Mets Game 144: Win Over Rockies

Mets 3 Rockies 2

Were you like me, and just waiting for the Mets to win this game from the get-go? I don’t know why, but it just felt like the Mets would win this game.

Mets Game Notes

It was an exhilarating win for the Mets and their three dozen loyal fans. Tons of excitement and emotion after Wilmer Flores hit a shallow sacrifice fly to score speedy Curtis Granderson from third to win the ballgame against 2013 Mets closer LaTroy Hawkins. Thrilling. #buytixsavethewilpons

This was a game the Mets should have won, and needed to win. And they did. Who cares if it looked like they might not until the 9th inning? A win is a win, right? Sure. Bask in the afterglow. You deserve it, for paying attention this long. At this point, though, I’d like to push the focus more to the process rather than the outcome. I don’t really care about the Mets “finishing strong” blah blah blah. They’re not going to the postseason and they’re playing a terrible team. If you watched this game to bring brief happiness to your life on a Monday evening, super. Otherwise, you’re probably indifferent and thinking about next Sunday’s Jets or Giants game. Amiright?

Granderson, by the way, is Cholula-hot right now. Where was that in the first 140 games of the season? #septemberbaseball

Jon Niese plowed through 6 2/3 innings with nothing — absolutely nothing — and left the game allowing just one earned run. Mental toughness? Competitiveness? Batters who can’t hit in thick air? September swooning? Combination of all three?

Is it time to seriously consider Kirk Nieuwenhuis as a regular? The Mets are now 16-2 when Captain Kirk is in the starting lineup, and that’s not necessarily a coincidence considering that he had a .915 OPS as a starter going into this ballgame (he has a 1.029 OPS when participating in all Mets wins in all roles, for whatever that’s worth). Why might the Mets win so often when he’s playing? He does strike out a ton, but he also does everything well; he’s a “ballplayer.” Nieuwenhuis always makes a positive contribution, even when he doesn’t hit, because he runs the bases with excellence, he fields very well, he hustles all the time, and he rarely makes mistakes. He’s a winning ballplayer, plain and simple. All the little things add up in today’s post-PEDs, post-homerun-derby game. I don’t buy into the excuse that Nieuwenhuis is more valuable off the bench because he’s been so effective coming off the bench — a.k.a., Gates Brown Syndrome. He’s valuable because he does everything well, and he has some occasional pop. Just a theory, of course, that putting winning ballplayers into action could result in winning games — a theory toyed with by Vince Lombardi.

David Wright hit his first “triple” of the season in the third. If you missed it, it was a dying quail that caught the right fielder “in between” — he wasn’t sure whether to dive in to make a highlight-reel catch, or to field it on a bounce. The indecision resulted in an awkward attempt to scoop the ball after it hit the ground, and it bounced by and rolled to the wall. The home-team official scorer ruled it a triple instead of a single and a two-base error. Inconceivable! Hey, it’s September, it’s a meaningless game between two terrible clubs, so who’s paying attention, right? Right. But how can you trust ANY statistics when this kind of thing happens all the time? That’s one reason why I trust my eyes more than the numbers when making evaluations — I don’t necessarily trust stats based on other people’s eyes.

Why was Josh Rutledge bunting with none out, tie ballgame, and a man on second in the top of the third? It looked like a drag bunt for a hit, but still — not bright, not good baseball, and indicative of a second-division club. It was clear early on that Jonathon Niese did not have great stuff, was getting hit hard even when the Rox were hitting into outs, and that made the decision to bunt all the more mind-boggling. Swing away there, for goodness sakes!

Not for nuthin’, but Colorado pitcher Jordan Lyles should probably bat much higher than ninth in the lineup — especially when the Rox are away from the thin air of Coors Field. That guy is a hitter. What a concept — a pitcher who can hit. #killtheDH

Another example that the Rockies are a terrible club: Michael Cuddyer and Wilin Rosario completely botching an easy foul pop-up up the first base line off the bat of Dilson Herrera in the seventh. Herrera wound up striking out, so it didn’t matter all that much, but still. Kiddies, this is the way it works: if you are the catcher, you really need to go aggressively after any popups you can chase after. If you have trouble seeing the ball, and an infielder calls for it, yield to him/her. If you see it fine, can set your legs and feel confident catching the ball, you call off anyone and everyone else immediately — it’s your job to be the leader and trump all others. Sorry, Keith Hernandez — I disagree that the catcher should always peel off if someone else calls for the ball. ONLY if the ball is outside the catcher’s range, and/or the catcher lacks confidence he can catch it, for whatever reason. Otherwise, the catcher should be calling for the ball immediately and with gusto. In that particular case, maybe Rosario lost the ball in the lights, but I doubt it — it looked to me like he was deferring out of lack of desire or laziness; he didn’t seem to WANT to catch the ball from the get-go, which was why Cuddyer took charge of the situation and called for it first. Certainly, it was within his reach, as the ball wound up falling safely about 15 feet away from home plate.

While I’m in an instructional mood … for the second time in the past week, I heard GKR discuss Travis d’Arnaud‘s “wiggle” when he throws the ball to second base, how that’s wasting precious moments, and that’s a big reason why he’s not throwing anyone out. Furthermore, it’s been expressed by both Keith and Ron Darling that the fix for d’Arnaud is to “go directly to the ear and throw from there.”

OK. Please erase all of that from your memory and let’s start from scratch.

First off, I’m a catcher who teaches catching. The techniques I teach come from long discussions and experimentation with multiple people who have advanced degrees in kinesiology (the study of human movement). Through the first 15-20 years of my catching career, I knew only the hearsay that’s been handed down from former professional catchers — who had zero qualification to talk about efficient movements by the human body. That’s not to say I’m an expert — I’m not. But I do feel that the scientists provide better information than those who relay on hand-me-down guesswork.

With that out of the way …

Yes, d’Arnaud’s “wiggle” is a time waster, and the movement itself is part of the reason he’s not throwing out baserunners. If you’re not sure what the “wiggle” is, it’s this: when he brings the ball out of his glove and back, he hesitates for a split second and executes an extra movement of cocking his wrist before moving his hand forward. It’s not efficient, and it’s throwing off his timing, but it’s not where I’d start in the correction process. Rather, I’d go all the way back to his footwork, which puts him into a less-than-efficient, imbalanced, and not-so-powerful position. The movement and placement of the feet are the key to throwing the baseball regardless of the position, but because of the short amount of time a catcher has to throw out a runner at second, it’s all the more vital to be precise. Travis d’Arnaud is not throwing out runners because his first movement with his right foot is going too far to his left — he’s “shuffling” his foot about to the spot where his left foot was originally placed. That’s too far — the right foot should move to below the exact middle of the body, just below the belly button (or bits and pieces, as my cockney friends like to refer). By traveling too far with his right foot, he’s putting his entire body out of balance, and when the lower body is out of balance, the upper body, to compensate, has to do something to put the body back in balance and make up for the timing as well — in d’Arnaud’s case, it is by wiggling. He’s wiggling / cocking his wrist because his lower body is not getting into position quickly enough, so his arm action is slowing down to give his feet/legs a chance to catch up (the hands always move much more quickly than the legs, in EVERY athletic movement).

Now, here’s the good news: I’ve been watching d’Arnaud intently for the past month, and his footwork in this game was much better than I’ve seen previously — he was shuffling/sliding MUCH further before, as well as a little backward, which was why his throws were flying up and away and toward right field. I don’t know for sure if he knows what he’s supposed to be working on, but he looked better in this game, and if he can shorten his right foot shuffle just a bit more, he’ll be in perfect position.

One more thing: don’t ever, ever listen to the nonsensical “instruction” of throwing the ball “from the ear.” It’s absolutely inefficient, deprives the catcher of his full strength, and puts undue strain on both the elbow and the shoulder. There is ZERO gain in efficiency between taking the ball directly next to the ear compared to putting the ball and arm in the correct position — which is with the forearm at closer to a 90-degree angle to the ground. I don’t know where, why, or when the idea of throwing like a shot putter was made popular in catching instruction circles, but it’s been taught for decades and it’s completely illogical. It doesn’t matter what position on the field you play, the throw should be pretty much the same in regard to where the ball should be and the arm angulation when the front foot comes down.

You know it’s a meaningless game in September between two sorry teams when you hear silly remarks exclaimed such as “Josh Rutledge had no chance against Buddy Carlyle and his fastball!” Buddy Carlyle’s simmering 92-MPH fastball? Yes, it should overmatch a 16-year-old in American Legion, but one of the best 750 players on the planet? Hmm …

Do I sound bitter? Maybe it was those awful camouflage uniforms the Mets wear too many times (once is too many). How can Keith Hernandez disparage the green Irish heritage uniforms worn by the Cincinnati Reds yet remain quiet every time the Mets wear these atrocious camo unis?

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Rockies do it again at 7:10 PM on Tuesday night. Jacob deGrom faces Christian Bergman at 7:10 PM

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. DaveSchneck September 9, 2014 at 6:47 am
    Nice win but the Met offense at home is still offensive. Whether the games are meaningless or not there is no excuse at all for the Mets to lose a game at home vs a 20-50 road team missing its best two players.

    Those jerseys make the Mets look like the Padres, not a good thing.

    Pitchers have been screwed by “official” scorers for years. A league rep should score each game.

  2. crozier September 9, 2014 at 9:30 am
    Something else about d’Arnaud that’s not terribly clear from his offensive numbers – he’s actually above average in OPS compared to league catchers, even taking into account his horrific start. Since his demotion and recall, he’s been better with the bat than any NL catcher. That’s been good news for Duda.

    I was watching the Mets earlier this year when they had the camo uniforms, and my wife wandered by, stopped, and said in astonishment, “What the hell is that?” That, I explained, is the worst uniform since the 80s-era Astros.

    Joe, as much as I appreciate your humor, I kindly suggest you #killtheironichastags.

    • Joe Janish September 9, 2014 at 12:23 pm
      Crozier, I’ll consider your kind suggestion. Trying to seem hip to the youngins’
  3. Yeats September 9, 2014 at 10:35 am
    “Granderson, by the way, is Cholula-hot right now. Where was that in the first 140 games of the season?”

    He had a .838 OPS in May and .933 OPS in June. Yes, overall his season has been poor (I was against his signing) but… where were you in the first 140 games of the season?

    “I don’t really care about the Mets ‘finishing strong’ blah blah blah.”

    In a previous column, you cared enough to use the “don’t finish strong” argument to criticize Terry Collins.

    • Joe Janish September 9, 2014 at 12:45 pm
      Yeats, thanks so much for pointing out that 50-game blip in which Granderson had occasional stretches of being the power hitter the Mets thought they were acquiring. It was so brief and scattered, it was lost on my memory. Part of it, perhaps, was the fact that hiding within that .838 OPS in May were 30 strikeouts and a 7-day hitless stretch at the end of the month. But, yes, his June was very good indeed. Otherwise, he’s been invisible — but that’s just my opinion.

      Yes, I did mention finishing strong in regard to Terry Collins. Did you read the entire post? It was referring to Collins’ teams collapsing in the second half, and how that pattern, at the time the post was written, did not bode well for the Mets’ chance to reach 90 wins. I think you’re really stretching it to call me out on “finishing strong” with only 18 games left in the season — especially considering that the Mets were, for all intents and purposes, out of the pennant race before September began. But as long as you brought it up … after playing .600 ball in July, the Mets went 12-17 in August. As mentioned in the article, Collins’ teams have not been able to sustain success, and, well, the Mets’ record in August 2014 was yet another example of that. They’re so far 5-2 in September against two terrible teams, and before season’s end, there are 7 games vs. the Nats, 3 vs. the Braves, 3 vs. the Marlins, and 3 vs. the Astros. We’ll see how it plays out, but I’m betting that the Mets won’t win enough to gain a wild card — and they’ve already mathematically eliminated themselves from a 90-win season, which was the main focus of that story.

      • Yeats September 9, 2014 at 4:21 pm
        Yes, Joe, I did read your entire post – even when I disagree with you, your posts often provide instruction and food for thought.

        My point of contention with you isn’t whether or not TC’s teams fade down the stretch… it’s whether or not you “care” about it. Since you cared enough at one point to mention it in a post as part of your anti-TC argument, it seems inconsistent to me that this year, while the Mets have not (yet?) faded down the stretch, you “don’t really care”.

        I don’t see why you are bringing the 90-win comment & the (non) wild-card hunt (did you know that the Mets are only 1.5 games further behind a wild card spot than the Yanks?) into this discussion, as both are goals that would require the team to excel… and we’re talking about “not collapsing” or “not finishing strong”. We’ll see. The Mets could certainly go 4-14 to finish the season, and I’ll be asking you to pass the the A1 while I eat some crow.

        As far as the strength of the Mets competition goes… I recall when I made a comment about TC’s NYM teams losing their best players late in the season via injury or trade, you essentially said, “too bad”. So I’ll stick with that sentiment regarding the strength of opposition here at the end.

        And isn’t it funny, that on 9/9 I’m thinking… if Sandy had GM’d a little better, or if TC had managed a little better, or if David Wright had been average… the Mets really would be contending for a Wild Card slot?

        • Joe Janish September 9, 2014 at 10:07 pm
          Yeats, thank you, I appreciate that you read my posts and find them useful.

          The Mets haven’t yet faded down the stretch? What was their 12-17 August, after going .600 in July? They’re winning a few games to start September because they’re playing terrible teams. There was real excitement by the fan base — perhaps overhyped, maybe a bit unrealistic — during that run in July, and, instead of continuing the momentum and giving the Mets a real chance to sneak into the Wild Card race (as the Marlins did, briefly), they fell flat on their face and made September meaningless. I don’t mean to be a jerk but to me, the collapse already happened, as I honestly do not see them having any chance whatsoever at a Wild Card.

          But hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the Mets will win 16 more games and Terry Collins will win Manager of the Year for rallying the troops down the stretch. I’m not seeing it.

          I’m not understanding your comment on injuries and how it connects to your argument. In fact, I’m having a really hard time finding any connection to what you’re pointing out and your argument. The Mets are a team that didn’t have enough depth to handle major injuries and/or dips in performance by key players. They’re playing clubs with similar problems. What’s your point and how does it relate to Collins? What IS your point on Collins? And if you’re trying to argue that Collins’ teams collapsing weren’t in some part due to Collins’ ability to manage, then what’s with your last paragraph?

          My post, btw, wasn’t necessarily “anti-Collins.” It was me pointing out cold, hard facts in Collins’ past. None of the numbers were made up. If you’re old enough to remember/witness the meltdowns and mutiny in California and Houston, I doubt you’d be making any argument at all.

          But yes, it is funny that you’re thinking those things, because that was exactly my point back in June when penning that post — that for the Mets to have the kind of second half they’d need to have to have a real shot at meaningful September games, they needed someone else in charge. I don’t think it would necessarily have required Wright to be 100%, and, in fact, maybe another manager could have gotten more out of Wright and kept him healthier — especially if that manager was in charge from Opening Day and had the ability to rest Wright (and Murphy, and others) more frequently to make sure they were fresh down the stretch.

          Oh, and I don’t care if the Mets finish “strong” in the final 18 games because as far as I’m concerned, their window of opportunity was slammed shut in mid-August and I don’t see why it matters whether they finish in third, fourth, or fifth — all those spots are still non-playoff spots.

  4. Yeats September 9, 2014 at 11:11 pm
    Joe, that 12-17 August record is actually better than than both May & June, so IMO opinion that’s not fading. Fading – even collapsing – is the Willie Randolph Mets of 2007 and the Jerry Manuel Mets of 2008 and yes, Terry Collins’ Mets in 2012.

    re: My comment about injuries/trades, my point is that you were dismissive of them when discussing TC’s performance in previous years (late season fades) – I think your general sentiment was “no excuses, every team has to deal with injuries” – but the same holds true with schedules. You can only play who’s on your schedule, and a hot streak is a hot streak no matter the competition. So I do place some value on the Mets’ good recent play.

    I remember the Angels meltdown in the 90’s. I also remember that years later some players came out and apologized, they said it wasn’t TC’s fault (although of course it was, in part). And let’s not forget the ringleader of the anti-Collins crusade – Mo Vaughn, not exactly known for being a great guy.

    My central points about Collins: I don’t think he’s a bad manager. I don’t think he’s great, either. I think since his ill-advised comments last year to the effect that fans don’t know about being baseball players, there has been a sentiment among some fans and media personalities – like the 2 guys who precede Mike Francessa on WFAN – that Collins must go. They took umbrage. Just like in politics, one-sided information is flung out to the public in order to grind axes. Please note that I do not feel any of this applies to you.

    In short, I feel sympathy for TC because he’s gotten a lot of hate for a guy who’s been average.

    Perhaps another manager could have gotten more out of Wright this year, but as an organization the Mets have done a poor job of managing injuries/fatigue for a long time. But if Sandy had not signed a couple of fossils to the bullpen, if Sandy had not signed Chris Young – and insisted that he play – the Mets may have been a few games better this year. And then maybe we’d be talking about something else…