Mets Game 114: Loss To Nationals
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.