Mets Game 154: Win Over Braves

Mets 5 Braves 0

Mets win but are mathematically eliminated from the postseason. Thus, the rest of September will be filled with officially meaningless games.

Mets Game Notes

The Braves really stink. When did that happen? Hmm … it started around the time Bobby Cox retired and the club was put into the hands of Fredi Gonzalez, who may be one of the most ineffective managers in baseball. Say what you want about stats, but I believe that the man in charge can have an effect on a team’s performance; strangely enough, many CEOs of businesses large and small agree with me — why should athletics be any different? The Braves are one of the most laid-back, impassive teams I’ve seen in a long time — not since the Marlins were still identified by their state rather than their city. Who was the manager back then? Right. It didn’t help that the Atlanta front office brought in dispassionate players such as the Upton brothers, who I used to think were better. I’m now convinced they’re both dogs, and I don’t care what David Wright nor their youth coaches have to say. They’re dogs, and it’s a crime, because they’re incredibly talented.

Zack Wheeler is one of those rare pitchers who seems to struggle, yet walks off the mound with six shutout innings. Maybe it had something to do with the anemic Atlanta offense, but Wheeler did have a great curveball working. He threw far too many pitches, though — this start recalled the John Maine foul-off marathons.

Lucas Duda demolished a flat change-up by Julio Teheran into the popcorn bucket, and that was the difference in the ballgame. Daniel Murphy slapped about seventeen singles, and scored the other Mets run.

I hope Duda can keep this up in 2015, he’s become enjoyable to watch.

Keith Hernandez was fixated on “drop and drive” for the first few innings of the game, letting us know which pitchers did NOT “drop and drive.” News flash, Keith: very few, if any, MLB pitchers practice the “drop and drive” method made famous by Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman but not used successfully by anyone else in the history of baseball. It’s an ineffective and inefficient style that robs pitchers of velocity — which is not opinion, but scientific fact. And for the record, there is nothing to be gained by “pushing off” the pitching rubber — most of the lower half power comes from the planting and pulling of the front leg, and this is also a scientifically proven fact.

I don’t know how a MLB pitcher who throws 99 MPH walks a .180-hitting rookie to force in a run with the bases loaded. But it happened in this game.

Do I sound bitter? I am. MLB overall stinks. We’ve reached parity, via mediocrity, and we’re paying MLB prices for minor-league quality. Thank you, BeelzeBud Selig, you’ve succeeded in your communist mission.

With teams like the Braves playing out the string, and most of the young Mets playing to impress for 2015 jobs, it’s really hard to evaluate what the heck is happening right now. I THINK Matt den Dekker deserves consideration, for example, but Dilson Herrera? I’m not sure. Can we trust anything we see by Mets pitchers against the Braves? Then again, maybe the Braves will be even worse next year, especially if they continue building a culture and philosophy that is far from the Bobby Cox Era.

I find it funny that the Mets (and many other teams) are limiting pitch counts on their young pitchers in September as a precautionary measure. Because why? Because human arms have only a certain amount of “bullets” in them? Because arbitrary innings limits and pitch counts have prevented injuries to MLB pitchers of any age? How about practicing proper rest and recovery guidelines from Opening Day? And/or making mechanical adjustments that ensure deliveries are efficient and safe? Nah, let’s not trust evidence-based research, let’s instead just come up with some theory out of our backside that everyone else is doing to, ironically, publicly cover their backsides.

Next Mets Game

Mets and Braves play again at 7:10 PM on Saturday night. Jon Niese faces Mike Minor.

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 September 20, 2014 at 1:38 am
    Joe, on the subject of ineffective managers I’d like to debunk some of the spin surrounding the reason why the Mets apparently intend to bring back Terry Collins. I am referring to the fact that he is getting credit for the improvement of some of the young players such as Duda, TDA, Lagares and Wheeler. He’s also gotten better than expected performance out of Familia and Mejia, I think we’d all agree.

    But even with these better than expected individual performances, the team is looking at another poor record and no real competitiveness where it all clicked bar the pre All Star game stretch which heralded yet another false dawn.

    Baseball is a team sport. Your 9 guys can put up all kinds of numbers but to me the only number that counts is wins and losses. I disagree with those that say this was always a 73 win team. Look at the Marlins – they lost their ace and were awful last year, yet the Mets trail them by 1 game. The Mets, with a better manager, could have won 80 games in a parallel universe where some of those runs were scored in the 8th and 9th inning where impassivity is a hallmark of Collins’ years at the helm. His Mets teams have won a few late, but are no walk off kings.

    All the talk about run differential also highlights the fact the Mets should have won more games.

    So who takes the blame for it? No one, since this franchise does not believe in accountability. Although I thought that started to change this year, when Hudgens was shown the door, Farnsworth got the boot, and Valverde was cut loose. Why then is Sandy so unwilling to fire TC when the results clearly dictate he should go? Anyone, Bueller?

  2. Bat September 20, 2014 at 10:23 am
    Zack Wheeler may be a pitcher like Ron Darling for the rest of his career – good stuff but always struggling with his control and therefore the vast majority of innings and indeed starts seem to be difficult.

    Just my personal opinion, obviously, but I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if MDD is the starting LF on Opening Day. I don’t think the Mets plan to spend much money at all and I think Mets management is hoping MDD can be the placeholder until Nimmo comes along in mid-2015 and if Nimmo doesn’t work out they have Conforto probably reaching the majors at some point in 2016.

    But again I don’t think the Mets will spend much money…they will probably unsuccessfully try to shed contracts like Colon, Niese, and maybe Murphy and go to spring training with much the same team as right now with someone like Willingham (second tier free agent) competing with MDD for the starting LF job in spring training.

    I am happy to see Flores playing well in the last few weeks, but my only question is: what took so long to (1) get him on the field every day for a tryout and (2) put him in a place in the batting order other than 8th? In respect of the latter point, did anyone else notice that Herrera joined the big league team from AA and was immediately placed ahead of Flores in the batting order? Collins has always seemed to dislike Flores.

    I guess what I am saying is: Why are going to finish the season WONDERING if Flores can be the starting SS next year when we should have a better idea if he had been starting 2-3 months or so prior? You might argue that I am saying this just because of his recent big night against the Marlins but I have been saying this since before the All-Star break: Tejada is not the answer at SS so since the Mets are not going to the playoffs this year let’s see what we have in-house before the offseason.

    Flores is a sub-par defensive SS – that’s for sure – but he isn’t as bad as I thought he would be; he is something akin to Daniel Murphy at 2B. If Herrera replaces Murphy at some point in 2015 so that the defense at 2B is better, I think you could live with Flores’ defense at SS (i.e., both Flores and Murphy up the middle would be less than ideal to say the least but Flores + Herrera might be okay).

    But Herrrera needs more time in AAA first I think. Again, it’s unfortunate that Flores’ tryout didn’t start much earlier. I’ve never quite understood Collins’ management of the bullpen and his love for EYJ and Tejada.

    • Yeats September 20, 2014 at 11:25 am
      Maybe Flores can play at Omar Quintanilla depth, and use his strong arm to compensate.
  3. DaveSchneck September 20, 2014 at 11:15 am
    I’m not quite as down overall on baseball as you are. I’m not saying you are wrong, but I don’t know what scientific evidence supports that the MLB product is any more triple A than it has ever been. It sure isn’t pretty at times, especially when offenses look so inept, but there have been periods of pitching dominance throughout the game’s history. It is also hard to evaluation how modern technology has impacted how the game is played and how the technology has impacted how the fans view the game. We as fans can see minor details and have mistakes highlighted more than ever before, likely making us more critical of capabilities and effort. Crackdown on greenies likely diminishes the bounce in the everyday players a little. Additionally, computer analysis and the latest moneyball trend of focus on defensive value have led to diminished production. I also think the dependence on the homerun, a byproduct of the PED era, has created less of grooming of players that can create runs without the long ball.

    I do think that those ahead of the curve will adapt and prosper. The better teams and players will adjust, hit against the shift when it makes sense, employ “old school” tactics to build a run, and knowledgeable fans will begin to recognize it. It will be interesting to see where the game stands and how it is played five years from now.

  4. Yeats September 20, 2014 at 11:24 am
    “I don’t know how a MLB pitcher who throws 99 MPH walks a .180-hitting rookie to force in a run with the bases loaded. But it happened in this game. ”

    I find this a curiously nonsensical statement from you, Joe. You’re usually so damned rational. Since when does a pitcher’s velocity equate with control?

    I agree with you re the importance of managers. Its popular for talking heads & radio mouths to spout that managers don’t impact very many games, but that’s never made much sense to me. I guess that attitude is born from all the money modern pro athletes make.

    • Joe Janish September 22, 2014 at 12:26 pm
      It has nothing to do with control, it has to do with approach and mentality. Jordan Walden was pitching to Herrera like he was Babe Ruth, picking at the corners and throwing breaking pitches. In that situation, when one can reach 97-98 MPH, just aim for the middle and let it fly. Too many pitchers try too hard to fool batters, when they should be pitching from strength.
  5. Murder Slim September 21, 2014 at 6:05 pm
    You say meaningless games but I put on £10 at the start of the season for the Mets to win 79-81 games at 11 to 1. And if I win the £100+ I could well spend the money on some of your wine to celebrate. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
    • Joe Janish September 22, 2014 at 12:26 pm
      Sweet! Go for Banfi Brunello Poggio alle Mura.
      • Murder Slim September 22, 2014 at 6:35 pm
        Mmm… a 90 rating and I can pick it up for about £25 over here. I hope Jennry keeps this in mind when he’s trying to save the 79th win against the Astros. #littlethings
      • DanB September 22, 2014 at 7:00 pm
        I am on a Wilpon budget. I am drinking Rosso’s. Hey Joe, why don’t you write awine blog in your “spare” time?
        • Murder Slim September 22, 2014 at 8:57 pm
          I’m on MD 20/20 until the 79th win. I’ll need it with the Nats up next.
        • Joe Janish September 23, 2014 at 10:21 am
          Good idea!

          As you can see, I haven’t had much time to blog there, either.

  6. argonbunnies September 22, 2014 at 4:20 am
    I often see only the upside when the Mets’ competitors acquire talent (see Doug Fister), but I called it from day one that the Braves would regret B.J. Upton. I hope the scouting report gets out on his lazy jogs after gappers, and the Mets turn every double into a triple.

    Re: den Dekker, his shorter swing and longer time watching the ball does seem to be working in terms of more walks and fewer Ks, but he isn’t driving the ball the way he did in the minors. Could the swing tweaks have robbed him of his power? Doesn’t look like he’s getting much of his body into it…

    I have a new comp for Zack Wheeler: a young A.J Burnett. Great stuff, but mistake prone and none too bright. Looks like an ace at times, but puts up #3 numbers in most years. Will probably have a great walk year and sign a big contract 4 or so years from now, then disappoint his new team. At least he’s shown no signs of injury, though! I’ll take an exciting #3 for near league minimum.

    • Joe Janish September 22, 2014 at 12:55 pm
      I like den Dekker’s swing now. Did he really drive the ball very much in the minors? Both of his 17-HR seasons occurred when he had a ton of plate appearances (585 and 616), and I think his current swing will net him at least 10-15 with similar duty in MLB. His swing and approach are what more MLBers should be doing, now that homeruns don’t happen with the frequency of the PEDs era.

      Didn’t you already make the Wheeler / Burnett comp? Or was that another MT reader? In any case, I agree. The injury is going to happen soon enough, unfortunately. There’s no way his arm will be able to handle being so far behind the rest of his body for much longer.

      • argonbunnies September 22, 2014 at 8:56 pm
        Yeah, I did make that comp, but it was the last post in an old thread; I didn’t think anyone saw it. As for the arm, in the handful of SNY slo-mo pitches I’ve looked at, it’s not that late! I’ll send you the screenshots before Zack’s next start and you can see what you think.

        Den Dekker wasn’t a slugger in the minors, but he was good for a .450+ SLG every year. 197 of his 511 hits have gone for extra bases (39%). In the majors this year, he’s slugged .289 with 0 HRs with 8 of his 31 hits going for extra bases (26%). Something’s different. I dunno if it’s the swing mechanics or if he’s just taking less aggressive cuts at big league pitchers, but it sure would have been nice to see 3 or 4 HRs by now (155 plate appearances).

        • argonbunnies September 22, 2014 at 9:29 pm
          Clarification: only den Dekker’s last 106 PAs have come since the swing change. During that time, he’s hitting .267/.377/.333. However, that’s 18 singles, 6 doubles, 0 HRs and triples, so I think my point still stands.

          Worth noting: only 8 HRs in 93 games in homer-happy Vegas this year, after hitting 17 each in tougher parks in his prior two full seasons. His high Vegas SLG was based on a high average and lots of doubles and triples. If he can do that in the bigs, I guess we won’t miss the HRs…

        • Joe Janish September 23, 2014 at 10:32 am
          For a team that plays in a cavern, I don’t care one bit about homeruns. I’d rather have den Dekker’s defense and a .280 average / .330 OBP, putting the ball in play, with say 15-20 stolen bases instead of him hitting .220 with 18 homeruns and a ton of strikeouts. Even with his longer swing, I don’t think den Dekker ever profiled as a 25-HR guy. Remember, too, he wasn’t young for the leagues in which he had 17-HR seasons.

          I’ll take the Keith Hernandez perspective here and say that den Dekker is someone who should continue to approach hitting the way he is now, focusing on contact, and then somewhere down the line he’ll learn to hit homeruns. I see den Dekker as Steve Finley before the “vitamins.”

        • argonbunnies September 24, 2014 at 12:55 am
          I think the Mets need a lot more than that to significantly improve their playoff odds, but perhaps you’re right and den Dekker isn’t the place to look for it.

          Agreed on the Ks. I’d forgotten just how much he’d struck out in those two 17 HR years. 310 times in 274 games — yikes!

  7. argonbunnies September 22, 2014 at 4:22 am
    Re: “push off” and “drop and drive”, I suspect those are unscientific terms which describe the way certain motions LOOK, and say nothing at all about whether the motions being discussed are good or bad. I am not a scientist and can’t tell you in the proper terminology what’s wrong with Rafael Montero, but I can give you layman’s description of what I see with my eyes:

    – In spring training, Montero seemed to snap his arm and torso forward at the same time, pivoting in one smooth motion, getting low and finishing behind the ball, releasing out in front. At this time, he showed great balance and pinpoint control.

    – The he went to AAA and walked a ton of guys, and when he returned, it was clear why: his mechanics had changed. For all of 2014 that he’s spent in the bigs, Montero has been throwing with a more typical modern day MLB motion. The torso pivots first and THEN the arm comes through; the release is more off to the side and less forward; he’s taller than he was, and is landing with his momentum spinning him toward first base.

    All I’m describing is a visual difference. I couldn’t give you an explanation for why, nor could I confirm that I’ve picked the best cues to express the difference. Maybe the arm and torso rotation is the same, but it looks different because he’s doing it faster or slower; I don’t know. But I don’t think anyone without a super slo-mo camera or biomechanics lab knows either, and the rest of us still like to talk baseball, so…

    • Joe Janish September 22, 2014 at 1:10 pm
      I’m not seeing much different from Montero between now and spring training, nor between now and what’s available on youtube going back to 2012. He completely collapses his lower body and lands on a flexed front leg — I think that’s a product of the Mets’ teaching “drop and drive” — which robs him of leverage and velocity. He always spun off toward 1B, from what I’ve seen.

      That’s not to say his mechanics have changed. Something MUST have changed, because his command is nowhere near what we’d heard nor seen in his stats. All I’m saying is I haven’t identified the change. But then again, I haven’t watched him too closely since his most recent call-up.

      The most crucial point in any pitcher’s motion is the moment the front foot lands. At that point, the body should be mostly closed and the ball at “high cock position” — somewhat similar to where a batter needs to be when his stride foot comes down. There are a hundred other little details to look at when the foot lands, but that’s a major spot to stop the action. Any actions prior are mostly irrelevant in terms of performance (though should be studied if the pitcher is not in the correct position); any actions afterward are clues to what happened before.

  8. DaveSchneck September 22, 2014 at 10:58 pm
    MDD with his shortened stroke and increased OBP is a viable option for the 2015 team as platoon/part-time leadoff hitter. The changes he has made benefit both him and the Mets.