Mets Game 107: Loss To Phillies

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.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. david July 30, 2014 at 1:02 am
    I agree about C Young, but disagree about sitting Duda. It is a long season and playing Duda tomorrow is, I think, sensible even though he has been carrying the team on his back the last week. Guys need to step up when they play, and Campbell did not tonight.

    Has anyone seen Eric Young Jr.? Is he still a Met? I think the worse thing Chris Young ever did is say he was promised an everyday role. The caveat to that promise is, “assuming you produce on offense and don’t hurt the team on defence.”

    I hope ZW continues to have a strong 2nd half and we can win the rubber match. 2 out of 3 is nice but ain’t gonna put us in the playoffs. Perhaps .500 is the goal in 2014? I suppose I could live with it, but a surprise run from the Mets and October baseball in Queens would make Matt Harvey and I happy.

    • Joe Janish July 30, 2014 at 1:12 am
      Agreed on Eric Young, Jr. — I also nearly forgot he was on the team.

      Do you really, really believe that Duda needs to rest for physical reasons? If so, then, as mentioned in the post, what about Daniel Murphy? Doesn’t HE deserve a rest, especially considering that he not only wasn’t rested at all in the first half, but also was the only Met who didn’t get a rest during the All Star Exhibition?

      And speaking of, Lucas Duda just enjoyed that rest from the break two weeks ago. He’s only 28 years old and plays perhaps the least physically intensive position, and it’s not like he wears himself out running the bases, either. Not to mention — and I’m speaking from experience — when confidence is high, your physical conditioning follows — you don’t feel tired when you’re rolling, and in fact, the LAST thing you want to do is sit down. Think about pitchers who have a shutout going into the 8th inning but have thrown 100 pitches — do you think they feel tired?

      I would imagine the goal is .500 for 2014. It’s going to be tough, though, especially when/if the Mets decide to impose these ridiculous and illogical “innings limits” on people like Jake deGrom.

  2. Bat July 30, 2014 at 2:00 am
    I agree with Joe and will add another question I’d like to ask on a “real” Twitter account:

    Why not just recall Omar Quintanilla or whoever is the backup SS at AAA to be Tejada’s backup if Flores is going to play so sparingly? What I mean is, what is the point of stunting Flores’ development (and lowering his trade value if the decision is that he cannot play SS and is a trade candidate b/c his best position is 3B).?

    Murphy definitely needs a day off as Joe has pointed out on numerous occasions so why can’t Murphy rest against the tough lefthander Hamels and Flores plays 2B?

    Let’s get Flores some playing time so we know – not “think” he is not, but “know” – that we can’t count on him as SS option next year.

    I have been saying for two months or more that we know what Tejada is, so since we aren’t winning this season why don’t we find out what Flores is? Playing Flores 1 or 2 times per week will never provide that answer.

    I’m no baseball genius but I look at a lot of the moves Collins makes and I’m totally baffled.

    Also: let’s abandon hope that someone will trade for CY or Abreu and release both and call up Niewenhuis and MDD. Overhaul the OF like the bullpen was overhauled by release Valverde and Farnsworth and hope it works out as well here.

    Finally, I totally agree also that now is the time to see if Duda can hit lefthanders so that we know whether we need to search for a platoon partner in the offseason.

  3. DanB July 30, 2014 at 11:22 am
    I don’t believe Duda is in a hot streak right now as much as I believe he has become more aggressive at the plate and it is working. Pitchers are used to him taking more pitches and now their early meatballs are getting hit. I am sure the success has given him more confidence. There are two major questions left to be answered about Duda. One is what will happen when new scouting reports come out and pitchers start being aggressive with him earlier and will he ever hit lefties. If the Mets see Duda as a player to build around, then they need to let him figure out lefties in these extended spring training games.
  4. DanB July 30, 2014 at 1:27 pm
    Off topic, but how great is it to see Steve Henderson in a major league uniform as the Philly hitting coach? Yes, that Steve Henderson who came in second to Andre Dawson for rookie of the year while playing for the Mets. He was one of my favorite Mets in the 70’s, despite being in the Seaver trade.
  5. Yeats July 30, 2014 at 1:27 pm
    It’s all Chris Young’s fault.

    I don’t *hate* Tejada like some of the other Mets do, but I don’t see the point of playing him right now. Remember when Tejada first came up? He hit OK, his fielding was pretty good, but he also seemed to have the proverbial “High Baseball IQ”… I haven’t seen that, even when he’s been hitting and fielding well.

    Sit Tejada, free Flores.

    Jettison Sigh Young. If .500 means that much to Sandy, play E. Young & Campbell in LF. I’d prefer Captain Kirk to play for the last 2 months, though, and make a final(ish) decision on what’s there.

    Oh yeah, and let Duda play vs L.

  6. argonbunnies July 31, 2014 at 4:38 am
    In theory, I’d like to have a hitter with Duda’s talent in the lineup every day, with the usual caveats for rest and staying fresh.

    In practice, Duda seems like a fragile psyche, exactly the sort of athlete who can get thrown off if he goes out and gets dominated for 4 ABs. Duda is not the feisty Jimmy Rollins or Dustin Pedroia or even the steady Derek Jeter or Joey Votto. In the past, he entered a huge slump the moment he was moved from 4th to 6th in the lineup, and he seemed to hit worse and worse the more times his poor numbers with RISP were mentioned last year.

    It seems to me like Duda is the sort of player you want to keep comfortable and relaxed. A day against Hamels is the opposite of comfortable and relaxing.

    Plus, there’s nothing wrong with a platoon. However well Lucas can possibly hit lefties, it’s a safe bet Campbell will be better.

    • argonbunnies July 31, 2014 at 4:42 am
      Ergh, make that “moved from 6th to 4th”. Seemed like he put more pressure on himself when he was moved up. Example: April-May 2013.
    • Joe Janish July 31, 2014 at 4:44 pm
      I disagree that there’s nothing wrong with a platoon. Every platoon means you need two players for one position. Considering that MLB teams need so many friggin’ pitchers on the roster these days, every single roster spot is precious, so at every position where there’s a platoon, there’s a decrease in roster flexibility. Additionally, platoon players have less value to other teams than those who play every day.

      We’ll never know if Duda can learn to hit lefties unless he’s given the chance. Why not give him the chance during a lost season, and test him at a time he’s red-hot?

      I’m wondering if the Mets are simply keeping him away from lefties to make sure his numbers remain jacked up, so that his value increases, so they can trade him.

      • norme July 31, 2014 at 5:07 pm
        Joe,
        While I agree with you about the need for the Mets to find out if Duda can hit lefties, I don’t share your feelings about platooning.
        The Casey Stengel Yankees platooned Gene Woodling and Hank Bauer among others and they weren’t too shabby.
        The Walter Alston Brooklyn Dodgers platooned Sandy Amoros and Don Zimmer (with Jim Gilliam swinging from 2B to LF) and they won a WS.
        Davey Johnson platooned Tim Teufel and Wally Backman.
        I’m sure there are other examples of successful platooning.
        Even with 12 man pitching staffs a platoon can work in the proper circumstances. The trick is finding the “proper circumstances.”
      • argonbunnies August 1, 2014 at 6:01 am
        Hahahaha. I WISH the Mets were smart enough and organized enough to pump players’ value and deal them. Unfortunately, one need only look at the lack of a plan with Wilmer Flores to know that your conspiracy theory is completely impossible.

        Can Duda hit lefties better than he has this year? Of course. He’s done it before. That said, can he ever hit lefties well enough that you actually want him batting against nasty specialist relievers and elite lefty starters? Of course not. The only lefty hitters in the game who actually post good numbers in such situations are among the elite hitters in the sport. Lucas doesn’t make that cut.

      • argonbunnies August 1, 2014 at 6:02 am
        As for platoons, here’s why they’re worth it:

        Guy who hits righties, $3 mil. Guy who hits lefties, $500 k. Guy who hits both, $15 mil. (No idea what the actual average salaries are, but the ratio seems about right. The $15 mil splits the difference between LaRoche, who can’t hit lefties but plays against them anyway, and A-Gon, whose FA deal is monstrous. Meanwhile Brandon Moss was a scrap heap pick up.)

        You’re using up a roster spot, but gaining substantial money toward an upgrade elsewhere. If you use that money to replace Tejada with someone who doesn’t need to be pinch hit for in a big spot, then the roster spot is almost a wash.

        Besides, any team flexible enough to platoon can also be flexible enough to carry 6 relievers and use them in multi-inning stints.

        P.S. Comment right before this one awaiting moderation.