Cubs 4 Mets 1
Sixteen hits in four games. It’s a miracle they won two.
Mets Game Notes
In case you were wondering, I was referring to the New York Mets, who collected exactly four hits in each of these four games against the Cubs. Is that some kind of record? Even back in the day when I started watching baseball — the late 1970s — it was uncommon for a team to collect only four hits in a game, four games in a row (actually, getting only four hits once in a row was somewhat unusual). It was rare for such a thing to happen twice against the same club, I think — but, then again, my memory is not so reliable. Maybe it was a common occurrence. But if it was, it was when dominant starters such as J.R. Richard, Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, and Vida Blue took the mound against lineups that included at least two or three (or four) easy outs IN ADDITION TO the pitcher — i.e., a Braves lineup that included Rowland Office, Pat Rockett, Joe Nolan, and Rod Gilbreath; or a Padres lineup that had Bob Davis, Mike Champion, and Tucker Ashford littering the bottom end. But for this to happen today? It has to be some kind of precedent. The Cubs pitchers are pretty good, but they’re not Koufax / Drysdale / Gibson / Jenkins. Maybe I’m making more of this than I should; maybe being held to just four hits in a game, four games in a row, against a club that was 18 games below .500, is more common than I suspect.
Carlos Torres jumped in for Bartolo Colon and did a yeoman’s job, as he always seems to do when put on the spot. He’s not a great pitcher, but he’s a good guy to have around — kind of like Tom Hausman or Terry Leach back in the day.
Though, one has to wonder when the Mets will shut down Mejia, who is suffering multiple nagging injuries. Are they waiting for an arm strain of some sort to rear its ugly head before putting him on the DL? Is this some kind of test, to see how mentally tough he is? Do they keep running him out there because he’s their best closer option, and believe they’re still in the postseason hunt? I’m not sure what to make of this situation, and it gets more befuddling by the day. Surely there’s someone in AAA or AA who can be promoted for bullpen use. What about all the yakkety-yak we’d heard of fireballers Cory Mazzoni and Darin Gorski over the past few years? What about Chase Bradford or Jack Leathersich? Shouldn’t the Mets see if any of these guys might be options for 2015 now, rather than waiting until rosters expand and everyone has less-than-MLBers littering their rosters?
Next Mets Game
The Mets attempt to stroke more than four hits in a game against the Athletics in Oakland on Tuesday at 10:05 PM Right Coast Time. But guess what? The A’s pitchers are even better than those on the Cubs. Game one pits Dillon Gee against former Met Scott Kazmir.
Cubs 2 Mets 1
Mets 7 Cubs 3
Mets 3 Cubs 2
If I told you the Mets would collect no more than four hits in each of three games, and they’d win two of them, would you believe me?
First off, for various reasons, I saw a grand total of about four innings of these three games, and heard another ten or so on the radio. That said, I don’t have much game detail detail to discuss. And by “much” I mean “none.”
During Saturday night’s win I was working a wine tasting in Atlantic City, and so I didn’t see how the Mets managed to score 7 runs on 4 hits — with no home runs; I’m hoping the game is still on the DVR so I can see, because this is truly fascinating. That’s a pretty darn efficient use of hits, IMHO.
On the one hand, the Mets really should take three of four from the woeful Cubs. On the other hand, what does it matter? Tough to say.
It’s hard to believe that the Mets are only seven games out of the wild card with about a month and a half of the season left to play, while also being seven games under .500. They’re on pace to finish 76-86, which is two games better than the past two years but 14 games below their 90-win goal.
I’m getting the feeling that the Mets are on the cusp of that end-of-season swoon that every Terry Collins-led team has suffered. Blame it on injuries, blame it on lack of personnel, blame it on whatever you want, but the bottom line is that TC’s teams finish floundering rather than flourishing, and it’s feeling like the Mets are on auto-pilot. Any day now, it seems like Mejia is going to be shut down, another one (or two?) of the starting pitchers will suffer a season-ending injury, David Wright will be playing out the string physically compromised (which seems to have already been the case), and players out of position and/or out of their element (i.e., AAAA players) are on the verge of being exposed. Meaningful games in September are a long shot, to say the least.
Next Mets Game
Nationals 4 Mets 1
In case you hadn’t already heard, the Nationals have beat the Mets in Citi Field 11 straight times.
Mets Game Notes
I wonder if Swiffer will ever have the marketing smarts to sponsor a series like this, and, one day, instead of calling it a “sweep,” it will be referred to as a “Swiff”? These are the silly things that run through my mind sometimes. Hey, I never thought that college bowl games and sports stadiums would be branded — aren’t sports references next to be monetized?
I admit to not seeing too much of this game. I caught bits and pieces live, then watched a few innings later on the DVR. What it looked like to me was that Dillon Gee was not sharp, and if he’s not sharp against a good-hitting team, he gets beat.
Thank goodness the Phillies stink, or the Mets might be sitting in the cellar right now. Is it really possible that the Padres — who looked like the worst team in baseball just a few weeks ago, and traded away a few of their better players prior to the deadline — have hopped over the Mets in the Wild Card standings? Did that really happen? Remarkable.
Great insight by Keith Hernandez during the fourth inning on when and why to stretch a little extra or get off the bag as a first basemen when receiving wide throws from infielders. In short, he explained that when the throw is from the second baseman, you’re more inclined to make the stretch, because you know the catcher is backing up behind you and has plenty of time to get to a wild throw. As the ball moves further and further away from the second baseman and the second base bag, the angle gets tougher and tougher and
I hope Daniel Murphy took out the official scorer for a steak dinner after this game. First, Murphy was awarded a hit on what could have been charged as an error on Ian Desmond in the fourth (which was what the above paragraph referenced). Then, Murphy was awarded a stolen base instead of a caught stealing when the PERFECT throw from catcher Jose Lobaton kicked off the heel of Anthony Rendon‘s glove. Seriously? Seriously? Seriously? Yes, I’m going to ask one more time — SERIOUSLY???? The ball beat Murphy by at least ten feet. The ball hit leather. It was a really bad move — a stupid move, in fact, by Murphy. But instead of being ethical, the official scorer gave Murphy the stolen base, and to add insult to injury, Murphy’s absolutely stupid baserunning was rewarded when he scored on a sac fly to give the Mets their only run. Murphy’s Law, and we’ve been seeing it for years. I would be really curious to know if there is any other MLBer who has come out of so many dumb decisions smelling like a rose. Murphy is like the Inspector Clouseau of MLB. Can you tell this sort of thing irritates me?
As an aside … There was a comment in one of the game recaps that pointed to David Wright‘s underperformance this year as a major reason for the Mets’ inability to be a .500 club or better. Well, sure, I guess. But consider this: the Nationals were without Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman, and they still swept the Mets. Imagine if the Mets were without Wright and, say, Daniel Murphy or Curtis Granderson or Lucas Duda (or, heck, pick any other man considered one of the Mets “top” offensive threats) — would the Mets even look like a AAA club? Sometimes it’s good to step back and take a truly realistic perspective on this Mets team. As has been the case for several years, there is absolutely no depth, and as a result, they have a tremendously slim margin for error and similarly slim margin for loss of assets. Anyone who is of the theory that the Mets are “just one bat away” from playoff contention, think again — this game is as much about depth as it is about high-level talent.
How many more times is Keith going to describe Bryce Harper‘s swing as “unconventional”? Or maybe the question is, how many more booming homeruns does Harper have to hit before Keith stops describing his swing that way? By the way, if you have ever seen the swing of Sadaharu Oh, you might see some resemblance to Harper’s. Just sayin’.
Not that it matters, but it was nice to hear GKR express their strong support for pitchers hitting / no DH, and their lamenting interleague play. Unfortunately, BeelzeBud Selig has been paving the way for universal DH for several years now, and it’s inevitable; I give it five years. When it happens, no worries, I’ll still be blogging, but it will be about Vintage Baseball.
Next Mets Game
Nationals 3 Mets 2
If nothing else, the game had your heart racing to the very last out. And that’s ultimately what we want from a ballgame, isn’t it?
Mets Game Notes
Bartolo Colon deserved better. But then, so did Jordan Zimmerman. Something like 22 of Colon’s first 25 pitches of the ballgame were strikes, and then he fell down toward more human performance. In the end, though, he was his usual masterful self, allowing only two runs — one earned — on six hits and a walk in seven innings. Zimmerman went 6 1/3 and allowed only one unearned run on five hits and no walks. Both pitchers were hurt by sloppy play behind them, but persevered through the predicaments.
The Mets really and truly had a great chance to steal the win away from the Nats, as they caught usually reliable Rafael Soriano on an off-night and nearly gained a huge advantage on a steal by Eric Young, Jr. in a first and third situation. The throw from Nats catcher Wilson Ramos was off line but snared by Asdrubal Cabrera (whose solo homer in the 8th wound up being the difference in the ballgame). Cabrera caught the ball and tried to apply the tag behind him and between his legs; I’m still not sure how that ball didn’t get through the wickets and into the outfield. Even bigger than that play was Juan Lagares, in a no-out sacrifice situation, popped up his bunt attempt back to Soriano. Ironically, that play could’ve been even worse if Soriano allowed the ball to drop and turned to throw to second, because Lagares didn’t even run — it would’ve been an easy double play.
Another key play in that action-packed bottom of the ninth was Matt den Dekker getting thrown out at home on a grounder. It should’ve been routine — den Dekker was out by about 15 feet — but because Ramos was kind of, sort of, maybe blocking the pathway of the runner, there was an umpire review of the play. Hey, it was a good call by Terry Collins to take a shot at it — you have to challenge it — but if that had been overturned it would’ve been ridiculous. First off, it’s ridiculous that such an obvious out can be reviewed for that reason. Second, Ramos, when he originally set up his target, clearly had his left foot INSIDE the third base line, and giving a lane to the runner. The throw forced him to move toward and beyond the third base line and into the runner’s path, and that’s why it was a good idea to challenge — to the blind eye, at real-time speed, it could’ve been perceived as blocking the runner’s path. Thankfully, the umpires watching the video screens saw it that way too and made the right call.
Slight disagreement with Keith Hernandez in regard to the situation in the top of the seventh inning. The Nats had a man on second (Adam LaRoche) and none out with Ian Desmond at the plate. Before a pitch was thrown to Desmond, Keith explained that a hitter in that spot needs to try to advance the runner by hitting the ball the other way. I agree — IF the pitcher allows the hitter to do that. Desmond swung through two chest-high fastballs that were middle-in to fall behind 0-2, and Keith was exasperated by Desmond’s “selfish” decision to swing hard at those pitches. Here’s where I have to step in and defend Desmond (who wound up eventually stroking a single up the middle). Sure, it would have been ideal for Desmond to bounce a grounder to the right side and advance LaRoche. But, it’s kind of difficult to hit a middle-in, letter-high, 92-MPH fastball the other way — Derek Jeter can do it, because Jeter tries to inside-out nearly every pitch that comes his way. What is the best goal when a batter sees a letter-high fastball moving middle-in? Driving it to an outfield gap. And a drive to the outfield gap is going to EASILY score even a clod like LaRoche. So I don’t have an issue with Desmond hacking at those pitches — he was working with what Colon was giving him.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Mets found themselves in a rally opportunity when, after getting men on first and second, Washington catcher Wilson Ramos attempted to pick Matt den Dekker off first, but LaRoche apparently didn’t receive the communication, and the ball was thrown up the right field line, allowing den Dekker to advance to second and Lucas Duda to third. Keith asked, “when the catcher doesn’t see the first baseman covering, why can’t he eat it?” From experience, I’ll explain exactly why: because when a catcher is trying to pick off a runner, it has to catch the runner by surprise, and it has to happen very quickly — so there is no time for thought or decision. It’s kind of like when a football offense decides to go on two huts instead of one to draw the defense offsides — you have to blindly trust everyone on the offense to know what’s happening, and catch the defense by surprise. If someone forgets, the play fails, and that’s that — it’s a team effort, and the center can’t, in mid-hut, quickly snap the ball when he realizes that the left guard is about to jump prematurely. Unfortunately for Ramos, he’s the one charged with an error, even though it was LaRoche who missed the communication (though, I suppose it could be argued that it’s Ramos’ fault the communication failed). If such a play is on, to get the runner it’s going to be bang-bang — if the catcher allows something other than reaction get in the way of execution (such as checking for a split-second to make sure the first baseman is moving toward first), there’s almost no chance of getting an out. Further, by hesitating for that split second to take a look, the catcher likely will affect his timing and throwing mechanics and throw the ball away. Oh, and for those wondering if the catcher can kind of take a look down to first while the pitch is coming in, to see if the first baseman is breaking, no, that’s not a good idea — a 90+ MPH pitch is difficult enough to handle cleanly when you have two eyes focused on it. It’s a play based on timing and trust, and it has to operate one way, at one speed, to succeed.
Michael Taylor occasionally looks like a deer in headlights, but he also seems to have a really good idea of the strike zone, and he appears to have rare athletic talent, and I’m betting he’ll be a star one day. When? Maybe later rather than sooner, but the tools are there.
Next Mets Game
Nationals 7 Mets 1
A solid five frames by Rafael Montero. Let’s leave it at that.
Mets Game Notes
Nice job by Rafael Montero to keep his sinking fastball at the knees and maybe an inch or two below, on both sides of the plate. If there’s a criticism, it’s that, in two-strike counts, he picked outside the corners looking for batters to chase at strike three, instead of going after them. Trying to strike out every single hitter leads to high pitch counts and too many walks; the better pitchers throw strikes in locations that make hitting them squarely more difficult based on how the hitter was set up in a particular at-bat. Montero’s velocity — if we can trust the SNY radar readings — was higher than I expected. He was regularly in the 92-93 MPH range, and I thought he was more 90-91. Maybe it was adrenaline?
I’d rather not get into the bad stuff that happened to Montero and the Mets in this game. Let’s pretend that rain ended the game after five frames and the Mets lost 2-0 … mmmmmmkay?
Doug Fister is a pretty decent athlete, and has a good swing — he looks more like a position player than a pitcher at the plate (for whatever that’s worth). I’m mildly surprised he has only two hits this year, but I guess part of it is that he’s never hit against MLB pitching on a regular basis before.
Next Mets Game
Phillies 7 Mets 6
I wouldn’t have believed it had I not seen it.
Mets Game Notes
And I nearly didn’t see it. Zack Wheeler was dominating a Phillies team that was clearly tired, worn, and looking to get the game over with before it even started. Once the Mets lead swelled to 6-1, I started getting ready for a big bike ride.
Then, the Phillies scored two in the bottom of the sixth. And two more in the seventh. I set my helmet aside and watched the Mets bullpen completely crap the bed. Terry Collins left Wheeler — and Vic Black — in one or two batters too many, and didn’t leave Josh Edgin in long enough (nor did he bring him in soon enough). Vic Black performed exactly opposite of Keith Hernandez‘s glowing introductory remarks — almost as if on cue. The win was still in place when Jenrry Mejia entered a clear ninth inning. Mejia managed only two outs as the Phillies finished off a rally that overcame a five-run deficit. Ouch.
What’s wrong with Mejia? Maybe it’s the calf thing? Maybe it was the overuse in the first half? Maybe the scouting reports are catching up to him? Who knows?
In Vic Black’s defense, he wasn’t helped by the defense. Wilmer Flores flubbed a play that could’ve been the third out of the inning; instead, it was an infield single for Ben Revere. A good MLB shortstop probably makes that play, but Flores is a below-average MLB shortstop. From there, the inning ran away from Black.
Probably, A.J. Burnett is the worst pitcher in the National League right now. That’s a good thing for Kyle Kendrick, who is not only awful, but gets little help in the field — especially on a day game after a long night game. Or, maybe it’s just that so many hitters hit the ball so hard off of Kendrick on a consistent basis, a few are bound to be misplayed by the defenders.
Though, there was at least one exception — when Ben Revere made a spectacular catch to rob Matt den Dekker of a 3rd-inning birthday present. Unfortunately for Kendrick and the Phillies, that one big play wasn’t enough to make up for the ineptitude of Domonic Brown, who allowed a fly ball to bounce off his shoetop. Not since the days of Lonnie Smith and Jose Canseco patrolling left field have I seen an outfielder get handcuffed by a fly ball, but Brown did it. What the heck is wrong with him this year? Is he injured? On drugs? I understand that the big offensive numbers he put up in 2013 was due mainly to a red-hot May and June, but even without the power production, Brown always appeared to be a standout, “toolsy” athlete. Right now he looks completely lost.
Back to den Dekker for a moment — he is not the same hitter we saw in past years, and his swing has definitely shortened. I like the way his hands look — they’re in a strong, balanced position in the middle of his body as he waits for the pitcher, he has a short take-back, and his hands are going directly toward the ball when he swings. No more big loop, which means he has much more time to decide whether to swing and a better chance of making hard contact. I’m excited to see how he does over the final two months of this season.
Strangely enough, after den Dekker’s single in the ninth, Keith Hernandez said, “I always liked his swing …” Um, Keith, it’s completely different now. Aw, why should I pick on Keith? He was otherwise his usual entertaining self.
Speaking of that single, it was followed by den Dekker ending the inning on a caught stealing. No criticism of den Dekker, it was a good risk to take at that point in the game and he got a good jump — and, he would’ve been safe had he not overslid the bag. What I want to point out was the great job Jimmy Rollins did in keeping his glove on den Dekker until den Dekker’s slid beyond the bag and didn’t remain in contact with it. Too often times I see infielders apply a tag and then raise their glove to show the umpire that the ball is still in their glove. That’s completely unnecessary, illogical, and it prevents the infielder from getting outs the way Rollins did in that situation. Kiddies: keep that glove planted on the runner until the umpire makes a call. In fact, it’s OK to apply a bit of pressure to a runner’s body part (be it a foot or hand) to “help” it lose contact with the bag. #littlethings
Like Gary Cohen, I thought for a moment that the Mets were going to “Dick Williams” Chase Utley and fake the intentional walk with a full count and surprise him with a strike. They were not, though, and Utley was absolutely ready just in case they did. Just before that pitch, it looked like Utley had been struck out looking on a fastball on the outside edge of the plate, but it was called ball three, and Marlon Byrd stole second on the pitch, setting up the intentional walk. Should it have been called strike three? Maybe.
With Utley red-hot on this Sunday afternoon and Howard not the hitter he once was, the intentional walk was the right call. However, Howard must’ve taken it personally, and possibly sharpened his focus just a notch.
Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud hit back-to-back homers in the fifth. If these two guys can keep doing what they’re doing, and keep doing it in 2015, the Mets might not need to make a big splash in the offseason for a big bat. That’s assuming there’s any money to make a big splash.
Oops! Seems Terry Collins and Jenrry Mejia don’t have their stories straight. During the postgame, Collins said that Mejia told him he was completely healthy, and that nothing physical was bothering him. Minutes later, Mejia told reporters that not only is his calf bothering him, but also his back, as well as the fact he was diagnosed with a hernia about three weeks ago. Oh, and he’s not telling “anyone” because he wants to keep pitching through the end of the season. Huh. Well. Huh. Hmm. I wonder if Mejia is aware that Terry Collins has SNY at home, as well as a DVR, and there’s a slight possibility that either Collins, or maybe his wife or a close friend, MIGHT have heard Mejia’s comments, and MIGHT relay that information to Collins.
Next Mets Game
The phinal game of this phour game series between the Mets and Phillies happens on Monday aphternoon beginning at 1:05 PM. Jonathon Niese faces David Buchanan.
So much for Young being part of “one of the best outfields in baseball.” You may remember that story, too.
What’s interesting is that cutting Chris Young signifies surrender, as illogical as that sounds. With Young gone, the Mets can now take a look at not-as-young-as-you-think Matt den Dekker, and, hopefully, give more playing time to Kirk Nieuwenhuis. “Taking a look” at players who spent most of the year in AAA means the team is going a different direction, and having a different focus, from charging toward a playoff spot. It doesn’t necessarily mean the Mets can’t still compete for a wild card, and it doesn’t mean the Mets are worse without Chris Young — certainly, one would hope that they’d be better. But the expectation from the Mets front office was that Chris Young would eventually “turn it around,” start hitting homers, and help the Mets win ballgames. Playing den Dekker and/or Nieuwenhuis was the backup plan.
Of course, the spinmaster Sandy Alderson had this to say about dropping Young, and getting “younger” in the process:
“I have not concluded that this is a step back from competition,” Sandy Alderson told reporters, insisting this was not another ‘youth movement.’ “We made changes in the bullpen in May and some may have viewed it as a step back in competition. I didn’t view it that way. I think the way we viewed it was if we are going to compete, this has to work a little bit differently… I view this the same way. There is upside potential here and we have to see if it is there.”
Uh-huh. Translation: “We didn’t think Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia would be better options than Kyle Farnsworth and Jose Valverde at the end of a ballgame, but those two veterans proved to be so awful that we were forced to try something else, and whaddyaknow! they turned out to be pretty decent!”
So now Alderson claims this is a step back. No, he genuinely believes that removing Young (and previously, Bobby Abreu) from the roster and replacing him with some combination of den Dekker and Nieuwenhuis could make the Mets a better team. Congratulations, Captain Obvious! It only took 115 games for you to figure that out. Unfortunately, hindsight is 20/20, and decisions like this need to be made, ideally, prior to Game #1.
This time, no one can blame financial constraints — this is a clear case of grossly miscalculating / predicting future performance. The Mets could have used the $7.5M wasted on Chris Young to address other issues. Yes, I understand the timing of the signing — it was supposed to be insurance against the possibility of Juan Lagares being a flash in the pan. But why weren’t den Dekker and Nieuwenhuis the backup plan to Lagares? Because Alderson and his crack front office staff deemed Chris Young a superior option — one worth spending several million dollars on, even though there were two very capable outfielders already in the organization, and not far behind Lagares on the depth chart.
That it took 115 games for Alderson to finally admit the mistake in evaluation is either a sign of stubborness or a feeling that den Dekker and/or Captain Kirk still weren’t the answer, even after both lit up PCL pitching. And THAT’S why releasing Young is a white flag being thrown up by Alderson — if he truly believed that what Nieuwenhuis and den Dekker were doing in AAA was “for real,” and Alderson was serious about the Mets’ push toward the postseason, this change (and the release of Abreu) would’ve been made a month ago. Doing it now means the Mets are in audition mode — further evidenced by remarks suggesting that Wilmer Flores will see more time at shortstop in the final seven weeks of the season.
It’s possible that the Mets front office is correct in their belief that den Dekker and Nieuwenhuis will never be more than AAAA players — their age and inability to “break through” would suggest that (Nieuwenhuis turned 27 a few days ago, den Dekker turns 27 tomorrow). But both players will get a chance to sway that belief in the final 46 games of the year — not because Alderson wanted it this way, but because the ineffectiveness of Young, coupled with the performances of den Dekker and Nieuwenhuis, forced the situation to change.
This latest miscalculation of a veteran player makes one wonder if the Mets front office is capable of finding true gems off the scrap heap. Most of the bets made and risks taken on veterans have not worked out very well — at least, not for a sustained period of time. Carlos Torres worked out well, as did Marlon Byrd and, it could be argued, Daisuke Matsuzaka. But none of those three were particularly risky pickups, and none came with any expectations. Chris Young falls into that higher-risk category, where men like Frank Francisco, Shaun Marcum, Andres Torres, Ramon Ramirez, and D.J. Carrasco linger in memory. I’m not saying that finding gems in the scrap heap is easy — it’s not, not by a longshot. But when this fantasy front office took over four years ago, we were led to believe they’d be some kind of super-performing think tank that would be able to see value that others didn’t, that would lead to surprising and inexpensive success. That hasn’t been the case.
Maybe they’re still working on it. Or maybe what this front office is doing is on such a high level, we’re just not smart enough to see the value.
What’s your thought? Do you expect to see Matt den Dekker and/or Kirk Nieuwenhuis prove to be not only better than Chris Young, but good enough to be everyday MLBers? Do you have confidence in this front office’s ability to evaluate talent? Why or why not? Answer in the comments.
Mets 5 Phillies 4
A.J. Burnett is making it clear that he would like to remain in Philadelphia through the end of the 2014 season.
Mets Game Notes
I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I turned off this ballgame after Carlos Ruiz flied out on the first pitch he saw with one out and down 5-1 in the bottom of the 7th. It looked to me like the Phillies were listless in general, and even though Marlon Byrd finally broke the shutout to start the inning, Ruiz’s hacking away in a situation when he should’ve been taking was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was sure that the Phillies had packed it in for the night.
So imagine my surprise when I checked the boxscore this afternoon and saw the Phillies fight back with three more before the 27th out. Naturally, I needed to go to the DVR and watch the bottom of the ninth.
I realize that Dana Eveland was charged with two of the three runs scored by the Phils, but Jenrry Mejia was far from excellent, and it was two hard-hit balls immediately off of Mejia that vastly changed the course of the game. Grady Sizemore‘s double to right was about 15 feet from being a game-tying grand slam. Mejia certainly has shown nasty stuff, but he doesn’t profile as a “fireman.” If you’re as old as me, you know what I’m talking about, and understand the difference between “closer” and “fireman.” The former starts the ninth inning of a game in which his team is winning and can usually finish it without losing the lead. The latter is someone who can come into a tight situation, regardless of inning, and “put out the fire.” Goose Gossage, Sparky Lyle, Bruce Sutter, and Chad Bradford were “firemen,” while Bob Stanley was not. Get it? I’m often befuddled by Terry Collins‘ bullpen decisions, and this was no exception. If Collins was intent on Mejia closing out the game, why not have him start the inning? Just because two lefthanded hitters — Chase Utley and Ryan Howard — were the first two up? Is Collins aware that Eveland is not particularly effective against lefthanded hitters? In fact, that LHs have a higher batting average against him? And that this has been the case his entire career? Was Collins trying to get this win without using Mejia, because there was a four-run lead? If so then why was Mejia warming up in the bullpen and ready to go? Maybe I’m being too critical, but if the plan was to have Mejia finish out the game, and you believe he is your best option after removing Bartolo Colon, then put him in the game to start the 9th to face the best and most dangerous hitters the Phillies have to offer — don’t put a journeyman lefty who’s not really a LOOGY in there just because there are two lefty hitters starting the inning. This is why I hate the entire matchup system, and why I always felt Mike Scioscia had the right idea years ago when he refused to carry a lefthanded reliever just for the sake of having a lefty in the bullpen — Scioscia carried the best pitchers that were available in the organization, regardless of handedness. Maybe there are stats arguing that’s the wrong idea, but I’d much prefer putting the best arm available to finish up a game than going with someone based on handedness.
Colon, by the way, won his 200th MLB game. A small golf clap for Tony Bosch.
As alluded to in the opening, A.J. Burnett was again awful. He seems to be playing out the string, going through the motions, and waiting for the season to end. There does’t appear to be a physical issue, from what I can see — he’s just tossing half-hearted fastballs over the center of the plate and looking annoyed when they get smashed. Kudos to the Lamar Johnson Mets hitters, who appropriately took advantage of Burnett’s BP pitches and bounced them around Citizens Bank Park like a pinball machine. I really, really have to wonder if the Mets would have been as aggressive, and scored 5 runs on 11 hits in six innings against Burnett, if Dave Hudgens was still the hitting coach.
Travis d’Arnaud keeps on hitting. I told you he’d be fine, eventually, and eventually has arrived.
During one of Kevin Burkhardt’s sessions he relayed the focus of Zack Wheeler‘s bullpen session. It seems Wheeler is working on shortening his stride, which is a good thing because it’s far too long. None of the explanation of why he and Dan Warthen have chosen to shorten his stride makes any sense at all, but at least they’re changing something that needs to be changed, even if they don’t understand why. Kind of like an Inspector Clouseau method of solving crimes. Now, if they can stumble on the idea of eliminating the elbow-above-shoulder action that Wheeler uses when he takes the ball out of the glove, they may be a step closer to preventing the currently inevitable shoulder injury in Wheeler’s future. It would also help to eliminate bullpen sessions two days after a start, but now I’m getting greedy.
Next Mets Game
Nationals 5 Mets 3
Tough loss for the Metsies, as they drop down to 7 games below .500 and 9 games behind the first-place Nationals. Was it really just a week ago that Mets fans were starting to whisper the words “wild card?”
Mets Game Notes
Can’t blame this one on Jacob deGrom, who pitched another strong ballgame. It wasn’t spectacular, but gee whiz, it was certainly good enough — 3 earned runs on 7 hits and one walk in 6 innings pitched.
Jordan Zimmerman was just as good, however, so it was a battle of the bullpens.
There was talk by the SNY booth that one of the reasons deGrom might have been removed was because the Mets need to limit his innings. I can’t believe this is happening, and at some point I’ll address this in more detail. Bottom line is this: limiting innings is an illogical and arbitrary decision with zero scientific basis. I am aware of a sportswriter’s theory that has been cited from time to time but I’ve yet to see any hard fact or research proving that limiting a pitcher’s innings has anything to do with preventing injury. If someone out there knows of something that I haven’t seen, please point me to it — and make certain it is a document published in the scientific community, not some layman’s causality story that uses hand-picked examples that coincidentally fit a theory.
Why the Mets lost this game can be pointed directly to one play that occurred in the fourth inning. With lead-footed Adam LaRoche on second base, Ian Desmond lined a single to left-center. Juan Lagares allowed Eric Young, Jr. to scoop up the ball, and once Nats third-base coach Bob Henley (no relation to Don) saw that, he sent LaRoche home, who was just about to round third base. Young nonchalantly tossed the ball in to shortstop Wilmer Flores, who fervently fired to home a moment too late to put out the plodding LaRoche. In the process, Desmond advanced to second base, though that wound up being irrelevant. If Lagares picks up that ball and fires home, there’s a darn good chance that Henley holds LaRoche. If Young picks up the ball and fires home, instead of to Flores, there’s an outstanding chance that LaRoche is out by five feet. I’m not sure if Young was conceding the run, or if he didn’t expect LaRoche to head home, but he clearly wasn’t trying to put out LaRoche. Had LaRoche not scored, the Mets win this game 3-2 in regulation. #littlethings
Young did hit a sac fly in the top of the seventh to somewhat absolve himself (but not really). More importantly was the play just before Young’s fly — a wild pitch by Drew Storen that skipped by Washington catcher Jose Lobaton. It was a difficult pitch to handle because it didn’t reach the plate, and Lobaton attempted to glove it as an infielder might. If you have been a loyal MetsToday visitor, you may know the golden rule I teach catchers: NEVER try to glove the ball! Why? Because what usually happens is what happened to Lobaton — the ball gets away from you. Lobaton had a chance to block the ball had he moved his hands toward the ball, but fired them down to the ground, and allowed his body to follow behind his hands in an attempt to absorb and stop the ball with his upper body. He moved his hands properly, but instead of following behind them with the rest of his body, he rose up like an infielder and tried to stab at the ball with his glove. The ball got by and the runners moved up to second and third, creating the sacrifice fly situation. If Lobaton keeps the ball in front of him, maybe the runners don’t move up, Young’s fly is a harmless out number two, and Curtis Granderson‘s RBI single makes the score 3-2 instead of 3-3. #littlethings
On his 27th birthday, Kirk Nieuwenhuis had a pinch-hit single, scored the tying run, and made two brilliant, diving catches in extras — one of which was a game-saver, and both of which would’ve made both Ron Swoboda and Tommie Agee proud. It’s funny, during my entire amateur baseball career, whenever a fielder made a remarkable play, someone/everyone on the opposing team would yell “happy birthday!” In this case, it was appropriate.
By the way, did Gary and Ron really think that Harper was going to bunt in that situation?
Next Mets Game
Nationals 7 Mets 1
Glad to hear from so many different sources that Jonathon Niese doesn’t have a shoulder problem. It’s comforting. (Not.)
Mets Game Notes
Jonathon Niese lost his fourth straight start for the first time in his MLB career. He was beat up early and often in his six innings of work, allowing 6 runs on 8 hits and 2 walks, striking out 2.
FINALLY Bob Ojeda admitted that he ASSUMED that in the first half of the season, Niese intentionally “dialed it back” in order to be more fine and precise with his pitches. He didn’t go so far as to suggest that Niese’s significant and startling drop in velocity was connected to a physical issue — instead, Ojeda described it as, “… the little dip in velocity — by design or whatever — …” In other words, Bobby, you mean, “whatever.”
Also, Niese himself finally admitted that he was “pitching with a sore arm” during the first half. Surprise, surprise. Strangely, though, he claims that, regarding his mechanics, he “changed a couple things, now my arm feels great, I’m throwing harder, I feel like I have better stuff … ” Hmm … well, it wasn’t clear what changes were made, but I still saw him landing improperly in this game, so he didn’t make the most vital change (though, I didn’t see any angles from the front / from a camera behind home plate, so it’ hard to tell for certain. Why do they show 15 different angles of a fielder making a play on a routine grounder but we rarely ever see anything other than the CF view of the pitcher?). He also wasn’t throwing harder — his fastball was clocked between 86 and 89 MPH most of the game, with occasional blips of 91.
During the postgame, Terry Collins was asked if Niese’s problems were related to any physical issues. Collins insisted that was not the case, and in fact made this miraculous statement regarding Niese’s physical well-being: “well, that’s why we left him in. To be completely honest, I thought he needed to pitch some more. I thought he’s got to throw some more and build up some strength in his shoulder, some endurance in his shoulder …” What??? Immediately previous to that statement, Collins said that Niese would “get back out there in two days, work on a couple things, and get back out there in five and go after it.” Collins was alluding to the universal practice of starting pitchers doing a bullpen exactly two days after a start. EVERYONE in MLB does this, and it’s a prime reason why there are so many arm injuries and Tommy John surgeries — because MLB starters are not allowed proper rest and recovery. Niese threw 102 pitches, which requires a minimum of four days of rest. That’s four days OFF A MOUND. But all MLB starters get on a mound for a bullpen less than 48 hours after a start, which means they’re not getting proper rest. So when Collins talks about building up strength and endurance, it’s illogical, because the human body can’t build up strength without proper rest — it simply can’t happen, it’s a proven biological fact. And one day of rest after 90-100+ pitches is not enough — in fact, the recovery is being dangerously stunted at that point, because tissue is in the midst of rebuilding. The more Niese pitches, the more he’s damaging his shoulder, mainly because his mechanical flaw of landing improperly is putting undue strain on it, and then compounding the issue is the lack of improper rest.
Speaking of the mechanical flaw, Bobby Ojeda provided his description of Niese needing to throw “more with his body.” If you heard it, please pretend you didn’t and erase it from your memory. The entire reason Niese has a shoulder problem is because he’s NOT throwing “with his body” — he’s been putting undue strain on his shoulder for over a year now. Ojeda is not an expert in human kinetics, therefore is not qualified to speak on them. He IS qualified to talk about pitching strategy, mental approach, change-up grips, and other elements of pitching that he did better than 99.99% of the population as a MLBer. But he is completely wrong about Niese’s mechanics, and whenever Ojeda does start talking about mechanics, get up and grab a beverage or a snack, because what he’s saying is probably not correct and could provide more harm than good. This is not to pick on Bobby — I love listening to him — it’s a general recommendation when ANY former MLB pitcher starts blabbing about mechanics. A big reason — beyond the lack of proper rest — that there are so many pitching injuries is because former pro pitchers think they know about proper mechanics. They don’t, and the sooner MLB comes to that realization, the sooner we’ll see pitching injuries reduce, rather than increase.
In the 7th inning, Ron Darling went on a diatribe about the Nationals hitters being “too comfortable” and “swinging from their heels in a 6-1 game,” specifically pointing out the “big swings” from Bryce Harper. Two things: first, I don’t think a five-run lead is so insurmountable, and don’t understand why Darling was so perturbed about the Nats hitters being aggressive. I’m an old-schooler, and I agree with Darling that all pitchers should be establishing the inside part of the plate at all times, regardless of score or situation. However, by pointing out the five-run lead, Darling sounded like a whiner. Second, Bryce Harper ALWAYS takes a huge cut, on every pitch, during every at-bat. He takes the biggest swing in MLB, and the score has nothing to do with it. Quit crying, Ronnie. The Nats weren’t doing anything differently when they were up five than they were doing when it was 0-0. Agreed that the Mets pitchers need to throw inside more often, but don’t suggest that they should be more inclined to “move their feet” because they’re losing by five runs.
Daniel Murphy was perturbed about Larry Vanover’s strike zone in the fourth inning, and let Vanover know it with the kind of open and obvious complaining we haven’t seen since Ike Davis was sent to Pittsburgh. Darling and Gary Cohen didn’t say much about Murphy’s embarrassing disrespect, but were very quick to criticize Bryce Harper later in the game when Harper started toward first base on what he assumed to be ball four, but Vanover called strike two. Darling, in fact, went so far as to say that Harper wasn’t making any friends with the men in blue and that his actions weren’t helpful for his cause. Um … hmmm … but it was a good thing for Murphy to openly bark at Vanover? Why the double standard? Because Murphy is a “veteran” and Harper still hasn’t been in MLB long enough to “earn” that “right” to publicly embarrass both himself and the umpire? I was stunned that Murphy wasn’t thrown out of the game for his actions — the way he was showing up Vanover was enough to get tossed. What made it worse was that Murphy was in the wrong — those WERE strikes that Doug Fister was throwing, and Vanover established them as strikes from the third pitch of the game to Curtis Granderson. I’m sick and tired of MLB hitters (not only picking on Murphy) who think the strike zone is theirs to judge. I completely understand and am on board with “zoning” / focusing on a tight strike zone when ahead on the count. But once there are two strikes, guess what? The batter is subject to the umpire’s interpretation of the strike zone. Not accepting that clear fact is being stubborn to the point of stupid.
Interesting thought came to me early in the broadcast, when Gary and Ron were talking about the Nationals’ “struggles” this year. The Nats are not doing nearly as well as expected, considered somewhat disappointing, yet they’re still ten games over .500 and in first place. Conversely, depending on when you talk to some Mets fans (for example, when the team is in the midst of a winning streak and about four or five games below .500), the season is considered “surprising” and somewhat “successful.” Wild contrast.
Next Mets Game
Mets 6 Nationals 1
A good win at a good time for the Mets.
Mets Game Notes
I’m still working on technical issues with the site, so please bear with me — I sincerely appreciate your patience. At some point between now and next week, there’s a good chance the site will look quite different as I update some things, including esthetics. Consider it MetsToday’s long-overdue rebuilding plan.
Very quickly … I didn’t watch the game as hawk-eyed as I would’ve liked, but came away with a few things.
First, every time I looked at the screen, the Nationals had two or three runners on base. Somehow, though, they scored only one run. I’m not sure how that happened, though I did see a few double plays and runners thrown out at home plate. In the end, Zack Wheeler earned a win and allowed just one run in 6 2/3 IP, which is very good, but it “felt” like he didn’t pitch as well as the linescore suggests. Comments?
Second, I saw in the seventh that Nats manager Matt Williams removed Gio Gonzalez from the game with men on first and second and Wheeler at the plate in a very obvious bunting situation. That made zero sense to me. Certainly, it was time for Gio to go. However, with the opposing pitcher at the plate and more or less guaranteed to be laying down a bunt, I want as many athletic lefthanders in the infield as possible — and Gio Gonzalez is both athletic and lefthanded. Why? Because no matter where the bunt is placed, it’s easier and quicker for a lefthander to pick up the ball and throw it to third base to get the lead runner. So because of that reason alone, Gio stays in the game. Secondly, Wheeler’s a lefthanded hitter, and Gonzalez throws a good curveball, which can be difficult to bunt. In my opinion, it was ideal for Gonzalez to throw curveballs to Wheeler, hope he either had a problem putting a bunt in fair play, or hoping he’d bunt the ball back toward the pitcher and give Gonzalez a chance to get the lead runner. After the Wheeler at-bat, Gonzalez would be removed. But that’s me.
Speaking of Gonzalez, he is definitely not the same pitcher we saw in 2012 or even 2013. In addition to what seems to be a drop in velocity, he doesn’t have the bulldog mental toughness to get out of tough situations. I’m sure it’s just an absolute coincidence that his dropoff in performance came immediately after his “father” was found to be a frequent client of Biogenesis. Surely, that situation is still weighing on Gio’s mind.
Yes, I saw Juan Lagares make an amazing, leaping catch of a liner late in the game. I also gasped and feared he either broke his collarbone or separated his shoulder. Thankfully, neither were the case.
Next Mets Game
Mets and Nats do it again at 7:05 PM on Wednesday night (tonight). Jonathon Niese faces Doug Fister.
Giants 4 Mets 3
Parallel parking is a struggle for him. He loved The Godfather, Part III. At the supermarket, he brings 13 items to the “10 items or less” express lane. He eats pizza with a fork. He puts ketchup on his hot dogs … and he spells it “catsup.” Sliding glass doors get the best of him. He can’t shuffle a deck of cards. He’s The Least Interesting Man In The World.
Mets Game Notes
The taunting signs, I’m sure, had nothing to do with Hunter Pence breaking out of his slump and doing everything in his power to beat the Mets over the past few days. He doesn’t even know what The Godfather series is about, for crissakes!
I didn’t see this live, so I zipped through it on the DVR and missed quite a bit. However, a few teaching moments for the kiddies and the coaches out there …
Slight contrast in receiving styles of Travis d’Arnaud and Buster Posey. Posey, most of the time, attempts to catch a particular “side” of the baseball — something I teach instead of “framing.” The method is fairly simple: as the ball is coming in, the catcher tracks it and determines which half of the plate it will pass — inside or outside. Assuming a righthanded hitter is at the plate, if the ball will pass “middle in,” then the catcher will try to catch the left side of the ball in his fingers (thus, the pocket will be facing back toward the plate). If it will pass “middle out,” the catcher tries to catch the right side of ball. If it’s a pitch at the top of the strike zone, he tries to catch the “top” of the baseball (Anthony Recker did this effectively in Sunday’s ballgame to steal a strike). When properly executed, the glove should “stick” — in other words, the ball is caught and held in place with no movement whatsoever. I prefer this method because the catcher is not trying to fool the umpire, and umpires don’t like to look like fools. The idea is to reach out slightly and catch the ball when it’s a strike, rather than waiting back for it, catching the “back” of the ball (assuming the “front” is facing the pitcher), and then “framing” the glove back into the strike zone. Catching a “side” is quieter and generally more effective in my opinion. In consecutive innings, there were pitches in almost the same exact location thrown to the two catchers. Travis d’Arnaud waited for the ball, attempting to catch the back of it; to do so, his left elbow flew out to his left (away from the plate). However, the ball deflected off his glove and skipped away, allowing Pablo Sandoval to advance from second to third. Ron Darling called it “a lack of concentration” but I disagree; I believe it was a poor choice in technique. It was clear to me that d’Arnaud wanted to catch the back of the ball and kind of “ease” it back into the strike zone to “steal” a strike, but the ball tailed a little more than he anticipated, and once that happened, his hand and arm were not in position to react quickly enough to adjust. About an inning later, there was a high inside curveball to David Wright that was called strike three. Why? Because Posey caught the inside half of the baseball, when it was a strike (and it WAS a strike — it caught enough of the plate and was exactly at the baseline of the letters). It’s really hard to understand or see the difference from the center-field camera — you need to see it from the umpire’s view (which is the one that matters). It’s like night and day.
By the way, I’m not picking on d’Arnaud. In truth, he frequently seems to be trying to catch a “side” of the ball, and I’m betting it’s a new technique for him and he’s in the midst of learning it. I am aware of all the advanced stats suggesting that d’Arnaud gets or “steals” more strikes than most MLB catchers (it makes me want to vomit that it’s described as his ability to “frame,” as I hate the use of that word). However, I think his receiving skills can and will improve going forward, and I wonder if the “framing” metrics take into consideration the number of passed balls a catcher makes when attempting to “frame,” and if so, how much of an impact do those PBs have? I think he’s up to at least 10 on the season already, which is too many.
Another teaching lesson: fourth inning, d’Arnaud gets caught in a rundown between third and home, but Chris Young doesn’t advance from second to third. Darling said it was a “tough read” for Young, but, again (sorry Ronnie), I disagree. First off, Young needed to stray a few more steps off of second as that rundown developed, because there’s no way a fielder is going to throw back to second while there’s a runner caught between third and home — there’s too much at stake to lose focus on someone who could potentially score a run. Continuing with that in mind, the moment Brandon Crawford began to chase d’Arnaud toward home, Young should have broken for third. Why? Two reasons: again, the fielder is focused on getting that runner, and once the runner is going toward home, he HAS to be tagged, so all concentration is on making sure the runner is put out — in other words, there’s no worry by Young that Crawford might suddenly spin and throw to third. Additionally, once the fielder’s momentum is going away from third base, it’s going to take at least 3 seconds for him to tag the runner, stop in his tracks, change direction, and make a perfect throw behind him to third base. If Young is about 25 to 30 feet off second, he needs to only cover 60-65 feet in those three seconds (assuming the fielder’s execution is absolutely perfect). Every MLBer not named Ryan Howard or Bartolo Colon should be able to cover 60 feet in three seconds or less. Further, once a fielder commits to tagging that runner, he’s more or less conceding advancement of the runners, and if he can’t make a perfect throw, and be sure his throw won’t go wild and result in a run scoring anyway, he’s going to “eat it.”
Now you may be saying, “but Joe, how can a runner figure out all this in the short time that the play is happening?” Well, he’s not — it’s called mental preparation, and it’s what every single player on the field and on the bases should be doing during all that time in between pitches: going through possible scenarios that might happen after the next pitch is thrown, but be ready to react. And really, once a ballplayer has been through a few thousand games, he should already have most situations “filed away” in his brain — it’s not like Young had to figure all this out for the first time.
And no, I’m not necessarily picking on Young. Rather, using that play as an opportunity for a teaching moment for the youngins’.
Oh, and for another teaching moment related to that play … the situation occurred because Juan Lagares reached for a pitch down and away and off the plate, and he dribbled it to Sandoval. At the time, Lagares was ahead on the count 1-0, so there was no reason to be lunging and reaching (unless it was a hit and run, which I doubt highly). When you’re ahead on the count, and there’s a runner on third base, look for a pitch you feel comfortable hitting — ideally, a pitch that you can lift into the outfield. You’re looking for a sac fly at minimum, a long drive preferably, when you’re ahead of the count in that situation.
Another great teaching moment: if you can see the replay, watch Juan Lagares throw out Gregor Blanco at home in the seventh inning. It was perfect execution by both Lagares in charging the ball hard and letting loose with an on-target throw, and by d’Arnaud, who was set up in exactly the right place (inside the baseline, a few feet in front of the left corner of home plate, giving the runner a lane to the plate but in the right spot to catch and tag quickly). Where d’Arnaud set up, and how he tagged, is how catchers should have been executing even before the new interpretation of the rule book.
Since I’m disagreeing with Ron Darling today, I may as well pile on. I also disagreed with his feeling that the “rookie umpire” shouldn’t have reacted the way he did after the Mets bench started squawking after Lucas Duda was called out on strike three looking in the bottom of the seventh. Hey, I’m with anyone who believes that pitch was ball four — it looked to me like it was low. But home plate umpire Ben May called it a strike, and yes, I would have reacted too, and yes, I likely would’ve been tossed out of the game as well for arguing balls and strikes — and I would have expected as much, because that’s what happens when you argue balls and strikes. I get that many (most?) MLB managers grumble frequently about ball and strike calls, but, clearly, May heard something — or enough — to result in Terry Collins getting ejected. Darling’s “it’s a joke … man up …” comments were inappropriate, disrespectful, and condescending. Further, it excuses the jawing by the dugout, and suggests that talking back to the umpire is OK — as far as I’m concerned, that’s not a message to send to the kiddies, parents, and amateur coaches out there (remember, today’s recap is about teaching moments for the kiddies). Arguing with the umpire is less effective than trying to fight city hall — and we all know “you can’t fight city hall.” The crybabies have gotten their wish — there’s replay now. But guess what? For some calls, there is still a human element involved, and I’m fine with humans being imperfect.
Speaking of imperfection, did anyone expect Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia to be absolutely perfect in every outing for the rest of the year? Hey, it turns out that both are human. Stuff happens. What’s important is how each of these young fireballers respond in their next outings. Hopefully, they forget about it and get right back to doing what they’ve been doing all year.
One more teaching moment! In the top of the ninth, with Mejia in trouble, Dana Eveland starting warming up in the bullpen. Eveland threw 32 pitches in Sunday’s ballgame, less than 24 hours prior. The ASMI pitching recovery rules dictate that an outing of 27 pitches or more requires a minimum of one day of rest. That means one day off of the pitching mound. 32 is five more than 27, so that meant that Eveland should have taken the day off, and not tossed one pitch from a mound. Yet, he was warming up on a mound in the bullpen, and, had the game gone differently, might have appeared in the game. Note: these ASMI rules were not made to be broken — unless, of course, you want your pitchers broken.
Of course, MLB pitchers are superhuman and do not apply to any rules. Ha!
Hey guys, keep breaking rules in every way you can, then scratch your head and wonder why every other pitcher is going down with an elbow or shoulder injury. Those in MLB will continue to forge their cement heads forward. The rest of us can at least try to see if scientific research can keep arms safe. What do you have to lose?
Next Mets Game
Giants 9 Mets 0
Bartolo Colon‘s 200th career victory will have to wait.
Mets Game Notes
Sorry for the delay on this; the MetsToday website has been experiencing technical issues that I’ve been working on (and still working on), and so there hasn’t been time to write a proper recap.
In any case, if you saw the game, you know it was ugly from the Mets fan’s perspective.
The Mets hitters could not get anything going at all against Madison Bumgarner, who struck out 10 and allowed just three baserunners in a two-hit, complete-game shutout.
Meanwhile, Bartolo Colon was hammered by the aggressive Giants hitters. Sometimes throwing strikes is not an effective means of pitching — particularly when your two-seam fastball is averaging 87 MPH and the off-speed pitch is a 82-MPH slider that is getting too much plate. Colon simply wasn’t precise enough with the sinker and wasn’t getting any kind of bite on the slider.
Hunter Pence mashed two over the fence, so I guess his slump is over. Is it me, or has he become even more aggressive this year? He hacks at every single thing that’s thrown to him; he makes Jeff Francoeur look patient and disciplined. But, it’s working, so there you go.
The Mets saw 94 pitches, the Giants, 157. It was a 2 hour, 40-minute ballgame, which was a nice length. I wish all ballgames clocked in at that time or faster.
Next Mets Game
Mets 4 Giants 2
Note to Bud Selig: more offense is not necessarily what makes baseball so “exciting.” All the offense in the world is not nearly as exciting as the prospect of a double no-hitter. And I’m not jaking. Er, joking.
Mets Game Notes
Jacob deGrom and Jake Peavy kept a double no-hitter going through six frames, with Peavy keeping it perfect while deGrom allowed only a walk to Brandon Belt. In the end, it was deGrom still standing as the victor.
Between the two pitchers, I thought it was more fun and interesting to watch deGrom pitch, as he was using a wider repertoire of pitches to succeed. His curveball was snapping perfectly, going from waist to knees, his slider was nasty, the change-up was disappearing, and he was spotting a 94-MPH fastball at the knees on both sides of the plate. Additionally, deGrom changed speed and location on every single pitch, playing into the Giants’ uber-aggressivenes. I don’t think deGrom threw one fastball for a strike above the knees, and he had great run moving into righthanders / away from the lefthanders. The only times I saw a fastball above the knees was on two-strike counts, when he was aiming up and out (on both sides of the plate) and looking for chase swings. He was masterful.
Peavy, on the other hand, relied primarily on a running fastball and wicked slider.
Both no-hitters were broken up in the seventh inning. Pablo Sandoval ripped a double into the left-center alley to end deGrom’s no-hitter, and then Peavy’s perfect game was destroyed by a routine fly ball off the bat of Daniel Murphy misplayed by left fielder Mike Morse. Morse then compounded the situation by letting a jam-shot blooper fall in front of him, to put runners on the corners. Peavy then hit Lucas Duda to load the bases with one out, so in the space of about 3 minutes Peavy went from a perfect game to a very tight situation — almost entirely because of awful defending in left field. Moments later, Travis d’Arnaud lifted a sacrifice fly to right field to drive in the first run of the game. A single by Juan Lagares made it two-zip, a double by Wilmer Flores made it four-nothing, and that was the ballgame.
Before the roof fell in on Peavy, Sandoval ran into the wall beyond the third base line chasing a popup that wound up in the stands. He delayed the game several minutes getting a cut on his leg dressed, much to the chagrin of Peavy, who didn’t make any warmup pitches during the delay. The next pitch thrown by Peavy was blasted to very deep center by Curtis Granderson for a long out, and then the Morse misplays and series of hits followed. Keith Hernandez pointed to the Sandoval delay at the time, and afterward, as something that could have affected Peavy’s concentration. I agree — he was in a groove, and the delay may have messed with his psyche. It’s no excuse, not by any stretch, because a pro pitcher should be able to regain focus. But, it’s a possible explanation for Peavy’s sudden loss of effectiveness. #littlethings
Had Morse been even an average left fielder, Peavy might have continued working on a perfect game, because those two flies could’ve been outs. Instead, he was saddled with a loss. #littlethings
The Giants had .208-hitting Joe Panik batting seventh and .154-hitting Juan Perez batting ahead of the pitcher. Ouch. That’s like a 1968 lineup. Meanwhile, the Mets batted pitcher deGrom — who’s hitting .226 — eighth, just ahead of .228-hitting Eric Young, Jr.
I agree with Keith Hernandez — the lack of offense, and better pitching performance, equals “beautiful baseball.” I have absolutely no problem with pitching duels and 2-hour ballgames. It makes the offensive performance all the more appreciated — not unlike goals scored in soccer. Why do people lose their mind and scream when a goal is scored? Because it’s a big deal, it’s a release of great tension. Scoring runs, and homeruns, in particular, used to have that kind of feeling. Maybe they will again.
I think I probably ask this every year, but how the heck does Hunter Pence consistently put up above-average numbers? Does he simply destroy bad pitchers? Because he looks like the most imbalanced, nonathletic stumblebum against any pitcher who is remotely decent; he didn’t have a chance against the clever deGrom. Is it any surprise that Pence once accidentally blasted through a sliding glass door? Of course not — you probably envision him doing that all the time.
Peavy loses his 11th consecutive decision — the most ever for a former Cy Young Award winner.
Next Mets Game
Giants 5 Mets 1
There’s only so much Lucas Duda can do.
Mets Game Notes
Ryan Vogelsong no-hit the Mets through the first five frames, and Juan Lagares broke up the potential no-hitter with a single leading off the sixth. Vogelsong proceeded to shut out the Mets until Lucas Duda blasted a solo homer to lead off the 8th. And that, Mets fans, was the extent of the Mets offense as Vogelsong faced only 28 batters.
Meanwhile, the Giants were swinging like it might be the last game they ever played. It seemed as though manager Bruce Bochy threatened to feed them spoiled fish if they allowed, a pitch to go by without taking a hack. As a result, Jonathon Niese pitched into the 9th despite allowing 5 runs — he threw only 87 pitches.
One positive note: the game only lasted 2 hours, 6 minutes. Awesome. That’s how quickly games breezed by in the 1970s, from what I remembered as a kid. More of that, please, MLB — we have more to do with our lives than hang around watching a ballgame for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.
Daniel Murphy dropped yet another relay throw from the outfield that might’ve made a difference in whether a run scored (Vogelsong was running). But, in the end it didn’t matter since the Mets only scored once.
Next Mets Game
After months and months of rumors and speculation, Stephen Drew will finally call New York his home.
Yes, Stephen Drew is a New York Yankee, acquired in a trade for Kelly Johnson. Drew has struggled mightily since re-signing with the Red Sox in late May, much to the joy of those Mets fans who believed the Mets were better off without him. Maybe so. I’m sticking to my guns, believing the Mets would still be a better team today had they signed Drew last winter. I’m under the delusion that Drew would have better offensive numbers right now if he went through a full spring training and started playing MLB games in April. I also believe the Mets would be a better team if they had all three of Drew, Ruben Tejada, and Wilmer Flores to choose from in the middle infield. But it doesn’t matter, because Drew never put on the orange and blue, and is now in the Bronx.
The Yankees also acquired Martin Prado, a player I’ve always loved for doing the little things, his versatility, and his ability wielding the stick. Prado is no superstar, and no game-changer, but he IS a “ballplayer” — that coveted breed of player who may not do anything spectacularly well, but does everything well. A great pickup for a team in the playoff hunt. Will he be a difference-maker for the Yankees? I doubt it, he’s not that kind of player, but he can plug a different hole every day and prevent mistakes.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox had a fire sale, trading off not only Drew but also sending Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes to Oakland, swapping Andrew Miller to Baltimore, and shifting John Lackey to the Cardinals. St. Louis sent back Allen Craig and Joe Kelly; I think Boston may have gotten the better end of that deal. Craig has struggled this year and his numbers have dropped dramatically over the past two years, but at age 30 there’s still a chance he can rebound, and the 26-year-old Kelly has an electric 97-MPH fastball that can play either in a starting or closer role. Good haul in return for a 35-year-old righthander with a history of chronic arm injuries. From the Athletics, the Bosox received Yoenis Cespedes in a deal that seemingly was more about Boston’s reluctance to sign Lester to a long-term deal. Interestingly, Billy Beane is usually the guy who is too smart to give starting pitchers over 30 long-term deals, so it seems doubtful Lester will be in Oakland very long, either. What the deal says to me is that Beane is “all in” for a World Championship this year, and I wonder if he overpaid. To me, it’s similar to when he backed up the truck for Matt Holliday in 2009 — if you remember, that was how the Rockies acquired Carlos Gonzalez and Huston Street. Pairing Lester with previously acquired Jeff Samardzija, Sonny Gray, and Scott Kazmir, the A’s now have a playoff rotation that can hang with Detroit.
Or do they? The Boston-Oakland deal was the blockbuster of the day until the Tigers roared into the deadline by plucking David Price from the Rays in a three-way trade. Uh-oh. In that stunner, Price goes to Detroit, Austin Jackson goes to Seattle, and the Rays get Nick Franklin from the Mariners and Drew Smyly and minor-league shortstop Willy Adames from the Tigers. Wait, what? In return for one of the five best pitchers in baseball, the Rays get a LOOGY, a backup infielder, and some guy in A-ball? And Seattle gets a starting centerfielder for a backup shortstop whose best tool is his bat, yet is hitting far below the Mendoza Line? What am I missing? Yes, I’m aware that Tampa Bay felt pressure to deal Price, but he still has another year left on his contract.
Remarkably, the Mariners found a taker for Chris Denorfia, and received two warm bodies in return.
The Nationals picked up Asdrubal Caberera in return for Zach Walters. They needed some infield depth with Ryan Zimmerman going on the shelf. My guess is Cabrera will move from his natural SS position to 2B, while Anthony Rendon takes over 3B.
The Indians also moved Justin Masterson, who joins Lackey in St. Louis.
Finally, the Brewers picked up Gerard Parra in return for two minor leaguers.
I *think* that’s it, though it’s possible I missed something.
Oh, the Mets didn’t make any deals, as far as I know. I had heard that the Giants and Nationals were inquiring about Daniel Murphy, but the price was too steep.
Mets 11 Phillies 2
Mets crush Phillies in an old-fashioned “laugher.”
Mets Game Notes
As I was working at my real job while this game happened, I didn’t see any of it. Please fill me in on the details not available in the box score.
Lucas Duda remains on a rampage, and perhaps had some extra energy as a result of sitting on the bench the day before. Zack Wheeler keeps on dealin’. Daniel Murphy beefs up his trade value at the deadline.
Winning by 9 runs means the Mets’ run differential increases to a whopping +14. I’m not being snarky in the least by using the word “whopping” — it IS a very large differential for a losing team. Which begs the question: does run differential mean anything at all? I have to wonder how a team can have such a positive differential yet a losing record — is it the manager’s fault? Perhaps it’s indicative of nothing, in which case, why do people pay attention to it?
Next Mets Game
Lucas Duda gets another day off on Thursday — as do the rest of his teammates. Lucas and the Mets return to action on Friday night at 7:10 PM against the reeling Giants. Jonathon Niese drags his ailing shoulder to the mound against Ryan Vogelsong.
Phillies 6 Mets 0
So much for a sweep.
Mets Game Notes
I mean that sincerely — after seeing the Mets tee off against A.J. Burnett on Monday night, I thought for sure that the Phillies were dead and going through the motions, the Mets had momentum, Cole Hamels would toss his usual dud in Flushing, and Kyle Kendrick would get destroyed on getaway day. It was a perfect storm, it seemed, for the Mets to sweep at home, get the fans excited, and hammer in some of the last nails of the Phillies’ coffin.
Instead, Hamels pitched against the Mets the way he pitches against everyone else — effectively. He had the Mets hitters flailing at change-ups that disappeared from the horizon and jamming themselves on fastballs. It didn’t matter that Josh Edgin choked and allowed Chase Utley to put the game away with a grand salami — the Mets offense couldn’t get out of its own way, looking nothing like the lumber company that mashed Burnett’s offerings on Monday night.
So, what changed between Monday and Tuesday, besides the starting pitcher? Hmm … I’m taking a really close look at this … oh, there’s something, right, there, on the lineup cards. Grab my magnifying glass … see? It’s right there, in the middle of that list of names — on Monday night, the name “Lucas Duda” appears, while on Tuesday’s card … are you seeing this? There IS NO DUDA. Isn’t that weird? Go ahead, use the magnifier and check that entire list — I’m telling you, you’re not going to see those four letters (well, actually it’s only three letters, since the “D” is used twice). It’s really baffling, I know, but isn’t forensic investigation fun and effective?
OK, the Mets very well may have lost anyway if “The Dude” was in the lineup. But one really has to wonder — really, really struggle to think — exactly why the hottest hitter on the team, and one of the hottest hitters over the last week, was not in the starting lineup. Why? Why, why, why, why, why? And this is coming from someone who has absolutely NO faith in Duda’s ability to keep up his current pace through the end of the season. Yet, even I, Mr. Doubting Thomas, can recognize that hot is hot and one should never play with fire.
Don’t you sometimes wish that the official Mets Twitter account could be used for ACTUAL social media purposes — i.e., communication between people — rather than for marketing purposes (i.e., hyping the product and artificially interacting with the “consumer”)? Because then we could just send a tweet at the Mets account and ask “just why the heck was Chris Young in the lineup and Lucas Duda on the bench?” Was it because the Mets front office is hell-bent on keeping their promise of playing time to the perpetually slumping Young? Was it because someone in the stat room ran the numbers, read the horoscopes, checked the biorhythms, and determined that the current moon phase wasn’t in line with a Duda vs. Hamels showdown? Was it Terry Collins applying old-school theory, and with a lefty on the mound, you have to squeeze as many righthanded bats into the lineup as possible?
Hey, I’m fairly ignorant and impatient when it comes to stats, but I am well aware that Duda’s numbers against lefties are godawful, and Hamels is holding lefthanded hitters to an anemic .587 OPS. But guess what? All of those numbers represent the past, not the now, and not the future. Odds are good that Duda would have failed against Hamels, for sure — but this isn’t a card game. It’s baseball, it’s pitcher vs. hitter battling mano-a-mano. And right now, Duda is hitting better than he ever has in his MLB career. His confidence is like an erupting volcano. He’s as hot now as he’ll ever be. So why sit him down?
It’s not about rest; if it were, Daniel Murphy would have been rested as well (and would have rested at some point this year — is he EVER going to get a blow?). The corporate line, I’m sure, is that Duda deserved a rest, and/or, they didn’t want him to be discouraged or cooled off by Hamels’ hellacious stuff. (If the explanation was made publicly during the postgame or somewhere else, I missed it — I had much better things to do after this game ended.) Isn’t sitting Duda down against one of the toughest lefties in the league just as damaging as Duda striking out four times against Hamels? What kind of message are you sending to a player — who has exhibited confidence issues in the past — by sitting him in the middle of a hot streak? In the middle of him carrying the club?
And even if it was statistically the “right” thing to do, why the heck should the stats matter? Again, the numbers represent what happened, not necessarily what will happen. This particular game means absolutely nothing to the Mets — nor the Phillies — in terms of the 2014 World Series Championship. There is no way either club is going to make the playoffs, much less get to the World Serious, so what are these final 55 games about? I would assume they’re about figuring out what to do for 2015, right? One of the things to figure out is if Duda is the real deal, right? If he’s the slugging cleanup guy the Mets always dreamed he’d be, right? And if he is, that means he would play every day he could get out of bed, regardless of who is on the mound. He’d be taking days off on those getaway day games that start at 12:10 PM — not in games that matter, against the toughest pitchers in the league. Are you with me on this? Or am I missing something? If you’re still with me, and you want to believe Duda is a true “Dude’s Dude,” then what better time to put him to the test against the best of the best than RIGHT EFFING NOW? This isn’t about whether the Mets win or lose the game, it’s about whether Duda can pass the test. He needs to do it for himself more than for anyone else. You’ve seen his intense focus, his widened eyes, his confidence oozing (yes, that’s been confidence pouring down his cheeks, not sweat) — can you imagine if he simply went 1-for-4 with a single against Cole Hamels in this game? Imagine if he got caught out in front of a change-up and, via the lunging luck of Ike Davis, accidentally struck the ball so perfectly in front of home plate that it was jerked just inside the right field foul pole and over the fence? He’s already on cloud nine; that kind of blast would send him to cloud twelve.
Instead, Lucas Duda sat on the bench, part of some larger strategy we mere mortals could never understand, that may have had something to do with saving Duda’s thunderstick for just the right moment, while also making sure the immortal Eric Campbell “got some reps” and Chris Young was “kept fresh, since he’s hitting good (sic) right now.” (Nothing against Campbell, by the way; it would have been fine to have him playing left field. But I don’t think anyone is right now wondering if Campbell could be the answer at 1B — not while Duda is unloading on pitches the way he has been.)
Is it me, or is this chronic coddling of Duda baffling and possibly damaging? Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill. Let me know in the comments.
Next Mets Game
The rubber match begins at 12:10 PM on Wednesday afternoon. Zack Wheeler takes the hill against Kyle Kendrick.
Mets 7 Phillies 1
Mets make mincemeat of Phillies.
Mets Game Notes
Was this a contest between two clubs, or an audition for two pitchers on the trading block?
The two starters entered the game with very similar numbers, and similar doubts about their immediate futures. Yes, one team won and the other lost, but it’s possible that the game’s procession and result, in the end, will have more impact the two starting starting pitchers and their respective teams’ ability (or inability) to deal them in the next 48 hours.
A.J. Burnett did nothing to improve his status as trade bait, while Bartolo Colon may have increased his value. If there were scouts in the stands deciding between the two, it’s likely the recommendation would be for Big Bart. Though, there are also financial considerations, as both pitchers will be due many more millions after this season.
With Colon, it’s cut and dried — he’ll get $11M guaranteed in 2015. With Burnett, it’s more complex. On the one hand, he’s guaranteed a minimum of $7.5M as part of the “player option” written into his contract. That number can increase to $8.5M if and when Burnett makes one more start this year (it triggers at 24 starts, and this was his 23rd). If he gets to 27 starts, Burnett gets bumped up to $10M. At 30 starts, it jumps to $11.75M, and at 32, $12.75M. So there’s a very good chance that Burnett and Colon will be equal in terms of how much more is due once the 2014 season ends. The only difference is that the price paid to Colon is in return for another year of service, while what’s paid to Burnett will only close out the financial responsibility for 2014; if a team wants another year of Burnett, both Burnett and the team will have to mutually agree upon it, and instead of Burnett getting the buyout figure, he’ll get a $15M contract for 2015.
Hmmmmm … Seems ugly either way. And by ugly, I mean choosing between Colon and Burnett, as well as the complicated Burnett situation. If he pitches well enough in the final two months, maybe a team would want to keep Burnett another year. Who knows? Burnett has pitched pretty well in most of his ballgames, but his stats look uglier than he’s pitched most of the time because of a handful of truly awful performances (such as last night’s). Colon’s numbers are similarly bloated — most of his starts have been good to very good, but there were five in which he was shelled.
Sorry, I know this is supposed to be a game recap, but I find the parallels between these two pitchers much more fascinating. If you were the GM of a contending team and in need of one veteran righthanded starter, which of these two would you choose, and why? And what would you be willing to give up? Is the second year of service a positive or a negative? Burnett is only 37 compared to Colon’s age 41, so a team looking for more than a two-month rental, and considering these two, might be more inclined to trust that Burnett will be healthy enough to pitch another year. But $15M is more than $11M, so who knows? And then there are the somewhat contrasting styles of the two hurlers; Burnett does it mostly with a sinker and hard breaking pitches, while Colon gets through by pinpointing essentially one pitch — a fastball of below-average velocity. Is one style more trusted than the other? I have no idea.
OK, the game, which was over almost before it started. The Mets jumped all over Burnett from the get-go, scoring four runs in the first inning, highlighted by doubles by Daniel Murphy and Juan Lagares. Travis d’Arnaud put the game away with a three-run homer in the fifth. The Phillies lineup somehow collected 13 hits, hit into only one double play, and went 3-for-10 with RISP (as did the Mets), but somehow scored just one run as they left 12 on base. And that was the ballgame.
Next Mets Game
Here it comes: the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, which has become a cottage industry of sorts for many TV networks and blogs, who serve up tasty trade news and trade rumors to a ravenous audience. Much like New Year’s Eve revelers, many baseball fans wake up on August 1 with a trade rumor hangover and a resolve not to get sucked in ever again (yeah, right).
The majority of this post was written before the “story” about the Mets’ interest in Troy Tulowitzki broke late on Thursday evening. For the record, I think that story is pure fantasy. But then again, I never thought the Mets would land Mike Piazza either.
The Mets’ record at the trade deadline has been spotty, to say the least. Near the top of the all-time list of infamy is the totally unnecessary trade of Scott Kazmir in 2004. That trade did alter the course of the franchise for a little while, as it ushered in the Omar Minaya era and the team’s last playoff appearance to date. Speaking of deadline deals with franchise altering implications, the 1977 Trade Deadline, then in mid-June, will (hopefully) forever hold the title of Worst Ever. I am referring of course, to the Mets “Midnight Massacre” giveaways of Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman that year. Along the way, the Mets, in an attempt to bolster a playoff run, have also sacrificed Jason Isringhausen and Melvin Mora in late July trades. Minaya’s inability to make any bullpen improvements at the 2007 and 2008 deadlines no doubt contributed to the late season collapses in both years. The Billy Wagner giveaway was one of the first signs of the Wilpon’s impending financial distress.
On the flip side, there have been a few deadline deals that worked in the Mets favor. Getting Keith Hernandez and an eventual World Series crown for Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey in 1983 easily laps the rest of the field. The Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler trade is definitely a win for the Mets. Steve Phillips got Darryl Hamilton from Colorado on July 31, 1999. Hamilton played a decent centerfield for the team during parts of three seasons, including the playoff years of 1999-2000. The Marlon Byrd deal with Pittsburgh may end up being one of the best in Met history—if current trends continue.
But without a doubt, my all-time favorite deadline deal, even more so than the Hernandez swipe, is the 1984 trade that Frank Cashen made with Cincinnati, trading somewhat heralded prospects Jay Tibbs and Eddie Williams to the Reds for pitcher Bruce Berenyi. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t who they traded for but why. Seven years after (to the exact date) the Seaver trade, the Mets front office was sending the message that the long nuclear winter that started on that horrible night was finally over. They believed in their team enough to give up two prospects in an attempt to win now.
At least, that’s how I took it. BTW, Berenyi went 9-6 for the surprising 84 Mets, before his career was cut short by injuries the following year.
My sense is that this is the type of deadline deal that current Met GM Sandy Alderson needs to make next, if he makes any move at all before the Winter Meetings. I am not in favor of a Bartolo Colon salary-dump deal. Last week’s heroics aside, Colon is needed to save the young arms from too many September innings this year. I highly doubt the Wilpons will allow Alderson to trade Daniel Murphy in-season. There has been zero buzz about Jon Niese or Dillon Gee, which is somewhat telling, although this could change in the next few days. So unless Alderson can channel his inner Cashen and pull off a trade of say Josh Satin and Logan Verrett to the Padres for Everth Cabrera, he should just stand pat. The Mets farm system appears to be on the brink of producing a steady stream of serviceable contributors and perhaps even a star or two. A couple more weeks of evaluation, along with a few September call ups, is probably a better course of action, rather than plunging into the annual feeding frenzy in an attempt to garner some fleeting attention and a few more essentially meaningless wins.
A late (and much missed) mentor of mine was always there to remind me of how time could be an ally during any major decision making process I faced. I believe that concept applies here as well. It was easier to complain about a lack of deadline activity when the Mets had nothing to lose. They need to move prudently and gather as much data as they can on their current crop of prospects.
After all, they have all winter to engineer that Noah Syndergaard for Javier Baez trade!