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Date: Wednesday, 23 Apr 2014 05:11

Cardinals 3 Mets 0

After being handed a shutout loss in game one, the Cardinals return the favor by shutting out the Mets in game two.

Mets Game Notes

This time, there was no switch-flipped, sudden disaster at pitch #90 by Dillon Gee. Instead, it happened around pitch #40.

It took Dillon Gee 28 pitches before getting an out in the fourth frame; it took well over 30 pitches to complete the inning. How he found his way out of that mess allowing only two runs is a story for the ages, and a testament to his intestinal fortitude. He followed it up with an 8-pitch fifth — something he absolutely had to do to stay in the ballgame.

Interesting play in the fourth, with bases loaded and a grounder to David Wright. Wright threw home to force out Jon Jay, but Jay went out of his way to take out Travis d’Arnaud and prevent d’Arnaud from completing the potential double play. Terry Collins didn’t argue, but did go out to discuss the play with the home plate umpire. On the replay, it was clear that d’Arnaud was blocking the plate PRIOR to receiving the ball from Wright. GKR stated that d’Arnaud provided a clear path, and he did — AFTER receiving the ball. It was also crystal-clear that Jay went directly for d’Arnaud — he changed his running path to take him out. I have to wonder if part of the reason that Collins didn’t ask for a review is because d’Arnaud was, technically, breaking the rules by blocking home plate without the ball (he was straddling the third-base line. And/or, does the take-out rule not apply in a situation where the catcher already has the ball, and is attempting to make a second play (such as we always see with the second baseman / shortstop on double-play attempts at 2B).

Matt Holliday, of all people, made an outstanding catch above the left-field wall to rob Chris Young of a two-run homer that would’ve tied the ballgame in the fifth.

The two runs St. Louis scored came on grounders up the middle that were just barely out of a diving Omar Quintanilla‘s reach. I have to wonder if Ruben Tejada would have made one or both of those plays and possibly halted that rally earlier?

Adam Wainwright left the game after 7 innings and only 79 pitches, seemingly due to an injury to his right leg on a broken-bat bouncer to the right side by Chris Young that ended the seventh.

It looked to me like Young could’ve been safe on that play, had he hustled out of the box and ran hard down the line. He hesitated in the box after getting fisted, then didn’t seem to run quite 100%. Could his leg still be bothering him?

Congrats to Curtis Granderson, who set a personal high by going 0-for-22; he never before in his career went hitless in more than 21 consecutive at-bats. Great to see him continue to bat in the #2 spot in the order, where he has a guaranteed opportunity to extend that streak in the first inning.

Jose Valverde did a nice job of keeping his 92-94 MPH fastball on the corners and at the knees. Except for that one over the middle of the plate and at the waist that Holliday rapped into right field to drive in the third Cardinals run.

Bobby Abreu made his Mets debut as the 2014 version of Rusty Staub to lead off the bottom of the ninth, and flied out to left field. Not the most auspicious debut, but one likely to be forgotten.

What’s up with lights-out closers who suddenly can’t make pitches, much less outs? Trevor Rosenthal was exhibiting shades of Rick Ankiel in the ninth. Rosenthal’s facial expressions and body language were showing fear and bewilderment. I can see a pitcher walking Granderson — even a slumping Granderson — but to walk Eric Young, Jr., with a three-run lead, on five pitches? You know something is terribly wrong.

Somehow, miraculously, Rosenthal threw an absolutely perfect “pitcher’s pitch” to strike out David Wright looking for the second out — it was exactly knee-high, just inside the black on the outside part of the plate. How he pulled that pitch out of his backside, after looking like he was about to implode, was remarkable.

Get this: the Mets struck out only FOUR TIMES in this game — the lowest total thus far this season. However, they saw only 110 pitches, so I guess their strategy to avoid strikeouts was to swing and make contact prior to three strikes. In contrast, the Cardinals struck out 7 times and saw 154 pitches.

The Mets managed only four hits and walked twice. Hard to score when you don’t get anyone on base. Though, there are always solo homers.

After striking out in every one of his first 17 games, Eric Young, Jr. has now gone two straight games without a K.

Gonzalez Germen through 42 pitches in two shutout innings of relief. That pitch count means he needs at least one day of rest before touching a baseball again, and he was three pitches away from needing two full days’ rest before getting on the mound.

Next Mets Game

Game 3 of this four-game set begins at 7:10 PM on Wednesday night. Jonathon Niese faces Michael Wacha.

As an FYI, I’ll be working late, so there’s a good chance I’ll miss the contest and will need some help with the recap. Your contribution is appreciated.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Tuesday, 22 Apr 2014 10:58

Mets 2 Cardinals 0

Jenrry Mejia and the bullpen shut out the mighty Cardinals as the Mets climb over .500.

Mets Game Notes

Sorry, I didn’t get to watch this one, so please tell me what I missed in the comments. Thanks.

Next Mets Game

Mets and Cardinals do it again at 7:10 PM on Tuesday night. Dillon Gee climbs the hill against Adam Wainwright.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Monday, 21 Apr 2014 21:16

Here is tonight’s Mets lineup vs. Cardinals lefty Tyler Lyons:

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

Chris Young batting cleanup, and Daniel Murphy fifth … hmm … Murphy is one of the team’s better hitters thus far, yet he keeps moving down the lineup.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Lineup"
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Date: Monday, 21 Apr 2014 21:12

It’s official: Bobby Abreu is a Met (at least for today).

To make room on the roster, Andrew Brown is sent to AAA Las Vegas.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Latest Mets News"
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Date: Monday, 21 Apr 2014 14:33

Buzz around the blogosphere is Bobby Abreu will be joining the Mets in Flushing by game time tonight.

Abreu has an opt-out clause in his minor-league deal that expires on April 30. He’s hitting .395 with a .489 OBP in 45 plate appearances in AAA Las Vegas, so the argument is “you can’t keep a good man down.” I suppose he slots in as the top pinch-hitter off the bench.

As of this morning, no corresponding move had been announced. Considering Abreu bats from the left side and plays the outfield, pundits suggest Kirk Nieuwenhuis will be demoted. Others say Andrew Brown. Since it’s my nature to have the opposing viewpoint, I’ll offer up Josh Satin, who is off to a rough start and may not be fit for a pinch-hitting role. But then who will be the backup first baseman, you ask? Easy — Andrew Brown, who began his pro career as a corner infielder and has played over 240 minor league games at 1B (as well as another 42 at 3B). Now that Lucas Duda has been installed as the starting first baseman, perhaps the Mets will go all the way in providing confidence by jettisoning Josh Satin. Satin is the main backup to David Wright, as well, but how often will Wright be on the bench — especially now that he’s on a hot streak? Omar Quintanilla can handle 3B, and Brown should be able to play a few innings there as well, in a pinch.

Most likely, it won’t happen — the Mets will probably demote an outfielder. But hey, it’s more fun to think out of the box.

What do you think? Who should head to Las Vegas to make room for Abreu? Answer in the comments.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "News Notes Rumors"
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Date: Monday, 21 Apr 2014 00:00

Mets 4 Braves 3

Mets outlast Braves in a 14-inning snoozefest.

Mets Game Notes

Curtis Granderson had the “walk-off” sacrifice fly to end the ballgame. It’s been over 15 years of that term, but I still can’t get used to “walk-off” as an adjective for every type of offensive play that wins a ballgame. In any case, I’m personally happy for Granderson, as I like him very much and want him to do well. At the same time, Mets fans can’t get too excited about this “breakthrough,” for several reasons. First off, the Mets would not have been playing 14 frames had Granderson come through in one of several previous at-bats. Secondly, he was facing the Braves’ worst pitcher, who was pitching in an unprecedented fourth inning of work. Grandy’s fly ball was hit on Gus Schlosser‘s 46th pitch of the afternoon; Schlosser’s previous high pitch count was 25. I mean, yeah, thank goodness Granderson lifted that fly ball, to finally see him do something positive and so that everyone could tear into their Easter ham, but I can’t mark it as any indication of future success for Grandy. Granderson went 0-for-6 and is now hitting .127.

On a positive note: in addition to the final fly, Granderson also lifted a long fly in the first inning that advanced Eric Young, Jr. from second to third; Young scored moments later. So, Grandy DID hit two effective fly balls.

Speaking of Eric Young, Jr., he reached base once and scored once, and proceeded to go 0-for-6 the rest of the way. Yes, he did strike out once to keep his streak going, and is leading the Mets in Ks. He does currently have a .343 OBP, though.

Until that 14th inning, it seemed as though the Braves were trying to give the Mets the game, but the Mets weren’t interested in taking it. Thanks to several Braves errors and walks to the bottom of the Mets’ lineup, the Mets had a few situations in which to break the game open — but couldn’t get the “big hit.” Mets hitters were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

Speaking of errors, Dan Uggla made two. I’ve always been a huge fan of the hard-playing Uggla, but if he doesn’t turn around quickly, I can’t see how the Braves can continue to run him out there — he’s providing absolutely nothing on either side of the ball — especially with Closter, NJ native Tommy LaStella tearing it up in AAA with a .390 OBP. If Uggla continues to struggle, and LaStella stays hot, the Braves have to consider bringing up the lefthanded-hitting LaStella to at least platoon with Uggla (Uggla’s hitting .300 with a .900 OPS vs. LHPs in a small sample size this year; strangely enough, his career splits are better against RHPs — maybe because he’s one of those rare breaking-ball hitters?).

Actually, I wonder if the Braves will bid on Georgia-born Stephen Drew after the June draft, and make him their starting second baseman? It wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

Zack Wheeler shut out the Braves through the first four frames, then allowed three runs in the fifth. He hit 95 MPH on pitches 60 and 61, but lost his command as he walked Gerald Laird leading off the inning. Wheeler threw almost exclusively off-speed pitches between that walk and the 93-MPH fastball on pitch #73 that B.J. Upton hit to the wall for a run-scoring double. Pitch #74 was a 94-MPH fastball that Freddie Freeman bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double; both pitches were over the middle of the plate. According to BrooksBaseball.net, Wheeler threw 55 fastballs, 4 change-ups, 21 sliders, and 10 curveballs. I’m not sure how accurate those counts are — it seemed to me that he threw far more curves and change-ups — so I’m going to go with the idea that 35 of his 90 pitches were non-fastballs. What does it all mean? No idea. What I can say for sure is that Wheeler’s command — of all pitches — definitely needs to improve. It looked to me that he began to fatigue on the fastball at pitch #80, when he threw a 93-MPH fastball up and in to Uggla (which Ron Darling suspected was a purpose pitch, but I believe was a mistake and due to his arm falling even further behind than it usually does).

The Mets struck out 11 times, but the Braves beat them by whiffing 14 times. As a team, the Mets have 177 strikeouts, or 9.8 per game. Last year, the Mets and Braves tied for the most Ks in the NL, with 1384 each — that’s 8.5 per game. For what it’s worth, the Braves now have 164 Ks on the year, so they’re catching up.

Innings 9 through 13 were particularly painful to watch, as the batters had extreme difficulty seeing the ball through the late afternoon shadows. For at least two innings, the SNY broadcast team spoke excitedly about Daisuke Matsuzaka‘s effectiveness in relief — while simultaneously blaming the shadows for the Mets’ hitters ineffectiveness over the same frame — until finally acknowledging, in the 13th, that both sides were affected.

Dice-K, by the way, threw 44 pitches — after throwing 18 on Saturday night. The Mets better hope that Jenrry Mejia has no more blister issues on Monday. Who is the back-up if the blister does flare up? I’m guessing Jeurys Familia, who wasn’t used in this game and hasn’t pitched since a 17-pitch inning on Friday night.

Next Mets Game

The Mets open a four-game series in Flushing against the St. Louis Cardinals. Game one begins at 7:10 PM on Monday night, with Jenrry Mejia going to the mound against lefty Tyler Lyons, who will be making his first MLB start of 2014. Lyons is starting in place of Joe Kelly, who suffered a hamstring injury. Lyons started 8 games for St. Louis in 2013 and was 2-0 in 3 starts for AAA Memphis this year.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Sunday, 20 Apr 2014 16:08

Here are this afternoon’s lineups:

Jason Heyward, rf
B.J. Upton, cf
Freddie Freeman, 1b
Justin Upton, lf
Chris Johnson, 3b
Dan Uggla, 2b
Andrelton Simmons, ss
Gerald Laird, c
David Hale, rhp

Eric Young Jr., lf
Curtis Granderson, rf
David Wright, 3b
Daniel Murphy, 2b
Chris Young, cf
Lucas Duda, 1b
Anthony Recker, c
Omar Quintanilla, ss
Zack Wheeler, rhp

Daniel Murphy and Curtis Granderson switch places in the Mets lineup. Granderson is batting .140 and is 2 for his last 16. What do you do with someone slumping so mightily? Move him up in the lineup, of course, so he can get more at-bats. Wait, what?

Hey, maybe it’ll work. The theory, I imagine, is that Grandy will see more fastballs with Eric Young, Jr. hitting ahead of him. Of course, that’s assuming Eric Young, Jr. gets on first base. And thus far, Young, Jr. has been getting on base 35% of the time, which is pretty good.

Well, now, hold on a second — let’s look at this more fully. So, in theory, Young, Jr. gets on first base somehow, and since he’s a threat to steal, more fastballs will be called with Granderson at the plate. Additionally, the first baseman will be holding the runner so there’s presumably a larger hole on the right side of the infield for the pull-happy Granderson to hit through. However, the whole point of Young at the top of the lineup is that he is a steal threat — so, do you want Granderson taking pitches so that Young can take second base? Hmm …

Further, let’s say it works out that Young gets on first and steals second. Now what? Will the opposing pitcher be throwing more fastballs with a man on second? If anything, he’ll probably be offering more breaking pitches, and pitches out of the strike zone, especially with first base open.

And then there’s the other situation — the one where Young, Jr. makes an out / is not on first base. With one out and no one on base, will Granderson get many fastballs?

Finally, there is protection for David Wright. I think that Granderson’s presence on the on-deck circle can help convince pitchers to pitch to Wright in certain situations — regardless of how poorly Granderson is hitting. However, is anyone going to worry about walking Wright with Daniel Murphy on deck? Never mind the fact that Murphy hits fairly well with RISP, and incredibly well with two outs and a man on third — there are few pitchers in baseball who would rather pitch to Wright than Murphy. But, maybe that will work out well for the Mets — pitchers will walk Wright to face Murphy, and Murphy will get big hits. But, that’s getting away from the crux of the matter, which is that Granderson is slumping, and now he’ll be getting more at-bats than anyone other than the leadoff hitter.

Your thoughts?

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Lineups"
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Date: Sunday, 20 Apr 2014 02:42

Braves 7 Mets 5

Mets rally in the ninth but fall short as they lose the game and the series. However, there’s still a chance to salvage one on Sunday.

Mets Game Notes

Bartolo Colon pitched well — seven innings and three earned runs is a quality start — but not well enough as Ervin Santana pitched just a bit better. Since both bullpens allowed four runs, the game was won by the better starting pitcher.

Why is Fredi Gonzalez playing the infield in with one out and a man on third in the first inning of a scoreless game? And David Wright at the plate? And Eric Young, Jr. on third? No sense, no sense at all. If he doesn’t think his club is going to score at least one run in the next 8 innings, he should pack it in. As it turned out, Wright hit a hard grounder that almost certainly would’ve been an easy 6-3 groundout. The only way the Braves prevent the speedy Young from scoring is if Wright hits a bullet right at someone — there can’t be any lateral movement whatsoever, lest Young scores. Give up the run, take the out, assume your team can score at least one or two in the final eight frames.

An inning later, with Lucas Duda on third and Travis d’Arnaud at the plate, Gonzalez played the infield halfway. That made more sense, because by playing halfway, there’s a little more coverage, and further, Duda is not fleet of foot. As it turned out, d’Arnaud bounced a ball to Andrelton Simmons, who picked cleanly and fired home to start a rundown that eventually put out Duda.

Agree with Ron Darling‘s criticism of Ervin Santana lazily jogging down the first base line on a routine groundout — it’s unacceptable. At the same time, how about something other than laughter when Bartolo Colon does the same thing? I don’t care that Colon is slightly larger than a zeppelin — he’s a world-class athlete, and there’s no reason for him to be so grossly out of shape that he can’t run 90 feet once or twice a week. Of course, I’m an old-school guy with the opinion that baseball is a sport where each participant plays both offense and defense — which is why I watch the National League and not the Adulterated one.

It wound up being irrelevant, but Ruben Tejada made a terrible decision in anchoring at first base when a ball when in the dirt in the seventh. Travis d’Arnaud alertly took third, but Tejada never checked to see what d’Arnaud was doing, neither did he seem to be anticipating a worm-beater. The score was 3-1 at the time with two outs, and Tejada represented the tying run. Eric Young, Jr. wound up bouncing into a fielder’s choice, but what if he had struck a single? It would’ve been 3-2 instead of the tie game it should’ve been.

By the way, Young has kept his streak going — he’s struck out in every single game he’s played this year. On a positive note, he reached base three times — twice on walks and once on a HBP that according to the rule book, should’ve been merely a ball since he didn’t try to get out of the way. He also scored once, and has a .352 OBP thus far.

Jose Valverde pitched really well in the top of the ninth, other than letting that bunt go through his legs and allowing the monstrous 3-run homer over the center-field fence to Justin Upton. Maybe Papa Grande doesn’t perform well in non-save situations. Perhaps he would’ve pitched better had he known it would be a win situation.

Surprised to see Craig Kimbrel throwing so many sliders in his outing, especially when his fastball was hitting 97-98 MPH. I don’t understand throwing sliders in the strike zone at any time, by any pitcher — it’s a “chase” pitch that should be used on the outer edge of the plate, preferably out of the strike zone. When you can throw over 95 MPH, why “speed up” the opponent’s swing by throwing a 85-MPH slider over the plate?

Kimbrel’s shoulder has been ailing, which was why he’s been out for a week; the time off may have had something to do with his lack of command. His mechanics are flawed — his arm is waaaaaay behind at foot strike — so it’s no surprise that he’s having shoulder issues. He’ll continue to have arm issues, since no one on Atlanta’s payroll is capable of fixing him.

Another positive for the Mets: only 8 strikeouts by Mets batters. Their per-game average is now below 10 Ks (9.76).

Chris Young was hot in spring training, hot in his AAA rehab assignment, and went 3-for-5 with 2 RBI in his first game as a Met.

Next Mets Game

The final game of the series begins at 1:10 PM on Easter Sunday. Zack Wheeler takes the hill against David Hale.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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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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