Game

The Mets take the day off on Thursday to travel back home and start a series hosting the Braves at 7:10 PM on Friday night. Jonathon Niese goes to the mound against Aaron Harang.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Wednesday, 16 Apr 2014 04:58

Mets 9 Diamondbacks

Mets mash Diamondbacks early and don’t let up. This, my friends, is what we call a “laugher.”

Mets Game Notes

A three-hit shutout for the Mets. Are the Mets this good? Are the D’backs this bad?

Remember when Bartolo Colon had a bad afternoon a few days ago? That’s what happened to Bronson Arroyo in this ballgame. And the Mets hitters took advantage.

Arroyo threw 3 1/3 innings of BP — I’ve never seen him this awful, and have to wonder if he has an injury or if it was simply one of the worst nights of his life. The Mets were ultra-aggressive in the initial inning, with three of the first four batters attacking Arroyo’s first pitch; by the time the half-inning was over, the Mets had a three-run lead. Strangely enough, despite Eric Young, Jr. reaching base on an infield single to begin the game, it took two more singles and a fielder’s choice to score him. How many more times will you see that anomaly?

Jenrry Mejia had excellent results, but left after five frames and 77 pitches due to what was described as a blister on his middle finger. Good thing it was a blowout, but the Mets bullpen didn’t need the extra work. We’ll have to see if this issue will affect his next start.

In a rout like this, details mean little, but I have to take issue with Keith Hernandez‘s criticism of Travis d’Arnaud on Eric Young, Jr.’s bloop single in the fourth. d’Arnaud was on third base with none out, and the ball was hit in the air to short left field. As Keith mentioned, Omar Quintanilla (on second base) got a good read on the ball and took off right away, while d’Arnaud went back to third base to tag. Keith said of d’Arnaud, “… he almost gets run over. That’s just not good right there, he did not read that good at all, he almost got embarrassed — you don’t want to have someone running up your back.” I disagree, strongly (not just with Keith’s butchering of the English language, but also with his baseball opinion). With the ball in the air, even if you think for sure the ball is going to drop, as long as it’s deep enough for you to score once it drops, you go back to the bag. The worst thing that can happen is not that the runner behind you is “up your back” — the worst thing is that the fielder makes a diving catch and you didn’t have time to go back to the bag and turn that out into a run. My opinion, anyway, and the way I was taught back in dinosaur times.

On the other hand, Keith echoed one of my strong feelings during the game, suggesting that MLB should get rid of four teams and “what a league it would be,” by eliminating 100 players from “the pool,” and, ergo, the true “cream of the crop” would be left in MLB. Heck yeah.

Oliver Perez now kind of, sort of, reminds me of Jesse Orosco. But not really. The Luis Tiant / Gene Garber spin is a nice touch. Now that the Mets aren’t paying him a crippling $36M contract, he’s entertaining, in a circus clown sort of way. Though, he remains a sh*t show.

Juan who? Who needs Juan Lagares when you have Kirk Nieuwenhuis? Nice to see Nieuwenhuis back in the bigs and making contact and making diving catches. Remember when he was the Mets’ center fielder “for many years to come”? Remember when Matt den Dekker replaced him in that role? Well, Captain Kirk is back. Can he keep it up? We’ll see soon enough.

Kevin Burkhardt did an interview with Zack Wheeler, and, while Wheeler said all kinds of exciting things regarding starting his hands over his head, using a three-quarter arm angle, setting up hitters, yadda yadda yadda, he sounded to me like a kid discussing he and a pitching coach walking around in a dark room, having no idea what he should be doing, with the pitching coach offering reassuring, but empty advice. It’s a shame that pitchers can be so clueless and have zero valuable direction provided by their management and ownership, which has millions of dollars to find the answers yet continue to rely on handed-down hearsay. Some day, maybe, MLB teams will consider getting advice from qualified people regarding the pitching motion. Though, probably not until the number of Tommy John surgeries increases from 30% to 75%. /off soap box

Eric Young, Jr. kept his streak going by striking out in the top of the fifth — he’s struck out at least once in every single game he’s played thus far. That strikeout was looking, and while it may have been a bad call — it looked like the pitch may have been outside, but Miguel Montero did a nice job of catching the left side of the ball — I’m getting really, really tired of Mets players beefing with the umps after seemingly every single called strike three. I don’t mean to single out Young here, because it’s endemic to the entire club, and, to an old-schooler like me, it’s annoying. Might the umpire make a few mistakes? Sure. How about you? When Young misplays a fly ball, does the umpire bark at him? May he without sin cast the first stone, the good book says. Beyond that, there is nothing positive that a player can do by arguing with an umpire — only negative. People who become MLB umpires do not have the type of personality that is susceptible to inspiring self-doubt — quite the opposite, actually. You’re called out on a bad strike three call? Turn around, away from the umpire mutter under your breath if you must, and walk directly to the bench. Do not confront the umpire and offer him your point of view. Do not “ask” where the pitch was — it was in the strike zone, per the man in blue, and you’re out. At some point in that game, or later that season, you’ll get a call that goes your way — if it didn’t happen already. Will you argue when the umpire calls a strike as ball four? /off soap box #2

The Mets struck out 10 times, yet again. But they won, so who cares, right? Hmm …

I have to admit, I turned the game off after the seventh inning. It didn’t seem like the Snakes were interested in fighting back, which is alarming and a shame considering that manager Kirk Gibson was known for the fire in his belly above everything else. Gibby must be completely exasperated. But jeez, so early in the season to go in the tank?

Next Mets Game

Mets go for the sweep — and the way the Snakes have looked in the first two, a sweep should be expected — as they send Dillon Gee to the mound against Brandon McCarthy on getaway day. Game time is 3:40 PM Right Coast Time.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Tuesday, 15 Apr 2014 05:14

Mets 7 Diamondbacks 3

For all the lack of sleep, long ballgames, and difficult travel, the Mets put out a great effort in burying the snakes.

Mets Game Notes

Zack Wheeler started out throwing 95-96 in the first inning, and held 95 MPH through the third inning. His velocity started to drop to 94-95 around pitches 35-40, then it dipped to 93-94 right around pitches 65-70. He still hit 94 after pitch #70, and held that velocity through 90 pitches, touching 96 MPH at pitch #90. After pitch #90, though, his fastball dipped to 93 MPH and he lost command of all pitches. Terry Collins pulled him at that point (97 pitches), with one out in the 7th inning and men on first and second. I’m not sure if dropping from 95-96 to 93-94 is a big deal, but I wonder if Wheeler might be more suited to the bullpen if he’s going to continue to run out of gas at 90 pitches — which is something he’s been doing since we’ve seen him as a big-leaguer, so it’s not necessarily due to it being early in the year. We’ll see as the season wears on.

Wheeler’s curveball looked good in the first five innings, then it tailed off gradually.

Bobby Ojeda mentioned that Wheeler’s mechanics looked “great” and “consistent” and that “he wasn’t following through toward first base like last time.” To me, the mechanics were not “great” as his arm continues to be behind, particularly at foot strike. To me, his mechanics were not necessarily consistent — he occasionally had better timing, but only infrequently. As for following through toward first base, yes, he was, fairly frequently, and there is video to prove it. I hope people other than former MLB pitchers are looking at Wheeler’s motion and considering necessary changes that will prevent injury. According to their official blog, the Mets are using some kind of high-tech, cutting-edge, in-game biomechanical analysis. However, analysis is useless unless someone knows what they’re looking at and can apply fixes when needed. It’s kind of like having an X-ray or an MRI taken, and then not having a doctor to interpret the results, and/or a surgeon to perform the surgery.

And yes, it’s possible to perform well / put up good numbers with a dangerous process. MLB pitchers do it all the time (and then their arms blow out).

Eight-out save for Carlos Torres — talk about old school.

Good night for Lucas Duda, eh? Four for five with two RBI as he raised his average above .300. Maybe he should be installed as the everyday first baseman. Oh, wait …

Daniel Murphy shed the hipster beard, presumably to shed the slump, and it seemed to have worked. Perhaps having less hair on his face eliminated distraction from seeing pitches and allowed him to focus better. Or maybe less weight on the face led to quicker hands. Whatever — the beard was weird anyway, unless Murph planned on hanging out in Bushwick, Brooklyn sucking down local beer and nibbling porkbelly-kale-quinoa wraps while strumming acoustic guitar.

It seemed like every time Murphy came to the plate, Keith Hernandez said, “this game is about to be blown wide open.” Jeez, Keith, when are you going to admit that Daniel is your illegitimate son?

Murphy made multiple acrobatic plays in the field and is often looking somewhat natural at second base. Dare I say he’s on the verge of being adequate with the glove? It’s still early, but there’s hope. Again, maybe it’s the clean-shaven face that helps make him look better.

Pleased, but displeased, to see Curtis Granderson ram into the fence in the first inning. Loved the effort, of course, hated the result, which turned out to be left forearm, rib cage, and knee contusions. Grandy seemed to swing the bat OK afterward, but he was letting go of his top (left) hand, which was the side he jammed into the wall. Though I’m fairly sure his contract will be a bust, I still love watching Granderson play and see him as an ideal ambassador of the sport — one who we hope youngsters look up to — so I hope he can recover and get back on the field quickly.

Martin Prado is one of my favorite ballplayers of all-time (though, I’m still not convinced he and Omar Infante are different people), but, hitting cleanup? No. Strange. That’s all I got.

One of Kevin Burkhardt’s pieces focused on Juan Lagares, and how Lagares has been working hard on swinging only at pitches in the strike zone. Burkhardt went on to mention that, according to fangraphs.com, Lagares swung at 35% of pitches out of the strike zone in 2013, but had only swung at 32% out of the zone this year. Um, really? We’re going to compare 421 plate appearances to 51, and make hay over a 3% difference? OK. Hey, I get it — Lagares is trying to be more disciplined, and he’s hitting really well thus far. But if you’re going to quote stats, maybe wait until there’s a slightly larger sample size, and a slightly more stark contrast in the numbers, OK? The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if SNY daily talking points include “pump up Juan Lagares in every possible way!”

Speaking of Lagares, he left the ballgame in the 7th with what seemed like a hamstring issue. As mentioned above, I enjoy watching Curtis Granderson and will be disappointed if he can’t play full-speed going forward. Similarly, Lagares has been enjoyable to watch thus far this year, and it will be another disappointment if he’s sent to the bench. Hopefully, it’s just a minor twinge (but, not the kind of minor twinge that used to keep Jose Reyes out for half-seasons at a time).

What are the odds on Kirk Gibson making it through the end of April as manager of the D’backs? What about making it through the end of this week? He’s been dealt a difficult hand, but, a GM can’t blame himself, can he? My guess is that Kevin Towers will pass the blame and therefore stave off his own forced exit by at least five months.

Wasn’t Ryan Rowland-Smith an ABC newscaster?

The Mets struck out 10 times in this game, so they’re keeping their 10-per-game average going. But who cares as long as they win, right?

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Diamondbacks do it again in Arizona at 9:40 PM Right Coast Time. Jenrry Mejia goes to the mound against Bronson Arroyo. So this is where Arroyo wound up? I guess I missed that over the winter; for some reason I thought the Dodgers signed him (they signed everyone else, it seemed like).

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Monday, 14 Apr 2014 03:50

Angels 14 Mets 2

Perhaps the exhaustion of this Left Coast trip finally caught up to the Mets, as they were clobbered by the Compton Angels. Unfortunately, there are still three more games to go on this western swing.

Mets Game Notes

Not a good day for Bartolo Colon. Hey, it happens. Everything Colon threw, the Angels hit. If Def Leppard had a hit that was the opposite of “Foolin‘”, it would have been Colon’s theme song for this ballgame.

On the one hand, you could argue that the Mets could have easily won this series, if only something had broken right on Friday night. On the other hand, you could argue that the Mets could’ve been swept, had only something broken right for the Angels on Saturday night. Hmm …

There’s been buzz asking, “should you be worried about David Wright? Should you be worried about Curtis Granderson? Should you be worried about Dillon Gee?” Etc. You know who Mets fans should be worried about? Scott Rice. One of the feel-good stories of 2013, suddenly Scott Rice is not the lights-out LOOGY he was in his long-awaited rookie season. When the Angels loaded the bases against him in the sixth inning, and Raul Ibanez came to the plate, I thought, “hey, here’s a great situation to bring in Scott Rice — and he’s already in the ballgame.” Rice quickly got ahead of Ibanez 0-2, Ibanez fouled off a few pitches, then before you knew it, it was full count. Sure, there was one pitch that MIGHT have been called strike three during the at-bat, but it was definitely borderline, and, Rice threw three other balls in addition to that one en route to walking Ibanez and forcing in a run. Rice, like most LOOGYs, has a decent-enough slider to get swings and misses from lefthanded hitters, but he doesn’t have anything else — not velocity, not great command, not a secondary pitch to compliment the slider. I think he’s going to have a tough go, especially as he faces NL teams who saw him last year.

David Wright and Daniel Murphy were thrown out of the game by home-plate umpire Toby Basner after Travis d’Arnaud struck out looking in the 7th. Wright and Murphy provided some constructive criticism from the dugout regarding Basner’s strike-zone judgment, with which Basner respectfully disagreed. There’s no doubt that Basner’s strike zone was large, and at least a few strike-threes against the Mets were not just questionable, but likely wrong. However, there were similarly borderline calls against the Angels hitters, and, from my view, Basner’s zone was fairly consistent — he was calling strikes at the bottom of the knees all day. As a player, I have experienced some very wide and questionable strike zones by both decent and awful umpires through the years — and it’s something that I have learned to adjust to, when necessary. Why? Because the reality is this: the strike zone is not necessarily what it is as defined by the rule book; the strike zone is whatever and however the umpire that day defines it. It’s stone-headed and unhelpful to continue to expect the strike zone to be something other than what the day’s home-plate umpire is calling. If a guy is calling the low strike, you know what? You make an adjustment, and protect against that pitch when you have two strikes. Bottom line is this: Basner may have made several bad calls, but he wasn’t the reason the Mets didn’t score enough runs to beat the Angels in this particular game.

Speaking of the strike zone, Mets hitters struck out another 11 times in this ballgame. They struck out 14 times on Saturday night, and 9 times Friday night, so that’s 34 times in 3 games — an average of over 11 per game. Granted, both Friday and Saturday night’s games were extra innings. But still, striking out 14 times in 13 innings (on Saturday) is not good.

Travis d’Arnaud has been allowing a number of balls get past him recently. I don’t necessarily blame him; I think part of it is the lack of command of Mets pitchers — particularly Jeurys Familia.

Speaking of Familia, he should not have been pitching in this game — not after throwing 51 pitches on Friday night. Once a pitcher reaches 40 pitches, he requires a minimum of two days of rest — that means, no throwing from the mound for two entire days. And while we’re on the subject of rest, John Lannan had no business being on the mound the day after tossing 33 pitches (actually, it was more like 15 hours after) — a pitcher needs one full day of rest after throwing 30 pitches. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Lannan shat the bed in this ballgame (whether anyone noticed or not is irrelevant). These numbers come from that mysterious voodoo land called “science.” Yes, all individuals are different, and therefore some may not necessarily apply to these numbers. But here’s the thing: the science is not based on performance, it’s based on how long it takes for the body’s muscle fibers to heal, and, generally speaking, we’re all pretty much the same when it comes to that detail. Add in the fact that both Lannan and Familia have incredibly inefficient and dangerous mechanics that put undue stress on their arms, and you have the makings of a disastrous situation. Yes, I know the Mets played two straight extra-inning games, and someone had to throw those innings. Here’s a wild idea: bring up an arm from AAA Las Vegas for Sunday’s game — they were playing in Fresno, which is less than a 4-hour drive / 1-hour flight from Orange County. Egregious irresponsibility by the Mets in not having a fresh arm available after Colon exited the ballgame. By the way, as of this writing, there still had been no announcement of the promotion of a AAA pitcher. And guess what? If the Mets recognized the importance of rest (rather than obsessing over pitch counts), they’d know that Lannan, Familia, and Scott Rice (who threw 34 pitches in this game) are all unavailable for Monday’s game. So, that means Terry Collins has to figure out a way to get 9 innings out of his starter, and has only Jose Valverde, Kyle Farnsworth, Carlos Torres, and Gonzalez Germen to work with out of the bullpen. I know, four relievers should be plenty, but, a) this is “Matchup Man” Terry Collins we’re talking about; and b) what happens if Zack Wheeler has a day tomorrow like Colon did in this ballgame? Uh-oh.

Next Mets Game

The Mets move on to Arizona to play the Diamondbacks in a three-game series. Game one begins at 9:40 PM Right Coast Time (RCT), and pits Zack Wheeler vs. Josh Collmenter.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Sunday, 13 Apr 2014 16:07

Mets 7 Angels 6

Unlikely heroes Omar Quintanilla, Anthony Recker, and John Lannan lift the New York Mets over the Whittier Angels in extra innings.

Mets Game Notes

Sorry, friends, I had neither the endurance nor the energy to watch this entire game and write a recap. So please post your notes below.

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Angels do it again at 3:30 PM RCT. Bartolo Colon faces C.J. Wilson. The way things are going I assume this one will go 18 innings.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Saturday, 12 Apr 2014 06:08

Angels 5 Mets 4

The New York Mets lose an eleven-inning marathon to the Cucamonga Valley Angels.

Mets Game Notes

Only one thing worse than a late-starting game on the Left Coast — a late-starting game on the Left Coast that goes into extra innings.

Dillon Gee was missing high out of the strike zone, and living high in the zone, most of the night. Maybe that was a strategy? Based on where Travis d’Arnaud was setting his target/glove — which was almost always at or below the knees, I’m not so sure. Gee’s curve worked only occasionally, and most noticeably when he caught Mike Trout looking.

Gee threw a lot of balls, especially in the fifth frame, and I’m still trying to figure out how he wormed his way out of that mess without allowing a run.

Now, I know that in the game recap of Gee’s last start, I argued that he might’ve been able to continue beyond 100 pitches. On this particular night, my eyes were seeing a pitcher struggling mightily in the fifth, and, had I been the manager, would have been counting my blessings that Gee made it through five and replaced him with someone else to start the sixth. But that’s me, looking at a pitcher’s body language and lack of command, rather than pitch count.

Gee’s final line included 6 hits, 4 walks, and 4 earned runs in 5 2/3 innings, as well as 59 strikes out of 100 pitches. Those numbers are not very good.

Tyler Skaggs, for a 22-year-old, has enough stuff to compete at the MLB level, but not yet the polish to dominate. He threw far too many waist- and chest-high fastballs over the middle of plate — which would work well this week against the big-swinging Braves, but not against the Mets. His fastball tops out around 93 MPH, which is plenty if located well, but not enough velocity to blow by MLB hitters. He has plenty of time to develop; he reminds me a little bit of former California Angel Chuck Finley, though he doesn’t throw a forkball and throws many more curves; hopefully Skaggs can avoid Whitesnake groupies and stilettos.

Jeurys Familia threw almost exclusively fastballs in his relief stint, and was heating it up at 97 MPH consistently, topping out at 98 — assuming the gun result displayed on the TV feed was correct. He didn’t have command, but he did usually keep it in the strike zone. He had to throw all fastballs because he had no idea where the slider was going. In that way, Familia sort of reminds me of Jorge Julio.

I hate, hate, hate, HATE intentionally walking men to load the bases. To me it’s idiotic strategy that puts far too much pressure on a pitcher with good command — but to do it with a guy on the mound who has suspect command? Dumb. It’s not fair to give a pitcher absolutely no room for error with the winning run on third base.

Several of the Angels hitters stand far from the plate, and deep in the box, making them susceptible to breaking pitches outside. I wonder if that’s a team-wide philosophy that applies to something they normally encounter against AL pitchers, or something they consciously are doing against the Mets, or apropos of nothing?

It seems that Eric Young, Jr. will score every time he reaches base. But how many times will he reach base, is the question.

Travis d’Arnaud went yard for the first time in 2014 leading off the third. Nice blast on a chest-high fastball over the middle of the plate — he did what a MLB hitter is supposed to do with such a pitch. Expect to see him do that many times — he looks to me like a hitter who may not win a batting title, but who will not miss, and will take advantage of, mistakes he’s given.

I didn’t quite get the gushing by Gary Cohen and Ron Darling over the throw by Juan Lagares to third base in an attempt to put out Erick Aybar in the 8th inning. It was by no means an easy play, nor an easy throw, and Lagares did a great job of getting to the ball and getting rid of it quickly, but it wasn’t a “remarkable” throw. Lagares looked to be about 130-140 feet from third base when he released the ball, and the throw took two bounces — the first about 20-25 feet from the third base bag — to reach David Wright. To me, that was a throw that any MLB centerfielder could make. Understand, I am very much enjoying Lagares’ defense in center, and believe he’s been better than most other MLB center fielders since last June. At the same time, I can’t label every single thing he does as being superlative, in comparison to the other 29 best center fielders in the world. Sometimes, he does things that are expected of a big-league center fielder. (Granted, compared to an amateur, an average minor leaguer, or a Sunday softball beer leaguer, EVERYTHING he does is remarkable.)

The next time Aybar had a chance to go first-to-third on a single to center in the 10th, he held up at second. It was suggested by Gary and Ron that Aybar “learned a lesson” in seeing Lagares’ arm strength the first time. Not necessarily. The reason Aybar took a chance the first time was because Lagares’ momentum was going in the opposite direction of the throw. The reason Aybar held up the second time around may have been in part because of respect for Lagares’ arm strength, but mostly because Lagares was charging the ball hard and had his momentum going straight toward third base. Kids, you can learn from this — that’s “heady” baserunning.

Albert Pujols doesn’t look anything like the hitter he was while on PEDs in St. Louis. He’s a shell of his former self — he has no presence like he once did, and looks like he couldn’t give a s*&t. Amazing what age can do to a ballplayer in The Testing Era.

Interesting to see Kyle Farnsworth pitch around a 22-year-old to load the bases for Pujols, isn’t it? Of course, that 22-year-old was Trout, and Pujols is no longer Pujols.

Every single Met in the starting lineup had at least one hit — and, exactly one hit — by the seventh inning. The streak was broken when the official scorer very generously gave Daniel Murphy credit for a second hit on a ball that bounced off Howie Kendrick‘s glove. How many borderline error/hits did Murphy have credited as hits last year? About a dozen? Not that Murphy was the only recipient of the good graces of official scorers — it seems the trend will continue, much to the chagrin of pitchers who value their earned run average.

Speaking of Murphy, what the heck is he doing attempting a steal of third with two out in the eighth, tie game, Curtis Granderson at bat with a full count? With none or one out, MAYBE that makes sense. With two outs? Maybe someone else can explain the logic to me. I know the statheads have proclaimed Murphy to be one of the best baserunners in MLB, presumably based on the little league strategy of running like your hair’s on fire until someone tags you out, but, those were the same bean-counters who said Murphy was a good-fielding first baseman a few years back.

How did the Angels leave 17 runners on base? Gee whiz.

The Angels struck out 8 times and walked 10 times. The Mets struck out 9 times and walked zero times.

Lots of complaining — from both sides — for home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez. To me, Gonzalez did seem to be a bit inconsistent on low pitches, and I counted at least two 3-0 pitches that looked to be high ball fours, but were called strike one.

A Joe Smith sighting! I think that was the first time we’ve seen ol’ Joe face the Mets since he was one of the 37 players sent in different directions in the Jeremy Reed trade.

And, a Collin Cowgill sighting! Seems like only a year ago that Cowgill was mashing Opening Day grand slams. Oh, wait …

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Angels do it again at 9:05 PM RCT (Right Coast Time) on Saturday night. Jonathon Niese faces Jered Weaver.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Friday, 11 Apr 2014 03:45

Mets 6 Braves 4

Are the Mets this good? Are the Braves this bad? Or is it a function of it being April?

Mets Game Notes

It was the Eric Young, Jr. Show, though Daniel Murphy might have an argument with that statement. Both Mets hitters had three-hit days, with Murphy driving in three and Young scoring four runs.

Mets starter Jenrry Mejia was not quite as dominating in this contest as he was against the Cincinnati Reds. Mejia allowed 4 earned runs on 6 hits and 4 walks in 5 innings; I winced at around 94 of his 98 pitches, because his arm was chronically behind the rest of his body and his follow-through is a mirror-image of Oliver Perez. The only thing that comforts me about his frightening mechanics is that they’re not as bad as Jeurys Familia‘s — for whatever that’s worth.

In truth, Mejia was lucky to get out of five frames allowing only four runs — he was in trouble nearly every inning, and if the Braves hitters had any idea about situational hitting, they might have scored 6 or 7 before Mejia exited.

In contrast, the Mets hitters showed exemplary situational hitting skills, cutting down their swings with two strikes, going the other way, and looking to make contact with RISP instead of “going for the downs” every single swing. If they can keep this up, they just might win 75-80 games — maybe 82.

Before you get on me for being negative for stating that, remember that the Mets haven’t won as many as 75 games since 2011, and have done it only twice since 2008 (which was the last time they won more than 80). I’m being positive and generous, whether you realize it or not.

I get that the Braves’ approach is to pitch well and hit homeruns, with little-to-no concern for any other part of the game. And I get that there will be times when too many players are slumping for that formula to result in wins. But it’s boring as heck. Further, if this is the formula that Sandy Alderson seems to be trying to re-create, and if he’s successful in doing so, I may have to give up on watching altogether. Home runs are soooooo 1999.

I’m glad Ron Darling finally asked Gary Cohen if he had remembered seeing so many swings and misses on pitches over the middle of the plate. I was beginning to wonder if I was crazy (well, I may be, regardless). The number of swings and misses in this series by Braves hitters has been astonishing to me. Again, I know their modus operandi is to swing from their butts and hope for the best, but to miss this often, against less-than-stellar pitchers, is puzzling and unexpected from what are supposed to be Major League hitters. The Braves seem to be swinging more aggressively and breezing more often than the young Marlins clubs from a few years back — and this is a reigning division champ. Should I be giving more credit to Mets pitching? Or, again, is it a function of it being so early in the season? Hard to say.

Speaking of Mets pitching, the SNY radar gun had Carlos Torres humming at 93 MPH, and clocked Kyle Farnsworth as high as 96. Was it a fast gun? If not, where is that velocity coming from, especially from Farnsworth, who was struggling to hit 90 MPH in Florida just two weeks ago? Something fishy.

Leading off the bottom of the ninth, down two runs, slugging Ramiro Pena popped out weakly on the first pitch delivered by Jose Valverde. Really? You’re not taking a strike there? Care to explain why not? Even a juiced-up Barry Bonds is taking a strike in that situation. As Ron Darling said, “I blame the manager.” Agreed. That’s atrocious. Of course, I also blame the player for being that stupid. On the one hand, the manager shouldn’t have to tell a player to take a strike, but shame on the manager for not stating the obvious. It only took three years for Fredi Gonzalez to completely obliterate everything Bobby Cox built over 20 years. Can you tell bad baseball annoys me?

The Braves batters finally beat the Mets in strikeouts, whiffing 11 times to the Mets’ 9.

Next Mets Game

The Mets head west to face NJ native Mike Trout and the California Angels for a weekend series. Game one begins at (cringe) 10:05 PM EST RCT (Right Coast Time). The pitching matchup is Dillon Gee vs. Tyler Skaggs. Thank goodness it’s not a school night so we can sleep in on Saturday morning.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Thursday, 10 Apr 2014 02:25

Braves 4 Mets 3

Mets lose, but do what they can to make it exciting at the end.

Mets Game Notes

It didn’t seem like the Mets had any chance at all to win the ballgame. Then Fredi Gonzalez started thinking, which is never a good thing for the Braves.

Tough night for Zack Wheeler, who was throwing 95-96 out of the gate, but reduced to around 93 by the third inning. He was getting plenty of swings and misses, but it’s hard to say whether that was due to his stuff or due to the nature of the Braves hitters, since we saw the Braves missing tons of pitches against Bartolo Colon as well. Regardless, missing bats wasn’t enough to keep Wheeler in the ballgame beyond frame five, because for every 5-6 misses, the Braves were torching a ball into the outfield.

I’m wondering if that’s a guided approach from the Braves batting coach — to take ferocious swings, all the time. In other words, the old Woodie Held philosophy of “swing hard in case you hit it.”

Someone should check Ervin Santana‘s bright, glossy red bat to see if it’s actually aluminum. Wood shouldn’t look like that, should it?

Jason Heyward saw twice as many pitches before his leadoff homer than all three Mets hitters saw in the top of the initial inning.

Heyward appears to be out of his slump. He’s an unbelievable athlete. His swing is not pretty by any means, and he does a number of things that should prevent him from hitting the ball well — closed stance, striding toward the plate, looping swing, excessive head movement — but somehow, he’s able to hit the ball hard. In many ways, he’s a throwback to the days before Charley Lau, high-speed film, and perfectly efficient swings — if he went into a time machine and was dropped into, say, 1978, he’d fit right in. In approach and body type, he looks similar to a young Dave Parker, though his performance thus far has been more like a young John Milner. It will be interesting to see how far his athleticism will carry him forward — will his fate be Milner, or Parker, when it’s all said and done?

Juan Lagares made only one spectacular, extra-base-robbing catch in this game. No need to be alarmed, though — he may be one of the Mets shaking off the flu. I’m sure the Human Highlight Film (all apologies to Dominique Wilkins) will be back on his game soon enough.

The first walk of the game — for either club — came when Jordan Walden walked Eric Young, Jr. to lead off the top of the ninth.

I keep waiting for Walden to fall flat on his face in the middle of his pitching motion. That hitch in his delivery is downright bizarre.

I’ve been saying Fredi Gonzalez is an awful manager since his days in Florida. I stand by my words. Why have Walden start the ninth if you intend on having Kimbrel warm up behind him? And why remove Santana after 88 pitches, when he was cruising and showing no signs whatsoever of tiring? Baffling. Either let Santana start the 9th, or have Kimbrel start the 9th with a clean slate. It’s nonsensical to put Walden out there and pull him at the first moment of panic.

It was good to see the Mets fight back in the ninth. Another positive: they struck out only nine times for the second straight game! Baby steps.

In Kevin Burkhardt’s spot on Daniel Murphy, he reported that Murphy was 15th-worst in MLB in frequency of bases on balls in 2013 — and proceeded to mention that some “good ballplayers” such as Torii Hunter and Manny Machado were even worse. Hmm. Well, OK, but, Hunter and Machado bring more to the ballpark than Murphy — Murphy’s SINGULAR tool is his bat. Hunter is a former Gold Glove centerfielder who is still pretty decent in the OF, and Machado’s glove is a strength. Further, both Machado and Hunter hit for more power, and had higher OPS totals in 2013. Just sayin’ …

Anyone else notice the high school kids texting like mad from the premium front-row seats right behind home plate? Why don’t real baseball fans ever sit in the best seats in the house? Something wrong with that.

Josh Satin pinch-hit for Zack Wheeler in the top of the sixth. He did not channel Hank Aaron after striking out looking.

Jordan Schafer looks like the frat boy at the bar who you want to punch in the face, doesn’t he?

John Lannan looks like the guy who will take the swing for you, doesn’t he?

Freddie Freeman is the player Nick Johnson was supposed to become.

Interesting bit of trivia: Freddie Freeman was a 2nd-round pick in 2009, 14th chosen in that round and 78th overall. The team choosing one slot before? The Mets, who chose pitcher Scott Moviel. The player chosen right before Moviel? Giancarlo Stanton. Wow. For what it’s worth, the player chosen right after Freeman was Zack Cozart. Pretty decent second round that year — it was about as productive as the first (which included, among others, David Price, Travis d’Arnaud, Matt Wieters, Madison Bumgarner, and, of course, legendary pitchers Eddie Kunz and Nathan Vineyard).

Next Mets Game

The final game of this three-game series begins at 7:10 PM. Jenrry Mejia goes to the mound against David Hale.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Wednesday, 09 Apr 2014 05:21

Mets 4 Braves 0

The Mets beat the mighty Braves on Hank Aaron Night.

Mets Game Notes

On Sunday, we witnessed a lazy Sunday afternoon game. Was it me, or was this a lazy Tuesday night game? I just didn’t see much energy from either side — the most exciting part of the game was watching Terry Collins sprint out to challenge an out call in the 8th inning (an out call that was overturned, by the way, thanks to the magic of modern technology).

OK, that’s not entirely right; the game did become exciting when Jose Valverde became unraveled in the bottom of the 9th. But even I didn’t expect him to blow a four-run lead this early in the year, and not against a streaky Braves club that right now is doing a ton of swinging and missing. At the same time, I’m not sure Valverde felt as confident as I — I’m fairly sure he soiled his pants when Jason Heyward hit the final long fly to center field, if not earlier in the inning.

Strangely enough, despite what seemed like a lot of swinging and missing by the Braves, they struck out only six times. Meanwhile, the Mets struck out another nine times to keep their average at ten per game.

Bartolo Colon limited the Braves to six hits, no walks, and, obviously, no runs through seven frames. It seemed like all of the Braves hits came with two outs and no one on base — that’s the way to give ‘em up.

Where did Aaron Harang‘s velocity come from? Wasn’t he struggling to reach 87-88 MPH last year with the Mets? He was humming as high as 92-93 in this ballgame. It amazes me that he can get that kind of velocity and not seriously damage his arm, considering he doesn’t use his lower body at all for acceleration nor deceleration, and seems to limit his shoulder rotation. But then, I’m also surprised that Bartolo Colon can throw above 90 MPH despite seriously limiting his shoulder rotation by “short-arming.” Both pitchers put significant strain on their elbow by taking their shoulder out of the equation.

I got a kick out of seeing the old-school Atlanta Braves uniforms, but I don’t remember them being so baggy back in the 1970s — back then, most players wore their uniforms skin-tight. The big, baggy white uni on Harang just looked sloppy; he looked like he should’ve been pitching underhand in a Sunday softball beer league (but then, Colon did too).

Daniel Murphy is swinging at everything one-handed. Even the ball that he hit relatively hard in the third inning — a deep fly to right field — could’ve been a better drive, possibly over the fence, had he held on to the bat with two hands through contact. It’s fine to let go of the bat AFTER contact, especially if it helps a batter get full extension through the ball. But Murphy has a habit of releasing the bat with his top hand AT or slightly before contact, which provides no advantage whatsoever. I imagine one of the two Mets hitting coaches will eventually work with him on breaking that habit.

Speaking of extension, Freddie Freeman doesn’t get as much as he should — most of his swings are relatively controlled, and he cuts them off right after contact (Joey Votto swings similarly, especially with two strikes). That’s kind of scary, because even without getting full acceleration through the baseball, he’s still able to drive the ball a long distance.

Much was made of Brian McCann‘s exit and the subsequent transition of Evan Gattis as the starting backstop, with most pundits suggesting there would be a major dropoff in defensive performance. I have to say, Gattis isn’t necessarily pretty behind the plate, but he’s not nearly as awful as people have expected, has decent footwork, a strong and accurate arm with quick release, does a good job on balls in the dirt (Harang was killing him with worm-beaters), and overall, is fairly athletic — in a clunky, almost Hunter Pence sort of way.

In regard to Gattis’ throwing on steal by Curtis Granderson, Ron Darling suggested that “the really good catchers” start moving their feet into throwing position before receiving the ball. No they don’t, nor should they. Good, efficient footwork begins immediately at the moment the ball hits the glove. If it happens at any moment before, everything is going to be out of whack; the timing and coordination will be completely off. Kids, don’t listen to a pitcher when it comes to catching. Many catchers know pitching, but no pitchers know catching.

Gattis is a caveman, isn’t he? I mean that in the kindest way. He’s fun to watch. Gotta love the way he chokes up on the bat with two strikes, sans batting gloves — old school.

Does Travis d’Arnaud have the flu? During his at-bats he looked really tired. He did finally get his first base hit of the season, as well as his second (which was his first extra-base hit, a double) but his swings looked kind of lazy. In his first at-bat in particular, he looked as though he was trying to get the plate appearance over with as soon as possible. For what it’s worth, d’Arnaud’s “double,” to me, should’ve been scored an error on one of the Uptons, who did a terrible job of allowing a routine fly fall between them. Not to take anything away from d’Arnaud — he hit some bullets and long flies in the first six games that were outs, and he was due to get a cheapie. It all evens out in the end (a hitter hopes).

Interesting comment from Al Downing during his chat with Kevin Burkhardt: he mentioned that (among other things) Hank Aaron never “showed you up,” and never argued with umpires. Fascinating to me that one of the greatest hitters of all time didn’t see it fit to correct an umpire’s call, yet some comparatively lousy hitters find it necessary to inform the home plate umpire when there’s a disagreement on called strikes. I guess today’s umpires must be really bad — it couldn’t be the lousy hitters, could it?

Which reminds me of an old-school phrase / philosophy I’ve heard from many MLB hitters: “there are three strikes every at-bat; the pitcher gets one, the umpire gets one, and you get one. Make sure you hit yours.”

I didn’t recognize any Braves relievers until former Met Pedro Beato entered the game.

If anyone can give me a valid or logical reason why Juan Lagares would be trying to bunt for a base hit in the sixth inning, with two out, a man on first, and the #7 and #8 hitters up next, please let me know in the comments.

Ruben Tejada had two RBI singles on well-struck bloops. “Well-struck” meaning he “hit ‘em where they ain’t.” Perhaps Tejada is learning that he is not a homerun hitter, and his best offensive value is to simply make decent contact with runners on base. Imagine if Rey Ordonez would have ever figured that out?

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Braves do it again at 7:10 PM on Wednesday night. Zack Wheeler takes the hill against Ervin Santana.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Monday, 07 Apr 2014 10:47

In the latest episode of The Fix, Angel Borrelli and I discuss the following:

- How can a pitcher know the difference between “normal soreness” and a pain that requires medical attention?

- What is a “platelet-rich plasma injection” and how could it have helped Bobby Parnell‘s partially torn UCL? (Note, we recorded this episode on Saturday afternoon, prior to the news that Parnell would be getting Tommy John surgery.)

- What is the difference — if any — between a UCL and MCL tear?

- Brian Wilson is suffering “ulnar nerve irritation” in his elbow — what is that, and does that mean he needs another Tommy John surgery?

- A new paradigm for preventing pitcher injuries that will allow MLB pitching coaches to sleep soundly at night.

Listen to the podcast below:

Listen To Baseball Internet Radio Stations with On Baseball on BlogTalkRadio
Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets Injuries, Pitching Mechanics"
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Date: Monday, 07 Apr 2014 04:33

Bobby Parnell has decided to have Tommy John surgery, and, as a result, will be out for the rest of 2014.

I can’t say this is surprising, nor can I blame Parnell for the decision. In fact, I thought it was ludicrous of him to take this long to come to terms with the inevitable. Had he been throwing 97-99 MPH prior to the partial tear, and pitching effectively, I might think differently. But what was the best scenario, had the platelet-rich plasma injection successfully staved off further tearing of his UCL? Parnell would be throwing between 90 and 92 MPH, without great command, and always be at risk for fully tearing his ulnar collateral ligament (or medial collateral ligament, depending on which medical school you were versed). How effective would Parnell be in the low 90s?

Better to get Parnell under the knife now, hope all goes well with the surgery and rehab, and have him back at 100% next April. Full recovery usually takes no more than 9-10 months, so it’s completely realistic and reasonable to expect such an outcome.

And hey, the Mets have Kyle Farnsworth and Jose Valverde to close out ballgames — what are you worried about?

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets Injuries"
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Date: Sunday, 06 Apr 2014 20:21

Reds 2 Mets 1

Mets and Reds lock up in a pitchers’ duel on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The day reminded me of my youth; it could’ve easily been 1977, with Jerry Koosman going pitch-for-pitch against Jack Billingham, waiting for John Milner or Dave Kingman to run into one after a Felix Millan walk. Instead, the Mets would only score once, wasting another great Kooz effort, while Pedro Borbon finished up for a two-inning save.

Mets Game Notes

Jonathon Niese pitched as well as could be expected, considering that he didn’t have the chance to properly build up his pitch count, hadn’t thrown in a MLB game since last September. Niese was an out away from finishing six innings and allowed only two runs. Personally, I didn’t expect him to be strong enough go beyond the fifth. But he did have a low pitch count before starting the sixth.

Unfortunately for Niese, Reds spot starter Alfredo Simon also cruised through the first five innings. Both hurlers worked quickly and efficiently with low pitch counts — around a dozen pitches an inning through the first five frames, which is excellent.

Then in the sixth, everything changed for Niese, while Simon continued to roll.

Niese struggled from his first batter of the sixth; ironically, it began by allowing a single to Simon. Had the Reds accomplished what their manager asked them to do — which was bunt — Niese very well may have made it through the sixth, and without allowing a run.

Why was Chris Heisey asked to sacrifice bunt in the 6th inning with none out and Simon, the pitcher, on first base? Niese was rolling up to that point, but it wasn’t as though he was channeling Sandy Koufax. Sometimes a manager tries too hard. As it turned out, Heisey fouled off the bunt attempt and was allowed to swing afterward and hit a single.

Even more mind-blogging was that Reds manager Bryan Price had Brandon Phillips sacrificing in the next at-bat, with runners on first and second and none out. Was Price trying to completely confuse everyone and set up the Mets by showing bunt? Or did he really think it was a good idea? Again, as it turned out, Phillips went to two strikes and singled up the middle to load the bases, but it didn’t make sense to take the bat out of his hands for two strikes.

I half-expected to see Joey Votto follow with a squeeze.

Speaking of Votto, Ron Darling mentioned that Votto didn’t look himself, and I agree — his body language is awful, it exudes lack of confidence and confusion. I’ve been a huge Votto fan since his rookie year, and have been watching plenty of Reds games over the past few years, and while I’ve seen Votto out of sorts, not to this extent, and not lacking confidence. He’s thinking too much, I believe — it’s as if you can see the wheels in his mind turning. He needs to just “grip it and rip it” for a few days. I wonder if he’s reacting to the constant noise about him taking too many pitches?

How in the world did Alfredo Simon get out of that Mets rally in the bottom of the third inning? Simon made the ultimate sin of walking the opposing pitcher, then allowed a double to Eric Young, Jr., then somehow found a way to strike out both Daniel Murphy and David Wright. I mean, I SAW how Simon got out of it, but it was like my eyes were playing tricks on me. I thought for sure that Murphy would poke one of his classic two-out, man-on-third bloops into short left field, and at minimum, Simon would pitch around Wright and load the bases for Curtis Granderson. In fact I was surprised to see Simon go right after Wright with cutters that got plenty of plate and were only 89-90 MPH. Maybe Wright swung and missed because was shocked he was being pitched to in that situation — this is new for him to have protection behind him, after all.

Mets batters struck out 8 times, saw only 103 pitches, and collected four hits and one walk.

Travis d’Arnaud nearly had his first hit of the year, a big fly that was knocked down by the wind and landed in Ryan Ludwick‘s glove on the warning track in left field. No need to worry about d’Arnaud, he’ll run into one soon, and he’ll get his hits. He seems to have a decent idea of the strike zone, he knows what pitches he can handle, and he has pretty good balance throughout his swing. Hitting lower in the lineup, he’ll get pitches he can hit, and he’ll hit. He’s unlikely to win a batting crown, but he’ll be fine. I’m seeing the raw tools of at least a .270 hitter, and someone who can go on a decent power streak.

On the other hand, I wonder how long Terry Collins will continue with Eric Young, Jr. at the top of the lineup? He has drawn the same number of walks as Jonathon Niese has so far this year, and is hitting .105. I’m not suggesting he be benched, but at least, move him down for a few games while he figures things out. Juan Lagares‘ OBP is still above .400, put him at the top for a while.

What I think would make Flushing fun this summer: Mets making trades for Brandon Phillips and Jimmy Rollins. It’s not completely unrealistic, considering that both players have been rumored to be on the block over the past six months. It won’t happen, of course, but watching those two hot dogs — who can back it up — hot-doggin’ together up the middle and at the top of the lineup would make for great entertainment. Do you agree?

Next Mets Game

On Monday the Mets move on to Atlanta to start a three-game series against the Braves. Game one begins at 7:10 PM; the pitching matchup will be Bartolo Colon vs. former Met Aaron Harang.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Saturday, 05 Apr 2014 22:52

Mets 6 Reds 3

Well, now who is going to play first base?

Mets Game Notes

I know what Mets fans are thinking: “Hey, we’ve got two beasts in Ike Davis and Lucas Duda!”

Strike while the iron is hot, Mr. Alderson, and trade one RIGHT NOW, before the gaping holes in their swings are exposed yet again.

Ike Davis’ walk-off grand slam was dramatic, yes. Exhilarating, in fact — for Davis, for his teammates, for Mets fans. And for Gary Cohen, of course. It was also a typical homerun for him — he was fooled on the pitch, way out in front, all his weight on his front foot, and he made contact at exactly the right time to hit the ball an extreme distance. It’s a method of hitting homeruns that was advocated by Charley Lau — though, he taught hitters such as Harold Baines and George Brett how to do it on purpose. With Davis, he hits mistakes, by mistake. Can he do it enough times to be valuable over the course of a season? Maybe. He did it often enough to swat 32 homers in 2012. Can he do it enough to overshadow other weaknesses in his game? We’ll see. For certain, he’s done it enough times this year to be worth it — it’s resulted in a win already, after all.

Naturally, I expect many of you to get on me for “being negative.” It’s OK, because I know you sometimes forget that this isn’t necessarily a “fan blog.” Rather, I’m a fan of the game, and I watch and comment without bias one way or the other — it’s more about the process than the results. And what I saw from Davis’ granny is the same I’ve seen from him for the past two-plus years: someone who hits mistakes by mistake. The scouting report on him is to throw hard stuff up, hard stuff in, or hard stuff out. Bounce an off-speed pitch outside once in a while to keep him honest. That’s why Davis has struggled to hit much over .200 — because the scouting report on him states that he has a long, complicated swing, and sometimes runs into mistakes.

Duda has a similar scouting report, except he tends to have more bat control / body control. He hits mistakes on purpose, with good, solid, balanced swings. But like Davis, he has holes. On this particular afternoon, Johnny Cueto was successful in getting swings and misses from Duda by keeping the fastball above the belt and middle-out. In contrast, the two homeruns Duda hit in game 4 against Mike Leake came on knee-high fastballs middle-in.

Cueto pitched well in his 7 innings of work, but did, however, make one mistake — a thigh-high, hanging cutter over the middle of the plate that Curtis Granderson transformed into his first homerun of the season. Granderson is another “mistake hitter,” though much more advanced than Duda. Duda is still learning to recognize and take advantage of mistakes, whereas Granderson seems to be looking and waiting for a mistake on every pitch. I’m not sure Duda can get away with that kind of approach; I think part of the reason Granderson can do that as his modus operandi is in part because he is an outstanding athlete.

Tough game for Dillon Gee, who more or less matched Cueto pitch for pitch, hurled another “quality start,” yet wound up with a no-decision. Much was made of his poor performance after 100 pitches. Well gee whiz, the stats were similar after 100 pitches for Pedro Martinez, and that’s part of the reason for this nonsensical 100-pitch standard in baseball. Of course Gee’s numbers are going to look bad after 100 pitches — they’re going to look worse for most starting pitchers in the game, because that many pitches means the hitters have seen you several times and are familiar with what you have on a given day. The question is, however, will the numbers be worse for a starter at pitch 105, or for the 11th-worst pitcher on your staff at pitch 1? If I’m the manager, and one of my best three pitchers is on the mound, and he isn’t showing me any sign of fatigue, I prefer to have him continue than replace him with a middle reliever who is likely my 9th- or 10th-best option. But that’s me — I want my opponent beating the best that I have available, rather than offering one of my worst.

Further, I think the numbers after 100 pitches are skewed because pitchers rarely go far beyond that count. Maybe my math is wrong, so stay with me and correct me if necessary. If Gee regularly throws between 100 and 110 pitches, then there are far less plate appearances in those 1-10 pitches above 100 than there are up to 100, right? Last year, Gee went above 100 pitches 11 times, with his highest total 109. How many plate appearances were there in those “extra” 9 pitches? Maybe two, on average? And how many times, once he went above 100, was he pulled from the game immediately after giving up a hit? I bet it was fairly often; we’d have to go back to every game Gee started and see. What if, instead of being pulled, Gee stayed in some of those games (assuming he was showing no sign of fatigue) and threw 120-130 pitches? Would the opposing batting average go down? Hard to say, because it doesn’t happen very often these days. Managers see that “100″ and they either remove their starter or hit the snooze, ready with the hook at the first sign of trouble — which is almost always a hit or a walk.

Rookie umpire Johnny Tumpane seems intent on making himself known. Working Friday night’s game behind the plate, Tumpane called a significant number of borderline low pitches as strikes for Jenrry Mejia (though not for Leake). As the third-base umpire in this game, Tumpane made a dramatic punch-out of Duda when asked for help on a checked-swing. I’m not so sure Duda swung — it could’ve gone either way — but I was taken aback by Tumpane’s animated response. On the one hand, I like to see color in the game, and miss colorful umpires like Ron Luciano. On the other hand, Tumpane seems like he might be trying too hard — or maybe, he’s just overly excited in his first week as a big leaguer. Either way, he’s already making a few non-friends.

Speaking of balls and strikes, John Hirshbeck was giving plenty of low and inside strikes to both Dillon Gee and Johnny Cueto. I like seeing more strikes called, and don’t mind if the strike zone gets expanded by an inch or two — it will speed up the game.

Oh and while on the subject of umpiring, we must make note of the first overturn of a call via instant replay in a Mets game (at least, I think it was the first?). I’m very curious to know what the umpires in the review booth have access to in terms of camera angles (supposedly, “up to 12″), because if they can only see what we can see at home, then I’m very surprised they overturned second base umpire James Hoye’s call in the ninth inning. There’s absolutely no doubt that it looked like Juan Lagares beat the throw to the bag — I’m not arguing that. However, from the angles we saw on SNY, to me it was inconclusive as to whether Lagares’ left foot first landed on the second base bag or Zack Cozart‘s foot. I, personally, didn’t see “clear and convincing evidence” that Lagares was safe. I don’t know how Ron Darling could’ve been so adamant about Lagares’ foot being on the base from the same video we saw — the only person who was close enough to make the call was the guy who originally made the call — Moye, who was right on top of the play, in perfect position, at the perfect angle, less than ten feet from the bag. MAYBE there was a TV camera that had as good an angle as Moye, and for whatever reason, that camera wasn’t available to the viewing audience (though that would be strange, wouldn’t it, particularly if such an angle proved Lagares were safe?). I don’t think the overturn made that much of a difference in the outcome of the game — most likely, J.J. Hoover still would’ve thrown a hanging curveball to Ike Davis. What bothers me is the possibility that plays are overturned based on camera angles that are no better than that of the umpire’s. “Clear and convincing evidence” should be just that, and should not necessarily assume that the cameras can see better than the man on the field.

Chris Heisey is not a spectacular player, but he’s what coaches like to call a “head’s up” ballplayer. In his pinch-hit, hustling double in the 8th, he did everything right. First, he took strike one as the leadoff batter, down one, late in the game. Second, with two strikes, he took a defensive swing at a borderline strike, didn’t try to do too much with the pitch, and poked it into right field for hit. Third, he hustled out of the box, took a perfect cut around first base, made an excellent read on the ball and Granderson’s ability to get to it, and made an aggressive, but smart, decision to go for two. Finally, he made a perfect pop-up slide directly into second base. Plenty to be learned by a young ballplayer by watching that few seconds of baseball.

Moments later, Heisey was sacrificed to third on a bunt by Roger Bernadina. Another nice lesson there: Mets left fielder Eric Young, Jr. hustling in to cover third base, preventing Heisey from straying too far from the bag, and/or, providing the possibility of putting Heisey out if he did stray too far. This is something I constantly preach as a coach: everyone on the field should be moving, all the time, to be part of the play. Just because the ball isn’t being handled by you, doesn’t mean there isn’t something you can do. A player should never be standing still while a play is happening — there is always somewhere you can be going, something you can be doing, even if it’s as seemingly miniscule as backing up a base, backing up a play, covering a base, moving a bat out of the way, or providing verbal help to a teammate.

Next Mets Game

After getting swept in the first series of the season, the Mets look for their first series sweep on Sunday afternoon. Game time is 1:10 PM and pits Jonathon Niese vs. Alfredo Simon. Who will start at 1B for the Mets?

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Saturday, 05 Apr 2014 16:48
Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Lineups"
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Date: Saturday, 05 Apr 2014 11:31

Nice win last night. An encouraging outing by Jenrry Mejia and Lucas Duda hits two homers. Duda’s heroics coming the day after he was named the starting first baseman.

Maybe it’s age, but the cynic in me wonders what both of these players will do for an encore. Is this the beginning of a solid, 25-start season for Mejia, or will he once more land on the DL with yet another arm ailment? Does Duda continue to hit for power and maintain a high OBP, or was last night an alluring flash in the pan, with his two homers representing about 40% of the round trippers he will hit between now and mid-May?

Jeff Wilpon aside, this is the crux of the Mets’ problems: they don’t seem to be able to effectively gauge what they have in the players on their roster. As one of the posters on this site pointed out recently, the Mets get greedy with players they think they can get big time production from at a low cost. When that goes south, there is no backup plan. Example A is Ike Davis. It is painfully apparent that they have overvalued Ike, letting a 32 home run season and a few acrobatic catches cloud their judgement as to his true worth as a player. Daniel Murphy, Ruben Tejada and Bobby Parnell are also good examples of this, flashes here and there but no consistent performance. Couple this with critical flaws in each player’s game and you get what we are most likely in store for this year: another losing season.

I favor backing up the truck and getting rid of any player not named Wright or Harvey. Instead, I think they will peddle the Fool’s Gold that was last evening as a sure sign that a turnaround is underway.

Author: "Dan Capwell" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Saturday, 05 Apr 2014 02:12

Lucas Duda 4 Jay Bruce 3

One down, 89 to go.

Is it safe to say that Lucas Duda at 1B was the right decision — at least, for this game?

Mets Game Notes

Duda’s two taters were the complete sum of Mets production, and it was enough to beat the Reds, whose runs were driven in by Jay Bruce. Maybe they should’ve just conducted home run derby between the two?

The Mets received yet another quality start — they’re now 3-for-4 — as Jenrry Mejia spun six innings of one-run, four-hit ball.

Tough night for baseball — I LOVE baseball as much as anyone, but I always hated playing in cold weather; the only thing worse was playing in cold, wet weather. It was mentioned by GKR that the pitcher has the advantage on such a night, but at the same time, it’s very difficult to get a good grip on a wet baseball and make it do what you want it to do with light rain falling — even a 100-MPH fastball gets wet in the rain.

It was mentioned by Ron Darling that on a night like this, “the pitcher and the catcher are the only ones staying warm.” Not entirely true. Speaking from experience — both on the mound and behind the plate and at other positions on the field in crappy conditions like this — yes, it may be warmer to be part of the battery as opposed to a fielder, but not that much warmer, and, more importantly, because you are constantly handling the ball, it’s more of a challenge. Sure, standing out in right field, you’re feeling colder and stiffer, but how many balls are coming your way? Maybe two or three on a cold night? Handling the baseball in cold, wet weather is a major challenge — and you do it more than anyone when you are the pitcher or catcher — because in addition to the ball being slick, your fingers get wet from the rain and go numb from the cold. Imagine having to handle the ball 90-150 times when you can’t feel it.

Curtis Granderson hit another double — his third in two games — but it wasn’t exactly a blast. The Reds had a severe shift in place, and he dribbled what would’ve been a routine grounder to third had the defense been positioned in conventional alignment. Lucas Duda followed with his two-run homer. I wonder how much that turn of events plays into the statistics behind defensive positioning? In other words, are the hits and runs given up due to shifting considered when teams figure out their defensive strategy?

Granderson also hit what would’ve been homerun #3 in Yankee Stadium when he lofted a fly ball in the sixth that was caught near the warning track in RF on a nice play by Jay Bruce.

The home plate umpire had an EXTREMELY tight strike zone for Mike Leake, and not quite as tight for Jenrry Mejia. I thought it was me, until GKR expressed the same observation. Though, I’d be curious to see the QuesTec report (do they still do that?), because part of that feeling could be due to Leake constantly working on the corners, and close to the corners — maybe he really was just a few inches off the plate. But, I have to say that Mejia was getting MANY pitches called strikes that seemed to be below the knees — to Joey Votto in particular. Then again, that could’ve been a function of Votto taking so many pitches.

Speaking of Votto, LOVE seeing him choke-up with two strikes. Kids, do you even know what “choke-up” means? Ask your dad. If he doesn’t know, tell him to ask me in the comments. Very old-school, and very effective — just ask the single-season and career homerun leader (or, Rusty Staub).

If the umpire was giving Mejia an advantage, it didn’t prevent him from allowing 5 bases on balls. However, it certainly helped him rack up the strikeouts — there were several 1-1 counts that turned into 1-2 counts instead of 2-1 on pitches that looked borderline low, and that’s a HUGE difference. Mejia had a MLB career-high 8 Ks.

Early on in the SNY broadcast, the new Kevin Burkhardt (Steve Gelbs) did a feature on the “underrated” Jay Bruce. As a result, something came to my attention: the Reds have three legitimate position-player “stars” in Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, and Bruce; last year’s Cincinnati club had a fourth in Shin-Soo Choo. The Mets, in contrast, have David Wright. I suppose Curtis Granderson could be considered a star, IF he goes back to where he was two years ago. But that’s it. Further, it doesn’t appear that the Mets have any potential stars coming anytime soon. Maybe Travis d’Arnaud? Though, that’s a stretch — I see d’Arnaud evolving into a very solid, two-way catcher, but not quite a star. What do you think? Is this a problem? Does a team need stars to get to the postseason?

Speedster Billy Hamilton wasn’t in the starting lineup, presumably because he struggled in his first three games. Though, I wonder if the decision had anything to do with Roger Bernadina‘s dramatic efforts against the Mets over the years? He’s only a .240 career hitter vs. the Mets, but those game-winning homers are well-remembered by most Mets fans.

We did, however, see Hamilton pinch-run in the 8th, and he was thrown out attempting to steal for the second time in his MLB career — the first time was also at the hands of the Mets.

GKR is so accustomed to seeing Terry Collins change relief pitchers based on same-handed matchups, they were flummoxed by Reds manager Bryan Price‘s decision to stick with lefty Manny Parra when David Wright came to bat in the 7th. Yes, guys, it’s completely within the rules to allow a reliever to face a batter of opposite hand.

Interestingly, Price did remove Parra with two outs and no one on in the 8th and Juan Lagares coming to bat. I wonder if it had as much to do with creating a righty-righty matchup as much as it was Parra reaching 20 pitches — a count that, according to science, is near the limit before a pitcher needs a full day of rest. Is it possible Price is aware of scientific research that tells us pitchers can go back-to-back days so long as their pitch count stays under 25? Or is that wishful thinking?

Daniel Murphy had two more hits but another error (now 3 of each in his two games). The error, though, didn’t matter, so I suppose his plus-minus is still in the positive.

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Reds do it again on Saturday afternoon in what should be more pleasant weather. Game time is 1:10 PM, pitching matchup is Dillon Gee vs. Johnny Cueto.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Friday, 04 Apr 2014 19:50

Here are tonight’s lineups for the Mets and Reds, including Terry Collins‘ choice of first baseman for the next two weeks:

Eric Young Jr., lf
Daniel Murphy, 2b
David Wright, 3b
Curtis Granderson, rf
Lucas Duda, 1b
Juan Lagares, cf
Travis d’Arnaud, c
Ruben Tejada, ss
Jenrry Mejia, rhp

Roger Bernadina, cf
Brandon Phillips, 2b
Joey Votto, 1b
Jay Bruce, rf
Ryan Ludwick, lf
Todd Frazier 3b
Brayan Pena, c
Ramon Santiago ss
Mike Leake, rhp

So, as had been rumored, Lucas Duda wins the lottery for first crack at the first-base job. Collins had suggested that the winner would get somewhere in the neighborhood of 60-70 at-bats to prove himself. We’ll see how it goes. Personally, I don’t know what went into the decision and don’t care — just glad that someone is going to get a legitimate opportunity. Both Duda and Ike Davis have big swings that tend not to do well in short spurts — you kind of have to wait for the hot streaks to happen.

Anyone have any idea why Eric Young, Jr. is leading off, rather than scorching-hot Juan Lagares? I don’t see Lagares as a long-term leadoff man, but as long as he’s swinging well, doesn’t it make sense to get him plenty of ABs? And perhaps bat the pitcher 8th and Young 9th as an “extra” leadoff guy who can be driven in by David Wright? Or did that idea go out the window already? I don’t know that batting the pitcher 8th makes any sense or not, but if you’re going to experiment with it, now would be the time — when Lagares is hot and can be batted first, when Young is struggling and might benefit from being lower in the order, and the offense is not scoring enough and could use a little shake-up.

This could be the night the Mets win their first game of 2014, considering the Reds are a little banged up and without a few of their starting position players, Leake is far from their best starter, there’s no Aroldis Chapman for the 9th, and Jenrry Mejia is something of an unknown entity to the Reds hitters. Any astronomers out there who can confirm that the planets are properly aligned?

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Lineups"
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Date: Friday, 04 Apr 2014 10:37

During the postgame press conference yesterday, Mets manager Terry Collins stated that the first baseman who started against the Reds today would be the man to get the most ample opportunity — at least 60 at-bats — to win the job.

Who will it be?

Considering that Collins promised that Ike Davis would get “90 to 100 at-bats” during spring training (which never happened due to injury), I’d have to think that Davis is “the guy.”

However, the rumor — according to Andy Martino, Jon Heyman, and others with “sources close to the situation” — has it that Lucas Duda will be “the guy.”

Then again, maybe there will be a press conference announcing the signing of Kendrys Morales. If that happens, remember — you heard it here first. (If it doesn’t happen, forget you read this.)

We’ll know for sure by this afternoon when the lineup is published. In the meantime, what do YOU think? Will Davis be the guy? Should he be? Why or why not? Post in the comments.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Buzz"
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