In A Word: Shaky

It took all of three batters to bring Matt Harvey’s channeling of Doc Gooden circa 1985 to a screeching halt. Chase Utley’s two-out, first inning homerun stunned the Citi Field crowd last night and temporarily at least, silenced the raucous crowd. Overall, it was a somewhat shaky outing for Harvey, as the Phils whittled away at the three run lead his offense handed him in the early going.

Statistically, Harvey was solid: 6IP, 5H, 3ER and 8K. But he never really dominated the Phils after the first two batters and a great third inning catch by Kirk Nieuwenhuis kept things from becoming much dicier. The highlight of the game was his plunking of Utley in the 5th inning, Harvey’s version of the intentional pass. In many regards, Harvey is a throwback of sorts to much more hardnosed era. He set his jaw and got the job done. He reminds me much of the early 1970’s Tom Seaver, who was the leader of that era’s team.

I think “shaky” is a good description of the Mets right now. It applies to emergency closer Jeurys Familia, who surrendered another 9th inning run last night. It applies to Juan Lagares’ current approach at the plate. In the TV booth, Keith Hernandez noted how Lagares is dropping his back shoulder, trying to uppercut everything, which makes him vulnerable to the high fastball. “Shaky” is an apt description of the Daniel Murphy/Wilmer Flores keystone combo. The late homerun aside, I do wonder how fully Murph’s hammy is healed. I am rooting for Flores, but I fear that he, much like his predecessor Ruben Tejada, has been set up for failure.

Perhaps the biggest concern from last night is the potential for David Wright to be sidelined for a while with a hamstring injury. Along with Harvey, Lucas Duda and Jacob deGrom, Wright is one of the Mets core players. A lengthy absence for their captain will hamstring the Mets chances, pun intended.

The fact that the Mets did win last night is far from a moot point. This game could have easily gone the other way. In a variation of the old cliché, you may not win a playoff spot in April, but you sure can lose one. It would have been so typical for the Mets to have this major buildup, only to flop in front of a full house. They didn’t, so there is that. One more with the Phillies and then a weekend wraparound series with the ice-cold Marlins before a weekend set in the Bronx. One game at a time, I know.

So, what did you think of last night?

A Mets fan since 1971, Dan spent many summer nights of his childhood watching the Mets on WOR Channel Nine, which his Allentown, PA cable company carried. Dan was present at Game 7 of the 1986 World Series and the Todd Pratt Walkoff Game in 1999. He is also the proud owner of two Shea Stadium seats. Professionally, Dan is a Marketing Manager in the Bulk Materials Handling industry. He lives in Bethlehem PA with his wife and son, neither of whom fully get his obsession with the Mets.
  1. Dave April 15, 2015 at 9:56 am
    Should we be concerned with his dramatic velocity drop in the 6th inning? Maybe he was too amped up at the beginning and overthrowing but he only threw 2 fastballs (according to pitch f/x) one at 95 and one at 93, and I’m not sure the “changeup” at 92 was actually a changeup and not a fastball well below his average. The peaks of the graph here make me nervous:
    • argonbunnies April 16, 2015 at 3:35 am
      One he got past 80 pitches, he did look tired. I’m not alarmed, though; seems like the normal conditioning path to me. The threshold should increase over time.
  2. Phil April 15, 2015 at 2:22 pm
    I do not agree completely with your assessment. Sure, some things are shaky out there, esp. the hitting of Flores, Lagares (at least we know that the latter has defensive value).

    But: Harvey did not look great, but he is the Dark Night, not Superman. He is not perfect. Even he might be a bit rusty and a bit too amped on a night like that. Surprise, even he will give up runs. And I refuse to look at Utley’s plunking without looking at Buchanan’s version of going right after hitters.

    Familia: Same here. No closer has an ERA of 0.00. He made a mistake, paid for it, shook it off and went right after the next two hitters (the right way). If there is such a thing as a closer mentality, that should be it, right?

    Offense: Some struggles as mentioned above. But: Duda being a real threat. D’Arbaud doing many little things right and driving in runs. Granderson’s average is atrocious, but he had some tough outs and his OBP is just fine.

    The beginning of any season should be about the positives, even though I am worried about their defense. Really worried, but I’ll save those worries for later.

  3. Bat April 15, 2015 at 3:52 pm
    Cappy, I’m surprised at the concern (negativity?) you seem to be showing about Harvey’s outing last night.

    Recovering from Tommy John surgery (TJS) is a process, and we would be naive if we thought Harvey would pitch every start like his first one of the season.

    I fully expect a reasonable amount of volatility in his starts: some dominating, some not so much. And I think that is the best case scenario; the worst is that he has to be shut down for the season at some point, or even has to have another TJS like Hefner and some other pitchers.

    From my vantage point, if half or so of the starts are like the first start of the season and the other half or so of the starts are like the second start of the season, I think the year would have to be considered a smashing success. That is, he remained healthy throughout and was dominating at times and slightly above average the rest.

  4. david April 16, 2015 at 1:32 am
    “The fact that the Mets did win last night is far from a moot point.”

    It is, in my opinion, the main point. The Mets won despite Harvey getting hit and the Phillies hitting 4 home runs. Good teams find a way to win, bad teams find a way to lose. This was a case in point.

    Harvey’s demeanor is inspiring to his teammates, and the fans. I don’t care if his numbers are ordinary, his effect on this team is extraordinary.

    I agree Murphy is not 100% and SS remains up for grabs, but tonight’s win over Philly (6-1 behind Niese) convinced me that Duda and d’Arnaud should be batting back to back in the lineup. Move TDA to the 3 spot when Wright comes back, and this lineup starts to look pretty good with Cuddyer in the 5 hole, Murphy batting 6th and Lagares or Grandy batting 7th.

  5. argonbunnies April 16, 2015 at 3:29 am
    The way Harvey and deGrom were hitting the catcher’s glove in, out, up, down, fastball, slider, changeup, curve, in spring training, would have gotten out any hitters anywhere. To see them overthrow and lose movement and location, and to see d’Arnaud call nothing but fastballs low and away without shake-offs, is a little disappointing to me over their first four starts. It’s a reminder that all three guys are only human, but it’s also a reminder of the last 28 years of Metsdom, when we’ve rarely seen our players’ best when it mattered most.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m still very high on Harvey and deGrom, but I think the optimistic 2015 Mets playoff scenarios require them to be far better than they have been; not just good, but great. Like Kershaw and Wainwright great. Spring training teased us that maybe that was possible, but now that’s looking more like a mirage. Perhaps some early-season nerves are involved and both guys will calm down and locate better as the season progresses.

    D’Arnaud’s pitch-calling does worry me, though. I don’t think I’ve seen him call for a pitch inside (as his first option, no shake-off) more than 20 times all season. (And one of those was a bad call, to Zimmerman, who was set up so he couldn’t reach the pitch away.) The other 1000 have all been away. I’d say the vast majority of the hard hits Mets pitchers have allowed so far this year have been from batters who knew every pitch would be away and were able to zone in on it. As long as Travis continues to do this, Mets pitchers will have very small margins for error, and all their mistakes will get crushed.

    In Harvey’s final time through the Phillies’ order, d’Arnaud finally called a few inside pitches, so maybe he’ll wake up and call strategically rather than calling scared. We’ll see.

    On the positive front, most of the Mets relievers have looked great, d’Arnaud is ripping line drives, and Duda appears improved around the bag at first. One of the biggest spring training concerns, the bullpen, may turn out to be in better shape than I thought.

    • Bat April 16, 2015 at 6:04 pm
      I’m glad Argon mentioned this point about the pitch calling because it reminded me of a point I wanted to make.

      I read in this article that Montero threw 35 fastballs in a row against the Braves:

      For once, I actually (kind of) agreed with Terry Collins. In the article it says:

      Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen assigned the blame to not only Montero but to catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who called for the fastballs. But Warthen said Montero could have been more assertive by shaking off d’Arnaud.

      I don’t get it – this seems to imply that the impetus for 35 consecutive fastballs was TDA and Montero “could have been more assertive by shaking off [TDA].”


      After Montero has honed his craft in the minors as a guy with a number of different pitches and pitch speeds, did TDA suddenly – and unilaterally – decide in this game that Montero was going to be the next Bartolo Colon and throw only fastballs?

      I suppose the only positive that can be taken from this is that it is kind of a wonder that Montero didn’t get hit worse in this game. But I really do not understand any of the following:

      (1) Why would TDA call 35 consecutive fastballs?
      (2) Why would Montero not shake off TDA and insist on throwing some offspeed stuff?
      (3) Most importantly: Why did Collins, or more likely, Warthen not go to the mound and simply tell TDA and Montero to start employing Montero’s full repertoire of pitches!

      35 consecutive pitches of any particular pitch is a very large number…so why did Collins and Warthen not put a stop to this during the game rather than complain about it to the media after the game? The manager and pitching coach are supposed to be overseeing the approach the pitcher and catcher are taking to batters, and this involved 35 consecutive pitches!

      Where is the Mets manager and pitching coach when this is going on? Collins wouldn’t go to the mound himself but he could have told Warthen to get out there if Warthen did not himself recognize that a mound conference was necessary.

      This entire issue doesn’t make sense to me, and I thank Argon for bringing up the pitch calling in the post above, which reminded me that I wanted to say something about this to my friends at Mets Today.

      If you guys didn’t see this story until now, or did and didn’t have a chance to comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this doozie.

      • argonbunnies April 17, 2015 at 4:44 am
        Yeah, it was losing baseball, and the fact that no one jumped in to stop it is alarming. I think there’s a bit of “kids have to make their own mistakes so they can learn from them” going on, and I get that, but I think you have to draw the line at remedial stuff. If d’Arnaud is just learning when and against whom to call for breaking balls inside, and he gets away from that in the game, then fine, as a coach you wait and talk to him afterward. But “don’t throw the same pitch 30 times in a row” is some A-ball stuff. If your rookies can’t execute THAT, then you’d BETTER chew them out in the middle of the game.

        From what I can tell over the last year plus, d’Arnaud calls different games for different starting pitchers. He’s actually been pretty good calling pitches for Gee in the past. But when a pitcher falls in love with “fastball away” (hi, Wheeler), d’Arnaud doesn’t ever go out to the mound to say, “that’s losing baseball, we don’t do that” — instead, he just gives in. This is one of the perils of having a catcher who pulls no weight — much-hyped hard-throwing bonus baby pitchers aren’t going to listen to a soft-spoken rookie or a fringe back-up. At least Recker has a bit of presence to him, being verbally quick and built like a tank.

        If the Mets make the playoffs, I will be ecstatic, but there is NO doubt that they will crash and burn instantly, as there’s no process in place to overrule instinct with strategy.

      • Joe Janish April 17, 2015 at 7:30 pm
        Bat, I agree on all counts. I don’t understand what Warthen/Collins are doing. I have been under the impression — for years — that pitches were being called from the dugout. It seems that way, since the Mets catchers are always looking into the dugout. How they allow a young catcher who is not yet known for an ability to call pitches, nor has established himself as a leader, call pitches with a rookie on the mound, is beyond me.

        Asleep at the wheel, all of them.

  6. crozier April 16, 2015 at 7:54 am
    I don’t disagree that the Mets foundation isn’t exactly rock solid, let alone reinforced with depth (pitching aside). But even a small uptick in offense can make a big difference if the pitching is merely as good as last year — which In reality was mostly average.

    Or they could be mediocre. I think it comes down to Duda, d’Arnaud, and Lagares more so than Wright, Cuddyer, and Granderson. If the former three have optimal years, what the latter three do is supplemental.

    In other words, if youth can’t carry the team, it’s probably not a good team.