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